Tracking

Chapter 4: Beauty and the Beast

A/N: Last chapter for this story. Short, but sweet (and sad). I hope you like it. Please leave a review, and don't forget to read my other fics. Enjoy! P.S. This chapter gets a theme song: "Light On" by David Cook (since I kept thinking of that song, while writing this chapter). :)

A few days had passed, and Bella had yet to wake. Edward never left her room in the hospital, and Carlisle dropped in often, assessing her condition, himself, whenever the human doctors in the hospital weren't looking. The two of them were planning to stay with Bella until she could return home, to Forks. Alice, Emmett, and I were a different story. We couldn't stand remaining in Phoenix much longer. It was much too sunny, and animals we could hunt at night were scarce. We had to leave. We dropped by the hospital for one more visit, on our way out, though.

The second we were in Bella's room, Alice was in the bed with her, stroking her hair and whispering, "Wake up, Bella. I know it's not time, yet. I saw you waking up tomorrow, but please… Please wake up, Bella?" I flinched at the emotions coming off of her. The love she felt for Bella was staggering. And the desperation… I don't think she'd ever wanted a human to simply look at her so badly. I started internally pleading with Bella, myself; begging her to open her eyes and ease some of Alice's pain… At least some of it…

"Esme's not going to take 'Beauty and the Beast' well," Edward warned me softly from the chair in the corner of the room. "She's going to need your help." I nodded once. Alice, Emmett, and I had refrained from destroying the tracker's videotape, if only so Esme and Rosalie could see it, themselves. Of course, none of us really wanted to subject either of them to watching it. We all knew the experience was excruciating: Watching the tracker beat and break Bella was bad enough. Hearing him talk about how he'd nearly done that to Alice, while she was human, was enough to make even a vampire nauseous.

I was still unsure of how, exactly, we'd all come to refer to the video as 'Beauty and the Beast'. I think Emmett started it. However it had come to be, though, the title was fitting. Bella's name did mean 'beautiful', after all, and the 'beast' in the video was obvious. I suppressed a growl. Not only had the beast harmed Bella, but he'd attempted to harm Alice, once. My Alice. The thought made me want to reassemble James from his ashes, if only so I could tear him to shreds, again. At least one good thing came from watching that revolting video, though: Some light had finally been shed on the mystery that was Alice's human life. Light… When all she could remember was dark…

She's been confined in an asylum, because of her future visions. Even as a human, she'd been having those visions. Darkness was all she could remember, because that was all she saw, locked up in a dark room for most of her human life. Somehow, though, her confinement had not protected her from James' thirst. He'd hunted her, and she'd only been spared from Bella's fate or worse by yet another vampire. One who had worked inside the asylum. He'd changed her to save her from her captivity and from the tracker… Edward growled softly and I looked at him to see him glaring back at me. You know I'm not thinking about you! I mentally snapped at him. Don't be ridiculous, Edward. In spite of what James said about you not changing Bella, none of us blame you for what happened to her, and you shouldn't blame yourself, either! What happened is on one's fault but the tracker's, and he's gone! Edward let out another low growl.

"Stop it, you two," Alice hissed from Bella's side. "Whatever you're mentally arguing about, just stop it!"

"Easy, Alice," Emmett warned, walking over to her and squeezing her shoulder lightly. "We've all been about a week without hunting, now, and we're all worried about Sleeping Beauty, too." It must have been Emmet who started the fairy tale references. "Come on. The sooner we all get out of here and start shaking this off, the better off we'll all be." Alice looked back at Bella longingly, but she nodded. Then she looked at me.

"Why don't you wait here, while Emmett and I get the car, Jasper?" She said, sounding weary in spite of the fact that vampires don't get tired. "This side of the building is secluded enough, and it's dark out, so you can jump out the window when we pull up outside. That way, you don't have to walk through the whole hospital, again. If it's easier?" I nodded mutely. I had been holding my breath since we arrived at the hospital. I avoided hospitals, as a rule, even when my eyes weren't pitch black with thirst. Too many humans and too much blood. I had made an exception, coming to visit Bella like this, but it was a risk. Being here only made me marvel that much more at Carlisle's restraint. To actually work in a hospital… I shuddered at the thought. Alice and Emmett left the room, then, leaving me and Edward alone with Bella.

I moved toward Bella's bed slowly, cautiously. I could feel Edward watching me closely, but he could tell I was in control, so he made no move to stop me. When I reached Bella's bedside, the first thing I looked at was the bandage on her right hand. My thirst flared at the image that came to mind: Bella lying in a pool of her own blood while Edward sucked more blood from her hand, drawing the venom back out of the bite, there. How did you do it, Edward? How did you stop?

"I almost didn't," Edward murmured darkly. "Her blood is so potent to me, and it tasted even better than I'd imagined… I almost killed her. The tracker started it, but I almost finished the job. But, I didn't. I couldn't do that to her, as much as I love her. I love her more than anything… That's how I did it."

I moved my gaze from Bella's hand to her face and I felt an almost irresistible urge to reach out and touch her. I resisted that urge, though. Standing so close to her was difficult enough. Feeling her warmth under my hand would tempt me too much. Staying with her for those few days was helping me. I could tell. I was growing desensitized to her scent. After seeing her in the studio, though… Her blood was everywhere… I'll have to go back to keeping my distance from her, again. Any progress I made here was lost, that day. I looked up at Edward and he merely nodded in agreement. That stung a little… His distrust. I was the one who had brought it up, though, so I couldn't complain.

At least it will be better when she's one of us. I have to say, I love her, Edward. All of us do. She's really good for our family. I was a little startled when Edward hissed. He was glaring at me, again.

"She is good for the family, but she will not become one of us," he said firmly. "No one is changing her." For some reason, hearing Edward say that made me absolutely furious. I stepped away from Bella's bed, as a precaution, before I turned on him.

"And why not?" I hissed aloud. "Did you not hear me, Edward? We all love her. And you just said you love her more than anything. If that's true, then why are you so insistent on leaving her human? You know that's not what she wants! She wants to be able to stay with you forever. Why won't you let her?"

"I will not end her life," Edward growled lowly. "Bella thinks she wants this, but she has no idea what she's asking for."

"She knows more about vampires than some vampires do!" I retorted, using the last of my breath. I had to finish my argument in my head: Edward, she's perfect for you! She's perfect for our family! She's kind and loving, and she's so brave and strong. Unbelievably so.

"Exactly!" Edward snapped. "She's perfect. I will not change such an angel into a monster!" Edward's voice softened and he looked over at his 'angel'. The anger in his face faded, then, to be replaced by an ancient mask of sadness. "I will not turn the beauty into a beast. I really don't deserve her, the monster I am, myself… She deserves better than me… Better than all of us. Her mother is planning to ask her to move to Florida with her. I'm going to tell Bella that she should go… That she should get away from us, from me… So I can't hurt her anymore…"

I stared at Edward, dumbstruck, even in my thoughts. Did he seriously just say that? He's going to send Bella away? NO! I recovered quickly. NO! Are you insane? You can't send Bella away! She doesn't want to go! None of us want her to go! Alice and Esme will be devastated! NO! She loves you, Edward! Why can't you just accept that? We all have!

"Enough, Jasper!" Edward growled threateningly, his anger returning as he glared balefully at me. "I'm not going to… Force… Bella to do anything. I'm going to talk to her about it, once she wakes up. It's between Bella and me, though."

"Jasper!" I heard Alice call from outside. I looked out the window to see her and Emmett waiting for me down on the ground. I felt torn, though. I couldn't leave Edward and Bella like this, not after what Edward had just told me.

"Go, Jasper," Edward said. I turned to look at him, alarmed by the tone of his voice and the emotions coming off him: He was looking at Bella with anguish in his eyes and his voice sounded lifeless and distant. His feelings were impossible to put into words. They were just unbearable; all conflicting and all vying for dominance. It was too much. I had to leave whether I wanted to or not. I was too thirsty and ill-equipped to handle such emotional torture. I leapt out the window, but not before sending one more thought Edward's way:

Bella will never agree to that.

As I climbed into the waiting car with Emmett and Alice, I just barely heard his murmured response:

"I know."