Jasper and Alice left the next day, but Edward stayed with me. We stayed with Mom and Phil for another day before going home. Mom was sad to see me go, but I think she was glad to be finally free of Edward's 'odd siblings.' I know Phil was.
A week had passed before I found myself at the Cullen's again, where I was greeted as warmly, or in Rosalie's case, coolly, as ever. I didn't see Jasper. I wasn't surprised. I figured he probably hated me by now for all that I had put him through. I didn't really even blame him.
I didn't see much of Alice, either. Carlisle, Esme, and Emmett were there, of course, as if nothing unusual had happened, and Rosalie tended to avoid me anyway. And of course, Edward was there. But I worried about Jasper, and Alice, and I wished that there were something I could do to make up for what had happened.
It was on a Thursday evening two weeks after I had come home that Emmett showed up at my house.
"Hey, Bella?" Charlie sounded confused and just a bit worried at the bottom of the stairs.
"Yeah?" I called back, looking up from the book I was reading.
"One of the Cullens is here to see you." He definitely sounded worried. I set my book aside and climbed out of my bed.
"Be right there." Predictably, I tripped halfway down the stairs. I fell into a mountain, who chuckled loudly as he caught me and set me upright at the bottom of the stairs. It was Emmett.
He looked out of place, standing in the living room of Charlie's house, looming over everything.
"Hi, Bella." He greeted me with a smile. "We haven't seen your smiling face for a while. We were wondering if you wanted to come over."
Warning flags went off. I had been at their house just yesterday, and as far as I knew, nobody was home. They were all off hunting today, except, apparently, Emmett.
Charlie was confused too. "I thought she was over there yesterday." He said to Emmett.
Emmett laughed. Charlie nearly jumped out of his skin at the volume of it. "Was she?" He asked innocently. "Well, Edward was too. But he's out, and Alice is too, and we decided it was our job to make sure she knew what she was getting herself into, dating our brother, you know." He winked at Charlie and let out another laugh.
Charlie was only slightly reassured by the promise of Edward's absence. "We as in-?"
"Jasper and me." Emmett replied. My stomach did a flip flop. Jasper. This was going to be awkward.
Charlie was still suspicious. "Your parents going to be home?" He asked.
"Yeah." Emmett replied easily. "It was Carlisle's idea, actually. He thought Bella might like to have a chance to get to know everyone else too, since Alice and Edward are the only ones she actually spends a lot of time with."
"Sure, then. Go ahead. Have fun, Bells." Charlie was relieved by the promise that Carlisle and Esme would be there. I, however, was not.
Carlisle and Esme were supposed to be off hunting with the rest of the family.
Emmett thanked Charlie and let me outside to where his jeep was waiting. "Can you get in yourself?" He asked. "Or are you going to end up with a concussion?"
I shot him a suspicious glare as I climbed in the vehicle. Emmett climbed in after making sure I had made it, and we were off.
"I thought Carilisle and Esme were hunting." I accused.
Emmett wasn't bothered. "They are. Jasper's the only other one home."
"So what are we doing, then?" I asked, irritated.
"You're going to talk to Jasper." Emmett said. I stared at him in horror.
"Why?" I finally spluttered.
Emmett frowned. "Because, despite what Edward says, you need to understand. You have questions about what happened that Edward won't answer. And Jasper needs to know that he hasn't frightened you off, now that he's finally coming out his stupid depression."
"Depression?" I asked.
"Sure." Emmett replied. "He slips up, he kills a human, he freaks out because he can feel what they felt as he killed them, then he sinks into a depression where he tries to convince himself he's a worthless murderer. It's not pretty." He said this so matter-of-factly, as if he weren't talking about someone in his family, as if Jasper were just some random stranger. "Anyway, he's past that, and into the 'Bella must hate me' stage now."
"So you're taking me to talk to Jasper." I said. I couldn't believe this.
"Yeah." Emmett agreed. "And we have to do it while everyone's out hunting, because Edward doesn't want to risk you talking to Jasper."
"Risk?" I asked. "He's not going to try…" I trailed off. Did Edward think Jasper was still a danger to me? Did the others agree, and that was why I hadn't seen him?
Emmett rolled his eyes. "Risk that Jasper will tell you something Edward doesn't want you to know." He chuckled darkly. "You're perfectly safe around Jasper as long as you don't start bleeding in front of him again. Most people it wouldn't come up, but this makes what, two now?"
I frowned at him as we pulled up to the house. He shut the car off, then turned to look at me, his face unusually serious. "Look, Bella." He said. "The fact is, I'm doing this for Jasper. He hates himself for what happened, thinks you do too, or at least, that you should. He needs to know that you're okay with what happened, he won't believe it from anyone else. So let him explain, apologize, whatever. Let him talk through it, and let him know that you're okay with it, or not, if you aren't. Okay?"
I stared. It was so unlike Emmett, I thought, but exactly right for a big brother, and there were times when he went into big brother mode, though they were rare, and he usually denied them later. But then, Emmett wasn't really the simple-minded or clueless person he seemed content to let people think he was.
"Oh, and Bella?" He said as I got out of the car.
"Yeah?" I asked.
"Don't tell him I was involved." He grinned and started the car again.
"Sure thing!" I called as he drove off.
It was odd how little effect the realization that Emmett had left me completely alone here, with the exception of Jasper, had on me. I didn't feel worried, or frightened, or in danger. I was a little nervous about what I was supposed to be doing, but I didn't really feel worried that he might, I don't know, rip my throat out or something.
I took a deep breath.
Let him talk, let him apologize, let him say whatever he felt he needed to say. Then tell him I was fine, that it was okay.
I could do this.
I made my way slowly and unsteadily to the porch and let myself in. The house was quieter than I had ever known it to be. I tried to listen to get an idea of where Jasper might be, but I might as well have been trying to carry water in a sieve. The Cullens weren't ever exactly easy to hear coming.
I wandered to the stairs, taking them slowly, trying not to trip. I was so focused on what I was doing that I didn't see him come to stand at the top of the stairway. When I looked up and saw him right there, it startled me.
I jerked backward, away from him, and unfortunately towards the stairs. Or at least, I should have been. I stared in confusion as I didn't fall, but rather regained my balance at the top of the stairs.
Jasper had caught me before I had even realized I was falling. He waited until I was back on my feet to retreat, his eyes on the floor and his hands tucked behind his back.
I cursed myself for my stupidity. Why was it I couldn't even make it past a simple set of stairs when one of the Cullens were around? I could manage my own stairs fine, most of the time, and usually survived most sets, but put me in a room with a Cullen, and stairs became my worst enemy. It was starting to get old.
"Thanks." I said. Jasper merely shrugged, carefully.
"Edward isn't home." He said softly. "He went hunting with the others."
"I didn't come to see Edward." I said nervously, my throat going dry.
"Alice isn't here either."
"I know." I replied.
"Then why are you here?" He asked, his brow furrowing in confusion.
"Thank you." I said. "For saving my life. I don't remember if I actually thanked you, after those men or the van or the baseball, or the glass, or Maria."
He shuddered as I said her name. "I'm sorry." He said, looking away. "I should have known she was there. I didn't smell her-" He broke off, shaking his head. "And I'm sorry for what happened afterward." He was studying the floor now.
"You couldn't help it." I said. "It had been so long since you hunted, Jasper. But you did resist it enough to give me a chance to run." I said. "It's not your fault I'm so clumsy and had to run into someone. Sorry." I added as he winced. "That was my fault, with the girl."
"No it isn't." He said angrily, looking up to glare at me. "That was mine. I killed her." His voice softened. "I knew what I was doing."
I stared at him, trying to understand what he meant. Had he killed her on purpose? Had he been aware of what he was doing? Able to stop it perhaps?
"I chose to kill her, Bella!" He nearly shouted. I could feel his frustration easily. "It was either her or you. What kind of monster-" But I wasn't listening anymore.
That girl had died for me. Jasper had gone after her deliberately, to avoid killing me. It was my fault she was dead.
I didn't realize I was crying until I heard Jasper let out a long sigh. "Bella-" He broke off, uncertain as to what to say. He moved forward, slowly, as if not to startle me, and put a hand on my shoulder. "Bella, look at me." He said. I was staring at the spot on the floor he had been, not wanting to hear his reassurances.
I looked up, reluctantly, into eyes that were red, but no less concerned than if they had been their usual gold. A slightly pained expression clouded his features.
"It isn't your fault that I was so weak. It isn't your fault that Maria noticed how dark my eyes were and took advantage of that. Or that she tried to get me to kill you. It isn't your fault I couldn't keep control over myself.
I could feel his own guilt, his own sadness, as he blamed these things on himself. "If it wasn't my fault," I said slowly, making sure he was listening, "then it wasn't yours either. If I can't be blamed for my clumsiness in running into that girl, then you can't be blamed if you were thirsty and couldn't resist. But Maria can be blamed for putting us in the situation in the first place."
He didn't want to agree. "I don't blame you, Jasper. You saved my life. And," I hesitated, "you've shown me a side of you and everyone else's life that Edward never would have." He shuddered again at that. "I'm going to be one of you eventually." I reminded him. "I need to know these things. Good and bad, whether Edward wants me to or not."
Jasper stared at me incredulously. "I nearly killed you, Bella. Again." He added bitterly.
"Because you had been around saving my life all week." I reminded him. "Didn't Alice say something about me dying anyway if it were anyone else following me around all week?"
Jasper shrugged. "Something like that."
I tried to think of some way to get him to stop blaming himself for the whole incident. "Well, anyway, thank you. Again. For saving my life." I darted forward quickly, and wrapped him in a hug. He stiffened, but didn't draw away. "It was kind of like having a big brother." I said. "I mean, Emmett's always been like the annoying older brother, but it's nice to think of you as family too." He hesitated for a moment, before returning the hug.
"Thanks, Bella." He said quietly.
Author's note: I didn't really know how to end this. I knew that I wanted to end it here, but wasn't sure how to close things. I hope this worked out, I'm not entirely satisfied, but if anyone has any ideas how it could be better I would happy for the suggestions. I may just leave it like this, though. I don't know. Tell me what you guys think.
Disclaimer: Twilight does not belong to me.