A/N: Oh my god! I'm updating! FINALLY! I know, I know, boo on me. I had a TON of trouble with this chapter. I've written it over a dozen times but it was never right. Characters were acting out of character, some were acting on knowledge they shouldnt have, reactions were over the top, not enough. You name it, they did it. Finally my brain spit out something that was acceptable. So now for the long awaited chapter 34...watch out its a doozy! :)
Songs that helped me get out of my funk: Fix Me by 10 Years, Die Trying by Art of Dying, and Already Over by Red
Disclaimer: Stephanue Meyer owns everything Twilight and Twilight related.
After the initial excitement of our return faded and everyone drifted off to their own parts of the house I was left alone with a cloying sense of anxiety. It clung to me like cheap perfume, clogging the air with it's noxious fumes and choking me with it's toxic scent of dread. I could almost see the dark cloud that swirled around me, suffocating all hopes in their infancy and turning the corpses into hideous abominations of fear, worthlessness and paranoia.
Jasper said he loves me, said he wants us to work, even used mate to describe our relationship, our bond. The hope in his eyes and the joy on his face had given me the courage to let go and dream once more of a happily ever after. That was all before the kiss though. It was before I was viciously reminded that I would never be free. Edward would always be a ghost on my shoulder, a festering wound in my gut, a malicious voice in my mind. I bore his mark upon my mutilated body, his evil lived deep within my mind. I would never be whole again. Edward took so many things from me, things I could never get back, my naiveté, my blind trust, my security, my confidence, but the gravest of all was my ability to be the woman that Jasper deserved.
I watched a part of that light, the hope, joy and eagerness for our future that had shone on his face die a little tonight. When the memories had bombarded my mind and bled into reality, turning Jasper's gentle touch into Edward's cruel grip, laced his breath with the coppery scent of my blood, and mixed the feel of his arousal pressed against my stomach with Edward's failsafe weapon against me, I thought there was no worse torture in the world.
I was wrong. Oh how I was wrong. It was the devastation on his face, the fading happiness in his eyes when I lifted my head that was the worst pain imaginable. The sparkle in his eyes died a little tonight and was replaced by a darkness that I was only too familiar with. It was the shadows of helplessness, hopelessness, the lightning strike moment when he realized I would never be whole again. I had watched as each member of the family had gained that look, that irreversible knowledge that the girl they knew was gone and she was never coming back, that no amount of help would pull me back from the depths of this cavern of unspeakable horrors my mind dwelled within.
I saw in my minds eye, the consequences of him staying. I saw as the light died a little more each day until there was nothing left but never ending hopelessness and despair. I saw the guilt and pain as he lived with the knowledge that no matter how hard he tried it would never be enough. His eyes would turn to dull lifeless pools of disenchanted gold, his shoulders would be perpetually slumped under the weight of failure. I would destroy him, with his love and my selfishness as my only weapons.
It was these thoughts that had me standing by the window of my darkened room, after saying my goodnights and closing my door, staring out into the black starless night desperately searching for the answers to my unspeakable questions. Instead of giving up the answers, the trees danced to their never-ending nocturnal melody, the shadows of their branches swaying to and fro in the breeze. It was ironic to me that I stood here, an epic jumble of nerves and churning dark thoughts, and the rest of the world seemed so at peace with the universe. It was cruelly unfair that the night refused to bend to me needs and reflect my mood. Instead of finding comfort with the peace that claimed the forest I was angry because I felt more like a leper on the outside looking in. If life was fair it would have a hurricane blowing outside, with thunder and lightning unleashing their might across the land, the wind ripping the trees up by the roots and bowling Esme's garden over with their massive trunks. The animals would be going crazy, the predators becoming the prey as innocuous blue jays and chipmunks attacked the ones they once feared out of nothing but the desire to spill their crimson blood across the forest floor. But no, life was not perfect and the night was quiet in its serenity.
Then in a moment my wish was granted and my world was shattered.
"You're leaving again?" Rosalie's voice screeched through the house bringing absolute stillness to all those inside.
I whirled away from the window my eyes wide in surprise and a certain grim knowledge of who her words were aimed at.
The house was silent, so silent. As if the walls themselves held their breath.
"Ros-" Jasper's voice was muffled and quiet trying to keep calm in the face of what I was sure was Rosalie's wrath.
"Are you fucking kidding me? You just came back after three god damn months and now you want to take off again?"
I joined the walls, the air frozen in my lungs, waiting for his confirmation. Though, while I felt some relief that he was unknowingly giving me the answer that I had been seeking, I also felt the knives of rejection and unworthiness shredding my heart into millions of tiny irreparable pieces, just like Esme's beloved tiffany lamp. Deep down I had known it was the only way, known that we couldn't have the life we had both dreamed about together, yet it still hurt to hear that he wanted to runaway so soon.
I hear the familiar creak of floorboards that signaled the rest of the family's race to the front lines. The addition of hushed voices confirmed my suspicion. Esme and Carlisle couldn't resist trying to play the peace keepers and Emmett just couldn't stay away from the action. From the muffled sounds I could tell they were somewhere on the first floor.
With my heart lodged firmly in my throat and my hands trembling I eased my door open, thankful I had asked Emmett to oil the hinges the other day, and inched down the stairs. If they were paying any attention they would hear my approach as clear as day but I had a feeling their focus was solely on the prodigal son that was about to disappear again from their lives. At the bottom of the stairs I could begin to clearly make out the words, they were gathered on the far side of the dining room.
"…can't do this…find another way…"
I crept slowly across the living room to the wall beside the doorway to the dining room. I pressed my back against the wall and strained my ears to hear their whispered words. Though it was easy for me to hear their human proof whispers when I was in the room, I was still limited to the basic laws of physics when it came to eavesdropping on one of those conversations from this distance.
"We all know what Edward's after Rosalie. If we allow him to get this close there's a real chance that he could succeed. I can't allow that."
"Then let's take her and run. He can't chase her forever and we will still be together."
"What good is it ta run when she's barely alive Rosalie? We've all seen it, she's not living, she's existing. She flinches from our touch, she's got a permanent eye cast over her shoulder, she's in constant fear, not only o' him but everything. This is the only way I know ta fix 'er."
"Fix her? Jasper she's not a fucking doll that's been broken! She's a human being! You can't just find the problem, get rid of it, and then expect everything to be the way it was."
"No, she ain't a doll, but she is broken. You can't deny it anymore than the rest o' us. I can't even recognize the girl that she used ta be."
"And you think killing him will bring her back?"
If I could still cry I would be drowning in their salty depths. He thought he could fix me. He still had hope and it broke my heart. What had to happen would be easier on both of us if he would just give up.
"No I don't think it'll fix everythin' but I think it's a pretty good step in the right direction."
"Really? You think leaving her suddenly after you've been back for two days to hunt down her psycho mind fucking ex is a good idea?" Rose spat back in derision.
"I know it ain't the best circumstances but I have ta do this Rose. Every second is another step closer he is ta her and I can't bear the thought o' him hurtin' her anymore."
"It's not him that will be hurting her if you walk away now, it's you!"
"I'm comin' right back! As soon as he's ash I'm comin' back ta her!"
There was a long heavy pause. I could almost feel the weight of their gaze as they stared each other down waiting for someone to break.
"I think you should consider that she may not be here waiting for you when you're done with your mission of vengeance."
Suddenly my back bounced off the wall as growls shook the air and plaster rained down from the ceiling. My body quivered like a leaf as I distinguished Jasper's guttural snarl only feet away from my hiding place.
"Don't you dare threaten to take her away from me Rosalie. I've killed more than once for that woman an' I won't hesitate to do it again if you try ta hide her from me." He growled low, the warning carrying on his voice.
My head was turned to the doorway that was less than a foot from the tip of my nose when suddenly Peter was there facing the two on the other side of the wall. His eyes met mine, he wasn't surprised by my presence there. He gave me a grim look that I couldn't decipher then turned his focus back to the struggling pair.
"A'right Major, you've made your point, let the little fou poun go." Peter said.
"I'll do what it takes to keep her safe, even if it's from you." Rosalie choked out her voice soft and raspy.
There was a loud thud as the walls shuttered once more and the growls that I assumed belonged to Emmett grew louder.
"She is my mate," Jasper's voice was low and dangerous like the roll of thunder on the horizon as he spoke slowly emphasizing each word. "I will not let you stand between us."
"And that's my mate you have by the throat Jasper. If you don't let go of her right the fuck now I'll rip your arms off and beat you to dust with them." Emmett roared his voice more frightening than I'd ever heard it.
"Jasper, dear, she's just worried about Bella. We all are." Esme pleaded.
I heard the shuffle of fabric and Jasper's voice from farther away then it had been moments ago.
"Don't worry about Bella, I'll keep her safe from Edward."
Even though the scuffle was over and everyone had moved back toward the center of the room by the sound of their voices, Peter stayed guarding the doorway. I wasn't sure whether to be scared or grateful that he knew I was there listening in on their argument.
"Yeah? And who will keep her safe from you?" Rosalie snapped clearly not cowed by her altercation with the famed God of War.
"What the hell's that supposed ta mean?"
"It means, jackass, that your erratic and impulsive, and ever since Phoenix you've been more of a destroy now ask questions later kind of guy." She ground out.
"I can't believe this shit! I would never…never hurt Bella!"
"You already have! It wasn't Edward that killed her spirit and made her into the girl you've seen since you came home! It was you! You made a rash, selfish decision and it killed her! Now you want to turn around and do it again?"
"Damnit Rose! Shut that giant maw o' yours for jus' two seconds and listen ta me! I…Will…Be…Back! Bella knows how much I love 'er and I won't leave here without her understandin' that I will be comin' back as soon as I can."
Fierce and disturbing ambivalence stormed through me. He wasn't leaving for good, he wasn't running away from me, he was trying to protect me by hunting down the devil that hurt me. I was both relieved and horrified by this. Why couldn't he just leave? Didn't he understand what would happen if he stayed? I can't be fixed, my torment will take from him piece by piece until there is nothing left.
"Son, are you sure now is the right time for you to be leaving?" Carlisle spoke up for the first time.
"I'm sure. Demetri said they were enterin' the Northwest Territory this mornin'. That puts Edward here no later than Friday."
"Yes but can't we just intercept him closer to home? We would be at an advantage on our own ground."
"That'd be true if Edward weren't so familiar with the area. He's spent jus' as much time here as we have. He knows the land jus' as well as we do. If I meet him there I'll be at a disadvantage, sure, but so will he."
"And you're sure about this? This is the only way?"
"It's the only way to make sure there aren't any other casualties. There's no doubt in my mind that he will use anyone he can ta get close to her. All it'd take is one little mistake and he could hurt Charlie, one o' the dogs, or any o' y'all. At this time I wouldn't put anythin' past him. He's desperate."
"I see. You're right. We cannot risk him harming anyone else."
Emmett spoke then, his voice hard like steel and just as cold.
"I'm going with you."
"No Emmett I can't-"
"I didn't ask for your permission Jasper. You're not the only one here that's pissed about what he did to my sister. I'm going."
I heard the defeated sigh of Jasper and could nearly see the sullen nod of his head as he backed down and accepted Emmett's decree.
"I'm coming as well Jasper." Carlisle said.
"Carlisle…" Esme breathed, the one word both a plea and full of a grief stricken understanding.
"No Carlisle, he's your son. You don't need to see this."
"No. He was my son. Once upon a time. Now he is a vassal of evil and cruelty and I will make sure he pays for his crimes."
"It ain't gonna to be pretty Carlisle. Justice will not be swift or painless for him." Jasper's voice was hard with a trace of his barely contained rage flitting across the surface.
"I understand." Carlisle acquiesced softly.
"So what? This is just ok with everyone?" Rose butts in, still unhappy with the course of events unfolding.
"Babe, give it a rest."
"Just stop Rose! No, this is not the way I wish it would go but we don't have a choice. Jasper's right, Edward is a danger to Bella and the farther we can keep him away from her the better." Emmett's voice leaves no room for argument, for the first time I hear him taking command in their relationship.
There was a long pause of silence before Charlotte spoke in her sweet southern drawl.
"Right, so now that the drama is taken care of. I volunteer to stay here and keep an eye on Bella."
"You ok with that Peter?" Jasper asked.
"Sure am, Major. Anything to keep her tight little ass outta the fight is fine with me." Peter's voice reverberated through the air only feet away from me.
With the argument over I stepped lightly back up the stairs to my room. I took more care entering my room that I did leaving because the distraction was over and they would all once more be tuning into their surroundings.
My mind was maelstrom of emotions. There was panic, there was fear, there was heartache and grief, but mostly there was a demanding irrepressible need to escape. I felt the noose around my neck tightening with each second I laid in bed staring at the ceiling. Edward was drawing closer, Jasper was fighting for a lost cause, my very existence was putting everyone that I cared about in jeopardy. I couldn't stay here and watch the family fall apart around me, because of me.
I turned my head to the right and saw the three small, unassuming boxes tossed onto the nightstand, all but forgotten after the internal upheaval they had caused. I remembered the messages they bore perfectly.
Nobody can hurt me without my permission.
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
It's never too late to live happily ever after.
Suddenly the idea that had been rolling around in my head unacknowledged since the kiss that shook the world became a fully fledged conscious thought. I could leave. Jump into the car and just drive.
It wasn't exactly the direction of my dreams, nor would it be a happily ever after, but it would give the family, give Jasper, the chance at a peaceful life. Away from the emotional rollercoaster that was my life he could even find happiness with a woman that deserved his love and loyalty.
Holding back the emotions that threatened to turn my insides into crystalline daggers hell-bent on destroying me from the inside out, I began to sift out a plan from the chaos of my thoughts. I couldn't let my feelings get in the way of what needed to be done. Though it will kill me to leave I couldn't let my own selfishness stop me from doing what is right.
A soft knock interrupted my planning.
Jasper's rough timbre filtered through the wood. I laid there silent, holding my breath, hoping he would think I was asleep and leave.
"I know you're still awake. I can hear you holding your breath." His voice was full of mirth as he called me out.
"Shit." I breathed out in a huff, cursing myself for my own stupidity.
My door opened and there he stood, a dark silhouette in the cone of light from the hallway.
"Can I come in?" He asked softly.
I briefly considered telling him no but decided that if I only had tonight left with him than I would take this time to soak up every little detail I could of him. Who knows how long it would have to last me. A year or a millennia, either way would be an eternity to me.
"Sure, your halfway there already, might as well go the distance right?" I replied lightly trying to keep the heaviness of my thoughts hidden.
He chuckled as he stepped inside and shut the door. The black of the room didn't matter to my eyes, I could still see every curve of his face, every shadow of his scars.
"You know my mama used to always tell me that if a lady invites you into her room, then she's probably not a lady." He said softly with his lips quirked in a small grin.
"Smart lady. Did it teach you anything?"
"Oh yes ma'am. I learned a lot from that woman. One of my most useful lessons was when she caught me stalkin' around Tully's General Store listenin' in on the Caruthers girls gossipin' about the local boys. She tol' me 'Jasper Leroy, you wont get nothin' but broken toes by droppin' eaves."
Dropping eaves? What the…Oh.
"Peter told you?"
"Yeah, he tol' me. He thought I should know that we'd had a fly on the wall and that I should pro'ly remind said fly that its dangerous when there's flyswatters around."
I gave him a look that hopefully portrayed my disbelief at the ridiculousness of his statement. He raised his hands in defense.
"His words, not mine."
"He would say some weird shit like that. I get the impression his hamster's running backwards."
Jasper stepped up to the bed and sat on the edge, one leg pulled up so he was turned facing me.
"Backwards and upside down darlin'," He said, "But he's right. It was dangerous for you ta be there while our tempers were goin' unchecked like that."
I curled onto my side, my knees brushing against his hip sending jolts of liquid fire through my body, even through several layers of clothing and a comforter. I stayed quiet. I knew the danger I had been in. Hell, if Jasper had used just a little more force on Rosalie they could have crashed right through the wall and straight on top of me.
He sighed and bent his head for a moment before looking back up at me.
"I didn't want you ta find out like that. I was gonna tell ya today but we were havin' such a good time, I didn't want ta ruin it. Then at the falls I was gonna tell ya but then we kissed and…" I heard him swallow hard and watched his hands ball into tight fists on his knee. "I'm sorry. I messed everythin' up."
My breath hitched in my throat, the guilt in his voice making my own double and confirming that I was doing the right thing. Never again would he feel guilty for my own failures.
"It's ok Jasper," My voice was raspy with emotion. "I understand why you're doing it."
"Do you?" He asked. "Do you really understand that I'm not leaving you?"
He took my hands that had been clinging to the bedding at my chest and looked deep into my eyes. He held there, his eyes searching mine for several long moments before I had to break contact and close my eyes in fear of him discovering my intentions.
"I know this is something you have to do." I said, hopeful to distract him from what he may have seen on my face.
"And I know your doing this to protect me."
I pushed away all the fear and panic that thoughts of Edward invoked and delved deep within myself for the rage I knew boiled with the injustice of his actions. I opened my eyes, a new fire burning in their depths, and looked straight at him.
"Just promise me two things."
"Don't do anything reckless and get yourself killed. And make sure he pays for what he's done, not only to me but to this entire family." It wasn't a request, it was a command, a demand for his survival and retribution.
He slid off the bed onto his knees. He held my hands to his lips in reverence for a moment before lowering them and leaning forward just inches from my face.
"I swear to you darlin', I will make him pay. Then I will come back to you, safe and whole, ready to banish him from your nightmares." I knew he saw the hopeless defeat in my eyes when he continued. "And if it takes forever to do that, then I will happily die trying."
I felt my resolve cracking and a fierce ache behind my eyes. God could not have made a man more perfect for me if he had tried for a million years. It broke my heart beyond that which it had already been to know I had to leave him to give him a chance at the life he deserved.
"I love you Jasper." I choked out, my voice weak and watery as I felt the darkness ascend.
He leaned forward and placed a chaste kiss at my temple while smoothing the hair from my forehead.
"And I love you Bella. I'll see you when I return." He whispered.
No, no he wouldn't. By then I will be far from here breaking down as each mile takes me further away from my soul.