Trapped in an unhappy marriage, she sought happiness outside the home. What happens when outside reached back? Twilight has been KANKed. All human, AU. Canon pairings, eventually. REVISED.
Okay, this is officially a hattrick! I've churned out 3 CHAPTERS in two days. So now that I've pleased you, return the favor. I've nothing much to say before you read, but tell me what you afterwards. This is a huge chapter relationship-plot-wise :D
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Never Say Goodbye
Chapter 5— Nothing Can Keep Us Together
Alice gritted her teeth as she oversaw the photo shoot.
Not that it bothered her when Bella pawed Edward–-it was part of the concept: modern woman and the cavemen, how woman had come so far and men had regressed, edgy–-although, she reflected, maybe it was more of a problem that she wasn't jealous when it came to Edward.
It's because you know he wouldn't cheat on you, She rationalized and moved on.
"Come on, Edward, arms out. No model of mine has mashed bicep syndrome."
Edward held his arms slightly away from his body and tensed his arms so that his muscles stood out even more.
"This is not a zoo. No duck face, Bella," she said, aware of how callous she was being. "Be natural, effortless. Trying to exude what you don't have is not sexy. Just relax."
Jasper had long stopped trying to tell Alice not browbeat his wife. After all, he knew she had every right to loathe Bella. Not that he could complain: he wasn't exactly warm to Edward either.
Now he came up to Alice. "So? What's your prognosis?"
"It'll have to do," she said slowly, as though she were chewing on her words before spitting them out. "Sales are going to be down this month." He sighed. "But, we're still on an updraft from our wedding issue," she said logically. "We will still probably do slightly better than average. But we're going to need an amazing follow-up, if we don't want to start spiraling downward."
He sighed and put his hand on her shoulder. She gave the slightest flinch. It was the first time he had touched her since the night of the dinner. They had been waltzing around each other since then like eight graders at a school dance.
"Thank you, Alice," he said earnestly. "I couldn't do this without you."
She managed to look him in the eye. He seemed so earnest and so yet timid. He wanted the whole mess behind them as much as she did. There was a lock of his hair hanging over one his blue eyes. She resisted the urge to sweep it out of his face.
"There's nothing else I'd rather be doing," she answered truthfully.
She patted the hand on his shoulder and he slid it off. There was a moment when their fingers were interlocked and their eyes were trying to speak volumes that could never be said aloud.
"Jasper, Demetri is here to look in on the shoot." Lauren came up behind them. Jasper turned away to and her hand slipped from his. "Also, he's brought a photographer with his that he insists must be used."
"Of course he did," he said tiredly. "Show him in."
A few minutes later, an aging Russian man, his hair smoothed back with entirely too much gel came in. Immediately, from simply the way he held himself, Alice could tell this was an ass with ego to be dealt with.
"Demetri," Jasper stepped forward and shook his hand with both of his. "I'm sure you're going to love what we've done." He glanced back at Alice and at a little nod, indicated for her to join him in greeting their sponsor.
"Demetri, it's my pleasure," she told him. "My name is Alice."
"Is this one of the models?" He asked Jasper, eyeing Alice with a smile. "I did not think it was the practice to involve them in the mechanics of your work. All you have to do is look pretty and smile for the camera, darling."
Alice's smile was suddenly icy. "You'll find I would prefer running this company to watching it come to pieces underneath ones who consider woman uncomplicated tools to their affluence." She said calmly, with the cold smile still fixed on her face. "I can run it better than most men."
Jasper grasped Alice by the elbow in a cautioning gesture. "Demetri, meet my Alice. She is the creative director. She works directly beneath me."
"Does she?" He asked with a licentious chuckle. Jasper blushed.
Alice merely frowned. She shot Jasper a look as if to say, Really? Demetri?
When Demetri walked away to get a glass of champagne, Jasper said sheepishly, "He's rich, Alice."
"A lot of people use that reason to do a lot of things, but that doesn't make it right. Do you really want that uncouth, sexist dumbfuck to be what we represent or even associate with?"
He had no answer.
And then, Demetri was back.
Esme answered the door with a smile. "Come in, Alice. I'm so excited to have you here. Obviously, I want as much help with the wedding plans as possible, but I'd love to have your input as a director at a fashion company."
"I'm glad to help, Esme. I've known Carlisle and his many wives for a very long time and I've never seen him as happy as he has been with you," Alice answered. "I think you might be the one!" She said with a wink.
Esme beamed as she took Alice's coat. "Why don't you come into the dining and I'll make you some tea. My son's wife is here, helping me already. We decided on lilies for the centerpieces. And we're deciding what the bouquets of the wedding party should be."
"Great." Alice came into the kitchen, calling out to Esme, "You know, I saw this arrangement at the royal wedding where it was entirely silk–-I'm not sure if you've considered but there is definitely something to be said for silk orchid. Although if scent is something you're considering-–" Alice stopped as she caught of Esme's daughter-in-law.
"Hello Alice," Bella said pleasantly. "I didn't expect to see you here."
"I didn't expect you here either," Alice said, a little testily. "Carlisle is my father-in-law."
Bella's smile faded. "Here, come sit. Look at Esme's wedding plans."
Alice's smile hardened as she sat across from Bella and they poured over the book. She kept her tone curt but polite. She didn't want to discomfort Esme who was about the sweetest woman she knew. And Bella kept all the conversation on Esme. Esme noticed nothing.
But soon thereafter, Bella stood up.
"Are you leaving already, sweetheart?" Esme asked her.
"Honestly, Esme I was worried when you said the wedding was in two months, but now that I know you have Alice on the job, I know everything's going to be perfect. She knows best. I know whatever she'll pick will be beautiful and classy and perfect for you." Hell yes, I will. "Alice if you need me to run out and get anything just give me a ring."
Alice surveyed her, aware of the amends she was trying to make. Too bad; she had irrevocably burned this bridge. "I'll keep that in mind, Bella. Thanks," she said curtly.
"Well, I'll leave you to it. Tell me when you have a free weekend, Esme and I'll organize a bachelorette party."
Bella hurried into her car and drove the few miles to her regular coffeehouse in the city. Alice hated her, at least she knew that for sure now. She sat down at her customary table, ordered, and waited.
A few minutes later, Edward slid into the seat across from her.
They sat in silence until her drink arrived and then, unable to bear the awkward silence, Bella burst out, "Jasper and I are having sex regularly now."
"What?" Bella said defensively.
"Sorry, that's an odd start to a conversation." He took a sip of her drink. "But, really, that's great. What changed for you?"
"Well, I've always looked at sex as a means to something, a child mostly. But now I sort of look at it as something that renews our intimacy. That's good, isn't it? Especially since we had that big fight..."
He nodded. "Alice and I are doing much better now, too. We're over the hump now of that night so..." He scratched at an imaginary itch on his neck.
Bella took a sip of her drink. "Okay, so clearly we both feel weird about what happened even though we established it was a result of drinking too much."
"Exactly." Edward sighed, relaxing. "We're both attractive people. We were drunk, but it doesn't mean anything. It was just hormones and alcohol mixed with frustration over our relationship."
"Right!" She patted his hand. "We can just never get drunk together again."
They laughed, the awkward tension melting.
She bit her lip and glanced at him through her lashes. "But now what?"
"What do you mean?"
"The point of us meeting was to fix our marriages. And now that we did, should we not see each other anymore?"
"Why?" Edward seemed taken aback. "This is just the beginning. Something could go awry later."
Was it her imagination, or did he sound hopeful?
"Besides, my wife can't tell me not to have female friends."
She said uncertainly. "But they're not going to understand…"
"Then we'll protect them from the truth," he said, sounding unconcerned.
She was less certain than ever, but somehow, whenever Edward suggested something, she couldn't help but trust him and go along with it. She told him this and Edward smiled.
They left the diner.
"It's nice that you trust me."
"You remember when you first met me at my wedding? I was getting cold feet and you promised me that Jasper loved me, even though you didn't know him for Adam, remember?"
"Imagine, if you hadn't gatecrashed, maybe my nerves would have gotten the better of me and I would have skipped the wedding. I might not have even gotten married." Bella glanced at him.
"Imagine that," he said quietly, meeting her eyes.
Was he trying to tell her something?
She couldn't read his enigmatic eyes. So instead, she pressed closer to his side as they walked and imagined her life is she hadn't married Jasper.
LATE NIGHTS ALL THIS WEEK, read the notice in the cafeteria. That announcement had sent the senior staff complaining and grumbling amongst themselves. But at least, Jasper and Alice were working down in the trenches alongside them.
There at least was the perk: despite any lingering uneasiness between them, Jasper and Alice were now busy that he had barely had time to consider the situation. With any luck, the uneasiness would dissipate without any further conversation.
"Alright, listen up team!" Alice called, as she walked into the conference room where the features team was working on their articles. "Apparently there was some sort of locust problem in Kansas, or one of those hick states, so Jessica, that piece you working on about insect jewelry making a comeback from the eighties needs to be crop-friendly bugs only!"
She turned to another editor,
"Now, Angela, we're cutting three pages of content so you need to figure what you want keep. Send all your options to me with their writers; they're going to have battle it out for pages. Ad sales, Dior apparently found an allergen in their older wrinkle-free cream and they're pulling all their geriatric-target adverts. Scram!"
At her last words, the room worked itself into a frenzy, people scampering to and fro the room to accomplish their respective tasks.
"You're amazing." Jasper told her. "Before you, when I ordered them around, it felt like my being a man antagonized them. But somehow you play the bad cop and they still respect you."
"It's a hard line to walk, but infinitely worth it. One day I may be running this company."
"Is that a challenge?"
She smirked. "Perhaps."
"Duly noted. Challenge extended." He grinned. "Of course it's far in the future, but that's not the worst idea I've heard," he told her cavalierly. Her eyes widened in surprise. "What you think I would use you for my tenure here and toss you aside for Elle or Vogue to eat up?"
"You wound me, Alice. I appreciate you more than you know. By the way, I want you to come see the shows in Milan and Paris this year."
"Did you think that was going to impress me, Jazz? I went to school in Paris and Milan and I saw those shows firsthand, sitting mere feet away from Giorgio and his entourage."
He smiled. "No, I wasn't finished, sweetheart. I also want you to go to New York and LA–-I won't be joining you and I want your report on whatever designers brought in this year and we will be running your taste entirely in our follow-up issue."
"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" She screamed.
"I will not." He laughed.
Why did he keep throwing things at her this way? Dresses from the closet. Fashion shows. Her own feature column "Shiney&Chic." And now? Maybe because she was able to understand how he appreciated her and it was nice to get that gratitude from somewhere. Bella was too caught in her self-involved little dramas to appreciate him.
Work wife indeed.
"And that's not at all."
She held her breath.
"I spoke to the CFO, Ben, and we've talked about extending your stock options and possible making a way for you to be become partner here. Now, your name won't be on the building…"
She waved this away. "Oh my god!"
Alice glared down the line of editors who stood meekly, holding their feature. "This?" Her voice shook with barely contained anger. "This drivel is what you expect me to keep in our premier magazine?" She scoffed, disgusted. "Explain yourselves."
They chimed off in order.
"Alice, gladiator sandals are so in right now that they're transcending shoes." Renata chirped. "They're putting straps on everything – jackets, purses –"
"Are we in ancient Rome?" Alice asked the girl.
"N-no…" Her lower lip trembled.
"Are you planning a coliseum in the city where we can all fight lions and tigers?"
"Ax it. Anyone who is found wearing gladiator anything is going to be fined." A few of the editors grinned weakly. "Oh you think I'm kidding, Chelsea? What's your piece on?"
"The royal wedding-–"
"Ax it. Vogue UK got the exclusive on that one months ago. I could manure my lawn with the contents of that rag. We're not deigning to their on-a-budget trendiness. We don't follow trends, we make them. The rest of you, get out and consider yourselves lucky. Now, tell Beauty and Styles to get in here."
Alice smiled to herself as the Features staff filed out. It was nice, when so many things were going wrong, to take out her frustrations on somebody who deserved it. Gladiator sandals, the nerve of her.
The magazine was working her last nerve and they still had corrections, proofs, and articles to finish before it went out in twenty-four hours.
After she finished with the departments and her column, she met Jasper downstairs for a food run. He shared his corporate and financial woes with her and they managed to calm the other down enough that going back to deal with the ineptitude of their staff wouldn't derange either of them.
"Will you tattle on me if I order a mimosa with my dinner? If I'm going to get through tonight, I need to be tipsy at the least." Jasper sighed.
"I won't if you won't," she teased. Next to her plate, the screen of her phone lit up. Edward calling! She hit ignore quickly before his unique ringtone could start blasting.
"Avoiding someone?" Jasper asked, smiling.
It wouldn't be so funny if he knew it was her husband. Ever since that dinner fiasco, there had been something wrong, something off. Now, it wasn't even about that night anymore. The dinner had been one night in a long string of nights that went wrong. Looking back on her marriage, it seemed to Alice that were more wrong nights than right ones.
"Something like that." She didn't bother to elaborate and Jasper was too polite to ask.
Their mimosas came and were drunk and though of them could bring him or herself to return to that godforsaken building.
"Just another drink," they kept telling each other. As the volume of the empty glasses increased, the noise level skyrocketed.
Eventually, the maitre'd' genteelly kicked them out for the night saying: "Although Mr. Hale was a valued customer, he was disturbing the other patrons and he would be welcomed back any other time if he could maintain decorum in keeping with the tone of the restaurant."
They ran, laughing wildly through the streets of SoHo, abandon replacing the alcohol rushing in their veins.
Alice stopped before Jasper did. "I'm wearing heels!" She protested. "I love these so let's walk, please."
He picked her up and threw her over his shoulder and continued running, but he only got a few steps before the alcohol in his bloodstream brought him to his knees. Alice grabbed at the railing and managed to right herself. They laughed for several minutes, so hard that tears wet her cheeks and Jasper couldn't find his balance and just lay on the ground, weak from mirth.
Then, the laughter stopped and they were left staring at each in the silent street.
Jasper stood up and brushed off his coat. "We should get back to work," Jasper said quietly even as he joined her on the stoop.
Alice sat down on a small in-step leading to a condo and ignored him. She was staring intently at a sign that hung in the sky, beyond all the buildings on this street, probably several miles away on the edge of the city. It read Motel 6 in tacky neon letters.
Jasper glanced in its direction, confused. "What?"
"It would be so easy to go there with someone."
"Does it matter?" She glanced at Jasper ruefully. "The thing is, I don't think it would bother Edward very much. I mean, I think he would react because he's expected to react in a certain way, but it wouldn't be real." She ran a hand through her spiky do wearily. "And the worst part is, it doesn't bother me that it wouldn't bother him."
Jasper watched her silently as she made her concession.
"I don't love him anymore."
Who do YOU think is going to cheat first? Jasper/Alice or Edward/Bella? Let me know, in a review :)