All characters and recognizable plot lines belong to S.M. Everything else is mine.

Life sucks, then you die.

Yeah, promises, promises.

Unfortunately, the sucking part can last a long, long time before the dying part kicks in. Especially when you're only 17 and have another 60 or so years to look forward to.

Well, maybe. Sooner or later the law of averages would probably kick in and one of my trips to the emergency room might lead to me exiting through an entirely different set of hospital doors. Although by this point I was really tired of hospitals; maybe my next misadventure would have my bypassing the emergency room altogether…

"We will be arriving in Port Angeles in 15 minutes, and the pilot requests that you please return to your seats at this time and fasten your seatbelts in preparation for landing. Also, please make sure that your tray tables are in the fully upright and locked position. Everyone have a nice day!".

My eye twitched in reaction to the hideously cheerful voice coming through the speakers, but I had to admit that I was also somewhat glad for the distraction. I had felt myself sinking further into depression with every minute that passed as the small plane brought me closer and closer to my own personal hell on Earth, and making certain that my already fastened seatbelt was still secure gave me something to do besides brood for a few seconds. When I was certain that it wouldn't come undone upon landing, thereby tossing me into the seat in front and probably resulting in a broken nose at the very least, I forced my thoughts away from their previous track and instead tried to refocus. "Be careful what you wish for" and all that. Although I didn't actually wish for death, wallowing in thoughts of it just might not be wise, all things considered. Instead I tried to turn my mind to something, anything, positive, and immediately a pair of ocean-blue eyes--argh!

Reflexively I pushed the image away, frustrated with myself. I shook my head a little to clear it, then winced as the action caused the dull ache in my back to flare into a sharp, stabbing pain. I closed my eyes and did my best to relax my body as I took slow, measured breaths until the knives retreated and the pain once was once again on the level of background noise. I carefully shifted in my seat, opening my eyes and catching the gaze of the sweet-looking elderly woman sitting two seats down. She looked concerned, and I could tell she was about to ask if I was all right. I really didn't feel up to engaging in conversation at the moment, so I sent her a reassuring smile and then closed my eyes again as I tipped my head back against the seat.

Thank goodness the flight was almost over. I still had trouble sitting still for extended periods of time, and there hadn't been enough of a layover in Seattle to adequately stretch my cramped muscles before boarding the much smaller plane to Port Angeles. Of course, there was still the drive to Forks to look forward to. And the single bathroom in Charlie's house was equipped with a shower stall instead of a bathtub, so I couldn't even anticipate a long, relaxing soak to work out the kinks. And the constant cold and damp was probably going to play hell with-

Okay, enough. Positive thoughts. Come on, think of something.


Wavy blond hair, ocean-blue eyes laughing at me…

Oh, for God's sake.

Okay, fine then, if that's the way you want it. I'm tired of keeping him locked up, anyway. You want to think about him and be miserable because it's still going to be hours, if not days, before you actually get to see him again, be my guest. (Yes, I talk to myself. Frequently. I do all my own stunts, too. Now, moving on…)

I opened the door to the little room in my mind where I kept all my "Jasper memories" stored (fat lot of good it's been doing at keeping him locked away, anyway. Might as well have had one of those bead curtains instead of the double-bolted heavy steel door I equipped it with. Damn that thing was a bitch to open; how the hell did he keep escaping, anyway?), and let myself wallow in memories for the rest of the short flight and landing.


He was the only thing about Forks that I was looking forward to, the one bright spot in the otherwise dreary, rainy little town that I had detested ever since I could remember.

Although, even he hadn't been enough to keep me from putting my foot down with Charlie 3 years ago and absolutely refusing to spend another summer in exile, insisting that Charlie visit me for two weeks each summer instead. And you can be sure that Jasper had raised holy hell about that, too. After blowing up at me over the phone when I tried to explain my decision to him, he had cut off all contact-it was months before he started replying to my emails again, and almost a year before he would talk to me over the phone.

Wait a minute. Wasn't the whole point of opening up the Jasper room to think of positive things? Figures that the first thing to come out would be what I like to refer to as "The Dark Ages". It's all that bitch Pandora's fault, her and her goddamned box set the precedent. "Hey, open me up and watch as all the horrors and pestilences of the world come flying out. Although as a small consolation prize I DO have some hope here in the bottom if you've managed survive the main attraction. Come back tomorrow for an encore showing-same time, same place."

Yeah, because talking to myself isn't strange enough, I also tend to ramble when I'm doing it. Give me a break, I'm talking to myself here, who's around to care if I ramble a bit?

Okay, so now that we've gotten the bad part over with, can we take some time to focus on the GOOD memories please? Thank you.

In all fairness, I could understand Jasper's anger at what he considered my abandonment. After all, we had been summer buddies for years, ever since his family had moved into the house down the street from Charlie the summer I was eight.

When the Whitlocks had moved to Forks, Washington from Texas, their son and I had immediately bonded over our mutual disgust for the rain and wet that were a constant in this tiny little town on the Olympic Peninsula. We had quickly discovered that we had a lot in common, both being only children with…well, let's just say less than ideal home situations.

Of course, Jasper had considered it highly unfair that I got to go back to the land of sun at the end of August while he was stuck in Forks, and starting the summer we were nine we had tried in vain each year to petition our parents to let him stay with Renee and I in Phoenix over Christmas break. That never did pan out, but while I was in Forks for 2 months each summer we were practically inseparable--the tall blond boy with deep blue eyes and easy smile and the small girl with chestnut hair, pale skin, and solemn brown eyes.

Jasper was my rock, my constant, my best friend and my better half. He always seemed to know how I was feeling and had an uncanny knack of showing up just when I needed him most--whether it was calling me long distance after a particularly embarrassing day at school or showing up just in time to rescue me from one of Charlie's fishing trips. Oh God, the fishing trips! Just for that alone I could have loved him for all of eternity.

Over the years Jasper had saved me from countless fishing trips, volunteering to "keep an eye on Bella" while Charlie headed down to spend Sunday at his favorite spot on the lake. Charlie was good with the situation after he got over the guilt of leaving me alone during what was supposed to be our father-daughter time. After all, as I pointed out, I was really much safer when kept as far away from the water as possible. It helped that he was under the impression that us kids spent the days at Jasper's house; he probably wouldn't have been so quick to agree if he realized that Jasper's parents had a mostly "hands-off" philosophy when it came to raising their son. Basically, as long as he came home at night and showed up for family functions they considered that good enough.

We usually stayed away from town, mostly because when you're the Chief of Police's daughter people tend to notice you, and I didn't want word getting back to Charlie that I was not, in fact, under the unflinching gaze of parental supervision while I was with Jasper.

Consequently, we spent a lot of time wandering the countryside and exploring the woods behind our houses. The damp, cold, dreary woods. The woods that were constantly wet and full of treacherously slippery fallen logs and muddy trails, even in the middle of summer. It still beat fishing, though.

Jasper had started carrying a small first aid kit that contained bandages, Neosporin, and moist towelets everywhere we went by the time we were ten. He was in charge of carrying it because I refused to. My argument was that it seemed like giving in and admitting to the impossibility that I would make it through a single day without bleeding. Ever practical, Jasper had laughed that it might not be impossible, but it darn sure would be a miracle, and the bandages were going with us whether I liked it or not. As usual Jasper was right, and over the years had patched up dozens of my scrapes and skinned knees and elbows with the "Bella kit" as he liked to call it.

He half carried me home the day I fell and sprained my ankle as we walked along the top of a downed fir tree, and called for an ambulance the time I broke my arm falling out of the apple tree in his backyard. That one took some quick talking to explain to Charlie why we had been alone in Jasper's backyard when the ambulance came, and for a while there I thought the jig was up. After that we agreed that "Bella doesn't get along very well with trees", and it might be better if I just stayed earthbound from then on. Worked for me.

When we were twelve he told me about kissing Jessica Stanley behind the cafeteria on the last day of school.

It was an unusually sunny day in early July, and we were sitting side-by-side on the grass in a small clearing about half a mile from Charlie's house. It was our favorite spot to go when the sun was shining; we would lie back and watch the clouds go by, making patterned shadows on the ground around us as they passed. Entire afternoons were sometimes spent talking and making up shapes in the clouds, but that day I didn't even glance up at the sky, instead glaring at Jasper as he quietly made his confession.

Theoretically I realized that Jasper had his own life outside of our summers together, and that he did things without me and knew other people just as I did when I was back home. But important things we always waited on so we could do them for the first time together.

We had each smoked our first (and only) cigarette together in this very clearing the summer before, hacking and choking our way through the entire thing before I got sick and Jasper held my hair back and used one of the ever-present towelets to wipe my face afterward.

We had our first sips of alcohol one day when Jasper's dad left the liquor cabinet unlocked and we snuck out a bottle of scotch. I didn't throw up that day, but it was a close thing and for a while I thought my stomach was going to explode.

So as I watched Jasper's index finger nervously trail aimless patterns through the grass as he talked I felt a tight ball growing in my stomach that reminded me of the aftermath of the Scotch incident. I couldn't seem to form a complete, coherent thought, and one half-formed question after another came stumbling out of my mouth when he was finished.

"I thought we always…why didn't you wait…didn't you want-" but I was cut off by his warm lips suddenly pressing against mine. And then they weren't just pressing, they were MOVING, and involuntarily my lips parted slightly in a soft gasp. He angled his head more and parted his lips the slightest bit and then his mouth was sliding over mine and my head was spinning and the ball of fire in my stomach was still there but now it was different and my lips were tingling and I couldn't breath and there was a rushing in my ears and everything was black and then there were bursts of color and the whole world was gone.

When he lifted his head away from mine I opened eyes that I hadn't remembered closing and we looked at each other wonderingly for several seconds, both panting slightly. Then Jasper smiled a little and ducked his head as his hand started tracing patterns on the grass again.

"I wanted to practice before I kissed you for the first time, so I would know…so it would be…and I heard that Jessica gets around, and I thought, um…" he looked up at me with red creeping up his neck, and I was mesmerized by the phenomenon of Jasper blushing!

As if his blush had triggered my own, I felt my own face turn red as I looked down and mumbled "well, um, it was really…uh, nice….so I guess….ah…do you want to…I mean…I wouldn't mind…"

I felt him move closer, and then glanced up quickly to gauge his expression and was caught by the look in his eyes. Slowly, unbidden, my fingertips reached out and touched his bottom lip. As his face came closer and closer to my own, I didn't realize how far I had been leaning forward until my other hand slipped out from underneath me and I did a faceplant in the grass in front of him.

There was a beat of surprised silence, then Jasper's laughter rang out through the still air as he helped me sit back up. I felt like my whole body was on fire with humiliation and something else that I couldn't quite put a name to as he held my face still with one hand and gently brushed off bits of dirt and grass with the other until I shoved his hands away and vigorously rubbed my sleeve over my face instead. Still chuckling, he pressed a quick kiss to my bright crimson cheek and said "come on, we better get back before any blood gets spilt." He pulled me to my feet and put his arm around my shoulders as we made our way back along the well-worn path through the trees to Charlie's house. Every now and then he would pick a bit of debris out of my hair and grin at my ill-tempered grumbles.

Suddenly I realized that not only had the plane landed, but the seats around me were fast emptying as people hurried to depart and go claim their luggage and loved ones. Slowly I stood up and made my way to the aisle, being careful not to trip as I squeezed through the small opening between the seats. Charlie would be waiting for me, but I couldn't bring myself to hurry as I thought about the last leg of the journey that I still had to make--the hour-long trip from Port Angeles. In the police cruiser. With Charlie. At least I knew that I wouldn't have to worry about making small talk; one of the best thinks about Charlie is that he doesn't feel the need to clutter up perfectly good silence.

As I emerged through the doorway into the airport, I glanced around and spotted him waiting for me about 20 feet away. I raised my hand to shoulder height and gave him a small wave which he returned with a quick swipe of his own hand through the air. I made my way over to him and we looked at each other for a moment before Charlie said "well, we better go get your bags" and turned away. There were no awkward hugs, for which I was grateful. As Charlie got into the cruiser he gave me a small smile and said "It's good to have you here, Bells." I didn't know what to say to that, so I just nodded and looked out the windshield. Another thing about Charlie-he doesn't talk much, but when he says something you know he means it. And it did help, a little, knowing that my being here pleased him. Not much, but a little.

The car ride mostly passed in silence, as I stared out the window at the never-ending green that passed by. Grass, trees, bushes, moss--everything was so green. No matter how many times I had come here, it still always shocked me anew and made me feel like a visitor to an alien planet. Of course, I told myself, I had never been here in September before, so maybe it actually WAS greener than I remembered since the heavier fall rains had already replaced the lighter summer rains. I almost expected to see the Jolly Green Giant come striding along, towering above the trees and head lost in the fog as he "ho ho ho'd" his way through the land that sun forgot. As we crossed a small creek I was almost amused to note that even the bridges were painted green, and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so I did neither.

As we neared town, I noticed Charlie glance at me from the corner of his eye and shift slightly in his seat. Since this was the Charlie version of jumping up and down and waving his arms at me, I looked over at him with surprise. "What?"

"When you told me you were moving up here, I kind of got you a homecoming present. Now I know how you feel about gifts" he said with a quick glance in my direction, "but I know you like riding around in the cruiser even less, so I bought you a truck. It's not much, but it runs great and is real dependable. You remember Billy Black?" I nodded, feeling a tightening in my throat as I sensed where this might be heading. "Well, he's in a wheelchair now and so he can't drive anymore. His boy Jake has done a real good job of keeping Billy's old truck in good shape, but Jake would rather drive around in his little toy car, so Billy was looking at selling her. I remembered that you always liked the old thing, so I thought you might want to have it." Just then we arrived at Charlie's house and pulled up into the driveway next to the bulbous-nosed old red rust bucket.

I was stunned. Not only was this one of the longest speeches I had ever heard Charlie make, but I was absurdly touched that he remembered such an insignificant little thing as the fact that I had always loved Billy Black's old red beater. I hadn't seen Billy or the truck for at least 6 years, and hadn't realized Charlie even noticed how I used to climb up in the cab and bounce on the bench seat when Billy would come visit.

I was pulled out of my thoughts by Charlie clearing his throat and saying "I suppose it was silly to buy it without asking you first, just because you used to like it as a kid. If you want something else I'm sure Billy wouldn't mind buying it back..."

"No, no, I want it, definitely." I said as I scrambled out of the car and stopped there in the driveway to admire my beast. It wasn't pretty, but it was mine, and I instantly loved it. Her. She had probably once been a deep maroon, but over the eight hundred years since she had rolled off the factory floor her paint had faded to a dull rust-red and some of the body parts had started, well, sagging a bit. But she was clean and had what looked like brand spanking new tires on her, and best of all she was MINE.

"Well, that's good" said Charlie, and he surprised me again by resting his hand on my shoulder. We stood that way for a second or two, then he removed his hand and walked around to the back of the cruiser. "I'll go ahead and take your bags up to your room. It's mostly the same, but I bought new sheets and stuff for the bed. The saleslady picked them out, she said most teenage girls would like the purple, but if you want we can get something else."

By this point we had arrived at the top of the stairs and I followed Charlie into the room that had been mine since before I could remember. It was small and sparsely furnished with a bed, a nightstand with an alarm clock, a dresser, a rocking chair in the corner, and a small wooden desk with a lamp and what looked to be an ancestor of the modern day computer sitting on it. The bed was made up with light purple bedding that actually brightened up the room a bit.

"No, this is great. Thanks Ch..Dad." I stood there in the center of the room, again surprised at the number of words that had left Charlie's mouth in the last few minutes. He set the bags down and stood there looking around for a few seconds, then turned and headed for the door. Another great thing about Charlie; he doesn't hover. Just before walking out of the room he half turned and without quite looking at me said quietly "I want you to be happy here, Bells". Then he was gone.

I slowly walked over to the bed and sat down, running my hand over the comforter. Then I stood and made my way over to the small window and looked out. I had a good view of the driveway and the street from the house to the corner, but there wasn't anything else to look at but more trees-there were no houses on the other side of road.

I turned around again and started unpacking. It didn't take long, as I had never really felt the need to surround myself with stuff, and most of my clothing had been discarded as not appropriate for the cold, wet Pacific Northwest. I would probably have to go shopping sometime in the near future if I didn't want to end up wearing the same 3 hoodies to school every day. That pretty much meant a trip to Port Angeles, and I briefly wondered what kind of mileage Bessy got. Probably about eight gallons to the mile, but it would still be better than the humiliation of having to go anywhere in the most conspicuous vehicle within a 40-mile radius.

Looking out the window again I noticed Charlie getting in his cruiser and pulling out of the driveway. He had taken time off work to pick me up from the airport, but now he had to go back to making the streets safe for the good people of Forks. I watched as he made the turn off the dead-end road onto the busier cross-street, and was about to turn away when a blue pickup turned my way. There were only 3 houses at this end of the street, and when a glance at the clock showed that it was almost 3:00, I had a good idea of just who might be in that blue truck. I turned and ran down the stairs and out the front door before skidding to a stop at the porch railing, grabbing hold of it instinctively. The truck had come to a stop in front of the white house closest to the intersection, and as I watched the driver door opened and a tall figure clad in jeans, boots and a dark t-shirt stepped out. It looked like he glanced over at Charlie's driveway before he shut the door and headed for his house, but the distance was too far for me to be certain.

As he headed up the walk to his house, I stumbled down the porch steps and stopped at the bottom, unsure of my next move. The tall figure started to take the first step up to the porch, then stopped and again looked toward Charlie's house. That time he saw me standing there, and after the briefest of hesitations started eating up the distance between us in long, smooth strides. As he moved closer I could make out the slightly too long wavy blond hair that curled at the ends, and that was all I needed. I launched myself across the space still separating us and threw myself into his arms, almost knocking him off his feet. I wrapped my arms around his waist and buried my head in his chest, and his arms came up around me and pulled me up tightly against him. His hand began stroking my hair and I heard him murmuring something in a soft voice against the top of my head, but I couldn't make out the words over the gasping sound of someone crying. It was only when I turned my head and felt the wetness on his shirt that I realized it was me.