1. Rules and Boundaries


They're there to tell us what we can and cannot do. Sometimes we like to fight those rules, when we see them as unfair or unnecessary, but ultimately the people who enforced them in the first place win.

Or they make you suffer and wish you had never opened your big, rebellious mouth.

Rules are there to protect you, supposedly, and boundaries exist to say where you cannot go.

Do not use the elevator in the event of a fire… a rule for safety. No entry past this point… a boundary to show that the place belongs to someone else.

There was one subject that was both a rule and a boundary. I didn't understand the rule; and the boundary—though it was to be expected—seemed too clean cut. That subject being, Bella…

The rule side: Don't get to close to her. The boundary: She belongs to Edward… so don't get too close to her.

He covered her in bubble wrap and to everyone I looked like a giant needle. Sharp, dangerous and threatening to spill her blood.

I could stroke the fur on a living butterfly's wings but I was too dangerous to be around Bella.

This is such bullshit. I rolled my eyes as Alice buttoned up the light violet shirt she'd picked out for me.

"Jazzy, please try not to get too close to Bella tonight. That cake's down there so she'll probably be the rose in the room full of trash. Scent-wise…" She toyed with the top two buttons, trying to decide whether or not to button them up; it took three tries before she finally resorted to a vision to check what would be better. I pursed my lips and looked around pointlessly while I waited for her to come back to now.

"Undone." she murmured.

Could I look and more like a preppy bastard? I looked down at my outfit as Alice turned away for a moment. She turned back with a thin, grey sweater in her hands. Ribbed on the wrists and slightly gathered on the bottom.

Yes I could. I took it with a small smile and pulled it over my head.

"Perfect." Alice smiled, satisfaction becoming her dominant emotion.

"Yes, you are." I said, smiling slightly wider.

"Not quite," she denied playfully. "Maybe someday."

"So, if you won't let me get you the Audi, isn't there anything that you'd like for your birthday?" Edward's voice was now audible as Bella's ancient Chevy truck rumbled closer to our house.

"You know what I want." she replied quietly.

Of course he did, we all did. She'd made no secret of her desire to join our world and it really was only a matter of time. Unless you're willing to bet against Alice, which I am not.

"Not tonight, Bella. Please." he asked.

"Well, maybe Alice will give me what I want." she said hopefully, but also threateningly.

Edward's growl was easily heard as they came closer to the house, almost outside by the sounds of it. "This isn't going to be your last birthday, Bella."

"That's not fair!" she snapped back angrily.

The frustration, determination and anger were close and strong enough now that I could feel it.

"Come on." Alice took my hand and quickly led me downstairs to the living room where the others were already waiting.

Rosalie seemed particularly upset; she and I understood each other better than any of the others in our family did.

Even our spouses.

She didn't like that Bella got to age, be human. It was unimaginable to her as to why she would want to give that up to be like us.

She and I were the only two with something to lose by being vampires. Her family had looked for her, they missed her and hadn't given up hope that she'd return. My family was the same, they wanted me to come home but I couldn't, they put up missing persons ads.

Alice was abandoned by her family when she was still a minor, a child in a mental institution for her visions. Edward lost all his family in the epidemic; he himself would have joined them if it weren't for Carlisle. Carlisle became Edward's family. Emmett was, and still is, laid back and goes with the flow and being a vampire is what happened to him. It never really bothers him. Esme willingly gave up her life then Carlisle found her and she had something to live for in this life when she didn't as a human.

It was different for her and I. Even after her parents died much publicized deaths her brother still held out hope and it wasn't until the last ten years that her picture disappeared from the missing persons list. The chance of finding an 84+ year old woman was considered low. Especially when she still looked eighteen.

Edward's laughing drew closer, knocking me out of myself pitying thoughts, as the front door opened.

"Happy Birthday, Bella!" We all said in unison.

Embarrassment hit her like a train, her head dropping forward instantly. She looked around the room, disapproval and mild horrification as she took in the extravagant decorations carefully laid out by Alice.

Edward wrapped his arm around her waist and kissed the top of her head, trying to somewhat sooth the shock. It did the trick.

Esme stepped forward first, extremely pleased to see Bella as always, and carefully hugged her for a moment then kissed her forehead before pulling away. Carlisle stepped over and put his arm around her shoulders in a less constricting hug.

He leant down and whispered in her ear. "Sorry about this, Bella. We couldn't rein Alice in."

She pursed her lips slightly and looked behind him to Rosalie and Emmett. Emmett grinned widely at her, practically thrilled to see his 'favorite human' again. Rosalie was less expressive, probably because it wouldn't be an acceptable look on her face.

"You haven't changed at all," Emmett said teasingly. "I expected a perceptible difference, but here you are, red-faced just like always."

"Thanks a lot, Emmett," Bella replied semi-sarcastically, her pink cheeks getting even darker.

He laughed and started moving towards the door slowly. "I have to step out for a second,"—he turned and winked at Alice, making it purposefully noticeable for Bella's sake—"Don't do anything funny while I'm gone." he requested, teasing her once again.

"I'll try." she murmured.

Alice released my hand from the near circulation stopping grip and skipped forward happily.

I smiled at her too and right as I was about to move to follow Alice I heard Edward suck in a sharp breath, reminding me to keep my distance. I sighed and leant against the post at the bottom of the banister, settling myself in at a distance.

Bella seemed to be focused on me for some reason, thinking, judging from the small frown that tugged at her brow. She looked away after a moment, sadness but understanding acceptance present too.

"Time to open presents," Alice declared, breaking the momentary silence that seemed to stretch on forever. She grasped Bella by the elbow—a rather odd place to pull someone from in my opinion—and dragged her over to the table with the cake and silver wrapped presents.

"Alice, I know I told you I didn't want anything—"

"But I didn't listen," she interrupted, a smug and pleased smirk on her face. "Open it."

She took the camera out of Bella's hands and switched it for the first present. The stereo Emmett was currently installing in her truck from him, Rosalie and me. I could tell right now she wouldn't be pleased by their trapping her into using it by installing it.

Bella looked around self consciously then tore the silver paper off and stared at the brown box, the serial and design numbers stamped on the front. She shook it slightly, noticing the weightlessness of the empty box, only making her confusion even worse. She opened it and her eyebrows rose instantly.

"Um… thanks." She looked up with a forced, extremely confused smile.

The humor finally got to Rose and she smile too. I couldn't take it; I laughed and decided to take pity on the poor girl.

"It's a stereo for your truck," I smiled. "Emmett's installing it right now so that you can't return it."

The predicted disgruntlement appeared; she glanced at Alice then smiled as the pieces worked together into her mind.

"Thanks, Jasper, Rosalie," She smiled gratefully at us, glancing back down at the box then to Edward. "Thanks, Emmett!" she raised her voice, unnecessarily.

Emmett laughed loudly from outside making Bella laugh too. He could, without a mood altering gift, still make most people smile when he did. Infectious happiness. I walked over closer now the mood was a little lighter, friendlier.

"Open mine and Edward's next," Alice practically demanded, thrusting the box towards Bella's hands, her excitement palpable.

Uh-oh. I felt like running away, anger pulsed out of Bella as she turned to glare at Edward. "You promised." she hissed.

God bless Emmett, perfect timing made him come bouncing through the door with childish excitement at that perfectly precise moment. "Just in time." Emmett pushed in behind me to watch. He smelt quite strange now after being in Bella's truck, Emmett with a hint of human. How strange.

"I didn't spend a dime." Edward promised. He brushed the strand of hair that had slipped down in her furious twist before when she'd turned to glare at him.

Bella sucked in a deep breath then turned to Alice, the strand of hair Edward had moved fell back down again. "Give it to me," she sighed.

Emmett chuckled with delight, pleased with her caving in.

She took the CD case from Alice and rolled her eyes at Edward while she slipped her finger under the edge of the paper.

I sucked in a breath as I was about to tell her not to do it like that in case she got cut but it was too late. Everyone else heard the wet sound as the silver paper sliced into her finger.

"Shoot," she muttered, dropping the present to check the damage.

The scent blew across the room quicker as she dropped the package, fanning the air. The burning ignited in my throat and the monster snarled in my chest.

No, no, no. I tensed and sprung involuntarily.

"No!" Edward roared.

He slammed his left hand into Bella, sending her flying over the table—collecting the cake, presents, flowers and plates as she flew—and onto the floor on the other side. The plates shattered around her, cutting her open no doubt.

I slammed into Edward's back; the air where he was standing was thickly scented with Bella's blood.

No! Stop! I yelled at the monster, fighting for control. A snarl rumbled in my chest and I could feel myself losing, losing the control and—in a way—my sanity. The room turning a shade of tinged red as all I could focus on was the alluring, irresistible smell of her freely flowing blood.

I flung my head to the side and snapped at Edward's throat, fighting with him for the prize. She was a prize now, a meal, the monster was winning and I couldn't fight him.

Someone pulled me backwards, off Edward. Emmett, it had to be, no one else was strong enough to hold me now. I couldn't look away, my banquet was sitting just a few feet away, her skin already open. I fought against the grip he had, the iron strong, unyielding strangle hold he had on me.

Bella looked up, confused, so much had happened in the few seconds, too much for her human mind to follow. Her brown eyes were glazing over. I fought to get to her, while she was weak, now is the time.

"Emmett, Rose, get Jasper outside." Carlisle ordered.

Emmett nodded and started for the door.

No! Not away, I have to get to her. I struggled harder, turning to fight him off me. "Come on, Jasper."

Rosalie stepped in front of me and pulled me forward as Emmett pushed behind me. Her face was smug; she knew it would happen, like she'd told me before. She always thought it would be Edward.

She pulled me out, past Esme who was holding the door open, and then Emmett threw me far across the yard, out into the untainted air.

"I'm so sorry, Bella." Esme cried, joining us out in the fresh air.

"Go!" Emmett pointed off into the forest. "Get control."

In the clean air I was fighting back again. She was just inside, on the other side of that wall. Bleeding, weak, vulnerable.

"Jasper!" Esme pleaded, shame coming out of her in bucket loads that she too couldn't stay with Bella. "Don't do it." she begged.

I fought the monster harder, forcing myself to turn. I rigidly walked the first few steps, breathing heavily to clean my lungs. I looked off into the dark forest then jumped over the river and ran, away from the house so I couldn't hurt her.

She's still alive, she's still alive, I didn't kill her, I didn't get to her. She's still alive. I chanted over and over, shaking my head at inhuman speeds to clear the thoughts of hurting her from my head.

This is why we have rules and boundaries.


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