Lessons Unexpected – Chapter One
A/N: First off, I'd like to say a GIANT ASS THANK YOU to Chipper (at) EdwardsChipper for being my sounding board throughout the creation of this fic. That, and she totally strokes my ego by telling me how much she loves it. You are truly irreplaceable darlin...and not just because you know how to make a gal blush ;) Check out her profile, which you can find in my must-read list!
Second, this will be a Jasper/Bella fic. Do NOT send me messages asking me to change this pairing or tell me how much you don't like Bella with anyone but Edward. To put it bluntly, I don't give a flying rat's vagina.
Third, enjoy :)
I'm so tired of being here. Suppressed by all my childish fears.—"My Immortal" by Evanesence
The young woman behind the bar sighed and threw down the rag that she was using to clean the bar top. An idiot freshman, clearly already drunk, had stumbled in, bitched and moaned about not being able to get any service since he couldn't provide any identification. After a lengthy argument about how she could not possibly serve him any booze—since she knew for a fact that he was under the legal age limit—he promptly vomited all over the corner of the bar and down the front of his top.
"Little busy here, Joe!" she called back, grabbing a fresh rag to clean up the vomit.
I do not get paid enough for this shit, she thought to herself as she wet the rag with hot water and it burned her skin.
"I need you out on the floor!" Joe, the owner of Down Dog's Cafe & Bar and her boss stuck his head through the doorway that led to the back rooms.
"Well then you come clean up frat boy's upchuck, will ya?" she called back, wetting the cloth with disinfectant and beginning to wipe down the polished wood surface.
"Upchuck?" Joe questioned, coming out from the back room where he did whatever managers do, "Have you been serving under agers?"
"Jesus Christ, Joe!" Bella said, "Of course not! I was explaining all the reasons why I couldn't serve him when his already drunk ass vomited everywhere. His friends took him outta here. Ten bucks says you'll find him in the alley outback heaving his guts onto the concrete."
"Oh," Joe said, watching as she threw yet another soiled rag into the bucket at her feet. "Well, at least he's outta here. When you're done can you please hit the floor for a bit?"
Bella sighed, "And who's going to cover the bar?"
"Well, you could..." Joe gestured with his hands between the bar and the crowded floor.
"I could, what? Tend both? Be in two places at once?" Bella questioned, one eyebrow raised in disbelief.
"Bella, you know we're short staffed tonight!" Joe said, almost whined.
Bella threw the last of her cleaning instruments into the bucket and picked it up, "Yeah, only because you haven't hired anyone to fill Sebastian's position yet!" She shook her head in disgust and pushed past her boss. "You don't pay me enough for this bullshit, Joe."
She knew that Joe would not follow her into the back, he wasn't very good at confrontation and Bella was all about standing up for herself these days. She didn't back down from anyone, not even the man who signed off on her cheques. She brought the bucket over to the linen bag that held the aprons, towels and rags that the staff used and dumped her disgusting lot into it. The bag would be sent out to an industrial cleaner and sent back fresh and clean. It was a small mercy that she didn't have to clean out the vomit covered rags herself.
When she was done she cleaned her hands and headed out to the floor, grabbing a pen and pad while she was at it. Evenings at Down Dog's often involved complicated orders from the usually inebriated clientele. The establishment functioned as a cafe during the daytime—serving sandwiches, soups and various caffeinated beverages—and a bar during the evenings. It was a real hit amongst the student population. Bella had secured a job there through the student union despite the fact that she had no experience as a server or bar tender prior to working for Joe. It wasn't like there were bars aplenty in Forks, her sleepy home town.
Bella saw a hand shoot up from a corner where several students had pushed together a few tables and piled it high with drinks. She walked over and got her pen out.
"Can I top you guys up?" she asked.
She took their order and ran back to the bar, where several people were waiting—surprisingly patient considering that they had been drinking—and filled all the orders. She spent the next three hours doing just that; running between the floor and the bar, trying to make sure everyone was served while keeping an eye on how drunk her patrons were getting. Her feet were sore, the ache spreading up through her calves and into her back. She had a massive headache brewing behind her eyes, which was not helped by the pounding dance music that poured from the huge speakers above her head, and what she really wanted was to go home, curl up with a cup of tea and fall asleep watching infomercials.
Bella was counting down the minutes to last call when she realized that the garbage bins behind the bar were almost over flowing. Sighing, she tied them up and headed for the back entrance where she could throw them in the dumpster. She called out the Joe, letting him know that he had to man the bar for a few minutes and shouldered her way through the metal door. The night air hit her hard, her breath frosted in her face and her skin pimpled. Alaska was never the place she had expected to find herself but, as Bella had learned the hard way, things in life rarely turned out the way you expected or wanted.
Quickly, she made her way over to the dumpster, trying not to slip over the trodden and packed snow. She had just thrown her bags in the dumpster when she turned around and saw the shape of a person slinking around the alley way. She wouldn't have thought anything of it—people cut through the alley way all the time, especially drunk people seeking a quiet place to puke or pee—except for the fact that she got an inexplicable chill down her spine as she watched the tall form disappear from view. Bella briefly considered putting the sensation down to the fact that she was standing outside in the middle of an Alaskan night in nothing but a pair of jeans and a t-shirt that barely covered her midriff, but she knew better. She would never know if it was simple human stupidity that drove her or something more akin to fate—and Bella wasn't sure she liked the idea of a predestined fate—but nothing would change the fact that she followed the mysterious form knowing that whatever awaited her was probably not the friendly type.
She tried to move quickly and quietly, her feet crunching slightly on the unpacked snow. She had just reached the mouth of the alley way when she heard the first sign that her instinct had been right on the money. Someone made a sound, a small cry of surprise, quickly muffled. There was the sound of something being dragged and then all movement, all sound stopped.
"I know you're there."
Bella's stomach lurched. That voice rang with a cold familiarity, but she had to be hearing things. She would chalk it up to wishful thinking, if the owner of that voice were desired at all, but that wasn't the case and hadn't been for nearly four years. She had to be mistaken, she had to be.
Only one way to find out, she told herself.
Steeling her nerves, she stepped out from the alley way and onto the quiet street.
She could have never prepared herself for what she saw.
Standing here, holding a young man by the throat, was none other than Jasper Cullen.
He had changed his appearance a bit, how she was not sure, but his hair was darker—the exact shade hard to tell in the dim lighting—and he wore clothing that Alice wouldn't have deemed fit to be on a homeless person. Of course, Bella reasoned with herself, Alice was rather particular about these kinds of things. He wore a beat up leather jacket over some sort of dark shirt, his jeans were loose on his body and ripped at the knees. He had some sort of boots on and Bella had the strange thought that they were probably cowboy boots, though she could not tell from the angle at which he stood.
"Jasper," she whispered, her eyes locked on his face.
He did not turn to look at her; he did not even acknowledge that she was standing there. His eyes were locked on the young man before him, a young man who was barely conscious and only staying upright because of Jasper's grip on him.
"Jasper, what are you doing here? What are you doing with him?" Bella asked, though she had a sinking feeling that she already knew the answer.
Jasper bared his teeth, his face moving ever so closer to the young man's. "What do you think, Bella? Or have you forgotten what I am?"
"I have not forgotten. I also seem to remember that your choice of diet was somewhat different. That seems to have changed," her words were bolder than she felt. She knew that Jasper could feel that and wondered if he would act on it.
Instead, Jasper let out a humourless chuckle and finally turned his head to face her.
Bella gasped. She had never seen such a cruel and...inhuman look on his face. His eyes were narrowed to slits, his lip curled and his teeth bared. He had never looked more like a vampire and Bella felt another shiver pass through her.
"You remember things rather differently than I do. That is no surprise, your humanity blinds you to much in this world."
"Then enlighten me," Bella said, taking a step forward and keeping her eyes locked on Jasper.
She knew that she was gambling with her life. This was the same vampire who would have chowed down on her nearly four years prior on her 18th birthday; and now that same vampire was holding an innocent young man by the throat, possibly suffocating him, and was fully prepared to make a meal out of him. There was little standing between her and death, she knew that. But she also knew that out of the two of them—her or the man—she had the greater chance of walking away from this alive. At least she was conscious enough to bargain, and she had a history with this vampire, something that she was hoping would see her through this little interaction.
"Enlighten you?" Jasper's tone sounded incredulous as he turned away from the young man and faced Bella completely, "Enlighten you? You cannot be enlightened. You are the source of my goddamn problems, the beginning of the fucking end."
"That's a little harsh considering you're the reason why I was abandoned in Forks," Bella said immediately. The old anger filled her swiftly and completely; it's reappearance heralded the end of her sanity.
Jasper moved with the speed and agility of a vampire; so quickly that Bella could not see him until he was right in front of her, grabbing her by the throat and slamming her into the wall. She heard more than saw him throw the young man aside before she felt his cold hand clench tightly around her neck. The brick wall bit painfully into the back of her head as her human skull bounced off of it but she found that Jasper had not yet decided to kill her since she could breathe perfectly.
"You are the reason why you were abandoned in Forks. You are the reason why I am what you see before you. I blame you," he spat, his beautiful and terrifying face mere centimetres from hers.
Bella knew that he felt her fear, her alarm, and yet he had not done anything to intensify it. With that in mind, her heart pounding furiously in her chest, she reached up and grabbed his face in her hands. Exuding pressure on his jaw, to let him know that she wished for him to tilt his face, she examined him for the first time in four years. She didn't know why he allowed her to take the liberties that she did, especially since it was painfully clear that he blamed her for the fiasco known as her birthday, but he followed the slight pressure of her fingers as she tilted his face this way and that. The dim light from the street light behind her illuminated his face so that she could see him clearly.
His eyes glowed red, a sure sign of his new choice in lifestyle, but it was not the colour in his eyes that grabbed her attention immediately.
It was the pain.
"Your decisions are your own. I take no responsibility for who or what you have become since I saw you four years ago. I am responsible only for my own actions," she hesitated, staring into his furious and hurt red eyes, "but if any of my actions have hurt you, then I am more sorry than you could ever know."
She dropped her hands from his face and looked down, his hand around her throat would not allow her to move her face away from his, but she could no longer stand to look him in the eyes. Her words, brave considering her position, didn't stop the fact that she felt guilt raging through her. The last she had seen of Jasper he had been snapping at her face, trying desperately to get at her, and yet he said that she was the one to blame. She knew, rationally, that she could not be blamed for being human and accidentally bleeding in front of him—it wasn't like she had meant to do it—but the Jasper she had known had always been a rational being, rational and logical to the very extreme. If he blamed her for something then she had to reason that he was right—even if she was unaware for what she was to blame—and if she had caused him pain then she truly was sorry.
"I do not need your pity," he growled at her, tightening his grip on her neck.
"You must be getting rusty because I feel no pity for you," Bella said, looking at his face once again as her airway was constricted ever so slightly.
"I'm an empath Bella, you can lie to me, but your emotions cannot. You feel sorry for me, I can feel it!"
"Funny thing, being an empath, isn't it? If only you could combine your gift with Edward's and we'd have a real winner on our hands, wouldn't we?" Bella gasped out, it was becoming harder and harder to breath as Jasper continued to constrict her airways.
His eyebrows shot up and his grip stilled at the mention of his brother's name.
"You can feel my emotions, Jasper, but you don't know the reasoning behind them," Bella continued, taking advantage of his momentary surprise, "I am sorry for you, yes, not because I pity you, but because I fear that I have played some part in your pain."
All of a sudden Jasper's grip tightened to the point of pain and Bella lost all ability to breath. She began to see white spots dance before her eyes and her hands came up automatically—and futilely—to pull at the cold grip around her throat.
"You know nothing!" he growled.
Bella gasped and pulled at the unyielding hand around her throat, willing herself to stay calm despite the fact that her chest was burning and she feared for her life. Her efforts were for nothing; the kind of panic that swallows a human being faced with death is not easily defeated and Bella was no master at staring down death. Sure, she had been pretty sure she was about to die when she went to meet James, but when the moment came she was far too distracted by the pain in her body. Now, there was very little pain compared to back then. Now, there was a terrifying lack of oxygen, a burning in her chest, and fear in her heart. She felt her limbs growing heavy as her vision darkened. She realized, belatedly, that the last thing she would see before she died would be Jasper's angry face, staring into her own. For some reason, that disappointed her.
"Argh! I can't do this!" Jasper practically screamed as he released his hold on Bella's throat.
Instantly she dropped to her knees, taking in a deep, painful and ragged breath as she did. Her hands came out to catch her and she found herself on all fours, staring at the toes of Jasper's boots. Cowboy boots; she had been right about his footwear. She wanted to laugh at herself, and would have had she had the breath to do so; of all the stupid things to think of when your life has just been handed back to you.
Suddenly, Jasper was crouching in front of her, his lips next to hear ear, "Stay away from me Bella Swan. I've no need for you to complicate my life once again."
With the speed and grace inherit in his species, Jasper straightened up and turned on his heel. She looked up, watching him cross the street and walk away as if he had been doing nothing but strolling leisurely through the neighbourhood. As she watched his retreating back she felt that same anger rise up in her again, the anger she had worked so hard to let go of four years ago when he had walked away from her, when they had walked away from her.
Jasper was walking away from her, again. Abandoning her. Running.
Coward, she thought, her blood boiling.
"You COWARD!" she screamed, her throat protesting such violent use so soon after being assaulted.
Jasper didn't pause. He didn't look back. He didn't even acknowledge that he'd heard her.
He just kept walking.
A/N: Sooo... whatcha think? As my is my habit, people who review will get teasers from the next chapter so long as it's already written!