A/N: This is the first thing I've written that I've intended for public consumption...ever. Basically I'm terrified, but with the help of copious amounts of alcohol and imaginary balls the size of Mexico I've managed to talk myself into posting it. Yikes.

Constructive criticism is welcome, but be aware that if you tell me I suck I'm going to curl up in a ball and cry for days. I'm a total baby like that.

I don't have a beta, so all mistakes are mine.

~-~- Chapter 1 -~-~

"Yesterday, when I would touch you, you were so...hesitant, so careful, and yet still the same. I need to know why. Is it because I'm too late? Because I've hurt you too much? Because you have moved on, as I meant for you to? That would be...quite fair. I won't contest your decision. So don't try to spare my feelings, please—just tell me now whether or not you can still love me, after everything I've done to you. Can you?" he whispered. -New Moon, page 511

My heart thudded in my chest, my lungs screamed for air. I wanted to say yes. I wanted it so badly. Time slowed as his questions swirled around me, his offer to set it all right. We could be together again, the hole in my chest could be closed permanently. I wouldn't have to live with this pain anymore. My mouth opened, my tongue had just begun to form the word when my brain engaged, and I really took in what he had just told me.

He had lied, manipulated and destroyed me, and he had done it on purpose. Before the words spilled from his mouth I would never have thought him capable of such a thing, but the past months couldn't erase themselves from my mind. The pain and loneliness were carved into my heart, the worthlessness I'd felt was still tattooed across my skin. The context he put my suffering into...it was unbearable. He did this to me, to Charlie.

I died a little more at that moment, because right there in my bedroom, staring at the face I'd yearned after for so long was when I realized that Edward hadn't changed in the slightest, but I was a completely different person. He was still the same magnificently beautiful boy who could simply look at me and I would be putty. He was achingly beautiful, perfect in a way I could never strive to match. I struggled to allow my brain to overrule the instinct raging deep within me that said I couldn't live without him, but a voice whispered in the back of my head that maybe it wasn't so much him that I ached for. The circumstances surrounding our separation had broken off just as many pieces of me as his abandonment had. He'd left me alone and broken, feeling completely unloved. We'd left so much unfinished and unsaid.

His mere presence had returned the missing pieces to me, restored the power he'd stolen out in the woods that day, but knowing the truth—that was the salve that healed the wound, and I knew without a doubt that if I allowed him to he would crush me all over again. It wasn't so long ago that he promised to never leave me, as long as staying was what was best for me. Could I trust him to not make that decision for me again? It hurt so much when I realized I couldn't. Edward was stubborn, he would always think he knew what was best. I was stronger than that now, I had survived months of my life without my heart beating in my chest. I'd given it to him and he'd run off into the night leaving me shattered and incomplete.

I hadn't noticed I was crying until he reached out to brush the tears from my face. I flinched away from the icy tips of his fingers, if I allowed myself to find comfort in him I would never be able to do this. He noticed, but said nothing. He was offering me the choice he should have given me out in the woods the day he destroyed me so completely, and it only solidified my decision when I was forced to admit to myself it was the first real choice he'd given me. Everything else he'd allowed me had been by his will.

I took a moment to just look at him, and...nothing. There was nothing left between us. I would always love him, and I would always want that version of him I idolized and fell in love with so long ago, but I'd only seen what I wanted to back then. The truth was he was here and those parts of him I'd steadfastly ignored were staring me right in the face. He was controlling and manipulative. He disregarded my feelings, and basically told me I was worthless...and for what? So he could live the fantasy that I'd forget about him? Edward may have lived a long time, but he was forever seventeen. Edward would never grow up and I thought that maybe that was part of the problem. I had grown up a lot since the last time I saw him, and I was beginning to understand what Charlie and Renee had meant when they told me that real love meant not losing yourself in someone else.

"No," I whispered so softly I wasn't sure the sound had even tumbled from my lips, but he heard it just the same.

I braced myself, the hole in my chest had disappeared the moment he'd held me in Volterra, but I knew with my single word it would be back. That one word, it would bring the emptiness back—but it was my burden, my punishment for refusing the life I had mourned and clung to so tightly.

His face crumpled and I was desperate to turn back time and be that girl again, his girl. The girl who threw herself into danger headfirst for the ones she loved even though she wasn't sure they loved her as deeply. The girl who steadfastly ignored the warnings and chased down love and grabbed onto it with both hands and refused to let go. But the sad fact was I wasn't her anymore, and I couldn't get her back.

"Can I ask why?" he asked, trying to appear indifferent, and even though I didn't owe him the truth I gave it to him anyways.

"Because I loved you with everything I was. I loved you so much that once you were gone there was nothing left of me. It might have been different if you had just explained, told me the truth, let me choose for myself...but you didn't. You lied to me, and you used my weaknesses to make it easier for you. You took away my choices, decided how I should live my life. Telling me the truth now cannot absolve you of that.

"It's not just about me though, Charlie...Charlie's heart broke right along with mine. We almost lost each other in all this, and I can't...I just can't..."

The tears were still flowing down my face, but Edward was no longer touching me. The rain beat on my window in tandem with the droplets running down my cheeks, and it almost felt like the world was crying with me. Edward's face had slipped back into his mask, and in the blink of an eye he was standing by the window.

"I understand. We'll leave tonight, you don't have to worry about seeing any of us again," he said in a near monotone.

Nothing on this planet could have contained the rage that coursed through my veins at his words. He didn't understand at all.

"Don't you dare do that to me again," I hissed between my teeth. "You are not the only one of your family my heart broke for! You all just abandoned me, you didn't even let me say goodbye! Your 'clean break' did just as much damage as anything else."

He turned to me, and surprise colored his features before he managed to neutralize his expression.

"We will not stay and interfere in your life, our world is not for you. I dragged you into this for my own selfish reasons, and now I have to right that wrong. You will live a human life, you will move on," he said with certainty in that silky smooth voice of his that used to always get him his way with me. Whatever it was that had tied me to him so tightly was broken now, and the tenor of his voice, the glint in his eyes didn't have the same effect as they once did.

"No. If you ever cared about me you won't do this. You have to at least let me say goodbye. You can't just rip everything away from me again!" My voice was climbing higher and higher as the panic set in at the reality of the situation. After all his apologies and begging I never imagined he would react like this if I refused.

"Charlie is sleeping," Edward chastised me. "You need to calm down. I know what's best for you, and that is to live your life free of monsters."

"You are the one who did this!" I hissed, struggling to keep my voice low enough to not wake Charlie. "You brought me into this world, made them my family too. How can you possibly think you can simply undo everything by abandoning me? My mind is not a sieve, Edward!"

I almost reminded him of The Pack, proof positive that no matter where he or his family went I would always be neck deep in the world of the supernatural, struggling just to tread water and keep my head afloat. I decided against it, the matter of my protection seemed to have slipped Edward's mind. He seemed to think he wasn't responsible for me if I wasn't his girlfriend, and that was just fine. I didn't need him to protect me, especially not at this price.

He only cared about himself, his absent soul, his guilt. He only cared if I lived or died to the extent it would effect him, just three days ago he thought I'd killed myself and sought an end to his own life. What good would it have done? It would have only placed more death in my hands.

"Fine," he muttered, looking anywhere but at my face, "I'll take you to say goodbye."

I never realized how petulant Edward could act when he didn't get his way, he was behaving like a child. It actually might have been the first time he didn't get what he wanted since I knew him. I didn't care, he had done nothing but cement my decision from the moment I uttered the word. We were done, we were over. I just had a few things left to do and then I maybe I could finally move on.

"Thank you," I said firmly, hoping to convey that he didn't deserve it. I should never have had to beg him for this common courtesy, and this was the best I was going to get. Edward was determined to leave, and if I was honest with myself he'd always been looking in that direction. I stood and every muscle in my body burned. I struggled to keep myself on my feet, joining him at the window once I was certain I could move without falling.

He pulled me into his arms and jumped.

It was bittersweet, running with Edward. It brought back all the memories of times long past when I was just a silly high-school Junior who had found herself drawn to her mysterious classmate. We'd had a lot of good times, but he hadn't been here for any of the bad. I tried to keep myself from feeling nostalgic, from finding some sort of peace and happiness in the wind whipping through my hair, his hands grasping my knees—but it was hopeless, and I moved my thoughts to more pressing matters to try and ease the burn of want coursing through me.

I wasn't sure how I wanted to handle this with the rest of the family. I loved them deeply, but their abrupt departure still stung. There was no way to know how well this would go, and I didn't want some long and drawn out production full of tears and wails. I simply wanted the opportunity to look each of them in the eyes and watch them walk out of my life. I needed this closure, I needed to see them turn their backs on me and walk away. It needed to be real this time.

The lights at the Cullen house were on, and it was briefly surreal to me. The lawn was still overgrown and unkempt, the gravel of the driveway only recently disturbed, but there was life in the house again. I had almost gotten used to it's vacancy, and in the blink of an eye it was alive again. It was so painful to see it as it was in all my best memories with the knowledge that tomorrow those lights would be out again.

Edward set me on my feet when we reached the porch and then continued his way to the door, but my feet remained planted on the grass. The rain had softened to a drizzle and I let it wash over me for a moment as I prepared myself for what would happen next. I was going to get my wish and it was going to hurt like hell. I would get to see everyone again, I would get to say goodbye. I could only hope that maybe in the end this all was just like a broken arm. Except the first time maybe it hadn't set right, maybe it needed to be re-broken in order to heal properly.

I walked through the open doorway and made my way to the living room where everyone was gathered.

"Oh, Bella," Alice cried as she launched herself towards me, latching her arms around my waist. She shook with the intensity of her sobs and I wrapped my arms around her.

"I'm sorry, Alice. I just...I just couldn't do it," I whispered into her hair. I held onto her with all I had, and for the thousandth time I longed for simpler times, a simpler me.

Maybe I could do it, forgive Edward—at least I'd get to keep Alice. It wouldn't be so bad, he had always been distant, it wouldn't be difficult to keep him at arms length, keep him from getting his hands around my heart again. His affection for me was wrapped up in words and grand gestures, and though such things held little meaning for me, maybe it would all be worth it if I got to keep my best friend.

"Don't you dare," Alice said, lifting her head to meet my eyes. "I would never want that for you. No matter how much I desire it for myself. You're my sister in every way that matters, and all I want is for you to be happy."

She slipped something into my palm, and I looked down to see a shiny pink cell phone, and she winked at me. I slid the device in to my pocket, and we shared a moment of understanding. Even though we had to let go of each other, of our friendship, that this was not the end. Though we may be rent apart tonight, at least it was by the choices we'd made. This time we wouldn't allow Edward to sever all ties.

"I told them what you'd decided," she said quietly, attempting to give us the illusion of privacy. "They know what's going to happen, and they know you don't want to make a big deal of it."

Alice released me to go stand next to Edward by the wall. He was still as a statue, and not really looking at anything.

My eyes slid across the room, searching out the rest of the family I had built for myself here. The furniture was covered in white cloths, save for the couches currently occupied. I don't know why but I'd thought everything would look the same as the last time I'd been here. It just looked abandoned, derelict. The vampires in the room were the anomaly.

Carlisle and Esme were sitting on the love seat, Esme was holding onto him so tightly his shirt was close to tearing. Emmett and Rose stood behind them, looking angry and remorseful. I smiled softly at all of them, trying to hide just how much this was killing me.

"I'm sorry this is happening to you again," Rosalie said, managing to sound both sincere and indifferent. She had moved closer to me with Emmett, and looked me in the eye. She plucked the phone from my pocket, and pressed some buttons before returning it.

"Our new numbers, Emmett's and mine. Just...if you want to talk..." I interrupted her with a fierce hug. She was surprised but sank into the embrace, holding me tightly for a moment before letting go. I couldn't believe she'd offered me anything, let alone a way to keep Emmett in my life. I felt ridiculous for getting so emotional over phone numbers, but I had been closest with Alice and Emmett. I had longed for their presence almost as much as Edward's during the past few months, and it would only be worse this time.

"I fucking hate him for making me do this. I'm gonna miss you so much, Belly-Bear," Emmett said vehemently before pulling me into a hug of his own, lifting me and swinging me in circles.

"I'll miss you too, Emmett," I smiled sadly.

I was determined not to draw this out any longer than it needed to be. I wanted my chance to bid farewell to this part of my life, and move on. I needed closure, but I wasn't willing to torture myself to get it, and if I let this continue on for much longer I was going to reach my breaking point.

Esme and Carlisle were next, each embraced me and whispered endearments in my ear. I didn't know what to say to them. I had thought of them as my parents, and the feeling had seemed to be mutual. A large part of me was still very hurt by their abandonment. My brain understood that they were simply going along with what Edward thought was best, but my heart was screaming that maybe I could have been better, maybe I could have been enough for them.

My farewell to them was curt and tense. I felt bad about it, Esme looked so crushed, but Carlisle looked like maybe he understood. It was all over before I knew it and with one last, "I love you," they were out the door. Just ghosts in the wind.

Jasper was sitting on the couch, his head in his hands. Waves of blond hair spilled over his face. He was projecting a little bit, and it took me a moment to identify the emotion as shame. I made my way towards the couch, standing a foot or so in front of him. After a moment he lifted his head to look me in the eye, and I could tell that if he were still able to cry he would.

"I'm so sorry, Bella." His voice was hoarse, and his fingers were clenched into fists, flexing his forearms underneath the dark green long-sleeved thermal he wore. His gaze moved to the floor as he whispered, "I'm so fucking sorry."

I stepped closer to him, and saw Alice splay a restraining hand over Edward's chest against the back wall as I wrapped my arms around Jasper's shoulders and hugged him tight.

"I know, and I forgave you a long time ago. It wasn't your fault." Jasper arms went around me for a moment, squeezing lightly before he was ripped from my embrace.

"Edward, stop!" Alice shouted as Edward placed himself in front of a furious looking Jasper. It took him mere seconds to control himself and relax his posture, but in those seconds he looked more animal than man. Death and destruction shone from his face, and I came to the horrifying realization that while I had seen Jasper hunt, I had never seen his monster.

"You're right, it doesn't matter anyways. We're leaving tonight. Bella just wanted to say goodbye," Edward said tightly, responding to something Alice had thought. "Now that we're done here I'm going to take her home."

I looked around the near empty room, more tears spilling over my eyelids. I knew it would hurt, but I had no idea just how much. It couldn't have been more than twenty minutes and it was already over. The empty places Esme and Carlisle left on the love-seat taunted me. They were gone again, and even though this time I could have stopped it, could have kept them here with me, the truth of the matter was they had left me. I had almost hoped for a struggle, a request for more time spent together before the doors closed, but my silent determination to have everything go quickly and smoothly was met with no opposition. Was I so easy to leave behind?

Something crossed over Jasper's face at that moment, and the torrent of emotions he sent my way were too tangled together for me to properly identify—but there was love there, the same deep familial love I would always carry in my heart for all of them, and I sent a small and rueful smile his way.

"No," Edward growled, and I shifted my gaze to see him directing a murderous glare at Jasper, "You will not."

The fight broke out too quickly to see what had happened. I saw Jasper lunge, and I blinked once to find Jasper holding Edward to the wall by his throat, a terrifying noise rumbling from his chest.

"Do not presume to tell me what I will or will not do, Edward. I will not follow here. I told you from the beginning this is not the solution. I told you we needed to hunt that bitch Victoria down, but you never listen," he punctuated the last word with a violent shove further into the wall. His other hand had Edward's arm pinned to the wall, and he was positively magnificent in his fury.

His posture was rigid and authoritative, his jean clad legs planted firmly, shoulder width apart. The muscles of his arms disturbed the fabric of his shirt just enough for me to tell he was in fantastic shape. Every single thing I could note about his demeanor screamed determination.

"She doesn't deserve this—to be left behind, to be left alone in the path of a vampire seeking vengeance, and now the fucking Volturi want her too. You want to leave her unprotected again? No. I won't do it," Jasper growled out through his clenched jaw, spraying Edward with a soft mist of venom.

I was stunned, and my first thought was that I had never heard so many words come out of Jasper's mouth. I knew he cared about me, on some level at least, but I had always thought it was because I was Alice's friend. She was the only link between us, and it had never occurred to me that he might see me as anything else. Alice had accepted Edward's view on the matter, so what was motivating Jasper?

I wanted to douse the flame of hope rising within me that maybe they would stay, that maybe Jasper's stand would make Edward see reason. Maybe I could keep them all in my life in some tangible way instead of through phone calls and e-mails that were sure to dwindle over time, and while my brain knew I didn't want that, to have them choose me like this, my heart hoped.

"I'm going to go with him, Jasper. If this is what you need to do then I think it's time we faced the inevitable," Alice said quietly and even though I had no idea what she meant I knew it wasn't good.

They shared a long look, a million words passing between them silently as they ignored Edward thrashing and tearing at the wall.

"I'm sorry it had to end like this, but it's the right path for you," she said as she pressed a kiss to the curve of his shoulder before turning to me.

"Remember that I love you, you're my sister and nothing can change that. There is not one single decision you could make that would make me feel differently," she said before she turned and walked out the door, another 'I love you' floating on the air behind her.

I was nauseous. What the fuck had just happened? I felt on the verge of passing out, absolutely sickened with myself for somehow coming between them. I wanted to scream out at her to wait, to insist Jasper abandon his crusade to ensure I was not left alone, but I was too busy trying to choke down the bile in my throat. I couldn't do anything right. I came here to say goodbye and get closure, and instead ripped Alice and Jasper apart in a matter of minutes. It was horrifying. It was exactly like every other conversation I'd ever seen between them, short statements and long meaningful looks, and it just couldn't be the end for them.

"No, no, no," I heard myself say as I sank to my knees. "This is all wrong. This wasn't what was supposed to happen."

The air was buzzing with words too fast and quiet for me to hear. I couldn't extrapolate anything about the actual conversation, but from the looks on Jasper and Edward's faces they were arguing. Their indecipherable words rang in my ears and every few seconds a growl would interrupt, or the struggle would escalate. Japer seemed to gain the upper hand when Edward's eyes changed focus to the floor, and then there was nothing but silence.

Jasper let Edward down and took a cautious step back, keeping himself in between us. We locked eyes for a moment, and I could see the longing and hurt run over his face.

"Are you sure about this, Bella? We could...we could start over, we could all be a family again," he said, his gaze intense. I imagined this is how Eve must have felt when the snake offered her the apple.

I was torn between intense desire for the picture he painted and absolute fury that he would use his family like this, as a bargaining chip to coerce me to go back to him.

"I'm sure, Edward." I put as much force behind my words as I was able, struggling to my feet. "It's over."

Edward nodded, and Jasper took a few steps backwards, to stand closer to me. With one last look he exited the house and walked out of my life for good.

He was gone, Alice was gone, and I felt my eyelids slide shut, my fists clench. I waited for the excruciating pain to come, but the only thing I felt was disgust for myself and my selfish need to look each of the Cullens in the eyes before they walked out of my life for good. My presence had never been anything but a bane to their existence, and my departure was the same.

I had been blinded by the self-awareness that came with the realization that Edward and I could never rekindle what we'd once had. I was determined to end thing on my terms this time, to have a choice in the matter. I wanted to end it here and now before I lost any more of who I was. I had done the right thing for me, but at what cost?

Jasper stood a few feet from me, staring at the still open patio door, and I'd never felt more guilty in my whole life than I did watching him gaze at the door his wife had walked out. I couldn't even piece together how this had happened, how this night went from standing up for myself and deciding my own future to losing Jasper his.

"This is all my fault," I said as another wave of tears coursed down my cheeks, "You can still catch them, you should go. They're your family..."

He sighed before turning to look at me, fierce and determined.

"I told you before that you're worth it. One of these days maybe you'll believe me." He took a breath before continuing, "I was only here for Alice, and she and I were standing at this crossroads long before you came along. The only thing you did was fall in love, and no one can fault you for that."

"But she's your wife! Your mate! How can you just stand here and let her leave you?" I was bordering on hysteric, I had always believed that vampires found love once and it was forever. Jasper's casual dismissal of his relationship was cutting me too deep, raising too many doubts in my mind about the relationship I had shared with Edward.

He claimed to love me, said he couldn't live without me, but sure as Jasper was standing here alone Edward had left me in the woods. At first I had thought he simply didn't love me, but now I thought maybe that wasn't exactly true. Edward loved me, but in a twisted and juvenile way, and I was able to accept that; I didn't exactly love him in the way I'd thought either. But now Alice had just left him and Jasper didn't even seem to care. Where was this forever Edward was always talking about?

"I promise I will answer your questions, but for now just know that while Alice was my wife we were never mated. Forever is a very long time to spend alone, Bella," he said before making his way towards me. "It's getting late, Charlie will be worried if you're not home when he wakes up."

I nodded, knowing he was right. I needed to get home. I needed to sleep for a hundred years. Maybe when I woke up this will have all just been a nightmare.

"I know you must still be afraid of me, but my control is much better now. I don't have a car, but I can carry you home if you want. I'll hold my breath the whole time. I promise I won't hurt you," he said carefully. I figured he was trying to be reassuring without using his gift to force me to be comfortable with the idea.

"I trust you," I said as I threw myself into his arms and swore to myself that these would be the last tears I shed over Edward Cullen. This was the last time I would allow him to hurt me, and the resolve made me feel marginally better. I would walk away from this, and I hoped I would be stronger because of it.

Jasper pulled back from me looking bewildered.

"What's wrong?" I asked. His eyes were still light so I didn't think he was struggling, but maybe I shouldn't have surprised him like that. I took a step back, letting my arms fall to my sides.

He shook his head and awe colored his tone, "You really do, don't you."

"I always have," I responded truthfully. Ever since he fled to Phoenix with Alice and I and threw his life on the line for me I trusted him implicitly. Even after the disaster that was my eighteenth birthday I knew that he would never intentionally harm me.

I felt a sense of gratitude blanket me, and I smiled at him when I realized it was his way of saying thank you.

"Let's get you home. Tomorrow we need to come up with a plan."

Running with Jasper was nothing like running with Edward. Edward was smooth and sleek and faster than I could comprehend. Jasper was power. His hair whipped in my face as we traveled and he gripped my legs just a little too tight. My arms were wrapped around his neck and I could feel the tendons straining against my forearms as his feet pounded into the soft earth, pushing himself harder, faster. We blurred through the woods, and I couldn't have said whether or not he was quicker than Edward. What I was sure of was riding on Jasper's back was exhilarating and completely terrifying all at once.

His pace didn't slow as we approached my house, instead he leaped at the edge of the yard and soared straight through my open window, somehow landing with a quiet thud. It took me a full minute before I was able to extricate myself from him. I tried to stand but my legs were too shaky and I ended up sprawled out on my bed.

"Are you okay? I've never done that before...did I hurt you?" Jasper was checking me over from a distance, looking for some sign he'd damaged me.

"I'm okay...just..." and I let out a shaky breath. "Maybe a little...less...next time. Okay?"

Jasper chuckled and turned to leave and in that moment the full weight of what had transpired crashed down on me. The Cullens were gone, save one. The wolves probably hated me now. Victoria was still out there somewhere hunting me, and sometime soon the Volturi were going to want to know if I had been turned. What was I going to do? Even if I somehow managed to get out of this mess with Victoria I couldn't allow the Volturi to come here, the whole town would be in danger. Charlie...I was going to have to leave him one way or another, there would be no surviving this time.

The prospect of my imminent death weighed heavily on my chest. My lungs weren't drawing enough air in and I didn't realize it was because I was hyperventilating until I felt Jasper draw me into a sitting position and spread hands on my cheeks; the calm flowed from his palms into my body.

"Breathe," he commanded, and took a deep breath of his own before letting it out. "Breathe, Bella."

"They're all gone. They're really gone. And Victoria is still out there, and now the Volturi...oh, God...I don't want to die," I gasped as I curled my body inward and wrapped my arms under my thighs. If Victoria didn't get me the Volturi would, there was no way out of this. I couldn't force my breaths deep enough, and as I panted and gasped, trying to draw air into lungs that wouldn't cooperate while Jasper stood next to me, slightly hunched over and trying to flood me with calm and peace.

"You're not going to die. I won't let them hurt you, I told you tomorrow we'd come up with a plan and we will," he soothed. His hands were still on my cheeks and he gently lifted my head so I was looking him in the eye. "You don't know much about me, but rest assured that I can protect you against the Volturi. That bitch Victoria is my main concern, but she'll be a cakewalk. I won't lie to you, you really stepped in it this time, but that doesn't mean it's hopeless."

"The wolves have been chasing her for months, Jasper. Months, and there's five of them! I've seen them work, they killed Laurent. If they can't catch her how can you?" My panic had subsided into mere terror, and I found myself able to articulate my fears better. "She's gotten away from them so many times..."

"Do you honestly think that five adolescent Werewolves are any match for me? I've lived over one hundred and sixty years, your puppies are amateurs."

Jasper was that old? Something clicked in the back of my mind, and a piece of the puzzle that was Jasper Hale fell into place.

"The Civil War? You were a soldier." I knew it was true.

"Yes, and even as a human I could have handled the dogs."

I had no choice but to believe him. It was comforting to know that he wasn't all raw power and destruction bottled up in a handsome man, that he was also made of strategy and discipline. We wouldn't go into this blind, he wouldn't run off after Victoria half-cocked. I thought back to how he'd looked in the ballet studio ripping James into pieces, in his house earlier as he held Edward by the neck. Edward always called his vampire side his monster, and I couldn't help but think that if Edward had a monster then Jasper must have a demon in him. Maybe we'd make it through this alive.

"I'm going to run a perimeter. See who's been around and how close they got," he said as he stood to his full height. "I'll be close, if you need me just shout."

And then he was gone.

"Thank you," I whispered to my empty window. My curtains floated in the soft breeze, and I closed my eyes trying to gain some semblance of control, perspective...something. Anything to quell the raging fear and guilt inside me.

No matter what Jasper said, no matter how easily it was dismissed the fact of the matter was that I had torn him from his life and now he was in danger because of me. If I had just had the presence of mind to think of everyone involved before telling Edward I couldn't stay with him, before demanding he take me to the family for long overdue farewells none of this would have happened. Jasper would still be with Alice, and he wouldn't be out hunting the woman who haunted my dreams by himself.

I had never felt so selfish as I did that night, because what I really should have done was send Jasper away. Find some way to get him to return to his family so he could be safe and happy. Instead I let him stay here with me out of some misguided notion that I didn't deserve what was happening to me, that this wasn't somehow the universe's way of repaying me for all the lives I'd ruined since coming to Forks.

I curled up in the center of my bed, only bothering to pull the covers back because I couldn't force myself to get up and close the window against the chilly wind. I should have made him leave...and I felt horrible for being so happy that he stayed.