A/N: Anybody still out there? Apologies for the break- real life forced a hiatus on me. I'm going to try to get into a monthly update schedule (of course that would be easier if I wasn't about to go away on a three-week holiday - how inconvenient!). I'd offer Jasper in exchange for reviews, but I think I want to keep him for myself.
Leah fans - this is one for you.
Never/Team - you rock. Thanks for sticking with it.
Disclaimer: I still don't own Twilight. Or Jasper. Ms Meyer still holds that honour.
"You're really taking her down there? That's pretty reckless, even for you Jasper."
I ended my phone call with Jake to hear Edward berating Jasper in the next room. Apparently, he thought I was going to be in mortal danger just by being on the reservation. The most surprising thing to me was that he even cared. None of them would believe that Jake would never hurt me. I tried to remain calm, and explained one more time.
"Edward, Jake's not going to hurt me. I'm just going to talk to them. Maybe I can get them to listen to reason and agree to Carlisle's treaty."
He actually snorted at me, "If you think that you – a single human female – can do that, then you're even more naive than I thought. And it's not just Jacob Black you have to worry about."
With that he flew out the door, leaving me alone with Jasper. I breathed a sigh of relief that he'd gone. Despite spending most of the day before and all night in the Cullen's house, I still wasn't entirely comfortable with them. They had been more than hospitable, giving me space and only being around us one or two at a time. I had spoken further with Carlisle this morning about the tribe though he'd given me little more information, insisting I hear it from them. I did now know there were a number of werewolves amongst them, that their shifting abilities became more pronounced when they perceived a threat from vampires and that they could learn to control these abilities in time, changing into their wolf form at will.
Oddly enough, Emmett was the other one I felt most at ease with. He had made me breakfast, having run out somewhere during the night to buy "supplies". And by supplies, he meant every conceivable breakfast dish known to man (or vampire). Cereal, muesli, muffins, waffles, eggs, orange juice, apple juice, coffee, tea. The previously pristine table looked like an atomic breakfast bomb had gone off.
"I didn't know what you liked so I just got some of everything. Damn, almost makes me want to be human again."
I felt extremely self-conscious being the only one eating this mountain of food, with Jasper watching my every move. However, there was something else I needed to do before meeting Jake, and even though I was apprehensive, I needed to do it without Jasper. Draining a glass of orange juice, I shifted nervously, moving to start clearing up the mess. I focussed all my attention on cleaning a plate, ignoring Emmett's protests.
"What is it?" Jasper appeared at me side, tipping my chin up with his finger, almost willing me to meet his eyes.
"Jake said to meet him at eleven - that you'd know where."
"I heard him. And I know where. But that's not what's making you all edgy."
I couldn't hide anything from him. There was no point in trying, really. "I'd like to speak to Alice before we go."
"Alice?" he looked half-worried, half-amused. "I thought you didn't like her."
"I wouldn't say I don't like her. I don't really know her. But ..."
"But what? Come on, Isabella. I won't bite." He smirked, "I could ... but I won't. Unless you want me to."
An involuntary (and I'm sure entirely inappropriate) thrill ran me at the thought of his mouth on me in any way, shocking me somewhat. Did I want him to bite me? It stopped me in my tracks as I considered the full realisation of what that could mean. Jasper nudged me lightly with his elbow.
"Oh ...oh, sorry. Spaced out for a minute there. "
"So... Alice?" he tilted his head in question.
I needed to speak to Alice alone. Maybe I could get her to explain some of this to me. Explain what I was supposed to do, what was supposed to happen. I sure as hell didn't have a clue what I would do or say when I met Jake. I was wary of her, but Jasper had already told me she'd been evasive with him, so maybe I could get some answers from her.
"Did someone mention my name?"
Her melodic voice filled the room as she wafted into the room. Jasper turned to shield me from her again, sensing my unease.
"Oh, Jas. Always the protector. " Alice twirled around him and pulled me gently from behind, locking my hand in hers. "Bella wants to talk to me alone. You know, about girl stuff."
I rolled my eyes at her exaggerated stage whisper. "No, Jasper, it's not like that."
"Come on, Bella. I know you're dying to ask me his favourite position."
The crimson heat flared in my face and neck. Jasper didn't miss a beat though.
"Alice, Edward would be pissed if he thought you were reading minds now as well."
"I don't need to read minds to see what's right in front of me."
"Jasper, it's fine. I don't mind talking to Alice alone." I quickly tacked onto the end, "Not about that though."
"You're sure? If you need me, anything, just yell. No, don't yell, you'll upset Rosalie. Just ... say my name." He trailed off to a whisper as he brushed my lips with his.
The strains of a deep booming voice singing Beyonce "Say my name, say my name, say baby ..." were followed by Emmett, gyrating his hips, singing into an invisible microphone. "You're such a fucking sap," he laughed before tackling Jasper to the ground, who quicker than I could see retaliated and flipped Emmett onto his back. As the wrestling continued, Alice steered me outside down to the same rock I had sat on with Jasper the day before.
"So." Alice jumped down from the rock to sit cross-legged on the grass in front of me.
I hesitated. Alice watched me. I fiddled with my ring that Charlie had given me for my eighteenth birthday. It had been his mother's ring, and then Renee's engagement ring. He wasn't sure I would want it, or wear it, but I hadn't taken it off since.
"I just ..." Sighing, I leaned back on the rock, tilting my head upwards to the seemingly permanent grey clouds. "What have you seen? I mean, about me. What happens to me?"
Alice's amber eyes twinkled as she held her hand out, palm up. "I think you're supposed to cross my palm with silver before I tell your fortune."
I tried to figure out whether she was joking or not as she sat there, hand outstretched until she scowled in the direction of the house. She spoke towards it, "Stop listening. Girl stuff, remember?
"So, Bella, you really want to know what I've seen?"
"Yes, I do."
"No you don't. You want me to tell you it's all sweetness and roses. That, with one word from you, the wolf-pack will see the light and sign the treaty, and you and Jas will ride off into the sunset on a white horse."
"Don't patronise me, Alice. For one, I don't know how the boys will react to me. I don't even know which of them are fucking wolves."
She chuckled, shaking her head "The boys? You really have no idea, Bella."
"No I don't. That's why I'm asking you – you're supposed to be this all-seeing oracle. Is this what I'm supposed to do? Go see them? "
"You've not asked the biggest question. What this is really all about?"
I hesitated – did I really want to know? I'd only consciously considered it myself a short time ago. "Have you seen me ... do I ... Will I become a vampire?" I could barely get it out, my throat was dry, constricting.
Alice grinned and sat up on her knees, taking my hand. "Now that wasn't so hard to ask, was it? I will tell you this Bella. As far as the wolves go, no, you're not the solution. But it's necessary that you go to see them. A catalyst to set the chain of events in motion if you will." And with that she leapt up and turned back to the house.
"That's it? That's what your omniscient gift is telling you?"
"Come on. Here comes your new boyfriend to take you to your date with your ex-boyfriend. How very civilised we all are." And with that she skipped back to the house as Jasper appeared seemingly from nowhere, taking my hand.
"Did you get your answers?"
"No." I was pouting. And sulking. And I knew it was childish.
"Told you. An evasive little bitch when she wants to be."
"But why? Surely forewarned is forearmed."
"Alice doesn't always see it like that. Now come on, we'd better head over to the treaty line."
"Jasper, are you sure you're ok with me going over there?"
"Would it make any difference if I wasn't?" he challenged.
"Maybe." I mused.
"OK. Maybe I don't like it. But it's necessary."
"But from what Alice said, I can't get them to sign the treaty."
"I don't give a shit about the treaty. It's necessary for you. You'll never be completely mine until you're free of Jake. And that won't happen until you've heard the whole truth. From him."
Mine. The flutter in my stomach came from realising it was the first time he had ever even hinted at any kind of future together. He wasn't pushing me away any more. The feeling didn't last long however. As we approached Jasper's car, I realised Edward was waiting beside another car – a silver Volvo, the most un-vampire-like car I could have ever imagined.
"Yes." Jasper didn't look at me as he spoke, the monosyllabic answer clearly indicating that it wasn't up for discussion.
"Why?" I stood holding onto the top of the door frame which he had, as usual, opened for me and ignored the pointed sighs and exaggerated watch-looking from Edward.
"Isabella, can't you just accept my judgement."
"No. Why Edward? If you feel you need someone, take Emmett. Or Alice."
"It was Alice's idea. He'll be in a separate car. They won't see him."
"Of course it was Alice's idea." I muttered under my breath, but on seeing the look Jasper gave me, realised I'd have been as well shouting it from the rooftops. I'd never get used to this super-sensitive hearing. "Does nobody ever question her? So why does he have to come?"
Sighing softly, he stroked the back of his finger across my cheek. The now-familiar chill of his touch simultaneously soothed my mind and ignited frozen flames deep inside me.
"Insurance." He said firmly.
Jasper stopped the car near a nondescript part of the dense forest, a little way off the highway. There was no sign of Edward – his silver car had been following us but had pulled off the road a few minutes earlier.
"So, do you want to walk, or run?"
"Run? Jasper, I can barely stay upright on flat ground never mind running through a forest."
"I didn't mean you to run. Hold on. " Before I could protest he swept me up, one arm wrapped round my back, one under my knees. I wrapped my arms round his neck, leaning my head on his shoulder, breathing in his scent. He ran. I had no idea how fast but the forest was a blur, the speed creating wind streaming past us. It was almost like flying, he seemed to skim across the ground. Trees whistled past just inches from us. Although it occurred briefly to me to me that we might hit one, being held by and holding onto Jasper was the safest place in the world. And the run was exhilarating.
He came to a halt after only a few minutes, and set me down carefully. I was grinning like an idiot. Jasper caught my laugh, and laughed right back at me, caught up in my exuberance. It was one of his rare, carefree moments, and I loved seeing his smile and hearing his easy laughter. I wished I could make him do it more often.
"Now what?" I asked once I had my breath back and composed myself. Jasper was lounging back casually against a nearby tree.
"Not long. Edward can hear them. They'll be here in a minute."
"Edward? Where is he? What's his… er ... range?" As I turned to look for Edward, Jasper pulled me close, enveloping me, crushing me against his chest and kissed me intensely. It took just a moment of me losing myself in him before I realised this wasn't a normal Jasper kiss. It was too spontaneous, too composed. Jasper was always controlled when he touched me, but always yielding, this seemed almost mechanical. As I drew back, his eyes were wide open even as his mouth remained on mine, but he wasn't looking at me. His eyes – colder than I had ever seen before - were fixed on a spot over my left shoulder.
"Really? For fuck's sake Jasper, why not just tattoo your name across my forehead?" I pushed against his chest, twisting my head as far as I could when he didn't release me. Sure enough, coming out of trees was Jake.
"And ruin your beautiful face?"
"Not fucking funny. Now let me go."
"Not until you kiss me again."
Sighing, knowing he was absolutely serious, I stood up on my tiptoes and pressed my lips lightly to his, hesitating just for a second before smiling at him, "Happy?"
"Mm." He didn't look too happy, and I knew he would have liked a little more enthusiasm in front of Jake, but he did release me and I turned to greet Jake and Leah.
Jake's fists were clenched, his back ramrod straight and shoulders lifted. As he looked at Jasper his eyes flashed dangerously. For the first time, I saw Jake and realised I wasn't in love with him anymore. I had somehow relegated our love and relationship to the past. When did that happen? I still loved him but in the same, almost platonic, way that I loved Charlie or Renee.
But as soon as his gaze met mine, he seemed to fold in on himself, his back and shoulders drooping, looking like a crushed man. Looking somewhat like Jasper had looked back in the lakehouse when I was about to leave. But Jake wasn't mine to leave anymore. I couldn't think of anything to say to him. This man who I had loved for years. And as we watched each other across the small stretch of forest floor between us, he seemed to dissolve even further. Tears shone in his eyes as he stopped walking towards me and dropped to the ground on his knees.
"Bells. Please. Come back with me. You can't honestly want this. Please. It's too dangerous. You don't really know them." He pleaded.
I could barely look at him. This wasn't the strong, proud, fearless Jake I had known and loved. This desperation was unlike anything I'd seen in him before. I took a few hesitant steps towards him, unsure if I should offer him some comfort. Leah stepped forward clearly as uncomfortable as I felt, looking at me, then looking at Jake. She grabbed his shoulder, shaking him.
"Jake? Jake, what's going on?"
He threw her hand off his shoulder, rising up to his full height, which was not insignificant. Towering above me, hostility and anger radiated from him. His every muscle was tensed and I instinctively stepped back towards Jasper, my hand outstretched behind me seeking him out. Seeking the protection and reassurance I knew he could give. With a low, almost inaudible chuckle, he grabbed my hand and rubbed circles between my thumb and forefinger.
"Get. Your. Fucking. Hands. Off. Her." Jake growled. "Bells, you need to come with me. Now." Every syllable was spoken through clenched teeth.
I had never been afraid of Jake before now. Any wrong movement or word on my part could make him snap and there was no way in hell I was letting him at Jasper, who, from what I could gather from his easy posture against my back, was perfectly calm. I looked to Leah for help. She was looking from Jake to Jasper and back again, apparently as confused as I was.
Jasper was the one to break the silence and as he spoke softly to me, Jake seemed to "stand down", although he was clearly still on edge.
"Isabella, call me when you're ready to come home." He brushed his lips against the top of my head and steered me lightly towards Jake. "And Black, if you hurt her again, I will kill you."
Jake glowered, but before he could get a chance to reply Leah stepped in, "Oh, if he hurts her, I'll hold his furry ass down for you."
I couldn't help but giggle at the idea of Leah holding down the man-mountain that was Jacob Black. Jasper stepped away from the tree, holding his hand out to Leah. "Leah Clearwater. Nice to formally meet you at last. Jasper Hale."
As she reluctantly reached out, he raised her hand and chastely kissed the back of it. I rolled my eyes at his full-on Southern charm, knowing there was no way Leah was falling for that. He'd have to do better than that to impress the bitch. Surprisingly, she giggled like a schoolgirl, before turning away and reverting to her standard scowl, eyeing Jasper even more suspiciously than before.
Jake had already started walking back towards the tree line, and Leah signalled for us to follow him. As we walked I looked over my shoulder to give a hopefully reassuring smile to Jasper who was leaning against the tree again, watching Jake walk away.
"At least there'll be someone there on my side." He shouted, nodding at Leah.
Leah abruptly stopped, looking briefly at me. "Leah, don't ..."
But she had already turned on her heel and was giving Jasper her full on bitch-face, "Hey, Lestat! I'm looking out for Bella here, not you! Just as I'd kick Jake's furry ass for hurting her, if you so much as look at her wrong, I'll rip your fucking limbs from your fossilized torso and do a highland fucking jig on your funeral pyre!"
Oh, shit! I didn't have to look at Jasper to see his reaction. I could feel his eyes on Leah as I grabbed her arm trying to pull her away, knowing he would be furious. Leah couldn't know just how dangerous it was to rile Jasper. Jake had stopped walking. I figured he was waiting for Jasper to attack Leah, giving him a reason to retaliate.
"Jasper, she doesn't mean it. She's just being protective. You said so yourself."
"I do fucking mean it, Bella."
"Leah, stop. You have no idea ..."
Then Jasper laughed. A proper laugh, like before.
"You were right to trust her Isabella. You'll be fine. Call me. I like you, Leah."
All I could do was gawp, mouth agape as he waved and disappeared into the forest, leaving me with Jake and Leah.
Jake led the way through the trees, at Leah's insistence, with she and I walking a little behind, all of us in silence. Jake and Leah were still tense. Something dawned on me after a few minutes of silence, and I stopped abruptly.
"Did you just call him "Lestat"? Shit, Leah! You know?"