A/N Well, here we are. If you're reading this, you were either a fan of "Running" or my wonderful Story Summary of "Chaotic Dynamics" caught your eye and sucked you in. If it's the former, welcome back, and I hope you enjoy our Hero and Heroine's latest adventure. If it's the latter...well, a lot of this might not make sense if you haven't read "Running". It's not really a stand-alone story. By all means continue reading, but...don't ask me to explain stuff. It took 218,000 words the first time around.
I'd like to thank Arfess96 - and you should too. She won me in the last FGB auction, and writing her requested outtake is what got me in the mood to write a sequel. Without her, this wouldn't be happening right now. Huh. My writing seems to always revolve around the FGB because that's where I bought my Black Market Beta over a year ago for "Running". JaspersDestiny is once again on board for this adventure, which has already resulted in a lot more 'talking Merina off the ledge' than "Running" ever did. I hope she survives the ride.
Um...lets see, what else? I'm looking at a once-a-week update schedule - for right now it will be every Tuesday. That may change once I finish writing. But for now, it's going to be once a week. So, if you're the kind of reader that likes to stock up on chapters before reading, that gives you an idea of what you're looking at, posting-wise. If there are any newcomers here, I usually don't have long-ass A/Ns like this unless I have a particularly amusing 'writer's block' story to relay.
Oh, yeah - SM owns the characters but not my plot. Why do we continue saying that? Does it really mean anything? We all know who is making money off these characters and it ain't me.
"You're fidgeting. Stop fidgeting."
"Fidgeting is very human, Jasper. I'm trying to look human." Bella looked around the airport nervously, her eyes darting quickly over all the humans milling around where she and Jasper sat in the boarding area. It was a small airport and way too crowded for her comfort.
"Babe, fidgeting is normal. What you are doing is not fidgeting. You've broken the arms off of three seats so far. We're really going to attract unwanted attention if we get up and move again. The lady at the desk is already giving us the stink eye."
Bella whipped her head around to stare at the woman behind the counter, who was indeed staring right back. The human woman quickly broke eye contact, though, much to Bella's satisfaction.
"Stop it," Jasper hissed. "Now you've gone and made her nervous. You don't want them nervous. Damn it, Bella!"
"Yes, well, sorry isn't going to get us on a plane, damn it. I was able to convince Carlisle to let you come along because I promised him you would be able to behave. You are not behaving."
"Sorry," she whispered again.
Jasper sighed and grabbed her hand, holding it in a grip that would have crushed a human's. Bella found it reassuring, though, and she began to settle down a bit. They'd managed to schedule flights through small airports for most of the trip, in order to avoid the new safety measures installed at larger airports. But it was taking a lot of small airports to get them to Laredo that way. And the nervous vampire sitting next to him - even if she wasn't a newborn anymore – was bound to ruin it for them if she didn't stop 'fidgeting'. She'd already worn spots in the carpet under her feet and broken the furniture. He'd been able to mend the armrests…sort of…but there was nothing he could do for the carpet.
He dreaded getting on the plane with her. He really did. They should have rented a plane, but the Cullens' new pilot friend - and owner of the small booking company - was still hiding in whatever tropical paradise Carlisle had sent him to in order to hide from the Volturi when the whole mess had started a couple years prior, and Emmett had been unable to get his license because of that. The pilot who had flown the Cullens to Europe and then brought them back after Romania was not returning their phone calls. Evidently the damage inflicted on his plane by Emmett and Rose's...activities...was not something the man wanted a repeat of.
Jasper sighed again and tried sending her calming vibes. Her shield was up, though, so it was a wasted effort.
"Drop your shield," he hissed, "or we're leaving right now. And I'll leave you at Carlisle and Esme's house while I take care of this."
Bella looked at him. She was the picture of a wounded puppy.
"Don't look at me like that," he said firmly. "You agreed to my conditions in order to come along."
Her shoulders dropped. She had agreed - his way or the highway. They were heading into his old world, but while it was familiar territory for him, it was dangerous territory for her. She was seeing a side of Jasper she'd never seen before, not even on their trip across Siberia. She'd been wrapped up in her own...craziness...at the time, and he'd been too wrapped up in winning her affections and saving them both.
But now she was his and he was hers…and it came with a price she hadn't expected.
When he was like this - in his 'take charge' mode, as she thought of it - if he said, "Jump", she asked, "How high?" without a second's thought.
She wasn't sure she liked it. She didn't remember it being like this with Edward, but...had she ever really questioned anything Edward told her?
No, not really.
So it had probably been exactly like this with Edward. She just hadn't noticed it.
She thought back on things she'd seen since Jasper had brought her back to the Cullens - in Romania, on the trip back to The States afterwards, and since their return to Alaska after their 'vacation', which had turned out to be a 'give Bella a chance to return to normal' trip. But whatever. She wasn't mad about that. Not really. A little hurt, maybe, but not mad.
The Cullens were still very much in 'battle mode' since Romania. Actually, they'd been in 'battle mode' since her, Edward, and Carlisle's initial ill-fated trip to Italy, or so Rosalie said. And battle mode meant listening to your Coven Leader. Gone were the good old days where Carlisle played the benevolent and lenient adopted father to a bunch of teenagers. He, Jasper, and Emmett had locked themselves in Carlisle's office when they'd returned from vacation, along with Eleazar, and they'd stayed there for two days. Even keen vampire hearing couldn't listen through the sound proofing Carlisle had always built into his office, unless one was standing directly outside the door.
That was a position, under the circumstances, that nobody wanted to be in. Spying on your father when carrying on the "we're all human" charade was one thing, but listening at doors? Quite another. Even Alice had looked shocked when Bella suggested it.
No, instead, they'd all sat around the living room of the Cullens' new house outside of Seward – nobody, it seemed, Bella included, had wanted to return to the house on the other side of the peninsula, where Bella had spent her first few newborn months. That had become a source of bad memories for all of them. All of the women sat waiting – still and unmoving, as only vampires can do - including the Denalis, whom Bella had only vaguely remembered from before her ill-fated trip to Italy. Well, they had sat still. She had paced the floor. And when the men had emerged and announced their plans…well, everybody fell in line. Even Rose had kept her mouth shut, not protesting any of it.
Bella had found it creepy and unnerving, especially the part where Rose didn't have anything to say. When she mentioned it to Jasper later, he'd laughed and told her that according to Carlisle that little change had not come about without a fight. But the events of the past few years had put fear in all of them. So they sat…and waited. And when Carlisle said, "Jump", they asked, "How high?"
And when Jasper said she could come with him only if she obeyed him without question. He told her he didn't want to be separated from her, that it would kill him to be apart from her, but that he would do it if it was the only thing to keep her – and the coven – safe. So she'd agreed.
Besides, she'd had enough waiting and enough stillness - between the box and her cave - to last…well, to last a lifetime. Or an eternity. Now she just wanted to run.
"Sit still," Jasper hissed, aggravated. Shit, she really couldn't sit still. He'd known how she'd paced the floor back at the house, waiting for him and the others to come to a decision. She'd paced the floor instead of running like she'd wanted to, unable to sit still and wait like the rest of the coven. He'd told Carlisle then that it was probably as good as it was going to get with her.
But now…now it really was driving him fucking nuts.
Luckily the boarding call came for their flight. Luckily or unluckily, he wasn't sure which.
They would fly from Seward to Ketchikan to Spokane and then to Butte, Montana. A two-day layover in Butte would allow them time to hunt. They'd meet with his old friend, Peter, there. Jasper didn't know yet whether or not Peter and Charlotte would accompany them to Laredo. Peter had been vague on the phone, clearly unwilling to make the trip. It had been pushing it to get him to agree to meeting with them at all. Jasper wasn't going to push his luck. Unwilling backup was worse than no back up.
Bella behaved in the line to the plane, much to Jasper's relief, but the woman at the counter still gave her the stink eye as she took their boarding passes. Jasper smiled at the woman and rolled his eyes in Bella's direction when he was sure she wasn't looking, sending the human a wave of amusement and commiseration. He was rewarded with a conspiratorial smile from the woman.
Jasper wanted to roll his eyes again but refrained - whatever it took to push attention away from them.
They settled into their seats at the front of the plane, the size of the jet not allowing room for a first class section. Even purchasing the seats in front of and behind them hadn't been an option – in the age of over-booking flights, any empty seats were quickly taken up by stand-by passengers. Jasper sent out a wave of calm to the passengers around them. Humans, he found, tended to become extremely nervous when locked within small, enclosed spaces with predators. And nervous people on an airplane in this day and age were not something they needed to deal with.
He might have overdone it though. Some of them were asleep before the plane even taxied. Whatever. Sleeping humans were much less annoying, anyway.
"Do you think they will like me?" Bella asked, leaning over to whisper to him after the flight attendant had gone through her safety routine.
"Who? Maria? It hardly matters what she thinks of you. In fact, I think it's safe to say she won't think of you at all. I already told you that to her you're just gonna be the latest puta on my arm."
"Yes, thank you, you did tell me that. It's so flattering. No, I meant your friends..."
"Peter and Charlotte?"
Jasper thought about it. "I honestly don't know," he finally said, shrugging. "I won't lie to you – you're a Cullen, and they think all the Cullens are a little bit odd. They definitely do not understand our 'lifestyle'. But I'm sure they'll be nice enough to you, if for no other reason than you're with me." He smiled. "They remember you, you know, from when you were human..."
"They do?" she asked, surprised. "I don't remember them."
"You wouldn't. You never met them. But they were there, visiting. They drove Edward fuckin' nuts, which in turn drove the rest of us nuts."
"Why?" She was genuinely puzzled.
"He was convinced Peter was going to eat you."
Bella actually flinched, feeling threatened even though she knew she was no longer in any danger from that. "Would he have?"
"No. Well, probably not. Peter's not known for his...self control. And you did smell really good as a human. But they never would have fed in Carlisle's territory. So, no, you were in no danger."
"Oh...okay. So...they saw me?"
"No. We just...talked about you. Sort of…" Jasper looked uncomfortable now.
"Talked about me? How?" she asked, narrowing her eyes at him.
"It was really just in order to explain Edward's bizarre behavior. Although, Peter and Charlotte always thought Edward was a bit bizarre, so I don't know why we bothered trying to explain it that time. But he was acting odder than normal. He was just really concerned for your safety. Not that he needed to be," Jasper hastened to add. "Really, they're going to like you just fine. And obviously the whole 'eating you' thing is no longer an issue."
"Are they going to Laredo with us?" Bella asked, deciding to forego any more questions about her human life. Talking about Edward always made her sad, and hearing about Edward's...protectiveness…while she had still been human – before they'd even really met – made her even sadder.
"I don't know." Jasper shrugged. They'd talked about all this before, but he didn't mind rehashing it if it made her feel better. "Peter was pretty vague on the phone. Then again, he's always vague on the phone. I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to go."
"But he might? For you? Because you're friends, right? Brothers..?"
Jasper shrugged again. "Sort of, if you want to call us that. Friends would be a better term."
"But...you said Maria created both of you. So you're brothers, right?"
"That would make Emmett and Rose brother and sister and Edward your father, Bella," Jasper pointed out. "Yes, we had the same creator. But brother? By that logic, I have hundreds – no, thousands – of brothers. And sisters. Maria has been a very prolific sire in her time. Most of my 'siblings' didn't live longer than a year. We weren't a real close family, Bella. I prefer to think of him as my friend."
"Oh. Okay. Well, won't he come along in the name of 'friendship', then?"
"Maybe, maybe not. Neither of us likes to be near her. It wasn't the most pleasant of partings. Actually, she blames my leaving her coven on Peter, so it's probably just as well if he doesn't accompany us. She's not going to want to see him, probably, especially not under the current circumstances."
Bella was quiet after that. Jasper was thankful that she seemed to settle down for the rest of the flight – all 45 minutes of it from Seward to Ketchikan. There was no fidgeting and no destruction of their seats.
They transferred planes with no problem at Ketchikan, and three hours later they landed at Spokane, followed by another short flight to Butte for the layover. It was early evening when they left the airport. To Jasper's surprise, his friend and sometime brother was waiting for them at the curb, standing next to a red Prius.
"New ride?" Jasper asked, foregoing a normal greeting. "Deciding to go green in your old age?"
The tall blond man shrugged and pushed away from the vehicle. "They're amazingly easy to steal. Granola munchers are easy targets for vampires."
"I thought you said they taste like sawdust? Changing your diet, too, along with your driving habits?" Jasper asked, holding the door to the back seat open for Bella after he'd put their bags in the trunk.
"I didn't say I ate her. I just picked her pocket." Peter nodded to Bella without speaking and crossed behind the car before opening the driver's door. Jasper slid into the front passenger seat and Peter got behind the wheel. "I'm assuming you'd like to grab something to eat before the next leg of your trip?"
Jasper nodded. "Yeah, that was the idea."
"Butte has a nice little zoo. Kind of small, but it should have a nice variety for you. A little exotic dining while you're on vacation."
"Very funny, Peter. Just take us out of town and we'll be fine. Surely there are some woods around here?"
Bella looked out the window at the surrounding mountains. It looked pretty wide open and wild to her. She felt Peter glance at her in the rear view mirror, but he continued to all but ignore her after that. She returned the compliment, ignoring him completely. Jasper hadn't introduced them, and she wasn't about to change that. Her mate had a reason for everything he did, she'd already figured out. Nothing was done by accident.
Silence descended on the car as they drove.
"So..." Peter said, breaking the silence. "When's your plane leave?"
"Day after tomorrow. 10 am."
"Ah. Long layover."
Bella didn't need Jasper's powers to be able to tell his friend was less than pleased with this information. This was so uncomfortable.
"Any plans while you're in town?" Peter asked.
"Thought we'd visit a bit," Jasper answered, stressing the 'we'.
Peter didn't rise to the bait. "Sure. Charlotte will be pleased."
It sounded to Bella like Charlotte might be, but Peter was anything but pleased.
"I'm sure she will be," Jasper agreed pleasantly. Bella fought to keep her shield reigned in, as well as the growl that was growing in her chest. Jasper may have said they were in the car with a friend, but it sure felt like a hostile environment to her. She felt reassurance from Jasper. Maybe this was normal for them, this odd...interaction.
Maybe she just needed to get out more. Maybe this was how vampires interacted with their vampire 'friends'. In her experience, other vampires were not friends, except for the Denalis. And she still really questioned that relationship. They were cousins, though – family of sorts. That was different. She wished Jasper had been more agreeable to her calling Peter his brother. Maybe she'd feel more comfortable around him.
They were ascending into the mountains now along a narrow winding road that was growing rougher the further they drove. Trees closed in on either side of the road and Bella felt their presence reassuring.
"Not really the car for this road," Jasper pointed out.
"Nope," Peter agreed pleasantly.
"Probably not good for it," Jasper said.
"Probably not, but since we're planning on moving on in a couple days, I guess I really don't care. Besides, I just got the car to drive you around. We couldn't have you magically disappearing and reappearing on the cameras at the airport, now could we, running to and from it at vampire speed? And leavin' on foot at human speed would look a little odd, too."
Moving on. Because of their visit. Bella was sure of it, even if she couldn't follow Peter's line of reasoning. Well, that at least explained his lack of enthusiasm at seeing his friend. But if they were nomads, why would having to move bother them, even if it was because of her and Jasper? Maybe that was it! They resented having to leave because of something out of their control. But why was her and Jasper's presence a catalyst for that? God, she hated being trapped in vehicles.
Jasper turned his head slightly to look at her sharply. Right. She was starting to fidget again. The door handle was now a useless piece of plastic in her lap.
"Sorry," she whispered.
Peter glanced at her in the mirror again. This time she did meet his eyes.
"S'alright. It's not my car," he told her, no sign of humor in his eyes.
A/N If anybody is familiar with plane flights and schedules, yes, I admit to taking artistic license with Jasper and Bella's route. Try not to get worked up about it. Just remember you're reading about VAMPIRES flying those non-existent routes. It will put it in perspective.