April 11, 2011

A/N: Well folks, this is my longest chapter to date and I think it pretty much ties up all the loose ends - although if I missed something I'm sure you'll let me know in your reviews :-) It's also the chapter where you'll decide if you hated this story or not. After this I have an ending and an epilogue. We are almost at the finish line.


JPOV

Once were deep in the woods I stopped at the first clearing we came to and lay down on the ground. Bella lay beside me and we both just stared up at stars that shone brightly in the night sky. I wished the stars had the answers I was looking for. I could feel her love, but there was a lot of fear, doubt, and even guilt mixed in there. They were all feelings that mirrored my own. Sixty years I spent in wedded bliss with my Alice. All of that changed in one night. In one night our family splintered completely apart and the women I loved dearly was now no more than a stranger to me. Not just a stranger, but the enemy. How did we come this far?

"You're thinking about Alice, aren't you?"

She was still looking towards the heavens as she spoke. I kept my gaze in the same direction.

"And you're thinking of Edward."

"We've been through so much. Should the road to happiness be this hard?"

"I don't have an answer for that question. From the day I was turned my life has been hard. Every time I thought I had finally found happiness, every time I thought I found peace, things have come crashing down."

"She's your wife. You spent decades loving her."

"You loved Edward so completely. It doesn't matter if it was decades, years, or months. The time doesn't make it any less real, or any less deep."

"Is this it for us? Do we just go back to who we were?"

I couldn't go back. I loved the woman beside me with my complete being, and if I wasn't an empath, those words would have broken me to pieces, but I could feel the profound sorrow and fear behind those words. She might have said them, but she didn't mean it. I finally turned to look at her and she turned to look at me. Her eyes were full of tears unable to fall and her lips trembled against words she was too afraid to say. She was afraid of losing me, which gave me reason to exist.

"Bella, I love you. I don't want to lose you and I will fight for you if I have to."

She rolled on top of and kissed me deeply. It was a kiss filled with relief and love. Her legs straddled my torso and her hands rested against my chest as she explored my mouth with her tongue. Her hair blanketed our faces and I felt cocooned within her. When she finally did draw her lips back from mine she said out loud, what her kiss already told.

"You don't need to fight for what already rightfully belongs to you. I love you too Jasper Whitlock."

She bent down to kiss me again, and I had an overwhelming urge to claim her. I flipped her on her back and we both frantically moved to take off each other's clothes. I pressed against her naked form, relishing every soft peak and gentle valley her body. I sucked hard on the spot on her neck where I first took her life and before I knew it I bared my teeth down on her again at that same spot. She screamed in pain and pleasure as I savoured the taste of her flesh. She arched her back pressing her breasts into my chest and I could feel her fingers breaking through the skin on my back leaving ribbons of scratches where her nails had been. Both of us were determined to make our marks on each other, enough for the world to see we belonged to one another. My need to consume ever inch her overwhelmed me. I thrust into her and cried out her name as her warmth enveloped my being. I could feel her muscles pulling me inside her, trying to coax my essence into her with every contraction and quiver. I attacked her breasts roughly kneading the soft yet firm flesh in my hands and rolling her hard nipples in my mouth. She was writhing under me, lifting her hips giving me fuller access to reach deep inside her core. She pulled at my hair and screamed out my name as my hips rocked against her pleasure centre over and over bringing her over the edge. With each orgasm she begged me to come inside of her, but I wasn't ready to relinquish my hold. I wanted us to stay fused together, in this moment forever. Only when her lips came down on my chest and her teeth pierced my flesh did I feel the satisfaction of my own release. My body seized and shook as I emptied myself inside her in uncontrollable spasms, until my body was spent. Even in the aftermath, I stayed inside the comfort of her warmth. My arms and legs wrapped around her and I held her close to me as I kissed her hair.

She mumbled into my chest. "There's no place I'd rather be, than here with you."

"Darlin', I'm glad we're on the same page."

BPOV

Once I brought Jasper back from mental clutches of his demon we found ourselves in a strange tableau. While Jasper and I avoided looking at each other, everyone else stared at us waiting for the unpredictable aftermath. I could feel Edward's eyes trying to bore into my soul, but I couldn't bring myself to go there just yet. He dragged me to hell, I clawed my way to purgatory and Jasper led me to heaven. Now Alice and Edward were back and my paradise in a bubble popped leaving me floundering in doubt.

Jasper didn't hesitate at Peter's suggestion to go for a hunt. I was surprised when Jasper led us to a clearing deep in the woods. Memories of being in a similar clearing having my heat broken to pieces flooded back. Could all the words of love we exchanged mean nothing? I know he loved Alice deeply, but did he have to break my heart in a place where my memories would haunt me? I pictured him in Alice's arms and part of me wanted to rip her limb from limb. Yet, she was his wife. If anyone had a right to hold Jasper in their arms it was Alice. I was just the interloper who tried to come between them. He didn't look at me as we lay on the dewy grass looking up at the stars. He was probably dreaming of his wife and the future they now had a second chance at. I might as well get this over with.

I kept my eyes on the sky, not wanting him to see my pain. "You're thinking about Alice, aren't you?"

"And you're thinking of Edward." Strangely, the answer to that question is no.

"We've been through so much. Should the road to happiness be this hard?" He could ride off into the sunset with Alice. I was no more than a speed bump in his life. A holding place for the one he really wanted.

"I don't have an answer for that question. From the day I was turned my life has been hard. Every time I thought I had finally found happiness, every time I thought I found peace, things have come crashing down."

He's been through so much. It's not fair for me to make his life any harder. "She's your wife. You spent decades loving her."

"You loved Edward so completely. It doesn't matter if it was decades, years, or months. The time doesn't make it any less real, or any less deep."

The difference is I was no more than a child back then. I loved him completely and naively. It's easy to give all of yourself when you haven't fully comprehended who you truly are. Time has changed me. I'm no longer that doe-eyed girl blinded by perfect beauty. I no longer need someone to protect me. After all the time Jasper and I spent together, could he really think I could just go back to being that person?

"Is this it for us? Do we just go back to who we were?" I looked at him just as he turned to look at me, and the thought of losing him was making me come undone.

"Bella, I love you. I don't want to lose you and I will fight for you if I have to."

Did I hear that right? Oh yeah, vampire hearing. He loved me. He didn't just love me, he wanted me. He wanted me enough to fight for me. The weight on my chest lifted. The joy in my heart swelled. The need to touch every part of him overwhelmed me. Before I knew it, I was on top of him and tasting his divine lips. I needed him to know how much he meant to me.

"You don't need to fight for what already rightfully belongs to you. I love you too Jasper Whitlock."

This time when I kissed him he flipped me on my back. Suddenly I was naked and pressed against his hard chiselled flesh. He caressed my neck scar which sent electric volts down to my core making me wet with need. I could feel his desire and primal urge burgeon. It came to surface as he bit down at that very spot that made me his and I was awash in his lust and need to dominate. The pain from his venom mixed with our desire amplified my lust making me blind with passion. His venom mixed with my blood was not enough. I needed to fuse myself to him. My fingers clawed at his back as I arched into his body. I couldn't have any space between us. I wanted to feel every ridge of every scar that marred his Adonis physique. I wanted to be inside every cell of his entire body. I needed to feel him fill me. His manhood finally made its home inside my core and I relished every long hard stroke as my pleasure began to build. My first climax made me scream his name in ecstasy.

I was coming down from my high, but Jasper wasn't finished. He continued his rhythm. First slowing down to give me time to recover; then rolling his hips against mine to gain deeper access. Each time he hit my magic spot waves of pleasure rippled thought out my body making my toes curl and my eyes flutter. It made my want turn into need and when I thought it couldn't get any better he quickened the pace. I could feel my muscles clench around him, begging him to come with me, but he did not give into my body's demands. Instead he repeated the process making my needs more urgent and my body crying out. He had me. I was his. But, it was time he knew that he belonged to me. I needed his essence inside me before I burst into flames. The need was so overwhelming I was barely aware of my teeth biting into his flesh tasting his sweet venom and letting the warm liquid sooth me. As I bit down he roared with pain and his desire hit me like a battering ram which released wave after wave of orgasmic pleasure. His release was violent and intense as he shuddered and convulsed above me. I could finally feel his warm liquid bliss feel fill my centre making us one. He then collapsed on top of me, wrapping me completely in his harms and body. I could still feel him inside me at rest and I was happy to know he found his home there. I wanted to stay in this position forever.

I mumbled into his chest as he kissed my hair, "There's no place I'd rather be, than here with you."

"Darlin', I'm glad we're on the same page." Thank God!

BPOV

We hunted after we made love then we ran back to the house. Even though the next few moments were going to be horrible and hard we both felt we had a strong foundation in each other to get us through. Our love was not two people just thrown together by loss. It was a love that kept two people grounded to weather any storm.

The crowd outside the house was a little smaller. Jake and the pack went back to La Push but he left me a text message that said he would check up on me later. Vanessa needed to know he was alright and was anxious to see him. Emmett and Rose took off for the woods. She needed to hunt in order to help heal from her injuries. Kate and Garrett were nowhere to be seen, but Carmen and Eleazer were standing with Marcus, Edward and Alice. Carlisle and Esme were also with the little group outside, the grief on their faces was plain to see and I immediately put up my shield to block the emotional onslaught from Jasper. I squeezed his hand was rewarded with a small smile, but worried eyes. I looked around for Peter and Charlotte, and realised I could hear their faint moans coming deep from within the woods. Seems Jasper wasn't the only one who needed a release from this tension.

Edward was staring at my hand which was clasping Jasper's. I'm sure the smell of our coupling didn't go unnoticed and I was glad that Jasper's mind was blocked from Edward at the moment. He looked like a man on death row and I didn't want to tighten the noose even though I was responsible for putting the rope around his neck. I let go of Jasper's hand and walked towards him. The look he gave me was full of hope; a man hoping for one last pardon.

He trembled as he spoke. "Bella, you're alive."

"I'm no longer alive, but yes Edward, it's me." He made a slight wince at the first part of my statement. I ignored it. "I think we should go somewhere private to talk."

He nodded and I made my way inside the house with him trailing behind me. I went to the kitchen and absentmindedly boiled some water while he took off his cloak and sat on the stool by the large granite top island. Our mannerisms seemed almost too human given what we've been through. Once I had my cup of hot water in hand I stood on the other side of the island and mentally took in the boy sitting in front of me.

This was the first time I got a true look at him through my vampire eyes. I totally understood why had loved him as a human. He was beautiful beyond compare. His stomach muscles rippled under the thin cotton t-shirt like soft ocean tides. His hair was a perfect mess of varying hues of brown. His strong jaw line highlighted the perfect facial features. His arms were long and well defined. His hands and fingers held the elegance of a concert pianist. His eyes were deep black pools revealing the tortured soul he denied existed. There was a huge pit in my stomach. My heart hurt. My limbs felt heavy. It was much the same way I felt that cold dark night in the woods, I was probably having a symptomatic response relating to my human life. Absentmindedly I wondered if these types of responses would fade over time as my human life began to fade.

Edward stared at me with no expression. "I still can't read your thoughts. It's maddening."

"My thoughts are not your property, nor am I."

He looked at me like I had just slapped him in the face. "I didn't mean to insinuate such a thing. If anything I belong to you. Time or distance hasn't changed my love for you Bella."

My mind ran through the various ways to answer that statement.

Unfortunately time and distance has changed my love for you

I'm in love with Jasper

If you really loved me you never would have left in the first place

If you belonged to me, where the hell have you been all these years?

I needed an explanation. Him popping up with the Volturi after all these years was a curve ball I didn't see coming. He shattered not just me, but his entire family as well.

"Your love for me? Edward your love shattered my heart. Your love splintered my soul. You said that time would heal all wounds. Well, guess what? It didn't."

My words were full of hate and anger. Anger that I didn't know I had until this very moment. All these years I never got to have my say. I never got any closure. He made decisions concerning me without my input because he always thought he knew what was best for me, even though I was capable of making my own choices and accepting the consequences. By now I was incensed.

"Edward you don't belong to me, I don't belong to you. We are our own people, capable of choosing our own path. I have made some horrible decisions in my life, but at least in the end I chose my family over myself."

"You chose your family? I saw Alice's vision. You threw your life away in a bathroom with a razor. Tell me how that was choosing your family? Did Jasper come and save the day? Is that why you're here now as one of us, a monster? Were you choosing Charlie when you ended your life?"

Clearly, I was not the only one with unresolved anger. My rash decision definitely played a part in the web we were all entangled in. "Edward, I have a lot of regret over what I did. You hurt me so profoundly, I didn't think I could go on. For the record, Jake was the one who saved my life, not Jasper. After that I chose to live for Charlie and Jake. I was still broken, but that moment made me realise that killing myself was not the answer. Can you say the same?"

"How could you expect me to live in a world where you did not exist?"

"The same way you expected me to live my life without you."

The anger we both had had faded, but it was replaced with a deep sense of loss. He never looked more like a 17 year old boy than he did at this moment. Even though there were times when he was wise beyond his physical age, I was starting the grasp the shortcomings of being frozen in time. The problem with Edward was he didn't see me. He saw 17 year old Bella who looked at him like he was the world. I had over three years of growing up and maturing that he would never get a chance to do. It made me appreciate Rosalie's feeling on being turned that much more. In silent standoff, the look in Edward's eyes changed. Something finally clicked.

"You look different. I'm not talking about the change. I mean, you haven't been a vampire that long have you? How old are you?"

"21. I was turned a few months ago"

"And when did Jasper enter your life?"

"Six months prior to being turned."

"And you love him?"

"Yes Edward, I love him. We love each other."

His elbows were on the counter and his face was buried in his face. He sounded so defeated when he spoke.

"This is all my fault. If it wasn't for me leaving, if I didn't go to the Volturi, you and I might have still had a chance. Alice would have never gone through so much pain. She wouldn't be having her heart broken. I have caused her so much suffering and all she has ever done is love, and support me."

"Why did you go to the Volturi? Jasper told me you and Alice were dead. He said the Volturi killed you. Instead we find you as part of the guard, protecting Marcus no less."

"It's not Marcus' fault. I did go to end my life. Alice tried to save me. Instead both of us were held and tortured for years. I wished I was dead every day. When I thought I couldn't take anymore, and was resigned to the fact that the rest of my existence would be never ending pain, it all stopped. Suddenly we were treated like one of them. Alice finally smiled. Marcus took me under his wing and I didn't want to die every day anymore."

"Edward, that is so incredibly horrible. I'm so sorry my actions caused you such inexplicable pain. Once you were out, how could you not let Carlisle know you were alive? Couldn't you see the pain you caused him?"

"Chelsea has a gift. She can instil loyalty and break emotional ties. Before I knew it, Alice and I were tied to Aro and no one else mattered. Now that she's gone I am aware of the gravity of my actions."

I let his is explanation sink in. There was so much hurt and so little blame to go around. All the real culprits were already dead and we were left to clean up the aftermath. I didn't know where to go from here. Edward came around the island and stood beside me. With a finger he gently moved a lock of my hair from my face and tucked it behind my ear, revealing the fresh scar that Jasper made.

The sadness in each word dripped like tears. "I didn't want to change you because I wanted to protect your soul, but seeing you as one of us just makes me love you even more. Jasper is very lucky."

Anything I said would have rubbed salt in his already gaping wounds, so I just said what I never got a chance to almost four years ago.

"Goodbye Edward."

He closed his eyes and before he could open them I was gone.

JPOV

I watched her as she walked away from me towards the house, the love of her human life trailing behind her. Her shield was in full force, so the turmoil going on inside me was all my emotions and my emotions alone. My wife looked at me with hurt written all over her face. Everyone stared at us like we were animals at the zoo.

"Alice, would you mind coming with me to somewhere more private to talk?"

She stared out in space like she was about to face the firing squad. "Of course my husband. We have much to discuss."

She floated into the forest and I followed her to the clearing where Bella and I just made love. Of all the places, she had to come here? Clearly she wanted to call me out.

"I followed your scent here. Did I even cross your mind as you fucked my sister in this very spot?"

"Alice, you've been alive all this time and let us think you were dead. You killed a member of your family out there. I spent years alone trying to forget the fact that you didn't hesitate to go rescue Edward, but never thought once to come rescue me. I don't think I have to justify my actions to you anymore."

Her features softened and the anger was no longer in her voice. "Jasper, I never stopped loving you. You left me. My sister was gone, my husband was gone. Did you expect me to let Edward just run off and kill himself too? I have a heart capable of breaking too Jasper! It wasn't fair that you judged me for feeling things that were beyond my control."

She was right. I could have stayed, but if I did I'm sure Edward would have been dead, and I would have lost her anyway. She might have loved me, but it wasn't enough. She needed Edward too.

"You're right and I'm sorry I left. I regretted it deeply when Carlisle told me you were dead. In all our years together, did you ever see things ending up like this?"

"No I didn't. Everything that has happened has been a result of rash impulsive decisions. There was no way to predict the night of Bella's birthday. If I could have seen what was coming, I never would have let Edward leave her in the woods. I would have made sure you hunted before the night of her party. Maybe I never would have led us to the Cullens at all."

Memories replayed in my head of all the happy times I shared with the petite woman in front of me. The spark was gone and her light was diminished. It was heartbreaking to see her this way.

"Is that why you stayed with the Volturi? Why you've hunted humans?"

"Edward and I didn't go to Volterra to join them. We were prisoners and tortured for years. We had to serve our punishment for our lifestyle. Once our punishment was considered served, Chelsea solidified our loyalty to the Volturi and we were accepted in the guard. But, you don't get the right to judge me for my lifestyle choice. I'm not the only one who's tasted human blood. I saw you as took that girl from the club. You walked her home. You made love to her in her apartment and drained her dry as she climaxed. Didn't she taste divine my love? Her blood mixed with desire. Didn't you feel the utmost gratification as you came inside her while her warm blood soothed the aching burn in your throat?"

"Alice, I was in a bad place when I did those things. I'm different now. I'm whole again. Now that Chelsea's dead, your loyalty to them is broken. You can go back to the Cullens and heal again too."

The familiar void came over her face. I waited till her vision was over and she smiled at me, but the smile didn't reach her eyes.

"Once in a while I would see us walking down an aisle together and it brought me hope that I'd find my way back to you. I realise now it was just my mind playing tricks on me. My life is with them now. I'm not tied to them by another vampire's spell. I want to be there. The last few months have opened my eyes to a lot of things, and I think I can do some good there. All the people who did me harm are dead and Marcus will need me. Strangely, whenever I try to see you, it's blank. It's been happening for months. I thought my blank visions were because you died. Then when I saw the wolves I thought that explained it, but it's because of Bella isn't it?"

"Yes. Her shield is pretty powerful. It got stronger as she aged, and more so after she turned."

"What happened with her suicide attempt?"

"Jake got to her in time, and then I think she spent a lot of time with him before going off to college. It explains why you didn't see a lot of events."

"The fact that I was blinded by pain and suffering from emotional distress probably didn't help matters. So, you really love her then?"

"I do Alice. I'm so sorry, but our time apart has changed a lot of things in me. I mourned you and fell in love. I wish I could be the man you need, but sweetheart that need man is gone."

She floated towards me and placed a light kiss on my cheek. "I may look fragile, but I have a knack for ending up on my feet. Just be happy Jasper. I'll be okay."

She disappeared into the woods. I assumed she was going back to the house. I wasn't ready to face everyone just yet so I sat on grass and meditated on the exchange. I kept my eyes closed but was fully aware that Peter was standing over me.

"You okay my man?"

"Yeah, Pete. I reckon I am."

"Then why are you lyin' out here like you just got dumped on prom night?"

"Dude, I just told my wife I was in love with someone else. Alice is planning on staying with the guard and turning her back on her family."

"Alice is a big girl. She can make her own decisions. Now get with program. We still haven't dealt with Marcus."

As we ran back to the house I went over the options. Option 1) kill Marcus. That would mean no ruling class to ensure our laws were upheld. Carlisle would be the best option to step into that role, but I knew he didn't want it, and wouldn't be able to dish out the punishment, which was necessary to maintain order. Biggest con to this option was the Romanians could swoop in and push our kind back to medieval times, which no one would want. Option 2) Let Marcus live and go back to rule. Would he retaliate? If there was a chance of that happening we couldn't let him live. If Alice went back with him she could ensure we were kept safe. Even though the thought of her going back there pained me, it seemed like our best option.

Just before we got to the edge of the clearing, Bella came into view. She ran full force and jumped into my arms, her legs wrapping around my waist.

"When I saw Alice and you weren't there I was worried."

"No need for worry Darlin. I just needed a little time to process."

"Alice says she's going back to Volterra with Marcus. Are you okay?"

"Pete had to remind me that Alice can make her own decisions. As long as I have you, I'm okay."

She kissed me long and hard, and I almost forgot what my next task was. If she didn't stop, I was going to take her right here in front of Pete, and he wouldn't let me live it down for decades.

"Darlin', we better get back to the others. I promise to make up for all this drama as soon as we get home."

She unwound her legs from my waist, but kept her arms around my neck.

"Where is home?"

"Where ever you want it to be."

"Would you be okay with going back to Seattle? I love Carlisle and Esme, but I feel like our life is there."

"Sounds good to me. Seattle isn't that far. We can visit as often as you want, and we would be closer to Charlie and Jake. I like the idea of just the two of us. That way I could ravish you away from prying ears."

Her love and happiness beamed. I gave her another long kiss before Peter reminded us that he was still here. I didn't appreciate being wacked on the head with a small tree. I was going to have to kick his ass later.

When we got to the house I approached Marcus first.

"Marcus, we don't want to kill you, but we have to protect our family first."

He put his hands up in a non-threatening gesture and spoke. "I have no ill will. Your family had sufficient reason to retaliate. I can attest that Edward and Alice were wrongfully held. If you want to kill me, you would be in the right."

He was completely sincere and Alice looked at me like we were just wasting time. She already saw Marcus would be alive and she would be in Volterra with him, so to her we were just wasting time. I however needed to be confident that this would work out.

"You don't have Chelsea anymore. How will you rebuild the guard?"

"This will be a new era for our kind. We can uphold our laws with vampires who truly want to serve for the greater good."

Edward came out of the house to join our group. He ignored everyone and went straight to Alice.

He seemed a bit shocked as he read Alice's mind. "You're going back with Marcus?"

"Edward, really it's for the best. I think I can be happy there now." Just as she said the words a vision flashed through her. She jumped up and down and gave Edward a huge hug. It was the first time she seemed like her old self. Edward smiled and hugged her back. Everyone else watched these two communicate wordlessly.

Pete, not used to strange exchange was the first to speak up. "What the fuck is going on?"

Alice answered in her sing song voice. "Edward is coming with me."

Edward turned to Carlisle. "I'm sorry Carlisle. I know you would like me to stay, but Alice has sacrificed so much for me, and truthfully, I just don't think I could stay here after all that's happened."

I was tempted to say that we would not be here if that what he was worried about, but the thought of Edward being thousands of miles away from Bella was way too tempting. At the very least he could also protect Alice if he served in the guard as well.

Even though Carlisle was hurt and disappointed, he masked it well. "My son, I understand. We love you and you can always come home whenever you want."

The two men hugged and Esme began to sob. Rose seemed stunned from all the events. It was the first time I had ever seen her at a loss for words. Emmett held her knowing she needed the emotional support.

Eleazer suddenly piped in. "Don't worry Carlisle, I'll keep an eye on them for you."

I don't think anyone was more surprised than Carmen. "Eleazer, you're going with them? You're going back to the guard? These two killed my sister and her mate? Kate and Garrett have probably gone back to Alaska by now in an effort not to rip them to shreds and cause further bloodshed. How could you suggest such a thing?"

"My love, Edward and Alice were under the power of Chelsea, they can't be blamed for their actions. Marcus is going to need all the help he can get if he's going to rebuild the guard and my gift can assist with that. We have to think of the greater good. In the Volturi's weakened state anarchy could ensue. You've witnessed the Volturi's wrath under Aro's thumb. Don't you want to be part of the solution? Think of the good we could do."

She thought it over and decided her love for Eleazer overrode her anger at Edward and Alice. Marcus may have lost a large part of Volturi, but he was gaining allies and a new outlook. I promised to contact Garrett myself and inform him and Kate of these events. They could decide what the next chapter in their lives would hold.

With the decisions made Edward embraced Esme, and Alice embraced me. She whispered in my ear that she would send me the divorce papers so I could move on with my life and I thanked her. Alice and Edward then said their emotional goodbyes to Emmett and Rose promising to stay in touch. When it came time to say goodbye to Bella, Edward kept his distance but the look of love and sadness in his eyes said it all. We didn't look at each other. There was still too much hurt to bridge the gap. Alice and Bella also kept their distance. I knew that Bella loved Alice and that Alice would eventually be able to come around, but I think that we needed more time in order for those wounds to heal.

All was said and done, and the five vampires melted back into the forest. The last cloud lifted and it finally felt like we were home free.