AN: Just a warning, there is a little bit of lyrics usage and I'm giving a heads up to those of you who don't like to read them.
Also, this chapter is a bit shorter than the others. I've had some back pain and haven't been able to sit for long periods, so it was either a slightly shorter chapter, or skipping a week. I wasn't liking the idea of skipping a week, so we're left with the shorter chapter. I'll try and make it up to you next week, if I'm feeling better.
Huge, enormous thanks to Laura and Momo for Betaing this at the last minute! I hope you two know that I totally adore you!
Chapter 9: Hysteria
'Cause I want it now
I want it now
Give me your heart and your soul
I'm not breaking down
I'm breaking out
Last chance to lose control
Hysteria by Muse
When the final customer was gone and the door locked, Jasper and Bella went about their closing routine fairly quickly. In less than an hour, the bar was clean and ready to go for the next night. She turned and looked at him expectantly, curious as to what was up his sleeve. He only grinned and held up one finger for her to wait.
"Close your eyes."
She arched an eyebrow, causing him to laugh.
"Just do it," he replied, wagging his finger. "And keep them closed until I say so."
She made a big show out of sighing and closing her eyes tightly. In the dark behind her eyelids, she listened to the shuffling and slight banging sounds as Jasper moved around. After a few minutes, he cleared his throat and she heard the unmistakable sound of fingers brushing against guitar strings, which caused her heart to jump up into her throat.
"Okay, you can open them now."
She looked up and saw him sitting on one of two stools on the small stage, a Gibson acoustic guitar resting in his arms. To his right, her own case sat upon the second empty stool.
"Whit," she whispered in awe. "What is this? Your idea of therapy?"
He smirked and nodded. "Music is part of your soul. I figured this might help you clear your mind and help figure things out."
She let out a breath and nodded, excitement running through her blood. She walked over and placed both hands flat against the stage floor and swung her leg up over the side, climbing up deftly. He gave her a surprised look and shook his head.
"Nothing, I just didn't think you were that athletic," he replied, shrugging.
She smiled. "I wouldn't say athletic, but I go to the gym regularly and work out."
She walked over to her case and opened it, revealing her deep blue Les Paul. She gently caressed the smooth body and lovingly lifted it into her arms, relishing the slight weight. She climbed up on the stool, settled the guitar on her lap and tested the tuning. Finding the sound to her liking, she strummed it, feeling the vibrations deep in her chest. She smiled up at Jasper and blinked away tears.
"Well, Mr. Whitlock," she said quietly, "this is your show. What's next?"
He started to play a hauntingly familiar tune, his rich, melodic voice echoing throughout the empty room. She swallowed and closed her eyes, listening to the words as her fingers fell into the melody right alongside Jasper.
I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
'Till the landslide brought me down
Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older too
When the last notes drew to close, Bella rested her hands on the neck of her guitar and sighed.
"Was that your way of telling me not to be afraid to let Edward into my heart?"
Jasper blinked, keeping his face emotionless. "No, I just have a thing for Stevie Nicks."
His lips twitched and she snorted, causing him to break out into loud guffaws. After a few minutes of laughing, he wiped his eyes and shook his head. "She was pretty hot in her day, though."
"At least it wasn't Justin Bieber," Bella interjected with a giggled.
He shot her a disgusted look and mock-shuddered. "If I didn't love Allie with all my heart, her 'Bieber fever' would be the end of us."
Her fingers unconsciously strummed the guitar strings, notes flowing and blending, while Jasper watched her quietly. He folded his hands and patiently waited for her to look up. When she did, he motioned to her guitar.
"I take it that you don't play this one in public?" he asked.
Her brows furrowed in thought. "How do you know that?"
He pointed to the lower left-hand side, where the word 'Isabella' was emblazoned in gold.
She smiled sadly and nodded. "You're right, only two people have ever seen this guitar. One was the man who customized it and the second was the man who bought it for me. Besides them, it's only been played in private, which is usually the only time I can play anyway."
He rubbed his chin thoughtfully before responding. "I was wondering about that. The night that you showed up, Allie and I did some Googling to see what we could learn about you, sorry." He shrugged unapologetically when she gave him an amused look.
"Anyway, I noticed your case right away, but none of your pictures showed you with a guitar. What gives?"
A dark look crossed her face momentarily. "It's in my contract that I'm not to play in public or on any of my albums."
"Why in the world would you agree to that?" he asked incredulously.
"I didn't, my mother did. It was her stipulation when my contract was renewed a few years ago. She didn't want any 'distractions' to come between me and my music. Basically, she didn't want anything to interfere with her paycheck. At the time, I was seventeen and didn't really care too much."
"Can't you change it now?"
She nodded. "My contract is up in May and there will definitely be some re-negotiating going on. I don't think there's any way I can go back to things being the way they were when I left. I'm just finding myself again, I don't want to lose this as soon as I step back into the spotlight."
Whit nodded thoughtfully. "You know, the way you treated Ed isn't much different than how you were treated."
She bristled and sat up straight. "What are you talking about?"
"You made a decision about what you thought was best, not taking his feelings into account. He's a grown man and deserves the chance to have a say in his future. Can't you see how you took that away from him?"
She ran a hand through her hair and sighed. "Yes, I can see it now. I just - I don't know what to do..."
Her sad eyes met his, causing him to smile in empathy. "First, you need to make a choice. Either you want to be his lover, or you want to be just his friend. Once you make that choice, you need to stick with it. As much as I've started to love you as a friend, he's my brother-in-law. And you've seen how over-protective my wife is of her brother."
She bit her lip and shook her head. "How? How do I make that choice? How do I know what the right choice is?"
"You follow your heart," he replied with a half-shrug.
She scoffed. "You make it sound so simple."
He leaned forward and grinned. "Because it is. Would you always wonder 'What if?' Does it ache to be away from him? Does it feel like you can finally breathe again once you're in his presence?"
She closed her eyes and felt tears sting behind her lids. "Yes," she whispered.
"That's called love, Bella."
She turned her head and looked directly at him, her eyes filled with anguish. "But aren't you supposed to protect the people you love?"
He nodded. "Yeah, to some extent. Put yourself in his shoes. If he was the rockstar and you loved him, would you want him to push you away for your own good? To think that you couldn't handle it?"
Jasper sat back and watched emotions warring in her eyes. He could see the exact moment that her decision was made. Her posture straightened and a determined look settled upon her face.
"I love him," she whispered. "I love him and I choose him." She looked up and met his gaze. "Now what do I do?"
He smiled and shrugged. "Now you prove yourself."
"What do you mean?"
"You hurt him and considering that this isn't his first rodeo, I doubt he'll be an easy nut to crack this time around. I'd suggest holding back your declarations of love until you know where you stand with him. I'd wager a guess that he's not going to be very forgiving at first and you'll have to work to earn his trust back."
She remained quiet as she mulled over his words. After a few minutes of coming to terms with the potentially long road ahead of her, she said, "I'll do whatever it takes."
He leaned back and eyed her speculatively. "Is he worth fighting for?"
She nodded without any hesitation. "Absolutely."
"When you go over there tomorrow, you give him a sign. Go out on a limb and show him your vulnerable side."
He rolled his eyes. "Do I need to spell everything out for you, Bella-Bee?" He gestured to the guitar in her lap and a light bulb went off in her head.
"Like a grand gesture? You want me to go the Lloyd Dobler route and sing to him? Isn't that a bit clichéd?"
He stifled a laugh, his shoulders shaking slightly. "John Cusack never sang in that movie."
She rolled her eyes in annoyance and flicked her hair over her shoulder. "The whole boom-box grand gesture moment. You know what I mean."
Whit sighed. "Woman, do you not pay any attention to the man you say you love? He blushes like a school girl, he says the sweetest shit and he takes his mama to church on Sundays. If that doesn't scream hopeless romantic, then I don't what else does."
She chewed on her bottom lip and thought it over. "How do you know all of this? You should be a psychologist, not a bartender," she remarked with a laugh.
Jasper raised a brow. "That's exactly what I'm doing. I go to grad school in the mornings. I'm in the process of writing my thesis on the inner workings of the mind of a pop-diva-turned-small-town-bartender as we speak."
She blinked and cocked her head to the side. "Shut up," she replied with a laugh. "It's too late at night to be messing with me."
He smiled and shook his head. "Ok, so I was pulling your leg about the thesis, but it's not a bad idea, mind you. I really do attend classes, though."
"Huh," she murmured. After a moment of silence, she spoke back up. "Thanks for all this, Jasper. I really appreciate it. I think you'll make a great psychologist, based on tonight's head-shrinking."
"Not a problem, babe. You two are perfect for each other and I really didn't want either of you to miss out on something that has the potential to be great. And thank you, even though psychiatrists are the head-shrinkers." He winked and started to strum his guitar once again.
"How about a few more songs before we head out?"
She nodded and smiled widely, her excitement to be playing once again returning now that a weight had been lifted off her chest.
The next morning, Bella found herself rushing over to Edward's house, at least twenty minutes past their meeting time. She'd stayed at the bar with Jasper until four in the morning, jamming and strumming until her fingers were sore. When she woke up late, she'd thrown on clean clothes and hastily brushed her teeth, opting to finger-comb her hair on the ride over to his place. She parked haphazardly and slammed her door shut, before racing up the front stairs, her guitar case bouncing against her back. Just as she reached the door, it opened and a stoic Edward awaited her. His face was emotionless and gave none of his thoughts away.
"I'm so sorry," she gasped, trying to catch her breath. "I overslept."
He nodded and waited silently as she took a few moments to calm herself down. Bella gazed at her feet for a moment before looking up to meet his wary eyes. She silently kicked herself for putting that hesitancy there. Jasper was right and now that she knew without a doubt that she was in love with Edward and that she'd fight for him. She only hoped that her grand gesture wasn't too late.
"I'm sorry I made the wrong choice. I should have thought everything through, I should have talked to you before I decided to cut you out of the decision-making process. I care about you so much and I don't want to lose you. Can you ever forgive me?"
After letting her sweat for a minute, his face eased into a tentative smile. "Yes, I can forgive you. It's not going to be overnight, but I do care about you, too."
He reached out and took one of her hands in his. "Before we can go any farther in our friendship, relationship, whatever we're doing here, I need to trust you and know that you're not just going to bail on me the next time something goes wrong."
She swallowed and nodded, as she slipped past him and into the house.
"I, uh, I brought my guitar," she replied, gesturing towards her case. She rolled her eyes internally.
Nice move, Stupid, she thought to herself. Of course he can see you brought your guitar, you idiot.
He shot her an adorably confused smile and nodded. "I can see." All of sudden, his eyes widened and a flash of excitement passed through them.
"Wait, are you going to play for me?"
She nodded nervously and walked into the living room, sitting on the arm of the couch and pulling out 'Isabella'. He sat at the opposite end of the couch and let out a low whistle, as his eyes slid over the expensive guitar.
"That's one beautiful instrument, Isabella," he uttered, his gaze never leaving her face.
Her insides melted at the sound of her full name on his lips. She just knew that he'd done that intentionally. She swallowed and ran her clammy hands along her thighs, wiping the moisture off on the denim. She'd performed in front of thousands of people, but sitting in front of this one man was more nerve-wracking than any concert had ever been. She cleared her throat and fingered the strings.
"So, erm, this is my grand gesture to show you how sorry I am and that I really want to be a part of your life. I'm all in, so to speak, whatever way you'll have me."
She closed her eyes and let the melody and words sweep her away.
You don't know about my past, and
I don't have a future figured out
And maybe this is going too fast
And maybe it's not meant to last
But what do you say to taking chances
What do you say to jumping off the edge
Never knowing if there's solid ground below
Or hand to hold, or hell to pay
What do you say
What do you say
I just want to start again
And maybe you could show me how to try
And maybe you could take me in
Somewhere underneath your skin
As the notes drifted into silence, she opened her eyes and met his shining green ones. He smiled at her and nodded.
"That was pretty good," he responded, "as far as grand gestures go, that is."
She was speechless for a moment, before noticing the mischievous glint in his eyes. She rolled her eyes and let out a laugh.
"Yeah, okay, I get it. I was pretty stupid."
He reached out and took one of her hands, gently rubbing her knuckles with his thumb. "Don't say that," he murmured. "I don't like it when you talk yourself down like that. I may have over-reacted a little bit myself, but I was hurt and angry. Those are two emotions that I never imagined associating with you, so it threw me for a loop."
She swallowed. "Look, can we chalk it up to a learning experience and move on? I promise if you give me another chance, I'll be the best friend you've ever had."
He watched her closely for a few moments, before nodding slowly. "I'd like that." His smirk returned in full force and he shook his head. "You're still not all the way forgiven, though."
She reached down and tossed one of the throw pillows at him, laughing. "You're an ass."
"But you still like me," he replied with a smile.
"Yes, I really do."
The air between them crackled with an unnamed energy, their eyes and hearts communicating with each other silently.
Edward leaned back and placed his hands behind his head. "Would you play some more?"
She grinned and nodded, biting her lip slightly, before launching into another song.
They didn't get much resolved, but they were back on solid footing. It was the best case scenario in her mind.
The following Friday...
Jacob Black was going to be slapped tonight, Bella was sure of it. She'd been in the middle of a conversation with Jasper when he'd sat down right in front of them and butted right in. She noticed that any time he wanted her attention, he reached out to touch her. It was starting to get on her nerves. Jasper took notice quickly and smoothly swapped sides with her, but she could still feel his eyes on her.
She'd just laughed at some joke that Whit had cracked when her eyes met Edward's from across the room. He smiled sweetly and winked at her, causing her belly to fill with butterflies. The time that they'd been spending together over the past week had been becoming more charged with sexual tension. They'd come close to kissing on more than one occasion, but something or someone always interrupted them.
Tonight, she thought. Tonight I'm going to tell him that I want to be with him. Then I'm going to kiss the hell out of him.
She watched as he drained his bottle of beer and stood, making his way over to the bar. He stood in front of her and gave her his sexy crooked smile, leaning onto the counter top. She mimicked his pose.
"What can I get ya?" she replied, flirtingly batting her lashes.
He grinned and played along. "Well, there's this cute bartender whose number I'd like. Do you think you could get it for me?"
She tapped her chin, pretending to think. "I don't know. I don't think Whit's wife would appreciate that very much."
He giggled, actually fucking giggled, and laid his head on his arms, shoulders shaking with laughter.
A commotion occurred at the entrance, causing Bella to turn away from the adorable sight that was Edward. She couldn't see much, but she heard Emmett arguing hotly with someone. A flash of red swept past him and made its way through the crowd.
"Bella?" Edward asked, regaining her attention. She looked back at his confused expression and mentally shook herself, but some nervous feeling crept up in her chest. She smiled at him and handed him a fresh bottle.
At that moment, a beautiful brunette with striking blue-green eyes appeared in front of her and tapped Edward on the shoulder. When he sat up straight and turned to look, his face paled with shock and he nearly choked on the beer he'd been drinking.
Then, he said the one name that would ruin her night all together.
AN: Chapter song: Hysteria by Muse
Other music used in this chapter: Landslide by Fleetwood Mac and Taking Chances by The Glee Cast.
Shortened chapter or not, this one was still ending with the cliffie. It's been planned from the beginning. Don't hate me too much, okay?
I forgot to thank BellaDonnaCullen last chapter for the usage of the nickname "Mr. Adorable", which I totally ganked from her fic, Rubbish.
Donations are being accepted during the month of April for The Fandom Gives Back: Autism Speaks and Fandom For Sexual Assault Awareness fundraisers. Those who donate to FBG, will be receiving a Rabbit Heart Outtake from Bella & Emmett's childhood and FFSAA will be getting a completely new O/S called "Accidentally in Love", which will be continued into a mini novella at a future date. Both are great charities, but I've got to admit that the FFSAA is one that is close to my heart.