A/N: Beta'd by SweeneyAnne and pre-read by THEChickNorris.
Don't own Twilight.
Chapter 1 – The Chauffeur
She was just a girl, some pathetically weak human girl. On first examination there was absolutely nothing extraordinary about her. She was plain, boring; she was middle ground—and then I tasted her.
Love, understanding, compassion, and every other positive emotion I could wrap my head around flowed out of her and soared straight into me from across the cafeteria. She was irritated and a little angry, frustrated and impatient—but it was all diluted by the natural tenor of her disposition. She tasted sweet, like dripping honey drizzled over my skin.
It took her five minutes to prove me wrong, there was no way she was just some ordinary girl.
The family may have thought I was weak, but it turned out to be Edward who had to flee from her presence. It made me cocky; Edward, the epitome of control and self-restraint had to run all the way to Alaska to escape her scent, but I was the one who could taste her emotions running over my tongue. I was the one who'd had this incredibly intimate experience with her in a crowded dining hall, and my control was intact.
Edward was the one who wanted to kill her. I did, too, but I also thought that she'd probably make a pretty interesting vampire.
The family mooned over him, made every attempt to console him over his fall from grace, while I sat idly by and wondered how long it would take before the scent of her blood called him all the way back down to Washington. These vampires were the ones who were weak. They had no understanding of what the true call of blood could wreck on you. They didn't know what it was like to resist something so beautifully satisfying. The sick thing was that Edward did, and not just because he happened to sit beside a mouthwatering girl in Biology.
Carlisle, Rosalie, they had no basis for comparison. Emmett and Esme had slipped, but not often, and they always ran back to their mates. Alice didn't even know what she knew—but Edward and I, we'd given in. We'd bathed in blood and sank our teeth through flesh, and no matter how hard either of us tried to deny it, we'd loved every second.
He came cowering back, his tail between his legs, just like we all knew he would. Edward was a pussy, and he was the epitome of denial.
He distanced himself, only to save her later. He gave her tentative answers and then issued an edict he had no right to give that none of us were allowed to do her harm. He pursued her, or maybe he just allowed himself to be pursued; either way it's his fault I'm stuck in Carlisle's car, fleeing Forks at over one hundred and twenty miles an hour with my sort-of mate, or something, and said human in tow.
It all started with a baseball game.
"Jasper," Alice whispers, breaking the contemplative silence that stretches out through the Mercedes as I drive. "We're going to have to stop soon, she needs to eat, and we need to figure out what we're going to do."
"We're going to Phoenix."
"You know that's not what I'm talking about," she replies, turning her head to glance back at the perplexing girl sleeping in the back-seat.
"You're the one who can see the future," I retort.
"Is it bad?" I wonder out loud. I'd never assumed that it wouldn't be. This girl had no light at the end of the tunnel.
"It could be, it all depends...I really hate not knowing which way to turn," Alice confesses bitterly, and I shake my head in disbelief.
"She's damned, Alice. Either we kill her outright or we change her and she's stuck with Edward for all eternity. He won't let her go; he's convinced she belongs to him."
"I know." Edward has even less of an idea of what love is than I do. At least I've felt the pliancy of a woman's body, have shared affection and lust, and who am I to say that isn't love, too? I used to be able to say I didn't know anything more, but that was before I'd tasted something as pure and free as the love Bella gives to everyone.
It tastes better when it's directed at me.
I want to understand this variation that courses in her veins and seeps through her pores into the air. I want to take her apart and study her pieces until I know just how she works. I just want something, and for one reason or another I'm convinced she is the only one who can possibly give it to me. The girl is dangerous, she could unravel us all if she wanted to, but she's far too naïve to ever be considered a real threat.
Alice's sadness and grief swirl around the car in sickening waves, and less than five minutes later I'm letting out a huff and pulling the damn car over. I always have had problems saying no to her.
"What do you propose we do?"
"I haven't been able to decide anything that makes it any clearer, nothing I can think of ensures it will be good," Alice sighs, turning in her seat to rest her back against the door and pull her knees to her chest.
"Good for you, or good for her?" I ask with a smirk only to be met with a scowl and a supreme quantity of annoyance. Alice has a bad habit of deciding what's best for everyone, and she knows it.
"Good for anyone," Alice counters, her eyes going blank right before I open my mouth to ask her if maybe dying isn't that bad of a sentence.
Bella will have the taste of death on the tip of her tongue for however many more days she lives anyway. She's ruined for the world, and her inherent right to a natural life has been ripped out of her hands by a child who claimed he couldn't watch her die; Edward damned her the second he exposed his speed and strength to the world and played God in the parking lot of Forks High.
I could be her reaper, could usher death to her door and end all the puzzlement that had to be running through her head, and really, it would be merciful to do so. No one should ever have to know what hides out in the dark, or live with that knowledge.
"You have got to stop obsessing over killing her!"
"Fuck, not so loud," I shoot back at her with a heavy dose of calm. "I don't wanna have to knock her out again." That shit was hard to do the first time.
"She won't wake up for another hour. Seriously, Jasper, I'm getting kind of tired of having visions of you breaking her neck."
"I won't do it," I snap, grabbing the steering wheel and peeling back out onto the road. It is absolutely infuriating to be subjected to so much mistrust from all sides when it comes to that little thing back there.
"I know, what you really want to end up doing is biting her," Alice groans, and the soft thud of her forehead hitting her knees echoes throughout the car.
"She'd be more interesting that way."
"I think you're interested enough. I almost can't believe Edward let us leave with her."
"Edward's an idiot." I can't help but snicker a little; if I were him I'd never have let her in the car with me.
"No, he just trusts me to keep you in line."
"That's only because he doesn't know how good you are at hiding your thoughts from him," I point out. She's almost as good at it as I am, not that I need to use the skill often; Edward never had been able to deal with the horror that runs through my head, the memories of twenty-two years walking the blood-stained streets of hell. If he'd only make a better effort to understand the underbelly of the world then maybe he wouldn't be so pathetically obtuse. Maybe he would realize he can't just zip across a crowded parking lot and change the fate of one to preserve his fantasies.
"At least I'm not hiding the fact that I have constant daydreams about draining his girlfriend dry, or...or doing her on the kitchen table." Alice sounds absolutely scandalized as she outs me, and I might have blushed at her accusation...if I were human, or even the slightest bit ashamed.
"She said she feels at home in the kitchen."
"You're just jealous because I don't fuck you on tables anymore." It's a lie, a button to press, and it's really unfair, because Alice has been trying to get over that shit for a very long time.
"I can't believe I ever thought I'd wind up with you," she stabs back, making a frantic jab at a button of her own, and I can't help but laugh at the clumsiness of the intended insult.
"Tried to tell you."
"That you did."
"Forty-seven minutes," I note, passing by another exit ramp, and silence overcomes us for another five before Alice sighs again, a dead giveaway, and starts spouting out more shit I don't want to hear.
"You were never this interested in me," she remarks, glancing back at the sleeping brunette.
"I was, for a while." It's something that I probably shouldn't tell her, but she's just so sad and morose, lost at sea without her gift to guide her to the certainty of shore.
"Edward has claim," Alice says tentatively, trying to talk me out of something I'm not even sure I've talked myself into yet.
"That only matters within covens, this is a 'family', remember?" The excuse is flimsy, but it might work—and yeah, I've given this far more thought than I should.
"Don't you think that makes it worse?"
"Nope." It doesn't, not to me. I'm the red-headed step-child here, and I've never really belonged. Besides, it might all wind up being to Edward's benefit; there's every chance that even if I do manage to get my venom in her she won't be nearly as enthralling when she wakes up; it's happened before.
"Stop it." Alice's request is hard this time. "Please, just stop it."
I don't really think I can.
Alice climbs into the back seat with Bella at the next stop, and sits back there with a cooling bag of fast-food, her head leaning into the odd girl who somehow became her best friend over the course of the past few days. Too much of that affection is built in visions and romanticized notions of destiny—but for once I think I might keep my mouth shut. I've already hurt Alice enough today.
I'm not even entirely sure Bella's fully conscious when she eats her vile smelling dinner, and I know that she has no idea what's going on when we coax her out of the car and Alice leads her to our hotel suite. As soon as she's settled in bed she's out like a light; I make sure of it.
"We can't just keep her sedated the whole time, Jasper," Alice whispers, and I agree with her, to a point. "It's cruel, she deserves to know what's happening to the people she cares about, to be involved in the decision making process."
"Exactly what decisions do you think she'll be able to make from here? Edward will do whatever he thinks is best; he won't listen to her if she doesn't agree." I let up on the lethargy I've been pumping out toward the bedroom anyway; she's already asleep, and it's too much of a drain on me to keep it up.
I flip on the television and stare at the glaring imperfections of the screen, wondering why it was so easy to convince me to come here instead of staying in Forks to fight. Carlisle and Esme should have been the ones to flee with Bella, they're pacifists, but could also handle themselves if it came to blows, and that would have been so much more ideal. It seems like a mistake, that I'm in Phoenix, and the threat is there—and I zone out for a while, thinking of all the ways they could be fucking this up, and all the things I would undoubtedly do different if I were there to help them.
Bella tiptoes around our stasis, and sadly asks quiet questions when she can't stand the stillness of the room anymore. It's so easy to forget that she's human—that she needs motion and chaos to swirl around her or else she thinks the entire world had come to some cataclysmic standstill. It's just another in a long list of things that make her so different from us, and I wonder if this is a trait that makes all humans interesting, or if it's exclusive to her; this wanting to go along with the tone Alice and I have set for the room even though it's driving her mad. I suppose if I look at it in another light it's actually something we have in common; neither of us can stand being here, completely idle and out of the loop.
It almost makes me feel sick to be trapped in this tiny room with Bella's spinning emotions. She rotates through them so quick I can't really get a handle on them, or her, and then Alice has to go and make it worse by letting slip that nobody has even called us yet.
Her terror is sublime, and for a second I want to let it run rampant and see just what she'll run through to calm herself—but she's in a tailspin, and in the end I can't let her crash and burn. She looks at me like I'm crazy, when I tell her that she's safe. I don't think I'll ever understand her, at least not as well as I want to.
Alice's vision comes on the second day, and the moment Bella identifies the place as a ballet studio pieces start clicking into place. It's her ballet studio—and I know what I would do if I were hunting down some human for sport. The chase is always so much more fun when the prey comes to you.
The girls don't think it's all that relevant, that there's thousands of ballet studios it could be, and they all look pretty much the same—but there's a very good reason why they aren't in Forks right now. At least I can stop them from doing something stupid like dismissing it entirely, and it at least makes me feel less useless. I'd still be happier if I'd won the argument to shove Bella on the first plane flying over an ocean.
My argument is deemed unnecessary, but I can tell its being reconsidered when Carlisle calls back to tell us that they've lost the tracker. They let him slip right through their fingers, and it's with clenched fists that I decide that I'm not going to let myself be talked out of a fight again. I should have been there; none of this would be happening if I'd stayed in Forks.
"Should we call?" Bella asks, sounding worn down and broken.
I look to Alice for my answer, but she can't get a handle on the future anymore, and I'm met with nothing but wave after wave of indecision and frustration. The phone rings, and Alice snatches it up, thankful that the decision was taken out of her hands this time.
Alice and Edward run through all the shit we've talked about already, and when she hands the phone over to Bella I have to steer her away from the conversation, and prompt her to work on her drawing some more. It's pathetic, how easily Bella cedes to him, how much she depends on him to keep her afloat. She has the strength to take care of herself; she's been doing it for days, even if not particularly well. She doesn't need him like she thinks she does.
Her depression is like a lead balloon when she finally hangs up the phone.
The time slips by, and Bella's some fantastical mix of scared, restless, exhausted, and paranoid—but after a while the jumping of her emotions becomes less intriguing and more irritating. I'm not sure exactly what the protocol is for sending a teenage human to bed, but I'm positive that she wouldn't listen to me if I tried—so I knock her out again.
Observing her is the only option for entertainment. We can't venture outside of this hotel room for so many reasons, and I find myself becoming bitter about this assignment. I hadn't wanted to come here, but Alice had asked; the more I think about it the more I'm sure she tricked me. I'd thought that at the very least I'd get to spend some uninterrupted time breaking down all the pieces of the strange human girl in the next room to study, and I guess there's some worth in that. She's so different without Edward around, and it's so fascinating, the way she struggles to stand tall and still dies with each breath she takes.
I hadn't expected Bella to be so unstable, so ripped apart and afraid that she couldn't even get a handle on it. She misses Edward, too much to be healthy, and she's worried about the family to the point where explaining just how little danger they're in does no good. I'm not sure it would help under normal circumstances; the girl is stubborn, and she always seems to convince herself that everything is her fault, no matter the situation.
We sit in complete silence for six hours; Alice is pissed because I've decided that keeping Bella sedated is better than letting her run around pulling her hair out, and I'm just sick of arguing with her. Her short breath inward tells me that she's having another vision, and I turn in my seat to watch as her eyes go blank and her jaw slacks just a little bit. She doesn't come out of this one for a few minutes, and the moment she does she's up and whirring around the room.
"What did you see?"
"The same thing, but it wasn't dark anymore," she explains hastily, snatching up the paper and pencils she'd been using earlier.
"Do you know where he is?" I ask, and she shakes her head 'no.'
I move to sit next to her while she's drawing, curious to see if it's something I'll recognize, but the uneasy feeling in my gut tells me that while I probably won't, Bella might. I'm still pretty firmly in favor of getting the fuck out of dodge until we know that the mirror room isn't Bella's ballet studio.
The house she's drawing isn't any place I've ever seen before, but I keep watching as she adds all the little details she caught in her vision. Bella begins to stir in her room, but Alice is too involved in her drawing to go to her like she usually does. It's almost like watching a photograph develop; the ceiling and walls come first, then the paneling and rafters across them. The fireplace, the windows, the sofa...
The door clicks, and soft footsteps pad over to my side as she asks, "Did she see something more?"
"Yes," I explain, giving her the highlights as Bella stares over my shoulder to watch Alice draw in the details on the VCR sitting just below the television.
"The phone goes there," Bella whispers, and my gaze snaps up to hers. "That's my Mother's house."
We are officially fucked, and Bella is finally starting to fall apart.
Alice starts making calls, and between the two of them the panic is starting to get to me. Bella's the easier to calm, but she's so wound up that it takes a hand to her shoulder to manage the onslaught.
Telling her that Edward is coming to get her is like giving her a valium, and I internally roll my eyes and scoff at the unhealthy nature of their relationship. Her happy moment doesn't last long though, and I should have known that what she's really worried about isn't herself, it's her Mother, and no amount of arguing will persuade her that the best thing for her to do is leave town. It's another variation of her love for me to add to my list; this fierce and protective longing that may as well be exploding from her while Alice whispers under her breath for me to calm her down already.
She actually manages to shake it off this time, and I can't quite wipe the grin off my face after she slams the bedroom door shut.
"It's not funny," Alice chides quietly.
"It kind of is," I shrug. There's no reason to ignore the humor of the moment, even if we are going to have to a significantly harder time dealing with our troubles than we thought.
I kind of like getting to know Bella like this. It's true, what all those people say about the best way to learn who someone is to watch their destruction—and what I'm learning about Bella is that even if you shove her to the ground over and over and over again, she'll fight long and hard to get back on her feet.
There's dozens more phone calls bouncing back and forth as Bella stews in the bedroom, and eventually I win the argument I'm waging with Edward and Alice to move closer to Bella's Mother's house. The way I see it, that's where the tracker is going, and so that's where we should be. We know what he's after, and as long as Bella stays with us she'll be safe anyway, at least until she hops a plane with Edward; I have to bite my tongue and leave the room to check out of the hotel to keep from snarling that I'd thought of that first, and they'd all told me it was an overreaction. They don't know what they're doing, at all—and I may be short and blunt, but at least I've dealt with this kind of thing before. I've had to hunt down rogue vampires of my own, they've only ever played hide and seek in sunlit forests.
We're finally in the airport when it all goes to shit. I've halfway convinced myself that maybe I'm going to get a crack at this tracker, and I'm distracted by all the possibilities of the confrontation. From the look I got at him I could tell that he was fast, but he doesn't look like he can throw a punch for shit. Not that it matters, it's just nice to have an idea of what I'm going to be up against. I consider asking Alice, but she glares in my direction so frostily with a significant nod toward Bella that I keep my mouth shut, because Bella looks like absolute shit.
She's done almost nothing but sleep for days, but she's still got dark circles under her eyes. Her posture is slumped, her eyes frantic, but underneath it all is a steady determination lace with sadness that has me more than a little concerned. She's planning something.
I should have known better than to take her to the bathroom instead of Alice. It's amazing that she's starting to get a hold on controlling herself, because the mask of panic, sadness, and fear completely dilutes her conniving as I keep my hand on her back, monitoring her as we walk through the crowded airport. I don't even notice her tells until I'm looking back on the moment, berating myself for underestimating her.
It hits me a minute too late that the bouncing echoes inside the restroom every time the door opens have an odd quality to them, and I stride right in, ignoring the irritating screeching of indignant women, to find my suspicion is correct—the girl is just fucking gone. I'm more than a little impressed that she was able to escape from me, and I'm absolutely furious that I didn't see that she might.
"What the hell, Jasper?" Alice snarls from the other exit the moment I follow Bella's scent out the door, and I growl right back at her.
"I could ask you the same thing. Aren't you supposed to see this shit?" I'm already halfway to the sliding doors of the airport when Alice tries to stop me.
"We should wait for the others; they'll be here in a few minutes..." I'm not even listening to her. "Jasper, wait!"
"Fuck that, you can catch up." I know exactly what Bella left to do. I just wish I knew when the hell the tracker managed to get to her. I'm walking away from Alice as fast as I can with all these people around before she can even come up with a good reason why I shouldn't.
For a moment I consider eating one of them, since this showdown is going to be one on one, and I'm probably a bit rusty—but my phone vibrates in my pocket just like I knew it would, and the message of 'Don't' is enough of a waste of time that I don't bother. It'll be more fun this way; I haven't had a decent bout in decades.
Fifty-eighth and Cactus. Thank fuck we got that little tidbit out of Bella, actually, thank fuck for that nagging feeling in the back of my head that urged me to find the closest map and pinpoint the intersection while I was in the hotel lobby checking out.
The anticipation wells up inside me the closer I get, and though I probably shouldn't expect anything less than a massacre. I have a funny feeling in my gut that the tracker wants to draw this out, and that Bella's not going to go down easy. Logically she should be dead already, but I don't believe it—and when I finally approach the short, washed out structure that houses all those mirrors, I'm pleased to find that I'm right.
There's a tape whirring and Bella screaming, and that's about all I notice before I have to start creeping around the side of the building. The tracker is so involved in tearing her down that he doesn't notice his death is watching through a thin sheet of glass, and I should probably start doing something, but this tale he's weaving of a girl named Mary Alice is just a bit too relevant to me—and running at him full tilt, guns blazing isn't the most effective manner of doing things. If I go for it now, without having an opening, then Bella's going to wind up getting killed in the cross-fire.
She tries to run, and I'm a little proud of her in that moment, no matter how stupid her attempt is—but when he throws her into those damn mirrors and the blood starts pouring, it's rage that courses through my veins.
I remember this feeling. Bloodlust and hatred being sucked out of the atmosphere and into my lungs, seeping into my limbs, fortifying my power. He snaps her leg, and I finally get moving. There's not much I can do with him that close to her, and precision is key. I need to get a better angle on him without giving myself away; it's so frustrating to have to look for an in—but in the end that frustration fuels my anger and gives me strength, so it's not entirely a waste. Somewhere in the back of this haze of red I feel kind of bad that she's actually hurt, but injured is better than dead and only a fool would expect her to come out of a confrontation with a vampire unscathed.
It's when he bites her that the monster roars, because Edward may have claim, but somewhere along the line I started thinking of that blood as mine.
The margin of error I'm allowed is non-existent with his teeth in her flesh—but then again, she's bitten, she's dead either way. I just have to make sure I don't kill her before the venom does, so I'm a little rougher than I need to be as I crash through the window, grab the fucker by the hair, and pull him back to punch him squarely in the jaw as hard as I can. He puts up a fight, I suppose, but it's pitiful. The only drama to the altercation is the pulsating sound of Bella's blood spilling out into the air to the tempo of her pants and screams.
I have the tracker in pieces before Edward comes bursting in to save the day, it's barely even a struggle. It's disappointing, how easy of a kill he was; I was kind of hoping for a challenge.
Commotion fills the air as panic breaks loose, and it takes a shove to my shoulder for my attention to refocus on what's happening all around me.
"Couldn't save any for me?" Emmett asks gruffly, and while on the surface it sounds like a joke, I know he's a little disappointed that he didn't get the chance to rip into the fucker. I nod at him distractedly while I try to figure out just how badly Bella got hurt in the fight. All things considered, I think she came out pretty well.
Emmett knocks my shoulder once more, and I help him gather up the pieces and pull up floorboards for kindling to burn the tracker; we're gonna end up leveling the place anyway. I'm somewhat enjoying the mindlessness of the ripping, but then Bella screams something about fire, and I realize that I'd been hoping they didn't notice the bite until it was too late to do anything about it.
Alice glares at me when I look over, and I shrug one shoulder lightly and ask what she expected with my gift, only to have her look away. We're not going to get such an opportune time for Bella to be changed again; she's already stormed out of Forks and run away, which is better than faking her death, for all involved.
They dose her up and despite the medication the air splinters and shatters as her heart breaks right across the room from me, and she knows. She knows Edward's going to stop this if he can. She suffocates me with the heady mix of pain, confusion, and disbelief that she's emitting—and I drop the last of the floorboards on the pile and turn my attention to the group surrounding her. It's a little ridiculous how far she can drive me into irrationality.
"Don't do it." Even I can't believe the words came out of my mouth.
"This isn't your concern, Jasper," Edward says from between clenched teeth, frantically trying to muster up the resolve to suck the venom from her veins.
"This shouldn't be your choice, Edward!" I take four steps closer with my words before I realize that I'm going to have to deal with the inconvenience of deflated lungs, because if I take one breath in there's going to be no stopping me from ripping Edward away from her and standing guard while she transforms from caterpillar to butterfly.
"It is for the best..."
It isn't, I know it isn't, and I wonder for a second if maybe it's my heart that's screaming at me—but there's no time to contemplate it because Edward's lips are at Bella's wrist, and she's in the process of resigning herself to giving up everything she wants to him, and this is all just so wrong.
"No." My growl trembles through the room, accompanied by a sharp burst of the corresponding emotion...I barely even notice the extra steps taken, the feel of my fingers digging into the back of Edward's neck, the crash and snarl from the far side of the room as he tries to regain his bearings.
"Jasper," Carlisle commands softly, trying to regain control of this situation that's flung so far out of his grip. "It's already done."
What surges through me is something I'd never felt before, never experienced for myself, but I think that it just might be that sort of absolute devastation that can only be inspired by true empathy for another. She's not much more than some pathetic human, but I can't erase that notion that maybe she could become something more, if only she could manage to tighten her fingers around the decisions slipping through them, and find a way to dictate her life herself.
I just feel bad for her.
All around me is chaos; Edward is spitting fury that I tried to take this out of his hands, Rosalie and Emmett are just trying to clean up the mess I'd made of the tracker, Alice is sitting blankly at Bella's barely conscious side, jealousy and hurt running through her so thick that it feels like mud—and it's all too much to take.
I don't tell them where I'm going, or when I'll be back. I just walk right out the mangled front door of the ballet studio, and head east for a while.
I should have headed straight into the wilderness for a hunt, I should have paid more attention to the inferno in the back of my throat—but neither of those things happens, and the lone man stumbling out of the first bar I pass is the one to pay the price for it. My phone vibrates endlessly throughout the event, buzzing in time with the throb of his heart as it struggles to counteract the suction pulling his blood from his body. When it's over I can barely even muster up any regret, because these past few days have been draining, and at least I managed to keep myself from doing this very same thing to Bella.
I think that if it had been her, I probably would have felt really terrible about it.
A/N: It shouldn't be too long for chapter two, a week at the most.