AN: Bella's session goes south. Jasper steps in.

Brief recollection of Bella's abuse is in italics. If the subject bothers you, please skip ahead. Thank you.


Chapter seventeen: I Ran For My Life


Bella, January, 2011...

With a hug from Jasper, I left the stables and hurried to the house. Esme was already here. Her car was parked beside Jasper's truck.

I went inside and immediately remembered that Esme wanted us to do our session were I was most comfortable. So I went up to my room, figuring that's where she'd be since I told her I was very comfortable in the room Jasper had given me.

Opening the door, I found her perched on my little sofa by the window. "Hey, Bella, it's great to see you," Esme smiled.

"It's nice to see you too," I said, walking into my room and closing the door behind me.

I grabbed my desk chair and wheeled it over, taking a seat in front of her. She grinned at the move. I was showing confidence, and I felt it too.

I didn't feel scared. I felt brave.

Maybe it was because Jasper and I had just talked, but I felt like this was a whole new me.

"You look happy," she commented.

"I feel a little happy," I said. "Jasper and I had a talk."

"That's very good," she cheered. "Communication is always the key."

"It really is," I replied. "I learnt a little about him and him about me."

"That's wonderful," Esme sighed and wrote something down. "So I hear you were out riding, is that something you enjoy?"

"It's been a while but Jasper, Maria and Sam have been helping me get back into the hang of it," I told her. "I'm beginning to love it as much as cooking."

Esme smiled and wrote something else. She seemed very pleased with my attitude. Maybe this was going to be an easy and quick session today. "I'm happy to hear that."

But when she grew serious and looked at me with those probing eyes; I lost hope that anything about this session would easy.

"How have things been since we last spoke?" Esme asked.

"It's been fine, but I may have done something wrong," I said. I had been thinking about it since I told Jasper a little about me. I was wondering if I should have told Esme first.

"What is it?"

"I may have told Jasper a bit about the night I left James before I said anything to you, is that bad?"

"No," she visibly sighed and then chuckled, "I don't see anything wrong with that. Do you?"

"No," I jumped and said. "It's a relief to talk to him. Jasper makes me feel so comfortable and he had shared a bit about himself with me so I thought it would be okay to say something. Tell him something."

"Something personal seeing as he shared something personal with you," Esme concluded.

"Yes," I sighed.

"Well, I'm happy you feel that level of comfort around Jasper," Esme said. "It marvels me actually."

"Why?"

"Most patients with your condition take some time before they can truly feel that type of comfort you're describing. Jasper has had a profound effect on you."

I ducked my head and blushed as I got the next part out, "I want to be with him too."

"Have you spoken to him about it?"

"Yes, we've talked."

"And you're both in agreement with this?"

"Yes," I breathed happily, meeting her smiling eyes. "And I'm so happy, Esme. Jasper is amazing."

"That's very good," she sighed.

"I want to talk…to you. I want to take a step back and heal myself," I admitted. I needed to do this. For me, for Jasper.

"Are you sure?"

"I can't move forward unless I confront the past."

Esme gleamed and took a deep breath. I prepared myself too as she started her questioning.

"We will discuss whatever you'll like to talk about, but I have questions of my own," Esme explained.

I took a deep, shuddering breath. "I'm ready."

"Tell me what differentiates Jasper from James?"

"Why?" I trembled at the sound of James' name.

"For the same reason you stated," Esme said. "No forward without going back."

I ran a hand through my hair and took more shaky breaths as I gathered myself. I could do this. "Every day, Jasper shows me that he'll never be like James. There isn't an ounce of evil in him." Esme stayed silent, allowing me to continue, "James was the devil and I escaped from hell. Everything that could sicken you would excite James. I think it's why he's a doctor, because he doesn't have a caring bone in his body."

"You've really given this some thought, I see."

I really have. "Yes."

"So you think that James is only a doctor, both for stature and to have control," Esme stated.

"Yes. He liked to see people hurt. He loved to know that you had no control over what was happening to you." My mind started to drift. "He would punish me and then ridicule me for it. It's like he saw my fear as an act."

Esme frowned. And I knew how she felt. I would have been angry too if the roles were reversed. "How is Jasper in this setting?"

"Jasper is kindhearted and loving," I smiled, feeling nothing but relief when I talked about Jasper. "There is this air of command about Jasper, but he can control it. It isn't overbearing. He doesn't seek attention by hurting things. He hurts when I hurt. He worries. It's so odd for me to have someone do that over me and my wellbeing, but it also comforts that someone actually cares that much." It baffled me. "Jasper makes me laugh instead cry. He thrives to hear me laugh."

I started to see Jasper in my mind. "He's charming, but it's not for gain. It's just because…He's beautiful. He's caring. I can see it in how you guys love him." Esme smiled proudly. "He's protective. I told that I wanted to be with him, the other night, but now, I'm worried about James catching up to me and hurting him."

"What about Jasper?"

"He isn't worried. He told that he would never let James hurt me. I don't get him sometimes…" I could feel the words on the tip of my tongue.

"But?" Esme looked like she could see them in my eyes.

"I'm falling in love with him."

"I'm glad you admitted that, Bella," Esme said, her shimmering eyes holding nothing but joy.

But as quickly as it appeared, she masked it and asked another question, "In your nightmares, how is Jasper different from James?"

I blushed when I thought of the dream I had the other night. "First of all, I have never had an erotic dream about James." Esme laughed, and I smiled. "I'm starting to see Jasper in that way. And I find myself wanting things that only dream me is brave enough to take."

Esme chuckled. "That's good. That's hope." She wrote something again. "And James?"

I took a ragged breath. "It's far different."

"How so?"

"I would be taught a lesson if I woke him up with my silly dreams."

"As a doctor, he never tried to…"

"Help?" I finished for her. "No. As I surmised, he got off on pain. James would hit me to wake me up, and then he'd let me know that if I did that again, there would serious consequences."

"What would those consequences be, Bella?" It was a hard question to answer, but this was about me moving on. So I took a shaky breath, letting myself go there. I had to.

My palms were sweaty. My breath was short. And I knew it. I knew where I was. I was back in hell.

"There would be lessons. And these lessons would consist of James doing what he saw fit."

"Were there other reasons aside from your nightmares?"

"Yes," I breathed. I felt lightheaded. "For speaking out of turn, for not completing a task he'd set out for me to do before he got back from work or wherever he went, or for not vigorously doing something in the bedroom when he'd command me to do it."

Jasper

"…or for not vigorously doing something in the bedroom when he'd command me to do it." Mom had a strong grip on my forearm, trying to get me to move away from the door.

But I wasn't about to budge. My feet were planted on this spot. I couldn't believe Bella had just said that.

"Jasper," Mom whispered, "We can't be here."

I pretended like I didn't hear her. Fuck the doctor/patient confidentiality bullshit Aunt Esme would be spurting if she knew I was standing out here, eavedropping; all that mattered to me right now, was Bella.

"Jas…" My eyes snapped to Mom, making the rest of my name die out in her throat.

"Alright, Son, it's your funeral," Mom said, moving away to go and stand by my bedroom door.

I had to hear more.

But mostly, I had to convince myself not to head to California right now and kill that son of a bitch.

Bella

I was panting and my head was spinning. I couldn't believe that I got that sentence.

"Bella, calm down, take deep breaths and if you want, we can stop," Esme said hastily. She ran her hand over mine in a comforting motion, and I didn't flinch, I welcomed it. "All you have to do is say the word."

"No."

"So we stop then?" Esme asked, coming to the wrong conclusion.

"No," I said, allowing more of the past to take up the forefront of my mind. "After he'd finish, he'd ask if I had learned my lesson. I would be allowed to say…"

"Yes," I said, my body screaming in pain. I doubt I could move.

James was already up from the floor and buttoning his dress pants. He wasn't a big fan of jeans, saying they were for the lower class. Why dress like a homeless person when you are far above such standards?

"Now go make me something to eat," he sneered. "And you better get it right."

"And you'd do your best?" Esme asked, pulling me from my thoughts.

"Yes," I sobbed.

"Bella?" Esme said frantically as more tears flowed. "Tell me what's wrong."

"I…sometimes the things they'd make me do, made me feel so ashamed." I got up and moved to my bed. I didn't want to be close to her. Maybe Esme was disgusted with me.

"What things, Bella?" Esme asked through my sobs. "If you think you can go on, please do, but if not, we can stop here."

"No," I said. "We go on."

I rocked back and forth as the memories hit me left and right.

"Sometimes…" I hiccupped. "…I wanted to die. But even taking my life wasn't an option at that time. I was so deluded by my fear for James, that I thought I would actually follow me in death and punish me there too. Was I crazy?"

"No, please, go on," Esme insisted, though I could hear the hesitation in her tone. "Explain it to me."

"I've never enjoyed anything that had to do with James," I said. "He made me do the things we did."

"Bella, have you ever consented to sex with James?"

"No."

"Have you ever made any sort of inkling that you liked what he did?"

"No," I said, shaking as the memories of my own screams terrified me. "I hated it all. I hated it all!" I don't know where the anger came from, but it was building up inside me, choking me. "I fucking hated him! I hated when he touched me. It made me skin crawl."

I sprang up, pacing the room in front of Esme. She was watching my every move. "I fucking hate him, Esme. I hate HIM!"

"It's okay, Bella," she coaxed. "It will be fine."

"No, it will never be fine," I said, glaring at her. "This…sickness, because that what it feels like, will always sit with me. I hate to think about it. I don't want to fear my future. What about Jasper?"

"What about him?"

"How will this affect us?" I questioned in terror. "How will my inability to not fear anything sexual react on Jasper?"

"I think he'll understand," Esme responded. "If he's willing to be with you, he'll have to learn to, and be patient."

Jasper

Bella was worried about my reaction to her probably fearing sex? Why?

Esme was right. Of course I would be understanding and patient. Anything for Bella. I hated that she doubted what we were becoming; doubting me, but I get it.

James had ruined her self confidence. He used 'doubt' and plagued her with it to keep her under his control.

Again, why was I standing here and not on our jet heading to California to choke the life out of that son of a bitch?

Bella

"James took every damn thing from me!" I shouted. My anger had risen to an uncontrollable level, and I couldn't breathe, but I had to do this. "And I let him. I'm so fucking stupid!"

"No, you're not," Esme persisted. "You were existing; surviving. You were being smart. And when you found the strength to fight back as yet, you did. But every day that you woke up and went on, was a day of triumph for you, Bella. Be proud of yourself, many are not in your position; surviving."

I understood what Esme was getting at, but I couldn't accept it…yet. "No…no…no!" I shrieked. "I was stupid!"

"No! You were not!" Esme yelled, matching my level while she helped me to see the light.

But I couldn't come down so I turned on her. "You weren't there," I sneered. I didn't even know I was capable of this. "You didn't have to do the depraved things they wanted!"

"Tell me," Esme sneered back, letting me have this. In the back of my mind, I knew what she was doing. She was pushing me but preparing for my fall as well. She wanted me to be free to express myself, but she also wanted me to know that she was here to catch me when it became too much.

I stopped pacing to tower over her while she was seated on the couch. "He had never asked. He just took." I sobbed. The sadness making me fall to my knees on the carpeted floor as angry tears streamed down my cheeks.

"It's okay," she said. "Let it out." Esme wasn't scared. She was encouraging me.

"From that first night, the wedding night…" I knelt there and said scornfully. "James just threw me down on the bed and the man that smiled and greeted everyone warmly at the wedding, just disappeared, leaving behind that monster I had to live with for the last six years."

Esme said nothing, leaving me the freedom to continue.

I dried my tears and got up. I went over to the bed and sat down, rocking back and forth, hoping to find some comfort in the swaying motion while I rehashed the past.

"Bella…" Esme started, but I cut her off, getting up to pace the room again.

"He stole my soul, Esme." I cried. "He stole my soul."

"I told you to get this done!" James screamed as he smashed the vase next to my head. I covered my ears and squeezed my eyes shut to protect them from splinters. "How dumb are you?"

"As dumb as you allow her to be," Victoria sneered. "You're the one who won't discipline the bitch!"

I tried to run when she stomped over to me, knowing what would come next, but James caught me, and backhanded me. My cheek burned and my ears rang. But before I could recover, Victoria punched me in the face.

I stopped in front of her. I was dizzy as I relayed the memory to Esme, word for word. I couldn't breathe. I swayed and staggered on the spot.

I could hear Esme calling to me, but I couldn't answer. All I heard was, James' voice in my head telling me how worthless, useless, and disgusting I was.

"Bella!" she called, but it was too late. I was falling, but then his voice and his strong arms wrapped around me as he said, "Bella? Can you hear me? Oh shit!" And then the world went black.

Jasper

"Damn it, Jasper!" Esme sprang up from her seat on the couch by Bella's window, and stomped over to me with a passed out Bella in my arms. "What are you doing, and how long have you been standing outside that damn door?!"

My aunt hardly cussed. She usually left that to my momma. "Jasper, answer me, damn it!"

"Not now!" I shouted, my angry laced in my tone as I stared up at her with bloodshot eyes. I was in a panic. I checked Bella's pulse, relieved to find it and then I listened to her breathing.

"Jasper, what should I do?" Mom asked.

"Get my medical bag, Mom." She ran from Bella's room while I scooped Bella up in my arms.

"Jasper, you can't do this," Esme warned. "You know the rules. Why did you just break them? That was unethical!"

"Fuck ethics!" I yelled, but Esme wasn't fazed. "This is Bella and she means a lot to me. I want to kill that son of a bitch!" I stepped close to my aunt and she backed up, her eyes, terrified but still holding strong as she attempted to hold her ground against me. "Do you know how hard it is not to be on my plane right now, heading out there to choke the life out of James?"

"Yes," Esme hissed. She was pissed as hell at me, but Bella mattered more. "But think of what that would do to Bella. Think of how much she would blame herself for your actions. There are other ways to do it, starting with helping Bella."

I turned and walked out with Bella's limp body in my arms. I didn't want to hear it. I met my mother at my door, as she came running out of my bedroom. "Head on back in," I instructed her and she did.

I brought Bella over to my bed and laid her down, making sure to prompt her up against my pillows.

"Jasper, look at me," Esme sighed as I continued to ignore her while making Bella comfortable. I didn't want her to wake up in any discomfort. "Look at me, Jasper." I did and she asked, "How long have you two been out there?"

"Ask him," Mom said. "I've been trying to get him away from the door!"

"You heard everything?!" Esme screeched. "Jasper, how dare you?"

My eyes snapped to hers and she stopped talking while I opened up my bag and grabbed my stethoscope.

I checked Bella's pulse again and then her heartbeat. "Bella, can you hear me?" I said softly.

"Jasper, that was a private session and I don't think I need to explain my reasons for having them here, it was between me and Bella. If she wanted a third party involved, namely, you! She would have invited you."

"I don't need you to dictate to me, Aunt Esme," I sneered. "I know I was wrong. But…" I could feel the sadness washing over me as I thought of all I had heard. "I couldn't…she suffered so much. I didn't hear everything." Esme didn't look convinced, but I went on as I caressed Bella's warm cheek. "I stopped at the door when she shouted and then the things she said…"

"Were between me and her," Esme insisted. "As her doctor, I have to protect her."

I raced off the bed and towered over her. "Jasper…" Mom warned. She knew what was happening. I wasn't here. I was back there…with him, torturing me. "You think I don't know what Bella feels like?" I seethed. Esme was the one who helped me; she had full knowledge of what I was getting at.

"Yes, I do," she replied calmly. "So more than anyone of us in this room, you're the one who will understand Bella the most. But you can't let your feelings get in the way."

"They're already in the way," I sighed, turning back to Bella.

"Then get them under control," Esme said softly, placing a hand on my shoulder in support. "Bella will need you."

I nodded and Esme went on, "You're falling for her?" It was meant to sound like a question, but it came out as a statement and I wasn't about to deny it.

"Yes," I said. "I'm falling in love with Bella."

"Then what you did, can't happen again," Esme said. "Or else, I'll hold all sessions with her beyond your reach. Do you hear me?" she scolded.

Turning to Esme, I was about to answer, but Bella beat me to it. "He'll listen." We all turned to her. She moved up against the pillows and looked right at me, "I told you I wanted more, but I'm not sure about that anymore. I have nothing to offer you." I was dumbfounded, and refused to accept that.

Esme and Mom excused themselves from the room. "You have everything to offer. You're who I want."

"I shouldn't be," Bella said harshly.

"But you are."

She looked at me like I just grew two heads. "Are you fucking crazy?"

It was surprising but I liked this Bella. I loved the anger I heard because it meant she was gaining confidence. "No. I know what I want."

"And you want, is fucked up!" she shrieked. Again, I welcomed it. Bella was angry and she had every right to be; both at me for eavesdropping and at what has been happening to her over the years.

"You're not fucked up," I said.

"Yes, I am. And the sooner you accept it and moved the fuck on to a girl that deserves you, the better off you'll be!"

"Don't push me away!" I shouted back. I immediately regretted it, thinking that Bella would cower away, but she stunned me.

"Fuck you, and get out." I actually laughed. I was so proud of her. Not of her chosen words, but the anger she was displaying.

"Bella…"

"As soon as I can, I'll get out of here," Bella said, turning on her side and facing the window. "Leave me alone, Jasper." Her voice cracked, and I could almost feel her sadness.

"Bella…"

"GET OUT!"

I didn't push her. Instead, I moved to the door, but I wouldn't leave until she knew that I wasn't about to give her up. "We'll talk later."

She was crying when I closed the door behind me.

I headed downstairs, angry tears clouding my vision. I wanted to scream. I wanted to punch something. I wanted to destroy everything in my sight.

When I reached the bottom step, I saw Emmett and Rose, along with Mom and Esme standing there.

Looking into each face, seeing the sadness and anger, whether at me or at James, etched there, all became too much. Everything was crashing down on me, and I just sat on the last stair and cried.

It had all been building up inside me, and I couldn't stand it. I couldn't be strong right now.

Esme came over to me, pulling me in her arms. "I know, hon, I know. I felt the same way." She must have. To sit there and listen to Bella say those things was not an easy task.

"What the hell happened?" Emmett thundered when Esme let me go. I could see Mom whispering it to Rose, and I watched as her eyes found mine. I could only imagine what was going through my sister's mind, because the same thing was running through mine.

We wanted these bastards to pay.

Emmett took Esme's place beside me on the last stair and I told him everything. He only knew half of the tale so I told him everything else.

Emmett was enraged. He wanted to follow me to California and teach James a lesson he would never forget. While Rose wanted to string him up by his balls.

Mom was the rational voice when I couldn't find mine.

"Bella will need us, especially Jasper," she said softly.

"No," I croaked. The sound of my own broken voice was foreign to me. "Bella wants to leave. She just said so."

"I hope you didn't accept that?" Mom said hastily.

"No."

"Good, because she doesn't mean it, she's just running," she reasoned.

"Bella feels that she's causing enough trouble," Rose added.

"I hate this," I hissed.

"Just be here for her, whether she wants it or not," Emmett said, slapping me on the shoulder in support. "She needs you."

"Remember what I said," Esme reminded me. "If anyone understands her, it's you. I told you that perhaps a day like this would have come and it's here now." Esme had advised me in the past when my own PTSD was at a high that I could help others. One day, I would be able help another.

Everyone stayed for a while and then they left. Sue brought food over and I picked through mine. Bella stayed upstairs.

It burned me to be away from her. So I took her food and brought it upstairs with me.

When I walked into my room, she was fast asleep. I put her plate down and crawled into the leather chair in the corner of the room.

I told her we'd talk and I would be here.

Forever, if she wanted me to be.