The "Ho Hey" Contest

Story Title: Facing the Dawn

Pen name: Tuelles

Pairing: Bella & Jasper

Rating: T

Word Count: 5403

~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_I've been living a lonely life_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~

As dawn broke, I returned to our house in Alaska. I had stayed away all night, I was supposed to be hunting but in reality I was wallowing, struggling with the damage I had caused my family with my carelessness. Alice was waiting for me in our room but as I looked around I realized that it was no longer 'our' room. "I'm sorry Jazz but I can't keep pretending that we are okay. I don't blame you for what happened but I can't stand by while you waste away, disappearing right in front of my…our eyes. You are not the monster you think you are and if you still can't see that then I know we are lost. I love you but it's time for you to find the one who can convince you that you are worth loving."

I stood there stunned, feeling Ali's love, concern and sincerity. It was over for her and I didn't know how I had missed the changes in her emotions, it had to have been a slow progression, one that I would have noticed if I hadn't been so wrapped up in my own feelings of guilt and grief. She looked at me with concern and continued on, "Jazz, I understand that everything has been hard since Bella's birthday but you need to see that it was not your fault, I know Bella well enough to be able to say that she wouldn't blame you either. I was so sure of what I saw that I never considered an alternative…" "Stop!" I shouted at her, "Stop trying to make me feel better. It's never going to be okay, I can never forgive myself for what I've done, to us, to our family and especially to Bella. She loved us all and I ruined it for her, I took everything from her. You are wrong Ali, I am a monster and I don't deserve to be surrounded by a loving family when I stole that very thing from her." Alice floundered for a response, I could see and feel the shock at the vehemence in my voice but my mind was made up, I had to leave at least for now.

"I will always love you Ali, all of you but I need some space and time. I'll leave in the morning once I've packed up all my stuff." Alice reeled, as I stood there I could see the visions flashing across her face, see her resignation, her acceptance and finally peace settled on her face. "Fine, I understand, I don't agree but I understand. You have to promise me that you will come back. Please don't let this be for forever. We will always be family regardless of where you are or how long you are gone for. I'll explain to the family, they won't be back until the day after tomorrow." Throughout our discussion I had barely recognized that the only emotions I felt were our own; the only sounds I heard were our own, the house was oddly silent if not actually peaceful. The house hadn't been peaceful in a very long time...not since Forks, maybe with my departure that could change. "The couples went away for the weekend hoping to recharge and rekindle some of what we have all been missing these past few months." With that Alice left me to my thoughts, shouting out to me about brooding too much and becoming Edward's clone. I grimaced and resolved to focus on something else for the time being, my trip maybe. I wasn't sure where to go or what I hoped to get from leaving but something needed to change. I was as far north as I could be and still be in the US so that meant the only place to go if I stayed in the North was Canada, which was fun when Emmett was around what with all the bears, but I would prefer to head south. I would prefer to avoid Washington; if I was trying to escape the feelings of guilt and grief then heading towards Forks was a bad idea. I could head east to Montana or Wyoming, look up Peter and Char but I didn't want to face their sympathy and their questions. They were able to understand where I came from, coming from the same hellish upbringing with the uber-bitch Maria so they understood my self-loathing but they had managed to separate that place, that part of their pasts from who they were now and who they would be in the future. The longer I thought about it, the fewer places I had to go; the country was shrinking, couldn't head too far south because of Maria and couldn't stay in the Northwest. Most people like to escape to warm, sunny spots but that was mostly out. It was hard to stay inconspicuous when you were trying to avoid sparkling, plus temperature doesn't really affect us. Warm or cold it was all the same for us, our main concern was whether or not our dinner was hibernating.

The house was quiet that night; Alice gave me my space which I appreciated. It still hadn't hit me that we were done, I wasn't sure how to feel about it to be honest. I still remember walking into that Café clear as day and seeing her, a little scared about running into another of my kind. I wasn't sure what to expect but as always expectations didn't mean much to Alice, she shocked me for sure when she accused me of keeping her waiting. Waiting for what?! Me? Surely not, but then I was relieved, being alone was easy sure but having someone there was so much better. She took me with her and we fell into a friendship which eventually became love. She was easy to love, even when I wanted to throttle her for being the most annoying pixie ever. We knew our love wasn't the big one but eventually you need to stop waiting and love what you have. Yes, there are almost seven billion people on this planet but only the tiniest fraction of those are vampires. For my family, it's even harder to meet new vampires since we usually stay in one place. Furthermore they tend to avoid us as oddities, the braver ones may search us out as a curiosity but once they lay their eyes on me they recoil in fear. My scars remind them of the viciousness of our kind and that we are in fact mortal. With an eternity, the idea of the one can loom on the horizon, visible off in the distance; always far away, out of reach. It taunts you, teases you, torments you. With all those people it might seem like a guarantee but in truth it's mostly a torment you have to deal with, an impossibility even. Plus with my background, it seems far more likely that I would come across an enemy instead of my mate. Emmett and I joked about Edward's mate being either a human or Tanya, either possibility horrified us. Emmett was much more amused by humans but I knew that the thought of their blood would only lead to one thing and it wasn't one that promised their survival. If my mate was human, she would surely be lost to me. The dawn was coming, now more than ever I needed to let the road guide me, take me to wherever and whomever.

~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_I don't know where I went wrong~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~

Dawn came, as it always does, and with it came Alice. She smiled at me from the doorway, "I see you didn't pack much that seems like a good sign." I nodded, "Make sure to bring my stuff wherever you guys end up." We all knew that Alaska was only temporary lasting only as long as it took Edward to come to his senses. "Ali, you know I love you right? You'll always be my best friend. I'm lucky to have been able to spend these years with you. You saved me. I don't know what would have happened to me if I hadn't walked into that café." Alice looked at me with sorrow on her face, "Oh, Jazz, we were meant to find each other, to save each other. Since the first moment I saw you I knew we would save each other, love each other even if we weren't meant for forever. I have treasured the moments we shared and I will always be there for you. Always!" We hugged each other; Alice promised to explain my absence so I grabbed my bag and headed for my car. It was time, time for me to move past these feelings, to forgive myself and maybe find the one I needed more than any other. I wasn't ready yet but I would be, I could feel it.

As I drove towards Anchorage I realized that avoiding both Canada & Washington State would be a challenge if not impossible, especially if I was heading south. To avoid Canada I would have to take multiple ferries, leaving more room for temptation, small enclosed spaces with multiple humans? Not such a good idea. Canada would leave me with more options even if it would take me that many more days. At least there was beautiful scenery for my time spent in the car plus the plethora of places to stop & hunt would be an added bonus. My trip would not become an excuse to change my feeding habits so it looked like Canada was on the menu, Emmett would be jealous. I was looking forward to the drive. It would be a relief to only be subjected to my emotions without being clouded by everyone around me, and I would really be able to work through them. For a while I drove, just enjoying the quiet, only the sounds of the car on the road and the wind whooshing past. The weather was holding but I knew that snow could move in very quickly without any warning, that was the, uh, charm, I guess, of the North. Being a southerner I wasn't a big fan of the snow but I could appreciate the beauty of it if I had to. As I traveled and felt my emotions settle, I started to get flashes of past events, more often than not they centered on Forks. I couldn't be too surprised, Forks was the main source of the most recent conflicts that I had inflicted upon my family. It certainly wasn't the first time my family had to move because of a slip but this time had had a much more devastating effect especially considering that everyone had survived. It sounds awful but I would have preferred to have actually killed not Bella of course, but maybe a stranger. The feelings surrounding a random stranger's death would have been much easier to handle. Before Forks, a 'slip' would have resulted in a quick move, some pouting from Rosalie & dealing with the pity and sorrow that my family felt after an accident. How ridiculous to refer to someone's death as a 'slip.' With Bella that had all changed, it was so much worse now. Rosalie was still pouting but in truth she was feeling happy, glad to be away from Bella. On the surface it didn't appear that she had created a very strong connection with Bella but in this case I think that appearances were deceiving. I sometimes wondered at the emotions she felt when someone mentioned Bella, jealousy was at the forefront, there was also envy, anger & a little bit of disgust. I doubt she is quite the open book we all think she is. I love Rose, she is my 'twin' after all but even I can admit that she can be remarkably shallow and self centered. Bella's addition to the family moved the focus from her to Bella and she may have resented Bella considering her more of a shiny new toy then an actual family member. I imagine she was just waiting for us to get bored of Bella. This is especially true of Emmett who adored Bella, constantly laughing at and encouraging Bella's blush and clumsy nature. Emmett found a new baby sister with Bella, one that has been missing from his life ever since he was forced to leave his family behind. It's easy to recognize how hard it was for Emmett, leaving them behind after he was changed, I still wonder what happened to my family and wish that I could have returned to them after the war. The longer I exist without a mate the longer I wish I still had my true family with me. The Cullen's embraced Alice & I when we showed up on their doorstep but I can still feel the distance between us sometimes, no matter how strongly we all deny it. I'm not sure if the separation from Bella has been hardest for Esme or Alice. Alice finally had someone she could consider her best friend and a sister. Rose was already her sister but Rose keeps everyone at arm's length so they didn't have the closeness that Alice longed for. Alice couldn't remember much about her life before she was changed but she sometimes got flashes of a family, a stern man, a smiling mother and two young girls, one with long flowing jet black locks. She imagined that might have been her with her family, a sister who was close in age. She longed for the closeness she imagined she might have had with that girl, her sister? She hoped Bella might be able to fill that role, they might have been very different and I could feel Bella's reluctance to play dress up and follow along wherever Alice dragged her but I also felt the love she felt for Alice, that love allowed her to let Alice do as she wished with only the slightest of hesitations. I think Esme recognized Bella's need for a real mother figure, someone to take care of her and be there for her instead of the other way around. Bella spent so much time taking care of her parents that I don't think she ever thought about just herself and her own needs and desires. Esme's loss before her change left a gaping hole in her heart; we, her 'kids', tried to fill that hole but we were all pretty self sufficient, mature enough not to really need parents. Having mates helped to fill the void not having parents left us with, we had someone who loved us unconditionally, who stood by us regardless of our mistakes, supported us as we struggled with the years passing. Esme, our mom, ended up playing second fiddle. Bella couldn't get the same support from Edward, he still needed Esme even if he refused to acknowledge that. He may have loved Bella and tried to take care of her but he didn't know what she really needed, he could only guess at how to take care of her. He didn't realize she didn't need someone to watch her sleep, and to make sure she was fed. Bella was capable of doing all that, she needed someone to step in and make sure that she could be a kid, an irresponsible, fun having, adventure seeking kid. Esme could see that and tried, eventually she would have been able to get Bella there if Edward could have stopped standing in her way. Carlisle & Bella's relationship was definitely more of a surface one, the closeness he had with the rest of us far exceeded his closeness with her, I wonder if he knew that Edward would end up leaving in the end. He took care of her, like he would any of us but he never really spent too much one-on-one time with her. Maybe he was afraid of getting attached; he had known Edward the longest and saw him when he returned after his rebellion. I could understand Edward's rebellion. Most of the Cullen's don't understand what it is to be a real vampire, they don't let their basest instincts take over not even during the hunt but Edward has allowed the monster within out and it gives him a different perspective on who we can be if we allow ourselves to degenerate into the monster within. That insight probably led him to making the decision he did, fear of what kind of monster Bella could become, fear of the realization that maybe he couldn't love all aspects of Bella. I had made peace with the Major but Edward still struggled with who his monster was, how his monster portrayed him, he had never made peace with his monster and what they had done all those years ago. Knowing who you can become given the right or wrong circumstances can be hard to deal with, imagining Bella as a monster might have been too much for him. She was so kind and gentle and accepting, her monster would be none of those things but regardless, good or bad she and her monster were one and her mate needed to accept all of her. With Bella each of us had formed a new relationship, one that we thought was permanent, sadly we had been mistaken. Permanency isn't something vampire's dwell on because with enough time everything changes, for better or worse it can't be stopped. We had welcomed Bella into our family; as a sister, daughter and love, sure that she was Edward's mate and that they would be able to move past Edward's reluctance. We hadn't ever formed attachments to our location. It was easy to maintain our distance with our classmates and coworkers. As much as we intrigued them, our beauty drawing their attention, they maintained their distance, having an innate fear. We could hear their whispers and thoughts, feel their emotions and smell their bodies' reactions to us. All of this helped us keep our distance from them just as they kept close enough to get the rush of adrenaline but far enough away to stay safe. I know that Alice dreamed of finding a friend but we couldn't get too close. I had hoped that Alice and Char would get close, cementing Peter and Char's ties to my new family but Alice struggled with being reminded of my past and Char had trouble hiding her hostility towards the woman who had stolen her brother. We knew we would be moving on eventually and the closer we got the more questions we would get. Eventually we would have to break off contact, as others graduate high school they go to college, get jobs, marry & have kids. As we graduate we just move to another high school. College is a rarity; families with children were an impossibility. Even our marriages would draw attention; nowadays getting married right out of high school was a red flag. A sure sign of pregnancy or an attempt at escaping something horrible in your family life, rarely do people believe that you are marrying for love. That is the last thing that crosses their minds, trust me, Edward knows. In the end, Edward's stubbornness was stronger than the pull he felt for his mate. I was surprised that Edward was able to resist the pull even if Bella was still human. It made me wonder if she was indeed Edward's mate. As that thought flickered through my mind I felt a twinge, something I haven't felt in a very long time, joy.

~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_I don't think you're right for him_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~

As dawn broke I knew I would need to make a decision soon, I was approaching Prince George and would soon need to choose either the route that would take me directly south towards Seattle and precariously close to Forks, and Bella, or I would need to fight the backroads and smaller routes to make my way further East if I hoped to avoid the temptation of checking in on Bella. I decided to turn on the radio, hoping it would help shift my focus. Finding a station was difficult but eventually I found a station that was more music than static. I decided to let the car take me where it would, I wasn't going to let my conscious mind control my actions. I couldn't let my guilt drive me. With that small distraction my mind pulled away from thoughts of my family and their relationship with Bella and moved slowly from memory to memory. I focused on the first time I caught sight of Bella, she was in the halls trying to blend in, desperate to shift the focus away from her. Her emotions were a swirling mess. She was anxious because of the attention she garnered everywhere she went, cautious with her steps trying to avoid drawing more attention to her by falling and resolved. I didn't feel happiness or joy, nothing that would reflect that she wanted to be here, despite the fact that she had chosen to come to Forks. Chief Swan had been going around telling everyone that his daughter was returning to Forks, overjoyed for her return. It brought a smile to Esme's face every time she thought of the joy Charlie got from having his daughter home. His joy was contagious, seeping vicariously through to me but she didn't seem to share that joy.

The sound of other cars passing pulled me to an echo of screeching tires, the sight of Bella oblivious to the imminent danger skidding towards her, watching as Edward sped to her rescue, my curses at his impulsiveness, the danger he put us in, the possible exposure but in the background I also recognized my desire to be the one stepping between her and the speeding van. That desire surprised me but then I remembered the first time they ate lunch together, the family had fought over Edward's risky behavior, some of us, myself included, had felt that she was a threat that needed to be neutralized and in response to what he considered our overreaction he decided to further thumb his nose at us by eating lunch with her. It was certainly a first, we had always stuck together not wanting anyone to think they could invite themselves to join us. We acted as a buffer for each other, forever unapproachable, we were a united front and always stuck to ourselves. Edward's departure was dangerous but I didn't feel fury at him, instead I felt envy. To be able to sit with her, tease a smile from her, coax a laugh, bask in the joy she felt in my presence. I had felt her initial confusion at Edward's invitation and fully understood it. He had hardly been approachable or even friendly towards her over the past few weeks since her close scrape with the speeding van. Eventually her confusion morphed into embarrassment. I attempted to listen to their conversation to understand the change in her emotions but I couldn't figure out what was causing it. Bella's reactions would remain a mystery to me.

The vision of that lunch morphed into Bella at the Cullen's house the first time she met the family. By then Edward had stopped fighting with himself and embraced Bella and their relationship. The night Edward returned from Port Angeles, after Bella was nearly attacked, had been one of the hardest he had ever experienced. He fought his nature desperately, wanting to go back to PA and find the men who had tried to hurt her. He reasoned that they had only threatened her but he knew what would have happened if he hadn't shown up. Knowing their thoughts was a double edged sword and it almost cost them their lives. In the end he decided that he wouldn't be able to face Bella knowing that he had let his monster loose and allowed himself to hurt those men. That reluctance was the key difference between the man he was and the man Bella needed in her life. She understood the difference between right and wrong, those who deserved to be punished and those who deserved a second chance. She was more concerned in preserving the life of other innocent victims instead of the lives of a bunch of thugs who wouldn't hesitate to hurt or kill their next victim. If it had been me I would have hurt them just so she wouldn't have to worry about their next potential victim.

That first meeting with the family led to the first sign that Edward could leave Bella behind. It was one that we all missed but as they say hindsight is twenty/twenty. After the nomads found us playing baseball and threatened Bella he shouldn't have been able to let her leave with us. His mate, far away out of his reach, with another male vampire. I should have been a threat especially since Alice and I weren't mated. I suppose after so long it would have been easy for him to forget that we weren't mated that he had let his mate leave with another unmated vampire. Someone who could have swayed her emotions, someone who could have taken advantage of her vulnerability but he couldn't see Bella clearly and he had become complacent about the threat that I could have posed. Alice wouldn't have been able to stop me from taking Bella away if that had been my intention. I remember telling Bella that she was worth it after Edward had left. The look on his face as he turned away from her, the deadness she saw caused her to question whether the family should be putting themselves at risk for her but even then, I knew she was worth it regardless of who she thought she belonged with. We waited in that hotel room in Phoenix for hours and hours without a word from Edward. The emotions Bella felt as she realized he had not checked up on her were oppressive. The despair and doubt filled the room, not helped by Alice's reactions to whatever visions were coming to her as we waited. I tried desperately to help Alice & Bella stay calm but it was hard, Bella fought tooth and nail against the feelings of calm I tried to send her leaving me feeling frustrated and useless. I was used to being in control of a room, to being able to alleviate the strain those around me felt but I couldn't help Bella and she was too wrapped up in her own thoughts and feelings to help herself. I often wondered, after we returned from Phoenix, what would have happened if I had been there when James called her. What if I had felt the storm of emotions she must have experienced as James led her through that farce of a phone call. Alice had been devastated at the airport after Bella managed to escape from me in the bathroom. She hadn't said anything to Bella about the change in her visions because she hadn't wanted to worry Bella. If she had mentioned it Bella would have been caught and we could have done something, checked somehow to see whether or not her mother was really in danger. A little time and effort would have stopped her from heading straight into danger. Later in the studio I remained in the background taking care of the true threat, James. The venom and the blood were mere side effects of the wreckage in that room, if the venom spread then she would be one of us and they could be together forever. I don't know how he could have stopped that night, unless he knew even then that the time they had together was only fleeting. The thought of the two of them together drove a stake through my heart, Bella & Edward together forever? I shook my head clearing that thought, I thought instead of Bella's panic and horror over being at prom and grinned. I had to agree with her, Prom was one of the circles of hell Dante forgot to mention, a large group of hormonal sweaty teens in a small enclosed space, half of them hoping to get lucky and the other half trying to fend of their dates. The smell and feel of their emotions was a heady cocktail that only a feeding vampire could appreciate, a vampire on a leash would only be tormented. I would have swept her away, far away, if she had been my date. Maybe I should have, it certainly would have help us avoid the disaster that was her birthday.

I growled as thoughts of Bella flying through the air at her birthday soared across my mind. Everyone had assumed I was trying to get by Edward to get to Bella. Actually, I had been trying to get to her but not to eat her, I was trying to protect her, stop everyone else from hurting her. The initial drop of blood had only tempted Edward, his singer's blood, even just a drop would have caused him to lunge at her. His pushing her away from us only gave him more space, separating her from anyone who would want to protect her. Once she slammed into the plates and landed in the shattered crystal everyone else in that room became a threat, except for Carlisle of course. Everyone thought I was the biggest threat to her life but in the end I didn't want her dead I wanted her as one of us. If I had bitten her, it wouldn't have been to drain her, it would have been to change her, to keep her with me forever. Bella was mine, she should be with me. It had always been there in the background clouded by Edward's possessiveness over something he felt was his, her blood not her heart, never her heart. He loved her blood not her, he never had any intention of ever depriving himself of her scent. He might leave her for now, secure in the knowledge that he would be able to find her whenever he wanted and bask in her scent, in the bouquet of her blood. He was a sadist, longing for the pain her blood brought him, the pleasure he would get from that torment. As I looked around me stunned at these realizations, I was shocked again to see that I was outside of Seattle. My car had guided me when my heart could not. I kept going knowing where I needed to go, what I needed to do.

~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_And she'd be standing next to me_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~_~

As the first rays of dawn broke over the horizon they found me at Bella's door. I wasn't quite sure what to do. It was obviously too early and if I knocked I would wake someone up but I couldn't stop myself. The chief's patrol car wasn't in the driveway so it seemed like Bella was home alone. I knocked and waited. I heard someone stirring so I knocked again. It wasn't long before I heard someone stumbling down the stairs. I waited; it didn't take long for the curtain to stir and for the door to open. There she was, as beautiful as ever even if she seemed too thin and tired. She looked confused at first and then a beaming smile came across her face, brighter than any of the dawns that brought me to her door. I took a deep breath and then said "I'm sorry it took me so long to realize but now I know that I belong with you and you belong with me."