Promises are often harder to keep than one expects when giving them. Once Bella made a promise that it broke her heart to keep. The promise? To live. The events to come into her life after that promise brought new meaning to the word and so to be more accurate, the promise was not to live per say, so much as not to give up, to let herself fade away, to fight not to die when all she wanted was to let go of the pain the world inevitably provided. She was young to be so tired of living and yet she had lived so much pain in so short a life.
Bella stared out into the woods, the misting rain around her not bothering her at all. She knew somewhere in her mind that she was cold but they had taken away her ability to truly feel anything so she sat on the table, unmoving.
He came to sit by her, as he often did, not speaking to her, just sitting. They left her alone when he was around and she knew he was… dangerous. The thought would make her lips twitch, dangerous, the people in this place knew nothing about dangerous and if they were really worried about her being suicidal, well, she had been dating a vampire, not that she'd actually tell anyone, even if she weren't already holed up in an adolescent psychiatric hospital they'd think she was insane.
Dark settled over them and the call to return inside sounded, neither of them moved until almost everyone was inside, then he stood and waited for her to do the same, they walked companionably back to the ward.
The next day Bella returned to the same table and sat, staring out into the woods, the same dark boy joined her and for the first time in weeks actually spoke to her.
"They'll come today."
Bella just nodded slowly. It was visiting day. Carefully she shifted and then leaned her head against his shoulder, another first, they never touched. The visitors arrived and Bella tensed when she heard their voices moving towards her.
"Bella." Renee smiled at her. "How are you baby?"
Charlie looked from her to the boy and back again, "Bells?"
She stared sightlessly out into the woods. Renee chattered mindlessly for a little while until both of them stood up to leave.
A few more weeks passed and a new face joined the silent sitting place Bella thought of as her own, hers and her silent companion. He talked to them, to her, but she ignored him, leaning her head against Damon's shoulder and staring into the woods. It took the new comer a week of trying before he got fed up and angry with her lack of response. He grabbed her to him but Bella didn't respond at all, not a scream or cry or fight. She was a limp doll. Damon wasn't. When they pulled him off the other boy Bella smiled.
It was a long time, or maybe not, time was a distant thing to her here but it seemed like it must have been a long time before Damon returned. She accepted this with the same silence but felt a small sigh inside her as she tilted her head to his shoulder. That was the first time he began to talk to her.
"You're ok little bird?" She nodded against his shoulder. "I had a sister once, she was broken too." He admitted, "I didn't protect her, but I wont let anyone hurt you again."
She sat back and met his eyes, "I'm to broken to be hurt."
Damon shook his head at her and they fell back into silence.
Time continued to pass, days, weeks and months blurring together in the grey dark her life had become.
She spoke rarely, only when she had to, but sitting outside on the table, staring out into the woods, she talked to Damon and he talked to her, they never said much but what they said was never wasted words, trivial and pointless niceties of the world they'd left behind. When they spoke, it was always for a reason.
"I'm twenty-one next month."
"I don't know when they'll let me out."
"I'll wait." Damon was released a month later. He came to visit every week on visiting day. Charlie and Renee had long since stopped but he came and they sat together, staring into the woods, sometimes whispering but mostly just sitting.
On the day of her nineteenth birthday Bella left the hospital, Damon waiting in a black convertible, it was some kind of classic muscle car. They drove a long ways before she asked, "Where are we going?"
"Does it matter?"
Bella shrugged in response and he kept driving. For weeks they drove, stopping for a day or two at various small towns and cities until they ran out of money. Bella working at the only crap bar in town as the cook and Damon cleaning the place at night, he wasn't good with anything that resembled people skills, then again, she wasn't either. He would sit in a corner booth and watching her when she worked, silently sipping at a couple beers and eating whatever she brought to him partway through her shift during her break. Then when the doors closed she'd slip off her shoes and sit in a booth watching him, humming gently to herself, she'd read or do all the little tasks the waitresses were supposed to do like fill the sugar, some nights she'd do extra baking or prepping for whatever she wanted to cook the next day as a special. Frankie loved the quiet, hardworking pair and left them to their own devices as soon as he'd tasted her cooking and seen the bar after the first night he'd cleaned.
They stuck to themselves and didn't cause trouble. Damon was good at breaking up the few fights that started, the only issue coming when a drunk guy bothered Bella. She didn't react to him and when he decided he didn't like her ignoring him and smacked her ass Damon grabbed him by the neck, her little hand on his chest and a shake of her head had him dropping the guy. The owner kicked him and his friends out, no one touched Kiki's staff. Bella was just glad Damon didn't snap his neck.
He'd punch brick walls sometimes, the anger in him something that scared most people to see but Bella wasn't most people. Damon was angry and he liked to fight, and after a couple fights in a shady bar they visited Damon began underground fighting. It was brutal and Bella would watch, knowing no matter how big the opponent or how ferocious Damon was better trained, faster and more vicious. She'd silently patching him up after and they'd go home, she'd curl up against his side, listening to his heartbeat and he'd curl an arm around her, playing with her hair until they drifted to sleep.
They'd been in the institution for a year, well Bella had, Damon had been in by court order after he'd beaten his step-father nearly to death. The man had abused Damon and his sister, when the twins finally fought back, Damon was sent away. Darla had killed herself only weeks later. When Damon found out he attacked his step-father, his mother crying and begging him to stop, she'd been the one to call the police on her thirteen year old son. He'd been sent to psychiatric evaluation from juvie and then to the hospital, sentenced to remain there until his twenty-first birthday. Her parents had admitted Bella a few years later. She was a small girl, at five six and 118 pounds she was just this side of what was considered a healthy body weight, with large chocolate eyes and full, wavy chestnut hair that fell to her waist. Damon was dark brown hair and the palest blue eyes at five nine and 165, he was tall and lean, all muscle. They made an attractive couple though neither of them ever thought like that. Bella had never seen herself as beautiful and the maturing of her features, slight thinning of her waist and broadening hips and bust wasn't something she noticed. Others did, though few were stupid enough to comment or even stare, not so long as Damon was there, and Damon was always there.
Until he wasn't.
"Promise me something." He whispered late one night as they curled together on the double bed they shared in their tiny one bedroom house. She nodded against his chest, tracing patterns over his chest. "Live."
"D?" She questioned, her hand stilling.
"I didn't protect her."
"I try to protect you."
"If I can't."
"We'll protect each other."
Damon shifted, pulling her up so their eyes met, "Promise me, if I can't, for any reason, you will live."
They looked into each others eyes for a few moments before Bella nodded, "I wont ever kill myself."
His mouth quirked up in what could have been a smile but wasn't, "Don't let yourself die either."
"For Darla, for me. You're stronger than she was."
Damon nodded, "I love you."
She leaned down and kissed him. As the sun rose the next day, Bella was lying peacefully on his chest while he played with her hair, she nodded, "I promise, I will fight not to die."
Three months later, Damon took a bad hit. He'd let her take him to the hospital after a couple bad fights, it turned out in one of them the doctor warned, his body couldn't handle another fight, he'd fought anyways. It as who he was, the anger and violence was to much a part of him and he didn't know how or even want to let it go. He'd lasted five more fights, she buried him and then took the money and car and left town. She drove until she just couldn't be on the road any more and found a crappy little town and a crappy little diner where she worked as a cook and waitress.
She missed Damon every minute of every day wanting nothing more than to curl up in a ball and give up on life. She'd promised him though and so she existed, working, watching the stars at night, walking and writing and sticking to herself, until she met them, Nathan, Toby, Ashleigh, Megan and Sierra. Bella had heard the whispers about Kanoni Manor, it was a mansion a little ways out of town, some referred to it as a compound, rumors saying it was a cult. They always sat in the corner booth and always stuck to themselves. Until the day they didn't.
Bella was waitressing that day and they sat in her section. She usually took their orders and left them alone. Sierra stopped her this time, "Isabel?"
Bella nodded smiling at her, "Was there something else?"
"You normally cook." Bella nodded though it wasn't a question. "I like your pancakes."
It was simple and innocent and all Bella did was nod and thank her. The next time Sierra asked how she was doing and so began the pleasantries. Even when she was in the kitchen, they would wave hello and if she was waitressing they sat in her section. After a while she came to know, all of the people who lived in Kanoni and Ashleigh invited her up to dinner for a holiday. Bella hadn't even been consciously aware it was a holiday, only that the place was closed. It was Independence Day and she agreed without thinking. Each week that passed found her spending more and more time at Kanoni and when her lease was up on her little apartment, they moved her into the room she'd been using more often than not at the house. There was no question or discussion, it was just done, one day she had her own place, even if she was there rarely, and the next she was completely living with them.
There was talk around the town that she'd been endocrined into the cult, especially when a month later she left her job. Like the others, she ignored it and with the help of her new, family, she began to do more than work and exist, Bella began to live.
Bella sighed as she leaned against his shoulder, waiting for the doctor, "OK Isa?"
Bella nodded against his shoulder, "Tired."
He made a noise of agreement and they sat waiting in silence until the nurse returned. "The doctor will be in, in just another minute." She smiled at them politely but the tension in her eyes was clear as her eyes continually flicked to the bird tattoos they both sported. Neither said anything as they just nodded at her.
A few moments later they heard her call out to halt the doctor before he entered, it gave Bella half a second to prepare herself as she listened to the nurse explaining about them.
"Dr. Cullen. A word."
"Nurse Finley?" He smiled politely at the young nurse.
"I'm not sure if you would know since you're so new in town, about the little bird symbol in the left corner of the file." Carlisle frowned down at the file seeing the flattened m looking design and then looked up without saying anything, waiting for her to continue. "It's just something we do to identify them." At his frown she blushed, "We don't discriminate, I mean they still get the same care its just, well, it helps, knowing."
"Knowing what Nurse Finely?"
"They're from the compound north of town, I'm sure you've heard of it by now."
"No, I haven't but my family and I haven't spent much time in the town and we aren't the type to seek out gossip."
"Of course." She blushed, "I don't mean to gossip. It's just, the compound, its one of those cult things."
Carlisle nodded, "Do they require specific measures be taken or not taken in their care?"
She shook her head, "No Doctor, they won't tend to come back for check ups and unless its real bad they don't tend to even take prescriptions let alone fill them and they don't ever speak much. The staff, we mark the files so that they are left alone, we go in and do our jobs but if you ask them how they are feeling or if they need anything, the most you'll get is a shrug or head shake, sometimes a one or two word answer. Mostly we just give them the concession of not asking the person they brought to leave the room, ever. None of them are ever alone, not in town at least. It's rare it's less than three but today its just two. Once we tried to clear the room and the patient up and left to, he was hurt real bad so we just started to leave them be and they wait silently staying out of the way so its not so big a deal."
Carlisle nodded, "Thank you Nurse Finely." The smell coming from the room was familiar to him, not the same as from the girl he was remembering but so similar it tore at the ever-opened wound in his chest.
"Of course." She nodded sending him a warm if slightly nervous smile and hurried off down the hall to other patients.
The door opened and Bella watched, breathing even as he walked in. He stilled, his gold eyes widening slightly as for an instant he stopped breathing. Then he was walking forward, his eyes continually flicking back to her as he addressed the man she was with.
"Good afternoon Mr. Kanoni. I'm Dr. Cullen. How are you feeling?" He was met with a half shrug of the man's right shoulder, his right barely moving as Bella's head rested against it, her eyes watching Carlisle steadily. For a moment Carlisle focused on her but there seemed to be little or no recognition of him, not in her eyes or in a change of her heart rate. As a large part of his mind processed every nuance of the girl he'd thought died, he forced the doctor in him to focus and examine his patient, "Your ribs haven't punctured your lungs but you'll need to keep them wrapped and take it easy for a while to let them heal. Your leg is broken in two places and I'll need to reset it for it to heal properly. I can do the surgery first thing in the morning." Carlisle frowned at the file, "How did you receive the injuries?" It should have been written in the file but the area was left blank, along with any personal information. The file only had the name Kanoni and a notation that there were no allergies, nothing more.
"Fell." Was his quiet answer as he turned his head to kiss Bella's forehead. She sat up and slipped off the bed pulling a phone out she sent a quick text and held out her hand to him, helping steady him as he jumped off the bed on his good leg. "Time should we be here for the surgery?" His voice drew Carlisle's attention from Bella as she moved a wheelchair over to him.
"We'll do the surgery first thing, I'll book the OR for 6:30." The man nodded at him as he hopped, maneuvering himself and with Bella's help, lowering into the wheel chair.
"We'll be here at six then." The man nodded at him and Bella moved to push the chair.
"Please," Carlisle held up a hand, "You should stay at the hospital." Bella and he both shook their heads and made to leave again. "To much movement could do more damage, the bone has completely snapped in one spot but the other is a jagged break and there could be damage to surrounding muscle and nerves."
They exchanged a look and then Bella nodded. A moment later two other men were entering the room.
"We have to spend the night." Bella told them. The older of the two men nodded and both moved forward to lift him from the chair and into the bed before turning to Carlisle expectantly.
It was the older who again took the lead, "He needs surgery?"
Carlisle nodded, "Are you family."
All four of them stared at him a moment before nodding. "His leg is broken in two places…" He explained to them what the surgery was and the healing times and when he was finished they just nodded.
"Isa." The younger man motioned to her as the elder took up a seat in the corner. Bella squeezed the injured man's hand and left.
Carlisle followed them out, watching her leave. It really was as if she didn't recognize him at all.
She didn't come back to the hospital that night or before her friend was wheeled into surgery. Carlisle could almost think he'd imagined her except he knew he hadn't. The family went into town over the next week but never saw her or caught her scent. After three days the entire coven had once again united under one roof.
"Let's just drive out to the compound." Emmett insisted.
"She didn't show any recognition to me at all Emmett, she wasn't ignoring me, she was indifferent, I was a faceless, nameless, surgeon.
"They've brainwashed her?" Esme shivered stepping closer to Carlisle.
"Why can't I see her?" Alice sighed, frowning as she sought out another vision.
"Let's just get her back and unbrainwash her." Rosalie shrugged. "Unless she seemed happy, maybe she's happy."
"She's fallen into the clutches of some crazed cult leader." Edward growled.
"We don't know that." Rosalie rolled her eyes at him.
"She's part of the cult Rosie." Emmett frowned at his wife.
Rosalie shrugged, "From what I heard in town it's just some eccentric group of people living together, its not some sinister cult from crappy movies. Hell we've had more rumors about our family than there seem to be about them. It's just a group of people who stick to themselves up at this big estate. Just because the house has a name and the people that live there aren't social amongst the town they are called the Kanoni cult. Bella's probably fine and just wants nothing to do with us."
"You didn't see her Rosalie." Alice protested.
"Neither did you and Carlisle said she'd changed, not that she looked like she was in trouble. People change and she's human, change comes easier to them."
"I don't think we should charge in there and kidnap her." Carlisle gave Emmett a look as his mouth opened, "Something about her bothered me though."
"Then we'll find her." Esme comforted.
"What if she doesn't want to be found?" Rosalie persisted. At Edward's growl she glared at him, "You're the one that basically told her she was unwanted Edward, and no offence Jasper but you did try to eat her. For a best friend Alice, you picked up and left without looking back and I was never her friend. Maybe we are all the last people, the last creatures on the planet she'd want to see."
"Rosalie has a point." Esme added gently, "She does know we are here Carlisle."
"Like Rose said though, Edward made her feel unwanted and before we could make it right she died, or we thought so and now she wouldn't know." Alice argued.
"So we let her know we are here and would like to see her and then let her decide." Esme concluded.
Carlisle nodded but his expression was still strained, something about Bella had been more than just a little different.
"So how do we contact her?" Emmett pressed.
"How about a letter?" Rose suggested, "I mean you have an address right Carlisle?"
Carlisle nodded, "It's a good idea Rosalie."
"I'll write it." Edward nodded moving away.
"Last time we left you to handle it was a disaster." Emmett disagreed.
The two brothers glared at each other but Carlisle quickly halted anything further, "We can each write her a small note, say what you feel needs to be said and hopefully she'll agree to meet with us."
Two days later, Bella was roused from a nap in the gently rocking hammock at the tree line. "Isa!"
"You've a letter." Nathan tossed her the envelope, his curiosity evident but instead of pressing he walked off, she'd talk to them about it if she wanted.
Bella settled into the hammock in a seated position and stared down at the perfect script outlining her name, even if she hadn't recognized the writing as Carlisle's she'd know it was from him. Isabella Swan. A dead giveaway that it was from her life before, there was no more Swan.
She traced each letter of her name and address with her eyes twice before turning the envelope over and carefully opening it. There were several pieces of paper inside.
Bella ~ I hope this finds you well. I've stared at this paper a long time, each word forming and reforming in my head unsure what to write. When the nurse stopped me outside that room I could not bring myself to even imagine it was you in there though the traces of freesia brought me nothing but painful memories of the summer you spent part of my family. Painful because we have missed you and because for so long now we believed you had died. The way we left things I would understand your not wanting to be part of our lives again and yet I cannot help but hope you might agree to meet with us if only to let us know you are well and its no thanks to us. There are a great many things I would do differently if given the chance, the greatest of these would be in not leaving you and yet at the time I believed it was the right course of action so my truest regret is in not saying goodbye, I wished to go back and change it from the moment we left. Esme never believed it was right but allowed that her judgment was clouded by what she wanted to be right rather than what truly was the best course of action and so she let us lead her away. I hope you might forgive us even if you cannot allow us the privilege of knowing you again. If nothing else, I beg that you allow us the knowledge that you are indeed well, safe and happy. If that is not the case and there is anything we can do to help you, please allow us that. We would do anything to ensure your wellbeing. These years thinking you had died, it is a scar that will never heal, even knowing that you live, there is a part of me that remembers the feel, the pain of your death and all the wrongs I was unable to right and perhaps never can. I wish you all the best in the world and for the truest two words I will ever write please believe, I'm sorry. ~ Carlisle Cullen
She read the letter twice and moved on to the next, smaller paper. Unfolding it Bella found only two lines…
In my heart, you have always been one of my family, losing you was an unbearable punishment for the sin of leaving you, now we've found you again, please come home. ~ Esme
The next paper was longer and clearly written by two hands.
Bella, ~ I'm starting this because my husband has already written and torn up a notebook of paper. Eloquent, he is not but if you knew him at all you know his heart is pure and he loves with all of himself. You became his sister and he's missed you everyday. I hate to see a life wasted, but I hate to see my husband unhappy more. If there is anything we can say to convince you to forgive our family I promise we all will, myself included, do everything we can. If you are healthy and happy and wish only to live your life free of us, I understand and in time, so will Emmett, please just give us the comfort of knowing you are not in any kind of trouble. If you can forgive us and let us be part of your life, all the better, for my husband and family, if still at least in my eyes, not for you. I miss you Tinkerbella. I'm sorry. I'll kick Eddie's ass for what he did… again and any human that hurt you will answer to me, you just send me a sign and I'll rescue you. I love you. ~ Rosalie and Emmett McCarty
The next letter was a small pink one and she didn't need to see the name or even the writing to know it was from Alice.
I didn't see. I haven't seen you in a long time and the last time… it was mostly darkness and pain. I went for you immediately but it was to late. All we could discover was that you had died. Edward told us what he'd said to you, how he'd left things. I failed you Bella. I let him convince me leaving was right and in my heart I still believed you would one day be one of us. I haven't been able to forgive Edward, Jasper hasn't forgiven any of us, least of all me but I will never forgive myself either. I should never have left my sister, that was my first sin the next was not seeing, not returning sooner, not saving you. Somehow you are alive and all this time I should have seen something, found a way to you, I can't see everything but I should have seen something, I should have been there for you, if not to prevent the bad then at least to protect you from the storm. In my heart you will always be my best friend, my sister and for eternity I will be sorry for the ways I failed you. I'm grateful for this chance to tell you I'm sorry and I love you. I will love you always.
Bella moved on to the next letter, her eyes stinging with tears and her heart in a vice.
Bella ~ All I wanted for the last five years was the chance to tell you I'm sorry. I never got it and when I learned of your 'death' I thought I never would. Taking out Victoria was my repentance, I was to late to protect you but I did avenge you. I once told you that I believed you were worth it, you always were I just wish I had been stronger, better, more deserving of knowing a human like you. I've been ashamed of what happened at your birthday but even more I'm ashamed at the family's reaction. I left so you would be safe from me, you were worth that to me, I left so they would be there for you and hoped one day, when Alice's vision came true, I could repent my actions on your birthday. I thought by leaving I would be protecting you, that you would still have them to keep you safe. If I'd known, I would not have left you vulnerable; I warned Edward that Victoria could be a threat right after James. He didn't heed my warning or figured no immediate retaliation meant it was safe. Then Alice found me and had the vision of you, then we were told you died. I avenged you Bella but I will always regret that I didn't protect you and I will always be ashamed of my weakness, that drove the family away. I do not seek your forgiveness for I am not worthy of it but you deserve an apology for my actions, for my weakness that night and for leaving the issue of your safety in the hands of a spoiled and oblivious child when in my heart, I knew better. I'm sorry. ~ Jasper Whitlock
With a frown she reread the letter twice, shaking her head and murmuring to herself, "You aren't weak."
The last page she knew would be from Edward. He was the only Cullen left and she wasn't sure if she wanted to read it. Leaning back in the hammock she rocked staring at the clouds drifting in the blue sky above her and thought about the letters she had read and what if anything she wanted to say to any of them. The letter had been unexpected but some of them surprised her more than others, Jasper especially, if no other she would write him back, he deserved to know there had never been anything to forgive, not of him. After a while she got up and went inside going to her room and hiding the letters in a drawer before going downstairs to join the others on the back patio as they picked at cold cuts, cheese and fruit for lunch.
After they ate Bella drifted off to the studio to paint, it wasn't until late, with flecks of paint on her and her belly full with another meal, that she sat on the window seat in her room and opened the unread Cullen letter.
Bella ~ My love. Alive. My dead heart almost beat again with the news. I'd nearly gone to Italy after we had heard you died. Only the love of my family kept me from it, Esme and Carlisle were already devastated over you, I couldn't make them suffer more because I no longer wished to exist, not in a world without you. For years I have suffered with so much regret. I left so you could live a normal human life, a safer life without vampires but the pain I was forced to cause you so you would let me leave broke my heart. I wanted to keep you safe at any cost, even from me and at the cost of both our broken hearts, but I should have taken into account what trouble you always seem to attract. You had died believing the lie. I loved you Bella. I have loved you and kept you with me in my heart everyday and would do so forever. If this compound is a cult, if you are in any trouble let me help you. I know our love is stronger than any brainwashing. Let me take you away and set you up somewhere safe where you can start a better life. Your life and soul mean more to me than anything in this world and I would spend all the days of your life protecting you. ~ Your Edward.
Bella snorted at the letter, wrinkled in her clenched hand, "Bite me." She told it. Then laughed at the irony of that statement before balling up the letter and tossing it back in the drawer. Picking up her journal she began to write in it, feeling the tension of the letter leave her body. Unconsciously, she flicked to the back page of her journal and began to write.
Cullens ~ Thank you for your letters; no doubt they come as a result to some of the rumors in town. I assure you, I am not in need of saving, Kanoni Manor is not a cult and I am not in any danger. I am healthy and live a peaceful life here. I am a writer, published in both children's and young adults books under a pseudonym. Life is not what I once expected but it's a good life and I've worked hard to build it. I wish to leave the past where it is. I am rarely in town and will not speak of any of you so please do not feel that because I am here, you need to relocate. I doubt I will see any of you again. I missed you all so much but the girl you knew grew up and the woman I am now is very different, looking back it feels as though that girl were truly someone else, the memories more like watching a movie, disconnected from who I am. I loved you all once and I forgive you for leaving but I am content with my life and with who I am now. Forgive yourselves and each other. I wish you all the best and thank you for the summer I spent as part of your family and the love you once showed me. ~ Isabella
Tearing out the page she folded it into an envelope, her eyes falling to the pages in the drawer and catching on one before she pulled it out to reread. Settling back on the cushion she put pen to paper again.
Jasper. ~ Of all the letters I read today, yours surprised and saddened me the most. For months I invaded your home, the one safe place you had to be who and what you are without fear or censure, without struggling. I took that from you and for that I'm sorry. It was selfish. I always thought all of you were worth the risks I took by being around you and wouldn't have blamed you if you had bitten me. You are a vampire. I am a human. I was a little bird making friends with big cats. Then I went and bled. It was my fault. No. It was an accident. A stupid accident. It wasn't my fault for bleeding, or Alice's for throwing a party or Edward's for over reacting and tossing me into a table of glass and it wasn't yours for reacting either. If he hadn't over reacted and caused more blood to spill, maybe you'd have been able to control it. Maybe if several other vampires hadn't been pumping their blood lust into you, Edward's included, you would never have even struggled. As it was, you let Emmett stop you, because nature or not, I know deep down you didn't want to kill me. Did Edward react to your blood lust or his own? Thrusting me so hard away so he didn't attack me himself? If he struggled to deal with me being his singer how did you handle feeling that and your own blood lust? You aren't weak Jasper. You are the strongest man, the strongest vampire I have ever known. You didn't drive the family away either, Edward did. I think he was looking for an excuse to leave me since James. Maybe in his mind we were a tragic love story, he was playing out a part in a play and I never knew the words, I was never enough for him. The reasons the rest of them left were there own, it came down to a choice that every one of them made and if you were their excuse it still wasn't a valid reason and it was unfair to you. I never wanted them to go and I never wanted you to either. As far as I have ever been concerned, there was never anything for me to forgive you for but if anyone is worthy of forgiveness it is you.
Bella folded the letter and wrote his name on it before slipping it into the envelope and copying the return address. She'd put it in the box at the end of the long drive in the morning.
When the letter came Esme stood at the door staring down at it, nervous about what it might say. Slipping it into her pocket she disappeared into her garden without a word until Carlisle returned from the hospital. Then she called a family meeting and held up the envelope, wordlessly.
"Let me." Edward held out his hand.
Esme shook her head and handed it to Carlisle. Silently he opened it and pulled out two pieces of paper. One folded simply said Cullen. The other had Jasper's name. Carlisle handed it to a surprised looking Jasper before looking at the paper left in his hand and opening it to read it aloud.
"So she's ok." Rosalie sighed, relieved.
"Or they've brainwashed her." Edward growled.
Rosalie rolled her eyes at him but it was Alice to speak, "Jasper?"
Jasper had opened his own letter and read it immediately after Carlisle finished, he was now reading it a third time.
"Jasper?" Esme questioned when he didn't immediately respond.
"She's still to good." Was his answer as he turned and left.
Later Edward would demand to see it, they'd all ask but only Edward was stupid enough to challenge Jasper about it. At Esme's plea Jasper let him go and stormed off followed by Alice.
"Jasper." She pressed gently.
"It's between her and I." Jasper growled.
Alice nodded, "I'm sorry how things ended between us."
Jasper turned to frown at her, startled by the words, he knew she felt some regret, she missed him and still loved him but there was anger, resentment and bitterness between them now as well. "Me too Ali."
Jasper shrugged, "You never cared much for my brother before and you don't now, so what is it Ali?"
Alice shifted and bit her lip as venom pooled in her eyes, "I met someone."
"Good for you." Jasper meant it to. Whatever else was between them, Alice had saved him, she'd been his pixie angel and he had loved her.
Alice nodded slowly, "Just tell me she's really alright."
Jasper shrugged, "She forgives me. That's all I know that the other letter didn't say."
"I can't see her Jazz, but if you could feel her, if you could tell us she was truly ok."
"I don't know that she wants to see me anymore than the rest of you Ali. She forgives me but she wants us to leave her alone, it isn't our business if she's ok or not, we gave up any right to know when we left her."
"She wrote to you Jasper. We all wrote her but only you got a private letter. It's hard for him, you know he loved her, that he still does."
"What he did was unforgivable Ali, clearly even with her heart, she sees that."
"I know." Alice agreed. "What I did was to, but she forgives you."
Jasper nodded and neither said anything more as they made their way back to the house. Feeling the turmoil around him, it took only a couple days for Jasper to concede to Alice's wishes. He'd go to the house and ask to see her, she could always refuse and he'd leave.
She didn't refuse.
Jasper took his ducati early one evening, reaching the gates while the sky was a mix of blue and purple and black. He pressed the call box and a staticy voice filtered out a few moments later.
"I'm looking for Bella Swan?"
"Wrong house. Sorry. No trespassers." The line went dead. Jasper stared at the box a moment before pressing it again. There was no answer but a four-wheeler was coming into view.
"Hello." Jasper greeted them with a polite nod and a small dose of trust and relaxation. The couple on the machine just glared at him. "I'm looking for someone."
"Maybe somebody doesn't want to be found." The woman finally responded.
Jasper nodded, frowning a little at the hostility, "If she asks me to leave I will, if you could just let me pass to talk with her."
"This is private property." The man finally spoke.
"I just need to know she's alright." Jasper pressed sincerity towards them but neither moved to open the gate.
"Who are you looking for?" The woman relented into asking.
"There are no Swan's here."
"She's here." Jasper glared back at him, getting angry and suspicious.
"Then get a warrant and come inside." The girl spat.
"He doesn't need one." Her voice was quiet and tinny through the call box. "Can you lead him to the house, Toby?"
A beep preceded the gate slowly sliding open as the man turned his machine and began leading the way down the drive without another word. Jasper didn't bother with his helmet as he revved the engine of his bike and followed along the long drive through the woods to the giant stone mansion.
"Welcome to Kanoni Manor." An older man stepped off the porch as he parked his ducati and climbed off.
Jasper nodded at him, "Where's Bella?"
"Jasper." Bella stepped out of the house with a warm smile, "Forgive the unwelcome attitude, we're very private here and don't tend to get real visitors."
Jasper nodded taking in her appearance, she was slender but had more curves than at seventeen, her rich, thick chestnut hair fell in waves to her waist and she was barefoot in a paint splattered summer dress that skimmed her perfect curves. He chocolate eyes were bright and her complexion flawless for a human. Carlisle had said she looked tired at the hospital, with dark smudges under her eyes and tension lines in her body but it had been late and her friend hurt. Now she seemed relaxed, rested and happy. Letting his gift reach out to weave through her he found a complex range of ocean deep emotions under the happiness she was exuding now was a relaxed content state.
Jasper smiled at her, "How are you Darlin?"
She laughed, "How are you?"
Jasper nodded and winked, "Better."
"What's with the contacts?" The woman who'd been on the four-wheeler asked moving onto the porch near Bella.
"No contacts. I'm a demon that's possessed this human form." Jasper told her making Bella laugh.
"It's an interesting color." She told him walking down the steps towards where he still stood next to his bike. "Like fire."
Jasper nodded, "Does it bother you?"
"No." Bella shook her head and he could feel her honesty. "I suppose it should but no." Jasper nodded as she came closer and ran a finger over his gas tank, "Will you take me for a ride Jasper?"
"Be my pleasure." He held out his helmet and Bella grinned taking it from him and pulling it over her head. Without another word Jasper climbed onto the bike and Bella got on behind him, wrapping her arms tightly around his cool middle. Jasper turned the bike and rode it down the drive where the gate opened automatically. Once the wheels hit pavement he hit the accelerator and headed them away from the town. For an hour he drove them through the wilderness before pulling off to the side and letting her climb off.
"Where are we?" She asked looking around.
Jasper shrugged and led her to the trees before sitting against a tree, "You look well."
"Did you expect me not to?"
He shrugged, "After the gate I expected someone to stop me from riding off with you."
"They're protective Jasper but I'm not a prisoner. I live at the Manor because I choose to and as much as the town might talk, it's not a cult."
"What's the tattoo?"
"It's a bird." She smiled playfully at him as she sank to the ground to sit by him.
"Well Darlin, I reckoned that were it but didn't figure you for the type."
"I don't suppose you figured me for a lot of things Jasper. I'm not exactly the same girl you met in Forks."
"Maybe not on the surface." Jasper shrugged.
"You think deep down I'm still the same insecure, clumsy needy child?"
"I'll give you a little insecure and a little clumsy but you were never childish or needy. The opposite really, you were mature and very giving, to giving." At her eye roll he sent her a wave of amusement, "You aren't the same Bella, you've grown and changed but under it all, your heart, your emotional core, it's the same."
"You have always felt deeply and strongly, you have always been to open and caring. That's all still there. Sadness is there and lots of turmoil now but the insecurity is gone and coated over everything is a deep acceptance of yourself and peaceful content that I sometimes got glimpses of that summer you spent with our family."
Bella nodded, "Parts of me are the same Jasper, but I'm not. Bella Swan doesn't exist anymore. She died, five years ago."
Bella looked away, "Life. Life happened Jasper. I was almost to weak to survive it but I did and I'm here now and I like what I've become, the life I made for myself here."
Jasper nodded, "Is it ok I came to see you?"
"Can I come again?"
"Why do you want to?"
Jasper shrugged, "It's probably a bad idea."
"Probably." She agreed sending him a small smile, "But I'd like it if you did."
Jasper smiled at her and stood up, "I'll take you home."
Bella nodded and took his offered hand, letting him pull her to her feet as they walked back to his bike.
At the gate she pushed a couple numbers and the gate slid open. There was a large group on the porch when they drove up but no one stood or came over.
Bella hoped off and handed him his helmet, "Thanks for the ride Jazz."
"Anytime." He nodded.
She smiled at him, "Use the code next time. Strangers aren't welcome and only strangers, packages and police buzz."
Jasper nodded and pulled his helmet over his head, "Goodnight Darlin."
Bella nodded, lifting her hand in farewell before moving to the porch. Jasper drove around for a while before heading home.
"You saw her." Alice grinned at him as he walked into the Cullen house.
"You had a vision?" Jasper frowned at her, Alice hadn't been able to see Bella in years.
Alice shook her head, her expression sad.
"You smell like her." Esme smiled at him joining them in the foyer.
"How is she?" Carlisle asked coming down the stairs and leading the way to the dining room. Jasper waited until they had all sat before answering.
"She's good. Happy. No one there has any ill will towards her or each other, just strong familial bonds."
"Good." Esme sighed.
"So it isn't a cult?" Emmett pressed.
Jasper shook his head, "No feelings of fanaticism or possessiveness, nothing to indicate they are anything more than… family."
"So we'll just leave her alone." Rosalie nodded, "It's what she asked us to do Em." She cut off her husbands protest.
"Right." He agreed with a sigh.
"You're going back." Edward growled at Jasper.
"She asked me to." Jasper shrugged thinking of her telling him she'd like it if he returned.
Rosalie put her hand on Emmett's shoulder, "Give it time, maybe she'll want to see us, well you, again to."
"Perhaps one day she'll welcome us all back into her life." Carlisle agreed.
"It's better if she doesn't." Edward protested. "She's safe and happy, you should all leave here and let her live her life. I'll stay and keep an eye on her, make sure she's safe, and lives a long happy and healthy life."
"It isn't up to you Edward." Alice told him, her mind screaming at him, I'm not leaving.
"Don't you have a man to get back to?" Edward smirked.
I already told him. Alice glared at him, "He'll come here." Her own eyes darted to Jasper, with a mix of emotions but he just sent her a wave of affection and support so she focused back on Edward. "Maybe its you who should leave."
"You think I'm going to leave while the brother who tried to kill her and is still slipping up is here you're crazy and if you think I'm going to let you bring your murderous boy toy here with her you're insane."
"Jasper isn't slipping up, what he eats or doesn't isn't any of your business, neither is mine or Demetri's." Alice hissed.
"Ali." Jasper sent her a wave of calm and then focused on Edward. "Leave her alone Edward, I don't give a rats ass anymore what this family thinks about me, especially you but you'll keep your opinions about Ali and her partner to yourself because the next time you insult her, I will teach you manners. As for Bella, she doesn't want to see you, when and if she does, she knows how to find you. Try to push her or control her life in any way and I'll teach you why your fear of me is valid."
The two glared at each other for a few seconds before Edward stormed away. Jasper turned to the rest of the family, "Bella agreed to see me again but I think the rest of you should respect what she asked for in the letter."
"What did it say?" Rosalie asked him. Jasper frowned at her in question. "The letter to you?"
Jasper shrugged and left. It was time to call Peter. He wouldn't be going anywhere for a while, not as long as Bella liked to have him around.
Peter arrived the same day as Demetri. Jasper hadn't been back to see Bella but he'd sent her a letter.
Bella had been surprised when she got the small square envelope, it wasn't writing she knew well but she sort of recognized it.
Opening the blank card she found a small note, the signature at the bottom belonging to Jasper.
Bella ~ I've rented a home, not far from Kanoni Manor. My brother and possibly sister will be with me, they are both human drinkers but if you could trust my word, I promise they will not hunt in the area and those they kill, if they aren't dying, well vigilante justice is still justice in some eyes. I never bothered much with locks and knocking is for strangers, packages and police, if you ever felt like dropping by, you'd be welcome. I've been getting a few things organized but perhaps we could go for another ride this weekend? There's a beautiful view a couple hours ride away, I always visit, it's a good spot to think or to talk, if you felt like it. ~ Jazz
With a smile Bella went to her drawer and pulled out a pen. Carefully tearing the card at the seam she put the half he'd written on in the drawer and wrote a note on the other half.
Jasper ~ A ride would be lovely. I'll be here waiting. And I'd be happy to meet any of your family. If you say its safe then I believe you.
Slipping it into an envelope, she copied the return address and walked it down to the box at the end of the drive. Saturday came and went with no Jasper, Bella spent the day painting the last illustrations for her latest children's book. Sunday morning everyone had breakfast together and it was as she was finishing they heard his ducati drive up and a knock on the front.
Bella stood and set her plate in the sink before grabbing her leather jacket and going to open the door. Jasper was standing on the porch waiting.
"Doorbells are like buzzers Jazz." She smiled at him as she stepped out.
"What can I say ma'am, I was raised in another generation and gentlemen don't walk into a ladies home." Bella laughed as he drew out the words in a very pronounced southern drawl and gave a half bow.
"I suppose I forgive you then."
"Shall we?" He held out his helmet to her and Bella took it.
The ride was beautiful, Jasper drove fast but she loved the freedom of the speed and holding onto him, she felt safe. The view was somewhat hindered by the clouds as they climbed off his bike and sat down looking over the cliff.
"Is your brother here?"
"He is. My sister will be here tomorrow."
"What are they like?"
"Peter is like me an Emmett rolled in one with a little Yoda."
"Yoda?" Bella giggled.
Jasper nodded, "Peter knows things, it's like a memory coming to him about something or someone and he can't explain it or give a lot of details, he just knows things." Bella nodded. "He's funny and open like Emmett but darker, instead of Emmett's here I am lets have fun, he's a here I am, deal with it. Char, well she and Pete were together a few decades before she broke his heart. He forgave her. It's hard to be mad at someone you love for not loving you I guess. She's a bit like Rosalie, beautiful and has a hard outer shell so she seem distant or dismissive she's loyal and sometimes rudely honest. She has a good heart and is quick witted and funny. Her mate, Benedict Hastings is more like Carlisle, kind and gentle, non-violent and compassionate."
"Is he a vegetarian?"
"He's not quite that much like Carlisle, no."
"Is it hard for Peter, seeing them together."
"It was the first time but it's been a long time and he's happy for her. It will be hard to see Ali with someone else to but they deserve to be happy."
Jasper nodded, "I didn't just leave you and the Cullen's Darlin."
"You left Alice?" Bella breathed out.
"I suppose in a way we left each other." Jasper sighed. "I ran off soon as Emmett got me outside. Alice caught up with me later that night. I told her I was leavin that it was better for you if I did at least until her vision came true. Then I told her I couldn't keep pretending to be a Cullen, there was a time I'd follow her anywhere but I just couldn't no more. She told me she couldn't come with me where I was goin but that I should go. She couldn't live this life with me any more'n I could life that one with her so it was best for us both to let go."
"I'm sorry Jasper."
"She's met someone and happy, they might even be mates but it's hard to tell. I haven't felt them together."
"Do you suppose love ever ends?"
"Do you still love Edward?"
"I'm not sure. I mean, no, but, there is still the scar. It seems like love marks us, scars us, changing us irrevocably and when you part you are never the same, it's become a part of you, the love and the loss."
Jasper nodded at they sat in quiet a little longer before she stood up and held a hand out to him. Jasper took it and let her 'pull' him to his feet. He drove her back to the house and she climbed off the bike handing him the helmet and kissing his cheek, "Thanks Jazz."
"Would you like to meet them?"
Bella smiled at him and nodded, "This week?"
"We'll be here." He nodded pulling the helmet over his own head as he watched her back up and then turn and go up the porch steps disappearing inside.
On Tuesday he got the note in the mail, it was on a blank stationary card.
Jasper ~ I was hoping tomorrow would be a good day to meet your family if you wouldn't mind to come and get me.
He quickly tore the half she hadn't written on, like she'd done and wrote a note, he'd leave it in the mailbox when he went hunting later.
Bella ~ They are looking forward to it. I'll be by around 11am. It's supposed to rain so I'll have my truck.
True to his word, a new Ford pickup pulled up to the front at 11. Bella was waiting on the porch in a summer dress with cowboy boots, a jean jacket and a fedora. She hopped off the porch and climbed into his truck with a smile. "I like it." She nodded at his truck.
"Thank you ma'am." Jasper bowed his head. "You look lovely."
"Why thank you sir." Bella nodded back her wide smile becoming a laugh.
Jasper chuckled and drove back down the long drive, the ten minutes to his latest home.
"It's not Cullen standards." He told her, as he held out a hand to help her out of the truck.
Bella grinned at the large cabin style house, "It's beautiful."
Jasper smiled and tucked her hand through the crook of his arm, leading her to the house.
"This is Peter, Charlotte and Benedict." Jasper motioned to each of them.
"Bella." Charlotte smiled at her. Benedict nodded, giving a sort of half bow in greeting.
"Prettier than I expected." Was Peter's greeting making Bella laugh.
"Peter." Charlotte snapped at him, making Bella struggle to contain more giggles.
"What?" He shrugged in response, "She is."
"You are very pretty for a human." Charlotte offered.
"Thanks." Bella blushed and Jasper rolled his eyes.
"We're somewhat different than the Cullen's." He shrugged.
"Weren't you always?"
Jasper nodded, "You know that should have a lot more derision behind the statement." Peter teased.
"Ah yes, we all must strive to be as perfect as Edward Cullen, who sent a seventeen year old human to an insane asylum with out even truly trying. I mean you just follow the food chain, he manipulates their lives and playing with your food instead of eating it is very en vogue just now."
"I like her." Peter announced after a half second of surprised silence from the vampires.
"Insane asylum?" Jasper questioned with a growl.
Bella shrugged at him, "There's a lot you don't know." He nodded in reply.
"I like you too." Charlotte decided after another moment.
"So everyone likes everyone, except of course for myself and Peter, no one expects him to like me so shall we get on with the afternoon?" Benedict suggested.
"I don't hate yeh." Peter shrugged at him.
"Wonderful." Charlotte rolled her eyes at him, "Let's do something shall we?"
"Something with a human?" Benedict mused. "Poker?"
"Jasper is an empath, that game's not fair for any of us dear." Charlotte rolled her eyes at him. "Let's play scrabble." She flitted away and returned with a board, sitting on the floor by the coffee table.
Bella felt a little like Dorothy waking up in Oz as she moved over to sit across from the beautiful blonde vampire.
Three games in and Bella was up two games, Charlotte one and the boys were trailing. "I knew I liked you." Charlotte grinned as she added up Bella's points, their scores neck in neck. "So tell us about the asylum."
"So tell me about dumping Peter and screwing Britain?"
Charlotte grinned at her, "Actually I screwed Britain and then dumped Peter. It took him a full decade to forgive me but we've been through to much to really hate each other."
"We only really hate the people we care about." Bella countered.
"Did you hate Jasper for trying to kill you."
"Jasper never tried to kill me, not very hard and I never had reason to hate him."
"Yes but I once loved him, then I realized he wasn't worth it."
"Why do you say he never tried to kill you?" Benedict cut in, "It was our understanding Emmett stopped him from biting you."
"He let Emmett stop him and regardless, he's a vampire, I'm a human and I was bleeding, I'd hardly hate him for being what he is."
"So the asylum." Charlotte pressed.
"Char." Jasper warned.
Immediately she shrugged, "Curiosity, sorry. Shall we play another game?"
Bella sighed. "I fell apart when they left, not just Edward but all of them. My father couldn't handle it. I barely functioned and when my mother came to take me to Florida I flipped out. A week later and I'd been moved to a psychiatric care facility. I was there for a year."
"Is that when you moved here?" Benedict asked gently.
"No. That's when Isabella Swan died."
"So who are you?" He asked with a lifted brow.
"Jasper calls me Bella, others Isa but I'm Kanoni my name isn't important."
"Thought Jasper said you didn't do the cult speak?" Charlotte frowned.
"Kanoni means little bird. It's what we all use as sort of a… family name."
"So are you still a nut case?" Charlotte chuckled.
Bella shrugged, "Depends who you ask."
"Humans need to eat often." Benedict spoke up. Bella turned to frown at him. "You've been here a while, should we feed you."
"I can eat at home." Bella smiled at him and turned to Jasper, "Jasper?"
"Of course." He stood up.
"Oh, don't leave yet, we've just started talking." Charlotte jumped up. "I'll order something for you."
"If Bella wants to go…"
"It's ok Jasper." Bella cut him off, "Sometimes things that break become weaker, other times, they are simply remade and what's come out of before is stronger, a phoenix reborn through fire. I won't break for remembering, I never forget."
"Tell me your story."
"Will you tell me yours?" Bella asked tracing a scar on his neck.
"It's not a happy story."
"Neither is mine."
Jasper nodded and motioned them all outside, sitting on the porch in the dark humid night he told her about his origins. The death and destruction that was the civil war, brother killing brother and then meeting Maria, his change and the hell he'd been born into. He told her about a century of war, changing Peter and their tentative friendship that grew over decades until they were brothers. Then Peter cut in to expand on the story, they talked about Charlotte, her change and newborn year and then Peter saving her. Charlotte added pieces as well until they had gone back and gotten Jasper, escaped and become their own coven, right up until the point Jasper met Alice and then on to when Charlotte cheated with Benedict. They'd paused for the arrival of Bella's pizza but otherwise the story unfolded for Bella, like a terrible tragic film, not tragic for Charlotte perhaps but for Jasper and Peter, battle scared and battered brothers.
"After they finished the story it was late and the sky was dark, thunder rumbling in the distance as it poured."
"We should get you inside Darlin." Jasper finally broke the quiet.
Bella shook her head and met his eyes, "Life isn't about weathering the storm or waiting for it to pass," She stood up and moved to the edge of the porch. "it's about learning to dance in the rain." Stepping out into the rain she lifted her arms and began twirling. The vampires watched a moment before Charlotte pulled Benedict out into the rain and began to dance with him and Bella.
Laughing a little later, her teeth chattering and all of them soaking, they went back inside. Charlotte gave her clean clothes and they all dried off. Wrapped in a blanket by the fireplace Bella stared into the flames. They left her to her thoughts and stayed silent as she began to talk, backing up to the moment in the woods when Edward had left her and through the instituion, this time with details, including Damon whose name it still hurt to speak for missing him. She told them about the nearly two years she'd lived with him and the few months she was on her own before moving into Kanoni Manor a year and a half before. The telling took a long time and they didn't interrupt her but Bella felt emotions filtering off Jasper in little waves of sorrow and concern as he sent her calm and comfort through out.
At the end of it she was exhausted, staring into the flames again. She drifted off after a while and when she woke she was curled on the couch, all four vampires still there and the fire burning low in the fireplace, as though she'd only drifted off for a little while though she knew but the light coming in the windows it had been several hours.
Jasper drove her home and she kissed his cheek, "Thank you Jazz."
He caught her wrist, "Bella, your father."
"Stopped visiting because Victoria killed him." She nodded, her eyes sad, "I know, my mother told me he'd died and part of me… I knew. I hated Edward for that for a while to."
Bella cut him off stepping closer to the bike and leaned her forehead against his, "It was never your fault, or mine, fate is a cruel and twisted bitch but I'm grateful she ever let me know you." With a last kiss to his cheek she turned and ran inside.
Bella ~ It was a pleasure to meet you little human. I like you. I'm sorry to depart from you so soon but Peter and my mate have reached the limits of their tolerance of each other rather quickly this trip. It's a shame that unlike the Cullen's we don't play loose with the law. They ought to have known better back then and they were lucky they got off so light. Something that wont happen again and with Alice's mate it will be sooner than later. I would never cross Jasper, not only because neither my mate nor I are that stupid, but also because of all I owe him. Jasper is a smart man and even he knows my mate is right, you cannot stay human and live. I hope we meet again, with somewhat less incentive to kill you, I feel we could be friends. All the best. Charlotte.
I reread the letter and went to sit in my hammock and stare up at the cloudy sky, wondering about my promise to Damon. If I was dead either way, did it matter if I continued to exist? I knew in my heart that to him, it would. To Damon, as it had been to me, becoming a vampire wasn't loosing my soul it was living forever and even as technically the living dead, I would in essence still be living and I had promised him that ultimately, I would live.
When Jasper came to see me next, I didn't mention the letter and neither did he, I wondered if she had even mentioned it to him and thought maybe not. I began to spend every weekend with Peter and Jasper as the weeks started to pass and the more I knew about them, the more I began to love them and the more I thought of that summer so long ago with all the Cullen's.
"Are they still here?" I asked Jasper one Saturday afternoon.
"Charlotte?" He frowned, "They left a few weeks ago, she said she wrote you goodbye."
"The Cullen's." I corrected.
Jasper nodded, "They are."
"How are they?"
"They miss you."
I nodded and we fell silent again, Jasper was like Damon that way, he never minded the silence or pressed me to know what I was thinking.
It took a full other week before I brought them up again, "I think I'd like to see them."
Jasper nodded, "They'd like that."
Jasper nodded, "I'll speak with Carlisle."
"Do they know we're friends."
I snorted, "I'm surprised they didn't try to stop you from visiting."
"I'm not part of Carlisle's coven and they aren't stupid enough to challenge Peter and I, even if they were all willing to fight us and they wouldn't be."
Bella just nodded in acceptance and looked up at the sky, "Will you take me for a ride before it rains?"
The next week he picked her up in his truck and Bella walked a little nervously off the porch, grateful when Peter got out and handed her into the cab, sliding in next to her so she was sat between them, it made her feel safe, like Damon's anger and violence always had, it might have said something about her sanity or lack of it but she didn't care.
They drove out to a beautiful, new mansion with lots of windows and Bella almost smirked at the memories it brought forth. The two vampires flanked her going up to the house but Jasper led them in, Peter at her heals.
"Bella." Carlisle welcomed her with a smile.
"Oh Bella." Esme reached for Carlisle's arm, her smile soft and venom in her eyes.
Bella nodded to them both and then to Rosalie and Emmett before turning to Alice and the man, the vampire with her. He had blood red eyes.
"So you're the big bad Volturi." She focused on him.
He smirked at her and gave a sort of bow, "Demetri."
"Isabella." She grinned at him. "Bella to the Cullen's, Isa to the Kanoni's, Kanoni to the town. You can pick what to call me." He nodded, "Not that it matters if you're going to kill me of course."
He met her eyes and lifted a brow, both of them ignoring the shocked faces around them. "I hadn't planned on it." He shrugged.
"I'd prefer to be changed away from here, accidentally killing one of my Kanoni family for breakfast isn't in my life plan."
"Bella." She turned to the voice and rolled her eyes.
"Dying isn't in my life plan either Edward and when it comes down to it, I'd rather risk them with my new hungers than break the promise I made to him but letting your kind kill me because you are a selfish dickshit child."
All of them were staring at me in shock except for Peter who was trying to hold back his laughter, at least until Emmett broke out of his shock and let out his own booming laugh.
"Bella is aware of our laws Demetri, more so than I thought." Jasper sent her a small smile, "Clearly her choice has been made and you can report to the Kings that I will be changing her." Edward growled but looks from Demetri, Jasper and Peter silenced him quickly.
"When do we leave then?" Bella turned all of her attention back to Jasper.
"Is this why you wanted to come? To tell Demetri you'd be changed? How did you even know he was Volturi?"
"Charlotte." Peter growled. "Meddlesome bitch."
Bella snorted, "I'm not a child to be coddled and protected. There's a law. It was broken. Somehow Edward's stupidty was overlooked once and the family didn't pay for it, I doubt that will be the case again. So I die or am changed. I promised D I would fight death, that I would live and I will. If I knew you were going to do it we wouldn't have had to come today but I didn't because neither of you brought it up. Demetri is Volturi and he would have to make the choice none of you want to or maybe even respect my choice."
Jasper and Peter both looked a little sheepish but also a little impressed. "So I guess we're movin and you're changin." Peter grinned. "damn but you'll be a sexy newborn."
Bella rolled her eyes as Edward hissed at him, "Just don't let me eat anyone here and if we ever have sex, don't fall in love with me, I'm not your mate and you aren't mine."
Peter laughed loudly at that while all the Cullen's continued to watch as though they'd been shocked into statues. "No chance of that Little Bird, I already know whose mate ya are."
"If you say Edward I changed my mind, Demetri can kill me."
Peter laughed again and shook his head, "I promise."
"No one in this room?"
Peter shook his head, "Sorry pet, that one I can't promise you, but I also wont promise it is someone in this room either. I can say that you wont be needing to worry about your culty family since you'll be turned in Volterra within the week."
"Stupid yoda." Bella stuck her tongue out at him.
"I shall make arrangements for the Volturi jet." Demetri excused himself with a wink at Bella. "I look forward to getting to know you little human."
"You to, but Demetri?" He lifted an eyebrow, "The pixie broke Jasper's heart and I am going to take that out on you as a newborn."
He smirked, "I look forward to that as well."
Bella turned back to the other Cullen's, "I'm sorry, this probably isn't what you expected. I'm probably not what you expected."
"Jasper's been telling us about you." Rosalie shrugged.
"I like this you." Emmett beamed, "You're even funnier than when you fell down a lot."
"Thanks Em." She responded with an eye roll.
"So." Esme smiled and Bella laughed at how awkward it had become. The laughter broke some tension and soon they all began to relax and talk.
Bella watched as Alice watched Jasper, her eyes full of love and longing.
"How can an empath be that clueless?" I finally asked Peter, catching him smirking at my observation of the two and causing all the vampires to focus on me again.
"Bella?" Jasper sent me a dose of confusion in question and I snorted.
"Demetri isn't her mate is he? You said if you felt them together you'd know."
Jasper shook his head as his eyes went to Alice, "If he makes you happy as a companion."
Bella snorted, "Really the martyr, I'm not good enough for you shit is just pathetic."
"Bella!" Esme gasped.
"She's not his mate because she's yours. I could see it in Forks, in the car on the way to Phoenix, in everything you two ever did."
"Let them alone little human, he's stubborn but I gather fortune cookie has a plan, the pixie always does."
"The futures not clear and Jasper said we weren't mates." She told them looking away.
Bella snorted, "She sees the future, he's an empath and they are both deluded and miserable."
"She'll be back to being a pain in my butt by summer." Peter shrugged. "Just let them alone."
"What about you?" Bella turned to him.
"Me? Well Darlin, my Char really is mated to that ponce you met before and I ain't going to meet my mate just now, not that I know of, at least not before you're married." He frowned, "Hmm, not sure where that came from but you will be married."
"Oh joy." She snorted. "Let's just focus on those two." She waved at Jasper and Alice.
"Give them time." Peter shrugged again.
"They've had almost six years!"
"They were never going to be apart a full six years." He shrugged.
"You knew that?" Jasper growled at him.
Peter just shrugged unconcerned, "You didn't want to hear it from me."
"Jasper?" Alice whispered. "Do you still love me?"
"Of course I love you." He frowned at her. "I've always loved you."
Her eyes filled with venom, "I thought you hated me for what happened." She whispered.
"Hated you?" His frown deepened.
"For not seeing." She waved at Bella. "I should have seen that, made you hunt and then when you said you were leaving." Her voice had gotten small. "That you'd maybe be back when she was a vampire and I knew you'd come back for me because you felt like you owed me something."
He had her in his arms a moment later, "I couldn't ask you to live this life with me Darlin, not when I know it's not one you can abide and I just couldn't live that one any more but I wasn't with you because I owed you something, though I do owe you, I owe you everything and would do anything to make you happy."
"Do and be anything." She whispered. "But I love you, I want you to be you." They began to whisper and Bella sniffled.
Jasper lifted Alice into his arms turning to look at them a moment, "Excuse us." Then they had disappeared and Bella sat grinning in the direction they had been standing.
"Meddlesome as Charlotte." Peter teased with a snort.
Bella turned a glare at him, "Just because it took you six years and me six minutes."
"Six weeks more like and only that because you got them in a room together." He argued back making her stick her tongue out at him. Peter snorted, "Maybe I wont say who your mate is."
"Jasper will." Bella sniffed sticking her nose in the air making Emmett laugh again and reminding her the others will still all there.
"Just think what a small world it is." Peter smirked mysteriously.
"I think I'd land myself in a vampiric insane asylum if you were my mate Peterpire. I don't know how Rosalie does it and I swear Emmett isn't quite as nutters as you."
"He is but you were right in the assumption we were not mates little human. I told you, I meet mine after you are married to yours."
"Married." She snorted. "Right." Then she turned to look appraisingly at the Cullen's. "None of you look shocked." Then she sighed, "Jasper told you?"
"I might have tried to rip Edward's head off." Peter shrugged.
"Why?" I frowned at him.
He shrugged again, "I like you. You're like a little breakable human sister."
"So you tried to rip his head off and Jasper explained why?"
"Jasper kept everyone calm while Charlotte explained why she'd ripped his arm off after Emmett fought me off of him and since I had no real cause to hurt Emmett, I didn't really fight him back."
"Right." I rolled my eyes at him and then yawned. "Time for the human to be taken home. I have goodbyes to make and things to pack."
Peter stood but Rosalie spoke up, "Emmett and I could take you, if it was ok?"
"Sure." Bella shrugged at her. "I've missed Emmett and we never did get to know each other."
"No we didn't." She agreed. "And technically you are about to become my twins child."
"Yeah Auntie Rosalie ain't so bad." Peter winked at her, making both women roll their eyes.
Bella turned to Carlisle and Esme, "Thanks for having me over. It was nice to see you both again."
At home she went straight to bed. She'd tell everyone she was moving to Italy in the morning. They were all sad to see her go but wished her well and Nathan promised her it would always be her home and she'd always be welcome. Bella hugged them all twice even knowing she wasn't leaving that second. Over the next days she spent all her time with them, packing or just sitting around and talking. Bella had never been a touchy feely person, not before Damon and then without thinking, they had always been touching and when she'd moved here, everyone was physical, holding hands, hugging, gentle pushes while teasing, sitting curled together on couches, it was natural to touch. It wasn't sexual, just comforting, so she hugged them all often that week. When it was time for her to actually leave the house was deserted. They'd all said their goodbyes but watching would be to hard. Jasper picked her up in his truck, Alice bouncing happily out of the passenger seat and hugging her tightly as though this was the first they'd seen each other in five years, as though Bella were her life line.
"Thank you." Alice whispered into her neck and Bella knew if the pixie had been capable of it, she'd be crying.
"I love you too, Alice." Bella whispered back, clinging to her.
Her things were packed into the back of the truck and then she was piled into the truck, Jasper driving, Alice beside him, then Bella and finally Peter. Bella felt safe and happy. It wasn't something she was used to feeling, peaceful, content, serene even joyful but truly happy, that was rare. Like the first time she'd seen Jasper here, or the day she'd been released from the phsychiatric ward and Damon had been leaning against his car waiting.
Bella directed them into town and to the place she stored his car it had broken down shortly after getting her there but she couldn't let it go. Running her fingers along the paint she smiled, "I'll live for all of us Damon, for you and Darla and for me, forever."
The vampires had given her space to say her last goodbye before they were off to meet the Volturi plane. "You'll be the one to do it still, right Jazz?"
"If you trust me to, then yes Bella, I would be honored."
Bella beamed at him, "Trust you with my life? Haven't I always?"
"Yes." He smiled at her, "Yes you have."
She looked out the wind shield as they came to a stop and looked out at Demetri waiting by the steps of the jet.
"Just think what a small world it is." Peter murmured, repeating his words from earlier in the week when Jasper and Alice had reunited.
Bella grinned and she watched the wind ruffle Demetri's hair and felt a pull to run her fingers through it. "Maybe but it took him long enough."
"I've no doubt once he sees the truth he'll regret not having found you sooner."
"Lucky we have forever to make up for lost time."