JBNP organised a fundraiser for Autism Speaks, by asking people to contribute one shots and graphics for the cause. As the mother of two out of three special needs kids (one with Aspergers), I had to put in something. Others bought a PDF of them all. It ended up being over 200 pages long and raised over $400. A great effort by everyone involved.

Visit autismspeaks. org for more information on how to get involved, donate, or learn more about autism spectrum disorders.

Summary: NM AU, Bella has to stay at the rez as bait for Victoria. Jake and Paul are appointed as her guards. Paul was ordered by Sam to do it and he isn't happy about it. Bella is missing her visions of Edward and starts to do reckless things to see the vision of him.

Disclaimer: the characters and all recognisable situations belong to Stephenie Meyer - this is a work of fan fiction, except for the legends and histories of the Quileute that, of course, belong to them. I pay my respects to their gods.

Name of beta/pre-reader: Beta'd by Bansidhe and feebes86

Pairing: Paul/Bella.

Warnings for graphic content: M for language and themes. Discussion of addiction behaviour and some talk of suicide.

Artist that contributed any graphic - goldengirl2707


Always

[AN: the part marked from **to** is from New Moon, changed to third person pov. I have mussed up the timetable a little; Quil and the Clearwaters shouldn't be in the pack yet. *shrugs* but I love them…]

Jake insisted that they talk to the pack about how Victoria was hunting Bella.

Bella was sceptical. "I don't know, Jake." But she drove to the place he indicated. She recognised it as the road where he had taught her to ride a motorbike.

**"You're still unhappy, aren't you?" he murmured.

Bella nodded and stared unseeingly into the gloomy forest.

"Did you ever think that maybe… you're better off?"

Bell inhaled slowly and then let the breath out. "No."

"'Cause he wasn't the best-"

"Please Jacob. Could we not talk about this? I can't stand it." The words came out in a desperate whisper.

"Okay. I'm sorry I said anything."

"Don't feel bad. If things were different, it would be nice to finally be able to talk to someone about it."

He nodded. He sucked in a breath. "They're here. Let's go."

"Are you sure?" she asked. "Maybe I shouldn't be here."

"They'll deal with it," he said, and then he grinned. "Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf?"

"Ha ha." But she remembered the giant monsters in the meadow and she hurried to Jake's side. Jake held her hand.

She watched the four men approach. She watched their faces all change to furious when they saw her.

"What have you done, Jacob?" Sam demanded.

Bella knew Sam; he was the biggest and the oldest of the pack.

But before Jake could answer, another boy shoved past Sam and spoke, "Why can't you just follow the rules, Jacob?" He was yelling and waving his arms in the air. He looked really angry. "What the hell are you thinking? Is she more important than everything - than the whole tribe? Than the people getting killed?"

"She can help," Jake answered quietly.

"Help?" the angry boy shouted. His arms began to quiver. "Oh, that's likely! I'm sure the leech-lover is just dying to help us out!"

"Don't talk about her like that."**

"Paul! Relax!" Sam ordered, but it was too late.

The meeting came to an abrupt end when Paul lost it completely and phased in front of her. Jake phased, too and she was screaming at them both with Sam shouting at her to stay where she was.

Embry and Jared picked up the tattered remains of the young wolves' clothing, the discarded pieces of Sam's who was clearly more controlled, they joked, teased each other, made bets and drove Bella to Emily's house. Bella was numb. She knew Jake was a werewolf but seeing him change put it in a different light. He was massive; bigger than the gray wolf that Paul had transformed into. She hoped they were both okay.

They seemed it when they came rolling into the crowded kitchen. Paul had a pinkish mark on his arm that was evidently a fast healed bite or scratch from Jake if Jared wailing about losing the bet was any indication. Bella leaned forward to see it close-up and Paul winked at her. She blushed and shifted closer to Jake's side.

Jake tried to tell the story about Victoria hunting Bella. He kicked the leg of the chair Paul was sitting on and it splintered. Paul landed on his feet as the chair collapsed under him.

Bella made a gasping sound that managed to convey how impressed she was by the speed with which he had moved. Emily looked annoyed. Sam was resigned and Jake rolled his eyes and said, "We can all do that, Bells."

"Oh," said Bella.

Her eyes caught Paul's amused glance. He shrugged. "Yeah, we can. All got super reflexes. And, sorry, I suppose."

"Is that an apology?" Jake asked.

Embry muttered, "Should have bet on the chances of that."

"It'll do," said Bella. "And he wasn't angry at me, he was frustrated because people were dying and he couldn't help them."

Paul grinned at her. "Yeah - what she said."

Jake looked flummoxed. Embry looked intrigued.

Jake continued to tell them all he knew about Victoria and her plan to kill Bella.

Bella tuned out. She was distracted by the obvious and overwhelming love that Emily and Sam demonstrated for each other. So that was what an imprint looked like? It made her miss the love of her life.

She didn't hear the discussion about using her as bait and the pack had already made a plan that needed her to stay out at the rez during the school break, before she tuned back into the conversation. She just agreed. She wanted this over and done with. She'd make up some story for Charlie.

Paul had already heard all the info from Jake when they were both phased, and he was watching Bella. He noted how haunted she looked. And how tired.


Bella tried to think about it. Her line to Jake that she needed to talk to someone was truer than she had realised at the time. But she needed to talk to someone who was aware of the supernatural. That ruled out ninety percent of the people in her life.

There was Jake, but his aim in life was her. And she wasn't sure how she felt about that. She liked Jake; a lot more than any other guy in her life, but he was still... Jake. Her friend; not romance material. She felt that if she talked to him about it all, he'd see it as another thing that brought them closer together.

The only girl that knew about the vampires was Leah Clearwater. She had phased, but she was the angriest girl Bella had ever seen. She'd bite her head off before she'd help Bella.

Billy?

Holy crow. How desperate was she?

She knew that seeing and hearing hallucination Edward was not a good sign of the health of her mental state. Nor was the fact that she felt better when he was around. She needed to do stupid and reckless things to see him and the more practised she got with the bikes, the less he showed up. Did she need to do more reckless things to see him?

Like what?

Clearly, spending all her time with werewolves, as dangerous and unpredictable as Hallucination Edward told her they were, wasn't enough any more. She spent all her time with them now. At one pack meeting, once Sam had worked out just how smart Victoria was, he insisted that someone stay with Bella at all times. He volunteered Paul, who with much swearing and muttering, had to agree; Sam alpha ordered him to do it. He said Paul had less family, no imprint and he owed Bella.

Bella felt that they didn't trust her. They might joke about her being the girl who ran with vampires, but it was true. She was effectively their bait. They couldn't have her wander alone on the beach and get caught, or have her throw a hissy fit and drive herself home. The whole plan would fail without the bait being where they expected it to be.

So now Bella slept in Jake's bed. Jake slept on the floor and Paul had taken up residence in the twins' room.

Bella wasn't sure how to deal with Paul. He spent all the time he had to spend with her eating or sleeping. He assured her he could wake up fast enough if she needed him.

Needed him.

She had taken more notice of him after the scene at Emily's house. She wondered about him. She asked around when she could; rang a few people. She heard that he was a bit of a player; always had a girl on his arm. He didn't have an imprint like Jared and Sam. She watched him. He entered a room in the sure and firm belief that every woman in the room would sleep with him if they could. It was a confidence thing; like he knew he was an alpha male. He might not be the leader of the pack but he was certainly the most sexually experienced. That was obvious. She wondered what it was like to be so self-confident.

He saw her checking him out at a tribal party and winked at her.

She dropped her coffee mug. It shattered on the floor. He laughed and walked away leaving her to pick up the broken pieces.

She was on his radar now, too. Never would have been before, but the girl that Jake, Embry and Quil all wanted to fuck must have something. He thought she was kind of skinny and accident prone. He felt half bad about the mug. Maybe he should have helped her pick it up? Or caught it for her before it hit the floor? Yeah, maybe not that one; people would have noticed.

But he remembered how she had stood in the clearing and spoken to a vampire. She didn't scream or run or faint or …die… and he had been pretty certain that she'd die. But Sam said to wait. At least until they were sure that the dark skinned vamp was not friendly. Jake had been frantic.


Bella fed them, read books, chatted to Billy and otherwise went slowly insane.

She was being hunted and people were risking their lives to protect her, and she did... nothing. She was housebound. Not that she was much for the great outdoors, but oddly, being told that she couldn't do something made her want to do it.

She worked up the courage to ask Paul if they could go to the beach for a change.

He shrugged. "I can sleep anywhere."

He lay down on his back on a blanket he had brought from the house.

She wandered up and down the beach; staring off into the water and looking up at the sky. She stacked rocks into decorative piles and poked at things in the shallow water and then she went and sat on the corner of the blanket next to Paul. Her knees up in front of her and her arms wrapped around them. She glanced at him and he half-opened one eye to check on her.

"Going crazy?" he asked, and closed his eyes again.

She nodded but realised he couldn't see her. "Do you think I'm crazy?" she asked him.

He snorted. "You dated a vampire. Were you too stupid to know what he was?"

That annoyed her. "All of Forks didn't know what he was so that is not a valid point. And in any case, I knew."

"What?" He was incredulous.

"I guessed. I worked it out." She was proud of herself for that.

Paul shifted and rested his head on his elbow. He stared at her. "And yet... you still dated him."

"Pfft. Like you've never made a dating mistake."

"Never."

"I don't believe it."

"It's easy. I don't date."

She rolled her eyes.

"And as if," he continued, "Any of the mistakes I have made were life threatening."

"He said he'd never hurt me. And he didn't."

"You are lying to yourself."

"I am not." She was annoyed.

"Jake told me how often you went to the hospital. You nearly died just before the junior prom."

"That wasn't him. That was James; Victoria's mate."

He sat up so that their faces were level. "And if you weren't with him, it wouldn't have happened."

"You don't understand. I was special to him."

Paul snorted derisively.

"It's true. I was his singer; my blood sang to him."

"He sold you that line?"

"It wasn't a line."

Paul adopted a high falsetto. "You're special... no other girl has my heart... let me have sex with you or I'll just die..." He changed back to his normal voice. "You are nuts! He's a vampire! Of course, your blood sang to him; it sang 'drink me!'"

"And he didn't want to have sex. It was ME who kept trying." She looked horrified that she had said that to Paul. She clapped her hand over her mouth.

Paul just laughed at her.

She stood to walk away and he reached up to grab her hand.

Before she knew what had happened, he had leapt to his feet, scooped her up in his arms and started running for the house.

"PUT ME DOWN!"

"Shut up."

"What?"

"Red hair... in the water," he puffed as he ran.

She froze. She clung to him. She buried her face in his neck.

He dumped her inside the door of the house. She tried to grab at him.

"Stay. I need to phase. Warn the others."

She nodded but he had already run back outside. She heard a howl within seconds.

She wanted to hide, but she knew from seeing him phase quickly before, that he wouldn't have any clothes to wear when he phased back. It was ridiculous that she was thinking about this now, rather than Victoria attacking her. She hurried down to his room and scrabbled around in the clothes on the floor to find a pair of cut-offs for him.

She held them to her chest and waited behind the screen door. Was she imagining movement in the distance? She couldn't tell. She shut her eyes and didn't open them again.

"Swan?"

She opened her eyes. Paul was standing on the other side of the screen door.

Human Paul.

Naked Paul.

She held the cut-offs up.

"Thanks. You okay?"

She nodded furiously, without looking down.

He grinned at her. "You'll be fine," he announced.

"She's gone?"

"That wasn't what I meant."

"Oh." She wasn't sure what he did mean. "But she's gone?"

"She's gone." He put his hands up on either side of the door frame; he seemed to fill the doorway; his shoulders were so wide. "You have to open the door to give me my clothes. If I walk away, you'll see me." He raised one eyebrow.

"It opens outwards. I'll just smack you in the nose."

He laughed.

"Jeez, Paul. You got time for that?" Jared teased as he ran past.

She put one hand over her eyes and held the denims out with the other. She heard the door open. They were plucked from her hand.

He stood in front of her and put them on, she heard him. Her imagination filled in the rest.

It only occurred to her later that they had been basically flirting with each other. Paul was flirting with her! But, maybe that wasn't so special; he flirted with everyone.


Her need to hear hallucination Edward increased the more she went without. She needed to hear or see him. His perfect features, his golden eyes... She needed to see that, if only to remind herself that he existed; somewhere. That he was as perfect as she remembered. Billy had gone out and Paul was sound asleep one afternoon and she snuck out. She felt a little guilty, but it was overwhelming.

She had to start her truck and she knew he would definitely hear that. Without even thinking about it, she headed for the cliffs. Jake had promised to take her cliff diving and then they just hadn't had the time. She thought cliff diving would be reckless enough to bring back her Edward vision.

She parked the truck, walked down the path and stood on the cliff edge. She took off her watch and shoes and left them on the cliff side. She looked over the edge. It was a terrifyingly long way down. She remembered seeing the boys jump and how the thought had initially frightened her, until she realised they were diving. They had looked free and graceful... and beautiful.

It was raining and the wind whipped the rain into eddies around her. She held her breath and waited.

Bella.

It worked! She smiled and exhaled. His perfect voice; the velvet texture and the musical intonation. He sounded so real, so close.

"Yes?"

Don't do this, he pleaded.

"You wanted me to be human. Well, watch me."

Please. For me.

"But you won't stay with me any other way." She rose up on the balls of her feet, ready to dive.

"Oh, you are bat-shit crazy," she heard, before she was yanked backwards and away from the cliff edge she had been poised to throw herself over.

Paul. And he was furious. His whole body was quivering.

Bella, be careful. Werewolves are unstable and violent.

"What the fuck are you looking at?" he demanded.

"N-nothing," she stammered.

He grabbed her by the top of the arms. "You are! I can see your eyes dart off to the side." His face cleared. "Jesus! Tell me you are not talking to him."

She couldn't deny Edward, so she said nothing.

Don't anger him, Bella.

"You are!" He shook his head. "Jake is on his way. He saw you. They just chased her into the water." He pointed at her stuff on the ground. "Pick up your shit and let's go."

He didn't let go of her arm. He dragged her down the hill after him.

She protested, "I need to put my shoes on."

"Fuck that. You were about to kill yourself. A little pain will remind you that you exist."

"That doesn't make sense."

"And talking to your absent boyfriend does?"

She was crying by the time they got to her truck. Jake came sprinting out of the forest. "You were supposed to guard her!" he shouted at Paul.

"I was asleep. She snuck off."

"You bruised her arm."

"She was going to throw herself from a cliff."

Jake looked guilty. "Oh, well that must be because I said I'd take her cliff diving."

"Fuck's sake! Do you need an intervention, too?"

"No-"

"She's human and breakable."

"I know that."

"Do you! Do you really?"

"Fuck off!"

"Oh, ho - you like her."

"Shut up, Paul."

"I saw inside your head."

"And I see inside yours - gross, by the way."

"Wait until you have sex, Jake."

"Jesus."

"Stop it," Bella wailed between the arguing men.

Jake hugged her hard. "Bells, what were you doing?"

She started to sob and couldn't answer him.

"She talks to him," Paul said.

"Him?"

"Cullen. She sees him and she talks to him."

Jake pulled her away from him to see her face. "Is that true?"

She nodded. She was still clutching her things to her chest.

Jake looked devastated. "It's worse than we thought," he said to Paul over her head.

"What?" She was confused.

"It's the venom," Paul said. "You are a venom addict."

"What? How?"

"Vampires exude the stuff. To attract prey. Like it or not, you're prey. You are not supposed to be exposed to it all the time," Jake said.

"Yeah... you are just supposed to be attracted to them and then you die," added Paul. "Not breathe it in for months, like you did."

She thought about it. She had spent every waking moment with Edward and all his family. And he had stayed in her room when she slept. She would have inhaled it all night in her small bedroom.

"It's been months. She should be off it by now," Jake said.

"Well clearly she isn't," Paul argued. "Especially if she's flirting with suicide."

"I wasn't-"

"You were going to jump!" Paul looked so angry. "Point one: nobody jumps from the top, except the pack. They'd just die. Point two: there's a storm coming. The surf is about as friendly as a giant washing machine. Point three: they just chased Victoria into the water and she doesn't breathe so therefore, she doesn't drown. She could just hold you under and you'd be dead in a tragic accident. Or more likely she'd just watch you drown. And laugh... a lot."

A howl rang out. "I've gotta go," Jake said. "Stay with her," he told Paul.

"I'm fucking sick of her. Can't Embry do it?"

"Please, Paul."

"Fuck!"

Jake just ran off without waiting for an answer.

Paul glared at her. "Get in the fucking truck."

She was wet to the bone from the rain, shivering and half horrified by the enormity of what she had been about to do. She clambered into the truck. She couldn't stop the tears.

Paul glanced at her but kept driving.

When they got back to the Black house, he spoke, "Shower."

When she got out again, she found him in the kitchen. He was dry, dressed and even wearing a shirt. He handed her a mug of hot coffee.

"I don't want coffee. I want to sleep."

"No. You sit and you talk."

"To you?"

"Consider it an intervention."

She sat but she didn't talk. She sulked.

"What did he say to you? I could only hear your half of the conversation."

"What do you care?"

"I don't. But I think you need to talk about it. If only so that you can hear how insane it sounds when you say it out loud."

That was so close to what she had been thinking days before that she was rather unnerved.

"Swan?"

"You'd have to pay," she said.

"With what? I ain't exactly rich like Cullen."

"Like for like."

"What the fuck? I don't have voices in my head."

"You do."

"That's the pack and in case you haven't noticed, they're real."

"So tell me your secrets." Huh. She really did want to know more about him.

He gave her a balanced look. He poured himself a coffee before he answered, "Okay." He took a sip. "You first."

She sighed. "He said, 'Don't do this.'"

"And then you said something about being human."

"Yes, he always told me that he wanted me to stay human."

Paul snorted. "Well how is that going to work? You'd be seventy and have hearing aids and no teeth and he'd still be... what is he?"

"Seventeen."

Paul guffawed. He adopted an old lady's voice, "Did you say something, Edward?" he croaked, holding a hand up to his ear.

She was annoyed. "Did you want me to talk or what?"

"Sorry." He chuckled. "Then what did he say?" he prompted.

"He begged."

"Right. You saw him in the clearing that time, too."

"With Laurent?"

"Was that his name?"

"Yes."

"What did apparition Ed say then?"

She frowned at him. "He told me not to run - that would make me more of a target, and to beg. To say that the Cullens would avenge me."

Paul looked serious. "And none of that worked, did it?"

"No."

"He was absolutely going to eat you. And not in a good way. I am also fairly sure that Laurent dude had heard people beg before, so Ed's advice was useless. How old was the dude?"

"I'm not sure." Then she had a memory of him telling Carlisle how good James was. "I think he was nearly 300 years old."

"Seriously? Damn. And we took him out."

Not Edward. He'd been no help at all. Paul was right.

"He didn't like me hanging with Jake. He kept telling me that werewolves were unstable and violent."

"No, they're not."

She gave him a look.

"Oh... right."

"He made me promise not to do anything reckless or stupid. Real Edward said that, not apparition Ed."

"When?"

"The night he left me in the forest."

"He's gone," Paul said and Bella suddenly remembered that he had been part of the search party. "It was all you could say by the time Sam found you."

"You saw it?"

"In Sam's head, yeah."

"How did you know about the meadow?"

"We were behind the leech and I could see your face. You were looking at something else. As if someone a touch under 6 ft. was talking to you. I only put it together today."

"Okay." He had been watching her? Not watching the vampire?

"So if he didn't help you, then," Paul added, "why did you think he'd help you today?"

"I don't know. But seeing him makes me feel better. It's a grieving process," she defended.

He laughed.

"Don't be such a-"

"Asshole?" he prompted. He shook his head. "He's been gone for months. You should be over it by now. Fuck's sake girl, you're a bigger mess than I thought you were."

"Why do you care?" she asked.

"Waste of a pretty girl."

He thought she was pretty. She blinked quickly.

"Shit. Don't cry again. Jake will kill me."

"Humph." So that was all he cared about.

He was looking at her again. He always seemed to be studying her as if she was a puzzle that he couldn't work out. And then he seemed to make a decision. He took the coffee mug from her hand and placed it on the table. "Come here." He stood, pulled her out of the chair and into his arms and he hugged her.

He didn't hold her as hard as Jake did, but she seemed more aware of where his hands were. One was pressed solidly into the centre of her back and the other was tucked under her hair, holding her face against his chest. She was stiff for a second and then she relaxed into it and let her arms go around his waist.

"Why are you hugging me?"

"Jake hugs you."

She was going to say that he wasn't Jake, but that was so obvious. She could hear his voice through his chest and she could hear his heart beating. He felt warm and solid and real.

They just stood there for what seemed like the longest time. Neither let go. He had said he didn't care and that he was sick of her, but he wouldn't be doing this if he didn't care.

"Promise me something?" he asked.

"What?"

"Promise me that you won't do anything stupid and reckless?"

He'd deliberately chosen the same words. She knew it. She stiffened.

"But remember," he added. "That I'm not an apparition... that I'm right here. And I will always be here. And that I don't extract promises that you can break immediately by running off into the forest alone. That the pack are all risking their lives to save yours. That we haven't abandoned you. That we are all here fighting for you and that you ... you have to fight for yourself."

That did it. She just sobbed.

She stood there and she cried it all out. He held her and crooned to her and she mourned. For four months she had sat around like a zombie and she had never really mourned. She let Edward go and she clung to Paul.

When her sobs had slowed to hiccups, he carried her to the bathroom, sat her on the edge of the bath - she grabbed at his leg like a two year old. He wet a washer and wiped down her face. And then he carried her to her bed and tucked her in. He brushed her hair away from her face and kissed her forehead and left her. He stopped in the doorway.

She watched him with big eyes. He smiled at her.

"Right here," he reminded her. "And Jake will be here soon."

"I don't want Jake," she croaked out. It was the first time she had admitted that out loud.

"I know. Let's just deal with the redhead first, okay?"

She nodded. "You said you were sick of me."

"I lied. Go to sleep."

She had seen him decide on something in the kitchen before he hugged her. She just hadn't realised that it was such a big thing. She hadn't even kissed him. He hadn't told her any secrets of his, but somehow, she knew he would be there. He had told her that.

Always.