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The Circle Game

Summary:
New Moon AU - When Alice has some troubling visions of Bella, Jasper offers to return to Forks to check on her. When he finds her in a worse state then any of them could have imagined, he and Alice, with the help of Emmett, decide to take matters into their own hands - and bring Edward home. (Takes place just after Ch. 14 of NM)


Notes:
A huge thanks, as usual, to Katie, for not telling me I was crazy for starting Yet Another NM AU. Written for the prompt "It's an endless circle" for twilightathon over at LJ.


3. Part 3/4

Rating 4.5/5   Word Count 3778   Review this Chapter

Take this time to realize
That you always force a smile
In the midst of trial
And everything is always right
And I think that it's time
This battle must be won
But you pushed it aside
Pushed it aside
Pretend that it's gone

This circle never ends
And it's time you just face it
Don't pretend that it's over

--"Circle" by Paramore

"Did you see the look on her face when we walked out the door?"

Alice's voice was quiet, her eyes focused straight ahead of her as she weaved her way down the highway.

Jasper nodded. "I saw it. She looked like she was convinced we weren't going to be there tomorrow."

Alice was silent for a moment. Then, she shook her head sadly. "She looked so broken, Jasper. I hardly recognized her." She turned her head to look at him, and it killed him to see the pain in her eyes. "We did that to her."

Jasper ran his hand down her cheek. "You didn't do anything."

Alice growled, annoyed, which was better than pain. "Jasper..."

He sighed wearily. "Let's not have this argument now."

"No," She said, and he knew that once she was firmly decided on something, there was no stopping her. "Let's. You can't keep blaming yourself for this. I saw the way you were around Bella - you were walking on pins and needles, and while I understand, Jasper, you can't let the guilt keep eating away at you."

"I almost killed her, Alice," Jasper said, his voice rising, "And I would have if Edward hadn't..." He let out a breath and ran a hand through his hair. "If it was anyone else and I had slipped, in the end, the only thing I would have cared about would be your disappointment in me. But it was Bella. And while being around her is utter torture sometimes, I don't know if I could have lived with myself knowing that I had taken her away from Edward."

They were at the house now, and Alice had already stopped the car so she could turn her body in her seat completely to face him. She climbed over to his seat, settled into his lap with her legs around his waist, and wrapped her arms around his neck.

"Jasper," she said, running a finger down his cheek. Then, she shook her head and decided against using words. Instead, she leaned forward and kissed him.

Jasper returned the kiss enthusiastically, tightening his hold on her waist. Alice kissed a trail down his neck and nipped at the skin of his shoulder. He growled, then pulled her lips back to his. Alice gasped and reached for the handle of the door.

Alice was still in his arms as he rose from the car and practically ran up the stairs into the house, slamming the door behind him.

---

As Jasper ran his hand up and down Alice's bare back, he could tell she was anxious. Her entire body practically hummed with nervous energy.

"Alice," he murmured, leaning forward to kiss her shoulder. "What are you thinking about?"

Alice sighed. "I was thinking about Bella."

Jasper continued his path up her shoulder to her neck. "You know, I think I should be worried if you're thinking about Bella while we're in bed together."

That got the desired reaction - Alice smiled. Then, she turned around to face him. She leaned her chin on her hand and said, "I want to try to See her."

Jasper knew there was no sense in trying to talk her out of it if this was what she wanted. He pushed her onto her back so she would be more comfortable and said, "I'm here if you need me."

Alice nodded, then looked up to the ceiling. Her eyes went blank. The seconds ticked by painfully slow, and Jasper held his breath, waiting for Alice to come out of her vision...or lack-there-of.

Finally, after five excruciatingly long minutes, Alice's eyes focused and she took a deep breath. She turned over to face him, and her mood was both exultant and sad.

"Well?" he said, not really needing the answer. "What did you see?"

Alice grinned widely. "I saw her." Then, the grin slowly faded. "She's not doing so well tonight, Jasper. I think she's having nightmares. She woke up screaming."

Jasper pulled her to him and held her tightly in his arms. "But you were able to see her."

"Yes, but for how long?" Alice's voice was desperate. "We still don't know why I couldn't see her before. What if I stop having visions of her completely?" She shivered and moved her body as close to him as possible.

Jasper ran his hand soothingly down her back. "She's going to be fine, Alice," he said, laying a kiss on the top of her head. She nodded.

"She's going to be fine," he repeated.

He wondered who he was trying to convince - Alice, or himself.

---

Alice could barely sit still the next day. He chalked it up to concern about Bella being with Jacob and the rest of the pack, and impatience for her to arrive. Her jittery nerves were making him wiry, so he suggested that maybe she should take a run through the woods, clear her mind a bit. He didn't tell her that the run might also help her calm down.

When Alice returned a few hours later, she didn't look any more relaxed - in fact, she looked somewhere between dejected and confused.

"What happened?" Jasper asked, getting up from the couch where he'd previously been pretending to watch the news.

Alice's brow furrowed. Confusion seemed to be winning out over dejection, it seemed. "When I was running, I couldn't stop thinking about Bella with those dogs and how much danger she was probably in, and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get my mind to clear. So, I thought that if maybe I knew that she was okay, then I could wait out the afternoon without having to worry."

She threw herself down on the couch and looked a bit sheepish as she said, "I tried to See what she was doing. I was asking for trouble, I guess, because all I saw was the familiar black nothing, and that only made me more nervous. I just kept running, and the next thing I knew, I was less than a mile outside of La Push. It took everything in me not to cross the boundary line, find Bella, and whisk her away."

Jasper sat down next to her. "What changed your mind?"

Alice let out a breath. "I tried seeing her again." Jasper rolled his eyes. "I know, I know! It was stupid on my part; I'm a glutton for punishment. But -" She paused, and her eyebrows knitted together.

"But what?"

"I was able to see her. The second time I looked for her... she was in the car, on her way here. I realized that I should head back if I wanted to get here before she did. Hmmm," she said, putting a finger to her chin as something occurred to her. "Bella's been spending a lot of time with Jacob, right?"

"Unfortunately, it appears that way," Jasper admitted begrudgingly.

Her eyes were alight with excitement. "What if that's related to why I can't see her? My visions of her only stopped coming as recently a month or so ago, and Bella said Jacob's only become a werewolf as of few weeks ago. What if my blank visions are because I can't see werewolves?"

"It would make sense, although it also makes things rather difficult with Bella being with him all the time."

"I know," Alice grumbled. "I can't know if she's safe."

Jasper heard the roar of an engine in the distance. He grinned as Alice bounced towards the door. "For now, at least, we know she's safe here with us," he said. "Or, at least as safe as she can be with two vampires."

Alice rolled her eyes, and a flicker of annoyance reached him before she flung the door open and threw herself into Bella's arms.

"Bella!" She cried, truly overjoyed.

"Well," Bella said breathlessly, and Jasper could tell she was a bit overwhelmed. "Aren't you exuberant?"

Alice grinned. "I've just been anxious to see you is all. Come sit down." She grabbed Bella's hand and practically dragged her into the living room.

"No need to worry. See?" Bella said and she held her arms out to the sides. "I'm all in one piece." She looked smug as she said, "I told you I would be safe."

Alice's eyes narrowed.

"Safe or not," Jasper said, cutting in before another argument erupted between the two of them, "We feel better knowing you're here with us."

Bella rolled her eyes, but nodded. "Fine. I'm here now." She curled up in one of the armchairs, and leaned her head on her knees. "Why did you want me to come here anyway?" Jasper may have been mistaken, but there might have been a hint of sorrow in her tone.

"To talk," Alice said, sitting down on the couch next to Jasper.

Bella stiffened automatically. "About what?"

"Anything. We haven't seen you in five months, Bella, there has to be something going on in your life for us to talk about." Alice smiled. Jasper thought she was making a good effort, but was sure that if Bella didn't want to talk, she would make every effort to change the topic of the conversation.

He was right. Bella sidestepped the comment with perfect precision. "I would much rather hear what you've been up to. Where have you been? And Carlisle and Esme? How are they?"

While Alice spent the next half hour regaling Bella with information about each of their family members, their whereabouts, what they'd been doing for the past few months - all but one, who Alice had wisely left out of the conversation - Jasper watched Bella closely. She spent most of the time nodding, interjecting here and there to make a comment. Her carefully built up shell never faltered. Not once did he sense one ounce of emotion coming from her.

Then, he caught the tail end of Alice's sentence, and whipped his head around.

"...and Emmett's in Mexico."

"What's Emmett doing in Mexico?"

Alice tried to keep the alarm she was feeling from showing on her face. Jasper put a hand on her shoulder, calming her.

Cool and collected, Alice lied, "He's doing a favor for Carlisle. Something for the university, I'm not sure what exactly."

Bella eyed her suspiciously, not entirely sure if she should be believe her. Jasper held his breath while she decided. She must have chosen to take Alice's word for it, or at the very least not question her, because she asked, "How long is he going to be there?"

The tension in Alice's shoulders relaxed. "Oh, just another day or so, I think," Alice said, relieved. "I'm honestly not sure." This, at least, was the truth.

"Will he be coming here?" Bella said, and there was unrestrained hope in her eyes.

Alice hesitated a second too long before answering. Bella's shoulder's drooped and she dropped her eyes.

"We're not sure what he's planning to do," Jasper said, jumping in while Alice searched her mind for an answer that would put Bella properly at ease. "He may have to stop back in Denali to see Carlisle first."

"So, he knows you're here?"

"Yes." That much, at least, would be safe to tell her.

"He wants to see you, Bella. He misses you, just as much as the rest of us do," Alice said, going over to Bella and wrapping her arms around her shoulders from behind.

"Not all of you," she said quietly.

Jasper sighed. No matter how many times Alice told him this wasn't his fault, he knew better. If he hadn't tried to attack Bella at her party, Edward would still be here, and none of this would have had to happen.

Jasper looked up, and was startled to meet a pair of brown eyes. Bella was staring at him, and if he didn't know any better, he would swear that she knew exactly what he was thinking at that moment. The look she was giving him was piercing, and he stood up and looked out the window, just to be out from under her gaze.

He heard Alice ask Bella, "Are you hungry at all?"

"No," Bella said, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw her stand up and stretch. She slowly walked over to the windows and stood next to him.

Bella stared unblinkingly at Jasper for a moment. He vaguely noticed that Alice had surreptitiously taken her leave from the room.

Then, in the blunt way that only Bella could, she blurted out, "It's not your fault, you know."

Jasper stared at her, stunned. "What?"

"This," she said, gesturing in a circle with her hands. "Everything. It's not your fault. So, you can stop feeling guilty about what happened at my birthday party, and everything that's happened in the last five months, because I don't blame you." Then, she blushed, and a short flare of embarrassment washed over him. She turned her face away to stare at the sky through the wall of windows.

Bella had always been something of an anomaly - befriending and falling in love vampires was not something most normal people would easily do - but right now, Jasper was completely flabbergasted. How could she have known that was exactly what he had been feeling? And more importantly, how could she forgive him so easily, when he'd almost... killed her?

When he didn't say anything, Bella's blush deepened. Then, he noticed that beyond the embarrassment, there was a tiny flare of something else, so small that if he hadn't been paying so much attention to her emotions in these past few days, he probably wouldn't have noticed.

It was self-loathing, and he was sure what he was feeling was just a minuscule bit of a much more massive whole.

"Bella," he said, and she turned her head just a fraction of an inch. "You say you don't blame me for what happened, but... that's not because you blame yourself, is it?"

Bella's eyes widened, her face going white, and a flash of agony cut into him, then cut off abruptly. It was all the answer he needed.

"You do, don't you?"

She shook her head fiercely, squeezing her eyes shut, and wrapped her arms tightly around herself. Jasper could tell she was fighting against the emotions that were trying to get free, fighting to stay numb.

She was fighting a losing battle.

"It is my fault," she said finally, her voice hoarse. "It's all my fault, it's always my fault." Her eyes were beginning to fill with tears, and her voice was climbing rather hysterically, but Jasper still could feel nothing, and that put him on edge. "I'm human and I'm clumsy, and damnit, I can't even open a birthday present without causing some kind of catastrophe!" Her voice dropped to a whisper as she said, "No wonder he was only ever pretending to love me."

And with those words finally out in the open, the floodgates opened. Jasper almost gasped at the raw anguish that bowled over him, but the pain seemed to be too much for Bella, because her knees gave out from under her, and she began to shudder and sob helplessly.

No wonder she had wanted to be numb. If there was a choice between this kind of pain and feeling nothing, Jasper would have chosen to feel nothing, too. He finally understood, but the understanding did not make him feel any better. If anything, it made him feel worse.

Jasper was not accustomed to dealing with hysterical people. As a rule, most vampires had a disturbing amount of emotional control, and he made it a point to stay away from humans – particularly this one - as much as was possible. On the one hand, he wasn’t quite sure how to deal with her. As much as this sudden outpouring of emotion was a welcome, blessed relief from the blank, dead shell she had seemed to be the past two days, Bella’s outburst made him uneasy.

On the other hand, her final words were still ringing through his head, so he knelt down next to her, ignored the burning in the back of his throat, and put a hand on either of her shoulders, sending her wave after wave of comfort. And inside he was reeling.

Jasper had known that Edward would have to have told some huge lies to be able to get Bella to let him go without a fight. However, he never would have imagined he would have gone as far as to say that he never really loved her. And for her to actually believe him, after everything they'd been through...

Emmett couldn't get to Mexico fast enough.

After a time, Bella's sobs quieted, and she stood on shaky legs. As she wiped the tears from her eyes, he couldn't fight back the question, "How could you ever think that Edward doesn't love you?"

"He told me," she said, her voice hoarse. "He told me that he was tired of playing human, and that it would be better if he made a clean break and that... that it would be better if it was like he had never even existed." Her voice broke, the pain raw and obviously agonizing.

"You understand why he said all that, don't you?" Jasper said, hoping beyond hope that she would take what he was about to say for truth. "He thought leaving was what was best for you. He was trying to convince you that he didn't love you, but I don't think he ever imagined you would actually believe him."

"What are you saying, Jasper?" She asked, weary.

"That he was lying. That he loved you on the day he left you, and still loves you now as much as he ever said he did."

She whispered, "How can you possibly know that?"

"Because I know Edward. And if there's one thing I know about my brother, besides the fact that he has a penchant for overreacting," He grinned, "It's that he loves you unconditionally. Nothing could ever change that."

Bella didn't say anything in response. She didn't know what to say, and her conflicted emotions told him she wasn't sure if she believed him.

There was silence again between them, before Bella spoke, surprising him for the second time that night.

“It’s an endless circle, you know.”

Jasper simply stared at her. “What?”

Bella shrugged, her eyes still fixated out the windows in front of her. “This whole blame game thing – it’s an endless circle.” She turned to look at him. “You’ll blame yourself, and I’ll blame myself, and if…” she paused, and a ripple of agony shot through her. She took a breath. “If Edward were here, he would blame himself, and in the end, no matter how much we tried to convince each other that it wasn’t their fault, no one would listen. No one would ever realize the truth.”

“And what is the truth?”

“That maybe this is nobody’s fault. That maybe this is everybody’s fault. Maybe this is one of those things that just had to happen…” She lowered her head and her voice dropped to a whisper, “Even if it hurts.”

Jasper simply stared at Bella, completely floored. Edward was right – Bella would never do, or say, what any of them expected.

He smiled wryly at her, trying his best to mask his wonder at her words. “You know, those are some pretty wise words for an eighteen-year-old girl.”

Bella’s mouth quirked at the corners - the ghost of a smile. “Well, maybe if I hung around people who have been around for more than three-quarters of a century once in a while, I’d start acting my age.”

Jasper grinned at her.

Alice chose that moment to come bounding back into the room, phone at her ear.

“Emmett, that’s fantastic. Remind me to hug you when you get here.” There was a pause, followed by a roll of her eyes. “Yes, Emmett, you’re an absolute genius,” she said dryly. “Now, you’ll get your brother on the next plane out of Mexico if you know what’s good for you.” She paused again, her eyes on the ceiling for a moment, blank. “You should have no trouble securing tickets – the late afternoon flight will be half empty.”

Jasper picked up on the sudden furious beating of Bella’s heart, and turned to look at her. One of her hands was clasped at her throat, and she was staring at Alice, eyes wide and almost frightened.

“Yes. Right into Port Angeles.” Another pause. “No, we’ll make sure she’s at the house, with us, so run right here. Don’t bother stopping there.”

Bella’s heart picked up speed, her breaths starting to come in ragged gasps, and an intermingling of shock, fear, and pain hit Jasper in stilted bursts. He was finding it a bit hard to breathe himself. His throat ached. He fought against the thirst and tried to calm her, just enough for her breathing to return to normal.

She stopped hyperventilating, and shot him a grateful glance before turning her gaze back to Alice.

“Just… keep him calm, all right? Don’t let him change his mind, you know how he overreacts.” Did she have to have this conversation with Bella standing right here? “All right. See both of you tomorrow.”

Alice snapped the phone shut, turned around, and froze when she saw the look on Bella's face.

Bella was somewhere between shocked, betrayed, and furious. Apparently, she had decided to focus on the fury. She whipped around to face both of them, hands clenched tightly into fists at her sides.

"Emmett isn't in Mexico as a favor to Carlisle, is he?"