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Paris

Summary:
What if Bella had never jumped off that cliff? What if Alice had never seen her die? What if the Cullens had never had a reason to return to Forks? AU


Notes:
There are a few passages in this story taken directly from New Moon by Stephenie Meyer. That's because, in order to write this Alternate Universe successfully, I have to be able to take scenes already in the canon and alter them to fit the consequences of the different choices in my own universe. The characters are still the same, so they would still say and think very similar things to what they said and thought in the original story. That being said, obviously the entire Twilight Universe belongs to Stephenie Meyer. I am not that brilliant.


11. Chapter 11

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Chapter Eleven

I drove to the Cullen’s house all by myself, and I kissed Jacob goodbye before I did it.

I did not tell Jake about the things Edward had left me. I’d tried to throw the shards of the CD away, and I’d tried to rip up the note and the photograph, but it wasn’t possible for me to do any of these things. My hands would not cooperate. So I put it all in an envelope, sealing it with tape and shoving it between my mattress and box spring, where I hoped to be able to forget about it. I wasn’t able to though and I really should not have expected to be able to. I could feel the outline of the envelope where it rested beneath my left shoulder through the mattress, like the princess could feel the pea in that story Renee used to tell me when I was a little girl. Except in this story not being able to sleep once again did not make me a princess; it just made me more miserable.

The negotiations were still going nowhere. The Cullens were still demanding that I be placed in their care, while the werewolves were getting more and more frustrated. Jake was almost always angry these days, breaking furniture with his bare hands and transforming more often than seemed healthy. It angered me, it frustrated me. Alice did not come to try to persuade me again, but she stared pointedly at me during lunch time and in the few classes we had together. It creeped Mike and Jessica out. I’m sure it made the other people who sat with us nervous as well, but they didn’t vocalize their discomfort. As it was, I could hardly muster up the energy to glare back at her. I tried to concentrate on my food and pretend she wasn’t there. This was a new pain, ignoring Alice. It was the pain of losing a friend. As if I had not already known enough pain.

Jacob’s innocence was slipping away, until it was all but gone. The Jake I had always loved, with his laughter and his mischief…this Jake was disappearing before my eyes. The only thing I’d experienced that was more painful was losing Edward in the first place. I tried to hold him still in time, to freeze him in that one place I loved him best but I was beginning to think that it might be impossible. More werewolves joined the pack, and its numbers swelled to ten. I was accepted more and more in pack meetings where I was greeted happily by most. They let me in on what was going on more than they ever had. My disagreement with the Cullen’s demands placed me firmly on the side of the werewolves, giving me rights that I had not had before. I found myself confiding more in Sam, who at times appeared to be the only sane wolf left in La Push. Maybe it was because he was the oldest, but he seemed more wearied than angry at the ongoing arguments and discussions that seemed to mean less and less as time went on. Jake had at one time seemed to be second only to Sam in control of his transformations, but his anger in negotiations became such a danger that he was finally ordered away from the Cullen’s. He wouldn’t let me near him for three days after the order; his temper was truly lethal, and he spent the entire time in the woods walking and running the rage away as best he could. It was the first time since I had first driven down with two battered bikes in my pick up bed to ask Jake for help that I felt truly empty. I almost slept on Billy’s couch in my anxious state. Charlie began watching me with more worry in his eyes. I could do little to sooth him, but I started coming home earlier and making more and more complicated meals, if only to try and take my mind off of everything else. My schoolwork was suffering like never before because of all the time spent at the reservation. I figured I was lucky that the teachers were looking through me rather than paying any attention at this point any more. I would be lucky to graduate at this point and I knew it; having needless nagging from concerned adults who ultimately knew nothing was not something I needed to be added to my already overflowing load.

I was in the middle of rolling out the dough as thin as I could meticulously make it for homemade ravioli when Jake walked in. He was only dressed in his cut off sweats, but Charlie wouldn’t be home for hours and he looked so lost that I almost felt he could have wandered into the wrong house. His eyes were heavy and wide and hollow; the house shook when he staggered towards the counter to lean against, so heavy were his steps. In his face I could see the lost boy he really was but couldn’t let himself be. I dropped the rolling pin, releasing a cloud of flour into the air as I ran to him.

Bella,” he whispered fervently, but he held me so gently I could hardly feel his arms around me. His voice was hoarse and crackling from lack of use, but I soaked it in. I looked up at him, at the scratches on his cheeks and neck and the dirt streaked across his forehead. I stretched as far as I could on tiptoe—he was growing still, and was taller than I could imagine—and kissed his cheek. Dried mud crumbled off at my touch and stuck to my lips. He smelled like earth and rain and warmth. I squeezed him tightly despite his loose grip on me and breathed him in.

Jake.” I wanted to just say his name over and over, to remind myself that he was real. “Jake. Jacob Black, I was so worried.”

The emptiness inside me was filled just by the sight of him, but the hollowness in his own eyes made my newly reclaimed insides pound with rage. This was somebody’s fault, what was happening here, and I could not lay the blame solely on Victoria. His own arms tightened around me with dangerous strength, but I didn’t care. I could hardly notice, with the anger burning inside of him.

This was the Cullen’s fault.

I had never been angry at them before, not really. Not even when they’d left; that I had understood, that had made sense to me in the darkest of ways. But now…now, when they were unnecessarily hurting the people most dear to me and all because of stupid prejudices…

Now all I could see in them was what everyone else must see, what the wolves saw. As Jake squeezed me to him I could see what he saw when he looked at them.

All I could see were bloodsuckers.

I pushed Jake back just slightly enough so that I could stretch myself as high as possible and my lips could find his. I did not kiss him gently, as I had so many times when my guilt about not loving him as much as I was capable had interfered. Now my rage fueled my passion, my feeling for him, and I wanted him to know that I loved him.

He responded, as I knew he would, with even more fervor than I could muster and I found myself pressed against the kitchen wall. He tasted of dirt and mud and Jacob, and I soaked him in, but when he paused for a quick breath I held him off.

“There’s something I have to do,” I whispered. I needed to do this now, while I still had my head.
“No,” he near growled and tried to kiss me again, but I held him back.

“I have to,” I looked at him, and something in my eyes made him step back away from me. I walked quickly across the room to grab a jacket, draped on the back of a chair. It was then that I noticed that I was covered in dirt and flour, and remembered Charlie’s dinner. I turned back to Jake, who was staring at me with pain in every line of his face. I wanted to make him feel better, but I was too full of emotion. I was too full of need.

“Go take a shower,” I said, “and then finish the ravioli. It just needs to be cut and filled; use the egg whites to keep it together and not falling apart in the water. Set it to boil when you start the ravioli. I’ll be right back.”

I walked over to him, kissed him once but deeply and then forced myself to turn away and head for my truck. It was as I climbed into the cab and checked my rearview mirror that I realized just how covered in dirt I was. It made me smile, as if it was one of Jake’s jokes. I might as well have been living in the woods with him. I did not try to brush any of it away.

The roar of my engine made me grin. I felt so happy, somehow, through the rage. I could not figure it out until I realized that I was actually doing something, finally, something that might help. Yes, my actions were fueled by anger and guilt, but they were actions nonetheless; I was no longer sitting on the sidelines. Weak and human as I was, I could accomplish something still.

I pushed down on the gas pedal, pushing my poor engine to it’s limit as I neared sixty on the winding roads. Rain began to fall harder, steadier; it splattered on my windshield and underneath my tires. I wished for my motorcycle; I wanted to feel the rain in my hair and on my face, feel the dirt wash off my skin in muddy rivers. I wanted to feel my hair racing out behind me: I wanted to feel alive. If I started hydroplaning at some point or other during the trip, I did not notice. Even after three rotations the windshield wipers quit working I kept the same speed up. I knew where I was going.

It was only as I took my last turn, the turn that would lead me to my final destination, the turn that would take me to the Cullen’s house, that I realized I had no idea what I would say.

I tried to concentrate on the angry energy that had taken me this far but it was slipping away. I felt as though someone else had taken control of me, had taken me over. I found myself instinctively slowing my truck to a much more manageable speed; I realized suddenly that with all the rain I literally could not see outside. I carefully, cautiously came to a stop and began to breathe properly again.

What was I going to say?

I closed my eyes, the rain beating a rhythm onto the cab’s roof and into my skull. I saw Jacob there, saw the look on his face when I had kissed him and then pushed him away, as I had told him to finish Charlie’s dinner for me. I saw his eyes, full of pain and passion and anger and loss. There was still, though, around the edges a shadow of the Jake I had known before anything else had happened. That was why I was here. That was what I had come here to preserve.

I didn’t feel warmer or more certain, but more like strength had flooded through my legs and my arms, making it possible for me to swing my door open and step out into the rain.

I had parked, by the funny twists of fate that surrounded me and pulled at my conscience and sanity in the night, directly in front of the Cullen’s house.

It was still big. It was still beautiful. But now it was also foreboding; what would I meet when I walked back in there? Or more importantly, who would I meet? I caught a sudden flash of Alice at lunch, staring at me steadily from her seat alone in the cafeteria, and felt a sudden new wave of guilt that I tried to shake off. I tried to forget that I had once considered these people my family, too. I stuck Jake’s face in front of my vision and made it stay there. He was the one I had to think about now, and if that wasn’t enough I forced myself to remember the entire pack, both furious and hurt over the implication that they would actually hurt the one they had said they would protect. They were doing so much, just to protect me when I did not even deserve it. I allowed the guilt to fuel me, using it for once rather than letting it use me. I climbed out of the truck and slammed the door behind me, unnecessarily because they would have already heard me drive up. I stood in the rain for a moment, just gathering myself and enjoying the cold. I took a step, then another, forcing myself to reach the front door. As I raised my hand to knock (hesitantly; despite my resolve I found my wrists shaking) the door swung open before me, Carlisle standing on the other side.

I stood there, not even realizing that my hand was still up and in a fist, ready to knock. Carlisle was looking at me with such a genuine smile that I could do nothing but stare; it had been so long since I’d seen him and my first instinct was to wrap my arms around him and squeeze him tightly. Despite all that had happened, Carlisle still seemed to me to be one of the most caring individuals I had ever met. I realized I was lucky that Esme had not opened the door; I would not have been able to resist her maternal aura.

But it was Carlisle, and I restrained myself. I fixed Jacob’s face on top of my vision and concentrated on why I was there.

“Hello, Bella,” Carlisle said quietly, and his voice was warm and welcoming. I was not quite sure what to say in response. After a short pause, he continued. “Won’t you come in?”

“Thank you,” I murmured, and allowed him to gesture me inside.

The house was warm and open as I remembered it from a lifetime ago. I forced myself not to look around to see if it really had not changed at all. It was getting harder to see Jacob’s tired eyes; someone else’s golden gaze kept intruding, and it was difficult to ignore it no matter how imaginary it might be. I knew without even looking that Edward was not in the room.

“I’m sorry to come like this,” I tried to start without looking at anyone. That made it easier. I just stood there, speaking before Carlisle could offer me a chair or a drink or anything that might make me more comfortable and thus more uneasy than I already was. It wasn’t hard to stare straight ahead; no one in the room was moving. Still as statues, I couldn’t even be sure who else was there with me, or who was listening. “I know how much I owe all of you.” I had to stop to breathe. It felt like something was in the way of my lungs and my throat was coated with sand. I nervously tried to brush some of the dirt off my arm and onto my top. I focused on Jake with all I could. I clenched my fists tightly and exhaled loudly and went on.

“I just need you to lay off. I’m fine. I’m good. Stop…” Another breath. “Stop accusing Sam and his brothers of being dangerous to me. You’ve been so good to me but…” One more breath. One more hesitation. I saw Jake, I saw Sam, I saw Billy and Paul and Jared and then I saw Victoria, her eyes gleaming, and I found my anger and my resolve again and let it drive me. My entire body stiffened, and my eyes turned cold. I felt like I had turned into a vampire myself, into a statue.

“I need you to step away. If you’re not going to help, then don’t help. You were here, and you helped and you were so good to me, but then you left and it’s not fair for you to now try to dictate my life. I’m fine. I’m safe with the pack in La Push, and you have no right to stand in the way of a treaty between you and them because you are too numb to believe that I might actually be safe here.”

There was a moment of silence, but not of shock or discomfort. It was more like Carlisle was waiting to be sure I was done than that he was gathering his own thoughts.

“We want you to be safe, Bella,” came Esme’s voice from somewhere to the right of me. I didn’t look over; I was afraid that my entire resolve would crumble at the motherly look I knew must be gracing her face.

“I know,” I said. “So let me be safe.”

I looked down at my feet, blinking for the first time in a few minutes, and then up again.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered, even as I knew I shouldn’t. I turned and I walked out, fumbling with the doorknob on the way out.

It was still raining.

I realized that I was not seeing clearly, that I was wet and muddy and there were tears in my eyes and my windshield wipers were broken. I closed my eyes and imagined Jake’s arms around me, his own body so warm that I felt myself fill up inside and out, the warmth enveloping every part of me. I imagined how easy it would be to just cry, or heal, if only he was here with me.

I looked up, blinking the water from my eyes. It was then that I realized that someone was standing there, watching me struggle.

“Can I give you a ride home?” Edward asked.

I opened my mouth, froze. The mud dripped off my nose and over my lips, but I couldn’t notice. I tried to remember how my muscles functioned.

He was so beautiful in the rain. As I dripped like a drowned cat, he looked like a model. Even blinded by mud and water I could not miss his beauty, nor how the deepest parts of my soul responded to actually seeing him again. I did not know what to do when the simplest of my instincts pulled me toward the person the most coherent parts of my mind rejected most. I stared at him, and he stared back, emotions in his golden eyes I could not understand or describe.

I did the only thing I could think to do. I walked around him and into my truck, and I backed out of the drive and as far away as I possibly could before I felt safe to pull over and just tremble uncontrollably.

I sat there, my mind blank as a smooth and cold stone, until the rain stopped. Then I started the truck up again, and when I tried my wipers again they worked.

I headed home to Jake.