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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

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.

3. Chapter 3

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2933   Review this Chapter


Chapter Three

The next morning I woke up slowly, not wanting to leave the dreamworld my mind had created for me. I wondered if this was the way my subconscious was reacting to my decision to cease any and all reckless activity for fear of hurting Charlie worse than he had already been hurt. It was probably pretty funny that my hidden self was so desperate for Edward that in lacking his voice it instead grasped his face, but I wasn't laughing. I wondered if I'd ever be free of him; the answer was so obvious that I did not want to think about it.

I had forgotten about Jake spending the night until I was stopped midway down the stairs by the sound of his snores. Startled by the sound as I was, I almost fell the rest of the way down but caught myself on the banister. Tiptoeing into the living room as quietly as I could, I smiled to see Jacob sprawled on the floor, his limbs at odd enough angles to suggest that he had fallen off the couch without waking. He clearly wasn't going to wake up any time soon; this wasn't a nap like he had taken last night. I slipped down the hall and into the kitchen to fix myself a bowl of cereal. The air seemed somehow colder than usual, and I grabbed one of Charlie's old fleeces off of the back of a chair to wrap myself in. It also covered up my pajamas, should Jake wake up and come in, not that I cared so much about that. But still. There had to be some boundaries, even if I wasn't sure where they were anymore.

It was Sunday, and the sun was already gone behind heavy clouds hinting at a downpour later that day. I sighed, resigned to the neverending pattern. In truth, I was beginning to find it comforting. Too much of my life had turned unpredictable.

I thought on school, my one other constant besides the weather. It started again tomorrow; spring break was done. I wondered how the wolves would manage to protect me while I was surrounded by other helpless humans like myself. I wondered if I should go to school at all; putting that many people in danger made me feel sick. It worried me enough, living with Charlie. What if I ended up being responsible for the deaths of a hundred students? All of a sudden I couldn't breathe. I sat in the kitchen, staring at the clouds and hyperventilating until the rain started and I saw movement in the distance.

That's when I stopped breathing altogether.

I stood up from my spot at the kitchen. Lack of air made me dizzy, but I made it over to the window. My vision was blurred. Had I imagined it? I had to start breathing again, had to be able to see. I began taking long, slow, arduous breaths. In, out, in, out, and repeat. Things began to clear slowly. First the sink, then the faucet. My fingers, white and stiff, clutching the counter. The wooden frame of the window, then the pane itself. And finally, Sam walking down the road towards the house.

All of a sudden I didn't have to think about breathing, or walking, or anything else. I ran to the door, flung it open, and rushed outside.

"Sam!" I wanted to throw my arms around him, I was so happy that he wasn't Victoria.

Sam smiled at me, in that cautious, reserved way of his. My enthusiasm surprised him, I think.

"Hey, Bella. Where's Jake?"

I threw my arm carelessly behind me, motioning towards the house. It was only then that I noticed the rain, bouncing off of Charlie's fleece. I wiped some more water off of the sleeves, happy to find that it was waterproof.

"He's on the floor, sleeping. You want to come inside?"

Sam nodded, and began walking before I could take the lead. I didn't care about that, but it suddenly struck me that Sam had never come out here with good news. I hurried to catch up with his long stride.

"What's going on?" I called through the drizzle. "Is Charlie okay?"
He didn't turn around, just kept walking, but I could hear his response clearly. It was calm, not hurried, but it didn't stop the slightest edge of worry from sneaking into my stride.

"He's fine. Everyone's fine, Bella. I just needed to see Jake."

We reached the house and Sam walked inside, leaving me to catch the door and slide in behind him. He went straight to the living room without asking me where Jake was and stood over Jake for a moment before kicking him gently in the leg. I stayed in the doorway between hall and living room; I wasn't sure what was going on, or if I should stay at all.

Jake grunted awake, half smiling from whatever dream he had been having. I felt a little warm, wondering if I had been involved in whatever his subconscious was showing him. And a little guilty. My own dreams only ever really featured Edward. It was just another reminder of who my heart still, and always would, belong to. Even if I sometimes wished that it was different, for Jake's sake as well as my own.

"Up and at 'em," Sam said, and the fondness in his voice surprised me for a reason I could not place at first. Then I realized: he had taken on the same big-brother tone Emmett always had used when talking to me. I swallowed hard, holding on more tightly than was necessary to the doorframe.

"I don't wanna," Jake groaned, but he got up anyway, glaring good-naturedly at his brother. And they were brothers; they seemed to look more similar to me by the day, as Jake grew ever-bigger and more confident. They were almost the same height now, bigger than all the other boys. I wondered if that meant something.

Jake grinned over at me, my grin, as he ran his fingers through his bedhead and hitched up his dress pants. He untucked the collared shirt and unbuttoned it, taking it off and throwing it at me. I missed catching it by a long ways and it settled to the floor behind me. Jake then proceeded to kick off his dress shoes and began unbuttoning his pants.

"Jake!" I looked in the opposite direction, embarrassed for us both. What was he doing, stripping like this?

"C'mon Bella!" I glanced around to find him standing next to me, revealing his cut-off black sweats from under his pants. "I can't go around with all of this tied to my leg!"

"Why don't you drive then?" I asked pointedly, motioning in the direction of the driveway and his Rabbit.

Jake rolled his eyes at me, subconsciously shifting into a pose that made him feel more macho and grinning at me.

"We've got some hunting to do. Take the Rabbit back for me? I'll see you in La Push."

I scowled. Sam sighed at the entire display. But beneath the display I was worried. And frustrated that they would not tell me what was really up. But I pretended like I wasn't anyways, laughing a little for Jake's benefit. If it was time for him to meet up with Victoria, I didn't want his last memory of me to be of us fighting.

I didn't want him to have a last memory of me at all.

I stepped forward and wrapped my arms around Jake, shaking slightly with worry. He hugged me back, of course, but there was something different about the embrace than all of the others. It felt more like a promise. When he let go, he looked jubilant.

"We'll be back soon!"

He and Sam jogged out of the house. I walked into the kitchen to watch them disappear into the woods, where they would no doubt strip down and transform in order to run off to wherever Victoria might be hiding. I shivered to myself, just watching the woods for a moment before shaking my head and cleaning up my cereal dish. I wanted to clean as much of the house as possible, but looking down at myself in Charlie's fleece I decided to first shower and change into some real clothes. Not having the energy to wash the night before after working and cooking left me feeling grosser than I generally liked.

I spent the day scrubbing up the bathroom and the kitchen, and straightening out the living room again after the way Jake had left it. Charlie didn't come home until early evening, with clouds in his eyes. He didn't seem to look at anything straight on, and it worried me. I wished I had something better than leftover lasagna to offer him, but thankfully Jake had left a quarter of the pan behind the night before.

After making sure that Charlie was all set with his food and a game I had looked up specially for him before he had gotten home, I told him I was going to head over to La Push. I was nervous about leaving him alone, but he managed to crack a smile when I told him where I was going and wished me a good time. I didn't think he'd noticed that Jake's Rabbit was still in the driveway. The keys were already in the ignition, so I just buckled up and drove.

It was surprisingly odd to drive a vehicle that didn't roar like an insane beast and was able to cruise along at speeds over fifty. Even stranger was how much I didn't like it. It reminded me of the Cullen's Volvo, somehow, even though it wasn't nearly as shiny or new-looking on the inside. It didn't feel like Jacob to me at all, even though he had built it all on his own. I knew it was a big part of him, but it didn't connect for me. When I thought of Jacob and vehicles, the first thing that jumped into my mind always was a motorcycle.

But thinking of riding motorcycles made me think of Edward's voice. So I stopped thinking and concentrated on the road instead.

When I got to Billy's house, no one was there. The door was open, and I considered going inside to wait, but it made me feel awkward and uncertain, despite all of the time I had spent there. What I really wanted to do was wait on the beach, despite the rain, but common sense halted that idea; last I had heard, Victoria was running around offshore. So instead I started up the Rabbit again and drove to Emily's, thinking that the pack would end up there soon enough anyway. Sam was with Jake, so I wouldn't have to worry about being around him and Emily alone, I figured, and I liked Emily. She understood how it was to be surrounded by supernatural happenings and unable to do a thing about it.

I had never driven to Emily's alone before; someone had always driven me there, be it Jake or another of his brothers. I was pretty sure I knew the way. It was not, however, until I was back in the woods that I remembered just how narrow the surrounding woods were, and how long five minutes could be when surrounded by shadow. I'd never had cause to be afraid any other time I had gone to see Emily. I had been each time surrounded by werewolves, there to protect me. I watched the woods nervously the entire ride, trying not to jump too much at each flicker of motion. When I finally pulled up beside Emily's small house it was with trembling fingers that I twisted and took out Jacob's key and slid it into my pocket.

I couldn't hear anything coming from inside the house, but the lights were on and assumed that Emily was there waiting for the pack to get back. So I was surprised to come in and find the entire pack crowded around the kitchen table, with one additional member.
Quill sat in the middle of the group, with Sam on one side of him and Jake on the other. His eyes were wide, almost terrified, but there was excitement in them as well. He seemed to be staring into space, not seeing, and he made me jump when he was the first to notice that I'd come in.

"Bella!" he said, half-standing up in his surprise. "Hi!" His tone sounded more shocked than happy to see me. I half-smiled back. I realized what this all meant.

"Hey, Quill." My eyes found Jake's, and I could see the pain in them. This was not what he had wanted for Quill at all. He had still been hoping, uselessly I knew, that it might all be over and no one else would make the change. Even though it had been inevitable.

I suddenly felt the need to sit down.

"Bella," Jake said, standing up fully and towering over those still seated. "You want to sit down?"
I shook my head. All of the chairs seemed to be taken.

"You're car's outside," I said, reaching into my pocket and pulling out the key where it had been poking into my thigh and tossing it to him. He caught it with no trouble, even though it had been a terrible throw. His eyes widened minimally, but enough to let me know he'd forgotten his car left at Charlie's house.

"You want me to drive you home?" he asked, but I was already on my way over to lean against the counter next to Emily, who also hadn't gotten a seat.

"I'm fine. You guys can keep talking. Unless it's something you don't want me here for, then I can call Charlie, or something."

"You're fine, Bella," Billy said. He was sitting behind Jake, where I hadn't noticed him before. I wondered who had given him a ride over, if I had had Jake's car. I remembered Jake saying something about him being like the tribe's chief, so it made sense that he be present to help explain things to the pack's newest member.

"Okay," I said meekly, and settled myself against the counter. Emily winked at me.

Quill's face had turned from surprise to annoyance. He almost seemed to be trying to glare at me, but not quite managing it.

"She got to find out before me?" he demanded, though he failed to sound adequately nasty. I got the impression that he was still just a kid at heart, and too happy a person to be really angry. It was odd to think of him as a child, when Jake was his same age.

At his words, the table burst out laughing. It was as if there'd been some terrible tension, and it had been broken by a ridiculous statement. I thought the question was valid, but I had been able to feel the pack's anxiousness at having yet another join their group despite the Cullens' leaving and was glad of the break.

"Some of us were more pissed than you, Quill, when we found out," Jared grinned, elbowing Paul in the ribs. Paul scowled at the memory of his loss of control in the woods that day, and I shuddered.

"She runs with vampires," Sam said. I didn't know how to correct the present tense. There were no more vampires for me to run with. "She was able to guess without any of us having to tell her. Although she did have some help." And he glared at Jake, who grinned cheerily back, settling down into his seat.

"Still," Quill pouted, and everyone laughed again. I managed a smile. I was getting better at this happy thing.

It didn't take long for Quill to get over his jealousy of me; he had too many questions. I didn't blame him. But I didn't pay attention to the discussion; instead I let my mind wander, staring broodingly into space.

It didn't make sense to me, how these La Push kids were still turning into werewolves. Hadn't Jake said that it was the Cullens coming that had caused Sam and the rest of them to change? Why hadn't the process stopped after they had left? Victoria all on her own could not possibly be so threatening as to warrant so many werewolves to fight her. I could not figure out what it meant. I stared at Quill as he talked, not hearing his words. He was only a kid. They were all only kids, except for Sam. And it was true that I no longer thought of Jake as that much younger than me, but in reality he was only a sophomore in high school. Sam was the only one of the bunch who had even graduated. How could any of this be fair?
I felt a hand on my arm and looked up to see Emily there, smiling sadly at me.

"It's going to be okay," she said quietly, under the shouts and jokes of the pack. "Once Victoria is gone, it'll all be over."

I nodded. But in my chest, the wound throbbed. All of this pain, all of this being caused by Edward and his family, no matter how unintentionally. And still, more than anything, I just wanted them to come back.