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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.


5. Chapter 5

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2712   Review this Chapter

Paris

Chapter Five

I sat there and let the cold rush in.

Crying was not an option. It was as if someone had sucked the moisture out of my eyes. Instead they felt heavy, as if they were weighing me down. I felt the dull sort of pain in my head one gets after a night of not enough sleep. Blinking came difficultly, deliberately. My mind was working slow, trying to understand what had just happened.

None of it made sense.

I tried to sort everything out in chronological order, thinking it might help, but it was difficult to know where to start. Did I start at the beginning of the car ride, or that week, or after Edward had left, or the very first time I flirted with Jake to get information out of him? I tried to figure out a time when I had not spent time with Jake out of pure selfishness. From the very beginning, it seemed to me, I had constantly used Jake...and always for reasons pertaining to Edward. To find out what Edward was, to hear Edward's voice, to heal that Edward's absence had left in me. I felt so sick that I opened my own door and leaned outside, wishing I could just vomit all of the disgust within me out onto the pavement. Nothing came up, though, and I was left just gasping for breath, hunched over and shoulders heaving with dry, painful sobs. My throat was raw and my mouth tasted sour. I could not move, could not drive, could not leave. Jake's face remained there in front of my eyes, panicked and disgusted. That one word was the only thing I could hear, even above my own breathing: vampire.

I knew I would not be able to calm down. I was shaking all over. I knew I did not deserve any of the happiness Jake had given me, and now he knew it too. He realized how much I used him, even as I realized how much I loved him. It was nothing near to the amount of love that I was capable of, but it was strong enough to teach me that even a heart absent can break. It felt odd, as if my heart was nearer than I had thought it was. I could distantly feel the cracking, the flaking, the blistering as it burned itself from the inside out. The last time I had left it had only disappeared, violently ripped from its place in my chest and then hidden in a place I would never be able to find. I hadn't thought there could be any worse feeling. But to feel it not breaking, but combusting...the longer I stayed there with my body leaning outside of the truck, the harder it became to even stay conscious. But I didn't black out. I deserved this pain. Every minute of it was my own penance for not being good enough for Edward, for being disgustingly selfish toward Jacob.

And then I saw him.

I knew I was hallucinating. Nothing else could be happening; it was just like in my dream. There I was, horizontal and unable to speak. And there was Edward. Staring at me. His eyes filled with something I was unable to interpret with my oxygen-deprived brain, his face completely blank. I wanted him to speak; God, I just wanted him to say something. To yell at me. To insult me. To tell me again that he didn't love me. To tell me anything at all. But he just stood there. I wanted to get frustrated with his silence. Instead I soaked him in, all of him. Every inch of his face I wanted to memorize, because I didn't know when I was going to have a chance to have another hallucination as real as this one. It was easy to tell which delusion better suited me, hearing voices or seeing things. No matter how velvet his voice, seeing Edward in all of his beauty was infinitely better. I struggled to sit up, but lacked the energy. Nor did I have anything to say. I just stared.

But then he turned away. I wanted to cry out, to beg him to stay. He stared off into the woods behind him. And then he was gone, running as fast as Jacob had before him. This time I was unable to blink, though, and I saw him disappear among the dark trees.

Suddenly I could breathe. I could cry. And I did. I shoved myself into an upright position, and sobbed gratefully. Tears provided some release. There was some healing power in the ability to express emotion. I cried until my skin felt dry from loss of moisture and then I doubled over and vomited onto the roadside.

After I was done, I breathed deeply for a few moments. Then I carefully sat up again and was amazed to find myself able to see clearly. I closed my door and leaned over to pull the passenger's side shut as well. Then I turned the key in the ignition and drove home, slowly and carefully, following the speed limit to its exact numeric value and stopping completely at each relevant sign. By the time I pulled into the driveway, it was dark and Charlie was home. I was glad that it was impossible for me to be feeling any guiltier, because the fact that I did not have dinner ready for Charlie would have otherwise sent me over the edge.

I stumbled into the house. Charlie said nothing to me; he just cast me a concerned look. I supposed that it showed on my face that I had been crying. I forced a smile for him and apologized for not having dinner ready, but he waved me aside.

"There was plenty in the fridge for sandwiches. You don't have to baby me every minute, Bella. I'm fine," he said, forcing a smile more convincing than mine. I nodded a little too jerkily, mentioned something about being exhausted from schoolwork and the past school week, and staggered up the steps. Grabbing my bag of shower stuff, I slipped into the bathroom and turned the water on, as hot as it would go, and just let it pound against my back. I stood there for half an hour, not washing but trying desperately to warm my insides. Finally I gave it up, looking at my shriveled fingertips, and washed up and got out of there within five minutes. Toweling off, I glanced at myself in the mirror. It was no surprise to me to see an extra level of empty in my eyes, nowhere near as bad as it had been during my darkest times but still enough to bring worry to Charlie's face. I furiously rubbed at my face with the towel, as if I could wipe the expression away. Then I threw it around me, grabbed my shower bag, and went back to my room, closing the door firmly behind me in order to lock out the bad thoughts. As if it really was that easy.

I put on my pajamas and curled into a ball under the blankets. I forced my eyes closed. I did my best to regulate my breathing. I held myself together with all that I could. There was no way that I could afford to go to pieces on Charlie again. I could do this. I had to.

It took hours for me to get to sleep. Hours of forcing my eyes to stay shut, of curling into myself and trying to relax. When I finally did sleep it was not restful. Edward was still there, but instead of lying on my bed I was lying in the middle of the road. And he was not watching me; his back was to me, his attention focused elsewhere. Finally able to make a sound, I whimpered incoherently at him, trying to beg him to come to me, but his ignoring me hurt worse than his intent staring had before. When I woke to the rasping of nails against the window, I was almost relieved. I sat straight up, my room materializing around me, and stared strait ahead, expecting to see Victoria. But like the last time, it was Jake who was struggling to get into my room.

The last time this had happened, I had been able to relax. Relief that it was not a vampire coming to kill me had given me a comfort level high enough to even get angry with my werewolf friend. Now, though, I tensed up. I had a feeling I knew what this was about. Jake was here, come to apologize again. To keep his promise, that we would be friends. Or worse, to tell me that his promise was null and void, because I had already managed to rip the friendship to pieces with my own selfishness.

I walked stiffly over to the window and hauled it open. Jake fell—noisily—into my room. He looked scruffy, his hair in all directions and what looked like a long scar down the length of his arm. Mud was dried onto his face and chest. He stood up more carefully and stared at me for a full minute. I stared back, braced the entire time for the words I knew he had to say, my muscles so tight that my knees began to shake. Jake's eyes sparkled in the dark. Then, so fast, I saw a flash of white—his teeth—and his arms were around me, lifting me up into the air and squeezing me so tight that I was unable to breathe.

"Jake—" I gasped, my arms pinned to my sides and my eyes bulging from the pressure. "Jacob—"

"Bella," he whispered into my hair, not loosening his grip a bit, "Bella, oh Bella..." And he pushed me back and kissed me full on the lips.

"Jake!" My voice was too loud, but I was so tired and so confused that it was hard to notice what volume anything was at. Dirt was streaked across my pajamas and face. Jake gently tried to wipe it away with a giant hand, but they were as dirty as the rest of him and it only made the mess worse. He was grinning at me so hard I thought he was about to explode, his whole body literally trembling with joy. I took a step back, frightened that the extremity of the emotion might cause him to transform unexpectedly, but he pulled me back closer to him and held me to his chest. He stroked my hair, crusting it over with mud as well. His apparent happiness was infectious. It created an aura of excitement and giddiness that was as difficult for me to fight as it was for me to understand. I giggled into his skin. For a few minutes I was able to forget the disastrous kiss. For a few minutes I was just happy to be with Jake, as I always had been.

But then I had to pull away. The sudden joy didn't disappear, but it mingled in with the pain, the sorrow, and the confusion that had made sleeping so difficult. I tried to find the words to express my confusion, to demand an explanation, but my mouth froze even as I opened it. Even with me pulled away, his arms were long enough to be looped around my waist. He was grinning so happily at me, and the idea of me as the source of this happiness made my mind swim. Nothing was making any sense, and I needed to sit down. Or lean on something.

His arms where they were, Jake felt me sway and pulled me closely so I could lean against him. But he was too happy; like a little boy, standing still was difficult for him and he bounced on the balls of his feet, or fidgeted his hands against my lower back, kissing my forehead and my cheeks. My chest seemed to be tied into thick, heavy knots with my lack of understanding.

"I'm so glad you're safe Bella," Jake said, squeezing me to him. "I was so scared..."

"What?" I pulled away again, but this time to look him in the face. "What are you talking about? How was I unsafe?"

The memory that presented itself was as unexpected as it was unwelcome. For a brief moment all that I could see was Edward, in his car, scowling at me as he described how easily I fell into danger. My vision cleared and I realized that I was shaking. Only seconds had passed since I had asked Jake a question; he hadn't noticed anything odd, beyond my trembling. He seemed to think it had been brought on by cold, because he began running his enormous hands up and down my bare arms. I smiled slightly, having the shrewd opinion that he was using my apparent cold only as an excuse to touch my arms. I didn't complain, however; it felt nice in a million ways that I couldn't describe. His hands were warm, and not at all gentle: every few moments they would stumble and press in so hard I thought of bruising. The very act of him being so very not like Edward, of him being Jake, my Jake, distracted me for several moments from his eyes, warm and brown and staring at me like I was insane.

"How were you not unsafe?" He demanded. "Bella, there was..." He struggled with himself, finding the words. "There was a bloodsucker out there. He was listening to every word we said, I know it. He's watching you."

My first instinct was to pull away, but I fought it. Instead I forced myself to stand perfectly still. The healing power of Jake's hands seemed to be keeping me calm and in control and I did not want to move away from them.

"He?" One word. All I could say.

A nod. The disgust on his face was obvious. Under other circumstances I might have smiled but my mind would not stop no matter how hard I tried to block the thoughts that came: he as in him? My hallucination...him standing there, watching me, staring at me, leaving me...had that been a hallucination at all? Was he here? What was he thinking?

"Did you see who it was?" I managed, my voice cracking. I avoided Jake's gaze with everything I had.

Jake hesitated. He pulled his fingers away slightly, and I started shivering immediately like some switch had been flipped. He lifted his hands to my face, gently, carefully bringing it upward to look at him. He looked down at me, conflict in the uncertain hunching of his shoulders.

Then he shook his head.

"He was too fast," he muttered, frustrated.

All of the energy drained out of me like water. I nearly collapsed against him. His warmth eased the shaking, but I had to lay down. Standing upright was no longer an option.

Jake understood, even without me telling him. He scooped me up and lay me down on the bed more slowly than my sleepy mind could comprehend. I heard a shuffling, and then the blankets were brought up to my chin. He tucked me in like I was a kindergartener, then kissed my forehead in a way that was anything than motherly.

"I promise," he whispered fervently in my ear, "that I will keep you safe. From everything."

I turned away from him. I had heard this promise before.

I could feel Jake leave. The warm presence that had filled my room was suddenly and completely gone. That was when I allowed it all to wash over me: guilt, hope, pain. I clung to myself, wishing and ashamed for every wish. I owed more to Jacob. I owed him everything. But I could not help but realize that I probably should have asked him if he had recognized the scent of the vampire, if he had known him or not. But then, he would have told me if he knew who it was, wouldn't he have?

A breeze ruffled the outer strands of hair, tickling them across my forehead. I allowed myself to slip into a sleep, praying it would be dreamless.

For the first time in months, I left the window open.