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Survival of the Soul

Summary:
The trauma suffered by Bella for three years has left lasting mental scars. Surrounded by the support and love of the Cullen family, Bella begins to grow and finds out there is more to life than simply surviving. sots banner


Notes:


14. Chapter 14

Rating 5/5   Word Count 5655   Review this Chapter

Survival of the Soul

Chapter 14

By: Lady Saffir

Story Rating: R/NC-17

Chapter Rating: PG

DISCLAIMER: I don’t own any rights to the Twilight universe. I’m simply playing with Stephenie Meyer’s wonderful creations.

Thanks to Megami for letting me know that I don’t sound like a blubbering idiot, even when I am being a blubbering idiot. And a big, huge thanks to JokesonJane for making my banner. Thanks!

Come play with us over on the Twilighted forum, under the Alternate Universe tab. I love answering questions about the story and dropping teasers. J For those on ff.net, you get a preview with a review several days before I post the next chapter.

"One who goes doggedly on when frightened near out of her wits shows greater bravery than the warrior who charges into battle without thinking of the odds" Juliet Marillier

“Becoming a father is easy enough, but being one can be very rough” Wilhelm Busch

*************

The first sunny day was rapidly approaching.

Alice had actually been checking the weather for cloudy days in California so that she and Rosalie could go on a shopping trip, but the sun shining brightly down on the sign for Forks High School had intruded. It also happened to fall on the day designated as ‘Take your daughters to work day’. She had looked and saw Rosalie with Carlisle in the hospital, and she and Esme in Seattle, but looking for Bella only found her in school.

Alice pursed her lips, thinking. School had been in session for five weeks now, the beginning of October bringing above normal warm days for the region. Bella had made leaps and bounds in her handling of school and the other students, but Alice wasn’t fooled. Her sister had yet to go all day without one of the family interfering somehow in the plans of the other students to separate Bella from the Cullens, and Alice feared what would happen if Bella was left to her own devices.

Concentrating, she scanned the vision harder. It looked as if it would only be sunny until lunch time, then the cloud cover would be enough that the family could move easy about in public. Still, did Bella need to go to school that day?

The answer, unfortunately, was yes. Apparently there was going to be a test in her Spanish class that she couldn’t miss, and her History and Biology teachers were going to be assigning group projects. If Bella didn’t go, she would end up with Jessica Stanley as her partner in History, and even Alice knew she didn’t need to look ahead to see the disaster that would be.

Fine. Bella would go to school, but she’d be keeping her eye on her, and Carlisle on speed dial.

*************

Bella looked up from her meal when Carlisle cleared his throat. His face was serious and she instinctively stilled, afraid of what he was going to say. What had happened? Had she done something? A fine tremble started in her hands.

“What is it?” she asked, looking to Alice when Carlisle’s eyes had slid in her direction.

“Nothing bad, Bella, just a sunny day,” Alice assured her.

“When?”

“Next Friday.”

“Oh, but school-“

“Usually the others skip on sunny days, Bella, and the other students and teachers believe all of us to be hiking,” Carlisle interrupted.

“What will we be doing then?” Bella asked, looking back and forth between Carlisle and Alice.

Carlisle sighed, running a hand through his hair. “Unfortunately, Bella – “

“You’re going to have to go to school,” Alice interjected. She reached over and took Bella’s hand in her own, patting it comfortingly. “You have a test in Spanish that you can’t miss. And Mrs. Hammock will assign Jessica as your project partner if you aren’t there,” she continued. “Those are the only two things I’ve seen happening. I promise you I’ll keep looking for anything bad.”

Bella’s trembling was growing, spreading through her body quickly as she fought back the panic that threatened to take over. She couldn’t go to school by herself, no matter what Alice said. Would it really be so bad for Jessica to be her partner? And Mrs. Goff hadn’t said anything about a test, so maybe Alice was confusing the dates.

“Alice says it will only be sunny until lunch, Bella,” Carlisle stated. “If you’d like for us to pick you up then we can.”

The finality in Carlisle’s tone did more to convince Bella she would be going to school without the others than Alice’s words.

*****************

It was now Thursday, and Edward, perhaps even more so than Jasper, was well aware of the tension running through the Cullen household. Esme had bid them a good morning as they’d all filed out to the cars, her thoughts lingering on Bella as she watched her daughter trip on the lip of the doorway. Alice was continuously checking the future so that she could assure Bella everything would be fine.

The others didn’t dwell on the possible trouble to come, but random thoughts showed their concern. Emmett, watching Eric Yorkie say hello to Bella in the lunch line, wondered if perhaps he needed to do something to remind the boys in school just who would be upset if Bella were upset. Rosalie hoped Bella would remember to act normally. Jasper was concerned about the emotional climate the three of them would be walking in to when they returned from their day hunting trip.

And while Alice hadn’t seen anything happening, Edward had a bad feeling. He could hear the thoughts of the other students, and knew just how many were wanting to speak to Bella and get to know her better. The only thing slowing them down was the near constant companionship of one of the family. The wolves were sure to descend once it became known Bella was without her usual companions.

No one had truly bad or malicious thoughts regarding Bella, but Edward was well aware that teenage boys (and, at time, girls) weren’t the most observant of body language, nor were they that well versed with handling charged emotions. It would only take one seemingly innocent statement, he knew, to set back Bella’s recovery.

They were now in Biology, the now familiar proximity of Bella’s enticing scent causing the expected burn at the back of Edward’s throat. He was unable to stop himself from clenching a fist as a wayward breeze blew her scent directly into his face, making him close his eyes and hold his breath to keep from showing the pull he felt.

The distraction, when it came, was a double edged sword. Mike Newton was watching Bella as she studiously copied notes from the overhead while Mr. Banner droned on.

I wonder what she’d say if I asked her to the homecoming dance with me, Mike wondered.

It would have been humorous, had it been any other girl, but Eric was thinking the exact same thing.

Edward was unaware of the low growl he let out until he noticed Bella flinch, even as she turned to look at him with wide eyes. He berated himself, pulling a smile onto his face.

“It’s nothing,” he whispered. “A stray thought I didn’t like. Everything’s okay.”

Everything was not okay, he thought, watching as his seat mate turned back to the teacher. He had a sinking feeling that tomorrow more than one boy was going to ambush Bella and ask her on a date.

***************

Bella was silent as Esme drove her to school. The driving lessons with Carlisle were slowly but surely building her confidence in handling a car, but she was nowhere near ready to drive to school. Alice chatted with her from the front seat but Bella was only able to half pay attention to the conversation.

“Alice, that doesn’t count,” Esme’s voice broke into Bella’s thoughts as she tuned back into the world.

“How does it not? Bella agreed and I’m going to hold her to that,” Alice argued, twisting in her seat to look at her sister. “Right, Bella? You did say that I could give you a make-over this weekend. Do you want red or pink nail polish?”

What? When had she agreed to this? Bella frantically cast her thoughts back, trying to remember the conversation and what she might have said. Her dread grew as she was just able to recall Alice saying something along the lines of a manicure and pedicure.

“We’ll talk about it later, Bella,” Alice promised, grinning at her sister as they parked in front of the school. “Just think of it as something to look forward to when you get home.”

Bella pulled herself from the car, returning Esme’s worried goodbye half-heartedly. She needed to figure out how to get out of the torture time Alice had just promised her. Distracted, she pushed through the throng of students towards first period English.

***********

“Alice, what-“

“It’ll keep her distracted long enough to get to English and settled in,” Alice interrupted. “After that it’s all her.”

Understanding now, Esme pulled back into traffic, promising herself that she and Alice would work quickly while in Seattle. Hopefully they’d be finished and on their way back home well before school let out.

************

First and second period wasn’t so bad, Bella thought. The teachers had lectured throughout the entire period so talking amongst the students had been discouraged. Angela had walked with her, as usual, to History. Ben, one of Angela’s friends, had caught up with them outside of the classroom and informed them that they would be choosing partners for a project. Angela had immediately asked Bella to be her partner, so she was able to turn Jessica down when she had asked.

By Spanish, though, Bella’s nerves were frayed. Word seemed to have spread quickly that the Cullens’ weren’t in school, only Bella. She had already ducked into the girl’s bathroom twice and waited till the last minute before dashing to class, in an effort to avoid having to talk to anyone. She mechanically scrawled answers to the test Mrs. Goff had sprung on them, accidently flipping verbs on two answers. She could only stare at the clock as the minute hand did its inexorable march to the time that would mean class was over.

Bella hung back even as the other students scrambled out the door when the bell rang, slowly placing her things in her backpack. She had no desire to eat, let alone sit in the cafeteria, even though Angela had invited her to sit with her and her friends. Stomach churning, she thought of entering the cafeteria, knowing that people would be looking at her.

Her phone chirped, signaling a text. She found the message to be from Alice, instructing her to go to the Biology room. Complying, Bella could only breathe a sigh of relief when Mr. Banner ushered her into the room, stating he would be in his office if she needed anything.

Moving to her usual desk, Bella pulled Wuthering Heights from her bag, flipping to the correct page before settling in to read. She barely acknowledged Mr. Banner when he stuck his head in to say that he was running to the teacher’s lounge for just a moment.

***********

“Bella!”

Bella stopped breathing as he head snapped up, watching Mike enter the Biology room. She looked around, hoping Mr. Banner had returned from his vending machine trip. Her hands started to shake as she stuffed them under the desk, hoping it wasn’t noticeable.

“Hey, glad I found you,” Mike continued. He was at the corner of her desk now, settling on the edge and smiling down at the girl before him. He had hoped to find her alone so he could talk to her. It was so rare that any of the Cullens’ left her alone. This was perfect. He could talk to her and ask her to the home coming dance, and neither Edward nor Emmett was around to interfere.

“So, listen, I, um…homecoming’s next week,” Mike stammered. “And, uh, well, there’s a dance. And, um, I was wondering, if maybe you’d like to go…with me,” he clarified, staring at the table top instead of meeting Bella’s eyes.

Silence.

“I mean, well, if you aren’t going with anyone else. I know several guys are hoping you’ll go with them,” he trailed off, chancing a look at Bella. She didn’t look so hot, he noted. Her already pale face was white, and…was she shaking? What was wrong with her? Was she sick, and that’s why she was in here instead of the cafeteria?

“Bella?” Thoughts of trying to score a date to the homecoming dance fell away as his concern grew. What was wrong with her?

“Bella, are you okay?” Mike asked, leaning over, placing one hand on Bella’s shoulder.

At the contact her head snapped up, her eyes wide and frightened.

“Don’t touch me!” She shrieked, pushing back in her chair, standing so fast her seat fell to the floor in a clatter. She stumbled back a few steps, tripping on her feet and falling to the floor.

“Bella, what’s wrong?”

“No, no, no, nonononono,” Bella chanted, scooting backwards on the floor till she hit the back counter.

“Bella?”

“Mike!”

The blonde haired boy spun at his name. Angela ran into the room, taking in the scene before her before moving to her friend’s side. “It’s alright, Bella, it’s me, Angela,” she soothed, even as she turned to stare at her classmate. “What did you do?!”

“Nothing, I swear!” Mike raised both hands in the air. “All I did was ask her to the dance and she started freaking. What’s wrong with her?”

“Go find-“ Angela was cut off at Mr. Banner’s appearance.

“Mr. Banner!” she cried, pulling the teacher’s attention. “Mr. Banner, something’s wrong with Bella.”

The teacher moved swiftly to Bella’s side, reaching one hand out in concern. His hand fell limp at his side when Bella cried out, scrunching herself as far away as possible. “It’s okay, Bella. Angela’s going to help you to the nurse’s office, alright?”

At the older man’s nod, Angela stood, tugging on Bella’s hands. She came willingly, her eyes still wide as she cast her gaze around frantically, trying to see everywhere at once.

“This way, Bella. We’ll get you to the office and you can lie down while we call your parents,” Angela kept up a mindless litany of words as she walked with her friend to the office, Mr. Banner and Mike trailing behind.

***********

Mrs. Cope looked up in shock at the procession that came through the office door.

“Angela! And Bella! What happened?” she asked, moving from around the counter. Her raised voice pulled Mr. Smith and Mrs. Lyle, the Vice-Principal, from their offices. A babble of conversation broke out around the two girls, Mr. Smith finally powering his way through.

“Ms. Weber, please bring Ms. Swan to my office,” he directed. “Bruce, what happened?”

Mr. Banner shook his head helplessly. “Bella was in my classroom, reading. I told her I’d be right back while I ran down to the teacher’s lounge to get a drink. I came back to find her, Angela and Mike in my room, with Bella like this,” he gestured to the still shocked girl.

“I see. Ms. Weber?”

“I went looking for Bella when she didn’t show up for lunch,” Angela said, looking up from her seat on the couch. “She was on the floor and Mike was with her.”

“Mr. Newton, care to explain yourself?”

Mike looked up, swallowing hard. “I didn’t do anything. I went to find Bella and ask her to the homecoming dance. She all the sudden just freaked and wouldn’t say anything other than ‘No’. What’s wrong with her? Is she sick?” he asked anxiously.

“Thank you, Mr. Newton, for your concern, but we’ll take care of Bella now. I believe you need to be heading off to class,” Mr. Smith redirected the teen, waiting for him to leave before continuing. “Ms. Weber, what class do you have now?”

“Biology. “

“Bruce-“

“Of course she can stay here with Bella,” Mr. Banner interrupted. “I’m going to head back to class if you don’t need me.”

“Thank you, Bruce,” Mr. Smith said. “Mrs. Cope,” he turned to the older woman who was hovering in the doorway, “if you could be so kind as to find Dr. Cullen’s phone number and bring it to me,” he directed. “Ah, Shelley, good,” the relief in the Principal’s voice as the school counselor appeared was evident. “Something has upset Ms. Swan. If you could please sit with her while we get hold of Dr. Cullen, I would appreciate it.”

***********

Carlisle and Rosalie had sequestered themselves in his office on the pretense of having a private father-daughter lunch. The day had progressed smoothly, albeit some tedium having been experienced as Rosalie was subjected to an infantile introduction of the medical field as part of the ‘Take Your Daughter to Work Day’ experience. Rosalie was seriously contemplating returning to medical school and completing her residency, a move she knew Carlisle supported.

The phone ringing interrupted Carlisle as he was explaining a surgery technique.

“Dr. Cullen,” he answered, his smile fading when he heard the voice of the school principal.

Rosalie listened in unabashedly.

“Dr. Cullen, this is Marcus Smith at Forks’ High. Bella is in my office right now. She-“

“She isn’t hurt?” Carlisle broke in.

“No. She appears to have had some type of panic attack. She’s fine, but she refuses to speak to any of us,” Principal Smith elaborated.

“I’ll be there in just a few minutes,” Carlisle promised, hanging up.

**************

“We’re lucky this happened now and not in the morning,” Rosalie commented, watching Carlisle open the throttle and let the car run.

“I want to know what happened,” Carlisle replied grimly. “I don’t care when. “

Rosalie stared at the man who pretended to be her father, her head tilted consideringly. “You really are in dad mode with her, aren’t you?” she wondered, secretly pleased. He and Esme had to use them as substitutes, but really, how much parenting could one vampire do to another? Especially when the six ‘children’ in question had been alive for a century or longer?

“Rosalie – “

Despite the seriousness of the moment, Rosalie could only smirk at the exasperation in Carlisle’s tone.

“It isn’t a bad thing,” she insisted. “Bella needs parental figures. We look close enough to her age that she sees us as the teenagers we portray, even though she knows we’re older. You and Esme are helping her regain her trust in adults.”

Touched by her words, Carlisle didn’t reply, instead choosing to focus on the road leading to the high school.

**************

Mrs. Cope was expecting Dr. Cullen to be worried when he finally appeared. She wasn’t expecting him to practically tear the door from the hinges as he strode quickly into the room, his gaze sweeping the small space even as he called out for his daughter.

“Bella?”

“Dr. Cullen!” Mrs. Cope hurried from behind the counter. “She’s in Mr. Smith’s office,” she stated, leading the way down a short hall. “Marcus, Dr. Cullen is here,” she called out, standing to one side so Carlisle could enter the small space, trailed by Rosalie.

Carlisle took the room in quickly. Bella was seated on a couch, her knees drawn to her chest, her face buried. A teenage girl sat beside her, and the principal and an unknown woman hovered off to the side.

“Dr. Cullen,” Mr. Smith greeted, forcing a strained smile. “Bella’s safe, as you can see, but we can’t get her to talk about what happened. This is Angela Weber, one of Bella’s classmates that brought her in,” he explained.

“Marcus. Thank you for calling me. What happened?”

“It appears that Bella was having lunch in the Biology room. One of her classmates apparently entered the room and said something that upset Bella. Ms. Weber here found her as it was happening, and the teacher whose room she was in escorted the two of them here. “

Carlisle nodded, moving to kneel before Bella. He hesitantly reached one hand out, resting it gently on her shoulder. “Bella?”

*************

Bella was vaguely aware of voices coming from the people around her, but it was as if her hearing had been turned down. She couldn’t see the room around her. All she could see was the small little room that James used to ‘entertain’ his guests, his words echoing in her head. ‘I’m glad I found you, Bella. You’re just too sweet to pass up.’

No. She wouldn’t go back to that. Esme and Carlisle had promised her that she was safe. But parents always said things to their kids to keep them from being upset. They couldn’t be with her all day, every day. The first time she was on her own, and she messed it up. A boy had come after her. Surely they would listen and realize she hadn’t encouraged him, right? She didn’t even WANT boys around, Edward, Emmett and Jasper excluded.

All she wanted to do was go home and crawl into bed and forget this day had ever happened. She wanted Esme to fix her favorite for dinner, for Alice to try and talk her into letting her play Barbie Bella. She wanted her family around her. They wouldn’t act like anything was wrong or try to ask her questions she didn’t want to answer.

She wanted her mom. She’d give her a hug and kiss on the head and let her simply be. She wanted-

A soothing male voice managed to penetrate the cocoon of silence wrapped around her. Her name was all he said, the caring and concern pulling her up, refocusing her thoughts. This male voice only meant safety.

****************

Carlisle sighed when Bella’s head snapped up, her gaze zeroing in on him. She launched herself into his arms, wrapping her own tightly about his neck.

“Carlisle!”

Carlisle pulled his daughter to him, making shushing noises. He knelt on the floor, rocking Bella gently, uncaring for once as to what the humans around him thought.

“Come on, sweetheart. Let’s get you home,” he murmured, readjusting his hold so he could stand with Bella in his arms.

“I’ll drive,” Rosalie offered, snagging the car keys from Carlisle’s coat pocket.

“Dr. Cullen, thank you for coming so quickly,” Mr. Smith began. “Is there anything…” he trailed off, unsure as to what to offer.

“No, thank you. I think we’ll just get her home and see if she’ll talk about what happened,” Carlisle said, striding from the room, Rosalie following.

*******************

Alice cursed, pulling Esme's attention away from the crown molding she was affixing in place. It was odd to hear such a word pass Alice's lips, and Esme knew at once it had something to do with Bella.

"Alice? What happened?"

"Of all the idiotic things to do," Alice muttered, rubbing her forehead in frustration. "Why can't teenage boys have a better grasp of body language?"

"Alice," Esme said patiently, interrupting her daughter's ramblings. "Is everything alright?"

Alice sighed, putting her hand down and looking at the other woman. "Mike Newton cornered Bella and asked her on a date."

"When? How is she going to handle this?"

"It was a snap decision on his part," Alice frowned, annoyed. "It's already happened. All I can see now is Carlisle carrying her into the house."

Esme was already packing up her tools. "She'll be okay till we get home?"

"Yes. Actually," Alice paused, searching the future, a smile appearing briefly, "this might turn out to be a good thing for Carlisle."

Used to her daughter's cryptic statements, Esme only sighed and reached for her car keys.

************

Carlisle settled on the living room couch with Bella tucked into his arms. She had yet to relinquish her death grip, one hand fisting in the hair at the nape of his neck. He was reasonably confident he could handle whatever was to happen, but a large part of him was glad his wife was on his way home. He was afraid that when Bella finally emerged from her fugue she wouldn't want any comfort he could provide. Once again the brief wish that Bella and Rosalie were closer crossed his mind but he dismissed it, instead choosing to focus on what he could do for Bella.

Rosalie had disappeared as soon as they entered the house, the sound of the dryer kicking on seeming odd. The answer came about fifteen minutes later when Rosalie reappeared, a blanket in her arms.

“She’s already shivering,” she stated brusquely, tucking the blanket around Bella as Carlisle shifted her in his arms. “I’m going to be in the garage,” she added, leaving Carlisle to his thoughts as he rocked the teenage girl in his arms.

***************

Carlisle was thankful when Bella finally subsided into slumber, her muscles relaxing and her arms falling from around his neck. He readjusted her position, tucking her arms down and wrapping her more firmly in the blanket. The sleep talk, when it began, was almost a relief. Perhaps he would be able to glean some understanding of what was going through Bella’s head from her disjointed words.

“No.”

Carlisle sighed, hoping the nightmare would be brief.

“No….away….stop!” Bella shuddered, her head twisting as she fought to escape the demons in her dreams.

“Shhh. Bella, you’re safe. I swear,” Carlisle murmured, hugging his daughter to him and smoothing her hair.

“Don’t-“ Bella whimpered, burying her face further into Carlisle’s chest.

“No one will hurt you again, Bella.” Carlisle prayed his words would reach the slumbering girl.

The sigh of relief that came when the sleeping girl’s breathing evened out was barely audible. Carlisle continued to stroke Bella’s hair, knowing she found it calming when Esme would do so. Carlisle frowned, his thoughts turning to other family members. It was unlike Alice to not have told someone about what would happen. She had assured Esme and him that she would keep an eye out for any possible trouble Bella might encounter, so what had blocked her sight of the future? Odder still was the fact that neither she nor Esme had called to check on Bella once he had picked her up from school.

Pulling out his phone, Carlisle stared at it, indecisive as to whether to call his wife or not. She was several hours away and would be upset that she wasn’t here, but he knew she would also be upset to return home, thinking everything fine, only to find out otherwise. Decision made, he opened the phone, only to receive a text before he could dial.

Saw too late, half hour away. Everything okay. Alice’s text answered several questions.

Bella chose that moment to begin speaking again, her words flooring Carlisle.

“Dad…Emmett’s cheating…make…stop,” Bella mumbled.

“I will,” he promised.

*************

Bella woke in her own bed, the blankets tucked tightly around her. She turned her head to see Esme on the window seat, a book in her lap. She set aside immediately, hurrying over to the bed.

“Did you have a good nap?” she questioned, perching on the edge of the bed.

Bella nodded, biting her lip. She turned her head away, not wanting to meet Esme’s gaze. What would she say to her?

“Bella.” Esme waited patiently, repeating her daughter’s name when she wouldn’t look at her. “Bella, are you okay?” She reached over and gently turned Bella’s head to face her when she only nodded in response. “Bella, I need you to talk to me. Please, tell me what happened,” she begged.

Bella pulled herself into a sitting position, leaning against her pillows. She began hesitantly, picking at the edge of the sheet.

“I was in the Biology room while lunch was going on; Alice had told me to go there and the teacher didn’t mind,” she started. “Mr. Banner had to leave for a minute. Then… then, um, Mike came in and started talking to me. He said something that reminded me of…him, and I…I freaked out,” the words rushed out.

Esme watched Bella scrub angrily at the tears that were falling, pausing only a moment before pulling the sobbing teen into her arms. “Shhh. It’s okay, Bella. It’s alright, I understand now.”

“Mike and Angela probably think I’m weird now,” Bella whispered.

“I think they’ll understand,” Esme disagreed.

“But what will I tell them?”

“You don’t HAVE to tell them anything,” Esme stated. “Though if you want to tell them something, you could simply say that you were reminded of something from your past and it upset you,” she offered.

Bella thought for a moment. “I don’t want to talk to Mike,” she finally decided. “But I could tell Angela.”

Esme pulled back, wiping a stray tear away. “Whatever you want to do. Just tell us what we can do to help.”

*************

Jasper looked between his two brothers. They were both radiating eagerness and anger. It was an odd combination, and he knew it wasn’t excitement about the coming school day that had Emmett all but vibrating where he sat.

What is the deal? Jasper thought, quirking an eyebrow at Edward.

“Emmett and I are both going to have words with Newton,” Edward explained.

Jasper thought for a moment, knowing Edward would be willing to go along with the plan when he laughed. He turned to explain the plan to Emmett.

“Newton will be expecting the two of you to say something. It’s my turn to remind him that Bella has another brother that would be happy to pound him into the ground for upsetting her,” Jasper smirked.

“And we’ll still be able to glare at him and make him jump at our every move,” Emmett gloated. “I’m in.”

*************

Jasper monitored Mike’s emotions every time he was within view of his brothers, smiling to himself at the sudden spike in anxiety. It was nearing the end of the day and Jasper was lounging against the wall next to the gym doors, on the pretense of waiting for Emmett. In the end, he had decided to take it easy on the poor boy. Numerous reasons could be listed, not least of which was the risk he was taking confronting a human. His control had gotten better since Bella had come to live with them but he still didn’t trust himself.

The top reason though he had decided to merely provide a gentle warning was the feelings he sensed from Mike when he looked at Bella during lunch. The teenage boy had felt not only guilt but also worry whenever he would look over at their table, and he snapped at another classmate when they went to tease him about not asking Bella out.


Did he tell anyone?
Jasper asked.

Edward had frowned, speaking softly so Bella wouldn’t hear. “No. He doesn’t want her to be embarrassed.”

Emmett had chimed in. “Damnit, why did he have to go and be nice like that? Now I almost feel sorry for the kid.”

Jasper straightened from his slouch when his target came in to view. He knew Newton saw him and knew why he was there immediately, the hunching of his shoulders giving evidence, even if his emotions hadn’t been palpable.

“Mike,” Jasper called, waiting for the boy to approach.

“Um…yeah? You, um, need something, Jasper?” Mike stuttered, stuffing his hands in his pockets and looking everywhere but at his classmate.

Jasper sighed to himself. He couldn’t bring himself to say anything too harsh to the teenage boy. He might have been an idiot for not being better at reading people, but he had acted honorably by speaking with the principal and not speaking of this to anyone else.

“Thank you for not mentioning Friday to anyone,” he said, meeting the other boy’s gaze when he finally looked up.

“Um, sure, no prob. I, uh, well, didn’t see why I should say anything to anybody,” Mike stammered. “She’s…Bella’s okay, though, right?”

“Yes.”

Mike nodded, turning towards the locker room.

“Oh, and Mike?” Jasper called. “We understand it was a mistake, but if you ever intentionally upset Bella, well…” he trailed off, knowing Emmett was now lurking behind him, appearing as menacing as possible.

“Right, got it,” Mike squeaked out, fumbling with the door to the locker room before managing to open it and dart inside.

Emmett laughed, clapping his brother’s shoulder. “I can’t believe you took it easy on him. Ah, well, there’s always gym,” he said philosophically, heading into the gymnasium.

**************

Coach Clapp was home ill, so it was open gym. The substitute instructor was more than content to allow basketball and volleyball games to go on, so long as the students behaved. Those that opted out were assigned to walk. Alice and Bella were circling the perimeter, discussing plans for the upcoming weekend.

To be honest, it was more Alice talking and Bella humming along non-committaly, but Alice always felt that anything less than outright disagreement constituted assent. The petite woman was actually waiting for Bella to buck up her courage and follow through with the decision Alice had seen while in History. She knew what Bella had told Esme on Friday but something had changed over the weekend. She knew Bella had already spoken with Angela and apologized for her behavior, though the other girl refused to see that there was anything to apologize for. She had instead spoken encouraging words and had traded phone numbers so that the two girls could discuss plans for their History project over the phone.

They were at the end of class, most of the other students already heading into the locker rooms before Bella finally found the strength she had been looking for.

“It’ll be fine, Bella,” Alice reassured her sister, offering her a hand in encouragement. Bella took it gladly, and Alice turned her body so that it wasn’t immediately obvious to anyone that Bella was squeezing her hand as tightly as she could.

“Mike?”

At his name, the blonde haired boy whipped around, disbelief marring his features. Alice could have laughed at the quick look he gave the gym, no doubt looking for Emmett’s hulking form.

“Yeah?” Mike’s voice cracked, making him blush. “Um…you need something, Bella?”

“I,” Bella took a deep breath, blurting out the words she had rehearsed mentally. “I’m sorry for the way I acted Friday. I, I didn’t mean to freak out on you.”

“Oh, hey,” Mike rubbed a hand through his hair, looking down at the gym floor. “Not a problem. I didn’t mean to surprise you like that. Um…have you thought about what I said?”

Bella’s flinch was subtle. “I…I can’t. Sorry. Um…bye, Mike,” she rushed out, turning and hurrying for the girl’s locker room.

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