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Chasing the Storm

Summary:
AU - What if Alice had seen Bella jump... but Bella answered the phone when Edward called? What if Alice saw a vision of Bella happy... but it wasn't with Edward? What if Edward returned to Forks, with every intention to check on Bella and leave... but when he sees her with someone else, his motives change? How do you choose between the person who was there to catch you when you fell… and the person who was there to make the jump with you in the first place? He let go of my arm, but kept staring at me, and I stared back up at him, eyes wide. "If you're going to let him go, then let him go." --Chapter 12 now posted!


Notes:


10. Chapter 10 - Complications

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4746   Review this Chapter

I was right. Things did look worse in the morning. They felt worse, too.

I tried to get to school early and avoid the morning rush – and, if I was honest with myself, also to avoid Edward. However, I’d been unsuccessful. As I pulled into the parking lot, my stomach churned. There, sitting at the far end, was the silver Volvo that I knew so well. My hands shook as I turned the key in the ignition. Knowing that Edward was already here somewhere when I’d told him the previous night that I needed some time alone made me feel sick. The fact that I could already see several faces staring at me through the windshield did not help matters any.

Sitting here won’t do you any good, Bella. Swallowing past my nerves, I gathered my courage and stepped out of the cab, slamming the door.

All eyes swiveled in my direction. I could hear a few people whispering while I walked past, eyes fixed straight ahead, and while I couldn’t make out what they were saying, I could only imagine. I swallowed.

“Bella!”

I turned, heart skipping a beat, and breathed a sigh of relief. Angela – of all the people who could have tried to catch my attention at the moment, I was glad that person was her. She waved behind her and I noticed that Ben was walking off towards Mike, who was staring at me curiously. I sighed. This was going to be a long day.

“Hi, Angela,” I said wearily.

“How are you doing?” She asked, and I could tell that she meant how was I dealing with all of this. Then, she hesitated. I could tell there was something else that she wanted to ask me, but Angela was never one to pry into people’s personal lives if they didn’t offer the information first. It was one of the many things I liked about her.

She glanced behind me and I couldn’t help but turn my head to follow her gaze. There, walking out of the main office, were Alice and Edward. I immediately cut my eyes away.

“Did you know, Bella?” Angela asked quietly, concerned, her eyes slowly moving back to my face.

I nodded. “I knew.” Oh, did I know.

She exhaled, obviously relieved. “Oh, good. Because,” she hesitated again, but then shook her head. “I was worried about you. When I saw them this morning, I wasn’t sure how you would react… if this was a surprise to you, too.”

After practically ignoring any of her outright attempts to talk to me, to help me these past few months, she was still worried about me. I wanted to cry. Instead, I shocked Angela by reaching forward and hugging her. She was startled but she eventually hugged me back.

“Well, that was unexpected,” she said laughing.

I had a thought, then. A dangerous thought. Dangerous because I would have to be careful about what I would say, and it was a well known fact that I was a horrible liar. And yet, the thought of talking to someone about my problems who wasn’t a vampire or a werewolf, who was simply normal… that temptation was too great to resist.

“Angela,” I asked slowly, “Are you doing anything tomorrow night?”

“Homework,” she said grinning. “Why?”

“Because I could really use someone to talk to. Someone who’s not… involved.” I blushed as her brow furrowed. I was obviously confusing her and yet, in typical Angela fashion, she did not ask a single question.

“It’s complicated,” I stated, and when Angela nodded, I hastily added, “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

“Bella, of course. I don’t mind. Tomorrow is fine. My house or-“

“Yours,” I answered swiftly. My house could be crawling with all sorts of mystical creatures at any given time, whether or not they said they would respect my wishes. Who knew what was going on while I slept? Certainly not me. “Definitely yours.”

Angela smiled, “Great,” then the smile abruptly turned into a frown. “Shoot, I’m going to be late. I’ll see you later?”

“Sure.” I would willingly be late. I had English first period. With Edward. Sitting next to me. As he would be in every single one of my classes but Calculus and Gym, since we’d purposely planned things that way at the beginning of September and no one had wanted to take his spot next to crazy Bella Swan once he left.

I had to run to make it to class on time. I tripped on my way through the door, thus announcing my presence to all. Perfect.

“Ah, Miss Swan, so good of you to join us,” Mr. Banner said blithely. He flicked his hand disinterestedly towards the back of the room. “Do take your seat. We don’t have all day.”

I flushed crimson, and, heart pounding, quickly made my way to my desk, ignoring the way every single head turned to look at me.

Every head except Edward’s. I’m sure they all took note of that little detail. Especially since I didn’t glance at him. Not even once.

I pulled out my notebook as Mr. Banner droned on in the background, then let out a low moan and let my head drop to my folded arms. This was worse than my first day, worse even than when everyone had first seen Edward and me together. I didn’t know how I was going to get through the day without screaming. Maybe I should have left my pillow in the car. I smiled wryly in spite of myself.

A cold hand on my arm startled me from my musings and I automatically turned to Edward. He was facing the front of the room, but he inclined his head in the general direction of my desk. I looked down. There, under my arm, was a small, folded slip of notebook paper. I opened it slowly.

Are you all right?

The note read in Edward’s perfect handwriting. I almost laughed. Instead, I sighed and picked up my pen.

No, I’m not. This is worse than the first day of school. “Not that bad.” I’m going to kill Alice.

I slipped the piece of paper back to Edward without folding it. He read quickly and his lips quirked into a smile. He wrote, and then the note was on my desk again.

At least you don’t have to hear their thoughts. Vapid and conceited, the lot of them.

I felt like I had to defend Angela. He’d been close enough to hear her thoughts this morning. He had to know that she was sincere, even if no one else was.

Everyone else, maybe, but not Angela. She’s the only one who… who asked me how I was and who was actually genuinely concerned about me. Please don’t tell me even her thoughts were “vapid and conceited,” I might die of the shock.

I tossed the folded note back to Edward without thinking and although he caught it without looking, Lauren happened to catch our exchange from two rows ahead of us. She actually did a double take. I sighed. Well, that was fantastic. In ten minutes, the entire school would think Edward and I were passing secret love notes in English class.

No, Angela is the one exception to the rule, and for that, I am exceptionally grateful.

I was shocked to see that he’d hesitated while he’d written. When I read his words, I understood why.

I’m… I’m glad that you’re speaking with Angela about all of this and not Alice. She has her own agenda, as you can imagine.

Yes,
I thought, that agenda involves me choosing you.

By the way, Lauren thinks we’re exchanging love notes. Should we help her perpetuate that rumor?


I groaned just as the bell rang and Edward laughed.

“’S not funny,” I said, my face pillowed against my arms.

“Actually, I find it quite hilarious.” I glanced up and his eyes sparkled mischievously.

“You would,” I grumbled, standing up and heading for the door. Edward followed, which made sense – we did have almost every class together, but I knew that everyone else would see things differently.

The rest of the morning passed by much like English had. Edward and I walked from class to class together, to the stares and whispers of our classmates. Edward was better at ignoring them than I was. Then again, Edward was better at everything than I was - why should this be any different?

Fifth hour heralded lunch, but my stomach was much too queasy to hold anything down - that and the sight of all of my peers in one tiny space made me even more tense. I didn't want to talk to Alice and endure her cryptic remarks about anything she might have seen, but I didn't want to sit with anyone else either and endure the hurt look that would come into Edward's eyes.

When I turned around and headed in the direction away from the lunchroom, Edward paused with his hands on the doors as his eyebrows rose to his hairline.

"I need some fresh air," I mumbled. "You go sit with Alice."

Edward didn't question me. He simply nodded, pushing his way through the doors. I was grateful, as I headed outside, that he seemed to understand.

The cool air felt wonderful against my face, and I sighed with relief at the silence that surrounded me. There was no sound, nothing but the wind in my hair, and I laid down on one of the benches near the parking lot using my backpack as a pillow, and closed my eyes.

I fell asleep for a while when the sound of quiet chuckling startled me awake.

"Is she awake yet?"

"Does she look awake, Emmett?"

"No, but - ah, there she is!" My eyes snapped open at the sound of voices near my head to reveal two familiar faces staring down at me.

Emmett grinned. "Hiya, Bella."

I couldn't help it - after everything that had happened, I jumped up and launched myself at him, and they both laughed at my enthusiasm, Jasper more than Emmett, I'm sure, because he could feel it, too. Emmett hugged me so hard, my feet were lifted off of the ground, before he set me down again.

"What are you doing here? When did you get back? Wait - are you supposed to be here?"

"Calm down, Bella," Jasper said, chuckling softly, and immediately, I felt myself settle enough to stop bouncing on my heels. "We just got back this morning and technically, we're not supposed to be here-"

"But we were going to play a trick on Edward and steal his car," Emmett burst in with.

I raised my eyebrow. "You do realize he would have killed you when he found out. That and Alice has probably already seen what you were planning."

"Aw, she wouldn't tell him," Emmett argued. "She'd play along! But now you know, and all is ruined," he sighed dramatically. Then, he grinned. "Unless you want to help. Come on, Bella. Do ya, do ya?" He elbowed me playfully, and I had to take a step back to steady myself. Jasper laughed.

My stomach did a nervous flip and I crossed my arms. "I'm... not so sure that would be a good idea." Emmett's face fell. I tried to come up with a good enough explanation that wouldn't involve me explaining everything that had happened in the past few days. "You know how terrible of a liar I am."

I had never been as happy to hear the bell ring as I was at that moment. I breathed a sigh of relief. "That and I have to get to class."

"Fine. Rain on my parade, then," Emmett said, but he was grinning. "We missed you, Bella."

Looking at the two of them, I couldn't help the tears that welled up in my eyes. I don't think Jasper understood the emotions that I was probably emitting that moment - a jumbled mix of happiness and sadness. "I missed you too," I whispered. Then, I shook my head and grabbed my bag from the bench. "I have to get to class. I'll...see you."

I could feel their confused eyes on me as I walked to class as quickly as possible without stumbling. I was glad I didn't share sixth hour Calculus with Edward - I don't think I could have kept my thoughts from wandering even if I'd tried.

I tried to keep myself composed for my last two classes of the day, but if the look on Edward's face was any indication, I didn't succeed. I could tell he was fighting from asking me any questions. I was fighting from throwing myself in his arms right there and begging his forgiveness.

But I'm not doing anything wrong, I kept telling myself again and again.

I wondered, as I walked off to my car with a smile and a quiet "Goodbye," to Edward, how long it would take me to have myself convinced.

I was hoping to go home and relax, but Charlie seemed to have other ideas. I walked in the front door and froze. There, sitting at my kitchen table, were Billy and Jacob.

"Bella!" Charlie said with a smile, his eyes instantly moving to Jacob and then back to me.

"Charlie," I said warily. "You're home early."

"Well, there wasn't anything going on down at the station, and Billy here wanted to come by and watch the game tonight, so I invited him and Jake over for dinner. You want to order in or you mind cooking for two more?"

"No, I'll cook," I said quickly. It would keep my hands busy, and keep my mind out of trouble.

Dinner was a surprisingly uneventful affair. Jacob kept to himself, participating in Billy and Charlie's conversation where he could, and keeping mostly quiet otherwise. The two of us talked a little, or what was little for us. If our fathers noticed anything strange was going on, they did not mention it. However, I did see them exchange more than a few not-so-subtle glances.

Charlie and Billy went into the living room to watch the game, while Jacob stayed in the kitchen to help me clean up.

"Bells, you okay? You seem... tired."

"I'm fine," I said, scrubbing furiously at the casserole dish. I probably didn't need to scrub that hard.

"Need help?" I almost dropped the dish - Jacob was directly behind me, his breath warm in my ear.

I hoped he didn't hear the stutter in my voice as I answered. "N-no. I got it."

"Well, at least let me dry, then." He reached around me, hand brushing against my side as he grabbed the towel off of the counter. I kept scrubbing, pretending nothing was wrong.

"Are you sure you're-"

"Yes. Fine," I said tersely.

Suddenly, he was behind me, his arms were around me, and I wasn't sure how I should react. He was so warm, and so comforting, and I leaned into him for a moment, before I dropped the knife I was holding, and pushed back against him.

"Jacob Black," I hissed, pulling out of his arms completely. "You're cheating."

"I don't know what you're talking about." The smirk on his face told me otherwise.

"I don't believe you! You tell me you'll respect my wishes, and instead, you try to sway my opinion by- by-"

"He'll do the same thing, you know," Jacob said darkly.

"Oh, and how do you know?"

"Because he loves you as much as I do." My heart stopped at his words. "And he wants to show you that he's better for you than I am. I've tried that, Bella, and now, I'm all out of ideas. It's all on you."

Jacob shoved his hands into his pockets and walked into the living room, and I turned around to finish the dishes. This was getting so much more complicated than I ever imagined.

I hope Angela likes stories, I thought to myself bitterly, because this one keeps getting better and better.

***

The next day passed by so slowly, I was convinced someone had slowed down time just to torture me. A sunny morning gave way to a cloudy afternoon, and Edward and Alice showed up just before lunch with a note from Carlisle with an excuse about a "family emergency." I had to cover my face with a book to stifle my grin.

I spent my lunch hour outside again, but this time, there were no surprise vampire visits. I wondered if Edward knew about Emmett's foiled plan to steal his car. I smiled.

As I gathered my things at the end of our last class of the day, Edward hovered next to my desk. He seemed hesitant to say something. I didn't realize how close he was and bumped into him as I stood up. His hands reached out to my arms to steady me. I blushed at the familiar rush of electricity that went through me at his touch. His eyes were a deep gold, and I found myself lost in his gaze.

"Are you still talking with Angela today?" I heard his voice, but swear that his words weren't making any sense.

With great difficulty, I shook myself out of my stupor. "What?"

Edward chuckled. "Are you still talking with Angela today?" His fingers were running up and down my arms now. I could still barely hear his words.

"Yes." My eyes narrowed and I stepped backwards. "And you're cheating," I said with a sense of déjà vu.

"I'm not cheating," Edward said lightly. "I don't have to cheat. I know the effect I have on you, Bella - it's the same effect that you have on me."

"Edward, please," I said stepping out of his embrace entirely and walking towards the door.

Edward's eyes narrowed. "Did you push Jacob away so hastily last night?"

I spun around, heart racing. "How did you know that Jake was at my house last night?"

"I was worried about you - yesterday, after lunch, you looked so exhausted. I wanted to respect your wishes, so I sent Alice to check up on you." His voice turned sarcastic, "But she saw Jacob's car in the driveway and decided against knocking."

"My father invited him and Billy over for dinner," I said through gritted teeth. "And if Alice or you had bothered to ask me, you would know that."

Edward blinked at me for a moment before he sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Bella... I'm sorry."

I was angry with Edward and upset with Jacob, and I just couldn't say another word. I picked up my books with a muttered, "I have to get to Angela's," and walked out the door.

Alice was standing by the Volvo waiting for Edward, but I didn't even say hello. I jumped in my car and headed straight to Angela's house.

A little boy about nine years old answered the door and grinned up at me. "Who are you?"

I couldn't help but smile at him. "I'm Bella Swan. I'm a friend of Angela's. Is she here?"

"Yeah, she's upstairs! Angie! Bella's here!" He screamed at the top of his lungs and I winced as he ran off.

"Isaac, don't run in the house! If you break another vase, Mom will kill you!" Angela called after him and her brother immediately skidded to a stop before running up the stairs. Angela rolled her eyes. "Hi," she said, ushering me in and closing the door behind me. "Come on in, and try to ignore the racket. The twins are home, and they're a lot like two tiny bombs."

I laughed. "No problem."

I followed her up the stairs and into her room, where she immediately closed the door to shut out the sound of video games emanating from her brothers' room. I plopped down on her floor and shrugged out of my jacket.

"I was just finishing up some History," Angela said, pulling her textbook onto her lap.

I winced as I pulled a book out of my own bag - History was my last class of the day. The class after which Edward and I had argued...

"Bella... are you okay?"

I was so tired of that question. I sighed. "Yes, Angela," I answered automatically. "I'm fine."

Angela looked like she obviously didn't believe me, but went back to reading her textbook. I couldn't take even a second of the silence.

"I'm lying," I blurted out and Angela laughed.

"I figured," she said, amusement obvious in her voice. "You did ask me if you could come over so we could talk, after all."

"And we're not doing much talking, I know," I said, sighing. I shook my head. "I'm just... not so good at the whole talking about my feelings thing." Or the lying about vampires and werewolves thing, although I would think I would be a master at that by now.

Angela pushed her books to the side and dutifully sat up straighter against the side of her bed. "Well, take your time. Just... tell me any way you can."

I think she sensed that there was something that I couldn't tell her, something that I had to leave out, and the fact that she was accepting this, without begging or pleading for all of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, made me want to hug her, at the very least.

As it was, I simply sighed with relief. "Thanks, Ang." Angela nodded.

I took a breath, trying to figure out how I could explain this without giving too much away. "When Edward... left... I started hanging out more with my friend, Jacob." I inwardly cringed at the word - "friend" seemed too simple for what we were.

Angela nodded at me to go on, and I found the words coming a bit easier, like I really was just another teenage girl with the boy problems of any other teenage girl. I just had to pretend that said boys weren't mythological creatures. "Well... a few days before Edward came home..." I hesitated, then mumbled, "I kissed him."

"You what?" Even the unquestioning Angela had her limits, and I'd just jumped about a mile over them.

I let out a breath and said, more audibly this time, "I kissed him."

Angela blinked at me, eyes wide. I don't think she'd been expecting that.

For some reason, I felt like I had to explain myself. "Well, a few days before that, he'd almost kissed me in my kitchen." I left out the part about Alice paying an impromptu visit - I would have to explain why, and I didn't have a good enough lie prepared. "I mean, I knew that he had feelings for me, and in that moment, it just seemed..." I sighed, frustrated. "I don't know, Angela. I freaked out that night. I broke down in my room." I stared down at my hands. "I felt like... like I'd done something horribly wrong. Not because I kissed him, but because... I kissed him." I looked up, my brow furrowing. "That doesn't make any sense."

Angela laughed. "It makes perfect sense, Bella. You weren't upset that you'd kissed Jacob - not really. You were more worried that you'd betrayed Edward."

I blinked at her in shock - because that was right. That was exactly right. "Well," I said breathlessly, still stunned by her short but completely correct assessment of my situation. "That would explain why after I told him the same thing - well, almost the same thing - and he still tried to kiss me again, I let him. But then Angela - Angela, the worst thing happened." Angela simply stared back at me silently, waiting for me to continue.

"Edward caught us." She sucked in a loud breath. "Yeah. Jacob... didn't know he was there, and I barely caught a glimpse of him at the window, but he saw enough."

"Oh, Bella," Angela whispered, putting her hand on my arm. I think she finally understood why I'd been such a wreck these past few weeks.

"I snuck out of the house to go see him that night. He was... well. Angry. At least a little. I was angry at him, too, but we talked, and then... he kissed me. And he told me that I'd already started to give my heart away to someone else and that... that he wasn't going to let me go without a fight. Then, Jacob told me the same thing, and Edward and I started getting closer again, and at the same time, I realized I was in love with Jacob, and Angela, I just..." I knew I was rambling, but Angela hadn't stopped me, so I assumed that she could still follow. I squeezed my eyes shut. "I'm just so confused. Edward and Jacob got into an argument the night before Edward came back to school, and I told them both that I needed some time alone. To think. So I could-" I stopped abruptly.

"So you could choose," Angela said softly, and I nodded miserably. I didn't tell her about my argument with Edward, or about what had happened with Jacob the night before - I'd burdened her enough with my problems already, and I felt horrible.

Both of us were silent for a few moments. I spent the time wallowing. Angela seemed to be thinking.

Suddenly, she scooted closer to me and put her hand on my knee. I looked up at her. "You love Jacob," she stated, and her words had a sense of finality to them. I could only nod. "You love Edward - and it's plain to anyone with a pair of eyes that he loves you back." I blushed furiously.

"So now," she said, ignoring my obvious embarrassment. "The question is - who do you love more?"

"But, how do you answer a question like that, Angela?" I asked, tears burning at the back of my eyes. I was suddenly regretting bringing this up to Angela at all - it wasn't helping, and now, she was only more worried about me than she had been before. "How do I choose between the person who was there for me when Edward left, the one person who understood me better than anyone else, who knew that I was still in love with Edward, and still loved me in spite of that fact... and the person who's loved me from the start, who, despite what I may have thought all of those months he was gone, has always loved me and will still love me, no matter what, or who, I choose?"

"I don't know, Bella," Angela said with a shrug. "I wish I had an answer for you. But I just don't know."

"Yeah," I said quietly. "Me neither."

"Angela!" Mrs. Weber's voice called from down the stairs. "Dinner!"

"I'll be right down, Mom!" she yelled, then turned to me sheepishly. "Sorry, I didn't realize it was so late, or else I would have invited you to stay."

"It's okay," I said, gathering my books together, and I wasn't lying. "I have to go home and make dinner for Charlie anyway."

She walked me to the door in silence, but just as I stepped onto her porch, she hesitantly called, "Bella?"

I turned.

She smiled gently, but still somehow nervous. "You know you can call me any time if you need me, right?"

I smiled, the first genuine smile I'd shown her all afternoon. "Thanks."

As I turned and headed to my truck, I looked up at the sky. The clouds were a dark grey, the air thick and pressing down on me like a weight.

A storm was coming.