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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:


13. Chapter 13 - Disagreements and Doubt

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2752   Review this Chapter

Edward couldn't meet me at Jacob's. I knew he would willingly break the treaty if he knew I was in trouble, but I told him I wouldn't be the reason for a war between the Quileutes and the Cullens - a statement I knew both of us found ironic, though neither of us would voice so, or the reason why. I could only imagine that somehow Sam had gotten the word out that I needed to get home, because only a few moments after he left, Quil appeared, seemingly out of thin air, wearing nothing but a pair of shorts. I jumped as he came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder.

"Sam said you needed a ride home?"

I waited for my heart to return to some semblance of normal before answering, "Don't do that!"

Quil shrugged. I simply glared. "And I don't need a ride home, I just need to get to the boundary line. Edward's going to pick me up there."

At the mention of Edward, Quil immediately tensed. I pretended not to notice, instead asking, "How were you planning on taking me home, anyway? You don't drive, do you?"

"I'm wasn't going to take you - Emily is. I'm just supposed to take you to Sam's."

"I don't need a chaperone to get from here to Sam's," I grumbled, and quickly headed off in the direction of Emily and Sam's house.

Quil caught up with me, falling into step at my side. "So, did you really ditch Jacob for the leech?" he asked rather bluntly.

I almost choked. So that was why he seemed so terse with me - he'd probably seen what just happened between Jacob and me in Jake's head. It was just as well. I wanted to scream that it was none of his business, that this was between me, Jacob and Edward - but it wasn't my head the information had been pulled from, and after everything that had happened, I felt like I didn't have the right.

Still, I couldn't help myself. I walked a bit faster, almost running. Shockingly, I hadn't tripped - yet. "How is that any of your business?"

Quil grabbed my arm. I don't think he meant to grab me so hard, but it still hurt. When he saw me wince, he loosened his grip.

"You don't get it, do you? You don't get inside of his head like the rest of us. You don't have to feel what he feels or see you the way he sees you."

"Quil," Emily's voice was soft but the effect on Quil was immediate - he dropped his hand from my arm. I hadn't even realized she'd come out of the house and approached us until that moment.

Quil closed his eyes and shook his head. He shoved his hands into his pockets, but I could see his fingers clenched into tight fists. "You're making a mistake, Bella. I hope you know that."

I was sure that most, if not all of the pack probably shared Quil's opinion. I also knew in the moment that Quil turned to walk away that I would be welcome at La Push no more than the Cullens now. Choosing Edward had solidified that. I fought back the tears at the thought.

"Bella," Emily said my name quietly, gently putting her hand on my shoulder. "Come on. We should get you home."

I nodded. I didn't say a word as Emily led me to Sam's car. Emily seemed to sense that I needed to simply get lost in my own thoughts for a while.

Edward was already waiting for us when we arrived at the boundary line. I hastily threw open the door, but Emily's hand on my arm held me back.

"Bella, wait," she said, and I sighed. I knew I was about to get another lecture about the error of my ways.

"I don't think you're making the wrong decision," she said and I almost fell out of the still open door. I had to clutch onto the open window for support.

Emily laughed. I pulled the door closed, not that it would matter - I was sure Edward would hear the entire conversation either way, if he hadn't already been listening to what Emily was thinking.

"You don't?" I asked skeptically.

Emily smiled. "Bella, I remember what you were like while Edward was gone - everyone does. They just choose to forget, or they remember, but still insist that Edward is wrong for you because of what he is. This is the first time I've seen you since he's been back, but... even now, as upset as I know you must be, you have more life in your face than you have for the past few months."

She shook her head. "I know what it’s like to love someone so deeply that your entire world revolves around them."

"The rest of the pack doesn’t agree with you," I told her. Quil had made that abundantly clear.

"And Sam and I have agreed to disagree."

I blinked at her. I didn't know what to say to that. Instead, I opened the door and slipped out, turning to say my goodbye, but not before Emily told me, "You're always welcome, Bella."

"Thanks," I whispered, closing the door behind me.

Edward didn't get out of the car to meet me, but I didn't mind. As soon as I opened the door, I threw myself at him. He caught me, slipping his arms around my waist.

"I'm ready to go home now," I told him quietly. Edward pressed a kiss to my hair. He tucked me against his side, keeping one arm around my shoulders as he maneuvered my truck with the other hand.

"Jacob's gone," I whispered finally after a period of silence. "He just... ran off." I didn't give him the details. I wasn't sure if he wanted to know.

"I know," Edward said, and I lifted my head enough to look at him. Edward smiled at me gently. "Emily puts on a good front, but she's worried about him deeply."

I winced, tucking my head back down against his shoulder. "It's my fault," I whispered. Edward reached out a hand to touch my cheek. I pulled away from him. I didn't want to be comforted.

Edward's hand froze mid-air, then slowly lowered back to my shoulder. His eyes tensed slightly at the corners. I don't know why he thought I was pulling away, but whatever reasons he had running through his head, I'm sure he was wrong.

Hoping to pacify him at least a bit, I reached up and held his hand in mine. Some of the tension in his face eased.

I sighed. "I should be out there, too, Edward. I should be helping-"

"Jacob will come home when he is ready," Edward said, cutting me off. "Until then, there is nothing you or anyone else can do."

"But he's hurting. He's hurting because of me."

We were sitting in front of my house now. Edward cut the engine and turned to face me, taking both of my hands in his. He pressed a kiss to my knuckles.

"No matter the outcome of this, Bella, someone was going to get hurt - perhaps all of us. Jacob knew that from the beginning. He just wouldn't admit it to himself."

I didn’t say anything – what could I say?

Edward sighed and kissed my forehead. “Charlie’s coming. You should get inside.”

I opened the door but turned to him before I got out of the car. “You’re coming back tonight, aren’t you?” I would always need him, but tonight, I wanted to know he would be there – I needed to have his arms around me. It might have been selfish, but I just didn’t want to be alone.

Edward laughed softly. “Of course I am, you silly girl. I need to stop home first, but I’ll be back before you go to sleep.”

I didn’t want to leave Edward, but I knew I only had a minute or two before Charlie caught me out of bed and in the middle of my lie. That was not how I wanted to reintroduce him to Edward. I jumped out of the car and ran into the house, tripping up the front steps. I could imagine Edward laughing behind me and blushed, but when I turned, he was already gone. My heart dropped. Sighing, I opened the door and headed to the kitchen to start dinner.

I beat Charlie by a total of one minute. I heard the cruiser pulling up in the driveway as I took a pot out of the pantry and began searching the fridge for something edible.

“Bella?”

“In here, Dad!” I told him, deciding on leftover lasagna. There wasn’t much else. I would have to go shopping soon.

Charlie dropped a bag on the table and sat down in his usual chair. “How you feeling, kid?”

“Better. Some Tylenol and some ice and the pain’s all gone.” I grinned.

He chuckled. “I’m glad.”

“What’s in the bag?” I asked grabbing the handles and pulling the bag open so I could look inside.

“Well, I figured since you were feeling under the weather, you might not want to cook, so I bought dinner. Had I known you’d be in this good a mood, I would have brought home a steak and demanded a three course meal.”

“Ha!” I pulled out two sandwiches and a few assorted containers, resisting the urge to shake them to try and guess what was inside. Charlie set two plates on the table, and then sat back down.

We ate in relative silence. My thoughts kept wandering back to Jacob. I still felt like I should be looking for him, but Edward was right – he would come home when he was ready.

I wondered – and the thought made my stomach clench sickeningly, but I couldn’t help myself – if I’d chosen to be with Jacob, would Edward have reacted the same way? Would he have run off? Would he have respected my decision and faded quietly into the background? Would we have been able to be friends?

Suddenly, I wasn’t very hungry.

Charlie seemed to have stopped eating too. He swallowed hard, coughed once, and said, “Bella… you would tell me if anything was wrong, wouldn’t you?”

I was stunned. Charlie and I did not have heart-to-hearts. We did not talk about our feelings. Where was this coming from?

“Of course I would, Dad.” If it didn’t involve vampires, werewolves, or some other supernatural creature.

He cleared his throat. “I only ask because you’ve seemed a bit…off lately. Are you sure you don’t want to-“

“Dad, I’m fine,” I told him honestly. “Really. Better than I have been in a long time. I’m just dealing with a lot right now.”

Charlie exhaled loudly and gave me a half smile. “I know you are, Bells.” He took his plate over to the sink then came over to wrap his arm around my shoulders, giving me a gentle squeeze. “I’m here though – if you need me.”

I felt like there was something caught in my throat and my eyes watered. “Thanks, Dad,” I whispered. I sniffled then stood up. “I’ll clean up.”

“No, I’ll do it. There’s not much here. You go upstairs and rest.”

“Are you sure?”

Charlie rolled his eyes and the maudlin atmosphere was broken. “I think I’m capable of washing dishes, Bella.”

“I’m not so sure about that.” He made a motion to swat at me with a towel, and I dashed out of the way and up the stairs, giggling.

Edward was waiting for me just as he promised and I threw myself into his arms. He caught me, settling me into his lap with a chuckle. “You seem to be in a significantly better mood.” He sounded hopeful.

I snuggled against his chest. “Charlie distracted me, but don’t be fooled – I’m still significantly worried about Jacob.”

He sighed, leaning down to kiss my neck. I shivered, pleasant tingles running down my spine.

“You shouldn’t feel guilty,” he said, lips hovering above my skin. My heart stuttered. “This isn’t your fault.”

I closed my eyes, leaning my head against his shoulder. I ran my fingers absentmindedly up and down his arm. If this wasn’t my fault, then whose was it? Jacob’s? His? Would he feel the same way if he was in Jacob’s place?

I didn’t realize I had been silent for a while until Edward lowered his head to mine and kissed me. I hadn’t been expecting it, so I jumped slightly at the contact of his cold lips on mine. He pulled back for a moment to look at me, the look in his topaz eyes unfathomable, before he pressed his lips back to mine. This time, I expected it and I kissed him back, my hand around the back of his neck just enough to try to hold him in place.

The kiss was gentle and sweet and I sighed as he pulled away, just enough to whisper, “Will you please tell me what you’re thinking? Before I go mad?”

The smell of his breath so close to my face made me woozy. I couldn’t think. I simply the question that had been weighing on my mind since the idea first entered my mind in the kitchen just a little while ago. "Edward, what would you have done... if I had chosen Jacob?"

Edward went still. He kept his face carefully blank, his arms held loosely around my waist as I sat in his lap. I regretted asking the question instantly, but he had asked me what I was thinking - regardless of how bad of a faker I am, maybe I should have lied.

He sat up slowly and I shifted so I had a better look at his face. His features were schooled into a mask of careful concentration, as if this were just another question we asked each other, like what we wanted to do on a Saturday night, but I knew better. His entire body thrummed with tension.

I stroked a finger down his jaw. “Edward,” I said, keeping my voice soft. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have-“

“I would have let you go.”

Now, I stilled. I’d suspected as much, but there was a difference between suspecting something and having that same idea confirmed. “Oh,” I said quietly.

“Or at least I’d like to think I’d let you go.” He smiled sadly. “I’d like to think I would have been able to respect your choice and have simply quietly stepped out of your life.” He stroked a hand down my cheek. “But I know better, Bella. I would always have been waiting in the wings for you.”

“I wouldn’t want you to wait forever. I don’t want Jacob to wait forever, either.” I frowned. “Even if the word means something a little different for him.” We hadn’t had any discussions on eternity since he’d returned. I didn’t think now was an appropriate time to start, so I didn’t elaborate.

“Jacob still has a chance to find his soul mate. He may still imprint some day. But Bella,” he shook his head. “There is no one else for me. You are my soul mate. I waited ninety years for you to come into my life, but I didn’t realize that I was looking for you because you didn’t exist yet.”

“You realize I feel the same way about you, don’t you?” I told him desperately. His words had brought tears to my eyes. A part of me had still doubted that he loved me, but somehow, when I wasn’t looking, he’d chased those doubts away, and I was acutely aware of just how much he loved me. “I may not have had to wait for you for ninety years, but I love you more than I could ever love anyone else.” I frowned. “That came out a lot less eloquently than it sounded in my head,” I grumbled.

Edward chuckled softly. “The emotions were felt all the same.”

He kissed my knuckles, then held my hand, squeezing my fingers gently. I let him hold me in silence. Edward knew that I loved him, and I knew that he loved me. There was nothing left to say.