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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:


14. Chapter 14 - The Beginning Is The End Is The Beginning Rating: PG-13

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4355   Review this Chapter

I can do this. I can do this. I can do this, I chanted to myself. Then, I stared out the windshield and all of my confidence died.

Edward had arrived that morning to pick me up in the Volvo. “Charlie needs to find out we’re seeing each other again sooner or later,” he’d said as I’d tried to protest. “We might as well start telling him now.”

I hadn’t had a good enough argument prepared, so in the end, he’d gotten what he wanted. I hadn’t needed to worry anyway – Charlie was already gone by the time Edward came to pick me up. That was one confrontation avoided.

Only an entire school left to go.

“Bella, really,” Edward said, rolling his eyes. “They aren’t the firing squad.”

“Have you met Lauren Mallory?” I challenged, arching my eyebrow.

He simply stared at me as if I was being utterly ridiculous – which I suppose I was. I just wouldn’t admit that to him.

I sighed. “I just want everything to go back to normal.”

“And it will. We just have to act like nothing has changed, and so will they.”

Now, it was my turn to look at him like he was the ridiculous one.

Edward let out a sound I could only classify as exasperated frustration. “Tell me, how is it that you can run off fearlessly to face a vampire whose sole purpose is to kill you, but facing your peers is beyond the realm of your bravery?" The question was serious, but I could see his eyes were shining with amusement.

"I wasn't fearless," I countered, and Edward rolled his heavenward.

"Bella."

"Edward."


"Do you really plan on sitting in this car all day?"

"Perhaps," I said, imitating his style of speaking terribly.

Edward arched an eyebrow, then leaned over to whisper in my ear, "You do realize that I can lift you from the car and make you go to class if I have to, don't you?" He kissed my jaw then moved lower, down my neck to my shoulder. My heart stuttered in my chest.

"You wouldn't," I replied breathlessly.

"Wouldn't I?" He replied, lips still pressed against my skin. He lifted his head and my breath caught in my throat as his eyes met mine.

"Breathe, Bella," he said after a moment and I blinked - when had he moved to the other side of me - outside of the car?

I narrowed my eyes. "You cheated," I grumbled, and Edward laughed.

"Well, I think the teachers might frown upon me bodily lifting you from the car kicking and screaming, and I thought that would draw more attention to ourselves than simply standing as if nothing is out of the ordinary. You did say you wanted everything to go back to normal, didn't you?"

"I hate when you make sense," I muttered, then sighed and took his hand so he could help me out of the car.

I tried to ignore the fact that I could feel everyone’s eyes on us. Edward squeezed my hand and began walking towards our first class.

“Remember,” he whispered, pulling me closer so he could wrap his arm around my shoulder. “Everything is normal.” He kissed my forehead. I relaxed, even as my heartbeat accelerated.

Suddenly, Edward stiffened, and I turned to see Lauren and Jessica approaching us, whispering to one another. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but from the livid expression on Edward’s face, I was sure I didn’t want to know.

“Edward,” Jessica gushed, leaning forward and flicking her hair over her shoulder in a blatant attempt to flirt. “Did you study for the Calculus test today?”

Edward’s hand tightened on my shoulder to the point of pain. I didn’t want to wince in front of Lauren and Jessica, so I slowly lifted my hand to his, trying to gesture that he was hurting me without saying the words.

He seemed to get the hint, instantly loosening his grip and taking my hand in his so he could caress my fingers. I was a little surprised – I wasn’t the only one not big on public displays of affection. He shot me an apologetic glance then turned back to Jessica. “Of course I did. Bella and I studied last night.”

I almost snorted. Studying had been one of the last things on my mind last night and as a result, I would probably be failing my Calculus test today. Edward was going to have to tutor me some time in the near future.

Lauren opened her mouth to make a comment when another voice cut her off before she started.

“Lauren, Tyler is looking for you,” Angela said, arms clenched tightly around her books as she approached. Her eyes were narrowed and I may have been mistaken, but she seemed to be regarding the other two girls with something like disgust in her eyes. “He wants to talk to you before History in his car.”

“Shoot,” she said, glancing at her watch. “I’ll be late again.” Something told me Tyler didn’t want to talk at all, but I didn’t comment. She batted her eyes at Edward, but I wasn’t jealous – I honestly thought I was going to be sick. “See you in class?”

Edward only nodded. Lauren seemed to deflate a little, but she turned, head held high, Jessica on her heels.

Angela glared in their direction. “If my father hadn’t raised me right…” Her voice trailed off.

Edward’s stern expression finally lifted and he laughed, dropping his arm from my shoulder and taking my hand again. Angela smiled sheepishly.

“I think Alice wants to tell me something,” Edward said, and when my brow furrowed, he pointed to where Alice was leaning against Rosalie’s car. I would have to ask her how she’d gotten Rosalie to lend her the keys.

He kissed my temple and said goodbye to Angela before going over to meet her. I sighed as I watched him go.

“I see you realized who you love more.” Angela’s voice brought me out of my musings and I jumped.

I smiled at her before nodding slowly. “I did.”

“And…” she hesitated. “You’re okay?”

My smile fell. Angela was too damn observant. “I’m…not okay. Jacob…didn’t take it very well. I’d feel better if he’d talk to me.”

“He probably just needs some time, Bella,” she said, shifting her books in her arms. “He’ll come talk to you when he’s ready.”

“That’s what Edward said,” I mumbled.

“Bella, are you happy?”

I stopped walking and stared at her. In the past few weeks, no one had asked me that question. I had been asked a great many things, but no one had asked if I was happy, like that mattered in the grand scheme of things.

I thought about my answer for a moment. “I am,” I told her honestly. In spite of everything – my unrelenting worry about Jacob, my nervousness about having to tell Charlie about Edward and me, the gossip about the two of us that was currently traveling around school right this minute at roughly the speed of light – I was happy. Edward loved me.

Why shouldn’t I be happy?

Angela smiled. “Then that’s all that matters.” She shook her head. “Bella, I see you. You worry so much about everyone else that you don’t ever worry about yourself. For once, be a little selfish.” Her eyes wandered across the parking lot to Edward and I couldn’t help but follow her gaze. “After everything that’s happened, I think you deserve it.”

Edward looked up then and locked eyes with Angela from across the lot. He seemed shocked at something – my guess would be whatever she was thinking at that moment. Then, to my shock, he nodded.

Angela seemed a bit startled and she stared at Edward for a moment before shaking herself and turning back to me.

“We should get to class,” she said, but she couldn’t seem to help but glance at Edward out of the corner of her eye as he and Alice approached. Alice was glaring at Edward, and I could only imagine the verbal lashing he was getting in her thoughts – she must have caught the exchange, and she knew as well as I did how much Angela picked up on that most other people would be able to ignore.

I hoped this wouldn’t become a problem.

The rest of the day was an interesting affair. I took my former place at the Cullen table at lunch, but Angela surprised me by following me from the lunch line and sitting next to Alice with a smile. Ben was a little more hesitant, but sat next to Angela, eventually relaxing into a conversation with Edward about baseball. Jessica and Lauren glared from the other end of the table. I ignored them. I was pleasantly distracted by Edward’s hand running through my hair.

Angela grinned at me.

After school, Alice begged me to come to their house.

“Please, Bella. Emmett has been an absolute terror and Esme is just dying to see you.” She pouted rather dramatically while Edward arched an eyebrow.

I pretended to consider the idea, pressing a finger to my lips. “Hmmm… I just don’t know.”

Alice glared, putting her hands on her hips. “Bella, you might as well cut the act. I know you’re going to say yes.”

I laughed, unable to keep a serious face. “Then why did you bother to ask?”

She shrugged. “Courtesy. Now, come on, you require a lot less force to move than Edward would.”

“It’s okay,” I sighed, glancing at Edward out of the corner of my eye. Now was not the time to bring up any old arguments.

But maybe I wouldn’t have to. Alice grinned, her eyes unfocused. “Of course-“

“Don’t. Start,” Edward bit out through clenched teeth. “We won’t be discussing this.”

“Not now anyway,” Alice muttered. Edward growled. She rolled her eyes and tugged on my hand again, gently this time. “Come on, Bella, you’re riding with me.”

“Alice,” Edward warned.

“I just want to have a little girl talk, that’s all, don’t get your panties in a bunch.” She glanced at me. “Bella doesn’t mind, does she?”

I glanced at Edward, who was still glaring fiercely at Alice. The truth was, I didn’t mind. I was curious as to what, exactly, Jessica and Lauren had said this morning that had gotten Edward so upset, and that had even angered the unshakeable Angela. I was sure that Alice knew – she knew everything.

“I don’t mind,” I said slowly. Alice dropped my hand and clapped like an excited child. I could see Edward smirk out of the corner of my eye.

Edward grabbed my chin gently and turned my face towards him. I angled my face upwards, sighing as his lips pressed against mine. I didn’t think I would ever get tired of kissing him, not even if I did live forever.

“See you at home,” he murmured. I nodded, staring after him as he crossed the parking lot.

The sound of a car horn blaring made me jump. Alice laughed. “Get in the car, Bella. You’re drooling.”

Blushing furiously, I practically ran over to the other side of the car and threw open the door, getting in as quickly as I could. “You know, you’re supposed to be my friend,” I told Alice as she easily weaved her way out of the lot. “You’re supposed to warn me if I’m going to embarrass myself.”

“Where’s the fun in that?” she quipped with a grin. I rolled my eyes.

I watched the trees go by on the side of the road, simply a blur. I had no desire to consider how fast Alice was driving – just the thought made my stomach churn. Instead, I turned to her and asked, “Do you know why Edward was so upset with Lauren and Jessica this morning? Even Angela seemed angry.”

“That’s unusual, isn’t it?” She was skirting around the question, her eyes still focused in front of her. Her hands shifted uneasily on the steering wheel.

My eyes narrowed. “That wasn’t an answer, Alice.”

Alice sighed, shifting her eyes to me for a fraction of a second before turning to watch the road again. “You’re going to be upset.”

“Just tell me.

There was a moment of heavy silence before she said, “Lauren has been telling people that – that the only reason Edward took you back is because you threatened to kill yourself if he didn’t come home.”

What?” Forget upset – I was beyond upset. I was furious.

“Jessica, of course, just went along with everything Lauren said, adding in her own bits to give the story more flair.”

I could only imagine the flair she had added – she never thought I’d deserved Edward in the first place. The fact that after all these months we were together again like nothing had ever happened must have been driving her insane. I was so angry, I couldn’t even speak.

Then, Alice grinned maliciously. “I, of course, couldn’t let this stand.”

“Alice, what did you do?”

She giggled and pulled two suspicious looking objects out from under her feet, turning them over in her hand. “Let’s just say they’re both going to have to call a tow truck if either of them ever expects to get their cars off of the school lot tonight.” She threw the objects over the side of the road with force.

I couldn’t help myself – I laughed. Alice grinned, then immediately sobered. “Edward is lucky I didn’t total his car after what he pulled this morning.” She pulled into the garage and I blinked. I hadn’t even realized we were already at their house.

“What was she thinking about, anyhow?” I was hoping Edward had told her; if not, I was going to have to ask him, and I had a strange feeling he wouldn’t tell me.

Alice cringed – I was right. She did know. “She was thinking about how you were when he was gone, how much different and happier you seemed now – I believe he said her exact thought was ‘If you hurt her again, I’ll kill you myself.’”

I winced. I could see why Edward would want to try to respond to a thought like that, especially when coming from Angela, who was usually rather quiet when it came to these things.

I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt as I got out of the car. “He just nodded at her, Alice. Maybe she didn’t-“

Alice shot a glare at me. “This is Angela Weber we’re talking about here, Bella. She’s not exactly known for her obliviousness. She noticed something. Let’s just hope she doesn’t start trying to connect the dots.”

I didn’t get a chance to respond to her. As soon as we were in sight of the front of the house, I found myself being enveloped and practically tackled by Emmett.

“Bella! It’s about time you showed up.” I laughed, throwing my arms around him as far as I could.

“Easy, Emmett, the girl needs to breathe.” Emmett released me with a grin and I was able to see Jasper leaning against the railing on the porch. He smiled at me.

Emmett tugged on my hand, practically running into the house – or at least I had to run to keep up with him. “Esme is inside – she can’t wait to see you, Bella.”

“Careful, Emmett, I pulled her that way before and Edward almost killed me,” Alice said, laughing. I blushed aware, once again, that they had to be careful with me because I was human, and therefore more fragile than they were.

“And I’ll kill you as well if you hurt her,” Edward said from the bottom of the stairs. I had to stop myself from running to him.

“There will be no killing in this house today, Edward Cullen,” Esme’s musical voice filled the room. Emmett released me as she approached and she hugged me much more gently than Emmett had, but still just as welcome.

“Welcome home, Bella,” she whispered to me, and I had to hold back my tears. She was right – I was finally home. I could see Carlisle smiling next to her.

I could feel, rather than see Edward stiffen behind me, and I wasn’t sure why – until I saw Rosalie step from behind Emmett. I eyed her warily as she approached me, and the rest of the family left the room, giving us the illusion of privacy – I knew they could hear everything that was said if they really wanted to. I wondered what she could possibly have to say that would require us to be alone.

“I’m sorry, Bella.”

I was shocked beyond words. “Sorry? For what?”

“I was the one who called Edward and told him you jumped off of the cliff. I thought that if he knew that he could never come back to you that he’d come home to us – that we could be a family again.” She shook her head. “But I was wrong. Nothing was the same after we left Forks, and if he hadn’t called and found out that you were alive…” Her voice trailed off, and I shuddered, remembering what he’d told me in the days before he’d left, that there were ways for a vampire to die, that he wouldn’t live in a world without me. A contingency plan, he’d called it. I shivered again, thankful that things had never come to that.

“It was selfish of me,” she finished.

“To want your family together? That’s not selfish, Rosalie, that’s perfectly normal.”

Rosalie stared at me unblinkingly for a few moments and I fought back the urge to squirm under her gaze. Then, to my surprise, she smirked. “I was prepared for you to start screaming when you found out I was the one who told Edward what happened. I was set for you to be mad at me. The fact that you’re taking this so well… it throws me.”

“If you hadn’t told him what happened, he wouldn’t have come back to me.” I shrugged as she continued to stare, disbelieving – it all made sense in my head, but a lot of things made sense to me that didn’t make sense to anyone else. Loving Edward Cullen was one of them. “You don’t know me very well, do you?” I asked her, fighting back a grin of my own.

“No,” she replied seriously. “I don’t.”

“I hate to break this up,” Emmett said, poking his head around the doorway. He gave Rosalie an adoring smile. “But Bella, you have a visitor.” His smile fell instantly.

“A visitor? Here?”

Rosalie sniffed and her entire face scrunched up. My heartbeat accelerated. “Werewolf,” she spat.

“Jacob,” Emmett confirmed with a nod. “He wants to speak with you.”

I nodded, my heart thudding in my throat as I followed him out.

Jacob was standing at the tree line, a good distance from the Cullens, but I could see that Edward was standing near him. They seemed to be discussing something. As soon as I walked out, both of them turned to look at me.

I made my way slowly towards both of them, stopping close enough to touch either; I clutched at the bottom of my shirt to stop myself.

“Jacob, what are you doing here?”

“Can we talk, Bells?” His eyes were so open and earnest that I knew I couldn’t say no. After all, hadn’t I been saying for the past few days that all I wanted was for him to talk to me? I turned to Edward helplessly.

“I’ll be waiting here for you,” Edward said, brushing his hand against my arm gently. He turned to look at me over his shoulder as he walked back towards the house, and I could see the pain he was trying to hide from me in his eyes. I ached, knowing that I’d hurt him again, but that there was little I could do about it.

Jacob and I headed down to the woods silently, close to the river that ran near the edge of the Cullens’ house. He moved his foot along the dirt, making nonsense patterns. I crossed my arms over my chest, waiting for him to speak.

“I’m sorry,” he said finally. “I shouldn’t have reacted the way that I did. I just… when I saw you with him, something inside of me snapped, Bells. When you said no… I couldn’t stay, knowing that you’d chosen him. It just hurt too much.”

I wanted to comfort him, but I wasn’t sure if I would help or make things worse. I dug my fingers into my arms. “I didn’t want to hurt you,” I whispered.

Jacob laughed bitterly. “A little late for that, isn’t it?”

I winced turning my face away from him.

He sighed. “I didn’t come here to make you feel bad, Bella. I came to say goodbye.”

My head snapped up. “Good- what?” My heart pounded against my ribs. I’d come to the realization a long time ago that Jacob and I could never be just friends, but I had never thought that would result in him walking out of my life altogether.

Jacob smiled at me gently, and I saw a ghost of my Jake there, the Jacob before werewolves and vampires. “Bella, we could never go back to the way things were between us. I can’t be your friend, and watch you with Edward, knowing that you love him.”

“I love you, too,” I whispered, grasping his arm gently, as if holding onto his arm would keep him there.

“I know – but you love him more.”

I couldn’t answer him or dispute him. He was right.

Jacob kissed my forehead, his lips lingering against my skin, then held me close to him. “He’d better take care of you, Bella, you hear me?”

I nodded, unable to speak past the lump in my throat.

He released me, and shoved his hands in his pockets, then swallowed hard. “Goodbye, Bells.”

He was already gone before I had a chance to whisper my reply, “Goodbye Jake.”

I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. My knees gave out from under me and I collapsed to the ground, almost unable to breathe past the sobs. I hoped that Edward wouldn’t come looking for me – I didn’t want him to see me like this. I needed to deal with this on my own.

I cried until I had no more tears, then sat staring at the river for a while, until I was finally able to stand again. I took a shuddering breath and headed back off towards the house. I was hurting – there was a dull ache in my heart I knew would be there for a long time, but I would heal from this, eventually.

I noticed Edward’s family waiting outside as I appeared through the trees. They stopped talking immediately as Edward sprinted up to me. He gently grasped my arms. “Are you all right?”

I shook my head. “I will be.” I eyed everyone behind him. “I don’t think I’m going to be very good company right now. Can you take me home?”

Edward kissed me gently. “Of course.” He moved faster than my eyes could follow back to his family. They seemed to understand – Esme waved to me, and I raised my hand feebly in response. Emmett yelled, “Bye, Bella!” as Edward returned to my side and wrapped his arm around my waist, which made me smile. Alice looked puzzled about something, and didn’t seem to be paying too much attention to what was going on. I would have to remember to ask Edward about that later.

The ride home was mostly quiet. Edward didn’t seem to want to press me for information, but I could tell from the way his eyes flitted to me periodically that he was having trouble not asking me what had happened.

I reached over and squeezed his hand on the seat between us. “Alice looked upset when we left. Is everything okay?”

Edward’s eyebrows knitted together. “She had a vision that confused her a bit, that’s all. She’s trying to work out what it means.”

“Nothing bad, I hope.” He was being purposely vague, but I didn’t feel like pressing for any details – he didn’t seem to be particularly worried by whatever Alice had seen, and I wasn’t going to panic when there was no reason for it.

“No, nothing bad.”

I nodded, then sighed as we arrived at my house – Charlie’s cruiser was in the drive which meant that he was home. He probably would have seen that my truck was in front of the house – but I was nowhere to be found. If he looked out the window now…

Edward’s lips quirked. “Charlie saw the Volvo pull up. He expects an explanation.”

I groaned, leaning over to bury my face in his chest. “Do you think if we make a quick enough getaway, he won’t notice?”

He chuckled. “Bella, your father is a cop – his specialty is quick getaways.”

“Damn it.” I raised my head and leaned back against the seat. I didn’t want to have to explain what had happened down by the river, but Edward was looking at me, his eyes so trusting, and the words just slipped out.

I squeezed his hand firmly in mine. “Jacob came to say goodbye,” I said quietly.

He sighed and pulled me close to him, wrapping his arm firmly around my shoulders. “Oh, Bella.”

I squeezed my eyes shut against the tears that threatened to fall.

“I wish I could change things for you,” Edward said, burying his head in my shoulder. “If I could take your pain away, I would in less than a heartbeat.”

I pushed on his shoulders so I could stare at him. Looking into his eyes, I could see that he truly thought that this was something I would hold against him. “This hurts, Edward,” I said trying to reassure him. I stroked my fingers across his jaw. “But this is pain that I can bear. Losing you again would break me beyond repair.”

Your decision will make you or break you.

I grinned. “What?” Edward asked cautiously, the sudden change in my mood obviously throwing him.

“Nothing,” I said, getting out of the car, my courage renewed. “Don’t worry about it. Let’s go face the firing squad.”

Edward rolled his eyes, but came around to my side of the car and smiled. He grasped my hand.

I would have to tell Alice that she was right, after all.