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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:


4. Chapter 4 - The Blackest Betrayals

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3812   Review this Chapter

My dreams that night were no less frightening than any other night, filled with imagery my conscious mind was fighting so hard against considering.

I was standing in the dark forests surrounding La Push. The same rust colored wolf, the one that had haunted my dreams for so long, came loping towards me. For some reason, this time, I wasn't scared. I knew there was no reason to be.

Suddenly, the vision of the wolf twisted and bent and there, standing in front of me, was Jacob. Of course. Of course the wolf was Jacob. Who else could it be?

He stepped towards me, one hand reaching out to touch my face. Even in my dreams, his skin was hot, so much warmer than mine. His palm burned against my cheek. His brown eyes seemed to bore into my own as he leaned down to kiss me. I could feel the smile tugging at his lips as they pressed against mine, soft but sure.

I wrapped my arms around his neck, even as everything in my head screamed "not ready, not ready, not ready." He shifted his body closer, pressing against mine, forcing me back against the tree I had been leaning against. He reached his other hand up to brush along my neck, and I gasped.

Suddenly, his hands were cold, his body no longer humanly soft, but inhumanly hard as stone. I pulled away, terrified of what I would see when I looked into his eyes.

Edward's face was staring down at me, his eyes a bright burgundy, his teeth shining in the bright light of the full moon as he grinned.

I woke up screaming.

My heart was pounding against my ribcage, my pulse thrumming in my ears. This was not the scariest of the dreams I'd had in recent months, but it was certainly the worst of them.

My screeching must have been worse than usual, because Charlie came bounding into the room a moment later. "Bella, are you alright?" he asked, his eyes automatically scanning for an intruder.

I looked at him standing in the doorway and it took my eyes a moment to focus, another moment for me to find my voice.

"Yeah - yeah Dad." My voice was hoarse, probably from all the crying and screaming, I decided. "Just a nightmare. Sorry I woke you. Go back to sleep."

Charlie eyed me suspiciously, and I tried to give him a smile that I'm sure came out looking more like a grimace. He stared at me for a moment more before he finally sighed and nodded.

In a rare gesture of affection, he came over to my bed and ruffled my hair. "They're just dreams, Bella," he said softly, "Just...try to go back to sleep, alright?"

I nodded and watched as he walked out of the room, glancing again at me over his shoulder before he shut the door.

It wasn't until Charlie was out of the room that I realized that my hands were clenched tightly, my arms shuddering almost violently. I slowly opened my fingers and rubbed a shaky hand over my face. This is ridiculous, I thought to myself. I'd had so many other more terrifying nightmares since...since he left. Why did this one affect me so much more than the rest?

The words guilt and betrayal popped into my mind like unwanted visitors, and I groaned, throwing myself back against my pillows. I glanced at my clock - 5:00 AM - and groaned again. I hadn't been awake this early for school in months, not since -

No. Don't think about that, Bella. It will only make things worse.

I swung myself out of bed, moving on shaky legs to grab my clothes for a shower. Being up this early had one upside, at least - I really was drowning in homework, and I'd gotten none of it done last night.

I barely had it finished with enough time to grab a cereal bar from the kitchen and race out the door to get to school on time.

Classes passed by in a blur. I was bored to tears in every class but gym, where I was too busy trying not to injure myself and others to be bored. I spent my lunch hour with Angela and Mike, pointedly ignoring Jessica, who still seemed to harbor some latent resentment for the stunt I'd pulled in Port Angeles. A part of me couldn't blame her - I really had been reckless and stupid - but another part of me thought she should just get over it already.

The rest of the time was spent trying very hard not to think about Edward or Jacob or my dream at all. So far, I had succeeded.

When the phone rang as soon as I walked in the door that evening after my shift at Newton's, my heart plummeted to the floor. I knew who it was after the first ring, before Charlie even picked up the receiver.

"Hi, Jacob." If it was possible, my heart sank even farther, through the floor now. I was sinking to unheard of depths. Charlie turned to me, a grin on his face. I wanted to be invisible. "Yeah, she just walked in the door. Hold on a sec." He covered the phone with his hand. "It's Jake. You want to take it?"

No. I had to clear my throat before I could speak. It was this morning all over again. "Yeah, I'll take it."

Charlie handed me the phone and walked into the livingroom, giving me the illusion of privacy. I was sure he would be hanging on every word, so I had to be careful of what I said.

"Hey, Jake," I was barely able to croak out. My throat was constricted.

He didn't seem to notice. "Hey, Bella." He sounded so happy just at hearing the sound of my voice that I wanted to follow my heart right through the floor at that very moment. "How was work?"

"Boring," I mumbled, "We had three customers in three hours." Good. Keep him talking about something, anything else, maybe he won't ask if -

"Well, if you're not busy, do you mind if I swing by?" I could hear the barely concealed anticipation in his voice. All I could see was the look on his face after I'd kissed him, all I could think about was the guilt that had overwhelmed me after he left - guilt for leading him on, guilt for leaving Edward behind, even though he left me behind.

Then I thought about my dream, about the kiss, about Edward's red eyes, and my heart began to pound just as it had this morning. I couldn't see him in this state of mind, I realized. As much as I needed him, right now, seeing him would only make things worse.

My head spun as I fought to come up with a convincing excuse, one that he would believe and would keep him from coming by unexpectedly. "Actually Jake," I hesitated. I didn't want to lie to him. "I have a lot of work to do tonight. I have a big paper due tomorrow that I haven't even started yet, and I really need to be able to focus on it." It wasn't a complete lie - I really did have a lot of work to do, and I really did have a paper to finish.

I waited with bated breath to see if Jacob would buy my excuse.

He sighed, and I could sense the disappointment in his tone. I let out a breath I hadn't even realized I was holding. "Damn. Alright, well, I'll come by tomorrow then. Billy says the weather is going to be nice - maybe we can take the bikes out."

He sounded so hopeful, but I knew I wouldn't be ready to see him in another twenty-four hours, so I left him with a vague, "Maybe." I sighed. "I really have to get going, Jake."

"I know, I know. Lots of work to do." Even over the phone, I could tell he was grinning. "I'll talk to you tomorrow, Bells."

"Yeah. Tomorrow. Bye."

I hung up the phone feeling absolutely disgusted with myself.

The next few days passed me by in a hazy blur. I got out of bed and went to school like it was any other day. I spoke to my friends. I had dinner with Charlie.

I made every excuse I could not to see Jacob.

I told him I still had too much homework, that I was working the late shift at work (I didn't tell him that I had requested the late shift). I even went out with Angela to a movie one night, leaving Charlie to deal with the inevitable call when it came.

At first, Jacob took all of my excuses for truth and told me that he would just see me later on in the week or on the weekend, when he was sure I would have time to spare. After the unplanned night out with Angela, he caught on that my excuses were just that - excuses.

That night when I got home, Charlie was sitting at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper. I glanced at my watch and noted the time - 9:30. I knew there was a game on that he would usually be watching. If he was sitting in the kitchen, he was probably waiting for me to come home, and if he was waiting for me to come home... I inwardly groaned. There was a lecture coming, I could almost smell it.

"Jacob called," Charlie said as I walked into the kitchen. "He said that you've been busy with work this week and haven't been able to see him."

"That's true, Dad," I said as I sat down and shrugged out of my jacket. "You know I've been -”

"Yes, I know - lots of work to do with finals coming up, late nights at Newton's. He just seemed a bit put out when I mentioned that you were out with Angela Weber, especially when I told him I hadn't even known that you had plans tonight."

My mouth dropped open. I had to catch my breath before I was weakly able to ask, "You told him that?"

"Yes, Bella, I told him that." He sighed and pushed the newspaper to the side. "Honey, I don't know what's going on between you and Jacob - although if you're avoiding him this much all of a sudden, I'm sure I have a good idea - but it's not fair to him for you to just blow him off like this."

"I know, Dad," I grumbled. I didn't need him to tell me what I already knew. Way to make me feel ten times worse about all this than I already did.

"Then I suggest you pick up that phone and talk to him. I'll even go upstairs if it makes you feel better."

"Thanks," I choked out, the thought of calling Jacob and talking to him about what happened between us making me feel nauseous.

Charlie stood up, giving me a pat on the shoulder as he wandered up the stairs. I waited until I was sure he was in his room before turning to stare at the phone as if it had teeth and was going to turn around and bite me.

I took a breath. Might as well get this over with. I dialed Jacob's number, praying that he would be the one to pick up.

"Hello?" For once, my prayers were answered.

"Jake," I breathed. I took another deep breath. "Hi."

"Yeah," he said, and I caught the distinct sound of frustration in his voice. "Hi." He took a breath of his own, and I couldn't even get a word in before he blurted out, "Why have you been lying to me?"

I was stunned. "I haven't been." My voice betrayed my guilt. "I've just really had -”

He cut me off. "A lot to do, I know. You've been feeding me the same excuses all week, and then tonight, I find out you're with your friend at a movie. That doesn't sound like work to me."

I couldn't say anything. My voice was frozen in my throat.

There was a pause in the conversation where the only sound was my own heavy breathing. I heard him take a deep breath, as if preparing himself to say something. I hoped he wasn't going to bring up our kiss. I wasn't ready to talk about what it could mean for us and our friendship and the direction it could be taking.

He said exactly what I'd hoped he wouldn't.

"If this is about the kiss, then -"

"Jacob," I said, finally finding my voice and cutting him off. He stopped talking, waiting for me to continue. I took a breath. I knew what I had to say. "This... is about the kiss." I could barely say the words aloud. I was almost whispering. "It... It was a mistake."

I could hear his breath hitch. I must have been the most horrible person on the face of the planet at that moment. "Bella -”

"No, Jake, let me explain. It... It wasn't a mistake to kiss you. I... I'm just not ready for another relationship yet. I know it's selfish to make this all about me and to not think about what you want, but -”

"Bella!" He said, effectively cutting off my rambling. "It's okay. I'm not going to say I'm not disappointed, but... it's okay. We'll figure it all out."

"Thanks," I whispered.

"Do you mind if I still come by tonight? I've...missed you the past few days." It seemed that after what I said, the admission was a hard one to make.

"No. Tomorrow's Saturday, I'm sure Charlie won't mind."

"Great. See you in a few." He hung up, and as I put the phone down, I could feel my hands shake, just a little. After all that, he was still optimistic. After all that, he still wanted to see me, still missed me.

It was so much more than I deserved.

I trudged slowly up the stairs, and when I reached the top, Charlie poked his head out. "Everything alright?"

"Fine," I mumbled. "Jake's coming by in a few minutes."

His answering smile was radiant. "See? What did I tell you? Everything is fine."

"Yeah, Dad, you were right," I sighed. "I have to straighten my room up before he gets here, though.”

"You get to that, then. I'm going down to catch the rest of the game, I wonder what the score is," he wandered off, muttering to himself about who might be winning.

I walked into my room, took one look around, and sighed for the hundredth time that day. My clothes were piled all over the floor, my books strewn around them. Shaking my head, I set about putting things in some semblance of order, trying not to let my thoughts wander off in any direction other than to the task at hand.

I shoved a pile of laundry into my closet and was about to shove another pile into the duffel bag under my bed when my foot caught on something, sending me tumbling to the floor with a loud thump.

"Ow," I grumbled. Served me right. I searched behind me for the offending object that had tripped me, and rolled my eyes when I noticed one of my floorboards had come loose.

"Bella, you alright up there?" Charlie yelled from the foot of the stairs.

"Yeah, Dad, I'm fine," I said, about to shove the board back into place. "Go back to the...game." I paused as something caught the light of the room, flashing for a moment. I could feel my brow furrow in confusion. There was something there, under my floorboard.

But I'd never put anything...

My eyes widened, heart stuttering to a halt as I stuck my hand beneath the board to pull out the offending item. I was letting my imagination run wild. There was no way this could be what I thought it could be. I closed my eyes and pulled the object out with a shaky hand, purposely paying no attention to its shape. No way in heaven or earth that it could be...

I opened my eyes and glanced at the object, and the entire world titled on its axis and came to a screeching halt.

It was a CD. To be precise, it was the CD Edward had made me for my birthday, the same CD that had gone missing the night he'd left me.

I stared at the object, at my name written in his perfect penmanship on the front, and fought against the way I could feel my heart begin to break, against the way I could feel the hole in me begin to widen even further. This was not what I needed right now.

I knew what else I would find if I slipped my hand back under the floorboard. I knew I should just leave things well enough alone, but I had to know for sure.

I was a glutton for punishment, it seemed, because my hands grasped the rest of the objects, flat, paper, and I knew what they were without having to look at them.

I looked at them anyway.

First were the plane tickets to Jacksonville, a reminder of the planned trip to see my mother we were both supposed to take together. Next was the picture of the two of us in my livingroom. The sight of the cold, hard mask on his face was almost enough to make me break down right then, a reminder of his words before he'd left, that he'd been planning to leave me long before he actually did and that somehow, deep down, I had known.

Last was the picture of him, radiant and smiling on my birthday, too beautiful for words. Looking at that picture, I could almost convince myself that there was a time when he had loved me. I ran my fingers over his face, tears stinging my eyes. I thought he'd left me, left me for good, and here, he'd left a small piece of himself for me to find under my floorboards. No. I doubt he'd ever meant for me to find these reminders of our past - for it was our past, whether he would want to think of it that way or not - or else I'm sure he would have chosen a better hiding spot.

I stared at the picture of Edward smiling back at me as I climbed onto my bed, the CD still clutched in my other hand.

I felt a little piece of my soul shatter as I realized that these were all a sign of everything he'd thrown away so easily, all a sign of everything I just couldn't let go of. Even if he wasn't ever coming back to me, even if he didn't love me, even if I tried to convince myself that what I felt for Jacob was enough...it would never be enough. Jacob deserved more than the half of my heart he was getting.

As if brought there through the force of my thoughts, there was a knock on my door, and Jacob walked into the room. I must have looked shell shocked, like the victim of a tragedy, because he quickly walked over and sat down next to me, wrapping his arm around my shoulders. I didn't realize until that moment that I was shaking.

"Bella, Bella, what happened?"

The concern in his voice made me clutch the picture tighter in my hand, a wave of guilt and anger pulsing through me suddenly, guilt for what I was doing to Jacob, and anger for what Edward had done to me. It was the anger that shocked me.

"I..." I shook my head. I couldn't tell him about this. On top of everything else? It wasn't fair.

"It's not important," I whispered. I gave him a shaky smile. "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine."

There was definite disbelief in his eyes as he stared back at me, but he knew better than to press the issue. Instead, he put his hand under my chin. My heart beat even faster in my chest. What is he doing?

"What are you doing?" I voiced the question, embarrassed by the way my voice shook.

Jacob continued to stare at me before shaking his head. "Bella, I know what you said on the phone...about not being ready. And I understand, I do. But...maybe you are ready and you just don't know it yet. Maybe you want to be, but you're holding onto something...someone else so tightly that you don't know how to let anyone else in."

My heart stuttered even faster. He was right - hadn't I thought the exact same thing?

"So, I'm not asking you to give your entire heart to me," he continued, and the force of his eyes pulled me in, kept me from interrupting. "I just want you to let me in."

He leaned forward, and my hands clenched tighter around the objects in my hands.

"Just let me in, Bella," he whispered. Then, his lips found mine.

At first, I was frozen. I was unsure. I still wasn't ready. But after finding Edward's gifts under the floorboards, something had snapped within me. To keep back the tears, I gave myself over to the kiss. I may not have been ready, but I was going to let him in. Jacob deserved that much from me.

I wrapped my arms around his neck, my hands still clenched into fists. One of his hands tangled into my hair, the other running down my back, and I gasped. He was so warm, so soft, so not what I was used to, and the difference between he and Edward made my head spin. Or maybe that was just the way he was kissing my neck.

My hands fell open of their own accord, and when the sound of plastic hitting wood reached my ears, I pulled back with a gasp. "Charlie," I said, and as his lips found mine again, I turned my head to face the window. "Charlie is -”

But I didn't finish my sentence. My words had effectively died in my throat as Jacob's arms stiffened around me.

I looked up and saw the face at the window, staring back at me. His eyes were filled with shock, and more anguish then I'd ever seen in their ebony depths.

As his face disappeared, that little part of me that was left that was still whole, still alive... It withered and died.