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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:


5. Chapter 5 - The Flaw in the Plan

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3508   Review this Chapter

The shock that rolled through me was laden with something thick and painful. I felt like I was moving through a haze, scared stiff.

The face at the window had been stunned, the look in his dark eyes wounded and absolutely heartbroken. I never wanted to see that broken look on his face again, knowing that I was the cause.

He’s back, I thought, heart pounding erratically.

Then, the logic set in. Maybe I was imagining things. Maybe seeing him at the window was just a figment of my own guilty mind, my own desires and hopes. Maybe it wasn’t real. Maybe Edward hadn’t come back for me just to find me in someone else’s arms. The thought was a minor relief.

Then I noticed how still Jacob had gone, actually paid attention to how his arms had stiffened around my waist. He had gone alert, his own eyes and ears and nose turned towards the open window, and any hope I had that I had been imagining Edward’s face evaporated in an instant.

Jacob’s nose wrinkled, but his eyes were wide and attentive. In the second it took him to turn from the window to look at my face, I tried to school my expression into one of casual confusion. “What’s wrong, Jake?” Please let him buy it, please let him buy it, please let him –

“Vampire,” he said simply, and his eyes suddenly turned hard.

My heart continued to pound in my chest. I continued to play dumb, and would until he called me out. “Victoria?”

Jacob shook his head. “No, didn’t smell like her. The scent was similar to Alice, but not the same.” Suddenly, Jacob’s eyes widened, as if that were the key to the question he was thinking in his mind. Of course, Edward might smell similar to Alice, I suppose, if I were a werewolf. I thought of what Edward smelled like to me, and how the scent of his breath could make my head spin.

I had trouble keeping my voice steady as I said, “Do you need to go?” I was hoping he would say yes, praying, pleading with any of the Fates above who might have been listening to my thoughts at that moment.

The Powers that Be must have been on my side that night, because Jacob nodded. “I should let Sam know about this. He would want to know if some bloodsucker was trying to get into your window.” He pulled back to look at my face. “Will you be okay by yourself?”

I nodded. I didn’t trust my voice at the moment. I was already forming a plan in my head.

Jacob leaned forward again and pressed a kiss to my forehead. My stomach fluttered, and I wasn’t sure if it was because of the kiss or because I just wanted him to leave already.

“I’ll call you tomorrow morning to check in on you. Someone from the pack may be here tonight to keep a lookout, so don’t panic if you happen to see a shadow outside your window.”

Someone or you? I thought to myself wryly, but I nodded again. “I won’t panic. Go, Jacob.” I gave him a little push towards the door.

Jacob kept his eye on me as he walked backwards towards my door. He waved when he got to the doorway. I gave him a feeble wave of my hand in return. I waited until I heard him say goodnight to Charlie, then listened for the sound of his car pulling out of the driveway before I jumped off of the bed and practically ran for the shower.

First, I had to convince Charlie that I was getting ready for bed. That shouldn’t be too hard – it was already 11:30, and I was prone to go to sleep early these days, even on the weekends. I almost ran right into Charlie on my way out of the shower.

“Going to sleep Bells?” He asked, his voice already gruff with exhaustion. There was a good chance he’d fallen asleep on the couch. Good - better for me to put my plan into action without getting caught.

“Yeah Dad,” I said, a little breathlessly. “I’m pretty wrung out. Long day, you know?”

“Yeah,” he said, fighting off a yawn. I fought off a grin. This would almost be too easy. “Night then, kid.”

“Night, Dad.” I walked as calmly as I could back to my room and closed the door quietly before bolting to the closet and pulling out my sneakers. I grabbed my keys off of my desk, and then paused in my tracks.

Was I really going to do this? Was I really going to sneak out of my house in the middle of the night and go off to try to find my vampire ex-boyfriend who had just seen me in the arms of someone else, and a werewolf at that (not that he knew that)? I could be caught, not just by Charlie, but by whoever was possibly going to be sent to watch over me tonight from the pack… so Jacob, I assumed. The thought of Jacob catching me on the way back from seeing Edward made my breath catch in my throat, and I wasn’t quite sure why. That and I didn’t even know where to start looking for Edward.

That was a lie, I thought to myself. I knew exactly where I was going to start looking. I was just afraid of what I would meet when I got there.

Stick to the plan, Bella. You wanted him back, and now you have to face the consequences. I took a deep breath to steady myself before quietly slipping out the door. I crept slowly down the stairs, not wanting them to creak, but also not wanting to trip on the way down. I tiptoed to the front door, inching it open just enough to slip through before shutting it silently behind me.

Next came the hard part.

I was able to climb into my truck without incident, but the sound the car made as it started could easily wake up the entire neighborhood. I stuck the key in the ignition and took a breath. If I was going to do this, I wasn’t going to do it halfway. Letting out the breath, I turned the key.

The truck jolted to a start with its usual bang, and I froze, waiting for Charlie to come running outside, wondering what I thought I was doing and where I was going at this time of night. I didn’t even have a back-up excuse to give him.

I waited and waited, and when I was sure that Charlie wasn’t coming out after me, I pulled the car away from the front of the house and headed down the street towards the road that led out of town, heading north.

I tried to keep my mind clear as I drove, but my head was filled with nothing and everything at once. A part of me was hoping that he wouldn’t be at his home when I got there, and another, larger part of me was hoping he would be there so that I could… do what exactly? Throw myself in his arms and beg for forgiveness? Have it out with him for leaving me and then coming back when I was more confused than I had ever been in my entire life? Forgive him for leaving me and take him back? There were just too many possibilities, too many ways this could end, and my head swam with the effort to contain them all.

I was pulling into the meadow, the large, white house coming into view before I could even register that I’d made the turn-off from the road through the woods. My breath started to come in gasps, my heart fluttering at a dizzying pace. I put the truck in park, but let the engine idle. Now that I was here, all I wanted to do was turn back. My hands clenched around the steering wheel.

You’re here now; you might as well keep going. I don’t know when my mind had acquired a Voice of Reason, but I decided to go with it. My hand shook as I turned the car off, and I almost fell, my legs shaking as hard as my hand as I stepped out of the cab. I took a few deep breaths to steady myself. It wouldn’t be a good idea to walk into the house while I was this nervous. I’d seen how black his eyes had been. I was in enough danger already.

Forcing that last thought aside, I made my legs move in the direction of the porch, taking slow, even steps up the stairs, my hand trailing along the railing. I paused as I reached the front door. The sound of a piano being played reached my ears. It took a few moments for me to recognize the familiar song, and when I did, I almost turned and ran full speed back to my truck.

Edward was playing my lullaby.

I took another couple of deep breaths, beginning to shake once again. If I was going to lose it before I even stepped into the house, before I even set eyes on him, then there was no point in walking through the door. I had to get some measure of control over my emotional state. I was sure he’d sensed me outside already – if he hadn’t heard me coming up the stairs, there was a good chance he’d smelled me by now. But he’d made no acknowledgement if he did know I was there. He continued playing; I guessed he was waiting for me to take the lead. I closed my eyes as I imagined his fingers floating over the ivory keys, but the look of pain I’d seen on his face at my window replaced the look of peace that I knew was the usual expression he wore when he played.

That was the deciding factor. Taking a deep breath, I pushed open the door.

The sound of the door creaking made me cringe, for more reason than one. I couldn't remember anything about this house that creaked or groaned, anything that wasn't perfect. Not the whitewashed floors, not the beautiful furniture. Not even the inhabitants.

The other reason was that if for some strange reason, Edward hadn't sensed my presence before, he was certainly going to be aware of it now.

"Are you just going to stand there, or are you going to come inside?"

The sound of his voice made me jump, pulling me from my musings. Until that moment, I hadn't realized that I'd frozen in the threshold, still half undecided about whether or not I was actually going to confront him. I hadn't even realized he'd stopped playing the piano so he could turn to stare at me.

Being under the full force of his eyes for the first time in months - black as ebony, but still depthless, still able to reel me in and pin me in my position - made my heartbeat jump, if possible, even faster, and my breath caught in my throat. Even from across the room, I was sure he would know the effect he was having on me.

It was a tremendous effort, but I forced my feet to move, one in front of the other, farther into the room and closer to him. Half of my mind was taking in the stiff way he was sitting, his hardened, unfeeling gaze, and screamed at me to run back out the still-open door. The other half of me wanted nothing more than to run towards him, close the distance between us, and throw my arms around him.

My body wisely chose a - happy? - medium. I stopped about twenty feet in front of him and cast my gaze at the piano, the moonlight coming in through the wall of glass behind him, my feet - anywhere but at him.

I thought of how sure of myself I'd been back at the house, how I'd wanted nothing more than to come and find him and talk to him.

Now that I was here, I had no idea what either of us could say to rectify the situation.

We stood there in silence for a few more seconds before he whispered, "Tell me what you're thinking."

I'd expected anger, desperation, possibly, possibly acceptance in his unfounded belief that I'd moved on.

Of all the things I'd expected him to say, I hadn't expected that.

It took me a moment to collect myself. How did I put what I was feeling right now into words?

"I -" I stopped and took a shaky breath. I shook my head quickly.

Too quick - I heard him inhale sharply, and I froze, instantly going still.

I stayed unmoving, waiting for Edward to take another breath. I remembered him telling me once that he was desensitized to my scent - "Mind over matter," he'd said, and we'd laughed. Then, I remembered what he'd said a little later. That if he was away from me for any given length of time, he might have to desensitize himself again. "Then don't go," I'd said. I didn't want to have to test that theory then.

It looked like my coming here after spending months apart was going to force us to test that theory now.

I heard him exhale, and I let out the breath I hadn't realized I was holding along with him. His eyes were repentant as he stood up and ran a hand through his hair.

"I'm sorry," I said quietly. "I should have known better..." It wasn't until the words were out of my mouth that I realized he could have taken them to have a double meaning.

Now, it was his turn to shake his head. "You have nothing to be sorry about." His response was just as cryptic. He took a step towards me, making a movement to raise his hand as if reaching out to me. He seemed to change his mind a second later, and his hand stilled again at his side. Instead, he walked over to the piano and trailed his fingers along the smooth surface of the keys, not hard enough for them to make a sound. I remembered what that soft touch felt like against my skin and I shivered. "You never did tell me what you were thinking," he said, his eyes still on the piano.

I took a step towards him. "I was thinking a lot of things," I said, my voice barely above a whisper. I knew he could still hear me, so I didn't fight to speak any louder. "I was thinking about how much I wanted to come here and find you so that I could talk to you, but then when I saw you, I found that I couldn't think of what to say. I was thinking about your face at the window when you saw me with Jacob." His hand stilled against the keys, and I took a breath. I had so much more to say.

From somewhere deep within, I gained courage, but with the courage came anger, and as I continued, the volume of my voice rose, and I was startled to find tears forming in my eyes. "I was thinking about what you must be thinking. I was wondering why you would come home to me when you don't love me. Isn't that what you said, Edward? That you didn't want to play human anymore?"

"Bella, I -"

"No." I cut him off, and he stared at me, stunned. "You wanted to know what I was thinking. And I was thinking a lot more than just that."

He nodded and I forged full speed ahead. "I was thinking that you must be convinced that I've moved on when that couldn't be further from the truth and I was thinking about tripping over my floorboard tonight and finding the gifts you hid there - hid there, Edward, like it was some sort of game, and about the look on your face when you left me, and how you wanted it to be like you never existed, but Edward... how can I, how can the world be like you've never existed when I didn't truly exist until I met you?"

I didn't realize I was sobbing, didn't realize he'd come over to wrap his arm around my shoulder until he was so close that I could smell his scent, which only made me cry harder. I covered my face with my hands.

Of all the ways I'd imagined Edward and me reuniting, this had not been one of them.

When I was sure I had a handle on myself, I wiped my eyes and let my hands fall from my face. Edward's arm was still around my shoulders. His face was inches from mine. If he kissed me now, I wasn't sure what I would do. Would I kiss him back? Forgive him? Did he forgive me? Had I really done anything that needed forgiving? My heart slammed against my ribcage.

Suddenly, Edward's nose wrinkled, and he pulled away from me. I was confused. I'd showered before I left. There was no way, no possible way that I could still smell like -

"Bella," he said, answering my unasked question, "It's not you. But your clothes reek of werewolf." His eyes narrowed. "Bella, why do your clothes reek of werewolf?

I cursed. My pajamas had been on my bed where I'd thrown them that morning. Of course they would smell like werewolf, that's where Jacob and I had kissed.

Before the night was over, I was going to give myself a heart attack. There were no two ways around it. "Jacob," I was barely able to choke the name out.

Edward's curse was a lot more colorful than mine had been. "Of course. Of course, the person you attach yourself to after I leave would have to be a werewolf, the only thing out there that could possibly be more dangerous for you to be around than me." He shook his head and looked down at me, a wry smile quirking at his lips. "Honestly, Bella, can't you just stick to the human species?"

My eyes narrowed. "Jacob is perfectly safe to be around. And besides, he was human when you...when you first left me. He's only been a wolf recently -”

"Oh, even better!" He exclaimed, pulling away from me. "A young werewolf! A pup! That's about as safe for you as -"

"He was there for me when no one else knew how to be," I said, my voice barely audible to my own ears.

Edward reeled like I had slapped him, but he recovered quickly, and leveled me with an icy stare.

"Well, I suppose this is my fault then," he said, his words flat and unemotional. "I wanted you to live a normal human life, to move on, and now I see that you have."

"Don't," I said, and my voice broke. I knew I sounded desperate.

"Don't what Bella? Don't face the truth, don't stay, don't blame myself, don't -"

"Were you not listening to a word I said to you earlier?" I finally screamed, effectively breaking through his cool demeanor. I'd shocked him countless times tonight, and the thought thrilled me. "I. Still. Love. You."

"Yes," he said, stepping towards me again, "You may." He cupped my chin in his hand and I closed my eyes, relishing in the feeling of his cool skin against my face. His touch was so different from Jacob's, harder, smoother, but so much more familiar. "But whether you realize it or not, you've already begun to give your heart to someone else."

I opened my eyes, and began to protest but he pressed one of his fingers against my lips and the flow of words stopped before they began. He leaned his face towards me, and I fought the urge to inhale deeply when the scent of his breath filled my nose. Then, he kissed me.

The kiss was short, too short for my liking. I fought to press my lips more firmly against his, to lengthen the kiss, but his hand on my chin prevented that. "I still love you, Bella," he whispered against my lips. My eyes were still closed, but at that admission, they popped open. I could see his eyes, could see that his words were honest, and froze where I stood.

His next words sent my heart crashing against my chest once more.

"I still love you, Bella, but I'm not the only one who does anymore. Don't think I'm letting you go without a fight." He leaned in and kissed my cheek and before I could respond, before I even had a chance to process his words, he'd disappeared.