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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:


7. Chapter 7 - Reunion

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4691   Review this Chapter

I spent the next day convincing myself that the previous night had been a dream.

I didn't have work to distract me from my thoughts – Mike called in the morning to tell me that the store would probably be deserted, so I could just take the day off. Charlie was out fishing with Billy, and I had no desire to consider the repercussions of the conversations that would undoubtedly be taking place between the two of them.

Jacob hadn't called to ask if I wanted to hang out on the reservation, and Edward hadn't climbed in my window or followed me home. The only logical explanation I could come up with for both of these things was that I had imagined everything – the kiss with Jake, seeing Edward at the window, running off to see him so I could tell him how I felt.

Jake should call soon, I thought to myself, not quite sure why I was so afraid to call him. If last night really was a dream, then he wasn't mad at me, we hadn't kissed, and nothing had changed between us.

Right?

I stared at the phone in the kitchen, cringed, and then headed upstairs where I tried to think about things logically, wondering why I felt so tired.

Logic, however, was quickly and effectively run over and squashed by fact as I stared at the hole in my floor where my floorboard used to be, then noticed Edward's picture lying next to it and tried to figure out how it got there.

I leaned down to pick up the photo and as my fingers touched the edge, the night before came back with a clarity so stark it left me reeling. Edward kissing me, telling me he still loved me, that he was willing to fight for me. Jacob kissing me, telling me that he would fight for me, too. I winced, waiting for old wounds to flare up again.

I walked over to the other side of the bed and picked up the CD that I remembered had fallen there. I placed it gently on my nightstand, fingers shaking just slightly. Then, I slumped down on the bed, suddenly exhausted, Edward's picture hanging loosely from my fingers. Sleep, I told myself, I need sleep. Then maybe all of this will just disappear. I lay down, closing my eyes, and was asleep just as my head hit the pillow.

My dreams were plagued with images and sounds that seemed to flash across my mind and my eyelids - warm kisses and red eyes, Alice saying words I just didn't understand but that seemed to frighten me. The ones that were the most clear were those of a rust colored wolf howling, a pair of white teeth, lips pulled back in a growl, and a sound like thunder as two bodies collided while all I could do was helplessly look on.

I woke up in a cold sweat, Edward's picture clutched tightly in my hand, to the sound of my name being called

"Bella! You have a phone call!"

I groaned and rolled over, burying my face in my pillow for a moment. It was probably Jacob, and right now, I was back to not wanting to talk to him.

"Bella!" Charlie's voice was thick with impatience, so I threw off the covers and got out of bed.

"Coming!" I yelled down as I shoved the picture under my pillow.

I took the stairs slowly, partly because I was still sleep muddled, and partly because I had no desire to have any kind of conversation whatsoever with Jake right now.

When I walked into the kitchen rubbing my eyes, the frustration seemed to leak right out of Charlie. He smirked.

"Is this what you do all day?" He was definitely amused. I shot him a glare before rolling my eyes and he grinned.

"Evening, sleepy. Had I known you were asleep, I would have told Alice to call back later."

My head snapped up. I was suddenly wide awake. "Alice?" I asked slightly breathless, heart pounding.

"Yeah," he said, and he sounded just as surprised as I felt. "She said she was sorry she didn't call before, but there was a family emergency with -" He fumbled over his words and shot me a wary glance, eyes going hard. "With him," he spat out.

I tried to keep a somewhat straight face, not for my sake, but for Charlie's. He needed to be convinced that hearing Edward was involved somehow wouldn't send me spiraling back down into a depression, and I needed to be convinced that my head wouldn't explode from sheer overload.

She knows, I thought to myself, and I had to fight to keep my hand from shaking as I reached out for the phone.

Charlie watched my face carefully. I arched my eyebrow, trying to be nonchalant. "So, are you going to give me the phone, or are we going to keep Alice waiting so long that she hangs up?" I knew she wouldn't hang up, knew that she could probably hear the entire conversation Charlie and I were having even with the phone sitting face down on the kitchen table. Charlie, however, didn't know that, so he reached over to pick up the phone and handed it to me slowly.

"Just...don't let whatever she says upset you, alright?" he said, rather protectively.

I rolled my eyes again, but nodded, knowing very well that there was truth behind his words. Whatever Alice had to say was going to be very upsetting.

Charlie went to sit in the livingroom and I heard the volume of the TV go up, louder than usual. I assumed that was his way of telling me that he was willing to give me privacy, but would still be nearby if I needed him. I smiled a little sadly. I felt bad for making Charlie feel like he needed to protect me all of a sudden. I used to have him convinced that I could take care of myself.

Sighing, I picked up the phone.

"Well, it's about time," Alice said lightly as soon as I had the phone to my ear. I could tell she was joking in a way that only Alice could.

"Hi, Alice," I said wearily. I paused. She seemed to sense that I was going to say something else, because she stayed silent. Finally, I took a breath. "Why didn't you tell me?" The words were whispered, more for Charlie's sake again than anything else, because I knew I couldn't say them without my voice breaking.

"I couldn't tell you, Bella," Alice said, more solemn now. "If I'd told you, it would have changed your decision, and that's something you have to do on your own."

"I didn't mean about kissing Jake," I whispered, almost silently. I was almost certain Charlie didn't know for sure what had been going on between Jake and me and I didn't want to confirm or deny any ideas he might have. Unless Jake told Billy, in which case Billy had surely told him - I'm sure they'd gossiped enough to put Jessica to shame on their fishing trip today - Charlie would have to survive with his suspicions.

"I meant about...about Edward coming back." I said this, if possible, even quieter. If I didn't want Charlie to know about me making out with Jake in my bedroom, then I certainly didn't want him to know that Edward Cullen was back in town. He'd fly off the handle in seconds.

"Bella, don't you see?" Alice's voice was over-eager, her words coming so quickly, I had to concentrate to catch them all. "If I'd told you that Edward was coming back to Forks, it would have seriously hindered your ability to make a rational decision. That and," she hesitated suddenly, as if not sure she should continue with her sentence.

"What Alice?" I asked, the exhaustion I was feeling in every fiber of my being evident in my voice. I'd had enough of surprises and cryptic riddles to last me a lifetime. Or two. "Spit it out."

"I wasn't sure whether or not he would change his mind." She said the words quickly, casually, but beneath the tone of her voice was a thread of unease. She was afraid of how I would take the news that Edward might have decided not to come back and see me.

I tried to make my voice sound light as I told her, "Well, if he hadn't come back, at least I wouldn't have this decision ahead of me. You know, the one that has the ability to break me." I couldn't help the hard edge that came over my voice.

I could almost hear Alice wince. "I'm so sorry, Bella. Maybe I should have been a bit more subtle," she admitted begrudgingly.

A short bark of laughter escaped my throat. "More subtle? Alice, it wasn't until I kissed Jacob the first time that I figured out what you were trying to tell me, and it wasn't until Edward came home that I fully comprehended that last part. It's been infuriating trying to figure it all out."

"That's the point, Bella. You're not supposed to figure it all out," Alice said, rather impatiently. "You're supposed to let your life run its course and take things as they come."

"Yes, because that's worked out so well for me in the past," I said, rather acidly. I sobered quickly when I realized what she was trying to tell me without actually saying the words.

"You're not going to tell me who I choose, are you Alice?" My voice sounded strained, strange to my own ears.

"I'm not going to know your choice until you make it, Bella." Alice tried to sound amused, but I could tell that underneath that amusement was worry.

"No - you saw that too, didn't you? You saw me…with Jake. I mean, before Edward decided that he was going to stay. Before I saw him at the window." Before I realized I really had a choice at all, I added mentally. "That's why you left."

There was a pause on Alice's side of the conversation, as if she were debating whether or not she should tell me something. Finally, she took in a breath I knew she didn't need. "That's not why I left," she said, and it was as good as a confirmation of what she'd seen. "I didn't want to say anything more to sway your decision one way or the other. You have to admit, I'm a bit of a biased party."

"A bit?" I was able to gasp out. I could imagine her smiling angelically on the other side of the phone.

"Bella, listen to me," she said, and from way things were going, I didn't see that I had a choice. "I wasn't lying when I said that the decision you make could make you or break you. Whoever you choose," she took another deep breath. "Inevitably, it is your decision. The truth is, I can't see who you choose anymore, Bella. When I look ahead, all I see is you torn in two. But you can't split yourself two ways. You know that, don't you?"

"I know," I whispered, closing my eyes, even though I was already more than halfway there.

"Think about it," Alice said, her voice suddenly fierce. "Deep down, you already know who you want."

I didn't say anything in response. This conversation was not going as I'd hoped it would. I still didn't have any answers and if anything, I was even more confused than before.

"I have to go," Alice said, and I nodded, but then realized she couldn't see it.

"Okay. Will you call again soon?" I hated how desperate I sounded, but now that I had the Cullens back in my life, I didn't know how I would survive if I lost them again.

Alice laughed. "Silly Bella. Of course I will. And in the mean time, I'll be keeping my eye on you." I was sure she'd winked at the phone.

"Fantastic," I grumbled, but I couldn't help but smile as Alice's bell-like laughter echoed over the phone.

"Don't worry - no more cryptic messages, I promise. Oh, and Bella," she paused for a moment and I held my breath, wondering what this last thing she had to say could be.

"Don't panic when you go upstairs. Edward just came in your window."

My heartbeat kicked into high gear. "Okay." My voice sounded strangled.

"Night, Bella!" she said cheerfully and hung up the phone.

"Goodnight," I said, a minute too late. There was nothing but a dial tone on the other end. I stared at the phone for a moment before gently putting it back on its base.

The sudden urge to run up the stairs was one I wasn't used to anymore, and the force of it knocked the wind out of me. I took a deep breath. I had to do this the right way. If I flew up the stairs too quickly, Charlie would be suspicious. I glanced at the green numbers on the microwave and winced. That and dinner was definitely overdue. Maybe Charlie wouldn't mind getting pizza. And that will give me some time upstairs while we wait for it to show up, I added to myself.

Heart racing, I walked into the livingroom. Charlie was staring much too intently at the news. "Charlie," I said, and he looked up suddenly.

"How's Alice?" he asked, and I could tell what he was really asking was "Do I have to forbid her from calling this house ever again?"

I smiled fondly at him. "She's great. Same old Alice." I paused as he scrutinized my expression, but didn't give him a chance to comment on whatever he saw written on my face. I blurted out, "Would you mind if we ordered pizza tonight? I'm beat."

Charlie rolled his eyes. "You slept all day, and you're still tired?" Then, he was serious. "You sure you're alright?"

"Fine, Dad, really. I just feel like having a pizza night, that's all."

I rocked back and forth on my heels, suddenly impatient for him to say yes or no. The urge to run up to my room was back, stronger than ever.

"Sure kid, whatever you want. Why don't you go upstairs until it gets here, though? You seem a bit tense."

Tense - there was a time when Charlie would have described me as "keyed up" when I knew that Edward was upstairs waiting for me and now I looked tense. I shook my head. "Thanks, Dad."

I had to fight the urge to fly up the stairs two at a time. I took the steps slowly, not wanting to give away my anticipation or my anxiety. What if he'd left when I didn't come right up? Did he know that Alice had called me? Did he know about Alice's visions?

Anxiety was definitely at the forefront as I pushed open my door and walked inside.

He was there. Edward was there, sitting on my bed, still as a statue, staring down at something in his hands. His eyes were intense, and it took me a moment to realize they were back to their more familiar honey color. The sight of his god-like face took my breath away.

"Edward," I breathed.

His eyes slowly met mine, searching, as if he were looking for the answer to some unasked question on my face. I could do nothing but stare back at him, heart pumping wildly.

"How did you find these?" He asked finally, quietly, and when I realized just what he was holding, I felt my heart plummet to my stomach. It was the pictures from under the floorboard, the CD, and the tickets. The objects looked so small in his hands.

I had to clear my throat a few times before I could speak. "Floorboard came loose. I tripped over it," I said, a bit sourly.

Edward's mouth twitched at this reminder of my inherent and constant human clumsiness.

"I was cleaning and when I went to shove the board back in place, the light glanced off of...something. I knew I hadn't put anything under there. So, I looked." I shrugged, but my eyes narrowed and my voice took on a harsher tone. "Imagine my surprise when I pulled out your CD."

He grimaced. "I didn't intend for you to ever find it."

"I don't know why you left it there anyway. It definitely wasn't on my list of things you could have done with everything." My voice was empty, hollow. It was the closest to nonchalant I could muster. I didn't have his ability to go completely cold and hard and blank. An image of his emotionless face the night he left flashed through my mind and I flinched, fighting against the memory.

Edward stood up, leaving his gifts to me behind him on my bed as he walked slowly towards me. "What was on your list then?" His voice was smooth, velvet, and I shivered.

I swallowed hard. "Took them with you. Burned them." I shook my head. "I don't know, Edward, but I didn't think you left them here with me." I glared at him harshly. "Sort of defeats the purpose of never existing in my life, doesn't it?"

Edward's face was still calm, but I noticed his eyes tighten ever-so-slightly at my words. He reached out a hand to cup my cheek and I closed my eyes. "Bella," he said, his voice soft.

He sighed. "You still don't believe me when I say that I still love you, do you?"

What was the point in denying it? I wanted to believe, wanted to believe him with every fiber of my being, but I just didn't see how he could love me. It never made any sense to begin with.

Edward titled my chin upwards and I felt his mouth brush gently against mine. My lips quivered in response, and I fought against the urge to wrap my arms around him and deepen the kiss. "Open your eyes, Bella," he said, his breath a caress on my face. "I want you to see me when I say this to you."

I opened my eyes, and he was still so close, and so breathtakingly beautiful that my breath caught in my throat. He took one of my hands in his. "Bella, I love you. I loved you the day I left you, I loved you every single moment of every single day that I was gone, and I love you still now that I'm back here with you. Leaving your gifts under the floorboard..." He shook his head, and I was stunned to see that he looked ashamed. "It was selfish. It was one of the most selfish things I could have done, and I'm so, so sorry, but I had to leave them there with you, Bella. I had to leave a piece of myself here with you, even if you never knew it was there."

"Then why didn't you let me leave a piece of me with you?" I whispered softly, even though I knew that he'd taken something more than just a physical gift with him when he left. He'd taken a piece of my very soul. His words were beginning to make sense, but I was still having trouble believing that all of this time, he still really and truly loved me.

To my surprise, Edward laughed. "You were always there, Bella. You were in my every thought. Every waking moment was consumed of nothing but you. You are my life. When Rosealie called me and told me that you were dead," his voice cracked on the last word, and he leaned his forehead against mine and closed his eyes. "I called your house. I had to make sure. When I heard your voice on the phone, I could scarcely believe it. Alice had been wrong. You were alive."

"It was you," I said, remembering the strange prank phone call from the even stranger afternoon of Harry Clearwater's funeral. "I thought I heard someone say my name, but the day was just weird on a whole. I thought I was imagining things."

"Yes. It was me." He rubbed his thumb across my cheek, and I closed my eyes again, too. "Hearing your voice, though, wasn't enough. I had to come back and see for myself. I had to make sure that you were all right. It took a few days, and more than a few angry phone calls to the airline, but I finally got a flight into Port Angeles. And then..." His voice trailed off. He didn't need to say the rest.

"And then you came back and saw me with Jake," I finished lamely, my face burning.

Edward's arms wrapped around my waist and he pulled me tightly to his chest. If I didn't know any better, I would almost say the gesture was possessive. "I was only planning to check in on you to see if you were safe. I was going to leave again right after."

I stiffened at his confession. "How could you think I would let you leave after I saw you again?" I asked him, my voice hoarse.

He stroked his hand through my hair, trying to comfort me. "You weren't supposed to see me. I was going to come later, long after I thought you were asleep, but once I was off the plane, I just couldn't bear to wait a moment longer. I had to come here. I had to see your face again, if only for a moment. When I looked in your window and saw you with that dog," I flinched. I was used to hearing derogatory terms like leech and bloodsucker fly from Jacob's mouth, but somehow, hearing them fall from Edward's lips was just as painful, if not more so.

He noticed me shy away and apologized briefly. "Sorry - With Jacob then, I couldn't just leave you again. I knew that I was being a hypocrite, that I was going back on my word. I wanted you to live a normal human life, to move on, but now that you were, and I was here to witness the act... I just couldn't bring myself to let you." He kissed the top of my head. "I'm still as selfish as I ever was, and I still want you now as much as I ever have."

"But I didn't move on, Edward," I said, pulling back to look at him. "What you saw..." I took a deep breath. "What you saw...happening between Jacob and me... I don't...I mean I don't even know what I..." My voice trailed off. I was flustered, my face flushed. I wasn't sure how I could explain to Edward what I felt for Jake when I wasn't even sure I could explain it to myself.

Edward's fingers were running maddening trails up and down my arms, which wasn't helping with my thinking process, so I pulled out of his embrace completely. I sat down on my bed and stared down at my hands. If I was going to tell him this, I was going to tell him everything. He deserved that from me. "About a week ago, I kissed Jake," I said, my voice barely above a whisper. "There were too many reasons to kiss him, and not enough reasons not to. I felt horrible afterwards. Guilty. I avoided him. I told him it was a mistake." I let out a little laugh, but it ended up sounding more like a sob. "You want to talk about being selfish? I must be the most self-centered person on the face of the planet. I made...us...Jake and I...all about me. But he still wanted to see me that night."

I felt the bed shift with the addition of Edward's weight. I ignored it, fidgeting with my fingers as I continued. "And then, when I tripped over the floorboard...I don't know, it just felt like something snapped inside me. He told me he knew that I couldn't give him my entire heart, but he wanted me to let him in. So, I did. I still don't know why."

"That one's easy," Edward murmured. "I already told you the answer last night."

I stared up at him then, slowly replaying bits and pieces from our conversation the previous night, trying to figure out what exactly he was talking about. My heart beat faster when the answer came to me. "You said I've already started to give my heart to someone else," I whispered. I thought about what Alice had said about only seeing me trying to split myself in two and in that moment, I realized that as usual, Edward was right.

Edward's gaze was suddenly intense. He ran his fingers down my cheek and neck, then across my collarbone, and I shivered. He wrapped his other hand gently around both of my wrists. "Yes. And do you remember what I said after that?"

If possible, my heart fluttered even faster in my chest. "That you weren't letting me go without a fight."

Edward leaned forward and breathed the word, "Exactly," against my face before closing the distance between us and kissing me.

I couldn't help it - I gasped as his lips met mine, hard and smooth and perfect. I understood now why he'd taken both of my wrists in his hand - I didn't want to test the boundaries of his self-control. My body, on the other hand, had a mind of its own, and my fingers flexed instinctively, itching to be free to run along his body and pull him closer to me.

Edward ran his free hand down my spine, then splayed his fingers at the small of my back to pull me just a little bit closer. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't think.

"Breathe, Bella," Edward whispered against my neck as he trailed kisses down my throat and across my shoulder, then back up again. I let out a breath. "Be good," he muttered against my ear before he let go of my wrists. Then, he kissed me again.

I don't know how he expected me to behave myself when his lips were moving against mine so insistently, but I knew that if I wanted this to continue, I would have to find some measure of restraint. I wrapped my arms around him, but didn't pull him any closer. I did, however, reach a hand up to gently run my fingers through his hair at the same time he moved to kiss the hollow of my throat. I gasped.

Edward groaned. "I thought you were going to behave," he said, but he kissed me again.

"I am behaving," I said, breathlessly. "When I aim to misbehave, you'll know." I moved my lips to his neck at the same time I heard Charlie's voice call me from downstairs.

"Bella! Dinner!"

I groaned loudly into Edward's shoulder and I felt his chest rumble as he chuckled. "Damnit, Charlie."

"He does have impeccable timing, doesn't he?" Edward said, laughter evident in his voice.

I glanced up into his face; his amber eyes were shining with mirth. "I should get down there before he comes up." I bit my lip. "You'll still be here when I come back, won't you?"

Edward smiled and brushed my hair behind my ear. "I'll be here as long as you want me to be."

"Good," I said untangling myself from him and walking out of the room. "Because I'm not finished with you yet."

I could hear his faint chuckling through the closed door.