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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:


8. Chapter 8 - Mind Games

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4085   Review this Chapter

I opened my eyes the next morning to a sky that was dark and dreary, the clouds heavy with the storm that was surely on the way. I sighed. In a perfect world, the weather would have been bright and sunny. In a perfect world, I’d have come upstairs after dinner the previous night and told Edward to stay, and it wouldn’t have been just a dream. In a perfect world, I would have woken up with his arms around me.

I closed my eyes, stretched my arms above my head and tried to roll over but found my movement constricted around my waist by what felt like arms. A pair of cold, solid arms…

My eyes snapped open and I used all of my strength to turn myself around. The grip around me lessened, giving me room to move. I turned my head slowly, and there he was, golden eyes staring back at me.

“Oh!” I said, one of my hands coming up to my mouth. I slowly moved my fingers to his face. He closed his eyes at my touch. “Oh, you’re really here.”

“Did you think you were dreaming?” Edward murmured, his voice quiet.

“Well…yes,” I admitted, my face flushing hotly.

“You’re not that creative.” His eyes opened and his gaze pinned me to the spot. My breath caught in my throat. He was just too damn beautiful.

Then, I took in the creases around his eyes, the way his mouth was turned down into a thin line, and I frowned. “Edward,” I said quietly, running my fingers softly along the tense line of his jaw. “What’s wrong?”

Edward let out a breath I don’t think he realized he was holding and pulled me closer to him. He buried his face in my hair. I was stunned and confused, but I let him hold me. He was clinging to my back like I was a lifeline, like I was the only thing keeping him rooted here. Or maybe like he was trying to keep me here.

“I’m so sorry, Bella,” he whispered against my neck. I pushed against his chest, wanting to see him, wanting to know what had brought on this sudden need to apologize to me.

He must have seen the complete and utter confusion written in my face because he sighed. “You were dreaming about me last night,” he said quietly. “But your dreams were nowhere near as pleasant as the reality.”

I was about to ask him what on earth he was talking about when the images from last night’s string of nightmares came back to me with a startling clarity. I’d had what had become the usual nightmare – the wolf and the vampire attacking each other, while all I could do was watch helplessly. Then, a new terror had invaded my subconscious. These images were somewhat blurry, but I knew one thing for certain – I’d dreamt that Edward had left me again.

“How did you know?” I asked him, my voice quiet as a whisper.

“You were talking in your sleep – calling out to me. I thought you were awake until…” He winced, and my breath caught in my throat. I knew what I’d cried out before he said the words and cursed my unconscious sleep-talking for putting him through more of this pain. “Until you said, ‘Don’t leave me.’” He shuddered, pulling me close to him again. “I swear, Bella, if I live a hundred thousand years, I will never forgive myself for leaving you.”

“Don’t,” I whispered, pressing a kiss to his neck. “This isn’t your fault.”

He pulled back and brushed the hair out from my eyes. His fingers lingered on my cheek, and the guilty, desperate look in his eyes spoke volumes. “Then whose fault is it? And don’t say yours,” he said before I could get a word in edgewise. “None of this, not even a fraction of this, is your fault.”

“Yes it is,” I said, my voice dropping even lower and my eyes falling to my comforter. “If I wasn’t so clumsy, if I hadn’t cut myself on the wrapping paper of my own damn birthday present, then none of this would have happened.”

But Edward was already shaking his head. “Bella, don’t you understand? If this hadn’t happened on your birthday, it would have happened some other time.” He gently raised my chin and I had no choice but to meet his eyes. “You’re only human, Bella. You forget how fragile you really are.”

“You never let me forget,” I mumbled petulantly.

His lips quirked into what could have been a smile, but then he was frowning again. “Being together… we’ve both always known that it’s dangerous, for both of us.”

“But-“ I tried to interrupt him, my heartbeat flying. Was he planning on leaving me again?

“Don’t worry, dear Bella,” he whispered, laying kisses along my cheek, then my neck. I had to remember to breathe. “I’m not going to leave you again. I’m much too selfish for that.”

“I’m glad,” I said with a relieved sigh.

He shook his head and his hair tickled my skin. He whispered something against my throat, but his voice was so quiet, I wasn’t able to make out the words. If I didn’t know any better, though, I’d think he said, “You shouldn’t be.”

I’m not quite sure how long we lay there, holding each other in silence, but after a period of time, Edward sat up and sighed. “Charlie’s getting up now. You need to start getting ready for school before he comes in to check on you.”

I exhaled loudly and pushed myself to a sitting position. “All right,” I grumbled. Edward smirked down at me. “Will I see you later?” I couldn’t keep the worry from creeping into my voice. I was still afraid that once he left me, he wasn’t going to come back.

“Are you working tonight?” He asked me.

“No.”

“Then I’ll be here when you get home.”

“Promise?” I whispered, embarrassed by how needy I must have sounded to him.

In response, Edward leaned forward and kissed me, soft but sure. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pressed my lips harder to his, knowing this would have to last me through the day.

“Promise,” he breathed against my mouth. Then, my arms were in my lap, draped around nothing. The curtains fluttered in the window and he was gone.

Just in time, it seemed. “Bella!” Charlie called, from what sounded like the bottom of the stairs. “You’re going to be late if you don’t get out of bed.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I mumbled under my breath. Sighing, I threw off the covers and braced myself for another day of classes at Forks High School.

At least there was a light at the end of this boring, monotonous tunnel, I thought as I started to get changed. I smiled in spite of myself.

***

Unfortunately, the light was a little farther away than what I was anticipating.

After a rather dull day at school, I sped home and all but skipped into the house, knowing that Edward would be there when I arrived. I frowned when I walked inside to find the living room empty. I walked further in, towards the kitchen, and my frown deepened. Still no Edward.

Fighting to keep the rising panic I was feeling from clawing its way out of my chest, I quickly made my way up to my bedroom. I took a deep breath before flinging my door open wide with a smile.

The smile fell, and I immediately had to fight to keep my breathing in check. Calm down, Bella, I told myself, while my breathing started to come in ragged gasps. I’m sure there’s a perfectly rational explanation.

I sat down on my bed, needing to rest my shaky legs, and that was when I noticed it – the piece of paper lying on my pillow next to a single, blue flower that I didn’t recognize. I picked up the flower and the note with trembling hands, not daring to hope. I held my breath.

A breath which I was immediately able to release once I saw my name on the front of the note in Edward’s perfect script.

My fingers fumbled to unfold the letter as quickly as possible without ripping the paper. I read the words on the page and almost sobbed with relief.

My Bella,

I’m sorry to break yet another promise to you, but I won’t be able to be there when you arrive home from school today. Alice needed me for something rather important. I’m sure you’ll find out what soon enough. Tongues do wag rather quickly in Forks.

I’ll be there before you go to sleep. That is a promise that I can keep.

I love you.

Edward

P.S. The flower is a freesia. Appropriate, no?


I drank in every word on the page, laughing at the end. Freesia – yes, how very appropriate. I pressed the petals to my nose and wondered if this was really how I smelled to him. I would have to remember to ask him tonight.

Then, I frowned, remembering the rest of the notes’ contents. Alice needed me for something important and I’d find out what soon enough. I groaned, frustrated. More cryptic riddles for me to puzzle over. Why did vampires have to be so obnoxious?

Sighing, I made my way down to the kitchen. I could try to work out this particular puzzle while I made Charlie and I dinner. Chicken fajitas sounded tempting – they would keep my hands, and hopefully my mind, busy for a good enough amount of time until Charlie came home.

I was right about keeping my hands busy, at least. My mind, however, had plans of its own, and kept wondering what Edward was alluding to no matter how much I told myself to stop thinking about it because I would, obviously, find out soon enough. I dropped a plate, a glass – miraculously, nothing broke - and was in the process of saving the bowl of salad when Charlie walked in the door.

He smiled at me wryly. “Breaking things again, Bella?”

I glared playfully and waved my spoon at him. “Quiet, you, or you’ll be getting takeout.”

Charlie waved his hands in surrender and laughed. “All right, you win. I know when I’m beat.” He practically fell into his usual chair.

“Long day?”

He shook his head. “You have no idea, Bells. I’m sort of glad you don’t,” he mumbled.

I didn’t like the sound of that.

Once everything was on the table, Charlie fell silent, choosing instead to focus on his food. His face went suspiciously blank. I fought the urge to squirm in my seat. He could be moody, but this was odd behavior, even by Charlie’s standards. Something was going on, I could feel it.

Charlie kept throwing me glances over his chicken fajitas, then turning his face away. I was able to pretend not to notice, but after fifteen tense minutes, I'd finally had enough.

Luckily for me, so had Charlie. He cleared his throat nervously. "Bella," he said, and his voice sounded slightly strained. "There's - ah - there's something that I need to tell you. Something that you need to know. But before I do, you have to promise me that you won't get upset, all right?"

My heart constricted in my chest. "What is it, Dad?" I feigned nonchalance. I even took another bite of my fajita to complete the illusion.

"Erm," he swallowed convulsively and then said, very quickly, "Dr. Cullen is back at the hospital."

I almost choked on my fajita, but I was able to swallow before I made a fool of myself. I stared across the table at him. This wasn't too big of a surprise to me, of course. With Edward back, it had only been a matter of time before the rest of the Cullens made their return.

Alice needed me for something important. I'm sure you'll find out soon enough.

Sooner than you think,
I thought to myself, glad to have that puzzle solved sooner than expected.

Still, I didn't have to fake the shock in my voice as I asked, "When? And how do you know?"

"Er," he still looked uncomfortable, as if he were afraid to tell me this part, too. I was suddenly terrified that he had seen Edward, or that Edward had approached him or done something equally stupid. I could understand why - Charlie had no idea that I knew Edward was back in Forks.

Charlie clasped his hands in front of him. Finally, he let out a breath and grunted. "Sam Uley came down to the station to tell me." I froze. Luckily, he didn't notice and continued, "He said given the situation," he winced and I couldn't help but cringe along with him, "He thought I should know. He wanted me to tell you so that you didn't find out...some other way."

My heart pounded furiously. Of course. The one thing that would be worse than Edward announcing his reappearance to my father himself would be the pack finding out and telling him, never mind what ulterior motives they might have.

"Bella," he hesitated. "There's one more thing. But I don't know if I should tell you."

"What?" I asked, trying to keep my voice from shaking. Oh, God. What could there possibly be that was worse than this for him to tell me?

Unless...

No. He couldn't know. There was no possible way, in any sphere of the universe, that he could know that -

"Edward's been in town. He's been here a few days now." His voice was hard. I almost lost my composure right then, but he had more to say. "Jacob told Sam that he saw him a few nights ago, then again just this afternoon." He'd said all of this very slowly, gauging me for a reaction.

Now, he started to look worried. "Bella, are you all right?"

I was in such a state of shock, I couldn't answer him right away. Jacob had told Sam that Edward was back. I shouldn't have been too surprised - he'd want the pack to know that their suspicions about the vampire who had been at my window that night were confirmed. But for Sam to tell my father... that was a dirty game to be playing. Because now, I would have to tell him that I'd known all along that Edward Cullen was in Forks because I'd seen him, too. I wouldn't lie to Charlie about this, not if I had even the slightest hope for Edward to ever be able to step foot in this house again.

Charlie had to know that Edward hadn't avoided me, like Sam and inadvertently the rest of the pack were trying to make it seem. I would not have him swayed to their side that easily.

I clenched my hands in my lap, gathering my courage. "Dad, I..." I exhaled and looked at a spot on the wall as I spoke. I couldn't look at him as I said this. I wasn't that brave.

"I knew Edward was back. He came to see me last night.”

The silence that greeted this statement was absolutely deafening.

He inhaled quickly, and I winced, bracing myself for the screaming that was about to come. Charlie didn't disappoint. "What?" He bellowed, banging his hands on the table. He stood up so fast that his chair clattered to the floor. "Bella-"

"Dad, we just talked!" I said, frozen in my seat.

"About what, Bella? Did he apologize? Or did he make excuses for why he left?"

"He didn't make excuses!" I yelled, my voice rising to meet his. I stood up now, too. I didn't like having him towering over me. "He told me the truth about why he left, and yes he apologized, but-"

"But what?"

“But I love him, Dad!” I said loudly, enough that he took a step backwards, stunned by my words. I think he’d known that all along, but it was one thing to think you know something and another thing to have it yelled in your face. “I love him,” I said, quieter this time. “These past five months have been absolute… they’ve been hard. Harder than anything else I’ve ever been through, and yes, I would have gotten through the pain without him, eventually, but Dad.” I took a breath. I wasn’t used to giving my father lectures like this. We didn’t give each other heart-to-hearts. “I wouldn’t have been whole. I wouldn’t have been…me. I wouldn’t have been Bella. Most of her would have survived, yes, but part of her would have stayed the empty shell she’s been since September.” Charlie winced at this reminder of my actions in these past months since Edward’s departure.

“Dad, I’m not asking you to take Edward back with open arms. I know that would be asking you for too much. And I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you that I saw him – I wanted to tell you, but…” The words “But I wasn’t entirely sure if he was really here to stay” hung in the air unsaid, and I knew that Charlie could sense what I was thinking even though I didn’t actually say the words because his forehead crinkled up again, his anger mounting once more.

“Now, I’m going to tell you something. Bells, you didn’t see yourself these past few months. No- wait.” I was about to interrupt him, but he stopped me. “You had your turn. Let me finish.” I nodded.

He let out a breath, and his words were colored with barely restrained rage, although I knew now that his anger was not aimed towards me. “You know how much pain you were in – of course you do. You were the one… barely living each day. But I was the one who had to watch you walking around with empty eyes, barely saying a word. I was the one who watched you break down in your room that first week when you finally came out of that catatonic state you were in, and Bella, I’ve seen some frightening things in my life, but seeing you shivering like that when Sam found you…” He closed his eyes and my eyes filled with tears. I knew then that I wasn’t the only one who had suffered when Edward had left, and I was ashamed for what I’d put Charlie through.

Charlie inhaled slowly before he could continue. “You were starting to get better, Bella. Even I noticed a change in you when you started hanging out with Jacob.”

I couldn’t help it – I rolled my eyes. Defense mechanisms at their finest. “Are we really going down this road again?”

His eyes hardened. “Jacob is still your friend, Bella, whether or not Edward has come home. He deserves a hell of a lot more respect and love from you than Edward ever will.”

The phone rang and both Charlie and I jumped. My hands were clamped on the back of my chair and I couldn’t seem to get them to move, but he was already moving to the other side of the kitchen. “Hello?” he said, his voice gruff and restrained. Then, he turned to me. “Bella, its Jacob.”

I would never get over this boy’s uncanny ability of impeccable timing. My eyes narrowed and I thrust my hand out for the phone. “Let me talk to him.”

“Only if you promise not to wail on him too hard.”

I stared at Charlie, stunned. My mouth dropped open. “I will do no such thing!” I spluttered. “If he didn’t know this would be coming, then he doesn’t know me at all.”

He hesitated, all of his earlier anger gone. He was truly worried about what I was going to say to Jacob.

“I’ll just go to La Push,” I argued. “I have a few choice words for Sam Uley, too.”

Charlie sighed and relented. He plopped the phone down in my waiting hand but didn’t let go right away. His eyes were serious as he said, “They were just looking out for you, Bella. Just remember who’s been here for you these past few months. And who hasn’t.”

I didn’t have a response to that. The reasoning formed on my tongue, but I couldn’t tell Charlie the truth about why Edward left, to make him fully understand. That, I think, was the worst part of all of this.

Charlie retreated into the living room to watch whatever game was on the television and I pressed the phone to my ear as soon as he was out of hearing range. “Jacob Black, you are so dead,” I seethed.

“I’m sorry, Bella,” Jacob said quietly, and there was at least a little remorse in his voice. “But Charlie had a right to know.”

“Isn’t it my decision what I do and do not tell Charlie?”

“Yes. But even you have to admit that your ability to make a rational decision is seriously hindered whenever is involved.”

I couldn’t believe this. I honestly and truly could not believe this was happening. “So, it’s perfectly fine for the two of us to be sneaking off and kissing behind Charlie’s back, but it’s entirely another when it’s me and Edward?” I was grasping at straws and we both knew it, but I was too irate to care. “That’s rather hypocritical of you.”

“The rest of the bloodsuckers are moving back to Forks,” Jacob spat from between his teeth. I could imagine his hands clenching around the phone. “You could have at least told me that.”

“I didn’t know yet!” I fought to keep my voice below a whisper. I knew that Charlie was listening. “Edward was going to tell me tonight.”

“He’s coming over?” Jacob screeched in my ear. I jumped, almost dropping the phone. “I’ll be there soon,” he said, his voice tense. “Don’t tell Charlie I’m coming.”

“No!” I panicked. Jacob could not come here. I did not want to think about what would happen if he and Edward saw each other. Visions of bone white teeth and flying fur danced across my eyelids and I shook my head furiously to dispel the images. “Don’t you dare Jacob Black!” I fumbled for some way, any way, to keep Jacob right where he was. “I’ll come there,” I blurted out, making sure Charlie heard me.

“What?” Jacob seemed stunned.

“Stay. Put.” I annunciated both syllables. “I’ll leave right now and we can talk more.”

“What about your precious Edward?” He said mockingly.

“Don’t taunt me, Jake. I’m not in the mood.”

Jacob was silent for a moment. Then, he grunted. “Fine. Don’t come here. Billy and the rest of the pack are just as nosy as Charlie probably is right now. Do you know the break in the woods, right where Forks turns into the rez?”

"Yes," I said between clenched teeth.

"Meet me there." He hung up before I could say another word. I huffed and had to fight to keep myself from throwing the phone onto the table in response.

I didn't say a word to Charlie; I just headed for the stairs - I knew he'd heard the end of mine and Jake's conversation.

"Going to Jake's?" He called.

I was already halfway up the stairs. "Yeah, Dad. I won't be late."

"Don't worry about it. You two work this out."

I rolled my eyes, glad he couldn't see my response. Funny how he didn't think Edward and I could work things out.

I grabbed my keys and scribbled a note to Edward, telling him what was going on, where I was going to be, and absolutely not to follow me. I could handle this myself.

Just wait here for me, please. I'll be back as soon as I can.

I love you too.

-Bella


It wasn't until I was in my truck and halfway to La Push that I realized why Jacob had picked the place he had for us to meet. The boundary line - the closest to La Push Edward could be without breaking the treaty. Jacob knew that I would somehow let Edward know where I was going to be. He was betting on the fact that Edward was going to follow me, and he wanted the pack to be nearby when he did, just in case.

I was tempted to turn my truck around and head right back home.

Too late now, Bella. The damage is already done. Might as well keep going. I pressed my foot on the gas, willing my truck to go faster. I prayed that I would get to the boundary line before Edward.