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Tiger Stripes

Summary:
Jasper found his everything in Bella. Bella found nothing she desired in Sam. Being stripped of everything she had Bella finds solace with Peter and Char. Can mates separated by hate overcome their haunted past? AU, Non Canon, Jasper/Bella, M for language/lemons


Notes:


8. Chapter 8

Rating 0/5   Word Count 7001   Review this Chapter

PPOV

"Can you believe Bella's graduating today?" Charlotte whispered excitedly.

"Nah. I mean, c'mon Char, what didn't that girl major in? I sure didn't think we'd ever make here with her constant flip-floppin'." I said, snickering as Char poked me in the ribs. I reluctantly stopped, rolling my eyes and muttering under my breath about her majorin' in indecision. What? I'm not wrong.

It was well past time for Bella to meet us and I was getting a little worried. I tapped my foot impatiently, while looking at Char and feeling my anxiety rise. Puss is a lot of things, but late isn't one 'em. The girl was down-right anal about being on time.

"Where is she anyway?" I grumbled. "She should have been here over half an hour ago."

I stood up, intending on going to look for her, but Char grabbed my arm and pulled me back down.

"Honey, she's obviously just running late and it doesn't look like all the other kids are here yet either. So sit down and stop fidgeting," she chided, rubbing my knee gently as I sat back down and leaned into her. After all these years, she was still the only person who could always settle me down.

We sat through the graduation and by the time they called her name with still no sign of her, we were both in panic. She didn't turn up for her own graduation; something she had worked so hard for, something she had looked forward to and anticipated to the point of near mania. For her to miss this something was definitely wrong — something was very, very wrong.

We tried her cell repeatedly but the damn thing was switched off.

"Baby," Char whispered, "we need to get the house, now."

It was difficult to keep to a human speed as we rushed home, praying that there was some sort of clue or sign or note or anything fuckin' thing that would let us know where she was and what she'd been doin'. This was supposed to be one of the most important days of her life. What the hell could have been more important than being there?

As we pulled down the drive and closer to the house, I was baffled by the only missing car. She always takes one of the muscle cars, what the fuck is the Prius doin' missing? That was just somethin' else to put in the 'somethin' ain't right' pile. But at least she hadn't stolen, ahem, borrowed Jasper's car this time. Thank you baby Jesus for small blessin's, I thought to myself not wanting to deal with anymore of their fuckin' drama.

Char and I ran into the house and went straight up the stairs to Bella's room. At first glance nothing seemed out of place. Nothing was missin' from her wardrobe and her duffel bag was still there. As were her passport, bank card and books.

"Doesn't look like she's taken off," I said quietly and sighed with relief. But that still didn't tell us shit about where the hell she is, I growled to myself as I ran back outside and checked the barn. All the horses were there so she hadn't gone ridin'. Where in the hell is she?

I was beginning to worry that Jasper had something to do with her disappearance. I swear to God, if it turns out that the mother fucker has anything to do with this, I'll rip him apart and burn him piece by piece. Then I'll kick his ass. The last time they were alone she had a freak out in the barn, then the next time they were alone baby was forced to shoot his ass and he threw her in the swimming hole.

"Jasper Whitlock! Get your fuckin ass out here!" I hollered from the front porch.

"Jasper!"

"Sorry Peter," he finally responded, strolling out from behind the barn. "I was fixing the oil leak on the Charger. What in the hell are you carryin' on about?" He grumbled, wiping his oily hands on his jeans.

"When did you last see Bella? She didn't turn up for her graduation today," I snapped. I knew I was taking my frustration out on him without any reason to, but hell, I was worried.

I rolled my eyes as he pulled a rag out of his back pocket and wiped his hands on it —which was fucking pointless as he'd just wiped the worst of it on his jeans. Moron. At least he wasn't channeling his porn-star cowboy get-up today. Let me tell ya', that shit was gettin' old in a hurry.

"Last time I saw Bella was last night. She was on the porch-swing reading and drinking that nasty Jack-and-apple-juice mix. Bleh," he shuddered, "I can't believe she still likes that shit! Oh wait, I saw her again this morning. She took the Prius and left around 8 am." He was as nervous as a whore in church, hmmm.

"I'm sure she's just distracted, Peter. She's probably sitting somewhere with her nose in a book. You know what she's like."

"Yeah," I chuckled. "I know how she is. Puss is easily distracted, and I'm not sure how much of it's because she's human and how much of it is just her. I mean damn, Jasper. One time she stayed on campus well-after midnight because she "got lost in her book".

But here's the thing, it doesn't explain her missing her own damn graduation. Jasper, she was so excited about this, she worked so damn hard. She wouldn't just miss it." Thought lately she seemed less and less enthusiastic about it and had even tried to wiggle out of attending. But we'd managed to convince her that it would be nice for us to see and she'd finally given in to the idea.

I could tell that Jasper was holdin' somethin' back from me. You don't know someone for as long as we have, or have gone through the shit that we have together, and not pick up on their mannerisms, their quirks. I knew Jasper better than I knew myself sometimes and knew for damn sure that there was somethin' he wasn't telling me. The shithead knew somethin', but I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

God, I hope that Jasper's right that she's just off somewhere, maybe reading or who knows what else. I'll just wait and see what time she rolls on in. She better have a damned good explanation for all this shit. Either way, I'm gonna be on her ass like a hen on a junebug.

When she hadn't made it home by two the following mornin', Char and I were beyond frantic. I tried her cell again and again and again. And the damn thing was still switched off, going straight to voice mail; I left yet another message to add to the increasingly desperate ones I'd left earlier.

"The Prius has the GPS tracking on it," Charlotte said softly as she booted up the computer. We ran the program, but the car wasn't showing up anywhere. I bet that the little minx had pulled the fuse that controlled the GPS. Now I really regretted teaching her how to steal a car. What the hell had I been thinking showing her how to do that? I know Bella got frustrated with us sometimes, thinking that we—well, no, that I—was too overprotective. I wanted to prove to her that I thought she was an adult. But after pulling a stunt like this, vanishing without a word, if she thought I'd been overprotective before she was going to be in for a rude awakening. This little incident has proven that my being overprotective isn't a bad thing, not at all. She had better be okay, and if she is…well damn if that girl isn't cruisin' for bruisin'. I have no qualms with bustin' her ass, though Char might object to it.

"Chris. I wonder if she's with him?" she mused quietly, rousing me from my thoughts of tannin' Bella's hide or hiding the bodies of anyone that might've hurt her. "You know, that boy she had that date with a while ago."

"Could be," I answered, though my gut told me that she wasn't. "But she's never hooked up and just run off with anyone before."

At that statement I heard Jasper growl quietly. "For fucks sake shut up, Jasper. The two of you aren't together. She can do whatever or whomever she wants," I snarled in response. I realized that saying that was a little bitchy, but hell, she was missing and he didn't really seem too concerned. At least until the idea of her being with another guy was brought up.

We sat staring at the walls all night. There was nothin' we could do 'bout findin' Puss, and I kept hoping my gift would kick in and tell me where to start lookin'. Guess that ain't workin' tonight…

Once dawn broke, I headed out to the barn and got on with the morning chores. I needed to keep busy. I needed to keep my mind occupied with something-anything, or I'd completely lose it with worry over Bella. So, chores it is. I could smell her scent in Confederate's stall, which wasn't unusual in itself; however, what was troubling was that she'd cleaned his tack. It wasn't like her to spend time doing that. Normally she had to be nagged about doing it. Something wasn't right. I was missing a piece of the puzzle and I knew I wouldn't settle down until I worked out whatever it was.

Hang on a cotton pickin' minute. Didn't Jasper say she'd been on the porch reading last night? That meant he'd been near her despite me explicitly telling him to stay the hell away from her. I found myself once again yelling for him and as soon as I could see his mop of blond hair, I started in on him. What were you doing with her on the porch last night? Why in the hell were you anywhere near her to begin with when I specifically told you to stay the hell away from her? Are you fucking stupid? Deaf? What exactly did she say? What exactly did you do? What the fuck are you hiding from me?

He admitted that they'd talked and then reluctantly added that they'd argued. Fuck, I knew that asshole had something to do with this, why else wouldn't he have told me this earlier.

"Was she okay when you were talking to her? What the hell did you two argue about?" I demanded, figurin' that I was wastin' my breath and that he wasn't going to admit to anything — just like he didn't admit to anything the day he threw her in the swimming hole. I got what I was sure was an edited version of events. Times like this make me wish I had Eddie Cullen's mind reading gift...pretentious, nosy, little shit that he is.

He sighed and sat down on a stool. He looked nervous, which didn't sit well on him. "I asked her why she was lyin' about being in pain. She said she had a headache, but it was deeper than that, more than that. It nearly broke my heart."

In pain…in pain…oh, shit! I suddenly had an inklin' where she could be and ran upstairs to her room, yelling at Jasper to stay where he was, hoping that I wasn't correct, praying that my gift had misfired for once.

Panicking, I wrenched the door completely off of the cabinet in her bathroom. Amongst all the weird shit humans' need — deodorant, tampons, chapstick, dental floss, mouthwash — was a half-empty bottle of pills. I picked it up and slowly read the label. It was a pain medication, one she had taken frequently in the past, but in much stronger dosage than she had prescribed to her before. The date on the bottle was recent, the day she'd gone for coffee with Chris after class as a matter of fact. Things were starting to make sense…a horrible kind of sense. The doctor's name was unfamiliar, Dr. Christiana Patel. No matter, I can just get what I need off of the label. Well, maybe not seeing as Dr. Patel's contact information had been ripped off of the label. That sneaky little Puss. It was all starting to make sense now. I'd be willing to bet my last dollar that Chris, the guy she implied she was going on a date with, was actually her doctor. If I wasn't so worried and tempted to rip her a new one, I might actually laugh.

I could hear Char and Jasper talking in the kitchen, he was askin' all kinds of questions about "Isabella" and based upon the irritated sound of his voice, I figured my mate wasn't givin' him the answers he wanted. Their voices kept getting louder and louder, which on one hand made me want to interfere because no one raises their voice to my mate; however, this was actually perfect for what I was plannin' on doin'. As quickly as I could, I silently slid out of one of the windows in Bella's bedroom. I didn't want them asking where I was going or what I was doing until my suspicions were confirmed. I hoped that if I was quiet enough they wouldn't hear me leaving until I was as good as gone. Love and respect 'em as much as I do, neither of 'em could track for shit so I knew I'd be good as long as they didn't hear me. I ran as quickly as I could towards the outskirts of town, slowing to a human pace as soon as I made it to the hospital.

I walked through the automatic doors where I caught a faint whiff of her scent, her diluted and poisoned scent, and headed directly to the elevators. I'd made this trip many times, too many times. Straight up to the fourth floor, turned right, and walked through the doors to welcoming me to the cancer treatment center. Knowing the miser hospital administrators, she was probably stuck sharing some tiny ass room with someone with uncontrollable flatulence and foot odor. Well, I'd fix that. The minute they got wind of my black credit card, she'd be back in the 'luxury' suite we always paid for, if you could call anything about this place or what happened here a luxury. I couldn't have my Bella being sick in some poky little room, the privacy and comfort our money could provide was well worth it. The privacy it afforded us was of the utmost importance. She needed rest, peace, and quiet—not having every Tom, Dick and Harry nosing through the peep glass on the window every five minutes.

I headed directly to the nearest nurses' station and asked for her room number, praying that they'd say she wasn't here, that I was wrong, that it wasn't her scent lingering in the hallways. Please, please, please let me be wrong. Please… With my heart sinking into my stomach, I followed the directions the flustered nurse gave me and headed straight to her room. I stopped when I heard her voice; her tired, weak, and scratchy little voice.

"Daddy!" She wailed, "I need you. I'm in t-the hospital. The ca-cancer has come back and I'm so sc-scared!"

Of all the fuckin' things to happen…we'd thought that she was getting better, that she was better. Her scans had been clear for over six months, and secretly we all hoped that she'd won the war. Well, we were wrong and it was time to rally for another battle. She could do it, we could do it—together we'd beat this again dammit. Resisting the urge to barge in and yell at her for not telling us, for trying to handle this alone, I went back to the nurses' station to give her some privacy and to get my head 'round what I'd just heard. I also needed to calm down a little…okay, I needed to calm down a lot. She called her father first?Why in the fuck would she have done that? She never calls her father voluntarily, so why hadn't she told us? What had we done wrong that she couldn't tell us first?

I saw her chart sitting on one of the desks behind the counter and after making sure that no one was looking I scanned through it as quickly as possible. The contents were heartbreaking; the skin cancer that we thought she'd beaten had spread throughout her poor little body. She must have been in so much pain over the last few weeks and I almost admired her for being able to keep it so well hidden. I doubted we'd even know now if she hadn't collapsed in the doctor's office yesterday, according to the notes in her chart. That explains why she wasn't at her graduation—while I had been getting worked up and ready to tear into her, she was on the operating table. Fuck….

When the charge nurse came back, I quickly made arrangements to have her moved as soon as possible. They tried to tell me that there wasn't any space but the second I pulled that little black piece of plastic out of my wallet, they changed their minds quickly. Greedy fucking vultures.

I knew I needed to contact Char and let her know not only where I was but what was goin' on, but I wasn't ready to deal with whatever Jasper's reaction would be just yet. Deciding that a vague text message would be the way to go, I pulled out my phone and sent Char a message to come to B's 'other home' and to be quiet about it. Puss sure as shit didn't need any more shit and frankly, neither did Charlotte or I. Yeah, I felt a little guilty about keeping Jasper outta the loop and hell, even without my gift I knew that he was gonna throw the mother of all tantrums when he found out—but we needed to get a handle on this before bringing his emo ass into the situation. He was already unstable enough where Bella was concerned and I wasn't sure what this was going to do to him. He'd lived for five years thinking he'd lost her. Finding out that she had cancer and that we'd kept it from him while he was here? That would probably destroy what little bit of sanity he has left, on top of our relationship.

Jasper was like a pendulum swinging from side to side with her. One minute he hated her, the next he was in love with her and she just didn't need that shit at the moment. And Bella? Well it's fair to say that her ability to think rationally just disappears where he's concerned. What she needed was to focus on healing, and as all the treatments and medications make her sicker and weaker, we'd have to keep Jasper in the dark for a little while longer. Oh fuckin' well.

I decided to wait until Char got here before I let Puss know I was here and that I knew what was goin' on. So, still filled with rattled and anxious nerves, I chose the healthy option and went outside to pace and chain-smoke until my mate arrived. The moment I saw her beautiful face I pulled her in for a hug, resting my forehead against hers, absorbing her strength. I knew I'd need it. We stood there quietly for what could have been hours or just a few minutes, holding each other, preparing each other. I finally took a few deep, and unneeded breaths, and told her about what I'd overheard and what I'd read on her chart. Watching the venom fill her eyes broke my damn heart all over again. My girls were as close as sisters and the mischief they got into was unbelievable. They ganged up on me all the time and I have to reluctantly admit that I loved it. Char needed another girl around and I know Bella loved her—even when Char bossed her around.

Char took a step back and looked me in the eye, letting out a deep sigh. I reluctantly let her go, not really wanting to leave our peaceful, little bubble, and took her hand, silently walking back to the hospital. We walked deciding to take the stairs at a human pace, avoiding the elevator in a desperate attempt to prolong these last few moments of peace before the shit hit the fan. We stopped by the nurses' station in the cancer center and found out that they'd already moved Bella to a better room. I guess flashing cash, or plastic in this situation, really does work. When we arrived at her door I knocked gently, and not waiting for an answer, let ourselves in. And there she was; a tiny, trembling, little mess with wildly tangled hair and a translucent pallor. The minute she saw us she started sobbing, and before she could blink again, she was wrapped in our arms. None of us said a thing, we just held her, holding her as tightly and as closely as we possibly could. After a while I loosened my grip on her, leaned back, and took a closer look at her. Her normally bright eyes were now dull and her hair was lifeless. Her skin was pale, even for my standards. She had an IV drip leading into both hands. One smelled of narcotics for and the other of some type of fluid replacement. Seeing her in a hospital gown made me realize how much weight she'd lost. She'd obviously not been eating properly for days. I have no idea how she'd hidden this from us, and cursed myself for not noticing.

Suddenly, I felt guilty for being so damn angry with her for not coming home, but then I was absolutely furious with her for not telling us where the hell she was and what was going on.

"Bella, would you like to explain why the hospital didn't contact us when you were brought in?" I said slowly, trying to smile at her but found that all I could manage was a grimace. She immediately looked away from me, tears sliding down her pale white, almost gray cheeks.

"Bella," I tried again. "Why aren't we your emergency contact anymore?" I was trying so hard not to shout at her, to be gentle, but I was losing patience rapidly.

"I was going to tell you when I got home from seeing Dr. Patel. I didn't want to worry you," she said as tears formed in her eyes again. "I'm sorry."

"Yeah, well you did worry us," I snapped. I know I'd been planning to play nice, but this was fuckin' ridiculous. "You called your Daddy and told him before you told us! Are you plannin' on movin' back there? Should I be packing your bags?" I stood up and walked to the door. "Cos' I can have them packed and back here in less than an hour!"

Bella's slow tears turned into sobs and she curled up into a ball while Charlotte stalked over to me with her eyes narrowed dangerously and whacked me upside the back of my head. "Goddamn it, Peter! Shut up," she growled, smacking the back of my head again. "Leave the girl alone. She can call her Daddy if she wants."

I knew she was right, Bella's relationship with Charlie was tenuous at best, and if this brought them closer, then it was all well and good. We'd worry about the security aspect of her calling him later. But the selfish asshole inside of me disagreed vehemently. They were my girls — my mate, my Puss, I whined…internally of course as Charlotte would have beat the slop outta me for being a 'petulant child' at a time like this. But they always came to me first. Dammit….

"I'm sorry, Puss," I whispered, moving back towards her, pulling her gently into my arms. "I was just worried about you."

Char smiled softly at her and Bella managed a weak one back through the tears that were still falling.

"When does your chemo start, honey?" Char asked, flicking her fingers through Bella's hair. "Are you going to stay here for it, or will they let you come home?"

Bella slowly pulled herself out of my arms and lay back against the pillows, closing her eyes and sighing.

"I'm not having any," she whispered, almost too quietly even for us to hear. Wait, she didn't just say that, did she?

"Puss, what do you mean you're not having any? Did they somehow remove everything in your biopsy?" She shook her head, wincing as she did so.

"Puss..." I waited for her to respond.

"I'm not having any chemotherapy." She said a little louder and clearer this time. "I'm tired. I've been fighting for the last five years and I don't think… no, I can't do it anymore. I'm tired." She was killing me. I'd never heard her talk like this before, even in the depths of the illness she'd never come out and said that she'd had enough.

She continued on, her voice flat and unemotional. "I want however long I've got to be happy, and I want to spend it with you guys, not in some hospital or treatment center or doctor's office. If I have the chemo I'll be so much sicker. And there's no guarantee it'll work anyway, and I'll just be in pain and miserable. I'd rather have better quality than quantity at this point."

I couldn't look at her. She was giving up. This wasn't my Bella — my Bella was a fighter. I was stunned into silence, and then I realized what I hoped she meant. "However long you've got? Oh, you mean until we turn you. Name the time and place, and we'll do it."

She shook her head again. "I don't want to be turned, Peter. You have to let me deal with this on my terms. I want to go home, sit out in the sun, read, eat dessert for breakfast, ride my horse and enjoy what time I have left. Oh, and I'd like the best pain med's money can buy."

Bullshit! Over my dead fuckin' body. "Bella, you're gonna die if you don't have chemo. There's only one other option. I won't let you die. You hear me, Bella? Quit it. I will turn you. Hell, if you don't want me to do this, then Charlotte or even Jasper will. But we won't let you die."

"You won't let me Peter? You don't have any choice. It's up to me, remember? Either by the cancer or by being changed, I have to die remember? You know the rules, Peter. You agreed to those terms and you also agreed it was up to me. The drugs might work this time, even without the chemo. Just because I'm not going to go through with the chemo doesn't mean this is going to be a death sentence."

Yeah, I had agreed to those terms but that was before, we'd never talked about her being changed and like an ass I'd just assumed that she would want to be one day. Shit!

"Bella, tell us about Jasper honey," Charlotte said softly. I quickly turned my head and stared at her in complete and utter shock. I mean, seriously? Now…NOW she brings this shit up?I didn't think this was the time or place to bring it up, but she shook her head at me and whispered too low for Bella to hear, "We need to know, and she needs to tell us. I think he's part of the reason she won't have the treatment or agree to be changed."

"You want me to tell you about Jasper?" She asked softly, her eyes showing the most bottomless, desperate, and haunted angst I'd ever seen. "I don't know if I can. I mean, I guess he's already told you his version, and if that's what he says happened then that's what went on. I mean, who'd want to contradict Mr. Jasper fuckin' perfect Hale."

"Humor us, sugar," Char responded. She was quiet for a moment, as if she were carefully considering her next words. "We'll listen to anything you have to say. We're just curious as to why you never mentioned him before."

"Oh hell," Bella said, running her fingers roughly through her hair. "Why didn't I mention Jasper to you? Well, for a lot of reasons actually. I really don't know where to start."

"Start at the beginning, that's usually a good place, right? Oh, why did you say Jasper Hale? I haven't heard him called that in years."

Like Char, I was confused by the Jasper Hale thing too. I'd forgotten that he used a different name when he stayed with the Cullens—they didn't like the reputation that came with his own name.

"He's a Whitlock, Puss, and it's Major not Mister. Whitlock was his human name."

"Whitlock," she mumbled, as I noticed her skin paling even further and a light sheen of sweat popping up on her forehead and upper lip. "I'm so stupid, I never made the connection. He told me about his past and I forgot. How the hell could I forget that? Oh God, does he know I'm a Whitlock now?"

I shook my head smiling at her. "I don't think he does, Puss. He knows you're family though."

She pulled herself up on the pillows and laughed bitterly. "Oh, I'm sure he'll have something to say about it. Oh well, that's his problem," she said, and took a sip of water from the glass on the side table. "You wanted to know about him and me? Okay, I'll tell you."

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "It's simple really. I fell hopelessly in love with him only to find out I was nothing more than a game, a distraction." She sighed and opened her eyes, and good God, the agony in her eyes damn near brought me to my knees. But then, out of nowhere, she just snorted. Snorted! "Then last night he tried to tell me that I left him!"

The girl was fucked up! How can she be so flippant about everything that was going on? I couldn't help gettin' pissed with her again. "Bella, for fucks sake, can't you take anything seriously?" I snarled at her quietly. "How do you feel about him? Tell the truth for once."

"Tell the truth? I have been telling the truth!" She cried, her bottom lip trembling, and oh shit, she started cryin' again. Fuck! I can't handle it when she cries. "Why does everyone assume I'm lying? You know what, I'm tired and I want you to go now."

Oh no, she wasn't getting out of this that easily. I told her that and she at least had the grace to look ashamed.

"I love him," she whispered. "Even after he treated me the way he did, I still love him. What we had, the time we had, was amazing. He made me feel so beautiful, so adored. I've never…but, you know what? It doesn't matter and it doesn't change the fact that I don't trust him and I'll never make that mistake again. I have too much self-respect now to ever put myself in a situation with him again…where he could just...rip me to shreds and tear my heart to pieces all over again. I can't…I just can't." She sobbed into her hands, her little body just shakin' and tremblin' by the force of her tears and wails.

She gradually calmed and drank a little water. "Like I said, I fell in love with him. He was everything to me; I would have done anything for him. But now…now I don't trust him, he left me and he destroyed me. I tried to tell him last night that I didn't leave him but he said I was lying and walked away."

"Bella, baby, he loved you—"

"LOVED ME! He didn't love me, he never loved me. If he'd loved me he'd never have left me that fucking note. He'd have never said the things in it, and then to make matters worse he lied to me last night and said that he'd been planning on proposing to me! How the fuck could he play with me like that, Peter?" She cried, her voice breaking. The tears started again, breakin' my heart all over again. "He said I'd left him a note, but I didn't Peter. I promise. I left when I read the one he'd left for me." She sniffled, "I just...I just left."

What the fuck was she talking about? How many fuckin' notes were there? First Jasper says she left him one, now she's claimin' that he did the same. Every time I think we're close to sortin' this unholy mess out, it just gets more and more complicated.

"Puss, please calm down. Come on, take a deep breath sweetheart. That's a good girl," I said quietly, watching my poor girl gradually calm down.

"Baby," Charlotte said. "Jasper thinks you left him for Sam. You need to tell him what really happened."

Bella was quiet for a few minutes. She finally leaned back into her pillow, closed her eyes, and whispered. "How can I tell him? He'll just say that I deserved it. He thinks I left him for Sam? What...I...How...I left because Jasper said he didn't want me anymore. " She looked so defeated, so unsure of anything anymore. She needed to get this out; holding all this in wasn't going to help her recover.

"Jasper says a lot of things he doesn't mean, Puss. He's an asshole that way. But baby, I can guarantee you that there is no way in hell he'd ever say that you deserved what Sam did to you." God, I wish I could smoke in here. "No one deserved what Sam did to you, and Jasper will agree with that." I wasn't liking what I was hearing, not one cotton pickin' bit, but I think I was finally startin' to understand what was goin' on in that mind of hers.

"Bella, Jasper would kill me for telling you this, but he sent flowers to your grave every month so you had a little piece of him with you. He loved you so much; can't you understand why he's feeling this way now? The note he got hurt him and he's a proud man, it will take a lot to get him to admit how he feels. Can't you just make the first move to talk to him and put us all out of our misery?" Charlotte was trying to reassure her about how Jasper felt, but I got the feeling it wasn't working.

"He got hurt? Oh, well, I guess that changes everything!" She was yelling. "I'm sorry, I forgot about the world revolving around Jasper. You know what? I got hurt too, but no one seems to believe that he hurt me, he left me. And another thing, how many times do I have to tell everyone that I DIDN'T LEAVE A FUCKING NOTE — HE'S THE ONE THAT LEFT THE NOTE! NOT ME, GODDAMMIT!" She threw her glass against the wall, where it shattered and sprayed water all over the floor. "I'm so fucking sorry. You want me to put you out of your misery? Well fine then, maybe you should leave, liked I asked you to earlier, if I'm making you so fucking miserable."

"Now c'mon Puss, you don't have to be like that," I said, trying to hug her but she flinched away. I looked at Charlotte in desperation.

"You won't change your mind about becoming one of us, sugar?"

My beautiful wife was obviously trying to change to subject away from Jasper. I wasn't sure how this would help. But what the hell, it couldn't make it any worse.

"What do I have to look forward to if I'm changed, apart from the two of you? I can never go back to my father again, and I don't want to be alone. And I will be alone. It's alright for you two, you're mated. I will be alone...and he...and I just can't."

"Jesus, Bella! You won't be alone! You have me and Char. You know we love you. You will find someone one day and he'll love you like you deserve. Don't you want that?" I wanted to tell her that Jasper already loves her like that but it wasn't the right time, she wouldn't believe me.

She looked away, staring into space. I wanted to shake her, to make her see reason, but I gave her time to respond. "Yeah, I know. I love you both, too," she smiled weakly. "But I don't want just anyone, I want Ja—," her voice trailed off.

"Sugar, you want Jasper? Is that what you were saying?" Char prompted softly.

Bella just nodded softly, staring at her hands and sniffling.

"Just tell him then, Bella. Just tell him, he'll understand and I bet he'll respond a lot differently than you think."

I'd never seen Puss cry so much, not even when she'd been so sick from the last bout of chemo. I rubbed a hand over my face, doubting whether talking about this was the right thing, whether we were helping her. I just don't know what to do or what to think right now. This was one of the times I wished my gift would kick in and tell me what to do. Asshole gift.

"I can't tell him—he hates me. I tried to tell him last night, but all he would say was that I was a liar and then he just walked away from me—again. I'm sorry if I've disappointed you. If you still want me to pack my bags, I'll leave." I shook my head and muttered something about her needing to forget that. I only said it in the heat of the moment, like an idiot, and I sure didn't mean it. I should know better by now than to run off at the mouth when I'm upset, especially where Puss is concerned. She's just so sensitive, understandably, and picks up on the tiniest of things and runs with them.

"I just can't face an eternity without Jasper. H-he doesn't want me. He thinks everything that comes out of my mouth is a lie. And after everything he's done, how can I ever trust him again? Besides that, you know how damaged I am…and-and he's just so…perfect. He is so perfect. Even if he wanted me, it would never work. Not anymore, not after…everything."

Son of a bitch! I didn't realize she still saw herself as damaged, I thought we had gotten through this, that she had finally realized that she was far from damaged. I guess the expensive therapy wasn't worth the money I'd spent. I really thought she'd gotten over looking at herself as damaged. That bastard Sam, and the rest of those furry-fuckers have a lot to answer for.

She finally fell asleep while I was turning things round and round in my mind. Char was sitting on the bed, holding her hand and stroking her hair. The nurse came in and redid all of the bags hanging from her IV. Then she unceremoniously kicked our butts out of the room, snapping at us about how visiting hours had ended hours ago and that we'd have to come back tomorrow. That woman had better adjust her attitude. If she upsets Bella she'll find herself out of a job and if she really upsets our girl, she'll find herself as dinner.

We made our way outside, ready to go home and talk about what the hell we were going to do next. We set off running and were just onto the property line when my phone rang. I answered it automatically, half expecting it to be Jasper. It was Charlie. He was brusque and to the point. Sam knew Bella was alive and at some point soon he'd be coming after her.Would this shit never fucking end? Seriously, how much more could she, we, take?

It took all my powers of persuasion to make him realize that running to Bella was just asking for more trouble. I could understand why he wanted to rush in to see her, but it wouldn't help in the current situation. He'd be leading Sam straight to her if he did. If his staying away would buy us another couple of weeks then it'd be all well and good. Besides, he and that Paul fella needed to worry about protectin' themselves and getting' the hell outta town and hidin' out as there was no doubt that Sam and his lackeys would punish them for this.

Another worry we had was location. Specifically how in the hell anyone found out where we were. No one knew exactly where we lived other than Char, me, Bella, and now Jasper. Someone had run their mouth off and caused this.

I needed reinforcements and I needed them fast. If it was just Sam I knew we could take him, but if he brought the rest of the pack, well, let's just say it would be difficult. And with Bella in the shape that she's in, all things difficult needed to be avoided at all costs.

We only had one option, and though I really didn't wanna use it, I was gonna have to do it. Before we made it to the house, I stopped just outside the barn and dialed a number that I usually tried to avoid.

"Caius. This is Peter Whitlock. There's been a complication."