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Summary: Jasper’s honor demands he takes action. Really, he couldn’t abide sitting by watching his family smother Bella to the point of snuffing out her happiness… And if helping her also helps an old friend, then it’s any easy decision when he takes it upon himself to set her free.
There was only so much Jasper could sit back and abide before his honor demanded action.
Standing below the window of the room Bella occupied as she prepared for her wedding to his brother, Jasper decided he’d reached that limit.
Dejection, fear, resignation; her emotions swirled together in a melting pot of negativity and it took Jasper a good minute or so to determine what they inevitably amounted to – a longing to escape, a pull to run and be free.
He couldn’t really blame the poor darlin’ either. After coming back from Italy, she’d been overwhelmed, hurt and vulnerable and it appeared Edward had struck when the iron was hot, essentially forcing her into a wedding they all knew she didn’t want. Jasper had warned them that their incessant smothering was going to suffocate her and inevitably drive her away, but it was almost as if Edward and Alice fought harder to keep her in response. He wouldn’t be surprised if there was some unknown vision of Alice’s they were trying to prevent… they’d done it countless enough times.
His affections for his pixie wife were quite genuine despite her not being his mate, but he was in no way blinded to her faults. Vampires with gifts such as hers and Edward’s tended to get a superiority complex. They imposed their will onto others and used their gift to justify it.
It’s what they’d been doing all along with Bella and he’d been quite vocal in his protest against it. Emmett and Rosalie had stood with him, but Carlisle and Esme had done what they always did – taken Alice’s faulty visions and Edward’s boyish desires as facts, saying that the girl was clearly Edward’s mate and they would therefore follow his direction regarding her.
But Jasper knew better – they were no more mates then he and Alice were. The mating bond was a complex and intricate tie designed to keep an immortal creature sane throughout their incredibly long life. What Edward felt was a shallow puddle compared to the deep ocean of emotions between mates, and he was willing to bet the boy knew it too and that was why he fought so hard to keep his would-be mate.
But Bella, his eyes turned up to the window in contemplation. She felt deeper than any human he’d ever known, not that he’d known many. She was far smarter than what any of the others gave her credit for and he believed she knew exactly what Alice and Edward were doing with her. So the question begged was why? Why was she allowing the wonder twins to manipulate her into this farce of a wedding…? Why did she taste of sour regret and disappointment every time he was near her? And why did he feel the twang of a mating bond within her, stretched so thin as though her mate resided on the other side of the country?
In his freedom during lone hunts, he’d often contemplated Bella’s complicated emotions. While he felt a sense of duty to help her in apology for almost killing her, his desire to help was not so superficial as that. Though he’d lacked the amount of time in her presence the others had, Jasper was still willing to bet he knew her better than anyone else in the family. Emotions couldn’t lie, after all, and Jasper found she felt as deeply and freely as he did and that fact had caused a smoldering spark of protection to ignite within him. She reminded him of him before the change, full of so much potential and a desire to help others. When he thought of his traumatic turn and subsequent years of manipulation and death, it made him want to prevent the same from happening to her; to protect her as he’d once protected his human sister.
It hadn’t been until he’d received a phone call from an old friend that Jasper was able to fit the pieces together into a somewhat coherent picture. Though he was unable to know for sure, Jasper believed more had happened in their absence than Bella had confided. If his friend was to be believed – he was a lying bastard but honest to those he considered a friend and thus Jasper was inclined to believe him – then she had met someone while Eddie had pulled his woe-is-me act of self-pity and sacrifice, and Jasper believed that person was the inspiration for her current emotions. It was more than her just wanting to be free of Edward’s suffocating presence and Alice’s overwhelming enthusiasm for an act even she knew was wrong.
To Jasper, Bella felt like it wasn’t only that she wanted to run away from them, but she wanted to run to something. She was being pulled and for whatever reason was resisting it and a sense of bitter resignation tainted her for the effort. He suspected she was being genuinely self-sacrificing in a way Eddie only played at being; that she truly thought it was for the best to resist the pull in order to protect the one it was pulling her to. It would leave her unhappy and if it truly was a mating bond tugging at her heart, her despair would eventually claim her and the girl Jasper saw as his sister would be lost to them forever.
It was unacceptable and Jasper would not allow it. There would be a fall-out for certain. Alice may decide he’d betrayed her and cast him aside for it and Eddie was sure to throw a tantrum the likes of which had never been seen, but it’d be worth it. For the past decade now he’d been feeling the need to leave, to find his true place in the world. He knew it not to be with Alice or the Cullens, though he was thankful to both for showing him a manageable way to live with the hunt his gift demanded. But he refused to allow his gratitude to turn into obligation. When they found out what he’d done, he’d just smile and stand assured it’d been the right thing. Then he’d leave, maybe find Peter and Charlotte, or perhaps he’d make his way to his old friend not only to gloat, but also to witness the happiness he knew his actions would create for him and his almost sister.
Determined, Jasper hid his decision underneath a cloud of a hundred minute ones, and clouded his thoughts behind the wall of his past that Edward avoided at all costs. Slowly so as not to startle her, Jasper sent a wave of understanding up to Bella and heard her pacing abruptly stop and felt her curiosity extend out to him.
There was no stopping his grin. She was so clever, more so than they could have ever imagined. He knew she would recognize not only his influence but their ability to communicate silently with it.
Knowing their window of opportunity was slight, he sent her a reflection of her own emotions followed by a wave of his understanding. Then he slowly built up her courage, adding his affection and support to it. The message was clear: he knew of her feelings and she needed to be strong and follow them, follow the pull. His affection was true and he would help her.
A tentative hope bloomed within her and her heart started racing again, not in fear and dread as it had been all morning, but in excitement. He felt her waver and send him a confusing influx of hope, uncertainty, confusion and happiness. Jasper interpreted it to mean something along the lines of ‘are you sure?’ and strengthened his resolve before sending it to her. She would not stand alone, he was trying to tell her; he was going to help her.
It seemed his resolve cemented hers and he felt the weight of resignation, resentment and sadness lift off of her as if she was shedding a heavy winter coat. He heard the pitter-patter of her footsteps as she ran down the stairs, everyone else in the family out setting up the wedding site and therefore unable to stop her. He heard the click of the front door opening and the crunch of the leaves beneath her feet as she rounded the corner and found him, her doe-like eyes wide and pleading with him to tell her this was real, that she really could make this leap of faith.
He smiled at her and as it always did, it amazed him how she seemed to relax in his presence. She’d never feared him, not even after her birthday party, and it was past time Jasper live up to her faith in him.
Gesturing her forward with a crook of his finger, he smiled as she came to him and took his proffered hand without hesitation. He looked at her delicate human fingers enclosed in his own and frowned slightly at the engagement ring Edward had foisted upon her. In a telling move, he slipped it from her finger and pocketed it to return to the boy, knowing it had been his human mother’s.
Another weight of negative emotions left her as he took the ring and her hope grew even stronger.
“Please,” she whispered, a slight pleading inclination to the word that had Jasper’s heart aching on her behalf.
Keeping his voice barely above the tenor of a whisper, he reassured her. “Everything you need is in the car I have waiting for you at the end of the drive. Your flight leaves as soon as you will arrive at the airport if you leave right now and drive ten miles over the speed limit. They won’t be able to stop you – I won’t let them.”
Her hope and gratitude surged through him like a wildfire.
But still, she asked, “Will you be alright?”
He smiled. So like her to worry about everyone else before herself. “By freeing you, I free myself,” he simply stated, and though there was a certain evasive mystery to the statement, Jasper could still sense her awareness and understanding.
Jasper grinned. “Go,” he encouraged. “Live and be happy, Bella.”
“Only if you do the same,” she smiled.
He sent her a wave of his brotherly affection and his determination and she grinned in response as she sent him a shock of sincere thankfulness and pure sisterly love.
A particularly playful sense of glee hit him as Bella gestured to the long train of the Victorian wedding dress Alice had picked out without her input. “Would you mind?” she asked with a impish grin.
Unable to stop his snort of amusement, Jasper said, “Oh darlin’, it’ll be my pleasure.” Then kneeling down he fisted the silky white material and as if it was made of silly string, he tore it at the knees, making a tiny slit up one thigh so she could walk with ease.
Bella looked down at the pool of fabric he’d let drop to the dirt and smiled in relief. “Thank you, Jasper,” she whispered and sent him a wave of sincerity that almost had his knees buckling.
She turned and began to walk down the drive, but he called out, “Bella!” and she turned back to him, head quirked in askance. He was pleased that her grin had not faded and her emotions were a healthy blend of excitement and nervousness.
Jasper gave her a cheeky grin of his own. “When you see him, tell him the Major says you’re welcome.”
There was a strong sense of confusion and wonderment within her but she merely nodded and took off running towards her get away car – to her uncertain future. He knew she was curious about how he could have possibly known, but in the end she’d determined it hardly mattered. She was just happy to take the escape he offered.
Turning on his heel, he walked back into the house to wait for the upcoming confrontation, whistling a jaunty tune with every step he took.
Jasper strengthened his resolve to face his so-called family and give Bella the necessary time to make her escape. He wasn’t scared, not by any means, but there was a rather odd sense of anticipation humming through him like he used to feel out on the battlefields while staring down his opponents. People tended to reap what they sowed and he was strangely eager for Edward to get his. It was going to be loud and annoying, but Jasper could handle it easily enough even if it’d give him the closest thing to a migraine his kind could have.
Though Jasper was no fool. He would’ve burned these bridges a million times over for his almost sister, the sister of his frozen heart, but he was still going to hold it over Damon’s head for the next fifty years, at least. The vampire could be right annoying and it would be all too fun for Jasper to get his own digs in.
He grinned in anticipation.
His glass was empty which was truly a tragic thing, unconscionable, really.
Signaling to the barkeep, Damon watched as the twenty-something year old smiled flirtatiously with him while giving him a generous shot of her ample breasts as she obediently leaned over and refilled his glass.
Where he’d once send her a wink and plan to make a little snack out of her pretty neck, Damon merely gave her a blank stare and said, “Leave the bottle and then stay the fuck away from me.”
He was in a right mood tonight, fit for a fight and in no mind for company – not even of the female persuasion. Especially not of the female persuasion, he thought, slamming down his glass.
In the corner of the room, Stefan and his posse shot him concerned glances. If it wouldn’t have taken too much energy, Damon would’ve made a scene just to fuck with them. But for once, his actions had nothing to do with Stefan, Elena or their little friends. No – tonight he drank to the memory of the one that got away, the one he selflessly let slip from his grasp and had said goodbye to. He drank to the girl he loved who was scheduled to be getting married to another man later that day.
He drank to his almost lover.
God, he really was quite pathetic, he sneered while reaching for the bottle and taking a swig from it, no longer having use for a glass. The liquid burned and brought a comfortably familiar warm numbness that was quick to fade as the memories replayed.
He’d found himself in Seattle by mere chance that afternoon. There was a local witch who intimated a willingness to share some information about Klaus and the curse, so Damon had taken the chance of a getaway and hightailed it out of Mystic Falls for some much needed R&R.
But there hadn’t been much resting and relaxing once he’d hit the town. The witch had turned out to be a bust and when he decided to hit the streets for some late night fun, he’d been mowed over by a slip of a girl tripping onto him.
Even with his increased instincts he hadn’t been able to prevent his fall, the small body of a young woman landing on him with a heavy thud that had him groaning. He was thankful her knees had missed his junk, though it’d been a close call.
A scathing insult was on the tip of his tongue, but Damon had inhaled and scented the most delicious aroma that had his mouth watering, his dick stiffening and his vampire visage melting onto his face.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. It was all my fault, I’m so clumsy,” the girl was rambling as she scampered off of him, her body brushing against him in all the right places.
Damon had used her embarrassed distraction to regain control and when he opened his eyes again, he drank in the dark beauty before him. Long chocolate hair, dark amber brown eyes… she was the epitome of forbidden fruit and how he wanted to pluck her and taste her ripened lips against his.
But before he could lay one of his oh-so smooth pick up lines on her, the girl breathed, “Again, so sorry. But I have to go. Sorry.”
And then she was running off, the proverbial Cinderella though all she left behind was the warm imprint of her body against his.
He’d sat there a good few seconds before her expression sank in and registered. The girl hadn’t been embarrassed, she’d been frightened. She’d been breathless from running and had the look of a harried deer caught in the sights of a sniper riffle.
She was in some sort of trouble.
The realization had him moving on autopilot, running to catch up to his Cinderella and using all of his vampire speed to do so, broad daylight be damned.
It’d been a good thing too, as no sooner had he tracked her perfect scent down an alleyway did he see her huddled by a dumpster, some red-headed ice bitch sparkling in the low afternoon sunlight and about to spring for the jugular.
And he really just couldn’t have that – not when he’d only just met his tasty Cinderella.
Damon had loosed a growl that had the Cold One turning on her heel with a snake-like hiss. “Back off, Ginger,” he sneered. “I got dibs.”
The Cold One huffed. “This doesn’t involve you. This girl’s life belongs to me so why don’t you run along, day-walker…”
Damon had snorted. “You’ve got quite the mouth on you, little girl. Why don’t you put your money where it is and try me? Either back the fuck off or you’re gonna pay up – and believe me – you’ll be paying with your life if you test me.”
The bitch gave a silent snarl before wisely skedaddling. Her kind of vampire was young compared to his own and though on the surface they appeared invincible, it was a small thing for a true vampire to shred them as easily as a toddler shreds tissue paper.
“Good riddance,” his Cinderella muttered causing Damon to smirk.
“Well, so we meet again, Cinderella,” he drawled, grinning as her eyes widened. If he wasn’t mildly certain she was going into a state of shock, he’d have been offended at her apparent lack of interest in his presence.
“Um, what just happened?” she asked, dazed and starting to shiver.
An unfamiliar rush of concern dawned warm in his gut and with a sigh of annoyance he made his way to her, extending out a hand to help her up. She eyed it, and him, warily until he snapped, slightly less harsh than he would’ve normally, “Easy now, Cinderella. If I wanted you dead do you really think I would’ve stopped Ginger Spice? Let’s go get you something warm to drink and you can tell this Prince Charming all your woes.”
And with a stunned laugh of disbelief, she’d taken his hand and allowed him to pull her into a nearby coffee shop. What followed was a very awkward first date type evening. Damon had learned her name was Bella, which had him altering her nickname to Cinderbella, and that she was in quite the predicament.
Her tale of woe was startlingly similar to his own which equally amazed and pissed him off as it didn’t take long for him to register what her yummy smell and his drive to protect her meant.
Mate. The word had echoed in his mind as she droned on, a death tole if he’d ever heard one. The stories of mates were well known, but a part of him had always written them off as myths, something that would never happen to him though he secretly yearned for it. But as the short, clumsy woman spilled her guts to him, he felt the irrevocable ties twining them together.
Oh shit, I’m fucked, was all he could think.
He suspected she’d felt it too, as she continuously shot him concerned and curious glances as he decided to return the favor and tell her his story. He saw her wincing as he spoke of Katherine and then later Elena, a sign of jealousy his silly heart hoped until he remembered her similar situation with the Cold One, Edward.
Anger poured over him, scalding his insides at his utter impotence to react to it. His Cinderbella, his mate, was in love with someone else.
So instead of confessing the truth, he’d let her believe he wanted to return to try and win Elena, forcing the ties that bound them to be muted though he could never sever him. It was for the best, right? A girl like Isabella Swan was all sweetness and innocence – surely she deserved better than him. She loved this Edward – though he sounded like a right dick to Damon – and for once, maybe he could do right by letting her go so that she could find him again and be happy.
A metaphorical stake drove through his chest at the thought of letting her go, but what else could he do? Apparently he was so bad fate had decided to hand his mate over to someone else and he’d be damned if he told her the truth and allowed her to be with him out of some misplaced notion of duty or guilt.
So he would leave her to her Cold One, much as he wanted to snatch her away, lock her in his room and do ungodly things to her until she became hoarse with screaming out his name. Yes, Damon would find it in himself to be selfless for his mate and let her go, but not before taking care of this bitch Victoria.
Shamefully, he’d taken his time with that, drawing it out in order to spend more time in Bella’s presence. She’d decided to go on the run in order to spare her father the danger but had only made it to Seattle before Ginger Spice had caught up with her. Deciding home turf was the way to go, he’d skillfully convinced her into letting him take her home under the solemn promise he would take care of the bitch and no one would get hurt – including him, she’d also specified.
What followed next was the best five days of his existence – what he was certain would be the epitome of his eternity – but as he’d learned quickly throughout the years, life was a bitch and all good things came to an end.
And end it did indeed, with Victoria’s smoldering pile of ashes and an awkward but heart-felt goodbye to his would-be mate. His almost lover.
Sighing, Damon took another mouthful from the bottle, ignoring Stefan’s haughty look of disapproval as he lifted it in silent toast to the brooding bastard. What did he know of Damon’s troubles? He probably assumed he was mooning over Elena – who he knew for a fact wasn’t even Stefan’s mate. Little did Stefan know, Damon had heavier woes than mistaking lust and a crush for love as he’d done in the past. Now he was faced with an eternity alone while knowing that the woman he loved, his forever woman, was married to someone else.
He’d kept tabs on her, of course. Though he’d resolved himself to living on the peripherals of her life, he couldn’t completely abandon his mate and the day he’d learned of her engagement had been the salt in the open wound he’d created by leaving her. He’d gotten good and drunk then, calling up an old friend and spilling his guts like some drunk sorority chick.
“Hm,” was all Jasper had said. Fat load of good that fucker was.
A body plopped into the seat to his left and Damon didn’t even look up to snark, “What’s the show, bro?”
“Damon,” Stefan began. “Come on now. It’s not even four o’clock and you’re three sheets to the wind. I know things haven’t been easy lately…”
“You know jack shit,” Damon hissed, his hand tightening around the bottle of top shelf bourbon. He had half a mind to smash it over Steffie’s head.
“I wish you would let me help you,” Stefan sighed.
“Oh boo-fuckity-hoo, Stefan. Why don’t you go back to the Glee club and let me finish my drink in peace.”
Really, Damon didn’t think he could be held accountable for his actions if Stefan kept up his poor me you won’t let me help you routine. He never asked for his help and it truly baffled him how Stefan always took it to insert himself into Damon’s issues and try to fix the problems he knew nothing about.
“I’m only trying to help you, Damon.”
Damon’s fingers tightened around the bottle again, the glass creaking in his hand as he started to raise it threateningly. A new body plopping into the seat on his right distracted him, however, and saved him from making what would’ve been a scene worse than an episode from Jerry Springer.
“So what’s the story, morning glory?” a soft feminine voice assaulted him, flowing over him like melted honey in a cup of hot tea.
He snapped his head to her, certain that suppressing the mating connection had finally driven him insane and he’d imagined it…
But no. There she sat. Isabella Swan, Cinderbella – his would-be mate and almost lover.
He blinked once. Twice. Then several times again in a rapid flutter.
“Got something in your eye there, Prince Disarming?”
It was the nickname that drove it home. Fed up with his constant teasing of her own name even though he could tell he loved it, she’d returned the favor and started causing him Prince Disarming. He’d acted like it hacked him off, but he’d loved it. Apparently all the sorority girls he ate had altered him somehow because a secret part of him was thrilled that they had matching nicknames.
“Cinderbella,” he said flatly, the name sound as empty as the bottle he still clutched.
Her lips twitched nervously. “Prince Disarming,” she returned with her shy, awkward smile.
She had that look about her again, a skittish colt about to run, and before she could do so Damon was setting down his bottle and snatching her up into his arms.
“But what – how? You’re supposed to be getting married, Isabella,” he gasped into her hair.
He pulled away to study her, taking in her fancy up-do that was starting to fall flat but was particularly shocked at her dress. It was so clearly meant to be her wedding gown but it looked like someone had taken a knife to it, sawing off the train and excess material at the knees.
“I kind of decided I had better things to do than to marry someone I didn’t love,” she said, blushing but admirably holding his gaze.
Hope flared and he couldn’t help but to slide his hands down her back and squeeze her hips. “Oh really? And what’s that?”
“Um,” she faltered. “Hanging out with you?”
He grinned, pressing his lips to her hair to hide it. Victory pulsed through him and his body felt alive, ignited with it to the point he knew if he hadn’t been holding her hips in his death-grasp his hands would be shaking with it. Still, he decided to tease her some.
“You blew off your wedding to hang out with me, Cinderbella?”
“Um,” she stuttered again, her answer coming out like a question, “Yes?”
Taking pity on his shy girl, he said, “Good answer,” before surging forward and sealing her lips with his own.
So this is what it feels like, his mind turned into a puddle of sap as after a moment of frozen shock, his Bella shoved her hands through his hair and pulled him closer so that not even the air could separate them.
The pesky need to breathe eventually had him pulling back, though he refused to release her. He’d never let her go again.
“Isabella,” he said softly and she knew him well enough to hear the faint beseeching plea.
Her hands caressed his face. “Damon,” she whispered. “I thought I was helping you by letting you go, freeing you to come back here to Elena. I figured if I couldn’t have you then Edward would do. But I was wrong. I don’t want him, not anymore and not for a long time. Not since I met you.”
The confession warranted one from him and he returned, his fingers drawing up and down her sides soothingly, “I thought I was setting you free to be with who you wanted, Cinderbella. I left because I didn’t want to be a consolation prize.”
Shaking her head, she kissed his nose. “Silly Damon, don’t you get it? You’re my Showcase Showdown and I guessed the price right on the money.”
He snorted but his face started hurting from the size of his grin. “You need to lay off the daytime t.v. Bella.”
“Shut up,” she playfully shoved at him.
“And really, the whole runaway bride thing is very soap opera… Though truthfully, I have to wonder how you managed to escape.”
Bella grinned. “I think we have a mutual friend, Damon.”
Lifting a prompting brow when she stopped, Bella said, “I was told to tell you that the Major says ‘you’re welcome.’”
Shock poured over him like a bucket of ice water. “That mother fucker,” he seethed, no real heat behind the insult.
Bella giggled, leaning forward to rest her head over his heart. “He set me free, Damon,” she confessed. “He may not have brought me to you directly, but Jasper practically gift-wrapped my escape for me. He even left a note in my get away car to check for you here at the bar before the Boarding House. I owe him everything.”
“We owe him everything,” he corrected, the words leaving a nasty taste in his mouth even as his arms tightened gratefully around her. “And that fucker won’t let me forget it, mark my words.”
She laughed again, shifting her head to look up at him. “Isn’t it worth it, though?”
“Indefinitely,” he grinned, kissing her again. “But he only gets a decade of gloating tops before I beat the shit out of his ass.”
“Damon,” a voice interrupted softly.
He’d been so wrapped up in Bella, his mate and soon-to-be lover, that he’d forgotten all about little Steffie and his attempted heart to heart.
“Not now, Steffie. Can’t you see I’m in the middle of a fairy-tale ending here?”
Bella grinned again. “The only thing that would’ve made this better is if I had a shoe to have you try on to see if it fits.”
Smiling, Damon decidedly bent over, wrapping his arms around her knees and tossing her over her shoulder with a small smack to her rear, laughing at her startled ‘eep.’
“How about I take you home and try you on for size? And believe me, Cinderbella, you’ll see we’re the perfect fit.”
Pressing her hands to his back, she pushed herself up and looked down at him. “I love you, Damon,” she whispered, though each word blared through his head like a fog horn.
He squeezed her knees. “Not as much as I love you, Isabella.”
Without a second thought or backwards glance to his brother and his little friends, Damon exited the Mystic Grill, the only thing keeping him from floating away in happiness being the weight of his Bella against him.
(A/N): Just a plot bunny that struck and had to be written – hope you enjoyed.
Credit to the awesome Meridian for Bella’s nickname for Damon – she mentioned it passingly on my facebook and it was too good to let go. Love ya!
Title credit – A Fine Frenzy