Kol had been impressed and amused when he saw the devastation of the compound the following morning. He greeted his brother saying that poking someone who was an unstable newbie witch hadn’t been a good idea but Klaus still insisted that it wasn’t his fault. A part of Bella hated it that Klaus was a man of his word. While Kol’s presence was requested elsewhere after breakfast – unfortunately with Davina to figure out a spell to ‘cure’ Jasper and Peter from being a Cold One – Klaus told Bella to suit up so they could begin their fencing practise.
After lunch, she got an hour to herself to read in her for dummies books before she got picked up by Elijah, who took her to a remote part of town – The Bayou. He informed her that she wasn’t going to like it (and neither was he) but it had to happen. And he took her there, because should she have a discharge of her powers the only thing she could do was break a tree. Or maybe startle one of the werewolves.
While Bella had issues with Klaus’ teaching skills that morning, it was nothing compared to Elijah. He wanted her to talk about her feelings, to talk about everything that happened to her and Edward and she did not want to and kept deflecting. Why would she tell him everything while Kol already knew most of it? She had gotten better, why was this necessary? She told him, of course, and Elijah responded that now wasn’t the best time to stand up for herself.
They went home after two hours of getting nowhere, and Bella felt a sense of achievement, but she could see that Elijah was already thinking of something to prove his point. When they got to the compound, Marcel was waiting for them. Bella didn’t know much about Marcel, only that Klaus sired him and that Kol didn’t like him much. She remembered Kol referring to Marcel as ‘the spoiled brat’ during their nightly conversations. That his siblings preferred Marcel over him.
Marcel took her to meet some of the New Orleans witches and from what Bella could tell, he was just about the worst person to do so. Even she was appalled by how he used to keep the witches from doing magic. Not because she was a fledgling witch herself, but because he denied the witches to be who they were by denying a part of them. She did like it that the witches took a liking to Kol, despite him being a Mikaelson as he’d always been good to the witches in the past and stories live on.
Part of Bella believed that Marcel didn’t want to help her – at all – because of her feelings for Kol. Whenever he spoke of him, he nearly spat out his name and that made Bella want to slap him for it. Bella stayed quiet and listened, trying to get an idea of the vampire of her own, but she had to agree with Kol; Marcel was arrogant. But now wonder, he had been around at least one of the Mikaelsons since he was a young boy. All were arrogant assholes, even Kol, but that was okay, she could learn how to deal with the rest of them sooner or later..
She did appreciate him showing areas that she hadn’t seen on her first trip to New Orleans and the best place to get a decent cup of coffee. She was glad when he dropped her back off at the compound for dinner, and she was more than relieved to see Kol there too. She had missed him.
The following days were pretty much the same, and it made her feel as if she was an unwanted child being handed over from one parent to the next. Elijah had spoken to Rebekah, and he figured out which buttons to push to get Bella to talk and she did not like it at all. Marcel introduced her to Hayley and Jackson, who lead a pack of werewolves together. Werewolves who, as it turned out, were currently being trained by Peter and Jasper. The mere thought of those werewolves being able to fight like Jasper made her blood run cold, but she could understand why Klaus wanted his werewolves to be the best they could be.
Bella had figured out that even though Hayley and Jackson were pack leaders, Klaus thought he was in control over the wolves as well, that they were his too. All because Hayley was the mother of his child, and Bella stopped trying to think about the family dynamic right there and then, it was too confusing and not her business.
She had felt fatigue by Wednesday but didn’t complain. She needed a cold shower on Thursday because she had woken up in the Bayou. Someone put her there and a pack of shifted werewolves who didn’t look anything like Jacob started to chase her through the woods. She figured it was Klaus’ idea of a sick joke and let him know that when she returned to the compound covered in sweat, mud and whatever was sticking to her. Her legs hurt like hell, but she stormed up the stairs and found her way to Klaus’ study. She sat down on one of his expensive couches and started to rub her dirty clothes all over it. Klaus wasn’t home at the time, but when she was satisfied, she went downstairs to clean herself up and get changed before being picked up by Marcel again.
When it was Sunday, she didn’t want to move. Her entire body ached and movement only made it worse. She did wake up early enough to make sure Kol wouldn’t leave the bed either; she hadn’t seen much of him during the week, and they deserved a day off. Unfortunately for her, today was Davina’s day, and she flipped the bed with her magic to get both Kol and Bella out of it.
When she found herself yet again waking up in the Bayou on Wednesday, Bella decided not to move. She didn’t want to give up, but she had to. It had been too much, and she was done. Davina had taught her a spell to put up an invisible barrier, and it held the werewolves at bay for as long as she could focus. She hated to feel sorry for herself because this is what she had wanted, but enough was enough. She wasn’t going to cry in front of those wolves even though she wanted to.
She had tolerated the first time she woke up in the Bayou. Mostly because she was scared shitless that the wolves were going to attack her, and she needed to run, but she didn’t like being on her own in the woods at all. It reminded her of how Edward had dumped her like an unwanted puppy. She had only tolerated it because apparently it was a part of the ‘plan’.
To kill time, she started to push the wolves away individually while the shield remained up. It was amusing how far she could throw them and how they always seemed to land on their feet unless Bella flung them into a tree by accident. By the time it started to get dark, Marcel had appeared, and there was no way she was going to allow him near her either. She pushed him back with so much force that he snapped a tree in half when he collided with it.
“Bella, you need to calm down,” he grunted as he brushed himself off, and the wolves retreated.
“I am calm,” she said emotionless and flung him back again before pulling him to his feet and flung him away again. She repeated it a few times as it entertained her how much he looked like a yo-yo. “And I’m in control,” she smirked as he bounced off the shield. “And I’m pretty much done right now.”
“When you didn’t come back to the compound Elijah wanted to go and look for you but Klaus wouldn’t let him,” Marcel spoke as he straightened up. “You weren’t in any danger.”
Bella huffed. “I’ve been sitting here in the Bayou all day in the hot sun and I’m pretty sure I’ve been bitten by some insect or two because I’m not even dressed properly. How dare you dropping me off here for the second time in my pajamas!”
“You sleep in that?”
She just looked at him. What was it with Mikaelsons and fashion apart from the fact that they all looked as if they walked out of a fashion magazine? Marcel was technically a Mikaelson as he was a Klaus wannabe in every sense down to his clothing.
“You must be hungry and thirsty, why won’t you come back with me?”
“No, thanks,” she replied as she kept looking at him. “I think I’ll get more sleep out here than at the compound.”
“You can’t stay here all night, it’s not safe.”
“And yet, you got me out here in the middle of the night. Twice,” she shot at him. “I’m not going back with you.”
Marcel pursed his lips as he put his hands in his pockets and didn’t look at her. “I understand you’re tired and fed up, Bella, but we’re running out of time. We don’t have the luxury of time to help you to get stronger in every way possible, and I suggest you stop this right now. You are acting like a little child, and it is very annoying.”
Bella got to her feet, her legs screaming for mercy after having sat down for too long and dropped the shield before shoving Marcel into a tree again. She held him in place with her magic as she approached him. “I want a day off,” she said as she looked up at him. She wanted to tear him apart for sounding exactly like Carlisle or Edward and she really needed a day. Preferably more.
“Didn’t you hear me when I said-”
“I heard you,” she interrupted him. “But I am taking tomorrow off. If anyone of you decide to pull a trick on me, hell is going to be paid. I want to sleep. There’s no use in trying to teach me something new when I continue to be dead on my feet.”
Marcel seemed to think it over for a moment and then nodded. “Alright. Under one condition; you are going to speak with Major Whitlock tonight after you’ve eaten.”
She had been avoiding Jasper ever since she learned of his miraculous return and didn’t want to break that habit.
“If you refuse, the plans for tomorrow will go ahead as planned.”
Realizing that there wasn’t another way, she released Marcel and sighed. “Fine.”
“Sure, I’ll have it arranged. I will see you back home.”
“You’re not even going to walk with me?”
“You’re dirty and in your pajamas. I hold myself to higher standards for company than that.” He handed her some money. “Feel free to use public transport on your way home.” He then spat off, leaving a flabbergasted Bella behind.
When she managed to get home after what seemed to be hours, she could hear Rebekah yell at Klaus, Marcel and Elijah for being assholes towards Bella. Both brothers were saying that that was the exact reason Rebekah wasn’t allowed to help, she had grown a soft spot for Bella and would make things too easy for her. Kol was only allowed to help with the magic side of things and had to stay out of the rest too.
Bella sighed as she walked into her and Kol’s room, knowing that he was in there as his clothes were scattered all over the floor, and some steam escaped from the bathroom when Kol opened the door. “Hi, Cuddles!” He greeted her with a big smile on his face as he exited the shower and Bella’s face immediately turned a shade of red as Kol hadn’t bothered to pull on anything after his shower. “How was your day? Jackson returned a couple of hours ago telling Klaus how he and his wolves were used as target practice,” he continued, not missing a beat.
While she appreciated the view after the day that she had had, she couldn’t help but to feel slightly annoyed by how ‘free’ Kol had gotten around her over the last week. He had started to cover himself up less and less, and this was the second time she encountered him stark naked and freshly out of the shower.
“What? Wolves got your tongue?” He said teasingly as he collected his dirty clothes to put them in the hamper.
Bella found a clean pair of shorts and held it out to him when he came back into the room.
“Aw, don’t like what you see, darling? I happen to think that this body is perfect as it is, and that covering it up would be a real shame. Besides, it’s just us in here.”
She shook the pair of boxers to get Kol’s attention, but he wouldn’t take it. She had to think of another way.
“Davina and I went to see an old witch today about your magic. Mainly because, even though your ancestors come from New Orleans, their bones haven’t been consecrated here and are instead scattered across the world. Since, according to the stories, you’re supposed to hold all the magic from your ancestors within you, carry it with you wherever you go. You should have been able to do at least a little bit of magic in Forks.”
That was interesting, and she decided to give him no longer the silent treatment as she began to step out of her dirty pajamas. She remembered what Kol had told her during the graduation party; Do something stupid, I dare you. Unleash your inner crazy person. I’m not going anywhere. “What did she say?”
“Well, it’s likely a combination of a lot of things, such as you feeling trapped in Forks and um…” He looked at her and swallowed hard. Was she really undressing herself in front of him? “Because you didn’t fully embrace the idea of you being able to do magic until we came back. You had to experience it for yourself how it felt doing magic while being able to control it. I suppose your fast recovery after you were drugged, can be attributed to…” He hadn’t seen her naked like this before, only inside his head, as she always took her clothes with her to the bathroom to get dressed. But there she was, naked, just like him, and she was beautiful. “Now why would anyone want to cover you up?” He said huskily as he walked towards her again, taking in every inch of her body with his eyes. Granted, she was slightly dirty from playing in the Bayou, but that didn’t matter.
She felt exposed to him like this, extremely exposed. His eyes had darkened, and if she didn’t know any better, he seemed to be hungry. She instinctively crossed her arms over her chest, covering up her breasts. “I’m built like a boy,” she eventually said and took a step back when Kol came too close. “When I was younger you couldn’t distinguish me from my boy classmates because I had short hair. Besides, it’s inappropriate to walk around naked around other people.”
“Inappropriate?” Kol scoffed as he kept looking at her. “And built like a boy? Geez, Bella, Edward really did a number on you, didn’t he?” And there her eyes went, staring at her feet. Damnit. She was gorgeous, she had curves in the right places and if she wasn’t squashing her breasts like she was right now, hiding them underneath her arms, he found them to be perfect too. “I used to get naked all the time, there was a time of public baths and saunas you could share with other people while naked,” he said with a shrug. “No big deal, everyone has their body as they have their personality.”
She whined when she had stepped too far back and was hitting a wall with Kol still approaching her. “Being naked is for sexy people.”
He grinned as he locked her in by putting his hands on both sides of her body. The old him would have thrown her onto the bed to have sex, and he wanted to. Oh, he really wanted to. But this had been an experiment – it still was an experiment – and she behaved just as he thought she would. She wasn’t ready for anything else just yet. “You’re sexy,” he whispered in her ear before kissing her neck.
She smelled like the Bayou; a mixture of trees, sand, and water. “But just to be clear,” he said as he continued to kiss her neck. “Just because two people are naked, doesn’t mean it’s a reason for sex. I see it as a way of being comfortable in your own skin that you don’t need clothes to validate who you are. That what you see is what you get and… well… Sex is just a bonus.”
She closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wall for a moment, trying to focus. “I need to take a shower,” she muttered. “Then eat and drink and if I want a day off tomorrow I have to talk to Jazz.”
“You scored a day off?” He snorted, the possibilities already racing through his mind, they were endless.
“Not yet,” she quickly kissed him and ducked under his arms, grabbing some clean clothes and a towel on her way to the bathroom for a shower.
After her shower, Kol had retrieved some food for her and she was glad that he was fully dressed. Not that she hadn’t liked what she’d seen. It was just… weird. Awkward. Secretly quite sexy and enticing. It was strange how he brought out these feelings in her, she used to have them for Edward, and then they disappeared because the thoughts and feelings she had were inappropriate but Kol… he didn’t find it a bad thing, and that was scary.
“What else did that witch say?” She asked him as she tucked into her desert, a bananas foster; she loved it. She could have it for breakfast if needed, it was just perfect.
“Another possibility is that you’re just simply tied to New Orleans, and you weren’t meant to do magic outside of it,” he said with a grin. “That your magic is tied to the city or something in the city at least that has to do with the Claire family. And to be honest with you, I think this is the case. They could never anticipate how many generations of boys would be born, and they were afraid of the amount of power that girl would hold and that it was best to be confined to one city. I doubt we’ll ever know for sure what’s going on with your powers and how powerful you truly are.”
“That sounds stupid,” she said as she scraped the remaining of her desert out of the bowl.
“Does it? It sounds like a safety precaution to me,” he laughed. “Even Davina is afraid of you.”
He just raised an eyebrow at her.
“It’s stupid. I’m nothing special.”
“Yeah, keep saying that, and we might start believing you,” he snorted and pointed at the door. “Want me to come with you when you talk to Jasper?”
Bella sighed as she shook her head. “This is something I have to do by myself.”
“Are you sure?”
She shrugged. “Not really, but it needs to be done, right? It’s not like you and Davina haven’t started to teach me the basics of defending myself which worked fine on the wolves and Marcel today.”
“Oh, I wish I could have seen that,” he said with a grin. “You should sleep with your phone in your pockets at all times. That way you can call me when they pull a stunt like that again, and I can come and watch how you kick their ass.”
“Not even to rescue me?” She said playfully with a pout on her face.
“Like you said, we’ve been teaching you,” he countered. “You don’t need rescuing.”
Bella got to her feet and stuck out her tongue at him before kissing him and walking out of the room. She nearly tripped over a wooden board that was still at the fountain for its reparations – apparently you can’t just glue a new top onto a fountain, who knew? – and started to climb the stairs towards the second floor, to the room where she had encountered Jasper a week and a half ago.
She felt a myriad of emotions that she was trying to get under control for Jasper’s sake. Surely, he was dealing with enough himself already, and she didn’t want him to feel how angry, scared, sorry, worried, betrayed and tired she felt. But maybe it was a good thing to feel all that and then some.
Jasper was already there, and he wasn’t alone. Elijah was with him which was probably for the best; it took a lot to get him upset about anything. He was so level headed that sometimes she wished he’d let loose. Although a pissed off Elijah would likely be a bad thing. “Good evening, Isabella,” Elijah greeted her politely. “I brought us a pot of tea.”
“Hi, Elijah. Thanks,” she replied as she looked at Jasper. “Jazz.” She stayed on the other side of the room as she sat down next to Elijah.
“Hey Bella,” he greeted her. “You look tired.”
“I am tired. If I want my day off I have to talk to you.”
“You don’t want to talk to me?”
“No,” she replied and then sighed. “I don’t know. I don’t know whether to hate you or to feel sorry for you.”
“Well, would you at least listen?”
Bella nodded as she took the cup of tea that Elijah offered while Jasper started to tell his story.
“You were right,” he started. “Rebekah told me what you said after the wolves dismantled me, that I had been a victim, just like you. I’d known for a long time that the only reason I stayed with them was because of the support they gave me to get my bloodlust under control. Alice didn’t love me. She pretended to, but we weren’t happy. Everything was fine though, I mean, I had a family, and we all took care of each other. It was fun to see Edward failing to find a mate time and time again but, to be honest, he was quite picky. Then you came along, and Alice pressed Edward to bond with you. She had seen your compatibility with each other. I didn’t like it, mostly because I started to see parallels between you and Edward and me and Alice back in the day.”
Bella didn’t say anything, she had promised to listen and that was what she was going to do.
“I suppose I should thank you for shifting everyone’s attention to you so that I had more freedom to finally make my escape in a pure, selfish way. Edward and Alice were on top of you all the time, and even though they often requested my presence to help them manipulate you, I was free. I dared to make a plan or at least a part of it. I called Peter to help me out. I should have made the break earlier, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t sure I would survive without them, to be honest, but Peter said that I could and it took him a while to get that through my thick skull.”
Bella thought for a moment and nodded. “Okay.”
Jasper blinked at her. “Okay? That’s it?”
“You knew what you were doing was wrong and yet you still did it to save your own skin and fly under their radar. So yes, okay,” Bella took a sip of her tea as she looked at him. “I don’t blame you. You had fifty odd years to realize that they were wrong and to think of a plan.” She wasn’t quite sure if the sarcasm filtered through that. She did blame him. He was a fucking vampire, and she was a human. He didn’t have anything to be afraid of.
He smirked at her. “This school trip to New Orleans was the perfect opportunity to wean you off their drugs and off of my tampering. It was my job to pack the drug seeing as I was in charge of feeding the human. Much to my surprise you figured out on your own that things were wrong and started to rebel quite quickly after we got here. It’s as if you opened up or whatever. I don’t know.”
“I knew something was wrong for a long time, especially after Edward broke up with me.”
“You should never have gone to Italy for him.”
Bella shrugged. “At least I get the pleasure to hurt him now.” She was simply too tired to care if she had to be honest. Even though she was happy that he was still alive, new worries rose such as if he could be trusted. “Look, Jasper, I am glad that you’re still alive, I really am. I realized too late myself that I should have gotten you out as well, and I felt guilty when I saw the wolves rip you to shreds. I am sorry you had to go through that pain and the pain of getting yourself back into one piece. I am sorry that you had to go to such lengths to escape them; it mustn’t have been easy with a mind reader and a seer around.”
“Please, let me finish,” she said when she saw Elijah open his mouth to say something and looked at Jasper. “I get it that you’ve been manipulated by them and that you survived. But that doesn’t take away the fact that you manipulated me. You’ve messed around with my feelings, and I seem to remember that you participated in ‘family time’ which was more or less of a ‘break Bella apart time’. What were you afraid of, Jasper? That they would kill you if you decided to stop doing their bidding? The mighty Major Whitlock afraid of a coven? You could have easily broken free before and left. Or killed them. Especially with the help of Peter, but you didn’t.”
Bella took a deep breath to calm herself, just in case something would break. “Part of me feels that I’m a bad person for hating you for what you’ve done, but the other part of me knows damn well that you could have done something sooner. You’re a fucking vampire, for fuck’s sake; it takes a lot to break you. You should feel thankful that I’m not destroying you myself.”
When Jasper didn’t respond, she got to her feet. “I want to thank you for not messing with my feelings just now and I will tolerate you. Hell, I will even help Kol and Davina with that spell they’ve been creating to turn you and Peter in vampires of flesh and blood because Klaus seems to like the idea, and I like Klaus. But you and I? It will take a lot for me trust you again. You have violated me and yet I haven’t heard you apologize for it. Instead, you thanked me for diverting their attention away from you. So maybe I shouldn’t feel bad for hating you, and at least you know where you stand.” She then turned to Elijah. “If this conversation hasn’t been to your liking then I’m sorry, but you told me to open up. This was me, opening up. May I be excused?”