What Famil Does
Disclaimer in first chapter
Rosalie's plan of using the senior trip as cover held one small snag: technically, I was still a Junior. We couldn't say anything about the plans to Carlisle and we knew that the likelihood would be that Esme would tell Carlisle if we said anything to her, so we had to think quickly. First, we had to create a grant for a high school biology student from the Midwest to study on the west coast for the summer. The grant was then mysteriously awarded to the San Diego Zoo, even though they didn't remember applying for it. Along with the grant money was a list of prospective students for them to interview for the internship. Since I was in A.P. Biology, it was fairly easy to get my teacher's signature on the internship application. His glowing letter of recommendation was also much appreciated. Sometimes it really was worth being one of the most polite students in the school.
We couldn't plan at the house, so we took to using our lunch hour to strategize. There was only two weeks until the trip. The first thing we had to do was to make sure that Esme and Carlisle didn't suspect anything. It was easy enough to speak with Carlisle at the hospital so Jasper wouldn't overhear our conversation and feel my deceit. Needless to say, he was surprised to hear that I decided to attend the senior class trip since he knew I was ultimately not interested in pursuing biology, even if my teacher did go through the effort to arrange for an interview for this prestigious honor. I finally convinced him that I would provide the necessary cover for Rosalie and Emmett to avoid detection when they stayed in the same room together. They were all too happy to be caught in the custodian's closet, warranting a call home to their "parents" and the threat of a detention to go on their permanent record
to reinforce their apparent need for a chaperone.
In the meantime, Jasper was slowly starting to come out of his shell. He was no longer shocked whenever someone felt any affection for him and he had even begun seeking out whichever family member could give him the emotional climate he was looking for that day. He also had taken to spending a lot of time with Carlisle, even going so far as to sit in front of him on the floor with his back pressed up against Carlisle's legs when we watched television or movies on the new VCR. To an outsider looking in, it would almost seem as though Jasper was a pet of some kind, but the truth was that Jasper had accepted Carlisle not only as the leader of our family, but also as a father—and he relished being a son. Carlisle had even started doing father-son things with Jasper that he had never really gotten to do with us. Emmett and I would play ball together and we certainly invited Jasper to join us—and he would—but he really seemed to flourish when Carlisle took time out of his afternoon to toss a football back and forth with him. He still had to hunt regularly and was not close to ready to going to school with us, but it was the times with Carlisle that he most felt like the teenager he would eventually pretend to be. Each day, he felt more and more that Carlisle and Esme loved him, and after several conversations with me, and Carlisle, he had begun to let the past go and look forward to what the future might hold.
Finally, the day had arrived when we were leaving for California. Carlisle drove us to the airport to meet the rest of the class. The senior class had been fundraising all year for this trip, but I was happy to pay full price for my ticket. Carlisle always played the part of the dutiful parent in front of everyone else, but I could hear the undercurrent of worry in his thoughts. Apparently, we weren't as successful at hiding our machinations from him as we thought, but he wasn't going to allow the concern to leak out while he was in Jasper's presence. He was always hyperaware of his youngest son's emotional needs. As we hugged him goodbye, he thought to me, whatever you are planning, please be discreet.
I nodded and made my way onto the plane, taking my seat next to my brother and sister. "Carlisle suspects something, but he doesn't know what we are planning," I told them, too quietly for any of the humans to hear.
"Well, it will be too late for him to do anything about it once he figures it out," Rosalie hissed back. "We stick to the plan."
We spent the rest of the flight going over our strategy again. We would move as soon as we were checked into the hotel. Emmett and I were rooming together so that was easy enough. Two cases of jet lag with a touch of food poisoning right after dinner and the teachers would believe we were bunked down before 8pm. Rosalie planned to convince
her roommate that she needed to take care of us, so it would be in her roommate's best interest that Rosalie be in the shower when the teachers came to check that everyone was in by curfew. Yes, we were taking a risk, but ultimately, we would only be in Ohio for another couple of weeks and then we would be moving up to a remote region in Canada until Jasper was able to be in society again. Secretly, I think we were all looking forward to shrugging off our human personas for a decade or so once we left Ohio.
After looking up flight times and rental car speeds, we decided it would be better if we hopped a plane to Los Angeles, CA and just ran from there. We needed to be back at the airport before 9pm PST, which we could definitely do as long as we left right after arranging our cover story. We didn't have any luggage and, since he looked the oldest, Emmett had arranged for a rental car to get to and from the airport to be waiting at the hotel for us since we couldn't simply run through San Diego before dark without being seen by the humans. If we had been a month earlier, it might have been possible, but they had already set the clocks forward for the spring now and it was daylight for an hour longer each day.
I had drawn a sketch of what Maria looked like from what I had seen in Jasper's thoughts. Once Rosalie and Emmett had committed it to memory, I folded it up again and tucked it into my back pocket in case we needed it later. We had just hunted the night before, and we had the option of hunting again if we found some game on the way to where Rosalie said Maria was holed up, but I felt pretty confident that it would not be necessary. Apparently, Maria did not have an army to speak of at the moment. She did, however, keep two or three newborns around at all times for protection, but they would be easily distracted and disposed of if it came to it. Without Jasper there, it was unlikely that she could contain more than just a couple of newborns in sunny California, even if she had a more experienced Vampire helping her. They were too impulsive and they would follow their teeth over their brains any day. It would only be a matter of time before they were exposed to the humans and the Volturi would step in if that were the case. Since they hadn't, it seemed that Maria was in a regrouping stage before she would make a new play for territory in the south again.
As they stepped off the plane, there was a commercial for a local hospital on the television in one of the waiting areas, and it gave Rosalie an idea. It wouldn't take more than a few minutes to detour, so we decided it was worth it. One quick trip to the hospital's blood bank had supplied us with several bags of human blood that had been rejected for one reason or another. Several of them had tested positive for a strange feline leukemia, but that was not something that humans could contract, so they decided that the bags must have been contaminated somehow. It worked to our advantage, although Emmett was having more difficulty than Rosalie and I were with not drinking the blood. We took off at top speed in the direction that Rosalie's contact had provided for us as the last known location of Maria's camp.
When we arrived, we stayed upwind to observe what was happening. I could hear the thoughts of the seven Vampires all crammed into a small two bedroom house. It seemed as though there was a disagreement going on inside. The newborns—three of them in total—were practically salivating at the thought of violence, while two older Vampires were being held apart. I could hear two other mature Vampires' minds. One of them was definitely Maria. She was displeased with the two in front of her. One of them—the small female—was upset that they had come into her home uninvited and now threatening them. They had been away on a trip and returned to find Maria and her troupe waiting for them.
Maria demanded that the man—Peter—return to Texas with her at once. She said they would spare his mate—Charlotte—for as long as he served her. Peter's mind was searching for a possible means of escape, but was coming up empty. In truth, Maria was fairly sadistic and had planned to keep the two of them apart once they were in Texas, even going so far as to plan to break Charlotte into pieces and only allow Peter a piece at a time as a reward for a job well done.
I relayed this information to my siblings and Emmett flexed his muscles. In his track suit, he looked like he was about to go jogging, but I knew how deadly he truly was.
"Well, maybe they'll want to get a few licks in before we kill the bitch," Rosalie whispered. "Let's go!"
I nodded and, with a count of three, we tore off toward the house. It was secluded enough that neighbors wouldn't hear us tearing the doors off the hinges and breaking through the picture window in the living room, each with a bag of blood in our hand. One quick swipe at the bag and the plastic ruptured, creating a stream of human blood falling toward the floor. As predicted, the newborns' attention was diverted and they were swiftly dispatched. We could burn them later if we chose to. Right now, we had a mission to complete.
Peter had actually taken out one of the two newborns that had been holding onto him. He seemed to be trying to get to his mate, something that was made much easier when Emmett tore off the head of the newborn that held her arms behind her back. For a moment, that actually made Peter more anxious as Emmett was an unknown Vampire near his mate, but then Emmett casually moved Charlotte behind him and grabbed hold of Maria's lieutenant's throat and started squeezing. He was no longer a newborn and his strength was nowhere near what Emmett's was.
"Wanna find out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Vampire pop?" he asked with a grin.
I fought the urge to roll my eyes. Only he would make a Tootsie Roll joke in the middle of a confrontation.
Rosalie had dispatched the last newborn before he even knew what hit him. Other Vampires might discount Rosalie's abilities because of her beauty, but I knew the fierce lioness that lurked below the surface. I saw what she had done to her attackers when she was a newborn. I can't say that they didn't deserve it.
As soon as Maria had seen that her company had been attacked, she tried to slip away, but I was right there, blocking her exit. I leaned on the doorframe casually, "Leaving so soon? I hope it's not because of us."
She hissed at me and tried to move to the side, but I saw the action in her mind before she moved and blocked her with my superior speed. We continued this way until only her lieutenant was left of her men. Finally, she stood there and tried to calculate how she would survive this. I nearly laughed out loud when she tried to throw the lieutenant to the wolves, so to speak.
"It's Maestro's fault," she told me. "It was all his idea. I just wanted a quiet place to stay for a while."
"That's lie #1," I informed her as I took a step closer to her.
Maestro was trying to shake his head, but Emmett had an iron grip on his neck and he wasn't moving anywhere. Peter and Charlotte were standing off to the side and Charlotte held two large pieces of a vase that was once quite beautiful. The tears in her eyes that could never fall told me how much it had meant to her, even if I couldn't hear in her thoughts that it was the first thing that Peter had given her when they moved into their first home. Rosalie mirrored my action by taking a step closer to Maria on the other side.
"Actually," I said thoughtfully, "lie #1 was when you told Peter that you would let Charlotte live if he came with you. You planned to have her torn apart and would only give him pieces at a time."
Maria looked uncomfortable now. She didn't know how I knew what she had been thinking, but she was now afraid—very afraid. I was glad. She had caused a lot of fear in her life. It was time that she had a taste of her own medicine.
"I'll leave them be," she promised hastily, still searching for a way out. "You don't have to do this."
"You think this is about Peter and Charlotte," I mused aloud. "That's sweet, but it's not. It's just a happy coincidence that you happened to be attacking them in their own home when we showed up. No, this is about someone else. Our brother."
Maria spat out, "I have never seen you before. I don't know your brother. You have no proof that I did anything to him."
"Oh, but you, and I do," I told her darkly, taking another long stride toward her. "You see, he wasn't born into my family, but he's my brother all the same. I'll give you a hint: blond hair, a little taller than I am, Major in the Texas Cavalry during the Civil War. Ring any bells?"
From across the room, Charlotte gasped, "Jasper?!"
Maria's eyes grew wide and she followed Charlotte with a fearful gasp of her own, "Jasper?"
I saw Rosalie move behind her then and, just as my sister pulled the odious Vampire's head off, she told her, "Yes, Jasper. You mess with our brother, you mess with all of us. You won't live to regret it."
Maestro was really trying to get away from Emmett at this point. Emmett finally grew tired of trying to keep from getting scratched, so he pulled off one of Maestro's arms and smacked him in the face with it. "You want to keep the other one attached, knock it off!"
Maestro let out an inhuman roar of pain. He was not looking to avenge Maria; he was just looking for a means of escape. His mind was calculating and he searched for something he could say that would get him out of this situation, but he was also ambitious. Within a year, he would be the next threat that would be inflicted upon the South. He was actually glad to have Maria out of the way. He had assumed that Jasper told us about Peter and Charlotte and that was how we knew them by name. He hadn't figured out yet that I could read his mind.
Emmett looked around him to me and I shook my head; it had to be done. With a shrug, Emmett squeezed until Maestro's head popped off and dropped onto carpet that was already ruined by the blood that had dripped onto it from the blood bags. His body dropped a moment later, just like the rest. Peter and Charlotte were watching us cautiously. He had been crouched in front of her, ready to defend his mate, when Rosalie rolled her eyes.
"Really? We save both of your hides and you think we're here to hurt you?" she asked with derision.
"Did you mean it?" Charlotte finally asked in a small voice.
"Mean what?" Emmett chimed in, stepping over Maestro's body to go to Rosalie and wrap his arms around her.
I read her thoughts, so I took the liberty of answering the question, "Yes, Jasper is with our family. He's our brother now."
Peter still eyed us warily, but asked, "He's safe, then?"
I could see in his mind the camaraderie that the two of them had shared and how after Jasper let them go, he had returned one day to get his brother-in-arms and release him from the life he detested so much. He loved Jasper, too. I nodded with a small smile.
It was as though a switch was flipped. Charlotte rushed around Peter and reached for Rosalie's hands in excitement. "Please, tell us how he is," she demanded.
"We can't," Rosalie told her, looking at her watch. "We only have enough time to get here, dispose of Maria and her current minions and get back before we are missed."
Charlotte's face fell. I heard Rosalie think about offering to give them the phone number for the house so they could speak with him, but that would blow our cover before we were back home, so I stopped her.
"How about this? You pack up what you need to while we get ready to torch the house," I suggested. "I know you enjoyed living here, but it's not really livable now, is it? So, we'll take care of that and you and Peter can make your way to our house. With your eyes, you won't be able to fly, so by the time you get there, we'll be home and will be able to prepare everyone for your arrival."
Charlotte squealed and hugged Rosalie quickly before she could protest. Then, she hopped over the ruined sofa, hugged Peter, exclaiming "We're going to see Jasper!" before running up the stairs to pack a bag. Peter watched her leave fondly and I could hear the love in his thoughts. I knew it had been possible for Vampires that drank from humans to love, but this was really the first time I had seen it up close. I was glad that they thought well of Jasper and wanted to know that he was safe and comfortable.
Once Charlotte had left, Peter turned his attention to us again. He walked forward and extended his hand to me, "Thank you for what you did today...for saving her. I can't repay you your kindness."
I smiled at him. "Just be good to Jasper. That's all the thanks we need."
I saw the question in his mind before he asked it, "Why are your eyes golden?"
"Come, Peter," I gestured toward the kitchen. Emmett and Rosalie silently volunteered to prep the house to be burned to the ground. "Let me tell you about our family."
I was in the yard, chopping wood for fires we didn't need when Esme came up to me. The worried look in her eyes matched the emotions she was throwing off. We were the only ones home. Carlisle was at work at the hospital and my newly adopted siblings were at school.
They had been carefully hiding their emotions since they returned from the class trip to San Diego, but every once in a while, one of them would look at me and a tiny bit of satisfaction and maybe even anticipation would come over them before they would suddenly shut down the emotion and turn it into something else. Carlisle was even starting to get suspicious for some reason, but it wasn't my place to ask, nor did I want to get my new siblings into trouble if they had partaken in some mischief that Carlisle wouldn't approve of, so I did not bring up the subject with either party. One of the political books I read in Carlisle's study called that 'plausible deniability' and, while it felt a bit dishonest, it was also the best way to proceed strategically without actively angering any of the Coven members involved. Still, a part of me felt like my loyalty was being pulled in different directions and I was afraid that I would lose the trust Carlisle had placed in me if I didn't say anything to him soon. Of course, I couldn't think of this while Edward was around or he would hear my thought on potentially betraying my siblings' trust and thus the cycle would repeat itself.
Esme touched my shoulder, breaking me out of my reverie. "What's wrong?" I asked, suddenly on alert.
"I was working in the garden, and I smelled two Vampires coming up to the property from the west. I don't recognize their scents," she told me quickly.
I sent out a wave of calm to her and nodded. "I'll protect you if they attack," I assured her. "I promise they will not hurt you."
A wave of motherly love swept over me in response as Esme replied, "I don't want them hurting you either, Jasper. And I don't want you to have to fight. You've had to do enough of that in the past. This is your home now. You should know peace in your own home."
Of course, she was worried about me. She was the one that I spent the most time with and she had seen my scars early on. I had opened up to her a bit more than the others simply because of her quiet love and acceptance while we worked together during the days when the others were gone. She knew some of my history, although I would dare not tell a lady some of the things I had done or lived through.
"I do know peace, Esme," I smiled at her. "And, if I have to fight to protect that peace, I will. Now, let's go see if the visitors have come to investigate why the woods smell of Vampire."
As we walked around the property, the wind shifted direction again and I caught the scents of the Vampires myself...and I knew they were no strangers, at least not to me. Peter and Charlotte had found me. I was a little wary of them and what they would think of the recent changes to my diet. I don't think I could bear it if my friends disparaged my newfound family. After so many decades of feeding off humans, I would never be such a hypocrite to think that Peter and Charlotte were doing anything more than surviving when they fed. They didn't relish the kill as some did, but saw it as a necessary evil to sustain them. I couldn't begrudge them that, but I also couldn't live with it. I loved Peter and Charlotte, but I couldn't go back to the overwhelming depression I felt every time I broke down and fed. If they held this lifestyle in contempt as Edward had said many other Vampires did, it would break my heart to turn them away, but I would have to say goodbye to them forever.
Taking a deep breath, I took Esme's hand and sent her a wave of reassurance, "Come, Esme. It's okay. I know them."
"Are you sure it's safe?" she asked.
"Yes," I assured her. "They are the only two Vampires to come out of the Southern Wars that I would ever trust. I promise you will be safe."
Though I was not sure how they would react to the Cullens’ dietary philosophy, I was sure that I was telling the truth. No matter their personal feelings, Peter and Charlotte did not want to pick a fight with anyone if they could help it. More likely, if they were uncomfortable, they would find a reason to leave quickly. I hoped they would stay and visit for a while, but if they chose to leave, I would respect their decision.
Esme accepted my promise and we walked around the house to find Peter and Charlotte standing in Esme's garden. Charlotte was admiring the yellow roses that Esme had planted a few weeks earlier and Peter watched over her even as he scanned the area for possible threats. I knew he could smell my scent in the air, but he would also have picked up several other scents that he wouldn't recognize and he would never want to bring his mate into a situation with an unknown number of potential foes.
I decided to put his fears to rest. I smiled and called out to them, "Peter! Charlotte! It's so good to see you!"
Both of them turned in my direction and relaxed when they saw my smile. Of course, since I am an Empath, my smile was infectious and soon we were all embracing. Once Peter pulled Charlotte back into his arms, she looked at me and then to Esme, who was standing there patiently waiting for me to introduce her.
"Peter, Charlotte, I'd like you to meet Esme," I offered. "She and her family have kindly opened their home to me. Esme, Peter and Charlotte were my companions after I left Maria's army. They were the ones that told me that there was peace in the North."
Esme smiled her usual welcoming smile at them and I could feel Peter and Charlotte simply melt at the genuine warmth she radiated.
"Friends of Jasper's are always welcome here," she told them graciously. "Please come inside and make yourselves at home. My husband and the rest of the children will be home in a little while, but there is plenty of time if you would like to clean up after your journey. Do you have any clothes that need washing? I'll be happy to start a load of laundry."
Both Peter and Charlotte's eyebrows shot up and their curiosity spiked when Esme said 'the rest of the children,' but they didn't say anything about it. They exchanged a silent glance with each other and Charlotte stepped forward.
"I will take you up on that offer, Esme, thank you," she agreed readily. "I'd love a tour of your house, too, if you don't mind."
A flicker of sadness went through Charlotte as she continued, "We just lost our house in a fire, and we haven't decided what we want in a new home yet, so I am on the hunt for some ideas."
"Well, you came to the right place, then," I told her. "Esme is both architect and interior designer of this house, so I'm sure she'll tell you all about it."
Esme smiled warmly at me before speaking to Charlotte, "Of course, dear. Why don't we start in the kitchen? Are you boys coming?"
"You can go if you want. I need to get this wood taken care of before Emmett comes home and decides to launch the fallen tree across the river to show you how strong he is," I told Peter, but he shook his head.
"I'll stay and help you. Give the women some time to chat. I can clean up afterward," Peter offered and I nodded, glad to have his company again after so many years.
Esme looped an arm around Charlotte's and they started off toward the house. I turned my attention toward Peter again and I was overwhelmed by his happiness to see me. As I walked past him, he pulled me into another manly hug.
When he released me, we started walking toward the woodpile and he said, "You look good, Jasper. Being here suits you."
I felt hope rise up within me at his words. "I feel good here. The Cullens, they're different. They live different and I..."
"I know," he interrupted me. "I can see it."
I was quiet for a moment and he continued, "Don't worry. I don't feel slighted. It wasn't us or our company that made you depressed. It was our way of life. I always understood that. You needed more than Charlotte and I could provide you. I had always hoped that you would find a mate and your mate would be what you needed, but I don't think that's the case anymore. I think you needed this—a family to call your own. These animal drinkers may have strange ideas about prey, but I can't argue with the results."
I stopped short, "Wait, how did you know that the Cullens are animal drinkers?"
Peter shrugged and picked up the large log that I had planned to split next. He placed it on the stump so I could split it with the ax. It really wasn't difficult work for a Vampire, but it kept me busy during the day and distracted me from the thirst while everyone else was occupied.
"Charlotte and I met Edward, Rosalie and Emmett last week when they were in California," he told me. "They told us of their way of life and how we could find you. Still seems unnatural, but to each his own, right?"
This was what they were keeping from us? They knew that Peter and Charlotte were going to surprise me with a visit and they wanted me to have a good surprise? I was suddenly glad that I hadn't approached Carlisle with my suspicions about them. I felt a wave of affection for my new siblings that they would plan something nice for me after all of the upheaval I had caused in their lives.
"If I wasn't living it, I wouldn't have thought it possible. I certainly would never have realized that I could sustain myself on animal blood on my own. When they found me, I was pretty much incoherent, driven mad with thirst. It was only a matter of time before I would have done something that attracted the attention of the Volturi. I have no doubt that the Cullens saved my life in those woods, but this..."
I waved my hand to the house and the surrounding area, "I didn't expect. They didn't just feed me some animal blood and send me on my way. They saw my scars and offered me a place to stay, a place in their family. I was so scared at first. I had no idea what was going to happen. Sometimes I still don't, but they've never gotten angry with me, even when I attempted to eat the mailman one afternoon."
Peter's eyes grew wide, "What happened?"
"They changed their mail delivery to the post office in town," I replied.
Peter's fear spiked and he seemed to be scanning what parts of me he could see for any fresh wounds he didn't recognize. Finding none, he asked, "I mean, what was your punishment for defying the Coven leader?"
"There wasn't one," I told him, still a little surprised by this myself. "Emmett and Edward held onto me until I regained control of myself. They had wrestled me to the floor in front of the couch. We destroyed most of the room. When I was coherent again, Carlisle was kneeling in front of me and he told everyone else to leave. At first, I wasn't sure what was happening. I was sure that I was to be punished, but he asked my forgiveness for not thinking to have the mail forwarded. He said he shouldn't have put me in that position to test my resolve so soon after I had committed to the lifestyle. And his emotions were just...I don't even have words for them. I just sunk into them and I didn't come back out of them for almost a full day. And, he just let me. He sent everyone else away and he just held me and sent me every comforting feeling he could manage until I was able to function again."
While I spoke, I had walked away a little bit and hung my head, still feeling a bit of shame for my actions all those weeks ago.
"Wow!" Peter exclaimed. "This coven really is different!"
I looked up at him then and said, "Family. They don't call themselves a coven. They call themselves a family."
"And now they're your family," Peter told me with a slow, sure smile. "They make you happy. That's all I ever wanted for you, my friend."
If I could have blushed right then, I would have. "Still, I feel as though I haven't earned a place in the family yet. I desperately want to belong here—with them—but how can I call myself a Cullen if I attack the first being with a heartbeat that happens by?"
"You didn't," Peter argued.
"Yes, I did," I groused, still angry at my lack of willpower.
Peter walked around to stand in front of me again and waited until I looked up at him before he spoke, "Jasper, you are the best warrior I have ever seen. Your battle scars attest to that. If you really wanted that mailman dead, I have no doubt that he would be dead. You would have killed all of them to get to him. Instead, you allowed them to restrain
you. If anyone had tried to restrain you in the past, what would have happened? They would have been burning in seconds. But you trusted your family
to take care of you, to make sure you didn't hurt someone you really didn't want to hurt. And, from the looks of it, your trust was not misplaced."
I knew that Peter always was good at reasoning things out and he had known me longer than almost anyone else on the planet. I hoped he was right in this. Another thought occurred to me then—Maria.
I had to protect my new family from the treacherous viper that she was. Esme was sunlight and goodness and Maria would enjoy dismembering her, just because she had given me any comfort.
I voiced my concern to Peter and he smiled widely. His reaction was strange to me, but his emotions backed up his expression. He looked off toward the house and then back to me, "You know, Charlotte really enjoys those VCR tapes. She likes that we can watch movies right in our own home—well, once we find another home, that is. One of her favorites is The Wizard of Oz. Have you seen it?"
I shook my head. There were a great many things I hadn't seen or done while I was rocking back and forth in the woods, but I didn't understand what this had to do with Maria.
"That's a shame," Peter mused. "There's a line in the movie that is perfect for this moment."
His mood was infectious and I couldn't help but smile, "Oh yeah, what's that?"
"Ding dong, the witch is dead!" Peter grinned.
I was both proud of and disappointed in my children when I returned home and learned of the true purpose of their attendance on the senior class trip the week before. I knew they had been planning something, but I never imagined they would do something so foolish as to go after such a strong Coven leader. I was glad that they had accepted Jasper as their brother so readily, but the thought of them simply never coming home again and not knowing what had happened to them was devastating to both myself and to Esme. At the same time, I didn't want Jasper to feel as though we didn't think he was worth the effort. He was—and more. I even understood their reasoning regarding the Volturi. I just wish that they had done things differently. At the very least, they should have contacted the Denalis to let them know about their crazy plan so that there would be someone to let us know if things went wrong.
I thanked God that everything worked out okay, and that they had even made it in time to save Jasper's friends, Peter and Charlotte, from that hateful woman, but it was all that I could do to keep my anger at bay so that Jasper wouldn't feel it and have it annihilate his faith in our growing relationship.
Of course, the only one who could hear my thoughts on the subject now was my first son, Edward. He sat there quietly, listening to every rebuke, while the rest of the family got to know our guests. I suppose he knew there would be a price to pay for their machinations and felt that he deserved a dressing down for his part. He was the oldest and he knew better than either of the others what I expected of them. He nodded silently, confirming my suspicions. He must have let his feelings change for a moment because Jasper suddenly looked up at him with curious eyes. Edward waved him off, but I could see that Jasper was now having a silent conversation with him.
Finally, Edward stood up and started walking out of the room. Before he left, he simply stated as though it was an answer to everything, "You made him my brother. Please don't be surprised when I act like he is."
It was a week after Charlotte and Peter left when I decided it was time to talk to Jasper about what had happened. He had been feeling guilty on and off since finding out that we had dispatched Maria to protect him and this just had to stop. I left it alone for the six days that we had guests because this was really a family matter, and Jasper had been sad to see them go, even though he understood that they needed to hunt and it needed to be nowhere near where we were. I had been sad to see them go as well and hoped that they would visit again sometime, even if they did not adhere to our diet. It had been fun having another girl around and Charlotte had gone with me and Esme when we picked up my prom dress from the seamstress. Truthfully, Esme could have done the alterations just as easily, but the seamstress was in desperate need of business and it was just as easy to allow her to do them. Esme assisted her with the pins so none would get bent if the seamstress accidentally stuck me. Charlotte played the part of the dutiful 'cousin' from out of town, fawning over my dress and how I looked in it. She explained her sunglasses away by claiming she had pink eye.
The next few days were spent making sure everything was organized for the prom. Emmett and I would go in a stretch limousine, but we couldn't have the driver pick us up at the house unless Edward took Jasper hunting, so I wasn't able to see Jasper until after prom was over.
I searched him out and finally found him sitting by the fireplace in Carlisle's study. I'm not sure if he realized that we kept the unnecessary fires going day and night because they drowned out some of the smell of human that would permeate our clothing as we walked through school or wherever we were that day. He seemed to enjoy the fire regardless of the reason for its existence. He was reading one of Carlisle's older books. It was in English, but not exactly the contemporary English of the 1980s, and it would take him longer than a more modern book might take. I realized his thirst was bothering him, despite having just been hunting.
I knocked on the door and smiled warmly at him, "Mind if I come in?"
He jumped slightly, as though he hadn't been aware of my presence. "Of course not," he replied. "It's Carlisle's library, not mine."
I made a mental note to make sure that Jasper had a room of his own at our next house, whether it was a study or a library or whatever. He and Edward had already decided that they would like to share a room again when we moved, but I firmly believed that Jasper needed his own space too. I pushed that aside for now and walked over to him. He stood up—his southern gentleman's manners shining through—and gestured for me to sit in one of the two chairs by the fire. As soon as I sat down, he did as well, although he did not pick up his book again.
"I think it's time we had a talk about something," I started, hoping that I wasn't going to say the wrong thing and send him into a tailspin.
Jasper's eyes grew wide in alarm and I could see that he was searching for what he could have possibly done wrong.
"I wanted to talk to you about California," I explained. He already knew what had happened, but we hadn't really talked to him about why each of us had decided to do what we did.
"I'm sorry...," he began, but I held up my hand to cut him off.
"Don't apologize, Jasper," I snapped. "In fact, stop apologizing all the time about everything. You don't have to. Apologize when you actually screw up. You haven't."
Jasper eyed me warily, so I continued, "I just wanted to tell you that Edward was right. You know I don't accept change or others into the family easily. I didn't want you to join our family, but it was plain to see that Esme wasn’t going to let you go, so I resigned myself to putting up with you. I've been watching you with everyone and I don't think you realize the effect you have had on them...on all of us. You've become a part of this family and I don't let anyone mess with our family. I wasn't looking for another brother, but I got one, so you are just going to have to understand that I'm your sister now and I will protect you as I see fit. That meant taking out that bitch before she could do something monumentally stupid like try to come after you or try to enslave Los Angeles and bring the Volturi down on us all. You couldn't end her and I get that. That's why I did. Did you know I was the one to actually tear her apart?"
"No, I didn't know that," Jasper answered in a quiet voice. Everything about him just radiated pain, even if he seemed to be trying not to project that pain onto me. He put Carlisle's book down, which I had come to realize was one of his 'tells' that he was not feeling worthy of being accepted into our family. He continued, "I'm glad you weren't hurt. I don't know if I could live with myself if any of you got hurt because of me."
"That's irrelevant. It's over and done with now. You are free from her," I reminded him. "No sense living in the past."
I was well aware of how ironic that statement was, considering how often I lamented my own past, but this wasn't about me. Although Edward would disagree, I could
occasionally think about others in the family, sometimes.
"I will try to be worthy of the kindness you have already shown me," he stated and I just wanted to scream, but I pushed the feeling of frustration down so he wouldn't feel it and take it the wrong way.
"You are already worthy of it, and more," I tried to tell him, but he shook his head vehemently.
"No, even now, I just fed and I feel like I am starving. I want to run into town and grab the first person I see," he whispered, shame pouring off of him. He looked away as tears that would never fall filled his eyes.
"Yet, you are here, in the library, talking to me," I mused aloud, hoping he would understand what I was saying. I knew he had the strength to overcome his desire for human blood. He just needed to believe it.
"For how long?" he asked, dejected. "How many times will I resist before I give in?"
With an understanding smile, I moved off of my chair to crouch down in front of Jasper and put my hand on his arm. He flinched, but didn't move away. A small part of me wondered if he was remembering how I had distracted him from the heartbeats when we drove home that first day and I fought back the amusement. Now that he wasn't in imminent danger of attacking anyone, I didn't need such a dramatic gesture. I knew he could feel the genuine concern and strength in my simple touch on his arm. The fire crackling was the only sound for a long moment before he looked at me and I began to speak in a steady voice, pouring every bit of my conviction into my words.
"Jasper, I know this life isn't easy for you, but if you want to out-stubborn something, I am the right one to help you do it. If you'll let me, I'll be your strength when you don't think you can find it within yourself to resist," I offered.
Jasper snorted, "You want to be my sponsor? Like in Alcoholics Anonymous?"
"Well, the meetings would definitely be something to see, but essentially, yes," I confirmed with a grin.
Everyone in the family had some way that they helped Jasper fit into our life. Carlisle and Esme eagerly embraced their roles as Jasper's parents, so much so that I wondered how long it would be before he actually started calling them Mom and Dad. Edward was his partner-in-crime and confidant on how lonely his existence had been. Emmett, my wonderful husband, was forever good humored and he did all that he could to make Jasper relax. I think he would walk on his hands for days on end if it would make Jasper laugh—or at least give him a real smile. But, I hadn't found what I could do to welcome him and since it was clear that he was staying for the duration, I accepted that I needed to do my part as well. This was what I could do for him. I gently squeezed his arm to get his attention again as he had taken to looking into the fireplace, probably contemplating the nature of addiction. I just hoped he wouldn't realize that the people in AA generally struggled with the disease for the rest of their lives, even if they did stay on the so-called wagon.
"Does the smell of human blood tempt me? Of course, it does," I told him. "But, I've never tasted a drop of it. Even when I was a newborn and I slaughtered the men who hurt me, I didn't take any part of their vile blood into me. I wouldn't sully myself that way. That is what sets me apart from the rest of the family. Edward hunted humans for a time. Esme and Emmett have both slipped from time to time, but I never have. Even Carlisle had to drink human blood when he bit the four of us."
"I've tasted well more than my share of human blood, Rosalie," Jasper lamented. It was almost a whine and I was having none of that.
"As of right now, no whining, that’s the past. This is the present and the future is yet to come. None of us can see the future, so we get to make our own. You make the decision on how you want to live and who you want to be," I explained to him forcefully. I put every ounce of pride and strength that I could muster into my next statements. "The Cullens have all slipped at one time or another, consciously or unconsciously deciding to drink human blood. I'm a Hale.
I refuse to give in and become what I despise. Now you have a choice. We're about to move and that means we'll need new identities again. You can be a Cullen and we'll all forgive you when you slip up as will inevitably happen. Or you can choose to be a Hale and make the decision now that you,
Jasper, will be stronger than the cravings. Being a Hale means that you don't allow the possibility of failure into your life."
After a long moment where I could see Jasper considering everything I said, he looked at me and it felt like he was measuring my fortitude to help him see this through. Tears were in his eyes again, but this time I felt a wave of affection and gratitude crash over me as he offered me a watery smile. He nodded and pushed off the chair to kneel down next to me on the floor. I hugged him close and pushed more of my strength to him until he didn't feel like he was quite so much on edge. Then, I pulled Carlisle's book off of the table and handed it to him.
"Read to me," I instructed, settling back against the leg of the chair. Jasper had been right that the distraction would help him, but my steady presence would also help him.
Jasper stared at me briefly before settling in at my side, our feet both pressing against the stone hearth of the fireplace, and opening the book to where he had left off.
And that was how Jasper Whitlock became Jasper Hale.
Up next: Epilogue
P.S. After the epilogue, there will be a sequel called How Isabella Swan Became Bella Cullen. I have started writing that already. It will definitely be a little different than Twilight since there's still no Alice...And, thank you to Fate, Holmes & SwimTeam for the new recs!