Title: Take Me To Church
Summary: She never wanted to celebrate her 18th birthday anyway, and she got her wish. Her and Jasper forge a bond through the blood and fire that accompanies her new life. He understands what she's going through, because he has to. And she understands him, because she listens. But nothing comes easy, and Bella has only gotten a taste of the dangers of her new world.
Disclaimer: I don't own anyone in Stephenie Meyer's universe. I simply play with them.
Warnings: Cursing, sexual scenes/situations, angst, murder.
Spoilers: Spoilers for the Twilight book and parts of New Moon/Eclipse.
Author's Notes: I am finding Bella Swan's head to be a place of strange things.
It smelt of water. An overwhelming surrounding of water and cold and just ice. She could feel the snow every time it touched her skin. Only… it didn't feel cold. The snow felt like a summer rainstorm, warm, wet droplets that melted on her skin.
Was she colder than snow? Colder than freezing?
She didn't ask, instead following Jasper through the forest at a blinding speed. She missed the ways the trees smelled differently by type. Instead, she just smelt one blended scent of earth that was sharp against the water.
And suddenly, they stopped. They were at a frozen stream, with a little bit of water running along the frozen stones. It was deafening compared to the silence of the forest.
She turned her head sharply at the sound of a loud screech. "An owl," Jasper told her. "It's three miles south of us."
Miles? She glanced back to Jasper in alarm, but he was giving her that grin again. The grin that told her "You'll get used to it." She figured she'd have to, or she'd think the entire world was screaming at her.
Maybe it was.
"There's a deer herd a few miles north of us. I caught a faint trace of it. We can follow that, if you'd like." Jasper's offer was careful, like he was trying to gauge something – maybe her preference in meat. No, not meat. Blood. She didn't know what she'd prefer, just that Alice's meal had smelled better. Did that mean it tasted better?
But a sudden thought made her feel nervous. What if she didn't know how to hunt right? What if… what if she couldn't hunt right?
"What's wrong, darlin'?" Jasper prodded, his voice gentle.
"Can there be vampire deer?"
The question was so sudden, and strange that Jasper couldn't hide the snort that left him. It made Bella take her lip between her teeth, watching him carefully. "No, darlin'. The venom is poisonous to animals." She wasn't sure if she was relieved of that. "I don't mean to laugh, darlin', it's just your question was not one I was expecting."
"What were you expecting?"
"You to say that you'd want to go a different direction," Jasper shrugged. He gave her a softer smile, as if in apology. "I got curious too, once. Tried to turn an armadillo in Texas back in the day… Sort of died."
"Sort of?" Bella repeated, her anxiety tripling. Was there a vampire armadillo walking around?
Jasper shook his head. "It did die. Just… suffered." Oh. Her breath left her, and her eyes darted north, to where Jasper had gestured a few minutes ago. Where the deer herd was. Would she make them suffer? She didn't want to hurt anything… she didn't want them to feel bad if she couldn't do this right the first few times.
"Your instincts will kick in," Jasper's voice sounded, like a brother to the wind, so quiet in the forest that she could barely hear him over the stream. "You'll drain them right away. They won't even feel the venom. I promise you that. It takes years of restraint to pull away from a bite."
He knew more about this than she did. She had to trust him.
"You'll make sure I don't let them suffer?"
Jasper was quiet a minute, as if hesitating. "I'll make sure they have a quick death."
She believed him. Because she didn't want to believe the alternative.
"Why would you say I could choose the human diet? Shouldn't you be encouraging the opposite?"
"I think it's a perfectly reasonable diet. And I don't blame you." She doesn't know what to say to that. She couldn't think of a proper response. But her throat burned even hotter. "Let's go north, alright?"
"Alright," she said quietly.
They went north.
Not even what Bella assumed to be a mile into their trek, she suddenly froze. A scent was overwhelmingly close. So delicious smelling that she nearly choked at the burn in her throat. The hot coals were nothing like they were before. Jasper staggered to a standstill next to her. "Bella?"
"What is that?" she breathed. Her eyes darted to Jasper.
"A wolf. Seems large enough for a good first hunt. Do you want it?" Did she? She was practically salivating. She could feel the venom on her tongue, the pool in her mouth that she swallowed. It did nothing for the burning.
He nodded, his head in the direction the scent carried. "Go on, then. It's yours."
She didn't need telling twice. She was gone, like a bat out of hell, through the forest, following the scent. She heard it before she saw it. Long, languid steps through the snow. Quiet huffs of breath, as if it didn't want to cause too much noise for predators.
The sound of the fur dragging against the top of the snow, brushing it just so gently that there was a slight scrape sound. The sound of snow crunching under claws. The sounds of a heart beating furiously fast.
The sounds of blood rushing through the veins of the beast. She only paused enough to try and think about how far it was. And then she was springing forward, seeing the creature under her as she fell atop it. Crunching. A stutter of a heart.
Bella gathered herself up off the snow, and stared down at the creature she had decided would be her meal. There was no blood spilled, though up close, she felt her throat ache more than before. She could smell the blood under the surface of the flesh – the fur.
But the creature was still.
She had crushed it to death. Its back was oddly shaped in the snow, its claws were splayed as if it was about to protect itself. Its eyes were wide open, almost bulging.
She stared at the eyes, unable to look away.
She had crushed it to death.
She had crushed it. And she had barely even …
"Bella, darlin'?" Jasper's voice was distant, as if not sure if he should get closer. Bella didn't say anything, feeling venom welling up in her eyes. The wolf hadn't even had a chance to defend itself – it hadn't even cried out. It hadn't done anything wrong.
Her eyes darted to the tail, still against the snow. The body half buried in the snow that she had forced it down into. The snow came up to her knees.
Bella hadn't noticed before.
A sudden breeze knocked away the scent of the wolf and instead she could smell Jasper, there, a few feet away. "A vampire with a conscious…" She wasn't sure if she was meant to hear his musings. But he didn't sound amused. He sounded sad. "Bella, you've got to eat it, darlin'."
"I barely even touched it," she whispered. "It just… It must have been in so much pain. And it couldn't even fight back – it could have run… but I wasn't even thinking and… the wolf just… it died." She swallowed back more venom. How could she be hungry after she had murdered something so… so innocent?
Jasper's steps got a little closer. And a rush of calm enveloped her. She swallowed again.
"No pain," Jasper's voice held promise. "I can't lie about that. I know, remember?" She knelt down in the snow, her hand reaching out for the fur of the wolf. But she stopped a few inches away. Even from here she could feel the heat of the animal, almost burning. "You've gotta drink it, darling." She couldn't. She couldn't drink it. It looked… it looked like it was suffering, even though she knew it was dead. "It will be a waste if you don't." A waste.
No, she couldn't let this innocent creature waste away to nothing, to die – and not at least use it as she had intended. She couldn't let it die for nothing.
"What do I do?" she asked, and she hated how her voice cracked. She hated how she sounded. Like a kid lost in the middle of a store, unable to find their parent.
Jasper stepped closer, but it was almost as if he didn't want to step too close. The wind shifted his scent away. And all she could smell was the wolf. "Do you see the vein on the neck?" She did. Even though it was covered in fur, she could see the defined outline of a jugular. "Bite right along it. The rest is easy." Her hands touched the fur, down in a single smooth gesture. A bone cracked under her accidental pressure.
She jerked her hand back, swallowing back more venom. And then she bit. She squeezed her eyes shut, so she wouldn't have to see.
Bella felt the blood pool into her mouth, and it tasted… unlike anything she had ever tasted before. It was sweet, and the best way Bella could describe it was like chocolate milk. It had a thick consistency that made her tongue feel slick. And yet it was refreshing enough to take away the burn in her throat, and make her feel … better.
That was exactly what it did. It made her feel better, euphoric, for a split second as she drained the creature.
When she got nothing more from the veins, she pulled her mouth away from the fur, and ran her hand along her lips. Blood came away, as well as some fur. "We'll go back to the stream and wash up," Jasper spoke calmly. Bella glanced towards him sharply, and he was stiff, frozen, as if he didn't want to make sudden movements.
Leave? Leave the wolf? Just… lying in the open?
Bella stared once more to the animal, its body seeming so much flatter and lifeless than before, though Bella was certain it was just a trick of her eyes. She wanted it to get up – she wanted the animal to change into a vampire wolf, she wanted it to be okay again.
She had to do something. It deserved something.
Jasper took a step closer. "Can we bury it?" The words tumbled out of her mouth before she even thought about it. But her voice was quiet, as if she wasn't sure if she wanted him to hear.
Jasper took another step, until he was beside her. He was silent, his eyes on the wolf as well. And then he gave a single nod.
"Of course, darlin'."
The relief was all encompassing. She didn't move to stand. Instead, she dug her bloodied hands into the snow, and began to dig. The snow soon gave way to dirt. Her hands dug into the frozen ground almost effortlessly.
Stones crumbled in her grip as she would bring it to the pile growing beside her.
Jasper joined her once she made it a few inches into the earth. Bella focused on keeping the venom from pooling in her eyes, she focused on keeping her mind from the wolf just inches from her. She tried to keep her mind from the still aching burn in her throat.
How could she still be thirsty?
She kept her eyes on Jasper's hands as they dug into the frozen mud, noting the scars that eclipsed parts of his skin. She could see a prominent one on his wrist that looked… terrible.
"That should be deep enough," Jasper spoke. She blinked, glancing back to the dirt hole. She hadn't even noticed that it was a few feet deep. It could have taken more than a minute to dig the hole.
Had she been using vampire speed and didn't even realize it?
Bella glanced to the wolf, that hadn't moved since she had stopped it. Her eyes then darted back to the ground under her, as if trying to fit the body of the wolf inside with her mind. She supposed it was large enough. "I think so."
"I'll get it," Jasper said quietly. She didn't say how relieved she was that he had offered. She had broken bones just by trying to pet its fur. Trying to lift it? She might tear it apart.
He lifted it effortlessly, bringing it to the hole and she watched as he gently set it down. It fit snugly. Bella wondered if they did this for every animal they killed. Jasper seemed too practiced in digging graves for it not to be.
Neither one of them moved to cover the wolf for a moment.
I'm sorry, she told it in her head.
"I'm still thirsty," Bella said aloud.
"You will be, for a few more months." She didn't know how she felt about that. She didn't know how she felt about the death being a waste. She didn't know why she felt so sad.
The wolf had done nothing wrong. It had been roaming around its natural territory. And Bella had…
She hadn't even touched it.
Her hands began to pull the snow and dirt and broken sticks over the wolf's body.
It had died. So she could be full.
And she wasn't even full.
"You've a heart of gold." She glanced up to Jasper, but he wasn't looking at her. He was pushing dirt over the wolf, and was acting as though he had said nothing.
Once it was done, she stared at the discolored dirt. She felt like she had been staring so much at the ground in these last few moments, but didn't know what else she could do. She felt helpless – only she was in a body that was anything but.
She wondered if this was what Edward meant when he said she was fragile. Not just breakable, but… unable to handle this stuff.
Maybe she wasn't meant to be a vampire.
Her throat burned again, as if reminding her that she was exactly what she might not have been best at. "Is it always like that?" Bella met Jasper's golden eyes as she looked up. His brow was furrowed just enough that there was a wrinkle between his eyebrows. His hair curled in front of his eyes, wet from the snow. It was falling harder now. "Do they always suffer like that?"
"It didn't suffer, darlin'," Jasper reminded her. "But… yes, it's always like that. At least until you learn your strength, can be more precise when you attack. It wasn't a bad first hunt, Bella. You've actually done really well." She swallowed the venom on her tongue. "We all have a different style. Emmett plays with them, gets their adrenaline pumping. He says it tastes better, but I don't see a difference." Bella felt venom pool in her eyes at that. To play with them? But they were so… fragile.
Everything was fragile now.
"Edward injures the cougars before he takes them down, keeps them alive. The blood is freshest if they stay alive." Alive? She couldn't stop the horror from building. Would she become like that? So immune to the death that… she'd let it know what was happening when she did it. "It varies between the others. Alice has difficulties getting her arms around them, to kill them quickly. But she does her best."
"And you?" she asked, and she didn't know why her voice sounded so hoarse.
"I put it to sleep," Jasper said after a moment of hesitation. "Let the others run away after I choose which one. It doesn't know it's coming. I break its neck before I bite."
She wondered if it was because he could feel it's pain… or if it was because he didn't want them to suffer.
"Next time, can you… teach me how to kill it before it even knows I'm there? Like you do?" She didn't look at him. She just tried to stop from thinking about more blood.
"It won't be a good idea for me to get close to you when you hunt," Jasper answered. She glanced up, frowning, in confusion. "Your instincts take over. You'll attack me to protect your meal, much like you did in the house, but you won't stop until I'm down." Oh. "It's not your fault, it's just a survival mechanism. But the best I can offer is working on control until you can think more than you did to take them down."
"I just… jumped on it."
"Bella, darlin', we have to kill to survive. I promise you, she didn't feel anything. It was so fast, she probably didn't even know you were nearby."
She believed him. She had to. It hurt less to believe that. "Does it ever get easier?"
"You get used to it." There was a wry twist of his lips that accompanied the phrase. How many times had he said it? She had lost count. "If we hadn't have taken it out, it could have hurt someone… or someone else would have hunted it, poachers… whatever you'd like to think, whoever you'd like to believe would do something cruel to them. It helps." To think of the awful people putting them through more pain than she did.
She could do that.
She could try.
Bella swallowed back more venom. "Come on, you're still thirsty," Jasper said as he pulled himself to his feet. He held out a hand to help her up, though they both knew she didn't need it. "There should be some deer still nearby. I bet that's what the wolf was hunting. Let's head a little east."
East they went. The snow seemed to be deeper this far into the forest, but the sound of the stream in Bella's ear vanished and was blanketed by the buffering of the trees. Now, the wind against the pine needles grated on her skin.
Only, she found she didn't mind it at the same time. It made her feel on edge. Like someone was approaching though. "Smell anything?"
She didn't. She took a deep breath in, relishing the crisp scent of the winter. Or… fall. And she couldn't help but take in a lungful of Jasper's peculiar scent as well. It … was weird. It was … not as bad as she first remembered it.
She was getting used to it, she thought with a smirk.
But the wind suddenly shifted and she smelt it. It was a lot like the wolf, and her throat took control. "Something a little bit away," she choked out.
"Go get it," Jasper encouraged. She was off. She tried to keep her head as she moved towards the scent, but her footsteps ground to a halt as she didn't see anything large in the forest.
The lingering scent was familiar.
It was the wolf. The very wolf that she had just killed a few moments before – haunting her. She could smell it in the snow, though she couldn't see any tracks. She checked her hands, where the small amount of blood had been. But it had rubbed off in the dirt and snow of digging the grave.
The scent was …
She heard it. A soft tingling of cries, muffled slightly by earth.
She fell back a step, her throat no longer burning. And then another step. She held her breath.
Pups, of the very wolf she had just murdered. She didn't need to look to confirm what she suspected. She could hear them. She could smell them. Two of them, from the sound of the heart beats.
Small, with probably only a few weeks of time on them.
She hadn't just killed a wolf, she had killed a mother – a new mother. And the pups…
She didn't breathe, moving towards the sound.
All that she could repeat in her head was one single word.
Monster. Monster. Monster. Monster.
How dare she? How dare she rip a mother from her children and ruin their chance at… life.
Something she no longer had.
Maybe she wasn't meant to be a vampire.
She found the den easily enough. It was well hidden in the snow, almost a cave with no scents nearby but the two small cubs. They were cute, extremely cute, with dark gray fur and bright pink noses. And fur that looked too fluffy. Inside the small cave, it was dry. She knelt down, careful to keep her distance. And reached a hand out, but drew it back sharply.
Her fingers curled into a fist, against her jeans, and she tore into the fabric.
Her lungs hurt just slightly. Like an uncomfortable movement that she had never done before. Not breathing was more difficult than she imagined.
"I'll kill them if I touch them," Bella said quietly. She dug her fingers harder against her legs. Jasper crouched, blocking out the light, and sat beside her in the den. There was no threat for a wolf to come by. There was no other scent but theirs that was at least fresh. Bella was certain.
"Tell me what you're feeling," Jasper requested.
"You know what I'm feeling." Jasper glanced to her and she swallowed. Right. Talk about what she was feeling. "I killed their mother. There's no wolf scent around the den, which means she probably wasn't a pack animal, but was solitary – for whatever reason. Which means… without their mother, they'll die."
It was the most her lungs could handle. She drew in a breath, and squeezed her eyes shut. A wave of calm eased the burn in her throat.
"We can get closer."
"I'll hurt them."
"I'll make sure you don't." A promise. She had to trust it. Jasper scooted closer, but Bella didn't. And he reached for one of the cubs. As he lifted it, gently, he spoke. "Hold out yours hands, like you have a bowl in them." She did so, and as Jasper turned towards her, he set the pup in her palms.
She went rigid immediately. The calm increased. "I've got your thirst, darlin', don't worry. I've gotten good enough to control it for short lengths of time. Just focus and don't get trapped in your head. Focus on what's going on around you. This is a girl."
A girl. She was pretty, in a wolf sort of way. There were rusty colored lines on her ears, and her mouth opened as she cried to show a few tiny teeth. Bella melted at the sight of them. The poor thing was… helpless.
The other pup was cradled in Jasper's palms. "This one's a boy."
Somewhere above the den, a raven cawed.
A brother and a sister. Orphaned.
She made sure she didn't move a single muscle as the wolf in her hands wiggled around, into the scent of the wolf mother and the dirt and the snow. Bella wondered if it could smell the death.
But the pup was warm, so warm that it felt like sunlight on her skin. She almost had the urge to think about sunscreen, but shook that thought away – it was silly.
"I see why you guys don't touch humans," Bella admitted. "They're hot."
"Animals run just a little higher than humans," Jasper said with a tilt of his head, his gold eyes zeroed in on the cub in his palms, moving them to accommodate the wily pup. "So they aren't so hot, but they are warm. It's nice. You'll be able to tell the difference in creatures based on the heat of their bodies the more you're exposed to them. You'll always remember everything for identifications, but it's merely a matter of learning the sensitivity. The same with blood. You'll be able to taste the differences based on diets and animal type."
She had only been awake for less than an hour. More than? She wasn't sure. Time seemed to go so fast now. "We'll work on strength." His promises were too great. She didn't know how long it would take for her to be like the rest of the family – Edward had said it took nearly a decade for control. Did that include strength? She hoped not.
"What will happen to them?"
Jasper didn't hesitate, and the honesty hit her – even if it wasn't intended to be projected. "They'll die on their own without their mother, darlin'. They're too young to fend for themselves, and it'll only get colder, so food will become scarce. I don't know of any other wolves in the area, or of any rescue sanctuaries nearby."
To die, because she had killed their mother. She swallowed, frowning. "But… there has to be something."
"They've already been exposed to the cold for too long." Her fingers twitched. She was even colder than the snow. She shouldn't be holding them in the first place. But the pup was still nuzzling into her fingers, like its mother would be there. Like she was providing some comfort. The wind seemed to rustle the trees with more urgency, like they were disagreeing with Jasper.
"But…" Her words escaped her before she could stop them. But what? There wasn't anything to be… but about. There was nothing she could do – she couldn't even move her hands without possibly breaking a few bones.
"Their mother was probably hunting the wolves, for food. She was either abandoned by her pack, or became separated in a storm – had her pups without them and has begun to fend for herself." Bella's frown deepened as Jasper worked his way around the situation. "She knew she couldn't be gone long, but… they're already shivering. They won't last long." She closed her eyes as he finished his thoughts. "It would be a mercy to kill them, so they don't suffer in the cold."
Venom built unbidden. Bella lowered her hands excruciatingly slow, until they rested against the dirt of the ground, and the small thing rolled out of them, into the dirt and began to cry as it hobbled around. Bella could hear it, focused on its breathing and its sloppy steps.
She didn't want to give her throat the presence of her mind. She needed to focus.
"They're so young," Bella said quietly. Her eyes opened, and the view she had of the wolf was blurry, until it was just a mass of gray and white and brown. Suddenly, the girl wolf was wobbling towards her, and pressed against Bella's knee. To her bloodied jeans slick with snow. She swallowed the venom in her throat from the urge to cry. Blinking hard, the form was only slightly easier to see.
"I'm a monster, aren't I?" Bella's voice was soft. "You guys always told me this life wasn't all roses and happily ever after. It's… full of death." She ran her tongue over her teeth, and her eyes never left the wolf as it nudged her again. "I made them… them orphans and … no one will want them – or can take them… and …" She didn't know what else. "Why is killing the only way we can live?"
"Dunno, darlin'," Jasper admitted. "Just how nature intended, I guess."
"Is that why people do the human diet?" she asked. She glanced up slowly, catching just a hint of surprise on Jasper's face at the sudden question. But it was gone quickly. "Bar the taste… but because people aren't innocent? So… killing them is helping others – killing them is saving animals, and nature and… this natural expansion of people that's just gotten out of control?"
"I suppose that's a very practical way of looking at the diet," Jasper said quietly. "Animals are… innocent, but they aren't necessarily as intelligent as humans. That is why Carlisle pioneered this life. He viewed it as a more humane alternative – a way of being human without being human." She supposed that made sense. "Most vampire don't consider the human diet – not even when they're hundreds of years old – the way you've described. It's simply the way they live, the way we were intended to live – and it tastes better."
"But they are intelligent beings – and I think animals are too. So … what stops a vampire from eating… say a dolphin?"
Jasper grinned. "Difficult, for one. Fish taste terrible, secondly. And thirdly?" He tilted his head thoughtfully, setting the wolf in his hands down. He ran his hand along its back, petting it firmly. "It's the thrill of the hunt. It's … exhilarating, to trap a human – to watch them know they're being hunted down, and they're powerless. Many people like the game of it – the sport. Do you remember James?"
She winced. She did. James had made a game out of her – even when there were seven fully adept vampires to get through first. "He made it a game."
Jasper gave a short nod, and his grin fell into a half-grimace. Like he was stuck mid-unpleasant thought. "James is how real vampires are – how vampires usually live."
She wanted to ask if he had been that way – when he was on the human diet, before the family. But it didn't seem appropriate. She didn't want to cross the territory into some unwelcome zone. Bella barely even knew him. Yet she had been more honest with him than she had ever been before.
She blamed the gift he had.
Instead, Bella dropped her gaze to the wolves on the ground, now huddling together for warmth. "if… if we do kill them… can you do what you were telling me? Where you let them sleep and… and they won't feel anything? They won't know it's coming?"
Jasper didn't answer for a while. She didn't know how long. She didn't know what a second was compared to a minute anymore. It all seemed forever long. But it certainly felt like a few minutes.
Maybe it was an hour.
"We'll take them to the house, try to keep them warm, give them some milk and… hope that they make it. We'll find someplace to take them, even if it's across Alaska. How's that sound?" Her heart swelled with some emotion, and she glanced up, eyes wide, to see that Jasper was hesitant looking. He swallowed. "But… there's still a chance they won't make it. I don't want you to get your hopes up if…"
She understood. "Really?"
"Yeah, darlin'. We'll just keep an eye on them. Give you something to do with your time. You'll get bored pretty easily the first few months." She didn't see how. Everything was so new. "And I guarantee Tanya won't mind it for a few days." Oh yeah… It was Tanya's home. Bella suddenly wasn't sure about this plan. "I have a way of making people do what I want, if you'll remember." Oh… right.
"But you still need to hunt. So we'll drop them off and then run back out right quick-"
"I think I'm okay," Bella admitted. "I… My throat doesn't hurt that bad. And when it does… I just focus on something else." Jasper gave a small nod, but the look on his face told her that he was probing her emotions to triple check.
"We'll go tomorrow night once I get back. The more sated you are, the longer you'll need to be between feedings." She nodded, to show that she was okay with that, and suddenly Jasper was taking his shirt off. Her eyes widened. "What are you doing?" There was a hint of alarm in her voice, like she wasn't quite sure what to make of this.
"We're going to need something to block the wind, and to make sure the chill doesn't get them too much. The shirt will help keep them warm, like a blanket, until we can get to the house. It's about a half hour away." But as he spoke, he effortlessly slipped the two wolves inside of the shirt's torso, and then knotted one end, twice, before he lifted the shirt up and folded it over the wolves. He rose to his feet and she did as well.
It was all seconds.
They started to run through the snow, retracing their steps nearly exactly.
But the sunlight caught Jasper just enough for a split second between the trees… that she caught sight of the scars that littered him. They were not just his face and his arms. It was every inch of his body.
Every single inch.
She touched his arm without meaning to, causing them to pause in the middle of a field. Trees all around the edges, the sun behind the clouds, she could see the scars a little better than the dark of her room. How hadn't she noticed this many before?
His brow furrowed as she stared at his arm, frowning. And her finger ran over one, so lightly she could barely even feel the raised skin. There were hundreds – she'd even venture thousands. But Jasper didn't say anything, even when she knew they stood there for a human minute.
But she couldn't figure out how he had gotten so many. He had explained a little… but had he been hurt by them? Had he let them do this?
"Jasper?" she asked quietly. Her fingers found another.
He swallowed, as if bracing himself for a question he had a feeling was coming. "Yes, darlin'?"
"While you were… with Maria… how many people did a newborn eat their first day?"
"Three to four, depending on their size." Oh. That was… a lot more than she expected. "Animals are larger than humans, so they have more blood."
Perhaps it was another reason that the animal diet was better? She didn't know. The only animal drinkers she had met were the Denali's and the Cullens, and they seemed to have chosen it because of Carlisle. Were there other vegetarians?
"How big were the armies?" she asked.
"It varied, after battles. But before battles, we'd try to get them at least two hundred strong." Her eyes widened and she glanced up sharply to Jasper's eyes. His face was unreadable.
"So up to eight hundred people?" she breathed.
He gave a grim smile. "Back then, times were different. People went missing all the time while exploring west, or south. Or even north. Territory was unmarked, and we could travel freely at night as far as we needed to feed. We never stayed in one particular location for long, to feed. Sometimes we'd keep people for a few weeks, as they were needed. We'd stock up, so to speak, if we knew we were changing a few people soon." She swallowed back the venom that she felt was more vomit induced than confusion. "Or we'd save them and change them if we felt like it. It was all varying on Maria's mood."
Her gaze dropped back to the scars, and she touched another. But her hand dropped sharply at the sound of one of the wolves crying. "Sorry… we should go back to the house."
"It's alright, darlin'. You're always welcome to ask me something, or work through your thoughts. I'd rather you do than get lost in that head of yours."
She appreciated the honesty – again. Even when he had no reason to be honest with her, he had been. She didn't feel it projected though – she just knew. She wondered if that was a vampire perk, or if it meant she was just getting to know him better.
She didn't want to focus on it too long.
They ran as fast as they could, yet never ran out of breath.