"What would you like for dinner tonight, Jazz? Did you decide?" Alice asked cheerily, clearly having lots of fun pretending to be human as she constantly teased her annoyed husband during their trip to the grocery store. Browsing through the aisles, Jasper would occasionally grab a few items off the shelves whenever a human would wander into the same aisle. Only to place it back on the shelf when they were out of sight. Currently, however, Alice was filling the cart with all sorts of unappetizing food.
"Are we almost done here? I'm sure Esme didn't want us to buy out the whole store," Jasper grumbled, making his father chuckle behind them as he also added a few items into the cart. For Carlisle, pretending to be human was the easiest thing in the world. He had an air of ever present kindness and patience for them which most of the Cullens did not possess, didn't have any desire to be near humans at all. However, everyone in Forks loved Dr. Cullen for his welcoming presence, especially his patients.
"Jasper has a point. This is starting to become an excessive amount of food," Carlisle shared a pointed glance towards Alice, who smiled sheepishly before flitting away into another aisle. Carlisle smiled with a sigh as he watched her go, looking to Jasper as he finished saying, "But Esme did want to donate a good amount in Port Angeles tomorrow, so why not?"
Stepping away from the cart, Jasper sighed with resignation and turned to debate on which kind of pasta to put in the cart. The blonde muttered, "Next time, I'm sending Emmett."
As Carlisle chuckled, the sound of something heavy falling onto the tile floor made them turn their attention to the can of peas currently rolling in their direction. Jasper bent down to pick it up as soon as it hit his shoe with a dull thud. Then, the faint scent of strawberries hit him, followed by little footsteps that rushed forward.
He looked up right as he noticed two bright red shoes step into his line of sight. A little girl stood in front of Jasper, gazing up at him with big wandering brown eyes. Her voice was innocent and blunt as she pointed towards the can in his hand, "That's mine..."
"My apologies, ma'am. Here you go," With a grin, Jasper handed the can over and waited to feel the usual pulse of emotion that followed whenever a child or adult encountered him. Other than Emmett, Jasper was known for being the most intimidating member of his family, and as a result, everyone stayed as far away from him as possible. So he waited for the child to feel the same familiar apprehension he was accustomed to, but to his surprise, the little girl didn't run away, nor did he feel an ounce of fear grow the longer she stared up at him. If anything, he only felt curiosity and...
"Pretty," the girl whispered as her heart-shaped face lit up, and she smiled wide at the young man. "You're very pretty."
If Jasper could blush right now, he'd bet he would. Not once in all his immortal years had Jasper ever considered himself pretty with his scars and stoic demeanor.
Carlisle walked over towards the two, a mix of alarm and amusement laced in his eyes as he smiles at the little girl, "Hello there. What's your name?"
The girl smiles wide at the man beside Jasper and laces her hands together in front of her. Jasper detected a small hint of introversion already coming to fruition as her cheeks blushed, "...Bella."
"That's a beautiful name, Bella. I'm Carlisle, and this is my son, Jasper..." after looking around the aisle and not seeing anyone fretting over the child, Carlisle had to ask, "Are you lost? Where's your mother?"
"She told me to leave her alone," Bella said as she stared at the can in her small hands. Jasper's smile faltered at her naive words just as he felt his father's disdain for the faceless mother of the sweet child.
"Do you want us to find her for you?" Carlisle asked, but it was Jasper that felt an inkling of fear wash over him, and he continued looking at Bella's smile that didn't quite reach her eyes as it had when she'd looked at him. Though she seemed to have already learned to master masking her fear, keeping the same smile on her lips the entire time.
She's afraid of her mother...
Jasper decided to shift her attention by asking her, "Do you want to help me pick out a type of pasta we should eat for dinner, Bella?"
Light suddenly filled her round eyes then, and Bella straightened, nodding happily as Jasper stood up, and to his shock, the little girl took his hand in hers, "I like spaghetti or...oh! Angel hair, because it comes from angels. It says so on the box. But that's silly, isn't it?" As her little hand wrapped around the tips of his fingers and practically went on her tiptoes to reach him, Jasper's eyes widened. He shifted his gaze to his father, who had tensed as well, but after Bella didn't mention how cold he was, they decided to pretend it wasn't as big of a deal as they both knew it truly was.
Interacting with a human child was dangerous enough, and having her touch one of them so easily was even more so, but it seemed...natural. As if she'd known them for a long time and holding Jasper's hand was a habit.
They were rounding the corner when a high-pitched irritating voice interrupted Jasper and Bella's conversation.
"Isabella!" Bella flinched immediately, and her eyes widened as she looked over her shoulder. Jasper and Carlisle turned to face the voice and noticed a woman with red hair and freckles storming towards the girl. Not having seen either of them from around the corner, the woman reaches down for Bella's arm and yanks her away, hard. So hard that Bella stumbled, loosening her hold on Jasper's hand. Renee hissed as she stared down at the little girl, her knuckles going white as she shook Bella's arm, "Where have you been?! I told you to stay close!"
Bella bit her lip to keep herself from wincing; however, Jasper had already felt her pain, and that was enough for him. As soon as her little hand slipped out of his, Jasper closed his hand into a fist and projected a healthy dose of embarrassment towards the middle-aged woman that glared at the child. As if she were a rebellious teenager and not a small child no older than five.
"Jasper, control," Carlisle whispered under his breath even though he was clearly disturbed to see how harsh the woman was with her daughter. Jasper blinked, not sure how he could have lost control of his gift enough to the point of stretching it out towards Carlisle. But the anger he'd felt towards the woman for harming Bella had ruled him completely.
The woman finally looked up, eyes wide as she noticed the two beautiful men who watched her interaction with Bella. She immediately blushed, letting go of Bella's arm and instead moved to caress her head, smoothing out the loose strands of chestnut brown hair, "Oh my! Doctor Cullen! How are you?"
"Mrs. Swan," Carlisle gave her a curt nod, attempting to share his calm emotions with the empath beside him, "We were just about to look for you. Bella here was doing some shopping of her own."
Irritation followed and Jasper clenched his teeth.
"Oh...yes, she's a little grown up now it seems," Renee Swan's hand curled around Bella's long hair, and Jasper clenched his jaw when Bella flinched once more, a small sting of pain filtering towards him. He could see from here that Renee's hand was hidden behind Bella's back, her arm tense and unmoving as though she were pinching the girl, "Well, it was nice seeing you. We really should get going, right, Isabella?"
Bella nodded, keeping her eyes trained on the can in her hands now, and didn't fight her mother as she pulled her away. Then, unbeknownst that there were three vampires with enhanced hearing in the store, Renee said through gritted teeth as she picked Bella up and plopped her into the cart, "I should have left you at home if I knew you were going to embarrass me! Your father should have taken you since you like him so much rather than waste my time. It's his fault."
"I'm sorry, mommy," Bella smiled and waved goodbye at Jasper, who hadn't realized he'd been staring the entire time, and he didn't know why he'd done it, but at least for a little while, he wanted to let the girl feel safe and happy. So he sent out a wave of familial love in her direction, know that regardless of how Renee treated her daughter—there was an odd sort of affection there for her daughter. Though it was a twisted, sad sort of love.
"What a shame to see children being treated that way by their parents," Carlisle shook his head with lament as he placed his hand over his son's shoulder and turned to push their own cart. However, as he did, Jasper smiled when he felt a wave of pride coming his way for showing such restraint and care for the human girl.
"Thanks, Dad," Jasper said as he grabbed a box of angel hair pasta from the shelf. He looked down at it with a faint smile, remembering the little girl once more. Jasper finally turned and followed after his father, where Alice was already waiting with a small smile of her own playing on her lips. With a roll of his eyes, Jasper grinned ruefully at his wife. He should have known Alice knew this would happen, but he couldn't hold it against her.
Not when the innocent little girl had somehow opened up a whole new set of emotions the empath didn't think he could feel again. Not only had Bella touched Jasper's cold, dead heart but Carlisle and Alice's as well. Shame they would probably never see her again.
Thanks for reading x
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