11. Jasper Hampton Whitlock
Sunday morning, for the first time on their trip, Leah insists on taking the driver's seat. She knows where she's going, she says. Edward and Seth elect to stay in Dallas. The Dallas-Ft. Worth area is sprawling with much to see on a cloudy day, Edward explains, but Jasper's suspicions have been rising throughout the trip and he can feel Leah's nervousness now. When he asks questions, she won't give him a straight answer except to say that Alice had assured her, before they'd even left, that it would be overcast in east Texas on Sunday. So when they catch I-45 off I-30 and head south, he's not surprised. They're headed for Houston, of course.
He hasn't been back since he was changed. Maria hadn't advised it, and he'd seen no reason to argue with her. Why go back to the place he'd been a weak and gullible human? Even after he'd left Maria, he hadn't returned despite Alice's prodding, and isn't sure he wants to go back now.
Of course, he doesn't have to. Leah couldn't force him, and he doubts she'd try if he told her he honestly doesn't want to return. Even if she were inclined to push it, Alice would have warned her off. Not that Alice could see her intentions, but they'd apparently talked about it, and Alice must have seen that he'd at least entertain the possibility, and he is entertaining it - because it's Leah. For all her cynical posturing, Leah is still a child with a child's hopefulness and desire to please others for the sheer joy of pleasing, even while basing her ideas of what would please on what would please her. Leah is rooted in family and place; to be without either strikes her as tragic, and for him to say he has the Cullens isn't enough. She knows he orbits them like an electron, present but not part of the central nexus. He has always thought that was enough. He has Alice; she is his Foundation of Being, but he's come to realize there's room for more. Likewise, Leah lost a father, and if he knows she's not seeking a replacement precisely, she is seeking something. He never had a daughter - never thought he'd want one. He finds that he does, and finally understands Carlisle. There are many ways to love.
On the trip, Leah is more inclined to obey the speed limit, so it takes them about three-and-a-half hours in the light traffic of an early Sunday to reach the urban jewel of Houston. This was his hometown, but he doesn't recognize it. When he'd been born, Harris County had counted barely 2000 souls and President Houston of the Republic of Texas had just ordered the capital moved back there from Austin. At the time of his change and the outbreak of war, Houston had grown to twice that size. The 1860 census gave a population of 4,845. Unfortunately, Jasper knows these things only because one of his degrees is in U.S. history with a focus on Texas. He has been back to Texas itself, of course - just never to Houston.
Until today. Today Jasper Hampton Whitlock, former Major in the Confederate Army, 11th Battalion, Texas Volunteers, has come home.
As they leave the interstate, Leah consults what appears to be a printout of directions from MapQuest. "Where are we going?" he asks for perhaps the twentieth time. She seems to have a specific destination in mind besides just Houston, and he doubts it's his old ranch. That would have been sold long, long ago to land developers. It's probably under a suburb by this point.
"You'll see," she says. It's maddening, but he lets it drop. She's enjoying being mysterious.
Where she takes them is a cemetery. Perhaps he should've guessed that, but didn't. There are a mix of old graves and new here, and they park near the older section. She has a different map in hand now - one she had to have gotten from either a historical society or the groundskeeper, because it's marked in sections with numbers that reference names on another sheet. He doesn't look too closely, fearing what he'll find, even while he's both impressed and touched by the trouble she's obviously gone to. She researched this; it wasn't just an idle idea.
She leads him over to a section near the western fence under a copse of trees where the oldest graves are located, most with stones carved from local limestone, dirty-white and weathered almost beyond legibility. She stops in front of one that is different from the rest - Bear Mountain red granite from central Texas, rare and unusual. Time and the roots of the old chestnut oak nearby have raised the base so the upright part tilts drunkenly. (And how does he know what sort of oak it is? But he knows.) A southern magnolia stands a little further away, branching high with wide, waxy green leaves. The white flowers - as big as his palm - are gone, wilted in late summer heat. But he remembers how they smell - the wet, drifting scent, heavy like germinating life. It reminds him of Alice. There is no scent like magnolias, he thinks.
The expense of the stone aside, the marker is simple: an obelisk above (the leaning part) with writing along the base. Because the stone is good, the writing is still clear enough and he squats down to read it - his rank, full name, the year of his birth, the year of his (presumed) death, and a carved image of a cannon and cannonballs.
Amazingly, Leah Clearwater has found his grave - or at least his cenotaph; there's no corpse inside. He wonders who of his family she roped into helping her. Perhaps nobody. Leah likes doing things on her own, and she's certainly intelligent enough to figure it out. Even more, she has the perseverance. Jasper has decided that success in life is one part smarts to two parts sheer, dogged cussedness.
Leah is examining the other graves around his. "Lots of Whitlocks," she says, "although it's hard to read their names."
Standing again, he turns away. Looking at his own gravestone is a bit unnerving and he can feel his non-functioning stomach roiling. He focuses on not broadcasting that to Leah. Instead, he looks at the other graves, struggling for detachment. There are indeed a lot of Whitlocks, as she said, but the name on one stone arrests him. He stops dead. LIZA ANNE HAMPTON WHITLOCK, BELOVED MOTHER AND WIFE, 1822 - 1873. "That's my mother," he says. "That's my mother." Leah comes over to stand beside him.
Abruptly he must turn away. If he could cry, he would, but he can't. He just shakes. Leah leaves him be. He doesn't recall much about her now, his mother, but he remembers her voice, low and husky. He remembers that she smelled like vanilla and lye soap, and that her hair was blonde, like his. But until today, he hasn't been able to recall her first name, or that his middle had been her maiden. In records, she was only, stubbornly, "Mrs. Hugh G. Whitlock."
"Liza Anne," he says aloud, and it sounds like his father's voice when he'd come in for supper. 'Liza Anne! What's cook got ready for the table? My belly's starting to think my throat's cut!' Then he'd kiss her and laugh. He'd been half-again her age, but that hadn't been uncommon then; he'd loved her, his Texas rose.
Jasper turns back to his mother's grave, and his father's beside it. "These are my parents." It's ripped out of him in a voice he barely recognizes. "These are my parents." He walks down the row. His grave is the nicest. Theirs - not so much, just simple limestone. He can read the names only because he knows them. They rise from his memory like ghosts, sparked by the faint outlines. The war must have ruined his family like it had ruined so many others. They'd spent all their money to honor their son, the war hero . . . but he wasn't a hero. He feels gutted. "This is my family. Mary Carol - that's my little sister. She must have . . . Oh, God, she married Willie! She married Willie! These are their kids. They named one Jasper. He died young too - only eight."
He can't take any more. He runs away at vampire speed. There is no one here today and he runs until he faces the opposite fence far on the other side of the cemetery. He wants Alice. But he knows this is something he needs to do alone. He'll bring Alice here later. He'll tell her all about his family. But here, today, he must do this without her. Here, today, Jasper Hale peels like a husk, opening until he finds himself. He leans against the fence and sobs even if no tears come. This is loss. This is grief. He hasn't known it for over a century, not really. He mourns for his human family at last.
Leah doesn't follow him. She must know he'll come back eventually, and he does. She's sitting there in front of the graves. While he was gone, she cleaned them all up, every one he'd pointed to. Each has a small, square calico bag at the base of it - all but his. She has extras and points to them. "I'm not sure if I missed any."
"What are those?" he asks. His voice cracks.
"Tobacco ties, for the ancestors, our relatives." Reaching up, she holds a small tin. "That's your earth. The soil from your home. Keep it with you; it grounds you."
He takes it. "Thank you," he says.
They don't stay much longer. He's paid his respects, and the dead have reminded him of who he is. He doesn't come from no where. Maria tried to cut him off from his humanity, she taught him to despise it, but today he's found it and he makes a vow to himself on his mother's grave that he'll never again taste human blood. Suddenly it seems a lot easier to believe he can keep it. Despite his empathy, he lacked true motivation before. His ability to feel the fear of his victims had only made him depressed, and he understands at last how Edward can turn away from Bella. Instinct is strong, it's true, like anger and vengeance. But love is stronger. Jasper will do this for his families - the one he was born into, the one who adopted him, and the (small) one he has found on this journey.
He and Leah leave the graveside holding hands. Hers lies trusting in his, her palm too hot. His is too cold. But where their skin meets, it's just right.
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There is, now, a sequel called "The Star Quilt," which continues the story of Leah, bringing Alice more into the mix, as well as Jasper, and gives Leah her happy ending. It's available on this site.
Cowboys & Indians, along with "The Way I See It" and "In a Motel 6 on Highway 5, After the 49s" are the most distinctly "native" of the stories I've done in fanfic, albeit in different ways. Cowboys & Indians represents the traditional non-linear style of native storytelling. Obviously, not all native storytelling follows such a pattern, but a fair amount does, and it occasionally causes problems for non-native readers used to a more Western-European (Shakespearean) storytelling methodology. In native storytelling, events or scenes might be linked in ways other than chronology (ranging from scene theme to connecting symbols) and generally build towards a unified thematic point. Thus the reader, like Jasper, is introduced to native perspectives.
I have tried to insert most explanations of things within the story itself. All the quotes are fairly well attributed, I think, except the song lyrics, which come from the classic Steppenwolf tune of the same title as the chapter in which they appear. Yes, there's a vague Firefly reference in here, and the reference to the Beats is for Jackson Rathbone, who's apparently a fan. Regarding Hank Snow ... the (Southern/rural) colloquialism: "(let's) pull a Hank Snow ..." means to leave , e.g., to be 'movin' on,' after his famous country song.
On Jasper and philosophy, Alice says in New Moon that he studied it at Cornell, although it's hard to know if that was just for something new or represents a long-term interest. I decided to assume the latter. We do know he likes to read. Leah's reference to an "NDN Kar" is a glancing reference to the running reservation joke about Indian cars, as well as to the Keith Secola song of the same name. Regarding Jasper's family history, we really aren't told a lot in Eclipse; I've taken what we were told and expanded on it, based on Houston/Texas history. There is a small bow to Bratanimus' Jasper story in here. I also expanded on werewolf ability to hear minds. This is pure speculation on my part. If the pack can hear each other, and Edward has a special talent, I speculated that they might be able to hear him too.
Jasper's one-time mental use of "colored" is intentional; in his day and age, "colored" could mean both black or native.