It was night. Edward and Bella were out on her first hunting trip, and everyone else was upstairs, doing whatever they did to pass the long hours until dawn. Jasper and I sat quietly on the porch hammock in the chilly air, listening to the soft sounds of the night.
I looked into his face. Even without his gift, I could tell that he was upset. How it must have hurt to see Bella look at him like that, seeing his scars clearly for the first time, and recoil instantly, backing away with an instinctive fear. Then to watch us gaze at her pristine form in the gold mirror, while he, ravaged with a million imperfections, stood silently off to the side.
I reached over and took his hand. He didn't look at me. I gently traced my fingers over it as I usually did, rubbing soothing circles into his skin. I felt his anxiety lessen slightly, and I smiled. Then, unthinkingly, I traced a long scar that ran through the length of his palm.
Lightening fast, he snatched his hand away, turning from me. I froze, wounded.
He stayed motionless for a long moment, then turned back to face me, his eyes weary. "I'm sorry, Alice," he said softly.
I sighed. "You needn't be bothered by this, you know." I took his hand carefully again. "You're perfect."
He sighed in frustration, pulling his hand away once more. "No, you're perfect. More perfect than I could ever dream of being." His voice grew melancholy, and he stared moodily out into the night. "I don't deserve you, I never did."
"Jasper …" I began, but he turned away from me, and his posture was so forbidding I lapsed again into silence, to wait until his mood cleared.
It didn't, not for a long time. As the soft forest breeze swirled softly around us, I kept my eyes trained on his face, watching the multitudes of emotions play across it as he stared into the trees. He was frustrated, gazing down at the scars on his hands with a hard expression. Then he was angry, and his hands clenched in his lap, his jaw locked as his expression grew as dark as the night sky. And then he was disgusted, turning his gaze sharply away from himself in distaste to stare out into the trees once more, his eyes flaming with horror and revulsion.
I couldn't take it any longer. I gently rose and crawled over the hammock into his lap. He turned his face away, and his arms fell limply at his sides, not holding me. The cool air swayed around me emptily, and I frowned. I gazed hopefully into his face, but still he would not turn. So, as lightly as a feather, I pushed the collar of his shirt away to kiss a scar on his shoulder.
He flinched, but stayed as still as a statue. I paused, trying to gauge his expression, which was so severe I felt a thrill of apprehension run through me. Ever so slowly, I moved to kiss one on his neck. He remained silent, so silent I nearly lost my nerve. But as I looked at his profile, glowing softly in the moonlight, his pain was so intense I ached to relieve it. Taking a deep breath, I raised myself on my knees in his lap and tenderly kissed one on his jaw. I heard a sharp intake of breath, and then his arms were around me, crushing me in a bone-wrenching embrace.
"Alice," he said, his voice husky. "I don't deserve you."
"Stop that, Jasper," I said, swatting him gently. "Don't you ever say that."
He sighed, and grabbed my hand to roughly trace it upon his ravaged cheek. "How can you possibly ignore these?"
"They're a reminder of nothing but courage and bravery, and the strength to do what is right!" I said earnestly, holding my hand there until he pulled it away.
"A reminder of violence, Alice! I've killed more times than you can imagine!" he said, his eyes blazing once more as our hands fell limply into our laps. "I've killed without thinking. I've killed without cause. I've looked into the eyes of the innocent, and crushed them in the next moment. Hundreds and thousands, Alice." His voice grew rough. "I'm a monster."
I put a white finger to his lips, and he fell into a brooding silence. I stared into his eyes, willing him to understand. "Jasper, when I look at you, I don't see your scars. I see past them." Each word rang with truth, but still he looked at me silently, uncomprehendingly, empty and lost. I dropped my finger in exasperation. "How can you not understand that?"
He gazed at me, and then cracked a humorless smile. "You're frustrated."
"Of course I'm frustrated!" I cried. "Jasper, you're the best thing that's ever happened to me!" His eyes still were dark and unhappy, and I felt my emotions boil over. I flung myself out of the hammock, pulling him up next to me with all the strength I could muster, and I could feel his shock as I spun him around. He was silent as I pushed him into the moonlight by the railing and stood next to him, grabbing his hand in mine. "This is how I see you, Jasper," I said, my voice steely. "Look," I commanded, my voice ringing into the night.
Mute with surprise, he looked down at our hands clasped together by the porch railing. Mine small and delicate, his large and strong. Fitted together with a puzzle-like perfection. Both bleached perfectly smooth and white in the moonlight. His eyes widened.
I felt his anguish fade, and my anger faded with it. We stood gazing in reverent silence. "Do you see?" I whispered. "That is what my love for you does. You are perfect."
He nodded silently, his eyes full of wonder, and for a moment we were suspended in time, pausing as a thrill of awe and understanding washed over us. Then he turned to me, and his face was so healed – so whole and vibrant and alive – that I was at a loss for words. So I stood on tiptoe to tenderly kiss his perfect cheek.