Originally written for rillaotvalley's birthday!

Jasper knew that she was staring at him but was doing his best to ignore her, turning his attention towards the movie playing on the television, watching the zombies mindlessly ravage their victims. Lacking the knowledge of what she was thinking exactly, he was still fully aware of what she was feeling.

Bella Cullen felt anxious and guilty, and as she was staring at him, he could only guess that it had something to do with him and possibly the film's subject matter. And if she felt guilty because of him, he knew that it would be about her remarkable control of the typical newborn bloodlust and his ongoing inability to do restrain himself fully after a century and a half, just like the zombies. And if she felt anxious because of him, he knew that she was going to want to talk to him about it and just didn't know where to start.

He knew where he would start if he were her. He'd let it drop entirely. He didn't want to talk about it.

For hours he sat there, eyes straight ahead, ignoring her glare, knowing very well that she now could stare at him just as long as he could sit there and pretend she didn't exist. It was useless to avoid her, because as much as he didn't want to talk about it, Bella would keep at it until she got her way. He rolled his head to the side to meet her gaze, finally turned golden, and raised his eyebrows. Bella squirmed in her seat slightly at his reaction, amusing Jasper that she had held on to some of her human traits. Vampire bodies were strong and built for battle. They really shouldn't squirm.

"I know it's been hard for you, seeing me like this. Not struggling like we both know I should be." Bella looked shyly down, and if she had been able to still blush, her face would have been scarlet, "But I've been thinking and I have a theory about it." She bit her lip, questioning her determination to the discussion, "What if your thirst has nothing to do with control? What if it's the venom?"

"We've all got venom, Bella. Do you not remember how humans become vampires?" Jasper secretly hoped to himself that deflection will distract Bella, like showing someone something shiny.

"I didn't mean that venom." She flashed her teeth at him in a good natured fashion, but still looked uncomfortable. "I meant the venom under your skin. You have more of it then the rest of us." Her eyes settled on his most exposed scar, a jagged mark along his jaw line, creeping upwards on his cheek. Since her change, Jasper had often caught her looking at his exterior, examining the constant reminders of his revolting past. Watching her watch him had become an interesting, if not intrusive, experiment in behavioural psychology.

First impressions lasted a lifetime, and when a person is immortal that impression left a mark indefinitely. Jasper had always found that he had learned the most about a person's natural disposition and their psyche when they looked at him for the first time and saw him for how he truly was. The newborns to join Maria's army were territorial, defensive. Emmett had been aching for a fight, wanting to see if he had met his match. Alice hadn't noticed the scars at all, simply looking into his heart. Bella's newborn reaction was to be a scared shock, perhaps because as a human, she had thought she knew him and it turned out he was something else. The fear had quickly changed to awe and then once more into curiosity. Now she had finally settled on… pensive? He found himself to be unexpectedly sympathising with Edward; what was the girl thinking?

"We were human when we were bitten. The venom was used to make the transformation of our bodies while our hearts were still beating. The source venom was absorbed into our systems causing that incredible burning. We don't even have scars from it, because they were healed as we changed." Her hands ran self consciously over her stomach, trying to feel the markings of Renesmee's birth that were no longer visible to the naked eye, but should be. The bites that Edward had made across her body's pulse points had vanished nearly moments after her change had started, disappearing right before his eyes as he had watched over her. Even her scar on her hand from James had been repaired in her transformation. She was flawless, and she had more bites then the rest of the family, excluding Jasper. She slid down on the sofa so that she was next to him and took his arm into her hands, examining his scars more closely. "But you, you have venom from after you were already changed, leaving a mark. Newborns bit you, but without a beating heart the venom had nowhere to go. It's still all trapped under there. Your skin just healed over top. Maybe that's what makes it so hard for you."

Shrugging, she added quickly, "It's just a theory."

Thinking about Bella's words, Jasper couldn't decide if he liked it or not, but it definitely had some merit. The burning from his bites had never fully evaporated, tingling lightly under the skin. He had thought that it was a possible transference with his ability; that he had somehow trapped some of the newborn's rage within himself. Turns out, he might have retained more then that.

But if she was right, that meant that living amongst humans, assimilating with them, was never going to get easier for him. In any case, it would only get harder if he got himself into a situation where he was attacked again, bringing more bites. Always full to the brim with bloodlust.

Which was worse? The idea that injected venom was the cause of his rage or the idea that he was simply terrible at restraining himself?

Eternally full of newborn venom. Always one of those mindless zombies.

The thoughts were swirling inside his head when Alice and Edward entered the living room. Edward sat down with his back against the sofa at Bella's feet, while Alice climbed into the armchair beside him picking up a magazine off the end table and began flicking through it.

Only moments of silence had passed when Edward angled his head upwards to Bella, narrowing his eyes. "You're shielding Jasper." At his words, Jasper felt Alice's hand touch the top his own. She was still reading and had simply reached across the gap between their seats. He flipped his hand over so that he could hold her, squeezing it tight. She knew, of course. She always did. Edward cocked his head slightly. "Now Alice, as well."

Bella rolled her eyes at Edward, grinning. "I'm letting him think in his own head without you listening in for a change. Everyone probably wants you to butt out every now and then." Smirking, she added, "Not everything is your business, you know." Edward chuckled lightly and relaxed back again, fingers running is slow circles on her leg. Jasper flashed her a grateful look and she nodded minutely back. Not only was her power keeping Edward out, it was also containing Jasper's conflicting emotions to himself, not bleeding into those around him.

Alice stood abruptly, pulling Jasper's hand up with her. "I'm thirsty. Hunt with me, Jasper?" Jasper nodded slowly, mind still occupied, and pulled himself up off the sofa, and followed her dancing figure out the glass doors into the night. It was impossible that either Bella or Edward believed her ruse of hunting, but they blissfully played along, perfectly happy wrapped up in each others presence. Jasper needed to get out of there, before Bella let the shield down, far away from their calculating thoughts and curious moods.

Crossing the boundary of the shield, they took off at a run and stopped after they had travelled deep into the woods, into a small clearing in the trees that they went to often by themselves to talk uninterrupted by the others. Alice sat down on what she had once proclaimed as 'her' rock and he lowered himself to the firm ground, leaning against a strong red pine. Picking up a stick beside him, Jasper began to draw in the dirt with it. Slowly. Human paced.

Alice's golden eyes were on him, watching as Bella had been in the living room. "She finally told you her theory? She's wanted to talk to you about it for weeks."

"Is it my punishment? For the way I was?" He kept his eyes down, watching the patterns he was making on the ground, looking anywhere but at Alice. He knew she didn't like it when he talked about himself that way. She saw something in him that he was still lost to even himself. As someone who saw only the future, Alice believed in moving on, whereas Jasper was insistent on wallowing on past horrors. He had enough of them to think about.

Crouching down to his level on the ground, she placed her silken hands on either side of his face, and resting their heads together. "You think she's right."

"I honestly don't know what I think. I think I'm confused." Jasper groaned, leaning into her touch and raising his head to look at her directly. "What do you think?"

"I think it doesn't matter." He felt her lips brush his and pull back before he noticed that she moved and he found himself being pulled in to get closer to her warmth, to meet her once more. She was right, as always. Whether it was the venom or control, it wasn't really something that would change based on his awareness of it. Whatever the reason was, it was what it was. All he could do would be to keep trying and hope for the best, and knowing that he had the best person in the world for that by his side, that would be all he'd ever need.

Thanks for reading :)