A/N - I'm from Canada and we're not thaught about the Civil War, so I did a bit of research for that part in the story. I apologize right away if I got any historical facts wrong.
In Eclipse, Stephenie wrote that "by the fist battle of Galveston, Jasper was the youngest major in Texas". She didn't mention specifically when he was promoted, so I took some liberties.
Tic. Toc. Tic. Toc.
I sighed, staring at the grandfather clock at the opposite side of the room from my spot on the floor. I leaned back against Jasper's leg as he sat in his favorite chair, digging my toes absently in the thick plush carpet. I would've much preferred to sit in his lap instead of on the rather uncomfortable floor, but a book seemed to have stolen my favorite place.
I turned my head, looking up at my husband as he read yet another volume on the Civil War, scoffing every now and then when they got the facts wrong. I couldn't help the smile that appeared on my lips. Reading in his private study was one of the only times when he was truly at ease and not afraid to be himself, not that I could blame him. I could only imagine how difficult it would be to be yourself when you're feeling everyone else's emotions as if they were your own.
He noticed me staring and offered a quick smile before his attention was once again on his book. A mischevious look appeared on my face as my hand moved up to run against his leg gently. Too innocently, really. His brow twitched slightly, but apart from the small gesture, he made no movement to acknowledge the touch.
With renewed efforts, I moved my hand higher, the touch more insistant. His eyes remained stubbornly glued to his book, but they no longer moved along the lines. I rose from my sitting position and knelt, continuying my exploration under his shirt as I moved to his abdomen, caressing every scar I found along my path.
His breath hitched when I accidently ran my fingers over one that held a particuliar painful memory. I quickly moved on and he relaxed once more. I counted his ribs under my fingers, careful not to run across another scar that caused him to remember things he didn't wish to. Decades spent with him had given me plenty of time to remember which to avoid the most.
When I looked up at him once more, it was my breath that caught in my throat. He was no longer absorbed in his book. Instead, he had an arm thrown casually across the back of his chair as he looked down at me with an amused expression on his face. Although his hand was still on the closed book on the armrest, I knew it was far from his mind at the moment.
I grinned. "Is the book not interesting anymore, love?" He chuckled, shaking his head slightly as I rose to my feet only to sit again in his lap. Resuming where my exploration had stopped, I quickly lifted his shirt and tossed it aside. The sight of him half naked was always enough to leave me breathless, in a good way. While his scars screamed 'danger' to anyone who didn't know him, they didn't frighten me; they were a part of him, and I had accepted to love him fully as he was.
Although the room was only lit by a few candles, the soft light only served to define the muscles under his pale skin. I could feel him looking at me as I traced a single finger lightly on his stomach. I smiled and pushed a stray lock of honey gold hair away from his face. I finally looked in his eyes and had my breath taken away for the second time that day.
The love and devotion that reflected in his deep topaz eyes caused my heart to melt in my chest. I cupped a hand to his cheek and he nuzzled into it absently, never breaking eye contact with me. A small, content sigh escaped his lips and I wanted nothing more than to stop time and live in this moment for eternity.
"What are you thinking about?" His voice was low, accentuated by the southern accent that had me shivering in pleasure and made my knees nearly buckle whenever I heard it. I smiled and kissed his lips chastely. "You.", I answered simply.
His smile faltered, and I didn't need Edward's gift to know where his thoughts were leading him. I pressed a single finger to his lips, silencing him before he could even speak. "Don't you start with the "I don't deserve you" talk." He twisted his mouth briefly in annoyance and he rested his forehead against mine for a short moment, silently letting me know he was dropping the subject.
"What were you reading?" He looked surprised for a small moment, as if only just now remembering about his book. He cast a quick look at the abandonned volume and shrugged.
"Just something Edward found at the library. It's nothing I haven't read before. After reading countless books on the subject, it tends to get a little repetitive."
I laughed softly. "Then why do you read them anyway?" He hesitated for a moment, but his features stayed stubbornly glued in a small smile.
"Because they're the last human memories I have, and they only get fuzzier as time goes by. I don't want to forget." He answered truthfully.
Having not expected such an honest answer, I was momentarily stunned as I watched him thumb through the book. He found the page he was looking for and opened it, turning it so I could see. Most of the page seemed to describe a certain battle, but I wasn't given enough time to read it before he spoke again.
"The Battle of Antietam, on September the 17th of 1862." I looked over the single picture on the page as I cuddled in his arms, like a child who's parent would read them bedtime stories. Only Jasper's story was the total opposite of a fairytale.
He spoke in a low voice. "I was promoted to Major at the end of that day. I remember someone walking up to me, stepping over the broken bodies of my comrades on the field, and asking if my name was Jasper Whitlock. After answering him, he shoved a letter in my hand with a short 'congratulations, you've been promoted.' and walked away."
I blinked. "Just like that?" I had expected something more than that.
He smiled wryly. "Yes. With people dying left and right, they were plenty of promotions to be given at the end of every battle. At that point, why waste time celebrating when those people could very well die the next day?"
"I was part of the lucky ones that survived for more than a few weeks. It wasn't until May of 1963 that I was changed and joined a different kind of army." His tone softened as he went on, a small sad smile appearing on his lips. "But you know that part already."
I nodded absently as I looked at him, lost in my thoughts. "Why did you join the army in the first place? I don't think you've ever told me." His eyes searched mine for a moment before he spoke.
"It seems a pretty silly reason now that I think of it, really. I grew up on a ranch, and it was all I ever knew. When news of the war reached us, I realized that herding cows wasn't how I wanted to spend the rest of my life." He chuckled dryly. "I ran away from home to join the army, dreaming of great victories to be won and honors to be gained." He sighed and closed the book with a bit more force than necessary. "I was young and foolish."
A comfortable silence settled between us for a few minutes, the only sound in the room being the clock in the background, ticking away. With a small sigh, Jasper rested his head against my shoulder, and I ran my fingers through his thick hair absently. "Do you regret it?" I suddenly asked. He raised his head to look at me.
"Regret what, love? Joining the army and ending being a vampire, something that I thought was only a myth?" He asked, his words taking on a sarcastic tone. I only nodded, and he answered, carefully choosing his words. "I regret the wrong I did by Maria's side, the blood I've shed. But I don't regret becoming a vampire."
He shook his head and kissed my forehead gently. "No. If I hadn't been changed, I would've probably spent my life in Texas, on a ranch. I would've married, fathered children, and eventually died. I could've been happy, but I don't think I would've ever been completely whole, as I am now with you."
If I had been able to, my eyes would've no doubt teared up. I leaned forward, capturing his lips with mine in a kiss. It wasn't simply our lips, or our bodies that united; it was our souls that found one another, completely sealing away each other's flaws until they were a single entity.
Time went on, ticking away unecessarily for us, but I didn't move from my spot. I cuddled up against Jasper; my love, my life, and my future, and this time we read the book together.
Well. I started this fic with the idea of it being another naughty, but inspiration decided that Alice and Jasper should have this conversation instead. Thanks again to Wittle_Marie-Chan for being my muse and Beta reader. I don't know what I would do without you. XD
About Wasteland, don't worry, I haven't given up on it. I'll start working on the next chapter soon. I had to get this idea out of my head first.
Thanks to everyone who R&R!