He's different now, one of the family. He's even reached the point where he's capable of accepting that. He is Carlisle and Esme's son, Alice's husband, Nessie's uncle, and brother to the rest of us. He is a Cullen, in spite of his real name of Whitlock or his legal name of Hale. He is a part of our family. He has found acceptance and love and a life worth living. He's happy, content, at peace.

But it doesn't change what he was. It doesn't change the things he has done, the things he has been through, and though it no longer torments him as it once did, his past still leaves its mark on him. He hides it well, but you can still see traces of his past flickering in him every day, unnoticeable, for the most part, unless you pay attention.

His appearance is the most obvious reminder. The scars that cover his body, that shout out that he's dangerous, that he can't be trusted. The scars that make other vampires instantly alert, instantly wary. The scars that even humans would notice, if he ever went out with less than his hands and face uncovered. And he is dangerous, still, I suppose, or would be, if given a reason.

Less obvious is the way he seats himself, or even stands when inside, so that he can see any and all exits in a room. How he scans every area, seeks out every possible exit, searches for any possible threat. How he discretely studies everyone he comes across. He still does these things, though they occupy only a small portion of his mind, of his attention, merely filed away in case he needs the information later. He often isn't even aware he's doing it anymore.

Nor does he realize how he constantly keeps track of the whereabouts and emotional climate of each member of the family within a certain range of him, and a general idea of where they are when outside of that range. He is oblivious to the fact that he also notes anyone within a certain distance of any family member within his range.

He doesn't consciously realize that he still weighs everything he says against what he knows about the person he's speaking with, how they feel, and the situation around them, even in play, even when joking. Even when completely relaxed.

It isn't immensely noticeable anymore, how he centers himself around Alice when in her presence, as if to protect her from any threat and simply remind everyone that she is his. He's grown more subtle about that, but it's still there. It's just harder to see.

He's every bit still the soldier, though he's found a home, found a family. Though he's learned to relax, learned to have fun, learned that he doesn't have to be. He still thinks of Carlisle as our coven leader at times, though certainly he sees him as a father as well.

Only when alone with Alice is he ever truly relaxed, truly at ease. Only with her does he allow himself to stop watching, observing, studying. Only then does he let go of that soldier mentality.

I don't watch them then; I block them out as quickly as I can. But I see the change; it's what warns me, usually, to see him that way.

To get a glimpse of what he might have been like without all the violence, hatred, and bloodlust. To see, in a sense, Jasper Whitlock, rather than Major Whitlock or Jasper Hale.

And I hurt for him, and wish that things had turned out differently, that my brother could be that person, without all the suffering and torture and self-loathing he went through. Without the depression that still finds him from time to time. Without the intense struggle against all that he was created to be.

And I'm glad that he can be that person, at least for a time, with Alice.

Disclaimer: Not mine!