I knew my son was a soldier. I knew he could fight. I knew he had spent the first part of his existence as a vampire in violence. I knew he could be dangerous, even deadly.

But I had never seen it in him, not even at the beginning, though I had thought otherwise. I had thought when he lunged at a human he was dangerous. I had worried about the safety of whoever was restraining him at various times over the years. I had seen his reaction to Bella's paper cut. I had even seen him hunt.

I had thought he was dangerous then. He was swift, nearly feral, when it came to hunting. It wasn't something he had ever enjoyed, merely something he did and got over with with ruthless efficiency, calling on every instinct he had available as a predator. The one time there had been a human nearby, outside of our ranges but apparently not his, it had been over before we had realized what was happening.

That was nothing compared to how lethal, how deadly he could truly be.

When Bella burst through the door that afternoon, she didn't even have to speak for us to realize something was wrong. Bella had been on her way to meet up with Edward; they had been planning on taking Nessie Christmas shopping. She had left in the car not ten minutes ago, and was already returning, on foot.

"What is it?" Esme asked as she joined us in the living room. "Bella, what happened?"

"I don't know, exactly," she replied quickly, "only that Jasper said to get you. He wants us to meet him in the parking lot at Wal-Mart. The others are already gathering."

If Jasper had asked her to do this with no other explanation, something was wrong. I was afraid for my son, and afraid for the others that would be gathering with him.

Bella turned to lead us out, still talking as we followed. "He and Alice flew by on the motorcycle." The one Edward had given him. "Edward went to find Rosalie, Jasper wanted everyone there. They were flying." She added. "Through town, and he had Alice in front of him, holding her with one arm." As if to keep her on the motorcycle. What had Alice seen, then?

We ran until we reached Bella's car, and I realized she had abandoned it as soon as she could without attracting attention. We got in quickly, Bella relinquishing the driver's seat to me, knowing I was the faster driver of the three of us.

The drive seemed to take forever as we flew down the roads in a tense and worried silence, with no idea what we were heading towards. Again I wondered what had caused this frenzied reaction in all of us. What had set Jasper and Alice off? Had she seen something that they were desperately trying to prevent, or at least, postpone until everyone was there? Would that make a difference?

We hit the parking lot, and were out of the car in a flash. I didn't bother turning the car off as I scanned the small crowd gathered in the lot. I noticed several human teenagers gathered around, picked out Emmett, and Jacob, and Nessie, noted a rather large gathering of strange vampires.

My heart skipped a beat. Another coven? Where were Alice and Jasper? Jacob turned and met my gaze with fearful eyes.

"You foul, stinkin', low-done, good for nothing-" A string of profanity laced together in such a way as to be as offensive and degrading as possible followed, uttered by a voice filled with fury, pain, and hatred all at once. I was shocked to realize I recognized the voice, and was even more shocked to realize the words had come from him.

"Jasper!" Emmett shouted, though he stayed where he was. Jacob took advantage of the sudden burst of snarls and growls to jerk Nessie behind him and shout for the teenagers to leave. I recognized them as some of the boys Jacob hung out with at school.

I moved to stand behind Emmett as Edward and Rosalie joined us, Edward looking horrified. I followed Emmett's tortured gaze to see my son, Jasper, holding another vampire, against a minivan, his teeth inches from the man's neck. None of the other coven moved.

My son looked wild, barely even human, as he silently dared the vampire to move. His eyes blazed, and I could see that he was actually shaking. He was radiating rage, and despair, and hatred. He was going to kill this vampire.

In a flash I realized why. Alice, innocent, gentle, sweet Alice, lay on the ground, a gaping hole ripped in her throat. I heard Esme gasp and saw Bella recoil into Edward's arms. "What happened?" I managed to whisper to Emmett.

"Jasper and Alice were trying to get rid of the humans and warning me not to do anything when he" the vampire Jasper held "lunged for Nessie, and Alice got in the way. It's only been a second or two." Just as it had been less that ten seconds since we had arrived.

Jasper uttered another curse, spat in the vampires face. It was as if not one shred of humanity remained in him. He lunged forward to take out the other vampire's throat as he had done to Alice.

"Jazz-" A weak croak emerged from her; he dropped the vampire instantly, was by her side immediately.

"Alice?" He whispered, pulling her into his lap, leaning forward to kiss her throat. My heart ached for them, for him, for her. Though the injury was a mere bite like any other, it allowed the blood that sustained her, the blood she had drank just last night, to escape, and she could not survive without that. She was nearly gone, now, already.

I watched in horrified silence as he whispered in her ear, softly, urgently. I watched as her dark eyes opened to meet his golden eyes and held them for less than a second, before lowering to his wrist where he was shoving his sleeve up to expose the skin. I watched, puzzled, as he maneuvered her into a position closer to sitting and tilted her head slightly forward before raising his naked wrist to her lips.

I heard Edward hiss just before she sank her teeth into his wrist, and realized what he was attempting, what he was so desperately hoping.

He had been hunting last night as well.

He was hoping the blood she took from him would save her.

I watched in morbid fascination as she drank, but gradually my gaze shifted to Jasper. His eyes, rapidly darkening, were focused on her, his every muscle tense, his jaw clenched as he held her and hoped for the best.

I hoped he was right. If not, they would both die.

He jerked his wrist from her mouth, suddenly, sharply, and hugged her closer to him, speaking now, muttering her name, over and over and over again, nearly inaudibly.

"Jasper." I heard her whisper, and I could have sworn my heart jumped back to life as she lifted her head from his shoulder to look at him.

He smiled, though his expression was still pained, and said her name once more. "Alice."

"Thank you." She whispered, and carefully, slowly shifted into a standing position, taking his hands in her own. She looked so frail, so weak, still, I wanted to go to her and make sure she was truly alive.

"Bad idea." Edward muttered. I shot him a questioning glance, but he shook his head, nodding back towards her.

I looked back to see him slowly rise to stand with her, and for a second it seemed as if she were the one helping him stand. Then he turned to face the tall, dark haired vampire he had assaulted, and she wrapped her arms around his waist as he moved her to stand behind him.

His eyes, somewhat less wild now, were blacker than any I had ever seen. They were also frightening; there was a glint in them I didn't recognize, but knew was something of which to be wary. In fact, every fiber of his being gave off a warning.

The other vampire simply waited, tense, for Jasper to act. When my son did not, he swallowed before speaking. "My apologies." He said smoothly, if a bit nervously. "My reaction was instinctive. I would not have purposely harmed your mate."

"I told you this was our territory." Jasper snapped back. His voice was harsh, sharp. "I don't care if she's your tua encante, this is our territory."

Another vampire spoke up, this one not quite as tall as Jasper, with reddish blonde hair and a beard. "And we did not mean to encroach upon it. Nor was it our intent to defy your claim." He stepped forward as the other vampire retreated, blocking him from Jasper's reach as he moved to lessen the distance between them.

Jasper merely disentangled himself from Alice and ushered her towards Emmett as he stepped up to stand with his teeth merely inches from the other vampire's neck. Alice wordlessly went to stand by Emmett, her eyes wide. I wondered exactly what Jasper thought he was doing, bating the other vampire like this.

Jasper spoke directly to the vampire's throat. "It won't happen again." He said firmly.

"Of course not." The other assured him, remarkably calm giving the precarious situation he was in. "And we are, of course, relieved that your mate is well. We did not intend for her to be harmed either."

"Of course not." Jasper agreed tersely.

The other vampire hesitated, briefly. "I see you summoned your coven. Did you expect trouble?"

"I believe in being prepared," Jasper retorted, "and this isn't my coven."

The vampire's eyes widened in amazement. "You do not lead this coven?" He asked, eyeing us as well as he could with Jasper there. Did he find it so hard to believe?

Jasper chuckled, a sound entirely without amusement or any pleasant emotion. "Carlisle is our coven leader." He told the vampire.

"Go." Edward muttered, and I hesitantly stepped forward to join them.

The vampire forced a smile. "I beg forgiveness." He said. "We did not realize this was the territory of another coven. We were only passing through."

"Of course." I replied, wondering if it were really necessary for Jasper to still be at his throat. "We understand, and are sorry for any misunderstandings that have occurred."

"On the contrary, it is we who should be apologizing." His gaze strayed from me to Jasper. The others in his coven were also watching my son, none of them pleased by the present situation.

I sighed. "That's enough, Jasper." I told him. "They're of no more danger to us." My son's only response was a low growl. "Jasper!" I repeated his name, more forcefully. He needed to listen. We didn't need him to start anything else.

I saw the look of surprise in the other vampire's eyes as my son snapped his fangs less than an inch from his skin before backing up. I didn't bother stifling my disproval over that as I turned back to the vampire.

"You allow members of your coven to act this way?" He demanded, shocked. I was about to explain that we weren't exactly your traditional coven when Jasper stiffened, his eyes wide as he looked from the other vampire to me.

"Forgive me." Jasper muttered to me, and I stared as he dropped to his knees, eyes closed, his neck bared to me. It was an act of submission, I realized, though beyond that I was clueless. I had no idea why he felt this necessary, and I had no idea what I was supposed to do now.

It was as if time had stopped as I racked my brain desperately for some clue, some idea as to what Jasper wanted from me. I could think of nothing. I tried to think if I knew anything about other covens that might help, or if Jasper himself had ever told me something that might prove useful now. There was nothing.

Yet he had apologized, had put himself in a position where he was vulnerable to me. He had done this after the other vampire's unfavorable reaction, as a result of that reaction. I knew all this, but I still didn't know what he wanted from me.

He opened his eyes to meet mine, and I caught the look of frustration in his eyes. He held my gaze, and I felt, for a second, angry and displeased. I frowned. Was Jasper projecting that? The slightest twitch of his head said he was. Was that how I was supposed to be 'feeling'?

Then how was I supposed to respond? The other vampire was getting impatient now, with my lack of action. I tried to think. If I was angry, displeased with his action, what would I do?

What I would do was no help. What was a normal coven leader supposed to do? What would his action mean to someone else? How would his former coven leader have seen this?

I could still remember the fear in Jasper's eyes when he realized he had disagreed with me, back before he understood he was allowed to. He had realized he had opposed me, to use his term for it, and had instinctively braced for some sort of retaliation.

His former coven leader would have been angry, and would have reacted violently, I realized. Remembering the brief encounter we had had with Maria confirmed that. Was that what he was suggesting? I saw Edward's nod out of the corner of my eye.

But I could hardly do that. I could scarcely enact physically violence on someone, least of all my son. Especially not Jasper. I could not do this, I would not.

He read my change in emotions, read the look in my eyes, and his own eyes widened, alarmed now, and pleading. He closed his eyes, and seemed to gather himself.

I was hit by a wave of anger, well rage, actually. He was trying to make me angry enough to act. I shook my head, trying to clear it. He only increased the feeling, working in annoyance and displeasure in general, along with a barely noticeable wave of desperation.

I heard Alice gasp softly as Jasper opened his eyes to meet mine again. "Do it." I heard Edward mutter painfully.

I felt my anger increase even more, and made up my mind. He obviously felt this necessary. I placed a finger under his chin to guide him into a standing position, took a deep breath, and flinched inwardly at what I was about to do.

I slapped him, then. Hard. Far harder than I intended to, likely due to the rage he was still subjecting me to, and it was all I could do not to cry out myself as the blow knocked him backwards.

He stumbled unsteadily, and nearly fell before Edward was there to catch him and escort him back to the join the others.

I forced down the anger I now felt, anger that was actually my own, over what I had just done to my son.

I would deal with that later. I needed to take care of this problem right now.

The other vampire regarded me appraisingly, again surprised. I stared back at him, waiting somewhat unenthusiastically for him to speak. After a moment, he did so. "You seem to be a very interesting coven, Carlisle. A pity we cannot stay to learn more about you."

"If you would like to-" I began, though I did not want them here. I wanted them gone, far from here. I wanted to figure out what had just happened. I wanted to know my family was safe.

He shook his head. "Perhaps some other time. After what has happened today, it would be foolish of us." I nodded in agreement, made myself smile.

"Some other time, then." I agreed, and they left with no more explanation than that. We watched them go in silence.

I was relieved to realize that my family members were now the only ones in the lot.

Esme moved to hug Alice, but was thwarted as Jasper growled and moved forward to hold her, her arms wrapping around his neck, their eyes meeting as he leaned forward to kiss her. They stood frozen like that, and Emmett quietly began to explain in greater detail what had happened while we tried to give them some privacy.

"Jacob and Nessie and their friends were here, and the coven just sort of came out of nowhere, and gathered in front of them. I was here, and came over to see what the problem was. They were pretty close, and we realized there was gonna be trouble. That was when Jasper and Alice showed up, flying in on the bike. They came running at us, trying to get some space between us. Jasper told me not to do anything, and was trying to tell their leader this was our territory when the other guy lunged for Nessie, and well, you know the rest."

I nodded tensely, still not quite able to relax. I wanted to speak with Jasper, to get his side of the story, but I didn't think that was going to happen. I didn't seem anyone was going to get a chance to talk to either of them anytime soon.

We decided to go home. We had had enough excitement for one day. Emmett and Rosalie wandered off, and Edward and Bella followed, Edward clapping me reassuringly on the shoulder before he went. Jasper tossed his keys to Jacob, who took the hint and took off with Nessie, leaving my wife and me with Alice and Jasper.

Alice finally opened her eyes, and he followed half a second later. "You need to talk." She said softly to him.

He growled a bit as he replied. "I don't need anything but you." He took her hands in his and kissed her fingers gently.

"But he needs to talk, dear." She told him gently, nuzzling his hands. "Surely you can sense that."

He groaned. "I know, darlin', but-" She silenced him, placing a finger on his lips. He groaned again, pulling her into his embrace. "I know." He repeated.

"I'll be there, when you're done." She murmured.

"Esme wants to see you anyway." He said finally. "You two take the car. We'll walk."

"You sure?" She asked, and he nodded. "Alright. Love you."

"Love you." He replied, kissing her one last time before she slipped out of his arms and moved to stand before Esme. My wife wrapped her in a fierce hug, letting out a tearless sob. I walked over to join Jasper, letting Esme have some time with her daughter.

He didn't say anything at first; he merely turned away from the women and began walking. I followed him, silent as well. We didn't speak for several minutes.

Finally, I decided to break the silence. "Emmett said-"

"Emmett was right." He interrupted. "That's what happened."Did he even know what Emmett had said.

"Alice saw something?" I asked.

"Yeah." He grunted. "She saw Jacob and Nessie and their friends being attacked and killed." Jacob and Nessie, unlike the rest of my children, had interests in people outside of the family as well, and consequently had a group of friends they hung out with. "We didn't know if we'd make it, especially not when we stopped to speak with Bella and Edward."

"You wanted the whole family there." I commented.

He nodded wearily. He looked, now that everything was over, exhausted and weak, possibly even more so than Alice had. His dark eyes were weary and pained, the circles under his eyes deep and purple. He was still tense, rigid, and his face was drawn. "I wanted a show of strength. A coven of eight? They wouldn't willingly pick a fight with us."

"We didn't make it in time." I said sorrowfully. If we had been faster, all this might have been avoided.

"Don't do that." He snapped.

"What?"

"That would have happened anyway. Your presence assured that that idiotic-" he cut himself off, "that no one would do anything else stupid."

"You saved her life." I said. A flash of pain hit me. His pain.

"It shouldn't have happened." He replied tightly.

"Did you know it would work?" I asked. He stopped walking, his eyes closing. He shook his head.

"I hoped it would."

"So did I." We continued walking after about a minute. "Would you have killed him?" I asked curiously.

Jasper shuddered. "I would have ripped him to pieces, and anyone else in their coven, hoping one of them would kill me in self-defense. If I had survived that I would have tried to goad either Emmett or Edward into losing their temper. If that didn't work, I would have set myself on fire and burned to death."

I marveled at how said this so matter-of-factly. I really didn't know what to say to that. It frightened me that he would be as desperate without Alice as Edward had been without Bella, and that his plan, at least the final part of it, needed help from no one to succeed.

We were both upset over everything that had just happened, both hurting, both needing to talk all this over and work all this out. And as usual when dealing with Jasper, it was better for me to start at the beginning and work my way through everything.

"You were still threatening them. Even after she was alive." I said. He nodded.

"I didn't want another accident." He said.

"You were also still angry." I suggested cautiously.

He sighed. "Yes. I was. I was barely in control even then."

"You weren't when dealing with their leader." I observed.

He stopped, and sat down on the curb. Now we got down to the heart of things. "I know. I'm sorry. I could have caused a fight then and there. I nearly did anyway."

"You were understandably still rather upset." I said.

"That's no excuse for my actions." He argued.

"No, it isn't." I agreed. "But we all make mistakes." He sighed.

"I struck you." I said softly. "I nearly knocked you down."

"I know." He said, his voice gentle, apologetic. "I'm sorry."

I stared at him, confused. "Pardon?"

He sighed again. "I'm sorry I made you do that. I know you hate violence. I know it's tearing you apart."

"Why?" I asked him. I just didn't understand why it had happened in the first place.

"You are our coven leader, Carlisle, and you gave me an order, however informal. An order I disobeyed and defied. I challenged your authority in that area."

I frowned. We weren't like that, though, he knew that. We were a family.

He shrugged as if he could hear my thoughts, and continued. "Well, he didn't know that we don't exactly follow the same rules most covens do. All he knew was that I had challenged you, and the nature of my actions were also a challenge to him. I was daring him to try something. Picking a fight. And so you were expected to deal with it, and if you hadn't, you would have lost his respect because you couldn't control your subordinates."

I shook my head. "I don't really care what he would have thought, Jasper."

He growled slightly at that. "You should. If he had decided you were weak, he would have challenged you for the territory after all that. And there would have been a fight." I flinched. "Alice and I wouldn't have been any help, and they're certainly more used to having to defend themselves than the rest of you." He was quiet for a moment, hesitant. "And because he was the one involved, if you hadn't taken care of it, he would have had to. I doubt he would have slapped me on the wrist and let it go at that."

I frowned at him. "What-?" I didn't finish my sentence. I didn't need to.

"He probably would have killed me." He said evenly. We sat in subdued silence for several long minutes.

"Do you think we'll see them again?" I asked, finally. He shrugged wearily, and stood to resume walking.

"I don't know. I'm no psychic." He managed to say lightly. I allowed myself a smile, and he returned mine with one of his own. "You know," he added thoughtfully, "under normal circumstances, I don't know if that blow would have even fazed me."

"Was that supposed to make me feel better?" I asked, worried. Under normal circumstances? How weak was he? How much blood had he given her? He managed a laugh, but his eyes were serious, and I realized he was doing two things.

One: He was saying I hadn't hit him that hard. Two: He was letting me know that neither one of them was in very good shape right now.

I moved closer to him, there to support him if he needed it. He shifted just enough that, with his hands in his pockets, his elbow brushed my arm and gave me a grateful look.

"I'm glad you're okay." I said. "Both of you." They weren't exactly okay, and that was probably quite a bit of understatement, but he knew what I meant, and how I felt.

"Thanks." Was all he replied, but he meant it.

Disclaimer: No lo tengo nada. I don't own any of it!