Becoming a Cullen
Chapter 1. Hunting with Emmett
[I love the idea of exploring what Jasper had to go through to become a member of the Cullens. We know that it was Alice's idea, so when and why did Jasper decide that he wanted to belong too? – reviews are deeply appreciated! Kelli]
The sun had set and shadows were drowning the last of the light from the forest. A sudden meaty crack echoed across the silent woods. Jasper, crouched over his kill, recognized the sound. It was one he knew well, the snap of bone being broken. Tossing the drained deer carcass, his second that night, into a ditch, he shoveled dirt and rocks over it with his hands, burying the evidence. He ran in the direction of the sound, easily picking up Emmett's scent. Another scent intruded, became entwined with Emmett's. New to him. Like a deer, but different, heavier.
He was close now. Knowing what he was, how others saw him, Jasper was careful to make noise as he approached Emmett. Careful to walk into his eyeline rather than behind Emmett's back. Careful to leave a neutral distance between himself and his new 'brother'. When he stopped at the tree line, he could see Emmett kneeling over a large animal about thirty feet away. Jasper judged it unwise to move any closer while Emmett was feeding. No matter what Carlisle said, they were strangers to each other. He didn't want to trigger any of the violent behaviors instinctive to their kind. He'd seen too many die fighting over prey.
Emmett looked up at once. It was dark now, but that didn't matter to either of them. A surge of suspicion, of defensiveness swept over Jasper. His own past was written all too clearly on his face, his neck, his hands. The scars made other vampires wary of him, unwilling to believe that it was possible for him to offer them anything but violence. Emmett was reacting to that. Understandable. Jasper didn't let it upset him.
In response to Emmett's emotions, Jasper dropped his gaze, knelt down on one knee with his hands hanging loose, showing he wasn't going to attack, radiating calm to backup his moves.
It offended his pride to do this. To back down. Humiliating to a man who'd spent most of his life as a leader of troops. He choked back the feeling, knowing it was a remnant of the dominance games he'd played in Maria's army. Games that had too often turned into a personal battle with yet another newborn vampire eager to take Jasper's place. He hadn't lost a single fight, killing without compunction, without remorse. And tonight he was making himself small to a vampire half his age with nothing like his experience. Jasper forced himself to do this for one reason and one reason only. Because Alice wanted them here. More, she needed to be here. So he would do whatever it took to make a place for himself in this strange coven that called itself a family.
His gesture worked. Emmett went back to his meal. A few minutes later, he stood up, wiping his mouth. He smiled at Jasper. "You done hunting too?"
The smile held nothing but welcome. No self-satisfaction at seeing Jasper's submissive behavior. A strange thought crossed Jasper's mind. Emmett didn't understand my gesture. Brought into a family, not a coven, he's never been in a dominance fight. The idea was so peculiar that Jasper froze. More things to consider. He'd have to change his strategy.
Recovering, he got up and crossed the meadow to stand opposite Emmett over the large animal. Jasper catalogued its features. Shaggy brown fur, huge horizontal antlers, large hoofs. It was obviously an herbivore, but of a kind he'd never seen before.
"Yes, I'm done hunting," Jasper finally answered. His eyes glued to the animal, he asked, "What is the heck is this thing? Had no idea that any species this big had survived outside of Texas."
"What's in Texas?"
Emmett's emotional tone changed to eagerness, as if he were delighted to hear of another animal that might offer him a challenge. That's right. Emmett likes to wrestle bears. Jasper said, "Buffalo."
"They put up a good fight?"
"Not for us."
"Oh." Disappointment flavored Emmett's voice. He gestured to the animal at his feet. "Anyway, this a moose. Lots of 'em here in Maine."
"How big is it?"
Emmett shrugged. "Don't know."
It was clear that he didn't care, either. Jasper let it go. He'd find a book on local wildlife later.
"Tastes like deer," Emmett continued. He caught Jasper's grimace. "Yeah, not my favorite either. The good thing is that you only need one to feel full."
"The bad thing is that you then have to bury..." Jasper strode the length of the carcass and took a guess, "… all two tons of it."
Emmett laughed. "That's true! Give me some help?"
"Sure." Jasper hoped Emmett hadn't caught the slight hesitation. He was proud of himself for repressing his own knee-jerk anger at being asked to do someone else's manual labor. He averted his face to hide his expression. He had to remember that he wasn't anyone's superior here. It took an effort, but already reminded once tonight of the Cullen's skewed view of their world, he re-factored Emmett's actions. Jasper replayed Emmett's reaction and decided that he hadn't been trying to be insulting, instead it was a sign of his willingness to accept Jasper as family. He'd simply asked his brother to help him. It's still peculiar, though.
With the two of them, it didn't take long to finish burying the carcass.
"Want to head back?" Emmett asked.
"Not yet. Can we follow the river for a bit? Maybe we can find some trace of wolves or coyotes for the next hunt."
Jasper had no reason to hurry to the house. Alice was shopping in Portland with Esme. He'd hated letting her out of his sight in this strange place, with a vampire he'd known less than two months. If Alice had gone with any of the Cullen's children, Jasper would have insisted on going along. Esme though, was as odd as her husband. Both strangely gentle for beings that survived on blood. He was still trying to understand how the Cullens could just welcome two strange vampires into their home without a second thought. That Carlisle could even conceive of creating a home was another peculiarity he was attempting to adjust to.
Odd. That summed up the Cullens. Though some Cullens were odder than the others.
"Can I ask you something?" Jasper asked.
Jasper appreciated the undertone of humor that seemed to be part of Emmett's normal emotional state. He was far more easygoing than his volatile mate. Despite that, despite Emmett's seeming acceptance, Jasper hesitated. He'd wondered who he should talk to about his problem. Alice didn't seem able to help. As soon as she'd had been welcomed by Carlisle and Esme, she'd made a mental and emotional leap so deep that she considered herself a Cullen from that moment on. He hadn't blamed the Cullens for that. Alice had longed to be part of this family since the day she'd become a vampire. He was the one having trouble adjusting.
"It's about Edward," Jasper said.
Emmett gave a sharp crack of laughter. He flung himself to the ground, his back against an ancient pine. He patted the needle-covered ground beside him. "This should be good. Ask me."
Jasper blinked. This behavior was another oddity. He could think of no reason why they needed to sit to talk. Oh, he's used to pretending to be human. Encouraged by Emmett's willingness to listen, Jasper sat down cross-legged in front of him.
"How are you able to get along so well with that-" Jasper remembered in time that Emmett and Edward had been brothers for decades and substituted his original wording for something less cruel, "… that stuck-up brat?"
Emmett pretended to gasp in disbelief. "You mean you're not ready to worship at the altar of Eddie?"
Jasper felt a smile tug at his lips at the sarcastic tone. "No. Can't say that I am."
"He's a pain in the ass, isn't he?" Emmett shook his head. "You should hear what Rosalie thinks about him."
Jasper frowned. He'd observed as much as he could of the interactions between the Cullens. Though the house they were living in was large, the shared spaces were limited. He'd automatically had tracked the tensions, the small irritations, the way they treated each other, seeking out their weakness, defining their loyalties. They were surprisingly tolerant of each other. Willing to work together. The occasional squabble had been peacefully ended by Carlisle or Esme. The only major confrontation had been between Alice and Edward when his wife had blithely informed Edward that she was taking over his room. That had been an interesting conversation. The memory of the bewildered expression on Edward's face, the way he'd given in to his enchanting wife, could still make him smile. On the other hand, he hadn't witnessed anything memorable between Edward and Rosalie. "Rosalie and Edward seem to get along."
Emmett snorted. "Yeah. They get along in front of Carlisle and Esme. Otherwise, they stay out of each other's way. When they don't, things get messy."
"Did something happen between them?"
"I think so, but whatever it was, it happened before I was brought over. Edward won't talk about it and it makes Rose angry when I try to bring it up." Emmett shook his head. Another grin. "Then again, almost anything Eddie does gets Rose upset."
Jasper wasn't sure yet what kind of man Edward was. With a gift like his it would be easy for Edward to manipulate the others until he ruled them all. The scary part was that they wouldn't even know it. He knew what he could do. He'd kept himself alive by manipulating Maria and others, or he would have been dead long ago. Wary of alerting Emmett's of his suspicions, Jasper choose his words with care. "If something had happened, then it's interesting that Edward didn't complain about Rose to you. Make you distrust her."
Emmett slammed a meaty fist into the open palm of his other hand. The sound of rocks slamming together echoed outward, silencing the woods around them again. He gave a savage smile that showed his teeth. "Eddie ain't that stupid."
Emmett's emotions didn't support his threat. He was more amused at the idea than angry. Jasper didn't understand. "Edward makes your mate upset, but you still like him?"
"Eddie and I have known each other for what? Seventy years? He can be an asshole sometimes, sure, but overall he's a pretty decent guy. Once you get over the whole mind-reading thing. And his prissy attitude."
Alice had told him about Edward's talent long before they'd ever met the Cullens in person. He'd met close to a thousand vampires when he was with Maria. In all that time, he'd never met another vampire that had any type of extra ability that was strong enough to be used in a meaningful way. If he hadn't been gifted himself, if he hadn't met Alice with her own extreme gift, it would have been hard to accept that telepathy existed. He'd accepted the idea that is was possible, but it was only when Edward had responded to a question he hadn't asked out loud that he truly believed it. The only thing that made it bearable to be around Edward now was knowing that he couldn't randomly see around inside Jasper's head, that Edward could only access his current thoughts.
"It's hard," Jasper said. "Realizing that you don't have any privacy with him in the house."
"You get used to it. Mostly." Emmett shrugged. "It bugs Rose when he sticks his nose in our business."
Jasper nodded. Rose and Emmett were blatant about their physical relationship. While it was impossible for Jasper to hide what he was, he dreaded having anyone know the details of what he'd done. Worse was knowing that Edward could be there, in his head, watching as he touched Alice, loved Alice. Horrible. A roil of depression hit him. He pulled it back, careful not to let his own emotions bleed out over Emmett.
"The idea of him. In my head. Watching." That was all Jasper could say before his voice shut down. Just saying this much out loud was a struggle.
"Sorry, man." Emmett reached out with his right hand.
Jasper was fifteen feet away, snarling, before Emmett could come close to touching him. The expression of surprise on the big vampire's face was matched by the same emotion spilling out from him. An odd emotion followed closely on the heels of the first one.
A second to understand and then Jasper cursed his own warrior's reactions. Emmett had been reaching out to comfort him. He shook his head. How in hell could he have been prepared for that? That another vampire he'd known for so little time felt sympathy for him was out of his experience. He stood up. "I'm so sorry. You just, sorta' startled me there."
Emmett stood up. "It's my fault. Carlisle said that we should…" He cut himself off, biting his lips.
Jasper waited, hoping that Emmett would finish.
Awkward now, Emmett said, "We should head on back."
"Okay." Becoming a Cullen was going to be a lot harder than Jasper had originally thought.