"Oh for Pete's sake!" The shout reverberated through the house, startling its occupants. Her anger had not been expected, and especially not the tone of voice. A growl followed the exclamation, and I began to worry.

"You don't understand-" His voice was begging, pleading even. It was just as startling as her outburst seconds before.

"I understand perfectly well." She retorted. Her voice was harsh and angry. "I'm tired of this! It never stops! You're fine for a few months, and then this happens. And every time you promise you'll stop, that it won't happen again. I can't take this anymore!" I remained in my seat, shocked. These two never argued.

"Alice-"

"Save it."

"Where-"

"Out. I'm going out. I'm done talking you out of it."

"Alice-"

"Goodbye."

I heard a door slam, and a soft sigh. I also heard my other children clear out as my wife entered my office. Her eyes were frightened. Alice and Jasper had never fought like this before. I'd never seen them fight at all.

She was afraid of losing them, her two newest children, children she already loved. If Alice left, and it seemed she might, would Jasper stay? I doubted it. Alice was the only reason he was here in the first place. Without her, he probably had no reason to stay.

"What happened?" She asked me, her voice barely audible. I shook my head. I had no idea. Unless-

Jasper had slipped up again yesterday, had returned home last night with his head hung low and his eyes liquid ruby. He had spoken to no one, as was what usually happened when he slipped. He had avoided me completely, which was also normal. I think perhaps he thought I would be disappointed in him.

But would Alice get tired of dealing with that? Could she have enough of him failing, when he was trying so hard? It wasn't like her. She loved him dearly, and had always stood beside him so patiently. She had been strong for him, ready to forgive him, to lift him up, to give him the strength to start over.

Could she really leave him? It just didn't make sense.

I looked at Esme. "I'll talk to him." I assured her. I could feel the sense of depression starting to seep through the house, one of the reasons the other children had left. When Jasper was upset, everyone in his vicinity would be too, though he didn't mean for it to happen, and tried to keep his feelings to himself.

She nodded, relieved. She had so much faith in me, it was amazing. Then she slipped out through the window of my office to give us some privacy.

I walked through the empty house, trying to keep my emotions intact, and found Alice's room. She and Jasper used her room, his was nearly unused, nearly empty, except for his guitar and a few books he had begun to collect.

The door was open, and I stopped in the doorframe. Jasper was standing there, looking lost. It was as if he no longer had any idea of what he was supposed to be doing. His red eyes were wide in a near panic, a panic I was now starting to feel myself, and his mouth was just slightly open, as if he were still trying to speak.

It hurt me to see him like this. "Jasper?" I asked softly, and he started, his wide eyes focusing on me as he took in a sudden breath. He bit his lip, something I had never seen him do before.

He shook his head once, sadly, and his eyes locked on mine. His expression was tortured. "Jasper?" I said again, more gently, and raised an arm to lead him to sit on the bed before he collapsed.

He didn't fight me, and we sat silently for several minutes while I tried to figure out what to say. He stared at the floor miserably while I stared at a picture of them on Alice's dresser.

It was an old one, the picture from their wedding. It had been short and simple, devoid of Alice's usual over exuberant tendencies. They stood facing each other, in the picture, he looking down at her, she looking up, with eyes only for each other, the rest of the world forgotten. It was a beautiful picture, one that actually showed a part of the devotion the two had towards each other.

"What happened, Jasper?" I finally asked, having come up with nothing better. I didn't understand what had happened, or why Alice had stormed out.

Jasper sighed. "I slipped again." His voice was flat. "There was a woman. She was alone, she was just passing through. No one would think to look for her here. It will be weeks before anyone even thinks to miss her."

One thing that surprised me about Jasper. It had been ten years, and he still slipped. It was happening less often now, but it still did. But that wasn't what surprised me. I knew this would be hard for him. What surprised me was how his accidents had changed. We had had to move three times because of him, and then suddenly his mistakes were no longer so hard to cover up. When he slipped now it was with strangers, people passing through, people who lived alone, people no one would miss. For the past eight years we had not had to move on account of him. It was as if his subconscious had set some sort of rule, as if he could only hunt those whose disappearance would not be noticed. I wondered if he were even aware of that change.

Jasper was speaking again. "I killed her, and disposed of the body. There's no worry it will be found. I got rid of her car, too." While my other children usually went into some form of shock after the deed was done, Jasper was always clear-headed almost immediately afterwards. He would wait until after everything were taken care of to sink into depression, one that it usually took Alice about a week to bring him out of. But Jasper always made certain to eliminate all traces of his crime.

While it didn't make his slip-ups okay, it certainly made things easier on the rest of us, and for that, I was grateful.

"I don't deserve this, Carlisle." He said slowly. "It's been ten years and I still have next to no control. I'll never be able to do this. At times I don't even want to. And yet here you are, listening so patiently. You regret that it happened, you're worried for me, but you aren't judging me, you aren't even angry with me."

I chose my words carefully. "How could I be angry with you when you try so hard, Jasper?" Was Alice angry with him? I found it difficult to believe, but she had certainly been furious earlier.

"You should be." He said miserably. "Alice should be too. But she's always so patient, so understanding, in spite of the fact she's only messed up once since I've known her. I don't deserve that, Carlisle. Or at least, she deserves better."

And here was the problem. Alice had mentioned once that he had this problem, that every once in a while he would get it into his head that he was no good for her, that she deserved someone better. She had said he was convinced that he didn't deserve her, and couldn't understand why she stayed with him. I remembered the pain in her eyes and in her voice as she had told me. It hurt her for him to say these things, but she would never tell him. She didn't want to make him feel worse.

"Did you tell her that?" I asked, and he flinched. It was all the answer I needed. "Is that why she was angry?"

"That's why she left." His reply was a whisper. He didn't know if she was even coming back. I knew better.

"You know," I said conversationally, "back when I first turned Esme, or a year after, actually, after I had given her time to get used to all this, I gave her the opportunity to leave. I loved her, see-"

"But you didn't want to keep her with you if she could do better." Jasper caught on immediately. I wondered briefly if he thought she could do better. I thought so myself on occasion, until I remembered what had happened when I had given her the opportunity to leave.

"Exactly." I said. "She was so perfect, I knew I didn't deserve her. I knew she deserved something better, something more."

"So you told her she could leave if she wanted." Jasper said. No matter his mood, he was always fascinated by stories of our family. Our history amazed and intrigued him.

"Yes." I replied. "And she ran from the room." I continued as his eyes grew wide. It was like telling stories to the children at the hospital. His reaction was much the same. "She flew up the stairs and into her room. I thought I had lost her, that she was packing to leave. I followed her up to offer to help her pack, my heart breaking all the time. But I wouldn't stand in the way of what she wanted.

"I knocked on the door; it was locked. I called her name, softly. She screamed at me in response. "I knew it was too good to be true!" I could hear her pacing inside. "I thought- I hoped you loved me too, but I should have known better! How could you love someone like me?"

"I was shocked. "Esme." I managed to choke out. She loved me. But it broke my heart all over again that she thought I didn't love her. "Open the door, please." I said, not wanting to force it.

"I don't want to leave." I heard her muffled reply. "Please don't make me. I'm happy here."

"I finally just knocked the door down. I needed to fix this now. She was lying face down on her bed, her face buried in a pillow. "Esme." I said. "I want you to stay." I sat down beside her on the bed. "I do love you." She looked up at me, confusion evident on her beautiful face.

"Then why did you ask me to leave?" She asked. I would have cried right then if I had been capable.

"I didn't know if you wanted to stay." I told her. "I didn't want to keep you here if you wanted to leave."

"Why would I want to leave?" She asked me.

"I didn't know if you felt the same way about me that I did about you." I told her. "I knew I didn't deserve you, that you could do so much better, and I wanted you to stay, but I didn't know if you-" I faltered here, for the briefest of seconds, "if you loved me too."

"She stared at me in amazement. "Of course I love you." She said in wonder. "I just didn't see how you could love me back."

"I asked her to marry me that night, Jasper." I told my son. He was listening attentively now. "The point is, neither of us are capable of understanding how the other can love us so much. I know she loves me, I never doubt it, but I'll never understand why. But I know I can't live without her, Jasper, and she can't without me.

"I used to wonder if she couldn't find someone better, but I realized one day that in her mind, at least, there is no one better." I paused to see how he was taking this, if he had reached the conclusion I was heading towards. By the looks of it, he hadn't.

"It's the same way with you and Alice." I said, and his eyes got even wider. "As far as Alice is concerned, Jasper, there is no one else in the world that could compare to you. And obviously there is no one else for you." He was shaking his head now, trying to comprehend the unfathomable. "Don't try to understand it, Jasper. Just accept it. Accept that she will always be there for you, that she will always love you no matter what. Stop hurting her by suggesting she could do better."

His head snapped up and his eyes caught mine. "It hurts her?" He asked, but he knew the answer. He also knew, I hoped, that I would never lie to him about something like that. That I made a point not to lie to my children about anything.

He nodded to himself, as if coming to some sort of decision or understanding. Then his eyes found mine, and they were terrified. "She said goodbye." He spoke quickly, as if he wouldn't get the words out it he spoke any slower. "She said she had had enough."

"She'll be back." I reassured him. "I'm sure of it."

And she was back before I had even finished speaking, shouting about a sale and bursting into the room, dragging him out and telling him to straighten up, he was going with her and they were leaving in two minutes. She turned to me after she had gotten him into the bathroom, his eyes glazed over as if he were in a daze.

"Thanks." She said. "I didn't know what to do. I saw it though, on the road, and knew I needed to come back soon." She hugged me. "Thanks, Dad."

And she was gone, and dragging him along with her. The others were returning, Edward was tossing a pair of sunglasses at Jasper, grinning as Alice caught them for him and put them on him, complaining that they were so out of style it wasn't funny.

Esme found me, and I wrapped my arm around her and pulled her to my side. She smiled up at me, happy now that her family was once again alright.

Jasper had learned the same lesson I had had to learn, the same one Esme and Emmett had struggled with. That there was no way we could understand this thing called love. That all we could do was accept it.