Alice stared up at me with dark eyes. "I'm fine, Carlisle." She insisted, her tone a mixture of stubborness weariness and distress. She hadn't been hunting since we moved three weeks ago. She was stressed, and worried, and thirsty.
We had all been worried, but we had given her her space up until tonight. Esme had invited her to go hunting with her and Rosalie, and Alice had nearly snapped at them both before recovering enough to politely thank them but decline the invitation.
Esme had given me a look before leading Rosalie outside, a look that plainly said, she needs to go, Carlisle. Talk some sense into her. I had nodded. I would certainly try. I was worried about our daughter too.
The problem was Jasper. He had been sulking for three weeks now, ever since we had moved, ever since Edward had left. Alice, for once, had been able to do nothing with him. And she had refused to leave him, even long enough to hunt.
I returned her gaze, steeling myself for the disagreement to come. "You're thirsty." I pointed out. "There's no sense in starving yourself like this."
She pressed her lips firmly together. "I said I was fine." She retorted tensely.
"You need to hunt." I replied. "Go with the others, tonight. They've been worried about you. You know that."
Her eyes dropped. "I can't leave Jasper." She whispered.
"Jasper will be fine." I said, keeping my voice at a level usually reserved for soothing terrified patients.
Her eyes shot back up to meet mine, hard and defiant. "He won't be, Carlisle! Don't you get it? I can't do anything with him! He won't even talk to me!" She was practically shouting, nearly hysterical. She bit her lip, her eyes begging me to understand.
I sighed. "Will you abandon the others, Alice?" I wasn't playing fair, and I knew it. I could see the guilt she felt over that as her eyes darted away briefly. I continued. "They need to know that you're okay, Alice. It's hard enough with Edward gone, and us leaving Bella, and with Jasper like this. Don't make them add you to the list of casualties. I will watch over Jasper."
She blinked, and looked almost hopeful. "Will you talk to him, Carlisle?" She asked, and I felt guilty. I hadn't really spoken to him since the move, when I had briefly told him everything would be alright. I nodded.
"I'll try, Alice."
She smiled at me then, and stood on tiptoe to kiss me on the cheek. She darted down the hall to tell Jasper where she was going, and bounded off to join the others.
Emmett, who had heard our conversation, left a second later. My children rarely stayed nearby when they knew that I would be having a serious conversation with one of their siblings. It was one of the few instances of privacy in our household.
I walked slowly to Jasper and Alice's room, reflecting on how little we had seen of him since the move. He had spent most of his time in here, and on the rare occasions he did come out, he was always distant, unresponsive. I had had no idea how to deal with it, and had assumed that Alice would be more help for him.
If she couldn't help him, how could I?
"Jasper?" I called softly. "May I come in?" There was no response, but I went in anyway, and closed the door gently behind me.
He sat on the floor, against the wall, knees pulled up to his chin and eyes staring out into space. His eyes flickered to meet mine for less than a second. They were darker than Alice's had been. The atmosphere was tense; Jasper's doing, I guessed.
I didn't really know what to say, or where to start. For all that I consider them my children, for all that they seem to look up to me, I don't really feel adequate to the task of being their father. Emmett and Jasper were physically only three years younger than I was. Sometimes I wondered how I managed to become the father figure in a family full of vampires, the youngest of which was seventeen.
"It isn't your fault." I settled on saying, for all the good it would do. I could feel a burst of anger come from him, one that quickly drained away into guilt, misery, and self-loathing. I sighed and crossed the room to sit down cross-legged before my son. His gaze shifted away from me.
Slowly, carefully, I leaned forward, knowing it was best to be cautious when he felt cornered, and that he would feel so now. I placed a hand lightly on his shoulder, trying to comfort him, to calm him.
He shrugged my hand away, and lifted his eyes to glare at me. That lasted for half a second before the look in his eyes switched to desperation. "It is my fault." He said slowly, his voice hoarse, as if he had not spoken for some time.
I shook my head. "It was no more your fault than hers, Jasper. Accidents happen." I wished he would believe me. I wished he would stop torturing himself over something he couldn't help.
"I should have been stronger." He muttered distantly. "I should be stronger. It was only a paper cut!" He berated himself angrily.
I sighed, shaking my head. "It's still blood, Jasper."
"Nobody else tried to kill her." He insisted stubbornly.
"Nobody else is you." I said, and he flinched. I groaned inwardly. Poor choice of words. "Nobody else spent the time you did fighting. None of the others spent years hunting humans, years among the violence and the hatred and the death. This is the only life the others have really known, Jasper. You've heard Edward's theory on that."
"Yeah, yeah." He replied. "I'm more susceptible to it because I've been exposed to it more." He didn't sound as if he believed it.
"I agree with him." I said. "I think it's a valid theory." For a moment he looked as if he were reconsidering. Then his face fell.
"Alice was furious." He said sadly. As if he had disappointed her. I knew better than that.
"Not at you." I clarified.
"I know." He agreed. "She was mad at Edward." He shrugged helplessly. "For leaving. For making us leave. For overreacting." I did have to agree with them on that. Edward was overreacting. "But none of this would have happened if I would have been able to control myself. If Edward hadn't been in the way I would have killed her! Emmett and Rosalie had to drag me out of the room." He was ashamed of his actions. I could feel that clearly.
I decided to try a different approach. "Technically, Bella started it by giving her a paper cut." I said, and Jasper looked at me as if I were crazy. I continued calmly. "Of course, the whole party was Alice's idea, so you could blame her. But then, the present was from her and Edward, so you could blame him too. Or you could blame Bella's mother for ever giving birth to the poor child."
Jasper growled at me, and I stopped. His patience was thin tonight. "The point I'm trying to make, Jasper, is that you weren't any more at fault than anyone else. You had no control over yourself, it's true, but it wasn't something you could help. If it were, you would have done so. Bella doesn't blame you, neither do any of the others, and neither do I."
He scowled. "I tried to eat Edward's girlfriend." He grumbled. "He's not even angry at me for it."
I regarded him seriously. "Would it help?" I asked. He shrugged uncertainly. He seemed to feel that someone should be angry with him.
"You aren't upset, he's not mad, Alice isn't disappointed." He muttered. "You should be. All of you."
"Jasper." I said, making sure he was listening. "Accidents happen. You slipped up. Fortunately, nothing happened to Bella worse than slicing open her arm. You try hard, and you keep trying, as hard as our way of life is for you. Edward knows that, and so he can't be angry. Alice knows it, and so she can't be disappointed. And I can't be upset when I could just as easily have been any one of the rest of us in your place."
"We've all had our moments of temptation; we've all lost our heads around some human or other. We've all tasted human blood." I myself had only tasted it in turning four of my family members, but I remembered it well. "I can't be upset with you for this, Jasper. If anything, I'm proud."
His eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "Proud? Why?" He asked warily.
"Because I know you. Because I know you won't let this stop you; you'll keep trying, and keep fighting. Because you haven't given up, and because I know you won't"
He sighed. "I guess you're right." He said resignedly, though he wasn't entirely convinced. "I should probably stop worrying the others."
I smiled at him. I loved my son, who often put the rest of the family before himself. He was one of the most unselfish people I had ever met. He would do almost anything simply because his wife wanted it, would watch football games that held no interest for him with Emmett because it was something they could do together, and would do at least a hundred other things for the people he had come to accept as family without even thinking twice about it, or whether it might inconvenience him.
"Only when you're ready." I said gently. He nodded slowly, hesitantly. I could feel his gratitude.
He swallowed, then stood, his eyes straying out the window. "I should hunt." He said softly; I assumed he was speaking to himself. He turned to face me. "Will you go with me, Dad?"
Very rarely did Jasper ever address me thus. I could list on one hand the number of times it had happened. It never ceased to amaze me. I nodded wordlessly in response. When I finally could speak, it was to ask, "Should we wait for Alice to return?"
He shook his head. "She'll have seen it." Was his reply. We took off, into the night, in near silence.
"Thank you." He said softly as we ran.