A/N: Okay, my muse is being a capricious bitch lately, and her demands grow tiresome. This was supposed to be a lemony good one shot, but she decided to give it a back story, and alas, here is Chapter One.
A Few Noteworthy Comments: Though this is in the Jasper x Bella section, please be advised that it is a Jasper x Bella x Edward story. There will be very little, if any slash in this work. Also, there is an original character introduced; if that's not your thing, you may not want to read, as she plays an important role in the overall plot.
Update 11/28/2011: Reworking and editing the story a bit as I look for inspiration to finish it. As always, feel free to PM me any questions or comments
"Bella?" My shout sliced sharply through the still night air, startling a flock of shrieking, terrified birds into flight. An echo of my query resounded somewhere to my left, Rosalie's beautiful voice laced with fear. Emmett's tense baritone parroted our call a few seconds later, perhaps a mile ahead. I knew that Edward, Alice, and Carlisle were all out here as well, buried deep in the dense forest surrounding our home, in search of the girl. Esme had opted to stay back at the house, in case Bella showed up, an idea that seemed less and less likely. My family's agitation beat at me incessantly as we pursued every trace of her scent, pale wraiths moving with ungodly speed amongst the trees, but I couldn't blame them. More and more of the fear I felt in response to this situation was mine. Bella had disappeared several hours ago, apparently without a trace.
To vanish completely off the radar, when seven vampires with preternatural senses were looking for you, well it took a lot more skill than a single, seventeen year old mortal possessed. Of course, she could always be…
"Don't," Edward growled a low warning as he caught wind of my thoughts. How many times had he seen our human dead in the others' heads this evening, and by how many means? I immediately wiped the slate of my mind clean.
The idea that Bella, our sweet, clumsy, adopted, human sister might be dead was beyond our comprehension. She'd only been with us seventeen short years. To lose her now would be devastating.
As I pushed deeper into the thick foliage, periodically calling her name as well as seeking her emotions (a feat made nearly impossible with my family in such close proximity) I got to thinking of the first time I'd seen the girl.
Isabella Marie Cullen had been born September 13, 1987. I shook my head faintly, a fond smile curling my lips. Had it really been so long ago? It felt like only yesterday.
Unfortunately, she hadn't been born into the best of families. With typically misguided human judgment, her birth mother had deemed her a burden far too great to bear, and she'd been abandoned at the hospital in which Carlisle was working, in the small town of Sequim, about 75 miles from Forks, where we made our current home. Not surprisingly, there were very few areas other than the Pacific Northwest that offered us the weather necessary to proceed with our relatively normal lives.
Anyway, Carlisle being Carlisle, had offered to take the infant home until an appropriate set of foster parents could be found for her. Now let it be known that it has been years since any of us has slipped up and consumed human blood, but to bring a mortal infant into a house full of vampires, well I don't think I need to point out the numerous flaws in Carlisle's decision making. I will say that we were all quite flattered that he thought so highly of us.
But Carlisle was wise beyond our comprehension. The moment that Esme and Rosalie had laid eyes on the child, before any of the rest of us could even get a very good look at the writhing, squawking bundle, it was made implicit that they would tear anyone or anything that looked to be a threat to the child to pieces so small that they would never be put back together. They'd nothing to fear, however. The thing was so tiny that the smell of her blood was easily overpowered by the other abhorrent odors she was quick to produce.
My siblings and I, sans Rose, had been less than impressed, and more than eager for the child to be returned to human parents; the sooner the better.
Though the expression on Alice's face when Bella had pissed on her new designer blouse... truly priceless. With her abilities, you really would've thought she'd seen that coming.
Edward's quiet laughter sounded from somewhere behind me, and I smiled faintly at the familiar presence that joined me in my head to view my memories.
The weeks passed, and while the rest of us grew impatient, it was plain to see that Rosalie and Esme were dreading the day when the child would leave our family. Even level-headed Carlisle seemed saddened by the prospect.
Never mind the rest of us.
It had taken several weeks of wheedling by Rosalie, and some rather persuasive feminine wiles by Esme but eventually, Carlisle had caved. To say that we had been surprised by the news that we were keeping the child permanently would be a gross understatement. A human child raised by a house full of vampires? The fates had a rather sick sense of humor.
But Carlisle had signed the papers the very next day, refusing to budge on the issue, no matter how much Alice and Edward had begged.
"I don't beg," Edward loftily informed me, and I chuckled.
I remember some definite begging on your part, I replied silently.
"Obviously your memory is faulty. Besides, it's not as though you were exactly silent on the matter."
Esme didn't even like that table. Or those lamps. And she was just itchin' to get rid of that ugly China that Tanya gave her. I was doing her a favor by getting rid of them.
Edward laughed in response and I returned to my reminiscing.
It hadn't taken long for the two devious women to convert Emmett to Team Bella, luring him with the child's antics and laughter, and before long he was even more protective of the girl than the other two; a feat I'd previously thought impossible.
Alice's betrayal had been most surprising. Guess we really should've known that the opportunity to dress her own little human doll would be a temptation too great to resist. Frills and bows, lace and ribbons… I couldn't recall Alice having so much fun dressing someone else since 1982. (Neon leg-warmers. Enough said.)
And so it was that the number of us who wished the child gone dwindled, until only Edward and I remained. I'd never have thought that the two of us would end up in such an odd alliance.
Do you recall what happens next? My thoughts were colored with my smile.
"As though I could forget."
Trees flew by, little more than dark blurs, as I gave myself over to memory, confident that my keen senses would continue the search that was feeling more and more futile.
It had been perhaps five years since the adoption of our Isabella, and Edward and I were still sullen on the subject. While the rest of the family romped about noisily with the child in one of the rooms we'd been forced to convert into a playroom, Edward and I sulked on the couch, he with his nose in a book and I flipping through channels at a pace that would've definitely given my inhuman status away.
Tiny feet, clad in whatever superfluously feminine shoes Alice had managed to find, scuffled over the hardwood floors and I froze at their approach; the girl usually avoided her two broody brothers, or perhaps we'd been avoiding her, I couldn't be entirely sure. Edward must've heard her as well, because he too stiffened, closing his book. Emmett's quiet, solid footsteps sounded just behind the child's. She had her own six foot five puppy. Or guard dog as the case may be.
I'd scooted to the edge of the couch, on the verge of fleeing, when the small, gentle fluttering of her heart assaulted my ears. I turned instinctively toward the sound, my eyes widening in surprise. Standing primly in Emmett's long shadow was a young girl, dressed all in pink. Her frilled, rosy petticoats came to rest just above her plump little knees, and her impossibly small feet were clad in shoes that must've taken hours to get into, for all of the buckles, buttons and lace. Chestnut curls rested neatly against her tiny shoulders, held back by two perfect bows. Her dark eyes seemed impossibly large for her round face, and held knowledge well beyond her five years. Wise, I was startled to find myself thinking, her innocent gaze held wisdom.
The stray thought was followed swiftly by another. What exactly was I seeing? Was the unusual shrewdness in her gaze simply the product of living in a house full of intelligent vampires, or something more? Did she know? We'd known it would only be a matter of time before we'd be forced to reveal what we were to the girl, but so soon?
I looked to Edward frantically, but he seemed just as astonished by the child as I was. How had she grown so quickly?
What's she thinking? I requested silently of Edward.
His tawny eyes were focused on the child's face, and he smiled faintly, his tone holding a hint of saddened awe as he replied so quickly the girl would not be able to hear.
"She thinks we look like angels."
If only she knew, I thought sourly.
So Carlisle had told her then. And she wasn't in hysterics, which either meant she didn't fully understand, she didn't believe, or Carlisle was a genius. There was certainly merit in introducing the idea while her young mind was still naïve enough to accept it, before age and cynicism had shielded her against such superstitious nonsense as vampires.
She had tipped her head gently to one side, and was peering at us with avid curiosity. I suddenly wished for Edward's ability. What was she thinking about us, what did she want to say? What did I even know about her? How many words had Edward or I spoken to her?
Never? We've never interacted with her? I desperately tried to think of a time when Edward or myself had done something with the child. Cooked for her, changed her, played with her, sang to her, read her mind? Something?
"No," he replied adamantly.
She stepped into the room, a tentative smile on her rosy cheeked little face. Emmett leaned against the door jam, grinning wryly. He was obviously enjoying our discomfort.
"He is. Far too much," Edward verified.
The child came to stand before us. It was almost unnerving, the intensity with which she was staring. To think, a vampire made uncomfortable by a five year old human child. I couldn't help but chuckle at the absurdity.
She seemed to take my laughter as invitation, and a brilliant smile lit her entire face as she climbed up onto the cushion next to me. Or she attempted to. Halfway up, her foot slipped off the fabric of the couch, and she went tumbling backward. Emmett's terror skyrocketed to a point of blinding intensity and I could only stare, drowning in his fear, as she hurtled backward toward the glass-topped coffee table.
Luckily, Edward, unaffected by Emmett's desperate panic, reached out, lightly plucked the flailing girl from the air, and set her safely between us. Emmett's relief was so profound that I wondered if he might be brought to his knees by the sudden range of emotions.
Isabella's heart was racing wildly from her near miss, but she offered Edward the most angelic smile I'd ever seen.
"Thank you very much, Edward." Her little voice was like a crystal bell, ringing musically throughout the room.
Edward seemed taken aback. Perhaps he was surprised that she could speak? The idea irritated me for reasons I couldn't name. She was human, not an animal.
"I know that," he snapped sharply, at a speed beyond human comprehension, before turning his eyes on the girl. "You're welcome, Isabella," he replied cordially, if a little stiffly.
She blinked those wide eyes and shook her head gently. The sweet scent of raspberries and vanilla drifted up from her bobbing curls.
"Just Bella, please," she demanded.
Amusement washed over me from Edward, and I glanced at him in surprise.
Resolve's weakening, huh?
He didn't respond, and I shook my head. So our little sister was cute. She was a child, it was to be expected. It didn't negate the fact that she had been unwillingly thrust upon us, intruding and insinuating herself into our daily lives. Because of her, ours was a family divided.
"Did you ever think, Jasper, that perhaps it is because of us that our family is divided?" he murmured swiftly.
I started at the idea, turning to stare at Edward as though his sanity had fled.
No, came my instant, unwavering reply.
"The child has brought nothing but joy and happiness to the rest of our family, but because we refuse her, they feel guilt for enjoying her presence. We separate ourselves, avoid our own home, simply to escape her. How is this her fault?"
I mulled over his words broodingly, refusing to find truth in them. If the child had not been brought to us, then things would be as they were meant to be, as they had been. Rosalie and Emmett would be on their umpteenth honeymoon and Alice, Edward and I would be traveling the world, exploring places we'd never seen. But instead, here we all were, taking care of the brat.
Edward grimaced at my acerbic thoughts and I frowned at him. It had not been so long ago that his musings on the child closely echoed my own.
Traitor, I thought sullenly.
"Excuse me, Jasper?"
Warm, tiny fingers curled around the cuff of my shirt, and tugged insistently. I turned a frosty look upon the child. I half expected her to recoil, but she simply smiled her sweet smile and waited for my reply.
"Yes?" My tone matched my eyes.
"Well, I was just wondering. Can you see the future, like Alice?"
I shook my head curtly, unwilling to offer more of an answer than that. How did one explain empathic abilities to a five year old child? The idea wasn't a fond one.
"Are you sure? Cause Daddy told me that you and Edward had some special powers, like Alice," she nodded solemnly.
Daddy? Did she mean…Carlisle? It was all I could do to keep laughter from ruining my unaffected façade.
Edward smoothly picked up where I'd left off as I attempted to regain my composure.
"Well Isabella," the girl glared petulantly and he hastily corrected himself. "Sorry, Bella. Jasper and I can't see the future, like Alice can, but we do have our own 'special powers'. I can read minds…"
The unfamiliar phrase drew a look of confusion, the girl's brows drawing together as her lips pulled into a thoughtful moue.
Edward paused, searching his vocabulary for words and ideas that would be understandable to a child. "Hm. I can hear what you're thinking, before you say it. Here, I'll show you. Think of a color, any color."
Sticky fingers tapped a small chin as Bella affected an exaggerated expression of thoughtfulness. "Hmmmmm," she hummed. She grinned once more, giving an excited bounce as she leaned toward Edward. "Okay! Go ahead and guess."
I rolled my eyes as Edward played along; squinting as though he was struggling to see into her mind. "You're thinking of the colorrr… grass green."
Her eyes widened to almost comical proportions, and she lurched forward as she pointed at Emmett excitedly, nearly falling headlong toward the floor before Edward laid a restraining hand on her shoulder. "Did you see that, Em? You don't even gotta talk! He just knows the words!"
Emmett chuckled indulgently, nodding. "I did see." Under his breath I heard him mutter, "Trust me kiddo, it's not nearly as fun as you think."
Bella had already moved on, however, turning toward me expectantly. "Guess the color!" she demanded in her little voice, apparently expecting that Edward and I had the same ability.
"Sunshine yellow?" I guessed dryly. Disappointment briefly billowed into the air around her before it was sucked immediately back in to be replaced by her perpetual excitement.
"Yours is different!" she exclaimed. "What can you do? Can you fly? Or go invisible? That would be so cool!"
Edward and Emmett's laughter grated on my already dwindling patience. I glanced at the sliding glass door longingly, wondering if it was too late to escape with any sort of dignity intact.
"That ship has sailed," Edward answered my thoughts with a smirk before looking at the child who was watching me so expectantly. "Jasper can tell how you're feeling, and sometimes he can make you feel things."
She nodded slowly, and I could almost see the wheels in her head spinning as she processed this influx of information. "Can you show me?" she finally asked.
I didn't want to, but I had a feeling that she'd plague me with questions, and really an example would be easier and more effective. I reached out with my ability, lightly testing the waters.
"Well," I hedged. "Do you feel sleepy right now?"
She needed a moment to think about it, before finally shaking her head. "Nope."
I tentatively released a slight wave of exhaustion, unsure if, like medication, her small frame would require only a small dose of the emotional push. Within moments she was rubbing her eyes, tucking the toes of her shoes under Edward's leg as her head lolled back onto the couch cushion. I reined in my influence just before sleep was eminent.
Despite my restraint she took several minutes to recover, smiling sleepily up at me as she yawned. "Wow, you're like a superhero! If someone wanted to rob a bank, you could just make them fall asleep. Cool."
She blinked tiredly, her lips parting several times as though she meant to speak, before she'd simply smack them and lapse back into silence.
"But… What if I don't want to feel sleepy?" She finally asked, turning to look at me almost accusingly, before setting the expression loose on Edward. "And what if there's stuff inside my brain that I don't want you to know about?" She asked the questions as though she already knew the answers and they were an affront to her delicate sensibilities.
Emmett snorted, shaking his head as he watched the three of us. "Welcome to the family, kid."
Edward had been struggling to suppress a smile, but it finally broke free as he idly touched the end of one of her loose curls.
"I do my best not to hear thoughts that others don't like me too."
She scowled, looking quite a bit like a disgruntled kitten in her sudden fit of self-righteous anger. "Do you do it on purpose?"
He shook his head. "No. I've tried to, on rare occasions, but it doesn't seem to work like that. It's more like…" He reached for the remote, pressing the power button before turning the volume down until it was little more than background noise. Bella immediately turned to the brightly colored cartoon characters, her attention easily diverted, but Edward placed a finger lightly beneath her chin and turned her face back to his. "The sound from the television? That's like the sound of other people's thoughts. Even though I'm talking to you, I can still hear it, and if I'm quiet, or I concentrate, I can understand it more clearly."
She snatched the remote out of his hands, pressing the power button purposefully. "Can't you just turn it off?"
"I wish it were that easy, Is… Bella. It's not something that I can turn off."
"Have you ever heard my brain before? I mean, not just the color thingy?"
He shook his head slowly and I felt a faint wave of chagrin from him.
The question gave him pause. Obviously he didn't want to blurt out the truth, which was because he'd despised her very presence in our lives and had avoided her at every turn, but she was obviously an intelligent child, so he'd have to make the lie believable. "Well, when you were a baby, your thoughts weren't quite as well formed as they are now, and I couldn't read them. And now, it just didn't seem polite to do so without permission."
It would've been a good excuse, if he hadn't just told her that he had absolutely no control of his ability. And perhaps with a child who hadn't been raised by a house full of quick-witted vampires, it'd still have worked. But judging by the concise clarity of her words and her lexicon, it was obvious that Carlisle had been teaching her personally. She bristled beside me.
"You know what else isn't polite, Edward?" By his shocked expression, he'd plucked the answer out of her head already. I was, however, quite curious as to what she was thinking that'd warrant that particular face. "Lying. Mommy says that lying is not a good thing to do at all." She frowned, something striking her suddenly. "Unless it's to keep our big secret."
Our big secret. That was a nice way of putting things.
"You're right, Bella. I'm sorry that I lied to you."
If he was hoping that his apology would end the discussion, he was sorely mistaken. Curiosity was surrounding the child like a bubble, the edges tinged with expectation. Edward capitulated with a heavy sigh.
"I've never had the opportunity to read your mind before now because I was never close enough to do so."
"Why?" she asked curiously.
"Because I was avoiding you."
"Because I didn't like you."
I could sense no malicious intent behind the words, he was just being honest with her, as she'd requested.
Emmett's low growl echoed throughout the room and he took a menacing step forward. I glanced at him in surprise. I'd known he was protective, but I'd yet to see firsthand just how much.
Bella smiled sweetly at him, revealing small gaps where she was missing several of her front teeth.
"It's okay, Emmett, sometimes the truth is not nice." She turned back to Edward. "Well, Edward, thank you for telling me the truth." She patted his arm, like she might a puppy's head, her little hand tapping against his marble skin. "Just so you know, I still love you." His words had incited a brief wave of hurt and confusion, but if there was one thing I'd learned in the past hour, it was that the child's emotions were dynamic, never lingering upon one for more than a few seconds. As quickly as the wound had appeared, it was patched with her enthusiasm and she turned to me excitedly.
"Jasper, can you teach me how to ride a horse? Alice says you used to be a real live cowboy!"
A cowboy? Alice and I were going to have a talk later.
"I don't know if you'd call me a cowboy, really," I replied stiffly, avoiding her question.
She saw right through my evasion.
"Do you know how to ride a horse?"
I shifted uncomfortably. "Well, yes."
She climbed up to her knees, clinging to my shirt as she brought her little face close to mine. Her breath smelled sweetly, and I didn't doubt for a second that Emmett had been sneaking her candy before dinner. She suddenly threw her warm arms around my neck and rested her chin on my shoulder. Her chocolate eyes widened and she peered up at me pleadingly.
"Please, please, Jasper, teach me how to ride a horse?"
It was right then, that very moment that I was lost. As she peered at me with such trust, such excitement, I realized why I'd felt so uncomfortable in her presence. Beneath the fleeting, fickle surface of her interchangeable emotions, one very prominent feeling lingered, never wavering.
She loved me. And Edward, and Emmett. Carlisle, Esme, Alice and Rosalie.
We were her family.
And though Edward and I had studiously avoided her for five years, we were her brothers, and she still selflessly offered us that unconditional familial love that we'd been denying her.
Edward must've picked up on my thoughts, as I felt an incredible wave of regret, followed swiftly by longing roll off of him. He suddenly stole the girl from me, setting her gently in his lap. She giggled, pleased by his sudden acceptance.
"What about the piano, Bella? Would you like to learn to play?"
Her eyes widened and she nodded, loosing a little squeal as she looked at Emmett. "Hear that, Em? I get to play the piano!"
"I hear that, Bells." Emmett was smiling indulgently and I could feel the tension caused by our previous dissention ease.
I scowled at Edward, reaching over and tugging Bella back to me, wrapping my arms lightly around her. I had to remember, she was still a human, a human child, and quite breakable at that.
"But first, you'll learn to ride a horse," I promised. I suddenly felt like I had a lot of time to make up for.
"Piano first," Edward argued, obviously feeling the same as I.
Suddenly Emmett was across the room, scooping the girl up to hold her by her ankles in the air.
"First, wrestling!" He declared with a booming laugh.
Panic flooded me. Whether from Emmett's actions or his words, I couldn't decide. Bella laughed, thrashing wildly against Emmett's hold and despite common sense arguing loudly against my sudden, irrational dread, all I could imagine was his hands slipping… Her fragile little skull, the floor.
I jerked to my feet, ripping her out of his grasp, just as Edward stood, I assumed, to do the same.
"Emmett! Be careful!" I admonished, cradling the child to my chest.
Edward fussed over her, tucking her hair neatly back into place with his cool hands, straightening her clothes, while Emmett just laughed and collapsed onto the couch, grabbing the abandoned remote.
It'd been the beginning of twelve wonderful years. We'd taught her everything we could, all of us.
Carlisle imparting his knowledge of science and logic; Esme her wonderful sense of compassion and love. Emmett had taught her what he could about sports (though the girl's inherent clumsiness made that a rather futile attempt. Poor Alice had tried (was still trying) to convince Bella that just because clothing was comfortable did not mean it was fashionable. Rosalie had reminded our sister everyday to appreciate her humanity. Edward had taught her of all things beautiful; music and art, books and poetry. And I…What had I brought to our relationship? I shook my head, unable to decipher any qualities in myself that I'd wish to instill in her.
I came to a halt, scowling. Maybe I'd be able to concentrate if that incessant thudding would stop for just a second, I thought irritably.
It took perhaps a millisecond for the significance of that beating to take hold in my quick, vampire mind, and I was ripping through the woods in search of its source.
Bella, Bella, Bella. I chanted silently as I neared the faltering, labored heart.
"Here!" I roared, my shout echoing like a thunder crack through the quiet forest.
And there she was.
Pale, still as death, she was curled onto her side in the underbrush. Her breathing was shallow, gasping and labored as it forced its way in and out of her lungs.
"Bella," I murmured brokenly, as the frantic steps of the others began to approach.
I dropped to my knees at her side, running my cool fingers over her forehead. She was burning to the touch, even more so than usual, and I jerked my hand away with a hiss.
Edward was next to arrive and he immediately leaned down to draw her into his arms. I halted him with a mute shake of my head.
Wait for Carlisle. If it's a neck or back injury…
He recoiled at the idea of hurting her further.
It felt like hours passed, as we waited for the others, though I knew it couldn't have been more than a few seconds. Rosalie burst through the trees, Emmet close behind, crying sharply, "Is she…?"
"She's alive," I hastily advised, "But something's wrong with her."
Rosalie gave a short pained gasp, and stumbled toward us. She knelt at Bella's head, leaning over the girl she'd come to think of not only as a little sister, but a daughter. Her distress was a palpable thing as she stroked Bella's forehead, whispering that it would be alright.
Emmett shifted from foot to foot, anxious for some way to help.
Alice slid in next to Emmett, her eyes flashing wildly, blank one moment, coherent the next. I frowned and glanced at Edward for help reading her.
What's up with Alice?
"The visions are changing. Rapidly. She can barely get a hold of them," he murmured, slipping his hand into Bella's.
Carlisle was suddenly at my side, kneeling beside Bella's prone form.
"What's wrong with her?" Emmett demanded.
"Give me a second, Emmett, and I'll tell you," Carlisle replied tersely. It was the closest to anger I'd ever felt him achieve with one of his children.
He ran his hands lightly over Bella, performing perfunctory examinations of the placement of her bones and organs.
"She's really warm," I declared, feeling rather foolish as soon as the words had left my mouth.
"Yeah, Jasper, she's alive," Emmett replied sarcastically.
I growled a low warning in his direction. Now was not the time.
Carlisle placed a hand lightly on one of Bella's pale cheeks, nodding slightly.
"Actually, Jasper, I think you're right. I can't be certain by touch, obviously, but she may have a fever. I don't think anything's broken." He reached down to take Bella in his arms, and Rosalie snarled softly. I was shocked by her bestial behavior toward Carlisle, but he just smiled gently and nodded, allowing Rosalie to gather Bella close. We stood, relieved to have found her alive, but all of us curious as to her condition and what had happened.
"We need to get her back to the house," Carlisle declared unnecessarily. Rose was already sprinting through the trees. I glanced at Edward worriedly.
What do you suppose is wrong?
He shrugged, shaking his head, before following swiftly on Rose's heels. The others filed after them, leaving me alone in the small clearing.
I cast my eyes to the ground where I'd found Bella, and a small silvery glint caught my eye. I knelt slowly, running my hand carefully over the matted grass, grasping at the metal that caught my sleeve. Straightening, I frowned at the delicate platinum bracelet dangling from my fingers, a single charm, the Cullen family crest shining gently in the moonlight.
I tucked the bauble in my pocket, sprinting after the others.
Bella would want it back when she awoke.
A/N: Yes, no, maybe? Give me a review and let me know. :)