Author's Note: Thanks to my faihful beta readers, Juliejuliejulie and Edward-Bella-Harry-Ginny!
Edward! Alice's "voice" attracted my attention. My siblings generally tried not to distract me when we were in separate classrooms. Well, Alice and Jasper made an effort because they knew it bothered me. Rosalie left me alone because she had nothing particular to say to me. Emmett was another matter. His favorite trick lately was to sing in his head— the more annoying the song, the better. I felt it was best not to tell him that sometimes even the worst song was preferable to the drivel coming from my teachers. Sophomore year was so elementary. But Alice sounded absolutely panicked. Automatically I became very still and focused, leaving only a small fraction of my attention for the room in which I sat. It was ridiculous of me to complain about the tedium when the alternative was stress and danger. Edward, did you catch that? She knew I couldn't answer. She couldn't even be positive I was listening to her. She reviewed the vision for my benefit, and my level of tension spiked even further.
Her vision was Jasper… with red eyes.
Where? When? Who? My mind immediately lit up with questions. I didn't have to ask why. We all knew Jasper's struggle was exceptionally difficult. How certain was this future? How was it going to happen? It didn't matter. We had been warned. It was Alice's and my job to prevent the tragedy and keep our family safe—safe from the guilt and from the curiosity that might draw truly lethal attention to us. We have to talk. Meet me at my locker… No! She interrupted herself in aggravation. I saw, along with her, that the vice principal would notice us there and send us back to our classes. In front of the girls' bathroom on the second floor. We paused for a moment to see whether this strategy would work. I'm on my way, Alice assured me, as I raised my hand and requested permission to step out of class.
I don't see anyone coming across us here, but just in case: I feel sick, you saw me and you're checking if I'm okay. I nodded to acknowledge her story as I came around the corner to find her watching for me, leaning against the wall in the attitude of a person who wasn't feeling well. I put my hand on her shoulder, the image of the concerned brother. Under cover of these poses, we carried out a rapid conversation.
"Something must happen. We should leave before it does," I said. "As soon as possible." I was already thinking about what excuse we might give for a sudden departure in the middle of February. A job offer for Carlisle was the most plausible lie. It had worked before.
"No," she moaned. "I don't want Jasper to know about his slip. Please, don't tell anyone. Let's find out more. You and I will figure out who, where and when, and we'll prevent it, without his ever knowing."
"Alice!" I objected. It was an unconscionable risk to all concerned, particularly Jasper's future victim.
"Please, Edward. Just think about it." My brother's image dominated her mind. He looked feral.
"But all you can see is his eyes," I argued. "It's not enough information."
She made a supreme effort to look ahead and widen her focus beyond Jasper's face and the incontrovertible evidence of his actions blazing scarlet in his eyes. It took almost a minute of intense concentration on the vision, but she did catch another detail of the scene.
"It's not yet," she pointed out with relief. "There's no snow on the ground like today. We have time, a few days at least, probably more. It might not even be until spring. Please, please let's try to stop this ourselves. If we can't, then we'll think about our other options."
She hadn't convinced me, but I agreed that immediate action was not required. "We'd better get back to class. We'll talk more later. What are you going to tell Jasper? He'll know you're upset."
She took a deep breath. "I'll tell him I saw us leaving Forks. It's not even a lie. We will have to move on in a year or two at the most. People are already wondering, aren't they? Carlisle does not look like he's in his thirties." She gave me a rueful smile as we headed back to where we were supposed to be.
Luckily, Emmett had challenged Jasper to a rock-climbing contest that evening, and Rosalie had vowed to best both of them. We continued the discussion in my room, with the stereo on to mask our conversation from Esme. Alice sat on the couch with her arms clasped tightly around her knees. She looked very tense. Her mind was full of love and worry for Jasper and concern for the impact on the rest of us.
"The best way to solve the problem is by moving," I declared. "And that would be fine with me. I've always thought it was risky to come back here. The Quileutes knew about us. They may have forgotten. Or they may have forgotten that they made an agreement not to tell."
"I don't mind leaving exactly. I just don't want Jasper to feel that he's failed again. He's made such great progress. It's been years. If he makes a mistake, he'll feel so terrible." Alice was remembering the last time Jasper killed a human. For months he'd been ashamed and bitterly furious with himself. "He'll want to run away. You know he sometimes feels like he doesn't belong with Carlisle and the rest of you. If he finds out or even guesses that he's the problem, he might insist that the two of us go, for a while at least. I can't have that."
I didn't want that either. I loved Emmett and I had to admit I was attached to Rosalie, but the three of us had made a rather awkward trio before Alice and Jasper showed up. At first I had been afraid that the addition of another perfectly matched pair to the household would only further emphasize my solitary state. In some ways, it did. But despite the way the two of them were locked together, they had time and attention to lavish on me. I felt Alice and Jasper needed me and understood me in ways the others didn't. Our gifts complemented each other. Jasper's experience of the world and Alice's exuberance had changed our family and enriched my life beyond measure. Of course I'd try to do as she asked, for my own sake as well as theirs.
"He must come across someone while hunting," I reasoned. "What if I go with you from now on? I can hear humans in the vicinity and help you restrain him if he does catch the scent."
"Jasper won't be too happy about that," she said quietly. "It's our private time."
"Alice, we're trying to avert a tragedy," I reminded her gently.
"I know," she sighed. "Yes, you should come along. It's the right thing to do. But I don't think this is the answer." She was usually so ebullient. I wasn't accustomed to seeing her with such a troubled expression. "The vision hasn't changed. Your accompanying us doesn't make the difference."
"Why would that be?" I pondered out loud. "One possibility is that Jasper attacks a human while we're hunting and my being there doesn't stop it. That could happen if we're not close enough or strong enough to hold him back."
"Or it's not while we're hunting," Alice said.
"But in that case, when? And how are we going to prevent it? We can't literally be at his side every moment."
"I don't know," she wailed. "I hate not knowing. Jasper is about to be involved in something awful, and that's all I can see!" Her mind was full of the same alarming vision. "I need to be able to figure this out," she said with determination. "You are going to help me, aren't you, Edward?"
"Yes," I promised her. "I'll do everything I can."
But we had no brilliant ideas as to how to prevent what we couldn't predict. We sat together for many long minutes. Alice was too worried to be very creative.
"Alice, listen," I said finally. "Maybe we are going about this the wrong way."
"What do you mean?"
"We've been trying to figure out where and when Jasper slips up."
"Yes, Edward, that is what we've been doing," she replied with admirable patience.
"Let's try a different angle. Let's try to guess what happened today to give you the vision."
"How does that help? Maybe today someone decided to go for a hike this weekend that is going to put them in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"Yes, if that's the case, it doesn't get us any further," I agreed. "What I mean is, there is an element of premeditation. If someone had an accident in front of Jasper, if, say, Lauren Mallory cut her finger in the cafeteria, he might attack."
"Lauren Mallory!" she scoffed. "She wouldn't be much of a loss."
I chuckled. "Granted. But you know Carlisle persuaded me long ago that it's wrong for us to harm humans no matter how dreadful they are. Anyway, my point is, something like that could happen, and it would be a random event. There would be no warning, and we probably couldn't stop him. It can't be anything like that because you've had a vision days in advance."
"I see what you're saying."
"You predicted it, so it's not completely unpredictable."
"So we need to think of what someone could have decided earlier today that is going to lead to Jasper's mistake." She sounded doubtful.
"Carlisle's home now," I told her. "Let's ask him if there's anything new at the hospital."
She frowned. "We agreed not to tell yet. It can't be anything at the hospital. We never go anywhere near there."
"Carlisle interacts with a lot more people than we do. We only come into contact with people at school. We'll just chat."
Alice dragged her feet heading down the stairs. "Be more cheerful," I muttered. "I thought you were a better actress than that." She glared at me—I am a good actress and I don't need direction from you!— but she did put a bounce in her step.
"Carlisle!" she sang, skipping up to throw her arms around him.
"Hello, Alice," he smiled warmly at her. He nodded at me in greeting. "Edward."
"How was your day?" she inquired.
He sighed. "Two new cases of pneumonia. I hope they make it. And Chief Swan…" his voice trailed off. I saw the reason why in his thoughts. He was remembering the chief escorting a young woman, barely out of her teens, into the emergency room. Her face was slick with tears and she had a black eye.
"What is it?" Alice asked gently.
"I treated a patient who was assaulted by her partner," he said heavily. "We had to document her injuries carefully. There were older contusions and healed fractures." I saw the scans in his mind as he reflected on them, and I concurred with his diagnosis.
"Oh, Carlisle, I'm sorry," my sister cried.
"It happens," he said. "At least these days the police and the community are willing to do something about it. The chief said they're going to hold another self-defense workshop in the spring."
"It sounds like a tough day," I contributed.
He sighed. I did what I could, he reminded himself. I'm home now, and I'm not going to dwell on work. "Oh, by the way, the Red Cross is planning a blood drive in Port Angeles on the 19th next month."
Alice's eyes widened. This must be it! "We'll be sure to steer clear," she assured our father. "I'll tell the others." She was hugely relieved.
"Did they just decide to do this?" I asked.
He shook his head. "It's an annual event. I don't think I mentioned it before. Last year we already had plans that weekend to meet our cousins in British Columbia."
"Did they choose the date today?"
Why is he so interested? "No, I think it's always the third Saturday. How about you two, anything special happen today?"
But Alice was tugging on my hand. "Nope," she said. "Edward, let's go back upstairs and listen to the rest of that CD." You were so right to talk to Carlisle! We did it! I shrugged in farewell to Carlisle as she dragged me away. Carlisle smiled at our sudden decampment. None of us can resist Alice.
"This might not be it," I cautioned her. "It doesn't seem like anything happened today to trigger the vision."
Ignoring me, Alice flew up the stairs and turned the stereo on, but when she turned back around, her mood had shifted again. No! No, no, no! The image of Jasper and his gleaming red eyes was as clear as ever.
"It's still happening," she said desperately.
"Maybe it's not enough for us to know about this. Jasper hasn't changed his course yet. Call him and tell him; maybe that will do the trick."
"That could be it," she said eagerly. "I was just hoping so much that our worries were over." I straightened my CDs while she quickly contacted her husband and extracted a promise from him that they would devote that entire weekend to perusing the shipment of out-of-print books that she told him would be arriving. "There," she announced. "He can't go near the blood drive, and he won't encounter anyone who…." She didn't complete the sentence, and her expression abruptly switched from satisfied to crestfallen. The vision was still flashing unchanged in her mind.
Snow still covered the landscape as we headed to school in the morning. Alice was jittery, but the others simply saw her natural high energy. Before Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie returned home (with Rosalie the victor), we had discussed the matter thoroughly. We were certain there were at least a few days until the incident. It was disappointing that the blood drive wasn't the key to Jasper's downfall, but we weren't ready to admit defeat. We pledged to keep our eyes and ears open and our thinking caps on. We'd take another crack at solving the puzzle after school. And, of course, Alice had not neglected to place an order for rare books— a collection on Roman architecture and city planning, one of the many interests she and Jasper shared— to be delivered around the middle of next month.
Alice and Jasper shared a long look before parting to make their separate ways to homeroom. To give them some privacy, I turned my attention to the noise streaming from the building. In addition to the noise of footsteps, greetings and lockers slamming, it was an absolute cacophony of the thoughts of hungry, sleepy, grumpy, bored and boring children. The only topics ever on their minds were lunch, television and groping each other. Here and there the teachers were getting ready to face the day. We'll see how they do on the quiz… The unit on the quadratic equation is always fun... I shouldn't have had so many drinks last night…
"Almost time for the bell," I reminded the others. Alice finally broke eye contact with her husband and began walking with me. He doesn't suspect anything, does he?
"No," I reassured her. We took our seats with a few moments to spare. Alice Cullen could be cute if she didn't have that weird hair sticking up all over the place. Ugh. I pinched the bridge of my nose. I did not want to listen to Mike Newton. Mmmm, Edward looks so yummy in that white shirt. Or Jessica Stanley! Yummy? It was no metaphor to me. If she ever got as close as she fantasized, I probably would find her blood very tasty. I really needed to focus on something else. But Alice's mind contained only worry and that horrifying image. I tried to pick out the teachers again, to drown out the thoughts from the children surrounding me.
Why am I always the one brewing coffee for the office… I'll need to order applicators and lancets... I hope they've done the reading this time... Lancets? That wasn't the school nurse. It was a man's voice, not immediately familiar. It must be a teacher I hadn't had yet. It'll be a neat little project, connecting lab work to the real world. And maybe even doing some good at the same time. I'm glad I came across this lesson plan yesterday. It was Mr. Banner, Rosalie, Emmett and Jasper's biology teacher. He was reading over the instructions for an exercise he was planning for the junior class.
"Alice," I hissed, very quietly. She looked at me anxiously, braced for trouble. I nodded at her with a hopeful expression. You found something out? I nodded again and rapidly wrote her a note.
Yesterday, Jasper's biology teacher decided to have the kids draw their own blood and type it. I'll find out which day and Jasper can stay home, or go home sick if I only get a few hours warning.
She read my words in a flash, but she read them again to be sure she understood. Edward, I think this is it!
I looked at her intently, and she knew what I was asking. We could communicate so well. Have we done enough to change the future? She concentrated, trying to get a glimpse of Jasper. We saw his face light up with a smile just a few hours from now, as we approached the table where he sat in the cafeteria. We saw him avidly flipping through the pages of one of the texts Alice had ordered. The vision of him as a killer was gone. Edward, you did it! She was overjoyed.
It was time to head to our first classes, but Alice pulled me aside, out of the flow of students. Her voice was too quiet for anyone else to catch, and her laughter was giddy with relief. "Remember you said Jasper would attack if Lauren Mallory cut herself in front of him!"
"Well, it won't be Lauren. She's in our class, not his. But yes, they are all going to slice their fingers open." It was bizarre, ironic, downright hilarious that humans who were in the peculiar and precarious position of living unharmed amidst vampires would seem to go to special lengths to tempt us.
She shuddered. "Fresh, flowing blood. I don't know how Carlisle can stand it."
"Me neither. I know he says it's easy if you have something interesting and important to focus on, like the patient's condition, but that doesn't explain anything. Nothing is more interesting than blood."
"Nothing," she agreed. "Edward, I don't know what to say. Thank you. What if Jasper had made us leave the family?"
"You don't need to thank me. I don't want that to happen any more than you do. I did it for myself."
"Or we would all have to go," she continued, pursuing the pointless hypothetical.
"Like I said, that's no big deal."
"Silly!" she scolded. "Forks is a very nice place to live. Good things are going to happen for us here." For you, my helpful, brilliant brother.
I grinned. My sister was certainly an optimist. "And you know this how? I know you aren't seeing it."
"I don't have to see it to believe it," she replied pertly. Everyone should be as happy as I am right now. "It's karma."
Author's Note: Thank goodness Edward figured it out and they didn't have to leave Forks! I'd love to know if you enjoyed my story.