A/N: Emmett, Edward and Jasper are three legs of a tripod - brothers. When one them unexpectedly faces potential tragedy, they need each other's support to overcome it. Esme and Carlisle will potentially feature a lot here as well. The girls will potentially come in as secondary characters. All human.
Again, I'm indebted to SM for making these characters. They are hers, I am merely having fun with them (hah.)
Tripod (n) middle English, derived from the Latin word – tripod – tripus, meaning three footed.
Chapter 1: Coming Home
I remembered Emmett telling me this, years ago when we were still all skinny and gangly awkward teens. For the dumb jock attitude he was known for – in the past, at present and would most likely continue in the future, he was quite spot on about this. We were a tripod. At the risk of sounding gay, we needed each other to survive. Three lost boys growing up together as brothers. Together, we somehow balanced each others' negative and positive qualities. Alone, we would have been too self destructive for our own good.
I stepped out of the plane and took a lungful of crisp Washington air. The heaviness in my chest did not dissipate. If anything it's grown heavier.
A couple more hours and I'd be where I needed to be. I needed to be home, so I could think. Things would make sense there. In New York, everything was, just – became – too much too soon. I couldn't process anything. 56 hours ago, my mind went on overload. To say I had been running on adrenaline since wouldn't be too far from the truth.
2 more hours.
I thought of Esme and Carlisle – my parents for all intents and purposes. I was adopted. Just like my brothers were. I became a Cullen when I was 4, the last one to enter the household. Emmett came first. He was 3 years old and Edward came next - he was 1; that was a few months after Emmett. A year and a half later, they found me in some orphanage in Texas. When I came, mom deemed the family was finally complete.
We looked so different from each other, my brothers and I.
At Christmas dinner last year it occurred to Emmett to ask mom and dad if they were trying to make their own little rainbow nation out of us when they chose us. Emmett had dark features – dark brown hair, dark brown eyes. Edward had the European thing going with his emerald green eyes, Hellenistic nose and weird bronze hair. Me? – I was the classic American boy - blond hair, blue eyes shit.
We had a good laugh at that. Emmett and his amazing power of observation. Who knew?
But secretly though, I reckoned we were picked because of our pale countenance. They probably thought we looked too sickly, weren't being fed properly or that we didn't get to see enough sun. Mom and dad were sitting ducks when it came to stuff like that – their personal brand of heroin. Saving oprhaned kids. Too late – even after we outgrew our gangly stick legs and filled out, the paleness stayed. Our common denominator.
You're digressing. How long do you think you can run?
I hadn't told any of them. Not a call or email. Nothing. I knew I should probably do that soon. Emmett was going to be checking on me as he always did every week or so. And I'd ring Edward and Bella every week or so myself. It was funny how we had managed to somehow create this "checking up on your brother" thing between us. I supposed it came with the territory, we were a close knitted family after all.
I thought of ways to blurt the news to my parents.
Would they be partial to me crashing their home for some time? As much as they loved us kids, we raised hell in that house for pretty much our entire childhood and adolescent years and I knew they were secretly relieved when we finally left for college.
Maybe I should have drafted that speech in the airplane.
Fucking hell. Why not throw in a eulogy while you're at it...
"Where to?" The cab driver asked me as I got into the back passenger seat, my two duffel bags securely stored in the boot of the car.
"Forks please," I leaned over and gave him the full address and directions quickly before leaning back onto the tatty seat. 2 more hours to draft my speech, arrange my thoughts. I sighed, one calloused finger reaching up to pinch the bridge of my nose. I rearranged my glasses again. Too tired. I rested my head against the headrest and let my mind wander instead to green seas and blue skies. Fly me to the moon.
Run, run as fast as you can…you can't outrun me..
When I arrived, it was almost three in the afternoon. Thank the heavens it wasn't raining, even if the air still felt a little too chilly. My body gave a slight shiver as I quickly made my way up the long driveway leading to our 2 storey 6 bedroom family home at the edge of Forks County.
I rang the doorbell and waited. The heavy oak bolted door opened slowly and I caught sight of the beautiful brown haired, doe eyed Italian descent woman I lovingly call my mother.
"Hi mom," I said ruefully as my traitorous hand unconsciously found its way back to my already unkempt curls. A Cullen trait. We messed our hair when we got nervous. Never quite got it why girls always seemed to find our sorry excuse for a bird's nest err...sex hair worthy? If they knew what it really stood for. Nervous - mess hair. Nervous - mess hair. Cullen style social survival skill. Worked every time.
Mom's voice was tinged with shock then surprise and then joy. All that emotion – in a matter of seconds. I couldn't help but grin. I'd forgotten how we used to love surprising her. Before I even registered it, she – the slim tiny woman, all 5 '6" of her, had pretty much pulled me into a tight-lock embrace.
"You're choking me…." I coughed teasingly but leaned in regardless to return her warm welcome, inhaling the all too familiar scent of rosemary lingering on her. Mom always had green fingers.
I caught the tiny bit of a frown on her face when she did a quick once over of me. I ignored it, carrying my bags to the lounge instead before dropping my weary self onto the couch. Already the fatigue was overtaking my will to stay awake. Distantly, I heard mom asking me if I wanted coffee and I thought I said yes, but in my addled – brain state, I couldn't quite recall what I said. I suppose when you have been sleep deprived for over a period of time, when the Chinese sandman finally offers you the rest you need, it's all you can do to take him up for it.
"Jasper?" I called out to him as I prepared the coffee. He muttered about something I did not hear. Something about Chinese sandman?
I brushed him off and made the coffee anyway. He'd probably need it. By the time I arrived with my coffee and cake offering, I was too late. My son was already sleeping. I shook my head and placed the coffee and dish on the table. If he had his way, he would wake up with a serious kink in his neck. I took his shoes off and gently guided his body to lie on the couch properly. My questions could wait till the evening. If the dark circles under his eyes were any indication, the boy probably hadn't been getting nearly enough rest. My thoughts flitted to Carlisle. I smiled. At least we'd have something different to talk about this evening. I leaned down and kissed my boy's head lightly and hurried on to make the call.
I woke up to the sound of whirring noise in the distance and a slight chill seeping into my bones.
How long had I been asleep? For a second I thought I was back in my tiny apartment in New York. Then it dawned on me that I was actually sleeping or was sleeping on the old family couch – newly re-upholstered. A tiny smile crept on my face despite the heaviness I was feeling. Mom and her never ending home improvements. Her touches was what made home 'home'.
"Mom?" I called out, cringing inwardly at how groggy I sounded. Checking my watch I mentally noted I must have slept for 4 hours straight. I was that tired. Deciding it was probably better to get myself cleaned up first; I took the stairs two at a time and landed in my old room; then noticed my bags were sitting on the foot of my bed, already unpacked. Chuckling softly at the busy bee who had done the unpacking for me, I quickly discarded my clothes and jumped into the shower, knowing supper would be ready soon. Previously, this would have been an activity I didn't mind taking my time with; the running water and the act of cleaning itself have always had a soothing, calming effect to my mind and body; but no longer. I rushed through it, while all the time keeping my eyes leveled to the front or looking up towards the ceiling. Distracted myself by scrutinizing the surrounding tile work, even focused on the needle sized holes on the shower head as water rained out of them systematically. I was watching everything and anything but the constellation of purplish bruises painting my torso, my hip, behind my legs. When they first appeared, I hadn't been too concerned; somehow knowing what they represented now made them the devil. And I was scared to face the devil.
You're a fucking pussy. Running is futile. You know this.
I dried myself just as quickly and threw on a pair of sweatpants and an Old Navy - T before heading downstairs again.
My timing fitted perfectly with dad's arrival. He didn't look nearly as shocked as mom did when I first appeared on the doorstep. Mom must have pre-warned him. We hugged, exchanged greetings and sat down for dinner. I was suddenly famished and had seconds of everything. Most probably my subconscious mind trying to compensate me for the coming weeks and months because it knew I wouldn't be able to hold much food down for quite some time once this whole shit started. I heard chemo did nasty shit to your system.
You said it – chemo. Poison whiskey. What did Dr. Gray say? Acceptance is key?
Mom suggested we take our dessert and coffee in the lounge. That only meant one thing; we were going to go right into the business of me being here.
I had to say, I was impressed. They'd been pretty patient and accommodating so far. Nothing too personal yet, just asked about about school and general stuff and I answered them as best I could. I was into semester 2 of my writing masters in NYU. It was the middle of semester now and I had pretty much up and left without so much as telling the department I needed leave. Mom and dad were probably going to ask about that. Having done my first degree in Calif with my brothers, I decided to venture out on my own this time. Did pretty well, my dissertation received accolade and I was accepted by merit into the brilliant program in NYU. Edward was in medical school – slowly earning his way to be a surgeon like dad. Emmett was now based in Texas, working with a large multinational corp since he graduated summa cum laude from business school. That dumb-jock persona was merely a front to get the girls.
"So….." Dad's voice brought me back to the present.
I felt myself cringe. The eagle swoops down for the killing.
"You want to tell us why you've returned to good ol' Forks in the middle of semester?" Dad went. Despite the tiny curl of a smile on his lips, I knew I didn't stand a chance. He was eyeing me like a hawk was eyeing his prey.
I felt a lump forming in my throat. The coffee mug was still in my hands, the heat failing to melt the icy numbness spreading through my fingers and arms.
Better put it somewhere safe boy. Won't want to spill coffee on Esme's persians do we?
I replaced the mug on the table. When did my hands get all clammy?
"Jasper… are you in some kind of a problem?"
"I..uhh," I stuttered on my tongue.
Fuck Fuckity Fuck. I should have written that draft - eulogy –shit.
I knew that smile was merely a façade, if his immediate question was any clue.
"Are you doing drugs son?"
The words spilled out uneasily. His voice had come out a little harder than was usual. I was torn between wanting to laugh or feel affronted that that had been his first assumption. It didn't surprise me though.
The way you're looking right now…it would be a bigger surprise if he didn't..
From the corner of my eyes, I saw mom's tiny hand reach out for his, squeezing it tightly.
Silence answered him.
It didn't take long for the same question to ring in my ears again.
"Are you? Doing drugs?" His voice hardened a fraction more. Memories not too long ago flitted and floated into my head briefly even as I tried to acknowledge the peculiar, gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was a giggle.
Drugs... not yet but soon. I'll be downing them like chicken soup dad. And this time, you'll want me to.
I hadn't intended to laugh. But it sounded too funny – the irony of it, I couldn't help myself. It only served to make the frown on Dad's forehead deepen even more. He probably thought I was high now. I felt another giggle coming and furiously held it in. I must be mental.
After what had seemed an awfully long time, even though it was only a minute or so - I took a deep breath and tried to look at them in the eyes. But I chickened out and settled for second best and focused on the potted plant behind them instead.
"I have some bad news.." ~Rumble. Dark clouds.~
Dad recoiled. Mom inhaled and didn't let go. The funny feeling was all gone now. I felt all cold and heavy again.
Heart. Shatter. Pain. Shards. Break.
"I don't know how to say this," I stammered; gulped down the feeling that was now lodged in my throat.
"There's no good way of saying this….." ~Heavy, heavy dark clouds.~
"Jasper..." Dad hissed.
Say it. Say it.
"Cancer...I have cancer."
My voice was barely a whisper.
The silence was deafening.
I wanted them to say something, anything. I couldn't take the silence now because I could hear the heavy rumbling of the clouds as they closed in. Fast. Just then, I made the horrendous mistake of looking into mom's face. I saw her perfect porcelain feature scrunch up tightly into a ball of pain and in my mind's eye shatter into the tiniest shards of broken clay. My heart broke.
~The pregnant storm cloud opened its belly; unleashed its fury. Utter destruction in its wake~
Run. Run damnit!
I wrenched myself away from them.
I only got as far as the bottom of the stairs before it dawned on me that it was the first time I had acknowledged it, said it OUT loud to myself. Even though it was barely a whisper.
Acceptance is key? Then why am I fucking shit scared still?
Emmett had his career, Edward was earning his Dr title – Me? I had death staring at my face.
You're dying. Twenty two and your light is already extinguishing.
I didn't want to cry. Crying only made it more certain. But the heaviness residing in my heart had gotten too heavy now. It hurt. Everything hurt. And the freaking broken dam won't let up.
I felt their hands reaching for me, turning me around. Warm strong arms pulling me into a hug, wanting to suffocate the pain flaring full blast in my chest now. Dad's chin resting on my messy excuse of a nest hair, mumbling incoherent words meant to soothe me. Mom's tears running down my back as her tiny hands clutched at my arms, desperately trying to hang on.
At that moment, I realized something else. It wasn't just me hurting anymore. It wasn't just me dying. It was them too.
A new pain flared inside of me.
They – my parents, didn't deserve this.
Constructive comments are duly appreciated!