Please see first chapter for disclaimer, rating, warnings, pairings, etc.
Author's Note: Sorry it's taken me so long to get this chapter out -- my muse decided to be fickle for a while, and I admit I was fighting it because I wanted to save this chapter for later, but I finally realized that it works best here. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and have a safe, great, Happy New Year!
Me and Jasper somewhere in Connecticut, January 18, 1954
"See you all later!"
I looked up, smiling as my niece tore out the front door happily, her werewolf right behind her. She loved being able to go out in the sun, even though it kept the rest of us indoors. Her enthusiasm was infectious -- or perhaps that was Jasper, who gazed after Nessie with a grin on his face, caught up in her enthusiasm.
Leaning over, I gently buried my fingers in his blond hair. "Maybe we should go out, too. It's been a long time since we've enjoyed the sun, just the two of us." Raising my eyebrows slightly, I smiled winningly at him.
Leaning his head back against my knees, he smiled back and shrugged. "Sure. Where do you want to go?"
I clapped, then reached for our album with one hand as I reached for his hand with the other. "We'll find somewhere!"
We told Carlisle and Esme, the only two left in the house, of our plans, then left. In silent agreement, we ran through the woods in an ever-northward direction, waiting to find the perfect place that would draw from our memories, while at the same time help us develop new ones.
As we ran, I allowed my mind to wander back to Jasper's and my album. From the tenor of his emotions, Jasper was doing the same…
A fresh blanket of white covered the ground as Jasper and I wandered through the woods. We had forever, after all, so there was no need for us to hurry.
Something had been nagging at the back of my mind for a while, begging to be asked. I had even Seen myself asking Jasper a few times, but I'd always chickened out at the last minute. This time, before I could do so again, I came out and asked him. "Will you teach me how to fight?"
Jasper stopped abruptly, eyes darkening as he stared at me. It was the first time I'd seen his expression go black, dangerous; the first time I'd had a taste in person of what his life had been like before I'd met him. Seeing it in a vision and seeing it in person were two entirely different things.
"Why would you want to learn something like that?" he asked. His voice was sharp and stinging, like a whip.
I could never remember feeling nervous, at least not around Jasper, but now I was. He didn't scare me, and I was sure he never would. But he did intimidate me, just a little. "Not everyone out there is as friendly as we are," I pointed out. "We're bound to meet some unfriendly vampires in our time. I'd like to know how to protect myself." And you. I didn't dare say the last, afraid he'd think I was insinuating that he couldn't take care of himself.
Hurt flashed through him and into me. "You don't think I can take care of you?" he asked quietly.
"That's not it at all!" I cried. "As much as I hope we'll never leave each other, I know there might be times when we separate for some reason or another, and I don't know what to do if someone attacks me. You do."
Jasper turned away from me for a moment, staring into the distance with unfocused eyes. For the first time I could remember, I wished I could read his mind instead of his future actions. I had little doubt that he was revisiting his past in those few stone-silent moments. Only a moment after I Saw Jasper teaching me in a snow-filled clearing, he said, "All right. I'll show you a few things."
I allowed him to take my hand and lead me along. Smiling encouragingly at him, I followed, not daring to say something for fear of his changing his mind. He'd told me a few things about his past, but only little things. I knew he was keeping the most violent, dangerous parts to himself. I wondered if he'd ever tell me his entire story.
A few minutes later we stood in the center of the clearing I'd Seen. Jasper positioned me directly in the center, then paced slowly back and forth a few feet away. "The most important thing to learn when fighting is to follow your -- baser instincts," he said, somewhat hesitantly. His eyes cut quickly in my direction, to see if I understood the hidden meaning behind his words.
Nodding encouragingly, I made sure my expression was eager but not too eager.
"If you give yourself over to your more animalistic instincts, you might be surprised how much comes to you naturally," he said. A ghostly smile hinted at his lips. "This will probably come even easier to you since you're psychic," he said. "Perhaps you can't directly pick my moves out of my head, but you can See what I'm going to do before I do it. I'll only have to teach you a few moves." There was signs of relief in his eyes when he said that.
I swallowed back my disappointment, surprised at how fierce it was. I'd gone into it believing what I'd said, but then I realized that I also wanted to do this because I wanted desperate to understand, to somehow connect with, Jasper's past. Perhaps someday I'd tell him that, when he knew me better.
"All right," he said, drawing in a deep breath. With narrow eyes he studied me, top to bottom, as if trying to figure out how to best utilize my strengths and weaknesses.
"I'm stronger than I look," I supplied helpfully.
This time his smile was bigger, and stayed on his face longer. "I know," he said. "Oh, believe me, I know that. I'm just trying to figure out how you can best use your size to your advantage. Since you're so small, it will be easy for you to slip away from your attacker--"
"I thought you were going to teach me how to defend myself!" I said, aghast.
"Sometimes flight is a better choice," Jasper said darkly. "Believe me."
I watched him quietly, waiting for him to explain that remark or let it pass. I didn't want to push him.
"I'll come at you slowly at first. When I do, duck and spin, all right? You'll go directly under my arm and around behind me." Jasper shifted into a crouch, his lips slightly drawn back from his teeth.
Standing silent and still in the middle of the clearing, I watched as Jasper lunged for me. Even though he was going slowly for him, I knew, he was moving faster than I'd expected.
The answer to my question was there before my mind could even ask it. I dropped into a deep crouch, spinning aside in the snow as Jasper overshot me. Allowing myself to get caught up in the moment, I used my momentum and the position of my legs as a spring to launch myself onto his back.
Jasper had obviously not been expecting me to catch on that quickly. He reeled slightly, falling forward onto his face in the snow, me perched on his back like a bird.
"Ha!" I cried triumphantly, leaping off his back so I could roll him over. I grinned down into his startled face.
"How did you know to do that?" he asked breathlessly.
I shrugged. "I did like you told me, gave in to my baser instincts. It seemed like a good move…" I stopped, suddenly unsure of myself.
Reaching up, Jasper grasped my shoulder and pulled me down so I was lying in the snow next to him. I let out a squawk of disapproval and surprise, a complaint about my clothes immediately rising to my lips. But the smile on Jasper's face -- so innocent and loving, innocent and trusting, made me stop. His entire front was white with snow, flakes even clinging to his eyelashes. His hair looked white instead of honey blond.
I blinked a few times, surprised at the strength of the emotions welling up inside me. Jasper and I had kissed before, but we'd never said those three little words to each other. Even if I didn't know for sure, I had a strong inkling that he felt the same way toward me as I did toward him. But I had no guarantee that his feelings were as strong as mine.
But at that moment, that didn't even matter to me. Instead, I flung myself at him, flopping across his chest as my arms wound around his neck. "I love you!" I declared steadily, planting a determined kiss on his lips, which were parted in surprise.
At that moment, the sun appeared from behind the clouds. The ice in the trees sparkled, the snow all around us sparkled, and Jasper's and my skin sparkled. Jasper smiled widely up at me, reached out the few feet to where my camera case rested atop my suitcase, then tugged me close to his side and held up the camera so it pointed directly toward us. "I love you too," he whispered just before the flash went off.
Jazz and I had been through a lot since that day. He'd opened up more to me about his past, he'd taught me more about how to defend myself, we'd fallen deeper in love every day and cemented it with the single wedding we'd ever had or would have. But at that moment, as we once more lay side-by-side in the snow, staring up into the crisp blue sky, I was thankful that despite how much we had changed, our togetherness hadn't, and wouldn't.
As I leaned over to press a kiss to Jasper's jaw, his hand slipped into the pocket of my coat and withdrew the small digital camera I'd put there earlier. Just as my lips met his skin, he captured the picture on film, our hearts, our minds, and for our album.
And the peace and happiness I felt radiating from him was like never before. This is what we lived for, together.
~End Chapter 6~
Huge thanks goes out to my reviewers for the last chapter: SmileyRi, drasticbarbie, bookworm19065, Eri 'n' Ali, sockmonkeyninja, and fantasyfreak12 for all your lovely reviews!