"For the Love of Jasper" One-Shot Contest

Title: Pen-pals

Pen name: Calliope Jones

Existing work: N/A

Primary Players: Jasper and Alice

Disclaimer: All characters owned by Stephanie Meyer.

To see other entries in the "For the Love of Jasper" contest, please visit the C2:
www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/community/For_the_Love_of_Jasper_Contest/72564/


Six months. He had six month left in this brutal god-forsaken place. Six more months of heat and sand, of blazing sun and scorching wind. Six more of skirmishes and looking over his shoulder and losing men.

When he got back to the states, he decided, he was going to move somewhere with rain and trees. No more heat. He loved Texas, had grown up there, joined the army there, but he hoped that a change of scenery would make his transition from soldier to civilian easier.

He might be one of the youngest officers here, but he was old enough to know that what he'd seen here and done here wouldn't easily leave his mind. And the things he'd felt here would never go away.

Sitting on his cot inside a sweltering tent, Jasper closed his eyes and pictured green trees and cool air.

"Yo. Mail call." A deep voice called out.

He opened his eyes, pinning the big man ducking through the tent flaps a look that would have terrified most other people. The hulking figure just laughed, flinging an envelope onto the cot beside Jasper.

"What's this?" Jasper demanded. He didn't bother correcting the lack of proper respect. Emmett and he had gone through Basic together and the big man had promised he'd never let Jasper's rank go to his head.

"Mail for you buddy." Emmett responded, coming further into the tent.

"Mail. For me." Jasper replied dryly. Everyone knew that Major Whitlock didn't get mail. Ever.

He picked up the envelope and glanced at it. It was addressed to 'a soldier' and came from one of those pen-pal services.

He snorted and let it drop. "A pen-pal? Are you serious?"

Emmett crossed his arms over his massive chest. "Look, man. You need to have some contact with the outside world."

Jasper frowned. "And you think exchanging banal missives with a bored housewife is the way to go?"

"You don't know that it's a housewife," Emmett pointed out. "It could be a Playboy bunny for all you know."

"Right. Whatever." Jasper gave him the finger. "Go away."

He tried to ignore the envelope lying on his cot after Emmett left.

Tried really hard.

But it was like a glowing beacon on the olive drab blanket, calling him with a siren song.

What could it hurt, he thought. He could take a look at it. That didn't mean he'd have to answer it. He waited until the day was over, until he was lying down, the tent lit by dim lantern light. Then he slid a finger under the flap of the envelope and tore it ope. He slipped out a single folded sheet of paper.

Hello Stranger.

It's an amazingly beautiful day outside today. Well, that's what I'm told at least. I don't see much of the real world these days... but in my head, it is.. It's just rained and everything is so green...so beautiful, wouldn't you agree? Though, I suppose you don't see much green these days either?

I can't imagine what it might be like in the desert. I get images in my head of stark light and miles of sand, is that true? It must be hard being away from your family and friends.

I'm away from mine too, but not for the same reason. They probably don't want me to talk about this kind of thing, but I think you should know up front. I'm a resident at the Forbes institute. Which is a lovely way of saying that I'm a patient in the nuthouse. I'm here because I 'claim' to have visions. My father sent me here to be treated for my delusions. Though as far as I can tell, the plan is to simply talk the crazy out of me.

I'm starting to wonder who's really crazy here.

This letter is an assignment of sorts, in order to make me become more grounded in reality. So hello reality, how are you?

You can answer if you like, or not. I'd understand.

It was signed simply, Alice.

Alice.

Jasper didn't intend to answer. He put the letter aside and went about his business, forgetting about it.

Only he didn't forget. Visions. Rain. Green. Crazy.

Alice.

In what he thought of as an act of foolishness, he sent a short reply. Asking about the green place she lived, and the institute. Making a wry joke about being thought crazy himself. He described the desert and his duties.

It wasn't long before her next letter arrived. Different from the first, it was quite long and kind of rambling, written in green ink with doodles and swirls around the edges.

He was fascinated.

And responded with more enthusiasm, telling her about growing up in Texas, his family, his desire to leave Texas when his time in the military was done. He even gave in to her request and sent a photo that Emmett took of him in uniform.

As sporadic as the mail was for him, her letters came often, sometimes before he'd been able to respond.

Sometimes she was bright and bubbly, random and fanciful. And other times she'd show a darker side, a part of her that dwelled deep within her mind.

Jasper

It rained today. Though not quite the beautiful rain I had expected. Like my mind, it was dark, cold. There's a storm on the horizon, I just know it. The lights flickered a few times during the night. I wasn't scared though. I just lay in bed, consumed with darkness. It seemed as though the weather reflected my mood. I'm tired of trying to figure out why I'm here. These people don't want to help me anyway, they just want to keep me locked away. I'm scared that if they keep me here much longer, I might never find happiness. And quite honestly, I would rather die than live a life without happiness. Tell me Jasper, do you ever think about dying? When you're all alone, do wonder what it'd be like to just…stop living? To stop feeling and just let go?

Reading her words filled him with dread and sadness. It was wrong that someone like her should feel that way. He wanted to soothe her, comfort her, but at the same time, he was furious that she'd think that way. His response showed that anger.

Alice

I'm sitting in a tent in the middle of a war zone, facing death every damn day. I have seen and done things you couldn't even imagine in your pristine little world. And you are sitting safe within four walls thinking about dying?

I am here in this hell fighting for you. Fighting so you can live free and happy. If you lose hope... I have nothing to fight for.

Do I think about dying? Every day. But more now, I think about living. Beyond this place of sand, maybe in your world of rain and green.

We are both fighting wars. Only yours is in your head, where I can't fight for you. If you can fight yours, maybe I can make it through mine.

Jasper

He felt a stab of guilt after he sent it. She was in a hospital for god's sake. He shouldn't criticize her. He worried that she wouldn't respond, wouldn't want to speak to him again. But her reply cleared his conscience.

Jasper

I try not to think of you in danger. Sometimes when I read your letters I can see you.

I want you to come back safe and sound. I want you to be able to come to Forks, to feel the cool breeze on your skin. And maybe I can get you to dance with me in the rain.

I still hope. But I hope for you.

Alice

But I hope for you. He had mixed emotions about that. She was making plans for him, plans for them. He couldn't look that far ahead. Not when he had no idea what tomorrow would bring.

He worded the next letter carefully.

Alice

Maybe you can see me sometimes, but I can't see past today. I can't know what my future holds.

My world is dark and too dangerous for someone like you to even imagine. I've watched men I know die. And one of these days it might be me.

Some of the guys here count the days until they can go home, but I've come to think its foolish to do so. You never know what day might be your last.

They say war is hell, and this certainly is that. You like to think you've become immune to it, the heat, the sand, the gunfire and bomb blasts. And then something comes along to change that.

How can I explain to you what I was before your letters? Numb. I simply made through each day.

And then your letters take me away from it. But when I look up, I'm still here.

I'm still here, and you're there.

My time here has changed me. I'm not the man I was. The boy I was. I think you'd have liked him, but you'll never know. No one should ever have to see so much death and destruction and yet, I'm surrounded by it.

I'd like to be able to make you promises, to keep them. To meet you there in your rainy town.

But we both know that's not real.

If I was a better man, I'd give your letters to another, someone still hopeful and alive. But I'm not. Your optimism is wasted on the likes of me.

You should focus your energy on getting well, getting out of that place.

Hope for me, just don't wait for me.

Jasper

It was weeks before he received another letter. He thought it was ridiculous the way he looked forward to it, savored it. He waited to open it until the end of the day when he was alone in his tent.

Jasper

Say what you want, but you aren't the boss of me. I'll do as I please. You're right, the things you've seen I probably could never imagine, but the things I've seen you can't imagine either. So please don't treat me like I don't know what I'm talking about... I see what I see, and nothing you say is going to change it.

You'll come around, I know it.

I am trying to let them 'help' me here, but I'm pretty sure now that I'm not the crazy one. But they say I'm making progress, and if I keep doing so well, I'll be able to go home soon.

I'll still have to have therapy a few times a week, but at least I'll be able to sleep in my own bed.

I might have liked the boy you were, but I admire the man you are.

Alice

Another letter from her arrived shortly after the last. Her most recent letter was different from all the others. Her handwriting was messier than usual, as if she'd written in a desperate hurry. He could practically feel the manic energy of her words as he read.

Jasper

I'm going home today. I should be happy about it, but I can't overcome this feeling of dread. I have to ask you a favor, a favor that I can't really explain. I beg you, on your next mission, when you and the other Officer are in the square in the center of town, with the fountain with three cats, get out of the jeep. Get out and as far away as you can.

Please. If you never do anything else I ask, do this.

She signed it 'Your Alice' and carefully printed her home address and phone number.

There was something in her words that struck him. He normally would have shook it off, but it was Alice.

So when he received orders for his platoon to accompany his commanding officer into the nearest town, her words were foremost in his mind.

And when his jeep led a convoy of trucks into the town and he stopped facing a fountain with three cats lounging in front of it, he only hesitated for a moment.

"Sir," he said calmly, "please get out of the vehicle."

His commanding officer opened his mouth to protest, and Jasper leapt out of the jeep calling for his men to fall back and fan out. He could feel it now, in the air, excitement, rage, insanity. He sprinted around the other side of the jeep and dragged the other Officer out, shoving him away from the fountain and jeep.

"Move, sir." He growled between his teeth. He pushed the confused man forward a couple of feet. The trucks might provide some cover, but they had to get to them.

No time, no time, he thought. The was a sound behind him, a click, a hum. He thought briefly of Alice, his Alice. She'd known.

Seconds before the fountain exploded, he threw himself at his commanding Officer and flung him to the ground, using his own body to shield him from the blast.

There was pain, screaming, fire, debris raining around them. And then it went dark.

Waking in the chaos that was the field hospital, Jasper's first thought was 'Alice was right'.

Emmett was beside the cot he was lying on. When he saw Jasper's eyes open, he grinned wide.

"Hey, here's the hero." He said leaning close.

Jasper grimaced at his words. He wasn't a hero, he was just a soldier. "How long have I been out?"

"Four days. You were a fucking mess, man." Emmett replied.

Jasper lifted his head a little and looked down at himself. One arm was swathed in bandages, the other in a cast. One leg was also in a cast.

So much for his heroics. He let his head drop back on the pillow. He attributed the lack of pain to whatever drugs they had pumping through him.

"How bad is it?" He asked Emmett.

"Not as bad as it could have been," he replied. "A lot of cuts, broken arm, broken leg. You got a nasty gash on your head, and they yanked a bunch of shrapnel out of you. I think they lost count of how many stitches they gave you. You're gonna have some hellacious scars, but at least you're alive!"

Jasper closed his eyes, his mouth twisting. He could only wonder what Alice would think of that.

"You're a hero, Jasper. You saved all our lives. The Colonel is talking about a medal."

That was the last thing he wanted.

Over the next few days as the Army waited for Jasper to be well enough to be transported to a facility in Germany, he waited to hear from Alice.

The day before he was to be flown to Germany, he decided to take it in his own hands, so to speak. He begged paper and a pen off one of the nurses and laboriously began to write. The cast on his arm made his handwriting nearly illegible, but this was too personal to have anyone else do for him.

How could he let anyone else see what he had to say to her?

Dear Alice,

I never doubted you believed what you saw to be true. I have to admit I wondered if it was even possible. I don't wonder anymore. I don't know what you saw or even how you saw it, but you saved my life, and the life of my men. The bomb would have killed almost all of us.

I'm alive. I owe it to you. I won't lie to you and say that I'm fine, that's far from true. I'm being sent to a hospital in Germany for surgery and for physical therapy.

I'm alive but will carry the scars for the rest of my life. I'll also carry a debt to you for the rest of my life.

Before this, despite what I said, I'd foolishly thought I'd be able to go back to the states and be with you. I hadn't dared say it, but had hoped. Now, I can't expect you to wait for me or even want me. You are so bright, so pure, you deserve the best life can bring you.

I want you to be happy, darlin'. And I don't think you could with me.

I thank you for your companionship and care, I'll never forget it or you.

Jasper

He was weeks into therapy with a sadistic bastard of a therapist when her response came.

Jasper,

You're a coward.

Alice

There was a picture in this letter, of a dark haired girl laughing in a ray of sunlight. He spent hours studying it, trying to figure out what it was about her. They called her crazy, but she kept him sane.

His recovery was nothing short of miraculous, if his doctors were to be believed. They'd first told him that he'd have a severe limp, that he was lucky to walk at all. They promised that the ugly red scars would fade. Eventually.

Her letters kept coming, more frequently now. They were the one thing that kept him going through the grueling hours of therapy and exercise. He hated the therapy room, with its wall of mirrors. As he worked to walk, and overcome the limp, he could see his face pale with strain, scars standing out livid on his skin.

If she saw him now, struggling, scarred, would she still think the same of him?

Dear Jasper

I didn't mean it when I said you were a coward. You are the bravest man I know. I look forward to the time I can tell you to your face.

I know you worry that your scars will make me think less of you, but you are so very wrong.

Once I'm close enough to you to see them, nothing like that will matter.

Alice

Taking a break from therapy to write back to her was something he looked forward to.

Alice

It humbles me that you think I'm brave. I did what had to be done. It's not brave to do what's necessar

He was interrupted when his doctor, Carlisle Cullen came into the room.

"Writing to your girl, Major?" Dr. Cullen asked with a smile.

Jasper put down his pen and paper. "What makes you say that?"

The young doctor shrugged. "I've heard the nurses talking about 'Major Whitlock's love letters'."

"Love letters? They're not. She's just..." Alice. "My pen-pal." He finished with a frown.

"Right." The doctor smiled. "Well, maybe you should tell your pen-palthat you're going to be discharged soon."

Part of him wanted to stand up and cheer. "Really? When?"

Dr Cullen, slid his hands in his lab coat pockets. "Well, they want to do a ceremony for your medal in a few days, and then you'll be shipped back stateside."

Medal. Jasper frowned again. Of all the ridiculous...

"Where's your friend?" Dr. Cullen asked.

"Near Seattle." Jasper replied without thinking.

"You know," Dr. Cullen said thoughtfully. "Seattle might be a nice place to visit after your time in the desert."

Jasper made a noncommittal sound. He didn't want to discuss his future plans with anyone.

"OK. Well, I'll take care of the paperwork. I'm glad to see you going home, Major."

After thanking the the doctor, Jasper went back to his letter.

My doctor just told me that I'm going to be released shortly. I'm not certain how I feel about that. I'd always thought I'd be leaving from the desert, with my men.

I never thought I'd be going home like this. Maybe it was the folly of youth when I enlisted, but I never let myself think about being injured. And now I'm going home, seeing my family for the first time in two years and it's like this. I'm not the son they sent off anymore.

You say my scars won't matter, and honestly the physical scars don't bother me too much. It's the ones inside that bother me.

I'll be going to my family home in Texas, I'll enclose the address there if you wish to continue our correspondence.

Jasper

He left it up to her. Always up to her. He wrote out the address and phone number, just in case, and told himself not hope she'd respond. It was one thing to write when you were thousands of miles apart, another when you were back in the real world.

He survived the award ceremony, grateful for the honor and ridiculously embarrassed by the attention. He was sent home on a commercial flight from Germany, hopping to London and then New York on the way to his home. He withstood stares of the curious, and random well wishes from strangers throughout the long journey.

By the time he reached Houston, he was exhausted and desperate for a hot shower and a soft bed.

He gathered his things, slipping on his dress uniform jacket. The long hours his tall frame had been cramped in a tiny airplane seat had taken a toll on his still healing leg, and as he exited the plane and through the tunnel to the gate, he fought to control his limp. Not from any sense of vanity, but simply because he didn't want his mother to see.

The scars would upset her enough.

He passed through the gate and terminal, simply following all the other passengers.

As soon as he stepped through the security, where people were allowed to wait for their loved ones, a cheer rose up from a group to the side.

His entire family was waiting for him, whopping and hollering as he came toward them. His mother was in front, tears streaming down her face, a huge smile showing her joy. His little sister was next to her, holding a handmade sign colored red,white and blue, with his name in large gold letters.

He'd been unprepared for the emotions that swamped him upon seeing them there. He wrapped his arms around his crying mother and held on tight.

"Ma. Ma, it's alright. I'm OK."

She swatted his shoulder in the time honored tradition of mothers everywhere. "You're too thin!" She scolded.

She studied his face, her eyes tracking the scars that marred his once smooth skin. Her eyes grew bright with tears again. "My poor little boy." She whispered.

Jasper ducked his head.

And then she laughed. "You look dangerous. The girls will be all over you now."

And just like that, his tension eased and he was able to relax and let himself be welcomed.

The days following his homecoming were filled with friends and family. It was as if his mother had put on a three day party in his honor.

On the fourth day, he was hanging out in the back yard with his sister, Rosalie, when his mother brought out mail for him.

Her faced glowed with curiosity. "There's a letter for you, honey."

He took the envelope from her and paused when he saw Alice's address in the left hand corner.

"Who's it from?" Rosalie demanded, with no hint of subtlety. "A girl?"

He smiled slowly. "Yeah. Yeah, it's a girl." he felt like laughing, for the first time in a long time. It was just so normal, his mother and sister pestering him about a girl.

"Who is she?" Rosalie asked, ignoring their mother when she was shushed.

He did laugh then. "Nosy." He smacked her on the head with the letter.

"Well?" His mother prompted. "Who is she?"

He hesitated, staring down at the familiar handwriting. "Alice," he said quietly. "Her name is Alice."

He let them tease and cajole more out of him for a little while, then made his escape inside where he could open the letter in peace.

The letter was short and to the point.

Jasper

I want to see you.

Alice

He stared at the words on the page. She wanted to see him? Just the thought made him a little nervous.

He just stood there staring down at those words.

And then the paper was snatched from his grasp. Rosalie danced away and read it out loud.

The embarrassment was complete when their mother came in to hear it.

"She wants to see you?" She said, a bemused smile on her face.

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Apparently."

"So when are you leaving?" Rosalie demanded.

"It's not that simple, Rose." He replied.

"Do you want to see her?" His mother asked.

He rubbed his hand over the back of his neck. "Well, yeah... I guess."

"You guess?" Rosalie snorted. "Either you do or you don't."

"He does." Their mother said gently. "It's all over your face, honey."

He sighed. "Yeah, I do. I really do. But how can I, Ma?" He drew his hands back, gesturing to his scars. "Like this?"

She shook her head and went to him. She placed her hand on his cheek, over one of the scars. "Honey, when I look at you, all I see is my brave, handsome son. I'm sure if she has any sense at all, she will too."

"You should wear your uniform." Rosalie piped up. "Girls love a guy in uniform."

"I'll help you pack." She added, grinning.

"I'll call the airlines." their mother left the room.

Jasper frowned down at his sister. "Do I get any say in this?"

"No!" Rosalie and their mother replied.

He threw his hands up in mock surrender. "Fine. Fine. I'll pack. Alone."

He went up to his old bedroom and shut the door. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he studied his uniform, which his mother had hung on the back of the door.

Wear the uniform? Would Alice like that? She might, he decided. Girls did tend to get a kick out of it.

In the end, he threw some clothes in a knapsack and tossed it on the bed next to his uniform. Then he went back downstairs to track down his mother, to see what she'd done.

She was just hanging up the phone when he went into the kitchen. "You're all set. You're on the next flight out."

"What? What time? She doesn't even know I'm coming." He hadn't expected his mother to work that quickly.

"Two hours. "His mother said. "You better hurry up and call her."

Call her. Right.

He went back up to his room, and poked through one of his bags until he found the stack of letters from her. Locating the one with her number, he sank onto the edge of his bed, picked up the phone and dialed.

It rang twice before it was answered by an impatient male voice. "Hello?"

Taking an inaudible breath, Jasper spoke. "May I speak to Alice, please?"

This time the voice held suspicion. "Who is this?"

Was that her father? Well, there was no backing out now. "Major Whitlock, sir."

There was a pause. "Hold."

Great. Her father sounded like a tough guy. He'd dealt with enough of them in the army to know. He wondered what Alice's relationship with her family was like. She'd never really talked about them.

He heard a murmured conversation on the other end of the line, and then a high sweet voice spoke.

"Jasper?"

It had to be her.

"Hello Alice."

She bubbled with excitement. He could practically feel her bouncing through the phone.

"Oh! How are you? You got home OK? How's your family? Are you happy to be home?"

He had to laugh at the rapid fire questions.

"Alice, sugar, slow down."

She laughed too. "Sorry, I'm just so excited to hear your voice."

"I have a reason for calling." He told her.

"Oh?"

"Well... my ma and my sister ganged up on me. I'm coming to Seattle." He said slowly, suddenly worried that she'd tell him not to.

Her squeal of excitement gave him his answer. He grinned as she babbled at him.

"You are!? When? Oh this perfect, I can't wait to see you. You'll love it here. It always raining. When are you coming?"

"Right now, Alice. I'm on the next flight."

"That's wonderful, Jasper!" She gushed. "What time do you get in?"

He paused. "Uh, well, thing is, I don't rightly know. I'll find out and call you back if you want."

"Don't be ridiculous, I can find out. Besides, I'm so excited, I'll probably head out now, so I can be sure to meet you."

"Alice, you don't have to go to the airport. I'm sure I can find my way to Forks." He argued.

Her laugh was so light. "No way. I'm going to be there when you get off the plane. I can't wait to see you!"

He sighed. "All right, darlin'. If you insist. I'd better get goin'."

"OK." She replied, then added softly, "I'm so glad you're coming, Jasper."

"Me too. I'll see you soon."

He waited until she said goodbye then hung up the phone. Throwing clothes into a duffel, he changed into his uniform and headed back downstairs. Rosalie and their mother waited for him in the kitchen. They were both practically bursting with excitement. He kissed them both goodbye and left for the airport.

In the airport he once again bore the bewildering mix of awe and pity from strangers. This time however, it was different, because at the end of his journey waited Alice.

This plane ride was much shorter than the one from Europe, and was over before he knew it. Once the plane landed and taxied to the gate, he rose and slowly gathered his bag. Now that he was here, he was a little nervous. Him, a veteran of war whose cool demeanor had gotten him to the rank he held, was nervous about meeting a girl.

But it wasn't just any girl.

Taking a deep breath, he followed the other passengers off the plane, nodding quietly to the flight attendant at the door. He could feel cool damp air as he traveled down the hall to the gate. Past the gate, he skirted the other passengers and strode through the terminal to security. His heart beat a little quicker as he saw the signs for security and the people waiting to greet passengers on the other side, as he passed through, his eyes scanned the crowd looking for his girl.

And then, there she was. Standing apart from the other people.

Alice.

She was bouncing a little on her toes, but when she spotted him, she stopped, standing very still as he approached.

She was so tiny, he thought. He hadn't expected her to be so... small. At least a foot shorter than himself. And so pretty, delicate.

Hitching his bag on his shoulder, he went to her. He stopped when he reached her and let his bag drop to the ground.

"Alice?"

Her eyes lit up, a small smile curving her lips. "Jasper."

She stepped forward, rising up on her toes and placing on hand against his cheek, over a particularly vivid scar.

He kept his eyes locked on hers, gauging her reaction. Her eyes were gentle and sad, but her smile remained in place. He didn't say anything, there was no need to. He could feel her acceptance.

She dropped her hand and took both of his hands in hers.

"Welcome home, Jasper."