"For the Love of Jasper" One-Shot Contest

Title: Almost Human

Pen name: thatisastory

Existing work: A/N

Primary Players: Jasper, Alice, Bella

Disclaimer: Canon, AU

To see other entries in the "For the Love of Jasper" contest, please visit the C2:

The headlights bounced across the road, needlessly lighting our way as we drove along an empty highway. The quiet of the drive was only punctuated by the occasional flickering of emotions coming from the seat next to me. The radio had been abandoned after it had been well established that neither of us were in the mood to tolerate the other's taste in music.

She was alright tonight. I couldn't always be sure when and where she went when she drifted off into her memories, but I could I generally get the gist of it. Lately she'd taken to being much less introspective, feeling a lot less guilt. There were times when she actually seemed happy, which was good for both of us. Tonight she seemed to be almost amused by her stream of thoughts. Something was definitely forming in her mind. I could feel curiosity, then satisfaction, over and over again. Introspective, that's what she was tonight.

Bella slid back into the seat and regarded me for a moment.

"What do you want to know?" I asked, sensing what was coming.

"Was there ever a time when you wanted to be human again?" she asked, not taking her eyes off me.

"Feeling reminiscent, are we?" I asked with a smirk.

"No, just interested," she said simply, tucking her legs under her and sitting up higher in the passenger seat.

There was a pause, and her curiosity turned to impatience. "Come on Jasper!" she urged.

"I'm thinking," I said quickly.

I sighed deeply. Human, human… what was something I missed about being human? Eating was really overrated; sleep, an inconvenient time waster. Dreams were nice, but really, I could get lost in my own thoughts, and it was just as good. Of course then there were the more personal aspects of being human, as opposed to the practical and functional. The relationships from my human life were impossible to carry over into the new one. And the new relationships I formed hardly lasted any time at all given that my lack of aging would become all too apparent very quickly. I lived to see friends, family, and their progeny age and fade away entirely.

The thought made me squirm slightly. Family, now there was a thought.

I glanced over at her and regarded her. For what was most likely innocent curiosity, it was a fairly personal question.

"How much do you know about my and Alice's past?"

"Well," she said thoughtfully, "I know you met in Philadelphia, got married, then went and found the Cullens, with a few adventures and misadventures in between?" she said weakly with a shrug.

"Something like that," I said with a chuckle. I rested my hand on the top of the steering wheel and stared out over the dark road.

Bella seemed to have distracted herself, feeling much more neutral, with the slight anxiety one feels when they're trying to recall something.

I decided to remain quiet while she thought, not wanting to interrupt. Whatever it was, she seemed to remember it a few minutes later, as a wave of relief came over her.

"Every now and then," I said finally.

I felt her jump in the seat beside me, and saw her turn her head in my direction out of the corner of my eye.

"When you moved to Forks, I was going through a particularly difficult stage. I had just recently gotten 'back on the wagon' as it were," I said, recalling my accidental (though it was very purposeful) killing of a rock climber who'd been bouldering a few miles from Mount Rainier. He had been particularly spicy, and the salt of his sweat had made for quite the enjoyable experience.

I tightened my grip on the steering wheel and pushed away the thought, focusing on my story instead. "But there was a time when my strength was just as good as Emmett's or Edward's," I said with a hint of bitterness. "Well...Edward before you," I noted, glancing at her out of the corner of my eye. I felt Bella flinch away at the sound of her husband's name. I glanced up at her, but brushed away the impulse to point it out to her. She felt bad enough about the whole thing without me adding to her guilt. No, it was better to be patient with her. She couldn't help what had happened. She was still practically a newborn, and nothing had really happened.

I briefly recalled the scene that had greeted me in a hollow in the woods--a wayward group of campers, a would be aperitif, dinner, and dessert respectively, right in the path of Bella as she was mid-hunt. They were blissfully unaware of what had almost made them her prey. 'Must have been a deer,' one had said nervously after the crash of my catching and pinning Bella against a tree only a few dozen yards away from the campsite. It took every ounce of strength in me not to give into the waves of blood lust coming off of her in hunting down the idiots.

What had started out as a trip for Bella and I to have some fun and hunt freely with a lower risk of running into humans had turned into the complete opposite, and a complete disaster. Bella was nearly inconsolable as I tried to comfort her afterward. She was disappointed in herself, ashamed, scared, even angry about her inability to fend off her instincts, but more than anything she was dreading the inevitable: Seeing the look on Edward's face when we got home. The idea alone left her overwhelmed with shame and guilt. There was no hiding this from him; purposely or otherwise, Alice would have told him. We were lucky he hadn't shown up at the passenger side door yet, running alongside at 120 miles per hour. Fortunately a well worded text message had kept him home bound, but even this was of little comfort to Bella. Facing the family would be difficult for both of us, but especially for her. I wasn't exactly looking forward to facing Alice (who would be disappointed,) or Edward (who might never trust me to hunt with his wife again.) Still, I wouldn't have it nearly as bad as Bella. Edward would coddle her and tell her it wasn't her fault, perhaps even take on the blame himself, as he often tended to do, which would be quite possibly the least helpful thing to say. I knew the experience all too well, having been through it myself a number of time. Well, maybe not the coddling part, but I certainly had been on the receiving end of the look of unintentional condescension, as if one were a child, and perhaps this was just another reason why I let it slide when she flinched at the very mention of Edward's name.

Instead, I began my story.

"I remember it was our first time away from the Cullens. We were at Yale. Yale was one of the happiest times Alice and I shared. It was the first time I really had gotten control over my nature, and was able to be around people without fear. She and I went all out--"the full experience" she called it. Even though we'd been married for years at that point, we moved into separate dormitories. We had our own classes, even our own friends. She wanted us to become immersed in our roles, and she did exactly that. By day she was student of the arts, by night a performer of the arts. For a while I contented myself with scholastic pursuits, studying philosophy and joining a discussion group, but I knew it wasn't necessarily enough for Alice. She expected me to be just as involved as she was. So when she became a Lizzie, I became a Chi."

"What's a Lizzie?"

"Lizzie's are members of the by-invitation-only Elizabethan literature enthusiasts club on campus," I said, raising an eyebrow. "Very prestigious," I added. "I got to come to tea and discuss Milton on a number of occasions," I said with feigned superiority.

Bella snorted. "So you joined a fraternity?"

"Yes, I'm a Brother of the Rho Chapter of Chi," I said with an old sense of pride ringing in my voice.

"Wow," she said, sounding a little surprised.

"What?" I asked, looking over at her.

"I don't know, I guess I never figured you for a fraternity dude," she said, emphasizing 'dude.'

"Fraternities have changed quite a bit since then," I said, thinking over all the movies that showed young men drinking themselves silly, dancing around half naked, committing wanton, self deprecating acts just for the validation of their friends and possibly the nearest set of tits in the area... "Maybe they haven't changed that much," I said quickly. "Anyway, I became a Chi, and it was almost as if I'd joined another family besides the Cullens. I mean I had, but this felt different. Sure, my Brothers knew there was something different about me, but they accepted me after I proved myself worthy. I excelled at every assignment they gave me as a Pledge, impressing them with every task, tradition, and game. I even showed everyone up at a few parties," I said, recalling memories of slamming down empty shot glasses with such pride and cheering, despite the fact that I knew I'd pay for it later, belching up the indigestible liquid. "And while it required some sacrifice on my part, and tested my strength at times, eventually I earned my letters, my place in the Brotherhood, and their respect. The men who join these days, they have it easy. There are laws on the books now that have tamed down some of the more 'challenging' traditions that I had to endure. It was always worth it though," I said, the bittersweet emotions that nostalgia inspired welling up within me. "My Big Brother Scott stood next to me the night of Initiation, and when he turned to show me the handclasp, he placed a hand on my shoulder and told me he had never been so proud of a Little Brother before." Even now I could almost feel his heavy hand resting on my shoulder, and his hand wrapping around mine in our symbolic and treasured handshake.

In my distraction, the car swerved to the right into the neighboring lane for a moment. "Shit," I muttered, as I swerved back into the left lane.

Bella looked up, looking slightly alarmed.

I shook my head, declining to comment on what had just happened and continued. "Then he taught me the true meaning of our motto, not just the translation: 'Eo nomine: Fidelitus, Veritas, Integritas,'" I said, speaking the Latin words very slowly, emphasizing their importance.

"What's the 'true meaning'?" Bella asked curiously.

"I can't tell you that," I said, raising an eyebrow.

"Oh come on!"

"Nope," I said simply with a shrug.

"Why not?" she asked, her brow creasing in frustration.

"It's a matter of honor," I said simply before I continued on. "So the summer after I pledged, I broke my lease and moved into the Chi House, rooming with Scott. We spent our weekdays pretending to be studious, and our weekends not even bothering with pretense. No matter what we got into, we usually had a great story to tell afterwards. And I always got us out of trouble, always. It was one the things that contributed to my Pledge Name: The Negotiator," I said seriously.

"The Negotiator?!" she interrupted, coughing back laughter.

"Yes, The Negotiator," I said with annoyance. "Do you have a problem with my Pledge Name?"

"Not at all," she said, another snort escaping her.

I glared at her. "Shall I continue?"

"Please," she said, placing a hand nonchalantly over her mouth. I could still feel waves of amusement coming off her like silent laughter.

I huffed and tried to focus. "At any rate, it was almost as good as being a human again. It was so easy too, so natural. I moved amongst them as if I were one, although obviously there were the minor complications. Many dates were really hunting trips with Alice. She and I had to develop a very traditional relationship, one that revolved around the standards of the day: Dates with friends, attending parties, with significantly less time alone together. I'm sure on the one hand being more traditional and therefore more human delighted her, but on the other it likely irked her a bit as well. I don't think she expected me to become so engaged in the role, and I think during those years she really missed me. We went from being together on a nearly constant basis to our time being very much split between our commitments. But I think we developed more as a couple for all of it because we were growing so much individually. She was doing great in theater, making friends, forming some bonds with people who taught her new things, new ways to look at the world. And I made amazing friends in that house, found acceptance, learned about the kind of man I wanted to be, not only for Alice, but for myself," I said with sad smile. "I remember the night I gave her my pin. Alice was so proud. She had just finished up another show of "The Importance of Being Earnest," and I met her in front of the stage in the empty theater and presented her with it. If she could have cried she would!" I said, my eyes drifting down to the white lines of the highway. They seemed to anchor me, keeping me from disappearing entirely into the memory as I saw the curves, corners, and colors of the pin form in front of my eyes. "It was only a bit of gold-plated nickel and enamel, but you would have thought it was the Hope diamond the way she showed it off," I pictured Alice sticking out her chest with pride as we passed a group of her friends who immediately began to twitter back and forth like a flock of magpies. She was beyond thrilled. "Eventually senior year rolled around and all of the guys were all proposing to their girlfriends. Of course I knew Alice was expecting the same, regardless of our marital status, and I didn't disappoint. Although I did show up the rest of the guys at my house, hell, probably the entire university for that matter, Greek or otherwise," I said with a snort.

"How did you do it?" Bella asked eagerly.

I looked over at her and raised an eyebrow, as if questioning whether she was ready for my brilliance.

She sat up more in the seat, perched her head on her folded hands and leaned forward.

I gave a nod and returned my gaze back to the road. "Bandstand," I said with a proud smirk. "There was a dance, and the emcee "disappeared," leaving the stage empty and the band looking confused" I said, taking my hands off the wheel long enough to make air quotes with my fingers. "I came up and pretended to stall while someone looked for him. I attempted a few bad jokes, but my uneasy laughter was probably giving me away. It didn't help that everyone we knew was standing around on the dance floor, becoming increasingly more suspicious. I had no reason to be nervous, hell, I was already married to her for crying out loud, but I still was. But finally I managed to say very, very suavely, 'Alice, baby, where are you?' and she came up to the front of the stage. She waved at me from near the front of the dance floor and the band, which had been playing very quietly in the background, suddenly swelled to the song I'd paid them to play."

"You sang to her?" Bella said incredulously.

I didn't take insult to her tone of voice—I wasn't exactly known for my singing abilities in the family or otherwise.

"I sang to her," I said smugly with a slight grimace. "I crooned, badly as you might have gathered, "Too Young" by Nat King Cole. After the song I asked if she'd come up on stage. She nearly took out five people and barely disguised her speed as she charged onto the stage. So as if the song weren't smooth enough, I very, very suavely got down on one knee and said, 'You're the girl of my dreams, Alice! Will you do me the honor being my wife?' And that woman! She let me sweat it out, pretending to debate over it—knowing it was killing me! Finally she squealed, 'Of course!' and threw her arms around me and kissed me. All of a sudden the floor was disappearing out from under us and we were being jostled around as my Brothers raised us up on their shoulders bellowing the traditional Fraternity tune, 'Another Chi Gets Hitched.'" The tune floated through my head and I grinned, remembering the times I had been one of the Brothers hoisting grooms and brides-to-be onto my shoulders and parading them around amid laughter and bad singing. "It was one of the greatest nights of my life," I said quietly.

The image of Alice grinning over at me as Ted Milligan bounced her on his shoulder stood out in my mind. Nothing could ever top that smile, the one meant for me, which so clearly said, 'I love you more than you could ever know.' The chorus to "Too Young" drifted through my head and I caught myself humming the first few bars, but stopped almost immediately before Bella could comment.

"But reality eventually set in, and college couldn't last forever. One by one, or in some cases, two by two, everyone went off into the world to start their new lives." I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I think that might have been a time when Alice wished she was human," I said sadly. "Not because she had some burning desire for children like Rosalie, but because she wanted that normalcy, maintaining those friendships over the course of a life time, having those shared experiences, like we'd had in college. In college everyone goes through the exams, deals with the difficult professors, the trials and complications of young love, the challenges of balancing everything in your life, and you get through them with your friends right by your side because they're going through the same damn things. But afterwards there are new challenges, ones that we would never share with the people with whom we'd grown to be friends and even family. Our friends had the ability to maintain the ties for years and years if they so chose and I think Alice really envied that. After graduation, my Brothers, we all spread out. I saw them every now and then for the first couple years, but all too soon it became impossible to overlook the physical changes that time should have given me. They were in their thirties and I didn't look a day over 20, because I wasn't. I kept tabs on them as best I could, but eventually I lost track of most of those who had once accepted me for me. Then about fifteen years ago Scott died, and when I heard about it, I honestly felt like I had been punched in the gut. I couldn't bear to stay away from the funeral, not everything we'd been through together, after everything he gave me. I convinced Alice to stay behind though, even though she wanted to be there for me. I insisted it would be easier to be inconspicuous if it were just me. I was sure no one would recognize me, but I wore a brimmed hat, and put on a high collared jacket. But I was recognized. I don't know why, but I hadn't counted on my Siblings being there."

"Siblings?" The question wasn't verbalized, but I felt the confusion roll off of her as I used the term.

"Not the Cullens," I corrected, "Scott's other Little Brothers, Ridley and Warren," I explained. "I should have known, of course they'd be there. Scott was an amazing guy--smart, funny, clever, generous, first class, all the way. They spotted me after the service, graveside, and walked up to me. I resisted the voice inside me, incidentally sounding very much like Edward, urging me to walk away, to leave before they got a better look at me, but I didn't. No, I couldn't. The instinct to get out of there as quickly as possible was entirely overridden by a longing desire to speak to my old friends." I grimaced at the phrase. "Old friends," I repeated. "They were old men by then, no longer the young guys with whom I raised a fair amount of hell; the ones whom I cleaned up on more than a few occasions and whose asses I saved most certainly from a night or two in the county jail. They stared at me slack jawed in disbelief before Ridley finally said, 'You must be Jasper's son.' I don't know how, but I kept my face blank. Inside I was dying. 'Yes, yes I am.' 'Your father, is he uh, I mean did he...' Warren asked uncomfortably. I realized what he was getting at, and quickly said, 'Died, yes, a couple years ago.' They gave me sympathetic smiles and Ridley reached up and put a hand on my shoulder, just as Scott once had at Initiation. 'Your father was a good friend, a good man, and an amazing Brother,' he said, squeezing my shoulder. I nodded and felt my eyes burn. 'Thank you,' I said. In that moment I wanted nothing more than to tell them about my whole life since we'd last seen one another. I wanted to tell them about all times I valued the lessons I'd learned as a Chi, about all the times I had needed a Brother, how much I missed them, missed everything about our time together, even the times when we were just being stupid, and how they were part of some my most treasured memories that I would absolutely trade everything I owned to experience again. But I couldn't, and the inability to verbalize any of that cut me deeper than I thought possible," I said, the feeling burning somewhere in my chest built up from a dull ache, and became more pronounced. I hunched over slightly, trying to ignore it. "All I could do was nod. They offered their hands to shake mine. Then maybe out of habit, or perhaps out of a sense of unyielding honor, I reached forward and clasped each of their hands with our Fraternity's handclasp. Their eyes widened and then they broke into huge grins as they proclaimed the Legacy had become their Brother." I paused for a moment, recollecting the pride that had come rolling off them. "A few years later they died too, and I went to their funerals. I went to the funeral of every member of my Pledge Class as well. It was after the last died that I wished I were human again, because somehow it felt as though an important part of me had died as well. I wasn't sure I wanted to live like this anymore, constantly in a state of watching everything around me wither and fade away while I always remained the same; constantly losing. It's like trying to hold a fist of sand, watching it all slip away between your fingers." I looked up at Bella and studied her face which had lost the amused expression it had carried, now replaced with a somber one. "Immortality affords us the benefit of an unending lifetime of experiences and learning, but some of those lessons come at a higher price than I would ever choose to pay," I concluded.

Silence enveloped us as we both retreated into our thoughts. I cared little for where her mind went, but as for me, the faces of my Brothers drifted through my mind, as if I were looking at the Fraternity class photos. Men wearing tuxedo shirts, ties, and jackets, staring through the glass and frame with stern, confident expressions, as if they were scrutinizing those who stood before them. Years later, the pictures still hung in the entry way, probably passed by without a second thought every day by the newest generation of Brothers.

One night, on a stolen night on my own when Alice and I had made a trip out East, I visited the Chi house. There was raucous party, with young men making complete idiots of themselves, possibly endangering themselves and their friends, but all the same having the time of their lives. Yes, it was very much as I remembered. I turned to the old photographs. There were rows of them, many from the years that proceeded ours, but a few were of those who had come before us. I had never really paid much attention to them, and just as this new generation probably never paid any attention to mine, I disregarded the ones who preceded me as well.

I found our years rather quickly. It was a bittersweet moment as I stared through the grime and dust covered glass. We were all just as I remembered. Each showed the same smug smile of a Chi who was self assured, and way too confident for his own good. How little he knew then. In these photos these young gods of the past surveyed from their black and white thrones the future that lay before them. The future of a Chi showed a lifetime of distinction, a life marked by his fidelity, truth, and integrity. And now they were just old photographs collecting dust in a dirty, noisy frat house.

I sighed and shifted uncomfortably in my seat.

Bella twisted away from me and stared out the window, a wave of tension coming off of her, mirroring my own emotions.

I frowned and willed feelings of relaxation and ease to wash over her, and a moment later the anxiety melted away from her, replaced with relief.

Inwardly I felt a sense of satisfaction, but there would be no relief for me.

I pressed my foot firmly to the gas pedal and accelerated, eager to put distance between myself and the memories I had just brought to the surface, the ones that were always readily available whenever recalled, sitting in the dull ache that resided deep in my chest.

I knew, better than most, that the pain and grief would subside, and the good times I had experienced with my Brothers would move to the front of my mind whenever I looked back. But for now, with the last of the funerals having been only a few years ago, the memories were tainted bittersweet.

No, there would be no relief for me tonight. Tonight, along with their faces, their words would haunt me: "Eo nomine: Fidelitus, Veritas, Integritas."