This is my story for the FandomGivesBack, so a final thank you to Bunnyslippersrok, and then of course to ElleCC--the most brilliant of betas.
Cowboys Have Fangs, Too
Jasper had always had a penchant for history. Like many soldiers, he discovered that the combination of reading and general discipline tended to keep a fighter out of brawls and other camp mischief. He had little patience for fiction—he put up with enough emotional drivel in his own life. Jasper read for knowledge and guidance. He preferred the ancients, men centuries older than he. Sometimes, as he read about the Gods of ancient Greece, he wondered if there had been a time when vampires had openly ruled over men. He liked dreaming of a world so different from his. A world that used to be real.
Once he left Maria and Monterrey, he journeyed without much thought, not minding his path so much as sensing the planet's polar gravity and following the North Star when it deemed to show its twinkle.
Jasper occupied himself by reading. He'd sneak into houses and pilfer books at every new town or train depot. If he was thirsty, and the collection was bad, he'd stop for dinner, too, but if the collection was decent, he'd leave the house in peace. It was an odd sort of logic, but Jasper wasn't feeling much of anything those days, especially not logic.
It was in a large lake manor west of St. Louis that he happened upon the largest personal library yet. He spent hours there, silent on the floor, reading, and sifting through the volumes.
He left with only one. It was a leather-bound copy of the Sun Tzu's The Art of War, which Jasper had read countless times before, but on that night, certain phrases hit him harder than others.
"If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril."
That night was the first night that Jasper realized that he was at war, but he didn't know his enemy.
He didn't know whom or what he was battling.
They didn't have to tell Edward.
Edward had already heard, having picked the truth from their frantic minds as they searched the airport for Bella.
But Bella was gone. A lingering trace of perfume at the taxi stop.
It was the first time in a decade that Jasper found Edward's talent more of an aid than a detriment. Not that Edward's knowing made all that much of a difference, because Edward's panic, pain, and resulting hysteria shamed Jasper more than words ever could.
Alice screamed at them at some point. "SHUT UP! I NEED TO SEE!"
Everyone in the airport terminal heard. They were turning to stare at the family—which was never good. The Cullens stood out enough as it was.
Emmett had just left for the rental car counter when Alice's eyes shadowed over, and Edward flew to her. He clamped both hands around her shoulders, his eyes boring into hers as whatever vision she was having played out between them.
And then, with no sound, no whisper, and no grunted explanation—Edward ran.
Before Jasper could assess the scene, Emmett had charged at James, which meant Jasper would have to swoop in and prevent him from losing an arm, but more important, he realized—as his nostrils flared—was the scent of Bella's blood in the air.
Relieved of his opponent, Edward was already flying towards her, along with Carlisle and Alice—and Jasper almost broke from his strike to pull Edward back—to snap him from out of the clamp of his senses—but then Jasper felt him...
The thirst wasn't there.
Jasper was snapped back to his original task when Emmett really did almost lose an arm as he tried to tackle James, so Jasper somersaulted forward, sliding around Emmett's crunching hulk and then around James, catching James's neck before it swung toward Emmett, and then Jasper had him braced on the floor. He told Emmett, "Hold him here and here."
James thrashed. His red eyes rolled at Jasper. His fury made Jasper's job easier.
Jasper caught him at the back of the neck, pulling as his teeth cut, and then the snapping jaws bounced and rolled toward the wall, the effect enhanced by the line of studio mirrors.
"Get the arm, Em. I got the leg."
In the corner of the room, Alice and Edward were arguing while Carlisle tended Bella's wounds. Jasper didn't even know what the argument was about—but he concentrated, letting his relief and trust and unconcealed love fill the room.
It was odd, then, when Edward pressed his lips to Bella's skin. Jasper's own thirst flared.
But then Alice was at his side. She kissed his lips, even as she wasn't looking at him. Her eyes were watching Bella's tortured form. Then, she was pushing him toward the corner, where Emmett was also looking ill-at-ease with the scent of flowing blood.
"Burn the place," Alice told them.
Alice watched James's video alone the first time.
When he got to watch it, she sat in the recliner to his left with her knees pulled up to her chest and her eyes barely peeking out over them. Then Jasper realized that she was wearing sweat pants.
That should have been his first clue.
She watched the video five more times that afternoon. At first, he felt her. When they first watched, when James hit Bella, Alice's spine ripped with rage. When he mocked Alice's beginnings, he felt more anger—and then grief. But after a time he felt nothing.
She watched it, and she was numb and blank and...
"Alice." Jasper knelt at her side. "You need to talk to me."
She turned to him, her face as blank as before he'd asked. She spoke as if he'd said nothing out of the ordinary, "Bella gets out of the hospital tomorrow. We'll go home then. Things will go back to normal." She returned her chin to her knees. "Edward will be happy."
She said those words without any sense of them.
"Alice, we need to talk about this."
A flutter of annoyance cursed her small form. She stood, tilting up the edges of her mouth as if she meant to smile. "I'm going to hunt," she said.
Back in Forks, Bella was over at the house every day.
Jasper tended to stay away, but then, he couldn't, really. Alice always seemed to be around Bella. She was coaxing her into shopping or doing her hair.
Edward laughed like a fool at the smallest thing Bella did. Bella could eat a taco, and it was like the piñata of Edward's "happy" popped, and that sweet debris was sent flying all over the room, and even if Jasper was intellectually resigned against it, part of him was already down on the floor scooping up the candy and confetti.
Alice laughed because she saw that it would be better if she did.
Jasper wanted to scoop her up, too—but he couldn't. Not yet.
Bella was sitting in the kitchen one afternoon when he walked in. He jumped back five feet because he wasn't expecting her there—he'd been lost to his own world.
It would seem that Bella had been chomping down a turkey sandwich, for when Jasper startled her, she took a bite that was too big.
Her eyes bulged, and her hand shot to her throat.
Jasper stood there, paralyzed.
But then Bella gave one grand hack, and whatever sandwich ingredient that had been obstructing her airway, dislodged, and with tears prickling at the corner of her eyes, Bella scooped up the glass of milk and chugged it down. She set it down with a gasp and then sat there for a moment, eyes closed and taking long breaths. Then she looked up at Jasper.
He didn't know what he expected her to say, but it wasn't what she said.
"Edward should really change me, huh?"
Jasper laughed in spite of himself. "Sorry about startling you."
"Seems I startled you too."
"You did... actually." Jasper frowned.
Bella appeared to be studying her sandwich, as if assessing how best to take the next bite without dying, but she felt concerned. "You were worrying about Alice?" she asked.
Jasper shrugged, going to one of the cabinets to get the scissors for which he'd originally come to the kitchen. "Noticed, did you?"
Bella poked at her sandwich. "I think she'd thought it would be something better."
Jasper sighed, before muttering, "Romantic notions of humanity..."
"Do you think I have romantic notions of vampires?" Bella asked, looking up at him.
"I see." Her brow puckered, but then she turned thoughtful again. "Well, only time and experience will fix that, I suppose..." She frowned in the direction of the woods—where Edward had gone to hunt, no doubt.
"Yes," Jasper agreed, trying not to scoff. "Time."
At dusk, he was up on the mountain with Emmett when he got her text message.
The stone building at 890 West Battery. North side of Seattle. x/Alice
Jasper wouldn't have thought anything of it, except...
Alice had kissed him the night before.
She had grabbed his hand, and then pressed up on her tip toes, giving a quick brush of her lips against his. As her lips drew away, her eyes were so out of focus that they rolled to the far left, going mostly white. She'd smiled then. A weak smile.
It was something.
"Oooh, it's nookie times?" Emmett was watching him from a boulder. He had a dead moose in his free arm. He always held onto his dead kill for much longer than necessary. Jasper had still yet to explain it...
"I don't know," Jasper answered—and he really didn't...
Emmett shook his head. "When your lady gets the call of the wild, man, you don't hesitate—you hunt that trail down before she decides you're in the dog house again."
Jasper raised an eyebrow at Emmett.
"Whatever, man. Go." He dismissed Jasper at the same time that he dropped the moose at the foot of the boulder.
Jasper took off.
When he reached the building, he was taken aback. There were orange signs and a fence of plastic netting covering the entrance. "Under Construction," the signs read—but the signs were dust-covered and sun-bleached. They seemed more a warning rather than an indication of intent to construct.
Jasper thought about throwing a leg over and kicking the door in, but something about this place stopped him. Why ever Alice wanted him here would not be explained by kicking down the front door.
He went round to the side. That was when he caught her scent for the first time, and yet the smell was faint, registering only because he knew it above all others. Honey crisp and perfumed. Following the trail up, the smell was coming from an open window, the old panes cracked but not broken, and the bottom panel gapping enough to show the means of entry. With a neat leap onto the edge, Jasper let himself through.
The room was empty. Concrete floors and river rock-tiled walls. There were drains in the corners, and that's when Jasper realized that this used to be a shower room. From the crumbled circles in the floor, Jasper could see where stall doors must have been.
He left the room as quickly as he'd come in. The hallway was stripped as bare as the former room—more dusty concrete and a mess of ancient wiring, copper pipes, and cobwebs hanging down from the rafters. Empty twelve by ten rooms sat behind each open doorway. Jasper was intent on her smell. It was stronger, and yet he still couldn't feel her—and yet whenever they'd role-played anything before he'd always felt her. A spot of desire, of impatience—that's what she'd always been.
He found the stairwell. The scent came from below. He sped down.
The cobwebs were thicker, but they held her scent—and the rooms—they were filled with the bent remains of wrought iron beds and stacked benches and mouth-eaten piles of fabric that looked like white shirts—no, not shirts...
He skidded to a halt at the end of the hall.
She was there—but she wasn't, as if all of her emotions were sucked into their own vortex. She was sitting on a chair in the center of the room, facing the remains of a boarded window.
At his entrance, she stiffened—even though she must have heard him coming.
She looked so small.
He drew to her side. He knelt at her feet.
She looked down at him. She was wearing one of the mouth-eaten, white gowns. The straps on the arms drooped on the floor. A red stamp with the number 90-893 marked the cuff.
She just stared back at him.
"This is not you."
Her eyes lowered and then she closed them.
Jasper wanted to grab her and shake her. To make her see sense, but instead he—Jasper grabbed the stamped cuff. He ripped it.
Alice gasped. It was the first bit of emotion. Disbelief.
Then he picked up the straps along the arms of the jacket, and one-by-one he ripped them off. Then he grabbed the sleeves. He ripped those off too. He stuck his nail through the base of the gown—he ripped off a foot and a half of the skirt's length. Then he picked up one of the straps. He looped it around her waist. He tied a bow.
Then he looked up at her again.
Her eyes were huge and bright, and her emotions—whatever had been held in—Alice made a noise that sounded in her lungs, as if half-gurgled. Then both of her thin hands clasped Jasper's face. Another strange sound—like whatever was inside her was fighting for the surface.
"Alice," he encouraged.
She trembled, and then she fell forward, falling into his arms with something between sobs and hysteric laughs and an eye roll—and he held her, letting her shift among every emotion, taking it in and making it his own.
At some point, she stopped. She pressed her forehead against his. She said, "You made me a dress—out of..."
"You can make anything out of your past."
"I know but still, I—"
"No, Alice. Anything. That's what you taught me. Even if it isn't easy."
She was still for a moment, eyes intent upon him and unwavering and focused as ice.
"Thank you," she said.
"We'll figure this out," he promised. "Whatever you need. Whenever you need." He kissed her, his lips whispering over hers.
She kissed him back, hard and resilient, like she wanted to know that she would fight—that she was strong—and then she drew back with a flourish and stood up, though still holding his hand.
She led him out the door and into the night, still wearing her "new" dress.
Edward was taking Bella home. They'd watched Dracula for some reason that Jasper had yet to fathom (he had wanted to watch a western), but all in all, it had been fun.
Bella asked the best questions.
"You've never eaten a baby have you?" she asked him as she stared in horror at the mother screaming on the screen.
Jasper shook his head. "Nah, too small. Like potato chips."
"He has three brides," Bella emphasized with disgust.
"Boo-yeah!" Emmett yelled, only to laugh as Rosalie smacked him.
It was comfortable and refreshing, and despite Rosalie's nasty streak toward Bella, the family felt closer than ever, and then there was Alice, at his side, curled up and laughing at it all.
Alice left five minutes before the movie ended, but not before giving him a knowing wink.
There, also, was the curl of want that seemed to tickle like smoke across his cheeks.
When the movie ended, Jasper fled up to his room, only to find a single note.
I will be on the train tracks at west of Seattle. You'll have to follow my trail to find me in time. The first train arrives at 5:45 am—so unless you want a line of boxcars to wreck, I suggest you be punctual.
Wear the hat. The teeth. Grab a lasso from the garage.
You'll need it—and don't bite anyone.
Jasper laughed as he picked up the plastic teeth from the dresser. They looked ridiculous on, and he had to hold his mouth just so, so that his teeth wouldn't cut through. Then he put on the long hat, pulling it low.
He smiled at his reflection in the mirror, the teeth looking comical.
He would try not to bite anyone.