A/N: Hi everyone! This is my first time posting on this site, though I've been a reader here for quite a while. I'm excited (and a little nervous) to finally take the plunge and post! Journey is all but completed (I'm working on the last chapter now!) and I'll be uploading chapters as I can. I don't have a set schedule for posting, but we'll see how it goes once I get going. :-)
I do hope you enjoy reading as much as I've enjoyed writing!
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters, themes, and dialogue are the sole property of Stephenie Meyer and no copyright infringement is intended.
Song for Chapter 1: Indestructible by Disturbed
The sickly sweet scent of death hung heavy in the air, thick billowing clouds of smoke rose from the flames raging before me. The fire mercilessly consumed the remains of the vampire army that my troop had been dispatched to destroy.
I stood now surveying the destruction that we had wrought, as my soldiers disposed of the very last of our enemies.
"Major Whitlock," Peter, my next in command, called to me. He and another member of our troop were dragging along the opposing leader between them.
"Peter," I barked, "why is this man still alive?" I demanded to know.
"He surrendered, sir. I thought it best to bring him to you." Peter offered in explanation.
"Have I ever taken prisoners, Peter?" My voice was threateningly smooth. I could feel the restrained fear radiating from the captive man. I turned my lethal gaze to him, "I do not allow second chances." Each word was even and measured. "Leniency," I spat the word like a curse, "makes for sloppy soldiers, and sloppy soldiers make a weak force. I do not command a losing army."
"Please, Major." the captive's voice shook slightly as he attempted to restrain his fear. "I'm sure we can work something out. You want control of my territory. I'm willing to hand it over without any further bloodshed. I'm willing to negotiate."
I cut his words off with a merciless laugh. The sound rang cold and heartless to my own ears. "You want to negotiate? Very well. These are my terms. You will suffer the same fate as your soldiers." I gestured to the purple columns of smoke choking the air around us. "And we will take control of your territory anyway. That, my doomed friend, is the only negotiation I understand."
Without another word or even another thought, I struck, closing the distance between the cowering man, severing his head from his body in one swift, snakelike motion. In the same movement, I cast his head into the destructive inferno.
"Peter, finish him." I commanded as I resumed my surveillance post. Peter and the second soldier immediately complied, the screeching sounds of flesh being rent from flesh echoing in the aftermath of the battle. Within seconds his remains were being consumed to ashes in the pyre.
Peter walked to my side, his eyes scanning the field where the battle had taken place. "How many did we lose?" he questioned.
"Seven." My reply was terse.
"Seven out of twenty. Not bad." I could feel his sense of victory. Peter was still young enough to feel the thrill of battle and the elation of winning.
My own emotions were more calloused. Another day, another battle. I was weary of the destruction day after day after relentless day. Staring now at the scene before me, I felt hollow. Even trapped. There was no victory for me in this conquest. I took no joy from it. It was simply my duty.
When the fires died and all that remained of our enemies were their ashes were blowing in the wind, I herded my company of newborns together and led them back to our post knowing that Maria would be anxious for a report.
Peter steered the diminished group to their quarters while I marched across the compound to find Maria. I ignored the sensations of fear that emanated from those that I passed along the way.
I was well aware of my reputation. And if that reputation wasn't enough to strike terror into the cold, dead hearts of those who knew of me, then the scars that marred my body were incentive enough for fear. Each one was a warning. There was no denying that our kind were dangerous, but I was doubly so. I carried the wounds from countless battles, all of which I had walked away from the victor. It was no secret that for every scar that disfigured my body, there were hundreds of vampires who were nothing more than scattered ashes.
I was merely a machine programmed for destruction-- an instrument of death.
Maria was waiting for me. I felt her calculating sense of anticipation as I entered her chamber. "Jasper, I trust you have good news for me." It wasn't a question.
"The neighboring army has been annihilated and control of the area has been forfeited to you."
"Excellent work, Major." Her smile was cold and cunning. "You never disappoint."
"I simply did my duty, Maria. Nothing more, nothing less." My posture was as rigid as my words.
Maria's icy chuckle raked like claws up my spine. With catlike grace she sauntered to where I stood at attention. A single finger traced a mocking pattern against my chest. "You've done well, Jasper." she purred. "I have something for you- something I think you'll enjoy. You know where to find it."
"Of course. Thank you, Maria." The meaning of her words ignited the burn in my throat. I had fed only the day before, but at the promise of blood my throat flamed as if it had been weeks. With a dutiful nod, I turned on my heel and marched from the room.
I followed the winding corridor down to the lower level, giving no notice to the other ageless ones that gave me a wide berth as I stalked my way to the prize waiting for me. I pushed open the door to a tiny cell where a small young woman was huddled in the corner whimpering.
The intoxicating fragrance of her blood wafted to me, filling my senses. I breathed deeply, feeling the burn, anticipating how delicious her blood would feel as it slid down my throat.
A sliver of light from the doorway illuminated my figure. The girl looked up, her eyes clearly displaying her terror. Her turbulent emotions wrapped around me, strangling me as they gave rise to my last human memories. I lived those moments again as I remembered my own horror in realizing that my life was at an end... or so I had thought. How much better it would have been if I had died that night.
"Please," her trembling voice pled, "please let me go. I haven't done anything. Please." Tears borne of fright welled in her eyes. I took a step into the dark room. Another and then another. Until I stood directly over her tremulous form. Her eyes widened, and in a futile, desperate attempt to escape, she jumped from her place in the corner and attempted to run out the still open door.
Before she had even had a chance to take a full step, I had closed the heavy door with a loud bang, trapping her and enveloping the room in complete darkness. The girl's heartbeat sped, the rapidly thudding sound echoing in the silence.
"No! Please, let me go. Please, please don't hurt me," she sobbed frantically.
I glided over to where she stood trembling in the middle of the floor, placing myself behind her. The burn was agonizing now. I had to end this quickly. Between the parching of my throat and the suffocating terror of my victim, I couldn't bear to prolong this.
I raised my hands to brush the hair away from the back of her neck. She shook violently at the touch of my cold, stone hands. "Don't worry, little one." I whispered as I knelt to brush my nose against the fragrant pulse point at the base of her throat. "You won't feel a thing."
In less than a heartbeat, I snapped her neck effortlessly between my hands, mercifully ending her torment. My teeth sank smoothly into her skin, releasing the flow of blood to soothe my desiccated throat. I drank from her until every last drop had been consumed.
Afterwards I stood staring at her limp, lifeless body. Her eyes stared unseeingly ahead, her head twisted at an odd angle. Feelings reminiscent of nausea churned in the pit of my stomach, but I pushed them aside the best I could.
Life was hard, and very rarely fair. I tried to convince myself that this girl had been spared a lifetime of strife and adversity. She was at peace—a state that wasn't achieved in this life.
As I stared at her still form, I envied her. I envied that peace. I wished that my own struggles could be ended so effortlessly, but I knew that was not to be.
I was a monster. A demon from the blackest pits of hell. But there was no alternative for me. This was my lot now, and there was no use in wishing for anything else.
As I returned to the surface, I reminded myself that I was a soldier. I was strong; I was a survivor. I would not give in to this despair.
A soldier did his duty, no matter the cost. But deep, deep down inside, in a place so secret that I would never acknowledge it, I wished that somehow, someway I could find an escape.
Over a century later I sat engaged in a completely different kind of battle, this one equally as fierce as any fight I had ever participated in. Instead of fighting for destruction, now my aim was preservation.
I sat in the cafeteria of Forks High School with my wife and my brothers and sister. I wasn't paying attention to the humming of conversation taking place at the tables around us, instead all my focus was straining towards keeping the screeching demon inside in his cage.
It had been two weeks since I had fed and that only made the monster that much harder to restrain. The air in the lunch room was saturated with the heady scent of blood. Not the poor substitute of animal blood, but the rich, alluring fragrance of human blood.
One unsuspecting girl breezed by our table; her scent had the same effect as pouring gasoline on the fire blazing inside of me. It raged on, almost obliterating the humanity I strove so hard to maintain. She stopped at the table closest to ours to speak to a friend. She flipped her hair behind her shoulder sending a wave of blood-scented air towards me. The heaters in the room magnified her scent, blowing in our direction. Venom pooled in my mouth and I swallowed convulsively.
I couldn't prevent my mind from conjuring up images of walking up behind the deliciously appealing young girl and brushing my lips against her neck where her pulse was strongest, letting the fragrance fill my lungs. My teeth would sink easily into her skin, releasing the pulses of blood against my tongue, quenching the unbearable, scorching burn in my throat.
I was startled from my imaginings when Edward sharply kicked my chair. His face was impassive, but I caught the whispers of disapproval that he couldn't quite hide. I hung my head, shame warring with rebellion in my emotions. I despised being the weak link-- the one who was always struggling.
The others didn't have to war so violently with themselves in the presence of humans. Why did I have to be the one to fight this hard? I knew my past was not conducive to the lifestyle that I was trying to lead. I knew that my early training and the century of immediate gratification contributed largely to my struggles, but that was small comfort when my weaknesses were displayed for all my family to see.
"Sorry," I muttered to Edward. He shrugged, his face still unreadable.
"You weren't going to do anything," Alice soothed. Her hand gently squeezed mine under the table.
I hated it when she lied to me, even when she intended for her words to comfort me. There was no way that she could truthfully say that I wasn't going to get out of my seat and end that girl's life. I knew my own thoughts were uncertain enough that she wouldn't have been able to see anything clearly.
"It helps if you think of them as people," she continued quietly. "Her name is Whitney. She has a baby sister that she adores. Her mom is the one that invited Esme to that garden party, do you remember?"
"I know who she is." My tone was sharper than I intended for it to be. Without another word, I turned my gaze to stare out the windows. As much as I loved Alice, I couldn't stomach her sympathy right now; I didn't deserve it. She ought to be rebuking me for putting our family at risk for exposure instead.
At that thought, my mood darkened even more. I was our family's greatest liability. I, a Major in the Confederate army, a skilled annihilator of virtually invincible vampires, a warrior with multiple human lifetimes of experience, was a weakling. I could barely even control myself. The thought was sickening.
Guilt coupled with shame as my Alice stood from the table with a deep sigh. Her slight twinge of pain at my rebuff heaped more coals of mortification on my head. The thought of being the one to cause her pain, no matter how slight, was a knife twisting in my heart. With characteristically graceful movements, Alice took her tray to dispose of the untouched food.
I continued to brood in my seat. I heard Edward and Emmett mumbling quietly to each other, something about a new girl, but I paid no attention. I really couldn't care less. The student body of Forks High School was of little concern to me except as an excruciating temptation that took all of my effort to overcome.
Instead of joining my brothers in their conversation, I focused on the drops of rain streaking down the windows, breathing shallowly in an effort to diminish the scorching sensation.
I was ashamed of the way I had spoken to Alice earlier; I so rarely snapped at her. It hurt her when I was abrupt with her, and my pain was inevitably tied to hers. When one of us suffered, the other did too, almost as if we shared the same heart.
When the lunch hour was over, I stood from my seat and walked down the hallway to find Alice before my next class. She was waiting for me, of course, propped against the corner of one of the lockers. The warmth of her soft eyes beckoned to me- my own safe haven.
"You don't have to say it." Her voice was as tender as her eyes, absolving me from any guilt.
"Yes, I do, darlin. I'm-" Her soft lips cut off my words. For a moment I forgot about everything but the love radiating from this tiny woman and the way her lips felt as they moved against mine.
"You don't have anything to apologize for," she insisted as she moved her lips to feather kisses across my cheek.
I rested my forehead against hers, drinking in her sweet fragrance, letting it override everything else. For just a moment, I could breathe easily, enveloped in a bubble where only Alice and I existed.
"I shouldn't have spoken to you that way no matter how upset I was. There's no excuse for that."
"Jasper, you are much too hard on yourself." Her hand raised to smooth back a lock of hair from my forehead. "You and I will hunt tonight. Just the two of us." Her mischievous grin sparked my own.
"Is that what you'd call a distraction technique?" I asked with a smirk
"Possibly," she replied. "Is it working?"
"I'll let you know later."
Sympathy filled her eyes, spilling over into her loving voice, "It's only a few more hours, Jazz. You'll be fine; I know you will."
"I wish I had your faith in me." I sighed wistfully. The bell rang before Alice had a chance to respond. With a final quick kiss, we parted to our separate classes.
Away from her, the protective bubble was removed and the monster was back in full force as I took my seat in the back of the class with Rosalie and Emmett. Both afternoon classes seemed never ending; the instructors' voices droned on and on. I didn't hear a word that was spoken.
I had resorted to holding my breath as a final measure to keep the monster caged. I counted the passing seconds, I formed detailed battle plans in my head, I translated passages from my newest Civil War history book into Greek... anything and everything in a desperate attempt to occupy my mind with something other than the moist sound of a roomful of heartbeats pumping rich blood through human veins.
Surely this must be a form of hell, I decided, my punishment for all the years of bloodshed.
At long last the bell rang, signaling a blessed end to my torment. I was the first one out the door, followed closely by Emmett and Rosalie. I moved as quickly as I could through the hallway without drawing undue attention to myself.
Finally in the safe confines of Edward's Volvo, I drew a deep steadying breath. I leaned my head back against the seat and closed my eyes, attempting to relax my tense muscles. The whole day had wreaked havoc on my control and my emotions. I felt like I was stretched taut enough to snap in two.
Emmett, Rosalie, and Alice piled into the car a moment later. Alice radiated concern, and without even opening my eyes I could feel her gaze resting on me. I slid my eyes open for a fraction of a second and attempted to pull my lips into a smile for her, but I knew it probably looked more like a grimace.
"So, Jasper, how about that rematch this afternoon." Emmett playfully slugged me in the shoulder.
"Not today, Emmett." I had given my brother an old-fashioned Texas-style butt-whooping last night, and he hadn't appreciated it at all.
"Oh come on, Jazz. You're itching for a good fight and you know it." He persisted.
"I said not today." I spoke curtly. Even Emmett knew better than to argue with that tone.
He was right though; I was dying to release some of this pent up aggression. However, I knew that in the frame of mind I was currently in, it wouldn't be a good idea to push it. I might end up actually hurting my bear of a brother. The thought, though, of Esme's loving face twisted into an expression of disappointment and disapproval was enough to curb even the desire to take him up on that rematch. It disturbed her greatly when our fights got too wild.
"Where is Edward?" Rosalie asked impatiently.
"Yeah, he doesn't usually take this long to get out here." Emmett said.
"I don't know. I haven't seen anything." I didn't have to look up to know that Alice's eyes glassed over as she searched for something in his future. "He's on his way now. Something's wrong though." Alice's voice betrayed her concern.
I looked out the window towards the school building and saw Edward sprinting to the car. He was moving much too hurriedly for our human charade.
His emotions hit me like a battering ram as he leapt into the driver's seat. Fury rolled from him in waves, and I had never felt such bloodlust emanating from him before. It was almost more than I could bear coupled with my own raging thirst. His breath was coming in quick, heavy pants, his eyes were wild and his jaw clenched tight enough to crumble a diamond into dust.
"Edward?" Alice's voice was shaded with anxiety. Edward shook his head violently, refusing to answer.
"What the hell happened to you?" Emmett demanded, alarmed as the rest of us at this unusual display from Edward. He was normally the most collected of all of us. It took a lot to rattle him, especially to this extent. The kid was a mess. He threw the car into reverse and sped out of the parking lot and down the road.
Emmett, Rose, and I turned our questioning stare to Alice. She shrugged her shoulders, just as confused as the rest of us.
"You're leaving?" Her quiet whisper was laced with pain.
"Am I?" Edward hissed through his clenched teeth.
We all turned our gaze to Edward now as Alice searched for his future with blank eyes. She gasped suddenly. I wished one of them would let the rest of us in on what was going on. Something was obviously very wrong.
"Oh." Alice gasped again.
"Stop." Edward's fierce voice commanded. I felt his bloodlust rise exponentially at whatever vision he had seen in Alice's head.
"Sorry," she whispered, her eyes wide. "I'll miss you, no matter how short a time you're gone." Sadness was already taking root in her emotions as she thought of him leaving.
Already we were at the driveway to our home, thanks to Edward's maniacal driving. "You can drop us here." Alice said softly. "You should tell Carlisle yourself."
Edward nodded jerkily and brought the car to an abrupt stop. It appeared that we wouldn't be getting any information at all from him. I climbed out with Emmett and Rosalie, concerned for my brother, but glad to be getting some distance from his violently turbulent emotions.
Alice placed her hand on his shoulder before she stepped out. "You will do the right thing," her soft voice carried an undeniable command. "She's Charlie Swan's only family. It would kill him too."
Charlie Swan, Fork's Chief of Police? What could he possibly have to do with this?
I remembered now the snippets of conversations that I had heard from other students. His daughter was the new arrival at school. Could that be what this was about? And what about her could have caused such an extreme reaction in my brother?
Edward nodded jerkily to Alice as she stepped out of the car to take her place at my side. Alice's tiny hand slid into mine as Edward sped down the road as fast as he had come. A sense of anxiety overtook the four of us while watching him disappear.
A strange unsettling feeling, almost of foreboding, crept over me. I didn't know in what manner or even to what extent, but somehow I could sense that our lives were about to change.
I write because I enjoy the story, but I do love reading what you think. It doesn't take much to make my day, so pretty please take a second and leave me a reply! Thanks!!