A/N: This takes place in the Twilight universe. Bella is still human, has not graduated high school, but this is after all the turmoil of New Moon. Think of this as between New Moon and Eclipse. This focuses on the Cullen family almost exclusively.
Sometimes it was a relief just to get away.
Rose and Emmett were in Seattle, Edward was composing something and didn't want to be interrupted, and Alice was deep in the throes of creativity over a new fashion project. None of them were really interested in going for a run with him, but he didn't mind. It was very restful for him to be away from others and to let his emotional mind rest. Since it was a sunny day the annoyance of school was a non-issue and Jasper was grateful for the freedom of a day alone.
He struck out away from the house, heading into the deep woods. He leapt over gullies, ducked around trees, and let himself run as he pleased. There were no humans out here to hide his secret from; no one to see and notice that a high-school student was running at a speed that not even a track star could reach. His feet moved in a rapid cadence over the ground and countless scents wafted up to his nose. He could smell pine sap, the bark of the different trees, the rich loam underneath his feet, and the rain-freshened air. The fact that so many days were overcast on this peninsula of land made him feel safe and protected from the sun that could betray him and his family's secret.
He headed up the mountainside and toward the summit, heading for a place that only he and Alice (and Edward) knew about. It was a little hollow in the hillside. He and Alice had found the place not long after they had moved to Forks and they'd both been enchanted with it. It was as if the forest itself had made itself grow to form their little hideaway. The trees arched overhead and met in the middle so that anyone in the hollow was protected from the rain and soft moss and ferns blanketed the hollow's floor. Fallen logs and stones provided places to sit or climb for two vampires eager for a little time to themselves or for one vampire who needed peace.
He reached his goal and flopped onto the ferns, sighing with relief. It was so, so quiet here. His was the only mind around, thank goodness. He loved his family dearly and every day he gave a prayer of thanks for his meeting Alice and joining the Cullens, but even their emotions sometimes grated on him. Carlisle was worried about one of his patients and was quietly fretting while putting up a cheerful front for the man's benefit and for the benefit of his family, but at the same time he wondered if his false cheer was actually dishonest. Carlisle's emotions were complex and concerned only for the good of others. While this meant he was a good and loving man that also meant that he tied himself up in knots over things he could not change. More and more often Jasper had had to calm him, but the calm only lasted with close proximity. Once Carlisle left for the hospital the worry started up again.
Esme's emotions were a bit easier to be around. She enjoyed each moment she spent with her husband and with her adopted children, but there were times when he could tell she wished she could have known each of them while they'd been actual children. She'd missed the years when she could scoop them up in hugs and spoil them rotten and play silly games with them, but she accepted her life as it was and accepted her children as they were. Jasper was glad that she'd arrived at that point because otherwise being around her regret on missing those years would have been almost painful. Still, he could tell that she loved each of them dearly and longed to spoil them to her heart's content (or as much as they would allow). Esme's motherly instincts were hard for either her or her children to resist.
His brother Emmett's feelings were very clear and sometimes he managed to make daily life around others less of a trial. His outlook was perpetually sunny even when things were less than all right, and he was always able to find the joke in any situation. If he didn't understand a situation or a person he would wait until things made sense to him rather than agonizing over them, as so many people tended to do. He was madly in love with Rosalie and had a strong affection for the other members of his family. Sometimes Emmett's feelings were breaths of fresh air in the mental fog.
Rosalie…Rosalie was different from her husband. She frequently envied humans but enjoyed the boost to her beauty that being a vampire gave her. She adored Emmett and loved the fact that he worshipped her, but she also loved having others worship her as well. The number of boys at the high school who daydreamed about her was high and Jasper knew that all of them fancied themselves in love with her. Naturally, this pleased Rosalie to no end. Being beautiful had always been a part of her, but underneath that beauty were many redeeming features. She felt a deep love for her family (even those who annoyed her) and she was determined to protect those she loved if trouble ever arrived.
Edward was trickier. Much, much trickier. He had his doubts and regrets and his joys and sorrows. Lately, ever since he'd met Bella, his feelings had become more intense and even more complex. He worried a great deal (sometimes his worries bordered on panic) and he liked to chew things over and over in his mind. Foremost in his mind were thoughts that consisted of "Am I doing the right thing?" or "How can I do this?" and they all concerned the human girl. Before Bella, Edward's feelings had been made up of love and concern for his family and ongoing vigilance so their secret would stay secret. Now, those things were still there, but Bella was also a big part of everything Edward felt (often his feelings for Bella led him to overreact when it came to protecting her, and Jasper was always amused by her reaction). Most days when he tried to calm Edward he had to be very circumspect about doing so, or Edward would tell him to knock it off. He didn't feel he deserved help with his feelings since he saw them as just punishment for putting Bella in the danger of having a vampire love her. He didn't want to endanger Bella, he wanted to protect her, love her, shower her with everything he wanted her to have and make her the center of his world.
Thoughts of Edward brought him to thoughts of Bella. He smiled and he knew that Bella was good for Edward. She was the perfect foil for his brooding and over-protective tendencies since she was loving and open and determined to be the caretaker. She was used to taking care of her mother and her father in different ways, so she found Edward's attempts to watch over her somewhat irksome but at the same time very touching. His generosity also bothered her because for her, Edward was the ultimate prize and Jasper knew she was struck anew with wonder each time she looked at his brother and lavish gifts were not needed. (He could remember the time Edward had mentioned buying her a new car for Christmas and her ensuing tidal wave of horror and incredulity that he thought she needed presents when she had him.) He'd laughed for about ten minutes after that and Alice had demanded to know what was so funny.
Alice. Ah, Alice. How could he find her emotions difficult to be near? Even when she worried about what she saw in the future, even when she was less than perfectly happy, he felt that the pinnacle of his life lay in Alice. His wife. His soul-mate. His Alice. She was the one he adored above all else in the world and amazingly, incredibly, she felt the same way about him. He could still remember the rush of emotion he could sense from her as she saw him enter that diner in Philadelphia. She'd known he was coming, and she'd known that he would find her striking and utterly beautiful. He didn't learn about her gift until she told him but he was thankful that she'd seen him in her future.
A bird taking flight from a branch overhead broke into his thoughts and he watched it flap off, smiling as he admired the bird's graceful ascent. He could hear the patter of rain begin overhead, but like always, the cover over his head kept any from getting through. Not for the first time he wished he could bring Alice out here for an actual picnic, rather than having to hunt. To his mind, picnics held tete-a-tete were romantic and he was always searching for new ways he could charm Alice.
The scent hit him first. Somewhere close by, there was a vampire who was not a member of his family. He was on his feet in less than a second, ready to fight. An unknown vampire was always considered a risk, especially if that one had a gift.
A moment later blackness engulfed him as that gift hit him.
Abruptly, inexplicably, he was back in his past, in Texas. He could smell the scent of horses, of wool, campfires, and tobacco and rotgut whiskey. He was in the Confederate camp and he could see the faces of men he had known only briefly before seeing their bodies lying on the battlefield. From the camp came his memories of battle, and of course, the memories he loathed followed them. He could see himself with Maria and her sisters, hearing what they were saying but not understanding until too late that he was in danger. He shouted at himself, telling himself to run, but he saw Maria sink her teeth into his neck.
The scene changed again. He was fighting an enormous army of newborns, but for every one he defeated two sprung up in their place. Their teeth latched onto him, sending fire under his skin, and just as he thought the agony could not become any worse, the blackness came again. In its wake came peace and he welcomed it. Thankfully, he dropped into the blackness and wrapped himself in it the same way a human would wrap up in a blanket to stave off the cold.
How long he spent in the blackness was something beyond the measuring of time. All he knew was that the blackness had given him langour and comfort and he wasn't eager to return to the memories. Anything would be better than living through them a second time.
What was that? What was he hearing? He knew it was his name and he knew Alice was speaking it, but why did she have those tidal waves of worry coming off of her? Why was the rest of his family there, all of them just as worried as she was?
"Jasper? Jasper, please wake up!"
Wake up? What was she talking about? Suddenly, his eyes were open and he was staring at the ceiling of the porch. He could feel the boards of the porch underneath him, the cool air on his face, and Alice's hand's holding one of his. "Alice?" he said, mightily confused. "What happened?"
"We were hoping you could tell us," Emmett said, his face bone white. Could he even remember the last time Emmett had been that worried? "We came home from Seattle and found you lying on the porch with your eyes closed."
"What do you mean?" Jasper asked, sitting up. Why was he lying on the porch?
"We don't know what happened," Carlisle said calmly, moving to his side and taking hold of his wrist.
"Carlisle, I don't have a pulse," Jasper said distractedly. "Will someone tell me what's going on?"
"All we know is that we found you out here!" Rosalie snapped. "We didn't hear or see anything unusual, nothing else happened, and we don't know why the heck you were lying out here with your eyes closed! It took Alice a full five minutes of shaking you and talking to you to get you to open them! Why were you doing that?"
"I don't know!" he snapped back. Firmly he took hold of his emotions and sampled the emotional atmosphere around him and fought to calm himself and everyone else down. All of this worried anger was not helping anyone and was getting nothing accomplished.
"What's the last thing you remember?" Esme asked, worry in her eyes.
He thought about it and got to his feet. "I'm...not sure. I was..." He stopped, so confused that there was no way he could articulate it. None of this made any sense.
Edward stared at him. "Were you remembering things?" he asked. "The Civil War? Maria? Newborns? What was the blackness?"
Sometimes, Jasper reflected, it helped to have a mind reader for a brother. "When I saw all that, it felt like I was actually there again rather than remembering things," he said. "But there's nothing like the blackness in my memories."
Edward shook his head. "No, there isn't. Can you remember anything else?"
Jasper thought. "Yes..." He paused and focused on it. Something about a bird and then... "Oh, God. A vampire. A stranger. I think he did something to me with his gift."
The effect was instantaneous. Immediately his family were on high alert.
"Did you see him?" Emmett asked. "No offense, Jazz, it's not really like you to let a stranger sneak up on you and...I guess hit you over the head with his gift. Any guesses on what it is?"
"You've got me," Jasper said, deeply ashamed of himself. He was the best fighter in the family and their self-appointed defender, and he'd let a possibly dangerous vampire get the drop on him!
"It's not your fault, Jazz," Edward said. "You can only work with what you know."
"Save it, Edward." He knew Edward was just being kind, but kindness wasn't needed now. What they needed was to know what they were dealing with.
Alice gasped, staring into space.
"What is it?" Jasper asked.
Edward went white. "Seriously, Alice?"
"It's becoming clear," she said, blinking. "He'll be coming here."
"I've got him," Edward said quietly. "He's...well, his thoughts aren't hostile. Far from it. He's curious about us and he's thinking about Jasper. Is he feeling better?"
They knew Edward was telling them the stranger's thoughts as he heard them so they stayed quiet and let him listen.
"He's hoping this goes well," Edward finished. "He's just out there, about to come out of the trees."
Just as Edward told them this, the man stepped out. All of them could see his skin sparkle in the sunlight as he exited the trees and started toward the house. Instead of running, he approached at a slow walk, allowing the Cullens plenty of time to see him. He'd been older when he was changed, if a vampire could look middle-aged then this man was it. His hair was black with just a little gray at the temples and his face would have been called "craggily handsome" while he'd been a human, but now people would call him distinguished. He wore black slacks and shoes and a white shirt as if they were robes of office, and his walk was careful and dignified. He approached the porch and the waiting Cullens as if uncertain of his reception.
"Hello," Carlisle said as the man reached the porch. "I am Carlisle. This is my family. This is Esme, my wife, my daughters Rosalie and Alice, and my sons Edward, Emmett, and Jasper. May we know who you are?"
"I am Tobias. I apologize for frightening you." He turned and looked at Jasper. "Are you feeling better?"
"Feeling better?" Jasper didn't understand.
"After your rest."
None of them understood.
Edward put a hand on Carlisle's shoulder. "Dad, he...his gift is..."
Carlisle noted that Edward was terribly shaken. He only used "Mom" or "Dad" during jokes or when he was very upset.
"My gift is a very odd one," Tobias said. "I hope it doesn't frighten you. My gift is to suppress vampirism."
All of them stared.
"I can make it so that you are human for a while. I used my gift on Jasper there because I thought he might like some rest."
All of them stared some more. None of them could understand it.
"I can make you sleep, help you digest food, and experience things as a human."
"I was asleep?" Jasper said, at last understanding what had happened. "I was dreaming?"
Tobias smiled. "Yes." He stepped closer. "I'm sorry if it frightened you."
As he came closer and stepped back into the sunlight. The light allowed them to see that his eyes were a light, butterscotch gold.