"Human blood makes us the strongest, though only fractionally. Jasper's been thinking about cheating." Edward, Eclipse, p.317

"If Carlisle was the soul of our family, then Esme was the heart. He gave us a leader who deserved following; she made that following into an act of love." Midnight Sun

Jasper strode out into the yard, his frustration obvious in the tension of his jaw and shoulders. He marched to the edge of the forest and paced back and forth. He knew Carlisle was adamant; he would not change his mind on this subject. Jasper struggled to calm himself. He knew his adoptive father meant well, but he couldn't see the greater good in this case.

He heard Esme's approach before he saw her. She seated herself on a small boulder and waited patiently.

Jasper continued pacing. "He's being unreasonable. He won't even consider it." He did an about face, marching in the opposite direction. "We could be stronger. We would stand a greater chance."

"But consider the cost," she said calmly. "You would choose our lives over theirs?"

"We could be careful." He spun to face her, hands spread wide in a pleading manner. "We could choose humans who wouldn't be missed. Homeless, alone. Even the drug-addled would give us more strength than even the wildest game. It could give us the edge! But he won't even consider it!"

"He won't," she acknowledged. "He won't put one life above another. It's not our place." She way she shifted the focus from Carlisle to the whole family was subtle, but he caught it nonetheless. He knew she felt anguish at her family being divided, as well as sad, either at the idea he proposed or the disagreement that had ensued. Underneath it all he felt her fear. Aside from Emmett, it seemed to be at the core of all of his family lately. Including him.

He sunk to the ground next to her, pulling his knees up and resting his arms against them. "And he's right, of course."

Esme stretched out her hand and ran it over his hair. "But it's valiant of you to offer to do that."

Jasper laughed humorlessly. "Valiant? It's just strategy. Merely precaution."

Esme shook her head. "It has been so hard for you, adjusting to this lifestyle, giving up human blood. I know, probably better than the others, save Alice, just how difficult the feat has been. While you were still learning, and staying home with me during the school day, I saw first hand how you struggled. But you persevered, and now you're finally at a place where you are comfortable, at ease around humans. Not only is it brave of you to bring up the idea, when you know it risks ostracism from this family, but on top of it, you would be willing to start your abstinence all over again, just to protect us. Breaking your fast now would put you right back at square one. To be willing to do that, to sacrifice all you've worked for…" she trailed off. "It is brave, and generous of you, too. I know how difficult taking a human life would be."

He scrutinized her emotions for a hint of deceit, but there was none, of course, not from Esme. She spoke only the truth, an aspect of it he hadn't considered. He hung his head, ashamed. "It would be so easy, Esme."

She leaned down, pulled him closer and leaned his head against her shoulder. "It may be. But you're stronger than that. We're stronger. We're going to fight this battle on our own terms. And we will win."

Our terms, he thought. But at our cost as well. "Esme?" He looked up at her, meeting her eyes. "I won't lie. We need the numbers. But in all honesty, I'd feel much better if you were sitting out."

He felt her surprise at his words even as it flashed across her face, felt her sadness, and then overwhelmingly her love. Love for her family, for him and for his concern. "It would be so easy," she returned, her smile sad. Jasper nodded his understanding.

"But don't worry," she said, standing up. "I have a very good teacher." She held out her hand to help him up. "Come on. We have some time. Let's hunt, then spar." He nodded, and took her hand, rising to his feet.