A/N: I apologize for the delay in posting this bit of the story. I originally intended to tell the story in four parts, but the fourth is being a major bitch, so I kept going back and changing this one around. The story is now finished. If I ever get that last part done, it'll be a sort of epilogue to this, nothing more. Thanks for your kind reviews, people.
When he is eight, Yolanda takes him with her to the market. Mitzy, the other maid, is busy with the twins, barely three weeks old, and his mother is sick. Dying, but he doesn't know that yet. He causes all kinds of mischief if left alone and so Yolanda sees no other option than to take Young Master to the market with her.
He flits around the stalls and huts, cuts grimaces at other children, enjoys shoving people out of the way and generally makes a nuisance of himself, knowing perfectly well that none of the people around, all of them black, will dare raise a hand against him. He deserves to be smacked, but they won't do it.
Until, out of nowhere, a wrinkly hand clamps around his forearm, stopping him dead. He spins around to face his attacker and is surprised to find her not much taller than him. Her skin looks like burnt paper, all wrinkled and dark, grey like ashes in places. Her eyes are milky white and her teeth rotting in her mouth. She scares him. Scares him so badly that he forgets to scream and demand she be punished for her transgression.
"Oh, boy," she rasps, pulling him closer, laying her smelly hands on his face, tracing his features. He's frozen stiff in fear. "You be nasty, boy," she mutters, more to herself than him. "You be makin' war, boy. You be dead, boy, and you be makin' war, makin' blood, makin' pain, oh, oh…," and then, while he's still staring at her like she's all his nightmares come to life, she switches languages and her words become a garbled mess.
A moment later, Yolanda, wide-eyed and panting, pulls him away from the old woman and drags him through alleys and side-streets until he thinks his heart's going to burst. He rips away from her and demands, "Who was that?"
Yolli shakes her head, eyes on the ground. "No-one, Master. Crazy woman."
"What did she say?" He wants, no, needs to know. Needs to know what she said. War? Blood? To an eight-year-old boy, it sounds like glory and magic.
Yolanda shakes her head again, refusing to answer. He considers her for a moment before saying, low and dangerous, his best imitation of his father, "You tell me right now or I'll tell Father Mitzy stole food."
Mitzy is Yolanda's sister and thus the threat to her much better. He's smart and he's cunning and he's doesn't hesitate to use it.
The maid shuffles her feet, kicking up dust. She wrings her hands and refuses to meet his eyes. Even through the threat of a whipping for her sister, she still hesitates. Then, quietly, sacredly, she interprets the woman's garbled words. "She say you bring only death."
He's seventeen and he's going to war. The twins are scampering around him, like eager dogs, Maddie crying, Jamie cheering him on. He bends to hug his sister and then catches his brother by the collar and hugs him, too. His father stands next to them, watching his oldest with a mixture of pride and trepidation.
They fought, long and hard about this. About Jasper being too young. Another year, Father said. The war might be over then, Jasper said, eager for glory. Jasper won.
Mitzy appears suddenly and quietly, herding the twins away and he's about to try and find the words that might be the last to his father, when Yolanda comes rushing out of the house. She slows when she catches sight of him, sighs in relief.
His father, never a man of many words, sighs and pats him on the shoulder. "Come home son," he rumbles, hauling him in for a rare and valued kiss to the forehead. Then he spins on his heel, marching back towards the house. "Girl," he barks at Yolanda, "I'm hungry."
The maid nods and clasps her hands in front of her stomach but makes no move to follow the master. Instead she risks a look at Jasper, who's long since grown way beyond her. She steps closer and hesitantly holds out her hands. He starts, surprised. Yolanda has not touched him voluntarily since the day at the market, the day the blind woman named him a bringer of death.
He watches her half-aborted gesture, unwilling to either help or hinder, simply waiting. He's grown a bit more patient in the past decade.
In the end, the aging woman curses under her breath and flings her arms around his middle, the only part of him she can comfortably reach. "I hope she been wrong," she whispers.
She doesn't explain who 'she' is.
He hugs her back for a moment before pushing her away, older, but still so young. Still so cocky. "I don't," he returns, his grin sharp. He's going to bring death, alright, to any Yankee he finds.
Yolanda pats his arm one last time before turning away. The last thing she ever says to him is, "I pray for you, Master."
It doesn't help much.
The first man he ever kills isn't much older than him, blonde and tall. A scout for the Yankees. The enemy. A hostile soldier. A danger. A human. A man. Just a man.
He shoots him and then finishes the job with a knife, feeling warm blood on his hands. It makes him gag, makes him retch. But he keeps his food down, cleans his blade, and gets a pat on the shoulder from his commanding officer.
He breathes in and breathes out and tries to calm his racing heart and he can't help the feeling in his chest, the one that says, you were born for this.
And he was. Up and up and up, youngest Major in the Texas Cavalry, Major Whitlock, the man you can't beat.
And then three women on the shoulder of the road, admiring his body and his prowess on the battle field. Admiring his capacity for death.
He was born for this.
He dies for it, too.
He wakes with foreign emotions and fire on his tongue. He feeds on blood and death. He twists people's hearts until they break and fills them with something new, with rage, or hunger, or hate and lets them loose on the world.
He takes their lives, uses them to cause more death and then takes their unlives, too, and before long, his calling is turned and shortened and the one who makes war becomes, quite simply, the Warmaker.
The thing with Maria doesn't start because Maria has no end and no beginning. She, along with everything she brings, is a state of being, an entire universe in itself. Maria, Maria, Maria. For the longest time, she's all he knows.
Maria and the Southern Wars are pain, rage, thirst, pleasure, fear, desire, lust, hate, hunger, wrath and rage. They are death and murder and injury, blood and fire and the blackness of hearts that have forgotten that they ever knew purity.
He is an empath immersed in an ocean of negative feelings, filled to capacity and beyond with the thirst and rage of everyone around him. He knows, intellectually, that he must have been different once, must have been alone in his skin once.
But all he is now is other people's filth crammed into him without beginning or end. He's part of the darkness around him, blending seamlessly. He's hate given form and it's only late at night, when there is no-one around and some of the army's collective base desires seep away in the solitude, that he can look down at his hands and see the blood on them. But they were bloody before and while he understands what he is, in those small hours of morning, he feels no regret. He brings death. It's always been this way.
He kills aimlessly and planlessly. Maria teases him, fills him with all her perversion and endless hunger and when he snaps, when his eyes turn to pitch, she lets him loose like an animal and he goes, soaking up all the pain and death he causes, using it to fuel himself. He can go on like this forever. Soaking up and spewing back into the world. As long as there are things – people – to kill, he can keep killing them.
Maria doesn't start because Maria is always.
One day a party of Volturi guards visit them to inspect what they're doing. Jane and Alec are with them and Maria, flighty bitch that she is, falls in love with them, their powers and their potential. She tries to get them to stay, but they refuse.
So she sends him out to get her gifted twins of her own. She doesn't care what it takes, she tells him, and this time no amount of artificial emotion will deter her. He sighs and goes to find her twins.
He searches one town after another, looking for twins with that certain strangeness, that glow of otherness around them. Gifted. Of course they'd have to be gifted, too. And young. Because Maria wants her own Jane and Alec.
He finds himself a pair one night, sitting in a field, whispering to each other, both blonde and pretty, a boy and a girl. For a moment his dead heart leaps and another vision interferes with the one before him. Two children, boy and girl, blonde, too. The girl's hair is longer, their clothes different.
How old are they now? Are they alive? Are they gifted?
He stops himself, frowning. Gifted? Why would he care? Would he… he considers the question. Would he kill them if they were? Death for the twins. Death for his twins, those twins, any twins.
Could he? Can he?
He watches the boy help the girl up and dust her off. They link arms and walk away, none the wiser. For the first time in his life, Jasper Whitlock doubts.
One day a lanky, blonde soldier is brought into the camp for the simple reason that he was close and wore a uniform. Maria has always had a special craving for soldiers and the only reason she hasn't sent him out to turn her a whole battalion of them is her fear of discovery, something he conveniently planted in her when it became clear that she doesn't have enough common sense to do it herself. It amuses him sometimes, how she can watch him fuck with people's heads all day and night long and never even consider that he's doing the same to her.
She taught him how to be the monster. She never taught him how to switch it off.
They dump the soldier in his tent, where he decides whether to eat or kill him.
It's his choice, most of the time. Sometimes Maria gives orders, but she's no general, so the running of the army is his concern. Eat or kill. She calls him her dark god, presiding over the fates of man.
The man struggles, tries to get away, to move, to fight. He douses him with a calm so heavy, it turns his limbs to lead and decides to keep him. This one has spunk. He needs some of that because Lord knows, he's surrounded by idiots. And half the time he needs to keep one eye on his mistress, too, lest she let her sisters plant something too crazy in her head and gets them all killed.
He turns the man swiftly and lets the guards take him away, unwilling to burden himself with three days of burning pain bouncing around his skull. His own was enough, thank you very much.
He goes to Maria to inform her that she'll have a new toy soldier to play with soon and she is pleased. He soaks up the feeling, turns it to pleasure and sends it back until she's panting like a bitch in heat, clawing at his clothes, begging him to give her release.
He kisses her hard, bites her lip and then walks out. He calls her mistress, but she does not rule him. He likes to remind her of that.
He has them bring the soldier back when the burning is coming to an end and he sends the guards out, wanting to inspect this one for himself first. He doesn't know why and doesn't question it.
He simply sits on the man's chest as he breathes his last and his heart goes still forever. He leans over his face, waiting. A moment later glowing red eyes meet his own and confusion, shock, fear and delight flood him.
Peter isn't like other newborns. He feels the rage and the thirst, but he works through them, rises above them. He feels more than the usual selection of emotions.
He feels things like amusement, joy, hope, companionship and friendship. Occasionally, a totally out of place emotion will spike in him for no reason at all and his eyes will go glassy for just a second.
Peter's emotions are so alien that it takes Jasper a while to decode them, to understand them. He doesn't remember them. But they are there, tiny pinpricks of light that pierce the dark blanket of emotion that lies over the camp, suffocating him.
Peter admires him as much as he fears him and in-between, he feels kinship, friendship. He feels, in the middle of all this shit, contentment. Jasper doesn't know where he takes these emotions from, has his own theories about the man's frequent split-second black-outs followed by bursts of happiness, but he never voices them because suddenly his world gains texture, gains contrast.
Maria ceases to be a state of being and becomes instead only one side of a coin. The dark one.
He takes everything he learns from Peter and he drinks it down like fresh blood, guzzles it like he'll never get another drop. And he saves it.
The next time Maria starves and tortures him to the point of releasing the Warmaker, he settles inside his mind, wrapping himself in tiny scraps of positive emotion and simply waits out the rage.
If he were a man prone to philosophize, he would mark this moment to be the birth of choice.
Since he never finds her any twins, Maria starts sending out others to bring her children. Apparently, the desire to have her own mini-Volturi has not faded. She turns the children herself, killing most of them. Those that survive have no gifts because he is the one that finds the gifted. No other recognizes them.
He is the one that disposes of the small corpses, the one that oversees their one and only march – to the dumps. They are so tiny, so young. He feels sick. He's never felt that way before.
He tries to get her to stop, but she won't. So he goes out and finds her a pair of goddamn gifted twins and makes sure they turn properly. Their names are Adam and Sophie and he doesn't drink a drop of their blood, disgusted with himself.
Peter watches, his eyes cold and hard for once. "They are children," he says afterwards, as their convulsing bodies are carried away.
"They are the last," he counters, calmly wiping venom off his chin while inside, he's shaking. Maria will have her twins now and no more children will die. The smaller of two evils.
"They're gonna be her pets," Peter spits, forgetting his place.
Jasper glowers at him, eyes dark as he backhands the other man harshly across the face. "I bring death," he growls.
It's a curse, all of a sudden and he hates Peter for making it that way.
The first time Peter calls him Jasper, it's been sixty years since he heard that name on someone else's lips. Maria has a slew of petnames for him and the rest of the world fears him too much to call him that.
He remembers Jasper. He was a blonde boy from a small town, with a beating heart and an easy smile. He was the kind of person that stopped to help three women stranded on the road. He was young, brave, cocky, arrogant, dumb, naïve and terribly willing to believe in people, even after years of war. A killer, a soldier, but never jaded. He was human, in every sense of the word.
Hearing someone call him by that dead boy's name rattles him right down to his bones. From the look on his face and the fear pouring from him, Peter expects death to be his punishment.
It's not. All he does is bring the tent down on the man and make him run newborn duties for a month. Peter thinks he does it out of anger, but really, he's too scared to look the other man in the eye. Afraid of what he'll find reflected back at him in red-hued irises.
It's not until later, much later, that he even wonders how Peter knows that name in the first place.
After that, he finds himself protecting Peter like he's never protected anyone. He finds it impossible to stay away from the man for too long. He needs the light, the warmth, the willing love that Peter emanates. He needs the hope.
He needs the man's wit and his sharp eye, he needs his new names for Maria, needs his jokes and stories.
He protects him because if Peter gets killed, then Jasper will die with him and all that will be left will be the Warmaker. For good this time. He'll forget again, that there is more to life than war, and he'll lose himself in the blood and never resurface.
Peter is his lifeline.
Peter also knows more than he's letting the fuck on. Like Jasper's name. Battle tactics, things not yet past, or things long gone.
His eyes go blank for a split second and his feelings reel and then he's back, smug smirk or worried look on his face.
He knows things. Jasper's not dumb enough to tell Maria, but he's not above using that little gift for himself. Using it to keep the two of them alive. Peter may not share what he knows, but his emotions tell enough. Enough to nudge Maria when need be, enough to draw out a march, tweak a plan.
"Do you think things will change one day?" he asks one night, as vaguely as he possibly can, refusing to meet the younger vampire's eyes.
Peter frowns and then tilts his head to the side, obviously not understanding the hint he's being given. "They'll get better," he muses eventually, his answer as carefully neutral as can be.
But to Jasper, who's mostly figured the other man out, these three words mean the world.
Peter's one year mark comes and goes and he lives because Jasper makes it so. He twists Maria's emotions until she's dry sobbing on the floor and then sweetly tells her that he needs the other soldier.
She consents because she fears him as much as she loves him and for the first time, he's disgusted with what he's done to the bitch.
For the first time, he thinks that maybe there is something else besides this. Better.
Time passes. Charlotte comes and Peter's emotions go haywire the same way they do when he zones out. He knows the girl and what he feels for her is overwhelming. Jasper motions for her to be brought into his tent and lays her, and her future, at Peter's feet.
Eat or keep.
From the look on the man's face, the bright, panicked swirl of his emotions, he understands that Jasper knows. He understands that this is a test.
He picks Charlotte and neither of them knows whether he just passed or failed.
He pretends not to see and not to hear during Charlotte's newborn year. He pretends it doesn't tear at the last soft spot inside of him how Peter turns away from him in shame. In fear.
Does he really think he's hiding his love from the empath? Really?
And then her year runs out and they stand at the edge of the dumps, alone. Charlotte cowers in fear and some part of his rejoices because at least she remembers how things are supposed to be. Warmaker. None dare disobey him.
And for that he loves him.
Loves him, even as he crouches, ready to attack. He picks his mate over his friend and the light fades as the rage and the hate creep back in, flooding him like black rain.
Betrayal tastes like fire, not ashes, and it burns in his throat like the thirst does. Peter begs and the Warmaker howls inside, wanting nothing more than Charlotte's limbs scattered across the desert. This man, this Peterfriendcompanion, he belongs to the Warmaker, the only equal, the only one worthy in a century of war.
"Go," he snarls with the last of his sanity, the last of the boy that Peter woke with his magic incantation of 'Jasper'. Maria was right. War is all he's good for, all anyone can use him for.
He turns and walks away before Peter can walk away from him. He hears a quiet thank you on the wind and doesn't turn. Whatever it was that Peter brought with him, whatever it meant, it ends now.
But try as he might, even though he lets the darkness back in, but he can't wash away the memory of other things. Better things. They refuse to die, these monsters by the name of choice and hope and friendship.
They refuse to leave him to his war and his blood.
And then they come back.
They ask him where he wants to go, make suggestions, name places and things and he's overwhelmed with choice.
He can go wherever he wants, do whatever he pleases. He's his own master. They show him New York and teach him Peter's dime game and he's grateful, because these things take some of the choices away from him so he can breathe again.
But there's still so much. He loves sitting in the crowded squares and restaurants, soaking up the hustle and bustle of mortals. They are happy, hurried, lazy, joyful, sad, angry, frustrated, tired, exhausted, elated, disappointed, surprised, content, worried, distracted.
The tides of emotions swamping him are overwhelming because there's so much of so many different emotions. Some take months to decode because he can't remember ever having felt them before. Others he recognizes like old friends.
At times he's almost sure that vampires can, in fact, get headaches but every time Peter asks him why he keeps going out to get flooded, he just shrugs and has no words to say, 'because there is no death, no panic, no fear, no hate in these people. Because the tenor of their emotions is light yellows and mild. Because with every tide that washes through me, more of Maria gets washed out.'
New York's millions clean him up, one emotion at a time.
Except when he's killing them.
In the total emotional chaos of the army, he never noticed a single death but now, out in the world, he feels himself dying with every man he sucks dry.
He tries to flood them with positive emotions, with calm, with acceptance, but the lizard brain fear underneath always remains and it tastes like ashes and dirt in his mouth. It tastes like Maria's kisses, open-mouthed and full of teeth, used to.
Tastes like the old woman's words from Yolanda's lips, words he never forgot, even through a century of war and three days of burning. He brings only death.
He was born for this.
He wishes he could forget all he was.
After five years, he's still not sure about his place with Charlotte. He loves her, simply because she loves Peter and came back for him, but he has no idea what to make of the emotions she has for him.
Sometimes, out of reflex, she still calls him Major and they both flinch before she's flooded with guilt and he follows suit. He remembers her on the training fields, short and fast, but weaker than most. He pushed her to her breaking point and beyond more than once.
He'd like to say he did it so she would survive, for Peter, but that would be a lie. He did it because that's what the Warmaker did. He drove people to their limits and if they broke, he got rid of them. If they pulled through, he kept pushing until they didn't. Nothing but meat with teeth and claws to be used. The only ones he ever went easy on, the only ones were Adam and Sophie, and that was simply because they were only ever meant as ornaments, as bookends for Maria, their pretty, tiny, personal shields.
Peter tells him about Charlotte's ability one day and he finds himself wondering what she sees in him for months, before simply asking the question.
She frowns, head cocked to one side. "Does it matter?" she wants to know. He nods.
"I didn't see anything back when we first ran. It was like there was a cloud around you, black and heavy. It was choking you. I had no idea which parts of that mess were you, if any. It got better after we got away. Lighter. There are more colors now but, Jasper, I still can't tell what's you and what isn't."
She shrugs and looks away, ashamed for some reason he can't fathom. "I'm sorry," she adds and he finds himself laughing.
"For what?" he asks. "You're not the one that fucked me up."
She shakes her head, glaring. "Jasper Whitlock," she snarls, "Don't you dare speak of yourself that way. You have a gift. Maria used that gift ruthlessly. That does not make you fucked up. It just makes you another victim of her insane little scheme for world domination. Do I make myself clear?"
She stands there, hands on her hips, fire in her eyes. She usually only looks at Peter like that when he's just barely survived another one of his suicidal, mad schemes. And then she remembers who she's talking to and a spike of fear shoots through her and Jasper wants to beat himself up. He takes a step forward, ridiculously grateful when she doesn't back away and pulls her into his arms harshly, pressing his face in her hair. "I love you," he says before he can think about it and her fear melts away, turning into fuzzy orange happiness and love.
She puts her arms around his waist, lays her head on his chest and holds him as he bathes her in waves of gratitude.
He hates fighting.
Or rather, he hates that he doesn't hate fighting.
Even as a human, it was his passion. Movements, plans, a perfect execution and victory. That was what he was good at, what he lived for. He was a damn fine soldier.
And then Maria took that from him and twisted it, used his head for strategy and his love for battle to bring terror to the masses. He remembers perfectly the first time she woke the Warmaker. She had him work out a plan of attack on an enemy camp. For a week, she made him plan and replan, work out alternatives and eventualities. He showed her the final result on a map, drawing a finger down from the north directly into the center of the camp. "Send the fighting force in here, through there," he said.
She nodded and had him put in chains. No blood for two weeks, no fighting, no release of any kind. She drove him to the brink of insanity and laughed while she did it, her hands on his body, her words and tongue in his ear, flooding him with every particle of hate and thirst she had in her.
When the time for the attack came she had him brought to the rallying point and unchained. She turned him toward the camp and pointed. "In here," she said, "Through there. There's blood waiting for you on the other side, my dear."
And then she let him loose.
He brought death.
He still has to fight now and he loves it and hates himself for it. He feels guilt for every dead man, woman and child he leaves behind, but never regret, and hates himself for that, too. He should feel regret so deep, so tall, it should be overwhelming. But he can't. Guilt, yes, oceans and mountains of it, but never regret. He is what he is. Other vampires come to fight him, come to see him. Come to beat the Warmaker, even though none ever come close enough to even attempt it.
And he falls back into old patterns like he never stopped, Peter and Charlotte at his flanks, his wingmen, his soldiers.
They call him Major in those situations and he never flinches because then and there, that is what he is.
The hate comes later and he uses it to wash out the death screams of those stupid enough to wake the beast.
When he leaves them there is no surprise in their eyes. They know. Have known.
Somewhere out there, there is something waiting for him, a something he needs. A reason. He needs to find it and they love him enough to let him go.
"Philadelphia," Peter says after his last goodbye and Jasper listens because it's as good a direction as any. He feels his brother's apprehension in that one word, his worry, his chagrin, his hope. Something's waiting for him in Philadelphia and judging from his brother's emotions, it's a mixed blessing. Charlotte simply kisses his forehead and lets him go.
Her name is Alice and she offers everything he's looking for on a silver platter. No more fighting. No more war, no more death throes of other people to choke him in a flashflood of emotion.
Peace, she says, animals. Love, family. No fighting. No death.
She has him at 'peace'.
The Cullens are strange. They feel love, compassion, hope, joy, desire. Any dark impulses their animal sides throw at them they hide, deep down and out of sight. They celebrate the human and shy away from the monster.
It's the exact opposite of anything Maria ever did and that makes it attractive for him, makes him crave it. A new beginning. He accepts Rose's name as his own, marries Alice, bathes himself in all the humanity they offer so freely.
It's not until his first slip up that he realizes that hiding away the dark parts isn't any better than hiding away the light ones. Shoving them into a corner doesn't make the urges, the impulses go away. The Deathbringer and the Warmaker are still there. They just changed out of a wolf's skin into a sheep's coat.
He sees the girl in the street and Emmett stiffens beside him as the wind turns, inhaling her scent. Alice follows a split second later, eyes wide, fighting to hold her breath. He, the empath, finds himself fifty - a hundred - years in the past, Maria behind him, an army of bloodthirsty newborns around him and a village full of fresh, pumping human blood in front of him.
The hunger – foreign and his own – fills him and he strikes. The girl never even sees him coming and he carries his red eyes as a flag of his shame for the next months. At least, that's what they say. All he knows is that he killed a human. A single human. Sure, she didn't deserve it, but she was only one and he's done so much worse. Guilt again, but no regret because what's done is done. He's a soldier, pragmatic to the bone.
Edward sees inside his mind, sees some of the horrors hidden there, but even he doesn't understand that Jasper isn't like them. It's not disgust that made him switch to animals. It was the offer of not having to feel his victims' deaths anymore.
Peter once said he eats what he eats and that he does it because it's his choice. "And if I want to live off of rats, that's my damn choice, too."
Jasper chose animals because he is free now, free to choose and he wants peace. He is sorry for killing the girl, but not nearly as horrified at his own actions as his family seems to be. He's seen far worse.
They, apparently, haven't.
After that, the whispers start. Jasper can't go there. Jasper can't do that. Don't leave Jasper alone. Alice constantly scans his future for another slip and Edward monitors him like he's a newborn instead of a feared warlord.
They move often because of him, tell him where to go and who to stay away from. Their worry and their sadness starts to fill him up like Maria's thirst, desire and lust once did and he thinks, one night, that if Charlotte could see him now, she wouldn't be able to find him underneath it all. Again.
He needs to get away.
He packs up his wife and their things, tells the family goodbye and ships them towards the other end of the rubber band in his chest that ties him to his childer. Peter greets him like he was never gone, Charlotte hugs him like he's a lifeline and Alice stands behind, awkwardly, trying to be nice to his family while her skin crawls with the desire to look away from their red gazes.
It gets better over time and he thinks things are almost good, when they're attacked on a hunt and he slips, as he must, back into Major mode.
By the time he comes back out of it, the fear never quite leaves Alice. She's scared of him. Of what he is, what he was. What he can do. They fight and he raises his hand to run it through his hair and she flinches away from him, afraid he'll hit her.
As if he ever would. As if he has so little control.
As if, as if. As if a killer is all he is. He wishes he'd listened to Yolli.
Alice loves him, loves him like he hung the moon for her, but, he learns, she doesn't trust him. She starts, slowly, to try to make him into someone she can trust. She scouts ahead, tells him how and when and where, gets a grip on his life that she could never get on him, on Jasper. She controls everything she can in order to be able to ignore what she knows is uncontrollable about him.
She makes Jasper who she needs him to be to stand between her and the Warmaker.
Out of guilt and love, he lets her.
For fifty whole years, he lets her. He let Maria, too. Funny, how two women who want opposite things from him, still employ the same methods to get them.
Not that he's comparing Alice to Maria. He's not. She's not. They're nothing alike. One hard, the other soft, one cold, the other warm, one ruthless, the other full of compassion.
They only have one thing in common.
They love to recreate him in their image.
And then: Forks.
Bella looks at them and sees them. She sees their changing eyes, their strange behavior, the hunger in their gazes. She sees the monsters under their skin.
And instead of running, she crawls right in under the wire.
Rosalie shakes her head, saying there must be something wrong with a human that understands the danger they present and feels no fear. He tends to agree.
But he learns, over the months, that that is what Bella is.
Acceptance. Love. Forgiveness for anything and anyone.
"The world was never meant for one as beautiful as you," he quotes one evening after Edward takes her home, almost absentmindedly whispering the words. Alice, sitting beside him, gives him a long look before averting her gaze.
Trying to bite her is the single most heinous act he has committed in all his existence. Thousands slaughtered, countless nameless dead, armies razed to the ground, none of it plagues him the way one single drop of blood and a lunge do.
And this time, it's not even his fault. Edward, the idiot, flings her into a stack of glass plates, turning one drop into an ocean and then the bloodlust of all six other vampires hits him and for a moment she's not just Edward's singer, but Jasper's, multiplied a thousand times.
He really, really, really can't be blamed for this one.
But he blames himself because Isabella Swan is balm for the soul and to destroy that light, to take that goodness out of the world is one stain he does not want on his tattered soul.
So he leaves. The second Emmett releases him, the second Alice turns her eyes and sight from him in grief, he turns and runs. Rose and Esme try to follow and he smacks them both in the face with crippling riptides of pleasure.
Not pain, because he's not that person anymore, but pleasure enough to send them to their knees. He tastes their shock on the air and it mingles with Alice's fear, a fear that stems from the knowledge that if he hadn't allowed Emmett to drag him away, even in his blind hunger, they would all be dead by now, dead for standing in the Warmaker's way.
So this, he muses, is regret.
By the time he returns to the house, there is nothing waiting for him except a note, telling him they're in Alaska. Asking him to follow them, please, in Esme's handwriting.
He does, staying just long enough to grab his things and kiss Alice goodbye. All angry words have been said, their marriage was never legal, so there need be no divorce. He can simply burn his papers, killing Jasper Hale in flame. Becoming a Whitlock again will be a piece of cake. He has it all planned out by the time he packs the last of his clothes, Alice sitting on their shared bed, the rest of the family hovering in the doorway.
"Don't go," his wife asks and her voice says she already knows he won't listen. They fought last night when he arrived and Alice seems bled out for the first time since he met her.
He shakes his head. "I have to, Ali, you know that."
She shakes her head, too, stubborn glint in her eye. "No. You belong with us. With me."
He tucks a strand of her hair behind her ear. He loves her, he really does. She gave him all he asked for, all he dreamed of. It just took him a long time to realize that what he dreamed off wasn't what he needed. Alice tries to change him with every pair of pants she buys for him and he wanted to change for her, for so long. He wanted to become a lamb as much as she wanted him to be one.
But he's a wolf.
"You can lock the monster away, but you can't take its teeth and claws," he tells her. Rose snorts in the doorway, disgusted by his melodramatic words. He knows he sounds like Edward but he can't help it. He's the Major. He always will be. With Peter and Charlotte, being himself, a wolf as a wolf, that's okay. But with the Cullens he pretends to be something he's not until he believes it, too, and an innocent girl almost has to die.
Time to stop running. Beginnings, endings. It started in Philadelphia and it ended when it almost cost Bella everything.
"I'm a monster, darlin'," he whispers, "With teeth and claws and I don't fit in this family. I never have."
Alice nods, small and sad, looking more like a child than ever. He presses a gentle kiss to her forehead and turns to go. The family parts before him, Esme sobbing, everyone else solemn. Emmett meets his gaze and when he finds only resolve, he steps out of the way, letting Jasper go. For a goofball, he's sometimes the smartest of them all. Rose looks between her husband and brother and then nods to herself and follows Emmett's lead. He loves them for that.
"Son," Carlisle calls after him. He stops and sighs because this is the problem. He's the second oldest of them all, the one that has seen the most. He isn't anyone's son but he's always being treated like the wayward youngest child. The troublemaker. The sullen victim. "It's a choice. You just have to make it."
Decide against the blood, against the Major and the memory of a hundred years of war that were stifling, but not all bad. He hates that he doesn't hate fighting but he can't change it. War is a part of him. He's the Warmaker. He's never truly regretted that. Many things about it, yes. Maria. All those innocent lives. But the battle itself, the fever pitch of fighting? Never that.
He's meant to take lives, always has been. He isn't arrogant enough, stupid enough anymore to think killing is a good thing, but that doesn't change what the blind woman saw in him that day at the market.
Maybe that's why he doesn't fit in with these people. He doesn't hate himself enough to deny everything he is.
"I know," he tells Carlisle without looking back. "I made it."
It's not the choice they would have made for him but he learned after Maria to never let anyone decide for him. His choice. His eternity.
He chose to walk away from his creator. He chooses now to walk away from his wife and family.
Endings and beginnings.
He can't quite help the smile on his face as he shuts the front door behind himself.
He calls Peter as soon as he replaces the cell phone that got crushed somewhere between Forks and Alaska, promises to check in, tells them he loves them.
And then he disappears for five years to try and figure out who the fuck he is. Jasper. Major. Warmaker. Whitlock. Hale. Cullen.
A bit of all, but not wholly any one. Life was easier when it was only about blood and sex.
The first year he mostly hunts down memories, revisits old haunts. Going backwards in time, Forks is his first stop.
The house looms empty and in town, people ask him what he's doing back from college, how's his girlfriend? She's graduated now, hasn't she? He nods and smiles and flees.
He finds himself facing Angela on his second day there and she smiles softly because everything about that girl is soft and tells him that Bella left. No-one knows where she went or what she's doing. She talks to her dad, apparently, but he's vague and close-mouthed. Good for her, Jasper thinks and ignores the small pang in his chest.
The Midwest then, old houses in forests and deserts, abandoned for fifty years or more. Some show recent signs of living, letting him know that Peter and Char passed this way. He basks in their scent and the warmth they leave behind wherever they go and moves on.
Texas. Maria has lost much ground in the last decade and is still losing more every day. They say she's gunning for Houston in a last ditch effort to beat the odds, but he knows she won't make it. She couldn't make it a hundred years ago, with both her sisters and him by her side. That, and no-one much cares for her war anymore. It's anachronistic enough to make even vampires rolls their eyes.
All of which means he's safe from her as he haunts his human past through museums and across old battlefields, finding only things he can't remember, a name in a registry, a jacket, a letter. The small house he was born in has long since been burned to the ground, forgotten forever. He goes looking for children that went missing, Adams and Sophies, but finds none in the old registries. He tries to remember where he plucked them from, but it all blurs. All he knows is that they are alive, by the thrum of their existence in his chest and the rumors, that speak of two shields with Maria. Her personal guard. She can't treat them too badly if she relies on their shields to keep her alive, can she?
New Mexico and then Mexico hold more memories in the form of ghost towns and traces of long gone camps. A fire pit here, that used to be the dumps, a few burned foundations of houses, that used to be a town before Maria unleashed him on it, the army at his back.
Not all memories are bad. He finds the town Charlotte was taken from, the rock formation his tent stood beside the first time Peter called him anything other than 'Major'. He finds a lively little town Maria once took him to, to dance at a festival. They drank plenty during those three days and celebrated hard; she loved the colors and the dancing people. He soaked up the drunk giddiness of a thousand humans and fed it to her and they screwed like bunnies for days, only coming up for blood and more dancing, drunk on humanity itself.
Once he crosses paths with one of her scouts, a bulky and young vampire. He surprises him from behind, brings him to his knees and rips off the head because he can. He burns the body and scratches M.J.W. into the dirt next to the pyre, knowing Maria will recognize the massage. It's his goodbye to her, his last gift.
The last death in her name.
He starts hanging in bars after that, sometimes flirting with girls. Once he catches a drunk bastard trying to force himself on a sweet girl named Amy behind the dumpsters in the back alley behind the bar du jour. He kills the man and drains him of every last drop of blood. Later, at his hotel, he finds his eyes red and piercing, staring back at him, asking if this is the path now.
He shrugs and shakes his head.
The red dulls to orange in time before fading back to the gold he's grown used to. This time, there is no shame. This time, there's not even guilt. Only him, the road and a blind woman's curse (prophecy).
He rarely spends time among his kind because he still has a reputation and he doesn't want to have to live up to it before he's figured out just who he wants to be. Sometime though, meetings are inevitable. Some he kills, some he makes conversation with.
He meets an old guy by the name of Alphonse, who was changed in his late forties, maybe after that. He looks like a grizzled old bear and gossips worse than Alice. Maria got her ass handed to her, just like he predicted. Up north there's some fighting over territory, nothing big. There's a girl, a human psychic, apparently, who helps the vampires out.
They call her the Oracle Girl, call her Swan. Alphonse laughs at the name as Jasper stiffens, frowning. Could it…?
He asks why Swan and Alphonse, still laughing, shrugs. "Who knows? Pretty girl like her, hurt in 'er eyes. She's a good girl, but something took a piece of her, ey? Swansong, I reckon. Singing her last. Some folks in Cleveland taking bets on who's gonna turn her."
A nod. "Yeah. My money's on Carver. Far as I can figure, he's the first that found her. Got dibs, you know?"
Jasper nods to himself and bids the old man farewell. What are the odds of that girl being Bella? He shrugs the thought off and moves on, gathering more stories about Swan over the next few years, each one convincing him more.
Swan isn't Bella.
Except the day he finally decides to give up wandering and go home, Peter is waiting in the door, greeting him like he always does, with profanity and love and then a scent he never thought he'd smell again hits him and Bella peeks over his brother's shoulder like she belongs there.
"Baby girl," Peter introduces, shit-eating grin on his face as he reaches behind him and spins her to his front, "Meet the Major. Major, meet our very own Swan."
He's pretty sure he looks like a log, standing there with his mouth open, staring like an idiot. Bella. Swan. Peter. Charlotte?
What. The. Fuck?
Well, at least Peter looks a bit surprised at that. Apparently the magic eight ball didn't know they knew each other. "Jasper," she returns, smile brighter than he remembers.
Then Bella flounces up to him, freely and openly and hugs him like she means it and he's sort of distracted by her scent and the feel of her against his body and the shock of seeing her at all. He wraps his arms around her and closes his eyes, inhaling her.
In the background he can hear Peter chortle and regain his footing as he drawls, "See, Char, told ya it'd work out."
He spends the first evening pretty much just gawking. At Bella. At Bella having a food fight with Char in the kitchen. At Bella being tucked into bed by Peter. At Bella snuggling between him and Peter on the couch. At Char and Bella giggling over inside jokes. Her feelings are so free, so easy. Love and happiness and joy. Belonging, care, protectiveness, gratitude. Contentment.
Balm for the soul.
He's never seen Charlotte so girly. He's never seen Peter so caring and… fatherly. That is, if your father tends to make crude jokes and grab your ass. Bella laughs and smacks him every time he tries to feel her up but never gets mad. Charlotte pats his arm and says, "Nevermind those two, they're just playing."
It's two in the morning when the human finally drops and once Peter returns from tucking her in like a kid, he sits down, looks Jasper long and hard and then sighs. "Just ask, asshole."
"She's the Swan everyone's talking about, isn't she?"
It's not the question Peter expected, he can tell. "Yep."
"How? The Bella I remember isn't psychic. She's a shield."
Charlotte sits on the arm of his chair, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. "I'm still not over the fact that you two know each other," she muses. "We've been looking for her for a century and you found her before us."
She pouts and he files the information she just gave him away for later. They looked for her? Why did they never tell him? Why look for her at all?
Peter gets his annoying I-know-and-you-don't grin and leans back. "Ah, see, Major, Bella is a shield. She's just not like any other shield you've ever met. Her shield isn't just mental and physical. It's emotional, too, and proactive."
He takes a moment to work through that. "You mean…"
Even Char looks smug at this point. Peter nods. "Her shield is so strong that it actually anticipates anything that might pose any kind of threat to her, mental, emotional, physical. And it reacts however it needs to protect her. The first time she suddenly 'knew' something about a vampire it probably saved her life or something. She distracted the guy with it and got away. And then the vampires started seeking her out and she always knew what they needed because it kept her safe. She knew because they came and they came because she knew. She's been getting far fewer hunches since she's been with us, she says."
Jasper shakes his head, gob smacked for the n-th time tonight. A proactive shield. A power that actively reacts to what its wielder needs. Oh, the Volturi will be salivating if they ever get wind of her. Not that they're gonna let them have her.
He frowns at that. He's making assumptions here. Assumption one, she'll be a vampire, assumption two, he'll be around to mean anything to her. Assumption three, she'll want to stay with them at all.
What the hell?
Peter's grin turns smaller, softer, and Charlotte slips down to sit in Jasper's lap, hugging him around the neck. She is the one who whispers in his ear, "We looked for her for you, Jazz. The four of us, that's how it's supposed to be. Family."
"Whitlocks," Peter adds and Jasper remembers that quiet tone and gentle smile from a hundred years ago, when his brother would zone out in the middle of a warzone, smiling like a happy fool.
"She's what you saw, back then."
A nod. "Our baby girl. She's gonna be absolutely kick ass once you've changed her."
He was wrong all along. It didn't start when Peter opened his eyes for the first time. It started today, when Bella appeared on the porch, happy and grown-up. Free. It started today and he's sure that it'll last the rest of his existence because he sure as shit ain't letting this go.
"Baby girl?" He doesn't know when he adopted his family's name for her, but it's pretty much all they call her and it stuck. She's the baby of this family.
"Yes?" They're lying next to each other in the dusty backyard. He's shining like a beacon in the sunlight and she squints every time she tries to turn her head to look at him. He mostly keeps his gaze on the clouds.
She doesn't ask what he's talking about. "After my birthday Edward got scared." She shrugs. "Instead of fighting, he ran away and took the rest of the family with him. I was lost. All I could do was lie in bed and wait to die."
Sadness pours from her, and remorse, but it's soft, not piercing. He thinks it's for lost time and hurt loved ones more than for Edward. He's glad. "What changed?"
"One day Charlie yelled at me that there was something waiting for me out there and suddenly I knew it was true. I just had to find it."
"So you hit the road," he summarizes, remembering his talk with Angela.
"So I hit the road. Just after graduation. Found what I was looking for four years later in a supermarket in New England."
"Special offer on potato chips?" he asks, reaching out with one hand to crinkle the empty bag lying next to her. He has to joke about it because the idea that this is meant to be, that they all actually and honest to god belong with each other is a bit too big for him.
"Family," she corrects, pushing her sunglasses up her nose with one finger and sitting up to determinedly look at him through the glare of his diamond skin. She looks impossibly cute with her face all scrunched up, trying not to go blind.
He takes pity on her and grabs his discarded t-shirt, pulling it back on. Her expression relaxes marginally. "And you were late," she adds, as an afterthought.
He twists so the reflected rays of light shine directly into her face.
"Come on, Petey, you promised!" Bella wails, waving a fork full of ravioli in his face.
"I said I'd eat yours if you eat mine," he corrects, his face a mask of disgust. Jasper and Charlotte are leaning next to each other against the kitchen counter, watching the spectacle with amusement.
"I did." She waves the fork again. Peter is starting to look a bit desperate.
"You licked my finger. That hardly counts."
"I licked your finger, which, at the time, was covered in coyote blood. Do you have any idea how unsanitary that was? Who knows what I caught off that blood. Now eat the noodle."
"No." Trust Peter to revert to toddler-behavior when logic fails. He even crosses his arms over his chest.
"Your husband is a child," Jasper observes. Char snorts and nods. They both get indignant glares.
"Cha-Cha?" Bella suddenly asks sweetly.
"Yes, baby B?"
"Would you hold your hubby down for me for a moment?"
Peter never stands a chance.
"Do you regret it?"
"Regret what?" she asks sleepily from where she's perched on his lap, mostly asleep.
"Everything that happened since you moved to Forks."
"Sometimes maybe," she allows. "But it needed to happen, you know?"
He thinks about Maria and Alice, about Peter and Charlotte and lights in the dark, about floods and tides and endings and beginnings. He thinks of a boy who died next to a lonely Texan road because he tried to help and the monster that rose from the ashes of three days of burning. Guilt, but never regret.
He thinks about Peter laughing and Charlotte kissing his forehead and Bella hugging him on the front porch and he nods. "I think so," he agrees.
Bella's already asleep and Charlotte and Peter melt out of the darkness and play bookends to his filling, bracketing him and the human in his lap. Char leans her head on his shoulder and Peter sinks his hand into Bella's hair, combing through the long curls with a happy sigh. He'd tease the younger man about it, if he hadn't been doing the same only minutes earlier. Bella has that effect on people. Balm for the soul.
"Thank you for finding her," he whispers, too low for the human to even stir.
Char laughs. "We did it for us as much as you, idiot. We all need her."
He snorts. That girl is crack to vampires. Everyone wants some. "Then thanks for putting up with me for the past century." He doesn't look at either of them when he says it, but he means it. He isn't the easiest guy to be around and he knows it.
"At the risk of sounding like a Hallmark greeting card," Charlotte says, grin audible, "That's what family does." Then she draws a breath and tags on, "You grouchy old man."
They laugh and Peter smacks him on the thigh, earning him a glare from Char for jostling Bella, who's sitting on top of that thigh. "Man, I've been seeing the four of us for a century. There was never any way to ditch you successfully, so stop fucking moping around."
"I'm not moping."
"Coulda fooled me."
"I got done moping when I left the Cullens."
"And amen to that. They were so wrong for you."
This time it's Jasper who smacks Peter. "Thanks for telling me fifty years ago, asshole."
Peter grins, unrepentant, his teeth glinting in the dark. "All roads lead to the Whitlock clan, little grasshopper, and you'd do good to remember it."
He kisses her for the first time a month after he arrives. He's ordered for his things to be pulled out of storage all over the country, most of them books, and they've been arriving steadily.
Today the last crates got here and together with Peter's and Charlotte's collection and Bella's trunk full of well loved books, they have a whole library packed away in boxes. He could have everything squared away in an hour, but Bella wants to help. Secretly he's pretty sure she just wants to fondle old books and call dibs on every single one she hasn't read yet, but he doesn't say so.
Peter makes a whipping noise while the girls are out of earshot and then leaves the two to sort through an entire library at human speed. By noon, Bella is covered in dust, her pony tail askew and her eyes alight. She's reading while she's working and predictably, she loses her footing on the small ladder she's using to reach the topmost shelves.
He sees her topple and leaps, catching her an inch from the ground, hauling her against his chest. She laughs and blushes and he realizes just how close they are.
"Jazz?" she asks, light and breathless.
"Would you just kiss me already?"
He knows how she feels. Of course he does. And he's made sure she knows exactly how he feels. But it just doesn't feel like they have to rush. This time she's not racing against the calendar to be changed.
"Happy to oblige, ma'am," he informs her and does.
At the other end of the house, Peter and Charlotte cheer like teenagers. Bella breaks the kiss and breathlessly laughs into his chest, hiding her scarlet face.
"Do you think this is it?" Jasper asks Peter, sitting next to him on the stairs. They're both waiting for the ladies to get ready for a night on the town, listening to them clattering around the master bathroom.
"This is what?" Peter asks right back, fishing a cigarette out of his shirt pocket and a lighter out of his jeans. He keeps telling Jasper to finally turn Bella already, because Char banned him from smoking when the human is around.
"It," Jasper repeats. "Do you think what you've been seeing all these years led to this? I mean, is this the goal?"
"Seems like a damn fine goal to me. Happy. Well-fed. Well-sexed. Can't complain, man."
"Peter!" Charlotte hisses from above and he looks properly chastised even though she can't see him. Eventually he drops the expression and lights his smoke, taking a deep drag.
"Why do you ask?"
Jasper shrugs and takes the cigarette from his brother's fingers, inhaling once before handing it back. "Seems like an awful lot of trouble for the universe to go to just to make four random people happy."
Peter shrugs and squirms, never comfortable with discussing his gift. "I don't know if this is divine intervention. Maybe it's a paradox. I see what is bound to be and because I see it, it's bound to be."
"Like Bella's hunches."
"Like Bella's hunches."
"What about my hunches?" the girl in question asks, standing at the top of the stairs, looking stunning in a pale green cocktail dress.
"Do you think there's more to come for us?"
She smiles, excited suddenly, and claps her hands like a child. The gesture reminds Jasper of Alice but there is no pang in his chest. "Of course," she laughs. "We've got forever and I don't plan to spend it lying around, doing nothing!"
"Damn straight," Charlotte agrees as she comes out of the bathroom and Peter quickly squeezes the burning end of his cigarette and slips it into his pocket to lose outside.
"Time to dance!" Bella announces, still bouncing with excitement.
Both men stand and Jasper wavers a bit under Peter's slap to the shoulder. "Careful, man. She's a horny drunk."
"'M not, y'know?"
"Not what, darlin'?" he asks as he carries Bella towards her (their) bedroom.
"Horny drunk," she informs him sternly and then ruins it by trying to tap him on the nose and almost taking out an eye.
"Pity," he mourns, trying not to smile too widely. He wouldn't mind a horny drunk right now, seeing as how Charlotte and Peter are already going at it in the kitchen and not bothering to keep their emotions under control.
"No, really," she tries to sit up and almost manages to launch herself from his arms. "I'm just happy."
There's really not all that much he can say after that, is there?
"Will you turn me?"
"Are you sure?"
"I was only waiting for you."
He groans, burying his face in her hair because this is just too good to be true. This is the kind of thing romantic comedies are made of, but not his life. People do not slot together like pieces of a puzzle. Not in the real world. Not in their world. Not people like them.
But apparently they do. "Where've you been all my life, woman?" he asks, pulling her to him.
"Waiting to be born," she fires back, never missing a beat.
He brings death.
Bent over Bella, with her blood singing in his veins and her heart beating rapidly in her chest for the last time, with his venom in her veins and forever ahead of them, he is at peace with that.