A/N: So, this story is also known as "the little story that could". I started working on it around the same time I started Midnight Run. I had a plot in mind, with a clear beginning, middle, and end, unlike Midnight Run, which has spiraled off in some very strange directions. I wrote 5 chapters, then decided that it sucked and I wasn't going to finish it.
Fast forward a year, and I was transcribing it out of the notebook and into the computer, just to keep track of it. Turns out, I actually like this story this time around, and will be finishing it eventually.
This story will have multiple POV's, and will be as canon compliant as possible. It takes place in between Twilight and New Moon. Also, if you guys haven't figured it out yet, Jasper is my favorite character : )
The cafeteria had become hot, almost suffocating in its oppressiveness. Logically, I knew that the temperature hadn't changed at all, that my body was responding to false signals sent by my overtired brain, but it didn't make things any easier to deal with. It always started like this, a sense of heat that rapidly turned into a pounding headache that could take hours or even days to subside. I could feel it already, each of the emotions put off by the student population like a spike into my brain.
Such was the curse of all vampires with extraordinary mental gifts, or at least those who lived in large groups. Though a vampire's brain was superior in many ways to a human's, even immortals have their limits. I had a rather high tolerance for emotional chaos, having been reborn right into the thick of it, but certain times of the year were more trying than others. Any time before a break or around finals, the tension and excitement would rocket to nearly unbearable levels, making both Edward and me tense and snarky. I love my gift, and would be totally lost without it, but there were definitely times when I wished that it came with an 'Off' switch. It was only the beginning of October, though, and there was nothing that should have been causing the sudden upswing in emotions.
With a soft sigh, I rubbed at my eyes, trying to block out some of the harsh lighting. Why did every school we went to have those horrible fluorescent lights? Always alert to my emotions, Alice broke off her conversation with Bella. "Are you all right?"
Not by a long shot. "No. I'm calling Esme to come get me."
The carefully chosen words told them everything they needed to know. The issue wasn't that I was thirsty and bothered by the humans. If it had been, I wouldn't have bothered involving Esme. It was a short run to the house, at least for a vampire, and I could have stopped at any point in the woods and hunted. No, I would only bother Esme if I didn't think I could get home safely on my own.
Edward already had his phone out. I was thankful that he did, because, even from across the table, the beeping of the buttons was like little nails being pounded into my head. Any closer and I would have been in agony.
Alice laid a cool hand on my neck, kneading the tense muscles. I concentrated on her familiar emotional signature, blocking everything else out. She frowned and touched me again. "You're warm."
That was unusual, as a raised body temperature generally required a heartbeat, but I couldn't summon the strength to care. I shrugged again instead and laid my head down in my arms. Alice continued to talk, her conversation mixing with Edward's. "Maybe you aren't . . . Almost over, you need to get him out of biology . . . Bella, you tell me if you think he's fevering . . . Think it's the same thing he gets every year . . . He won't hurt you . . . I love you, bye."
Bella's heartbeat got louder as she came around the table to check on me. My head pounded in the same rhythm, but for once, biting her was the last thing on my mind. Actually, the thought of feeding at all was making my stomach churn. Bella touched my back first, as if I were a skittish colt that needed to be reminded that she was there, then put a wrist against my forehead. I was pretty sure I was in trouble when Bella's skin felt no warmer than Alice's had. "He's burning up."
Great. Now not only was the entire family staring at me, but the emotions they were putting off were making things even worse. Shrill beeps told me that Edward was on the phone again. "Esme? Yeah, listen, he's running a fever, too . . . I don't know . . . He doesn't look good . . . Probably a good idea. Okay, bye."
He put his face down in front of mine, something I absolutely hated. "Esme's going to call Carlisle and have him come take a look at you."
I pressed my face into my arms, just to get away from him. "Okay."
The bell rang, making me whine softly and force my face down even further. Usually I tried to avoid making any sort of animal noise in public, but I couldn't help it. Someone lightly pulled me to my feet. For a minute, my balance failed, and I had to fall back against them. The enormous bulk told me that it was Emmett, and I leaned on him with my eyes closed until I regained my equilibrium. Big as he was, he was capable of being very gentle, if not quiet, and he kept hold of me while leading me down to the lobby. "Come on; don't want you snacking on the students in your next class. Feed a fever, right?" Despite his jovial attitude, I could feel the nervousness rolling off of him.
No, it was starve a fever. Or was it? Trying to think only made me feel worse. Rosalie rubbed my shoulder, flinching a little when she felt the heat. "I'll tell your teacher that you went home sick. Suck it up, Jasper, you'll be fine." Though the words sounded extremely harsh, they really weren't. Rose and I communicated in our own way, and she knew I could feel the love behind her statement.
Luckily, the lobby was virtually deserted, and we were able to sit on one of the benches in relative peace. Emmett was quiet for about two minutes, which was probably some sort of record for him, before turning to look me over critically. "You look like shit, bro."
As bad as I felt, I couldn't help but laugh a little at his frankness. "Feel like it, too."
He nodded, his eyes focused on the parking lot out front. I couldn't read minds like Edward, but I knew he was hoping Esme would be here soon, so she could fix things for us. "Any idea what's wrong?"
This was about the only time I got any respect from the rest of the family. They might all have better control then I did, and at least half of them were smarter, but I knew more than they did about vampires, period. Of all of them, only Carlisle had spent any time with other, non-vegetarian, vampires, and even then it was the Volturi, who can't be counted as normal. Only I knew how to fight other vampires, or how to behave around them socially, or what to do in case of a bad bite.
So I guessed it was logical for Emmett to think that I would know about the things that might cause illness in a vampire. Logical, yes, but I was coming up short. "I don't know." In the century and a half that I had been a vampire, I had never heard of symptoms like these. Headaches, yes. Even some stomachaches from vampires who fed off ill or dying humans, but a fever and balance problems? Never.
He fell silent again, probably sensing that I didn't really want to talk. I closed my eyes, secure in the knowledge that my biggest brother would protect me. His hand was still on the back of my neck, something I normally disliked, but the coolness of his skin felt so good that I was willing to overlook that for now. He shifted abruptly. "Esme's here."
I had known that already. My body might be giving up on me, but my gift worked just fine, and I had known Esme's signature as soon as she entered the parking lot. She appeared in front of me, crooning sympathetically and checking on my temperature herself. I wasn't sure why everyone was suddenly so interested in doing that. Due to our extremely low body temperatures, vampires are lousy judges of how warm something might be. I couldn't even begin to count the number of times that Bella had been served something that was lukewarm at best by my well-intentioned foster mother.
Hard metal was pushed into my hand. "Why don't you go out to the car? I'll take care of things here."
Emmett stood up with me, no doubt in case I got dizzy again. He stopped at the front door, the stupid school rules preventing him from actually going outside. "You gonna be all right?"
"Yeah, thanks." Maybe. The dizziness had passed, but my throat had begun to hurt, making it difficult to swallow. It wasn't the sharp burn that signaled a need to hunt; this was more of a fullness that made me feel like there was something stuck in there. "See you in a few hours?"
"You know it." He gave me what he probably thought was a gentle pop on the shoulder, but my muscles were sore and I could barely hold back a flinch. What the hell was wrong with me?
The car was parked less than a hundred yards away, barely far enough for me to hit my full stride on a good day, but the way I was feeling right now, it might as well have been on the moon. With painfully slow steps, I made my way to it and curled up in the passenger seat. It felt good to be able to rest for a minute.
Some time passed, a minute or an hour, and Esme appeared again, brimming over with maternal worry. Even after all these years, it surprised me that she worried so much about what would probably turn out to be nothing at all. Hell, I had dragged myself home missing limbs before and had Maria pretty much tell me to shake it off. Esme pushed the hair back from my forehead. "You rest for a little bit, okay? Carlisle will be here as soon as he's out of surgery, and he'll get you fixed right up."
I didn't reply, but she didn't seem to be expecting me to as she started the car. The vibrations from the engine caused some of my headache to go away, and I closed my eyes. The house was a good distance from the school, just barely in the district, and I was hoping to shore up enough strength to get inside without having to ask Esme for help. She was already worried enough about something that would probably be minor. I probably just needed day or two to rest and be away from that school and the two thousand emotional and hormonal teenagers that occupied it. Sure, I'd be fine in a day or two.
"Jasper? Come on, honey." Esme's voice was never anything but gentle, but her worry was now overwhelming. "Jasper?"
"Yeah?" My mind felt foggy, like I was having trouble hearing and understanding her. With a great effort, I forced my eyes open.
Her smile was still there, but there was a definite strain to it. "Hey, you take a little nap on me? We're here."
We couldn't possibly be. Even driving at vampire speed, the journey should have taken at least twenty minutes. Even while I was resting, I still should have been aware of what was going on around me. But there the house was, and my watch was telling me that I had lost nearly a half hour while I was . . . what? Asleep? Unconscious?
Whatever I had been, it hadn't done much in terms of healing me. I managed to get out of the car under my own power, and through the front hall, but just looking at the stairs made me knees want to buckle. Instead I went into the living room and collapsed on the couch. Esme hovered uncertainly, wanting to help but not sure how to do so. Finally, she settled for putting a blanket over me and sitting in a chair across the room. "Carlisle will be home soon."
Hopefully with either a way to fix me or a can of gasoline and some matches to put me out of my misery. When Edward had first mentioned Carlisle coming home early, I had felt bad, knowing that there were humans who needed him more than I did. Now I was willing to do just about anything to stop the agony clawing its way through my body, including begging my foster father to come home.
In another life, a century before, I would have been able to bear my pain in silence, but not anymore. Life with the Cullen's had tamed me somewhat, but it had also made me soft. There were certainly days, though fewer of them now, when I wanted my simple life back. Sure there was a lot more pain, but I had been better equipped to deal with it. Plus, nothing like this had ever happened to me there.
Everything faded for a length of time, until I was roused by soft voices. For a second I panicked, realizing I had been snuck up on, but relaxed when I recognized Carlisle and Esme. Esme's voice was soft, but it still carried. ". . . just been lying there for over an hour. He was whimpering a little bit ago, like he was having a nightmare, but I couldn't wake him up. Carlisle, what's happening?"
The responding voice was troubled, and I could just imagine him sitting there, his fingers steepled in thought. "I don't know, but let me see what I can do with him." Footsteps approached, and then the doctor himself appeared, his eyes boring into mine. "Tell me what's wrong."
Where should I begin? "Everything."
He smiled, even though I wasn't trying to be funny. "What specifically hurts?"
"Head, throat, neck, stomach . . ." I trailed off there, worried by the look he was giving me.
"Your neck hurts?" He reached out and took my chin, gently turning my face from side to side. "Does that hurt?"
I suddenly remembered that a stiff neck in a human was a really bad sign. Of course, any illness in a vampire was probably just as bad. "A little."
His eyes narrowed. "You don't seem too stiff. Here, hold this in your mouth." He held out what I recognized as a thermometer.
It got quiet then, while I entertained myself by crossing my eyes and watching digital readout on the thermometer climb. Carlisle took advantage of my distraction by palpating under my jaw without me giving him any of my usual resistance. 96.5, 96.9, 97.8, 98.2, 99.6, 100.4 —
"Ow! Fuck, Carlisle!" The thermometer fell out of my mouth as I yelped. "That hurt!"
His hand was still resting on my stomach, but he didn't press down again. "I'm sorry." He retrieved the thermometer. "Try again, and this time I won't touch you."
It didn't seem worth it to argue, especially since my outburst had caused my headache to come roaring back. This time I didn't bother to watch the numbers rise; over 100 was a fever even by human standards, so I was pretty screwed. Carlisle looked anxious, though, his golden eyes locked on the display. I tried to shift so I could see it as well, but he expertly flipped it so I couldn't do so. "I'm going to call up to Alaska and see if they've seen something like this before."
My eyebrow quirked and he sighed in response to my unasked question. "I don't want to give you anything yet, not until I'm sure I'm doing the right thing." He put a gentle hand on my shoulder. "I'm sorry, Jasper."
The worst part was, I knew he was telling the truth. Unlike Maria, he wouldn't be cruel for the sake of being cruel. "It's okay."
It really wasn't, but my stomach was lurching again and I was afraid to open my mouth to say anything more. An image of the moose I had taken down for my last meal flashed into my mind, and I pushed it down hard. Food was not what I wanted to think about.
Carlisle didn't say anything else, just patted my shoulder and left, no doubt to spend hours in deep conversation with Eleazar about what his chronic fuck-up of a child had managed to do to himself this time. It was an unfair thought and I knew it. Carlisle had never been anything but patient and loving towards me. Still there was only so much one leader could be expected to take, and I knew I pushed his limits sometimes.
With a barely audible sigh, I stretched back out and tried to find a comfortable position. I ached down to my very bones, a cold pain that caused all of my muscles to tremble. Even though my human memories were blurry and faded, I felt like I would have remembered if I had ever been this ill.
Even in the dim light, I could clearly make out the clock on the mantle. One-thirty. Another hour and a half, at least, before Alice would be home and able to comfort me. Just a few decades ago, I would have been mortified to be so dependent on another vampire, but things had changed. I had changed, in ways that I still had trouble understanding. Still, dependency had its downsides, and I was feeling them now. I would have accepted Esme, or even Carlisle right now, but I didn't know if I could force myself to get up and go to either one of them. Shouting might have been an option, but my throat hurt already, and I didn't even want to think about what yelling might do to my already pounding head.
I held out for another ten minutes, until I started to shake at the thought of being alone for any longer. Knowing I would work myself up into a full-blown panic attack (another not-so-fun side effect of having a gift dealing with emotion), I closed my eyes and reached out, searching the house for the familiar emotions. I located Esme in the basement, more specifically doing laundry, and Carlisle in his study on the second floor. Esme was a little closer, but I didn't want to risk pitching down the basement stairs and landing on the concrete below. While I probably wouldn't be injured, I didn't want to jar myself any more than was strictly necessary. So, the decision made, I forced myself up and towards the stairway.
My hips and back complained pitifully with every step I took, but I kept going. I supposed if I could thank my former life for one thing, it was the ability to effectively block the worst of my pain. I had never counted them before, but I now knew that there were thirty-four steps to the second floor of the house. Thirty-four agonizing steps. My legs wanted to give out on me, but I managed to stay upright by sheer determination. Another fifteen steps had me down the hall and opening the door to the study.
Carlisle was still on the phone. "I'm going through some of my files, but to be honest — " He broke off quickly when he saw me leaning against the doorframe. "Jasper! What's wrong?"
How could I say this without looking like a weak, frightened child? "I wanted you." Even I could hear the needy note in my voice.
He was up in an instant, pulling one of my arms over his shoulder. "Easy, easy. You should have called me. I'd have come down. You need to be resting until we know more about what's going on."
For the first time, I realized that I had been getting ready to fall over. Great, my humiliation was complete. "Sorry."
His face softened. "It's all right. Listen, you go lie down in your room, and I'll call Eleazar back on my cell so I can come sit with you. Would that work?"
It would have been if I could have made it back down the hall to the room Alice and I shared. But my vision was already starting to waver in and out. Abruptly his grip tightened on my arm. "Jasper!"
I felt fuzzy, like I was trying to listen through a head stuffed with cotton. It would have been easier to close my eyes and regain my bearings, but he sounded kind of worried, so I focused on him instead. "Huh?"
His yellow eyes held mine, and I could feel his anxiety increasing. For a moment, he opened his mouth to speak, but then thought better of it. Without a word, he guided me down the hall. Never, not even when Alice was in there waiting for me, had my bed looked more inviting. I flopped down on it, not bothering to undress first. Carlisle kept one hand on my back, a point of comfort, even after I closed my eyes. I would have known he was there anyway, of course. I could recognize any member of the family, plus Bella (whom I was grudgingly coming to admit counted as an honorary family member at the very least) by both their emotions and their smell, but I appreciated the gesture. My mind fogged further, and I relaxed for the first time all day. Secure under Carlisle's watchful eye, I let the darkness take me.