Oh, shit, I lost my brother.
Dad was yelling in frustration, which made me feel about ten years old and three inches tall, and I was trying to figure out when I had last seen Jasper. He had been standing at my side, quiet and sick. He was swaying a little bit, because his balance is kind of sucky lately, then everyone started yelling about there being another vampire and we all started looking and I guess I stopped watching Jasper.
That was a mistake, because I've never met anyone who can just disappear like my brother. Sometimes he doesn't even leave the room, he just vanishes back into his own head, and you can't wake him up for anything. It used to terrify me, the way he would shut down when he first came to us. That doesn't happen very often anymore, though, which is great. It's scary to see your brother turn into a mannequin.
Something bumped into the back of my legs, and I almost grabbed it before I realized that it was one of the wolves. Didn't know which one, didn't really care, but I couldn't hurt him. They might not be friends yet, but at least they weren't a pack of newborns, ready for our blood. Well, not our blood, I guess, since we don't actually have any, but our lives. Well, maybe not our lives, either, because—
The thought was cut off by the wolf howling, a wild sound that sent shivers racing up my spine. The newborns were even more affected, seeming to lose the thread of their attack as they scattered out of formation.
Jasper could have held them together.
Sometimes I think Jasper can do anything he wants to. He hides it pretty well, but I'm pretty sure that he's the smartest vampire in the house, in addition to being the best fighter. He has entire books memorized, and he never, ever forgets what you tell him. Plus, he can actually win a chess game against both Edward and Alice, which might make him some kind of superhero.
Without warning, the smallest wolf leapt forward, grabbing one of the newborns by a leg. That wolf was a brave little shit, and I joined it as quickly as I could, tearing the vampire's head from her body. The wolf gave me a quick bark and rejoined his packmates, all of whom were tearing into the newborns.
Somewhere at my left, Rose gave a squeal of fear and pain, causing a red haze to settle over my vision. No one, and I mean no one, touched my Rosie with anything other than the gentlest of hands.
By the time I got there, though, she had decapitated the newborn that had jumped her, and was well on her way to destroying another one. That was my girl.
But we were still outnumbered. Even with the wolves, and I had to admit that they were doing their part, there were just too many newborns. For every one that was lying in pieces on the ground, at least one more appeared. We were drowning, and for the first time, I realized how amazing it was that Jasper had survived what he had.
One of the wolves was whimpering now, unable to put its front paw on the ground. I didn't think it was Bella's wolf, or the little one, and it definitely wasn't the leader, either. But that was one wolf down, and no end to the newborns. The other wolves huddled around the injured one, leaving the rest of us vulnerable.
Suddenly I was down on the ground, my face in the dirt and a heavy weight on my back. I managed to flip the newborn off, but then another one was on my legs, and I realized that I couldn't get loose this time. This was it: my unlife was over.
I squeezed my eyes shut and hoped that having my head torn off didn't hurt. A roar rumbled through the clearing, and the vampire was thrown off of me. Red eyes met mine, and I realized that reinforcements had arrived.
Peter held out a hand, and I let him pull me up. "Thanks, dude."
He nodded, already searching out his next target. I looked around and saw that the entire rest of the family was there, including the Denalis. With them, we actually stood a chance.
Whoever was controlling the newborns must have known it, too, because a call sounded from the forest. The noise was somewhere between a snarl and a howl, and I felt the hair on the back of my neck raise up. Over to my left, I saw the hackles rise on each wolf, so I wasn't the only one affected by it.
That should have stopped the fight right there. The leader was calling, and now it was time for them to leave us alone. But they didn't. The newborns (and they had to all be newborns; no normal vampire was that strong) had their bloodlust up, and there was no getting them back under control. Luckily, they were turning on each other as quickly as they were attacking us, and I felt a little bit of hope.
Another newborn attacked from the left, but I saw it coming and was able to knock it to the side. I was about to tear its head off when the little wolf charged in again and took care of it for me. His yellow eyes met mine, and he gave sharp yip. Even though we were in a miserable situation and he was supposed to be my mortal enemy, I couldn't help but give a playful growl back. The fuzzy tail wagged, before he twisted to tip his head back and howl.
The effect was electric. If the newborns weren't afraid of our suddenly increased numbers, they were terrified of the wolves. Without their leader, they panicked and started running into one another. Soon they were battling each other even harder than they were fighting with us. All the wolves began to howl, providing a soundtrack for this horror movie.
Charlotte managed to get us all into a tight bunch by the wolves. Lucky that she knew what to do, because the rest of us would have stood there until we were taken out by a stray newborn.
It was carnage. Maybe I'm naïve, but I'd never, ever, seen anything like it. There was a war when I was a little boy, but it was over by the time I was old enough to fight. Plus, it wasn't like it is today, where you can see all the blood and guts and everything all over YouTube. The images were sanitized. They certainly didn't look like this, with arms and legs flung all over the place.
"We should stop this." Carlisle could never stand to see anyone suffer.
"No." Peter's red eyes were focused on the melee. "Unless you can get the Major to reappear and use his gift, they're all dead. They just don't know it yet."
He was right. What had started out as around fifty newborns was down to just a handful, and getting fewer all the time. Since we were out of their direct sight, they had forgotten us entirely. Even the wolves were quiet now, except for soft growls.
"Where is Jasper?" Bella was whispering to Edward, but it carried over the sounds of the newborns.
"He'll be okay." He was trying to comfort her, but even I could tell he was lying. And if I can tell something like that, it's pretty obvious.
Sure enough, she was shaking her head. "No, he won't. He's sick and alone and what if they found him first? He might not have been able to fight back."
Sometimes Edward's little human surprised me. Less than twenty feet away, hysterical vampires were tearing each other to pieces, and she was worried about the one Cullen who had yet to show her much in the way of attention.
"He'll be able to fight back." Peter patted her on the shoulder, earning himself the shit look from Edward. Like he was going to just lunge at her with no warning. Don't get me wrong, I love my brother and all, but he needs to loosen up. "Jasper wasn't always a tame little pussycat."
She gave a weak nod. "Okay. But he's still lost."
I didn't want to think about that, but there was no point in freaking Bella out. "He knows how to get himself home. He's probably already there."
By this point, there was only one newborn left, and Peter stepped in to take care of him. Carlisle reached out and grabbed his arm. "Peter, wait."
I knew what he was going to ask. I also knew that it was pointless. And thirdly (or just third. Thirdish? You know, let's just call it point C), I knew that he knew that it was pointless, too. With everything else going on right now, there was no way we could handle a newborn.
Even if he looked no older than fourteen or fifteen, standing there trembling and whining softly.
Peter looked at us all for a long minute, then shook his head. "I can do it, if you want."
"There has to be another way." But Carlisle's yellow eyes were already defeated.
"How?" Peter sounded a little angry and a lot sad. "You have a house full of strange vampires, eight of us if I count correctly. You have one vampire, one who is an established member of your coven and thus gets priority, who is incredibly ill and none of us have any idea why. There is a human right here, one who you seem to have taken under your wing and protection. Not to mention, you have a pack of shapeshifters less than fifteen feet away, watching your every move and trying to decide whether or not we've broken their treaty so they can kill us without repercussions. If you have any idea how you can add a newborn vampire into this clusterfuck and not have it result in the slaughter of half of this town and coven, I would love to hear it."
"We could . . . no, we couldn't. But don't be cruel, Peter." He was already turning his back, unable to watch the actual decapitation.
"Don't worry, Carlisle. I've done this enough to be very, very good at it." Peter stepped forward, his hand out, as if he were just going to greet the newborn.
I didn't want to watch, but I kind of felt like I had to. This was part of being a vampire, at least part of being a real one, and maybe it was time we started learning about the parts that weren't so good. Maybe if we had done it before, Jasper would be okay now, or at least we would know what was wrong with him.
Yeah, I hadn't forgotten Jasper. Don't tell Edward this, but Jasper's kind of my favorite brother, maybe even my favorite sibling. He's fun and almost always up to play a game with me. Sometimes he gets a little cranky and distant, which means he's tired and wants to be left alone, but most of the time he's great. Plus, Carlisle still kind of pities him, since what he went through when he was younger was so bad, so a lot of times I can squirm out of trouble if Jasper's with me.
But I knew better than to just charge after him. Even now, with the newborns gone (well, almost. Peter was still edging up to the one that was left), blindly chasing him wasn't going to do anything. We needed to try and get his scent, and decide who was going in which direction, and all of that good strategy stuff that Jasper taught me about one summer.
It would be all sorts of awesome if the wolves would help us with that, but they were kind of glaring at us right now, and I was pretty sure that they weren't going to be too friendly. The one with the hurt leg was sitting down, his paw raised up off the ground, but the rest of them were still standing stiffly.
Peter finally managed to get close enough to the last newborn to grab him around the chest and neck. One twist and it was over, too fast for any of us to have called a stop to it, even if we had wanted to. He let both pieces fall to the ground, shaking his head. "We need to start a fire. Burn the pieces."
"No, we need to split up." That was Alice, her thoughts on Jasper, as always. "Some of us stay to burn, the rest start looking for Jasper. Someone needs to take Bella back to the house and stay there with her until we figure out what to do."
Both Bella and one of the wolves (probably Jacob, because even I can tell that he's super sweet on her) started to protest, but Alice cut them off with a wave of her hand. "Bella, please. You aren't going to be able to keep up on a tracking mission, and I need someone at home if Jasper tries to go there. He might try to go where it's familiar. And you!" She pointed at the black wolf, who had enough sense to quail under her angry gaze. "What exactly do you plan on doing with her? Making her walk fifteen miles back to the Rez? Having her ride one of you like a horse, while an angry vampire stalks you through the woods? Like it or not, she's safest with us right now, so suck it up! I have bigger problems than horny, overgrown puppies!"
This was why you didn't get between a vampire and their mate. Because we will crush anyone who gets in the way. But Alice must have realized how she sounded, because she visibly softened. "But before we do anything else, Carlisle, make sure that poor wolf can get home on that foot. It looks like it hurts."
Everyone, including the wolves, stared, our mouths hanging open. Bella snickered. "Just let him look, guys. He's a doctor and it's not worth arguing with Alice."
The head wolf gave a soft chuff, and turned to the injured one, staring deeply. The hurt wolf stood up and limped back into the woods.
Edward glanced over. "He'll be back. He's going to go change so you can look at his arm. Sam also says that treaty or no treaty, if you mess with him, he'll tear your head off right here."
Charlotte leaned in and whispered in my ear. "Peter and I can take Bella home. I don't think that the dogs have noticed our eyes yet, or if they would even know what it means if they did, but it might be a good idea if we were gone before they figure it out."
Smart. But Edward was shaking his head. "No. If anyone's going to take Bella home, it's going to be me."
Carlisle shook his head back. "I need you here, to communicate with the wolves and to keep an eye out for your brother. She'll be perfectly safe."
I think Edward wanted to keep arguing, but the wolf returned, this time in human form. Quil. That was his name. Quil was the wolf with the dark brown fur and the small white patch on his chest. His left arm was cradled to his chest. He looked nervously at the biggest wolf, who nodded at him.
Tentatively, he extended his arm to Carlisle, who moved it around a little. "Okay, it's not broken. I would splint it, but I'm guessing that you'll heal quickly enough that it won't matter. Do you want a ride back to the reservation?"
Quil twitched backwards, out of Carlisle's grip. "No, I can manage. Thanks, though."
"Then we're decided. Peter and Charlotte will take Bella home. The rest of us will split up and look for Jasper." Even Edward knew better than to argue with that tone.
"No." The head wolf had changed back, too, and I really wish that someone had told me that the clothes don't transform with them because I did not need to see another guy's junk like that. "I'm not letting Bella go anywhere with you until we get some answers. Who are these vampires, and why are they after you?"
Ah, the million-dollar question. Before anyone could tell him that we didn't know, Edward spoke up. "It's Victoria. It has to be Victoria coming after Bella."
Why had none of us thought of that? Victoria was a woman with a vendetta against our family and nothing else to lose. Once a vampire has lost their mate, that's it. There will never be another one, and most of them follow into eternal death shortly after.
"Oh get over it." Rosalie appeared at my side, her face streaked with dirt and her hair a mess, and I really kind of wanted to sneak off with her right then. Just for a quickie, I promise. She must have read my thoughts, because she gave me a quick smack. "No, Emmett. And, Edward, it's not Victoria. Not everything that happens to this family revolves around her, you know."
"Really? Well, then what's your explanation, my beautiful sister? That this vampire is after us because you're so stunningly gorgeous that she can't stand it and just had to go on the attack?" Edward wasn't going to listen to anything Rose said, even if she was making a good point, because they happen to hate each other. I don't even get in the middle of it any more, since it just ends up with both of them mad at me.
"Yes, my wonderful and repressed brother, that's exactly it. Only you know what the problem is here? Jasper is the one who's being targeted. Not me, not you, and not Bella! Jasper. If it's a vampire with a grudge, it's someone who has a grudge against him."
Point to Rose. The only problem was, there were probably so many vampires out there with grudges against Jasper that trying to figure out which one this might be was impossible.
It was then that I noticed that Peter and Charlotte had taken advantage of the fight to sneak off with Bella. Good job, guys; this could last a while.
"Why now? What has that leech done recently to piss someone off?" The wolf had gone so quiet that we had forgotten him. "Who did he kill?"
"No one!" I was growling now, but I couldn't help it. Jasper has so many problems, but he tries the hardest out of our entire family, and I hated to see someone accuse him of something he hadn't done. "Jasper hasn't done anything wrong."
"He has to have done something. Otherwise, why target him? He's well protected in a family that obviously loves him and is willing to fight for him. Seems foolish to try and attack him, unless it's personal."
As much as I hated to admit it (and, like any self-respecting vampire, I did hate to admit it), the head wolf was right. With no one else in the family ill, despite us sharing everything, Jasper had to be the specific target. But anytime he was out in public, he was with at least one of us, and he so seldom cared to interact with anyone outside the family, we would have known if there had been a recent incident.
Which brought me right back to the problem of having no idea what to do. Of course, if we couldn't find Jasper, and soon, we weren't going to find him at all.
I looked over at the injured wolf, my eyes meeting his. He tried to look down, but I kept our gazes locked. "Please."
The family might think I'm kind of stupid, and maybe they're right, but I can read people. This dog knew Jasper, I was sure of it. I hadn't missed the way his tail wagged when he first saw my brother. And I did pay attention when Jasper had told Carlisle that sometimes he and one of the wolves would run the boundary line for fun. This wolf, this Quil, had to be the one he meant. Maybe that spark between them would be enough. "Please, help me find my brother." I pointed at the littlest wolf. "I would help you guys get Snoopy here home if you asked."
"I . . ." He looked over at the big wolf in charge, silently asking for help. The rest of the pack, still in wolf form, watched as well, giving no indication of how they felt about it. "Come on, Sam."
"They got us attacked by those wild animals. Your arm might be broken. We don't owe them anything, Quil, and you know it. Our people have been at war with theirs for centuries! Maybe even millennia!"
Quil shrugged, rotating his wrist gently. "Maybe it's time for that to change. We were on the same side ten minutes ago, so why can't we be on the same side now?"
Sam (I had to remember to start calling them by their names, instead of just 'wolf' or 'dog' or 'Snoopy.' I guessed if I wanted them to respect us, I had to start respecting them. Or something like that) looked between us and his pack, nervous for the first time. Of course he was. He had to make a split-second decision, or he would lose face in front of not only us, but his pack as well. He was responsible for all of them, and there was no way everyone was going to be happy, no matter what he picked.
Dude, it had to suck to be him right now.
Lucky for him, he was saved by a loud buzzing sound. A very familiar buzzing that seemed to be coming directly from Carlisle's pocket.
"Dad, your phone is ringing." Sometimes I slip up and call him that, even when no humans are listening. We all do, except for Jasper, of course. He's kind of the exception to every rule. But, even in the dire situation we had found ourselves in, I couldn't help but get a naughty little thrill out of this. "Don't you always tell us that our phones should be off whenever we meet with other people? That it's good manners to do so?" You so rarely catch Carlisle being anything but perfect that I couldn't help but get the dig in.
He glared, but I could hear the breathy chuffing of the wolves behind us, and I was pretty sure that they were laughing at him. Then he looked at the display. "It's the house."
Somehow, I knew that it wasn't just Peter and Charlotte confirming that they had made it home with Bella safely. At the same time, Alice gasped next to me. "No." It was a tiny whimper.
Even though he wasn't talking very loud, the voice on the other end of the phone was clear to everyone in the clearing. "Hi, Carlisle. It's me."
"Jasper." Carlisle's fingers were so tight on the phone that I was afraid it might break. "Son, where are you? What happened?"
"I'm all right." His voice was breathy and strange, almost disoriented. Something was wrong, really bad this time. "Um . . . can you come home, please? It's kind of important."
"We're leaving right now, and we should be there in less than twenty minutes. Are Peter and Charlotte there with Bella? I don't want you to be by yourself right now."
"Not yet. But I'm not alone." His voice trembled at little, and I suddenly realized that he wasn't disoriented at all. He was terrified, which was something I had never seen before. He has his quirks and strange phobias, sure, but let's face it. Once you've lived through what Jasper has, there's not going to be much in Forks, Washington that's going to frighten you. "Please come home."
It was the second time he had wanted that, and this from a vampire who seldom required, or even asked for, anything from anybody. Whatever was going on at home, it was bad.
Carlisle knew it, too. "Jasper, are you in danger right now?"
The pause was so long that I thought we might have lost the connection. "No. I don't think so."
"Are you sure?" None of us wanted to walk into a bad situation blind.
This time there was no pause. "I'm not in any danger. At least not right this second." Then there was another silence from him, but I heard someone speaking in the background, the actual words indistinct. "Peter and Charlotte are in the yard. I have to go."
He hung up before anyone could tell him not to. Carlisle gave the wolves a quick wave. "Well, apparently my missing child has made his way home. Sam, I would be most honored if you and your pack would consider a further alliance between us, both to face this crisis and in the future. Thank you for your help." He pointed at all of us, then off towards the house. Oh, I got it. Run!
Edward was the fastest one in the family, but he wasn't that much faster than the rest of us. I kept up a little mental litany of 'Run home, Jack. Run home, Jack' as we ran, just to entertain myself and keep my mind off of how much trouble Jasper was probably in. I love the movie Hook. So sue me.
Once we were out of the woods, I could smell the vampires in the house. Jasper, Charlotte, Peter . . . they were all there. Bella, too, though her heartbeat was more interesting than her smell.
I had mentally tracked all of them to the living room before I made it to the porch. Edward pulled open the door and stumbled inside, only to freeze and cause a ten vampire pile-up in the doorway. I overbalanced, which sent me crashing to the floor. Funnily enough, that actually gave me a better view of the living room than just about everyone else, since I didn't have to try and look over their heads.
Jasper was sitting in the bigger armchair, his hands folded in his lap and his eyes half closed. He looked like he could barely hold himself upright. When we all came crashing in, though, he looked over briefly, and there was fear in those blue depths that made my stomach roll. Then he went back to staring at whatever had caught his attention in the first place.
Peter and Charlotte were on the couch across from him, Bella in between them. Charlotte had one arm around our little human, with the girl pulled protectively close to her. Peter looked like he was ready to spring up and attack at the slightest provocation.
Of the four of them, Bella alone seemed undisturbed by what was happening. Of course, that was probably because she alone didn't recognize the fourth vampire in the room, the one sitting on the loveseat like a reigning queen.
She was lovely, just like all vampires. But this particular vampire had an edge to her beauty, a slight danger that only served to make her more alluring. Even though she was doing nothing but sitting there, I felt drawn to her. I pulled back, though, knowing what she was actually capable of.
Carlisle finally recovered his voice, speaking to our unexpected (and totally unwelcome) guest.