"So..." Emmett began, quite proud of what he was about to say. "Are you ever gonna get some?" he boomed, his voice echoing throughout the Jeep. "I mean seriously, maybe you wouldn't ruin it for the rest of us…"
Edward sighed. Why he had even agreed to go on this hunting trip was beyond him. If he weren't actively seeking a distraction from his own inner demons he would have gladly stayed at home with the women. Being away from them now only meant that Emmett would become even more crass than usual.
"Is it even possible?" Emmett asked at high volume, shooting his gaze expectantly to Edward.
"Yes, Emmett, it is!" Edward snapped. "I am perfectly capable of 'getting some' should I so choose. Happy?" He crossed his arms over his chest, his face settling into a scowl.
Emmett guffawed loudly, shaking with laughter. "You have no idea!" His voice cracked as he broke into another bout of booming laughter. Edward's snapping at him only caused him to shake that much harder. "Dude," he began, pausing briefly to calm himself down. "The only reason I ask is because you've been on the verge of taking a vow of celibacy for like 90 years. Just wondering if those plans were gonna change any time soon."
Jasper's eyebrows shot up in surprise. He suppressed an amused smile, glancing between the headrests at the two of them.
"And how would you know what I have and haven't done?" Edward snarled. "You read minds now, too?"
"Dude, I don't have to read minds to know that. It's a brother thing," Emmett replied, laughing. "I can just tell because you're getting all defensive."
The perfect balance of Edward's embarrassment and anger filled the car, becoming as thick as a morning fog. Jasper's eyes sparked with mirth as he suppressed a snort. "Careful, Emmett…"
Despite his best efforts, a snicker escaped Jasper's lips in the back seat. He'd been silent for a good portion of the trip, just listening to Emmett badger Edward about Bella. Emmett held nothing back and it was quite comical that he was so open on asking Edward about his sex life. His eyes were sparked with laughter, fixed on the back of Edward's bouffant hair, a smirk twisting up the corners of his lips.
Edward eyed Jasper's mop of curls in the rearview mirror having heard his thoughts. "Brillo pad," he mumbled.
"Virgin.." Jasper mumbled back, with a roll of his eyes and slid them back out the window.
Emmett guffawed at Jasper's comment.
"Oh yes," Edward replied dryly, "that's very funny."
"I thought it was!" Emmett laughed.
"Agreed," Jasper replied, smirking.
Edward's gaze drifted out the window as drove through Forks heading southeast toward Goat Rocks, one of Emmett's favorite hunting grounds due to the abundance of bears. Edward found he himself preferred mountain lion but with his current mood, tangling with an angry grizzly seemed right up his alley.
Jasper's lips pulled down at the corners, as he picked up Edward's mood, the strength of which nearly knocked the air out of him.
Edward stiffened as they passed the road that would lead to the Swan residence, his arms locking even more tightly across his chest. He wondered what Bella was doing right then. Homework? Watching TV? Maybe even thinking about him the way he was thinking about her?
Jasper stifled a laugh, as Edward's mood shifted. "How cute..." he commented, letting a sarcastic smirk slip to his lips. The anger had all but dissipated as a strong sense of love took over.
"You mean much in the same way you internally fawn over Alice all the time? Yes, it's quite cute," Edward said, his voice acid.
Jasper's smirk faded. "You're just jealous…"
"Hardly...you can have her," Edward said, catching Jasper's eyes by way of the rearview mirror.
Jasper's amused expression turned sour as his lips turned downward into a scowl of his own.
Emmett burst out into another round of laughter. "Oh, don't be so crabby, dude," he laughed, extending a hand to slap his shoulder. "All in good fun."
Edward frowned. "Yes, I'm having loads of fun right now."
"You should be! Are there any two cooler people?" he laughed, lifting an eyebrow.
Jasper waited patiently for the embarrassment to flare again and fill the car. He folded his hands together in his lap, quietly mulling over his own thoughts and removed his gaze from the back of Edward's head, fixing it out the window.
Edward growled in irritation, both at himself and Emmett's thoughts, thankful that for once he was keeping them to himself. However, Edward didn't hold out hope that that would last very long...
"Hey Jazz!" Emmett called, shooting a glance to back seat and waited impatiently for a response. "Hello?"
"What?" Jasper said, jerking his gaze away from the window.
"I bet Edward's too much of a goody two shoes to get laid," he said, crooking an eyebrow, waiting, for Edward to take the bait. "Maybe the problem is that he doesn't know how!"
A simple smile quirked at the corner of Jasper's lips in response. "You never know…" he replied.
"And there it is," Edward mumbled, shaking his head. "I was actually sitting here, Emmett, counting how long you could keep your mouth shut. I had estimated at least a minute thinking that surely shouldn't be too hard even for you. I'll have you know you failed miserably." His disgruntled expression turned darker as the scenery outside the window changed from houses and buildings to fields and then forest.
The smirk on Jasper's lips grew, listening to Edward's retort.
"Not gonna happen, dude!" Emmett chortled.
"I guessed as much..." Edward muttered, reading Emmett's mind. He growled again in irritation.
"Like I'd pass an opportunity like this! Jazz? Why the hell are you so quiet? I keep forgetting you're back there! Help me razz him!" Emmett pleaded.
"I think you're doing fine on your own..." Jasper commented, dryly.
"I'm putting on the radio," Edward announced, leaning forward to turn it on. "Change it to whatever you want as long as it's on and it's loud and it can drown out you two idiots until we get where we're going!"
"Oh come on!" Emmett complained, chuckling. "We're just razzing you. Lighten up!"
"It's not like you can block out our thoughts..." Jasper mused, smiling slightly. 'Where should I begin?' he mentally mused, lifting an eyebrow.
"Actually I do it quite frequently," Edward growled. "There's rarely anything worth listening to in either of your heads!"
A mischievous smile curved Emmett's lips as his knees caught the steering wheel so he could free his hands. "Oooh, Bella..." he cooed, puckering his lips like he was making out with the air.
Jasper's eyes gleamed with mirth, as he broke out in laughter.
"Okay, that's it!" Edward declared grabbing a hold of the door handle. "I will jump out of this moving vehicle before I listen to another word from either of you!"
Emmett laughed loudly, taking up the steering wheel with his hands again and turning an amused look to Edward. "Oh, come on dude! Lighten up!"
Edward grunted in response, turning his face to stare out the window again. Jasper's laughter died down in the backseat only to be replaced with an amused smile.
"So when do you think you'll see her naked?" Emmett asked, lifting an eyebrow.
Edward's lips pulled back from his teeth, clearly indicating that Emmett had gone a bit too far. "Right after you grow a brain, perhaps?"
Emmett snorted. "I got a brain..." he scoffed, rolling his eyes.
A new wave of laughter broke out in the backseat, as Jasper dropped over in the back seat and held his sides. "Dude!" he choked out.
"Dude?" Edward questioned, raising an eyebrow at Jasper's choice of words. He had been spending too much time with Emmett. Suddenly, a wry smile quirked Edward's lips. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone, flipping it open and hitting a number on the speed dial. It only rang once and Edward guessed it was because she had seen him calling.
"Alice?" he asked, his voice dripping innocence as he turned in his seat to fix Jasper with a pointed glare. "Yes, I just wanted to see what you had planned for this weekend? Well, I'm asking because Jasper here was just saying that he could use some new clothes... Yes... That's right, a whole new wardrobe, everything from shirts to pants to new underwear... Yep. If you could get to work on that, that would be great. He's very eager to try it all on when we get back on Sunday... Okay, miss you, too! Bye!"
Jasper's laughter instantly died as he sat bolt upright. Edward had resorted to calling Alice and what was worse he'd told her to buy clothes. "No, no..." Jasper mouthed, his eyes wide in horror. He tried to make a grab for the phone over the seat as Edward snapped the phone back shut. "Y-you can't do that...! You have to call her back...!" Jasper stammered, horrified by what he would be coming home to.
Edward chuckled and turned to settle into his seat with a satisfied smile. "Emmett? Want me to call Rosalie for you? I'm sure I could figure out something interesting to tell her."
Emmett eyed Edward with a wary look and shook his head. "No... But it'll be funny to watch Jasper model!" His good humor returned at the thought.
Jasper cringed. I can't believe you brought Alice into this, he thought, acidly.
Edward's smug smile dissipated. "I can't believe you find this so funny when two days ago you were ready to kill over it," he said, answering Jasper's thought. "It wasn't funny then. It's still not as far as I'm concerned. What changed?"
"Well..." Jasper began, all evidence of humor gone. "Since I'm not allowed to kill her due to Alice's orders, I've decided that instead I'm going to look at it from a humorous point of view instead of being angry." He puckered his eyebrows into a thoughtful look. "Trust me, I still don't like it. But, since I can't do anything about it obviously, I have to find other means to cope..." He trailed off, letting his gaze drift down to the scars on his right hand and tracing over the crescent shapes, one at a time with the fingers of his left. "Laughing at this insanity and pretending that it's less than what it is, is the only way I can think of..."
"Well I'm glad you both can laugh at it," Edward grumbled sinking into his seat, his foul mood flaring again. "It's only the worst thing that could have possibly happened."
Edward's words caused him an instant stab of guilt. Bella had turned everything in his life upside down. Her presence here had caused him immeasurable pain, overwhelming grief and had almost exposed him and his entire family. And yet he couldn't bring himself to wish her away or to regret her coming to Forks. The very idea of having never known her, much like the possibility of never seeing her again, had become unbearable.
"Dude, seriously just try to have fun," Emmett sighed, rolling his eyes. "Yeah, we tease you or whatever but we're your older brothers we're supposed to harass you." Trying to encourage him, Emmett smiled. "Come on, lighten up."
"Excuse me if I don't feel like laughing at this,"Edward said, his voice flat. "I'm in love with someone I'm either going to kill or damn to an eternity of hell on earth. What is there to lighten up about?"
"Being a vampire isn't that bad," Emmett scoffed. "I love it. You, Jazz and Rose are always all doom and gloom. I don't understand."
Jasper fell silent in the backseat, mulling over Edward's words.
"I have to disagree with that..." Jasper said, cryptically. "Do you honestly believe I find your pain amusing?" he asked sharply.
"Could have fooled me," Edward growled.
"Fooled you? Nobody could fool you... You've no idea what pain is..." Jasper removed his gaze from his brothers, having returned it to the scenery.
Edward turned in his seat, fixing Jasper with an icy glare. "Oh really? Well then tell me, empath, if this isn't pain then what is it? Because I can tell you from my end that it hurts like bloody hell!"
"I'm not saying you're not in pain Edward..." Jasper replied calmly, despite Edward's temper flare. "I know you're in pain. Trust me, I know better than anyone. I feel it on a daily basis," he explained, fixing his gaze on Edward and lifting an eyebrow. "What I'm saying is this... I would trade yours for mine any day," he murmured taking his gaze off of Edward and turned it down on his shirt sleeve, worrying a piece of fabric there between his thumb and index finger.
"Really?" Edward asked, exasperated. "You would trade your past for living with the knowledge that you would kill Alice? Kill her at any moment? That you might reach out to touch her and instead snap her neck with no more than a flick of your hand? You could live with yourself for eternity with the memory of her face frozen in your mind, terror in her eyes right before you took her life, the memory of the way her broken body felt in your arms? Your past is pain. It's over now. You have Alice and you have your happy ending. I don't have Bella, I can't have Bella and I may very well kill Bella! My pain is not in the past! My future is pain without end! It stretches out before me with the possibility of never ending torture!"
Jasper's temper flared, the anger he felt simmering beneath the surface finally showing through. "How dare you!" he snapped. "No, you're right. I'd prefer to live with it than have Alice harmed! But you know nothing about my past!" he yelled, feeling all the rage in him spilling out in his words. "Nothing! It's over? Really? Then why do I relive it on a daily basis? Do you know what it feels like to carry the bloodlust of four other vampires everyday at school? Do you know what it feels like to look in the mirror and see a monster? To constantly worry about outting the entire family because you're too weak to control your own thirst? Every day for the past 50 years? Don't you dare preach to me about it!"
"Yes, I do know! Mind reader, remember?" Edward exclaimed, tapping his temple violently. "I live it with you! Just like I lived it with you two days ago when you were plotting to kill the woman I love, love the same way you love Alice!"
His eyes widened suddenly as he realized what he had said. Alice had told him he would love Bella, did love her, but that was the first time he had admitted it or even allowed himself to entertain the possibility. The words had burst forth from him in a moment of anger but that made them no less true.
He loved Bella Swan. He did. And realizing it made him feel more wretched, more like a monster than he ever had in nearly a hundred years.
It had been one thing for Jasper to feel the obsession Edward felt for Bella, but Edward's admittance of love was something else entirely. His eyes widened in surprise at his brother's accidental outburst. However, his expression quickly smoothed over, as he rolled his eyes and retrained his gaze out the window, convincing himself that he honestly didn't care anymore. As far as he was concerned the trip was over and he couldn't wait for it to end.
Edward whipped around in his seat, his eyes burning with anger. He couldn't look at either of them anymore. He reached over and turned the volume on the radio up until it drowned out everything, their thoughts and his own. It didn't take long, however, for that anger to turn inward.
Emmett frowned, flickering his gaze between his brothers. "Um... We're almost there..." he offered.
Jasper said nothing, instead choosing to glare out the window.
Edward let his head fall into his hands. "I should have stayed behind. This trip has gone to hell."
"Agreed," Jasper mumbled. "So much for brotherly bonding. I'll hunt by myself..."
Emmett sighed. "Oh come on. Edward stop pitying yourself. Jasper stop with the silent treatment. We're family. Can't we just get along?"
Edward didn't say anything. He didn't even lift his head. Guilt, shame, torment and a wretched love he didn't even want to feel took turns ripping through his soul.
Jasper sighed quietly, worrying the fabric of his sleeves again. Edward's words had cut deeper then he cared to show. He remained quiet as his brother's emotions filtered into the backseat. The hurt, anger, guilt and love that he felt for Bella cut into the surface of Jasper's skin like razor blades. He sucked in a sharp breath from the sudden shock to his body. The feelings combined together in one angry concoction like a fire had been set to him.
"We're here!" Emmett yelled, breaking the silence and coming to a stop on a rocky outcropping, cutting the engine. "Let's try to have fun," he said, letting his gaze rove over his brothers. As it landed on Jasper he arched an eyebrow. "You alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine.." Jasper strained, trying to battle off the flood of emotions attacking him.
Emmett turned his gaze to Edward. "Edward?"
Edward simply shook his head, opening his door and sliding out of his seat like an old, broken man. Shutting it behind him he walked over to the edge of the cliff taking a deep breath of the mountain air as he let his gaze survey the forest far below. Too bad he couldn't just fling himself off and be done with it, he thought darkly. Bella would go on living her life, never the wiser as to how close she had come to losing it at his hands, and he would be spared feeling as though his frozen heart would rip in two. But no, if he jumped he'd just fall and hit the ground, laying there until he eventually grew tired of it or until Emmett came down and dragged him back up the mountainside. He sighed. Humans had it so easy...
Jasper climbed out the backseat, finally regaining his composure and sliding around to lean against the jeep, watching Edward warily. The depression in his mood was clear and evident. It wasn't hard to guess what was running through his mind at the moment.
Emmett followed suit, climbing out of the Jeep behind his brothers and glancing at Jasper briefly before letting his gaze fall on Edward. He hated to see them fighting again, so soon after they'd just made up.
"Why don't you two go off without me?" Edward mumbled. "I don't think I'm going to be much in the way of company..."
Jasper sighed and tentatively took a step forward, warily gauging Edward's mood before attempting to approach him. "I suppose...I owe you an apology. What I said in the car...was cruel and unnecessary," he admitted, straining to get past the wave of emotions emitting off of Edward.
Edward continued to stare out at the valley below them, his face etched with sadness. "I'm sorry as well," he conceded with a slight nod, his eyes focused on something far away. "Things would be so much better...for her...if I didn't exist. I don't have a right to love her. I don't have a right to take her life from her, not when mine should have ended so long ago..."
Jasper linked his hands together behind his back listening to Edward. He let go a light sigh, mulling over his thoughts. "Look..." he began, gazing out into the chasm stretched out in front of them. "I know we're not that close...but it bothers me to hear you talk like that. Besides, if you actually did it you would just smack the ground and bounce hence giving Emmett another reason to torment you," he said in an attempt to lighten the mood.
Edward snorted a laugh. "That thought occurred to me," he admitted with a rueful smile.
Jasper puckered his eyebrows together in an attempt to search for the right words. "Life isn't easy. Or existence or whatever it is that we have. But you have to find a middle ground somewhere. None of us like being like this. Except Emmett who's mentally incompetent, as we all know." He laughed.
Edward nodded, smiling at Jasper's jab at Emmett. Still the words he had spoken were true. He was here. Bella was as well. It was what he did now that mattered. Alice said he couldn't leave. He felt he couldn't. Even thinking about it as he stood there it seemed an impossibility. But perhaps if he tried hard enough, if he willed himself to change the future, he could manage it. Alice wouldn't be happy. Neither would Esme or Carlisle. Still, if it were leave or kill the girl, he had to at least try.
"Thank you, Jasper," he said, lifting his eyes up towards the sky. "You've given me much to think about."
"No problem," Jasper said, with a quiet sigh. "See? I'm not totally useless. I can be quite insightful. But, all kidding aside, you need to figure something out. Leaving isn't an option. If it would help, I could offer my services in keeping the atmosphere around you calm. Well, when I'm around you anyway. Obviously I can't do it every class period but when I'm able…" he said, as a smile curved his lips. "I'm not as cold as I'm given credit for. Love and compassion aren't things I know how to deal with. I'm not sure how to return with," he explained, removing his from Edward to cast it back out across the chasm.
Edward quirked a smile. "First of all, I would never think you useless. Without you around to occupy Alice I'd be a full time lifesize Ken doll."
Jasper laughed in amusement. "Alice's isn't too hard to occupy," he said, with a coy smile. "I have a few tricks up my sleeve..."
"Enjoy your new clothes, by the way," Edward said, smirking.
Jasper's joy faded. "You're not going to call her?" he asked, becoming slightly alarmed.
Edward laughed at Jasper's expression. His humor didn't last long, however, his face once again falling into anguish. "I think it would be wise for you to keep an eye on me, try to keep me calm so I don't..." Edward turned his gaze down to the ground. "I honestly couldn't live with myself if I ever...hurt her."
"I'll make you a deal. I'll do what I can to keep you from killing your...human…if you, in return, call off my wife," he said, a smug smile plastering on his face. "As much as I love Alice, I don't think even my few advantages will sway her. Emmett on the other hand," he added, peering up at Edward through his eyelashes with a rueful smile, "could use some new clothes..."
The thoughtful expression on Edward's face dissolved into a crooked grin. "You have a deal," he said, sticking out his hand so they could shake on it like gentlemen.
"Good," Jasper said, with a sly grin and reached out his own hand to grasp Edward's.
Edward reached into his pocket and retrieved his cell phone, flipping it open and pressing the speed dial for Alice again. The phone barely rang before Alice's voice could be heard on the other end.
"Why am I cancelling the things I ordered for Jasper and buying things for Emmett?" she asked, her voice wary at her change in vision. "Shouldn't you guys be killing something right about now?"
"Sorry for the change of plans, Alice," Edward said with a smile into the phone. "Just switch it whatever you ordered for Jasper into Emmett's size instead. I'll explain later."
"Fine," she grumbled. "Oh and Edward?"
"You jump off a mountain and you answer to me, you got it?" Alice said, her voice serious and cold.
"Yes, ma'am," Edward chuckled, snapping the phone shut. "Happy?" he asked, eyeing Jasper as he dropped it back into his pocket.
"Very..." Jasper said, satisfied. "Emmett will love his new wardrobe," he added, sliding his gaze over to their brother who was at the moment pacing around the Jeep. "No patience," Jasper sighed, flipping his gaze back over to Edward. "I wonder what she ordered him..." he mused, a sly grin twisting at the corner of his mouth.
"There's no telling," Edward mumbled, shaking his head. "Hey, Emmett! We going to hunt some grizzly bears or what?"
"I was wondering that myself! Been waiting for you two!" he called, mildly irritated as he turned on his brothers.
"Come on, let's get this over with…" Jasper mumbled, rolling his eyes and started off back toward their impatient brother.