A/N: I don't know what to say about this. It's basically a snapshot of what's running through Jasper's head during a certain part of Long Way Down, Chapter 8. If you haven't read that you might want to before reading this.

This is definitely spoiler-y. Jasper is aware of a lot of things Bella isn't, so if you don't want to know things she doesn't at this point in the story then you might want to skip this for now.

Thank yous to WhitlockWoman and carolinagirl1275 for pre-reading and assuring me I didn't need to label this as "art" to get away with how crazy it is. I think I'm going to call it art anyways...just in case. :-)

Don't own Twilight.


Aftermath

She's beautiful.

It's the only thing I can comprehend on a conscious level for a good two minutes.

Fucking beautiful.

She's long brown hair tinged with red and streaked with blood. She's wide crimson eyes filled with horror and pain. She's tattered clothes and a spine curved inward. She's a mess; shaking and sobbing and probably hating the hell out of me for turning her into something capable of destruction like this. She's Bella, and this sight is a scar I've inflicted on her that she'll carry for the rest of her existence—that first time her monster roamed free and made her do something she never thought she would.

I shouldn't have done it, I should have let her go. I should have let her die, because changing her wasn't fair and this isn't the way life is supposed to work. This shit wasn't about me—but I made it about me anyway. The pain, guilt, and misery I would feel for failing her.

I could have, I should have...I would do it all over again.

It's just another mistake in a long line of mistakes I've made, and they always seem to come back to her. Fuck-ups of epic proportions. She throws me off balance, she's a wild card I never quite know what to do with. I can't keep my fucking head straight when she's involved, and she's always the one who pays the price for it.

Bella had believed. She had faith, and she shared that with me even though she had no reason to. She loved and trusted and shared, she let me see the darkness that had sprouted and grown within her. She opened herself like a book whose best pages had been ripped out, and let me read the passages that remained. She trusted me and I'd been so blinded and awed that I let that bitch slip right under my radar and into her backyard.

I'd decided already, Alice had seen—but it should have never happened like this. I had a fucking plan, a set of checkboxes to tick off; little pokes, prods, and innocent questions all designed to ensure that when she decided she was ready she'd know I was on board. Logic, strategy, sanity...they were all worthless when it came to Bella.

Over-confident. I'd been so over-confident, and I should have known better.

My plans seem to always end up going wrong when she's involved; my focus splits and the dagger comes from a blind spot I never realized I had. It's her fault and it's not, it's me refusing to remember how I managed to come so far. I try to change the rules, everything crashes down. I revert back to the tried and true method of coldness and apathy, the plan, and it still blows up in my face. No matter what I try I always find myself sucked into all the love she feels and I end up making the situation about her instead of the objective at hand.

It wound up being about Bella, when it should always have been about Victoria.

Once again she's miserable; torn from the people she loves because I've never been able to keep it together when it comes to her. There's been words someone else should have told her, airports, and paper-cuts—but those were things I could atone for. I could yell at Edward for being a jackass, or destroy the bastard that broke her limbs. I could apologize and step up to be there for her when she didn't have anyone left. All those things I could try to make up for, ease the pain of them even if it was just a little bit.

This time...this time there's nothing I can do, because this time I actually fucking killed her.

She's just sitting there in a pool of blood and guts, and I can't feel her but I know exactly what she's feeling anyway. It's always the same, and she's always so different. Loving when she should hate, calm when she should be furious, and now she's sobbing because she actually feels bad for what she's done.

I hold her because she needs it, and maybe I need it a little bit too.

I lie to her because I want to believe that it's true, and because she needs to hope that someday it will be.

We rock and she cries, and I exhale all the breath I have left in my lungs so that when I breathe in it'll be all her—from now on everything has to be about her. There's no me left in this equation, I've already done enough damage. I'd like to say that my needs and wants would go unfulfilled from here on out in favor of hers, but somewhere along the line my priorities shifted, and the only thing I really need is already here with me. I can't believe I let this happen.

I silently swear that I'll get her through this even if I have to drag her kicking and screaming the whole way. Even if it means in the end she'll hate me. Even if when all is said and done she wants to leave, because I've gotta make up for the sick, disgusting part of me that's actually pleased things turned out this way.

What it comes down to is that I need to square my shoulders and buck the fuck up, because Bella can't be strong anymore. Not for awhile, not like she used to be—I have to do it for her. I need to bury the guilt, repress, and focus.

I have to force myself to be okay with what's happened, come to terms with all I've done wrong in her lifetime so when she falls I can hold her up. I have to steel myself and take deep breaths, and on the count of five be over it—and it's hard, but I do it, because it's for her instead of for me.

Still, nothing can erase the suddenly obvious fact that there's a distinct difference between feeling and feeling, and that wide margin is ripping my heart straight out of my chest. I know exactly what's happened here today, and it's something I can't tell her until she figures it out for herself. Not until her head clears and her senses calm, not until she's okay again. The prospect makes me want to explode against the earth and just give the fuck up, because I have no idea if I have a shot in hell at pulling this off without completely ruining what little is left.

I'd thought that maybe this could happen, allowed myself a small sliver of hope that night I held her together and rationalized kicking the shit out the dog that had dared to hurt her feelings. She was human, and therefore an unknown. I laid in her bed and pretended to sleep, to dream that it wasn't Edward, but maybe it could be me.

Checklists, rationalizations. Logic, because when it came down to it Edward's feelings for her weren't so different from my own; he'd cared for her in his own way, and so had I. I'd laid there and hoped, and midway through the night had the completely subjective and soul shattering revelation that Edward hadn't been the only one who wanted to die when Alice had her vision—but he was the only one stupid enough to try and go through with it. Edward had wanted to be a martyr, I'd just wanted the world to wither and die along with me.

We just keep rocking and swaying, and I make her promises I don't know if I can keep, but I'll try harder than she'll ever know.

I want to go back and do it all over, stop myself from fucking up every single time it mattered.

I want to fast-forward and see how this is going to end so I can steady my resolve and make sure I've done right by her when it's all over.

I want, and I wish, and I want...and I have to stop that shit, because it's too fucking late to change anything. The instinct has set in, and now comes the choice. Her choice, it has to be her choice, because I made that decision weeks ago on a nondescript afternoon in Washington. I picked her long before the vampire in me asked me to, and now it's her turn.

We're always in the middle of the woods when these things happen, and she's always so fucking beautiful.