Disclaimer: Not mine, everything recognizable belongs to SMeyer.
A/N: I wrote this for the Yuletwi'd gift fic exchange, based on the prompt by sweetp-1.
This will be the last fic I post on ffn, though I'm still writing a chapter of a round robin story that's in the makes.
It's been years now. Years, and he still stands on that rooftop, watching the snow fall down, the flakes nearly as big as his palms. The lights of the town make the snow glisten and remind him of Edward; it's inevitable, like the fact that he could probably still shift if he wanted to. He has been changed on so many levels, all through his being, his soul and even something that was supposed to be gone for forever has awakened in his DNA, never to go away again.
The shifter sighs and runs his fingers through his now short hair. He cut it, for some reason, after Edward left and never let it grow back. It's like the long hair represents the naïve teenager in him, something he hasn't been since his seventeenth birthday years ago.
The snow seems to call to him and he knows what he has to do. He has to see Edward once more and then he's done.
Jasper sighs and shifts his weight from one leg to the other. There's no need to try acting human but he still does it. By now it's ingrained into him, like the scars on his marble-like skin. To try and be human. To try and not be a hunter, a killer. He almost snorts.
"Great, there you are!" Edward walks into the room, like he hadn't known exactly where Jasper was.
Warning bells. There are so many of those going off in his mind right now and he can tell Edward tries not to listen in.
"I need a favor. About what Alice has…or hasn't, seen," Edward says, looking very uncomfortable.
"You think it's him?" Jasper asks, using words rather than thoughts just for the sake of sounding right. Sometimes thoughts betray him, his mind wanders too much these days and it confuses Edward when he tries to pick answers from Jasper's head.
"Who else would it be? I'm waiting for a call from Jake, really. He'd go to them to stay when he's here. I hear the wolves still stay in touch…Jasper…I don't know what to do." And for once Edward's cool façade crumbles and Jasper sees and feels the desperation, the hurt and the almost pity-like emotion he doesn't recognize. The worst of it is that he doesn't know who it's directed at.
"And what do you want me to do about this?" Jasper asks and that's when Bella walks into the room with Alice.
"Whatever it takes," Bella says and walking over to wrap her arm around Edward's waist. Alice walks closer to Jasper but doesn't touch him and he's happy for that. He doesn't want to be touched, not when they're asking…
He looks at Alice with hurt in his eyes and Alice looks…sad. But she also looks determined and that hurts even more. They'll sacrifice him for this? His peace of mind for a young, foolish wolf? Naturally the wolf is a man now, has been for years but that's still young from Jasper's perspective, he's old enough to know so much better and… Does he really mean that little to them?
"No, Jasper, no!" Edward says and steps towards him, hand stretched as if he wants to touch the blond, which he doesn't do, knows better than to try, because right now he might risk losing a limb.
"Why me?" Jasper asks, but he knows. There's no-one else. He is the only one that can do this for Edward, for the wolf and for all of them.
"Because you can. You can be what he needs, or at least as close to what he needs as we can give. You'll know his emotions, you'll…you'll be able to do whatever it takes." Alice takes his hand but he pulls away, not wanting the touch of the woman he thought he loved more than this strange parody of a life he's living.
"Where?" he asks.
"Go to Nessie and Jake's. Alice says she can't see you after tomorrow," Edward says.
Jasper can't even glare at Alice, at the betrayal he's feeling. He nods and walks out of the door of the house Edward and Bella live in Alaska, not far from the one he and Alice live in, and then he runs.
"Jasper!" He hears his name squealed and feels the joy hit him well before the young woman does.
He can't help but to feel better; Nessie has always loved him and the feeling has always been mutual. They love each other in a way not many people around them understand. It's a mutual love of peace and quiet that binds them together and even Nessie's parents and Alice tease them for their 'retreats', where they can sit alone, together, in complete silence for hours.
Somehow Jake doesn't tease them. He knows Nessie better than anyone. He knows, just like Jasper does, what it's like to grow up too fast, to be more mature and feel things deeper than most people give you credit for. Taking on responsibility for something bigger than you ever dreamed of being is what Jasper shares with Jacob, so somehow they just fit, despite their other differences. Even Edward seems to be oblivious to some of what they feel, even though he can read their minds if he wants to.
"Hello little girl…" Jasper says, even though she's anything but little and looks like she's in her teens now.
It's a strange thing, her looking young as she does when her mind is already going on fifty and Jake still looks around seventeen or so. They look like the youngest couple ever to be living together, but nobody minds around here, where people are strange anyways. There are a lot of hippies and artists of all kinds living around. Bella and Edward look only old enough to be Nessie's siblings, nobody will ever be any wiser. They don't live far, only twenty miles or so, but Nessie and Jake live in the middle of wilderness to give Jake room to shift when he feels the urge.
"Something's wrong. What is it?" she asks, as she feels the tension that Jasper is carrying around. Nessie is more intuitive than they give her credit for.
"Has Jake received a call yet?" he asks, and that's when Jake walks out of the house with a cell on his ear.
"Apparently so," Nessie says dryly and tugs Jasper into the house.
There's a fire in the fireplace and Jasper is led to the big couch to warm up. He likes the warmth and Nessie knows this. It feels different than it felt when he was still a human, but still enjoyable.
"Have you fed yet?" Nessie asks as Jasper tries not to eavesdrop on Jake's call.
"Yeah, on the way." Jasper smiles, it's such a hostess thing to do and she catches on to that and smirks at him.
"There's a new polar bear that's been wandering in the North side," she explains and he nods. He'd keep it in mind.
Jake doesn't want Nessie hunting carnivores, not even when he's there himself. Her diet is a mix of blood and what Jake eats but she still likes the thrill of the hunt. Jasper can feel it thrumming through her body briefly as she thinks of the giant bear and the frustration of having promised Jake not to risk getting hurt even though she'd heal quickly anyway.
"So, it seems like we're going to have another visitor tomorrow morning," Jake says as he comes from their little library room.
"Yes," Jasper says and Jake sighs before he plops down on the couch next to him.
"You sure about this? I know you can do it but…do you want to?" the wolf asks with pain rolling off him in waves he tries to keep down.
"Do what?" Nessie asks and Jake looks at her.
"Seth's coming," he says and she goes quiet before climbing on Jacob's lap and extending her warm palm to place on Jasper's cheek.
"To get over Edward?" she asks and Jasper nods.
"I'm so sorry," Nessie says after a long silence during which they sit like statues. Then Jake's stomach growls and even Jasper chuckles.
"The woman-child hasn't fed me yet," the tall wolf complains and Jasper shakes his head as Jake is being mockingly strangled by Nessie.
"Go feed the mutt, I'll rummage through your books," Jasper says and now Jake tries to punch his arm but Nessie growls at him.
The couple is so playful, and it affects Jasper too, as if they possess his gift and are projecting their emotions onto him.
Jasper is hunting, stalking the polar bear, when he hears the car in the distance. Seth is driving towards the cabin. He sighs, changes direction and goes to find less challenging prey to feed on and more likely to leave his clothing intact. It takes him half an hour to get back to the cabin and he hears the wolves before they see him.
"So…you're saying I'm not even going to see him, is that it?" Seth's voice, now deeper and almost more gravelly than Jake's, asks in a tone that betrays his thinning patience.
"They…they think it's best like that," Jacob says, apology in his tone.
"And they think it's better if I help you to deal with it all," Jasper says quietly and Seth whirls around to look at him, spooked by his sudden appearance. If he had been in wolf form, there would be hackles raised and startled snarling, Jasper is sure.
"You…they sent you to…to what? For me to get my fill of this vampire-thing and…" Seth says, his tone disbelieving and Jasper closes his golden eyes for a moment before nodding.
That's when Seth notices the pained expression Jasper hasn't sported in years. It's not about blood lust now. It's about betrayal and destiny and maybe something else neither of them has a word for.
"You guys know it's my dad you're talking about?" Nessie asks as she walks into the room, a almost too perfect young woman with features that match both of her parents. She's the perfect combination of who Bella was and who Edward will always be. Jasper sees the love in Jacob's eyes every time the wolf turns to look at the half-vampire and it warms Jasper from the inside. The next emotion he feels is envy, because he'll never have that.
He is safe to think about Alice here; nobody can read his mind so he indulges in this when the youths bicker as Seth greets Nessie and they try to be playful, in the spirit of the household, about Seth's unhealthy obsession with Nessie's father.
Alice…he loved Alice so much. Even after he was forced to part from Peter, he was hopeful somehow. Peter had found his mate, so maybe there was someone for Jasper too. Then little Alice danced into his life and it was clear that she could be the mate Jasper had been looking for. Now Jasper is ready to accept the fact that it isn't Alice either. He's certain, because how could your mate throw you to the wolves, quite literally. The bitter little laughter erupting from his chest makes said wolves and the girl look at him quizzically.
"Sorry. Jake do you still have your camping gear?" he asks and Nessie goes to find it. It's winter, but a wolf won't freeze and it makes no difference for Jasper if it's cold.
He shuts his emotions off, goes through the motions and tries to be as neutral about everything as possible. They take off, Jasper carrying a backpack with everything they need strapped into it and they walk into the forest using the path Nessie and Jake use when they go hunting.
"Do you want to try shifting?" Jasper asks and Seth looks around thoughtfully, like he is centering himself and listening to his inner wolf, before he nods at Jasper.
"Yes, I think so," he says and finally there's a more genuine smile on the wolf's lips and Jasper takes it in, knowing it might be the last one he sees.
Methodically Seth removes all his clothes and hands them to Jasper. There's no awkwardness or shyness; there's no space for it in their strange situation. When the native man, still young but all man now, stands there and closes his eyes, Jasper truly looks.
He's beautiful, in a different way than Jacob is. Where Jake is sort of like Emmett now, big and bulky, Seth is lean. Not quite as tall as Jasper is, but still much taller than the teenager he had been the last time they met. Now there's definition in the muscles and everything is in its place instead of the awkward long limbed phase he had been in before. And then suddenly Seth implodes and in his place is a wolf. The animal shudders, as if it's trying to get accustomed to the feeling of being out again.
"Go on, I'll catch up. Don't annoy the bear." Jasper smiles a little and the wolf lets out a sound that's close to a soft snort. Then it's off, running so fast it makes Jasper want to run with it.
He puts the clothes into the backpack and begins to walk in the snow. He has good hiking boots on and he likes the grip they provide, even though he doesn't need it. It's no strain to walk in the deep snow, which is something he can still appreciate after being a vampire for so long. He knows Seth needs to cool off a little from his tumultuous emotions and he makes no effort to catch the wolf. Instead he looks for a good place to set their camp.
A few hours later he finds one, with a group of trees and a flat surface nearby. He sets everything down and kicks the snow until there's a place for a fire. Then he looks around, grins and leaps up to grip the trunk of the closest tree. He climbs up and begins to snap dried up branches from the tree and others near it. He jumps about, having almost childish fun as he scouts for suitable branches and then lets them fall down to the snow below. When he finally has enough firewood for a couple of days or more, not that they'll need that much, he jumps down lightly and begins to gather the branches.
When he's done, he has a neat pile next to one of the trees and that's when he feels Seth's amusement at the same time as he hears the massive paws on the snow.
"What?" he asks as he turns around; then Jasper throws his head back and laughs, as the wolf has a large branch in its teeth. Seth drops the branch into the pile, yelps as it collapses and then shifts back.
"It's cheating, what you did. Though it looked like fun," Seth says as he finds his clothes and pulls them on.
"It is fun and no, it's not cheating if you can do it," Jasper claims and Seth shoots him a 'yeah right'-glare.
Seth doesn't really feel the cold any more than Jasper does, but it's still more comfortable to wear clothes when he's in human form. Being a wolf kind of destroys the whole idea though, the need for discussion and all, so that's not an option.
Soon there's a fire going and the scent of smoke and wood fills the air. It's so very different from Jasper's human days, but he still likes it. If he closes his eyes he can see Peter standing across the fire, looking at him with his dark eyes. The fire betrays the red in them, so Jasper can dream of living this life with his old lover for those few seconds before Seth moves again and the spell is broken.
Jasper takes his winter coat off and lays it on the snow. For some reason it feels nicer under him when he sits not far from the fire. Not too close-it's not safe and that's always on his mind close to a fire-but close enough, and it's nice and warm there. Warmth makes him think of the wolf, so he turns his eyes towards where Seth is sitting next to the tent. The warm brown eyes are fixed on Jasper.
"What?" Jasper asks, raising a blond eyebrow at the much younger man. Male, man, the limits of those words are twisted in the world of wolves and vampires. They once had a conversation about it with Emmett. The other vampire had said that it's only 'man' if one is talking about a human. The line of shifters and humans is not simple though, and Jasper gets lost to the memory of the conversation until Seth lets out an amused huff.
"Where did you go just now?" the wolf asks and Jasper's eyes focus on him again.
"I'm…I suppose I'm saying goodbyes," Jasper says in a quiet tone, surprising himself with the answer that comes from somewhere deep within him, making the decision for him.
"Why?" Seth tears his eyes away from the vampire's and looks into the fire that now crackles and makes popping sounds when the wood breaks under the pressure. "Because of this? Of me?"
"Yes…and no. It's…difficult." Jasper sighs and closes his eyes again.
Glimpses of his life and unlife flash past, memories and hopes and dreams alike. When he opens his eyes the night has fallen around them and Seth is still staring at the fire.
"They sacrificed you, didn't they?"
"Yes. They know I'm… I'm the closest you can have." Jasper's voice is barely audible.
"What will you do after tonight?" Seth asks, turning his compassionate, sad eyes towards the golden ones.
"As long as I'm around you, I can decide anything and they'll never know," he says and smiles a little, a melancholy smile with a hint of hope around the edges.
"Oh, right. She can't see us." Seth nods as he remembers.
"Just so you know, I could've said no." Jasper thinks it needs to be said.
"So you chose to be a what? A pity-fuck because I came to see Edward and Bella can't let me have him?" Seth says with contempt clear in his tone.
Before Jasper can form a response, Seth speaks again.
"It was never about whether he wanted me." Now the tone has changed, it's sad yet passionate and the rush of emotions washes over Jasper as well. "He wanted me, but he was in love with…with her."
Jasper nods, he has known this, the love that still flares in Edward every time Bella's name is mentioned is something he can feel too. But he can feel what Edward wants to hide as well.
"They came up with this. Giving you a vampire for one night. Someone you can pretend is him if you want. To scratch the itch, I believe it's called." Jasper snorts.
"Yeah, that will get me over my broken heart…" Seth says in an equally bitter tone. "Don't they love you?"
The question is something Jasper should have been expecting, after all he knew Seth was a bright boy turned into an intelligent man, yet it still surprises him.
"They used to," he answers after a while. Seth is adding wood to the fire and the sparks fly high up from where the wood is settling again.
"I don't know. I…you know Edward and Bella are each others' mates, right?" he asks and Seth nods, his handsome face darkening with emotion Jasper doesn't want to absorb, he has plenty of his own.
"Sort of like imprinting."
"Yes. Carlisle and Esme are mates too, so are Rosalie and Emmett."
"The only person I've ever truly loved found his mate long time ago." The words feel forced, like he has to wrangle them out of his mouth.
"Oh…" It's barely a breath. Then, "And Alice?"
"I hoped she was mine. I mixed gratitude and the usual compatibility…I fooled myself for a long time and then when I realized it wasn't her, I began to withdraw from them all.
"I know that without them, I'm more likely to embrace my old self… So I've stayed. It's easier to stick to animals when there's someone watching over my shoulder at all times. But love, no, there's no love between us. Hasn't been in a long time and it never was…right," Jasper says and looks up again, following the remaining sparks with his eyes.
"I still wish I'd imprint." Seth sighs.
"I still wish I'd find my mate, I suppose." Jasper's tone isn't as certain.
Another silence fills the space around them. It's comforting, with the fire crackling and the heartbeat of the wolf relaxing Jasper somewhat.
"We don't have to do anything, by the way," Seth says quietly as he is digging through the backpack, probably looking for the food Nessie packed for him. "It's not even why I really came here. I just wanted to meet him, to…to look at him and talk to him one more time. Anything beyond that would've been extra."
"We can if you want to. I suppose… I've been denying myself in some ways. As long as I'm with someone, love or not, I'm monogamous. It's just…back in the era I come from there weren't words like bisexual, you know?" Jasper smiles a little and Seth grins.
"Must be odd with the labels, you know, wolf, vampire, human, undead, gay, straight, bi, carnivore, vegetarian…"
By the end of the sentence Jasper is laughing, for the first time in possibly weeks, even months. It's a relieved laughter, one of those 'so I can still laugh!'-ones.
"You went far to get away from him."Jasper states after Seth has eaten his meal.
"Not that far, there's still snow in the winter. Just…far enough to not be absolutely sure whether or not I could shift. The wolf never goes away, but the shifting…" Seth fidgets a bit, like the wolf is bubbling under his skin as they speak. "Far enough not to bump into him. I haven't seen him in years, not since he came to my college graduation. But he didn't approach me, I just saw him in the shadows and he left."
"Did you ever…?" Jasper asks, even though it's not his business at all.
"Yes. Once…he thought it was something I could get over if he gave in once. It was my seventeenth birthday. His present to me, even though he wasn't exactly hesitant or didn't enjoy himself…" Seth chuckles a little bit darkly and it doesn't surprise Jasper.
Another silence stretches over them like a blanket. It's comfortable still and Jasper knows that it's not something he could have with just anyone. Not in these circumstances, not that he'd be with anyone else, after all. When Seth yawns, Jasper realizes he must have driven for hours to get to Jake and Nessie's.
"I have an idea," Jasper states and Seth glances at him, blinking a bit and the vampire can tell he's tired for real.
"We'll go into the tent and you can use me as your full sized vampire pillow and I get to enjoy your warmth for one night. If something happens, that's cool, but no expectations?" Jasper says.
Seth is clearly thinking about this.
"Okay," he finally says and grins at Jasper.
They prepare for bed; even though it's still only early evening or maybe late afternoon, it matters little. It's not like there's much to do out here anyway. Jasper opens the flap of the tent to let the heat from the fire seep in as Seth makes sure it will stay burning for a while longer. Then the wolf begins to take off his clothes for the second time that day. As Jasper looks on, it's more than clear that Seth clearly went far enough to start ageing again.
"I think I'll leave some on, you're not exactly warm." Seth grins and does just that, leaving on a long sleeved t-shirt and some sweatpants he digs out of the backpack.
When they're ready, they settle down in the tent. Seth has combined the two sleeping bags and when Jasper lies down, the warmth of the shifter makes him sigh immediately. It's so much better than any human could be, so much more warm. He can tell Seth likes the cold he provides too. Echoes of Edward, that's what he can give, nothing more.
It doesn't take long for Seth to fall asleep. The warmth against Jasper's side makes the old feeling of wanting to fall asleep reach for him again. He doesn't miss it anymore, not all the time, but being comfortable like this, he wishes for the oblivion sleep provides. Instead he looks at the stars through the window in the tent ceiling and listens to Seth's sleep-muffled emotions.
Some time later Seth rolls a bit, drapes himself over Jasper, and the vampire doesn't know what to think. There's almost too much contact now, arm over his stomach, leg thrown over his, head on his chest. There are only thin layers of fabric between them and the warmth is flooding to his cold body like it is bleeding from Seth.
He knows the exact moment when Seth's dreams change. It's probably because of how they are situated, he guesses. Seth's mind is thinking that he's next to Edward, there's no room for Jasper in the dream. The warmth changes and the press of Seth's erection, hot and heavy against Jasper's thigh, makes him swallow hard.
The dream changes again-the sensual undercurrent is still there in what radiates from Seth's mind, but Jasper begins to feel desperation seep into the dream. The fire has burned out by now, the darkness is nearly complete for someone without a vampire eyesight. For some reason his own needs don't play a part in what he does next. It's just to make Seth feel less desperate, less alone, if only for a moment.
Jasper raises a hand and runs his fingers through the short black hair of the man next to him. The action causes Seth to hum a little in his sleep. Jasper smiles. He turns a little, enough to be almost facing Seth and he carefully slides his arm under the shifter's head. When he takes his hand off the warm hair, Seth whimpers and jolts just a little bit. There's a soft, sleepy gasp and the brown eyes are looking at him. There's no fear at all, just mild confusion because of the remnants of the dream and then determination.
With some hesitation Jasper moves his hand down Seth's chest, his eyes never leaving Seth's in the darkness. There's just enough light to see the emotion flickering in the eyes of the heartbroken wolf. He lets his fingers stop for a moment, then slides them under the t-shirt to touch the unnaturally warm, almost hot to Jasper's coolness, skin.
"Please…" Seth almost sobs the word, then leans in a little to tentatively press his lips against Jasper's.
The kiss goes from tentative to hungry in two seconds flat and the heat flares through the vampire as well. It's different, knowing that the heat comes from someone he can't just break, someone nearly as inhuman as Jasper himself is. The heat from the fingers that find their way under his shirt and to his back makes him groan into the kiss. Why was it never quite like this with Alice?
He shakes the vampiress out of his mind and concentrates on the wolf who is now rocking against him a little. Then there's nothing but the difference in temperature and sloppy, needy kisses. Cold fingers wrapping around heat, hot fingers around cold, whimpers and moans. The name Jasper hears when the heat splashes over is not his own but it matters very little, because the release he gets is so much better than anything he's experienced in a very long time.
There's no awkwardness when they clean up. No hesitation when they curl up again together. It's not perfect, neither of them believes there is a possibility of that happening with anyone unless a miracle happens, but for now they're content.
"Have you decided yet?" Seth asks, long time after his breathing is calm again.
"I won't be going back to them," Jasper says, because he knows it's right.
"My job ended last week, that's why I'm here. I can temp anywhere," Seth says, leaving everything open and Jasper considers the suggestion. It would be someone watching over him, someone whose presence would help him stay hidden from Alice's visions.
"You'd be able to shift. You'd stop ageing again," Jasper says quietly and feels Seth nod against his chest.
"I can't stay in Alaska."
"Neither can I."
"Let's sleep on it? Or…I'll sleep and you'll do your thing…" Seth chuckles, the vibrations sending waves of warmth and something else, an echo of affection, to Jasper's body and his soul.
It's not ideal and it will end if either of them finds someone who is better for them than what they are to each other. It might happen in a week or never, and they'd be frozen in time together. It's better than being alone.
While Seth sleeps under his arm, he comes to the conclusion that he can do this. It's better than it would be with the Cullens and even though the name he'll hear in bed might never be his own, it doesn't matter. Maybe it's all he deserves after what he's done in the past, maybe it's all he'll ever get. Echoes of the real thing, but so much better than what he would have if he goes back to the Cullens. And he won't, the decision has been made.