Hello and welcome to Rogue!

Before we begin, I must first thank three of the most supportive and critical people I know. My beta readers. Mistral123, Vanessa James, and Remylebeauishot are vital to me and to this story, and I can never repay what they have done for me. Thank you, ladies!

Any mistakes in grammar or storyline are entirely mine. Should you find mistakes, please do me the honor of pointing them out in a pm. I am always looking for ways to improve my story.

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I have often been asked to write a story about Jasper's past. I may do that some day. For now, we will be visiting his past as he tries to deal with his demons in the present.

Rogue is the continuation of Singularity and Coalescence and is Alice and Jasper's journey from the 1960's through Breaking Dawn. I will not be re-writing the entire Twilight Saga from their perspective, but rather showing the important parts of the story as it pertains to Alice and especially Jasper. Jasper, out of all the other Cullens, was the vampire most affected by Bella, and he is the one whose HEA was directly linked with hers.

I sincerely hope you enjoy the story.

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power ~ Lao Tzu

The definition of Rogue is:

-no longer obedient, belonging, or accepted and hence not controllable or answerable.

-deviating, renegade, separated and solitary

In astronomy, a Rogue is a planet that has been ejected from its home and wanders the void of space until is gravitationally drawn to another stellar body, such as a singularity.

All Twilight characters and plot belong to Stephenie Meyer, and I thank her for her gracious attitude towards fanfiction writers like myself. I own original characters and plot, of which there is very little.


Jasper

March, 1847

"No!" she yelled at the window. "No, he's too young!"

Of course, they didn't hear her; they were too far out in the field, and she was at the closed parlor window.

She raced out the door, her skirt instantly ruined by the mud flying up from the sloshing path.

"Will! Will Whitlock, don't!" she screamed. Her feet found little purchase in the muddy path, and she nearly fell several times as she struggled to reach her child. If her husband heard her, he didn't acknowledge it. To her horror, Will put her young son on the back of the horse.

"Will!" she screamed again, but her voice was hindered by her ragged breaths. "Will, he's just now four," she pleaded through tears that raced down her face. She was barely able to utter the words.

She tried to save her breath and run to her son's aid, but her feet kept slipping on the muck and her swollen belly threw her off balance.

She watched her young son's face, fearful but determined, and his tiny hands gripped the reins. And then her husband's hand came down on the horse's flank.

She froze, gasping for air in the cold, damp morning. Her breath smoked like a rail engine. She didn't even notice the wet cold that seeped into her calico dress. Her focus remained on the pudgy hands of her little boy as he gripped the saddle horn with all his might and thrashed wildly about on the back of the gelding.

Her father in law's hand came down on her shoulder. She turned to see that his face was as pale as the mist around her. He did not agree with his son's choice.

"Why?" she asked, her voice weak with her desperation.

"He needs to test himself, Molly," her husband called to her. Her eyes never left Jasper's small form as he was thrown about by the powerful animal's run. "You can't coddle the boy no more. It's time for him to act like a boy and not the girl you make him to be."

Jasper looked behind to her, his face terrified. He called out to her in shrill fear, "Mama, help me!" Instinctively, she raced forward, only to have her arm caught by her husband.

"He is too small, William. Damn you! You'll kill him by forcing him! You'll kill him! He isn't big enough for what you want him to do." She wrenched at her arm, trying to reach her son, but her husband held firm.

"Get control of him, son," William called to the child as the horse turned and nearly knocked the small boy off. "Calm him down and get control."

"Papa!" Jasper shrieked in terror.

"No, boy, you do this on your own. You are strong enough for this, boy. Don't you fail me!"

"William," hissed the Reverend. He came up and held Molly's arm in support. "This is insane. You're willin' ta risk your son's life for your pride's sake? Dear God, help him."

William's face turned stone hard. "You leave me be. You'd have him be weak like you. You'd have him coddle folks and listen to their pathetic weeping. You'd have him show pity rather than strength. Did you see what he done with those dogs yesterday? He has a way with them, and with the people around him already. I won't let you make him weak and forever poor.; I won't let either of you do it."

Jasper called again to them. His tiny voice screaming for his mother as the horse carried him away. Molly sobbed and turned into the Reverend's chest, her swollen belly keeping her more distant than she wanted.

"Get control, boy!" commanded William, but the horse topped a hill and was gone.

Molly cried out and lurched at her husband. She pounded her hands on his chest, taking out her pain and anger on him. William grabbed her hands and held her tight. "It's not done yet," he hissed.

Molly fell heavily against him, her temper and energy gone. Her body quaked with sobs, and William's hands were the only things keeping her off the ground.

"Hush now," she heard her husband say over her sobs. "Hush now, you hear that?" Molly tried to still her breathing, and then she caught it. Horse hooves pounded towards them from the road. Molly wrenched herself free from William's grip and ran for the road. Just as she rounded the house, she saw him.

Jasper, caked in mud and red from the cold, was perched on the back of the horse, his small face triumphant.

"Mamma! Mamma! Didya see me?" He called. Despite herself, Molly looked at her son with a swelling pride.

"Jasper, oh my baby," she said, but she was too exhausted to take him from the animal who was now under his control. She simply stood there taking in the sight of her very alive little boy. She couldn't help but smile.

She slowly walked to her son, and he reached down to grip her tightly around the shoulders. She held him as tight as she could as she rejoiced in his return. Then, he was suddenly wrenched away. Her husband whooped as he pulled the little boy from her and threw him into the air.

"That's my boy!" he crowed triumphantly. "Just wait, Molly. You just wait and see what our little man will do." He turned and carried the child into the barn to clean him.

Molly stood there rubbing her belly and shaking from exhaustion and fear.

"You alrigh', Molly?" the Reverend asked.

"No, I don't think I am," she said, her voice hoarse from screaming.

"I'm sorry," the Reverend whispered. "He should have never have done that. He shouldn't push the boy so hard."

"What if this one is a son? What will he do then?" she asked.

"We will pray," answered the Reverend. He had no true words of comfort for her. His son was determined to push young Jasper as hard as he could, no matter the cost. The wide rift between himself and his son was created solely by his son's ambitions – ambitions that allowed for no scruples.

He held out his arm for Molly to take, and slowly helped her back to the warmth of her home. Her skin was blotched unhealthily, and he worried at her condition. He worried about the unborn child. He worried about his very young grandson who right now was laughing at his father's praise. The boy didn't even know the difference between love and the ugly lust of power that his father substituted for love.

As they passed the barn, Jasper's giggles calmed, and they heard his father's voice waft out of the cracks in the wood.

"…all the same, Jasper. Remember that. Dogs, horses, and men. They're all the same. If you can control one, you can control the other. You can use them all if you work hard enough."

Molly's breath hitched, and the Reverend hurried her towards the house, praying for a girl this time.

March 6, 1963

Her peace surrounded me as we sat under the ancient, twisting oak. The mist around us glowed pink with the rising sun. Once again, I wished for a slowing of time so that my endless life could somehow wrap itself around moments like this. But the day was coming regardless of my wish, or perhaps in mockery of it.

Days marched past us like ants in a line, each one the same and each one insignificant in itself. The only thing that mattered now, the only thing that mattered for the last fifteen years, was the small impish fairy who held me in the palm of her hand. Her love was the only thing that brought joy to the endless march of time.

"They truly are beautiful," Alice sighed, and she shifted in my lap to kiss my neck. I looked at her pristine face and smiled. There it was again, the unblemished joy of new love. Even now, it astounded me.

The sound of hooves drew my attention back to the meadow and small farm below us. The hills of West Virginia around our new home were filled with such places. I watched the horse run gracefully across the meadow, its mane, and tail still limp from the night's dew. Two others grazed lazily by the barn. The sight of horses had always given me an odd feeling of both comfort and belonging. I had ridden twice that I knew of. Other than that, I had no idea why they would mean so much to me.

"They are beautiful indeed," I said, admiring the animals.

"You rode them as a boy?" she asked. She always asked. She and Carlisle had a theory that coming to terms with my past would help me overcome my bloodlust. I had a theory that transfusing human blood into a deer would be far more successful, but Carlisle was unwilling to try it.

"At least once I did. I believe I was a young boy. My mother was proud of me," I said. "That's all I know. Honestly. That, and the fact that I rode one in the Cavalry." I only remembered sitting on a horse once while I fought, though even in the murky memory, the saddle seemed like home to me.

"Are you sure you can't make them come?" she asked plaintively. Each of us would have loved to touch an animal out of kindness, to pet and hold something, but it was impossible. I could get close, but never touch. No animal would allow that. Even sheep just keeled over and died from fear rather than allow one of us to get close.

At the same moment I felt the others come, the horses spooked and ran for the barn. Alice sighed, and we stood to await them.

As always, Edward was the first. "Sorry," he said with a glance at the now empty field.

"It's not your fault," I said. The scent of crushed grass lay heavy in the air.

Esme and Carlisle came up behind him. The family had gone shopping during my weekly hunting trip, but now gathered around us. This time, it wasn't in support of me, but of Emmett.

I was jealous of him.

Not many of our kind ever got this chance. Fewer of us wanted it.

I wasn't sure Emmett wanted it after feeling him come. He was a bundle of nerves. I automatically began soothing the vampire even before I could hear him. Both he and Rosalie needed as much of my help as I could give them.

"It's bad," I whispered to Edward. He just nodded at me.

Today, Emmett was going home.

Rosalie had already done so twice. Neither time gave her the peace she wanted. For Emmett, it would be considerably worse.

Carlisle had gone to the small mountain home to check first. His announcement that time was running out forced Emmett's decision.

His mother was coming to the end of her days.

Neither of them even greeted us as they entered the clearing. With a nod from Carlisle, we began our silent run up the mountains of deep Appalachia. The sun was barely behind a peak when we came upon the run-down homestead. A few sick looking cows meandered through a weed patch that might once have been a plowed field. Two goats were tied in what looked like had once been a garden. Beanpoles still stood, each one teetering in a different direction. The long hen house's roof sagged dangerously low at that backside, and as we watched, a rooster hopped out of one of the many gaps between the boards. The small barn was in a worse state.

The home had once been well cared for. The faded remains of cracked paint showed that long ago, it had been a bright yellow color. The windows were filthy, but each had a curtain, most of which were hand embroidered. Like the rest of the place, it lingered on the edge of death and decay.

Pain blazed from Emmett. This is why vampires did not go home again.

I pushed my peace into the large man. He simply stood, motionless except for his eyes. "I was here just three days ago," he said to the mist and decay around us.

For him, in his timeless state, it had only been three days since he last walked through this field. In reality, it had been almost thirty years.

"She is here," Carlisle said in his gentlest voice. "She isn't awake yet. It will take her a while to get moving with her joints swollen as they are."

Almost automatically, Emmett slowly walked towards the house. We followed him out across the open area that held the two ruts of the road. Once he stood before the entrance to the home, he froze in place.

While all the other windows were neatly trimmed with curtains, the two front windows hung with a different covering. Faded and lifeless, two starred flags hung from the wooden frame. Each one was covered with a now dingy gray swath of black fabric, the sign of two unbearable losses to the woman inside.

The man beside me blazed in agony, and his sob cut the morning silence.

"They died as heroes, Emmett. If you had, there would be three flags instead of two," Edward said to the unspoken thoughts.

"Two sisters and one brother yet live," Carlisle reminded him.

"It should have been me," Emmett hissed, almost vicious in his pain. Rosalie moved over to hold him.

"We can leave. It isn't always worth it," she said to him. "Trust me, it isn't worth it."

Emmett was already shaking his head. "I have to. Just this once. Just this once. "

I knew why, we all did. He had this one last chance.

He again approached the home, slowly as if to be somehow even more silent than he was. However, his movement panicked the animals around him. The chickens scattered among a ruckus of clucks, and the goats began to bleat loudly. Within the home, boards creaked and heavy feet shuffled across the floor.

Carlisle was instantly by Emmett's side. He put his arm around the terrified vampire. "She knows me. I will help her when she comes out. She is blind and won't know you are here."

Emmett shook with another deep sob, and the family moved to surround him. His mother was in heart failure according to Carlisle, and age had rendered her almost crippled. Arthritis had ravaged her body, and cataracts blinded her eyes.

The sound of children's voices and small feet brought us all out of our anticipation induced stupor, and we darted for cover in the thick overgrowth that crowded the far side of the two ruts.

"It's your nieces," said Alice. She gave Emmett an encouraging smile. "Apparently, they come to gather eggs and milk the goat. Do all the McCartys look alike?" she asked with a grin.

Within a few minutes, three girls came around the bend. One was a teenager on the threshold of womanhood, but the other two were still children. All three wore faded clothes more reminiscent of the last decade than this one.

"I says Mac just wants under your skirt, Maybelle. Like Mamma says, once he gets your legs apart, he will move on to another willing cow to milk," giggled the middle child. The youngest one burst into laughter.

"You take that back, Becca, or so help me, I will cut off those damn pig tails when you sleep," snapped the oldest girl. "Mac ain't none of your business, you got me?"

"I gonna tell Ma you swore," said the little one.

"You'll do no such thang," seethed the oldest. "You just get Mac outta yer minds. If ya know what's good fer ya, y'all will never say another word about him again. Ya got me?" She stormed off to the chicken coop.

"Told ya it was serious," sniggered the middle child. The youngest ran over to the porch and grabbed a milk bucket. "What's with these ninnies, anyway?" she asked in frustration as she tried to convince a terrified goat to stand still. I washed the field in the peace I'd been pumping into Emmett. The goat's head drooped.

We moved deeper into the woods, hoping to give the girls a chance with the farm animals. I felt Alice's hand in mine. She looked at me with a strange mixture of pride, anticipation and longing. This was the one thing that she would never have.

"They really do look alike," she whispered to me.

I looked over to Emmett. His eyes were fixed on the three girls. Each one had thick, curly black hair and gray eyes. The youngest girl had dimples that matched his exactly.

"They are the youngest girls of Liz," Edward said to him. "They have two brothers and a married older sister." Emmett didn't give any sign that he heard. Edward had more to say, but I could feel his uncertainty in telling it. I shook my head, and he nodded.

After ten more minutes of sporadic banter, the girls hauled the milk and a small basket of eggs onto the lopsided porch. The oldest one banged on the door while the youngest yelled out, "Mawmaw, we gots yer breakfast." Slow thuds made their way to the front of the home, and the door creaked open. Emmett moaned.

The woman who was still partly hidden by the door was haggard. Thick curls of white hair stuck up wildly from her head. Her face drooped, as did the rest of her body, and he she was nearly bent double with old age. Her eyes stared out blankly at the day, as white as the hair on her head.

"You young uns' are sure a blessin' to my mornin's," she said in a voice raspy and low. She hobbled aside, and the girls went in one by one. The youngest exited immediately and took a tin bucket to the pump to fill it. Smoke began to filter from the old stovepipe.

Emmett moved closer, coming to the very edge of the shadow. Rosalie pulled him back a bit. "You can't," she said, rare compassion making her voice lovely. "They can't see you."

"They are making her breakfast and telling her all about Mac," chuckled Edward. "They are a lively little group." We could hear most of the banter as well as the bangs and thuds of the girls as they helped their grandmother.

"Almost done," said Alice. "She will eat and come out in twenty minutes. It will be best if you don't go up to the door, Carlisle. Let her come out and then walk on the road to meet her."

The door opened, protesting the entire way, and the girls tumbled out onto the porch, still laughing from a rather crude joke their grandmother had made about Mac and Maybelle. Emmett got it honest.

Edward coughed next to me. "She's worse than he will ever be," he breathed so quietly that Emmett couldn't hear.

"Now, you make sure that boy keeps his hands on the outside of that pretty little dress," she said, pointing in a random direction. "Hands are always followed by other parts, and those get poked in bad places indeed." The old woman whapped Maybelle on the rump.

The two younger ones squealed in delight, and the oldest one turned deep crimson. "He's just a friend!" she protested.

"He must be a really close one, then. Close enough to get into your coat with you," laughed the middle one. The older one growled at her and leapt for her hair. The two girls took off at a dead run.

The youngest girl and her grandmother stood there laughing. I sent a wave of joy to the two of them.

"You go on now," said the white haired woman. "You gotta get to school, and I need my breakfast." The little girl nodded, and hopped off the porch and began skipping home. The old woman stood for a moment, breathing the morning air and then with a moan, painfully limped back into the home.

"Momma," whispered Emmett. He raised his hand as if to touch her, but it fell to his side as the door clicked shut.

"She is well loved and cared for," Carlisle said. I was pushing peace into Emmett so hard that everyone felt it. "She has had a very full life, and is ready for the end. She is also rather bull headed. She refuses almost all help. She even still rolls her own cigarettes."

Something shifted in Emmett. His pain and despair changed to resolve. "She won't refuse my help," he said flatly.

"You can't do that," Edward said quickly. "Her heart won't handle it."

"I'm not going to tell her who I am," Emmett snapped back. "She's blind; she won't even know it's me. I gotta do something. I can't leave her living like this."

"What is he planning?" Esme asked Edward.

"He wants to fix up the place," said Edward. "He knows better, but he is bound and determined to do it. You should know better, too," he reprimanded her when her smile spread across her face.

"She doesn't have to know we are here. We can fix the place up a little and leave. No one will know," Esme said, giving Edward a hard look.

"She's too stubborn. She won't accept any help," Alice said with her familiar, faraway look. "There may be a way, if Carlisle asks, though. Yes. He can get her to allow us to work on her yard."

"We can't do this," I warned. Visiting was bad enough; staying to fix the homestead would only prolong the agony that poured from Emmett. Besides, people would know that we'd stepped in.

"We already do do it," Alice snapped with a roll of her eyes. Edward sighed and hung his head. The argument was over.

"What do we do?" Emmett asked. He looked hopeful.

"Leave it to Carlisle and me! I know just what to do. Esme, your with me. Come on, Carlisle." With a flip of her head, Alice marched out into the sunlight. Esme walked happily after her. Carlisle resigned himself and strode out of the forest behind them. I looked at Edward, shrugged, and moved close enough to hear the conversation.

Alice and Esme talked together with Carlisle and positioned themselves on the far side of the home. Carlisle nodded and darted to the end of the road. We heard dishes clang and water being poured, then footsteps. The door slowly opened, and Emmett's mother stepped out onto the porch. The tree next to Emmett snapped as his hand constricted around the trunk, and the three of us grabbed it before it could fall and make any further sound.

The old woman stopped and cocked her head. None of us moved. After a moment, she began her slow, lumbering waddle to the edge of the steps. The thin rail shook violently as she lurched down.

Emmett put his hand out again, as if to steady her. Each heavy step caused his raw fear to grow. He was terrified for her.

For a moment, my mind went to the single vision of my own mother and her terror and pride as I rode a horse. I had no idea when I had done it, but the singular memory was important enough to remain after all others had faded away. Did my own mother end her days like this? Was she loved enough to be surrounded by her family? Did she die alone? It was suddenly important to me that she didn't.

A flutter of sadness followed by a flood of guilt came from Edward, and I altered my thoughts. He hadn't been able to save his mother. He had lost her while he lay dying of his own fever. This insane mission was now important to us both. Even Rosalie was touched by the old woman's struggle to walk to her overgrown garden.

She limped over to the ancient fence, and once her hand touched the rotting wood, she gripped it with all her strength. The thing leaned but stayed upright. Her breath came in rasping heaves, but she continued around to the back of the house, pausing only to pet the two goats. Each step she took caused the deep melancholy within her to grow. Without a word, we let down the tree we'd been holding and ran around the far side of the home to watch her.

Stooped nearly double, and limping badly, the woman continued her walk until she came to the one spot of the home that had been cared for. It was completely hidden by the overgrowth around it, but from our angle we could see clearly what it was. Emmett's hiss confirmed it.

It was a neatly tended flower garden, and in the middle of the newly grown morning glories, daffodils and cosmos, were crosses. There were at least two-dozen. Two frayed and faded ribbons hung on the fence, medals of some type dangling from the weak fabric.

"Good morning, boys," she whispered when her hands came to the medals. She bent down, her hand brushing against daffodils and what looked like lily leaves. "How are my babies? Is your daddy there with you, today?" She said nothing more, but weaved back and forth with closed eyes, communing with her dead.

Emmett gripped Rosalie and buried his head in her hair. She held her mate, bracing him as silent sobs shook him. I poured peace into him, and into the woman before us.

I had forgotten how deeply humans felt their losses and how hard they struggled with their mortality. I had forgotten what it meant to have a beating heart. With that thought, this old woman's life, the pain of her heart and body, which never left her, became important to me. It was stupid and illogical, but her welfare meant something to me. If I could help her with her ancient pain, I would.

Carlisle came around the edge of the old home. He paused to watch her, waiting until she was once again standing before talking to her. He walked closer, his steps now ridiculously loud to warn her. "Mrs. McCarty, how are you today?"

"Who is that?" she demanded.

"I am Dr. Smith," he lied easily. "I came by a week ago to check on your heart. Your doctor was worried about you. Do you remember?"

Anger blazed through her, anger and hurt pride. "Of course I 'member you!" she snapped. "I 'member all you government types. Y'all need to stay the hell out of my life!" I sent calm, and her breathing immediately eased. Carlisle looked to me, and I nodded.

"Doctor Harris is the one who sent me. He can't get out here any longer, and he wanted me to check and see how the medication was working. Your breathing seems better, and I see that you are able to walk again," he said, decades of practice making his words both unarguable and non-threatening at the same time.

"They worked, and I still have plenty of 'em," she said less angry but no less stubborn. "Made me pee like a horse, though." I felt myself smile. She was one feisty old lady. Emmett really did come by it honest.

"Diuretics will do that," Carlisle said with a chuckle of his own. "The pills remove all that water that was in your lungs and around your legs. It has to go somewhere."

She snorted. "Well it all went in a pot and then on that azalea bush right there," she said, pointing to a sickly looking bush that grew under what must have been her bedroom window. "I can't exactly make it to the out house all that often. You could help me more by moving the outhouse."

Carlisle smiled and looked at us. Edward moaned.

Surely not.

Alice stilled her giggle from the other side of the house, and I closed my eyes and tried to come to terms with helping a human with her biological needs. This was not what vampires were supposed to do, not even nice ones.

Carlisle couldn't possibly expect us to do that.

"I know someone who might be able to do just that," Carlisle said smoothly. He was enjoying the idea. That vampire was far too concerned with the bodily fluids of humans. Or at least the wrong ones. He put his hand under the mother's arm and held her steady as she weaved her way back to the front porch.

"Who the hell is going to move an outhouse for me?" she demanded. Her mood was lighter now. Despite her pride, she was glad for the company.

"There are two young ladies here to see you. I think they want to speak with you about repairing your home."

"I don't accept charity!" she yelled at him, stopping dead in her tracks and pulling her thick arm from his hand.

"It's not charity," said Alice. "It is repayment of a debt."

"You are talkin' nonsense," spit out the old mother.

"No ma'am, we aren't. Your son, Sam, saved our father's life during the war. We have been looking for your family for a long time to repay what we could of an unpayable debt." Esme answered this time, her voice clear and gentle. "Doctor Smith brought us with him so that we could try and help you somehow."

Emmett's mother's face instantly softened, and the barriers fell like rain. "My Sam?" she asked, her voice almost nonexistent. I worked to ease her tearing pain and to soften her heart. This would be much easier if she would agree to the help.

"Yes, Sam. He saved my father. My father always wanted to repay the debt, but he is too old now. We are here to do that instead." Alice spoke with her face completely blank, both talking and testing the future at the same time.

"You aren't from the government?"

"No, we are a family," answered Esme. That at least was the truth.

"I don't got no money fer repairs."

"Don't worry, we brought our own supplies," replied Esme. Her voice held that gentle lilt that was very hard to argue with.

I felt the woman soften. "Can you work in my garden? The rest of it don't matter none to me, but the flower garden, that's important."

"I would love to," Esme said with a genuine smile. She was truly in her element.

The woman nodded, and Carlisle led her back to the home. Emmett was already heading to the barn in search of tools. I doubted it would have many usable ones in it. Esme walked to the garden, and weeds began to fly.

"Oh, and tell them the right hole is cracked in that outhouse. If they can fix that'un, it would do my bottom side good," Emmett's mother said as the stairs creaked under her feet. "My grandkids don't like pullin' wood slivers from my hind quarters."

"Looks like we're on digging duty," said Edward with a grimace.

"I can't believe I am about to dig a hole for a woman's outhouse," I hissed. Never in a thousand years would I have ever considered the physical needs of a human. There was no reason to. There was no benefit in it.

Fifteen years ago, I would have gladly killed this old, blind woman, taking her blood in greedy gulps and convincing myself that I had done her a favor.

Now I was digging her a place to pee in comfort. And I didn't really mind it.

"It's a strange life," Edward joked with a wry grin.

"It's a stranger family," I retorted. He couldn't argue with that.

"Nope," he grinned at me. "It matters to Emmett," he said as the large vampire returned.

Perhaps that was the reason I didn't mind wasting my time with this old woman's farm.

"Don't forget, we need to fix the right hole, too," Emmett said as he tossed me a pick with a worn handle. He took the rusted shovel and began digging a hole just off the side of the porch. Esme would throw a fit, but it worked for old legs.

I swallowed my pride and tossed the pick aside. My hands would dig better any way.

"Make it deep, she drinks a ton of whisky, and that goes right through you. She really does pee like a horse," Emmett mumbled. I chuckled, but he glared at me. Apparently, it wasn't a joke. "Rosalie, why don't you grab the outhouse and bring it here?" he ordered.

Rosalie just stood there while her anger returned with a vengeance. Her face contorted into several different emotions, but to her credit she stomped over, gingerly lifted the rickety structure, and placed it beside the hole we were digging.

Better her than me.

Edward looked at me with a grin but said nothing as he shoveled.

Xx||oOo||xX

It took only a day to finish repairing the house and set the outbuildings right. Esme attacked the interior of the house while Emmett's mother slumbered in the evening. We worked to repair the outhouse and then went on to porch and barn. Esme would have spent weeks here, but there was no way we could risk that.

All day, Emmett simply worked. He never looked up and never spoke. He simply let the actions of his hands release the pain in his heart. We all let him do it.

It was at the edge of the small graveyard that Emmett finally spoke. Alice and I had been busy pushing the barn back into shape when she told me to go to Emmett. I looked over at him, and understood. Emmett stood there, his eyes locked on the old wooden crosses. The powerful vampire's shoulders were slumped in defeat.

I walked to him, sending him what I could, but he held his hand up. "I need to feel this."

I winced at his pain, but stood by him anyway.

"I carved two of them at least. Maybe more. I don't know anymore. I can't even remember which ones I carved," he finally said, indicating the crosses with his chin. His eyes remained on the rough wood that bore his own fading name. The bed creaked noisily from the thin wall of the house. "I need to go in, but I'm scared, Jasper. I'm terrified of what I will find. Of what I won't remember. Of what I was supposed to be."

"I reckon what you were supposed to be no longer counts for much. I never had this chance, and I don't know if I'd have taken it had it been given to me. I know what you are feeling, but I can't tell you what to do about it. The only thing I do know is that the mortal life is a fleeting thing, and we do not have many chances like this. Do you remember telling me that you were given this day? You should take this chance you have been given on this one day."

I saw Edward watching us. He nodded to the home. I already knew, of course, but I dreaded this. However, Emmett needed it.

On this strange day, I touched my brother's shoulder and tilted my head towards the house. He looked at me for a moment before heaving himself up and making his way by inches towards the home and memories of his past. I took one last breath of fairly clean air before going in with him. It was tainted with the scent of turpentine and paint.

Carlisle and Esme were inside. He was setting up medications, and she was finishing oiling the wooden walls that she'd sanded. Emmett didn't even look at their curious faces as he trudged up the stairs. His hands touched everything, though. His hands stroked every picture and every dent in the wooden walls, as if his stone hands could evoke memories. Or absolution.

With subtle precision, I began to gently ease his pain. I helped him feel the melancholy joy that the items brought him more clearly. I braced him for being close to his dying mother.

He walked into the door to the right of the stairs. There were only two rooms here, each facing the other. Both rooms were crowded with rough-hewn bed frames. Tumbled over these were hay mattresses and faded quilts.

"Never enough beds," Emmett said between heaving breaths. "There were never enough beds for us all." His hand went to small, parallel lines carved into the doorframe, names and dates on either side of each line.

He walked over to the quilts and shoved his face into the closest one to breath in the scent of long ago. Then he was gone. I raced downstairs to come in behind him and Carlisle in his mother's room. The room was filled with junk and memories. There were old, rusting items, whose uses I could only guess, cluttering the floor and crowding every surface. She slept sitting up, supported by pillows with her head lolled to the side. Even with her upright position and the medicines Carlisle had given, the water rattled thickly in her lungs.

Emmett's hand hovered over hers. I pumped whatever good thing I could into him, into the room. But there was no real way to help him. This was what he had wanted.

We waited for his decision. I felt Edward behind me, and Alice and Rosalie behind him. His cold, stone fingers brushed her hand, and then they whispered across her forehead to gently brush through her untamed hair.

"I'm sorry, Mamma. I done what I could. It wasn't enough, but it's all I got. It's what you said, you know. I done what I could with what I've been given." He leaned forward as he whispered the words, and he lightly kissed his mother's cheek. Her white eyes flew open, and she raised her hand to caress the spot he touched.

"Boy?" she asked to the dark, empty room. Emmett was too far away to hear it.

oo||xXx||oo

Alice said the girls would bring the entire family when they saw the repairs done to the farm, and we could not risk being anywhere near the house when they came.

Emmett didn't speak to us, nor we to him as we finished what we could and left. He gripped Rosalie's hand and strode off the ancient homestead, pausing only at the edge of the overgrowth for one last look. He took it all in, and I knew he was memorizing each blade of grass and every stone. Finally, he nodded and said, "Goodbye, y'all."

When he turned to run, the pain of his farewell was but a dull ache. I was truly jealous of him. For all the agony of his goodbye, I would have traded places with him. Gladly. I would have taken on any amount of pain to see my mother again.

We were home before sunrise. The old Colonial that Esme had fixed up for us in Elkins was a welcome site after the run-down human habitat we'd just repaired.

As we ran home, a new agony blazed. Alice did not look at me as she tried to stifle the feelings she knew I felt. She would have given anything for just the smallest clue to her life. I had been so focused on Emmett, that I had somehow missed the feelings in her, but she had also tried to hide them from me.

I waited until our much-needed shower to confront her on it.

When we reached our room, Alice silently undressed and got under the running water. She hadn't spoken to me since we'd left the farm, but I wasn't about to let her stay silent now.

I stepped in behind her, taking the soap from her tiny hands, and began to clean her perfect body. The feel of her skin slicked with soap always drove me insane with desire, but I stifled it and focused on her needs instead. Under my fingers, her body relaxed, and I felt her mood soften. At last, my Beloved leaned on me, letting my hands gently rub her shoulders and caress her neck. Then, I wrapped my arms around her and held her to me. "Why did you hide your feelings from me?" I asked.

"Emmett needed you. We all did," she said.

"Never hide from me like that, Beloved. Please, never do that." I began shampooing her hair, massaging her scalp as I untangled her emotions.

"I will be fine," she said, and her mood lightened. "I have the best family in the world, I have the most perfect mate in the world, and I will be fine."

Her slick body turned and pressed against mine. I forgot all about my resolve for a split second. Playfulness returned to her eyes, and she wriggled against me.

"Stop distracting me."

"I like distracting you." She cocked her head to the side. "We couldn't have done it without you, you know. Emmett wouldn't have survived. I was so proud of you as you helped us all. You even helped his mother."

"I only did what I could. It took all of us to pull these last two days off," I reminded her. "We did work well together, though. It's strange how something so incredibly trivial can be so important."

Alice smiled and asked, "What do you mean by that?"

"Nothing we did mattered. Not really. If Carlisle is right, Maggie will be dead within a few weeks. The buildings, the flowers, the crosses, they will all rot and die and return to the state in which we found them. In a few short decades, the buildings will crumble. Nothing we did will last. Nothing we did truly matters, or at least it shouldn't. We accomplished nothing, but what we did meant so much. It is an odd thing, that's all." I looked at my mate, expecting to feel humor, but instead, pride flowed from her. I decided to tell her the rest. "There was something about the way the little girls reacted to their grandmother, about the way the old woman grieved over her dead, about the way that Emmett said goodbye that touched me. It reminded me of who I once was. I remembered the strength of what it means to be human."

Alice kissed me hard on the mouth, suddenly overwhelmed with joy. I let myself fall into her happiness and drown in it. Our lips and hands hungrily moved against each other, touching, tugging and pulling in the most suggestive way. "Why, Jasper," she said between kisses, "I do believe you're beginning to understand what it means to be a Cullen."