Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or the characters: they are the property of Stephanie Meyer. I just daydream with them a bit.

Rated M for profanity, violence and potential adult situations.

Author's Note: This is my first story on FanFiction. It is definitely a Jasper/Bella story, and some of the characters are OOC. I've got the general plot outlined and the first couple of chapters written. For now, all the POV will be either Bella's or Jasper's. I hope to update at least every week, if not more, but we'll see how it goes. I'm really excited to get feedback and constructive criticism, so please let me know what you think!

Updated Author's Note March 2013: The story is currently being edited. Thanks Bell1 for encouraging me to revisit the story and improve upon the original! I really appreciate all the feedback and ideas you've given me!

Chapter One

Jasper POV

When Peter came back for me, I didn't hesitate. We ran, and we have been running ever since. There is no way I will go back to that evil bitch, and realistically no one can make me; not if I really want to put up a fight. My reputation of never losing a fight was earned for a reason: I always win.

One would think that after decades my fight or flight instinct would have started to wear off. Nope. Some habits from the army will never leave me, therefore I find myself constantly on the move. Every year or so, I get antsy enough to I pick up and leave. Peter and Charlotte follow me, as a rule. We've accumulated hideouts all over the south so that we are never too far from "home." I wouldn't call this 'life,' but it sure as hell beats the shit-hole we were in.

Peter, Charlotte, and I have formed a close-knit group. I care for both of them, and would do anything for them. Our shared history and venom have bonded us, and they have become the closest thing to family I'll ever have. Not to mention that I owe Peter my life.

I had been on the brink of succumbing to the animal in me when Peter returned. It's been a long road back to a semblance of sanity and he's walked with me every step of the way. There have been difficult times and many innocent people were hurt during my rages.

I've worked hard to control my inner demon. It's taken many years, but I have come to peace with taking life to sustain life. I have become judge, jury, and executioner all in one. I am death come to take the damned. The Major, as Peter insists on calling me.

Not long ago was one of those times when I got the itch to move on. When I mentioned my intentions, Peter insisted that we go and stay in Phoenix for a while. I had agreed quickly, even though I knew that Peter insisting on anything meant that he was definitely up to something. But I love our house in Phoenix, and we'd not been there for a long while, so it was an easy sell.

We've been here for a few weeks now, and have recently decided to stay long-term. It's been good to have a change in scenery. And good hunting too. I inhaled, relishing the desert air, the smell of creosote and cacti, sunbaked grass and dust. The desert feels like home. I'm sure I'll always find my way back, I thought. I listened to the satisfying crunch of my boots on the parched, desert earth. Yes, definitely home.

Suddenly my thoughts were interrupted as I realized I was alone with my emotions. Looking down at the man in my arms I saw that the light had gone out his eyes. I dropped the lifeless form, ignoring the dull thud of his head cracking on the pavement. It was nothing less than he would have done to his next victim; I was just showing him the same courtesy.

Wiping my mouth with the back of my sleeve, I dug out a pack of smokes from my pocket. I lit up, took a drag, and contemplated the scene in front of me.

The dark alley was enclosed on three sides by abandoned warehouses, with a window of navy star-strewn sky overhead, and a silent road behind. A layer of debris covered the ground; trash and boxes were heaped up against the crumbling walls on either side.

Blood pooled around the man's head, oozing from where I had bitten him. It shone inky in the pale moonlight. I traced the patterns it made as it ran through the grooves in the dusty concrete; tiny rivulets of life seeped ever closer to the toes of my snake-skin boots, as though it knew it belonged to me now. It was mine, coursing through my veins.

I let my head drop back and exhaled. The smoke swirled in the arid breeze, causing the stars to shimmer in the haze. The nicotine did nothing for me, but the smells and motions were a soothing habit that had never left me. Maria had always thought it was hilarious; even after wreaking destruction and death, demolishing entire towns and everyone in them, I would stop and have a smoke. I always smoked after a meal.

I took one last drag and with a careless flick, the cigarette went sailing into a heap of dry papers and rotting cardboard. Flames instantly leapt up and spread from one trash heap to another. Turning on my heel, I strode back into the dark street, the glow of the growing blaze outlining my silhouette and casting my shadow before me. Fitting.

Checking my watch I saw I was not due to meet Peter and Charlotte for a few more hours, so I took the opportunity to wander aimlessly. My feet carried me through the industrial district to a more residential part of town. As empty warehouses and office buildings gave way to homes, the faint flicker of emotions began to tickle my mind. There were humans close around, but even despite the fact most of them never felt much of anything, it was easy to tell these were asleep.

The yellow glow of the streetlights cast a sickly aura to well-worn homes and tidy, but parched, lawns. Inside their homes the humans slept on, not knowing that their lives were forfeit to my pleasure. Lucky for them I was full—for now. I turned the corner and walked a few more blocks before coming to an abrupt halt.

I was assaulted by overwhelming pressure, doubt, and hopelessness. For a moment I thought I might be having an anxiety attack. Jaw clenched I straightened up, looking around for the source of the feelings. In the house directly to my left I saw, framed in the glow of a window, a slip of a girl. She could not be more than ten or eleven years old. She had striking creamy skin and long, mahogany hair that curled slightly on the ends.

She was sitting hunched over a small round table, her legs swinging a few inches above the ground. Every now and again she'd run her hands through her hair and my hands itched to do the same. My head cocked to the side, I watched her for nearly half an hour.

It was clear that she was whom I felt. The depth of this child's feelings was an ocean beside the puddle that was typical human emotions. Her mood was decidedly bad, but underneath the worries rushed a river of something much more marvelous. I drank it in, bathing in the strength and purity of her astounding, unconditional love.

It was not until she looked up and I saw her eyes that I knew, painfully, completely, truly, that this girl was beyond comparison: my world had irrevocably changed. Though she could not see me, I could see her, and I lost myself in her deep, soulful gaze. Plainly, she had lived hard in her short years; she had seen and dealt with a lot. There was an unmistakable strength behind the serious cast to her eyes.

"Humph." She let out a long sigh and the spell broke. "Well, at least we won't get kicked out of our house or lose the power this month...How could she forget to pay? And for five months in a row!" She ran her hand through her hair, hopped off the stool, and stomped out of sight.

I blinked rapidly, my mind in overdrive. I longed to see more of her, longed to know why a child would be so concerned about such an adult issue, longed to run my fingers through her hair. A wave of confusion washed over me. What the hell was I thinking? She was a girl. A child. A human child! Get it together, Whitlock.

Drowning in my senses, I tried to get a grip on what was happening to me. My mind began sorting facts on its own accord, working towards an answer. One: I am a vampire—as though I need reminding. Two: I am an empath. Three: This child feels more deeply than any other human I've encountered. Four: I am inexplicably drawn to a human child.

The door opened and I froze, overwhelmed by the most potent, beautiful scent I had ever come across. It was flowery and clean, but instead of making my mouth water, it made long dead heart soar. While I tried to tell myself that two plus two didn't equal four, I knew for a fact that there really could only be one reason for me to feel this way. This is no mere empathic response, I told myself.

The girl stepped outside and put some letters into the mailbox that was mounted near the front door. She stood on the porch with her arms wrapped around her waist as though she was trying to hold herself together. Her chest shuddered and she slumped to the floor, her back against the door.

Seconds later, stifled sobs floated to my sensitive ears. It was the most poignant, heart-wrenching sound I had ever heard. A part of me I never knew existed roared to life. Never before: not with Maria or even with Peter and Charlotte-never have I felt this. I rubbed the ache in my chest and I looked down, mildly surprised at the motion.

I was halfway across the road before I realized what I was doing. Careless idiot, I chastised myself. There is no way I can go and comfort her! She is human and I am the furthest thing from it.

Scowling, I waited in the shadows, doing the only thing I could: send her all the peace and love I could muster. After a few minutes the girl quieted. She wiped her eyes and nose, took a few deep breaths, and returned inside.

I listened intently to the sounds of her readying for bed, and only emerged from concealment when I heard her breathing even out in sleep. Whisking to the front door I exulted to find the door unlocked. Easing it open, I ghosted inside, searching for clues to the young belle's identity. My belle! A part of me cried in acknowledgement.

The house was very neat and tidy, but small and sparsely furnished. Pictures of the beautiful little Belle covered every available surface—building a sandcastle at the beach, walking in the desert, in a school play, and handing out presents at Christmas. I memorized every detail. Inspecting a class photo, part of me rumbled when I saw it listed her name: Isabella Swan. Truly, she is a Belle.

Following her scent to a small back bedroom, I peeked in at her peaceful form. All the concern and stress she had felt was gone and she slept in comfort. In that moment, I knew without a doubt that I would do anything to make this girl happy and take away her worries. I swear to you Isabella, I will make it better. Whatever it is, it will no longer trouble you. I would see to it.

I sent her a large dose of love and left as silently as I had come, striding off to meet Peter and Charlotte. We had digging to do and plans to make.

I had thought that Peter would be skeptical or even cynical of my plan to help Isabella and her mom. After all, they were just food. Most people don't generally worry about their hamburger and I thought Peter would probably be the same. Hell, up until now, I wouldn't have bothered. I was instead pleasantly surprised when he jumped on board.

"Yes sir, Major," he said with a wink. "We ought to do something for the little miss. Can't have her growing up this way." I raised my eyebrow at his reply, silently demanding further explanation. Peter was less than helpful—as usual. "You know I know shit, Major. You just got to trust me. You're doing the right thing."

"Get to it," I barked. It was not a request.

With little effort, we managed to discover that Isabella was the only child of Renee Swan, a kindergarten teacher who had a reputation for being eccentric and irresponsible. It turned out that she often overspent and often forgot to pay her bills, leaving Isabella to deal with the consequences. On multiple occasions the power or water had been shut off, and they had very nearly lost their house.

That, at least, was an easy problem to solve. I arranged for Isabella and her mother to receive a trust fund, under the cover of it being a gift from a long-lost relative who had recently passed away. I also made sure that Isabella would never have to leave her home for want of money, purchasing a large home for them on the outskirts of town. Finally, I hired an accounting firm to take care of her mom's finances so that Isabella would not have that burden at such a young age.

The difficult problem was the string of men that Renee Swan paraded through the house. Some of them were less than desirable, and others were downright trash. Food. Isabella should not be exposed to that slime, but there was not much that I could do about her mom's decisions: unless one ever so much as considered laying a finger on Isabella. Then they would be ended. Painfully. I would watch, and be sure she was safe.

Over the following seven years I checked on Isabella several times a year, at least. It got to be that I couldn't stay away for long and would run to Phoenix just to be near her. Peter thought my obsession was hilarious. He would come along, laying into me the whole way about how a little human girl had leashed the Major. When I couldn't take it anymore, I'd kick his ass and he'd finally shut up—for a while.

I had last seen Isabella three months ago, and it felt like an eternity. I would have gone back sooner, but every time I mentioned leaving, Peter convinced me that it wasn't time to go back. It wasn't buying it anymore.

The large ranch house Peter, Charlotte, and I shared was becoming increasingly confining; it was a cage that looked like home, but sure didn't feel like it. Something was missing, and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the something was really a someone, and she was several states away.

After pacing the living room for hours on end, I made a decision. I was done waiting. I was going back to check on Isabella and none of Peter's lame ass excuses for me to stay would stop me. I marched up the stairs, and barged into Peter and Charlotte's room, the door slamming so hard against the wall that the doorknob stuck into the drywall.

"What the hell, Major? You ruined a perfectly good wall!" Peter shouted at me. I was not amused. I didn't give a shit about the damn wall. Standing ramrod straight, hands clasped behind my back, I raised my chin and glared at my Captain, my friend, the vampire I made. At first he glared right back, but finally averted his gaze when he realized I was not playing a game. I allowed the silence to stretch on, waiting for Peter to make the first move. He got the hint and apologized. "Sorry, Major."

"Forgiven," was my curt reply. "I'm going to Phoenix. Are you coming, or not?"