A/N: I just want to say that I'll probably walk all over canon facts with this story, though that's not my intention. I read the four books of Twilight, but stopped there, so anything revealed in later books, interviews, and blog posts won't be represented here. Call it creative license if it bothers you. This story is of course pre-Twilight, and it's only my idea of what could have been the life of Jasper Whitlock. I hope you enjoy it, and I do appreciate any and all comments.
Crimson Rose of Texas
I wasn't born a citizen of the United States, and I didn't die one either. I was born during a drought, more than two years before Texas joined the union, and I died after that proclamation was repealed. I'm a Texan from the cradle to the stone which marks my grave.
My mother, my shimaa, bore my father four sons, and I was the youngest. My oldest brother had already died in the Spanish American war before I even had a chance to meet him. In fact it was his loss which made Shimaa want one more child. Twin sisters born before me died shortly after birth. Even before I was born I owed my very existence to death.
Shimaa was a beauty in her own right. Even in her middle age, I believed her to be the most handsome woman in the territory. She wasn't a frail flower fading in the Texas heat. She was native to the harsh conditions, and she thrived like a desert cactus in the sun. Raven hair, burnished copper skin, and light brown eyes spoke of her mixed heritage. She was both Apache and Spanish, and my father was lucky to have her after his first wife died of pneumonia their first winter on the frontier.
Shimaa didn't speak much, as English was her third language. I learned to interpret her facial expressions, mannerisms, and subtle cues to know what she wanted of me. With just one look from those sparkling eyes, I could tell if I was due a whupping or a hug. She was the one who taught me to speak Spanish, as well as a smattering of Apache, both of which would prove invaluable later in my life.
My father was of English ancestry, and I inherited his blond hair, fair skin, and blue eyes. I looked more like him than any of my brothers. I liked to think that's why he had me ride the fences of our land with him. More likely it was to keep me from getting into some kind of mischief, as was my natural proclivity when left up to my own devices.
I was the one who was gone for three days, after I'd ridden further from our land than I should have. My horse, spooked by a rattlesnake, threw me and took off for the barn. Not only did I have to walk back home, but I had to deal with the surprised snake. Snakes are not very good eating. Shimaa was so worried, when I finally made it home I got the aforementioned hugs and a whupping that left me too sore to ride. Stupid horse.
I was also the one who got stuck in the well trying to rescue the dog. I still don't know what that mutt was doing in the well, but I thought I could lasso her and pull her out. Instead she pulled me in. It all but ruined a good pair of boots, and I was humiliated when Shimaa and my older brothers had to pull me out. It gave my brothers one more thing to tease me about—as if being the youngest wasn't enough.
I also had the misfortune of almost killing myself when I was round about eleven. Our barn wasn't a big beautiful structure like some I've seen. It was two stories, and made out of rough-hewn timber. It was designed to keep the horses out of the weather and protect them from predators. It also had a large loft where the hay was stored.
It was my job to muck out the stalls, mostly because my brothers didn't want to do it, and I couldn't fight them both. I'd spent one morning doing this chore, and had quite a stack of usable hay. A few more hay bundles added to the stack, and a rope over the main beam offered up more fun than I could normally have with my two brothers. I wanted to perfect my tricks before I challenged them to copy me. I swung from one ledge to the other, clinging to the rope as it swept over the wide opening in the ceiling, with the pile of hay below to catch me
For several hours I practiced swinging across and letting go to sail through the air and land neatly on the other side. The time or two I fell, the hay below cushioned my fall, and I climbed eagerly back up to try again. I just knew my brothers would be impressed with my skill. My final trick was the most daring. I would leap from one ledge to the other, clearing the wide opening without benefit of the rope, and roll to break my fall. I did this twice and was about to call my brothers to watch. It was the third try that nearly killed me.
I ran. I leaped. I missed the ledge. My momentum carried me beyond the stacked hay and I landed on the pitchfork I'd left lying on the floor—tines up.
My screams brought Shimaa running, and the look on her face scared me more than the pain. She'd already lost her oldest son, and I knew without a word being spoken that she feared she was about to lose her youngest.
It was a near thing.
The punctures through my back and side bled so freely, I feared I'd bleed to death in the barn. But Shimaa somehow carried me inside and began cleaning and stitching up my wounds. By the time my father came home, I was resting comfortably, and it seemed I'd cheated death one more time. Shimaa kept my wounds clean, and changed the dressing religiously. A week later my jaw locked up and I could barely swallow.
I learned later in my life that it wasn't the prongs of the pitchfork that nearly killed me, but something so tiny I couldn't have seen it with my eyes. We called it lockjaw, but later it would be named for this tiny bacteria called Tetanus. I suffered for weeks with fever, and painful muscle spasms I feared would break my bones. It was a slow and painful recovery, and for a long time I carried a stiffness in my joints as if I were an old man. I was one of the lucky ones who did indeed recover from the condition, but I shall never forget it.
I'd been riding as long as I'd been walking, and I loved going along with my father. He was often as quiet as Shimaa, until he was absorbed in his work, then he would tell his stories. I soaked up these long, rambling tales, like the dessert does the rain. It was the only way I knew my older brother William Junior, or learned of family we had back East. I learned I had an extensive family I'd never met, and I suspect my father was as much a rebel as his youngest son.
I rode with him from the time I was twelve, until I went off to join the cavalry at seventeen. We did more than ride the fences, of course. Life on a ranch is all about work, and riding the fences was as close to a rest as we ever took. The cattle had to be driven to grazing land every season. During calving season we kept vigil to make sure we didn't lose calves and heifers to predators, or difficulties in the births.
We were fortunate to live on lands which weren't disputed by the Apache. In fact it was Shimaa who negotiated for us to be allowed to graze the herd in Lipan Apache territory. For this privilege, each year Father presented the chief with a healthy calf, before it was branded with the bar-W of our ranch. When I'd just turned sixteen, father allowed me to travel alone into Apache territory, to present the years choice calf.
I knew enough of the language to get me into trouble, and father had insisted that I speak as little as possible. I was ushered into the camp like a visiting dignitary, while nearly naked children ran along beside my horse. Young men sat astride their mounts, casually handling guns and bows. It was a show of force as well as fearlessness to the white man in the unfamiliar saddle.
To them I was a man, even though Shimaa had treated me like a boy before I left. She'd fussed over my clothes, and tried to get my wayward curls to lie flat. Sixteen to an Apache meant a man could hunt, and go on raids. I sat straighter in the saddle as I lead my gift to the tent of the chief.
Chief Ten Wolves was about the same age as my father, but among all his braves, he looked ancient. He invited me to dismount, and join him for his meal. Father had warned me about staying, and I tried to tell him no. Later I would find out that Ten Wolves was a wily old man, who wanted a more definitive tie with my father, than just some grazing rights and a cow. He considered my father to be a rare breed—an honest white man. With the Comanche pressing from one side, and Mexicans from another, and white settlers increasing, the Lipan Apache tribes had to struggle not to be pushed out.
I didn't know how to refuse the offer of food, and especially water for me and my horse. It didn't feel right to accept, and part of me wanted to pretend I didn't understand and simply ride away. But the chief beckoned again, and I climbed down from the horse. I was invited into Ten Wolves' teepee, and fed a stew much like Shimaa would make. As we ate, children would dart in, just to touch my hair, then run out giggling. Ten Wolves explained that the children had never seen a man with yellow hair before. I almost argued that my father's was the same color, but remembered his had gone white in the five years past.
As the meal was finished, Ten Wolves filled his pipe and began to smoke. He told me the stories of the different things held within his home, from his ceremonial headdress to the bear hide on the wall. He offered me the pipe, but I knew enough not to smoke whatever he offered.
I didn't smoke, but the teepee held the smoke inside, and my head swam with the unfamiliar tobacco. I closed my eyes, just for a moment when the world twisted and rippled. I remember it as only a moment, then I felt soft and warm, and comfortable. I dreamed I was surrounded by our dog's litter of pups. They licked my face and slept against me, and I petted them as their warm bodies moved against me.
I woke with a start to the sound of a distant gunshot. It was dark, and as I became aware of my surroundings, I realized I was in trouble.
I was naked, and I wasn't alone. The light from the embers of the fire showed the dim outline of a girl, as she pushed me back into the soft bedroll. Then I realized she wasn't a girl, but a woman, as she pressed her body against mine.
I was an inexperienced sixteen year-old boy, confronted with a naked young woman who had enough experience to know how to handle me. Her exploratory kisses were a new frontier for me, and she guided my hands to her body, and held them to her curves when I tried to respect her nakedness.
I knew enough from all my exposure to animals, to know how bodies came together, but I never expected it would happen to me, especially in such a sudden way. I confess, I didn't struggle, once I realized she was eager for my touches. The way her own hands moved over my body, made me groan and pant. There was enough light to reveal how pretty she was, and she smiled when I finally gave in and went along with her seduction.
She took me, as I laid back and watched her. The way her body moved over mine, reminded me of watching a powerful horse trotting around the corral. She was grace, and fire, and woman, and I was a man in her arms, and in her body. It was the best feeling I could remember, and her sighs told me she liked it too.
It was over too fast. She rested against me, and again we kissed. I was eagerly kissing and touching and feeling her skin, naked and soft beneath my hands. Soon I was ready again, and she turned us so she was lying beneath me. She was a wonder, and her cries were louder as I drove my need into her body. The sounds of our flesh meeting, was the best thing I'd ever heard. Her face in the dim light was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.
Again I finished sooner than I wished, as it was more joy than I could stand. I cried out with my release. I was blessed that night, because my lover was as excited by what we were doing as I was. Two more times we came together, and by the fourth time, I was able to last much longer. In the midst of coupling with her, I whispered that I loved her. I promised I would be hers forever if we could keep making love. I felt that surely no one had ever felt such magical bliss as we created between us. I wanted nothing more in those moments, than to feel her body moving with mine for the rest of my life.
When I finished I was completely drained, and I collapsed onto my lover and slept deeply. When I woke again it was daylight, and I could hear the sounds of people moving around outside the tent. My lover slept nestled in my arms, and in the light of day she was even more lovely.
She was young, but clearly a woman. Her skin was brown, like Shimaa, and her hair was glistening black and reached to her waist. I kissed her and her brown eyes fluttered open. She smiled, and I faced the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life.
Once awake she came to me, clearly wanting to make love again. I was disturbed by all the noises around us, but she assured me no one would interrupt us. Half the morning escaped us as we made love. She didn't care that her cries carried outside of the tent, and she didn't share my worry, that someone could open the tent and find me with her.
Again in the afterglow of our bliss, she snuggled against me. I ran my fingers through her hair, and she seemed to enjoy petting mine as well. With my rough knowledge of her language, I asked her name. It translated to Fawn Eyes, and it fit her well, as her eyes were wide and innocent, like a baby deer. She knew my name, though she had trouble saying it. Then she used a word in place of my name, and I knew I had the translation right, as Shimma used it often for my father.
I was stunned. Part of me wanted to leap out of the bedroll and run. But the woman snuggled against my chest, held me with her gentle embrace. If husband meant that I could hold her like this, then maybe husband wasn't such a bad thing.
It was need that took me from the soft warmth at her side. I had a need to relieve myself, a need to eat and drink, and a need to find out where my clothes and horse had been taken. Fawn Eyes helped me take care of most of those needs, and after we'd eaten, she pulled me back into the tent for more lovemaking.
It wasn't until much later that Ten Wolves came to see us. Between his English, and my Apache, the story came out that I'd married his daughter the night before. I told him I didn't remember any of it, and I tried to tell him I needed to get back home. He insisted I had a duty to my new wife, to stay and keep her happy. He told me he would let me know when enough time had passed and I could leave. As soon as he left us, Fawn Eyes pulled me back into her arms, and we made love.
I was worried about being away from home for so long. I had responsibilities on the ranch, and I reasoned I could always come back. That night I tried to escape. I easily slipped from my wife's arms, but making my way through a sleeping Apache camp was more difficult than sneaking past Father. There were low watch fires, and I knew to avoid the light. I underestimated the vigilance of the young braves. I ducked into the dark shadow of a tent, and found a knife at my back.
The young watchmen didn't wake the camp over my escape attempt, they only took the opportunity to tease me. I knew enough of their language to understand they were calling into question my ability as a man to satisfy my wife in bed. They also played with my hair, like the children had the day before. The name they called me was Corn-tassel Head, and they had a good laugh at the idea that they could see me in the dark.
The one who had found me escorted me back to my tent, and made a rude gesture with his hips, indicating what he clearly thought I should be doing. Fawn Eyes awoke when I rejoined her, and pretty soon we were following the sentry's advice.
It wasn't even two days later when Father came for me. His Apache was better than mine, and his anger was evident in his clenched jaw, and the way he cradled his rifle. I didn't even have my clothes, and I had to meet my father wrapped in a blanket.
The encounter between father, Ten Wolves, Fawn Eyes, and myself was terrible. Father was not a man prone to yelling, and he was true to form. However the words exchanged between the two older men were sharp and cutting. I heard the words for betrayal and responsibility from my father. Ten Wolves gestured at me several times and I picked out the words husband and son.
I tried to explain to my father what had happened from my perspective, but he didn't want to hear it. He didn't say that he was disappointed I'd stayed for the meal, but the way he looked at me told the story. I'd let him down.
I sat silent and chastised as there was more discussion. There was movement beside me, and Fawn Eyes squeezed my arm before she got up and left the tent. An hour later it became clear to me what was going on.
My clothes were brought to me, as was my horse and everything I'd brought with me. I dressed gratefully, and Father didn't say a word as I climbed into the saddle. We waited in uncomfortable silence, as many in the tribe gathered around us.
There was a commotion when she came through the crowd. Fawn Eyes was dressed, and she carried a large bundle with her. Father's eyes were cold as he said the words that made everything click into place.
"Help your wife, son." I climbed down from my horse and tied her bundle to the saddle. When we left, Fawn Eyes rode behind me with her arms wrapped around my waist, and her soft cheek pressed against my back.
I expected that once the tribe was behind us, Father would speak to me, but he was silent. I tried again to explain what had happened, and he cut me off.
"Part of being a man, is taking responsibility. What's done is done, now own up to it." He looked straight ahead as we rode on, and not another word was spoken.
We didn't make it home that night, and when we stopped to set up camp, Fawn Eyes gathered the wood for the fire, and cooked the provisions Father had brought with him. I took care of the horses, making sure they had water, and Father came alongside me as I wiped the sweat from the animals.
"I understand you're not to blame for what happened. But this is a hard lesson you'll need to learn. Not everyone you meet will care about playing fair and seeing to your best interests. You had to have felt something was wrong with Ten Wolves' offer, deep in your gut. You ignored that warning." He looked over at the fire, and my eyes followed his gaze to where she sat, prodding the fire.
"She's a pretty girl. She reminds me of your mother; you could do worse." He shook his head slowly. "You're lucky this time the lesson didn't cost you your life. But this isn't going to be easy, son. You'll be lucky if your mother doesn't kill you. She might just kill both of us for this one." His crooked smile let me know that it was good between us again.
A/N: Thank you for pointing out my spelling error JALU. I've fixed it.