Jasper's control slips when Bella bleeds on her birthday, but he's not the only one. In the distraction, he gets to Bella, but he pulls back in time for her to become a vampire sooner than anyone had planned. What no one ever told either of them, though, is that sometimes a link forms between newborn and sire, and it can break all other bonds…

A meandering, semi-lyrical Jasper/Bella oneshot.

Bonds of Blood

Her blood was suddenly in the air, tangy and compelling as it swirled around her, mixing almost tangibly with her horror as she stared back at them all, wide-eyed.

Then a few things happened very fast, even for a vampire's senses.

Emmett roared, his expression suddenly feral, and he leapt for the human. Edward met him in mid-air, and their bodies made a sound like boulders colliding.

Emmett was stronger – he had always retained more of the supernatural strength from his newborn days than the rest of them had – and he threw Edward across the room. Alice gasped, her hands going to her head and her eyes closing as she often did when a vision overcame her, and Esme and Carlisle rushed across the room toward Emmett, who still had his eyes set on Bella, his teeth bared.

Bella stood motionless, as if from an instinctive evolutionary response when confronted with a predator stronger than you are.

Edward was up by then, sprinting across the room and jumping onto Emmett's back. The larger vampire stumbled backward, slowing enough to give Carlisle and Esme a chance to grip his arms. They grappled with him, as Alice stood unmoving, blind with her vision, as Rosalie watched them all with eyes that were too intent, neither helping nor hindering.

Jasper saw his opportunity and took it.

He moved to stand in front of her, aware that he had almost a foot on her. She was trembling from head to toe now, but she lifted her chin and looked him in the eye.

He reached for her, making sure his touch was gentle enough for human contact, and tilted her head to the side, exposing a pale line of flesh from neck to shoulder. She let him, her unbound hair slipping to fall behind the opposite shoulder as she watched him with wide eyes. He grasped her around the waist and pulled her body tightly against his in a way that was startlingly intimate.

Leaning down, he closed his eyes in anticipation before sinking his teeth into that lovely, perfect place where her neck met her shoulders, the same spot he had seen every day in his head since the day he'd first laid eyes on her in the cafeteria at Forks High School.

It had been so long since his last human – years now since he'd last slipped, and she tasted like heaven might if heaven existed, heady ambrosia mixed with the finest vintage wine.

He was gentle as he drank her down. Surely he planned to kill her, so it didn't matter how he did it, yet he was careful not to use his teeth to tear her flesh any more than he had to. Perhaps it was just because she was beautiful, and to destroy something beautiful was a waste.

Her hands, he realized suddenly, were gripping his biceps. She sighed in a way that was almost a moan, but she still didn't struggle.

At that moment, two things happened simultaneously: Alice's eyes shot open and she screamed, "No! Jasper!" and Edward looked up from his fight with Emmett to stare at Jasper, his expression horror-struck.

Jasper pulled away from Bella's neck to press his lips to hers, overcome suddenly with the desire for his venom to be on her lips when she awoke (for she would awake). Then he stepped back, taking most of her weight as she swayed on her feet, barely conscious.

Edward finally pulled free of Emmett and started toward Jasper, looking murderous. Esme raised her hand to her mouth in shock, and even Carlisle was stunned into silence. Everyone in the room could smell the change that was taking place in Bella's body, the blood that was no longer completely human stilling in her veins as she left humanity behind forever.

Jasper used his gift for the first time that evening, drawing a calm stupor over them all, and suddenly there was no movement in the house apart from the thrum of Bella's dying heartbeat.

"It is done," he said, and he heard the twang of the Confederate soldier he hadn't been in over a century in his voice. "It's what you secretly wanted all along, isn't it, Edward? Your conscience is clear. I'm the monster. Again."

He turned to Alice, his pretty wife whom he had sworn he would never use his gift on. Another promise broken. "If you ever want to see me again, you know where I'll be."

He lifted Bella and set her down gently on the couch, still confused as to why she wasn't dead. Her eyes were closing, but she mumbled something inarticulate as he stood up again. "I hope you get what you wanted," he told her.

Then, pressing his power into the rest of them for as long as he could, he began to run.

In all things, Jasper tried to be impartial. In war, you learned quickly that wasting time wishing something wasn't so was how you lost soldiers, lost battles and lost wars.

This ingrained objectivity was how he knew that he was not a particularly good person: the deaths of humans mattered far less to him than the inconvenience their disappearances could cause, and he had no higher moral qualms about killing them than disliking having to feel their pain and fear as they died.

He followed the Cullens' way of life because he was required to do so to be with Alice: everyone in the family knew that, in the same way that he knew that the fact bothered them. He had often wondered why it mattered, when the end result was the same.

Yet Bella's death, unlike any other human's, would have been unendurable to him.

Jasper wasn't sure why that was; he had been picking at the problem for hundreds of miles, as he ran through the verdant woods of central Washington and into the desolate prairieland of the far northern Midwest.

It could perhaps be because he knew her better than any other human he'd had to interact with in decades, yet that didn't feel quite right. He had been around her for months, yet he'd paid little attention to Edward's human pet and hadn't really felt one way or another about her at all. In fact, if anything he'd been annoyed with her from time to time by the constant pangs of anxiety and self-doubt that shot through her whenever she was with Edward.

No, nothing had changed until the moment she had started bleeding in a room full of vampires. He could see now that the haze of bloodlust had passed that he had never truly wanted to kill her: he'd wanted to drink her blood, and he'd wanted to change her. And he had.

Even if the rest of the Cullens kept him away from Bella until he was ash in the wind, he felt certain that he'd accomplished his goal, and that thought gave him a deep, humming strum of satisfaction. He'd put too much of his venom into her; it had been too long before Edward or Carlisle could have sucked the venom out again.

No, Bella would turn, and, almost as important, she would know who had turned her.

Jasper had changed many others on Maria's orders, but he'd never had this sense of possessiveness about them. He knew who he'd turned, of course, he remembered them and it mattered, on some level, but he'd never thought of any of his vampire offspring in her damnable army as his.

Bella, he was beginning to realize, was.

Keying in the password on the electronic lock, Jasper let himself in the front door of the house he owned in North Dakota, a well-maintained log cabin that he had purchased in the 1930s.

It had taken him slightly less than a full day to reach the house, and he decided that for the moment he was probably not being followed. His coven would have their hands full dealing with Bella's transition and creating a cover story for her "death".

He briefly wondered how they would handle it. Bella's father surely knew where she was supposed to be that night. Maybe a wreck on the way back from her birthday party? With a truck as old as hers was, it wouldn't be inconceivable that the gas tank could explode, burning up all evidence. He couldn't deny the details mattered little to him, though. Few things did.

He turned on the desktop computer at the desk in the cabin's living room and sent a brief email.

Come see me in Minot.

Then he stripped off his clothes, which still smelled faintly of Bella's blood, and stepped into the shower. He stood under the faucet for a long time, long past the water turning cold, and tried not to think about how Bella Swan could have been worth ruining everything over.

Peter let himself into the cabin less than eight hours later. Charlotte was right behind him, her deep wariness intertwining with her husband's confusion and concern as she shut the front door behind her.

Jasper rose from where he had been lying for the past several hours in the cabin's largest bedroom, staring unmoving at the ceiling, and met his former covenmates in the living room.

Peter gave him an assessing, once-over look, the quick appraisal learned from years in Maria's army – How injured are you? Can you walk? Can you run? Are you more burden than benefit? His eyes widened when they finally met Jasper's, and Jasper knew his eyes now matched his friend's.

Worry and fear bled into both Peter and Charlotte's emotions, and Jasper responded quickly to cut them off. "There is no danger," he said. "I have…" He sat down heavily on the couch, out of sheer mental exhaustion rather than physical. "Well," he said blankly, "I don't actually know what I've done."

"You've killed," Charlotte said, moving to stand in front of him. She sounded as gentle as she ever did when addressing him.

Jasper shook his head. "I drank," he corrected. "And I turned."

Peter stared at him, understanding even less now. "What purpose could that serve?" he asked, and Jasper knew he was thinking about costs and payoffs and coming up with nothing that could make the trouble worth the risk.

"I don't know. I meant to kill her." Jasper frowned. "I think. But I did not."

Peter still looked bewildered, but Charlotte's expression was clearing. "She was close to death," she said, half a question.

Jasper nodded. "She was bleeding. Emmett was standing close to her and lost control first. I saw my chance while the others were distracted with him."

"She's the girl Edward was obsessed with, isn't she?" Peter said, making the intuitive link that only he ever seemed capable of making. "The one you told us about last spring."

Jasper didn't deny it, and that was as good as an admission.

Peter sighed and sat down next to him on the couch. "Will there be trouble?" he said. Jasper didn't respond right away, and he added almost diffidently, "You know my loyalty is to you, but the Cullens outnumber us."

Jasper shook his head, trying to make sense of his scattered thoughts. "I would not ask you to fight for me," he said. "Your lives and loyalties are your own." He turned to Charlotte. "How did you know she was in danger?"

Charlotte frowned, her emotions ringing with thoughtfulness and uncertainty. "There is…something I saw on the day I was turned that I have never forgotten. When the vampires first found us, one of them, a woman with long blonde hair in tiny braids, rushed past Maria to bite a man who had been traveling with us. Maria was furious, and she threw the female's head onto the fire along with his." She shuddered. "That's my most vivid human memory – two heads burning on a bonfire, one pale and one dark."

Jasper remembered the vampire. "Her name was Dinah. She was vicious, but clever and loyal to Maria, as far as I could ever tell." He had never seen her again after one of their endless missions to find humans to turn for the army, but she had been as important as a speck of dust to his mind. Those had been dark, broken days, haunted as he had been by the culmination of the years of human and vampire suffering that he had personally experienced through his gift.

"I remember her, too," Peter said. Sadness pierced him through as he addressed his mate. "Why've you never told me that, Char?"

She shrugged. "I didn't want you to know that my last human memory was so…brutal."

He drew his arm around her shoulder and kissed her forehead, and Jasper looked away, reminded that his own wife was not here with him. They had barely been apart in fifty years. He didn't want to think on what it meant that he had gone until now without thinking of her.

"But why would Dinah do such a thing?" he asked, and Peter and Charlotte's gazes snapped back to him. "She was self-serving if she was nothing else."

"I don't know," Charlotte said. "I'd never heard of anything like it – until you told us how Emmett came to be a vampire."

Emmett had been dying, Jasper knew, when Rosalie had found him. But she had found hikers before and since that time and had done nothing to alter the course their lives were on; all of the Cullens had. Emmett had been different.

"Rosalie brought him to Carlisle. She was terrified she would accidentally finish him off instead of killing him."

Even thirty years later, when Jasper had joined the Cullens and Rose had told him her story, he had been shocked by the intensity of her terror as she re-lived the fear that Emmett would die in her arms, that she would be too late in bringing him to Carlisle.

Charlotte nodded. "Carlisle turned the others in your family out of compassion. Emmett was turned out of something else."

"And now so have you," Peter finished. He looked at Jasper like he was a puzzle piece that he was determined to fit correctly.

"I need to talk to Rosalie," Jasper decided. But would she talk to him? She had made it clear that she was vehemently opposed to any human (except Emmett, apparently) being changed.

"She'll come to you," Charlotte said, and she was probably right. She'd certainly annoyed Jasper enough during the years he'd lived with her and Peter, predicting what he would do with irritating accuracy.

Peter winced. He was a fierce man, but even he usually didn't have the energy to put up with Rosalie when she was on the warpath about something. "We'll, ah, be slipping away if she comes," he said, not even sounding embarrassed about it.

Jasper nodded, trying to summon a smile for his oldest friend. "Of course," he agreed. "If I thought it would do any good, I'd probably run, too."

Rosalie came with the dawn on the third day since Jasper arrived in North Dakota, and there was probably something poetic about that, but the reality, Jasper expected, was that she had just waited for Bella to finish changing.

"You," his adopted sister said when she stepped inside the cabin. Her fury was a quivering energy around her that he could almost see, making even her long blonde hair vibrate. "You did that on purpose."

"I did not," Jasper said immediately. Then he thought about it. "I assure you, I had no plans. Alice would have seen me decide."

"I didn't say they were long-term plans," Rose said, scowling at him like he was mocking her. "But you were in control the whole time. I watched you."

"Ah," Jasper said, suddenly annoyed at her line of questioning and unwilling to let her poke at the tangle that was Bella's birthday when he wouldn't even allow himself to do so. "You would know all about watching, wouldn't you, sister?"

Rose's perfect blonde eyebrows drew down. "I will not fight my mate. No one can ask that of me."

"I highly doubt Emmett would have been angry with you for holding him back from killing the human he was so fond of." Jasper smiled without amusement. "Or you might have even moved Bella to safety."

Rose's flat expression told him exactly what she thought of that idea, though an undercurrent of shame suddenly swirled around her.

"You wanted to teach her a lesson," Jasper accused, recognizing that particular flavor of guilt. "To stay away from us for her own good, was that it? That's almost sweet."

She rolled her eyes. "What I wanted was for Edward to see how ridiculous courting a human was. Her connection with the human world put our entire family in danger. He needed to either turn her or leave her behind, and he would do neither." The anger in her aura strengthened again. "And you! You turned her at our very house, you idiot, where her father – the Chief of Police – knew exactly where she was supposed to be!"

Jasper shrugged. He couldn't scrounge up the slightest feeling of regret for turning Bella. "How was it handled?" he asked instead. Would Carlisle have "taken out" the whole family or just her?

Rosalie allowed herself to be distracted, and the sharp edge of her anger curved around to the rounded spikiness that he was used to feeling from her. "Car wreck," she said. "Her fuel line and gas tank were half rust, anyway." She grimaced – she thought shoddy car maintenance was a grievous sin. "I ran it into a tree on her route back to her house, and it only needed a little help from a lighter before the whole thing was on fire. Carlisle gave me a bit of her hair and shirt to throw near the flames, and we left it like that."

"And the humans accepted that?"

Rosalie nodded. "Her funeral was yesterday. We thought it would be suspicious if we didn't go. We thought Edward might fuck it up, but he's acting the most convincingly out of all of us." She shot Jasper a sideways glance. "He's walking around like she really has died."

"And Bella?" He was proud that he kept his voice level, disinterested.

Rosalie sniffed. "Her transformation is complete. Though only Esme and Carlisle can bring themselves to talk to her."

"Is she in control?" She was his responsibility, whether either of them wanted that to be true or not. He had calmed newborns for decades in Maria's army, and though he barely remembered his own transformation he could easily recall the overpowering rush of bloodlust that crowded out all other senses.

Rosalie shrugged. "I didn't pay much attention to her."

Bullshit. Rose noticed far, far more than most people gave her credit for. At Jasper's hard stare, she relented. "She's confused. Sad. Being really, really depressing over the fact that Edward will barely look at her."

Jasper rolled his eyes at Edward's typical masochistic behavior. "I didn't turn her so that she would moon over Edward all day."

Rose's eyes fixated on his face. "Then why did you turn her, brother?"

Jasper had no answer to give her.

Rosalie left him to go hunt – she'd apparently foregone eating while she had avidly watched every second of Bella's transformation and hadn't stopped on her way to see Jasper, either.

Jasper had not hunted since biting Bella, hovering on the precipice between returning to animal blood and hunting humans. He enjoyed the feeling – it was as if he could be two people at once: one the polite, well-mannered gentleman Alice saw within him, and the other the battle-hardened soldier who dealt life and death and didn't much care one way or the other how the chips fell.

"What about Alice?" he asked Rose when she came back, bringing with her the faint trace of coyote.

She stopped in the doorway and raised an eyebrow at him. "It only took you six hours to ask about her."

"Just tell me," Jasper said, but he felt his own pang of guilt – and confusion – that he hadn't cared enough to ask sooner about his own wife.

"She thinks it's her own fault, of course," Rose said, dropping to the couch and stretching her legs out gracefully, looking supremely unbothered by the thought. "Everyone in that house claims sole responsibility for Bella's change." She cut her eyes to him. "Everyone, I might add, but you."

Jasper still couldn't bring himself to feel the slightest twinge of regret for turning Bella, no matter how it turned out when it was all said and done. "It was not a decision I made ahead of time," he said instead. "I'm not sure I understand how Alice can twist that around to make it her own failing."

Rosalie shrugged, looking bored again. "You can ask her about it when she comes back – if she comes back. She left yesterday."

"I left so she wouldn't have to," Jasper said, aggrieved.

"Well," Rosalie said, examining her nails, which were as perfect as the rest of her body, "she seems to think you'll come back. And not for her." She raised her hand to her forehead in an exact imitation of how Alice grabbed her head when confronted with a vision. "Now, why, brother dearest, would that be?"

In the end Rosalie convinced him to come back with her, as Jasper had known from the beginning she would. He sometimes wondered if Alice or someone with a similar gift could see the path of his life, with all his decisions and twists, laid out in front of him, with no mystery left to his name.

Rosalie was convinced that the same peculiar bond that connected her to Emmett connected Jasper to Bella, and she would not hear of him trying to deny it.

"Something happened," she said stubbornly, and she would not back down even when Jasper gave her his most dangerous glare. "Something changed. I don't have your gift, or Edward's, but you will not convince me otherwise."

He did not respond, but he did not refute her, either.

It was evening when they arrived in Forks, the low autumn clouds already hanging low over the horizon, promising a winter season of gray and dampness. As they neared the house, Jasper caught Bella's scent, ambrosia crystallized and made solid, lingering in the air.

Edward was nearby, despair melting to pure rage as he caught Jasper's scent, and he came for him.

Jasper bent his knees to take Edward's weight. His adopted brother was faster but not stronger, and certainly not as skilled of a fighter. Jasper could destroy him. Yet he could feel Edward's desolation, his earth-shattering awareness that things had not gone as he had planned, as keenly as if it were his own. For that Jasper did not fight to maim, but to defend.

A few seconds later, Carlisle and Emmett were rushing forward to separate them, but their actions were nothing next to Bella's sharp gasp, her emotions darkening with unhappiness and fear as she came outside and caught sight of them.

Edward glanced back at her, his movements slowing, and something heartbreaking crossed his face. He allowed Emmett to pull him away, but his eyes did not leave Bella's. Jasper caught a sense of emptiness and a yearning for what was no longer so in Edward's aura, and it suddenly clicked into place.

Edward no longer felt the pull he had toward Bella when she had been his singer. He was likely questioning the entire basis of his relationship with her.

Edward flinched subtly as Emmett led him away, and Jasper knew that he had guessed correctly, and that Edward had caught the thought in his own mind. He and Alice and Edward had always been like billiard balls, bouncing off of each other and being impacted by each other's gifts in turn. Even with Alice gone, the jostling continued.

Jasper wondered what Edward could see in his own head when he moved to stand before the girl he had turned.

He hated to stare, but she deserved to be stared at. She was a girl no longer, for all that she had been barely eighteen when he'd bitten her. Immortality had given her a look of agelessness that a human might be able to pin down to between twenty and thirty, but no closer than that.

She looked back at him, and it was like she had taken his heart in his chest and squeezed it, and he knew that Rosalie had been right, that something had happened and he would never be the same again.

"Hi, Jasper," she said, and warmth wrapped around amusement wrapped around sharp-eyed focus as she watched him. If he'd had a heartbeat it would have stuttered at being the center of her attention.

"Isabella," he said quietly.

Her lips quirked up, but she didn't correct him. "Do I call you something in particular?" she asked him.

He frowned. "I'm not sure what you mean."

"Like 'master'," she said, and he felt a surge of arousal shoot through him at that word on her lips. "Or 'sire'."

His voice, when it came, was a little strained. He hoped she didn't notice. "You can call me whatever you want." Then he felt a surge of mischief, something he hadn't felt in a hundred years. "Whatever you call me, no one can deny that I'm the one who turned you."

She laughed, and her long, soft curls fell back behind her shoulder. He watched her exposed neck, pale and cool, with fascination. "I don't think anyone would try to deny that," she said, falling into step beside him. He wasn't sure which of them had decided to walk with the other, or if he was leading or following. "Edward is very angry with you," she remarked, watching his face for his reaction.

He laughed shortly, unimpressed. "I am well aware," he assured her. "Did you know he is more than a little angry with you, too?"

She looked surprised but not shocked. "I have never tried to hide what I wanted," she said. "I won't apologize for being happy to have it."

"I could have killed you," he said, not sure if he was arguing with her or not. Soft rain began to fall, hitting their skin like little whispers as they walked.

She shook her head, and droplets hit his cheek. "I knew you wouldn't," she said. "Think back. Did I have any fear?"

She hadn't, of course. "Once I moved to you, you stopped being afraid," he admitted.

"Of course," she said, as if it were self-evident. "Emmett wanted to kill me, but you…I knew that our desires were the same."

"And are they now?" he couldn't help asking. He wondered if this was what flirting felt like. He had almost no memory of his human life, and he had never flirted with Alice.

Bella flicked a brilliant smile at him and didn't answer.

Edward left in the night a week later, and Jasper tried to pretend he didn't feel like a heavy weight had been lifted off his shoulders with his disconsolate brother gone.

Bella made all the right facial expressions to appear heartbroken, but her sadness did not go farther than skin deep. Jasper felt more sincere regret off of Carlisle and Esme than he did from her.

Rosalie said nothing about Edward's departure to him, though Jasper could tell the personal struggle she went through to keep her thoughts to herself. Emmett was just happy that Bella didn't resent him for trying to kill her, and he did not try to pry into everything that had happened since Bella's birthday.

Jasper caught Bella watching him time and again, her coral pink lips caught between her teeth as she observed him, when she shouldn't have had the presence of mind to focus on anything except her unrelenting blood thirst.

He kept waiting for her to realize that she was a vampire, that her mate had left her, and crumple in sorrow.

She watched him like she was waiting for him to do the same thing.

Neither did.

He called Alice a few days after Edward left, a strange mix of guilt and dread flooding through him as he dialed her familiar number.

"Hello, Jasper," Alice said when she picked up. His gift didn't work over distance, but he could tell her normal perkiness was muted. He didn't know the last time she'd addressed him by his full name.

"Alice," he said hoarsely. "I'm sorry."

It was true, and he hadn't even realized it until he'd said it.

"I know you are," she said. "I wouldn't take your call if I didn't think that." She sighed and paused. "Yes, your path is set." She sounded resigned, and he wondered how long she had been scanning his future.

"I didn't plan it," he said, as if that counted for something. But he wanted her to know, all the same.

"I know," she said again. "Doesn't really make me feel much better though."

He tried to apologize again, but she cut him off. "You might as well know, I'll forgive you," she said. "I love you too much not to."

He hated how relieved that made him feel. Alice was not designed to be hold on to bitterness – it was as unnatural as a sieve trying to hold water.

"But don't contact me again, Jasper. I'll call you."

His heart sank. "But, Alice–"

"I'll forgive you," she said, and her voice was firm and almost kind. "I will, Jasper, but not yet." She hung up.

Thus the last rope that had been tying Jasper down was cut loose, and he was free.

Like a child being baptized, Jasper emerged, gasping and disoriented, into a new life, his second re-birth. The months passed, as did his urge to return to killing humans, and he settled comfortably into his coven's lifestyle in a way he never had before.

Over the years he had met many others who were at peace with themselves, but war was all he had ever known, and he had never been able to find that stillness within himself. Now here it was, years after he had stopped looking for it.

Most of his newfound peace, he knew, was due to the absence of Edward's disappointed appraisals of even Jasper's most passing thoughts, as well as Alice's constant scrutiny of his future decisions despite her assurances of complete trust in him.

What he did not owe to his freedom from his covenmates, he owed to Bella.

When he was with her, he no longer felt like he had to apologize for his past, for the years filled with venom and painful transformations and killing enemies before they killed you.

"Your past shapes you, but it doesn't define you," Bella agreed when he shared his thoughts with her on one of their long walks deep into the forest. "If you endlessly re-live the past, you can't do anything better this time around."

"I want to do better," Jasper told her earnestly, and then felt embarrassed for being earnest.

"I'm glad," she said. Her smile on him was like the sun, and he no longer had to walk in the shadows with a wife whose love for him was spread over a thin foundation of conditional promises and wary smiles.

"I'm sorry for killing you," he said, not because he meant it but because he wanted her to know that what he had done mattered to him.

She stopped in front of him, blocking his path as she stared up at him with eyes that were slowly fading from burgundy wine to yellow gold. "Don't ever be sorry for that," she told him seriously.

He wasn't.

White winter sleet faded into warm spring rains, and Carlisle and Esme left for their umpteenth honeymoon, and a week later Jasper dropped Rosalie and Emmett off at the airport for their tour of the East Coast to decide which college to attend this time around (though Rosalie had already told him the correct answer would be NYU).

He and Bella were left alone in the house, and that made him unconscionably nervous, though he didn't know why. As he sat in his room and tried to read, he couldn't stop tracking every move she made as she shifted downstairs, moving restlessly from the back patio to the living room to the stairs.

"I'm tired of waiting for you."

Jasper put down his book and rose as Bella walked in. "What?" It wasn't a graceful response, but no one could continually surprise him like she could.

She laughed, and her eyes were bright with teasing. "Peter said you would be old-fashioned about this."

"You've talked to Peter?" When would she have managed that?

She shook her head, still smiling. "Charlotte told me I'd have to be bold."

And Charlotte? Peter's wife had always had so little fondness for the rest of the Cullens. Perhaps Bella didn't count. "Bold about what?"

She rolled her eyes exaggeratedly. "About telling you what I wanted."

Hope suffocated them both, and Jasper didn't know if it was coming from him or her.

"And what is it you want?" he inquired politely. Circumstances be damned, he was from an era where men were always polite to women, no matter how coy they were being.

Grinning a very un-Bella smile, she took a step closer to him and tilted her head up to meet his eyes. He hadn't been this close to her since the day he'd bitten her. "Do you really not know?" she said. "You, of course."

If he'd had a functioning heart, it would have stopped.

It all slipped into place, so easily and effortlessly, as if he should have known from the moment he was born that this was where it would all lead.

His hands moved to cradle her face before he was conscious of deciding to move, and he breathed the words that had been trembling on his lips since her birthday. "Mine."

"Yours," Bella agreed.

He kissed her, and it felt like he was making good on a promise he had set into motion six months ago, before he'd even realized what the promise was.

As she arched into him, as he tasted her lips, her cheeks, her neck, as he pushed her onto his bed and climbed atop her – to feel to touch to know – a floating, ephemeral emotion wrapped around them both and held them tight.

It was home, and it was her, and it was the elusive prey Jasper had been searching for since the day he'd traded a mortal army for an immortal one: hope.

This came upon me suddenly and wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote it. (I promise I'm still working on my multi-chapter stories!)

Thanks for reading.