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The Root of the Problem

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Jasper just drove. He couldn’t make any decisions without his dear Alice knowing exactly what he was going to do. The note he left for her explicitly asked her not to come after him, but she wasn’t exactly known for doing what was asked of her. So he drove. Every turn he made was based on a gut feeling or a mental coin flip. Sometimes staying on major highways, and sometimes sticking to back roads. Past the Forks town line, out of Clallam county, and out of Washington. He hated himself for what had happened at Bella’s party. He had almost ruined everything Carlisle had built so carefully. And what would Edward think of him. He would have killed Bella if Emmet hadn’t been so much stronger than himself. He needed to remove himself from the situation. He wasn’t ready to live the way Carlisle did. He wanted to be able to but right now, he just couldn’t. He would continue to be vegetarian vampire, but he would have to live more nomadically. He would not stay in one spot for long. He could just pose as a backpacker and stay in the woods. He could probably stay there for years before he grew tired of that life. He had lived a similar lifestyle with Peter and Charlotte. He could do it again, but stick with his current diet. If he stayed in the woods he would have no problem keeping fed. It would be better. He would rarely come in contact with humans anyway.
He started planning his new life, not even keeping track of how many times the sun rose in front of him. Eventually, he realized that if he went any farther east, he would drive right into the Atlantic, so he pulled into a motel. He would need somewhere to stay while he pieced his plan together and collected the supplies he would need. It was no five star marriott, but it was hurricane season there so it would be nearly empty at this point in the year; it was exactly what he needed. He wanted to spend as little time with humans as possible, so instead of getting out of the car, he pulled out his silver cell phone and called the number painted on the sign. He had spent the last forty or so hours in near total silence, so when the buttons beeped as he pressed them, the noise startled him. He informed the chirpy voice that answered on the second ring of his name and that he would be coming shortly and needed a room to stay in indefinitely.
“Okay, that will be no problem. I’ll obviously still need you to come into the front office with a credit card and ID, and I’ll get you all set up with a room key,”
“I have been driving for over twenty-four hours, and am very tired. I would really like to just get my key and go straight to my room,”
“I’m very sorry, sir, but I need to make an imprint of your card and a copy of your photo ID for security purposes. And I also need a signature from you as well. I can have everything ready so that it will all go as quick as possible though. I’ll even warm up the copier for you,” she said with a light chuckle.
“I guess that will have to do,” he huffed
“Thanks so much for understanding. I’ll see you soon,” she was overly polite and obviously not looking forward to meeting the rude stranger on the phone. He could make out her shadow through the curtains and watched as she bustled around the office to prepare for him to get there. She clearly wanted this interaction to be over as quickly and painlessly as possible just as much as he did. She had no idea of the actual pain he could inflict. Once her silhouette settled back behind the large desk, he opened the car door and headed through the misting rain towards the door. This weather almost made him feel as if he never even left Forks. He prepared himself for his first human interaction since Bella’s party with a steadying breath.
When he stepped in the office it smelled pleasantly earthy. It was bright and warm after the cold damp evening. A comfortable chair sat in front of the desk-presumably for customers to have a seat while she worked on getting them set up in a room. There was a set of french doors on the back wall with curtains hung to block the room-most likely a private office of some sort. A vase of flowers sat on the desk, and potted house plants on the shelves behind her. He recognized most of them, jade, peace lily, and an assortment of cacti and succulents. There were a few notebooks and other important looking papers strewn across the desk, but it was a novel-Of Mice and Men- which she held in front of her face with her full attention. Her left hand held the book up, and her right was curled around a large green coffee mug. The woman-or girl was more accurate for she was barely older than he had been when he was turned- sat behind a computer that illuminated her features with an eerie glow.
She looked up when she heard the bell on the door tinkle. She set her book and coffee down and and said “Good evening! Are you Jasper Hale?” He nodded curtly. “Okay great. I just need your credit card and photo identif-“ he cut her off mid word by flashing the two cards in front of her face. It was too fast; inhumanly fast. She was clearly startled, but regained her composure quickly. He softened his features and quickly quirked the corners of his mouth up in an apologetic grin. She took the cards from his outstretched hand and walked to the back wall where a large copier hummed loudly.
She called over her shoulder to him, “If you could just sign and initial those forms on the desk where I highlighted for you,” She placed the ID on the glass surface and punched the keys, then put the credit card on another machine that made an imprint of all of the information on it. “Once you’re done that is your key right there and the room number is on the keychain,” she said with a tone implying that the transaction was just about complete. She took her two fresh copies and Jasper’s cards and brought it all back to the desk. As he took the cards from her, she slid the paper along her fingers to align the corners.
He should have seen it coming. It was like a bad movie plot point. Of course this would happen now, when he was weakest and most emotional. The paper sliced under her skin on the inside of her knuckle. What an unoriginal bit of fate. He had run across the country from one paper cut, only to have his next interaction be so painfully similar. Except in this scenario, the room was smaller, the cut larger, and his humongous adoptive brother wasn’t there to wrestle him into a safe place. In slow motion, he watched the blood well up in the tiny wound.
“I need to go,” he grunted at her holding his breath and trying not to smell the intoxicating aroma that permeated the air all around him. He snagged the key and left too fast. She would notice if he kept moving too fast, but it would have been more noticeable had he bared his teeth and sucked her dry.
When he got to his room he sat on the bed he finally let the emotions of the past few days crash over him. Because of his gift, he always felt things stronger than anyone else. People often assumed that he just read the emotions in a room, but it was so much more than that. When he “read” a room, it was more like… tasting. It wasn't like a switchboard that lit up different colors to indicate basic emotions. He felt them in all of their complex intensity. When someone in one of his classes felt like they were going to fail a history test, it made him anxious over the exact same thing, even though he had been through high school countless times and literally lived through the Civil War. If someone had had a fight with a parent, he became irrationally mad at Carlisle and Esme. And as for his own emotions, they couldn’t even be measured on the same scale as a normal human. Everything was so much more.
The loneliness of not being with his family, the heartbreak of leaving Alice behind, the deep shame for what he almost did to Bella all flooded his veins at the same time and he sobbed. No tears came, no tears would ever come again, but his chest heaved and air escaped his lungs in small gasps. He didn’t even take the time to realize that he should have frenzied when that girl started to bleed. Every ounce of his body wanted to call Alice. Even speaking to Carlisle or Esme would have made him feel a little better. But they would want to know where he was, and he wasn’t sure he would be strong enough not to tell them. Then, they would probably come to get him. He couldn’t afford that. He had to be on his own, at least for now. He couldn’t face him family and it was too dangerous to be around humans. School was bad enough, but his only time frame to relax and not worry about killing someone was shrinking as Edward brought Bella around more often. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Bella; he truly did. But home was a safe space, somewhere he would be fully comfortable. School was a constant temptation- like a man dying of thirst in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by water but unable to drink any of it.
After a little while of self pity, there was a faint rapping on the door. He looked up to see a folder had been slid under the door. Inside was a copy of the forms he had signed, his credit card, and ID all of which he had left behind in his haste to leave. There was a note written on personalized hotel stationary attached as well. “You left in such a hurry you forgot your things. If there is anything I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to call the office. The name printed at the bottom was Alice. Just seeing the name forced another stab of pain through his entire body. He could only imagine the pain he was inflicting on her. He had hardly spent any time away from her since that fateful day when she found-no, saved him. Just another thing to hate himself for.
He opened the door to see if she was still there, but she was already nearly back at the office. She was likely still annoyed with him so he went back into his room and quietly closed the door. He went into the bathroom to shower in hopes of relaxing his tense muscles. When he saw his reflection in the mirror over the sink, he almost startled himself. His eyes were black with heavy black circles underneath. Much darker than he ever let them get. No wonder he had been so awful. He had hunted a few days ago, just before Bella’s party, but all of the excitement must have made him hungry again. He had seen some wooded areas a little while back and was sure he would be able to find some deer. He forgot all about the shower to hunt, and stayed in the woods until dawn.
In the morning with his hunger satisfied, he began to feel ashamed of how he treated the young woman in the office. She was just doing her job and being human. None of it was her fault, much the same way that the party wasn’t Bella’s fault. Before he could lose his nerve, he made his way back to the small building that housed the office. He opened the door and the bell tinkled again. She looked up at the sound of the bell; when she registered his face, she smiled sheepishly.
“Good morning, Mr. Hale. I want to apologize for being curt with you last night. I had a… bad day, but I absolutely shouldn't have taken it out on you. It was very unprofessional of me. I’m very sorry,”
For the first time in what seemed like forever, he laughed. “You’re sorry?” he asked, “You aren’t the one who was rude. I actually came down here to apologize to you. I also had a bad couple of days, but that was hardly your fault,” he controlled the laughter he could still feel bubbling at his lips. “Alice, I hope you can see that I am deeply sorry for treating you that way.”
She chuckled along with him, “Well I guess that makes us even. And please, call me Allie,” She said stretching out her hand to him.
Without thinking, he took it and she shuttered involuntarily at his icy grip. He forced a chuckle, “Sorry I run a little cold and I just spent a few minutes outside. It’s unseasonably cold” He blew into his hands and rubbed them together as if to warm them in an attempt to look a little more human; as if this small gesture would prove his humanity.
“Alice is such a lovely name. And not very common in this day and age,” he said. It felt good to speak to someone.
“Honestly, if it were up to me, I would just have Allie on my stationary, but my dad owns the place and insists I use my full name, no matter how much I might hate it,” she said with a light laugh.
“My girlfriend’s name is Alice,” he said almost wistfully. Thinking only of Alice’s smile and how much he wanted to see her. However, he could feel that Allie and misinterpreted his tone.
“Not- not that it’s not a pretty name. I just… it just doesn’t quite seem to…. fit me,” She finished lamely. “I’m sorry if I offended you,” she said again sincerely.
“No harm done, I just got lost in my thoughts. She couldn’t come on this trip with me, and I miss her,”
“I wanted to ask, why did you come to the east coast in the middle of hurricane season? There’s not a lot of people coming this way this time of year,”
“It was spur of the moment I guess. I needed to get out of town, so I just started driving. I only stopped when I saw the ocean,”
“I hope you’re not running from the law or anything,” she joked, but didn’t press the issue of why he left Forks to begin with.
It was an easy conversation. She was very relaxed without having to use his gift at all. She was easy to talk to and seemed to enjoy having the company. He spent most of the day in her office where she told him about growing up in her parent’s business and how she had to grow up pretty fast because they expected her to work from a young age. She asked him questions, but he deftly deflected them. Sometimes subbing in a story about his adoptive family in the place of a story from his actual early days. She exuded an aura of contentedness that was rare. Almost everyone had an undercurrent of bitterness or anger to all of their emotions, but Allie just seemed happy.
He began going back to the office whenever she didn’t seem too busy. Sometimes they would talk, and sometimes they sat in a comfortable silence while she worked. On days when she needed to work, she let him read the books on her shelf or use the playing cards she kept in her desk drawer. He liked Allie a lot, and liked spending time with her. Maybe it was her perpetual good mood that was impossible for him to ignore; maybe it was because she was the first human to show him actual kindness for no reason other than the goodness of her heart. It was something he wasn’t used to. Bella was the only human he ever spoke to for more than one sentence at a time, and she would have ignored him completely if not for Edward. They had moved a smidge closer to being friends after keeping her safe from James in that other motel that felt a million miles away and a million years ago. But Allie was just kind.
One day, he was in the office and the book she had been reading when he first arrived-Of Mice and Men- was on the chair. “You know I’ve never read this book. What’s it about anyway?”
Her fingers froze on her keyboard. “Never? Like not even in high school? Not even the sparknotes of it?” she was baffled.
He laughed a throaty laugh, “Come on tell me what it’s about,”
“Um, migrant workers during the Great Depression is the best I can tell you without telling you the whole book. Feel free to take that back to your room. I’ve read it a hundred times, I won’t miss it. You’ve taken care of the other books you borrowed so I trust you,” she said with a wink. “Plus that book is like ten pages so it’s a quick read. Sad though,” She resumed her typing.
He took the book with a grin and went to his room to begin reading. It didn’t take him long to read. When he finished it, it was around 10pm. He opened the front door and looked towards the office. The lights were still on- she was still there. He stormed down the walk and nearly threw the door into Allie because she was just on the other side, purse in hand, about to leave.
“What the fuck?” He said waving the paperback in her face.
“What? You didn’t like it?” Her eyebrows furrowed together.
“Like it? No. George looked out for Lennie and kept him safe. Then he killed him? He didn’t mean to kill that girl. He just didn’t know his own strength,”
“That’s kinda the point though. Was George right? Was it ethical of George to be the judge? To make the decision to kill Lennie? There’s a lot more to it than that though. It’s a whole allegory,”
“Yeah I got all of that. Evils of the world and whatnot. But what? People who screw up don’t get a second chance? They’re just fated to be shot by their best friend? That doesn’t seem fair,”
She chuckled, “Yeah I hear you. I hope you at least enjoyed it,”
“Why do you recommend that to people?” he asked.
They continued to talk about the book and stayed there past midnight. He realized he needed to act human after a while and yawned loudly and told her he needed to get to bed but thanked her for the book.
It was sunny for the next few days so he was confined to his room. The longer he had to stay there the more time he had to think unpleasant thoughts. He thought about Alice again, and he also started to consider how much Esme must be hurting. Edward was probably mad at him. He considered calling Emmett or Rosalie, but they might tell Carlisle and he still wasn’t ready to face them.
After a few days, the clouds rolled in again and hid the sun and he could finally leave the room. It had been a while since he saw Allie and he decided to take a walk down there and see her.
He strolled to the office, just feeling good to breathe fresh air after the days of being locked in the room because of the sunshine. As he passed the office he was overcome with a horrible overwhelming dread. This dread was not his own. It pressed itself through his skin and settled into his bones. He peeked in the window through a spot where the curtain was not quite fully shut. A large man stood at the counter towering over Allie who looked even smaller than normal. Her face was a nearly impassive mask, but even without the external panic seeping into his bones Jasper could tell where this feeling was coming from; her normally soft and expressive eyes were cold and hard. She was almost unrecognizable in her fear.
He bolted in the office careful not to open door too wide to set off the bell. “Look Nate, I’m going to say this one last time. Leave now, or I will call the cops,” Allie said evenly. Trying to keep her mask of calm.
“You’re not going to call the cops on me,” Nate scoffed at her.
“You came to my place of business and began making threats,” Her voice was ice. It was nothing like Jasper had heard from her. Catching the movement in the corner of her eye, she flickered her gaze to Jasper he felt her panic ease the slightest bit. He realized that now, if nothing else, she had a witness.
“I’ll be with you in one moment, sir. Have a seat if you’d like,” her eyes pleading with him to just stay in the office. That would be enough to keep her safe.
“How about you come back in a few minutes instead. This is personal,” Nate turned to Jasper, eyes blazing.
“I think I’m right where I’m needed. Maybe you should be the one to leave,” Jasper returned, the hint of a southern accent he had never quite been able to lose was a little stronger in stressful situations.
“Now listen here, redneck, this doesn’t concern you,” He turned on Jasper. He briefly considered calming him with his gift, but he didn’t want to manipulate Allie into feeling safe in a very unsafe situation.
“Listen friend, you’re making this a lot worse for yourself. Just leave. Nothing bad will happen if you just leave,”
“Who is this guy anyway Allie? This who you left me for? This your new boy toy?” He asked her as he rounded the side of the desk, encroaching on her territory. She tried to stand her ground, but he terrified her and she took a step back.
“Stop, right now. You absolutely cannot be rude to my customers,” her voice cracked the slightest bit as she reached over and picked up the phone. As she dialed, he knocked the phone out of her hands and shoved her back through the glass door on the back wall. Jasper was quick though. He grabbed the phone before it even fell to the desk and told the operator the name of the motel and that the police and an ambulance would be needed.
“I’m out of here,” Nate started to storm off, but Jasper caught his arm.
“You aren’t going anywhere,” he whispered just loud enough to intimidate.
“The fuck I’m not. Let go of me or I’m going to get real mad, real quick,”
Jasper smirked, he would have loved to see this guy get mad. He would have loved to see Nate’s expression when he punched Jasper and realized that his skin was like granite. But he couldn’t let that happen. It would have been a clear indicator that he was not human. So instead he calmed the situation just enough that he could force Nate into the chair and make him stay there. Only a few seconds had passed, but he finally realized there was a smell in the air. Blood. Allie must be bleeding. He looked over and she was trying to sit up without forcing more glass into her skin. He could see red flowers blooming on the shoulders of her white shirt. He bit his lip and clenched his fists waiting for the frenzy to start; it never came. He wanted to feed, of course, but this… resistance was new to him. He had to get her outside. If he was going to test his luck by staying near her, he would have an easier time being out in the fresh air. He reached out his hand to her and said “Let's get you outside,” She took it and tried to lift herself up, Jasper did most of the actual lifting because she was completely dazed. He gingerly put his arm around her waist and half carried her outside. That was a little better. After a few moments, she seemed to come out of the trance.
“I’m really sorry,” she mumbled.
“You must be more confused than I thought. What are you apologizing for, Allie”
“All of that,” She motioned to the office where Nate still sat. “I have a restraining order against him so I really didn’t think he would come by again”
“That wasn’t you. That was him,” Jasper was still holding his breath, but it was getting easier. Allie started picking the glass out of her palms. “That will just make it bleed more and maybe force the glass deeper. The ambulance should be here any minute,” He said placing his hands gently on hers. The ambulance arrived a few minutes before the police so Jasper related what had happened to the EMTs. He told them that Allie probably had a concussion and would likely need stitches. She gave him a questioning look. He shrugged and replied “My dad’s a doctor,” When the cops arrived, Jasper retold the story, including the detail of the restraining order. They put Nate in handcuffs and drove away, leaving Jasper there by himself. Feeling a little bit useless, he went to her computer and found someone to replace the door. He called them and gave his credit card number to bill and told them that he would pay extra to have them come as soon as possible. They readily agreed and said they would be there the next day.
With nothing else to do, he drove himself to the hospital. This was a bad idea. There was a lot of blood in hospitals. He sat in the car and dialed the front desk. He told the woman who answered that he wanted all of Allie’s bills to be put on his credit card. He was sure Carlisle wouldn’t mind the generous spending, though he may have to call to let him know what it was being used for, but that could wait for now.
He kept an eye on the front door waiting for Allie to walk through. After a few hours, she finally did. Jasper causally got out of the car and began walking to the doors, then acted surprised to see her.
“Hey, I was just coming to check on you. Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, just some cuts and bruises. And you were right about the concussion too,”
He couldn’t believe that after all of that, she was still remarkably calm. A little bit bitter, but that too was fading.
“Well since you’re fine, I’m going back to the motel now. Do you need a ride?” he asked.
“That would actually be amazing. I had no idea how I was going to get home,”
They walked back to his car and she ducked into it gasping a little as the movement stretched her wounds.
After a few minutes of comfortable silence, Allie spoke up. “Thank you for doing that back there,” She said as if embarrassed. “I really don’t know what would have happened if you weren’t there, and I don’t really want to think about it, but I doubt I would be leaving the hospital with just a few stitches,”
“I’m just glad you’re okay. If your injuries had been any worse I would have done something… very bad,”
“What do you mean?” She asked
“See I have-” he hesitated trying to come up with a lie that would still give her some insight on why he was this way, “-anger issues. And what happened back there should have sent me into an uncontrollable rage. That’s why I left Washington. I lost my cool at a party. My brother had to physically wrestle me away until I calmed down. I almost hurt someone. I could have killed a friend. Before that, I had been good for a really long time. No episodes for years. I could feel the anger boiling in me” he kept up the anger analogy easily “but nothing had trigger an attack like that in so long. I don’t know what I’m capable of when that happens. It’s like I’m not in control anymore. My family has been trying to help me, but I think I’m too far gone. They always have to be ready to pull me away from a situation that could go south,”
Her eyes were thoughtful and she chewed on her lip for a moment. Then, she sighed as if arranging her thoughts. Not for the first time, Jasper wished he could do what Edward could. After a moment she looked up at him and started “I want to tell you a story, but I promise it has a point, so be patient with me, okay?” He nodded with encouragement, wanting to hear her take on things. “So when I was about ten or eleven years old, my family decided to get our first dog. I begged for years, but my mom was always hesitant. She trusted cats more. So one day they finally give in to my and my brother’s constant pleading. On my insisting, we got this huge beast of a rottweiler. I named him Zeus because he had this patch of brown on his front leg that looked like a lightning bolt. He was the sweetest dog ever. But he made my mom anxious. She was constantly worried he was going to bite me. Dogs are super sensitive to emotions, so Zeus picked up on that,” Jasper noticed that she had started subconsciously rubbing a string of small scars on her left arm. “Every time he moved too fast or barked too loud or did any normal dog thing, all she could think was that he was going to bite someone so she got tense which made him tense. In just a few years he went from a very relaxed, sweet dog to an anxious mess. And eventually he bit me. It was a pretty bad bite, I needed a few stitches. But it wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t because he was naturally aggressive. He picked up on my mom thinking he was going to bite and I guess he started thinking that, too, started feeling like that’s what he was supposed to do. So, if everyone around you is worried that you’re going to have another episode, then maybe,” she paused, as if choosing her words carefully before the rest of her thoughts came tumbling out with little grace to them at all “Maybe it's not you. Maybe it’s because everyone around you is constantly thinking “Jasper is going to lose his cool” so you pick up on that and suddenly that’s what you feel too. Only, you think that it’s your own thought because it’s been so ingrained in you for so long. And besides, I don't think that anyone is too far gone if they want to get better,”
He drew back. Her words made perfect sense, but he couldn’t bring himself to blame his family for his failures. It wasn’t their fault he existed the way he did before they came along. Picking up on their unease for nearly a hundred years may have had an effect, but they had done so much for him he couldn’t make himself fault them.
As if reading this on his face she added somewhat weakly “and it’s not like it’s their fault either. My mom had a bad experience with dogs when she was young. That’s why she was so resistant all along”
“What happened to Zeus?” He asked unsure if he was trying to change the subject or discover what his punishment would be.
She hesitated, a sadness boiling over from her eyes and into the room’s atmosphere. Was that for her old friend, or her new one? Or maybe both. “We had to put him down. My mom refused to live in a house with anything that had hurt any of her kids,” They both let the subject drop, and soon they pulled into the motel parking lot.
“Well I better go and make some calls to get his door fixed. Again, thank you so much,” she said as she started walking towards the office.
“About that… I kind of already made those calls for you. They’ll be here tomorrow,”
“You really didn’t have to do that, but thank you. Did they give you a quote? I’ll just have to let my parents know before I write a check for that much,”
“It’s already taken care of,” he assured her.
“I can’t let you do that,”
“It’s a friend of mine and he’s doing me a favor,” he lied “Don’t worry about it,”
She groaned and thanked him again with the promise that she’d write him a check anyway for it. He helped her clean up the glass and when they finished, she caught a glimpse of herself in the window. She looked tired and bloodied and she still hadn’t changed her clothes. They left the office and parted ways. He watched her get into her car and drive off. He heard her car pull in again a few hours later but didn’t want to overwhelm her. He kept an ear out for any sounds of movement but all was quiet after that. He hated to leave right now, but he needed to hunt. The day’s events were just too much and he would feel stronger after hunting.
The next morning he went to check on Allie. There was a sign taped to the office door “CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS. OFFICE TEMPORARILY MOVED TO ROOM 101” with large arrow pointing at the door ten feet away that was propped open.
He walked through the doorway and he had almost forgotten how terrible she looked. She was a little hunched over with a grimace of pain on her face. Her eyes were bloodshot and had dark circles underneath, probably from a long night without any sleep. However her mood was still surprisingly cheerful.
The bed had been shoved into the corner of the room, and the desk turned so she faced the door. On the bed, a large dog lifted his head and gently woofed. Allie looked up “Thanks, Atlas,” she said to the dog. “They’re fixing the door in the office so I set up shop in here rather than be in their way all day,” She answered his questioning look at the change of venue.
“I thought you weren’t a dog person anymore,” he jerked his chin towards the beast on the bed.
“I said my mom won’t have a dog. Not me,”
He quirked an eyebrow up in another question. She sighed and said “Do you want to hear another long story about me and dogs?”
He laughed out loud “how can I say no to that?”
“Alright,” she closed her books and paused, “Right after I moved out of my parents house, I was in this shitty little apartment in a shitty neighborhood and I started dating Nate. It wasn’t the best situation but it was so different from living here with my parents, so I was happy. I was at a bar one night and I heard about this dog fighting ring because I was eavesdropping while waiting for a friend. For the next few weeks, through some… less than safe methods, I found out that it was not that far from my apartment. I called the cops, but they told me they had had a few calls about it but without evidence they couldn’t do anything. So again through less than safe methods I got all the evidence they should have needed,” Jasper grinned at her foolishness, “I found out when and where it was happening but they still wouldn’t do anything. So instead, the day it was supposed to happen I went and parked about a block away then called the cops again. All I told them this time was where I was and that I needed help. They show up a few minutes later. They were pissed because the one guy recognized me from my other calls and visits to the station while trying to get them to do something. But I told them ‘you’re already here just go check it out or I will’ so they did and I was obviously right. They wanted me to just go home but I wanted to make sure they actually went through with it so I kept my distance and just stayed by the cop cars. They arrested a whole bunch of people and animal control took away so many dogs. As the cops are parading the people back to the cars in handcuffs, I see Nate. He’s grinning like a maniac and he shouts out my name. I told him to never contact me, never even think about me again. I was horrified. I started freaking out so I just went to my car and cried for a while while they wrapped everything else up. He actually ended up stalking me and that’s why I have the restraining order, but that’s another story.
“A little bit after everything had settled, this skinny little dog comes out of the woods with his tail between his legs. He was so scared and beat up it broke my heart. So I got him to jump in my car with some snacks I had in the back seat and I brought him to an animal hospital. He was in terrible condition, but they stitched him up and gave him tons of medications. I took care of him and nursed him back to health. And now he’s spoiled and sleeps on the bed and gets a million kisses every day. But he deserves all of that because of what he went through. In return he protects me. He still recognizes Nate, and now that he’s healthy and well fed, Nate is terrified of him. That’s actually why I brought him with me,” she laughed, “He came from this awful situation where he was beat by the people who were supposed to take care of him and forced into violence, but after being shown some love and attention, he eventually became very non-aggressive and affectionate. It just took time,” She shrugged. As she told his story, Atlas got off the bed and put his huge head into her lap. She started mindlessly stroking and scratching around his face and ears. She picked off a piece of her muffin and held it out. He took it gently from her fingers and laid down next to her.
Jasper was so amazed. He couldn’t reconcile this overgrown puppy with the violent history Allie described. It must have been the calm goodness that leaked from Allie that had helped his soul heal. Jasper could understand how anyone or anything with a burden in them could benefit from being around her.
He couldn’t help but relate to the dog. He was taken in with a promise of care and protection, but instead he was used and turned into a monster- not unlike his own experience with Maria. Then to be brought into a loving home where he was taken care of, it had made all the difference in the world to both Atlas and himself. As long as he believed he could be good and he could help his family see that it would be easier once they all relaxed, he could go back to living that lifestyle. He could go back to Carlisle and Esme. And Alice.
Just as he was coming to this realization, he heard tires screeching through the gravel parking lot. In the second it took for Allie to lift her head, they were already in the room. Alice registered Allie’s face and froze in total confusion. In another split second, Jasper was up and embracing her hard. Carlisle was also confused but patted Jasper’s back. After a few moments, past the confusion, he felt a deep embarrassment. He turned around to see Allie very pointedly staring at her computer. She didn’t want to intrude on this very personal moment.
“Allie this is my father, Carlisle, and my girlfriend Alice,”
She stood and shook both of their hands.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with Allie these past few weeks. I have so much to tell you all,” he said, hardly able to take his eyes off Alice.
“Are you ready to come home?” Carlisle asked him.
“I think I finally am. I’ll go get my things,” They followed him to his room.
“I saw…” Alice started but couldn’t continued but couldn’t finish, “That girl in there should have died. What happened?”
“I just controlled it. It was hard but I was able to do it. I think I even have an explanation,” He was still riding the high of possibly figuring out what was wrong with him, on top of seeing Alice again. They all went back to the office.
“I’m sorry for leaving on such short notice, Allie, but I think it’s finally time for me to go home,”
“Thanks for keeping me company these past few weeks,” She wasn’t looking at him but he could see the beginnings of tears in her eyes and felt the bitter-sweetness she felt. He was almost surprised. He couldn’t believe that he had come to mean so much to someone in such a short period of time. He set his duffel bag on the desk in order to fish the room key from his pocket.
“Next time I come out here, I’ll be sure to stay here,” He held out the key and she took it.
He looked back to Alice, but out of the corner of his eye he saw a flash of movement from Allie.
He and his family trudged out to the cars. Carlisle took Jasper’s car so that Jasper and Alice could spend that time together. He told Alice everything that had happened, and everything Allie said about his false anger issues.
“It makes sense,” she said after a thoughtful pause “I’m sure Carlisle will love that,” She smiled at him. He couldn’t get enough of her smile. Suddenly he remembered the flash of movement, and became curious. He searched in the side pockets of his duffel bag and found a book that wasn’t his. Of Mice and Men. He half laughed and flipped the pages. He noticed on the inside cover was a handwritten note.

Jasper,

You aren’t Lennie and you aren’t Zeus. Your story will have a different ending. You carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, and I think it’s time you ease up on yourself.

-Allie