Jasper Hale was many things, but he was proud to say that a coward was not one of them. He’d fought newborns, looked death in the eye on the battlefield as a human, and denied his true nature as a vampire to feast on animal blood. Having a family as supportive as the Cullens and a mate like Alice certainly helped Jasper overcome his rather violent and traumatic past. He would do anything for them. Including, apparently, going into town to watch the local fireworks show even though he had no interest or idea of what fireworks were. It didn’t sound like such a bad idea, from what Edward had described. They lit up the sky in bright colors and flashes. Alice told him they were beautiful. He had his doubts, but he trusted their judgment. Carlisle stashed a blanket for all of them to sit on in the back of his car. Jasper got in there with Alice and Esme, while Emmett, Rosalie, and Edward took Edward’s car. The family arrived at the top of a hill overlooking the town. It was only their first summer there, but the small area was already becoming familiar. Alice helped Carlisle spread out the blanket and everyone took a seat. Alice immediately made herself comfortable in Jasper’s arms, snuggling into his chest and tangling their legs together.
“When exactly are these...fireworks supposed to start?” Jasper asked her quietly, observing his siblings and adoptive parents as they chatted among themselves. Alice hummed softly and played with the collar of his jacket.
“Soon, it seems like they’re just finishing the-“ Alice suddenly froze, gripping tighter onto Jasper. The blonde vampire immediately became concerned, sensing his mate’s distress. He cupped her face with one hand, gently encouraging her to meet his gaze. The silent question that hung in the air was easily detected by Alice. “We need to go, right now,” she whispered earnestly, grabbing Jasper’s hand and dragging him to his feet with her typical vampire strength. Jasper’s brow furrowed in confusion.
“Why? Alice, what did you see?” Jasper asked, gripping her hand in both of his. Before Alice could reply, Jasper’s attention was caught by a streak of gold shooting into the air. Was that a firework? Jasper’s curiosity piqued until the firework exploded into a burst of blue, the loud crashing sound echoing through the air. Jasper’s entire body tensed and he stared at the sky in horror. But he wasn’t really looking at the sky. No, Jasper had been transported to a different place entirely.
As fireworks continued to explode in the air, Jasper found himself on All too familiar terrain. Men in uniforms or tattered farm clothes shouted and ran for cover as buckets ricocheted through the air. A group of men, all who couldn’t be any older than 18, were blown backward as a cannonball landed directly in front of them. There was blood, so much blood, and the screams… Jasper fell to his knees, his throat tightening involuntarily. He was lucky vampires didn’t need to breathe to live because he couldn’t have sucked any air in even if he wanted to. He scrambled backward as a body mangled with bullets and shards of metal fell in front of him, the face of the soldier covered in so much blood he was unrecognizable. Jasper needed to get out of there, find safety.
The vampire tried to move but he was frozen in place with fear. Even with screams and explosions and young boys dying at his feet, Jasper couldn’t move. Every muscle in his body was drawn taut and screamed for him to run, but refused to let him move. Finally, he managed to crouch, pressing his knees and forehead against the ground and wrapping his arms around his neck. He jerked and let out a choked scream as another cannonball whistled overhead and exploded just inches away from him. He faintly heard someone crying out his name but he couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, couldn’t look up to see who had spoken to him. He couldn’t do it.
“Jasper? Jasper, come back to us,” Emmett was saying earnestly, shaking the man he loved as a brother by the shoulders. Jasper looked at him without seeing him, eyes sharp and wide in terror. He was muttering things under his breath, gripping hard at the grass and the blanket underneath him. Emmett tried not to panic, knowing Jasper would sense it and only get worse. Carlisle rested a hand on his back and Emmett looked up to see Edward looking down at them solemnly.
“We need to get Jasper out of here, away from the fireworks. It’s triggering some sort of trauma-related reaction,” Edward said. Emmett nodded curtly and hefted Jasper Into his arms, guessing the other man was in no state to walk by himself. Jasper, however, seemed to have other ideas.
“No!” Jasper screamed, thrashing in Emmett’s grip, eyes blown wide. Emmett winced as Jasper dug his nails into his chest and clawed at him. There would definitely be marks later.
“Put him in the back Emmett, I’ll help calm him,” Alice said earnestly, getting into Carlisle’s car. Jasper resisted Emmett’s attempts until Alice grabbed his wrist, her eyes set firmly in determination. Jasper’s eyes finally began to focus and he grabbed on to Alice, shaking and breathing in heavy pants despite not actually needing air. His eyes still clouded with fear, were at least focused on the current world and not the past one. Another firework went off and Jasper cried out, practically flinging himself at Alice and shaking. Emmett wanted to say something, to comfort Jasper, but then Rosalie was grabbing his arm.
“The sooner we get to my car, the sooner they can get Jasper out of here,” Rosalie said to her husband, taking him by the arm and leading him to her car. Emmett kept stealing worried glances at the other car as Carlisle and Esme got in and quickly sped off to return home. Jasper was still shaking and flinched at the increasingly distant explosions. Carlisle gripped Esme’s hand, tense and worried as his adoptive son’s terror didn’t seem to fade, even when they were well out of earshot of the fireworks. Alice pet Jasper’s hair and whispered to him, holding him close to her and not letting go. Jasper’s eyes grew distant again, but he seemed more aware this time around. He suddenly reached out a hand and grabbed Esme’s wrist, sitting up weakly. Surprised, Esme let go of Carlisle’s hand.
“M-Ma,” Jasper murmured, his hand shaking as he gripped Esme’s wrist. “Ma, I’m so sorry, everyone was so excited about tonight and I ruined it. I’m sorry,” Jasper continued, his voice quivering. If vampires could shed tears, Jasper would have been bawling. Esme’s eyes softened and she squeezed her son’s hand.
“You haven’t ruined anything. Your brothers and sister just want you to be alright, so do Carlisle and I. You don’t need to be sorry,” Esme reassured him, running a thumb over his knuckles. Jasper, still trembling, nodded and withdrew his hand. Alice nuzzled into him, continuing her gentle whispers and making sure Jasper could sense the calm and the love she felt to help ease him. Jasper closed his eyes and leaned against her, holding her hand and wrapping an arm around her waist to keep her close.
Rosalie, Edward, and Emmett were all waiting anxiously back at the house. As soon as Alice entered the home with an exhausted and shaken Jasper leaning against her heavily, Emmett strode over to them. Jasper tensed instinctively and the older vampire stopped, putting his hands up in a surrendering gesture.
“I’m not going to hurt you, I just wanted…” His voice trailed off. Jasper glanced him up and down, seemed to get the message, and parted away from Alice to wrap his arms around Emmett. Emmett immediately pulled him close, the embrace tight but comforting. Jasper was almost dizzy as he felt the concern and worry rolling off of his brother in waves. He shook his head but the room kept spinning. He groaned softly.
“Couch?” Jasper mumbled. Emmett ended the hug but kept an arm around his brother, guiding him to the couch and helping him settle. Emmett pulled away but Jasper gripped hard onto his wrist, head shooting up. At Emmett’s confused look, Jasper grimaced and whispered, “You’re calm, surprisingly. It’s comforting.” Emmett immediately sat beside Jasper, willing himself to relax further and concentrating on channeling that emotion as much as possible. Alice, appearing from the doorway, sat on the other side of her husband and held his hand. Jasper closed his eyes and leaned his head on her shoulder, his own shoulders slowly becoming less tense and his body slowly relaxing.
“Are you alright, Jasper?” Carlisle asked as he entered the room with Esme. Jasper hummed softly in response and nodded, not feeling up to saying anything. He could feel how worried they all were, how scared they were for him, and it made him uneasy, Emmett and Alice’s emotions were strong, however, and Jasper could tell they were trying to project them as much as possible, which did help. Carlisle sat on the couch opposite the three vampires, Rosalie, Edward, and Esme joining him. “Can you tell us what happened?” Carlisle continued. Jasper’s eyes opened and he met Carlisle’s gaze. It was pleading. “Is it alright if Edward tells us?” Jasper hesitated before nodding, then buried his face back in Alice’s shoulder. Carlisle turned to his other son and nodded slightly. Edward looked at Jasper for a moment.
“The fireworks made him remember his time as a Confederate soldier. Specifically, the battles. He was in the middle of the battlefield and was watching soldiers dying. Apparently, the fireworks reminded him of the gunshots and explosions,” Edward explained the best he could. He could read thoughts, not see people’s memories, and Jasper’s thoughts were somewhat incoherent and panicked at the moment. Carlisle gazed at Jasper thoughtfully, taking Edward’s information and picking it apart.
“That sounds like Post Traumatic Stress. It’s fairly common in war veterans and abuse victims. Have you heard of it?” he said. Jasper nodded and turned his head to face Carlisle to show he was listening. “I’m not trained in mental illness, so I can’t diagnose you officially, but based on what Edward said and how you acted back at the celebration, that’s exactly what it sounds like.” Jasper’s expression became pained when Carlisle brought up the Fourth of July celebration. He opened his mouth to speak and Edward glowered him, cutting him off.
“Don’t you dare,” he hissed, golden eyes flashed dangerously. “You did nothing wrong, Jasper.” Carlisle raised an eyebrow at him and Edward angrily said, “Jasper thinks he ruined the night and we’re all angry at him.” Jasper made a pained noise in his throat and Alice frowned.
“We aren’t angry, Jasper. We’re worried for you,” Alice said, cupping Jasper’s face in both of her hands. Jasper met her gaze tiredly. His shoulders sagged and he placed a hand over one of hers, gently tracing a finger over the back of her hand before removing it from his face and gripping it tightly.
“You should be. First, you couldn’t take me anywhere because of my bloodlust, now you can’t take me anywhere because I panic over loud noises,” Jasper said. His voice was bitter and his gaze dropped again. He slid away from both Alice’s and Emmett’s grip, standing from the couch. He was gone in a split second, disappearing up the stairs and into the room that he and Alice shared. His mate followed quickly, and Emmett stood to follow as well, but Rosalie grabbed his arm.
“Let them have a minute,” she said. He tried to protest but Rosalie wasn’t having it. “Jasper needs space. We can talk to him later, ok?” Her voice was firm but loving. Emmett stared at the staircase for a moment before nodding, letting Rosalie lead him back to the couch.
“I never knew his time as a soldier affected him so much,” Emmett told him. He and Jasper were close. He was the one Jasper trusted the most after Alice, and they were both fairly open with each other. Emmett would never admit it, but it hurt to know Jasper had kept such an important thing from him when he told him almost everything. To be fair, Jasper didn’t like to share much. He never had, but Emmett and Alice could usually coax him into talking about things.
“Battle scars are not always physical, Emmett, and sometimes even the person suffering doesn’t realize it until something terrible happens,” Carlisle said solemnly. “I’m certain if Jasper had known about this he would have told us; he would consider it something to warn us about. But don’t take the fact that you didn’t know personally.” Hearing his father figure’s words made Emmett feel guilty, but he just nodded and said nothing, glancing at the stairs again and wishing that he could do something to help his brother.