“I just feel bad, you know?” A foot against the base of a tree only had to press slightly before the thick wood groaned and cracked, threatening to fall to the forest floor below. The snow was deep enough that Jasper imagined it would cause a mighty flurry to erupt around them, but he wasn’t about to stop Emmett from doing whatever he needed to distract himself. Grief rolled of him like a steady stream, relentless in it’s flow. “Like if we’d stayed, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“But we didn’t stay, and it did happen,” Jasper spoke gently, pushing back the guilt he’d only recently allowed himself to move on from. Alice had reasoned that it was likely that any type of incident that threatened Bella’s life, whether vampire-related or not, may have driven Edward away from her eventually. But Jasper knew that Alice had held onto hope even all these months later.
It really was a shame that Bella had died.
“It’s ridiculous,” Emmett finally pushed harder against the tree, and when it cracked and snapped beneath the force, catapulting snow into the air around them as the hundred-foot giant fell, neither man flinched. “It didn’t have to be like this. It wasn’t just his choice. She could’ve been one of us by now. It’s what she wanted.”
Emmett’s grief was a passing storm, Jasper knew. Emmett always handled change and tragedy and disappointment far better than any member of their odd little family. No matter how much the taller man cared for the now-dead human girl, Jasper knew that it wouldn’t take long for Emmett to move on.
As for their brother…
Jasper was dreading having to fill Carlisle and Esme in on the news. It didn’t feel right to deliver the news over the phone, so after a few vague voicemails and an even more ambiguous phone call, the pair were ending their hunting trip early and would be back at Tanya’s before midnight.
Not for the first time over the past couple of days, he wished Alice were still there. Empath that he was he had never been good at comfort, outside of using his ability to force it into the atmosphere. But still, Alice had tasked him with it regardless, informing him that Esme would take it hardest and it would be best to have them both back at the house before revealing the news.
And Edward, Alice said, absolutely could not know.
Rosalie had shocked Jasper by raging at that particular detail, her frustration trumping her initial shock and guilt so thoroughly Jasper had done a double-take, staring at the blonde curiously.
“He deserves to know,” Rosalie asserted, folding her arms over her chest as she eyed her shell-shocked husband, sitting at a nearby couch, his head in his hands. “It’s not fair for us to keep something like this from him.”
“I’m just relaying what Alice said,” Jasper deflected her irritation with half of a shrug, Tanya’s phone feeling particularly heavy in his hands. “It’s not like it would be easy information to get to him.”
Now, almost two days later, the knowledge that Bella Swan was dead sat in him like lead; heavy and unrelenting. Tanya and her sisters had expressed their sympathies, although Jasper could sense how bizarre they felt, watching Emmett frown and mope over some human girl. Carmen and Eleazar had volunteered to help them track down Edward, but Jasper quickly dismissed the offer, telling them what Alice had spoken.
Edward could not know. Not yet, at least.
“When Alice comes back, we’ll regroup,” Jasper spoke, watching as Emmett eyed an even-larger tree, likely considering knocking another one to the ground. “But when Carlisle and Esme come back, I’m going to need some back up.”
Emmett smiled thinly, nodding as he pulled his eyes off the tree and back toward Jasper. “Esme is going to be so wrecked.”
Jasper did not nod, but he did grimace at the idea of the matriarch of their family so distraught. It hadn’t mattered that the woman had only known Bella for a small amount of time. Esme had cherished and loved Bella the same as she did any of them.
It was as he was gathering the breath to speak, when Jasper stopped, his head turning back toward the direction of Tanya’s home in the distance.
Rosalie’s voice reached them only a millisecond before he’d felt it; sharp, piercing terror and guilt shooting through the somber atmosphere. Jasper was moving just as they heard the first shout.
“Emmett!” Rosalie screamed, “Emmett help!”
In all the races Jasper had entertained over the years, Emmett had never once beaten him, no matter how many times the taller man played dirty. But in all the years Jasper had been with the Cullens, through all her dramatic fits and tantrums, he had never once heard Rosalie sound so terrified.
So when Emmett beat him back to the property, snow flying around the men as they raced back toward the house, Jasper didn’t even find himself shocked. If someone could bend space and time through sheer strength alone, Jasper was sure Emmett would find a way. Anything to get to his wife.
They met a hysterical Rosalie half a mile from the house, and at first, little made sense.
“Rosie, Rosie,” Emmett held her tightly as words tumbled out of her too quickly and too disjointedly to make any sense. “Slow down, what’s going on?”
“I told him,” she screeched eventually, her words catching as the guilt and fear wrestled within her, “I messed up and I told him because he deserved to know and I—” when her words caught on a fully-formed sob, Jasper forced himself to look away. And as his eyes found Tanya and her sisters, appearing at the edge of the forest, worry coloring their faces, Rosalie finally let the rest of her words tumble out. “I miss my brother.”
And in that moment, Jasper knew what had happened.
Rosalie had told Edward Bella was dead.
Alice had strictly emphasized how that couldn’t happen. But now the boy knew. And Jasper didn’t have to be a mind-reader to guess how the impulsive teen was going to react.
“Oh, no,” Emmett whispered, clinging to his distraught wife. Jasper made eye contact with him and immediately knew that their minds were on the same page.
Now, Edward wouldn’t be coming back.
The story fell out in pieces, leaving Jasper and Emmett to sort through them to form the narrative on their own.
Bella wasn’t dead; a fact Alice neglected to let anyone else in on.
Alice was flying somewhere; it was unlikely that it would be back there, to Denali.
Edward wasn’t coming home; it was assumed that Alice was heading wherever he was.
Bella wasn’t dead, and Edward didn’t know it.
Thankfully it didn’t take long for Rosalie to calm. But while Emmett comforted her and soothed her guilt—guilt that Jasper could feel eating away at her stubborn facade—Jasper quickly and quietly explained to Tanya the situation.
“What can we do?” The strawberry blonde asked, sharing a horrified look with her sisters.
“I don’t know. I need to talk to Alice.”
And by the time they all made it back into the house, Esme and Carlisle had made it back from their trip.
One look at Rosalie, completely beside herself and shaking like a leaf, had forced the pair into action.
“What’s going on?” Carlisle demanded as Esme flew to Rosalie’s side, enveloping the girl in a tight embrace, her eyes as wide as saucers. “What happened?”
There had been plenty of things that Jasper never wanted Carlisle Cullen to find out. When he and Alice had first joined back in the fifties, that list had felt a mile long. Each fact about his past felt like a confession. Each story a token to pay for judgement never received.
Jasper watched Carlisle take so much in stride through the years that eventually, even after slip-ups, Jasper found himself comfortable enough to talk about it with the older man. To look him in the eye when the conversations transpired. He respected Carlisle, even cared for the man.
But how on Earth was he supposed to tell him that the boy he thought of as a beloved son might never be returning?
The hour that followed had been excruciating.
Emmett and Rosalie had disappeared soon after Carlisle and Esme’s arrival. It was only after Jasper asked when Irina hesitantly told him that they’d borrowed a car to drive to the closest airport in Fairbanks. From there, their plan was to call Alice and demand to know her location so they could help.
Not one to judge a plan made with good intentions Jasper had simply nodded and tried to tune out Esme’s grief.
He’d been right to suspect that the woman would take the news the hardest. If anyone Jasper had ever met deserved happiness, Esme did.
She’d already lost a son in a previous life. It felt cruel for history to repeat itself this way.
When the phone finally rang, Jasper answered it immediately.
“I don’t have much time,” Alice spoke, her strained voice immediately soothing some of his anxieties just by the sound alone. “I have to make it quick so the flight attendant doesn’t interfere.”
“Where are you going?” He spoke, feeling the nerves in the house immediately begin to rise. He knew Carlisle and Esme were only in the next room, listening in as Eleazar and Carmen lingered close by.
“I’m going to stop Edward. There’s no getting a hold of him, so don’t even try. Our only chance at stopping him is by getting to him as soon as we can.”
“We?” That surprised him. It didn’t sound like an invitation. But quickly his surprise faded. Of course Bella would want part of whatever intervention Alice was staging. “And where, Alice?”
“No,” he shouted the word before he could stop himself, and when he heard the sound of approaching footsteps he lowered his voice, curling himself around the phone as he walked in the opposite direction, “Alice, no.”
“If I don’t do this, Edward is as good as dead, Jasper.” Alice didn’t even sound surprised at his sudden outburst, of course. “Bella is alive, and once he sees that, I think we have a shot.”
“And if he doesn’t see that? What is he planning on doing? Join the Volturi?” It made little sense, but when it came to Edward’s fits, not much did. Of course, he was sure the alternative was more likely…
“He’s going to ask them to kill him.” She spoke, confirming his fears. “He knows they’re the only people who would willingly do it. And if they don’t want to do it willingly, he’ll force their hand.”
Jasper swore then, turning to see Carlisle standing in the doorway to the kitchen, a frown etched deep into his kind face. He knew the man could hear every word Alice was saying, even despite her lowered voice and hushed tone.
The two locked eyes for a moment before Jasper forced himself to look away and continue speaking.
“I can’t be sure, I keep seeing him do different things, he keeps changing his mind.”
“What’s he picking between?”
“A killing spree through the city, attacking the guard, lifting a car over his head in the main square,” Jasper hissed at that, hating the fact that Edward was truly considering all of these things for Alice to get even a vague vision of them. Alice continued without a beat. “Mostly things that would expose them—he knows that’s he fastest way to force a reaction.”
“Alice, I don’t think you can stop him on your own.” Not that he doubted Alice’s abilities for a second, but if Edward was so ravaged by grief and hopelessness that he’d resort to murdering innocents, he couldn’t help but fear what his brother might do if Alice tried to stop him on her own. “I can be there, just give me some time to get to the airport.”
“No, you can’t.”
“You’re going to have company anyways once Emmett figures out where you are.”
“Tell Emmett no.”
“He and Rosalie are likely at Fairbanks International now.” He was surprised she wasn’t aware of that. He was sure they would have been calling Alice non-stop by now. Truly all of her attention was focused on Edward.
“Well, go after Emmett and Rosalie and bring them back.”
“Alice, I think we could be of some help there. Seriously.”
“Think about it, Jasper. If he sees any of us, what do you think he will do?”
Jasper sighed at that. But when he realized Alice was waiting on a verbal reply he closed his eyes, running a hand through his hair. “He’ll act faster. He’ll know we’re just trying to stop him. That we’ll tell him anything to get him to listen.” Even if it was the truth, that Bella was alive, Edward would absolutely never believe them, especially with Alice knowing his true intentions.
“Exactly. I think Bella is the only chance—if there is a chance…”
“Be honest, Alice. What is the chance? It sounds like he’s got a head start on you two.”
“I’ll do everything that can be done, but prepare Carlisle; the odds aren’t good.”
“And what happens then? If you fail. You’ll be in Volterra with nothing but a human at your side. Aro will,” he swallowed, trying hard to ignore Carlisle’s concerned gaze on his back, “he won’t want to let you go if he sees into Edward’s mind.”
Of course, Alice had the goddamn audacity to sound amused at the idea. “I’ve thought of that.”
He forced a few calm breaths, then. “Alice, you need to promise me you won’t put yourself in danger. I refuse to let this situation get worse than it already is. And it’s already bad enough. Promise me you’ll get out.”
“Yes, I promise.” But her words were too practiced. Too ready. No matter how much he trusted his wife, Jasper didn’t believe her for a second.
“I can be there soon, please. Alice, let me help. I’ll have Rosalie and Emmett come back to wait here with Carlisle and Esme. Do not do this alone.”
“Don’t follow me. I promise, Jasper. One way or another, I’ll get out.”
Jasper sighed. “If anything happens, all bets are off.” There was a moment of silence then, and when Alice didn’t contradict his words, he found himself feeling only the slightest bit better. If things went south, he’d be there, and nothing on god’s green earth would stop him. Alice had to know that.
Whether she’d seen it was something he didn’t want to know. (Because that would mean her failure was more likely than she was leading on.)
“Be safe, Alice,” he whispered, clinging to the phone with both hands now, knowing that soon she’d be gone, “I love you.”
“And I love you.”
He stood entirely still for several seconds before the beeping of the dead line brought him back to reality. Alice was on the way to a viper pit and here he was, standing in a too-big kitchen with marble countertops clutching a cordless phone like it was his lifeline. Told to sit and stay and wait, as if he’d ever been good at any of those three things in his goddamn life.
When Carlisle placed a hand on his shoulder, he nearly jumped, so taken off guard by the motion that the older man immediately apologized.
But when Jasper finally turned his eyes onto the man who had accepted he and Alice into his family over fifty years ago, it was easy to push the hesitance aside when Carlisle asked firmly, “What do we do now?”
And like always, Jasper had an answer for him. But not one he wanted to provide.