It was mid-afternoon in their regularly-scheduled hell, and Jasper was seated in the back of the class, as far into the dark corner as he could get, as he watched the rest of the class listen diligently to the professor and jot down notes on the gold rush that he had already learned many, many times before.
Alice was close, but not too close, to avoid unwanted suspicion. Every now and then, she would turn to riffle through her pack for her lip balm just so she could flash a smile at him, before turning back to the front. He could feel her boredom- he could feel everyone’s boredom, really, and that didn’t help with his own. If only the teachers knew the effect their classes had on their students, they would probably think twice about teaching the gold rush every year.
But there was something else beneath the boredom. A not too unfamiliar, or unexpected impatience, or jitteriness that wasn’t uncommon during these long, arduous history sessions. He searched for it, eager for a different sensation after sitting in a sea of boredom for almost an hour, and to his surprise settled on Edward, seated at the front of the class and was tapping the end of his pencil against his textbook, head down and shoulders tense. He didn’t have much time to process it, when he caught sight of Emmett storming past the windows down the hallway with a sour look, Bella following close behind him in her sports gear, looking concerned.
Both Alice and Jasper exchanged looks, and he watched Alice’s face go still before she frowned and turned to Edward. Moments later, he stood from his chair and marched to the teachers desk, much to the professor's shock, and asked to be excused. The professor haltingly agreed, and Edward sent Alice a scowl as he stalked from the room.
Soon, Edward’s antsiness left Jasper’s area of control, and he was once again consumed by a classroom full of boredom, in addition to Alice’s concern and confusion, and the teachers shock at actually being spoken to by the most anti-social of the Cullen siblings.
Honestly, Jasper knew that Edward of all people could take care of himself. All of them could, after so many centuries. But he also knew that Edward was a moody bastard, and if anyone was more-suited to dealing with him, it was Jasper.
Alice bowed her head at him knowingly and turned back to the front of the classroom as Jasper rose from his seat and made his way to the teachers desk, resting a hand on Alice’s desk as he passed her.
He was slammed with the full force of the professor’s surprise when he stood at his cluttered desk and cleared his throat. “Oh, Jasper,” he blinked. “Can I… can I help you at all?”
“I would like to be excused,” Jasper said, rocking back on his heels. “Please.”
“Your brother seemed… quite distressed,” he tried. For his credit, Jasper knew that his concern was genuine, though tentative. “Is everything alright? Has something been happening at home, or maybe… not?”
“No, everything is fine,” Jasper said. “I will go after him. May I be excused?”
“Oh, yes, of course,” he said and waved his hand towards the door, ducking his head and returning to his notes as Jasper left without another word and exited the stuffy classroom until he was free from the swell of the bored, newly curious emotions that had begun to suffocate him.
Edward had many brooding spots around the school. Behind the gym. In the storeroom of the technology club. Even lying down in the back of one of Rosalie’s cars. But today, Jasper followed the dark, brooding and frankly obnoxious emotions coming from Edward to the rooftops, climbing the fire escape and meeting him on the heated tin roof, hot from the sun. Had they not been on the school rooftop, he probably would have waited for Edward to send him away or invite him to sit, but Jasper didn’t really appreciate being taken from class to deal with one of his moods, so he crossed the roof and sat beside him without waiting for permission.
“You should be in class,” he said when Edward didn’t acknowledge him.
“So should you,” Edward retorted. He was spinning a lighter around in his hands, clicking the flame on before shutting the lid and snuffing it out again.
Rolling his eyes, Jasper reached out and took it from him, pulling it from Edward’s slackened fingers easily. “You should know better than to play with fire,” he said as he fiddled with it. “Where did you even get this, anyway?”
Edward shrugged. “I found it in the cafeteria,” he said. “Fell out of someone's bag.”
“So you didn’t find it, you took it,”
“It doesn’t count as taking if it was on the floor,”
Jasper wasn’t in the mood for arguing. “In that case, I could probably find some smokes if you’re in the mood. There’s got to be some irresponsible young teen around here who has a pack. Considering you have a lighter and all.”
A small smile peaked at the corner of Edward’s lips. It was a tradition they hadn’t done in a long time, running away somewhere distant and isolated and lighting up a cigarette between themselves just to feel the harmless burn and crackle of smoke in their lungs and nicotine in their chests. “If you’re in the mood to go hunting for them,” he shrugged. “What are you doing up here?”
“I’ve actually come to ask you the same question,” he said. “Bad day? You’re feeling melodramatic, and it’s giving me a headache.”
“Can you ever like, turn that off?” Edward asked though Jasper knew it wasn’t a real question.
“Can you turn off your power? I didn’t think so,” he answered. Edward smiled a little, bowing his head. “Stop avoiding the question.”
He half expected Edward to push back, to send him on his way and find another place to brood, or maybe even forsake the rest of the day and go home. Instead, he shook his head and glanced down at the bustling of students crossing to and from buildings and classes. “I feel… restless. Frustrated,” he said. “Some days are more tiresome than others. I’ve done all this a hundred times before. I’ve lived through some of it. Trying to act like one of them… sometimes it’s tedious. I’m sure you understand.”
“I do,” Jasper said. “But leaving in the middle of class like that… that’s one way for us to get caught. If you leave too often…”
He didn’t finish. He didn’t quite know where he was going, anyway. Edward didn’t look convinced. “What are they going to do? Figure out I’m a vampire because I leave class one too many times?”
Jasper smiled. “Emmett left too. Around the same time as you did. You didn’t get a glimpse of what he was thinking, did you?”
“Not a lot,” Edward said. “But he was angry. Seething, almost. I only got bits-and-pieces before he was gone.”
“Yeah, I realized that,” Jasper rolled his eyes. “You glared at Alice before you left.”
“I did,” he said. “She called me a bitch.”
It was so unexpected but unquestionably Alice that Jasper couldn’t help but laugh, throwing his head back and cackling low in his chest. Even Edward managed a smile. “Yeah, that sounds like her,” he said. “But to be fair, she’s not entirely wrong. She rarely is.”
As quickly as it appeared, Edward’s smile fell, and Jasper was once again slammed with his melancholy and his frustration and his dejection, and though he knew he probably shouldn’t, he carefully sent his influence out, soothing all his rough edges and bringing his mood up a little bit. Edward frowned and glanced at him, eyebrows pulled together. “Jasper,” he said, words not unkind, but stern. “Don’t.”
Jasper shrugged. “Sorry,” he said carelessly as he handed Edward back the lighter. “You’re overwhelmingly depressing. I’m going to get back before they come looking for us.”
“You can cover for the both of us, then,” Edward said over his shoulder as Jasper stuck his hands in his pockets and made his way across the hot tin roof. “I think I might head home early. Go to the nurse's office and give some sort of excuse.”
“Do whatever you have to,” Jasper said. “I’ll ensure Rosalie doesn’t chew you out for leaving. And I’m sure you’ll find some cigarettes back home to pair with that new lighter of yours.”
He descended the fire escape and landed back on the cracked concrete just as a soft laugh escaped Edward’s lips and his mood immediately improved. Jasper returned to class.
The car-ride home was surprisingly tense, and Jasper did his best to mellow out all of the outrageous, headache-inducing emotions his siblings were feeling, so much and so different all at once that if he were human, he might have puked from it.
Even before Alice had parked the car in the driveway of their home, Emmett was leaping out of the car and stalking towards the front door, Rosalie right behind him. Moments later, Bella’s beat-up truck came rumbling up from the road.
Alice had her head cocked to the side, her sunglasses pulled down to the top of her nose. “You go talk to him. Calm him down while I go to Bella, and Edward gets stuck with Rose. You know what to do.”
Nodding, Jasper reached across to place a gentle kiss on her cheek before climbing out of the car and following the others into the house.
There was nobody to see, which wasn’t a surprise. He could certainly feel them and knew that they would all be somewhere around their expansive house. He abandoned the search and immediately made his way towards the garage, where he could feel Emmett’s building frustration trapped within the confines of the garage and he followed it like a bad smell. Emmett was there, hunched over a workbench filled with tools, muscles wound tightly and his broad shoulders tense. Jasper was nearly knocked over by the force of his frustration.
He paused at the top of the stairs, feet planted firmly on the first step. He whistled sharply, and Emmett glanced over his shoulder. “Run with me?”
Nodding, Emmett pushed away from the bench so hard the equipment on its top rattled and the bench was shoved backwards a few inches until it came to a stop against the back wall. He wiped the residue of grease off of his hands with a rag and crossed the garage to join Jasper at the back door. Jasper let him pass, his anger radiating off of him like flames, and let Emmett set the pace.
Wordlessly, Emmett took off, running at a dead sprint towards the woods that circled their estate, and Jasper followed after him, the two of them running together across the soft earth, kicking up dirt under their heels, weaving between wide-trunked trees and tearing up any root that dared to trip them. They soared across the planes, side by side, as the sun peeked through the canopy and turned their skin into a rainbow kaleidoscope of glass and uncut diamonds, the reflection bouncing onto the nearby woodland.
As they ran, Jasper gradually felt Emmett’s frustration began to ebb away, until there was nothing there but unbridled excitement and the thrill of the chase as the wind stung their skin and mud clung to their heels. Birds chirped in surprise above them, critters darted to avoid their feet, and the trees rustled.
Eventually, they came to a slow stop in a well-lit clearing of high grasses, the sun beating down on them from high above, almost in welcome. It reminded Jasper of long ago, of the long years before his conscription when he would spend hours and hours each day on the family farm, sometimes from sunset to sunrise, tending to the fields and caring for the many animals that called the place home. The memory was not an unwelcome one.
Emmett stood in the middle of this grassy clearing and breathed in deeply the cool, fresh air. “Feels just like home, doesn’t it?”
Somehow, though Jasper knew that Emmett was reminded of his childhood home and his past in a different way than Jasper, they both knew exactly how the other felt. "It certainly does."
Grinning that joyous way he did, Emmett tilted his head up and basked in the sun shining down on his face. He glittered so brightly that Jasper could hardly see his features. His blooming joy was infectious, and Jasper reached out and took from him the last remaining echoes of his anger, and replaced it with the residual excitement and his joy, and an ever-present calm.
It was as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Emmett sighed heavily. "Thanks. I was beginning to think that I wouldn't be able to shake it."
"Do you want to talk about it?" Jasper asked idly.
"Not really," Emmett said. "Besides, you'll probably hear about it eventually. Bella will tell Alice, Alice will tell Rosalie, Rosalie will tell Edward and I'm sure someone will tell you at some point."
Jasper laughed. “How did we come to live with a bunch of gossips?”
“Fate,” Emmett said easily. “Destiny.”
Scoffing, Jasper stuck his hands in his pockets and kicked at the dirt. The blades of grass rustled with the movement. He could feel Emmett’s delight radiating through him in waves, and he shut his eyes as he let himself be consumed by it. “If it’s any consolation, Edward also left class today. Almost at the same time as you.”
“Oh?” Emmett asked. “What was his deal?”
“You know Edward,” Jasper said. Emmett chuckled. “He was feeling melodramatic and sorry for himself, as per usual. After a few hundred years, you’d think he’d grow out of that, or at least we would have gotten used to it.”
“Nah, he always finds ways to be annoying,” Emmett teased.
“Alice called him a bitch,” Jasper said idly. Emmett turned to stare at him, and he could feel his surprise and pride. “I was very proud of her.”
Emmett laughed, deep and jolly. “Atta girl,” he chuckled, and he swiped his hands across the tall grass. “Those ladies… they’ve alway been able to stand up to him. They’re brave that way. He doesn’t scare them. They don’t care what he might say or do. They’re always more than willing to pull him up on his bullshit.”
Despite himself, Jasper couldn’t help but grin. “There’s a part of me that thinks that might even enjoy it.”
A puff of breath was the only response he got from Emmett, but he could feel his amusement in his chest like a blooming flower. They stood there together in silence, staring at the sun as it shone across the glade. They shimmered like diamonds, light bouncing off of them in all directions.
It was good company. Jasper liked Emmett, found him and his emotions easier to swallow than the others, and he didn’t get to spend as much time alone with Emmett as he would like. But now, standing in a bed of grass staring out over the desolate town below them, Jasper was filled with his own contentedness of just standing beside his brother in the sunlight after a long and tiresome day.
He knew that Emmett felt the same. That the ability to get out for a time and clear his head was something he had been scarcely lacking as of late, and he was grateful that Jasper had been the one to give him the opportunity. There were too many stubborn people in that house, too many stead-fast and righteous know-it-alls, and if Jasper could hardly cope with it all, he knew that Emmett couldn’t either, with his desire for everyone to get along and for everyone to be satisfied and pleased. But Jasper knew better than anyone that it was an outcome scarcely achieved.
There was a distinct crunching of leaves behind him, and Emmett whipped around, his nostrils flaring. The woods were filled with game, with deer and stag and rabbits and tiny furry creatures that thought they could hide in the trees. Jasper had smelled them on the way over here but thought it best to keep his mind solely focused on the task at hand.
“Deer,” Emmett said easily, but Jasper could feel his hunger, and it was magnified tenfold in him. “Only deer.”
“Only deer,” Jasper echoed. “But it’s never 'only deer', is it? There’ll be more in there. Maybe a stag. Raccoons. Badgers. Bite-sized snacks, not something we have to bring back and share with the others.”
Emmett was looking at him. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that I’m hungry. And bored,” Jasper grinned. “And that I think I can catch something and get home before you do.”
Understanding flowed between them, and Emmett’s eyes glinted in challenge. “Oh, really? Are you so sure about that?”
“As sure as sure can be,” Jasper replied. Emmett laughed again, filled with excitement and thrill and a little touch of thanks, as he readied himself to take off in the direction of the woods. “Just don’t get hurt. I’d hate to explain to Rosalie that her husband broke his neck because he tripped over his own feet and ran head-first into a tree.”
“That only happened one time,” Emmett protested playfully before he sprinted into the woods, leaving Jasper no choice but to follow after him.
They spent the last few hours of daylight chasing each other through the trees until they were bored, hunting prey and feeding under the roof of the intertwining green canopy and racing each other home to claim the victory neither of them cared about. It wasn’t really about the competition anyway. It was about the company, and the time spent together, and forgetting all about the long dreary day and their restlessness in the repetition. Sometimes, it wasn’t so bad when you spent those days with people you cared about.