And Jesus said to them, Because of your unbelief: for truly I say to you, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.
Disclaimer: These are SM's toys, I'm just borrowing them.
AN1: This story is a continuation of the universe that started with "The Path Not Taken". s/6749720/1/The_Path_Not_Taken It's now the night after the meeting with the Quileutes. This started out to be a different story and ended in a different place from what I intended, but for better or worse, here it is; my first foray back into fic since June 2, 2011. Tell me what you think…..
AN2: Special thanks to my two rockin' Betas, Im2xshy and jdficwriter. They have a lot of input on my work, over and above keeping me from looking like an uneducated dolt.
Sunday, June 3, 2006, 04:33 AM
You would think that, after 163 years, and being husband to a bona fide psychic and brother to a certifiable mind-reader, nothing could surprise me. And you would be wrong, or at least you would be wrong since Bella Swan blushed and stumbled her way into our lives and hearts. I've often wondered how my brother has handled the uncertainty of it; the constant fear that must go with loving a human. After the last few days, I know how. I don't think I know. I know.
It wasn't the night before Christmas. But just the same, nothing was stirring, not even a mouse. I sighed. As if any mouse with an ounce of sense would try to invade this house. My family was all here, but like me they were quietly pursuing their various interests in deference to our mortal house guest and her need to sleep. Then there was the tiny but unavoidable fact that Edward would probably have dismembered any of us for waking Bella up over anything less than the eminent arrival of Aro and his thugs.
The crickets were singing quietly, in counterpoint to the gentle music of the Calawah River. I was sitting on the balcony outside of my study, with my chair tilted back and my feet propped up on the railing. I'd been doing an imitation of a marble statue for several hours, thinking, and blowing the occasional smoke ring.
Yes, I know that it's an odd vice for one of our kind to have. I'd started smoking cigars as an officer in the Texas Volunteer Cavalry, to make myself look older. I'd continued the habit because I'd found that I enjoyed it immensely. The real surprise came after Maria got her teeth into me. Vampires don't consume anything but blood. They're repulsed by human food. The same would seem to go for smoking. I've never met another of our kind who used tobacco. So the first time I hauled out a pilfered stogie and lit it up the night before a major fight, Maria and her crew thought that I'd lost my mind.
One cigar before and one cigar after a major battle was the only thing that let me keep my sanity in the savage and brutal world that Maria had birthed me into; nowadays though, I reserve it for my personal enjoyment…and the occasional fit of full on Edwardian brooding.
Regardless, no one wanted it inside the house. The one time I'd lit up indoors, shortly after Alice and I had arrived, but before we had the nod to join the family; Esme had boxed my ears as fast as my own mother would have, and tossed me and my 'stinky stick' outside. End of discussion. It made me feel at home. Once we were in though, as a concession on her part, Esme always made sure that I had a balcony off of my study that I could retreat to when I needed to indulge close to home. The study itself was another concession that went with Alice and me as a part of the family. It was our private space, and I collected history books the way that Carlisle collected medical books, though, to be fair, there was a lot of swapping between our two libraries.
The household always left me pretty much alone when I was puffing on one of the hand-rolled Havanas that Alice always had a way of procuring for me; for several reasons. For one thing, they hated the smell, for another, if the empath was mellowing out that was a good thing, and on the other hand I was still a battle-scarred survivor of the Southern Wars. If I were in a brooding pissy frame of mind I wouldn't bother me either.
As good as one could be for the emotional climate of the household, the other could be equally bad, so they generally left me alone. Since they knew that the longer I was out there, the more likely the brooding option was. And so far this had been a 'three cigar problem'.
What's the issue, you might ask? It's the aforementioned sweet little human that my brother loves so much. Okay, we all love her. She's my brother's mate, and she forgave me for trying to eat her on her birthday.
There was a good deal of stress today when Edward took Bella home and flipped out upon discovering that a strange vampire had been in her house, probably while her father was in the house. Thank God her father wasn't home when they got there, because Edward had her gather a few more clothes and hauled her out of there for an unplanned extension of her sleepover and back here to Fort Cullen, which immediately went into lockdown while we scoured the forest around Casa de Swan for any sign of the intruder. In short, we came up with a whole lot of nothing. We lost the trail on a road southeast of Forks when someone picked the snoop up in a car.
But that isn't what has me out here. You see, in this house you can't help but hear everything, including pillow-talk. And a few hours back, spooned up in bed, before my sister-in-law to be drifted off to sleep, Edward finally got her to share the dream that had caused our baby sister to re-grow her backbone and powered her recent reversal of policy with the wolves, and one wolf in particular.
I heard the whisper of footsteps behind me and smiled as the French doors opened quietly. The family had finally appointed a spokesperson. One person I wouldn't snap at if I were in a foul mood. I dropped my cigar into the ashtray as Alice slid into my lap. The sweet scent of magnolias and frangipani swirled around me, and the edges of my awareness were stroked with the warmth of love and tickled with amusement and tolerance.
"Wanna talk about it, Jazz?" she said softly.
Did I? Yes. Should I? I didn't know for sure. I cast my mind back to those moments a few hours ago and I still wasn't sure.
Edward and Bella had been quiet for about ten minutes since the make out noises had tapered off when Edward spoke.
"Yes, Edward?" she drawled softly.
I sensed a momentary flash of playful lust from her and my brother groaned as he suffered an answering flare. I didn't have to have x-ray vision to know that Bella was at it again. Her efforts at seduction were a source of never ending amusement for our family. If they didn't get married soon, my playful little sister would be the death of my outwardly puritanical brother.
"Stop wriggling, Minx," came the growl.
There was a quiet giggle. "You don't like it?"
"That's the problem. I like it altogether too much, and there's nothing I can do about it right now.
"So you say," came the tart feminine rejoinder. "You don't see me stressing about it."
Our baby sister could give as good as she got.
"That's because you're the one that wants…er, it."
Bella giggled again. "You know, I think if you could blush, you'd be beet red right now." Her voice dropped an octave, to a croon. "Yes Edward, I want…it." Then she broke into a storm of quiet giggles as Edward groaned again, followed by the rest of the family, who were scattered around the house and who had been eavesdropping just as shamelessly as I was.
"Not now, Love," Edward replied, obviously choking back his own laughter. "I need to talk to you."
He sighed. "A week ago, we were on a different course, then you had that dream…"
She silenced him with a sigh. "It doesn't matter now, Edward. I had it, it's past and done."
"Love, anything that affects you that profoundly can't be inconsequential."
"I didn't say it was inconsequential, I said it's the past. Do we have to talk about it?"
There was a quaver in Bella's voice and her emotional state was all over the map, but mostly she seemed uncertain, sad, and scared; and feeling more than a little guilty. 'Be careful, brother,' I'd murmured. 'Whatever it was that she dreamed it was pretty shattering. Push the wrong button and she's going to blow.' Bella wouldn't hear me, but Edward surely did, because Bella's emotions started to calm at once.
"Mmmm," she purred. "That feels nice."
"I'll trade you," he replied. "Vampire backrubs whenever we're together and you tell me what it is about that dream that frightened you so badly."
Bella sighed, but it sounded different. Acquiescence had replaced impatience.
"I don't know if I can," she said softly.
"Because bad things happened, and they were all my fault. It was so real Edward, that when I woke up in your arms I was sure that was the dream, not the other way around. Inside I've been terrified that if I talk about it, it'll be real, and I'll be right back there wishing I was dead."
There had been more than one sharp intake of breath around the house. Bella's near fatal cliff dive, and Edward's sojourn in Italy were still fresh in everyone's mind. If Bella had wanted to die…
"Did I leave you again, in your dream?" Edward asked softly. "You know I won't, right? I swear, Bella, never again."
She sniffed. I could here tears threatening. "You may n-not g-get a ch-choice," she stammered before her voice steadied. "Yes, you left me alone, but not like you think." She paused. "You were dead, and it was my fault" she finished quietly.
Edward sighed. "How?"
"Do remember that morning, when we talked after breakfast, I asked you how close you'd come to crossing the treaty line to come after me?"
"Yes?" Edward replied. The questioning tone in his answer coupled with his rising trepidation. He knew where this was going now, just like I did.
"Well in my dream you actually did cross the line, and the Pack had their justification for canceling the treaty. Emmett and Jasper dragged you back, but it was too late. Jacob was so happy to finally have an excuse to kill you all." She began weeping softly. "The sad thing is that the dream finally made me see what I was really doing. I thought I was just going to see a friend, when what I was really doing was risking a war. I finally had to grow up and ask myself the hard questions. Like what was I doing hanging with a bunch of boys who wanted nothing more out of life than the slightest pretext to murder my family?"
"We fought the wolves?"
Bella gave a mighty sniffle and began to calm, though she was still grieving for something that hadn't happened. "Yes. I tried to warn you but they sabotaged my truck, and Billy had cut the phone lines. In the end, I had to walk and hitchhike here from La Push. I don't know how long it took, but I was too late. The battle was over and nobody won. The Pack was wiped out, and you were all dead except for Jasper. I talked to him after he'd already wiped out the Council of Elders in vengeance. He was planning to do more, too. He told me that he'd constructed a genealogy of the wolf gene, and that he intended to wipe it out, systematically."
I sat up sharply as she took a deep breath.
"When he left me to continue his vendetta, I was sitting on your front steps. The rest of the house was gone; burned to the ground. I couldn't think of a valid reason to keep on living. Not anymore. You were gone, and this time there was no chance that you were coming back. I'd helped the Quileutes murder my future, so I decided to make their victory complete. I mean, it was only a matter of time before someone got me, Victoria or the Volturi, and God knows how many people they'd kill getting there. So I decided to go out on my own terms. Someone had brought my truck back from the Rez, so I got in it and drove it out to the sea cliffs, the same ones that I'd jumped from, and I drove the truck off the edge. I woke up as the ocean was coming at me."
I could feel my brother's heart breaking, splitting wide open. Bella still had some serious abandonment issues and it was likely that she'd have them for a long time to come.
"I'm so sorry, Bella."
She laughed wetly. "What are you sorry for? Edward, you can't control my subconscious mind."
"No, but I bear the blame for creating the mess that led to your nightmare."
She sighed deeply, and Edward made a growling noise, followed by silence. Their emotions were completely engaged with each other, causing me to wonder if the show was over. But a moment later she spoke again, panting…
"Only indirectly, Edward; other people made choices that impacted things. Like my choice to use Jacob; or his choice to continue to pursue me despite my declared lack of interest; or my choice to keep going to see him in spite of that declaration; or my father's choice to manipulate things in Jacob's favor; or the Elders' choice to behave like dogmatic fools. All of those choices took a bad situation and made it worse. There's blame and enough to go around. So let's drop the blame game. We're getting better…" Edward growled again as Bella's love for him flared in my awareness "…and we'll keep on getting better."
"If we get much better tonight, we'll end up breaking that last commandment," he rumbled.
She gave the sort of giggle we hadn't heard from her in a long time. "Not with the family in the house." Her voice rose. "I love you all, but just…no."
Mixed chuckles sounded throughout the house. Even Rose was snickering.
"I'm glad you didn't cross the line," she murmured. "I love that you wanted to protect me, but I love the fact that you let me protect myself even more."
"I trust you, my beautiful girl," he murmured back. "That's why I didn't."
Their emotions were leveling off, and in a very few minutes we all heard the music of Bella's ladylike snores.
That's when I snagged some cigars and went outside. I had to think.
I nuzzled my mate's throat and growled softly. I was sorely tempted to just say the hell with it and lose myself in her, and she'd let me too, but it would be irresponsible.
"Darlin', do recall when Bella said that, in her dream, I had a plan? A plan based on genealogical data?"
I felt the family's attention, including Edward's, prick up.
Alice froze, as the vision came. "Jazz, no."
"Yes, Ali. If you walk over to my laptop on the desk and open the file folder on the desktop labeled 'Oderint' you'll run into three levels of password protected encryption, and if you get through those, you'll find my war plans. I'm a soldier, my love. I didn't stop being one because I joined the family, and I will protect my family. When we came home to find the wolves here, I started to make plans for every contingency." I paused. "Including revenge."
"Jasper!" Carlisle protested, speaking from the next floor down, in his study. "I don't want…"
I cut him off. "I know, Carlisle, but if they were to go to war over something that trivial, if they were to murder my family, I would have my vengeance before I died. Either by my own hand, or by letting the Volturi know that they're here, and handing them my research so they know whom to kill." I sighed harshly. "If you're all dead, then our grand effort at righteous living will have been for nothing," I ground out.
"Not for you, as long as you live, we live," Carlisle responded softly.
"I wish I could truly believe that, but that's not really the point," I replied.
"Then what is, Cowboy?" Emmett chimed in from the garage, where he was keeping Rose company.
I sighed. "How did Bella know? Unless she can pick my brain like Edward can, or see the future like Alice, how did her dream construct a detailed scenario of one of my war plans put into action? I refuse to see it as coincidence, and I know she has neither the skills nor the inclination to hack my files. Her just knowing about the genealogy files is mind-bending."
The house was silent as they absorbed the implications. Apparently baby sister had more on the ball than just being able to keep Edward out of her thoughts.
After a moment Alice stirred in my lap. "She can't see the future. If she'd seen it, then I would have seen it too."
"The dogs block you," Rose put in. "Maybe they don't block her. We know that they have an affinity for her, and vice versa."
I'm pretty sure the whole family winced on that one. I know I did.
"If that were the case, I'd have at least seen our futures disappear the day she ran to La Push. I didn't. Nothing happened because nothing was going to happen. If that weren't so, I'd have seen it."
"And I'm pretty certain that she's not a latent telepath," Edward whispered thoughtfully, from where he lay in bed with his mate. "I think we'd have seen other signs before now. She may be intuitive, but not that way."
Carlisle cleared his throat unnecessarily. His emotional state was wary, but determined.
"There is one possibility that I can think of. During my time in Volterra, there was a newborn, a male, who kept having what they thought were hallucinations."
"Vampires don't hallucinate," I protested. "We don't have the equipment for it."
"I know that," he replied. "Aro is the only one who knows for sure, but from what he told me, his probing of the youngster's memories revealed the disquieting possibility that he was tapping into alternate world lines. That he was experiencing the life or lives of his alternate selves in those worlds."
Alice stirred. "You mean to tell me that there's a world somewhere where all of that…horror actually happened?" she asked, her voice tremulous.
"I don't know," Carlisle replied. "I can only go by what Aro told me."
"What happened to the newborn, Carlisle?" Edward asked sharply.
"He disappeared from Volterra. Aro later told me that he'd had to have him destroyed because his inability to distinguish between this world and the others drove him mad."
Edward snarled softly. "I read his mind while I was there. He's a liar by nature. I wouldn't believe Aro if he said that rain is wet."
Edward was badly frightened by the prospect of his mate being driven mad by visions.
"What does this mean for Bella's change?" asked Esme, breaking her silence for the first time.
"She won't let it stop her," replied Alice, as the rest of the family chimed in their agreement; even Rosalie, which shocked the hell out of me.
"Bella isn't afraid of anything," Emmett finished.
I heard Edward grunt, and then chuckle softly. "She has never been properly afraid of anything. Not us, not me, not James, not even the Volturi."
"You're wrong, Edward," I cut in, "she knows when to be afraid. She just ignores it and goes on. That's what courage is."
"I know that, Jasper. Brave beyond all reason. That's my girl. If she were anything else, I wouldn't be lying here with her asleep in my arms."
"What will you do?" Alice asked.
Edward was silent for a long moment before answering. "What I should have been doing from the start. Give her all the information, let her make an informed choice, and then honor that choice."
No one dared ask what would happen if it went wrong. We all knew what would happen. Bella was Edward's mate.
"There's nothing more that we can do about this now," Carlisle said. "Let's table this until I can research it."
"Research quickly, Carlisle."
"I will, son."
"And leave the Volturi out of it."
Carlisle chuckled and didn't answer verbally, but Edward's affirmative grunt said that he'd gotten an answer that he could agree with.
As the house stilled again, I heard Edward's murmuring from down the hall. He was praying; praying over the girl in his arms. It was all too easy to forget that, despite Edward's militant belief in our soulless state, he was a believer. He believed in God, he just didn't think that God believed in him anymore. And who was I to argue? If I possessed a soul at all, my countless murders would have so blackened it that the point would be moot. Yet here I was, nearly a century and a half later, chasing redemption because the beloved pixie in my arms said so.
Alice snuggled closer as I looked upward at the night sky and found a rarity. A break in the clouds has opened a window into the immensity of the universe, letting the stars shine through. It was like the old boy had decided to check on us himself. I chuckled softly for a moment, and then I grew somber. Tightening my arms around my mate, I offered up my own prayer of thanks for whatever grace had spared us the fate of the Cullen family in Bella's dream.
In the end though, when you consider it, it wasn't faith in God that let my brother love a human girl so fearlessly. It was his simple faith in her, and in their love. He was a long time getting there, but he'd finally arrived.
He'd found his faith.
The End. – For Now
AN3: Oderint from the Latin quote oderint dum metuant: "Let them hate so long as they fear." It reflects Jasper's probable thinking toward the Quileutes at this point in the Saga.