Chapter 4: Hope Floats

A/N:

A/N:

How many of you guys thought Jasper was gonna be the vampire who found Bella? *cackles evilly*

Last chapter of the night, guys! I’m planning to upload another chapter next week.

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Twilight belongs to Stephanie Meyers. I’m just a writer who likes putting Bella in dangerous situations. Good thing she’s an adrenaline junky.


Peter

It didn’t take Peter long to get Bella back to the abandoned farm Maria’s newborn army had converted into their base camp. The farmhouse itself was Maria’s domain and Peter purposefully avoided it, unwilling to show her the girl he hadn’t planned on changing until he spoke with the Major first. Getting Jasper’s approval would practically guarantee that Bella was given the chance to complete her change.

The first few years, they’d trained in the barn, but then Jasper found a small canyon hidden on one of the back acres of the property. The canyon provided shade during the daylight, so they could train outdoors even when it was sunny outside. They set up several stolen army tents for downtime towards the south end of it and then decided to use the barn for changing humans. They even dismantled it and rebuilt the barn halfway between the canyon and the farmhouse, keeping it far enough away that the screams of changing humans and racing heartbeats wouldn’t tempt the more volatile newborns or get on Maria’s nerves.

Peter stopped just outside the barn door and looked over the vampire posted there with a critical eye. Though he knew the barn was currently unoccupied, they usually kept a man there in case anyone brought back a recruit they hadn’t planned on changing, like a potentially gifted human.

“Felipe,” he called and the man straightened up, “think ya can ya handle this li’l gal’s scent? She’s abnormally sweet.”

One tentative sniff and the rapid darkening of his eyes was all it took for Peter to decide he couldn’t risk leaving Bella alone. Felipe’s gaze honed in on the bloody soles of Bella’s feet and Peter slowly backed away, quickly growing pissed when Felipe shadowed him, matching him step for step. Stopping his advance with a menacing warning growl, he sent Felipe off to the canyon, “Go tell the Major I’ve got a new recruit for him to look at. Don’t let any of those undisciplined assholes anywhere near this barn for the next three days, ¿entiendes? I’m holdin’ you responsible.”

Felipe scurried off and Peter lightly kicked the door open before setting Bella down on one of the cots inside. They’d just finished changing a new wave of recruits last month, so Bella had the place to herself. It was probably the first stroke of genuine luck she’d had all night and he found himself chuckling at the thought.

“You’re not gonna believe this, sugar, but ya got the whole barn to yourself. Lucky break, Bella,” he joked, grabbing a pitcher of water and a handful of rags from a table they kept in the corner. After rinsing the blood from her feet and the places he bit her, he bagged the bloody rags and tossed it near the door to dispose of later.

Once he was finished cleaning her up, he grabbed a stool. Setting it up against the wall about ten feet away from her, he sat down and settled in to wait. Occasionally, Bella would moan and Peter would taunt her about how close to a scream it was and the labored sound of her heartbeat filled the silence in between.

Peter could sense it the second his sire showed up about an hour later. It was a habit for the man to pump out waves of authority and submission for the newborns and, occasionally, he forgot to tone it down. Peter had learned long ago not to react until Jasper decided to make his presence known. He usually liked to get a feel for the situation first by standing back and observing, a habit Peter had picked up some time over the last twenty odd years or so.

A smile ghosted across his face when he remembered how Bella had reacted to it in town. He’d been waiting to see what she would do, thinking she’d take off running. She shocked the hell out of him by sitting down instead, stubbornly waiting for him to make the first move. Peter was so surprised by her actions that he’d failed to react at all until she started to smile. That was when he realized she was actually amused by their silent standoff and decided he wanted to meet her.

Bella let out a loud groan and Peter chided, “Them noises of yours just keep gettin’ louder and louder, brown eyes. It’s gonna be a scream before ya know it and I will never let ya live that down. Never, ya hear me? I will taunt ya for eternity.”

Jasper chuckled quietly and finally stepped into the barn. Peter got to his feet with a grin and asked, “She agitated? I bet she is. Girl’s gotta be gettin’ ready to snap at me.” Jasper nodded, sending him her irritation, and Peter grinned wickedly. He intentionally spoke at a volume she could hear, loudly calling out, “It’s her own damn fault, though! She promised me she’d try not to scream.”

Jasper watched Peter with interest before gesturing towards her hand, where Bella was shooting Peter a very unladylike hand gesture. With the amount of pain she was in, it was honestly surprising that she had enough control over her body to even do it. Peter let out a shocked laugh at the sight, just as surprised as Jasper was. Hearing the laugh, Bella’s hand relaxed before balling up again into a clenched fist.

“I was wonderin’ why she was so quiet. She really promised she’d try not to scream?” Jasper asked and paused, turning his head sharply in Bella’s direction. He stared hard at the petite girl, the features of his face settling into a puzzled expression.

“What is it?” Peter wondered. He wasn’t sure he’d ever seen Jasper look that way before and it left him feeling a little uneasy.

“Her emotions shifted…” Jasper began and trailed off before stepping closer to the cot. “What she’s feelin’ right now isn’t normal.” He trained his eyes on her face and questioned, “Why did ya change her, Peter? We’ve already got a full outfit.”

To any of the others, that would’ve sounded like disapproval, but Peter knew better. Jasper was genuinely curious. After spending decades together on the battlefield, Jasper had learned to trust Peter’s instincts and knew he wouldn’t have changed the young woman without a good reason. He just couldn’t figure out what that reason was.

And Peter already knew his explanation couldn’t be the only thing the man was curious about. Jasper had to be itching to find out why Bella would’ve promised anything to Peter, the vampire that bit her. The humans they changed weren’t exactly willing victims, so this was the first time Jasper had witnessed anything even remotely close to a positive interaction between a vampire and a changing human.

“Somethin’ told me I needed to head for the heart of town,” Peter explained. “Found this li’l gal there, stumblin’ down the road soakin’ wet and barefoot. She ain’t much to look at right now, a li’l on the small side, but there’s somethin’ about her that told me changin’ her would be worth it. Girl’s got a fighter’s heart.”

Bella’s clothes were still damp, but Peter knew the cool, wet fabric would actually be good for her at the moment. It would feel amazing against her skin, giving her just the tiniest bit of relief from the burning of the change.

“She’s thin,” Jasper agreed, studying her with appraising eyes, “but ya know the venom will change that, restore her muscles and fill out her frame. The bruises around her mouth, they from you?”

Peter shook his head and Jasper lifted an eyebrow at him in surprise, no doubt wondering what Bella had gone through before he crossed paths with her. He could practically see Jasper’s wheels turning, trying to come up with some kind of scenario that could explain the state Peter had found her in. It wasn’t everyday that a pretty girl stumbled into town barefoot, soaked, and bruised, let alone in the middle of the night.

Shifting uncomfortably, Peter cautiously glanced around and asked at a level too low for Bella to hear, “We alone here, Major? Because I’ve got a hell of a story for you. She ain’t gonna be your typical newborn.”

“We should be,” Jasper murmured and closed his eyes to focus on extending his gift. “Her blood’s too sweet for the other newborns to tolerate. A handful of ’em tried to tear Felipe’s shirt off when he got down to the canyon. Damn near started a riot.” Peter winced, shaking his head at Felipe’s folly. He’d assumed the idiot would wash Bella’s scent off before approaching the canyon. “I ordered ’em all to keep away from the barn.”

Satisfied when he sensed no one nearby, Jasper nodded and opened his eyes. Trusting him to pump anyone curious enough to eavesdrop full of the need to flee or something similar, Peter recounted what happened when he went hunting, telling him everything from the second he’d found her bloody footprints to the moment he bit her. He told Bella not to mention the covens up north, but he didn’t intend to keep that from Jasper. Peter had a good feeling about it, though, and Jasper needed to know that vampires were both capable of coexisting peacefully and actually did outside of Texas and Mexico.

When he was finished, Peter added one final thing, “There’s also somethin’ that she left out and I’m not sure why. I don’t know what it means.”

“What do you mean?” Jasper asked sharply. “Think she could be a plant of some kind?”

They’d never encountered a human with knowledge of their kind before, let alone a planted spy. Since there were no guarantees she’d retain her human memories or that they’d even change her in the first place, it seemed unlikely.

Peter shook his head, “No, nothin’ like that. I got a good feelin’ about her, actually. She’s gonna be important for some reason.” He walked over to Bella’s cot and waved Jasper closer. Once the empath was standing beside him, he gestured towards Bella’s clothes and quietly asked, “Ever seen clothes like that, Major? There’s actual writin’ on that shirt she’s wearin’ and I ain’t ever seen anythin’ like it before. And look at her collar, ain’t that a li’l too fancy to do with a basic needle and thread? The stitchin’s more complex than any I’ve ever seen. Not to mention that them britches she’s wearin’ definitely ain’t somethin’ I’m familiar with.”

While Peter had noticed there was something strange about her clothing the second he laid eyes on her, he didn’t take note of those minor details until he was washing the blood from her body. Most human women didn’t wear pants, they wore floor length dresses or long sleeved blouses and bell skirts. The wealthier ones also wore loosened corsets or had them built into their blouses. From the quality of the fabric Bella was wearing, he assumed she was wealthy, but the entire style was off. Even if she just wore them to bed as nightclothes, which he knew was a distinct possibility, Peter still found them odd. He hadn’t the faintest idea where she could’ve gotten clothing like that.

Jasper crouched down next to Bella as he ran his eyes over her clothes. Reluctant to touch her while she was still changing, he hesitated for a second and gently warned her, “Bella, I need to take a look at the clothes you’re wearin’-”

Her body immediately tensed and her pulse skyrocketed. She must’ve panicked, because Jasper quickly wrapped his hand around her wrist and started to feed her all the calm he could muster, so much so that Peter had to take a step back or risk being affected by his ability too. Though her body instantly submitted to the emotion and relaxed, the brunette reacted to the forced calm in a way that startled both men.

The second the sensation started to wash over her, Bella’s eyes snapped open. Pained brown irises locked with deep red ones and Jasper stilled, looking for all the world as if her gaze had somehow paralyzed him. Peter watched the unnerving interaction in silence, almost pitying his sire for having the bad luck of being caught in her stare. He knew from experience that one look from those dark, soulful eyes could make a man question his place in the world.

There was a very specific reason why it was so hard not to be affected by those deep pools of chocolate; Bella carried her heart in her eyes. It was something Peter had noticed about her the moment they met. Her alarm, anguish, despair, regret… he could see it all the second they locked gazes. They spilled out of her as if she felt so strongly that her very being overflowed with whatever emotions held her within their grasp.

It was an incredibly human trait and one that Peter lamented the inevitable loss of. Thanks to the venom burning its way through her veins, the only way they’d be able to read those eyes soon was when they darkened with bloodlust or anger.

“Bella, I’m not tryin’ to scare you, but you need to calm down. Peter and I aren’t gonna hurt you,” Jasper said in a patient tone before that odd, puzzled look spread across his face again.

Peter barely registered his reaction, entranced by the way Bella’s eyes seemed to soften at the sight of his sire. Her gaze roamed over Jasper’s face with a hint of amazement, as if she couldn’t quite believe he was real. A beat passed, maybe two, before the acidic burn of the change briefly stole her attention away, making her eyelids flutter with pain. With a visible shudder, she forced them open again and fixed her eyes on him one final time, a look of concentration sweeping across her features.

With a surprised glance at Peter, Jasper slowly released her wrist, watching in astonishment when she managed to stay calm all on her own. Her eyes lingered on the empath’s face for a moment longer before keeping them open became too much of a strain. Reluctantly, she allowed them to close.

“What just happened?” Peter asked in confusion, slowly returning to Bella’s side.

Jasper seemed too stunned to reply at first. An entire minute passed in silence before his lips slowly started to curl into a rare smile that Peter couldn’t quite believe he was seeing. He could count on one hand how many times he’d seen Jasper smile like that. It wasn’t the dark smile he often gave a cocky newborn or the taunting smirk Peter had watched him flash an opposing army, it was a genuine, honest-to-goodness smile.

“I don’t understand why, but she’s pushin’ me trust,” Jasper explained and Peter’s eyebrows shot heavenward. For someone who claimed not to know Jasper, he found it mighty interesting that Bella knew how to send him her emotions. By pushing, Jasper meant she was deliberately focusing on one emotion, intentionally strengthening the trust she wanted him to feel. “I told you, there’s somethin’ off about her emotions. She also finds my voice reassurin’ and she shouldn’t.”

“Huh,” Peter unintelligently replied. He was at a loss, just like Jasper was. “How much?” he finally asked and Jasper raised an eyebrow at him in question. “How much does she trust ya, Major?” Peter clarified.

Jasper studied Bella in silence for a moment before looking up at Peter with confusion, “With her life. She trusts me just as much as you do.” He looked at her again and muttered, “More than Maria does.”

Peter crouched down next to him, eyeing Bella with a baffled expression, “That don’t make a lick of sense. She said the petty redhead made sure she knew you’d probably kill her, ‘if not now, then a year from now.'”

“Well, she doesn’t believe it, not entirely,” Jasper said contemplatively and rubbed his jaw for a moment in thought. “Her emotions are cautious. She can sense that we’re both dangerous, but that caution… it’s not her strongest emotion.”

“What’s her strongest emotion?” Peter asked, getting the feeling that it was important.

“I don’t know what it is,” Jasper admitted and looked at Peter. “I haven’t felt anythin’ like it before, not since my change. Nobody’s ever felt it on this farm.”

“Send it to me,” Peter encouraged. He was guessing that it was a lighter emotion, which was why Jasper wouldn’t recognize it. A newborn army wasn’t exactly the best breeding ground for positive emotions, especially since the majority of their newborns never lived longer than a year.

Jasper closed his eyes for a second, focusing on the emotion he felt from Bella. Peter sucked in a surprised breath when it finally washed over him, easing a tension deep inside him that he hadn’t even been aware of. For the first time in decades, he felt like life was going to change for the better, that things were finally looking up. And that thought was all he needed to understand what Bella was feeling.

“That’s her dominant emotion?” Peter asked in awe. She’d looked so defeated when he told her that he couldn’t let her go free that he never expected her emotions to turn around so completely. He didn’t understand it.

“Yeah,” Jasper nodded. “She started feelin’ it when I asked you about her promise not to scream. You recognize it?”

“I do,” Peter confirmed. “And I understand why ya haven’t felt it around here before. I don’t really understand why Bella’s feelin’ it now.” He looked at Jasper and explained, “She’s feelin’ hope.”

Jasper’s brow creased as he turned back to look at the girl on the cot, his expression unsettled. It was more than a little sad that Jasper couldn’t recognize that emotion anymore, but Peter understood why he couldn’t. The last time Jasper felt it, he was a human himself. Feeling emotions firsthand as a human was different from being able to sense them from others as a vampire. Jasper had to literally relearn every emotion that he encountered.

Looking at the girl who just reintroduced him to hope, Peter had a sneaking suspicion Bella was about to bring out a whole torrent of emotions that Jasper wouldn’t recognize.

“Her clothes,” Peter reminded him and Jasper nodded, abandoning the topic of Bella’s bizarre emotions for now.

“I wanted to check the back of her shirt for more writin’,” Jasper explained, talking at a level that Bella could hear. “Bella, Peter’s gonna help me take a look at your back real quick. I’ll be fast, but I’m afraid it’s still gonna hurt.”

Sadly, Jasper couldn’t sense or manipulate physical pain. His gift was limited to the manipulation of emotions and the excruciating pain Bella was currently experiencing was definitely not an emotion. The most he could do to alleviate that pain was to pump her full of so much weariness and lethargy that she fell asleep. Sedating her like that, however, was a last resort. She needed to learn how to cope with the pain now or she wouldn’t survive the next few weeks, let alone the entire year.

The fact that she had yet to scream boded well for her, though. If Bella kept it up, it would make her the toughest newborn Peter and Jasper had ever seen.

Jasper waited for some kind of unspoken confirmation from Bella before nodding at Peter. Getting to his feet, Peter walked around to the other side of the cot and gently pulled her right shoulder and hip towards him, allowing Jasper to get a good look at her back. Bella cried out in agony and Peter grimaced, feeling more than a little guilty for moving her during the change. He was proud of her, though. Even that cry was nowhere near a scream.

His attention was stolen away from her when Jasper suddenly froze, stilling unnaturally. Disbelief, amazement, and surprise abruptly slammed into him harder than a rowdy newborn, making him tighten his grip on Bella in reflex. Her startled whimper of pain shook Jasper out of his astonishment and he met Peter’s questioning eyes for a second before telling him to set her down.

“We need to destroy this shirt, Peter,” Jasper said quickly. “Go get her another from the supply shed. She can keep the pants, but the shirt needs to be burned.”

Though Peter was confused, he didn’t hesitate and took off towards the supply shed at a sprint. By the time he made it back, Jasper had already torn her shirt off and laid his own across her chest. Pausing at the sight, Peter frowned. There was a new, heavy tension in the air that told him that he’d missed something.

His crimson eyes quickly honed in on the hand Jasper was resting on her shoulder before taking in the rare look of regret on his face. Concerned, Peter realized he was keeping her sedated. There was still a tear drop sliding down the flushed skin of her face and Peter gently wiped it away before asking, “What happened?”

“She wanted to keep it,” Jasper explained and tossed the torn shirt at Peter, who caught it easily. “It must be her father’s or somethin’. There was a familial connection of some kind and it appears this shirt is all she’s got left. It’s all she has from her human life.”

That honestly didn’t surprise him. When Peter spoke to Bella earlier, it sounded like her one regret was not getting the chance to tell her father goodbye. She obviously loved him dearly, so it would’ve hurt her to part with the only thing she had left of him. It wasn’t hard for Peter to picture her reacting badly to that loss.

“And she can’t keep it because it needs to be burned,” he said slowly as he handed the spare shirt over to Jasper, the question implied in his tone.

“Look at the writin’ on the back,” Jasper said in explanation as he gently tugged one of Bella’s arms through the sleeve of the shirt Peter grabbed.

Peter flipped it over curiously, his eyes going wide in shock. On the back was an emblem of some sort with the words “Forks Police Dept.” in elegant script across the top and “Established in 1945” across the bottom.

“Holy shit,” Peter choked out, nearly dropping the shirt in surprise. Amused, Jasper let out a low chuckle. “How in the Sam hell?! But… how did she get here? Why is she even here?”

“I’m guessin’ the petty redhead and her Mexican friend have somethin’ to do with it,” Jasper replied, his tone dry. “Apparently there’s a vampire in the future with a rather remarkable gift.”

“Bella said the redhead wanted her to suffer,” Peter murmured in realization. Sending her to a time and territory defined by war sounded like a pretty damn good way to ensure that happened.

Jasper glanced up at him before focusing on Bella’s face, his eyes gleaming with understanding. The redhead had sent her here purely out of spite. This was revenge, pure and simple, and Peter swore he saw a flicker of genuine pity in Jasper’s eyes. Bella shouldn’t have been here, she should’ve been somewhere far away from this time and place, somewhere safe, but there was nothing they could do about that now. She was already well into the change, becoming a newborn in a territory where newborns were considered expendable.

Peter couldn’t stop the crushing wave of guilt that rolled through him if he tried. He knew that Bella didn’t blame him for changing her, but it didn’t ease his conscience any. A hateful enemy of hers had sent her here in hopes that she’d be recruited and Peter had done exactly that. He’d unintentionally granted the redhead the brutal revenge she craved on an undeserving girl. It was the first and only time he’d ever felt truly guilty about changing someone.

Still, he already knew what Bella would say if she could see just how guilty he felt and made a conscious effort to let that guilt go.

You can’t run with vampires and not expect to get bitten.

“Burn it, Peter,” Jasper instructed, his thoughtful gaze still trained on Bella. “This stays between us. She’s just another newborn, understand?”

Peter was surprised by that, but wisely kept his questions to himself. Looking at the shirt in thought, he tore a long strip off the bottom before getting what he needed to torch the rest.

“What are you doing?” Jasper asked as Peter tucked the strip into the pocket of Bella’s odd, stretchy pants.

“You said it’s probably the only human momento she has,” Peter explained with a shrug, “so I tore off a part without any writin’ on it. She can use it to tie her hair back or somethin’. The scent might help when she’s anxious too, especially considerin’ what the petty redhead did. I know we all have to give up our human lives when we change, Major, but this girl’s been thrown back in time on top of it. It ain’t much, but I just thought she might need somethin’ familiar.”

Jasper didn’t object, so Peter just assumed it was okay and started to burn the rest, all the while trying to keep the smile off his face. He wasn’t sure what it was about Bella, but she was already changing things around here. Jasper didn’t hide things from Maria often, if ever, but Peter knew he had no intentions of sharing Bella’s true origins with her. For whatever reason, Jasper wanted to protect Bella and if Maria learned she wasn’t from their time, her greedy nature would take over. She would try to use whatever Bella might know about the future to her advantage, which was just plain dangerous.

Bella knew it too. She’d been very careful about how she explained things to Peter, so she was keenly aware that anything she said could end up effecting the course of history. Some knowledge was just not meant for vampires to have.

After the shirt had been reduced to ash, Peter helped Jasper dress her in the new one and then sat down beside him while Jasper buttoned it up one handed. He noticed that Jasper was still sedating Bella with his other hand and was idly wondering how long he was going to keep it up when something else occurred to him.

“Ya think she knows you?” Peter asked, keeping his voice low. “Where she’s from?”

Now that he thought about it, Bella had never outright said that she didn’t know Jasper. That was just the assumption he made when she told him Jasper wouldn’t know who she was. It would make sense that Bella knew how Jasper’s gift worked if she’d met him in her time. Jasper didn’t know Bella, but Peter suspected that sheknew him.

Surprised by the question, Jasper turned to look at him and Peter continued, “It’s just that… she thought I was you at first. When she finally got a good look at my face, she said, ‘You’re not Jasper.’ I didn’t think ’bout it before, but how did she know I wasn’t you unless she knows what ya look like?”

Jasper shifted his gaze back to Bella, looking deep in thought. If Bella actually knew Jasper and, at this point, it seemed highly likely that she did, it stirred up a whole bunch of questions that neither man could answer. For starters, it was incredibly hard to reconcile the fact that Bella knew Jasper on a first name basis with the knowledge that the coven she met was a peaceful, compassionate one. If she’d met Jasper through that coven, then did that mean he was going to walk away from this life one day? The possibility alone brought on a tidal wave of other questions that Peter doubted Bella would ever answer, not when she’d been so evasive about her trip through time.

Still, Peter couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to make Jasper walk away from Maria’s army. He was a tough son of a bitch and Peter loved him like a brother, but if there was one thing that could bring about his downfall someday, it was Jasper’s loyalty. The man was loyal to a fault and felt like he owed Maria for changing him and letting him live past his newborn year. There was even a time when Jasper fancied himself in love with the woman. He killed for her on a daily basis and Peter knew he would’ve taken Maria as a mate long ago if it were possible.

Alas, Maria had already mated and lost her mate long before she brought Jasper into her world. That painful discovery was why Jasper no longer visited her bed.

So what was going to happen in the future that would make Jasper leave this army behind? What could make him question that loyalty and finally cut those ties? Jasper was a man who thrived on war, who lived for it, so it was hard to imagine that he’d ever willingly walk away, let alone seek out a peaceful coven. Was Maria going to turn on him one day? Was she going to try to kill him? Or would Maria, herself, eventually tire of this life and simply release him? Was it even Maria who would drive him away or would something else entirely bring about Jasper’s desire to leave?

Peter stared at Bella in thought as reality finally came crashing down on him, his eyes absentmindedly following a bead of sweat as it slid down her elegant neck. He shook his head at himself, amazed at where his thoughts had taken him, all because the woman in front of him had said that he wasn’t Jasper. She was definitely a fiery little thing, the type of woman that could convince a man to believe anything was possible simply by existing. Her presence alone had opened up a whole new realm of possibilities that Peter had never dared to imagine before.

He couldn’t even begin to guess at what Jasper must be thinking.

Peter had long since given up on getting an actual answer out of the man when Jasper finally spoke, the tone of his voice full of so much scorn that it startled him, “That would mean I join that coven up north, right? The one that left her behind?”

“The one that she wanted to join?” Peter countered. “The peaceful one that reminded her of a family? Ya mean that one? Sounded mighty nice to me.”

“They still left her behind,” Jasper said quietly and Peter abruptly realized that he’d been missing the point. It wasn’t his future that Jasper was focusing on, but on the role he’d played in her past. “They brought her into our world and then just left her to deal with a vengeful mate all on her own. She was only human, Peter. Bella loved that coven and look where that got her. Didn’t end well for her, did it?”

Peter turned and stared at Jasper, amazed by his train of thought. While Peter was contemplating the possible reasons Jasper could leave, Jasper had been thinking about what this meant for Bella. She’d been hurt deeply by people she loved when that coven abandoned her and Jasper was having a hard time accepting the idea that he was one of those people. Bella wouldn’t be here if that coven, Jasper included, had just changed her and taken her with them. In a very roundabout way, one could argue that it was his fault that Bella had been recruited into Maria’s army.

“What’s your point, Major?” Peter prodded. He felt for Bella, yes, but he couldn’t see what good could possibly come from thinking like that. He couldn’t understand why it was so important to him.

Jasper glanced at him before training his gaze on Bella again, “Just can’t imagine a future where I would do that to someone who trusts me with her life.”

Peter fell silent at that, immensely surprised to discover that Bella’s trust mattered to Jasper. He was tempted to point out that Jasper had destroyed countless newborns that trusted him over the years, but knew that wouldn’t be the honest truth. After thinking about it, he realized that none of the vampires Jasper had ended ever truly trusted him. They could never fully trust the man responsible for changing them and forcing them to fight in a war. Having someone trust him so completely, trust him enough to put her life in his hands, was a rarity for Jasper. Peter was the only other person who had taken that leap of faith and Jasper had returned that trust and loyalty tenfold by keeping him alive after the end of his newborn year.

Bella, Peter suddenly realized, hadn’t just trusted him with her life, she’d given him that trust instantly. It’d taken months and the reassurance his gift provided him for Peter to fully trust Jasper. She was the first person to trust him so completely from the second he’d met her. It mattered. In fact, it mattered so much that Jasper resented his future self for betraying that trust by leaving her behind.

“Well, it hasn’t happened yet, Major,” Peter pointed out, simultaneously trying not to offend the empath with the strength of his relief. There’d been a few times when Peter wondered if Jasper would leave him behind someday. It didn’t help matters any to realize that Bella had known Jasper’s name, but hadn’t known his. “Bella wasn’t a vampire in that future. I’ve got a feelin’ that’ll change things. Nothing’s gonna be the same.”

At least he hoped so, because Peter didn’t like the idea that Bella met Jasper in a future he was no longer a part of.

Doubtful, Jasper gave Peter the side eye. Aware the empath could sense his inner turmoil, Peter carefully avoided looking at him, desperately trying not to think about why Bella didn’t meet him in the future. He was afraid of what it meant for his life expectancy.

Thankfully, his sire decided to let it go for now. Letting out a very human sounding sigh, Jasper gave Bella a considering look, “Let’s just make sure she survives the present first.”

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