For those of you who are concerned about the pairing, this is very much a redemption story for Jasper. Don’t worry- he won’t instantly win Bella’s forgiveness, he has to work for it. He’s going to earn her trust back, bit by painful bit.
Finally, for those of you in a giving mood, 4padfoot set up a donation link on my WP. I have severe medical problems that prevent me from holding a job. I’m currently appealing to Disability, but it’s taking a lot longer than I hoped. If you’re willing to donate, please do. Every penny helps. You can find the link at TBVikingAddict. wordpress. com (no spaces). It’s at the top of the grey bar on the bottom of the page.
Btw, this story is not up on WP yet, but you can find the first chapter on STARS.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Twilight Saga. Stephanie Meyer does. I’m just a writer who likes messing with Jasper’s head.
There comes a moment in every father’s life when he feels as if he’s failed his children. For Carlisle Cullen, that moment doesn’t come during the typical stage of teenage rebelliousness that it does for most. It isn’t as simple as discovering his kids have been arrested for getting drunk at a party or stealing something from the mall. The vampires Carlisle’s claimed as his children have extraordinary senses and abilities, so it almost seems fitting that when they finally manage to disappoint him, they do it in an equally extraordinary fashion.
He doesn’t learn what they’ve done right away. Thinking it’s the kind of news best delivered in person, Esme decides to wait until he returns from his shift at the hospital to inform her mate of the incident with Bella. He has no warning about the situation he walks into, he enters it blindly, and knows the second he steps through the door that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.
There’s a stifling tension in the air that feels heavy against his skin. The atmosphere feels thick, uncomfortable, and immediately sets him on edge. The way it clings to him reminds him of the unbearable humidity in the Amazon just before a storm rolls in. It’s a foreboding sensation, one that urges him to seek out his family and ensure they’re all okay.
He finds his wife in the kitchen, attempting to settle her anxiety by scrubbing the already immaculate counters. Shoulders bowed, Emmett sits on a sofa in the adjoining living room with his head buried in his hands. He can’t tell where Edward and Rosalie are, but they’re not the two that really worry him.
Alice and Jasper are the ones that draw his concern. He can hear them up in their bedroom, engaged in an argument so heated that he fears for the future of their relationship. Their raised voices are the biggest sign that something is gravely amiss. He can count how many times he’s heard the couple fight on one hand.
“They’ve been at it for over an hour,” Esme comments quietly, tossing a wet rag in the kitchen sink. The couple retreated to their bedroom not long after she finished her lecture and have been arguing ever since. “Something happened while you were at the hospital, darling. Something you’re not going to like.”
The sound of Bella’s name catches Carlisle’s attention and he looks up at the ceiling in concern. He hears Alice accuse Jasper of doing something on purpose and his stomach bottoms out. For one awful second, he honestly fears the empath killed Bella. Then he shakes his head at himself, realizing that someone would’ve called him if that were that case.
His relief at learning that no one has drained the tenderhearted girl is short-lived, because Esme takes him aside a second later and quietly explains exactly what happened while he was at work. After she recounts the story, taking great pains to describe just how devastated Bella was when she left, she pauses to gauge his reaction.
Carlisle stares at her blankly. He doesn’t understand what she’s saying at first. The idea that three of his children, as he has come to think of them, have manipulated Bella in such a way is incomprehensible to him. Carlisle is a man of deep compassion, a doctor who took a sacred oath to do no harm, and his family has harmed Bella Swan in a most grievous manner. Trying to process the news is like wading through mud, painfully slow and difficult.
When it finally sinks in, Carlisle wordlessly turns on his heel and walks out the door.
Abandoning the human pretense, he leaves his Mercedes at the house and runs. He takes a route through the woods and stops just inside the tree line that borders the Swan property. There, he unexpectedly finds Rosalie, whose dark eyes are trained on Bella’s bedroom window. Surprised by the sight, he pauses a second to admire his golden daughter in the light of the moon.
Rosalie has always been a creature of great beauty, but tonight she is breathtaking. The ivory moonlight makes her silken tresses gleam in a way that reminds him of a halo. He almost mistakes her for a guardian angel, sent to watch over the human girl his family has hurt in such an appalling manner. He doesn’t need Jasper’s gift to sense how fiercely protective she’s feeling, he can see it in the tension of her body and her careful, watchful gaze.
When he steps up beside her, Rose finally tears her eyes away from the house and turns to acknowledge him. There’s a simmering fury hidden in the midnight shade of her eyes that both takes him aback and fills him with dread. Rosalie has always kept her distance from Bella. If she’s this angry on her behalf, then the situation must be dire indeed.
With a face like stone, the blonde informs him, “She didn’t want me to stay.”
Carlisle nods tightly and looks at the window with a worried expression, “How is she?”
“I don’t know,” Rosalie quietly confesses. It bothers her more than she cares to admit. She expected Bella to break down the second she entered her bedroom. Instead, the brunette has been strangely quiet. Too quiet for comfort. “You don’t think she’ll hurt herself, do you?”
Uncertainty filling him, Carlisle hesitates. He wants to say no, but he doesn’t honestly know Bella well enough to make that kind of judgment call. The happy girl he remembers from yesterday wouldn’t, but that girl is dead now. She died the second she learned the two people she trusted the most allowed Jasper to manipulate her. Life as they know it has been set ablaze and he has no idea what kind of girl will rise from the ashes.
He wonders if his children even realize how helpless Bella must feel right now, like she’s nothing more than a puppet for them to control. It’s bad enough that Alice often treated her like a human doll. To learn they controlled her to such an extent? Well, it makes him pity Jasper, who he knows felt her reaction firsthand.
“I need to check on her,” he murmurs. “I need… I need to see what they’ve done.”
Carlisle hasn’t answered her question, but Rosalie decides not to press. He’s clearly just as uncertain about the situation as she is. Sadly, they can’t ask the opinions of the two who know Bella the best, because they’re the ones who’ve hurt her the most.
Folding her arms over her chest, Rosalie tilts her head and releases a gusty sigh, “Chief Swan is home. She held it together in front of him, but I think he knows something is wrong. If we knock on the door, I doubt he’ll let us in.” She swallows thickly, “Not without a decent explanation.”
Carlisle immediately understands. It won’t be enough to tell Charlie that they want to check on Bella solely because she broke up with Edward. The man has the instincts of a cop and he’ll question why they, out of everyone, have come to see her. With the exception of Edward and Alice, none of the Cullens have ever visited her at home. If Charlie expects anyone to check on her after the breakup, it’ll be Alice, not them. They can’t reasonably justify their need to see her or explain why Alice won’t be visiting their house anytime soon.
“Then we use her window,” Carlisle says quietly. Silently amused by the suggestion, Rosalie raises an eyebrow, but voices no objection. She wants to check on Bella just as badly as he does.
Stealthily, the pair dart across the lawn and make it to the tree Edward so often uses. Carlisle can smell his son’s thick, cloying scent all over the leafy maple and it fills him with concern. The strength of it tells him Edward does more than just use the tree to enter Bella’s bedroom. He watches her from it, he must, or the rains would’ve washed his scent away by now.
Coming to the same alarming realization, Rosalie growls softly and whispers in dismay, “Carlisle.”
“I know,” he nods tensely, briefly glancing at his daughter. The idea of Edward watching Bella when she’s unaware is unacceptable. “We’ll discuss it later.”
Rosalie carefully follows him up the tree, grateful it’s sturdy enough to bear their combined weight. Climbing out onto the wide branch that leads to her bedroom window, they peer through the glass to look at Bella.
Carlisle can feel his heart break as he gazes at her. Eyes still rimmed in red from her earlier tears, she sits huddled against the headboard on her bed. She’s curled herself into a ball, with her knees tucked against her chest and her arms loosely wrapped around them. There’s an empty expression on her face that he finds deeply unsettling and her eyes are vacantly fixed on the wall.
With just one look, he can tell she’s mentally checked out. The lights are on, but nobody’s home. She doesn’t even react when he knocks on her window. He quietly slides it open and that, too, goes ignored. They cautiously enter her room and she fails to notice. Immersed in her own little world, she doesn’t register their presence.
Carlisle approaches her slowly, paying close attention to her face. He just needs to see it, to see what his family has done to this golden-hearted creature with his own two eyes. The second he does, he regrets looking. Bella’s despair is a sight he can’t unsee.
It’s her eyes that trouble him most. They’ve grown so lifeless and dull that it makes his chest sting. Those deep pools of chocolate once held a warmth Carlisle was fond of, a light that made them shine, and his children have robbed her of it. It hurts to look at her. It hurts even more to know that members of his family are the ones who have done this to her.
Bella’s fury from earlier has long since faded, leaving a brutal numbness in its wake. Her mind is stuck on the events of earlier tonight, caught replaying it all in an endless loop. She can’t believe how blind she’s been. How could she not notice how much she was being manipulated? How much Edward and Alice controlled her?
By this point, her anger at Jasper has taken a backseat, because she has never been close to the empath. As much as his actions have hurt her, they’re eclipsed by the hurt that Alice and Edward have caused her. Alice was supposed to be her best friend, her sister in all but blood, and Edward… she thought Edward was her epic love, the man she would spend eternity with. The fact that they care so little for her free will is hard for her to comprehend.
Carlisle gently touches her shoulder and Bella visibly starts in surprise. She finally reacts, her haunted brown eyes colliding with a pair of darkened gold. Somehow unsurprised to see him, she murmurs numbly, “It’s like waking from a dream, Carlisle.” Her gaze skitters away from his as she stiltedly explains, “All I could think about was how impossible it was for someone as perfect as Edward to love me, but that’s not the way the real world works, is it? Life is messy and complicated. No one is ever that perfect… and nothing worth having can ever be so blissfully easy, can it?” Eyes glazing over with tears, she laughs bitterly, “I thought I was unworthy of him.” A tear spills over as she chokes out, “He’s the unworthy one.”
A lump forms in Carlisle’s throat as he listens to Bella’s heartbreaking epiphany. He hates to admit it, but he can’t bring himself to disagree. Deep and lasting relationships are never that simple. Bonds like the one he’s formed with his mate aren’t easy. It took decades of work for him to attain the level of understanding he now shares with Esme and Edward clearly doesn’t have the maturity for that kind of a relationship. He deeply regrets that it took the death of Bella’s innocence to realize just how unprepared Edward is for the kind of bond he wishes all his children can experience.
He fears his son will be forever stuck in the era he was born into, when it was acceptable for the man to make all the important decisions in a relationship. Edward was changed before women had even gained the right to vote and Bella is a modern woman. She will never accept the type of relationship Edward expects, one with such blatant inequality.
In hindsight, Carlisle realizes he should’ve noticed the disparity in their relationship when Edward sucked the venom from Bella’s veins. Letting her become a vampire would’ve put them on equal footing and he sees now that Edward was never going to allow that.
“You are an extraordinary girl, Bella Swan,” Carlisle tells her, his voice thick with emotion, “and if any of us ever made you feel less than you are, I apologize for it. Never doubt your worth.”
Bella finally looks at him again and feels herself start to lose control. His concern is written all over his face and it’s more than she can handle. One look and the floodgates burst open, releasing all the sorrow she’s spent the last two hours keeping under lock and key.
Alarmed, Rosalie gently pushes him aside to get to Bella. Joining her on the bed, she gathers the weeping brunette into her arms. Bella latches onto her like she’s her lifeline, tightly clutching the vampire to her as she falls apart. Tucking her face into Rosalie’s neck to muffle the sound, she cries so hard that her body shakes and her chest heaves.
Even now, she’s incredibly selfless. She doesn’t want to worry Charlie by crying too loudly.
Carlisle can do nothing but watch, gutted by the sight of her tears. For all his medical expertise, this is a wound he doesn’t know how to mend. He’s a vampire centuries old and he can’t recall ever feeling so helpless and out of his depth.
It’s the moment that he learns his family is capable of cruelty. The discovery haunts him.
Gently cradling Bella against her, Rose meets his gaze from over her quivering shoulder. There’s a dangerous gleam in her eyes that promises retribution. It’s a look that tells Carlisle that she’s officially taken the girl under her protection. Anyone who hurts Bella from now on will have to answer to Rosalie.
At any other time, that kind of look would concern Carlisle. Now, however, all he feels is relief. Though Bella has lost two of the most important people in her life, she’s gained a protector in his golden haired daughter. She needs that kind of support and he’s glad that she’s found it in Rosalie.
He understands it, this newfound protectiveness of his daughter’s. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he knows Rosalie is fond of Bella and what the others did to her hits too close to home. It reminds her of a time in her life when she had no control. Rosalie is intimately familiar with what it’s like to be at the mercy of others. She’s sipped from the cup of betrayal and knows just how bitter it tastes. That kind of hurt is never an easy thing to swallow.
Attempting to comfort her, Carlisle gently rubs Bella’s back and says penitently, “I am so sorry, Bella. This… this will never happen again. I swear it.”
Tearfully pulling back to look at him, Bella tries to speak, but she’s so upset she’s incoherent. It pains him to see her in such a state. Carlisle has always known her involvement with the family put her at risk, but he never anticipated that they would cause her this kind of pain. He feels like he’s failed her, both as a coven leader and a father.
Gazing at her tear-stained face, he feels the same impulse his mate did, the desperate need to fix it, to somehow undo the damage his family’s so carelessly created. Kneeling at her bedside, he reaches up to wipe away her tears and vows, “I’m going to fix this. Don’t give up on our family, Bella. I promise I’ll make things right.”
Bella cries even harder. She doesn’t think this mess is fixable.
Despite that, Rosalie’s and Carlisle’s efforts to comfort her touch something deep inside of Bella. Their kindness and concern tell her that they’re worth knowing and it sways her in their favor. She doesn’t intend to give up on the entire family and manages to tell him so. That doesn’t mean, however, that she can go back to dating Edward or being friends with Alice. Things will never be the same, because she already knows she’ll never trust them again. She makes certain he knows that too.
She doesn’t mention Jasper, but only because there’s nothing to go back to. He never let her connect with him and she has no desire to do so now. The empath is a nonissue to Bella. As long as he leaves her emotions alone, she’ll leave him alone.
Carlisle assures her that he understands. He honestly pities Edward, because he’s just destroyed the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Bella no longer trusts him and there can be no relationship without trust.
Anger does not come easily to Carlisle. He’s peaceful and compassionate by nature. Even so, he’s furious with his family for hurting Bella so deeply. The sweet, gentle brunette has always been astonishingly accepting and kind. She embraced them all without a second thought, becoming a bright beacon of hope and compassion for his family. She freely offered them her heart and it just about kills him to see what they chose to do with it.
By the time they calm her down enough that Carlisle feels comfortable with leaving, his heart feels heavy, but resolved. He hopes the three responsible for Bella’s pain realize there will be consequences for their actions, because he has no intentions of letting this go. What they did to her is not okay and he expected better from them.
“Carlisle, you need to keep Edward away from my house,” Bella says quietly before he can depart and Carlisle frowns in concern.
Sharing a look with Rosalie, he asks cautiously, “You don’t think he’ll stay away on his own?”
“No, I don’t… He used to sneak in here while I was asleep before we started dating,” Bella admits softly and Carlisle stiffens. Rose looks at him tensely, silently deciding she’ll keep watch over Bella’s tonight. “I know it helps his bloodlust to expose himself to my scent, but I can’t allow it anymore. I don’t want him around me. Alice either.”
“I understand,” Carlisle agrees, “and I’ll make certain they know.”
His eyes catch on Bella’s hamper as he turns to leave the room and he pauses, pensively eyeing the loose sleeve dangling over the edge. The mention of Edward’s exposure to her scent gives him an idea and he walks over to examine it. To his surprise, the shirt belongs to Charlie, even though Bella’s scent clings to it. She’s been wearing her father’s flannel shirts.
Picking it up, he turns to look at Bella and asks, “Would you mind if I borrowed a few shirts from you, Bella? Just a handful from your hamper?”
Bewildered by the request, Bella clarifies, “You want my dirty laundry?”
“The clothes you wore carry your scent,” Carlisle says meaningfully, “and I think it’s time we worked on desensitizing a certain empath to it.”
Bella stares at him for a long moment before letting out a dark laugh. Rosalie smirks as the brunette pulls her pillowcase off her pillow and tosses it to him with an amused grin, “Sure, Carlisle. Knock yourself out.”
He grabs a handful of plaid shirts and stuffs them in the pillowcase, secretly pleased that Bella found humor in the idea. It gives him hope that the actions of his family won’t torment her forever. With a little time and support, Bella will survive this. His children may have burned their bridges with her, but she won’t let it destroy her. She’ll make something of the ashes.
He refuses to accept any other outcome.
Carlisle’s fury when he finally returns home from Bella’s is a magnificent thing to behold. He’s so upset with his family that he accidentally takes the front door off the hinges. Esme doesn’t even scold him for it, because she’s just as upset as he is. They’ve always strived for peace in every aspect of their lives and the pain their family caused Bella is unpalatable to them. She’s always held a special place in their hearts for being the extraordinary creature she is, the human girl who chose to look past their terrifying nature and love them anyway.
“Family meeting,” he says sternly, loud enough for everyone to hear. Walking over to the head of the dining room table, he sets Bella’s clothes at his feet. “Get down here, now.”
Emmett is the first to join them, anger prevalent in the lines of his face. Carlisle considers telling him that he’s free to spend the night as he pleases, but quickly realizes that Emmett needs to witness this. He needs to know his siblings will face actual consequences for hurting his human sister.
“Where’s Rosie?” he questions in concern, looking past Carlisle in an attempt to find his mate. He knows he just came from Bella’s and expected Rosalie to return with him.
“She’s staying with Bella tonight,” Carlisle informs him and Emmett’s face falls. If Rosalie feels the need to stay with Bella, then his human sister isn’t handling things as well as he hoped.
Jasper is the next to take his place at the table. To their surprise, he chooses a seat next to Emmett and Esme, intentionally picking the side he knows Alice won’t. Taken aback by how miserable he looks, Carlisle studies the empath for a moment. He can literally feel the man’s remorse and realizes he’s already punishing himself far more than Carlisle ever can.
It seems that Jasper genuinely regrets what he’s done. Carlisle regrets that it isn’t enough.
Alice takes her time descending the stairs, dragging her feet as if she’s been called before a firing squad. She already knows what’s to come and she’s not eager to face it. Carlisle has never punished them before and it unnerves her that he’s chosen to now. Since he hasn’t decided on what form it will take, she can’t see the specifics, but she’s seen enough to know that they won’t be getting off lightly. They’ve disappointed him and the knowledge cows her.
She can’t recall ever disappointing Carlisle before. Until tonight, she didn’t think it was even possible. They’ve slipped countless times over the years and Carlisle has never held it against them.
Alice doesn’t realize that she can’t remember it because this is the first time they’ve truly disappointed him. Carlisle expects them to slip. He knows they’re trying their best and that has always been good enough for him. What he doesn’t expect, what no one can prepare him for, is what three of his children have done to Bella Swan.
The family waits for Edward to join them, but the telepath never appears. Still brooding over Bella’s decision to break up with him, he’s petulantly chosen to ignore the summons. Losing his patience, Carlisle sends Emmett to fetch him and the burly vampire all but throws Edward at his feet, a look of disgust on his face.
“We need to talk,” he says seriously and stares at Edward until he finally takes a seat at the table.
For a moment, Carlisle just looks at them all. Though he calls them his children and loves them as such, they’re really not. Even the youngest among them is old enough to be a great grandparent. They have decades of experience under their belts and should know what’s appropriate by now. Bella’s the only real teenager in his life and the way she behaves puts them all to shame.
That’s fine. If they want to act like children, then he’ll treat them accordingly.
“This thing that the three of you do, making decisions for the rest of us because you possess gifts,” he begins, his voice heavy with disapproval, “it stops now. Those gifts do not make you special. You are not superior to the rest of us and you have to stop behaving as if you are. You have no right to force your desires on others, especially someone who lacks the physical strength to fend you off. We are all equals here, no single person’s wants and desires are more important than another’s. And that includes Bella.”
They nod quietly and Edward starts to stand, thinking the discussion is over. He learns just how wrong he is when Carlisle barks, “Sit your ass down, Edward!”
Startled, the mindreader does as he’s told. The lecture that follows makes the one Esme gave them feel like a slap on the wrist. The man is incandescent in his fury and it’s a sight they’ve never seen before. For the first time since they joined his coven, he takes control. He becomes every bit the coven leader he was always supposed to be.
He’s already failed Bella once. He refuses to do it again.
Fuming, Carlisle makes it painfully clear that they will be punished for their actions. He tells them all, in no uncertain terms, that they will live by his rules and respect the new boundaries he intends to set. If they don’t like it, he invites them to pack their bags and get the hell out. No one is forcing them to stay. If they wish to remain with the family, however, then they will treat his word as law. He’s tried trusting them to use their gifts maturely and their behavior towards Bella has shown him that they need a firmer hand.
Unsurprisingly, no one objects. They’ve rarely seen their father figure so angry before and none of them are eager to be on the receiving end of his wrath.
“From now on, Bella’s house is strictly off limits,” he says firmly, silencing Edward with a glower when he tries to protest. “Unless she personally invites you to visit, you will stay away from her home.” A concerned looking Emmett catches his eye and Carlisle softens, “Bella has asked me to tell you that you have an open invitation, Emmett. I fear she intends to avoid our house for a while, so you are welcome to go see her whenever you wish.”
Relaxing, Emmett nods in acknowledgement and Carlisle smiles sadly. It’s disconcerting to see his congenial son looking so solemn.
Eyes flashing, he warns the other three, “It would behoove the rest of you to distance yourself from Bella. Give her space. She is very hurt and needs time to heal.”
“Then we should move,” Edward suggests, stunning Carlisle into silence. While he’s come to the realization that Edward was never going to change Bella, he can’t believe what he’s now proposing. Not only is it unbearably cruel to abandon Bella in such a way, it’s dangerous. If the Volturi ever learn they left a human who knows about them to her own devices, their entire coven will be punished. It makes him ill to think Edward would risk their lives like that.
“Edward,” Esme says warningly, but the telepath ignores her. He doesn’t care that she’s already promised Bella that they’ll stay here, because Carlisle has the final say. He’s so focused on convincing their coven leader that it’s the best course of action that he forgets something key. He forgets that Carlisle will never go against his mate. Though they normally discuss the important decisions in private, they ultimately make them together.
“We’re a danger to her, Carlisle,” he argues. “Surely you see that now! The longer we stay here, the greater the chance we’ll hurt her again. If we cut ties with her now, she can go on to live a peaceful, human life!”
Carlisle starts to respond, but Edward doesn’t give him the chance, not when he can hear from Carlisle’s thoughts what his answer will be. “Every moment she spends with us, her life is at risk. What happens if she trips one day and slices her hand open? Bella’s clumsy, Carlisle. She’s going to hurt herself at some point and one of us will be unable to resist.”
“You mean you will be unable to resist,” Emmett derisively cuts in. “Bella wants nothing to do with you anymore, Eddie. Problem solved.”
“I’m not the only threat to her, Emmett,” Edward reminds him, glancing meaningfully at Jasper. “Even Jasper acknowledges that. It’s why he was controlling her emotional state to begin with!”
“Yeah? Well, something tells me he wouldn’t find it so hard to resist if he didn’t feel your lust for your singer! Ever consider that Jasper’s not the problem here?” Emmett argues and Jasper looks at him in surprise. While he’s never given much thought to the idea that he may be absorbing Edward’s heightened bloodlust, it hardly matters. He knows his control is poor regardless.
“Bella’s scent has always tempted me, Emmett,” Jasper admits, “whether Edward’s around or not.”
Emmett gives him a a betrayed look and the empath realizes a second too late that it sounds like he’s agreeing with Edward. Capitalizing on that fact, Edward gestures towards him emphatically and exclaims, “See! She’s in danger around us!” When Emmett growls menacingly, he asks in a disbelieving tone, “Why are you fighting so hard against this? Bella has no future with us, Emmett. She will bleed eventually and one of us will kill her.”
“We could always change her,” Emmett suggests with such an innocent look that it brings an amused smile to Jasper’s face. Even Alice finds herself muffling a laugh.
“You would damn her soul?” Edward questions in outrage, glancing at Carlisle for support. Their coven leader has never bitten someone who isn’t on the brink of death. He is a preacher’s son, after all.
What Edward has always failed to understand is that Carlisle believes in redemption. A thirst for blood isn’t damning on its own and he’s never prescribed to Edward’s belief that vampires lack a soul.
“Perhaps you should’ve considered that before you brought Bella into our world,” Jasper remarks, darkly amused by the family’s reactions to Edward’s pleas. From what he can sense, they’re falling on deaf ears. “It’s a little late to be getting cold feet, Edward.”
“No, you’re wrong, Jasper. It isn’t too late,” Edward protests and looks at Carlisle desperately. “We can still do the right thing.” When Carlisle remains unmoved, he says to Emmett, “If Rose were here, she’d agree with me. She hates being a vampire. She wants Bella to have a normal life!”
Emmett scowls at him, but it’s Carlisle who responds, “Rose wants to stay.”
Carlisle hopes that’ll be the end of it, but Edward merely turns to look at Esme and presses, “If we cut ties with Bella now, she still has the opportunity to have children of her own one day. Don’t you want that for her, Esme? A chance to be a mother?”
Before Esme has a chance to gather her thoughts and respond, Emmett has an epiphany, “Bella was right about you.” Brought up short by the comment, Edward looks at him in confusion. “I thought she only said it to hurt you, but that’s not it, is it? You really are a manipulator. You know just what to say to make us bend to your will, don’t you?”
In an attempt to sway them, Edward has called attention to Jasper’s fear of draining Bella, Emmett’s reluctance to go against his mate, and Carlisle’s unshakable faith. When that doesn’t work, he takes it a step further and reminds Esme of her inability to bear children. The only one Edward hasn’t addressed is Alice, who always takes his side.
“You listen to our thoughts and then use our concerns against us,” Jasper says slowly, agreeing with Emmett. “Are you that desperate to control her?”
“This isn’t about control,” Edward denies, but Jasper can sense him. The idiot’s lying to himself. “It’s about what’s best for Bella.”
Carlisle silences them all by slamming his palm down on the table, cracking it in the process. “Enough!” The shock of Carlisle’s anger makes a hush descend upon them. Pinning Edward with a dark look, he reprimands, “You are in no position to decide what’s best for Bella, Edward. Have you learned nothing at all from tonight’s events? It’s not your decision to make!”
Edward already knows this, of course. He promised Bella he would stop interfering with her life and allow her to make her own decisions. And it’s a promise he had every intention of honoring… until the moment he realized Bella still wants to be involved in their world. He can’t bring himself to accept that. If she continues to bond with their family, she’ll inevitably ask one of them to change her and that isn’t the future he wants for her. “Carlisle-“
“You have already hurt her profoundly, Edward,” Carlisle cuts him off, shaking his head. “I will not allow you to do it again.”
“I’m not trying to hurt her,” Edward argues, growing more and more frustrated, “I’m just trying to protect her!”
Emmett scoffs loudly and Alice cringes, dearly wishing her favorite brother would think before he speaks. Not quite believing her ears, Esme stares at Edward in shock. It’s like he’s completely disregarded everything Bella said to him.
“Bella’s made it more than clear that she doesn’t want your kind of protection anymore,” Jasper reminds the stubborn telepath. Unlike Edward, he listened to Bella earlier. He heard her concerns and is taking them to heart.
Edward sneers at him in response.
Carlisle sternly clears his throat, drawing their gazes back to him. Looking at Edward, he states, “It’s been brought to my attention that you have a habit of trying to control Bella when she does something you dislike. That ends now, Edward. You have no more say in what she does or whom she spends her time with, including members of this family. We’re staying here and that’s the end of it.”
Giving his first companion a strange look that the others don’t understand, he asks in dismay, “Did you really sneak into her room at night before you started dating her?”
Jasper tenses and looks at Alice sharply, who studiously avoids his gaze. He can sense her guilt and it disgusts him. She clearly knew what Edward was up to and kept it to herself. She knowingly risked Bella’s life by allowing her brother to enter the room of his singer while she was at her most vulnerable.
As appalling as the revelation is, it brings Jasper a semblance of relief. Even though he knows Bella broke up with Edward for a number of reasons, a part of him still felt as if he personally ruined Edward’s relationship. Now he realizes that it’s not his fault. Their relationship obviously had bigger problems than Jasper and his empathy.
He doesn’t feel guilty anymore. Not about that, at least. If Edward can violate her privacy so easily, then he isn’t worthy of her. Bella deserves better than that.
“What is he talking about, Edward?” Esme asks in alarm. When Edward can’t bring himself to answer her, she looks to her mate for an explanation.
“It seems Edward has a history of spying on Bella when she’s unaware,” Carlisle informs her, silently recalling how thickly Edward’s scent coats the tree outside of Bella’s window. Shamed by the reminder, Edward averts his gaze. “She told me he used to sneak into her room while she was sleeping.”
“Before they started dating?” Esme clarifies. When Carlisle nods, she’s dearly tempted to reach across the table and throttle the boy. He’s been treating Bella poorly for far longer than she realized.
Emmett shakes his head and mutters angrily, “Stalker.”
It’s not uncommon for vampires to fixate on someone who provokes their curiosity, but Edward has gone too far. Carlisle was under the impression that Edward spent his nights watching over Bella’s house in the beginning. Until she mentioned it to him, he didn’t know that Edward entered her room while she was sleeping.
It bothers him, this consistent lack of respect for Bella’s privacy. He has no idea how she tolerated it for as long as she did.
Frowning at Edward, Carlisle decides, “You will be volunteering at the women’s shelter in Port Angeles three days a week, from now until graduation.” Edward tries to interrupt, but Carlisle silences him with a chastising look. “This is not a request. One weekday and the weekends.” He leans forward, gazing at him intently, “There is a very fine line between caring and emotional abuse, Edward. It’s time you learn the difference.”
Carlisle was unaware of just how many choices Edward took away from Bella and he feels she’s right, some of his behavior is controlling and obsessive. He wants Edward to recognize that and hopes volunteering will help him correct his behavior.
For once, Edward is speechless.
Satisfied, Carlisle changes the subject, “I have always trusted you to use your gifts at your discretion, but now I realize I have been too lenient. You are not to use your gifts against the family. That includes Bella.” Raising his hand to stall them, he says, “I do not care why you did it. The truth is that all three of you abuse your gifts and it has cost Bella dearly. From now on, they are only to be used for the family’s protection against outside threats. If you feel the need to use them on other family members, approach me about the situation first. As coven leader, it falls to me to settle internal disputes. It’s wrong to use your gifts against each other.”
He pauses to meet their eyes, one by one, and softens his tone, “I understand that you cannot control the influx of certain information, be it visions, thoughts, or feelings, but you can control how you use what you learn. You’ve all been using them to manipulate the family in different ways and that is unacceptable.”
Jasper shifts guiltily, lowering his gaze to the tabletop. Alice glances at him, her eyes gleaming with satisfaction, and it makes Carlisle realize that she doesn’t think she’s guilty of the same crime. Focusing on her, he warns, “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that doesn’t include you, Alice. You’ve been using your visions to unduly influence Bella’s life and it needs to stop.” Startled, the petite vampire looks at him with wide eyes. “You, too, struggle with allowing her to make her own decisions. Until you learn some restraint, we will be meeting nightly to discuss your visions. You are not to actively search for the futures of the family unless we request it. If you can prove to me that you can handle your gift with maturity, that may change in time.”
“I am your coven leader,” he interrupts. “I rarely demand you treat me like one, but it doesn’t change the fact that I am. You have a duty to share certain visions with me and you failed to do that. We will discuss this more tomorrow.”
Sinking down in her seat, Alice scowls unhappily. Deep down, she knows she’s overstepped, but she’s still too stubborn to admit it. Bella’s future is constantly in flux. She’s only human and Alice has seen her possible death too many times to resist influencing the outcome.
Carlisle finally turns his eyes to Jasper, who tenses at the attention. The empath is keenly aware that he is responsible for the coven’s current woes and a significant part of him fears Carlisle will ask him to leave. He’ll do it, if that’s what Carlisle desires, but he doesn’t want to. He still hasn’t built up enough control to brave the world alone, not without putting any human unfortunate enough to cross his path at risk.
“Esme tells me that you used your gift on Bella to keep her from approaching you,” Carlisle states, his face unreadable. “She says you believe you’ll drain Bella if she catches you alone. Is this true, Jasper?”
When the Texan winces, Carlisle nods sharply and grabs the pillowcase Bella loaned him. Pulling out one of the shirts he collected from her laundry basket, he tosses it to Jasper. It’s a long sleeved, blue plaid shirt that belonged to Chief Swan before Bella got her hands on it. Alice flat out refused to let Bella wear it in public, but that’s never kept her from wearing it around her house. Her scent clings so heavily to the fabric that it almost smells as if she’s in the room with them.
Catching it on reflex, Jasper glances at it bemusedly. He isn’t sure where this is going, but something tells him he’s not going to like it. Puzzled, he looks at Carlisle, who firmly instructs, “Put it on.”
The protesting growl that rips itself from Edward’s throat brings a delighted smile to Emmett’s face. His trademark dimples make an appearance as he encourages, “Yeah, Jazz, put it on. Then tell us what it’s like to have Bella wrapped around you.”
Esme firmly slaps the back of his head, chiding, “Emmett.”
“Sorry, Esme,” he apologizes insincerely, “I meant Bella’s scent, not Bella herself. My bad.”
Alice’s expression darkens, but the others fail to notice. Their attention is trained on Jasper and the shirt in his hand. Brow creased, the empath studies it uncertainly before throwing a questioning look at Carlisle. The doctor nods at the garment and sternly repeats, “Put it on, Jasper.”
“Carlisle, you cannot be serious!” Edward exclaims, forcefully shoving his chair back as he gets to his feet. His entire being revolts at the idea of smelling his Bella on another man, no matter the reason.
“Edward, go for a hunt,” Carlisle demands, finally losing his patience. When Edward starts to argue with him, he cuts the impudent boy a warning look, “You are already on thin ice, son. I suggest you quit while you’re ahead.”
“I’ll take him,” Alice quietly volunteers, earning a suspicious look from Emmett. He worries Edward will convince her to visit the Swans’ house and Bella has expressed a need for space. “Emmett too,” she sighs, seeing her brother’s decision. Carlisle nods in acknowledgement and the two all but drag the stubborn mindreader out into the woods behind their house.
When the backdoor closes, he returns his attention to Jasper, who hesitantly removes his overshirt and replaces it with Bella’s. As Chief of Police, Charlie Swan is a well built man and his shirt fits Jasper comfortably.
Running her eyes over him, Esme tilts her head pensively. Unsurprisingly, the Texan looks more comfortable in plaid than Abercrombie. It fits him much better than the preppy look Alice favors. She doesn’t realize just how uncomfortable he is wearing his wife’s preferred brand of clothing until she sees him wearing Bella’s.
Absently straightening his sleeves, Jasper questions, “Just how long am I supposed to wear this for, Carlisle?”
“Until her scent fades and you need a replacement,” Carlisle says honestly and hands the pillowcase off to Esme. “We’ll preserve these in an airtight container for now. Eventually, I’ll have to speak with Bella about procuring you more.”
Jasper’s eyes darken at the prospect of constantly carrying Bella’s scent on his skin. Disconcertingly, he can’t tell whether the suggestion inspires his bloodlust or lust of an entirely different manner.
Unfortunately, the satisfaction that runs through him at the idea is not something he can help. After their earlier confrontation, his feelings towards Bella are shifting, growing into something much more dangerous than simple bloodlust. The darker side of him, the part that thirsts for human blood and longs for the hunt, is endlessly fascinated with Bella. That same side of him is disturbingly pleased by the idea of wearing her scent.
Attempting to distract himself, he presses, “And you find this necessary why, exactly?”
“You’re afraid of killing her,” Carlisle bluntly explains. “Exposure therapy may help you tame that desire.” He gestures towards the backdoor. “Bella is Edward’s singer. If exposure therapy worked for him, I fail to see why it can’t work for you.”
Jasper’s expression turns contemplative. It makes sense, now that he really thinks about it. It’s the same concept they apply to their daily lives, just on a more personal level. They attend school in every town they move to in an effort to build up their tolerance for human blood. Why can’t it help him adjust to Bella’s?
Noticing his reaction, Carlisle sighs, “You should’ve come to me with your concerns, Jasper. If I’d known you were struggling with your bloodlust to this extent, I would’ve suggested this sooner.”
While Carlisle has always known that Jasper has difficulty maintaining their diet, he never realized how much Bella’s blood, specifically, tempts him. He doesn’t have the benefit of a gift to tell him what Jasper’s issues are. He can’t see his decisions or read his mind and he certainly can’t feel his bloodlust. He can only help the empath if he chooses to confide in him.
Wincing in acknowledgement, Jasper apologizes, “It was a mistake not to come to you. It seems I’ve made a great deal of them lately.” With a hesitant look, he carefully asks, “How is she?”
“Devastated,” Carlisle answers honestly and Jasper flinches. He feels for the empath, whose misguided actions came from a place of concern. It isn’t about control for Jasper. The man genuinely fears he’ll kill Bella, he just chose the wrong way to deal with the situation. “I know why you did it, Jasper, but you need to learn how to solve your problems without your gift. You rely on it too much.”
Jasper falls quiet. His gift is the reason he’s survived for as long as he has and it’s hard to accept the concept that he’s too reliant on it. Hard, but not impossible. After witnessing Bella’s reaction to his emotional interference, he’s come to realize that something needs to change. He hurt her earlier and that was never his intention. He never wants Bella to feel that way again.
“I’ll wear the shirts,” he quietly concedes, meeting Carlisle’s eyes. “If this is what it takes to stay, I’ll do it.”
Carlisle sighs heavily. Jasper has never seen himself as a permanent part of the family. It doesn’t matter that he’s spent decades living amongst them, he still thinks his membership is conditional. Carlisle loves him like a son, but Jasper has trouble accepting it. He’s clearly under the impression that the family’s love comes with strings attached.
Carlisle meant it when he told them that they’ll be required to follow his rules if they want to remain with the family. Whether they decide to stay, however, is entirely up to them. He won’t love them any less if they choose to go and leaving doesn’t mean they aren’t welcome to return. They will always be his family, no matter what they decide or where they live.
Gently touching her mate’s shoulder, Esme says soothingly, “We will never ask you to leave, Jasper. Whether you decide to stay with us has always been up to you. You are a part of this family and that will never change. Even if you one day decide to return to Peter and Charlotte, you will always be a Cullen.”
Jasper looks at her in genuine surprise and smiles at the surge of familial love he senses from her. It’s both unexpected and a welcome relief. After what happened earlier that evening with Bella, he feared the family would treat him differently. It eases something inside of him to realize they haven’t given up on him yet.
“You don’t have to wear the shirts if you genuinely object,” Carlisle offers, “but this is for Bella. She has become an integral part of our family too and it’s time we make some concessions for her sake.” Eyeing Jasper in consideration, he asks hopefully, “Do you think you can bear it? I imagine her scent will trigger your thirst at first, but eventually I believe you will overcome it.”
Jasper looks down at the shirt in thought. Bella’s scent is extraordinarily tempting and his throat already burns, but the idea of building up a tolerance to her blood is even more appealing. If it works, it’ll be worth it. He’s just concerned that it won’t. He’s been attending school for years and his mouth still floods with venom every time he goes to class.
Smoothing his hands down the fabric, Jasper nods. If it doesn’t work, then they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it. For Bella, though, he’s willing to try. After tonight, he owes the girl that much.