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Grim Reaper's Release

Summary:
When the gruesome murder of a pastor is mysteriously caught on tape, what will happen to the vampire race? Suddenly, the world knows about vampires. The Cullens need to get out of Forks. And fast. But what will happen when the Volturi wants to interfere? Or the Southern Armies? And, more importantly, who are these strange vampire twins? Photobucket


Notes:
...I've been away for a seriously long time, haven't I? O.O

Well, I'm back with a new story and I still haven't decided if I should continue my other stories. A lot's been happening in my life and I'm sure my feelings on all of my other stories have changed drastically. Anyway, this is just an idea that's been floating around my head for probably a year now but I've never really developed it into more than just a smidge of an idea.

Just a few warnings before I continue: This story is seriously...morbid. It's not really a good story at all. There's violence, world domination, chaos, and the world kind of goes insane...but it has a happy ending! Promise!

Also, the chapters are gonna be really long on this. Like, seriously long. It's not that I want to get this done in less chapters or whatever, it's just that in each chapter, a few different character's point of view's on different things need to be included to add other factors of the story. I mean, if I had each new point of view a chapter, we'd probably be up to 50 chapters by the time I get to the middle.

That being said, I guess a few things you should know is that I don't know when I'll be getting new chapters up. I hope, with winter break here, I'll have this story done by the middle of February, maybe? I was planning on having this only 7 chapters at the maximum, but the farther I get into this story, the longer it seems. And, I hope, I'll be getting each chapter up each week. I've already written chapter 2 and 3 but I'm gonna post them weekly.

Next, I seriously need to thank my best mate Kira with this story. She gave me a HUGE idea for it and has been such an amazing supporter of all my stories from the start!

*breathes in relief* Alright, I think that's all for now. Now that I've gotten it all out, go read. I'm sure the story is much more interesting than my babbling. *snort*


33. Treasure Chest of Memories

Rating 3.9/5   Word Count 11174   Review this Chapter

Jasper's Point of View

It was comforting to get out of the large mansion.

Inside, it felt like the walls were closing in on you. Rather like a Venus fly trap. I had never been claustrophobic in neither my human nor vampire life but when enclosed within the house, there was a sort of nauseous, dizzying sensation that came along with it. And, as was to be expected, the story of the twins only made it worse.

There was so much confusion swelling over from my family that I felt it mingle with my own. Somehow, I did not have much difficulty understanding their history - I automatically knew they were different just by looking at them, I think it was just shocking to learn how different they truly were - but many of my family members had a hard to comprehending everything. Especially poor Emmett, who looked like a frustrated little first grader struggling to add two plus two.

However, outside in the cool air, it was easier to put the pieces back together and make sense of everything. Without the twins' almost overbearing presence looming over us, their story seemed to fit more and more.

"Man," Emmett mumbled as he stepped through the front door and stood on the porch, "my brain hurts."

I glanced over at him and smiled as I leaned against one of the thick white pillars. Knowing him, that was most likely an understatement. My eyes flickered up to the night sky as he grumbled to Rosalie in quiet complaints.

To say it was strange to be back in the South was a second understatement. I didn't know whether to enjoy the familiar scents of the land, like the dry heat and growing crops, or to feel like I didn't belong. In a way, being here made me feel much closer to my deceased family. I had lived here at some time, happy and oblivious to the dark world around me, but now I had changed and been changed. I was hardly the same boy I had been when I lived here in my father's plantation, roughly a small fifteen to twenty miles away.

I almost felt like a fraud, standing here under the blanket of familiar stars and moon. I recognized some of the soldiers, obviously including Maria, and if any of them expected me to be the ruthless warrior I had been all those decades ago, they were dead wrong. I couldn't be that person; I didn't have it in me anymore. I would rather be in the capitol, wandering the lonely streets, or in Philadelphia, dodging riots, then have to even face these expectations.

Ah, and then there was Maria, of course. I didn't know what she wanted, what she even wanted to speak about, but every time I thought about her, I became nervous. I didn't even know if I wanted to speak to her. On the other hand, I also knew it was inevitable. I owed her some sort of explanation or even apology for my rude behavior decades ago and she...well, she obviously felt the need to say something to me. Her wild emotions of anxiety and concern served no aide in figuring out what she wanted.

"You have to go speak to her, don't you?" Alice's small voice startled me.

I looked down, feeling almost guilty at being caught even thinking about Maria, and glanced into her wide ocher eyes. She spun and leaned her back against the railing of the porch as she faced me.

I felt a sharp sense of dread burst inside of me. All I wanted was to stay here with my Alice. Since I had returned, there had only been a short amount of fifteen minutes to give my scant explanation. She had somehow understood my nonsense rambling but I could tell she wanted more from me. No, she deserved more of an explanation from me. I just wanted a chance to talk - not to Maria - and to at least attempt to describe all of this. But yet again it seemed I was being torn away from her.

A large sigh escaped my lips and I looked away from her and towards the open lawn. Past all of the crowds and groupings I could see her, my creator, on the outskirts and facing me. I gulped a bit.

"I think so, yes," I told her truthfully, "I actually don't think I have much of a choice."

I felt her feathery touch on my upper arm as she spoke. "You always have a choice, Jasper. It may not seem like it, but you do." And so what were my choices, then? Ignore Maria, only to be asked to talk to her an hour from now? Go to her and just get it over and done with now? If I pretended I had forgotten about her, which everyone knew was impossible anyway, I could buy some time with Alice. But then the whole time I knew I would be thinking about the upcoming conversation with Maria in the back of my mind. And that wasn't fair. If I was going to do this right, Alice ought to have all of me with no distractions. I couldn't be mentally at two places in one time.

"I'm going to go talk to her now," I decided, more for Alice's benefit than my own, "and just see what she wants now. I think it'll be easier that way."

Alice nodded stiffly and her hand dropped. She pushed herself off of the railing and stood on her tippy toes. I smiled lightly and leaned down as she placed a quick peck on my cheek. "Don't be too long," she said softly.

I pulled back and studied her expression. She didn't look too heartbroken, something I didn't expect anyway. Alice was good at covering up her emotions that way. Her emotions were very vague, too, something that peeved me. She was purposely keeping them from me. There was not one trace of anger or sadness on her flawless face, not one ounce of pain in her eyes. She looked utterly blank.

"I won't. I'll try to keep it short." I gave her a small, crooked smile before turning away and slowly walking down the porch steps. It seemed almost unfair to leave her there. Kind of like I was trading her for a moment or two with Maria.

My foot hit the grass with a crunch and I kept walking, past my family's curious glances and towards the thick crowd. I was determined to settle this, finally, and get back to Alice. Short and sweet, hopefully.

By the time I had weaved myself through the crowd and towards Maria's silhouette, my impatience and irritation towards her had done nothing but amplify. My head was swarming with questions and, for once, I felt like I was the one that needed an explanation instead of being the one who needed to make things clear.

I didn't belong here, on this spacious front lawn of a mansion surrounded by hundreds of vampires. I didn't belong with Maria or even with her massive army. These were all things of my past and that is where I wanted them to stay. Not in my present or future. I belonged with my family, now huddled on the porch steps discussing things, with my wife.

Her face looked as if she had been expecting me. She most likely had, actually. She could have eavesdropped on my short conversation with Alice. Regardless, there was a lack of surprise on her face and a settled calmness to her emotions. It caught me off guard; I had been anticipating great unease in response to my presence. She turned towards me as I broke away from the masses of vampires and cautiously approached her.

Nothing had changed. I suppose I should have expected that. I should have realized that being a vampire disabled the ability to age or alter your appearance. But it still took my breath away, even now, to look at her and see that same fragile-looking youthful face and to know I had set my eyes upon it, unchanged, over a century ago.

She had maybe lost the cold edginess to her small features but it made no remarkable difference. She was the same Mexican, brown-haired, childish looking girl who had bitten me nearly one hundred and fifty years previous.

"Walk with me?" She offered and waved her hand towards a beaten down, dirty path. I frowned and glanced over my shoulder. I couldn't see Alice. The only family member I could spot was Emmett and that was only from his height and size.

I looked back at her, at her exhausted face and tense shoulders, and nodded. Like Alice had said, I had a choice. Even here, at this moment, I could have refused and said to speak to me now. But something, a part of me that I greatly feared, wanted to see what she had in store. I wanted to follow her; I wanted to taste the Southern countryside, something I hadn't seen in decades.

She began walking and I trailed after her and the first few moments were tense. All I could hear were the deteriorating sounds of the campground, now silencing behind us, and the sounds of our light breathing. There were few disturbances in nature besides a nearby stream and numerous lightning bugs flapping their delicate wings.

There was something disturbingly familiar about being back here with her. It was easy, too easy, to fall back into place as her soldier, not as an acquaintance or colleague. This fact worried me.

"It hasn't changed much, has it?" I asked lightly, cutting through the thick stillness that cloaked us. She kept walking but glanced side to side.

"No, I suppose not to you. The local town that was here had a population boom a few decades back. It's now the ideal spot for tourists looking for the quaint Texan countryside. As you can imagine, it comes in handy for hunting. But most spots we visited or trekked through still remain. The state is all about preserving history these days." Her black eyes rolled slightly and I nodded.

For a moment, I was stunned to realize just how much of my life I had spent here. I felt like I was as ancient as the twins. My life was divided into so many separate parts it was difficult to keep track of them. I had nearly forgotten about my years here and how well I used to know this land and the people who occupied it.

Not only that, I had nearly forgotten about how much I actually, truly enjoyed living here at first.

The years spent here had slowly gone sour, much like wine, but in the beginning there had been such a strong sense of freedom. We had spent our days spying on humans and planning our schemes and our nights hunting. Of course there had been much aggression from the newborns and much time spent on keeping them under control but I had liked it.

I actually had liked it.

"See, over there," Maria pointed to a flickering light far off to the right where I could just barely make out a small house, "that's the farmhouse you used to go to at night. Remember? It was abandoned. You would go up in the rafters of the farm and-"

It was sickening. There were so many details, so many memories, resurfacing that I had tried and tried to bury for so long. And she was uncovering them all, digging through my mind and revealing them to me. Of course I remembered the old farmhouse, of course I remembered the tavern in town, of course I remembered the hidden caves. I remembered everything of that past lifetime now, like how I had picked my prey and plucked them off the vine like grapes.

What would that Jasper think of this one? That Jasper was a free spirit, a devilish fiend who charmed his way into young women's lives and then slashed their throats. He was a monster who enjoyed his work and the company of his thirsty brothers and sisters. He wasn't like Edward, who in his rebellious years drank the blood of criminals. No, he went after innocents.

He liked those the best.

And this Jasper was not like that. He was a fighter, he tried to push that old self away and become something different. I could imagine that other Jasper laughing at me, telling me my work would never pay off and inside, I would always be a disgusting pig. But I knew otherwise; I had seen otherwise. I was free of that old Jasper, was I not? Hadn't Brianna finally cut the bond that connected the two of us?

"Maria, what happened?" I knew I had interrupted her - she had been saying something about the local forests or revisiting another lost memory. But it was something I had wanted to ask. I had left her army, a measly collection of five homeless vampires, and now she had two hundred newborns and large timeless mansion to live in.

She paused in her speaking and glanced over at my shyly. We were still on the beaten path, walking through a swaying field of long grasses. On either side were dark forests and probably more hidden recollections of forgotten events.

"You mean with the army?" She asked as she stared forward.

"Of course with the army. It's so...I can hardly even comprehend all that you have done with it." I looked away from her and into the distance. Everything was so familiar. It was like a sudden surge of déjà vu except it wouldn't end.

She sighed heavily and shook her head. "After you left...it fell apart. I suppose I lost my determination." She gazed up and smiled a teasing, dark grin. "You always were the best, you know. The most forceful, driven soldier I think I may have ever seen. There was only really one that I think could give you a run for your money."

My eyebrows rose. "Oh, really?" In earlier years, Maria had made it no secret I was her favorite. And I had figured it was because of our initial attraction to one another that had eventually flowed into a blood driven romance, if you could even call it that. Despite all of this, I had always figured I was one of the better soldiers.

Maria suddenly laughed. "Yes, hard to imagine, isn't it? Though he has a certain power that gives him a great advantage..."

"I did, too," I reminded her lightly and was struck with the realization that we were easily falling back into how we had been years before. I had forgotten how easy it was to be around her when she wasn't thirsty for power.

I had forgotten how easy it was to enjoy her company.

She huffed out a short chuckle. "Yes, well, I believe his is more useful, though. He can make himself invisible, as well as others. But in a fight, of course, you can understand how he would only use this on himself."

Powerful, indeed. "Deadly," I summed it up quietly and Maria nodded. There was almost no way to beat an unseen man. Not even the senses of hearing and smelling could help you too much unless you knew directly where he was. The ultimate warrior, I thought. I most likely wouldn't even last a second.

"And so he helped you piece it back together?" I guessed.

Maria jumped a bit and looked at me with wide eyes. "Helped? Oh Lord, no. No, no. He didn't come until much later. No, when you left, there were about five left, yes? They stayed, mostly out of fear of what I would do if they deserted me, I think. You can still find them in the army now. But then, after about five years, they grew sick of it all. I had lost much of my willpower to take over the South and they were tired of my disinterested attitude. So they began creating newborns."

"And you let them?" I exclaimed, surprised. Seemed a dangerous sort of thing to do. Newborns weren't taken lightly in the vampire world. They were reckless, naïve, and stronger than most other vampires.

"For a bit, yes. And when those newborns began massacring families, I reined them in. I suppose it was my original army's way of bringing me back. They knew newborns would tempt me, and wild newborns would be too much for me to resist. This time, however, I thought things through. I began teaching them more realistic lessons, like control and thinking with your head, not your throat. We taught them ways to fight and began creating more and more newborns and the older ones would then teach them and before we knew it, there was a whole cycle." There was a sort of happy grin on her face as she retold her story.

"The mansion was just a lucky quirk. I bit a girl named Elizabeth, the owner who has the power of ultimate control. Better than your Carlisle's. Her family had moved out and no one would move in. She kept everyone out by ‘haunting' it, if you will. She was like a ghost there. We took the house and have occupied it ever since. Chester, the soldier I talked of before, was another advantage. I thought he had potential as a vampire, bit him, and he...well, he actually hated me for a long while." I was confused by her amused tone but pushed it aside. The army had advanced so much since my time. It was difficult to catch up with everything. Possibly even more so than understanding the twins' story.

"And that's all? You've just been camped out here, training and hunting, this whole time?" It was hard to believe. How had they slipped under the radar of the Volturi? How had no one come across them? I suppose this Chester's power had helped with most of it but still...

Her small shoulders shrugged. "Yes, I suppose. We've been waiting. I knew some day something like this had to happen. It was inevitable, I guess. I just didn't expect it to be this explosive, like the first two vampires awakening or the whole species coming together. And while we waited, we just recruited more and more vampires. After a while, it was easy to keep them under control."

The only thing I could think was that it was cruel. It was unfair. She had stolen hundreds of lives and turned them into hellish monsters. It was the very meaning of immoral. And what had she gained from it? A herd of newborn vampires? She wasn't even planning on controlling the world now; she couldn't possibly be. Adam and Eve would never allow it, I figured. So why have them? What purpose could they possibly have?

"That's..." I blanked.

"Awful?" She supplied and I froze. "Yes, I know it is. You don't have to pretend like it's fascinating or spectacular. I know it's horrible. I've made awful mistakes, I know that. It was wrong to bite all of them. Somehow, though, they can find it in their dead hearts to forgive me. That's one thing I'll never understand."

I grimaced and looked down at the ground as we continued on. I, too, couldn't comprehend that. I had never held a grudge against Maria for biting me. Unfortunately, for a long time I enjoyed being a vampire too much to regret anything. Even in past decades, when I was full of bitterness for being a weak link, I hadn't blamed her. I had despised myself for not being strong enough.

But to be one of hundreds of vampires, to be doomed to an eternity of living like savages, being ruled by your thirst, dancing along the fringes of society, would be awful. I didn't know if I could handle that sort of lifestyle.

We fell silent again. I suppose it all added up. I didn't exactly know what else to say to her, though. What exactly should I have said? Terrific job creating a useless militia? Better luck next time? I was speechless.

"Where exactly are we going?" I finally asked when she veered off to the right and towards a heavy forest. She looked back at me over her shoulder and waved me to follow her. I glanced back the way we came. The mansion was out of sight. We had to be several miles away, maybe even fifteen. We hadn't exactly been walking at a human pace and I guessed we had been out here for nearly thirty minutes.

She smiled back at me. "Just come on. I promise you'll like it." I stiffened a bit. Another choice. Follow Maria into the deep, dark forest and panic over it like a scared child or demand an explanation now? I swallowed back a lump of venom as I watched her slither through the field and slowly disappear into the woods.

To hell with it. I pressed forward and walked through the field after her. It wasn't like anything too awful could happen, right? She couldn't hurt me, she knew that. I was too strong for her. Anything else she had in mind...well, the very idea of it made me flinch.

The woods seemed undeniably familiar, though I couldn't place where I knew them from. It was almost like I had been here before but the memories were blocked from me. Up ahead, Maria strolled through the underbrush, clearly knowing her way around, as I stumbled over roots and bumped into trees. There was an eerie feeling to it all.

"Where are we?" I demanded as I caught up with her. She raised her head and looked at me nervously. Even the scent was familiar.

"I thought you'd like it. It's been ages since you came here, you know." I looked at her in utter confusion and I watched her keep going, leaving me behind, stunned. The forest abruptly ended and she walked away, almost out of sight in the dark night.

I followed after her and stepped through the messy tangled roots until I was out of the forest. There was nothing but a large field before me and then a plantation, propped up on a hill with chipped paint and broken windows.

But it was more than that. Or at least to me it was. It was my former home.

"It's still...it's still here?" That seemed almost impossible to me. I had no clue what had happened to my family or the house after I was bitten. The fact that they were just twenty miles away never affected me. I had put them in my past and kept them there. Was it possible someone even lived here now? A distant relative or passed down family friend?

Maria giggled and walked towards it. As a reflex, I reached out and grabbed her arm. "You can't do that," I snapped, "What if someone lives there?"

She cast me a doubtful look and glanced back to the house. "No one's lived here for nearly fifty years, Jasper. Once your youngest sister, Violet, passed, the grandchildren all moved out and just left it here."

Violet. The name struck a chord. It pained me to remember my little blue eyed sister, a girl I had hardly ever met. She hadn't even begun talking when I left for the war, if I remembered correctly.

I gulped in a shaky breath of air. "And no one's been out here to put it on the market? To sell it? No real estate agent or anything?" With the right owners, I figured the house could be beautiful. Perfect. It was a smaller model of Elizabeth's and with more acres of land because of the crops my family had grown. Sure, it needed a new coating of paint and definitely refurbishing inside but it had that unquestionable natural beauty to it. It had that sort of enchanting appearance, timeless and regal.

Maria's pale face darkened a tiny, tiny bit in a sort of resemblance to a blush. She tugged her arm out of my grasp, something I had forgotten I had been doing, and began walking downhill from the forest. I walked after her as we got closer to the large house.

"Well?" I urged. Some people would pay anything for a house like this and from the renovations needed it most likely wouldn't even be that expensive. It was isolated, though, a feature few people approved of, and unkempt.

She bit her lip and kept going. "I don't know, Jasper, maybe few people know it's here? Your guess is as good as mine-"

"No," I cut in. I knew she was lying. Her emotions were all over the place. Acute humiliation and frustration along with a small sense of pride. "My relatives, my...my nieces and nephews, they would have done something. Is it still in their name? What? Tell me."

Maria suddenly stopped and turned towards me sharply. "They left it, Jasper," She snapped harshly. "It's not in their name. They didn't want it anymore. Everyone else, I've kept away. The real estate agents, the eager buyers, I've kept them all away through trickery. I've been keeping it here, for you. I knew you'd be back some day. Don't you understand? I've preserved it for you."

She stormed away, off towards the plantation settled on the low hill, as I gaped openly.

A heightened sense of shock rose in me. I gasped for air, slightly pained. This simple action, her decision to keep my childhood home here for me, it was...it was probably the most sincere act anyone had ever done for me. And that was breathtaking. How was it fair that Maria, bloodthirsty Maria, had given me one of the greatest gifts I could ever ask for? The sense of betraying and guilt I felt was as if I were cheating on Alice, not being given a gift.

I studied the plantation from afar as Maria trudged towards it below me. The land dipped down beyond the hill I was on and then picked up again, leading towards the great house. She was down in the dip, something I was beginning to remember as a sort of play area for my siblings and me, with clenched fists at her sides.

The house itself, I had to admit, was in astounding shape. For an abandoned house of fifty years, it had stayed afloat well. The paint was chipped, yes, but it wasn't completely worn off. A few windows were broken in but most were in tact. And the farmhouse, nearly half a mile behind it, was holding up well, too. It was as if my family had just moved out ten years ago, not fifty.

I sped after her. Was this what she had wanted to talk to me about? From her conflicting emotions, I guessed not. But then what? Was this some sort of trick to soften the blow? Or was this a way to distract me? I couldn't be sure.

"Wait," I called after her, "What are you talking about? How did you ‘trick' the buyers?" It was a stupid question, I admit. It was unnecessary, too. But I wanted some sort of explanation for all of this, some sort of logic. I also wanted time to straighten my thoughts out.

Maria shrugged and glared at the soft soil angrily. "I suppose I did what Elizabeth did. No one wants an old, historical plantation where objects move without reason or strange sounds can be heard when no one's inside."

I grinned despite the situation. "You little poltergeist," I teased, sidetracked from the present situation. A small smile covered her face.

"It wasn't hard or anything. Just sneak upstairs and slam a few doors. People get scared." I laughed out loud at that image. Somehow, Maria running through the top floor, closing doors loudly and scaring off humans seemed out of place. I had never heard of her doing such an immature thing.

"And why?" I hesitantly asked as we walked up the hill and towards the dark house. She tensed and her emotions hit the fan in a rush of anxiety. Reflexively, I sent waves of calm her way.

Her eyelids fluttered shut and she grumbled something under her breath before pausing. "I forgot how that felt," she muttered, "Your power, I mean. I always loved when you used it. Even for bad. It's so...manipulating."

I scowled and subtly decreased my influence over her. I didn't approve of the loving emotions seeping from her, of the raw longing and comfort. She had done an excellent job of covering them up, I realized with a start. It had taken my contagious tranquility to make her guard slip and allow me to feel what she really was feeling.

And that was adoration for someone she wasn't supposed to love.

"Come inside with me," she quietly begged and I felt my own guard go up. Now that I knew exactly what Maria was feeling, should I trust her enough to go inside a deserted house, miles away from any sort of scrap of life? Or was it safer to stay outside?

Choices. Alice had been right, there was always a choice. A bad choice, an evil one that could lead to wrong consequences. And a good choice, one that kept you innocent and out of trouble. I had always picked the wrongs ones, hadn't I?

But when I saw the tender pain in her eyes, the heartache that was spreading from her to me, I knew I couldn't possibly tell her no. She was my oldest friend, my creator, my first link on this side of life. How could I be so cruel as to refuse her now, when she was beseeching my company? I may have been a monster at some point but I couldn't be that way now. I just couldn't.

I pursed my lips and gulped before nodding. "Of course," I told her as I complied. Our eyes met and the corner of her lips turned up the slightest bit.

She unexpectedly reached for my hand and tugged me towards the house. I followed after her as I filled up with guilt. It was just too easy to be here with her. It was familiar and comfortable and convenient. And the throbbing sorrow that came from her called to me and pled for me to somehow help.

Her red eyes searched out my own and she suddenly spoke. "They're not blue anymore, you know. The contacts, they deteriorated. They're now red, like mine."

I didn't miss the implication hidden in her words. I was more like her than I was my vegetarian family. But she was wrong. I wouldn't taste another human's blood, or so I prayed to God I wouldn't. I wasn't that same person. Unfortunately, I just bore the mark of a killer.

My eyes narrowed. "Are they?" I asked in polite interest. "Shame, I think I liked the blue." And I did. It seemed to restore some piece of humanity to me. It made me feel mortal, alive and pumping of blood.

She trilled a peal of laughter as she turned and led me towards the front door. "I didn't," she remarked, "They were too natural. Too generic blue for you. You're too special for something so common among humans. And, of course, you're not human, Jasper. Why pretend to be one?"

My forehead crumpled at her words. I didn't know what to say back to her obvious advances directed towards me. I just nodded in reply.

The front door was closed, the brass knocker rusty. She pushed it open - it must not have been locked - and stepped inside. I grudgingly followed her, taking a brief moment to wonder if I really should be here, with her, during a dark night in which no one knew just exactly where we were.

But then I caught the slightest scent of home. It's an intoxicating scent, once you know just what to look for. It's also comforting. All I wanted to do was to be here, inside this familiar house, and to unlock its secrets. I wanted to run up to the photos hanging on the walls, I wanted to dash up the stairs and barge in on the bedrooms and inspect every nook and cranny.

One more thing about the scent of home: it will make you do crazy things just to stay there.

***

Maria's Point of View

Watching Jasper enter the house - his house, I corrected myself - made me realize it had all been worth it. There had been moments where I hadn't wanted to keep the house, where I just wanted to let it all go. I had doubted that Jasper would ever come back and the heartache of his absence only sharpened when I revisited his home.

But the look of sheer wonder and awe on his face convinced me that I had done the right thing by keeping it. He stood in the large foyer, gazing around with lips parted and eyes wide with an overwhelmed look on his glorious face. And then finally, his gaze lowered to mine.

"Why?" He asked for the second time that night, "Why did you do this?"

It was a tough question to answer. How do you reply without giving it all away? A part of me knew he most likely had already figured it out that I still loved him. I couldn't shield my emotions forever.

So do you just blurt it out? Or do you make something up? I planned on telling him everything anyway so why cover it all up? I should just tell him now, I decided, instead of postponing it and delaying everything.

I dropped his hand and took a step back. I knew my way around this house probably as well as he had when he was human. I trusted that his memories would resurface as I walked away, towards the kitchen. He would follow. I knew he would.

Jasper was always a follower.

And indeed he did. I could hear his tentative footsteps trail after me as I made my way down a hallway and through the main room slowly. I went into the dark, damp kitchen and waited for him. He came in a few seconds later and his eyes swept over the room almost hungrily. I watched as he studied the gray room, its rotted floor planks and dusty cabinets.

But what was he seeing? I was seeing a dirty room full of a table with uneven legs, a broken window, and a rusty stove. The way his eyes lit up at the sight of every new object made me think he was seeing everything in a different light. Could the table symbolize family dinners to him? When he would sit with his brothers and sisters and listen to his father babble about another day's work? Could the window remind him of a childhood memory where his brother and him played baseball and accidentally hit the glass with their makeshift ball? Could the stove take him back to the days where his mother spent hours in front of it, perfecting meals?

The house was dead to me. The furniture was dusty, the mattresses flimsy, and several rooms looked like they had been untouched for centuries. But, I could tell, this place was livelier to him than ever. As I watched him, I thought how much of a shame it was that not even Violet, the crinkly-eyed old woman with her older brother's brilliant blue eyes, couldn't have seen their long lost sibling return back home, where he belonged.

"I can't believe it," he whispered hoarsely, "I never thought I'd see this place again. I feel so...I feel so close to them." He laid one hand against the creaking wall gently and glanced around the room in quick looks here and there.

"Maybe they're still here," I joked softly, "Waiting for their soldier to return."

He looked at me over his shoulder and chuckled quietly with a crooked smile in place. "Oh yes, you never know. Maybe the whole Whitlock family is haunting the old house."

I laughed quietly. "If so, it looks like I wasn't the only poltergeist here." I winked and he shook his head as he snickered. It was a mesmerizing sound and an even more hypnotic sight. His messy hair flopped over his forehead and into his eyes as his lips pulled upwards. It served as a harsh reminder that he wasn't mine and never would be.

I walked away and pulled one of the wooden chairs out from under the table. I sat down in it and looked up at him. "Why don't you sit down?"

His eyes grew darker as he looked down at me. There was hardly any light inside the clammy kitchen but I could see well enough. He cautiously stepped forwards and pulled out the chair opposite from me and sat down.

"Why don't you tell me what this is about?" He proposed evenly and I leaned back. He deserves to know, I battled with myself. He needs to know. It'd be awful to keep it from him. And think of Chester, poor Chester who actually somehow loves you.

But right here, sitting before Jasper, it made me forget Chester. I would have traded almost anything for an eternity with Jasper. For the powerful, sadistic, fierce Jasper I remembered.

"I wasn't going to do this," I told him, "I wasn't going to approach you. Your...mate...demanded I leave you alone. But, Jasper, I can't do that. How can I? You understand, don't you? After all we've been through, how was I supposed to just ignore you? No, I couldn't. I had to talk to you and not with-" I wanted to say her, meaning his annoying little ‘wife' but refrained from doing so, "-everyone else around."

He looked thoughtful as he listened. His eyes were downcast, staring at the knots in the wood, and his pale hands folded in front of him. Say something, I mentally begged him. Say something.

"I know," he finally murmured, "I honestly didn't know what to expect when I returned to everyone. I didn't know what you would do, or what Alice would do, or even what I would do. I just...I guess I just planned on seeing how everything went."

"She doesn't know, does she?" I asked boldly.

Jasper froze. His shoulders tensed and his eyes grew cold. He glanced up at me with a pained expression on his face. "Excuse me?"

I felt my face grew a smidge warmer at his ferocious expression. "Alice, she doesn't know what...what happened between us. It's obvious she's angry with me but for reasons along the lines of the fact that I supposedly ruined your life. I turned you into a bloodthirsty beast. That's why she's annoyed with me. She doesn't know we loved each other, though, does she?"

His eyebrows rose a bit at my words and he breathed in a shaky breath before reaching up and cradling his head. "Maria," he mumbled through his hands, "don't say it like that."

I bit my lip. "Say what?"

"That we loved each other!" He exclaimed snappily as he looked up. "What we had...that was...that was not love. That was something entirely different."

His words stung.

I realized then that I loved Jasper more than maybe anything else in the world and, ironically, he had hurt me more than anything else, too. He had caused more pain, more heartache, more grief and sorrow than anyone or anything. And he was doing it again. I could feel my sore heart being ripped apart again.

"I did all of this for you," I whispered softly and he looked up again, his eyes tortured. "I never stopped loving you. I still haven't. I kept this house for you because I knew how much it would mean to you someday. I still love you, Jasper, even after all this time. After over a century of being apart, I never wanted anyone else besides you. When you left, it was one of the most awful things I have ever experienced. You took part of me with you, did you know that? Half of me was with you the whole entire time."

He was frozen when the last word died on my lips. His eyes were wider than they had been before and his jaw was clenched tightly. It wasn't an expression of anger, though. More like concealed shock and disbelief.

"I never knew that," he finally managed to get out. "I never thought...I just never would have guessed."

In other terms, he had never loved me. If he had never thought that, never pieced it together, clearly I had been nothing more than a creator to him. I felt sick all of a sudden. All these years, all of these long decades, and I had thought some part of him had loved me in return. But no? To now tell me, after I had messed everything up, to tell me now that it had only been me to love the other was a cruel joke.

"It was only me, wasn't it?" I horrifically asked, "You never felt anything towards me?" My jaw fell open at the realization as pain struck me hard.

His lips turned downwards in a thick scowl. "Now, Maria, I didn't say that-"

"You never loved me?" I interrupted sharply. He sighed and raked his long fingers through his hair. I had always held onto the last shred of hope that there was a part of him that still cared for me. No matter where he was, who he was with, or what he was doing, there would always be some part of him that belonged to me. But there never really was, was there? Memories of me had probably been stuffed away in the back of his head the whole entire time.

He gulped. "Cared for, yes, but, Maria, love is...it isn't anywhere close to what we shared. I mean, really, think about it. Exactly why did you want me around?" His question took me off guard. I had loved him and it bothered me immensely to hear him doubt my own emotions. I knew what I was feeling, what I had always felt for him.

But his question got me thinking. Of course, I wanted him here with me for his passion. He was a fighter, strong spirited and ferocious. He was good with newborns, which was something I had always admired. He was patient with them. And he was a good listener. He did whatever you asked him to do without questions.

"It wasn't because you wanted me, was it? You needed my strength for the army, that was all. It was strategy," Jasper said and I jerked. No, he...he couldn't be right, could he? There was more to it, wasn't there? There had to be more than that.

He leaned forward and propped his elbows up on the table. "Maria, look at me," he pled softly and my eyes obeyed as I looked up at him. "Do I look the same to you? Do I even sound like the same Jasper you knew then, you supposedly loved?"

My throat tightened reflexively. He didn't. And he knew it.

There wasn't one scrap of the old Jasper here. This was someone entirely new and different. His eyes were concerned and caring, full of life and love. He emanated warmth and pleasantness, not a malicious indifference to the world. A lifetime worth of happiness and a loving family had molded him into a naturally kind person, something I realized he had been before I had bitten him.

That was when I knew. Whatever version of him I had loved had died when he left me. He may have the same features, the same face and appearance, but he had been changed.

He was a stranger to me.

"What was I to you?" I wondered hesitantly. "If you didn't love me, then why...why..."

His eyes fluttered down and his blonde lashes fell against his cheekbones. "I thought I did love you, Maria. Truly, I did. But it was a hateful relationship, can't you see that? I never really knew love until I met Alice and I realized it was so different than anything we had ever shared."

"But now?" I questioned.

He glanced up and his lips pulled back, exposing a row of white teeth as he smiled. "Friends?" he offered. "That's all I can be to you. I do still care for you, Maria, really. I most likely always will, as a matter of fact. Believe it or not, but I do feel a large sense of love for you. It's just a sort of...brotherly love, if you will. You were my friend, my creator and teacher. I'll never forget all that you did for me."

"All that I did for you?" I scoffed. "Alice made it seem like I had ruined your life."

His responding laugh was dry and a bit forced. "Alice has a different way of looking at things. No, you did not and don't listen to Alice. You...you gave me life. God knows what would have happened if you had left me to the War. I most likely would have died. Not only did you give me a second chance, but you coached me through it. I owe you more than you can imagine."

It was a relief to know I hadn't wrecked his life after all. I sighed and fell back in the chair as I reached up and rubbed my throbbing head. My eyelids trembled and closed and after a moment or two, I felt his hesitant hand touch my own.

"Thank you," he said sincerely, "From one friend to another, thank you. Keeping this place, keeping it for me, it may be one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I can't even fully explain how much it means to me."

I opened one eye and found him staring intently at me. I frowned and glanced around the dark room. "It needs a lot of renovating."

"Oh, do I know it," he grinned, "But I plan on fixing it up. After all of this is done and over with, I want to remodel it. I want it identical to how it was. Think I can do it?"

I rolled my eyes lightly. He probably could, especially with that endless Cullen money of his, I figured. "Sure, if you want," I told him disinterestedly.

He straightened up in his chair and frowned. "What's wrong? I thought you were...relieved. Or at least you felt that way before. Do you still-" he gulped "-love me?"

It was a loaded question. Did I? Could I look at him, this man who I hardly knew anymore, and actually love him? Had I ever even known love? Or had I forced myself to believe what we had was love? All of a sudden, I thought of Chester; comfortable, sweet Chester who at one time, I did use for his strengths and power. But now? There was something greatly altered between us. Could it possibly be love?

Jasper misread my emotions and leaned back. His eyes were wide and a bit frenzied. "Maria, I'm not the same anymore. I'm-"

"No," I told him, "I wasn't...I wasn't thinking about you. Honestly, I don't think I do. You were right, no offense. I thought you were different. I didn't realize you were so...," I struggled to find the exact word.

"Civilized?" he suggested. I grinned.

"Yes, civilized. Look, Jasper, I think I feel the same about you that you do for me, if that makes any sense. I just overreacted a bit. I made myself believe it was something more than what it was but it was never love. I'm sorry for all the complications I've made. I never meant to cause such trouble." Looking at him now, at his honest eyes, I couldn't help but be drawn to him. I wanted to be near him, but not for previous reasons. I wanted to merely be his friend, as human as that sounded.

He nodded thoughtfully before his brows furrowed. "Then why are you so sad?" Why, indeed? Was it Chester? I had practically messed everything up with him. Sometimes it was so easy for us to pretend everything was fine and then others, once I was reminded of something of my past, everything became rocky.

And how to persuade him I was fine? How to win him back? How to make him realize I was completely his for the taking?

"It doesn't matter," I mumbled as I looked away. There was no way I was going to discuss my developing love life with former flame, Jasper. I refused to.

He grabbed my hand and squeezed it. "Of course it does. Is it about Chester?"

My head snapped up. "How...how did you know?" Jasper could feel emotions but not justify them. There was no way he could have known everything. And the possibility that he may know disturbed me a tiny bit.

He shrugged and leaned back casually. "I could tell. His emotions are off the wall," he paused to grin widely, "As are yours when you're around each other. What happened? Do you think of him as just a soldier?" He winked teasingly and I scowled.

It was different how increasingly relaxing it was to be around him. It reminded me of past days, old memories, when everything was natural and at ease, when we ran free with the army without limits or boundaries.

"I think I love him," I said candidly, "But it won't work. I ruined it."

He suddenly laughed. I looked up at him, glowering, as he chuckled. "Ruined it? Oh, Maria, I'm sure you're exaggerating. Tell me, what happened."

I glared down at my folded hands and felt embarrassment flood in. "I loved you," I whispered tightly, "That's what happened."

Jasper was silent for a brief moment. "Ah," he eventually muttered, "I see. And he grew tired of you having those feelings? But you just said - I can even feel it - that you don't love me. There shouldn't be any problems there." He paused for a moment before adding, "What if I spoke to him?"

My head swiveled. "What?! Are you serious? No! Jasper, promise me you won't do that." My God, the mortification of how that conversation would run frightened me beyond words.

His face split into a silly grin. "I didn't think you'd approve of that. I'm sure it will be fine, Maria. If he's dealt with you this long, surely he'll hang around a bit more." My eyes narrowed in angry slits as he joked.

I abruptly stood up from the table and wandered over to the back window, exposing the gray night. Jasper's chair creaked behind me. "You know it will be fine," he murmured, "And if it isn't, then it just wasn't meant to be."

I huffed. "Easy for you to say."

He was suddenly behind me, close enough that I could feel the slightest breeze as he breathed deeply. His scent enveloped me in a thick embrace and I wrapped my arms around my torso as I stared out upon the back yard.

"Trust me," he implored, "trust me on this. Ever think possibly love is one thing I can give advice on? Domination over the South? Most likely not. But relationships..."

"Oh yes," I snorted, "Because you and the little pixie have the most perfect relationship, hmm?"

His lips closed tightly and for a second, I worried I had crossed an invisible line. Finally, his troubled expression cleared and he gave a timid smile. "No, not perfect. Nothing is perfect. But stable, I suppose."

I sighed and looked away, back towards the backyard. It was such a beautiful piece of property, even now, after the ending of its prime in the farming industry. The trees created a perfect cove of fields and open patches of grass and beyond that, dense forests. The low dips and valleys gave a three dimensional look to the large back yard and it was all completed with a quaint farmhouse in the distance.

"Wait," I said suddenly as an idea struck, "When was the last time you were here?"

Jasper thought for a moment with hooded eyes. "Months before you found me. Before I enlisted. Why?"

I sucked in a large gasp. It had been that long? I had figured sometime during his vampiric years he would have sneaked back here to at least catch one glimpse of his family. Could I have actually been wrong?

"You never saw their graves," I murmured sadly. His brows rose and he glanced around, confusedly. "Your family's," I clarified, "They're buried out there, did you know that? All of them - out there. Even you, though I suppose it isn't really you. Just a coffin full of mementos." They had thought their second son had died in the War and his body never recovered.

I had never told Jasper this, but I had watched the funeral. Atop a large hill, I had spied his human family only months after I had bitten him. I could remember the day as clear as I could remember everything else; the way his little sister, Violet, had clutched a mangled teddy bear and cried, how stiff and formal his father was as they buried their golden son. His mother had been the worst, though. I shuddered to think back to her heartbroken face and red eyes.

Jasper appeared stunned. He looked back out through the window. "Where?" he asked quietly.

I walked away from him, towards the back door, and grabbed onto the knob. "I can show you," I told him. I knew where all of their jagged headstones lay, where their bodies had been stuffed underground. It was another reason the house had few people look at it; no one enjoyed the idea of its 150 year old owners decaying in the backyard.

He pursed his lips in solemn indecisiveness before turning towards me. "How do you know all of this?" He wondered aloud as he walked towards me, mind made up. "How do you know so much about my family, my past, while I can hardly remember their faces?"

It never failed to sadden me, the vampire mind. How unfair must it seem to him that I could probably draw the most detailed, precise sketch of every single one of his family members and he would have difficulty recalling even their eye color? He should be allowed to savor these memories, I thought, to keep them close to him.

I shrugged. "I came to your funeral," I admitted and ignored the shocked glint to his eyes, "I wanted to be close to you, to keep these things for you. You'll never see their faces again, hear their voices, and I can remember them perfectly. This is the only slice of your human life left; I just wanted to save it for you."

Was it such a crime to do that? Did he think of it as obsessive or pathetic? If someone had kept my human life for me, if someone had wrapped up the memories in a little box with ribbon and handed it to me later, I would have been forever grateful. I could hardly recall anything from my human days, just the melodious singing of my mother as she sang me to sleep with Spanish lullabies and the strong scent of spices and herbs. There were no gravesites, no family owned houses, nothing to fall back on.

Jasper opened his mouth and then closed it. "Thank you," he said for another time that night. I smiled lightly as I twisted the knob and pulled the door open.

He followed me outside, through the waves of grass and prickly fields. The night air was a bit cool and it bit against my skin. Though it caused no discomfort, I still crossed my arms around me to keep my exposed flesh from the chill.

There weren't any stars in sight, I realized. They were all shielded from view from the rolling clouds that speckled the sky. Possibly a storm was moving in? The drop in pressure of the molecules was noticeable and I quickly predicted at least some thunder in the hours to come.

"There they are." I jerked my chin in the general direction of the small cemetery, enclosed by a black gate with intertwining vines, and hung back. Jasper paused and then moved around me, like a dark phantom, and kept walking. He slipped through the Gothic, ancient entrance and stood there.

Continuing on with him would have felt like intruding. This was his family, his siblings and parents. To everyone else who saw the graves, they were long dead and gone. Forgotten souls who knew of a different time period.

But they were more than that to him. They were his family. He had been frozen in time, left behind, as his family had aged and grown old. His siblings had all married, had all had children, and he had been corrupted of that right. I felt my heart growing in sympathy for the man before me. How strange it must be to realize everyone else had moved on without you, dying without you, and had left you in the world alone.

He crouched down on the damp grass and ran his fingers over a stony gravestone. "Did you even remember me?" He asked softly.

I frowned, not knowing whether he was speaking to himself or not. He then glanced over his shoulder and peered at me curiously. "You can come closer, you know."

My fingers twisted around the cuff of my sleeve as I took a few hesitant steps forward. I looked down at the stone and read the name: Violet Caroline Whitlock. I bit my lip and folded my hands before me, ignoring his pained look as his head tilted back to look at me.

"I think she did," I told him confidently, "She sobbed at your funeral, screaming for you to come back. She was five when you left, you know."

He exhaled a large breath of air and stared at me. "Five? No, she was only a baby."

My brow furrowed, knotting into a thick line. I sat down next to him, pulling my skirt out around me and laying it flat on the soft soil. "That's the disadvantage to our minds, you know. Human memories are so rare. No, Jasper, she was five. You just happen to remember her as a small infant. She remembered you, most definitely. She was closer to you than anyone else in the family. "

He didn't speak for a moment - he probably had nothing to say. His fingertips traced over the engraved letters as his eyes scanned over the rest of the stones. They were all lined up, like their own little Whitlock cemetery.

Gazing at all the numerous headstones, I realized the Whitlock family had been quite wealthy. Not every family had enough money to start their own graveyard. And it didn't just end with Jasper's siblings. The spouses were there, with headstones, and even their children. But it had stopped there. The great grandchildren must have been placed elsewhere.

Jasper looked down the row of his siblings' graves and his burgundy eyes narrowed on the last grave. I grimaced, it was his own.

"I can't believe they buried an empty coffin," he mumbled as his eyes strayed on the headstone with his own name carved upon it. I gave a heartless chuckle.

"Why? They needed some sort of closure, Jasper. They wanted to make things right." As I watched him, I hoped I wasn't doing the wrong thing by showing him this. I had thought - hoped - he would have enjoyed it or gotten some sort of personal experience out of it. The agonized look in his eyes made me worry if this was an awful mistake on my part.

"It just...it just doesn't feel right. It feels like I belong there," he pointed towards the empty gravesite, "rather then here. Like I should be down there, long gone and forgotten by the world. It makes me feel guilty that I should keep living, see the world change and people die, while they all get to move on."

I toyed with the edge of my skirt. "You make that sound like a good thing, like a special priviledge."

He sighed. "I'm not sure if it is or not. Rosalie, my sister, feels like it's a curse, like this is some sort of hellish afterlife. But..."

"You are not so sure?"

His head dropped and he cradled it. I reached out tentatively and placed my hand on his shoulder. I, too, had never quite made my mind up on this life of ours. There were hardly any memories of my human life to piece together. I don't know which sort of future I would have had, whether or not this life was worse than the last.

"I suppose if the people you love are with you, can experience it with you, it can be almost...heavenly. I think I would rather have this life than whatever human destiny I would have had. I most likely would have died in that damned war, anyway." He spoke the words into his hand and I frowned.

"Do you want to go?" I asked quietly as I stole a peek at the gray headstones. From here, they seemed all consuming. They were a constant reminder that under our very feet, just six feet down, was his family.

I stayed silent as he thought. He reached out and grazed one of the stones, the eldest Whitlock boy's, with his fingers. Something had changed in him, I thought, as I watched him cautiously. There was a certain light in his eyes that had been absent just minutes before, a certain accepting twinkle beneath the sheen of his red irises.

He stood up and dusted his pants off of the stringy grass. "Yes, we should be getting back. I'll return, though, as soon as everything is finished."

I wasn't sure whether his promise was to them, the corpses below who could have been listening for all we knew or whether it was to me. Either way, I stood up with him and brushed the dirt and grass off.

I followed him out of the burial grounds and I paused once on the other side of the wiry black fence. He turned towards me and I stared deeply at the green ground. "Tell me this wasn't a mistake. The look in your eyes, the sadness that's coming from you, it makes me think I should have kept this from you."

He reached out for me and placed both of his hands on my small shoulders. I looked up, nervously, and into his wide, distressed eyes. "Maria, this was...this was anything but a mistake. Thank you, again, for all of this. For so long, they were all blocked from me. I could hardly form their names in my mind. But this? First the house and now this?" His tone grew remarkably soft. "My family may have had a useless coffin for me for the simple reason of closure but one thing I never thought I needed was the exact same thing. You gave it to me, Maria, you gave me the wonderful gift of finality to my human life."

My brow furrowed and I thought about it. Had I? Had I really done all of that? I wrung my hands before me and swallowed thickly. My head turned to the side and I gazed at his hands, squeezing my shoulder tightly. I just had one thing I needed to do, one thing to make sure I wasn't still in love with Jasper Whitlock...

I turned back towards him, towards his heartfelt face, merely inches above mine, and, completely unexpected to him, pressed my lips against his.

He turned to marble under my touch. I kissed him with all that I had; hoping to whatever god there was that my touch would not ignite any spark. I had to be sure there was nothing, there was no fatal attraction or buried feelings. Without this reassurance, how could I ever know that we weren't meant to be? That this new version of Jasper was not a trick of the mind.

Thoughts of Alice, the puny know it all, slipped from my mind. Chester seemed almost like a figure of my imagination. The only things that mattered was that Jasper was here, immobilized under my lips, and that I was finally opening myself up, allowing my emotions to flow from me like a merciless ravine.

I wanted to feel something. Whether it was lust or love or plain old disgust. I just wanted to be certain, for once, how I felt about him. I didn't want anything to get in the way of such a blissfully perfect moment for me.

Jasper quickly came to his senses and stumbled back and he pushed me away. His hands locked around my forearms and gently shoved me back as his jaw fell open with a pop.

"What...what...I thought you said you didn't....didn't love me?"

It was the first time I had ever heard Jasper, ever eloquent, search for words so desperately.

His words shook me. Hard. I reached up and placed my fingertips on my lips, feeling the tingling sensation, the lack of physical touch from another. I frowned and my eyes flickered around the backyard, sputtering like a flame.

There had been nothing there. No flying sparks or the knotting, warm sensation growing in my gut. He was still Jasper and I was still Maria and I had lost him, somehow, along the way. He wasn't the same animalistic, wild man. He was calm, he was collected, he was...

...logical.

The traits seemed unattractive to me now. He almost came across boring, all of a sudden. Where had the reckless Jasper gone? Jasper, who would have snarled playfully and kissed me back?

But then I was reminded of someone vastly different from Jasper, someone who was almost his opposite. Someone who growled crankily at anyone who stared at him a moment too long or who lived savagely and unpredictably.

Chester.

I grinned happily and looked up at Jasper's expression of utter bewilderment. His mouth still hung open and his eyes were wide open.

"I don't," I answered him, completely honest. "And I never will again."

The blunt truth of it all made my heart flutter. I was finally, finally, free of Jasper Whitlock.