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Old Habits, New Rules

“A new scent had suddenly filled the air - the soft, urgent scent of human blood.”

For Jasper, the world is a cruel place. Just one month after he and Alice joined the Cullens, he is faced with a challenge he had hoped to avoid for a long time yet. For vampires, a month is merely the flickering of an eye - but has he changed enough in that time to resist?
One-Shot, JPOV

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1. One-Shot: Old Habits, New Rules

Rating 5/5   Word Count 1543   Review this Chapter

I tasted the breeze. The heavy smell of the North-Western forests pervaded my senses, and pollen danced across my tongue through fractionally open lips. The scents of animals were there too, both tantalising and repulsing me at once, so confusing to my unaccustomed mind. I tried to be like Edward as he slipped into his crouch, to think of them as food, but the thought of drinking animal blood was still alien to me. Close eyes. Deep breath. Feel the thirst. Smell the blood. Hunt. Tensing my body, I began to prowl through the forest. It seemed to pause for me as I passed by, the small animals, birds and even insects stilling themselves as I drew near. I saw each one stop dead, or skitter away to hide in the loam as I moved further down the valley. Edward was already far away, speeding along a recent trail. I could hear his quick feet thudding like an insane heartbeat now almost mile away, he was so fast. I blinked once, twice, as I would not again until I was done, and began to really hunt. The world sharpened, from perfect focus to almost painfully clear. Every scent, the thousands of things to detect among the trees, pin-pricked my nostrils, and I knew every one. When the breeze changed, there would come a thousand more… I searched for my own prey in the leaf-filtered light, reaching out, my senses honed to their utmost perception. I let my instincts go out ahead of me, to find- There! A trail, so fresh it stood out like a strip of bright paint, lay before me on the forest floor. I followed it with my eyes and nose, and locked my senses onto the wildcat at the end of it. The odour of its blood, though bland, thick and animal, called to my aching throat. I inhaled, and advanced. I felt the changing breeze waft around my ankles, caress by back and ripple through my hair before it reached my face. But when it did, the wildcat may as well have not existed. I snapped round, an instantaneous one-eighty, as the complete gravity of my hunt changed, and glared at where I knew the forest path to be. A new scent had suddenly filled the air - the soft, urgent scent of human blood. Soft- and yet now as powerful as the first time I smelled it. Abstinence had parched my throat, which blazed now like a brush-fire in a desert. A passion and pain that awoke so many old memories, memories that I had struggled to block out but now embraced. The pattern I had honoured the majority of my vampire life began, and as the heady scent of blood filled my lungs, it also filled my mind. I didn‘t need to think. I had had so much… practice, my muscle-memory was infallible. I could execute this primeval dance so perfectly, it would take nothing from me to just close my mind and go. In that moment there was nothing else, nothing but desire, the bloodlust, the all-consuming thirst, nothing but a course of action I had followed through innumerable times. Why not again now? I could not see the human, but my viciously alive hunting senses told me all. They walked slowly and tiredly, the exercise speeding their heartbeat. It would be laughably easy for me. Had they been running at Olympic speed I would not have expended much energy in catching them. As it was, they were alone, weary and off guard - and beneath their skin warm, fresh blood pulsed, wetly lustrous, tantalisingly moist. I felt my eyes turn solid black and venom flood my mouth as I deepened my crouch. I was ready, and the human was as good as dead. Power erupted in my muscles as I prepared to run. After this period of denial nothing would be more beautiful than its blood as I drank. Then I felt Edward. It was such a violent lurch in mood it broke through my thoughts of the hunt. He had just returned close enough to hear my mind, to realise what I was doing. We both cursed ourselves. I, for acting like some crazed newborn, he, for not keeping closer tabs on me. I burned with shame. Edward was intensely angry, appalled and disappointed. My mind reeled briefly at the strength of it; I hadn’t realised he cared so much for human life. Already he was racing to stop me, but I knew he would be too late if I couldn’t stop myself. Alice’s face flashed through my mind, and Carlisle’s, my new family, the Cullens, and the new moral code I lived by. I was not Maria’s Jasper anymore. I did not hunt humans. The distraction was enough to clear my mind, but while I thought my body was still tense and coiled, advancing. I had to control myself. With an enormous surge of willpower I wrenched my limbs straight, but even out of the crouch my senses burned. It took my all not to snap back and continue the hunt. I could tell my face was contorted, eyes wide and nostrils flared as I inhaled. Habits were so hard to break. And all the while the human still approached. So help me God, it was coming towards me along the path. It was going to come closer than this, and the unbearable fragrance intensified with every step. I had to run, get as far away as possible if I was to stand a chance - but I feared that if I so much as twitched a limb the control I had gained would vanish. Should I move and take the chance, or stay and take the certainty? In under a second I was over a hundred metres away in the boughs of a tree, my decision made. The tree was something to hold onto, to stop myself from leaping into the attack before my mind agreed. My desperate hands bit into the bark; it was not strong enough to take my grip. Below, the human ambled slowly by, blissfully unaware, its rhythmic heartbeat stabbing daggers into my mind and throat. I closed my eyes and halted my breathing, praying for the strength to wait this out. My whole body quivered and shook as every muscle attempted to break free. I trembled in my own personal hell, and leaves fell from the tree. Edward found me there, clinging with steel muscles to branch and bark. I had heard him coming on the ground below and in a instantaneous movement he appeared in the tree beside me. I sensed his relief easily - it radiated from him like the sunbeams mirrored off his skin. But he - and I - felt something else. It was a kind of vague pride and admiration, and I took a few moments to realise it was directed at me. “Well done.” he said, almost perfectly mimicking Carlisle, though I don’t think he intended to. I took a swift cautionary gasp of air, not about to start a conversation until I was fully in control, but it was clear. I slowly loosened my wound limbs, and breathed. Sweet, fresh and clean, the breeze posed no threat to my new life. The human was gone. I felt the tension fall from me like a dropped coat, and Edward’s sense of relief grow in me, too. I fed off it until his feeling became my own. My hands unclenched and I pulled them from the gouges and furrows I had made in the tree. The wood left behind looked like the work of some deranged artist, clawed patterns deep and haphazard. I shuddered as I straightened my body into a more natural position, ashamed of the evidence of my flimsy restraint. “Sorry.” I muttered. “No, no,” was his reply, “I would never have let you go through that, if I’d known…” He frowned, and mentally I gawked at him. He was angry at himself. I put a stop to that mood at once - he could not hold himself accountable for my previous indulgent, undisciplined lifestyle. I said nothing, though, sensing he had a question waiting on his lips. “Was that the first time you managed it?” he asked. I gave him querying look until he clarified: “The first time you managed to stop during a hunt.” I thought about that. It probably was - flicking back through my infallible memory, I found no one else that had escaped. Myriad human faces lay drained and dead on the ground before my mind’s eye, and guilt coursed through me anew. I had difficulty keeping Edward’s mood favourable to stop him from dwelling on the numbers in my head. “Shall I tell the others?” he asked, a slight smile lingering on his face. “Esme will positively burst, you know.” I shook my head. “I don’t really think that’s necessary.” “But Alice is definitely finding out.” he grinned. I smiled back at him, anticipating. Alice would reward me in a better way for preserving life than Maria ever had for taking it. I thought I could cope with that. .