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Return To Hell

Summary:
"He had never permitted others to be near him as he hunted, a quirk we all found strange. And now, at last, I had the chance to see the reason why." Five years after escaping Maria's army, Peter still has a debt to repay. But when at last he gathers the courage to return, it's nothing like what he expected. How much does he really know about the man to whom he owes his life? Jasper, it seems, is a man of many careful masks. Pre-Twilight One-Shot Canon PPOV. This is by far my most popular story on ff.net =)


Notes:
A pretty intense one-shot, I think, about some of my favourite characters. It should be totally Canon and in character, so please let me know if you spot something you think is not! Thanks. Enjoy!!


1. One-Shot: Return To Hell

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2294   Review this Chapter

"The morning sunrise
Seemed to ask me why I tried
To find the strength in people who had never thought about a different way of life.”
I Don’t Know - Lost Prophets

I cowered from the sunrise among the dark-bricked walls of hell. It was just as I remembered it; the cocktail of hate drenching cobble and dust; the rich scent of blood hanging heavy in the air; the twisting trails and backstreets that then gave me cover from the living and now gave me cover from the sun. An inward breath filled my nose with memories and I shuddered against them, leaning into the passage wall. That smell - it was her, I knew it. She had trod these paces not hours ago, my creator, my mistress, my bane.

A thousand things flashed before my eyes, called into being by her fearful scent. Her pearl face, so beautiful to my human eye. Her ridged face, scars suddenly so evident. The bone-shaking snarl that could stop me even in my newborn tracks. The searing punishments exacted if I failed to toe her lines. And him, her aide, from a thousand different angles, moments becoming days becoming years of watching his face as he brought me up into her brave new world. I pieced together the memories of my distant guardian, recalling from each the detail of his battle-hardened face. I realised then that not one of my memories bore a smile.

I sensed him too, his bittersweet scent as ever intertwined with hers. But it was closer, more recent, and as I listened I heard the only sounds that ever brought him to this part of town. A voice box’s silent scream hissed through the air and a pair of frantic shoes scuffled weakly against the cobblestones. A set of feeble fingernails tapped and scrabbled against an immovable marble hand and a pattern of panicked gasps was choked off as the scene came to an end. I could hear the walls of the heart drawing closer into death, nothing left to put between them.

He sighed as he pulled away, and I heard his eyelids slip shut as he savoured the last droplets of blood in his throat. But the delicate sound was lost beneath a soft and anguished cry as he laid the body gently down. My ears caught the noise, latched my mind to it, as wonder and curiosity flared within me. He had never permitted others to be near him as he hunted, a quirk we all found strange. And now, at last, I had the chance to see the reason why.

I whirled into the alleyway, curiosity too much - but what I saw there stopped me in my tracks. He was there, but not as I knew him. The strong and infallible man I knew had never crumpled on the dusty ground like the broken form before me. His fist had never balled at unknown torture in his hair, casting glancing rainbows from the dim dawn light. I stared at his huddled body, doubled up beside his victim with a palm pressed to his alabaster face. He shook like a human in the moments before death.

“Jasper?”

He must have already known I was there, but his blond head froze as the sound of my incredulous voice - or perhaps at my scent, carried to him by a silken draft that whispered down the alleyway, stirring his hair and the creases of his clothes as it passed. His bright red eyes, fresh from blood, were instantly locked onto mine, their usually deep gaze blank and lifeless, though his body language betrayed his shock at seeing me.

“What…?” I gestured wordlessly to the scene before me, incomprehension blazing brightly on my features.

He drew back from the corpse, curling into himself like a foetus and ignoring my question. His elbows tucked into his sides as his head fell forward, long fingers clawing strangely at the skin below his collarbones. What was happening to him? Was it possible for vampires to go insane?

“She was engaged.”

His voice! He sounded dead, the words so flat and toneless that it seemed impossible a living thing had said them. His body did not move, and for a moment I was unsure that he had actually spoken… but my imaginings, my memories, would not have given him that voice.

“I never noticed, but I felt it, when she knew she was dying…” Emotion was beginning to seep back into his speech, and it was not of a kind I wanted to hear. His words were black, dripping viscous sorrow.
“Such a sense of loss. She had so much to live for and I took- I felt her future leave her and- it’s in me, every wound, every death. In me.”

And suddenly a weight of emotion crashed down on me, forcing me to my knees. I gasped aloud, reaching out to the alley wall for support, my other hand clutching over my chest where my heart should have been beating. I felt hollow, so empty, as though a hole had been punched through me, and I could barely hold myself together. I wanted to scream, but had not enough breath to do it.

“The loss,” he murmured, “You feel it. So many, so much… Where is my humanity, Peter? Where has it gone?”

I couldn’t answer, watching with horror his hollow eyes, his raised blond head staring me down like a demon, pinning me beneath his ruby gaze.

“Jasper, stop!” I gasped, imploring those eyes to let me go. Was this what he felt, every hunt, every moment? He had every right to his madness.
He rose, eyes still mourning as he poured his pain into me, the aching chasm tearing me apart. Despair gouged at my insides and clawed at my mind, throttling off all breath and squeezing my eyes tight shut.

And then it was gone.

I floundered for a moment, having never felt so light and agile. The air passed freely into me, sweet and clear - but then it carried his scent, and was clear no more. I could smell echoes of what I had just felt on the breeze, and icy fingers gripped my heart once more. I snapped upright to gaze once more upon his dread face, and met him, burgundy eye for ruby.

I had never realised that this existence hurt him like it had hurt me, but now his careful masks and distances made sense. There had been so many moments when I had been sure of something hidden behind his eyes, his words… And now I saw it. It was with horror that I thought of him trapped here, never considering that there might be another way. My meagre few years in this brutal world had scarred me, and I knew not how many centuries he had had for the darkness to sink deep into his bones. Now, it seemed, those years were taking their toll.

With my release he began to breathe again. His eyes closed as his arms unwound, body loosening from the clutches of insanity. When his eyelids drew back once more, it was a different man sharing my gaze. The familiar shield was back, the glinting steel in his face that had always seemed defensive, and now chilled me colder than his touch. The strength had returned, but now I saw it for what it was; flimsy, brittle; a front that was slowly breaking down. He stood rigid in the shadows, proud and upright, almost the man I had known once more. But not quite. Nothing had changed, except that now I could see the flaws and subtle weaknesses in his mask, tiny cracks that were invisible to unknowing eyes.

“All that… does Maria know?” I whispered. I flinched before I got my answer, the cursed name burning my tongue like acid. I had had respect for her once, but that was all gone. There was nothing left but fear, fear and hatred. She had so nearly stolen from me all that mattered in this world, my love, my Charlotte… I had been ready to hate him too, the one ordained to carry out her dread commands. I had been ready despise him, to damn him to hell as though we were not damned already - but he had let us go.

He could have taken us, both of us, easily, shattered us like sugar glass beneath his lethal hands. His skill was unsurpassed, his victory sure - but he had let us go. We had run for our lives, pelting on with the speed of the persecuted, two glancing blurs in our race for the horizon. I had thought those were my final minutes, final breaths, until I realised. Realised that there was no presence in the air behind us, no footsteps pounding the ground in our wake. And in that moment I had sworn that whatever the consequence, however dear the price, I would one day thank him fully for his mercy.

But the poison in his voice snapped me back to the present,

“Maria knows nothing.” he spat. I blinked, taken aback by his tone. So they were no longer lovers? He laughed without humour at the expression on my face, easily guessing my thoughts.

“Things are a little… different between us these days.” He explained bitterly, “I don’t think it will be long before one of us has to destroy the other.”

His final words sank in like a slowly swallowed poison. Maria and Jasper were fighting? I couldn’t comprehend it. The image seemed so terrible and strange; the two most skilful fighters I had ever known challenging each other with their snarls and hooked gazes. I watched them lunge for one another behind my eyes, their devastating agility like the movements of acrobats, both beautiful and horrifying; a gladiator fight for the gods. Leaping, whirling, locked together in the intricate dance of death. It was a nightmare, not reality.

But this place had always been one of nightmares.

I shuddered to think what life was like for the newborns now. The core of this army had always been so strong, so unbreakable, a rope we could hold on to when the tide came in. We had known that whatever happened out there, our backs were covered. How could they cope now when their security, their backbone, was tearing itself apart? They were stranded on the front line while war waged ahead… and behind. If only for their sakes, I couldn’t let this conflict go on.

And then I realised the key to it all. I was not here to thank him, but to take him away. Away from the fighting, away from the hate, away from the grudges and vendettas he had become embroiled in, away from the slaughter that was existence in the South. Away from the acts of violence Maria forced into his hands, away from the ghosts that awaited him from each and every deed. Away from hell. My promise could be fulfilled through just showing him an escape. Then could the debt I felt be settled in my heart. The time to repay that debt was now.

He looked at me strangely upon sensing my hope, tilting his head to one side as my eyes found a new glow. Hope was so strange and unfamiliar to him… Perhaps he frowned because he could barely recognise it. I felt all the more desperately the need to have my words out, to see them in the air between us and know that I had offered him a chance.

“Jasper… It isn’t like this in the North. Charlotte and I have been travelling, anywhere, everywhere, we can go where we like. There are no armies, there is no need to fight. We’ve hunted whenever we felt the need to and no one has challenged us. There are no territories. It’s, well… it’s life.” I gestured before me, “This isn’t.”

His eyes were suddenly wild as they searched mine, a strange light in them as though I were describing heaven. Had he honestly never thought of leaving? But it had always seemed to me that Jasper needed Maria as much as Maria needed Jasper. Perhaps only now that their bond was weakening did such options become open to him. Slight hints of doubt and wonder fringed the edges of my thoughts, his power not quite in his control… Just a little encouragement would convince him, I was sure. I decided that now was the moment to deliver my offer.

“Come with me, Jasper.” I said, staring him full in the face.

And, for a moment, I was sure that I had him. But then his eyes left mine, trailing away across the alley floor. Fear and indecision were tangible in the air as his gaze raked across the brick walls and cobblestones, the distant blood-red sunrise and the corpse still at his feet. It might be everything he hated, but it was all that he knew. I sensed that if I let him, he would stand there in limbo forever, twisting and turning between the feared and the unknown. I needed to force him into a decision.

I began to pace slowly backwards, taking further and further from him the chance I had brought. I pushed at him encouragingly with my emotions, mentally begging him to follow on. He had to find the strength to leave this place behind. But still he stood, face once more concealed behind a poker-faced mask, seemingly willing to let me go. Couldn’t he see this life was killing him?

Then I saw his hand extend minutely towards me, stretching to hover uncertainly in the space between us. I paused in the end of the alleyway, waiting as his lips danced silent nonsense, searching, searching… He found his words.

“Hold on,” he said, “I’m coming.”

And I watched, amazed, as for the first time in my existence… Jasper Whitlock cracked a smile.