They’ve never not had a dining table. A stupid extravagance, he thinks, especially seeing as Esme often keeps it set with off-white table linens and white china, as though they will sit down and feast at any minute. Alice must have warned her to pick up the china before tonight, because it was gone before any of them took their seats.

Edward, who is the favorite child, is very prone to throwing things.

They need the big table, because even though there are only seven of them, they are big. Big personalities. Big concerns. They need room for all those people, and all those feelings.

And there are enough of those to drive Jasper outside.

In the distance, the Sol Duc rumbles, crashing against the rocks that make up its shore. Here in the cold, with the river slamming by in the distance—out here the feelings are dulled, and he needs that.

Through the glass, Jasper can see that they are all slowly standing from the empty table. Rosalie flew upstairs with Emmett fast on her heels the second it was clear she wouldn’t get her way. She’s like that, and after a half-century, Jasper is used to the whiplash that is her emotions. Esme is positively glowing, which was not the outcome that Jasper would’ve predicted. But then, it wasn’t until he and Rosalie were shut down that Alice could see where this whole mess was even headed, and when she uttered the words, “Edward is in love with her,” Esme about choked. She has her thin arms around Edward’s shoulders now, whispering to him how much she loves him; how proud of him she is.

Edward, for his part, is mostly just confused. The knot in his stomach is in Jasper’s, making them both feel like they could be sick any minute. Jasper remembers this feeling—it’s the same feeling he got when the flighty, too-talkative, spikey-haired sprite showed up in his world.

He’s thinking about this when the door slides open and the earthy scent of spice wafts into the freezing air. Covens reek in hues of the same scent; the stronger it is, the more have been sired by the same individual. It’s a sign to others of their kind that the group is unlikely to be disloyal—a warning that fighting this group is likely to end badly. Jasper and Alice alone do not smell like the other five. They don’t belong to Carlisle.

In the moonlight, the honey-colored hair shines almost silver. It’s a bizarre look, because while on the one hand, their leader looks forever impossibly young, on the other, his face holds the wisdom of centuries, and silver hair seems to suit him in a strange way.

The older vampire—because he’s the only one who is older—is silent as he comes to the deck railing and leans against it. He exhales slowly, his still-warm breath making the little cloud of condensation, as though he is human.

At times like these, Carlisle certainly seems so.

For a long while, they both stare into the starlit darkness, listening to the river.

“I am sorry,” Jasper says finally, and Carlisle turns his head. His brow is furrowed.

“You’re sorry?”

“For suggesting…” Jasper trails off. It is impossible to utter the words again in front of their coven leader, and he cuts himself off before he’s even begun. “I didn’t know that Edward was…well.”

There comes a noise that is halfway between a chuckle and a sigh. “None of us could have foreseen this,” Carlisle says, and gestures grandly toward the house.

Through the window, he sees Alice. Edward is glowering at her, but she is beaming.

The stunt, with the car, and the girl—it could have cost Jasper his mate. They all could have been exposed. They all could be destroyed. The risk…

The risk is nothing to the greater risk, Carlisle’s voice echoes in Jasper’s head.

We risk losing the essence of who we are.

“I didn’t mean what I said. Well, I did, but, I didn’t know—”

Another exhale, and this time the voice is harder, more frustrated. “I know, Jasper.” And then he falls silent.

And he does know. Jasper can feel it. That he had been forgiven, almost the instant the words had left his lips. Forgiven for suggesting that they together terminate the existence of the girl; so human, so fragile. Forgiven that for thinking it was simple.

Forgiven for suggesting they kill his brother’s mate.

He hates this about Carlisle, if he admits it. Mistakes aren’t supposed to be forgiven. Mistakes earn you extra witches from his daddy’s belt. Mistakes meant duty picking up bodies on the battlefield. Mistakes meant extra humans turned to Maria’s army. But even though Jasper grew up going to the Southern churches that told him his sins would be forgiven if he repented, Carlisle’s the only person he’s ever met who seems to mean it, and well, it’s unsettling.

“I wish you wouldn’t.”

“Wouldn’t what?”

“Forgive me.”

It is only because their vision is perfect that Jasper can see Carlisle’s brow furrow in the dark.

“Did I forgive you?”

Jasper nods.

Carlisle sinks back on his elbows. “Huh. Because I wasn’t sure.” He stares back into the house. Esme has her arms around Edward now, and Jasper can feel Carlisle bristling—protective of them both.

“So what do we do?” Jasper asks finally.

“What do we do?”

“About the girl.”

Patience has never been Jasper’s virtue. Most things about this life, before Alice, were hell, and he’s not confused about that. But the speed, that was glorious. He loves the speed.

Not Carlisle. He moves quickly when he hunts, and when he’s playing sports with them, and when he’s chasing Edward. But the rest of the time, he is deliberate, like he is now, shifting his weight to his back foot as though he is uncomfortable. Leaning against the railing as though he needs it to support his body.

Jasper thinks, sometimes, that he could learn to move like this. Slowly, like a human.

He could learn to have patience.

Together, they lean back against the railing, and they watch as Esme runs her hands through Edward’s hair, and Edward shakes his head, his reddish-brown locks flicking the sides of his face. They watch as Alice stands, walks to the other side of the table, holding up a hand, why? Because Edward snarls at her, and Jasper takes a step before he realizes that Alice was already stopping him, telling him nothing is wrong.

But everything is wrong. Edward didn’t throw the dishes, and no one got in any fights, and Jasper and Rosalie have been forgiven, of all things…

“We wait,”the deep voice says at last, snapping Jasper away from the view in the window.

“I’m sorry?”

Carlisle’s jaw is set. “We wait,” he says again. “That’s what we do. We wait.”

Before the words have carried on the air, Carlisle is on the other side of the glass doors, whispering something to Esme. And then they are gone, and Alice has materialized in Jasper’s arms, and Edward is sitting at the giant table, alone.


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