Waiting For My Real Life To Begin
by Laura Spudzmom
Ignoring the occasional twinge from the mostly-healed wound in his side, Jasper strode down the boardwalk toward the Ranger’s office.
He’d been home, under doctor’s orders to rest for the past week and had enjoyed it, for the most part, but now he was going stir-crazy and had needed to get out before he screwed up again by taking his darkening mood out on his wife.
Arriving at the office, he returned the salutes of the two soldiers stationed outside the doors before pulling one open to enter.
Reaching up to sweep the hat from his head, he strode smartly to the commander’s desk and presented himself, standing at attention, his eyes fixed on the wall just over the Colonel’s head. “Sir, Captain Jasper A. Whitlock, reporting for duty.”
The Colonel motioned toward one of the chairs situated in front of his desk. “At ease, and be seated, Captain.”
“Thank you, sir.” Jasper took the chair to his right and met his commander’s gaze.
“Tell me, Whitlock, are you healed? You got the Doc’s clearance to even be here? “Cause if ya don’t then get the fuck outta my office and don’t come back without it. I have business with you, but not until you have that clearance in hand.” The Colonel smirked. “For some reason, the General likes you, and I don’t fancy havin’ him chew my ass for lettin’ his favorite take up duties while in a delicate condition.”
Jasper returned the smirk. “Permission to speak freely, sir?”
The commander grinned, one hand waving from the polished desktop. “Please do.”
“With all due respect, sir, you and your ‘delicate condition’ shit can kiss my ass.”
The Colonel relaxed back in his seat before bursting into laughter as he opened a drawer and took out a bottle and two glasses. “Damn, you little curly-haired runt, it’s good to have ya back.” He pointed at Jasper with the bottle before pouring a shot in each glass. “And in one piece too, even if ya did have a few feathers stickin’ outta ya when ya got back.”
He pushed a glass across the desk before picking his up to slam the contents as Jasper snorted a laugh. “Not my finest moment, I must admit,” he conceded before saluting with the glass and downing the fiery amber liquid in one go. “Hell and damnation!” he wheezed. “How do you stand that rot-gut?”
The man poured himself another shot but Jasper waved him off. “Practice, son, not to mention, I ain’t delicate,” he said with a shit-eating grin.
Jasper grunted, knowing the ribbing he was getting was good natured. He’d expected it, to be honest, especially from the Colonel, whom he’d known most of his life.
“In all seriousness, Captain, I’m damn glad to see ya back in good health, but I do need that clearance from Doc.” Jasper nodded and the Colonel stashed the bottle back in the drawer. “However,” the man barked, “before ya go today, there’s something I might as well take care of so you’re ready to get back to work when ya do come back.”
Jasper frowned. “What’s that, sir?”
“Attention, soldier!” The Colonel barked.
Jasper stood and snapped smartly to attention and the Colonel walked around the desk, holding something in his hand. “For exemplary performance of duties, and uncommon bravery in battle, you are hereby promoted to the rank of Major in the army of the Confederate States of America.” He stuck out his hand and Jasper shook it before accepting two gold stars from his Commander.
He stared down at the stars as the Colonel arched a brow. “Nothin’ to say, Major?”
Jasper met his gaze and blinked. “Thank you, sir, but this was completely unexpected.” He frowned. “And I know I’ve been out of commission, but what happened to the Rangers?”
The Colonel scoffed and scrubbed a hand over his face. “It’s official, son. The Rangers have been disbanded and assimilated into the regular army for now, not that we’ll see much of a difference here in this office,” he grumbled before giving Jasper a pointed look. “Although, due to your age and now your notoriety, you may have to worry with bein’ sent to the thick a’ things. Be ready, just in case.”
“Yes, sir,” he answered, still somewhat bemused at this turn of events.
The Commander rounded the desk and resumed his seat. “Although this promotion is unexpected, it is nevertheless deserved, Major, if the reports are accurate. Your men are quite in awe of you. You should be proud.” He gestured to the stars in Jasper’s hand. “You’re now the youngest to attain that rank. Congratulations. Now get your ass outta my office and don’t came back without that clearance.”
Jasper snapped off a smart salute and left, smoothly donning his hat after closing the office door.
Bella had just sat down on the spread blanket with Jace when Charles entered. “Pardon the disruption, Miss Bella, but your father’s here to see you.”
“Oh!” She smiled and dumped a bucket of brightly colored blocks in front of her son. “Show him in, Charles, will you please?”
He gave a little bow. “Certainly, Miss.”
Rising to her feet, she glanced at the nanny. “Anne, mind Jace for me while I visit with my father.”
“Yes, Mrs. Whitlock,” the girl answered, moving over to sit on the blanket with the toddler. He was managing to get around quite quickly now and would be walking soon, if Bella had to guess.
Damon walked in and Bella met him just inside the door, placing a kiss on his cheek in greeting. “This is a nice surprise. I wasn’t expecting you today.”
Her brow creased at the serious expression on his face as he placed a hand at the small of her back to guide her toward the door. “Let’s take this to the library, shall we? Oh, and Charles…”
“There’s already a decanter and glasses on the sideboard, Mr. Damon.”
Damon arched a brow and Bella smirked. “No, he doesn’t read minds. You’re just that predictable.”
Damon canted his head to the side then nodded. “Point made, guilty as charged.”
Once they’d situated themselves in the locked library, Damon with a liberal portion of aged bourbon in hand, she looked at him and arched an inky brow. “Something’s up with you.”
One side of his mouth curled. “Isn’t it always?”
She sighed. “Are you really gonna make this difficult?”
“Fine,” he grumbled behind the rim of his glass. “I need a new mattress.”
Bella groaned, covering her eyes with a hand. “Jesus, Dad, I don’t need that kinda info painting pictures in my head…”
He snorted. “I staked dear Katherine on it.”
Bella’s eyes went wide. “Is she…?”
“Yep,” he said before tipping his glass back for a healthy drink. “Ding, dong, the witch is dead.” He saluted with his glass and drained it before pouring it full again.
“I’m sorry, Dad. I know that had to be hard for you.”
He stared into the distance. “In a way,” he muttered. “But,” he quipped, “what’s done is done and the bitch will never be able to fuck with me again.”
“Is this gonna screw with the future? I mean, have you taken future people out of existence by doing this?”
“I thought about that and talked it over with Emily and I don’t think so. The Petrova line is already in place, Stefan and I have already been turned…” He shrugged. “Aside from my newly turned self, no one will miss her.” He gave Bella a pointed look. “Which reminds me, I talked over your little humanitarian plan with Emily and you can’t do it.”
Bella scowled. “What? Why not?”
“Well, baby girl, if you take Edward outta the equation, your future self will never meet Jasper.”
She sucked in a breath. “Shit, that’s right. He started it all.”
Damon nodded. “Yep.”
“Oh god, I nearly fucked everything up.”
He smirked. “Now you see why Emily’s always telling us not to mess with too much. We’re gonna have to let things happen as they did, with the notable exception of your husband. And…once we’re back in modern times, you’re going to have to stay away from all of them until Jasper Cullen or Hale or whatever he went by, fades. Only then can we make an appearance.”
Bella stared at her lap, brow creased in thought as she rubbed it. “This is all so confusing…”
He nodded. “Yeah, it is.” He took a drink from his glass before looking back at her. “You know I’m gonna have to split away from you in the future, don’t you?”
“Why?” The thought of not having him with her, even though she had Jasper, was unsettling. He was her rock, her comfort, the one she relied on the most. Losing him, even temporarily, would be scary.
“I have to meet a certain woman and make a beautiful baby girl.”
Bella blinked. “Oh…Oh! Oh god, Dad, that’s twice in one conversation,” she muttered with a moue of distaste.
“Bella, really, grow up sweetheart. You think you and Jasper are the only two on the planet who have sex?”
She glared. “No, but you’re my father and who talks about shit like that with their parents?”
His answering grin was wicked. “Someone with a forever twenty-something father who’s hot as hell in the looks department?” His brows waggled and she shook her head.
He shrugged and drained his glass. “Get used to it, baby girl. I’m never gonna change.”
She looked up from rubbing her brow. “Yeah, I know, Dad.”
“On that note,” he said while setting his glass aside, “You have that talk with Jasper yet?” His eyes narrowed as she cringed.
“Uh, sort of?”
He sighed and rubbed his temple. “Isabella…”
“I know! I…we…tried, okay? It just didn’t go the way I wanted it to, so not much got resolved.”
The look he shot her was unimpressed. “Am I gonna have to sit down with both of you and moderate?”
“No,” she grumbled. “At least, I don’t think so. It just seems like every time we try to talk about the more serious stuff, he says stuff that hurts and I wind up in tears… It’s all just so…so…frustrating!”
“Welcome to adulthood, sweetheart. Still, the two of you are gonna have to plow through it and quit avoiding, otherwise, shit’s going to happen and none of us will be even close to ready.”
She nodded. “I know.”
He frowned and leaned forward, pinning her with a steady gaze. “No, I don’t think you do. What if something happened to him and he hadn’t had any blood in a while, because you two hadn’t talked yet and agreed doing such a thing on a regular basis would be a good idea?
“Or…what if, he’d had some blood recently, but still had misgivings about becoming what we are? Something happens, he wakes from his death, feeds—because it’s damn hard not to—and then spends decades resenting you and what he’s become, because you two hadn’t hashed it out beforehand—and believe me when I tell you, shit like that happens often and it’s not something one just gets over. It takes years, and even then some never get over it.”
“Okay!” she snapped and he sat back, folding his hands over his abdomen. “I get that it’s important to have this talk, and we will,” she growled.
“When?” he demanded, still not letting her off the hook.
She glared, her lips thinned. “Tonight, all right? We’ll talk tonight, even if we have to stay up all night to do it.”
“And neither one of you will throw a tantrum and storm out, or cry ‘cuz your feelings got hurt?”
She scowled and huffed. “God, you can be such an asshole…”
His brows climbed. “We’re having a grown-up discussion here, Isabella—something you need to learn how to do. Discussions don’t always go your way, nor are they always pleasant. That doesn’t mean you should get angry, cry, or name-call. You think you can handle that? Because you’re going to have to. He’s going to say things you don’t like and you’re going to say things he doesn’t like, that’s how these things usually go. It’s how you both deal with the aftermath of what’s been said that makes all the difference. Now, do you think you can manage an adult discussion?”
Her shoulders sagged and she nodded. “I’m sorry. I was out of line. I shouldn't have called you a name.”
He inclined his head. “Apology accepted, and no, you shouldn’t have.”
She sighed and rubbed her brow. “I’m tired Dad. I thought I’d get used to this time, ya know? But…the longer I’m here…I dunno, just getting through the days feels like a chore.” She met his gaze. “I’m constantly on guard, watching what I say and how I say it…afraid to get too close to anyone but Jasper… Am I making any sense?”
He nodded. “Yeah, and I would say you’re right to be cautious. As for being tired, that makes sense since you weren’t raised with all the societal constraints you have to deal with here.”
She nodded, her eyes wide. “Yes! Exactly, even with Jasper!” She peered into the distance. “Even with him, I’m afraid to show too much of my true self…afraid if I do, he’ll be disgusted or something…”
“He loves you kiddo, but I understand what you’re saying. It’ll be quite the shock when he finally sees the modern woman, I’m sure,” he finished with a smirk.
She shot him a dark glance. “Don’t sound so gleeful.”
He grinned and raised his hands. “What? It should be good, that’s all I’m saying. Quite the culture shock…especially the first time he sees you walk into a room full of people dressed in shorts and a tank.”
She looked pensive. “God, how I miss my clothes… You think Uncle Stefan kept my stuff?”
He cocked his head. “Probably. I dunno…maybe.” He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter, really. We’re not poor, Bella. If he tossed it, we’ll just buy you new stuff.”
“My favorite jeans are in that stuff,” she grumbled.
He reached over and refilled his glass. “Out of all the things to worry about, you focus on a pair of jeans? I’d worry more with your ex and how to deal with him when the time comes.”
She smirked. “The jeans mean something to me.”
He snorted behind the rim of his glass before taking a drink. “Point made, still, I think your ex is going to be a pain in the ass when we get back.”
A frown marred her brow. “We’re gonna have to leave Emily and Charles behind, aren’t we?”
“Yep,” he quipped with a nod. “They don’t belong in our time and would really screw things up if they go with us.”
“We need to take care of them. We can’t just leave them without…”
He raised a hand. “I’ve already planned for that and talked it over with Emily. They’ll return to Mystic Falls. I’ve already purchased property there for them. Believe me, they’re set.”
She nodded and smiled, relieved that he’d already thought to take care of them. “Thanks Dad, I’m glad.”
“See? I can be a nice guy,” he said with a smirk before finishing off his drink. He reached into an inner coat pocket and pulled out a vial. “My work is done here, but before I go, take this.” He handed it to her and she rolled it between her fingers while scrunching her brow.
“Yes. I figured you could get Jasper to drink it after your talk. It’s a good idea for him to have regular doses until he’s turned, especially with what Emily saw.”
Bella went a bit pale, but nodded. “Yeah,” she muttered. “I just hope I can convince him.”
He rose from his chair, bent down and kissed her cheek before holding her gaze. “You will, baby girl. We’ve come too far to fail in this little adventure now.” He walked to the door and opened it. “You know where to find me if you need me,” he said with a wave before closing the door behind him.
“Yeah,” she muttered while staring at the vial in her hand. “I do.”
Tucking the vial into the pocket of her skirts, she rose and went back to the parlor where Jace was still playing on the blanket. “How’s he been?” she asked the nanny while taking a seat in the nearby rocker. As she watched, Jace rubbed his eyes with a chubby fist while knocking over the tower of bright blocks his nanny had stacked in front of him.
“I think he’s getting tired, Ma’am,” Anne answered. “Shall I put him down for a nap?”
Bella shook her head and rose from her seat. “No, go have your lunch in the kitchen. I’ll take care of him.”
“Yes Ma’am,” the girl said before hurrying out.
With a soft smile, Bella scooped up her son, placing a kiss on his cheek while cuddling him close. “Hi sweet boy. How’s my little man, huh? Would you like a story?” she crooned while easing into the rocker. Reaching over, she picked up the book of fairy tales from the side table, paging through until she found a good one which she began to read to him while gently rocking.
Ten minutes later, he yawned and slipped his thumb into his mouth as his eyes drooped shut. Laying the book back on the table, she continued rocking while gently carding her fingers through his golden curls. “Mommy loves you, Jace,” she whispered before placing a kiss on his head. “Mommy loves you so much.”
She continued rocking until a light knock sounded at the door as Charles poked his head in. “Begging your pardon, Miss Bella, but you have a visitor—a Private Reed, if I recall correctly.”
Careful to not jostle her sleeping son, she rose from the chair and walked to the door. “Show him in to the library, please Charles. I’m just going to put Jace down for a nap and I’ll be right there. Oh, and bring a tea tray, would you?”
After taking care of Jace, she entered the library and smiled as Private Reed shot to his feet, his hands wringing the brim of his hat as he inclined his head. “Afternoon, Ma’am. I was hopin’ to see the Captain…”
She took a seat on the sofa across from him and began pouring tea. “Well, you missed him, I’m afraid. He said something about going to the Ranger’s office though, so you might try there.” She handed him a cup and he muttered his thanks before taking a sip from the delicate china. “I’m glad to see you though, since I’ve yet to thank you properly for caring for my husband. From what little Jasper can remember, he says he probably wouldn’t have survived if not for your care, so for that, you have our deepest gratitude.”
She noticed the prominent blush on his cheeks and smiled behind the rim of her cup.
“Was just doing my duty, Ma’am, ‘sides, like I told y’all before, I owe the Captain my life.”
“All the same,” she said while setting her cup back in its saucer, “if there’s ever anything we can do for you, just let us know.”
He cleared his throat and dipped his head. “Thank ya kindly, Ma’am.”
At that moment, Jasper strode in, stopping short as his insubordinate shot from his seat, saluting smartly when he saw Jasper in full uniform.
Jasper raised a brow. “Afternoon, Sgt. Reed. Be at ease,” he said, waving him back to his seat. “We’re not on duty here.” He bent down and kissed Bella’s cheek before taking a seat next to her. “Congratulations on your promotion,” he said with a nod and a pointed look at the new insignia sewn on Reed’s uniform. “It’s well deserved.”
Reed glanced at Bella before meeting Jasper’s steady gaze. “Thank ya, Captain.”
“It’s Major now, actually,” he said as he accepted a cup of tea from his wife, who gaped at him. “I understand it’s due to the reports that you and the others submitted, so you have my thanks.”
“We just told the truth, sir.”
Jasper hummed while eyeing his soldier. “So, what brings you by, Sgt. Reed?”
“I…well, I just wanted to make sure you was healin’ up proper. Last time I was by, you were still down.”
Jasper inclined his head. “Thank you for your concern. It’s much appreciated.”
Reed nodded. “Any word on when you’ll be back?”
Jasper took another sip of tea and sat back. “I just got clearance from the Doc, so I’ll be in tomorrow. No word on any orders yet, but I’m sure there’ll be something soon. You aware the Rangers are disbanded for the foreseeable future?”
“Yes, sir, I’d heard. Reckon we’ll be deployed now?”
Bella sucked in a breath and Jasper stifled a scowl, his tone sharp as he answered. “Nothing specific was said today, but I was told to be ready.”
“Pardon for speakin’ outta turn, Major,” Reed said with a cringing glance at Bella. Jasper sighed.
“No help for it now, Reed,” he said while setting his tea aside. “But, if there’s nothing else?” he said, rising from his seat and gesturing to the door when Reed followed suit.
“Ma’am,” Reed said with a nod and a touch to his brow. “Thank ya for your hospitality.”
“My pleasure, Sgt. Reed,” Bella muttered as her husband escorted the soldier out.
Minutes later, Jasper made his way back into the room while loosening the top two buttons on his jacket, his expression guarded as he resumed his seat next to his wife.
“You’re as good as in this war now,” she said and he acknowledged her with a weary nod.
She leaned back on the sofa, both hands covering her face. “How did this happen? After all we’ve done, after all we’ve gone through, you’re still in it…” she groaned.
He frowned. “It’s war, Isabella. Aside from running—something I’m not willin’ to do—I don’t see how I was ever going to avoid it. Every able-bodied man of a certain age is subject to service. If I hadn’t signed up, chances are I would’ve been conscripted. That’s just the way of it.”
She turned to him and grasped his hands. “Let’s leave, Jasper, please! We can pack the important stuff and be outta here in a matter of days… Please, say yes?”
His frown deepened. “To where? The North?” he spat with a scoff. “There’s nowhere I can go where I won’t be a target, besides, I’m not a coward. I won’t run, no matter how difficult things get.”
She cupped his cheek. “I know you’re not a coward and I love that about you, but running to another place isn’t exactly what I had in mind.”
His eyes narrowed and she nodded, knowing he was catching on as she murmured, “I was thinking more of another time…”
He stood up and went to the sideboard, pouring himself a drink and downing half of it before turning back to face her. “You’re asking me to leave everything I know behind—my parents, my sisters, the life we’ve made here… I’m supposed to take over my father’s business once this war’s over…”
She shot to her feet. “Yeah? And what if you’re not alive to do that?! What then? I lose everything then, Jasper, because you’re everything to me! I came back over a century for you! Does that mean anything to you? And what about Jace? He’ll lose his father! Is that fair to him?”
His face went blank. “It isn’t anything that every other soldier’s family doesn’t also face, Isabella. Our country is at war and this is a time to stand and fight, to make sacrifices, because that’s what honorable men do when called upon…they meet that duty head on, despite the sacrifices.”
Her eyes blazed as she stared at him, her hands clenched at her sides. “To hell with duty and the sacrifices! If you stay in this, your side loses, do you hear?! You lose, so why is that worth fighting for? Most likely dying for…! You’re one man, Jasper, and one man isn’t going to make a difference in this! Not to the North and definitely not to the South!” Her tone softened to a pleading one as she cupped his cheek. “But it’ll make a hell of a difference if Jace and I lose you.”
A muscle ticked in his jaw. “Maybe things are different now. You’ve changed things…”
She scoffed and gaped at him. “We may have changed things in your life, but do you really believe anything we’ve done will change the outcome of a massive war? Over six hundred thousand will die in this, Jasper! Six hundred thousand… Nothing we’ve done or will do will change that, and I’ll be damned if I stand by and watch you join them as you seem determined to do!
“And for what?!” she yelled while pacing away. “Pride? Honor? Duty?!” She stormed back to him, clutching the front of his jacket while staring into his face. “Fuck that, do you hear? I’ll knock your stubborn ass out and drag you into that ritual circle before I watch you fall on that proverbial sword, and damn the consequences!” She turned loose of his jacket and swiped at the angry tears she hadn’t realized were falling. “If you wind up being angry, well, I guess you’ll have forever to get over it,” she finished in a quiet murmur.
She slumped onto the sofa and watched as he refilled his glass. He took a drink before taking the chair across from her, his expression pensive as he gazed at her. “Six hundred thousand die?”
She sighed, rubbing a temple as she nodded. “Yes. I’m no history expert, but I remember the number of casualties was just over that.”
“Damn,” he cursed under his breath, slowly shaking his head before taking another sip from his glass as the information sank in.
She glanced up at him. “Now do you understand why I want to leave?”
His lips pressed together and he set his glass on the table. “I do,” he finally admitted, “but you need to understand my position. How can I run and bring such shame on my family?” He met her gaze and her heart sank at the cold determination in his eyes. “The answer is simple, Isabella. I cannot.”
She blinked, determined not to cry as he moved to kneel in front of her, his hand rising to brush her cheek as he continued, his tone soft. “It’s not who I am, Isabella. I wouldn’t be the man you married if I did something like that, and furthermore, I wouldn’t want to leave such a legacy to my son.” His eyes searched hers for a beat before he continued, “Please tell me you understand.”
A tear escaped and she wiped it away instantly before nodding. “God help me,” she breathed on a sigh, “I do understand, but it doesn’t stop me from being terrified for you.” She choked up, fighting it until she was able to speak without crying. “There’s something I want you to promise me though,” she said, her eyes hard and jaw set.
He nodded. “If it’s within my power, I will.”
Reaching into her pocket, she withdrew the vial and held it out. “I want you to take a dose of this regularly. I’ll get more so you can take them with you if you…” her voice cracked but she fought it back again before continuing, “You can take them with you if you’re sent away. Can you promise me that at least?”
He took the vial and studied it for a moment before looking back into the vivid blue of her eyes. “And if I die with this in my system…?” he asked, already having some idea of what would happen.
“You’ll awake within a day. After that, you’ll have to feed within twenty four hours, after which you’ll become a full-fledged vampire.”
He sat back on his heels and drew in a deep breath, letting it out slowly before looking back at her. “Will I be crazed if that happens?”
“You’ll…most likely…kill the first time you feed,” she hedged, “but after that, with regular feedings, you should be able to manage the thirst. My dad would be the best to discuss details with. He can also tell you how to compel humans so they won’t remember being fed from, that way you don’t have to kill them. The compelling bit takes some practice though, so…”
He hung his head and rubbed his brow and her heart was in her throat the whole time as the moments ticked away. If he decided he couldn’t or wouldn’t do this… If he decided he didn’t want to be what she was…she didn’t know what she would do.
As the silence stretched and despair had begun to set in, he finally nodded and looked up, his green eyes filled with the love he felt for her. “All right, Isabella, I’ll take regular doses.”
With a sob of relief, she threw herself into his arms, nearly knocking them both over as he engulfed her in his arms. “Thank you,” she whispered just below his ear, where she placed a kiss before whispering, “And if the worst happens?”
He cupped the back of her head, guiding her into a kiss before murmuring against her lips, “Then I’ll turn, sugar… I’ll do it…for you.”
DISCLAIMER: Twilight and its inclusive material is copyright to Stephenie Meyer. Original creation, including but not limited to plot and characters, is copyright to the respective authors of each story. No copyright infringement is intended.