|A Long Time Waiting
Author: Mandi1 PM
There had to be a sacrifice. And she could see that they would be okay. For a time. A&J, AURated: Fiction M - English - Drama - Alice & Jasper - Chapters: 7 - Words: 24,219 - Reviews: 198 - Favs: 148 - Follows: 72 - Updated: 05-19-09 - Published: 03-02-09 - id: 4898134
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Whether you loved or hated or wanted to burn Breaking Dawn, there's something we all agree on: the ending blew. The epic battle did not happen. Simple as that. There was no real fight and there was no price to pay. There should have been. Someone should have given up something very dear to save themselves or their children or their loved ones. Here, that someone is two someones: Alice and Jasper. Their freedom in exchange for the others' lives.
Disclaimer: Nothing recognizable is mine.
I got bored. Happy reading.
The room was bright and cheery, filled with the Italian sunshine streaming in through the windows. At the head of the table, Aro smiled and steepled his hands, staring over the group before him. "I'm very glad we could all convene today," he said with a little smile picking at his lips. "Now that Demetri has returned from his mission, there were a few things I was hoping to go over. Demetri, shall we go on with what you have seen?"
Looking rather proud of himself, Demetri stood.
"She's progressing just as we hoped," he said with his own knowing smirk, smug anticipation oozing out of him. "The child looks to be around eight years old. The others believe she will reach maturity and be full grown in two years time."
The others. I cringed at the words and clung tighter to my husband's hand, grateful for the numbness he was trying hard to supply, even though it was hardly enough. It hadn't been enough for the past year we had been living in Volterra. We have come here after having bargained our freedoms in exchange for our family's, the so-called "others" Demetri spoke of. Now, it seemed, they were living peacefully in some part of Canada I couldn't place while Jasper and I were struggling with our new existence in Italy. No, struggling wasn't the right word. I was distraught, while Jasper was flip-flopping back and forth between wonder at the freedom his new life brought and unhappiness at what he had gone back to doing – which was mostly for my sake.
Right now, Jasper's thumb was tracing little swirls and whorls on the back of my hand, distracting me slightly, and I glanced up at him. While his hand was paying attention to me, his eyes were still intently focused on Demetri, watching with a jaw set so seriously that I started to worry. Surely he couldn't be going along with whatever horrible thing they were discussing. I had spent the last year faking my way through these meetings; I wasn't about to start believing their ridiculous speeches now.
"So with how the child is progressing and the fact that the humans in the town can't tell," Demetri was saying now, "I believe we can proceed with our plan."
Jane leaned forward in her chair, her small form hardly rising. "Plan? What plan?"
Aro's little grin grew to an ecstatic beam. "I've been waiting to tell you all until we had reviewed the child. Now that everything is clear, I think an explanation is in order."
He glanced over to Caius and Marcus on his sides. They both nodded, and he went on.
"With the advent of the half-breed child and the other full-grown ones, it has become apparent that those of our kind – or, partially of our kind –" Aro smiled wryly here and continued, "can live among humans without being detected. This fact makes our entire existence much, much easier. With a group of half-breeds living amongst the humans, think of the ease of our meals! Think of the possibilities for growth! Daytime travel, involvement, even control of the human business world, all of this is at our fingertips now!"
"So you are suggesting we begin recruiting these half-breeds?" Heidi asked, arching one perfect eyebrow.
Aro shook his head. "Not recruiting, exactly."
He didn't have to say it. I didn't even have to try to see it in my mind. I knew exactly what he was thinking of, and Jasper did too, from the way he was stiffening in his chair.
"Creating?" Heidi guessed. "We're to create them?"
"Isn't it genius?" Aro cried. "We could create hundreds of these wonderful creatures, raise them as loyal followers, and send them out into the world to strengthen the line! And by pairing human females showing the proper potential with our gifted males…why, we're sure to come up with a brand new master race!"
I wanted to turn my head and vomit, only there wasn't anything to let go of. A master race? What a horrible idea! I had seen first-hand the trouble such a little creature had caused, and that was just within one family. Having so many of them would be a hundred times worse, and for the children to be gifted as well…
For the children to be gifted…they would have to be born of Aro's "gifted males." And the only gifted males Aro would deem worthy of the task were sitting in this room now – one was a few seats to my right, his ruby eyes sparkling with excitement, and the other was sitting stone-still on my left, holding tightly to my frozen hand.
"We'll begin tomorrow with the scouts," Demetri said excitedly.
"Of course, we'll bring in the potential women we've already been monitoring," Caius added, speaking of the three or four women deemed worthy enough to perhaps be changed, thanks to their gift-bearing promise. I cringed at the thought of these women so unknowingly giving up their lives, remembering Gianna, and then cringed even more at the thought of Jasper with these women. It just couldn't happen. It couldn't be possible. I scanned my mind to make sure…and was overjoyed at the sight of Demetri – not Jasper – cornering a frightened female in a dark little room. So he would be the chosen father. Jasper would be safe. I was able to breathe easier now – or at least begin breathing again.
Heidi was cocking an eyebrow again, a sign I had learned meant she was getting annoyed. "Do you really think these scouts will be able to find the women, let alone keep from killing them?"
"Demetri will accompany the group to gather them," Aro said, and the vision in my head suddenly changed.
The room was no longer dark but a blank, sterile, white chamber with a clean bed in the middle. A young woman – a young human woman – was on top of the bed, naked and still. The door on the side opened, and Jasper walked in, wearing a thin black robe that made his skin look whiter than ever and a blank, serious expression on his face. But then the girl on the bed trembled and her scent filled the air. Jasper grinned evilly, taking just a moment to toss off his robe before pouncing.
No. No. That could not be true. I glanced up at Jasper, ready to protest immediately – and stopped when I realized my husband wasn't looking down at me with the worried expression he usually had after one of my visions. Instead, he was leaning across the table, his mouth set in a determined line as he listened intently to Aro.
"We'll start as soon as Demetri returns," the white-haired ancient was saying, "and in the meantime, we'll work on building up Jasper's resistance. We wouldn't want you tearing into our mothers-to-be." He smiled wryly then, and most of the others did too. Myself, I wanted to cry. Wretch. Anything other than smile at this horrible turn of events.
"And I'll get my turn when Jasper tires out," Demetri added with a cocky grin.
"If Jasper doesn't finish them all himself," Alec interjected. "We want them alive, if at all possible."
I could hear Jasper next to me, growling softly, and I prayed he was mad at the involvement they were forcing on him, not the teasing he was getting.
"Well then," Aro said brightly, "let's reconvene again when Demetri and the scouts return. Well done, everyone."
I would hardlycount the day's activities as being "well done," but held my tongue. The last time I had spoken out, I had been asked to accompany Heidi on one of her "tours." The looks on the innocent faces she…we gathered…I knew I couldn't handle such a punishment again. And so I stayed silent as I rose from the table and began walking back to the chambers that had been designated as ours. I could sense Jasper following me silently; I did not anticipate the conversation we would have the moment the door closed behind him.
Since leaving, one thing I missed most of all was the welcoming feeling we used to get when walking into a room. Usually there were people to greet Jasper and I whenever we came home, whether it was Esme on the front porch or Emmett thundering over for a hug or wrestling match or even Edward coming to brood over one thing or another. Now, walking into a room meant whispers and stares, hushed comments about our former family or the diet I had stuck with – and Jasper had given up soon after our arrival. Even rooms not filled with people were cold, uninviting, unfriendly in their sharp perfection.
Such was the case with our bedroom. The walls were made of heavy stones as chilly and hard as our skin. A large wooden bed had been there when we had moved in, but I had since added a large matching armoire and a deep blue settee in the hopes it would make the room look more hospitable. No such luck. The coldness remained, just as it had been the first day we had arrived. I didn't want to think about what had happened to the previous occupants – whatever end they had met might very well happen to us, if we didn't follow the rules. And now the rules were saying that Jasper would have to…I grew ill just thinking about it. There had to be a way out of this. Maybe we could just up and leave, quietly, just after sundown?
Demetri was on the trail just an hour later, finally cornering the two with Felix's help somewhere outside of Prague.
So that wouldn't work. Perhaps Aro would understand if we spoke to him reasonably?
Aro understood the pressure, but Caius reminded them of the bargain they had made – their freedom for their family's. If they were to leave, it would most certainly mean the end of the Cullens.
That couldn't happen either – if it did, then all our sufferings over the past year would have been for nothing. Honestly, was there nothing we could do? I prayed for the right situation to overtake my mind, to allow me to see some way out of this predicament.
The door to our chambers shut quietly then, and I knew Jasper was crossing the room to stand behind me. I could feel the air parting behind me as he walked, his musky and intoxicating scent clouding my mind for a moment before I gathered my wits again. This was no time for distraction. But I couldn't stop the twisting of my stomach when his hand wrapped around my shoulder.
"Alice," he murmured softly, in that gentle way he had when he was trying to get me to listen to him.
I shook my head. "No." Whatever he was about to say, whatever reasons he wanted to give for staying here or doing the horrible things Aro was suggesting, I didn't want to hear it.
"Alice, please." His grip got a little tighter, and I felt my reluctance start to ebb away, replaced by a calm stillness I knew I wasn't producing myself.
I stepped out of Jasper's grasp. "Stop. Not now." I turned around to face him and watched as he quickly covered up the hurt look in his eyes with the stoicism he usually wore nowadays. I took a deep breath and went on. "We need to talk, and we need to do it without you trying to control how I feel about all this."
"I'm sorry," he said gravely – as if he were apologizing to someone he bumped into on the street, not as if he were saying it to me, his wife, his Alice.
"No, you're not," I said pointedly. "You're really thinking about doing this, aren't you?"
His lips tightened across his teeth. "And if I am?"
I closed my eyes and shook my head. "How could you?"
"Alice, really." I felt his hands on my arms again, holding me so I couldn't turn away from him, and I looked up into his eyes. The stoicism was gone – most of it, at least – and my Jasper was back, giving me a serious but heartfelt stare. "What can we do?" he asked softly. "If we refuse…I don't want to think of what they'll do. I've seen the Volturi's anger before. I have no desire to invoke it again."
Even though I already knew exactly what would happen, I still shook my head. "We can't possibly let them do this, Jasper," I insisted. "It's sick. To take you, to use you that way? And what about the children that will come of this? What about them? Even if it were just obeying silly orders, this is still going to have a lasting result. A horrible lasting result."
He let go of my arms and grit his teeth; I could hear the sound. "If it's for the good of our race…"
My eyes went wider than they had ever gone before. "The good of our race?" I repeated.
"I recall you doing things 'for the good of our family.' This is the same. It's just a new family now," Jasper quoted calmly, calling to mind the phrase I had used so he would give himself up alongside me when the Volturi had come to Forks last year. Of course, I hadn't thought then I would need to persuade him very much. Now, it seemed, all my skills would need to be put into use.
"You can't really be…please, Jazz, please don't believe them," I begged.
"They've been in charge for eons, Alice! If they hadn't been right all along, they would've fallen long ago."
"This is different. This is life we're talking about here –"
"And I helped Maria to create life long before I met you," he cut me off. "When things got out of hand there, the Volturi knew exactly when to step in. They'll know when to do it now too."
"So you have no problem running around, fathering children with human women who are going to be slaughtered because the high-and-mighty Volturi want an army?" I asked, folding my arms across my chest as I stared up at him.
Jasper's eyes became as cold as the stone walls around us. "Are you upset because I'm agreeing with them or because of the other women? What is this about now, jealousy? Are you going to pull a Rosalie? Try and intervene since you can't have one of your own?"
I had the sudden urge to reach out and slap him. That was in no way the issue – even if the thought of Jasper with another woman was indeed more of a worry than his siding with our captors…though now, with his coldness and anger so easy to rise, I was starting to worry more about the latter. Before giving ourselves up to the Volturi, Jasper had never been like this. Even when we fought, it had been quietly, tensely, with only a brief period of time before we made up again. Now, our fights were frequent and fiery, Jasper playing it cool and calculating while I tended to explode. I bit the inside of my cheek so I wouldn't this time.
"That is not it at all," I muttered. "This is about you being so easy to follow their instructions, especially when it means my having to sit by and watch you with someone else."
Jasper turned his head, staring over at our bed as if he couldn't bear to look at me. "If we refuse…" He paused and cleared his throat. "If I refuse, then what was all this past year for, Alice? You made choices back then I didn't agree with, just to save the others, and I went along with it. Look at where we are now! What was this year worth if we get ourselves turned to ash because of one stupid thing?"
It was the same thought I had had just minutes ago, but it sounded so different coming from his angry lips.
"You've been taking to it quite well, with your new diet and all," I said, my voice soft and tight in my throat. His eyes narrowed at the low blow. Though a small part of me was ashamed at the level I was stooping to, the rest of me felt a little rumble of triumph at having gotten back at him for his own shot earlier.
"I'm sorry that I chose to return to what's natural," he replied testily, staring me down. "It's the way our race survives, the way it's always been. If you changed your mind, you'd see I was right all –"
"I told you a million times, I'm not doing it!" I cut him off. "I'm not backing out on who I am. What I am."
"What you are is a lie!" he shouted. "Embrace what you truly are, Alice! Forget the silly fantasies Carlisle shoved in your head!"
"How can you say such things?" I asked, shocked at the sudden explosion in him. "They're our family!"
"I thought you said they forgot us! Why does it matter who we're tied to anymore when the only family we've ever had doesn't care? They've forgotten us both. Let's forget them too."
I winced, pained at the truth in his harsh words. A few months into our time in Volterra, I had seen a vision of Esme tearfully packing up the last of our things, placing our clothes and my sketches and Jasper's books into boxes and sealing them up. She went so far as to take the pictures of us down from the walls, even when it was more than just the two of us. Every memory they could possibly have of us was erased, and slowly our names disappeared from their vocabulary, just as we had disappeared from their lives.
"You chose to give them up, you chose to come here," Jasper said, his voice quieter now.
"I almost wish I hadn't," I murmured. "I wish…I wish we had died instead. All of us. It would have been better than the Volturi creating half-breeds and you killing humans."
"It's natural –"
"I don't care!"
"You chose to come here, Alice," he repeated. "You chose to replace your family. Accept them for what they are. Accept me. I…I'm one of them now. And I'm going to do it, even if you don't like it."
My stomach dropped to the floor, along with my jaw and my heart. "You…you can't."
"I can," he replied smoothly, discussing it like a business transaction. "It's what they need me to do."
I was shaking, trembling uncontrollably as I spoke. "I don't think I know you."
"Well, I'm not sure I understand you much either, my love," he said, chewing over the endearment like it was an epithet.
It was more than I could bear, much more. I couldn't handle this any longer. I couldn't stand by and watch Jasper willingly give himself over to the Volturi, to these women, and then accept him back into my bed, my arms. I knew I couldn't handle the heartache. The last time we had separated ourselves so, I had retreated to bed for months, waiting for him. This time around…there would be no waiting.
"Then this is it," I whispered, not allowing my gaze to drop from his face. Even as I was giving him up, I still loved him desperately – always would – and I couldn't spend my last few moments of being his staring at the stony floor under my feet.
Jasper was stone-still for a moment, and I could almost see his mind whirring around like a clock, taking in the information I was feeding him. It didn't take much time to make sense. My Jasper was far too intelligent not to understand…but this wasn't my Jasper any longer. Even if we were staying together, this wasn't the same man I had fallen in love with so long ago. He had changed, grown different, grown harder and colder. He was like the stone walls around me, and I couldn't stand to be suffocated by both him and Volterra all at the same time. It was one or the other. And I couldn't endure leaving him here alone.
"It is," he said coolly, nodding his head in one short, graceful movement. When he looked back up, our eyes met – mine the same warm gold they had always been, his a newfound shade of burgundy that I really hadn't missed – and we shared one last, long look. I wondered for a moment if the shimmering in his eyes could possibly be emotion, if he honestly could still feel for me underneath all that coldness…but then what little light was in them left, leaving his eyes as chilly as the rest of him. His love was gone, as easily cut off as it was for him to turn and silently leave the room. My love, however, was still aching in my chest, leaving a raw, gaping hole where my heart had once been. I wondered vaguely when it might stop throbbing so much before sliding effortlessly to the floor.