"The quality of mercy is not strained,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes."
- William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
They didn't sleep, but they often dreamt.
Sometimes when the house in Forks creaked or groaned in a winter hail she would close her eyes and inhale the electricity in the rain, or the earthen loam of the wind. It was in these moments that she could taste the sweat on the skins of strangers as far afield as Africa – the gusts bringing with them the ghosts of storms long passed. When the wind blew south she could feel the harsh snows of the north - a delicate echo. But when they blew south all she could see were the fruit trees, ripe and bursting, life pregnant with over-ripeness.
Jasper asked, "Where are you?"
Alice pulled her mind back to her physical space. "Right here."
He was at her side in an instant. Could he sense her tone? "Liar," he accused.
She smirked, her tone wind chimes and delight. Sometimes when she let herself, she could feel the echoes of his human life. The scars of his skin, the phantom of his time before her. "Never farther than right here," she reassured.
"Alice…" He wasn't convinced.
She stroked his cheek, felt his marble skin melt into a grin against her hand.
"Did you see something?" His arms were around her quickly. His eyes darting from her face to the tree line outside the window, assessing. "Is someone here?"
"Just us," she soothed.
"Well, what then?"
She could still feel the storm all around her. Still sense the change in the air. "I have to leave for awhile." Jasper stiffened. He heard her use of the word 'I' and knew she meant that she would be alone. As tight as his arms were around her before, they tightened even more.
"Not alone." It wasn't a question.
He wasn't the type to pull away. His frustration spurred him on. "Not alone." His tone was more forceful now.
"The Volturi are coming."
They had spoken of this inevitability before, many times. Alice had seen what Aro wanted of her. How he longed to keep her, like an exotic pet, in his dark catacomb palace in Volterra. In that vision - in every vision – she had been alone. Cleaved in two from a thousand possible losses of Jasper.
His deaths fell against her mind like scattered playing cards.
"Let them try to kill me. I'll never leav-"
Alice silenced him with the press of her fingers to his lips. "They won't try. They'll succeed."
It was the thought of her, alone with them, that stopped him. "Where?" he finally asked.
"It's not clear yet. Somewhere south. I see fruit trees… but also something to do with Africa."
"Africa?" he questioned. They had contacts and ties in Mexico and all the way through South America, but they knew no one in Africa.
"There's something out there that I need to find… for Bella and Edward and Reneesme. They're coming, Jazz. Sooner than we think. They'll be here by the first snow."
"And where will I be?"
She embraced him, afraid to look into his eyes. Wrapping her arms tight around his neck she whispered, "You'll be the first to die in the battle. I've seen it, I've…" She pressed herself more firmly against him. "I've felt it."
He held onto her tighter. "Futures can change."
She let go of him, her eyes glazing over in a vision. "I need a book from Bella and Edward's cottage… The Merchant of Venice. 4th self... 8th book from the right… I need the title page… to be torn out."
He was gone in an instant, she was shaken by his sudden absence, but when the next thunder clap ended he had returned to her. The ripped out cover page in his hand.
When she had the page in her hand she somehow felt more tethered, the heretic need of her vision sated for the time being. Her fingers smoothed over the type set – it was an older book, from the 1980's or even early. Older ink gave off a particularly strong scent. "Alice," he interrupted her thoughts, "where will you go?"
"I have to go soon, before dawn." She left him. Moving away in blurs and shadows across the room. She should pack light – a duffel bag. One of the spare passports – from the burrow drawer. Clothes –
"Please." He stopped her, his gaze pleading. His voice broke, "together."
In an instant all possible futures and all the could be, remembered pasts flooded into her mind. There had been days when she could see ahead centuries, and others when they could be left with only a few hours.
She was holding onto him as tightly as he was to her. When they came together with a forceful joining it was instinctive, muscle memory and inevitability. His hands moved up to the neck of her blouse, ripping the collar open far enough to gain access to her throat and collarbones, while her fingers made short work of the buttons on his jeans. She liked to sometimes switch a cursive letter 'A' into the inside crotch of his pants and she was pleased to see he was wearing one of those pairs.
When they fell onto the bed she flipped him until she was on top, gliding her hips up and down the length of him.
His voice was pleading. "Promise we go together."
She flung the ripped remains of her shirt off, grabing his open palms and guiding them to the heavy ache of her breast.
When they're skin touched she could feel his desperation to stay with her. His emotions cresting up against her like waves.
Her body distracted him, but only slightly. "Promise we go together." He took her nipple into his mouth and she hissed.
Another strong surge of his mood washed over her. So strong that it made her cry out.
Pushing him back down on the bed, she lowered herself over him. Crouching until she was poised to take him into her mouth. "Promise," he pleaded.
When she slid her lips over him he bucked up into her. His words quiet for a moment. When his skin broke out into goosebumps she knew he was close. "Promise," he pressed. He gripped her hips tight enough to leave marks as she sat up on her knees and eased him inside of her. Jasper's eyes rolled back, fingers digging harder. "if you go I'll follow you."
She bore down on him harder, tightening herself around him, pushing until he was deep inside her. Jasper moaned. "You know I will, to." His hands at her waist urged her on, faster. She could feel her own body tense with pleasure. "Every future you see has me finding you." He moaned again, his words coming quick. "You know it does."
He was right. Every outcome she had seen showed Jasper at her side, even to his own death.
"Jazz…" She held onto him. The rhythm of their bodies bringing them both to the edge.
His toes curled. "I'll follow you."
She threw her head back. "I know."
They stayed close after they had finished, spent. His forearm and palm locking her in a tight embrace while her fingernails twirled small patterns onto his stomach. In his human life Jasper had not been ticklish, but now the easy sensation of her hand was maddening.
Neither of them wanted to speak, just touch.
Somewhere in the house an ancient grandfather clock chimed; one of Esme's new projects. Elsewhere in the house Rosalie and Emmett were occupied – the former swishing the pages of a car magazine quickly while the latter was occupied with a new video game.
An hour passed. They stayed close together.
Time seemed to be mocking them.
When Jasper kissed her forehead it stirred her from a waking dream.
Alice rose up, away from him. He held onto her, one arm flinging protectively around her shoulder. He left a whispered kiss against the back of her neck.
Sighing, she said, "Africa. Morocco, first."
He pressed another feather-light kiss onto her shoulder. "Africa," he confirmed.
Alice could feel the hot wind of her future across her face. Smell the spice in the air. And beside her… she could see Jasper.
Jasper could feel her hesitation. "And the others?"
She kissed his palm and he reluctantly released her. Rising up from the bed she could feel his eyes on her as she crossed the room. She was nude, her body soft angles and edges. Bending, she retrieved the title page of The Merchant of Venice from the floor where they had dropped it and scribbled what could very well be the final words to her family.
"We can't tell them where we're going," she warned him. His silence to them was just as painful as hers would be. "The Volturi can't know where we've gone. We have to make it seem…" She paused, gutted. "Like we've left our family forever and are never coming back."
He got up from the bed and went to where she stood. He kissed her cheek and then her neck, wrapping his arms around her until she fell into him. "They'll understand," he soothed. "We'll find a way to stop the Volturi. They will not win this fight."
She wanted to believe him.