First Taste

The hope that had pervaded Jasper Whitlock's senses the moment the tiny stranger's hand met his stayed with him as they made their way out of the diner. At first, their hands were merely clasped, as if they had both been wearing mittens. Now their fingers were twisted tightly together as though they'd known each other for years instead of minutes. But he didn't care about the intimacy of her touch. Her hand, so small, so delicate, felt absolutely perfect in his.

As they walked down the street, the storm that had chased Jasper into the diner raged on. The downpour had progressed from huge droplets of freezing water to ice cold sheets, and the sky was black. For the most part, the streets were empty, save for a few businessmen futilely trying to shield themselves from the rain with long, black umbrellas. Unfortunately, their efforts were in vain, their suit pants soaked to the knees.

Lost in the emotions of the woman next to him, Jasper had, for a moment, forgotten about blending in with the people around them. But after seeing the humans scurrying through the storm, shielding themselves from the rain, reality came crashing down on him like the cold buckets of water falling from the sky. Humans didn't stroll down the street during a storm as if it were a perfectly beautiful day. And that was exactly what they were doing.

He'd gone into the diner to appear normal, to keep from calling attention to himself. And now… Now he was out in the rain as if didn't bother him at all. And it didn't. In fact, the man enjoyed the feeling of rainwater soaking through his hair and washing over his scarred skin. It was refreshing, soothing,

But if they didn't react to the storm in a more human way, Jasper was worried that the people around them might start to wonder. Thinking quickly, he decided that, when they came to the next alcove, they would take shelter.

They'd only gone a few more feet when he noticed a small shoe repair shop with a closed sign in the window. The door was set back from the sidewalk between two display windows, and there was a black and white awning stretching between them. Without saying a word, Jasper tightened his grip on the pixie-like woman's hand and pulled her, unceremoniously, into the doorway.

He'd expected her to object or be surprised at the change in course. He hadn't expected her to follow gracefully like she knew what was going to happen.

Tucked away in the alcove, a thick sheet of rain pouring over the edge of the awning, Jasper started down at the tiny woman. Despite his confusion, he was content to stand and memorize her face. She was so small, but it suited her. The pin curls that had framed her face in the diner were now soaked and trailing down the sides of her face. He found that he liked her hair better that way, wild and messy. It seemed more natural for it to go its own way rather than stay confined in a curl.

As he took in every detail of her beautiful face, she stared up at him. Her honey-gold eyes were locked on his, instead of staring at the scars that dominated his features. Normally, when he met another vampire for the first time, their eyes would lock on his ravaged skin, and they would crouch back defensively.

But the woman in front of him, when she looked at his face…

She didn't even flinch.

Jasper wanted to reach out, take the tiny strangers face in his hands, and kiss her. He wanted to let his hands slide down her back and twist in the fabric of her dress. Feeling her fingers tighten around his, giving his hand a gentle squeeze, the Civil War vet wanted to profess his undying love to the strange creature before him. Promise that he would always be there for her. He longed to give her anything she could possibly ask for.

And he didn't even know her name.

He had so much he wanted to ask her, so much he wanted to know. But her soprano voice, delicate and tinkling, stopped his words in his throat. "Jasper." With her free hand, the stranger reached up, and soon he found himself leaning forward to meet her. More gently than he thought possible, she traced the contours of his face. Her fingertips lingered on the scar above his left eyebrow, tracing the curve of it.

Before he could stop himself, Jasper's eyes fell shut, a contented sigh escaping from his lips. From the waves of calm wafting off of the woman before him, Jasper could tell she'd received his emotional overflow. He hadn't meant to do it, but sometimes, he just couldn't help himself.

Desperate to hold onto the unfamiliar feeling for as long as possible, Jasper kept his eyes closed as he forced out the first question that came to mind. "Who are you?" Thick with its southern accent, his voice was rough, barely above a whisper. To human ears, it would have been drowned out by the storm. But he knew she heard him.

"Alice." Even though he couldn't see her, Jasper could hear the smile in her voice. "Alice Cullen. Well…" As she paused, so did the fingertips that were tracing his scar. "Not Cullen yet anyway. But soon. After we find them."

There was something strange about her words. How could she be a Cullen if she hadn't even met them yet? Alice's excitement was bubbling over, threatening to take over him. Jasper wanted to give in, but there were still so many things he wanted to know. And after her response to his first question, he had a million new ones. "I… still don't know who you are." It wasn't a question, but it was the best he could manage.

"I've iseen/i you, Jasper." The pixie-like woman placed her hand on his cheek and brought his face up to meet hers. When he finally opened his eyes, he thought for sure she would pick up on his doubt, his confusion. But instead, Alice frowned. "You're so thirsty."

And he was. Immensely so. But putting off feeding was a small price to pay, if it meant hearing Alice's musical voice again. He could handle not hunting for a little longer. "What do you mean, you've seen me?"

At his question, Alice smiled brightly as she tapped him on the temple. "I can see the future. And…" Her fingers slid up to Jasper's hair, twisting around one of the blonde curls hanging in his eyes. "I have seen you so many times, Jasper. So many times."

The sincerity and love that filled her words flowed out through her emotions. And it was Heaven. Being near her felt so right, so perfect. Her small hand brushed his rain-soaked hair off his forehead. Jasper felt as if he'd found something he hadn't even known he was missing. There were no words for how he was feeling, but Jasper wanted, needed to say something. But before her could, Alice cut him off.

"We're meant to be together, Jasper." Her eyes searched his, and he knew that she was thinking about how thirsty he was. It was an odd sensation, having someone worry about his well-being. Especially someone he'd just met. They'd barely introduced themselves, and already, Alice was acting as if they'd been together for years. If what she said was true, if she really could see the future, and he had no doubt that she could, then to her, they had been together. Even he hadn't been with her before now.

The woman bit down on her bottom lip, obviously torn by something. "There's so much to tell you…" Alice's tinkling voice was anxious, as if she were about to reveal a big secret, but couldn't quite bring herself to do so. "But you need to feed first."

At the mention of feeding, Jasper drew back. It had been almost a week since he'd last drank, and he was so thirsty, but feeding meant killing. And that was something that he was trying to avoid at all costs.

As if she'd known how he was going to react, and Jasper belatedly realized that she probably did, Alice spoke, her voice reassuring, "Not humans. There's another way. Carlisle Cullen, I'll tell you about him later, figured something out. I saw it in a vision."

It seemed impossible, that there was a way to exist without murdering innocent humans. Seemed impossible that there was an alternative to drinking human blood. When Alice squeezed his hand and whispered, "Trust me," Jasper realized that he did just that, and he always would. "Show me."

Her answer was a beaming smile that lit up her tiny face. "We have to run to -" Alice froze, mid-sentence, face blank and eyes searching. At first, Jasper was worried, but then he realized that she was most likely looking into the future. "Northern Canada. That'll be the best. We'll be able to find a nice, secluded area there."

She didn't bother to explain more. Or tell him what was in Canada. Instead, Alice stepped out from under the safety of the black and white striped awning, pulling him along behind her.

Even though she had stepped back into the downpour, and was attempting to drag him along, Jasper pulled her back. Water dripping from her hair and clothes, Alice looked up at him with a confused expression on her face.

It wasn't that he didn't trust her. Because he did, implicitly. But everything he'd ever learned about being a vampire had trained him to be weary of others. Even those he cared about. He'd learned that lesson early on with Maria, and for a time, he had worshiped the ground she walked on.

Realization dawned on Alice's face. She hadn't needed a vision to understand. Or perhaps, she'd had one long ago. "It's ok, Jasper. I'll never hurt you."

"I know." And despite his past, despite everything he'd been through, Japer knew with all his heart that he was safe with Alice.

Once again, she pulled on his hand, but this time it was a request. He followed willingly. The freezing water soaked through his still wet locks and slid down his back. If he were human, the temperature of the downpour would have frozen him to the bone. But he wasn't, and the storm washed away the few lingering worries he had about the woman holding his hand.

"When we get behind the buildings, we run north." The excitement had returned to Alice's voice, and Jasper could feel the joy flowing off of her again. It was contagious.

"Alright." Lacing his fingers through hers, just as she had done before, Jasper smiled slightly.

As one, they ran at human speed, to the end of the street and turned the corner. Once they were safely behind the small strip of shops making up the main street, Jasper and Alice forgot the mortal pace and gave in to their natural speed.

Hand in hand, they ran down back roads and through wooded patches of land. The storm continued to rage as Pennsylvania became New York. For the most part, they were silent, save for a few happy laughs from Alice now and then. It wasn't until they crossed the border into Canada, and the rain turned to snow flurries that the pixie-like woman spoke. And when she did, she talked about anything and everything, and she didn't stop.

"You were the first thing I saw. After I was turned." Without slowing down, the tiny woman turned her head to look back at him. Her eyes were full of love, and her voice was warm. "We were getting married." Just as she leapt over a fallen log, Alice turned her face forward again. "I've been searching for you ever since."

Jasper longed to hear about each and every vision she'd had about him, about them. But as soon as he'd decided on how to ask her, Alice had started talking again. At first, he was disappointed, but all traces of sadness disappeared when he realized they would have forever to discuss what she'd seen. Content to wait for as long as necessary, the man listened to her chatter on.

The snowy slush of the Canadian border slowly turned into solid flakes as Alice told him about the Cullens. There was Carlisle, who was the head of the family and a doctor. He was married to Esme. Together, they acted as the adoptive parents of three children: Edward, Emmett, and Rosalie.

According to her glimpses of the future, Jasper would get along well with Edward and Emmett. He'd lean on Edward for support and develop a habit of betting on everything with the other. And Carlisle… he would become a great source of strength and support for him.

Then there was Esme and Rosalie.

According to Alice, Esme was the sweetest of things, and her sole reason for existing was to make sure her "children" were happy. And Jasper wouldn't be an exception to that. She would love him just as much as the others. For some reason, he found that thought comforting. He knew nothing more of this other woman besides the fact that she would come to love him as a son. But the prospect of a motherly figure was so… wonderful.

Despite the promises of a mentor, friend, and gambling buddy, Jasper found that he was looking forward to meeting Esme most of all.

Caught up in his thoughts of what she would be like, the man barely noticed the change in Alice's tone, when she said, "And lastly, there's Rosalie."

Her next words ripped Jasper from his thoughts of Esme. "She'll be your twin, and you'll both go by the name of Hale."

Shock and confusion brought his feet to a complete stop. This time, Alice was unprepared and kept running until she realized she was alone. Jasper didn't wait for her to make her way back before speaking. "I thought you said their name was Cullen? That your name was Alice Cullen?"

By the time he'd finished, the tiny woman was standing before him. The snowflakes that were falling around them, caught in her black hair. "Jasper, we'll both be Cullens. But some of us need to go by different surnames, because we're… together." Alice's voice softened on the last word and she reached out to finger the buttons of his jacket. "If we all have the same last name, humans won't accept us being paired up. Even if we are foster children. This way, it'll be more believable." Her hand slid from the button to rest on his chest. "Emmett and Rosalie are married, but he goes by Cullen, while she goes by Hale."

In theory, it made sense, and he understood the reasoning, but Jasper still felt reluctant. It wasn't that he was worried about losing the name of Whitlock. What he didn't like was never being able to share the same last name as the woman before him.

Part of him blamed that on southern ideals, another on societal norms. But Jasper knew that neither explanation was really it. No, he realized that even though they had just met, he wanted to tie himself to Alice in any way he possibly could.

As if she knew exactly what he was thinking, the pixie-like woman stood on her toes and reached for his cheek. Mimicking his movement from earlier, Jasper leaned forward so she could reach. The touch of her skin against his sent a shiver down his spine. "Don't worry. In my heart, I'll always be Alice Whitlock."

Unable to stop himself, Jasper brushed a few defeated curls off of her forehead before lowering his lips to hers. The kiss was shy, hesitant, but it held the promise of a thousand more to come. Alice pulled away first and her delicate hand found his once again. As they took off running through the increasingly wooded terrain, Jasper found that he no longer cared about going by the name of Jasper Hale. After all, what was in a name?

Day turned to night, and the area around them shifted as well. The slightly uneven ground had become rocky and covered in fallen branches and other debris. The occasional smattering of trees was quickly becoming small patches of forest. The new obstacles slowed them down but not much. They could have kept up their pace. But neither was willing to drop the other's hand.

The night wore on, and their pace grew slower for no other reason than that they just wanted to walk together. Alice hadn't spoken in hours, and Jasper had been using the time to mull over everything she'd told him.

For the most part, he thought about the mysterious Cullens and the relationships he was destined to have with them. But occasionally, his imagination would sneak in and take over, painting wonderful images of a future with Alice. His favorite featured her whispering his name as she ran her fingers through his hair.

Jasper would have been content to stay wrapped up in his thoughts and dreams, but something from earlier drew him from his reverie. "Before, when you first mentioned Rosalie, you sounded… irritated."

Alice's answering chuckle rang out through the snowy night. "Don't get me wrong, I love her like a sister already. But Rose is…" Jasper looked over in time to see her tiny face scrunch up as she searched for the right word. The snowflakes caught in her long eyelashes made him smile. "Full of herself." Once again, she paused, considering her words. "She's beautiful. And she knows it."

Jasper nodded in understanding. Maria had been the same way, to a point. "And she's going to be my twin?" The idea of a mother had been easy, wonderful even. The idea of twin sister was strangely unnerving.

"Yes. It's more practical. You're both blonde and appear to be the same age." In answer to his unspoken words, Alice ran her thumb over the ravaged skin on the back of his hand. "It'll be fine. Don't worry." Her tiny face spilt into a wide smile as she took advantage of one of the many fallen trees. Ever so gracefully, she stepped up on it. The move made her just tall enough to whisper into the man's ear. "I'm here for you. Everything will work out." Gently, she pressed her forehead against his for a second before hopping off of the log. Unable to speak, Jasper followed her silently. As long as Alice was there, he was sure that everything would work out.

They passed the last few hours before dawn walking quietly through the thick woods of Northern Canada. All around them, huge trees loomed, providing a canopy that protected them for the snowstorm that had begun an hour earlier. But even the mesh of needles adorning them couldn't keep out all of the snow.

All around them, huge puffs of white fell lazily from the heavens. Instead of being single flakes, they were clumps of flurries that had stuck together. Occasionally, Alice would stretch out her palm in an effort to catch one of the fluffy snowballs. Whenever one landed on her cool skin, the tiny woman would purse her lips together and send it floating in a different direction.

Just as the ground was fully coated in a soft, white blanket, the sun began to rise, sending brilliant beams of light through the thick branches above. The moment the sunshine hit the snow, it began to glitter like a million sparkling diamonds. Together, they avoided the light, allowing the snow to shimmer for them.

"We're here." Alice's voice rang out as crisp and clear as the Canadian morning.

Looking around, Jasper didn't understand what was so special about where they were standing. The trees surrounding them looked exactly the same as the ones they'd been walking through all night. He was just about to ask Alice why they were there, in the middle of a forest, when she spoke again. But it wasn't her words that caught his attention. No, it was her tone of voice.

"You're a hunter, Jasper. Just follow your instincts." Her voice was soft, as if she were teaching him an important lesson. Before he could ask what she meant, a gust of wind swept through the early morning air.

The wind caused the blanket of snow covering the ground to swirl up around them. And with it came the rich, heady scent of blood. It wasn't human. Far from it. It lacked the sweetness of a person's blood. What he smelled was heavier, earthier. Despite the fact that it wasn't human, it set his already burning throat ablaze.

For the first time since they had clasped hands earlier, Jasper released Alice's grip. She didn't try to stop him or hold him back. Instead, she let him go willingly. He was only barely aware that, when he took off in pursuit of the scent, she didn't follow.

He picked up the trail quickly, following the wind as he leapt over fallen trees and rocks. The mysterious scent went upwind before curving back around in a semi-circle. Whatever he was hunting knew how to protect itself. But Jasper knew, without a doubt, that he was the superior species.

Instead of following the decoy track, the Civil War vet left the path and continued moving upwind. As he moved, Jasper took care to make sure that his steps were soundless. Just as he swept through a small clearing, the frightened crashing of heavy hooves nearby pulled him in another direction. Whatever he was hunting had caught his scent. And it recognized him for the predator he was.

Easily catching up to the animal, Jasper was surprised when he saw the massive antlers of a bull moose. Without stopping, or thinking, he leapt onto the creature's back, securing his thighs on either side of it. Twisting his long fingers through the thick for on the moose's shoulders, Jasper lowered his face to the charging beast's neck.

A long bellow of defeat rang out as Jasper's razor sharp teeth sank into the moose's skin. The moment the first drop of warm blood met his tongue, the man felt the monster within him take over. He was no longer Jasper Hale. Now he was vampire.

Desperate to quench the burning thirst, he drank longer and deeper as the moose continued to struggle beneath him. The pounding of the animal's heart only helped to speed along its death, pumping much needed blood out of the wound in its neck.

With the thirst subsiding ever so slightly, Jasper belatedly prepared himself for the deluge of emotions that always flowed from his prey.

But as the animal crashed to the ground beneath him, Jasper only felt waves of fear.

With humans, his own emotions were always assaulted by those of his prey. In the few minutes it would take him to drain someone dry, he would experience their anger, terror, betrayal, and hatred, among a million other things. But the worst of them all, those ones that bothered him the most, were defeat and acceptance.

They were always the last things he felt as he drained the final drops of his victim's blood.

They were always the last things he felt as they died in his arms.

Every time he took someone's life, Jasper felt as if he were dying himself. In his very long life, he had suffered a thousand tiny deaths. And with each new kill, the weight of that became more and more difficult to bear.

As the last few drops of the moose's blood flowed from it veins and its heart thudded one last time, Jasper felt at peace. At first, he hadn't believed that there was a way to survive without human blood. He had thought he was doomed to suffer a million more deaths if he wished to survive. But now, as he pushed himself away from the dead carcass, he realized that there really was another way. And he had Alice and the Cullens to thank for that.

Jasper didn't need to turn around to know that Alice was nearby. He could feel her wonderful emotional climate radiating from behind him. He was that in tune with her already. But now, there was a faint trace of sadness mixed in as well. Turning around, Jasper's eyes fell directly on her. She was sitting on top of a large boulder, her thin legs folded Indian style. The falling snow had started to build up on the rock around her and her raven hair was flecked with white.

His eyes were locked on hers as he walked away from the dead moose. All at once, he realized what should have been obvious to him. "Humans…"

"Will always be difficult for you to resist." Her voice, sweet and gentle, was apologetic. Alice's tiny hands were clasped in her lap, and little piles of snow were beginning to build up on her bare knees. "Don't get me wrong. It's difficult for all of us who follow a vegetarian lifestyle. But for you…"

Nodding his head, Jasper realized that it wasn't anything he didn't already know. But to hear it from someone who could see the future, made him feel as if his fate were sealed. He'd only gotten halfway to Alice when he turned his back to her.

All at once, the monstrosity of his nature came crashing down around him.

"Jasper, things will get easier." When Alice spoke, she was right behind him. He'd been too caught up in his thoughts to hear her move. "I've seen it. We'll all help you." Jasper couldn't help but notice her use of the word "we." She already considered herself to be a member of the Cullen family. "Especially Edward and Carlisle."

She pressed the tips of her fingers to Jasper's tentatively. "It will get easier." Her words were so fervent, so sincere. Once again, he felt that same hope flood through his body that he had felt in the diner the day before.

His back was still to Alice, but Jasper didn't need to see her face to know she was right. Considering the future that lay before him, the Civil War vet thought of his past. Since leaving Maria, he'd tried to feed less and less. Only killing when absolutely necessary. But the temptation, the yearning, was always there. It had been difficult, but he'd managed to resist.

The moment she had taken his hand in the diner, she had offered him what Peter and Charlotte could not. The Cullen's unique lifestyle would save him from suffering the torture he felt when he fed from humans. But it would not stop him from constantly craving their blood. It wouldn't stop him from tensing up whenever the sweet scent hit his nose. No, there was no absolute cure. Of that he was certain. There was, however, still hope.

Responding to the pixie-like woman's gentle touch, Jasper twisted his fingers around hers. Resisting the call of human blood would always be difficult, of that he was sure. But as he gripped the woman's hand more tightly in his, Jasper realized that nothing mattered so long as Alice was by his side.

Squeeka Cuomo's Notes
- Merry Christmas radissimo! As you know, I'm your "twilight_santa" Secret Santa. In your wish list, you said that you wanted back story, and character/relationship development. When I read that, this is what came to mind. I really hope you like it, and that you have a very Merry Christmas!
- This was originally written for the lj community "twilight20" (Prompt: Salvation).
- Quack: Thank you so much for helping me out. I'll have to think about what a vampire moose would do! That or I'll just buy you another fell beast. :duck:
- As always, reviews are love.