The small hand extended towards mine. Before I could think about it, before I could talk myself out of it, I took it. My hand dwarfed hers. I could touch my thumb and middle finger together around her palm. She squeezed my fingers lightly, full of hope and excitement. It was intoxicating. I'd been by myself for so long, left to my personal anguish, that I'd forgotten what those feelings were like. I honestly couldn't remember the last time I had felt hope that wasn't just a passing emotion of someone around me.
I looked from our entwined hands to her face. She was grinning, her giddiness masking nervousness, as she studied me with her golden eyes. They were like nothing I'd ever seen before.
"Shall we?" she asked, taking a step toward the door and tugging on my hand.
I nodded, and let her lead me out the door onto the wet brick sidewalk. The city streets were empty on this rainy day, the people who usually teemed about on a weekday afternoon had taken refuge from the deluge inside. The rain pelted us, small rivers running down our arms to our clasped hands, where they fell to the sidewalk below us in a single stream.
We walked along in a comfortable silence, towards the outskirts of the city. As we got further from the concentration of people, I began to breathe a little more often. The burn was lessened on the outskirts of town. It had been almost two weeks since I'd hunted, and the burn in the back of my throat was becoming extremely painful. I concentrated instead on her comforting scent.
My companion stopped at the edge of the river, turning her face up to the downpour, eyes closed. The corners of her mouth were still turned up in what seemed to be a permanent smile. She was giddy, and a little nervous. I took advantage of her closed eyes to really study her for a moment. Her short black hair had fallen completely out of the careful curls she'd worn in the diner. It now lay plastered to her head, soaked like everything else about us. Her dress was drenched, and I quickly returned my gaze to her face, not wanting to let myself think about how it clung to her tiny frame in such a nice way. She only came up to mid-chest on me; I was nearly a foot and a half taller.
She was so delicate and beautiful. Too beautiful for a monster like me. I clenched my eyes shut, but couldn't bring myself to let go of her hand. She was different—I'd never seen anything like those bright topaz eyes. Everyone else of our kind had the same dark crimson eyes that I had, marking us as murderers. There was something good, and innocent in those eyes. I couldn't taint that. I needed to—
"Jasper?" she asked, her fingers grazing my eyelid as she brushed a wet curl away.
Somehow I wasn't surprised that she knew my name. There was nothing ordinary about her.
"Are you okay?" she squeezed my hand.
Her hope and caring crashed against my despair, pushing it back. I hadn't meant for her to feel my turmoil. I couldn't let her feel my pain…I had to—
She tightened her fingers in mine as I tried to release her hand. Her other hand rubbed my bicep. "Please stay."
Her melodic voice was softer than before. It was still full of hope, but less confident now. Her fingers continued to graze my arm, running along the worn fabric of my soaked shirt. I was trying to hold onto that wonderful hope, when I realized what she was doing, and tensed. Through the thin flannel, she was tracing a particularly nasty raised scar.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, laying her hand flat against the site of her attention before withdrawing it entirely. "Did that hurt you? I didn't realize…"
She was worried that she was hurting me. I took a deep breath, my brow furrowing as I tried to process this. No one had ever regarded my scars tenderly. Her free hand brushed against my cheek, and, without thinking about it, I leaned into her touch. As I realized what I was doing, I pulled back, and she sighed, letting her hand trail down my neck to rest on my shoulder.
"Could you open your eyes? Please?" her voice was more unsure than ever.
I couldn't stand making that wonderful hope fade. I opened my eyes, staring down at our still joined hands. She stepped closer, releasing her hand as she slid her arm around my waist, laying her head on my chest.
"It's going to be okay," she told me.
And I believed her. I wasn't sure why, but I did. My hand came up to rest on the small of her back. It just felt like the right thing to do. She took a deep breath, the hope bubbling inside her once again. Her embrace tightened, and she tipped her head back to look right into my eyes, honey meeting crimson. Looking someone in the eye was not something I was comfortable with, but I could get lost in hers.
"Your eyes…" I stammered, speaking for the first time since we'd left the diner. There were so many things I wanted to ask her, but that came tripping out of my mouth.
She smiled up at me.
"Why are…how…how are they that color?"
She bit her lip and looked away.
"I didn't realize our eyes could be anything other than…other than this awful red."
Something in my tone surprised her. She tugged on my hand as she sat on the sodden grass, and I sat, crossed-legged, bringing our joined hands to rest on my knee.
She was nervous again as she spoke. "I don't know why exactly…but…" she hesitated.
I stroked the pad of her palm with my thumb, trying to send back some of the calm I'd gotten from her minutes earlier. She looked up at me curiously.
"I'm sorry…you were nervous, and I…" I looked down, not wanting to say so much that I scared her away.
She knelt up beside me, laying her free hand on my shoulder as she asked me, "You can do that on purpose?"
I was surprised that she seemed so in awe.
"That explains a lot," she continued. "I could never see why someone would suddenly feel completely differently in a split second…hmm. It's not always a conscious thing though?"
I shook my head, confused as I tried to keep up with her train of thought, but enjoying the excitement rolling off her nonetheless. She smiled broadly.
After a moment, I frowned. "This doesn't scare you?"
"Should it?" she laughed, a wonderful, bird-like sound, as she shook her head "It doesn't". She perched on my thigh.
"You have a gift too." She had to. The way she knew things…
She nodded , biting her lip again. It was a cute habit, now that I'd calmed down a bit. "I have visions. Of the future. I saw you…I see you a lot…" She looked down at her lap.
I ran my hand up her back to her shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "Tell me more."
I was truly comfortable sitting with her, in a way I had never been comfortable with anyone before, and I wanted to know as much as possible. I drew her chin up to look at her incredible eyes again.
She stared back at me, tracing the dusky circles under my eyes with a wet finger. "You're thirsty."
"It can wait," I insisted. And it could, with her distracting me. "You saw me?"
"The first thing I ever saw. When I woke up. I knew I had to find you." She started to look down again.
Gently, I cupped her cheek, and we just stared at each other, gold to crimson. She was so incredibly beautiful. I didn't deserve—in an instant she had pushed her herself up to her knees, and her lips were pressed to mine. I was surprised, but not unwilling.
"Oh!" she pulled herself away after a moment. "I'm sorry. I don't want to startle you. I just…"
I smirked. "Have you seen this happen?"
She nodded. "Not this specific instance, but…yeah…" she looked at me shyly, biting at that lip.
"What else have you seen?" I asked.
It came out with a little more innuendo than I'd intended, than was proper. She smiled though, her golden eyes bright.
"Those eyes," I murmured, running my thumb along her cheekbone.
She looked at me thoughtfully, taking in the dark red of mine. "I think I know why my eyes are different…but I'm not sure. Every other vampire I've met has had the same crimson eyes as you have. I…my diet…I've never tasted human blood." She bit her lip as she looked at me nervously, letting her gaze drop down, and her forehead drop against my shoulder.
"How?" If there was another way, maybe I wouldn't have to feel—
"Animals," she answered quietly, still worried about my reaction. "Deer, elk. Depends on the area."
"Animals…" I repeated, trying to imagine how an animal could possibly sate me.
"It's not…perfect…but I just can't…"
"I feel the pain of my…victims," I admitted, wrapping my arm more tightly around her waist.
She looked back up at me, locking her beautiful eyes on mine. "I know," she told me softly, kissing my cheek.
My hand cradled the back of her head, keeping her close, as I asked, "Have you…have you seen my eyes change?"
"It's not going to be easy for you, but eventually, yes."
I nodded, processing this. "And you'll be there?"
"No matter what."
It couldn't be that bad if she was going to be with me. I drew her into another kiss, relishing in the hope and love that she was radiating. After a few minutes, I pulled away, chuckling as I realized what I hadn't yet asked her. "What is your name?"
"Alice," she grinned, closing the distance between us once again.
"The miserable have no other medicine, but only hope"
-Measure for Measure, 3.1