Hey…just another one-shot, because while "to err is human," I think it's in the nature of vampires to screw up sometimes, too. Even nice vampires like Alice.
Massive shout-out to Struck Upon a Star for all her help with this. MAKE SURE you check out her stories (they're on my favorite stories page)…they're utterly fantastic.
As always, please review and let me know what you think. And I also don't own Twilight…just FYI.
"Do you think we should use the blue or the purple?" Elsa asked me, nibbling the end of her paintbrush. I had to fight not to roll my eyes. We were the unfortunate victims of group projects in art class. The whole reason I chose art as an elective was to avoid this kind of thing…who assigns group projects in art? The assignment was to re-create a famous work of art as accurately as possible. Elsa was adamant about doing Van Gogh's "Starry Night." At first I was incredulous, simply because realism is my strong point, but Elsa wanted to badly and it didn't matter to me. Besides, she'd produced some nice impressionist pieces over the course of the semester.
"You could mix them, that might look nice," I suggested with a smile. I tried not to say too much of anything. We were the only two in the room and it had been thirteen days since I last fed. I knew it was stupid to come and work with her one on one while I was so thirsty, but today was the only day Elsa could make it, and the project was due at the end of the week. Granted, I knew I could have easily finished it in a night, but it's all about keeping up the façade.
"Good idea," she said. I closed my eyes, trying to focus on the smells of paper, canvas, paint, the floor cleaner, anything but her blood. She smelled good…not abnormally appealing, but everything smells good when you're thirsty. I swallowed the venom that was coating my teeth and tried to ignore the intense burning in the back of my throat. She reached across the table for the palette knife as I was struck with a vision: Elsa, limp in my arms and her blood dribbling down the front of my face. I came back quickly, just in time to hear her say "Damn," before the smell of her blood engulfed all my senses. I could feel my already dark eyes blackening as the struggle began. I'd been around human blood before, and it's never easy, but I was never this thirsty. I thought of Carlisle, how I wanted to be like him. But the monster saw only red.
"Did you cut yourself?" I asked, starting to shake.
"Yeah…shoot," she replied, lifting her finger to her mouth. It was a pretty bad cut for a blunt palette knife, but the sight of her licking her own blood was too much for me. I imagined what she was tasting, wanted to feel the warm crimson fluid sliding deliciously down my throat.
"Let me see," I ordered snatching her hand away. As soon as I saw it, red and beckoning, all control I had slipped and the only thing that mattered was slaking the fire in my throat.
Edward and I were in the parking lot standing outside the car. We knew Alice had a project she had to finish up, and Rose and Emmett didn't want to wait. I felt bad for making Edward wait as well, but we had taken his car that morning. Besides, he said he didn't mind, that it was nice to be at the school when there were hardly any people. I couldn't have agreed more. If there was no one but my family at the school, education would be bearable. Although, while I enjoyed the emptiness as a respite from my constant thirst, Edward enjoyed the mental silence. Even at home, he had to deal with Rosalie and Emmett's relentless lusting after each other, and Esme's mental to-do lists. Here in the near silence of the overcast parking lot, if I kept my thoughts to myself, he could enjoy a rare moment of quiet.
Suddenly, I felt it: the familiar shift in Alice's emotions when she has a vision. It was fleeting, and then there was nothing, nothing but lust. She wasn't lusting after me, and I knew there wasn't anyone else that would illicit that.
"Edward?" He opened his eyes, horror pooling in them.
"We have to get to her. Now." With that we ran, at our normal speed to the art room. The metallic smell of human blood made the trail easy to find.
"What happened?" I asked rhetorically. We made it to the door before Edward could tell me what Alice had seen. I pushed the door open, and what I saw is easily one the images that will be burned into my eternal memory forever.
Alice was on the floor with her back to us, cradling a limp and lifeless girl in her arms. Her shoulders heaved slightly from the movement of drawing blood out of the body. She was feeding. On a human. I had seen Alice feed countless times, and even though she only killed animals, each time was a reminder of what she is truly capable of. Seeing her devour a human so ravenously for the first time, was both shocking and a little frightening.
"Alice," I started. The only response I got was a ferocious hiss.
"Jasper, hold your breath," Edward ordered.
I'm fine, Edward, I hunted last night, I thought in agitation.
"Alice, darlin', listen to me," I tried again. I tried to sense a shift in her emotions indicating the feeding frenzy was through. I had anticipated the bloodlust to ebb and to be replaced with realization, then horrendous guilt and God knows what else. Her head looked up at the wall, and I heard her inhale, trying to regain her control. Then I felt it in short pangs. Contentment. Satisfaction. She looked down at the lifeless corpse in her arms. Realization. Another deep breath. Recognition. She knew we were there. Then the overwhelming guilt roared through her. She dropped the girl's body to the floor with a sickening "thud" and sorrowfully rested her head in her blood-stained hands.
"Alice—"I started as I took a step towards her. The moment she head my footfall, she was crouched defensively in the far corner of the room, nearest the outside exit. A low growl was building in her throat.
"Don't come near me," she snarled, her voice raspy and cold. I looked into her eyes, crimson for the first time since I'd met her. Blood trickled down the sides of her mouth, down her chin and stained the white blouse she had on. There were smatters of it on her jeans, and her small hands were stained as well. Alice was the tidiest feeder of us all, and to see her covered head to toe in human blood elicited trepidation and pity for her. I knew what this felt like. I knew what it was like to go without for so long and have sudden fulfillment. I knew how it felt to lose the control we held onto so tightly. I knew how terrible she was going to feel when she realized the full weight of what she'd done. And I knew the panic that she would feel, worrying that she'd never be able to go without human sustenance again.
"Alice, it's okay. Come home," Edward's voice sounded small and distant. Her gaze shifted from my eyes, to his, to the body and back to mine. She mouthed the word "home."
"No," she murmured, and leapt with vampiric agility out the exit. I turned to Edward.
"She needs you, follow her," he told me.
"But what about—"
"I'll take care of the body, fabricate some evidence. Just go." I nodded, sending him gratitude before I too left, following Alice's smell mingled with the pungent scent of human blood.
I tracked her through the forest behind the school, through the winding woods of the Pacific Northwest. I tried to track her emotionally, as well, knowing my senses were closely attuned to her emotions. I followed the smell of blood and the feelings of remorse and loathing for what seemed like hours. I know it wasn't. I tried to think back on how she had comforted me when I slipped, and worked through potential dialogues in my head as I ran. Finally, I caught up with her. The smell wasn't as strong now, the blood having since dried. Her own smell was more prominent, for which I was thankful. But her emotions were drowning me in her sorrow and regret. I reached the edge of the vast expanse of forest, and saw her small form hugging itself on the edge of a rocky crag overlooking the Olympic Mountains.
My heart dropped seeing the woman I loved so pitiful, and the emotions she was emanating were hateful. It was sickening, because these were emotions I was plenty used to feeling on my own, but never from optimistic, peaceful Alice. I tried to reverse the roles, desperately attempting to channel the calm and love that dominated her climate. I approached slowly, not having entirely forgotten the effect human blood can have on us. While it satisfies us the most completely, it also heightens everything: our senses, our emotions, our primal more violent instincts. I knew Alice would never attack me, but I wasn't sure, with how unpredictable her emotions were right now, how unpredictable she herself would be. I felt her recognition, so I knew she was aware of my presence. I hoped it would calm her, but instead it deepened the overpowering grief she was feeling.
I continued to her slowly, one foot deliberately in front of the other. I said nothing…there really are no words that are right in moments like those. I finally reached her. She looked so small and helpless and utterly forlorn. I wanted nothing more than to take her in my arms and kiss away every bit of pain she had. But I knew that wasn't going to work, so I sat down close enough to touch her if she needed me to, but far enough way to let her know I'd keep my distance if that's what she wanted. Anything for her.
She didn't say anything either. I felt such a fool. How many times had this happened to me, and she knew exactly what to do to make it better? And now, I was in the same position as her and I didn't know what to say or do. I wanted to give her the world to make it better, but I was completely unsure how to do it. She sighed, a little bit of dark humor lighting her face.
"You don't have to say anything," she said, her voice low and cynical. I didn't want to hear Alice like that…it wasn't her. I moved closer, and slowly moved my hand towards hers, the one resting nearest to me on the rock. She made no movement away, so I took it in mine, the blood drying in cakey pieces on her delicate fingers. She released a jagged sigh before meeting my eyes. "She tasted so good."
"I know," I said reassuringly.
"What you did is completely normal," I interrupted her, not meeting her gaze. I could feel anger rising within her.
"No, no it's not! What I did is completely monstrous and horrid and unacceptable," she spat.
"It isn't within our nature to abstain from what sustains us. This life we've chosen—"
"It doesn't matter!" she cried, rising. "I've destroyed, in a single moment of weakness, the life we chose." She looked at me, eyes full of tears that would never form. Her anger ebbed and was replaced by devastating weakness. "I can't go back," she said quietly. I felt fear rising slowly inside her as I interpreted her double meaning. She was scared to face the family but she was also afraid that it would never stop. I didn't have to read minds to know that. She'd seen, more than anybody, how hard I've struggled with bloodlust. She worried, now that she had tasted human blood, that she would share my addiction. I knew better. I knew she was stronger than anyone I'd ever known, far stronger than myself, and that she, like the rest of our family, would find the will to resist.
"Alice, you will. This won't plague you the way it's plagued me. We'll help…all of us. Carlisle will—"
"I can't go home," she said weakly. She raised her stained hands to her face and cried. Alice cried. She wasn't a crier…I'd only seen it happen a handful of times in all the years we were together, and each time was more heart-wrenching than the last. But the emotions of utter hate and disappointment she had towards herself were too much. Not caring what the outcome, I reached towards her and pulled her into my arms. She was so numbed by her own grief that she wouldn't push me away.
"Alice, darlin', of course we'll go back. We've all slipped before."
"Well, Rosalie's psychotic in more ways than one." I felt a small laugh mix with her tears. "Esme has made mistakes, Emmett has, and Lord knows I've made enough for all of us." Her arms wrapped tighter around my waist. "Even Edward. He left for years feeding on people, and they took him right back, no questions asked." I kissed the top of her head. "Surely, you of all people can see that they won't spurn you or turn you away."
"Too tired to check," she said in between sobs.
"Well, I might not be able to see the future, but of that I'm certain." I moved us into a sitting position on the rock face with her arms around my neck, curled up into me. "And Alice, you are not a monster. You are my love, my wife and my best friend and I will love you till the end, no matter what." She wept even more, but I could feel love swelling inside her. It didn't replace the sadness, but it helped take the edge off it, even just a little. Silent weeping wracked her petite shoulders. I wanted so badly to exude some peace to her, but I knew that would upset her, so I just let her cry tearlessly, holding her close like I'd never let go. I never wanted to.
"I saw her funeral," she confessed quietly. I stroked her hair and kissed her forehead in response. "She was an only child. Her parents are devastated. Because of me." I didn't exactly know what to say, but I continued to hold her close, tracing soothing circles on her back. I felt frustration and desperation rising in her. She pulled her face away from my chest and looked me in the eye, red on gold.
"Jazz, please, help me," she choked, crying again. I lived for Alice, lived to help her, and to hear her pleading so desperately nearly broke my heart.
"Come here, darlin'," I said as I drew her back into me, allowing peace, calm, acceptance and love to flood her tiny frame. Slowly, her crying subsided, her breathing regulated, and while the sadness never disappeared, it faded substantially.
We sat there until the sky was inky dark. I wanted her to be strong enough to face the family. I knew from experience Carlisle would want to talk to her, and Esme would baby her appropriately. Then, after a day or so, she and Edward would discuss the whole matter silently, he reading her thoughts and she predicting what he'd say before he said it. Their silent conversations were a little unnerving to watch, but I knew that hearing from Edward that the family's thoughts were only full of love and compassion for Alice would help her.
When the half moon had risen a little in the sky, I stood still cradling Alice.
"Ready to go home?" I asked. She sighed.
"Yes." I started off for the house, going as quickly as I could through the thick tangle of trees.
Later that night, after she'd dealt briefly with the condolences and reassurance of our family, I locked us in the bathroom. I'd drawn a hot bath for her, hoping it would relax her just a bit. I even added the lavender soap I knew she liked. I took a washcloth and dampened it in the water.
"Let's get you cleaned up," I told her softly. She smiled up sadly at me from her seat on the commode. I gently washed away the traces of blood on her neck and chin. I could feel her emotions plummeting between sadness and regret, contentment and love, and struggling to find peace. I eased out just a little bit of calm to her.
"Thanks," she said. I smiled, as I continued to wash away the blood on her face. She kept her eyes downcast, not wanting me to see their new shade. Honestly, and it sounds terrible, but they were beautiful. It was such a shame what had to occur for her to have them, or I would have asked her to do it more frequently. I pulled the washcloth away and kissed her cheek, right where the spot had been. She sighed, not happily but almost peacefully. I took a clean corner of the cloth and wiped around her deep red lips. There wasn't much blood there, but I cleaned them gently anyway before pressing a chaste kiss to them. I took her hands in mine and slowly rubbed away all the stains from each finger, one at a time. Then I cleaned her palms and the backs of her hands before slowly bringing them to my lips, where I kissed each knuckle. Still holding her hands, I lifted her so she was standing, and peeled her shirt off before removing her jeans and undergarments as well. I knew that making love was not the appropriate thing to do at a time like this, so I simply pressed a kiss to her temple as I lifted her into the tub.
"I'll be back in a minute," I told her, gathering her soiled clothes. I left and gave the clothes to Esme, who was in the kitchen sketching nervously. She stood as soon as I came in.
"Is she alright?" she asked with all the tender concern mothers have.
"Yes, she's getting cleaned up. Can you…do something with these?" I handed her the clothes. "It's not like she'd wear them again anyway, I just wasn't sure…"
"Of course, dear," she said, one hand reaching up to my cheek as she took the clothes from me. "My poor baby girl," she said softly as she left the room.
I turned and went back upstairs to see Alice. She was lying absolutely still, eyes closed and breath held, beneath the water. I have never seen her look more dead as she did lying breathlessly beneath the thin surface of the water. I panicked.
"Alice!" I cried, lifting her up from the shoulders to the air.
"What?" she asked, sputtering water out of her mouth. "I'm bathing!" I felt so stupid. I knew nothing had happened to her, but I'd seen her more vulnerable today than I ever had and as a result, went into over-protective overload.
"I'm sorry," I stammered stupidly. "I was…worried." And then she giggled. She laughed. Not loudly and not a lot, but it was the most happiness I'd seen her express all day. And suddenly, everything was alright again. She smiled at me, looking up with her big, gorgeous eyes.
"It's alright. I think I was about done in here anyway," she said, standing. I helped her up, and gathered the white fluffy towel I had set out for her. I wrapped her in it as she stepped out of the tub and pulled her into my embrace. She sighed, happily this time. "Thank you, Jasper," she whispered against me.
"I love you, Alice. Always."
"I love you too, Jazz." And with that, I scooped her gingerly into my arms like the precious treasure she is and headed to our room for the night.
Hope you enjoyed…thanks for reading, and remember to review!