Disclaimer: The Twilight universe belongs to Stephenie Meyer.
A/N: Big thanks to ileftmyheartinlondon for her initial beta work. Thanks also to alybee and Guardgirl12 for the additional pass. If you've been a fan of any of my work in the past, you'll be able to see their influence in this story by the presence of fancy things like semi-colons and proper sentence structure.
Chapter 1 – The Violence of Existing
Her eyes were closed, her breathing shallow. Dimly, she could hear a steady stream of pouring water. She tried to squeeze her eyes tighter against the image in front of her but it filled her mind.
Jasper was torn apart.
Jasper was in pieces in the dust.
Figures in black stoked the fire that was to be his resting place.
A wave of dizziness settled over her and within her, some part of her shouted. Open your eyes, it said. She shook her head and then complied. She blinked, momentarily confused by the low light of her hotel room, by the increasingly loud sound of Jasper's shower. The sound that had seemed so far off moments earlier was suddenly crashing around her, too loud, too overwhelming. She pressed the heels of her palms against her eyes, trying to focus her attention, trying to conjure up a decision to change her vision.
Alice let vision after vision flit through her mind until she grasped onto the one she wanted, clinging onto the decision, holding onto it as an absolute. She tested its limits, making subtle changes, minor caveats to her contract with the future. The future had her this time. There was no running away, no one to turn to. This was all on her. All on him.
She took a pen and the pad of hotel stationary, steadying her breathing as she pressed the tip into the white paper. She pulled the pen toward her, the first stroke on the paper sounding shockingly loud in her ears. And then her hand flew, scrawling what she could.
The water of Jasper's shower was still steady. She closed her eyes and looked ahead; the path was set, the vision clear and unchanging. Alice planted her forehead in her hand for a moment and then folded the sheet of paper, shoving it deep into her purse. With lightly trembling fingers, she unclasped her locket and slid off her rings. She squeezed them tight and dropped them into the zippered pocket inside her purse.
She looked ahead again, cursing herself for not seeing it all sooner. Her visions had been spotty for weeks. She was catching glimpses, fleeting images. Black cloaks, Rosalie on a plane, Jasper in distress, an unfamiliar hand at her back, new faces in the guard. She and Jasper's entire vacation had been one strange flash after another. Nothing was ever firm enough to grasp onto.
And suddenly the visions became utterly clear.
She listened to his shower, shutting her eyes when she heard him turn off the tap. Hiding her emotions from him had never been her strong suit. She opened her eyes, blinking as she caught her reflection in the mirror above the desk. She tried to force a smile, tried to mask the pain and fear and sadness. She leaned close, touching thin fingers to her pale cheek. It was useless. He simply knew her too well.
Alice stood and sighed. She crossed to the bathroom and opened the door. He was standing there, a hotel towel low on his hips, another in his hand, scrubbing through his hair. She nearly shut her eyes at the beauty of him. The wide expanse of pale back was ridged with muscles and scars. She wanted to press herself there, to let her hands trail to his stomach. She wanted to hold on, to never let go. Instead, she leaned against the door frame and met his gaze in the mirror, through the steam.
His smile was slow and lazy, delighted to see her standing there. She sighed again, unable to help herself. His expression sobered. "What happened?"
Alice shook her head. "Another vision."
His brow furrowed and he turned to face her. "Still not making sense?"
She shook her head again, pushing the lie out. "No."
Jasper took a step toward her, his brow still furrowed, his hair hanging in wet locks over his forehead. "What is it, Alice?"
"I'm just frustrated."
He took another step toward her, nearly bridging the distance between them. He reached out a hand and then let it drop. "Your emotions are a mess."
She held her hand out and he took it, grasping the towel with his other hand to keep it on his hips. "It was just another one with you."
"Do you want to tell me?"
"No. It doesn't matter. It's already changed." She pressed herself against him, her head fitting against his chest, her fingers making patterns around the scars. She felt his eyes on her, felt him soaking in her emotions, trying to make sense of her mood.
"Alice?" he breathed.
She smiled, understanding the question. He always asked. "Go ahead."
Alice closed her eyes as she felt the emotions wash over her. She felt herself calm down. She felt happy, her distress and sadness reduced to a dim shadow. She smiled up at Jasper. His eyes were still worried but he offered her a small smile in return.
"They'll start making sense again soon." He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "It'll be all right."
"Yeah," she breathed, turning her face into his chest. She pressed her lips to a knot of scars at his collarbone, smiling when he sucked in a breath.
"We're never going to get out of here if you do that."
She tilted her head up, her chin resting on his chest, her hands clasped at the small of his back. He ran his hands up her arms, gripping her shoulders. "I love you, Jasper," she whispered.
He frowned, the stone of his forehead bowing into a deep furrow. "Why are you saying it like that?"
There was a long pause as he searched her eyes. "Like a goodbye." The words escaped his mouth on a tiny, pained gasp.
She shook her head, letting a smile stretch, clinging to the dredges of the happiness he had given her. "No goodbye. Just an 'I love you.'"
His brow was still creased, his frown still deep. "I love you, too. Alice, I – "
"I should let you get dressed." She pulled out of his grasp before he could protest, before he could tighten his grip around her. She danced out of the bathroom, trying for normal. She could feel him staring at the door in confusion as she shut it behind her.
Alice leaned against it, shutting her eyes. She looked ahead briefly. She hadn't said too much; the future was the same. She pressed her hand to her chest, to the place where her heart would be racing if it could beat at all. She moved to sit on the bed, dragging her shoes over and sliding them onto her feet.
He opened the door, dressed in jeans and a button down. He stared at her, the light from the bathroom casting an ethereal glow around him. His face was smooth now but she could still see the worry there. "We could go home, if you want."
"No. It doesn't matter."
Jasper spread his hands, clearly at a loss. "Do you still want to hunt?"
She nodded and shifted, pressing her hands into the bed as if she were bracing herself against whatever lies she'd still have to tell. "Your eyes are dark."
"That doesn't – " He shook his head and swallowed, pushing his fingers through his damp hair. "You'd – you'd tell me if something was wrong, right?"
"Yes. Nothing's wrong. I'm just frustrated."
He shook his head. "No, you're..." He let the words trail and she tilted her head, expecting him to continue, expecting him to press the issue. Instead, he sat beside her and slid on his own shoes. She started to stand but he darted out a hand, pressing it to her thigh. "You know you can tell me, Alice. Whatever it is, you know you can always..."
She shook her head again. "It's better that I don't."
He nodded, trusting her as he always had. "All right." He moved his hand from her thigh, let his fingers trail across her jaw. He cupped her chin with the gentlest of touches. "All right."
Alice closed her eyes as he touched his lips to hers. They were whisper soft, unnaturally sweet. If she could cry, tears would be weeping from her closed eyes. "Love you," she whispered again, unable to help herself. It was unusual for them to say it once in a day; twice was nearly unheard of.
He leaned his forehead against hers and searched again, his eyes boring into hers as if he could read all of her secrets. Maybe he could. Maybe he could see all of them. Maybe her efforts were futile. He touched her jaw and she could see the decision in his gaze, the acquiescence. He would let her tell him in her own time. He wouldn't press.
Jasper shifted, his fingers still light on her jaw as he kissed her forehead. She closed her eyes as his lips moved at her brow. She recognized the kiss as a promise, as a pledge to listen when she was ready to talk. He stood from the bed and pulled her to her feet, wrapping his arm around her narrow shoulders and guiding her toward the door.
They left the hotel with quick steps and ran as soon as they were out of sight. He clutched at her hand, matching her pace to stay beside her. Her heart lurched as she felt him fly next to her, as she felt him consciously work to stay as close as possible. It didn't matter; she was running away from him.
There was so much she wished she could tell him. There were so many words that died on her lips before she could conjure them.
I'll love you forever, she wanted to say.
You've been my everything for my entire life.
You're strong enough to fix this.
I'll forgive you anything.
I love you.
Instead, she halted her thoughts and slowed her running, tugging them both to a stop when things suddenly looked distressingly familiar. "There's a bear," she whispered, with a nod of her head. Her voice was oddly scratchy in her own ears.
Jasper shook his head and turned, her hand still trapped in his. He thrust his fingers into her hair and kissed her, reading her mood, somehow knowing this was the moment she was fearing. She melted against him and stopped trying to hide it. She let the fear and sadness and anger flow through her. She let him feel it, hoping that he could find some semblance of understanding when he replayed the moment later. "It'll be all right," she whispered, no longer able to guise the desperation in her voice. "Just remember that, Jasper. No matter what, just remember that."
Alice thought she could feel him buckle. She thought she could feel the severity of the situation slamming into him. She felt the urge again to cling to him, to wrap herself around him and shut her eyes to the world. His hand tightened on hers convulsively, nearly painfully. His jaw clenched; his golden eyes widened. He opened his mouth, as if to answer, as if to ask, but suddenly, as if from no where, four figures in black hoods stepped into the clearing.
She felt her fear flare through her numbness. She stared at Jasper for the tiniest fraction of a moment, drinking in his beauty, replaying all of their shared memories in one painful, joyous flash. He looked up, seeing the hooded figures as if it was all happening in slow motion. He eyed them for a moment and then stared down at her, his eyes wide with dawning realization.
And in that one breathless second, all of her thoughts ceased. In that second, her thoughts went dark, her memories went muddy, and her feelings, the very core of her beliefs shifted.
Jasper closed his mouth, his eyes wide as his gaze whipped wildly from the cloaked figures to Alice and then back again. He saw Jane and Demetri and two others he didn't recognize. His heart lurched as it all started to make sense.
He looked again at Alice. Her eyes were strangely vacant, her brow furrowed in confusion. Pulling free from him, she took cautious steps toward the group, her feet unsteady as if she was fighting against some unseen tug.
"Alice!" Jasper cried, darting forward, his hand extended.
But little Jane stepped forward, her eyes sharp and piercing as her gaze bore into Jasper. He felt the pain immediately, acutely, every nerve in his body burning. His knees buckled, his muscles betraying him as he writhed in agony, unable to move as two other cloaked figures led his Alice away.
"Alice!" His mind was cloudy, overwhelmed by that imagined pain, but he could still call her name.
"She's coming with us now," Jane said, her snakelike voice high and smooth, her expression one of cold satisfaction. "She is too big of a threat."
His aching throat managed to shove out his words in between gasping breaths and little yelps. "She is a threat to no one."
"She undermines the power of the Volturi. They cannot do their job while she can predict and combat their every move."
Jasper breathed through clenched teeth, making little hissing sounds as his muscles twitched and his body squirmed. He forced his jaw to move, to open around the one word that had any sort of meaning through the red haze of pain. "Alice!" he shouted again, pooled venom flying from his mouth with the effort.
His eyes were hazy as he saw her stop, saw her turn and stare at him with strangely detached confusion. Her brow furrowed, and one of the men laid his hand on her arm. "I know him," she muttered. She turned to look at the man. "I know that man there. The golden-eyed man."
"No," the cloaked man whispered, as if he didn't know his lines in the little play, as if he was decidedly uncomfortable with having to speak at all. "No you don't. Come along."
He turned her away gently, keeping her on their path even as she craned her neck to stare again at Jasper. Jasper shouted her name again and again, watching as Alice finally gave up trying to watch, as she turned her head away and disappeared into the trees. He felt his heart break with a snap and suddenly the pain that Jane was causing seemed remarkably dim by comparison. He planted his hands in the dirt, struggling to stand, to follow, to do something. All the while, Alice's name was falling from his lips again and again.
He struggled with his muscles, pushing himself up and falling and pushing himself up again until Jane spoke, quietly. "Do not follow us. The others are watching. You cannot kill them all."
She glided away, an infuriatingly pleased smile on her face. Jasper's physical pain subsided as she moved into the trees. He gasped, panting in the dirt as he struggled for control of his body. He lay there, his breathing heavy as he shook his head to clear the haze.
Then he leapt to his feet, his fists clenched. He took one step in the direction they had disappeared, then two. He stopped as he heard rustling in the bushes. Cloaked figures filled the clearing. He dropped to a crouch, his lips pulled back over his teeth menacingly. The guard stood and waited, clearly prepared to let him commit the crime that would be his death sentence.
Jasper's frantic mind screamed at him to stop, to think. They had Alice, and he was alone and outnumbered. He could never get her back if he was dead. He would never see her again if he was dead. She was safe for the moment. Aro coveted her power too much to destroy her. His knees slowly straightened, his face dropped its threatening mask. He raised his hands in a sign of surrender. A good soldier always knew when to retreat and regroup.
And Jasper was a very good soldier.
It'll be all right, she had said. It'll be all right.
He backed away slowly, his eyes nearly blinded in the unnaturally bright sun, in the whitewash of his panic. His chest ached with fear, with rage, with utter disbelief. In a life filled with so many sins, it felt like he was committing the gravest and most unforgivable of them all as he forced himself to back up, to move himself ever farther away from Alice.
The cloaked figures faded back into the trees and he turned and ran. He was running nowhere, lost in anguish. The trees flew past him in dizzying streams of brown and green as he ran for minutes, maybe for hours, possibly for days. He stopped, falling to his knees. And for the first time, he thought that his lack of tears was the greatest injustice of his vampiric life. How could he possibly pour out his immeasurable grief with tearless sobs?
Jasper swallowed them down as they rose into his throat, wanting nothing to do with the inadequate display of emotion. He slapped his hands onto the ground, ignoring the cloud of dust that rose around him, aching for relief, desperate for some gesture to lessen the unbelievable pain.
An unearthly yell rose from his throat as his fingers curled into the dirt. It was a cry of loss, of heartache, of tremendous grief and fear. He panted, his hands still gripping the earth as he fought for calm, as he reached into reserves he didn't know he possessed. He had to be calm for her, had to reach down deep and remember that he had allies and friends and that the Volturi had so entirely overstepped the bounds of their power.
His fingers dug into the dirt again, another uncontrollable yell bursting forth, the tone deep and forceful. It was threat. A promise. An oath.
A battle cry.
Note: And we're off.
Thanks to everyone that prompted me to write this and showed interest.
New chapter on Thursday. Please review!