Chapter Thirteen: Worsening
A/N: Yes, gentle readers, why, it is an update! I know, shocking. But yes, this chapter was a little hard to get going, but once I did... it practically wrote itself. Thank gawd. Anyway, this is the chapter where the plot sort of starts to kick up a gear, and I really have a direction of where this is going - uh, for now, anyway. :)
Right, well, I'll go away and let you read on, darlings. :)
Alice had never been so conflicted in her entire life, and the distraction of the scent of blood wasn't helping her to be clear-minded.
Alice felt the young woman's head turn towards her, because the tempting scent had shifted in the air. With effort, Alice turned her head to meet her pleading gaze.
Green eyes begged her. "Please..." the woman whispered, and Alice had never heard so much fear in her life.
Instantly, the monster deep within Alice roared its approval, screaming bloody murder in her ears.
It seemed to pound against her like frenzied drums in her arms and legs and throat; rattling her spine with its awful want. The words themselves sparked an unholy primal force within her, and the monster grinned, as if it was yelling at her; The prey wants to be eaten! Do it!
Alice's arms twitched towards the woman; her mouth opened of its own accord and she let out a strangled half-yelp, half-growl, and all the while her blackened eyes were desperately trying to warn this woman of exactly what she was asking for.
Every fibre of her being, every cell of her body itched to pounce with lethal intent. But somehow, Alice did not strike. Just the quiet desperation of the woman beside her filled her with dread and horror at the words coming from her mouth. She was so young - she couldn't have been more than twenty short years old. The same years that had passed for Alice like a heartbeat. She closed her eyes and squeezed them tightly shut, as if trying to undo what she had just heard. With great effort, she whispered; "What?"
The woman inched forward, and immediately Alice's hands sprung forward, palms up, halting her.
"Stay back," Alice hissed. But the woman did not crawl backwards, merely come to a stop, and Alice moaned painfully.
"Please..." the woman whispered again, and she sounded eerily broken. "Please, kill me. Let it be quick. I know what that... bitch will do to me. Whatever happens, I will... die... here." She seemed to choke on the word.
Alice could not believe what she was hearing, though she knew her ears were not deceiving her. The woman beside her was asking for death.
Begging for it, the monster inside Alice whispered, as though suggesting Alice was the most idiotic being to ever walk the planet for not snatching up the chance right away.
With sudden clarity, Alice remembered a vision she'd had. One where she had crimson eyes. After it had occurred, she'd looked to Jasper for comfort, because she could not believe it could ever be true. Jasper had reassured her, told her she could never do it, she could never allow herself to be so weak. Just thinking of his face; so assured, so trusting, so confident of what he thought he knew. Alice felt like a failure in his eyes, like somehow she had suddenly become so much less pure, less worthy of his love.
"I'm sorry, Jasper," Alice cried, in a voice too low and too quick for the woman beside her to catch. "I'm so sorry."
The blood. It was always the blood. Alice had never been so in love yet so disgusted at the same time. Because it always came down to the blood.
She was looking at the bleeding woman beside her, sorrow written all over her face. Alice could smell, more than see, the fresh tears mingling with the sweat and dirt encrusted on the woman's cheek. Along with that disgusting, beautiful, poisonous paradise... that crimson addiction that she wanted, needed and hated so badly that it hurt.
"It's okay," the woman murmured. "Please, just do it."
Alice squeezed her eyes shut, pained and still refusing to breathe in. As she leant forward, the woman put a hand on Alice's tiny shoulder, stopping her briefly. Alice opened her eyes a little, and saw the woman's beseeching eyes as she whispered breathlessly, "Wait. What's your name?"
"Alice. My name is Alice," hissed the vampire as gently as she could before leaning in and sinking her teeth into the woman's neck, instantly drawing her lifeblood. The woman shuddered a little under her, and the monster within Alice took over, all traces of the gentle little vampiress gone as the vampire in her pulled the woman flush against her body, gaining better access. The woman gasped, but instead of hitting out, as instinct would have it, she clawed at Alice's back, pulling her closer.
As soon as Alice regained some of her faculties, she drew back in horror, nearly throwing the woman away from her. The bloodlust had vanished once the creature had been satiated and now Alice was just left with the sinking feeling of abject horror, even as the cooling liquid slid down her throat in the most blissful ecstasy.
An ecstasy that was empty within seconds.
The woman had landed on the ground at an awkward angle, and Alice quickly crawled over to her, pulling her arms over her chest and her legs out from under her in an attempt to make her more comfortable.
Comfortable, Alice's thoughts sneered at herself. You've as good as murdered her.
The woman gave a weak smile of what she guessed was meant to convey comfort at Alice's tormented look.
Her throat looked like it had been mauled by an animal, and she was smiling. Alice was almost angry - she wanted the dying woman to scream, curse her to the depths of hell... to somehow defy death. But instead of any of this, the woman's fingers twitched, and her hand came to rest atop Alice's.
"Thank you," she whispered. Alice frowned, sputtering, "Wh-what?"
The woman sighed, the sound tearing from her lips as her heart slowed to an almost imperceptably quiet level. "I forgive you... Alice."
Soft pulses slowed to a stop.
Death settled over her like a thick fog, claiming victory.
Alice was frozen for a moment, staring into the woman's still open eyes, before reaching forward and slowly drawing her deceptively delicate thumb and finger over her eyelids, closing them for the last time. She was nothing more than a shell now; blood, bone and sinew. Flesh over muscle - meat for the fire.
Because of her. What she had done.
It was only then, as the grief and regret washed over Alice like a monsoon, that she realised she didn't even know the woman's name.
Now she never would.
Alice brought her blood-drenched hands to her head, cradling it as she tremoured against the stone wall, wishing the world away. Wishing for strong arms to lock around her and whisper to her. Wishing to be safe again. Loved again.
Even if she knew she didn't deserve any of it.
Alice closed her eyes, squeezing them tightly shut, and her mouth formed whispers and murmurs so quiet she could barely hear them herself.
She only half-realised they were prayers as her mind clouded over with sorrow.
"Is she ready?"
"No. She still retains some strength of mind. For this to work, the girl must be broken. Completely."
Maria growled with annoyance, tapping her fingers imperiously on the side of her twisted throne. A leg was slung casually over the other, a strategic slit in her dress revealing an expanse of silky, creamy skin that the vampire - a relatively new initiate into her guard - in front of her was trying not to blatantly stare at.
But she could feel the gazes that weren't there.
A smirk curved her lips upward, and she continued to keep her eyes on the side of the room rather than on him.
"What about after she kills the girl - will she be ready then?"
"How do you know she will kill it?" he asked, and instantly wished he could snatch the words from the air and swallow them again as she turned her gaze to him. Eyes that were scarlet and hawk-like in their intensity pierced him, freezing him where he stood.
"Because... she is compassionate," she spat the word as if it were a curse. "And she is no fool. She knows my threats are not to be taken lightly - she would kill the girl herself rather than let her suffer at my hands."
"Of course," the vampire muttered, head bowed in supplication. Inwardly, he breathed a sigh of relief he was even still alive after his flippancy. Rueben was right - she was a lenient, gracious and most merciful mistress.
"Anyway," Maria brushed him off, with a wave of her hand. She did not have time for ingrates. "If the girl's death doesn't break her..."
Maria's eyes glinted dangerously, and the vampire felt his hackles rise in instinctual response to the danger she presented, while something coiled in his stomach like lust.
"Let her see the shape-shifter," Maria said, grinning. "But make sure she thinks she's finding out something we don't want her to know."
The heat in his stomach intensified. Oh, she was wicked indeed. "Yes, Mistress," he said, sharing her smirk and bowing low.
And it seriously turned him on.
As he departed with a swift, graceful turn, Maria half-rose a slender eyebrow. This one would be fun, she could tell. For a while at least.
Before she grew bored again.
"Wait," she called lazily, her voice no louder than if he had been standing right beside her. The vampire reappeared at the door, before speeding to her side within a second.
"Mistress?" he asked, bowing his head slightly in deference.
"What of our other guest?" A wicked smile spread across her face. "How is he faring?" she asked, with a tone to match that of a young child on Christmas morning, surrounded by presents and clamouring to open the first one.
"He's... angry," the vampire said with glee. "But subdued."
"Good." Maria's eyes glittered as she arched her slender fingers across her lap, seemingly retreated into her own thoughts.
After a few seconds, her gaze snapped to the vampire still hovering by her side, crimson irises contracting in annoyance.
Jasper could feel the end of the trail drawing near. He had no idea how far he'd run so far, he didn't bother to catagorise it.
A part of him said this was because it didn't matter if he couldn't find the way home - because he wouldn't be coming home. He swallowed this thought, however. It wasn't a healthy thing to think. He did know, though, that he definitely wasn't going back without Alice, and if she didn't know how to get back - well, it wouldn't really matter. As long as they were together.
They'd find their way.
They always had.
Jasper allowed a small smile to creep across his lips.
Suddenly, the scent of Alice's captors was disrupted. Another scent had crossed his path, and Jasper's eyes widened. He recognised that scent. It was not a Cullen, nor was it Maria. But it was old... it was a scent from his past. Jasper slowed to a stop, staring into the trees with a hard look. If this was some sort of illusion or trick of Maria's, he needed to be wary. He wouldn't put anything past that evil snake of a woman.
To his left, the trees rustled, and his head snapped to the source of the sound before it had even ended.
Standing in front of the foliage, was a small, blonde vampire, with fresh panic and sadness in her dark crimson eyes. Her lip trembled as she spoke in a voice that was small, but disturbed and sorrowful.
"Jasper..." Her eyes beseeched him, and she almost choked on overwhelming sobs. "Please, help me."
Jasper could only stare in shock, and slowly reached forward to the tiny, shaking vampire.
"She took him back," Charlotte whispered, her doll-like face crumpled in dread. "She forced him to leave with her."
"Maria?" Jasper asked, though he already knew the answer.
"She threatened me. She said if Peter didn't leave with her, then her lackeys would hunt us to the ends of the earth, and we'd spend eternity defending ourselves," Charlotte looked up at Jasper, her eyes full of the past - reminding him of shared pain. "You know she'd do it, Jasper."
He did know.
"But even so... Peter? It wouldn't be like him to give in that easily..." Jasper looked at her, confusion etched in the planes of his face.
"Are you kidding me? You know the power Maria has. She's only grown stronger since we escaped. I did argue, but Peter wouldn't budge. He said he couldn't risk losing me, the idiot."
The word was not venomous, but heartbreakingly forlorn, and Jasper's old friend was clearly struggling furiously not to break down right there and then.
"Hey," Jasper said, trying to project as much comfort towards Charlotte as he could manage in his constantly panicked and stressed-out state. He stepped towards her, a little hesitance in his step. He might want to help, yes, of course... but he wasn't stupid. Charlotte and Peter had still been human blood-drinkers when he'd left their company, and if her crimson irises were any indication, they had not revoked their ways since.
She was dangerous. And clearly unstable at present. If she decided to vent her frustration on him, the frantic vampire could do some damage for sure.
Besides, Jasper was nothing if not a stratagist. Already, his mind was whirling through thousands of possibilities, different permutations for plans Maria may have come up with. And any ones involving Peter and Charlotte were bound to be particularly horrific. The most probable was also the one that disgusted him the most - Maria wanted him, desperately. She could have taken Peter, and then threatened to kill him unless Charlotte brought Jasper to her.
But that was alright. Because in order to find Alice, he needed to find Maria. So Jasper decided to be blunt.
"Charlotte... did Maria put you up to this?" His tone was strict, but he tried to inject some empathy. This was no time to dance around the issue, but he could at least have some sympathy for the situation the vampiress was in. After all, had he been in her position, he'd have done the same, there was no doubt about it.
However... the shock she felt after he spoke seemed genuine.
"Jasper..." she gasped. "What are you talking about?"
He eyed her shrewdly. "Charlotte, it's alright if she did. I just need to know."
"I wouldn't do anything for that bitch if she threatened everyone in the world! You really think I'd dishonour Peter that way? I know he'd die before he'd let Maria win." Her impassioned speech took Jasper a little by surprise.
Not least because he felt the opposite - he'd do anything to keep Alice. He knew it wasn't healthy, or perhaps even the best way... but if he had to kill everyone in the world to get her back, then that's what he would do. Even if she hated him for it. Even if she wanted nothing more to do with him afterwards - he would still do it. Because she would be alive. He would know that somewhere, somehow... she was still there. Still existing.
But he understood Charlotte's reasoning - it was probably better her way than his. (Even if he would never change his mind.)
"Alright," he said, stepping closer as Charlotte's bottom lip began to wobble and it seemed the dam holding back the flood of sorrow within her was about to crack. "I'm sorry."
Charlotte could only nod as she collapsed to her knees before him, and shook uncontrollably.
"Peter..." she whispered, in a voice so small Jasper could barely hear her. His heart sank at the sheer aura of vulnerability and helplessness she was practically assaulting him with, and he knew at that moment she was in no position to attack him - or anyone else.
Wordlessly, he reached out, crouching to sit beside her, and pulled his old friend into a tight embrace. She tucked her head into his chest, and clutched his shirt so tightly he felt the seams of the fabric begin to tear.
He rested a scarred hand on her shoulder, and tucked her head beneath his chin.
"I know," he said, simply.
The contact did nothing to assuage either vampire's grief, but somewhere inside both of them it evoked a sense of hope. Maybe, together... they could win.
Maybe, in just a short while it would be Peter's shirt that Charlotte would clutch as if her life depended on it.
It would be Alice that Jasper held in his arms.
The ghost of a smile flickered across Jasper's lips at that thought.
A/N: So, that's not a depressing chapter at all. Yeah... uh... happy Christmas? :/ Ha, well I did try and make it a little happier there at the end - and yay for Charlotte and Peter. I've always felt they've been criminally underused characters in Twilight - so I'm taking them out for a test drive. Sorry Charlotte's first outing is so sad, but then again, she has just lost Peter. At least she's not catatonic though, right? *sheepish grin*
Just a little shameless advertising before I go; I've started a Buffy/Twilight crossover (well, I say started, my keyboard starting dripping word sludge and it's now at over twelve thousand words in two chapters) but yeah, I would ADORE you guys to check it out and maybe show it some love? I'd heartz you forever. :)
(Edward get his ass somewhat handed to him in the second chapter if that helps at all.)
... End shameless advertising. ;)
Anyway, again, guys, let me know what you thought of this chapter! Reviews really do make my updates faster - though you probably feel like you wouldn't know it. Guilt, party of one.
~ Love and Jasper-shaped-cookies, Raven. xxx