Disclaimer: Obviously I don't own any of the characters presented in this story.
Thank you for reading.
I opened my eyes and sighed. Of course he wasn't here, I thought, burying my face in my hands. Another vision of things far away. Things that might happen? I hoped so. The image of the beautiful, ravaged-looking blond stranger of my visions always brought me comfort. I didn't know why. But I did know that when I couldn't see him in that diner, I couldn't see anything else for myself. It was as if my very existence depended on me finding the man. There was no future for me without the man in my visions. Without him there was nothing, not the long journey to the North I sometimes foresaw, or the group of beautiful amber eyed strangers that would one day be my family. No Carlisle Cullen. Esme. Edward. Rosalie. Emmet. Nothing.
It was in those times, when I was blind, looking at the eternity of nothingness my future held for me that it was hardest to accept what I had become; the monster I had awoken as, with no knowledge of a previous life, no memories but for vague flashes that were gone before I could make sense of them. And the thirst. When there was nothing to look forward to, when I couldn't see a future for myself with my beautiful blond stranger and Carlisle Cullen's family of amber eyed brothers and sisters, then it was hardest to do what was right.
I knew, I felt it instinctively, that the incessant burn in my throat could only be fully quenched by human blood. But I also knew, I had seen, that Carlisle's family sustained itself only on the blood of animals. Vegetarians; their little joke. But I couldn't go to them. Not yet. Not without the blond stranger of my visions. I knew that as instinctively as I knew I needed blood to survive. As instinctively as I knew that I had no future without the stranger. It was beyond that there was no happiness there for me without the stranger at my side, my gallant protector. It was that there was simply nothing without him.
I shook my head at my musings. Today he was in my visions. Today it would not be so hard to do what was right; to stalk an animal instead of a human. And then, I thought, while glancing up at the dark cloudy sky, then I would go find a diner to sit in. One that looked like the one I had seen my beautiful stranger in. I would sit there, like the human I wasn't, the human I couldn't remember if I had been, and I would wait for him as patiently as I could manage. Wait, like I had for so many days, for so many years. So many diners . . .
I fed, not enjoying the hunt despite seeing the stranger today. Deer wasn't especially appetizing in any case. In the beginning, when I had first seen him and begun searching for him, I had thought that if I saw him in my head, that he might show up that day in reality. But the years of disappointment had dampened my confidence and resolve. These days, it felt like I was only going to the diners by force of habit.
Except . . . except that if I thought of not going to a diner, if I thought of not wasting day after day after day sitting in diner after diner hoping that that day might just be the day I got lucky, then I had to ask myself what else I was going to do. What else was there? I could sit, miserable, in the wilderness, contemplating my life, why I was here, for what purpose I saw the things I did. But there was no life, no reason, no purpose without my beautiful stranger. It would only be when he was there, when he walked into whatever diner I happened to be in, that I would be at peace and be able to hope for the future.
I turned into the first diner I found. There was nothing particularly special about it. It was like every other diner I had sat in. I couldn't even look at the decor anymore. It all blurred together. Red vinyl seats, or were they blue? Yellow? Jukebox in the corner playing something my sensitive ears couldn't quite admit was music. Lady in an appalling, faded, uniform behind the counter pouring coffee for her patrons.
I ordered a coffee, paid for it with money stolen from the register while her back had been turned, and sat down at the counter, playing with the drink sullenly. I entertained myself for a while by exploring the range of colors my coffee could become as I slowly added creamer after creamer into the mix. I stopped when it looked more like milk than coffee and gazed hard at the faded, fractured Formica counter top in front of me. Of course, the fractures were too minute for the diner's owners to see. Hairline breaches in the laminate danced before my eyes. I found myself searching for patterns in the cracks, memorizing the designs the little fissures created.
I almost laughed at myself. Here I was, immortal - or at least I assumed I was immortal as I hadn't aged a day in almost forty years - sitting, wasting her time, hours upon hours as the day slowly slid by, examining cracks as though they held all the secrets of the universe. Though, I supposed, only an immortal would be able to waste the time, would want to waste the time even. It's not like I was running out of time, I think. Because if I was running out of time, if I wasn't as immortal as I thought I was, I was going to be incredibly peeved at this stranger I was waiting for.
I took a deep breath and sighed, letting the aromas of the diner envelope me. Coffee. Grease. The shampoo of the lady behind the counter. The vinyl of the furniture. Cigar smoke from the man seated in the booth across the isle. Rain. The storm must have finally broke through. And something . . . indescribably sweet. It was very homey, earthy even.
I turned in my seat, breath catching in my throat. I almost thought, for the barest of seconds, that I was having another vision. It was exactly as I had seen, his face was exactly how I remembered it even though I had never actually seen him before in my life. And I could smell him. It was him. That intoxicating scent that had so quickly overtaken everything else in my mind was him.
He was a full head and shoulders, at least, taller than me and his honey blond hair was stuck down to his head, thoroughly soaked from the storm. Black eyes stared at me warily out of his haggard looking face. He was a mess. I could see a criss-crossed pattern, like the cracks in the Formica, across the base of his throat. He caught me looking at them and his eyes narrowed. He was tensed, as though ready to pounce or flee.
I couldn't help the waves of relief, of peace, of hope, that crashed over me. To see his face, finally, was like gazing upon the sun for the first time. Like fresh, cool water after being lost in the desert. If I could have cried, I might have. But I couldn't and I could hardly help the blinding smile that fell on my lips. I was grinning like an idiot. Surely, he thought I was a fool. What could I say to him?
"You've kept me waiting a long time." I said softly, again wishing I could cry. Tears of joy, like I had seen in the movies and on human faces.
He bowed his head cautiously. "I'm sorry, ma'am." He said, and I could make out the traces of a southern accent.
I sighed, dreamily. I wanted to run into his arms, to kiss him. I knew – I had always known, from the first time I'd seen him – that he was the one for me. The only one. The one forever. But he was still watching my movements like I might attack. The thought was almost laughable. He was so much bigger than me. I made out his strong arms under the sleeves of his thin jacket and wanted to be held by them. But I resisted the temptation of throwing myself at him, instead holding out my hand, desperately hoping he would take it.
There was a moment, the tiniest fraction of a second, that he hesitated before putting his hand in mine. It was strong and cool and . . . scarred. I could feel the slight variations of his skin under my fingers and wondered what kind of hell he had been through to get to me. I promised myself that whatever it was, I would never let it hurt him again. I would protect my protector.
Then I pulled him out into the rain again, he followed without resistance and I laughed hysterically for a moment because I could see everything so much more clearly now. The lines of each of the Cullen's faces were so much sharper, more defined now that he was here, my handsome stranger. I could see the future, my future, with so much more clarity.
He didn't resist, his hand a cool comfort in mine, as we raced out of the city, into the wild. I wanted to see the real him, I wanted him to see the real me, not the human charade. He had to know me, the real me. So he could love me the way I already loved him, nameless as he was.
"I mean you no offense, but who are you?" He asked when I finally slowed down, miles outside the city limits. Entirely secluded in the forest, rain dripping down on us as it slowly filtered through the canopy overhead. It had never occurred to me to fear him, to fear being alone with him. It would never occur to me.
"Mary Alice Brandon." I said cheerfully.
"What's wrong?" I asked quickly. He didn't like me already! My heart began breaking, despite the fact that it was already dead in my chest.
"Nothing, ma'am. I like the Alice part." He said softly.
"I can be Alice. For you, I can be anything."
He raised an eyebrow skeptically and I would have blushed if it were possible. My big mouth was going to drive him off, I just knew it. But instead of shutting up, I blundered onward.
"But who are you? If you don't mind me asking, sir." I added politely.
"I thought you knew me already." He said, wary again.
"I know your face." I said softly. I gently ran my hand against his cheek. He flinched away from my touch. I tried to hide my hurt. "I've seen it for years. In visions. For as long as I remember, I have known your face. But there is no name that I can tag to it."
"Jasper Whitlock." He said, his voice coarse.
"Jasper." I whispered, relishing the sound of it in my mouth. It fit him perfectly. Years ago, when I hadn't been quite so desolate, I used to imagine what his name might have been. I had never thought of Jasper. It was too perfect for him. Now that I knew it, I couldn't imagine him by any other name.
We stared at each other for a long time. I memorized every minute detail of his face again. Familiarizing myself with each element that had been left blurry in my visions. And he was glorious; everything I could have, or would have desired if I had been given a choice. Even if I hadn't know before, if I'd had to search for him blind, I would have known the moment I saw him that he was the one for me.
"Why did you see me? What was the purpose of your visions? What are you supposed to do?" He asked slowly, but very firmly.
I hesitated. I knew the answers, of course, but something made me reluctant to say. I could sympathize with him. He didn't know the way I did that he was the other half of my soul, the very reason for my existence. He didn't know the extent - the infinite span - of my feelings for him. And suddenly this wasn't the way I wanted to reveal it to him. My imagination drifted to a candlelit evening with soft music playing in the background.
I turned away, unwilling to meet his gaze, as my imagination played havoc with my heart. I wanted that evening, so badly, now that I had seen it. It would be in early summer, and the scent of wild flowers would be in the air. He would kiss me gently when I told him and profess his own love for me. The image was hazy in front of my eyes, like smoke.
His hand clamped painfully around my elbow as he jerked me around to face him again. I had never felt pain in this life and I winced at his touch. "Why?" He demanded. His eyes were black with thirst and fury, controlled fury, but fury nonetheless. It seemed to emanate from him, rolling off him in waves.
"To love you." I said weakly, trying not to show the pain. I wasn't sure what hurt more at that moment, the way his large, strong hand was crushing my elbow, or the way my candlelight evening disappeared before my eyes.
He dropped my arm, eyes wide with shock as he took a wide step away from me. I tried not to focus on the gap between us, tried not to see the way he shirked away from my professions. Instead, I stared at my feet, determined to ignore him. I hoped that the earth would suddenly decide to open a great chasm beneath my feet and swallow me up. I was in the middle of thinking about just how humiliating, mortifying, his rejection was when I felt his fingers on my elbow again.
"I'm sorry." He said softly as he gently examined my arm. "For hurting you. And for hurting your feelings."
"I'm fine." I lied, still examining my shoes. They were very nice shoes. Real leather black and white saddle shoes. They would have cost a pretty penny if I'd bothered to pay for them. But my attempts to forget his rejection were futile, it felt like he'd shoved his hand into my chest and had crushed the withered husk that was all that remained of my heart. No, I was okay. I didn't need that part anyway.
"Alice," He hesitated. "Why on earth would you choose to love someone as monstrous as myself?"
"I don't see a monster." I pouted.
He lifted my face, gently, so I was looking right into his eyes and sighed. "Look at me, please. Just for a moment, really look at me and see me. I'm not any sort of prince or gentleman."
I looked straight into his eyes. "I do see you, Jasper. Better than you see yourself, I think. But we don't have to talk about this now. I didn't want to talk about this now, like this. You don't know me at all and definitely not enough to want me too, yet."
He sighed exasperatedly. "Then what now?"
"We find the Cullen's." I said confidently. There wasn't a trace of hesitation in my assertion. Jasper was only the very beginning of my new life, the catalyst that would change everything I knew.
"Who are the Cullen's?" He asked suspiciously, sitting on a wind felled tree.
I sank to my knees in front of him, smiling brilliantly. "I've seen them. They live further North somewhere. Such wonderful people. But I could only see them when I could see you. So obviously, I can't go there without you." I explained. I put my hand on his knee and looked at him pleadingly. It wasn't quite begging, but close. I needed him with me if I was going to have the life I had seen. I needed him. Period.
"Who says they would welcome us? They could just as easily kill us." He said scornfully.
"Not the Cullen's." I assured him. "They're different from others like us. They're a real family, like humans have. They love each other. I'm sure they will be very welcoming. I've even been hunting like them, practicing."
"Practicing?" He asked dubiously.
I hesitated. This was one of the most important reasons why I wanted to find the Cullen's, but I also noted the thin, crimson ring in the irises of his eyes. Would I have to choose between them and him? "Um, well, yes. The Cullen's only hunt . . . animals."
A look of shock crossed Jasper's face as slid off the dead fall, dropping to his knees in front of me. He grabbed both my shoulders and stared very intently at my face for a moment. "Really, Alice? That can be done?"
I nodded mutely.
And then a brilliant, determinedly fierce grin spread across his face. "Then yes. I will go with you to these Cullen's."
I couldn't help the excited shriek that escaped my lips as I jumped to my feet and danced happily around him. I danced into his arms and kissed both of his cheeks. "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you." I chanted. All the while relishing the closeness. I wanted to kiss him again, on the lips. I wanted him to see, to feel what I felt. I tilted my head back, standing on tip-toes, my eyes fluttered shut.
He took my hands from where they were clenched against his chest and gently but firmly pushed me away. "No, Alice. You're fighting a losing battle there."
I smiled at him smugly and tapped my temple. "Maybe you're fighting a losing battle, Jasper Whitlock."
He rolled his eyes. "I'm ready to leave whenever you are. There's nothing holding me here."
I smiled sadly. "I know." I pointed myself North. "Northward, then, sir?"
"I think so, ma'am."