Tattward & Inkella One-Shot Contest
Title: Scars of Ink and Flame
Your pen name: theladyingrey42
Characters: Alice and Jasper
Disclaimer: Twilight, Alice and Jasper all belong to Stephanie Meyer. Their scars belong to me.
To see other entries in the Tattward & Inkella Contest, please visit the C2 page:
Warning: The main character's back story alludes to a violent past, including implications of a rape. No details, no specifics. But I thought that you should know.
My hand began on Jasper's brow. I drew the very tips of two fingers over the worried flesh, faded white with time. As I did it, I held my breath, relishing the pressure of his own hand, thick and warm, poised on mine.
This was one of our favorite rituals. It was how I worshipped his body. It was how he worshipped mine.
My black eyes focused just an inch above his, the swimming bluish-grey a faint presence in the corner of my vision. But my attention was really on the scars. I let the thin pads of my fingertips wash across the lightly raised and knitted flesh, tiny holes that had stitched themselves back together along the edges where the shrapnel had torn him apart.
The shards of metal had left his body through a surgeon's skillful hands. A different kind of metal had entered mine through the ministrations of someone just as skillful but much less trained.
The little hoops above my eyebrow pulled delicately as his fingers teased them. We were mirror-images in the candle-light, everything twisted as if behind glass. His scars had been left there without his leave, and he'd built his life around moving past them. Mine I had put there through my own determination of will; they were what I had clung to as a means of building a life from nothing, when everything else had been torn away.
I remembered nothing. Not even my name.
My life began in a heap in an alley. My life began in pain. There was no before and there was no after - only the present and the presence of blood on my hands and everywhere in my hair, a gash on my neck, bruises on every rib. The twisting pain between my legs was the last thing I noticed and the first thing that made me scream.
I smelled like garbage. Because I'd been lying in it for days. Because I was.
Long days spent in cold white rooms replaced the darkness and the stench. The doctors between my legs spoke in hushed voices. The ones inside my head barely spoke at all. When they did there were words like trauma. Contusion. Amnesia.
And then they were gone.
Waiting in the harsh bright lights I huddled in a ball, my knees tucked tight to my chin, rocking back and forth and back and forth. The people in and out of my room were shadows. I watched them flick across the wall and said nothing.
They cut my hair to make room for bandages and wires. I sat there numbly as the blades moved close to my skin and watched the long black locks fall in waves to the floor. It occurred to me only too late that my story was there in those raven tresses. I clutched at them in my frozen fingers but they were silent strands of mocking, never speaking, always cold. When they pried at my fingers to release them I cast them away with all of their hidden secrets still untold.
A heavy presence on my bed was yet another doctor pushing lights into my eyes and probing my mind for any scraps of untapped memory. I stared at him with unfeeling eyes and tried not to blink in the blinding glare.
A normal life. That's what they kept promising me, a carrot on a stick for good behavior, for pushing aside the numb. For trying to remember what was not there. I turned my jagged spine against their questions and their promises.
Normal had been put out with the rest of the garbage.
When they finally let me out of my bed to go piss all by myself I saw a ghost in a piece of glass. I lifted up my ashen hand to touch her eyes and saw my own hand reaching toward me. I touched my sallow eyes and watched the lady in the mirror move a skeletal finger over purple circles that hung below her lashes like a bruise. I saw tufts of black hair growing out in a whisper from alien white skin above lips that would not move.
I asked her why she was crying but she merely echoed my questions and would not answer. I asked her who she was but she just cried more.
I fell through the looking glass, escaping the girl in the mirror and the bright lights and the shadows and the doctors on my bed and in my head. When the cabbie asked me for my name I told him it was Alice. So he took me to a rabbit hole.
I spent hours running my hands over the flesh of this body I had been given, unknown to me, uncertain. I stared at my face in a funhouse mirror in my soul, watched color return to my cheeks and hair begin to grow. But the purple circles never faded from my eyes.
Neither my body nor my life was my own. What had been taken could not be returned. I had only what was left: the present and the future and the flesh beside my bones.
The flesh was the easiest of the three to own.
I reclaimed the unfamiliar skin of my breast above my heart with the Chinese character for "future," a tattoo artist's needle faintly buzzing through my lungs. On my right arm I drew a gently winding snake, his tail a rattling presence on my wrist and his tongue a tasting lash along my collar. I inked an apple on my hip above my sex. I pierced my eyebrows and my nose and waited tables in a lesbian bar.
And so I was reborn in ink and chrome.
He came to me wrapped up in rain and thirst, his coat plastered to his chest and a bitter wind inside his breath. The wind blew him in with a sharp thud of the door and his frame against the diner wall. He staggered to a table not six feet from where I perched on a high stool at the lonely counter, nursing a headache from a series of nights before.
He had eyes the color of a storm and curling ash-blond hair that fell in tendrils to his ears. And his face and arm and chest were a mass of scars.
I swooped down to the seat beside him and asked why he'd kept me waiting so long. He apologized in a lilting southern drawl before even asking me for my name.
"Alice. Just Alice."
Then we talked until the diner closed.
I took Jasper into my life and into my home. He asked about my life before him and I told him I hadn't had one. He became my life. And so I was yet again reborn.
The first time I touched his scars, Jasper winced and pulled away. I had been working my way along his body, naked on my bed. But there were things we had avoided. Things we'd left unsaid.
I pushed myself into his mouth then whispered hot against his ear, "I don't remember my past. Won't you lend me yours?"
He loaned me a little, day by day.
It began with places. Afghanistan. Iraq. His elbow and his brow. Then people. The PFC who had taken the brunt of the car bomb that had almost taken him. The young brown boy with a sniper rifle trained onto his head. The woman in a marketplace he'd seen an MP beat until bloodied and left for dead.
It took weeks until the stories came back to himself.
I twisted my fingers again along his brow. The skin was taught and stretched and mottled, white and pink and angry in the sun. "Fallujah. I was outside when she pulled her vest. There was fire everywhere. Pieces of bodies and dates and chickpeas all falling like rain." He grimaced, "And shrapnel."
I placed two fingertips along the spray of whispered marks above his eye. He lifted his hand to echo mine. I felt the thick pads of his fingertips tweaking the chrome-colored rings that pierced the flesh. I shrugged. "Bad day at work. I got hit on by a dike."
"Sounds like a good day to me."
I let my fingers drift and wander with my gaze. I cupped his cheek inside my palm and felt his own warm palms descend on mine. Inches away from each other, my body curled up in his lap, I straightened my back to press my lips to the scars. He did the same to mine.
We were standing against a cold brick wall in the rain when he kissed me for the first time. We'd known each other all of six hours' time.
We'd left the diner in a rush, the owner chasing us away, but the rain was still falling from the dark grey sky. I pushed him up against the brick, hearing the impact of his back against the wall in a cold wet slap, and then my chest falling on his, slowly soaking in the rain. I let the drops of water fall over my eyes and in his hair as I lightly twisted my fingers across his mouth. I stood on my toes to try to bring my face to his neck, letting my tongue roll over the point of his jaw. He lifted me up, my tiny toes dangling off the ground. He let me put my hands inside his hair, pushing it back from his soaking face as the dripping tendrils tangled with my skin.
When my lips brushed his I saw my future. I saw our lives spread out before us in long years twisted on languorous sheets. I saw days that could be filled with hope.
But I still could not see my past.
I took him to my bed that night, peeling clothes from his body, slick with rain. We fell onto the bed in long kisses with open mouths, our tongues a tangled mass of flesh and tissue and want and hurt and need.
His hands were shaking as he took the black fabric of my dress and pulled it down. He kissed the calligraphy on my breast and asked me what it meant.
I just kept whispering his name, because he and the future were one and the same.
I pushed him down into a pile of pillows, water seeping into the scratchy cloth and kissed a path along his body. My nails fell into the grooves between the muscles. I teased the hair under his arms and down his belly and around his cock.
I straddled his hips and let my weight pull my broken pussy down onto him.
When I pulled him inside of me it felt for the first time like my body was my own.
The scars on his arms were harder for him to talk about than the ones on his nose and brow. I teased them with my fingers each night when I got home from the bar, begging him to tell me something. Anything.
"Mosul. 2003," he relented at last, his eyes growing unfocused in his head. "I was manning a checkpoint and a car bomb turned the whole street red. There was fire everywhere." He moved my hand along the long angry lines of the scar. "Smith took the worst of it. I landed with his body on top of me and I couldn't get away from the flames. They burned half his body before he died. All they got off of me was a little skin from my arm."
" A lot of skin," I whispered, taking our joined fingers along the swath of mottled skin that clung to his muscle. I bent to put my mouth to the graft, where smooth flesh met the tangled web of scar.
"A lot of skin," he echoed, pulling my face away from the evidence of all that he'd lost. He placed our fingers on the place where I had hidden all that had been taken away, tracing the serpent that snaked its way across my arm, across the wide swath of unmarked skin along my ribs and my belly to the apple on my hip.
"Can you lose innocence if you can't remember if you had it in the first place?" I asked. A tear rolled down the side of my face.
"Will you ever tell me what happened on the other side of the looking glass?"
"I already told you, Jazz. They took that memory from me, too."
We made love in frenzied strokes, my body on his body, my massacred skin on his. I rubbed the scars of ink along his scars of flame and twisted my lips around his name. He pulsed inside me and placed his calloused fingers on my clit. I rode his hips again and again, driven by an unspeakable need.
For years I had been fucking to forget the weeks that happened when I first woke up. Now I was lost in the grey-blue eyes of the man inside me trying to remember what happened before.
He pushed me harder and farther, reading the boiling turmoil in my blood and letting me stay in control. He matched my pace, thrusting up into the center of my need and letting me crash back down, his hands on my back and in my hair as I pushed myself again and again against his shivering leg.
His hand on my sex made me come in a burst of finally - if temporarily - satiated need. All the pain of not knowing dissolved in the pleasure of Jasper's quivering skin, his essence swimming in my center as he screamed.
We came down slowly, softly, all mouths and tongues and skin. I kept him inside me until he was limp and spent, asking him to complete me and make me real.
"You're real, little girl." He kissed my face. "You're real."
We fell asleep still intertwined.
It took him almost a year to talk about the scar above his heart. I poked and prodded it with my thumb, almost absent-minded in my wondering about every inch of the body that I loved. I whispered my fingers across the loose patches of hair along his collar bones and ribs, feeling the rise and fall of his ragged breath and the weight of his silence on my lungs.
Unlike most of our times together, this time his eyes were tightly closed.
Something led me deeper, some intuition or flash of insight. I let my hands drape harder across his flesh, each knuckle kneading deeply against the muscles of his chest. I seized the lacy curls of hair between my nails, tweaked his nipples with my tongue and watched as, behind closed eyes, he moaned.
And then I felt it.
He knew immediately when I did, his long smooth face a curl of agony and regret. I whispered my fears along his bones, "There's still something in there isn't there?"
"Kabul. 2005. A sniper on a rooftop. Me in the wrong place at the wrong time."
He opened his eyes and held mine, the icy blue of his irises running cold. "There was just one sliver. Just one shard that made it through." He took my fingers in his own and ran them again across the hardened spot of tissue, and past the lump of steel inside it. "Rib, rib, metal, heart. They said if they took it out I'd never survive. And so I survive, day by day, still with it."
He took his hand to the character on my breast, near my heart. "What does it say?"
"It says future. Because the future is all I have."
And with that the past came tumbling out. Everything I had hidden from him. Everything I had tried to live without.
I still couldn't remember anything from before. My life began in an alley in the dark in pain, but Jasper had never known how much pain. I told him of the burning in my head and in my cunt and the smell of garbage in my wasted hair. Of doctors and bright lights and the lady in the mirror.
He touched the lingering shadows of bruises below my eyes and I kissed the metal beside his heart.
"Will you be my future, Alice?"
"Don't you know that you have always been mine?"
I remembered nothing. Not even my name.
Fortunately Jasper lent me his.
We built new lives from the scars of old ones.
We began each night as man and wife with the same routine. I worshipped his body the same way that he always worshipped mine.
I began with his brow, my fingers tracing lightly the wounds where metal had pierced his flesh. He was my own self in the mirror, through the looking glass, his fingers on my piercings where I had run my own body through. My fingers found his arm, the hard white-red pulsing of scar tissue spreading out in firework patterns all the way around. He followed the line of the snake that stood in for the stolen innocence I never got to know I had and kissed the apple near my sex.
I put my hand on his heart and felt his life where it came closest to the surface.
He touched my future. He touched my breast. He touched my heart. And for me he was all three.
He bent his lips to my throat and kissed the skin, stretched taught, from my jaw to where my shoulder met my neck. I pushed my breath into the mop of dirty blond hair and moved my fingers across the space between his shoulder blades, imagining they were inhabited by wings.
He pushed me down into our bed and kissed my mouth, his breath in my lungs, my tongue in his teeth and his hands in my hair. He entered me slowly, taking control where I ceded it because I could now. My life was my own because it was his, and my control was finally something that was mine to give.
I gasped at the pleasure of his body in mine, the old wounds finally closed, pressing my hips into his hands and running fingers up and down the length of his back.
I found my release with his body pressed against mine, whispering his name and 'future' in an alternating staccato of everything that mattered in my world.
There was one more scar in our future. It wasn't planned, but such things rarely are.
When our daughter was found to be breech, the doctors between my legs decided there was only one sure course of action. They brought a needle to my back and a knife to my swollen belly. This time their incision brought forth life, and Jasper was there to sew together the wound with kisses over the stitches.
And I remembered everything before and everything after.
Our daughter, a girl we named Hope, was born on a Tuesday morning. She healed me with her tiny fingers and toes. But she still left one hell of a scar.
I didn't ask Jasper to do it, but he insisted, saying that our ritual would never be the same if he didn't. I watched the needle gently buzzing on his side, the artist wiping away excess blood and ink as our daughter slept quietly on my breast, her tiny hand pressed tight to a Chinese character on my chest that now spoke to me not only of Jasper's name but of hers as well.
Jasper and I found that our lives were changed. Our days were filled with Hope. But our nights still belonged to each other.
And so when we worshipped each other's bodies in the deep of night, we now had one more destination. We swept our fingers over brows and arms and hearts as we had for so many years before. And then his hands would find the tight white line on my side where I had learned to hope because Hope had been cut out of me. And my hands were a mirrors of his, tracing the loose black script that had been written on Jasper's side, spelling out just three words.
A/N: I don't know why the Tattward challenge brings out so much angst in me. But it does.
For those of you who have been kind enough to follow my one-shots, I've got a chapter fic started now, too. Love Amongst the Ruins. Complete with librarian Bella and FuckEdUp-ward extraordinaire.
Thanks for reading. Extra love to all who review.