Well, this is it, the last post, and then I push the complete button. I hope you like what you find here.
I wanted to show that love isn't ever easy, not even for star crossed vampires, so I chose Jasper to convey that message.
As always, this belongs to Stephenie Meyer.
Thanks to the seemingly unending editing done by Molly Alice and remylebeauishot, and the kind words of SweetKay, this fanfiction is finished. I will see you when I get the next one posted.
Hugs to you all.
The rain hit me with it's unending rhythm as I walked down the street. Most people had umbrellas, but I, of course, had none. I didn't even need the clothes, really, but it was difficult to hunt humans while naked. They tended to stare.
I could feel the painful burn growing as I wandered past my unsuspecting prey, but I could not bring myself to hunt. Not yet. The pain in my throat wasn't yet stronger than the pain I would feel when I fed.
To my left, a church's bells began to toll nine o'clock. I felt my face pull into a smirk as it always did when I heard them. Church bells. A fleeting memory of myself as a child pulling on the long rope to ring them in my grandfather's church flashed through my mind. They were the hollow sounding reminder of a lost life and eternal damnation.
Five years ago, I would have never even thought to walk down a busy street in the daytime. It still made me nervous, especially when I was hungry. I watched them as I walked, the hapless humans so unaware of the vampire in their midst. Today, perhaps, two or three would die because I walked through their city. This place was ripe for the picking, and I was still amazed that no coven claimed this large herd. If this had been the south, I would have been challenged two days ago.
A pair of working men thudded past me in heavy boots. I held my breath to keep myself from leaping on them. I had smelled them from down the road, and even at a distance, their sweaty scent shot waves of fire through me. I quickly turned down an alley and waited there until I could control myself again. I wasn't ready for the torture of feeding, but I soon wouldn't be able to resist. I hadn't felt it deeply for over four years, but it still took all my strength to block their dying fear and pain. Even with all my practice, their agony still registered. I loathed feeling their pain. I loathed hunting. I was just so tired of it all.
Standing in the enclosed brick of the alley, my mind wandered back through my years to other such alleys. Countless alleys on countless nights. I could still hear Maria's beautiful voice calling out orders of desolation and death. My scars stung with the memories.
Other memories followed. These were different, these were memories of Maria's skin on mine and endless nights of ecstasy, no less painful in their own way. The pleasure came at a high price. In the end, the price was far too high. There was no such thing as love among vampires, only lust. Love was a way to get another to do your bidding. Love was a way to deceive and destroy. Love was a tool that also ended in death.
I pulled my hat over my eyes again and quickly exited the alley, splashing water up onto my pants as I nearly ran from the place and the memories it dredged up. I could no longer feel most emotions, but the memories were still uncomfortable to the point of pain. And I was tired of pain. I was tired of running, I was tired of killing. I was tired of being nothing but death.
In fact, my own death was now the only thing that held the promise of finally ending the monotonous torture of my existence. I thought again of going to D.C., or perhaps New York. If I could anger a coven there, my demise would be quick. Yet some odd, unwelcome, feeling kept me from making that choice. I was close, so very close, to ending it all, but I was too much of a coward to complete the task. How many more would die before I destroyed my evil? I cringed and turned a corner as I tried to turn my mind from that path.
I walked past an older couple who shied away from me, and my mind wandered in the wrong direction. I remembered the last time I had felt strong emotion.
I was walking on a dark road above the city of Pittsburgh. The middle-aged couple in the oncoming car were so happy and so in love that I could feel them from a distance. I wasn't even truly hungry. It was their happiness that drew me to them, made me hate them, and caused me to kill them.
I drew in a breath at the memory of their pain, the double fear and loss, hit me again. I had murdered for jealousy. I had jumped in front of their car and taken their lives because they had love and joy and I had nothing left but endless death.
I had sobbed over their torn, dead bodies before I ran them in their car off the bluff. That was the last shred of feeling that I had felt in five years.
It was also when I decided to stay on the east coast and find a coven to kill me. There wasn't much left to kill, anyway.
Now, what little of me was left was protected by an impenetrable shell that usually shielded me from the constant hurt and memories. Others only saw my outer shell. Inside, I was a void, completely empty and protected from my own feelings. I had destroyed myself to survive. I'd torn, burned, and ripped out every scrap of emotion I had ever felt to stop the pain. If I had no feelings, I could not fully mirror those of my victims, and it was so much easier killing others when I only felt their pain. Nothing could completely protect me from the pain of my prey.
I turned the corner again, moving too quickly in my anger and my desperation to be free of my own thoughts.
As if on cue, the rain began to pour in heavy sheets. It ran down my already soaked skin in annoying rivulets. I noted the stares of the humans around me and decided to go into a building to wait out the storm. It was a dangerous choice because I was so hungry, but after eighty-four years I hoped some measure of self-control had settled in.
I began to look around and spotted a small diner on a corner. It was so nondescript, and yet so very unusual. It took me a second to realize why. The emotions coming from that small blotch of light were astonishing, and I let myself take them in. I absorbed the feelings like a man gasping for air. I had never felt anything like them, not in all my years. Happiness, joy, and anticipation radiated from the place.
I knew that I shouldn't go in; I was death and would destroy their joy, but the emotions felt so good against the emptiness of myself that I couldn't stay away. Like ice in the sunshine, I was beginning to melt in their radiance.
I braced myself before I opened the door. My throat and the monster within were both screaming for me to take the humans instantly. I was fully capable of it. However, I was determined that these humans should not die because of me. I held my breath and pushed the glass door open, not looking at anyone.
I kept my eyes down, feeling for the fear that always came with my presence. It would warn me of attack.
What I received was a surge of joy so intense that it hurt.
I looked up to see the source of it, and caught the eyes of two old, fat humans. I began to sweep the room, curious as to the source of such emotion. Just to my right, I found it.
She was the best dressed, strangest vampire I had ever seen. It took me a split second to ensure that she was indeed one of my kind. She smelled right, but had honey eyes that looked at me in wonder.
I reacted as I always do to my own kind. I crouched and prepared to kill her.
Then, three things occurred at once. First, I realized that her joy was aimed at me and was being spread through the humans in the room. How odd. Second, she was smiling at me in a way I had never before seen any of my kind smile. Most vampires feared me because of my scars, because of what I so obviously was. Yet, she smiled even wider as she looked at me. Third, I suddenly and desperately needed her to touch me.
She eased herself off of the stool as it disintegrated beneath her and seemed to skip over to me. I stood, no longer even capable of fighting this small, child-like fairy.
"You've kept me waiting a long time," she said with the voice of an angel. Her smile grew impossibly wide as her eyes - those strange ocher eyes - swept over my face.
My mind responded instinctively. "I'm sorry, Ma'am," I said with a tip of my head. My mother had brought me up to be a gentleman.
She reached over and took my hand, never flinching as her fingers rubbed across the rippling scars. Her hand brought a feeling of warmth that had nothing to do with its temperature. Her hand made mine feel alive. Energy tingled where she touched me, and for the moment, I was more than death.
Still looking at my face, she led me back out the door, which I opened for her. As if she had done it a thousand times, she handed me her umbrella and pulled close as we shared its protection.
I should have fought her. I should have tried to protect myself. I should have demanded to know what was happening. I should have, but I didn't care about any of those things now. I only cared about the amazing emotions she sent me and the beautiful smile that held my absolute attention.
"I'm Alice," she simply said.
"I'm Jasper Whitlock, and I'm pleased to make your acquaintance," I said, just as simply. It was all I could think of. I took a breath and was overwhelmed as the sweetest scent on earth filled my mind. I took several more quick breaths. I don't know why, but I needed that scent. I needed it more than blood.
"Where are we going?" I had just enough sense and curiosity to ask. As I spoke, I realized that my mouth was oddly twisted. Then I realized the twist was a smile. How long had it been since my face had felt itself smile?
She seemed perplexed by my question. "I don't know, exactly, but I think it would be better to take my car. It will help us stay drier."
"You have a car?" This whole day, the whole scenario was so bizarre that it seemed surreal. The fact that a vampire had a vehicle was just another odd thing to add to the mix.
"Yes, it is slower than running, but my clothes don't get ruined." She did have very nice clothing.
I saw the car and looked at her in astonishment. None of this was possible. This just couldn't be real. Could it?
"It's new," she said as she shrugged. "My old one had a lot of miles on it."
"Old one? How many have you had?" Why would a vampire need a car? Surely not just for clothes. No vampire cares that much about clothing.
"Oh, is that all?" I asked, my natural sarcasm returning as I tried to make sense of this beautiful child and all her strangeness.
"Vampires go through cars quickly because we like to drive so fast," she explained.
We were now at the driver's door, so I opened it and let her in. It hurt, in a way, for her hand to leave mine. I died a little without her hand. I quickly walked to the other door and slid into her car.
My mind was spinning as fast and as a whirlwind. Not since I had been changed had I ever felt this. I don't think I had even felt it before the change, but I couldn't be sure. For eighty-four years, I had lived in hell and acted as the devil himself. I had lost everything I had and everything I was to the evil darkness of damnation. In fact, I had become damnation for anyone unlucky enough to cross my path.
Now, I sat in an automobile beside the most beautiful and wondrous thing I had ever met. The emotions that emanated from her were almost unfathomable to me. I could sense fear and trepidation, the normal reaction to my ugly and scarred face, but I couldn't even put words to the rest of the feeling that rolled over me.
I had once known them. Vague memories responded to the waves of delight I received, but that was all. I could make out my mother's face as she watched me ride my horse for the first time, I remembered sitting beside my grandfather as we fished in a stream with his arm around me, and I could see my father's tears as I marched off to war. How strange that this small girl, or woman perhaps, could bring back such long lost memories.
I shut my door and turned back to Alice. My body reacted to thinking her name for some reason. Her name made my chest contract, and made my hands feel suddenly empty. So strange.
I looked at her and lost myself in her eyes. My mind whirled again as I looked into those honey eyes set in a cherub's face. She looked at me and dropped her hand to the seat, palm up and open for me. My hand found hers without need of command.
Her hand fit mine like it had been made for it. My mouth tugged upwards in a smile. How long had it been since I had smiled without thinking? My fingers, oddly eager to feel her, wrapped themselves around hers.
"Alice?" I began, but I couldn't continue because her lovely scent was so concentrated in this car that my mind froze in its sweetness. Her scent was like a thousand flowers mixed with sweet fruit. I refocused my thoughts long enough to be coherent.
"Yes?" She seemed out of breath, which isn't possible.
"Where are you going?" I wondered. I didn't really care. It didn't really matter.
"Um...maybe to my apartment in New York City or the cabin in New Hampshire?"
Was she kidding? "Two homes?"
"Yes. One was a gift." She seemed embarrassed with her answer.
"You were given a house?" My voice almost broke in surprise. Who on earth would give a vampire a house? Why would she need one? Though, as I asked the question, I knew I would give her anything.
"It's a long story," she said as she drove away from the diner. She was still breathing heavily, and then I realized that I was, too.
She seemed unable to answer, so I said her name again. A pleasant warmth filled my chest as I spoke it.
"Yes, Jasper?" She smiled sweetly as my name fell from her lips, and the feeling in my chest grew.
"I would be very much in your debt if you told me why your eyes are that color, and what is going on," I pressed. I felt my mouth curled up a little more despite myself.
"Well, it's another very long story, but the short version is that I eat animals so that I don't have to kill anyone. It makes my eyes this honey color and lets me be near humans with no trouble," she said quickly with a sideways glance in my direction.
I noticed in my peripheral vision that we were going fairly fast, and that we were on the wrong side of the road. She was looking at me intently.
"Aren't you supposed to look at the road in this thing?" I asked as kindly as I could. It did seem logical.
"I've driven for a long time, so I don't need to look as often, but yes, it is helpful," she said with a slight frustration to her voice. She turned to face the road, and I immediately regretted my words. I wanted to see her eyes again.
After a few seconds, the odd eyes were fixed on me. She seemed to be taking in my looks, and I wondered if she would learn to hate my scarred face like Maria had. I realized I should comment on her answers.
"Interesting diet." It was. Animals. She had chosen animals. She still looked healthy and strong, but I couldn't believe that one of us could live on anything other than human blood for long. I had never heard of such a thing. A vampire who turned her back on the greatest joy of this life just to save humans was beyond my reckoning. Could it be true? Could there really be a good vampire? I felt my smile widening
"By the way, have you decided where we are going?"
"To my apartment in New York City," she said, "but we can go anywhere else you would like."
New York was supposed to be vampire heaven. I would love to go there, but it was protected by a coven as deadly as the Volturi. There was a warrior vampire there so strongly gifted that it was said he could even see the future. Going to New York was death to anyone who tried it. It was where I planned to go to end my worthless existence. Right now, for the first time in decades, I didn't want it to end.
She began to feel afraid for some reason, and I worried that she was finally seeing my scars. I automatically calmed her.
"New York City is governed by a large and vicious coven," I pointed out.
"They are all teddy bears. Especially the big one," she said nonchalantly.
I felt my laugh before I knew what it was. It came out as a deep cough. I had once had a booming laugh.
She just referred to a murderous coven of living demons as stuffed animals. "I have never, in my eighty years, heard anyone ever call a coven a bunch of teddy bears."
"I've lived with them since 1926, and they are very nice to me," she said.
"You don't look like much of a threat. They might feel differently about me," I stated. I looked like a threat. Every vampire I saw feared me and my scars. How many battles had I fought because another vampire assumed I was there to fight? I was the ugly one in a world of treacherous beauty. She seemed undeterred, though, and I felt none of the telltale signs of a lie.
She squeezed my hand, so I squeezed back and waited for her.
"I think you'll like New York, and I have some business there to finish up. I was planning to move, so everything is almost done. It will just take a day or so, but if you are uncomfortable, we can go anywhere. Anywhere at all." She said, and I realized she wanted to make me happy. I had no idea why.
"New York sounds fine, if it is safe. Besides, I have been told that the herd there is mighty impressive." My throat was reminding me of how long it had been since my last meal.
"New York it is, then," she said with a smile. My face instantly responded, and then for some unfathomable reason, she nearly swerved off the road.
"How long did you say you've been driving?" I asked. Sarcasm again. I would need to watch that.
"I'm just a little excited." She felt embarrassed.
"How far is New York City?" I wondered. I needed to think. I needed time to process all that was happening. I needed to be near her. This was all so very strange.
"If I don't crash this thing, about three hours." She was angry again, and a little fearful, so I calmed her. As I did, my hand squeezed hers without a command from me.
What is wrong with me?
The emotions rolling off of her were changing a little, and I could not place them. I had no idea of what she was feeling. They were too complex and too intense. I could sense fear, anger, and anxiousness. I knew embarrassment. I could tell joy and anticipation and happiness, but these emotions, desires perhaps, were beyond me.
I think I should have known them. I think I once felt them. I think I destroyed them.
"Well, then, we have time for you to tell me the long version of this whole unbelievable day, don't we?" I heard myself say it while part of my mind desperately searched my hollow core. I could feel her happiness, but I couldn't really feel it. I couldn't match it. I had burned happiness out of myself so that I could survive.
While part of me searched for something left of the man I once was, part of me waited to hear her explanations for what was going on. I felt my smile increase even as the remainder of me began to panic. I had separated myself into two parts and had destroyed the inner man to stop the pain of life. The outer shell was smiling. The inner being was desperately searching the hollow, blackened ruins for anything that resembled the man I had once been.
"I'm not quite sure of where to start, but I'll try to tell you everything. It's a long story, and a very complex one," she said, bringing me out of my inner turmoil
"Like I said, we have a long time," I said as my thumb traced the back of her hand.
She took a long breath, and said, "Give me a minute."
I took a long breath, reveling in her scent, and tried again to find any remnant of the man I had so ruthlessly killed. Nothing.
Nothing good remained.
I had once been a good man with a good life. I couldn't let that man live, so I slowly and painfully rid myself of him. I couldn't kill repeatedly while the good man cried in horror. I couldn't burn, and rip and destroy while I could respond to the emotions of others. I couldn't feel like a man and kill like a vampire. The emotions of my victims were too much.
I let the monster I'd become kill off the man I'd been.
I ripped him apart when I ate my first humans, a few young privates who trusted me because they were under my own command.
I strangled his cries of protest when I went to war for Maria. I killed him every time I killed my own.
I burned the pieces of him when I tried to find love for Maria, and found only disdain.
I scraped out what little was left of him to stop the pain of the killing that fed me.
I had become hollow.
Now, here beside me sat my redemption. Here beside me was a goodness that I didn't know could exist. Here was joy and happiness. Here was… love? True love? Was that it?
I didn't know. I couldn't know. I could feel her, but I couldn't respond. I had destroyed what love and happiness and joy were left.
Here was heaven, and I had trapped myself in a black and empty hell.
Yet deep within me, out of the black nothingness, something very small sprang to life. It was tiny, almost insignificant, but it was growing stronger.
It was more important than joy and more substantial than happiness.
For the first time in my long existence, I had hope.