"For the Love of Jasper" One-Shot Contest

Title: My Scars are the Pieces of my Soul

Pen name: dreaming in black and white

Existing work: n/a

Primary Players: Jasper, Maria, Peter

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight. No copyright infringement intended.

To see other entries in the "For the Love of Jasper" contest, please visit the C2:

AN: This began as a canon pre-Twilight fic. Somehow, somewhere along the way, it morphed into an AU/AH much darker than I ever intended, and very different to anything I have ever written before. Jasper's mind is not a happy place to be...I would love to know what you think of it.

Half starved, half crazed. Half wild with fear and rage and hunger.

Not even fully human any more; not even completely alive, because when a man faces death every day – courts it with a knife in his hand and blood on his face – his soul is never quite the same. I once heard that the surest way to split your soul is to kill, so I suppose that must be it. Each of our souls is broken.

You can see it in the eyes of every man who steps back out of that dirt ring, can watch the battle inside him between the bloody, primal joy of victory and the horror of having to end another's life simply to survive. Worst of all is the knowledge that it will be repeated all over again the next day, if you're unlucky enough to be chosen.

In the beginning, they cry. Scream, rage, beg. Pray to whatever god they believe in, one which I'm willing to bet that they never paid much heed to before, but now whose favour seems to be the only grace keeping them alive.

I've seen every depth of despair that can possibly exist.

In the end, though, it's always the same. Always quiet; once the tears and the anger have done no good, after the prayers for salvation or death have gone unanswered, there's a dreadful hopelessness which falls like a silent blanket over each person. It's that acceptance which is perhaps most terrifying of all, because the broken wreckage of their soul has risen into their eyes and you know that they're as good as dead already.

I would have reached that state long ago. I should already be dead. But an angel chose to keep me alive, chose me for a task which I cannot fully understand but which is apparently enough that the shards of my soul are bundled down within me, safely wrapped in something which deadens the lethally sharp edges and keeps me living.

The angel's name is Maria, and she loves me. Love is a concept which I am incapable of understanding, because the way I once viewed it is utterly wrong. Maria taught me that.

"Why do you keep me here, if you love me?" I once asked her.

I remember how her eyes darkened, the fragments of her own soul rising into them. Her soul is different to mine, because instead of cutting cruelly the jagged pieces glitter darkly. Each one reflects an empty eternity, so beautiful that looking into her eyes for too long is impossible. I have to look away.

"Jasper, this is love," Maria replied.

I think back to my family, distant memories of their declarations of love for me and for each other, and I feel sick. How could they have lied like that? I thought I was happy, believed them when they told me they loved me. I thought I understood what it was, this love. But if this is love, then what was that?

"It was a lie," Maria breathed into my ear.

Maria loves me. I think I love her too.

Because she loves me, she trusts me to train the men who are brought in to fight, train them so that they will be the ones stepping back out of the ring with their shattered souls in their eyes. Train them so that they're not the ones left in a pitiful heap in the dust, no more than a battered body with its soul leaking away as quickly as the blood which soaks into the thirsty sand.

She loves me. Why does it feel like I have to tell myself that over and over again, like I have to convince myself that it's true?

"Get up!" I snarl, circling the sprawled figure on the floor while the relentless sun beats down on my back. I can feel the sweat snaking its way in a rivulet across my cheek, running a trail down the side of my nose and to the corner of my lips, where my tongue flickers out automatically to catch it. The salt is bitter to taste and sore on my dry lips, but there will be no water until we have finished. "Get up!" I order again, this time kicking out at the grounded man.

"Please..." he begs, but the white-edged eye of the sun shows no mercy, and neither do I.

"How will that help you?" I crouch down to bring my face on a level with his, almost recoil at the hopeless expression in his dead eyes. This man will not walk away from the ring in a fight; he will not want to.

I stand, turning away to face towards the edge of the training area to where Maria leans casually against the fence, the picture of composure. Her features show no change, not even the slightest movement, but her gaze is burning hotly as it is fixed on my face. "Maria, this one is dead already."

"No!" I whirl in time to see him charge towards me, knife raised high as the sun dances in cruelly bright flickers along the blade. His eyes are wild, unfocused, so it takes little effort for me to sidestep his blow and drive my own weapon home between his ribs. "Please," he whispers again, the word gurgling up from his throat unbidden, but it is far too late.

He is dead before he hits the ground, but truly he was dead long before he even woke up this morning in the cage where Maria locks all her men at night. Not me; she chooses to keep me close, in her bed. She loves me.

"Jasper." Her voice is steady, but I can hear the slight ripple of excitement underlying it. I step closer to Maria, and she seizes my head in both hands to draw my face down to hers, crashing her lips frantically against mine. "Did he hurt you?" Maria demands when she at last pulls back, eyes huge and dark with the unreadable eternity of her soul staring up at me. "Are you wounded?"

Wordlessly, I lift my arm for her inspection; a bloody gash splits the already scarred skin, one more mark to add to the myriad of raised white and pink lines showing how many times I have bled.

"My poor baby," Maria coos, and she lowers her head to run her tongue along the wound. I am used to this, so I no longer even flinch when she lifts her head back up with my blood staining her lips, outlining her teeth in red as she smiles as me. "My poor Jasper."

I cannot help but think that if it were not for her, I would not be here – would not have blood trickling steadily across my arm, already drying under the burn of the too-hot sun overhead. But then she strokes her hand gently down the bare expanse of my chest and whispers, "I love you," and I know that she means it.

I know she must, because she loops one finger into the top of my pants and pulls me forwards, kissing me with a hungry violence full of need and fire. I can taste my blood in her mouth, the sharp metallic tang of it almost making me want to gag, but I kiss her back rather than risk her fury and disappointment. At least it's my blood, I tell myself. For a while, Maria had another favourite, and that was far worse.

Maria is still kissing me, her fingernails scratching roughly over the muscles standing out across my stomach, and I can feel her need and want in the way her chest heaves against mine, in the sharpness of her teeth as she bites down on my lip until it bleeds. It is only when her hands creep even lower, tugging insistently at the button on my pants, that I risk pulling back.

All traces of the angel vanish from her eyes.

I gesture helplessly towards the silent witnesses trapped in the cage only a few metres away, their eyes fixed dully on us. "Maria, there are..."

"They don't matter." Her voice is suddenly harsh. "Will you never learn, Jasper? They don't matter."

I hate knowing that I have disappointed her, but there's just something fundamentally not right about them being there while we...

"Jasper." Maria must have seen the doubt in my eyes, because her rage really rises now and she pushes me back angrily. I allow myself to fall back a step, unwilling to stay so close to the nearly palpable waves of malevolent fury radiating from her which seem to make her form twice as big, her presence overwhelming in anger. "How will you ever be good enough if you don't obey me? I've tried so hard for you, done everything, but still you're not –"

"Maria, please." I drop to my knees in the dust, try begging. Her condemnations make me feel smaller than a child. I am unworthy to be the dirt under her boots, and yet she's tried to make me into something good enough for her. I hate knowing that I've failed, that I'm a disappointment to her. "Maria, I'm sorry. I love you."

"Do you, Jasper?" She stares me down with those dark, unreadable eyes which flash with passion. "Do you really? Sometimes I don't know if you do. I can't help but doubt you if you don't try."

"I'll try harder," I promise. "I'll do anything, Maria, please!"

But she only looks at me once before turning, leaving me kneeling in the dirt behind her. Maria's dark hair swirls angrily in the still air, seeming to move with an energy of its own as she stalks away.

The only one of Maria's fighters I ever allowed myself to get really close to was Peter. He was there for a long time – not as long as me, of course – and still somehow managed to retain enough sanity to avoid the hopeless yearning for death which befell them all eventually. Maybe it's because he's the only other man I know who has always, always been a fighter, but there's more than that.

Once, curious, I asked him about it. He didn't reply for a long moment.

"I don't know if I can tell you," he said at last.

"Why not?"

"Because you'll tell her." Peter never used Maria's name. He joked once – just once, because I beat the fuck out of him for it – that using the devil's name only summoned her, and he already knew he was in hell so why did he have to see the devil to confirm it?

"I won't," I argued, and there was a guilty thrill at the concept of keeping something from her, at the idea of having a secret for myself.

Peter studied me for a long time. "All right," he said at last. "It's Charlotte."

Charlotte was Maria's maid; a timid, quiet girl who scurried about nervously and never made eye contact with me. I couldn't see how she could possibly have anything to do with Peter's survival. "What about her?" I asked.

He cocked his head to one side, gave me a long, slow look. "I love her."

"No you don't," I replied instantly. "How can you? She doesn't –"

"Jasper, what you have with her isn't love. It's something twisted and dark, and totally fucked up, but it isn't love."

A chill shot through me at his words. "She loves me," I told him firmly.

"Do you think she'd have any qualms about killing you if she got it into that sick head of hers to do so? That isn't love. Would she keep you here like an animal if she loved you?"

"Maria says that love is about sacrifices," I replied.

"That's a load of bullshit, Jasper. What has she ever, ever given up for you?"

I didn't know what to say, but there was an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach which I tried to push down. "I love her."

"No, you don't."

I didn't understand, and I didn't like it. "But what else is there?" I demanded angrily.

Peter's eyes were full of pity and sorrow as he looked at me, and I hated it. Something told me that he'd given up on me, and I'd never even known what he wanted. "I don't know," he replied quietly. "But whatever it is, it has to be a fuckload better than this shit we've got here."

I don't think I was very surprised when we woke a week later to find Peter and Charlotte gone.

He's come back.

The memory of that conversation with Peter floods into me in a rush as I stare unbelievingly at him where he crouches in the shadows beside Maria's hut. If she finds him here, she'll kill him, but Maria has gone away for the day to visit one of her friends, Joham.

Joham has his own fighters; I've killed some, but Maria continues to talk of him as she would a friend. I don't understand why she needs us to fight his men, if they are friends, but when I ask she merely pats my cheeks and tells me not to worry about things I cannot understand. I know that when he comes here to visit her, he shares her bed; some part of me whispers that I should be angry, jealous, but I can't work up the emotion.

"Peter! What are you doing here?"

"Shut up, you moron." He straightens, and for the first time I realise what he's wearing. I've never seen him in more than pants before, but now he has boots, a shirt, and a jacket of some sort of material which looks so soft that I want to touch it. "If she knows I'm here, she'll kill me."

"Maria's not here today. Where have you been?" He looks like any one of Maria's friends, the ones that I'm not allowed to make eye contact with and who I have to call 'sir'. But this is Peter, so I'm not sure what to do.

"I ran away, Jasper. Where did you think I was?"

I shrug uncomfortably. "Why would you do that?"

He stares at me incredulously for what feels like an age. "Are you serious? I know you've always been here, Jasper, but there's a world out there and it's not all like this. Fuck if I know how they've managed to get away with this here for so long, but everywhere else this shit's illegal. It's slavery, abuse, murder...there aren't enough charges for what this is."

My mind is still stuck on one of the first things he just told me. There's a world out there...and it's not all like this. I can't comprehend what he means. "What are you saying?" I hate that my voice comes out in a hoarse whisper, but it's all that I can manage.

"Jasper, you don't have to live like this. There's a world out there where you don't have to fight, don't have to kill to survive. You can do what you want – there's no Maria ordering you around." He gives a short bark of a laugh which holds anything but humour. "And there are clothes like this. Everybody has them. Everybody has the right to live as they want. Not like this." His lip curls scornfully as he gestures around the dirt compound in which I have lived for as long as I remember.

My eyes follow the direction of his hands numbly. The dusty training arena, earth stained red from the blood spilt in it over long years; the iron-barred cage, in which even now five dull-eyed men huddle hopelessly. All of it surrounded by a high stone wall, the only exit one small door which leads into Maria's house.

I've been through there every evening, but many of the others only ever leave to go to the fights. Some of them only leave once. How can I imagine a world outside of this, somewhere that this doesn't exist?

"Where is Charlotte?" I ask absently, less out of a desire to know than the knowledge that I have to say something.

"She's safe. Home. She didn't want me to come," Peter admits after a moment.

I'm dumbfounded. "I thought...if you love her, and if she didn't want you to come, why did you?" The concept of disobeying the person you love is entirely alien to me, but a tiny part of my mind clicks into place and begins to tick.

He drags a hand back through his hair. "Fuck, Jasper. I came for you. I owe you."

"But...if she didn't want you to...and you love her..."

Peter's eyes flash with sudden fury, and it's all I can do not to flinch. "Jesus Christ, Jasper! It's not love if you're too terrified to disobey, if they have the power of life or death over you! You don't love her."

You don't love her. For the first time the words strike something inside me.

"Why are you here?" I demand again.

Our eyes meet. "I'm here to get you out of here, if you want."

The silence stands between us, and I swallow. Peter sees the answer in my eyes before I say anything.

"Come on," he tells me gently. "We've got a long way to go tonight before we're safe."

"What about them?" I jerk my head towards the cage, and Peter hesitates. I know what he's going to say, and it makes me feel sick that I know I'm not going to argue.

"They'll slow us down. There's no way we'd get them all out of here alive." Our eyes lock again. "They're dead already, Jasper."

I've seen every depth of despair that can possibly exist.

It's the acceptance of despair which is perhaps most terrifying of all, when the broken wreckage of your soul has risen into your eyes and you're as good as dead already.

I should have reached that state long ago. I should already be dead. But an angel chose to keep me alive, chose me for a reason which I will never fully understand but which is apparently enough that she will painstakingly piece the shards of my soul back together and kiss the jagged scars which remain.

The angel's name is Alice.

There are no words for how we feel for one another. Words are so easily misunderstood.

Any feedback and votes will be much appreciated, and thank you for reading.