"For the Love of Jasper" One-Shot Contest

Title: You Know What You Are

Pen name: shalu

Existing work: N/A

Primary Players: Jasper, Alice

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns all that is Twilight. I own a pathetic smattering of socks with holes in the heels.

To see other entries in the "For the Love of Jasper" contest, please visit the C2:
www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/community/For_the_Love_of_Jasper_Contest/72564/


There's always something in life that you wish you didn't see, or hear, or know. Perhaps it is terrifying. Maybe it's dangerous. For all you know, it's evil. Conceivably? It's all three.

Some see what they choose to see. Thanks to your societal upbringing, you're programmed not to. Some people get wise, but others remain blissfully unaware.

There are those that try to bring such things to light, but the Blissfully Unaware are only happy to dismiss any such claims. Others are aware and equally happy to keep the stories clandestine.

I am what they are blissfully unaware of. Underground. Darkness. Myth...well, not entirely.

I was born in 1843 in rural Texas. I died in 1863.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The mirror glared back at me, eyes on fire. Vermilion irises blazed vibrantly around pupils narrowed. I was no longer ravenous as I had been this morning, but I was hollow. She offered herself to me, but I could not stop. Her taste was that of the finest wine, as some would say. And I was an alcoholic of the worst kind.

The air around me had gone murky with her fear and struggle, but I kept on. The thirst and desire to fulfill my needs were stronger than I was. It always has been. I drank that in, too, allowing it to fill me, to sustain me. I often enjoyed the power it gave. The power over me, however, has always left me in a somewhat disconsolate state.

I had lived with a family for a number of years, who fed only on animals. I had liked the idea, the philosophy of not harming humans in our own path to survive, especially given my own record of massacre through the late nineteenth century and early twentieth. I was a tired shell and needed a better level of existence. This "vegetarian" lifestyle, as they jokingly referred to it, required a level of control I did not have, although I tried. For my new family, something I had not had since I died. I struggled and slipped. And after five or six years, my mistakes and missteps were too much. My would-be father figure asked me to leave, for fear of endangering their human façade.

Rejection like that stirred a fury within me so intense, I was barely of sound mind for a violent torrent of years. I couldn't tell you how many human lives had been devoured in my wake. When I slowed, I plunged to the depths where I now resided. I took solace in them. The cover of night allowed the myth to become truth. I never slept, filling my nights instead of my days. Humans seemed to like that. The myths were true. Vampires were nocturnal creatures of sin and malevolence.

And so they offered themselves to us—those who overcame their blissful incognizance—as pets, "donors," playthings. Never equals. Honestly, it disgusted me, but at the same time, I felt superior and I used their submission. Their own self-worth was leagues below my own, and with what value I felt of myself long gone, that was saying something.

I may have dueled with my reflection for hours, maybe days. That was the beauty of my kind; time had little significance or worth. Forever was my only timeline. Or perhaps nevermore would be more accurate.

I walked away, my eyelids closed, feeling my way out to the parlor where everyone lounged about. There was more to this existence, but that meant being situated among the living, and that was a bit more than I cared for. I clung to the twilight, holding myself behind the veils and shrouds of a certain level of secrecy. I wouldn't exactly say I hid, but more that I preferred a lack of advertising. Fear of widespread discovery was not a factor; human weaknesses would scarcely present a challenge to our kind. I had simply ceased to care.

As I moved among the others, I waded through their appetites, sexual and otherwise. Doing my best to block them out, I found a vantage point to watch. I sat statuesque, trying to cocoon myself from self-loathing spurred from my disciplinary collapse. To surrender to it would yield bloody results. It had before.

Caius lightly tapped the counter across the room, and my eyes found his directly. They directed me to a tiny wisp of a girl standing next to him. She was alone, human, and practically vibrating with anticipation. Bizarrely, I felt a strange tugging in my gut. Even more curious was the familiarity of that pull. Confusion engulfed me briefly, spilling over the few people around me. I reined in my emotions, refocusing on Caius' silent question. Will I entertain this proposal? I met his gaze once again and nodded minutely.

The compact woman bounded toward me like a pinball released into the maze, although she managed not to bump into a single chair or table corner. Her stance was defiant once she stood before me, this tiny, pink mortal. She was silent with eyes on me, her thundering pulse steadily climbing. Determination and courage were evident, rolling off of her in waves, laced with a shock of lust. Still, easily detected was an undercurrent of fear. Of what, I wasn't exactly sure. I lifted my gaze, but not my chin. I was certainly amused, and the faintest of smiles hovered on my lips.

"Are you offering yourself to me?" The trepidation I'd sensed flared slightly at my question, but it wasn't visually obvious. One of the benefits of a gift I possessed. Being an empath was a condemnation, but also a blessing.

She filled her lungs and emptied them before responding with a resolute but quiet "Yes."

"How?"

Her skin flushed, and a sweet scent of rust and salt brushed the air. "I offer my blood and my body."

I smirked wider. She was beautiful. Even in the badly lit lounge of the Cellar, my sharpened eyesight absorbed her chocolate eyes, porcelain pink skin and delicate curves. Her lips were full and tinted with a deep rose blush, her heart-shaped face framed by a short black bob. My desire stirred, but I quickly smothered it.

"And your soul on a silver platter?" I teased, waiting for her reaction to float through me.

Embarrassment.

"You're brave, little one, but you're not ready for this. I sincerely hope you never are."

I had to be honest with myself, though. I wanted her. Her scent was tantalizing, but if I was completely truthful, I was scared. Scared? Ugh. The word brought centuries-old vomit to the top of my throat. Or perhaps it was simply my own venom gone sour. I had not felt fear in more than a lifetime. Not my own, anyway. But right now, I was afraid that I would lose myself again, along with my tenuous self-control.

"It pains me to ask this, Jasper," Carlisle began, his sadness and agitation preceding his request. "I know how much you wanted to convert to our way of life, but your restraint has only weakened, and every human life you take when you lose the battle with your thirst puts us that much closer to detection and the safety of my family—"

His family. That description didn't include me anymore.

"—at risk. I'm afraid I must ask you to leave us."

My red irises went black almost immediately. Fury seemed to fuel hunger. "I understand, Mr. Cullen," I said quietly, noticing him flinch at the formality. "I'm sorry I wasted so much of your family's time."

"Sir?" Her angelic, childlike voice pierced my recollection.

"You know my name." It was not a question. I could feel she knew more about me than she let on.

"Yes."

"What is it?"

"Jasper."

"Jasper what?"

"Jasper Hale." It came out a bit breathy, a cloud of lust hitting me.

"What's your name?"

"Mary Alice Brandon. People call me Alice," she nearly whispered, her head tilting somewhat playfully to one side. She could whisper all she liked; I could hear her even if she thought she was silent. I grinned, unnecessarily licking my lower lip with slow intent. She gasped.

"How long have you been watching me, Alice?"

"Three months, two weeks, and four days. And forty-five minutes." Her eyes dropped to the floor at the final admission.

I stood, towering over her five-foot frame. "I think you haven't seen enough," I purred into her ear before walking away. Confusion lapped at my heels as I strode toward the door at a human speed, but I didn't sense anger, or even sadness.

Maybe a little of my own. I was definitely attracted to the girl, but being a monster sometimes begs a breather. She was pushing herself, but there was hesitation.

Two weeks later, I was in the same tall chair. She approached me again, in a similar fashion.

"I offer myself to you, Jasper. My blood, my body, and yes, my soul if you want it."

The same hint of fear tinged her emotions. It nagged at me, and I stood again. "I cannot accept what is not ready to be given, Miss Alice," I said, twirling my hand in a circle between us, indicating she should perform an about-face and leave.

Her cheeks colored. "I'm not a little girl," she barely restrained from huffing, frustration emanating from her every pore.

I dropped my hand and waited.

"I want this. I want you." Her petite fingers began trembling over the buttons on her shirt. One onyx clasp went free. Another. The third. A miniature pink bow tied at the apex of her black lace bra came into view. My eyes glued to it, I closed them. I did not need to filter the atmosphere for what she was feeling. Her shaking hands said it all.

I placed my cold hands above hers to still them. Her skin was hot under mine, which began to warm like a stone in the coals. A gale of lust slammed into me, nearly rocking me back into my seat. I held fast and pushed back with a breeze of tranquility. "You're not prepared for this, Alice. I won't do it."

Her body stilled, and her heat fell from my hands. Her heart had slowed, but her expression of hope had also vanished. She turned quickly and left. I felt a trail of embarrassment swirl by my nose.

In a week, she was back. I felt her as she entered the building. Her own particular brand of resolve. Obstinate spirit permeated the walls between us. I moved into the lounge and occupied an antique Victorian loveseat farthest from the door, resting my head against the swirling, dark wood. My ears prickled with the silvery timbre of her voice. "Would you direct me to Jasper Hale, please?"

Moments later, my gaze drifted from toe to tip, the obstinate Mary Alice Brandon. Her deep brown eyes burned with tenacity. Iris to iris we were locked for the better part of a half hour. Her muscles twitched as she stood in place, battling my will, eggshells to a brick wall. My entire form was static. I waited. Humans tire.

"I. Am. Not. Leaving." The words scratched their out of her throat. A smirk splintered my lips.

"Little one, you have no idea what you're asking for." Before her eyes could register, I was standing behind her, a cool breath passing my lips and teasing the nape of her neck. A gasp betrayed her surprise, but the alarm I expected was not present. In fact, sifting the air I found no trace of fear, but I wasn't about to give. "You. Will. Leave."

She remained stock still, stubbornly ignoring my command. I turned to leave, and a small hand gripped my wrist. Ignoring the fact I could have easily shaken it loose, I was intrigued. She knew she was no match for my strength. Halted, I faced away, but growled over my shoulder. "How is it you believe so strongly?"

Her fingers twitched, and her feet tiptoed around to bring her in front of me. "I know what's going to happen, Jasper. I just don't understand—"

"Stop. I ask the questions." My thumb buttoned her lips. Warm. Pulsing. Flushed with crimson sustenance. Fuck. I felt my eyes drain from red to black. I was hungry. "And the only one I have is, why aren't you gone?"

"You want me. You can have me." She bored her eyes into mine. My throat went dry with brushfires of thirst. Her blood taunted me, coursing in her veins, lighting her skin in crowns at her cheeks.

A rush slammed through me and before even I knew it, I had her pinned against the wall with one hand holding her slim hips. Her choking breaths chopped the air while she struggled to regain her bearings, and I mine. I had pressed my body to hers, the warmth of her soothing me like stepping out of blasting A/C into a balmy summer day.

Nose to nose, my eyes dared her to test me. "You want to be prey?" I asked. "You want to hand me your innocence?"

Defiance. Desire. Denial. "You're afraid."

I stepped back and let her drop to the floor. Quickly, she scrambled to her feet, keeping steady by leaning back into the stone wall. She scanned the room, but no one had bothered to watch. It wasn't exactly something new.

"I'm not innocent." Her frustration was heating the space around us. "I just know what I want."

In a flash, I was back sitting on my sofa, gulping down my own venom. The challenge continued, her petite frame stomping back to me. Amusement curled my expression until her lips provoked me.

Straddling me, kissing me. I remained still, like a monument. Soft, fleshy lips pushed against mine, cold, unmoving. A hot slip of tongue licked. Heated fingers gripped at my hair. I withdrew further inside.

If I opened my mouth, I would taste her.

If I inhaled her scent, I would undoubtedly be overcome with want for her.

I would take her.

I would lose myself again.

"Take. Me." Hands clinging to my neck, I opened my eyes. She was desperate, that was certain. She reeked of it. Her face reddened as tears pooled in her eyes.

I felt rage boil and bubble in my chest. I opened my mouth to respond, and her vitality danced on my tastebuds. I had to swallow again before I spoke. Or rather, snarled.

"Take. You?" Her eyes went wide at the menace in my tone. The lights felt like they dimmed, perhaps to better allow my fiery temper to radiate through the dark.

It was quiet. Almost a whisper, but my threat would be heard, even if she'd gone deaf. "You want me to feed from you, yes?"

A crisp nod. I gripped her arms, sure to leave bruises.

"You've never offered yourself before, have you?"

Terse shake, side to side. No.

"So how do you think I would do that? Answer," I demanded.

Surprise. "Um—" Gulp. "—I guess, your fangs would—"

I barked a harsh laugh. "Do you see fangs?" I bared my teeth. She looked down, smarting with chagrin. "Do you know how it would feel?"

"I know it hurts." Indignation, stinging pride.

I shifted beneath her. Her hands ghosted over my shoulders and down my arms, snaking between my elbows and my ribs on either side. She thought I was playing. I smirked. "Some use a small knife for their pets. They choose a vein, and the blade slips through your soft skin so easily, you might barely feel it. Then, while blood flows freely, they drink."

She eyed me, curious. A knowing grin spread across my face. I nipped at her ear. She jumped, but gasped in a manner of delight. Her sex grew warmer, and wet. I could smell it. Even trying not to inhale, I knew. I tasted.

I stomped on my own lustful reaction and continued the hostile whisper in her ear. "I prefer to bite. Our teeth are sharp enough without fangs. The bite is hard, sometimes tearing. I never keep pets because I'm never sure they will live after I feed."

"You won't hurt me, Jasper," she interrupted, her sigh somehow erotic. Her voice was meek, but she was so sure. That certainty crashed through me and reverberated. "I've seen it. You are gentle with me. You take from my neck, and it pinches, but it's quick. Then, I taste my own blood on your lips and—"

My entire being revolted. It had to be a lie. What the fuck is she prattling about? Does she think she's psychic or something? I didn't think. I saw the oncoming regret as I threw her off of me, her body crashing through a row of high-backed chairs. Muffled cries of pain stabbed into my hollow chest. Doubt coiled tight and sprang loose, whipping around the room. I stared at her crumpled, whimpering shape in horror. If I had life in my body, my heart would be clawing its way through my ribs to beat itself against the cement floor. Adrenaline would be surging and dissolving my veins like acid. Something about her words terrified me.

Frozen in my own internal struggle, I surveyed the scene as Marcus and Demetri lifted Alice out of the pile effortlessly and with a noticeable level of annoyance. She winced as she was set to her feet, but she had the presence of mind to glare at me.

Fury. My doubt and suspicion didn't touch her. It bounced off her like sparks fly from an inferno.

She limped over to me. Her ankle already showed signs of swelling, and her lip was bleeding. My tongue tried to slither out and lick the trickle from her mouth. Flames of thirst licked their way up my throat. My eyes pinched as the black iris grew. In the back of my mind, I knew every vampire in the Cellar was attuned to the smell of an open wound, however small. "You should go," I rasped.

She stepped even closer to me, so much so, that she had to crane her neck to look up into my eyes. "Walk me out?"

Is she fucking kidding?

I swore my teeth might have melded together with the force I clamped my jaws shut. My grip on her arm was fierce as I dragged her, injuries and all, toward the door, and up and out to the alleyway off the street. "Don't come back," I hissed, leaning down so that she received the full effect of my blackened eyes.

What happened then, I may never understand. Her eyes softened. The anger had dissipated, and there was pity there. Pity! What. The. Fuck? Suddenly her lips were on mine again. By catching me off guard, my mouth was slightly open.

Sweet salty life on my lips, my tongue. It slid down my throat and doused a trail through the roaring thirst.

Tentatively, I sucked her bottom lip into my mouth. The wound she'd created biting into her own flesh when I'd thrown her was just inside that lip. It was still open, and this discovery overrode me. I lifted her up and pinned her to the brick behind her, holding her with my body as I almost savagely brought my mouth to hers. I licked and sucked at her lips like a starving man. Her bleeding was slowing, and I felt my desperation rise.

She twisted her head from me with sufficient force to say, "Jasper, drink...you're thirsty."

I could not understand how she remained sure and so easily wanted to give me what I needed, despite my teasing, my cruelty. What was more, she was not afraid. She was...fucking serene.

Remembering what she said, I wondered if it was possible. My gaze fell to her neck and her quick pulse. Could I be gentle? I never had been. In fact, I took great pleasures in tearing the throat apart many a time. But this skin, this neck...

Something beyond my consciousness took over, and I found my lips against her throat. My tongue tracing a path along her pulse, the now familiar sanguine bouquet seeping through her pale pink skin. My teeth grazed ever so lightly before nipping through layers of flesh and releasing a steady stream. I felt her muscles jerk and relax before her legs wrapped tightly around my waist, one hand on my chest. Her other hand rubbed light circles on the back of my neck encouragingly.

My mouth closed over the jagged incision, and I drank with languid pleasure. The taste was heaven, quite honestly, and had I been capable, I'd soon have been drunk on it. Instead, after a few minutes at her neck, I was...content. I swiped my tongue over the small gash, my venom helping to quickly seal it.

Lifting my gaze to her eyes, I mindlessly moved closer and kissed her. It was me, not her, pushing my lips against hers. Shoving my tongue past her teeth, she took me in, humming her approval. Her body sent out messages of affirmation: lust, confidence, and relief. I absorbed them all.

Again, I was struck by the comfort her warmth provided. Her tongue, her lips, her skin, ablaze against my icy composition. I didn't do comfort. I wasn't aware I ever needed it, let alone wanted it.

But now, here, this seemingly insignificant human girl who'd done what many others had by offering herself to me, changed that. As my hands feverishly sought her skin, weaving underneath her clothes, I felt myself come undone. Lose control.

And I was not afraid.

Hot hands twisted in my hair as she pressed her back against the brick, forcing her hips out and forward into mine. Her legs tightened around me, and I felt the air grow thick and hazy around us. I tried to be careful as I shoved her back against the wall with my hands, but before she could protest, I had reached her silky little panties and torn them off. She gasped gleefully and pulled at me to bring me close again. I relented, reuniting our lips in a wildly unrestrained kiss.

Her smothered moans got louder and tickled my lips with their vibrations as she sought out the clasp of my jeans. Her hands shook slightly, but quickly unfastened it, wrapping her fingers around me. A groan of pleasure tore from my chest as she crushed herself against me, writhing and seeking friction, coating my erection in her arousal. Alice exuded the sweetest sense of pride at eliciting such a response from me. It was kind of fucking adorable.

I'd been with many women over the course of 150 years. Humans and vampires. Marked differences between the two, aside from the obvious breakability of the human body. I still found myself reeling at the heightened sense of desire and attraction I was experiencing with Alice.

Alice. How the fuck is she doing this to me?

I growled, and she bucked against me, crying out with want. My body responded in kind, but hell if I wanted to give in. I stopped myself from continuing, stilling as my mind warred. My struggle to command my own limbs and reign over my emotions was climbing to the surface, desperate to regain control. But then this tiny girl unraveled it all.

"Jasper, please...I need you." Her breathy plea inexplicably broke all my barriers. The colossal stone walls surrounding the tomb of my humanity came crumbling down. Barricades I'd left in place for more than a century turned to ash.

No longer standing in my own way, I closed all distance between our bodies and thrust inside her forcefully. She gripped underneath my shoulders, pinching her eyes shut as she called out my name, her voice breaking. Crashing into her over and over, I fell. I fell through her and over her and for her.

"Alice..." Her name fell from my lips quietly, and repeatedly.

Her moans and whimpers echoed in my ears. She matched my rhythm, though I could hear the fabric of her shirt snag from the force I drove against her. Vaguely, I felt her fingers tearing at my hair before her orgasm ripped through her.

"Oh, God!" The exclamation preceded a sequence of expletives I barely caught thanks to my own release just after hers. She panted and gasped for breath as I settled my forehead against hers. The speed of thoughts cycling through my head matched the pace of her frenetic heartbeat.

It was only then I remembered we were in an alley just outside the Cellar. "I'm...sorry," I mumbled hoarsely. The word was foreign to me, sticking to the roof of my mouth.

"What?" She sounded almost delirious, her eyes half shut.

"Anyone could've seen us."

"I don't care," she exhaled a moan, and I laughed. Not just chuckled or anything small and insignificant. I fucking guffawed. Her eyes went wide, staring at me and raising her eyebrows. Crazy?

I had not laughed in...hell, I couldn't even remember. I had to have laughed at some point. I pathetically shuffled through any memory I could locate...and my face must've reflected the bleak search, because I felt a blissfully soft, warm hand on my face. Focus returned to my sight.

I pulled away from Alice and set her to her feet, adjusting her skirt and noticing the shredded silk on the ground. As I buttoned my jeans, her knees buckled. I swooped my arms to catch her, easily lifting her back off her feet. "Let's get you cleaned up and give you something to eat," I offered, walking us around the corner to an even more hidden entrance than the Cellar's main door.

"Where...?" she began to inquire.

"Some of us have residences here," I explained. "Farther underground, actually."

"But...you don't need to hide from sunlight?" Her confusion was adorable. ADORABLE? What the fuck is happening to me?!

"No." I couldn't hide my amusement. "It's...just easier, sometimes."

"OK." She shrugged.

Moments later, I deposited her in the bathroom in my flat. It was pristine, having never been used. I had no need of it, and as I'd never kept a pet, it was abandoned, for all intents and purposes. I went over and fell back on the bed, my eyes following patterns on the ceiling.

What the fuck am I doing?

The bed dipped slightly as she climbed up and lay herself down next to me. "Tell me about your life," she said softly.

"Not much to tell," I replied.

"Your human life." Her voice quieted. "I meant your human life."

My eyebrows knit together as I continued examining the minute cracks in the ceiling paint. "I...haven't been able to remember my human life. I was born in Texas, and I was turned just before the Siege of Knoxville...oh, that was 1863, during the Civil War. That's all I recall."

"So you were a Confederate soldier?"

I turned and saw her eyes drinking me in. I nodded. "A major."

"Wow...so you're, like, hundreds of years old?"

"Not quite," I sighed, but smiling at her. "I'm eternally twenty, I prefer to say."

"Wow, so I'm older than you!" She giggled, then whispered, "I'm twenty-one!"

I raked my eyes over her face and around its curves. Who was this woman who took me apart? "Who are you, Alice?"

Her smile evaporated, and an undercurrent of dread rippled through us like a riptide. "What are you hiding?" Accusation filled my voice, and I lifted myself off the bed, standing at her feet. She sat up.

"Nothing!" She shouted and flinched from her own volume. "I...I tried to tell you, I saw it. I saw...you and me."

"How?" I didn't realize I was backing away until I was flush with the wall behind me.

"Jasper, please..." Not again. Don't beg me...I need to know.

I held my hand out before she could scoot herself off the bed. "Answer me." I heard my tone harden again. The walls were rebuilding. I felt each individual brick and slag of cement close off the window to my clemency, my sympathy to mortality. A barrage of distress signals hit me as her legs folded over the edge of the bed.

She sighed and dropped her head. "I grew up in a small town in Washington State. It's called Forks — I'm sure you've never heard of it. Anyway, last Christmas, I was home from school at UW in Seattle, and a new family had moved to town. Everyone was gossiping about them. How rich they were, how strange that this young couple adopted teenage children, how gorgeous they all were..."

Sharp pricks danced up my spine.

"Christmas day, I sliced my finger open cutting up vegetables and I had to go to the emergency room, where I met Carlisle Cullen. I think you know him?"

If I could have fainted, I think I would have.

"Well, he stitched up my finger and while he was holding my hand, I saw you."

"You saw me?" I rasped, my throat dry. It felt like it was crumbling into my lungs.

"In a vision. I saw when you fed from me this first time." She stood and walked over to me. I sped to the overstuffed chair in the next room, suddenly terrified for her to touch me. She kept heading for me. "It freaked me out, and Carlisle asked me what I saw. I was too embarrassed to say, because I didn't think it could be real.

"So he dropped it and continued bandaging my hand. When he walked me out, I shook his hand and wished him a Merry Christmas. When he offered me the same, I had another vision. This time, it was Carlisle and his family. And you and me. Esme hugged me and I realized I was like them."

"NO." The word came forcefully. She ignored me and continued.

"He noticed I spaced out a bit and asked if I was okay, wondering if I'd lost a lot of blood from the cut." She was directly in front of me now, and I stood, gripping her arms and lifting her from the floor. Wincing, she would not be deterred. "I asked him if he was a vampire."

I dropped her and scrambled away, finding another wall. My eyes were wide and horrorstruck. A percussive slew of no's drummed from my lips, almost as mature as putting your fingers in your ears and shouting "LALALALALALALA!"

"Jasper, he's worried about you!" she shouted, her body and gaze following me relentlessly around the room as I shivered and faltered about. "He was reticent to admit, but when I told him what I saw and who it was, he felt like I...I might help."

Holy fuck, I'm a charity case...I should just kill her now. Maybe if I kill her, I can just forget all about this. Or Aro. Aro promised me he'd take any tasty human off my hands if I—

"JASPER WHITLOCK HALE!"

I froze, my eyes wide and harsh. They narrowed as fury funneled upward from the very core of my being, like lava erupting. "He asked me to leave," I hissed, unloading all the pain of my rejection from the Cullens onto her. The burden was great, and the physical weight of it forced Alice into the nearest chair.

"I was a failure as a Cullen. I embarrassed them; I endangered them; I disappointed them," I spat, the last two words cracking, as though tears would actually burn my cheeks. My sarcasm and bitterness coated my next words. "All that was left was pity. Pity for the weak boy who could not resist human blood. So pitiful was I that Carlisle was the only one who would say goodbye as he asked me to leave. To quit them. They gave up on me.

"And you try to tell me you're here to help? The great vampire hero for all humankind Carlisle Cullen sent me a meal? Oh, hold on! A meal and a fuck. That's so fitting!"

Darting to a mere inch in front of her face, I snapped my teeth at her nose. She startled. "What are you doing here?"

Tears pooled and dripped angrily from her lashes. Her body shook, and her jaw was tight. "I'm not a fucking prostitute, you cold, bitter sonofabitch!"

Really?

"My whole life has been predictable," she snapped. "Boring, textbook predictable. When I met the Cullens, I ended up coming home every weekend to spend time with them, just so I could have another peek at you and me. I had a glimpse of us every time. EVERY. TIME.

"When I finished spring semester and graduated, the Cullens actually came to my party. I had one final vision and I realized: I'm in love with you."

What? Did I drink more from her than I thought?

"What?" I almost snorted the question. "Surely you're—"

"Not crazy and not kidding." The hurt was evident not only in her eyes. I felt it permeate my marble skeleton. Her gaze fell to the floor, and her posture slumped. "It feels so impossible, suddenly," she whispered quietly enough that she may have assumed I couldn't hear.

"'Bring him back, Alice,' he begged me. 'He's teetering on the brink of a meaningless, wicked existence. Maybe you can save him.'"

Get out. Get away. Run. Love. She can't mean it. It's a trick. I don't do this. I'm a predator. She is nothing but prey. There is no saving me. Rage blackened my vision. I heard her heartbeat begin to sprint as tears fell freely. Unwilling to take anymore, I snatched her from her seat, and within seconds we were outside. I set her unceremoniously on her feet as though my hands were scalded by her skin.

Holding her face, I ordered, "Never come back here," and fled back to my flat, torturous melancholy and agony chasing after me and gaining. Even as I slammed my door, nearly taking it off the hinges, I could hear her wails thirty feet above me. I could feel the vibrations as her fists pounded the outer door.

I did everything to shut it out. Headphones with blasting music, enough to deafen a lesser species. Books. I flipped through every book that sat on my shelves, eventually throwing each on the floor when her screams cut through. I lit a candle and put my hand over the flame, attempting to create pain. Something physically wretched to take the place of the ache inside.

I couldn't stop moving. I paced the floor, my fingers twitching and tugging at my hair, my shirt, my eyelashes. The madness of a caged tiger without the lock on the cage. Howling echoes assaulted my ears and I broke. I hurried to the surface street again, bursting outside through the door.

The alley was empty.

I could still smell her. Her distinct identification. The soap she used had a lemon-sugar scent and left her skin sweetened. The salt from her sweat mixed in with that, and I found myself inhaling for comfort. Comfort. Again.

She was still here. Somewhere. My eyes quickly found the Cellar's main door, flush with the wall, matching the color of the brick. Almost camouflaged.

Your little fangirl smells like an eight-course meal, Jasper. If you don't take her, I will.

Caius' words came back to me with a swift kick to the gut. I'd thought of it as banter, a jab at my irresolution in regards to Alice's offer. It wasn't. It was a threat.

The Cellar's door came off its hinges with what felt like no effort, and somehow I could not get down into the parlor fast enough.

Another round of repetitive no's cycled through my mind. I had sent her away, or tried, but I couldn't let this happen. Why? Minutes ago, I debated killing her myself, or offering her on a platter to Aro.

Whimpering sobs filled my ears, and I could hear nothing else. My chest constricted and threatened to collapse on itself. My fingers pruned with the mystification and disorder of my every emotion, all suddenly under the veritable jurisdiction of Mary Alice Brandon. I'd spurned her, thrown her away, attempting to allow my walls to rebuild and newfound humanity to dissolve.

Denial. It was all denial.

She had opened my wounds, and I'd lashed out. I'd felt her fear, but she was not afraid of me. I couldn't exactly believe Carlisle sent her after me. It didn't make sense. He would never put a human in harm's way. Not intentionally. But she seemed to know and believe enough that her story appeared genuine.

Do I have enough left to hope?

The parlor was empty. Not a soul, dead or alive, in sight. My ears still a cacophony of cries, terror ricocheted through my bones from mere feet away. Fracturing the doorjamb and shattering the thick oak panel, I could only react as I absorbed the sight before me. Nothing that would shock me yesterday. Today, it sickened me.

I could not recall where I began, only that Caius' limbs crashed into opposite walls as I blindly pulled him to pieces. Alice's sweet blood hung ripe on the air, my tongue tingling with the memory of its rich flavor. A slowing rhythm centralized my attention, and I took in the scene. She was murmuring, her cries weak and low as she lay prone on the large slab of a table. Blood ran freely from a gash on her side, dripping on the floor.

Caius had liked to feed from the abdomen, I recalled. The wound was more painful, and he savored human suffering, more than I'd previously thought possible.

I stood frozen, watching her body begin to twitch, her eyes fluttering open and closed. She was changing.

Or dying.

I'd never know if there was enough venom in his bite to change her successfully. Odds were, there was only enough to kill her. Unless...

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Jasper?" Soft and hoarse, her question reached my ears with ease.

"I'm here." My hands had not left her since I'd absconded from Caius' flaming corpse with her tiny, convulsing body in my arms. My bloody clothes were the same from days ago. I'd spent minute after minute trying to soothe the burning and agony of her transformation. The only gift I had in this godforsaken existence was put to use.

I'd grappled with how wrong or right it was that I didn't just let her die, but somehow I knew I couldn't. I knew she was right. Deep down, the truth finally surfaced and rattled around my head until all the holes in my logic collapsed.

I believed her. I felt hope. The pull of her was not her blood. It was not her body. It was her. She was my mate.

Carlisle had talked to me at length about his belief in vampires' mates. Soulmates. He felt it was almost like a lock clicking. Two pieces of a whole rejoined and sealed. Unconvinced, I'd simply let him talk. I saw what he had with Esme, what Emmett found in Rose, and Edward with Bella. I assumed they were the exception rather than the rule.

"I'm...what—what happened?" I pushed calm to subdue her uncertainty.

"What's the last thing you remember?"

Her scarlet irises scanned everything and nothing as she attempted to orient herself. "You. I remember you."

Inwardly, I cringed, knowing the last of me she'd seen while still human was cruelty. "I'm sorry," I exhaled the only apology I hoped to ever need to say again.

She sat rapidly and slammed into me, her speed and strength unfamiliar to her. "Oh!"

I had fallen backward onto the floor, and in a split-second she was on top of me, kissing my face everywhere and repeatedly. "You saved me, Jasper...."

"I—"

"Saved me." Her newborn strength was formidable, and her hands held my face in a deadlock. "I would never give up on you, Jasper. And I trusted, and still trust, what I saw. I love you."

Her eyes captured me and I had to tell her. "I love you, Alice. I love you."

I did. Saying the words lifted the heaviest weight off my soul. As though I had been pinned through the sternum to the bottom of the Marianas Trench and instantly set free.

Her lips crashed to mine with abandon and fervor. She was my mate, my love, my savior. She resuscitated my being by dying. And there was someone I had to thank for that.

My lips pulled back from hers minutely, but not without objection. "Let's go home."


A/N: The title is reference to the NIN song of the same name. It was sort of a playlist for this story. I'll be putting a short playlist up in my profile, too, if you're interested.

Thanks to MaleficentKnits and Lulubelle for soundboarding this idea; I'm used to writing AH so this was slightly outside of my comfort zone. Thanks for letting me insecurify all over youse. Big ups to Feisty Y. Beden for betafying and "REIGNING" me in (gah, I can't believe I missed that...*HEADDESK*).

Cheers to all my UU bitches. I worship you. All of you. Well, most of you. ;) *licks&nibbles*

Lastly, please review. I'd love to know what you thought. Thanks for reading!