This story is the sequel to my first fanfic about Alice called Singularity. As a sequel, if you have not read the first story, you will not understand this one.
Coalescence is defined as the process of coming together to form one whole or to unite, or the joining of two things into a new and unique whole in which the original parts are still recognizable. It is also the term used to describe the joining of two galaxies.
For me, it is the perfect definition for the process of love.
Coalescence picks up Alice and Jasper's lives after they have met in the diner in Philadelphia. The year is 1948.
A huge thank you to my wonder-beta, remylebeauishot who signed on for a second story. Thanks for believing in me! Also, thanks to all who read and reviewed Singularity! I hope you like this one.
All Twilight characters are the property of Stephenie Meyer, the original cast of characters belongs to the author. Any resemblance to any other work of fiction is purely accidental.
It's ironic that I met him in Pennsylvania.
There are no straight roads in Pennsylvania. There is no way to get easily or quickly from one place to the other here. No matter where you go, the twists and turns force you out of your way. The drive is fun and the scenery is beautiful, but it takes so long to reach your goal.
There were no straight paths in my life. Nothing came easy.
I thought about these two truths as I swerved around another bend heading north out of Philadelphia.
Truly, I was barely able to think at all.
I took a breath and smelled the thick perfume of our combined scents. Cinnamon, cedar, and spicy nutmeg combined with my floral and fruit scent. It was overwhelming. Everything today was overwhelming. I couldn't imagine what Jasper must be feeling.
This was supposed to be easy.
He was my life, my destiny, and it was supposed to just happen effortlessly.
The man I had seen within minutes of my birth, the man I had longed for for 28 years was sitting beside me in my car. He was holding my hand. I should be able to tell him anything and everything. I should be able to tell him all about my crazy, wonderful, horrific life, but I just couldn't.
Why wasn't this easy?
I looked over at Jasper and saw a peaceful smile as he waited for my answer to his very logical question. He wanted to know why today had gone so insanely wonderful. He deserved to know what happened, and he was patiently waiting for it. He deserved an honest answer.
An honest answer might make him run. No, it would make him run. The truth about me was just so bizarre that he would leave me. That vision of him running from me hadn't changed except to become excruciatingly painful.
There was something odd about that smile, which also made me wary. It was too serene, and I couldn't tell if he was simply happy, or if something else was going on under the calm façade. Was it a calm and peaceful pool, or the calm water before a falls?
I took in his scent with a deep breath again and braced myself. The last thing this was going to be was easy.
"Why don't I start at the beginning?" I asked, trying to hide my nervousness. It isn't pleasant confessing to being a freak among the mythical.
"How far back is that?" he asked quietly. His face remained unchanged.
I turned my attention to the road -- I really didn't want to crash my car again -- and started with my known life.
"Twenty eight years. I woke up on March 18th in 1920," I began as I glanced at him. The sight of him made me lose my train of thought again. How was I going to give him his answers feeling like this?
He looked like he was still thinking about something, but he looked a little happier than before.
"Woke up? What does that mean?" he asked curiously. His deep voice filled the car and reverberated in my body.
"Um, well, I know it's very strange, but I just woke up. It was like I was made like this." I moved my driving hand to wave at myself.
"What about before? Who made you?" He was now very curious, and I had his full attention.
"I don't know. I woke up in a forest without a memory or maker." I laughed at myself. It sounded ridiculous even to me. "Do you know I didn't even know what I was for almost a year? I just happened across two others, and they told me I was a vampire. I was so shocked." I giggled at that memory.
I looked at him and he was now both enthralled and dumbfounded. I pressed my lips and waited.
"Let me get this straight. You don't remember who you were, you don't remember the burning or who changed you, and you didn't even know you were a vampire?" His voice raised a pitch with each statement.
"Um, yep." What else could I say? "I didn't know we had venom or that we don't need to breathe or anything. I just was, and I didn't know why or what I was. It was all very confusing." My hands convulsed in his at my memory, and he gripped the one he held a little harder. He was still holding me, and I clung to that fact as a drowning person clings to a life preserver.
"No one helped you? How did you not kill a whole city? Weren't you mad with the thirst?"
"Well, yes, of course I was," I chuckled again. "I even remember thinking that I probably could kill a city. I killed a lot of people in my first year, but, luckily, I wasn't near a city." I hadn't realized how close I could have come to destroying a town until now, and the thought chilled me. "I awoke in the woods, and I just ran and ran, eating along the way. I never came to a city, just a school –"
His quick intake of air stopped me.
"I didn't kill anyone," I said rapidly. "School was out for a break, and I hid there from a storm because I didn't know what it was –"
"Hold on," he said, rubbing his hand over his black eyes. "You didn't know what a storm was?"
"I'm not explaining very well, am I?" I grimaced.
"I'm just not used to this kind of story. I've dealt with hundreds of newborns, and they all remember their past. They all are very aware of what they are. What happened to you?"
"I wish I knew. When I woke, I could remember the names of many things, but not all. I didn't understand anything. I couldn't understand what was happening, so I just ran. I ran and I killed everyone in my path. I tried so hard to remember something, anything at all, but all I knew was the name Alice. I don't really know if the name is really mine," I finished miserably. My voice had grown quiet while I told him. I took another deep breath and felt calmness settle in around me. It must have been his scent that calmed me so.
Then he reached over and placed his free hand over our interwoven fingers. I tingled from that addition touch. I reveled in what it meant. He wanted to calm me. He didn't want me to be upset.
"Tell me about the school," he said quietly.
"Well, there was this storm. I liked the rain because it cleaned me off, but it was a bad storm, and it turned to hail. I had no idea of what was going on, and I thought someone was throwing ice balls at me because they were mad at me." His rusty laugh echoed in his chest again.
"Really, it made sense. I was already terrified at killing so many humans, so I figured God or something was trying to kill me. I ran into a large building and it turned out to be a school. I didn't know that at first, so I thought it was just a place for tiny humans -- which I suppose it is. The scent there very nearly drove me mad! If the children had been there, I think I would have killed the entire student body, but they didn't come for a few days, and I was able to comes to terms with what I was doing and who I wanted to be."
"You left? As a newborn vampire, you left a school filled with the scent of humans?" He sounded incredulous, but his cockeyed smile conveyed that he was impressed. I liked that.
"I really didn't want to kill them. They were children. I learned to read and do math there, and I learned that I had a choice to make." I smiled at the memory of my first triumph, and then shrugged. Part of me wanted to tell him how I knew to leave, but the wary part shushed it quickly.
"I've never heard of a newborn who could do that. What happened next?"
"Well, I wandered around for about a year until I came upon Charles and Makenna. They are nomads, and they told me what I was and showed me how to live and how to act like a human, but they left after a few days." I clearly recalled the loneliness that engulfed me when they left, and then trembled as I realized again that I didn't need to be lonely any more. "After that, I wandered around."
"Oh, heaven's no." I laughed. "I have traveled quite a bit, but I also got jobs and went to school."
I looked over at his silent form. He just sat there staring at me.
"Jobs?" The word was a muted gasp.
I bit my lip and tried to continue nonchalantly. "Of course. I needed money. It's not cheap having a home and a car, you know. And you can't put a price on truly good clothing."
He closed his eyes and breathed deeply twice.
"Vampires don't need clothing or cars or homes. We just need blood, or at least I thought we did," he said shaking his head.
"Of course I don't need those things," I began and then cringed when I realized just how much of a lie that was. The house and car were optional, but the clothing was a touchy subject. "I just like having them. Nice clothes bring out the best in me, and the car protects the clothes. The apartment and house are handy for mail and as a safe place to keep my possessions."
"Like clothes?" There was a hint of sarcasm cracking his voice.
"Yes, and other things. I have my photo albums at my apartment and my furniture is tucked away in my cabin in New Hampshire."
I looked again, and he sat there with his mouth agape.
I wilted inside. This was what I was afraid of. I was too much of a freak for him.
"I didn't get a car immediately. It took a few years. I got a job first and then --"
"What exactly does a vampire do for a job?" he asked in the same sarcastic, cracking voice.
"Um, well, I tried a lot of things at first, but everything was afraid of me. I tried working in orchards, and farming --" His laugh stopped me.
"You tried to work at a farm? Animals are terrified of us."
"Yes, I know that now. I didn't know it until I went into the barn and stampeded all the animals but the sheep." I laughed again, and his deep bass joined my soprano.
"Did you return the animals to the farmer?" he asked amid chuckles.
"No. I figured I had done enough damage. I thought it best to leave and let him gather his animals and clean their stalls. They made quite a mess when they left." He laughed again, and I smiled at him. His laugh was wonderful, like the low melody of a well played bassoon.
"Why didn't the sheep run?"
"They didn't get a chance. They saw me and dropped dead on the spot. They just let out one last "baa," and rolled over with their little legs sticking straight up in the air. Sheep die easily." He was laughing so hard the car shook, and I laughed along with him. My voice was like the clear sky, and his was the deep earth. I rejoiced in the slow return of life to his eyes.
When we both stopped laughing, he asked, "So what job does work for a vampire?"
"I became a seamstress for a very nice Jewish couple in Nashville." My voice turned soft with the memory of Hank and Myrtle.
"Didn't you shred the material?"
"Sometimes. I am very good with clothing now, though."
"I've noticed," he said eyeing my outfit and the body under it again. That was just so exciting in new and unusual ways.
"Didn't they notice that you were different? How did you hide your eyes?"
The question was simple, but the ramifications of where this would lead hit me like a bucket of cold water. My eyes were honey, not red, and the reason for it was at the core of my freakishness.
I took a breath, smiled a small smile and said, "For starters, both of them were nearly blind, so they didn't see me for what I am. My eyes were golden then, because I was eating animals."
"When did you start that?"
"When I was one and a half."
"How did you know to drink them? I can't stand the smell of them." He wrinkled his nose with the last statement.
"I saw two others doing it, and I thought maybe I could try it. I didn't like killing people." I braced myself.
There. Ask me now. Ask how I saw them.
"None of us likes to kill," he said bitterly.
Jasper looked like he was pondering something I had said, and I held my breath and waited for his inevitable question, but the one he asked wasn't what I expected.
"You never even snacked on anyone at your job?"
I giggled at his question and at my relief. Then I inwardly cursed my cowardice.
"I mostly did piece work, so I worked at home. I never even breathed at their shop until a few days after Hank died of a heart attack."
"Home? Where did you live?"
"In a church," I replied offhandedly. Jasper just let out an exasperated huff and began rubbing his thumb over my hand again.
"And that wasn't in the least bit ironic to you?"
"I didn't know we were supposed to be damned until I met the New York covens. I lived in a bell tower of a church near the store for two years. I know dozens of hymns," I ended proudly.
"Hymns, right. How did you get to New York?"
"I moved there with Myrtle after Hank died and took care of her and her sister, Edwina. They were both as blind as bats," I explained.
Jasper just looked at me.
"Yes," I said, knowing what the next question would be. "I cared for the sisters. I worked as a seamstress at night for a while and then Edwina taught me all about the stock market."
He chuckled again.
"The worst part of it all was that they both wanted to get me married off, so they kept inviting suitors over, and –"
His burst of laughter cut me off again. I smiled at him.
"You need to take it slowly," he sniggered. "I feel like I'm missing some very funny and very important points. I swear, Alice, you have had the strangest life."
Oh, you don't even know the half of it, I thought with a new wave of guilt.
"Do you have any questions about my life?" I needed to push the issue. Maybe if he asked me, I could find the courage to tell him of my burden. I knew I could handle the future if Jasper was by my side. I would not be free of this growing guilt until he knew.
"Just a few dozen or so. Why did you choose to stay with two old, blind sisters?" He was smiling and shaking his head in disbelief.
"Did you want to know about my eyes?" If he did, I could tell him about the visions of Carlisle and Edward. I could be free.
"You said you eat animals. I don't know how you stand it, but if it makes you happy, I'm OK with your decision," he shrugged.
My heart sank as I realized that I had to tell him outright. I gathered my courage and began to open my mouth with the confession that would free me, but instead a flash of a vision swallowed me. Jasper was running, and I was calling brokenly after him. I had scared him.
That vision caused an intense physical pain, a burning, within me, and it ended any hope of telling the truth. I decided I needed to change the subject entirely.
"Isn't it time that you tell me about yourself?" I asked sweetly, trying to hide my fear and disappointment.
His face fell, and he removed his hand to run it through his thick golden hair. That sent a strong wave of fear and panic through me.
"You don't want to know about me. There isn't anything good to tell," his words were stinging whispers as he turned to look out the window. A fresh wave of loss swept over me. Then, the running vision hit me again, and I nearly gasped from the pain. I felt Jasper tense by my side, but he didn't look at me. I could not allow this to happen now.
I decided to keep on with my life's story, just omitting some parts. I could feel shame growing as I did.
"Well, then," I continued cheerfully, "I'll just continue with my adventures. I've had quite a few in my twenty-eight years."
I watched Jasper as he turned his head. He didn't look at me but rather kept his eyes focused on the floor.
"Jasper? Is that OK?" Could he hear the fear in my voice? He looked up at me with a face filled with the same shame that I felt. I smiled at him to try to erase that look. He returned a weak smile, but he squeezed my hand.
I began with the two sisters, and continued on through my life. He laughed at most of it. The coven war made him angry, for some reason. He didn't like the idea of me fighting in it, which made me a little angry as well, because I was a good fighter, and he needed to give me some credit.
And so the hills and trees and fields flashed by as I shared everything about myself except that which was most important. Every mile caused my guilt to grow, but every mile also meant another miraculous minute with Jasper, and I walked that fine line with great care.
I ended my stories of Europe with my decision to return home. I told him of the wonders of Europe and he listened with rapt attention as I spoke of its beauty. I didn't tell him of the agonizing reason for the whole horrid journey or the joyous reason for my return. I simply stated that I didn't want Paul to force me into his coven. As he sat beside me transfixed, I wallowed in the mire of my lie.
I felt as if I was searing my very soul in the unforgivable sin of lying to him.
I was trapped between two immovable realities: I had to have Jasper, and I had to have him truthfully and fully. I couldn't figure out how to do both. I needed to tell him of my gift and its horrid burden. I needed to share my most intimate and hidden secrets with him, but if I shared who I truly was, I would lose him.
I drove him through various boroughs of the city, showing him the sites and spectacles of New York until the sun set. Then we drove to the unspectacular section of the city.
"I've never met any vampire quite like you, Alice," he said as he smiled at me.
I cringed as I realized that I didn't deserve that smile.
I pulled over behind a large brick building near the shantytowns by the river. "We're here," I said as happily as I could manage.
"This is your house?" he asked in confusion.
I laughed despite myself. "No, this is a good hunting site. I will take you to my apartment later. You need to eat, right? Well, it's almost twilight, and the workers will be coming home." I shrugged. I felt so guilty bringing him here, but he needed food, and I needed time.
His face turned from confused to questioning. "Won't you be coming with me?"
I had never been so tempted to hunt a human before. I wanted to say yes so badly, but I could not bring myself to kill today. Not with the memory of the kind humans in my life fresh in my mind.
"I don't want to leave you here, though," he said with a frown. "What if someone comes by?"
"No one is coming, and I am good friends with the vampires here. Besides, like I've said, I'm a really good fighter." My guilty heart rejoiced in the knowledge that he wanted to be with me, wanted to protect me, and that the desire to stay with me was stronger than the lure of the blood around us.
His hands, so still for most of this trip, rubbed mine, and my entire stomach filled with a strange fluttery sensation. He looked torn. "Go on," I said, and he opened the door, let go of my hand and nodded.
"I'll be quick," he said, and then he was gone. The crushing weight of loss pushed down on me. Part was his absence, but part was my guilt.
When he left, I let my head drop into my hands and let out a frustrated sigh. I had dreamt of our first conversation thousands of times. I had played the scene in my head and created the careful words that would let Jasper know the truth about me.
This was nothing like the dream. This was a nightmare.
I wanted to tell him how much and how long I have loved him. I wanted to share my joy and my life. I needed him to know me, not just know about me.
None of it had come true, and it was my fault. That hazy vision of him running from me was the most horrific and terrifying vision I had ever had. The sharp burning was intensely painful. Every time it flashed through my head, I felt like I was on fire. It was worse than the one that showed me Maria, and far worse than the one that showed me Paul's death. Jasper running from me was something I could not possibly endure.
I tried again to think of a way to tell him about me, the real me, but nothing came. I was so sure of so much of my future, but now that it really counted, my hateful gift was no help at all. I was such a coward.
Am I was such a horrid creature that he would run from me? What had I done to make him run?
The questions chased each other through my wide mind causing nothing but destruction until an altogether new vision filled it. Jasper was almost done hunting. I could see his form near a wooden fence bent over a large male as pain twisted his features, and then the crouching form of Chi-Yang leapt on him.
I threw myself out of the car and headed towards the overpowering scent of the humans. I played the scene over and over to find the right place. The fence was over to my right, and I flew towards it. It was tall, meant to hold out the vagrants that filled this part of the city, and I took it in one bound. Jasper was there, several hundred feet away, and Chi Yang was coming out of the shadows behind him.
I screamed, "NO!" as I sprinted towards their forms. Jasper instantly turned, concern flashing on his face, but I sped past him to hit Chi Yang's running form full force. The impact sounded like thunder, and it forced us both back about twenty feet. I leapt up as I landed, ready to kill my friend to protect my love.
I wanted to stop them before either one got hurt, but I already knew that I would kill Chi-Yang if he tried to hurt Jasper. I intended to stand in front of Jasper and tell Chi-Yang who he was, but Jasper was already in front of me, arms outstretched and in a fighting crouch.
"No, Jasper, Chi-Yang, stop it!" I yelled as I tried to lunge past Jasper, but Jasper moved with me, and wouldn't let me pass.
"What have you done, Alice?" Chi-Yang hissed out the words in a hate-filled rage.
"Chi-Yang, listen to me. Stop. He isn't a threat." I wrapped my arms around Jasper from behind, willing Chi-Yang to see that Jasper was mine.
"Look at him! Look at his scars! He is a soldier, a murderer, and they are always a threat," spat Chi-Yang as he circled in what I knew was his attack mode.
"No, he is a friend. He is my friend, and I brought him here." I tried to make my voice as calm as I could but only partially succeeded.
Jasper was trying to open my interlocked fingers. "Alice," he said desperately, "let go and run. I won't let him hurt you."
"I will never run from you," I answered him.
"Then you will die with him," growled Chi-Yang with a side step nearer to us.
"Alice, oh Alice, why?" The voice was Mai-Li's, and she nearly wailed the words. I saw her behind her mate, a look of betrayal on her face.
"No, Mai-Li, please listen to me. He isn't a threat to you," I said in a desperate plea.
"Get back!" Chi-Yang yelled to his mate, but she didn't move. I watched as understanding dawned on her face, followed by joy.
"Chi-Yang! Stop it! Stop it now," she snapped at her mate. Then she strode past him and hit him on the shoulder with a resounding clang.
"He's with you? Really?" She was almost squealing the words as she slowly approached us.
Chi-Yang stood erect but still ready to attack as he watched his wife advance. "Mai-Li, are you insane?" he gasped.
"Oh, Chi-Yang, stop. This is Alice's friend, and he is welcome in our home." She sounded like she was speaking to a naughty child.
I released Jasper as he stood, and walked around him. He reached out to grab my hand and tried to pull me to him. "It's OK," I assured him, "these are my friends."
I quickly walked to Mai-Li who embraced me with another laugh. She was grinning hard enough to split her face. She had always been such a hopeless romantic.
"Isn't is just wonderful, Chi-yang? This is Alice's friend," she said as she hugged me. I was very glad I couldn't see her face.
When she finally let go I looked over at Chi-Yang and then at Jasper. They both stood there looking rather awkward.
"Don't be rude," ordered Mai-Li as she pointed to her mate. "Come and meet him." Chi-Yang slowly advanced and raised his palms, and Jasper did the same. They stopped about 10 feet from each other and nodded in unison.
Mai-Li smiled at them, and put her arm around me for one last squeeze. She winked at me and then let go, and I prayed that Jasper hadn't seen that. She walked back to stand slightly behind her rather miffed looking mate. Chi-Yang hated it when he didn't get to fight.
I took a deep breath and immediately felt calmer as I went to stand by Jasper who moved to stand just slightly in front of me. He put his arm protectively around my shoulders and looked at me curiously. This must seem terribly strange to him.
"Chi-Yang and Mai-Li, this is Jasper Whitlock," I said as calmly and formally as I could.
"Welcome to New York, Jasper Whitlock," Chi-Yang said as formally.
"As I said, you are most welcome here if you are a friend of Alice's," giggled Mai-Li from behind her mate. She was still grinning and unabashedly eyeing Jasper. She caught my eye and winked again. The woman was downright embarrassing.
"I apologize for the rude first meeting," added Chi-yang curtly. I wondered what Mai-Li had done to him to elicit that. He didn't apologize easily.
"I'm glad to make your acquaintance, and I am also sorry. I didn't intend to intrude in your feeding," Jasper said calmly, and as he did, an unbidden wave of calm relief swept over me. As I watched, both Chi-Yang and Mai-Li relaxed as well. The strange calm seemed to be spreading.
"Your demeanor and scars made me think you were a soldier here for battle," chuckled Chi-Yang. "You must admit, you look the part."
I felt Jasper tense just a bit. "I've had that problem all my life. It is a common mistake. I don't fight for a coven any more."
"You must be very good at it. Not many of us can survive that many attacks and come out victorious each time," pressed Chi-Yang. "Soldiers of your obvious talent and skill are very rare indeed. You must be an incredibly gifted killer, more than any other vampire I have met."
Chi-Yang's face betrayed his irritation and distrust of this situation, but it also held a hint of something else; jealousy or perhaps greed. Beside him, Mai-Li was nearly jumping in her enthusiasm and joy.
"Where did Alice find you?" she asked from behind her mate.
"We met at a diner in Philadelphia," said Jasper calmly. There was very little inflection in his voice.
"Ah, I see," said Chi-Yang, but the questioning look he shot me told me he didn't. So long as Jasper was safe, though, I didn't care. Besides, Mai-Li would take no time to fill him in.
"I brought him back to meet everyone, and see the city," I explained, "I want to show him my home and the sites." I tried to make my voice sound calm and friendly, but my irritation with myself was growing now that the immediate danger was past. I should have been more careful. I should have seen this.
"How long have you known each other?" asked Mai-Li. From the look on her face, she was as hungry for answers as for blood.
"Seven hours," I answered quickly. Was it really true? It felt like a lifetime, but only seven short hours had passed.
"So you met Jasper seven hours ago and the first thing you could think of was to bring him to New York to hunt?" Chi-Yang's tone was ice as the anger underneath bubbled to the surface just a little. In his mind, I had brought a dangerous looking, strange vampire to his city. I felt my own anger rise just a bit. It was also my city, and I had earned a place here.
"I brought a friend home to meet my friends and see my city," I answered just as icily. There was no way I was letting him get away with acting like that. I felt Jasper's arm tense a bit, and I panicked under it. What if Chi-Yang truly saw Jasper as a threat? He was a brilliant fighter, and never ever gave up. I would fight for Jasper, and Mai-Li would fight for Chi-Yang. It was the way of vampires. I felt myself sicken at the thought.
Mai-Li also felt the building tension and turned angrily to face her mate. "Alice has lived here and protected us for over a dozen years. Now she brings one friend to see us, and you take offense? Where are your manners?"
Chi-Yang glared at his wife. Then I realized she was talking quietly in rapid Chinese. I didn't know Chinese, but whatever she was saying was making a difference. His face went from anger to confusion and then to realization within a few seconds. When Mai-Li returned to his side, she was unabashedly gloating, and his face had softened considerably.
"Oh, yes, Alice. I'm sorry to be so angry, but his face… well… you must understand, I've never met a vampire who shows his battle prowess so strongly in his features."
"It happens all the time," said Jasper quietly, as a wave of relief rushed through me.
"We have drawn quite a crowd," whispered Mai-Li in concern.
I looked around and saw about half a dozen humans looking at us from through a gap in the fence and the building to our right.
"We can take care of the ones by the fence," said Chi-Yang matter-of-factly. "Can you take the two by the building, Jasper?"
Jasper nodded, still holding on to me. I turned cold inside. We would have to kill them. The dead man with the ripped neck was sure to be noticed by them, and they saw our little discussion and quite possibly heard my attack on Chi-Yang.
"Do you want one?" he asked me quietly. I couldn't answer, so I just shook my head.
"She never does," sighed Chi-Yang. "Ready?" Jasper nodded and turned slightly.
"Now," whispered Mai-Li, and I closed my eyes and braced myself for what I would see in my head.
Seven lives flashed by and then were snuffed out. I caught a glimpse of crying women and children and was stabbed by grief as the vision left me. I felt Jasper return to my side within just a few moments. I turned and saw the two bodies in his arms, their heads lolled to one side, nearly severed by his bite. There was little blood because both had been completely drained. He was indeed a gifted killer.
"In the water," I directed quietly as I went to pick up Jasper's first human. Without a word, seven bodies landed in the dark water.
"Alice, you must bring Jasper by to see us Saturday. I would love to show him China Town. Will you bring him over?" Mai-Li was more subdued, but still very happy.
"I'll have to talk to Jasper about it," I said quietly, not looking at him. I would need to check my visions long and hard before I took him anywhere dangerous. "I will call you."
"Then we look forward to your call," said Chi-Yang. In his mind, it wasn't really an optional invitation. He was the senior vampire inviting a junior one for an interview. I hated that.
I felt Jasper's arm go around my shoulders, and some of my frustration and anger vanished as his arm fit around me. I knew he was protecting me, he was guarding me, and that thrilled me. His touch, as always, brought my skin to heightened awareness, and I could feel my shoulders tingle under the weight.
We backed away and turned to walk swiftly to the fence. He released me just long enough to jump over, and then his arm was back in its place. Perhaps it was the distance, or perhaps just the relief that the whole episode was over and he was safe, but I calmed down rapidly as we walked to my car. I was still very angry with myself, though.
"Alice, are you all right?" Jasper's deep voice sent waves of pleasure through me. I finally turned to look at him, and his face showed deep concern.
"I'm just so sorry that that just happened. I should have been more careful, it didn't need to go so badly," I said, looking away from his crimson eyes. Why hadn't I been more careful?
"I didn't think it went badly. Though, they are rather vicious for teddy bears." His face was serious, but his tone was light.
"You stepped foot in the city for less than five minutes and were nearly killed by my good friends," I spat. "Jasper, I'm so sorry. You asked if it was safe, and I told you it was. I can't believe this all just happened. I am so, so sorry. Honestly, I have no idea why he acted that way." I looked up to see his serious eyes, and his odd cockeyed smile. This time the smile wasn't pleasant.
He sighed. "You truly don't know?"
"No," I moaned miserably. He stopped and turned to me. He held out his hand. I looked at him curiously, but placed my hand in his.
"This is why," he said with just a hint of bitterness, and he raised my hand to his scarred cheek.
At first, I was lost in the thrill of touching his face, and I raised my other hand to feel it. It was so smooth. The bite marks made ripples, but only barely, like tiny waves on a quiet lake. I ran my hands across his brow and down his strong jaw line, feeling the silky stone of his face.
I was touching his face.
"Don't you feel it?" he finally asked.
I was confused. I was feeling a dozen things right then, some of which I had no words for. He saw my confusion, and formed his hand around my fingers, and slowly traced the deepest of the scars, one just under his jaw. Then he continued to trace another on his neck. I tried to concentrate, but tracing my fingers gently over Jasper's neck had my head spinning. I looked into his eyes, and he pulled my fingers away.
"The scars?" He nodded, and I finally understood.
"They cover me. Most of them are here on my shoulders and neck," he said. His voice was hard, almost angry as he continued, "but they are everywhere else as well. Each one is a reminder to me and to the whole world of what I was. I was the head of the army of the damned, and these scars are my rank insignia as its general. Each one is a victory of sorts. Each one represents a life that I took in battle." He took a step back from me. "You see Alice, I am a walking threat to any of our kind that looks at me. No matter where I am or what I am doing, I will always be seen as a dangerous threat. I will always be confronted and fought. I will always be seen as the enemy. Always." His eyes looked to the pavement, and his quiet voice took on a pain that nearly broke me. "So now you know. I am a murderer among the murderous, and I have never really known peace. No one died today in that little confrontation. For me, that is a first. For me, today went very well."
Suddenly the memory of a twisted kiss flashed through my flustered mind. I stepped forward and very gently traced his scars again. He looked at me in surprise, but I kept tracing as I met his gaze. Even now, touching him brought a small smile to my face.
"Don't you see them?" he asked hoarsely. I was keenly aware of how close we now were.
"Of course I do."
"Don't you understand what they are?"
"I know what they are, Jasper, and I know what you were." I kept my voice quiet and gentle, but I felt my smile grow as I continued to trace the scars down to his collarbone. I think I felt him shiver under my touch. "I just don't see them as ugly or you as dangerous, and I don't care about your past."
He caught my hands and held them. "You should. I very nearly killed you in that diner." A flash of pain shot through his face and seemed to jump into my heart. "I almost ripped you apart. I would have killed you instantly and then finished off the humans to hide what I had done. You should care very much what I was and what I am." His eyes were pleading now, but for what? Did he want me to let him go? That wasn't an option. So I did the only thing that I could, I squeezed his hands, and pulled them to me, dragging him closer.
"I told you, Jasper Whitlock, that I don't care what you did or nearly did, and that is that." His face turned from passive to angry, and I thought for just a second that he was going to pull his hands free. Then the anger turned to incredulousness, and that flowed into a look that melted me. It was the look of a wide-eyed child seeing the world in a new way. It was the look of vulnerability.
I began to lead him away from this horrid place. I would take him to my apartment now, and see what would happen next. As I tried to pull away, though, his hands suddenly shifted in mine, and he was beside me again, with his left arm across my shoulders and his left hand holding mine.
"Is this OK?" he asked.
"Yeah. It's fine." It's perfect. Incredible.
I slowly slid my free right arm around his waist, and we walked to my car. As we did, I noticed that we fit together like two pieces of the same sculpture made by a skilled master artist to fit perfectly together. Despite all the lies, the fear, and the near death experience, Jasper was right. Today turned out very well.
I just wished I could feel better about my part in it.
She touched me. I expected her to pull away, to recoil from my battle wounds and all that they represented, but she simply reached out to feel them with both hands. And smiled. I felt her joy, but I could not understand why she was happy.
"Don't you feel it?" I pressed.
She didn't. I would have to show her, so I cupped her hand in mine and held it to my most damaged features. She just gently touched them, a look of wonder on her face. When she did finally look at me, I pulled her hand away, waiting for her to turn away from my ugliness.
"The scars?" She knew. I nodded and waited for the inevitable, but she didn't move. I would have to tell her.
"They cover me. Most of them are here on my shoulders and neck, but they are everywhere else as well. Each one is a reminder to me and to the whole world of what I was. I was the head of the army of the damned, and these scars are my rank insignia as its general. Each one is a victory of sorts. Each one represents a life that I took in battle." I stepped back to let this wondrous good vampire get a good look. "You see Alice, I am a walking threat to any of our kind that looks at me. No matter where I am or what I am doing, I will always be seen as a dangerous threat. I will always be confronted and fought. I will always be seen as the enemy. Always." My voice broke under the strain of my emotions, and I had to look away. She would leave now, and I knew that I couldn't take that. Not now. Not after feeling hope for the first time as a vampire. "So now you know. I am a murderer among the murderous, and I have never really known peace. No one died today in that little confrontation. For me, that is a first. For me, today went very well."
In a second, her hands were back on my face, tracing the lines of my sin. I couldn't comprehend this. I looked at her hard, trying to get a fix on her, trying to understand why she was still here. Then, more surprising than her touch, a beautiful smile spread across her perfect face.
It was as if she couldn't even see them, like she couldn't see me.
"Don't you see them?" I asked again. My voice was thick with emotions that threatened to bury me.
"Of course I do."
"Don't you understand what they are?" Surely she must know.
"I know what they are, Jasper, and I know what you were." She whispered as her hands continued to trace my lines and her smile inexplicably grew. Her touch brought out feelings in me that I was totally unprepared for, and my skin reacted with an almost violent need for her to touch more of me. The reaction was so intense it caused me to shiver. "I just don't see them as ugly or you as dangerous, and I don't care about your past."
I caught her hands a little too roughly, but she needed to know she was wrong. "You should. I very nearly killed you in that diner." I couldn't contain the pain that erupted from me as I said it. "I almost ripped you apart. I would have killed you instantly and then finished off the humans to hide what I had done. You should care very much what I was and what I am."
"I told you, Jasper Whitlock, that I don't care what you did or nearly did, and that is that."
She was wrong, but I didn't know how to tell her. She refused to leave me, refused to turn from my hideous face and the terrifying, soul destroying past that created it. I tried desperately to think of ways to make her understand, but the budding hope chose that moment to bloom. The strength of it shattered the blackened walls of my inner self. Finally, I knew beyond a doubt that she loved me. Something inside locked onto that fact with an unbreakable hold.
I was stunned as she pulled me towards the car, unable to process what I felt from both of us. I couldn't stand her pulling away, and my arm moved to encircle her and pull her against me. She stiffened, but readily fell in beside me.
"Is this OK?"
"Yeah. It's fine." As she uttered the words, her hand drew itself across my back, and she formed herself to me.
I couldn't name half of the emotions I had felt in the last seven hours. It was like refusing to breathe for one hundred years, and then taking a first breath in a field of flowers. I was still reeling from the fact that I was feeling and that I liked what I felt. No, naming these emotions wasn't even possible yet.
Hers were just as tumultuous. I knew most of them, and they were strong enough to leave me reeling. Yet, there was something underneath, something I recognized all too well. The subtle mixture of fear, guilt, and anxiety were all too familiar to me. Those emotions belied at best a duplicity and at worst a lie. I pushed the idea back, but it refused to leave my mind. I had been lied to all my damned life, and it was the one thing I could not tolerate. If I sensed that Alice was lying to me, it would destroy me.
I hope you like where this is headed. It really will be a rather bumpy ride at first, but love always is.
Please, PLEASE read and review! I really love your ideas and feedback! I would love to hear from you in a pm if you have suggestions or questions
I'm sorry it took so long to post this, but I am back to work for the school year. I will try to post once a week at least, but now that school has started, it is harder for me to get everything done.