Disclaimer: Lies, all lies.

Any Other Morning

He figured there was no surprising Alice, that she iknew/i the moment he'd begun planning it. Apparently he figured wrong.

She's standing there with her mouth in a small, round 'o,' absolutely still as the humid August wind fluffs her hair.

"You don't like it?" It's a pointless question because he can feel her happiness, her love weaving delicately through the confusion, but he likes to tease her.

"I do! Of course I do, I love it, Jazz. I—" He knows why she's speechless but he just waits, hands clasped in front, mouth lifted at one corner, if only because he loves watching her. "I just can't believe I didn't See this!"

She sounds a bit put out and Jasper chuckles. He knows she likes being in control of the future, or at least being able to pluck out a few threads from millions, likes tugging on them to see where they lead, if anywhere. Although, it's more compulsion than enjoyment really; she always is too hard on herself.

"Fate works in mysterious ways, I imagine."

Alice turns and there's no disappointment in her eyes, just deep brilliant excitement like she's a little girl again and satisfaction sinks down deeply to Jasper's bones. He's always imagined that in an alternate universe, Alice has every chance to indulge her pure, free spirit, chances she's never had in this one and never will.

"I should know that better than anyone, shouldn't I?" There's a bit of embarrassment that pulls at her mouth and all Jasper wants to do is wrap her in his arms and whisper iyou're perfect/i right by her ear.

Instead he takes her small hand in his, strokes his thumb over her knuckles, and leads them through the entrance of the carnival. The day's just breaking, deep amber light fanning across the sky, nudging away the darkness with its warmth. The tallest point in front of them is the Ferris wheel and Jasper can easily distinguish the loud colors painted in uneven stripes on each gondola. They would look like silhouettes to any passing human. The ones at the very top are swaying slightly under their own lonely weight.

"It's all yours for three hours." He sweeps his arms out on either side. "Where to first?"

"Want to be a big, strong man and win me a few prizes?" A wide smile lights up Alice's face and he feels a heady sort of pleasure thrumming through his limbs that he imagines is like the rush of blood (the memory of it stirs lightly like a flower petal on water).

"Can you See that I crush the competition?" He raises his eyebrows and grins, imagining also that he's a little selfish. He revels in how different he feels when Alice is there, and no one else—when she's glowing and absolutely careless. Times like this he learns to let go, watch it all fall away until only the two of them are still standing, and it's ifreeing/i.

Alice giggles and pretends to zip her lips, skipping over to the baseball throw and picking up a ball, tossing it within her hand. "I bet Emmett would've loved to be here to give you a run for your money."

"Looks of devastation don't suit the structure of his face." Jasper's feeling wicked now as he grabs a second ball, needing only to flick his wrist to send it flying towards the dead center of the stacked milk bottles. He makes sure to use just enough force to knock them down and avoid ripping a hole through the tent, or collapsing it entirely.

When the bottles clank and crash to the ground, Alice bounces on her toes as she claps and whoops loudly. It's the first time in a long time he's felt so—ireal/i, grounded to the world like he walks and breathes and shows off to young, pretty girls like any other 20-year-old Southern gentleman. He feels ialive/i.

"Pick whatever you want." He tilts his head in the direction of the toys, hung up in bright neon rows, ordered neatly by size and color, and ready to march into the next bright-eyed kid's embrace.

Alice plucks down a giant, fuzzy pink bear and wraps her arms around it, gently so she doesn't burst the seams and spill the stuffing. Jasper wants to take a picture then, thinks that if any moment should last through eternity, then this would be it.

"What should I name her?" Alice runs her fingers through the shaggy fur at the top of its head.

"How about Jazzy?" A cheeky grin spreads his lips.

Her eyes twinkle before she looks down, jiggles the toy and pretends to scoff. "Self-glorifying much?"

"You don't think it looks a little like me?" His grin spreads even wider.

Alice laughs, this time with her mouth wide open and from deep in her chest, the sound hitting the air like perfectly pitched wind chimes, fashioned just thick enough to play a masterpiece. "Okay, Jazzy it is. And for the record, you would look iawful/i with pink hair."

"Fair enough. Want to take a ride?" He nods in the direction of the Ferris wheel, now to their right and awash with colors from the rising sun, looking more magnificent than it ever would at any other time of day.

"Oh! Can we?" He imagines that Alice would sound breathless if she could.

Before they leave, he tucks a little money (more than enough) into a noticeable nook. He supposes it won't quite mitigate the breaking and entering, but it'll do.

He'd already turned on the power before he brought her, so all he has to do now is press a few buttons and the wheel will light and spin. He can already picture it reflected in Alice's eyes, wide not because she's never seen anything like it, but because she always appreciates second, third, fourth times just as much as the first. She never sees anything as old, used, washed up, and maybe that's why she isn't nearly as afraid of eternity as the rest of them are.

After he turns on the wheel, they just stand there for a minute, watching the slow rise and fall of the gondolas, a couple of them jerking a little in a particular spot. They can easily scale the structure, sit wherever they prefer without having to wait for the wheel to cycle, but Jasper is patient enough (always) to appreciate, ibask/i in the normalcy. He lets it wash over him, through him like a familiar strain of music seeping from an old gramophone that almost, just almost lets him slip out of his skin and into something he used to be. He knows Alice feels it too, that heavy, sweet sensation threatening to sweep them away and scatter them into the wind.

Jasper finally pulls the lever, stops the wheel and lets Alice climb on, set Jazzy to her right, before pushing it back and slipping in to settle at her left. The gondola creaks a little under their weight, as if complaining that they're making it work much too early for its own good.

They both turn to their right and stare at the sun, finally free of the horizon and reaching into the farthest corners with the kind of thick, diffuse glow only reserved for early mornings. The sparkles on Alice's skin are soft and muted, like they're just waking up, blinking sleepily against a brand new day. Jasper feels silly for entertaining the thought and then smiles to himself because he also feels much too old to be silly.

"What are you smiling about, hm?" Alice takes one of his hands and traps it between hers, shifting their palms together like it'll create heat.

"This is—nice." He brings her hands up and kisses each of them in turn, wondering (as he sometimes does) what imperfections used to be around her eyes, across her cheeks, and in her smile before they were wiped clean, remade.

"It's perfect." She frees one hand then and places it against his jaw before leaning in to kiss his mouth sweetly, lingering for a moment and taking in a deep, indulgent breath. Then they settle back against the seat, Jasper's arm stretched along the top, his fingers shifting a little to brush against the back of Alice's neck. He thinks that, up here with the open air and sun and Alice, forever seems no darker than a daydream.