So I actually think this is the longest chapter yet- thanks for waiting! I think I'll get to update a little more now. For those of you who missed the note, there's a bit of a curve ball coming up in a few chapters (didn't realize I hadn't posted this one yet!). It's not game changing in terms of the tone of the story, but it does make the one-shots more of an alternate ending. You'll see. Just don't be mad at me, I found inspiration because I promised I wouldn't give up on the story, but it drew me a different direction than the ending I had been planning. Thanks for sticking with me, I love hearing from you all.
I cover my ears, cowering back in the corner. The noise is deafening, as if the world were collapsing around me, and then it's stunningly silent. I venture an eye open to find Jasper, perched on top of a large chunk of the ruined cement. He's holding his hand out to me, blood and venom covering his skin, but he isn't coming any closer. I know that he won't push me, but I'm afraid of what started this mess in the first place.
"Is he… gone?" I ask, my voice wavering more than I wish.
"Yes, I took care of him. He won't be bothering you anymore."
I get up slowly, making my way over to the rubble and to him. I put my hand in his and he smiles at me. It's then I notice that his eyes are red. Before my very eyes, my hand still in his, his face transforms and I'm hand in hand with James. I try to pull away, but the harder I pull the tighter he holds. I hear myself screaming as everything goes black. I realize that I'm still screaming when my eyes open to the starlit room, my ribs screaming back in protest.
As I calm my breathing, I see Jasper subtly slip out of the room. If I didn't know what I was looking for I would have missed him, but even when he isn't supposed to wake me up he's always here. He knows sometimes I need to be alone after, so if I don't reach for him he'll leave. I can't have him now, not with the image of him shifting to James in my head, but as always he doesn't seem offended.
I think about time passing. I don't know how long it's been since we got back to the house, days and nights, flashbacks, visions and nightmares are the same to me, but it's not just me who has changed.
The dynamics around the house have changed, since we arrived home. I have a lot to sort through, but it seems that everyone else does too. I think they all knew they were getting into something big when I first reacted to Rosalie and Jasper fighting, the first few minutes they knew me, but I guess none of us really knew what all was going on. Now, they're doing the same 'go back and reexamine memories to see them make sense' that I am. I'm not remembering the missing dreams from the days before I was taken, but I imagine they were of him. Even when I deny myself visions in my conscious hours, I can't shut them down as I sleep and they get woven into my subconscious' imagination of dreams. Some of it is past and present and the future is woven throughout. I keep track of them for that reason, but I doubt I'll miss any more now that I've allowed myself to remember him.
It's hard to say who else is more haunted by my return; it's probably a close call between Jasper and Edward. With Jasper there's always more below the surface, and although I care about the others, I'm willing to admit that Jasper is something different to me. I think he considers me the same way, because he's been too quiet lately, spending all of his time strategizing, sometimes with the others and other times alone. When they get sick of hearing it from him, he continues on his own, plotting and playing out scenarios in his head.
Edward is also been hit hard, even though he wasn't there when I was found and he isn't the same to me as Jasper is. Every scene he missed in Canada has been replayed for him in triplicate and he has the added burden of hearing the details right from my mind in thoughts, dreams and flashbacks. Although I hear he and Jasper argue about it, he leaves sometimes to get away from it all. I feel terrible that I'm driving him out of his own house, but he assures me that he had to get away every once in a while even before we came and all of this happened.
Carlisle is probably the most unchanged. He's a doctor and used to dealing with horrific situations, I guess, and after that examination from hell he went back to his routine around the house, doing his best to act like nothing happened around me. Although it looks professional, I think it's just as much hiding as any of the others. I hear Esme crying in their room some nights and I know that she is only putting on a brave face for me. She mothers and cooks and comes upstairs just to brush my hair and hold my hand but she's hurting too. Jasper told me what she'd shared of her past to him and I think she's remembering her own nightmare. Carlisle is always there with her when she's upset, and it gives me hope that I might be able to have someone like that, even after what I've done. Esme hasn't done the things I have to survive, but if she can find love, maybe she might be able to teach me to deserve it also.
Emmett has occasions of his normal cheer, but he's more subdued than he was before. He still plays around and tries to lighten the mood, but he gives up easily these days. Rosalie continues to insist on our training sessions, altered now that she knows what I'm up against. Every once in a while they take off too, and when she comes back she seems better. I can tell when an outing is imminent because she gets quieter and quieter. Not much bothers her, but I know this does. I wouldn't have caught it before, but I now that I know what to look for I see it.
I feel as if I'm the sun and the rest of the house revolves carefully around me, as if I might break if it were any other way. Every word within my hearing range is carefully chosen and every plan is made around me. The attention is just about driving me mad, so most days I spend at least part of the day holed up in my room, willing everyone to just act normally for a minute.
I know that may be hypocritical, given my present condition, but every time they tiptoe around me it just reminds me how fragile I am. I watch out the window, the dawn, the clouds, the hazy glow, the stars, the first light showing through again and then sometimes I sleep. I don't give in until I can't stay awake any longer. The flashbacks are bad, but if I stay in my room and everyone leaves me alone I can usually avoid them. The nightmares are worse because I can't control or prepare myself for them.
We've heard nothing from James in however long we've been here, and as time passes the atmosphere is starting to shift again. Jasper is vigilant as ever, sure that this is a ploy to get us to let our guard down. I think I agree, although I find it hard to care too much. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Carlisle is starting to think that he might not come back at all, that he was bluffing and now he's moved on. Poor naïve Carlisle; always looking for the silver lining. There isn't one, not on that monster. He's a tracker with eternity to obsess, he's coming back, and I've never doubted it a second.
The visible wounds have healed into angry scars, the worst the clearly visible letters across my lower body. Only Esme hasn't seen them and I'm sure Carlisle gave her some idea after the impromptu checkup. I wish I hadn't seen them, but I can't close my eyes forever.
I've spent days in such wildly different states of mind that sometimes I don't recognize myself. I get these ideas in my head of how to fix myself, fix all of us, and I can't get them out until I try them. I've pretended nothing was out of the ordinary, a short and fruitless phase, followed by ignoring everyone and trying to convince them to move on and leave me for him. For almost a week I tried to seduce Jasper, hoping that if his hands were on me they would somehow erase James'. For such a primal being he was much stronger willed than I expected, I suspect Edward may have informed him of my plans. More than once I caught him off guard, seeing his eyes flash black and his instincts take over, but before he would so much as touch me he'd pull back, usually leaving the house and leaving me alone to plot how to do better.
When I gave up on that, I had just about lost all hope. If not ever Jasper thought I was attractive and worth anything I didn't have any reason to put everyone through all that with James. I crawled up onto Emmett's lap, the wild animal and the teddy bear. I was closer than I'd ever been to him so none of the others would hear, and asked him to die. I knew Edward wouldn't and Jasper would be mad, having made the request of him before. Carlisle and Esme are too timid of souls and Rosalie would berate me for giving up, so I asked the only one I thought I had a chance with.
He rocked me back and forth, holding me so tightly I thought I was going to get my wish, but then he carried me up to Carlisle, telling me that he could help me get through it. I didn't want to get through it, so I went back to my room alone. Jasper was there in seconds, begging me to believe that he'll take care of me and protect me, that I have something to live for. I dreamed of dying that night, and after I took my last breath I was transported back in time, back to James and Victoria and Laurent. James told me that he'd won me; that I'd given up and now he had me forever. I decided when I woke up that even if it was only a dream, I wasn't going to take my chances.
I spent a day and a half lashing out at everyone, finding anything I could to make them snap. I was physically healed and I couldn't stand that everyone looked at me as if I was well again. I tried everything to make one of them lose it and hit me, the pain familiar and something I could deal with. No one took the bait, not so much as yelling back, and I resigned myself from that phase early.
I stopped speaking for a while, which deterred Edward not one bit from translating aloud everything I did and didn't want communicated to the rest of the family, so that was short lived. I found and devoured all of the donated blood Carlisle had brought back from the hospital to ensure my wellbeing. My eyes had been starting to fade and even though I couldn't bring myself to kill a human, even if I were ever allowed out of the house alone, I had to remind everyone who looked at me that I was still the monster I felt like inside. My blazing red eyes did little to affect anyone but me and I resolved not to attempt that again, and even if I hadn't, the supply was never replenished to give me that opportunity. I even altered most of my wardrobe to be revealing and inappropriate, wanting to look the whore that I felt. No one even responded, just like the other times, and eventually I was too uncomfortable to continue.
I made more crazy attempts at getting my life back, but nothing ever made me feel any different. I hid and flaunted, screamed and was silent, sobbed and raged and refused to acknowledge anything had happened, I glutted myself and then starved it back away and nothing made the disconnect in my head find peace. Finally, I went back to my old standby. I hadn't kept much weight of my time with James because of the time I spent recovering afterward, but I lost the rest of it and more. It was my tried and true method, the only way I could feel in control and I didn't need a reaction from anyone else in order for it to make me feel better. It was my own drug to numb me to the real world and I took it like my life depended on it.
Minutes, hours, days, maybe weeks are passing; I can't tell the difference and I don't care to. Time seems to pass relentlessly. I know he's coming back, and until he does, I can't let my guard down. He can't catch me vulnerable. The only real activity I've allowed myself are the short sessions with Rosalie, she's enlisted Esme's help as well. She assures me that now that she knows what I'm up against, she can do more to help me. I don't know if I actually believe it, but it makes me feel like I'm doing something about my situation other than sitting here as bait.
Truthfully, they don't last long anyway. I get dizzy and black out at sudden movements, so it doesn't take long before she sends me up to bed. I don't mind that either. I know why it's happening and it means that I'm in control.
I think she knows too, but everyone still treats me as glass, so she won't say what she's thinking. She doesn't understand; I get it. She's never wanted so badly to be able to disappear that she fights the most basic instinct of eating to stay alive. She told me last session that she planned on enlisting Edward into my training sessions next week. It sounds awful, but I don't have it in me to argue.
Sometimes I just lie on my bed and stare at nothing; I don't know how long these sessions last because it doesn't matter. I watch the world sway lightly as I settle and then fix my attention on the dancing shapes just outside the focus of my eyes. I can hold completely still and stare at the same ceiling tile but the black dots dance on, a graceful ballet of control and denial.
Rosalie comes for me again, to bring me downstairs to their odd set up. She hands me a drink, a thick gross looking concoction that tastes vaguely of chocolate and mud. She's made me drink one before we train for the last several times. It chases some of the stars away, which I like and hate. I can't really tell anymore. We stretch, go through our warm ups, and then she leaves. This is new. I stare after her for a few moments before the door opens again. Edward. I had forgotten. I forget a lot of things these days.
He's wearing a dark colored undershirt and gym shorts. He's barefoot, all in all a fairly equivalent outfit to Rosalie's. I don't know what she's thinking. I'm not ready for this. He takes a step toward me and I step away before I give myself permission.
"She's thinking that James is a hell of a lot more terrifying than me. You know me, Alice."
I think I actually flinch at the name. I don't say it, don't think it. My hand goes to my middle without my permission. His tone is quiet. It's supposed to calm me down. It doesn't. I take another step back before I even register that he's moved toward me.
"Alice, you can't keep backing away from me. There's a wall behind you. Stand your ground; you know I won't hurt you."
I know that outside, real life Edward won't hurt me. I have no such assurance from here in this room Edward. Rosalie and Esme make me do holds. Edward might do those. I can't do this.
He's wearing less than I'm used to. I can see the ribbons of lean muscle in his arms and shoulders and the solid build of his calves. I can much more accurately assess his build in his current attire. He's smaller than him, which makes him faster. It negates any chance of an advantage I have with my size. He's much stronger than me, even if build alone was the factor, and he's fully vampire, which means build is the least of my concern.
"You know me, Alice."
I shake my head. I know him out there. I don't know him in here, alone with me. I don't know him in defense classes where he has to touch me. I don't know him when I'm wearing this… thing that I hate.
He drops to a knee, but somehow that seems more threatening. He holds a hand out to me. It doesn't make him look less about to pounce.
"Alice. Come here."
I shake my head.
"We're going to do the second half of your stretches again. Nothing else yet."
I don't believe it.
He stands and closes the distance between us in a fluid motion. I shriek, the speed startling me, before he pulls me to the middle of the room by my wrist.
I yank my hand free and he releases me, faint blackness appearing at the edge of my vision as my breathing spikes. He sits and I follow suit, cautiously. We're repeating the second half because those are the ones Rosalie or Esme helps me with. We're doing them because that means he has to touch me. I can't do this. His hand hangs in the air between us. I can't do this. His attention makes me feel vulnerable. My exercise outfit makes me feel naked.
"It's me, Alice. You're safe."
I don't believe him. I have no choice. He can make me if he chooses. We can't leave until Rosalie is satisfied. She won't be unless I cooperate. I stretch my legs out in front of me and then pull them to the sides as far as I can. Vulnerable. I reach for his arms and he grabs my wrists before I can change my mind. He pulls me lightly forward, probably coached by Rosalie on our stretches. Maybe he always watches in her mind. I freak myself out with that thought, trying to yank my hands away from his, which doesn't work.
"Edward-" My voice is choked in my ears.
"No. I don't, Alice. She showed me today. I leave you alone when you're in your lessons. Everyone does."
He releases my wrists and watches me expectantly. He is waiting for me to continue. I don't want to. I have no choice. I stand, but as I put one arm behind me I can see that it's shaking. I don't want him behind me. He knows that.
"I do. We have to work on it, Alice; it can't be like this forever."
I close my eyes against the blurriness of my vision. I don't want him to see it, even though I know he hears me. I start when I feel his cold hand on my wrist, but I try to pull away when his other hand touches the back of my shoulder to steady it. I turn, I have to see him, I can't have him behind me.
"Am I doing it wrong?" He asks, knowing the answer. Rosalie does the same. It's different when it's her. This dress is form-fitting and sleeveless. That part of my shoulder isn't covered. He can't. I can't have him touch me. I can't see him. I can't do this.
"Yes you can."
He doesn't make me turn away from him, he walks behind me again. It isn't better. He hadn't released my hand and pulls it back again, his other hand bracing my shoulder. I try to pretend it's Rosalie. I can't. Her hands are smaller, less calloused. I'm accustomed to her hands on me. His radiate difference, warning, fear, and I can't pretend. He releases my hand and reaches for the other. I am tempted to try to snatch it away, but I know I can't. His hand is on my other shoulder. The cold is seeping into my skin. It feels like poison. It hurts like the Alaska house. James is behind me. Oh God, James is here. I yank my arm back as he releases it; the force probably would have wretched it out of socket if he hadn't been expecting it. I use the momentum to turn and duck; he'll hit me for resisting.
"Alice, it's Edward. Still Edward." My eyes fall on his. Gold. I follow the lines of his face. It's not James.
He offers a hand to help me up. I ignore it and stand. He offers his hand again. No. I won't do the last one. He quirks an eyebrow at me, indicating the door where Rosalie was almost certainly standing. She wouldn't let me leave. He catches one wrist, leaving his hand open. I shake my head. The cold is spreading again.
"Alice, she won't let us out until we've done everything on her agenda."
"I want her in here then."
"She can hear you. She won't come, but she's right there. We're not alone."
He could tell me whatever he thinks I want to hear; I have no way of verifying his words. For all I knew Rosalie and Emmett had gone off again. For all I knew they were the only ones in the house.
I try to step away, but he still had one of my wrists.
"You know that's not true. Esme is in the kitchen. Rosalie is right outside. Emmett is in the garage. Jasper is in the yard. They would all hear you if you needed them."
I hate it. I have no way of knowing if he's telling the truth, but I also know I can't make a run for it. Whether or not Rosalie is right outside, I can't leave this room until Edward lets me. I have no choice. I offer him my other wrist.
He holds them in one of his hands and I blanch, even though I know what he's doing. He pauses long enough for me to regain my bearings. The light is hitting his hair just wrong, it makes it look too light, almost blond. I blink and it's James. I blink again and it's Edward.
"You're okay." He assures me. I'm not, but I have no choice. I nod. He closes the distance between us in a step that puts him only inches to my left and my lungs forget how to function. My heart is racing in panic, I can't do this, but I have no choice. I shake my head in denial.
"You're okay, Alice." He repeats, reaching an arm around the other side of my waist, but not touching me. He's too close. The pale skin of his arms shimmers slightly, even in the artificial light, and every muscle is too sharply defined. His scent is different, but I shouldn't be this close; danger, my mind screams, and I have no choice but to ignore it.
"Just breathe. You're okay." He pulls my hands over my head and then down toward the floor behind me, his other hand moving to brace my lower back. The movement puts him too close. I can't breathe. James has my hands above my head. I can't escape. He's too close. I can't scream; my throat won't work. I'm paralyzed with terror and I know that I won't escape him a second time. I try to twist out of his grasp and his hand on my back shifts to keep me stable, pulling my hands back until I'm standing again and releases me.
My eyes fix on him again. Edward. I hate this. I'm shaking. I can't do this. It took me a week before I would even let Rosalie do that stretch, and only then because she insisted that flexibility was one of my strongest allies with my build. I feel dirty. I can feel his hands on me, spreading frost and poison. I wrap my arms around myself to ward off the cold. Whore. Oh God he's right. I let him touch me. Another set of handprints on me. I feel so dirty.
"Rosalie, she's done."
I don't hear the answer, but I see his frown.
His features darken and I step away. He doesn't seem to notice.
"Come in here and tell me that again." I hear the anger in his voice. I'm not safe.
I stumble and I can't catch myself without turning away from him, which I can't do. His gaze shifts with the movement and he catches me in a flash, his hands on my arms. I can feel the handprints. I can't wash them off. I let him. He moves his hands when I'm stable. His eyes flash again, turning back to the door. My hands cover the marks only I can see. They're permanent. I sink to my knees. Edward is growling. My heart drops to my stomach. I'm going to die. He's yelling something, but I don't hear it. I have to get it off of me. I rake my nails across the infected skin, I have to get it off of me, he can't be right. I hear the door click open, but no other movement. I can't. I have to stop it. I repeat the motion. I have to get him off my skin. The blood covers it; I don't have to see it. They're not moving. I lift my eyes enough to catch them, have to know where they are. Rosalie and Edward are frozen in the doorway. His eyes are black. Hers are dark. Neither is breathing. Their eyes are on my arms.
Stupid. I'm so stupid. I stood, backing away. I'd just made myself dinner. Maybe more to Edward. His eyes were so black. James never just drank. He'll use me and drain me when he's done. I'll be covered in handprints. Too many more. Edward took a step to reclaim the distance between us, but Rosalie caught his arm, neither of them looking away from the blood still forming small rivers down my arms.
I can see his arm flexing in his sister's hold. He's going to get free. She's too distracted trying not to attack me herself. She'll either attack too or run to try to keep her composure. He's going to attack me. The demon demands it.
His lips curl into a smirk that makes my blood run cold. He yanks his arm free in a split second and Rosalie breaks out of her trance, lunging for him but too slow. A step toward me fixes her eyes on the blood again and she turns from the room. She had to run or attack. She's choosing to run, which is safer for me, even though it doesn't feel like it. I watch him blur across the room. I can't stop him. I stand completely still, frozen to the ground. His eyes are pitch black. The demon is loose. I was foolish to fear Edward before. The demon inside him is much more dangerous. The end won't be that bad. At least it isn't James.
I don't hear the other footsteps. I don't even realize there is another in the room until someone is suddenly between us. Edward collides with his solid form, the momentum driving them both back into me. He throws his arm back to try to absorb some of the blow, but most of their combined weight lands on me. He shoves Edward away from us, rolling the other way to release the pressure on me. His eyes rake over me in a fraction of a second. His eyes are dark too, but not black. He turns his attention back to Edward, who is running at him again.
There's an odd sensation settling over me. The marks are gone for a second and I try to breathe a sigh of relief, but I find that somewhat impossible. There's a strange warmth covering me, filling my mouth and wrapping around my consciousness. I hear more voices and then everything fades to a fuzzy silence. I recognize the feeling, fading consciousness, but it seems to normally be accompanied by extreme pain. I search for it and realize that I actually am in a dizzying amount of pain. Strange.
A face appears in my vision and I cringe. No. I don't want Carlisle. I want Esme, I want Rosalie. I want Jasper. He reaches for my face and I turn away from him. His eyes are gold, not even a tinge of darkness. I don't understand, how can he hurt me with such light eyes? My hearing returns in a roar and I close my eyes as if to compensate.
"I need you to hold still. Please don't fight me, Alice; I'm trying to help you."
I try to shake my head, but I find myself unable. I can feel his hands on me. More fingerprints. I shudder, which seems to upset something that sets off a whole new category of pain. I want Esme.
"Es-" I try, shocked by the odd gurgle of my voice. My lungs burn in protest. Everything hurts.
"She can't, Love. The others can't be around all of the blood." The endearment turns my stomach. I can't do this. I'm shaking and it's making everything worse. I open my eyes in time to see his gaze fall on someone else. He rises into a defensive stance, his eyes wary.
"Jasper, leave her. You shouldn't be here."
"I won't hurt her."
"Your eyes are dark."
"Not from that. Carlisle, don't stand between us."
"I need to help her, Jasper. I lay no claim to her. Let me do my job."
"I won't attack her."
"You did before you came."
"Exactly. You only do it once. Her blood is wrong."
I reach toward his voice. I need him. He can make the handprints go away. He takes another step closer to me, growling low in his throat when Carlisle doesn't stand down.
"You're too close to her to fight me. I need to do this, Jasper, let me work."
"Let me by and you can work. I can feel her, she's not afraid of me. She's terrified of you. It's causing her further injury."
I can see in the sag of Carlisle's shoulders the he hears the truth. He stands down and Jasper comes to my side, falling to his knees and pulling one of my hands into his.
I breathe a sigh of relief. I'm safe if he's here. Carlisle watches him closely for a few moments before accepting the truth of his earlier words, he won't attack me.
"She's hemorrhaging, can you hear it? I think the blunt force trauma crushed several ribs into internal organs. She's strong, but the starvation is weakening her bones. She can't heal from this fast enough unless we act fast. Rosalie!" He called, knowing she couldn't enter the room again.
"I need my medical bag and an IV. Leave them outside the door." I don't hear motion, but at some later point Jasper stands and I whimper. He disappears for only a moment, reappearing with several things he leaves by Carlisle and comes back to sit by me. Carlisle touches my side and it feels like it explodes. My world goes dark.
I wake in a different room. My room has a while plaster ceiling. The makeshift room has several additional layers of drywall to set a false ceiling lower than the actual one. This room has arched wood paneling leading to a high arc of glass.
I try to turn my head, but find it impossible. I try my hand and find the same. I'm tied down. Oh God. James. Screaming won't help me now, but I can't stop the crying. I'm terrified.
Jasper appears and I could cry with relief.
"Hey." His smile is light and somewhat forced, but it sets my world right. At least until I remember that I'm still tied to the bed I'm lying on.
"Jasper, I can't move." My voice is more panicked than I intended. I hold my breath. What if he put them there?
"Yeah, sorry about that. You were hurt pretty bad and you seemed to be dreaming. Couldn't let you hurt yourself. Should be okay now though."
He reaches for the bindings and pulls them free and I sit up too fast. He catches me as the pain and dizziness pull me back down.
"Slowly, Darlin'. You've been out for three days. Carlisle kept you drugged to sleep it off. Figured you needed to heal on your own."
"Yeah, I know. They're all okay now, it won't happen again."
"How do you know?"
"You only taste your blood once, Alice. It's wrong. It smells right, but it tastes wrong. It's what saved you that first time right when we met."
"I don't understand."
"I had Carlisle draw blood from you when you were strong enough. I made them all try it. They get it now, it won't happen again."
I try to process that information. I can't. They've all tasted my blood. It's too intimate. I can't help the shudder of revulsion. Even my blood is dirty. I can't be clean again. I finally hear his words.
"It happened again with James."
His eyes darken.
"James didn't continue to feed from you off of thirst."
That didn't make it better. His bloodlust was inextricably tied to his other lusts, and Jasper had just given my blood to… whom? To all of them? I didn't realize I'd voiced the question until he answered.
"Except Carlisle. He works around blood constantly. His control is fine, he didn't need it."
"Oh God. I think I'm going to be sick."
I cover my mouth, fighting back the nausea. Jasper's eyes are confused, as if he truly sees nothing wrong with his words. I feel alone. They all did it, which means that none of them understood. Jasper is different. Now he isn't. James, Laurent, even Victoria, several strangers, Jasper, and now all of them. Whore. Yes. I accept it and put it from my mind. I can't explain this to him, he won't understand, and apparently the others won't either. I have to put it out of my mind and deal with it later. I'm sure it'll make an appearance in my nightmares, I'll leave it to my unconscious consideration.
He helps me stand and we go back to our room. I make him take me to the window sill. He tells me I shouldn't be there long, that I should lie down again, but I don't listen. I have to see him coming.
"The bruises are still healing, although the rest of the internal damage seems to be mended."
I hadn't realized Carlisle had entered the room. I also hadn't realized that he'd touched me. I'm slipping. I turn away from the window.
"Alice, you were remarkably lucky that Jasper managed to break their fall."
I don't feel lucky. I don't answer. At least he hasn't tasted my blood. It seems to make him a minority in the house.
"You'll feel easily winded for another day or two and the bruising will likely stick around for another week at least, but you're going to be fine."
I nod noncommittally. I don't really care. He speaks to Jasper for a few more moments before he leaves us again.
"Alice, I'm sorry. I should have insisted on this sooner."
He doesn't see the wince, but he probably feels the emotion behind it. I have to be more subtle by spades if I expect to avoid a conversation about it.
"You got there in time. That's all I really needed."
"I should have been sooner. If I had gotten to him a second before I could have changed his direction enough. You would have been unharmed."
"It doesn't matter."
"It does. I shouldn't have let Rosalie lock him in there with you when I knew you might bleed."
My eyes flick down to the barely noticeable white lines of healing skin on my arms. The black marks were still there, his handprints frozen into my skin. I shiver.
"It's fine. I have to learn sometime." I don't really believe it, but it seems like the right thing to say. I know that Edward wouldn't normally hurt me. I realize that he probably feels awful, Rosalie too. It makes me more than a bit nervous, but I realize that I should probably go find them. I never know what day James might make his reappearance. I don't have the luxury of waiting until I'm ready to approach them, I wouldn't want that to be the last image I have of either of them.
"I have to see Edward and Rosalie. I'm sure they feel awful."
"You don't have to yet."
"Yes I do."
I ignore his protests and head downstairs, my personal shadow accompanying me uncertainly. I reach for his hand and he calms. Rosalie is sitting on the couch in the living room. I let go of his hand. She doesn't move as I approach, finally looking up at me when I'm standing right in front of her.
"I'm sorry, Alice. I should have listened to him sooner. It's my fault, not his."
"It's okay. It's not either of your fault, it's part of who you are. I can't hold it against you."
"You can and you should. It was stupid and reckless."
"You did it to try to help me get over all of this. It's okay. I don't really have time to take this all slow."
"I'm really sorry anyway."
I nod to her and she stands, reaching out uncertainly to hug me. I brace myself and allow her. She holds my shoulders, probably mindful of my injuries.
"I'm so glad you're okay." She whispers. We pull away and she ghosts one hand over my side. I can tell that she's picturing the injuries I have yet to see.
"I'm fine, Rosalie. I've survived worse."
That was apparently the wrong thing to say, judging by the growl behind me and the upset expression on Rosalie's face. I had almost forgotten Jasper was out of my vision… almost. I turned quickly at the sound, making sure to have both of them in my vision. He realized his mistake immediately, smoothing his expression and holding his hands out in front of him in a placating gesture. I take his hand again cautiously and he sighs in relief. Rosalie smiles sadly, excusing herself to go find Emmett. I can tell that she's still upset, so it seems like a good idea. Emmett can fix anything with Rosalie.
"Where is Edward?"
"Outside. He hasn't come back in the house since it happened."
I feel I tinge of guilt, despite its irrationality. I drove Edward out of his own house.
I urge Jasper to lead the way and he does so reluctantly. I can see the stiff set of his shoulders and the change in his walk. He told me that none of them would be a threat anymore, but his instincts remember being attacked by the other vampire. He radiates guard and violence and I have to let go of his hand. He doesn't fight me on it, leading me out the front door and around the house into the woods. We walk for only a few minutes before we come to a clearing that is obviously new. Trees and undergrowth are torn from the earth and thrown around like matchsticks, some of them broken in several places.
Edward is sitting in the middle of the clearing, the same clothing from our session, although torn in several places. He's still barefoot. I shiver before I can get a hold of myself. I can feel his hands on me, see the marks, and I shove the thought away. The marks that caused the tears in his clothes are long gone, but they're easy to imagine. I'm suddenly relieved that I'm not currently touching Jasper. Edward is fast and strong, but he was obviously no match for him.
I take a step toward him but Jasper catches my arm. I flinch because I didn't expect it, although my previous line of thought hadn't helped, and I barely see the hurt in his expression before he hides it.
I eye him questioningly, but Edward starts slightly.
"Never approach one of our kind unannounced when they're like this. He didn't hear us coming. He could have attacked you again without realizing it."
The again in his statement did nothing for my confidence. It apparently had a similar effect on Edward; his shoulders seemed to slump impossibly more.
Jasper stays at my side as I approach him, stopping a few steps to the side of him, only a fraction of a second away from being between us if necessary. A shiver runs through my body. Despite his reassurances, he doesn't entirely trust Edward.
I stand a few feet in front of him, but he doesn't raise his eyes. I sink slowly to my knees on the mangled the forest floor, a significant distance below him because he's sitting on the felled trunk of a rather large tree.
He doesn't move. I scoot slightly closer, ignoring the reproachful look from Jasper.
"Edward, please talk to me."
His eyes are haunted when they lift to mine. They're dark amber again, but I can't help but see them flash black. He blanches when he sees it in my mind and I frown in apology, shoving the thought from my mind.
"No, that isn't your fault. I'm so sorry, Alice. I had myself away from you. I should have been strong enough to run like Rose was."
"I lost track of my surroundings. I should have been more careful not to bleed around you guys. Although I guess that's taken care of now." I did my best to keep the bitterness out of my voice, but his raised eyebrow indicated that he heard it in my thoughts. I shake my head slightly.
"Yeah, it is." He agreed, a shame on his face unrelated to the original incident. Apparently he hadn't considered that it might upset me when he'd agreed to Jasper's plan either. It was fine; at least it happened when I was out.
"I want you to come back to the house. I'm okay and so is everyone else. I just want things to be normal."
"Alice, I can't…"
"Yes you can. I want you to. Just come, please. I can't be responsible for kicking you out of the house. Besides, we're not done training I'm sure."
This drew a reaction from both men. The hiss from Jasper was sharply cut off when I reached my feet quickly and stepped away from him, but I'd also moved to put more distance between myself and Edward when he stood to voice his dissent.
Both backed down, although Edward didn't sit again.
"You can't be serious."
I wasn't really sure I was, but given my reaction to him that day it seemed I still had a long way to go.
"I am. I still need it, and if I can't handle you then I can't move on."
My voice is steadier than I feel, but I need a way to move past this event, and pretending to continue like normal is my desperate grasp at actual normalcy. He sees in my thoughts that I need this and his resolve seems to waiver.
Jasper doesn't dare outright refuse on my behalf, although I can see that it's an idea he's still considering.
"Come back to the house." I take up an earlier line of plea to distract from the controversial one, and it seems to work. He nods dejectedly and turns toward the house, Jasper placing himself firmly between us for the short walk to the house. I follow them back, returning immediately to my window. Everything feels too clear. I refuse dinner, despite hating to see Esme's hopeful face fall. They must have been feeding me somehow when I was out, and I have to find the haze I had before. The sun sets and rises the next day. I start to drift again, this is what I need.