Story Name: Stalkers and Starbucks

Penname: voi ch'intrate

Rating, pairing if applicable: T [for lip-locking teenagers, creepy stalkers and hot baristas making iced coffee] - Jasper/Alice [and some inconsequential Edward/Bella tomfoolery]

Word Count (not including header/author's note): 4033

The rugged cracks in the paneled wood floor cut into the balls of my bare feet as I quickly run to the stereo on the far wall. All around me my actions are projected and multiplied by the mirrors lining the walls. I can see myself at all angles as I hit the pause button and rewind my music. I can see the hideous sweat stain darkening the back of my tank top and the top of my shorts and I can see the bruises already forming on my knees. I suddenly want to smash every single mirror so I don't have to look at myself.

"Hey, we're heading out now," Bella pokes her head into the studio; her eyes linger on the darkening skin of my knees, she doesn't say anything, though I know she wants to. Bella is, for all intents and purposes, the best friend I have. She and I have stuck together since her mother enrolled her in what was to be the most tortuous year of ballet ever. We were both first-timers and so we stuck together. She came out of the class with a broken ankle and a wounded ego; I came out with a fervent love of dance and a new best friend. I dare say I had the better end of the deal. Now Bella and I are high school seniors, ready to embark into the world, except unbeknownst to her, I will not be embarking.

I am being watched. I don't know who is watching me, but I get an eerie feeling wherever I go that someone somewhere is staring intently at me. I feel like my demise is imminent. I cannot escape it and so I'm distancing myself from people I love. I've spent a ridiculous amount of time at the studio dancing until my muscles burn so that I don't have to face my friends and family. Bella comes and stays at the studio because her soon-to-be-mother-in-law owns it. I suppose Bella got more out of that hideous ballet class than a broken ankle and ego. She got the attention of the studio owner's eldest son. And years later she got a diamond ring from him. I would be lying if I didn't say I was jealous.

Edward leans around the doorframe behind her and wraps his arm around her shoulders. "Come with us," he urges. Edward is older than we are by a couple of years, he's a college student and he thinks he's worldly because of it. "There's a new late-night barista at Starbucks, we're going to go see how he does."

Edward is addicted to Starbucks. His love of Starbucks is very nearly akin to a chemical dependency. I shake my head, as much as I would love Starbucks I don't need people around me if and when whoever is watching me strikes. I won't have Bella or Edward in the line of fire.

"You're working too hard," Bella tells me, hands on hips. I mentally sigh in frustration whenever shy and timid Bella melts away into stubborn Bella I know that I will be on the losing end of the battle.

"I'll be fine. I want to make sure my solo is perfect," I say, even though I'm nearly positive I won't be able to perform it.

"Your solo already is perfect," Bella says, resting her hands akimbo. "You're going to kill yourself if you keep this up," she indicates to my torn up feet, bruised knees.

I shake my head. My solo could use work in my rather jaundiced opinion, even with my death on the horizon I still want to leave my legacy by dancing the best damn solo this studio has ever seen.

"Ok, well I'm not giving you an option," Edward stoops down and kneels by the stereo. Before I can stop him, he unplugs the studio equipment and twirls the cord around in his hand. "You're coming with us."

I scowl at him. He has just sealed his fate, if he wants to ignore what I've been trying to silently tell them; then he can. He stomp my foot for good measure so he knows I'm pissed off. He gives me a taunting look back. Bella has the sense to at least shoot me an apologetic look. I decide to play the obstinate card.

"Edward Cullen, I am not leaving this studio. You'll have to carry me out, kicking and screaming." I try to snatch the cord away from him, knowing full well that my arms are too short to be able to plug it back in.

Edward holds the cord over his head and as I jump for it he catches me around the waist and hoists me over his shoulder. I beat on his back with my fists and he laughs at me. I know that he is taking my words literally just to piss me off more.

Bella grabs both of my hands so I don't actually injure her fiancé. I really want to give him a good kidney jab, but I know that will cause him to drop me and my body is already sore enough as it is. I let myself go limp in his grasp and he struggles under the sudden dead weight.

I find myself being tossed into the backseat of Edward's Volvo. This grosses me out slightly, because God knows what he's done to my best friend in this back seat. Edward glares at me in the rearview mirror as if he can hear what I'm thinking. I flip him off for good measure. Bella twists around in her seat and tells me to be nice.

I sink down into the leather seat and cross my arms across my chest like a pouting child. I just want to be alone. Edward and Bella are holding hands across the center console and it's not helping my despair any. I see in them what I know I can never have for myself.

Edward pulls into the sparse strip-center parking lot. Most of the stores are closed, their windows dark but Starbucks is lit up like a lighthouse steering ships to the shore.

The hair on the back of my neck stands on end and I instinctively search for my watcher. I see a glimpse of him in the shadows. This is the third time I've seen him. The first was in front of my house before school one rainy morning. I thought nothing of it; he was just another person out jogging in the morning, caught up in this new health-fad.

The second time I saw him was hidden in the tree line across from the studio. He was perched high up in a tree, his eyes trained on the small windows that look into the studio I always practice in. I knew he was watching me dance. This time we made eye contact and he raised one crooked finger to his lips and bade me to stay silent.

Out of fear or stupidity I have kept my mouth shut and not told anyone. Perhaps I thought I could just forget about him. If I pretended he didn't exist then he would leave me alone. I know that's not how these things work. I know I should tell my parents or Bella or the cops or somebody. But I am resigned. Everybody dies sometime. Maybe I'm just…relieved.

I'm on the brink of something so new and unknown that not having to worry about it anymore makes me feel like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. If my watcher does kill me, then I will be free. Free of adult responsibilities. Free of adult fears. Free of having to fall in love. Free of ever having to fake it ever again.

I sigh and stare at the figure hidden in shadow. He is tall so I know when the time comes I won't be able to fight him off. His blonde hair is long and hangs in his face and I can tell it's unwashed. He smiles at me and makes a crude gun shape with his fingers and points it at me fires, and then draws his index finger across his neck.

I stare at him until Edward grabs my elbow and jerks me into the open door of Starbucks. He greets the barista and I quickly learn that they know each other from one of Edward's asinine university classes.

The barista is cute. He's taller than Edward by a few inches and he has to hunch over the counter so that he can prepare my grande caramel frappe. He draws a flower with caramel on the whipped cream on top and hands it to me with a smile. His teeth are crooked.

Bella and Edward are leaning against the counter chatting with him and I am sipping my drink quickly, feeling the caffeine buzz through my veins. I know the man is waiting for me outside. I hope he'll end me quickly. I hope he won't make Bella and Edward watch.

Suddenly the barista is talking to me. He has a slight accent I can't place. His eyes are blue and they sparkle when he talks. I find out he's a history major. Edward teases him about it because apparently that's a shit major. We ask him what he plans to do with his major and he doesn't know. We laugh at him again, me hollowly. He gives me a look that says he knows something's off. I hope he doesn't tell Bella and Edward.

They're too caught up in pre-wedded bliss to notice what's going on with me. So while they engage in a passionate, almost illegal, public display of affection, the barista turns on me.

I stare at his forearms and the tattoo that is peaking beneath the rolled-up sleeve of his white button-up. When my gaze finally meets his I see that he is amused. I sigh and wish that I could just leave and meet my fate.

"What's the matter?" He asks in a quite, unobtrusive baritone. I like his voice, it sounds like the coffee he is brewing. He runs one hand through his dark blonde hair. "You look a little jumpy."

"It's just the coffee," I tell him, jabbing with my long green stray for emphasis, flinging bits of whipped cream and iced coffee all over the faux marble countertop. The barista smiles and wipes the counter clean. His smile is lazy, easygoing and he has a dimple in his left cheek that I could drown in.

"No, I don't think it's just that," he returns good-naturedly.

"Yes it is," I reply defensively. I don't like that this shaggy-haired history student can see right through my façade. He is keen, this one, and I am suddenly afraid that he will know exactly what's going on.

I lean away from him and pray Bella and Edward decide to take it elsewhere so that I can go home. I do not want to walk home tonight and I know that I could hitch a ride with Edward and pick up my car in the morning. The barista leans across the counter and smirks at me. The laidback barista is gone. Instead his smile is predatory and I wish I knew what he was thinking.

"Why don't you stay until I close up tonight," he whispers, "I can walk you home."

I realize too late that his smile is coquettish not nefarious. I already want to kick him in the groin and run. But what would that gain? I would just be running to another man who will be my demise. I could choose. But who? If I walked home with the barista he could die, too.

The bell over the door chimes and I am pulled away from my thoughts when I smell putrid body odor mingled with cigarettes. I turn and see the man, my watcher, standing at the cash register waiting to order coffee. He gives me a mocking smile and points to Edward and Bella; he makes a shooing motion with his hands. His eyes are eerie, too dark for his colouring. Unnatural. I shiver and then collect myself.

"Hey guys," I said, too brightly, "why don't you go home without me."

"How are you going to get home?" Bella asks her brown eyes wide. She turns to Edward and wipes a smear of her lip gloss from the corner of his mouth.

"Um, he's taking me home," I indicate to the barista. For the life of me I can't remember his name. I'm sure Edward said it but damned if I don't know it now.

The barista smiles at them, "I'll make sure she gets home safe." He turns to the man, "What can I get for you, sir?"

The man orders the same coffee I am just finishing. Bella and Edward give me uneasy looks. I try to communicate to them with my eyes that I want to stay with the barista. I try not to communicate to them with my eyes that I don't want them to stay and die. Bella and Edward have too much to live for. I hope that if I die tonight that they will name their first baby after me.

The barista busies himself with the coffee and turns to me, flashing the dimple. I try not to melt like any other silly, teenage girl would do.

The man is staring at me, gauging my reaction. The barista finishes the coffee and slams it down on the counter so hard that the side of the plastic cup splits and coffee leaks all over the counter. He jams one of those cardboard holders over the cup and hands it to the man. His expression is rude and he sarcastically thanks the man for his patronage.

I can't help but thinking that the barista is being phenomenally stupid. I know that I have not been the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to this man, but at least I understand exactly how dangerous he is. He is unnatural and evil.

The barista leans across the counter and glares at the man. The man grins back, unafraid. I hope that he will not kill this brave, stupid boy. The man turns and walks out the door. I know he is lingering outside, waiting for us.

I turn to the barista. "That was stupid."

"Not as stupid as what you're doing," he challenged.

"And what am I doing?" I snapped.

"How long has he been bothering you?" He asked his dark blue eyes serious.

"He hasn't been bothering me." I tell him, hoping he can't see through lies. Apparently he can.

"That's bullshit and we both know it," he says. I finally place his accent, it's Southern and smooth.

"Where are you from?" I ask him, hoping for a subject change.

"Texas," he says. "How long has that man been following you? I saw him watching you from the parking lot."

Suddenly, the panic I should have been feeling all along settles into my stomach and I feel as if I'm going to be sick. The coffee burns as it comes back up and the barista leaps into action jerking a trashcan out from under the bar and holding it under my chin.

"Oh my God," I sob once I'm done, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. "God, it's been weeks. Weeks!" I'm getting hysterical and it feels good. At least I am feeling something after having resigned myself to apathy.

"Weeks!" The barista demands, "Why haven't you told anyone?"

"Because," I start and then stop. I actually don't have a reason other than feeling pleased that I wouldn't have to worry about life anymore. It seems like a monumentally ridiculous reason in retrospect. But I can't tell that to someone whose name I don't even know. I stare at him and look for a nametag. Jasper. It fits him.

"You don't even know, do you?" Jasper asks. "Listen, I'm callin' the cops."

"No, don't," I stop him, leaping forward before he can grab that phone. My stomach churns again and I have to sit back down quickly before I throw-up all over his already-stained red Converse.

He sets the phone on the counter and rubs my back with one big hand. "I can't just let you go out there to your death."

"Then come with me," I ask him before I can stop myself.

"You really think I can protect you?" He asks.

"Yes?" I said like a question. He smiles, dimple and all.

"You don't sound too convinced." Actually I am. I am completely convinced that this coffee-making history nerd can save me. He already saved me from unfeeling. I was numb until he dove below the surface and saved me from drowning within myself.

In those dark blue eyes I see hope. I see the future. More specifically I see how my future could be with him. We could make ballet-dancing, coffee-making babies who weren't stupid and didn't willingly walk to their deaths.

"I can walk you home," he says. "But I hope you know once I get you home I'm telling your parents about this."

"Once you get me home, Jasper, I'll tell my parents myself," I say. I don't think my parents would be too happy about a random barista telling them that their daughter is being stalked and she didn't have the figurative balls to tell them herself.

"Ok," he says. "I'm closing up shop early." He pulled his green apron off and just chucks in behind the counter. His jacket is on a peg by the door and instead of pulling it on he puts it over my shoulders. "I won't let him hurt you, Alice."

I like the way he says my name, the way he pronounces his vowels makes my name sound like he's singing it. I wonder if he can sing. I bet he has a nice singing voice. But I really shouldn't be thinking about such things when he is willing to die for me. A stupid girl he just met not even an hour ago.

He turns out the lights, locks the door and offers me his arm. To an outsider we are a normal couple walking home from a late date. We are not two people thrown together by my stupidity and his blind bravery. I can tell he is fingering his cell phone in the pocket of his tight jeans. I'm sure he is ready to dial 911 if need be. I hope he won't have to.

But it happens too fast for him to even have that option. I am pulled back from behind by the hood of Jasper's jacket. My legs buckle under me and the man holds me tight and I can hear the distinct crack of a rib. He smells even worse up close. It is cliché but I can see my life flash before my eyes.

Jasper turns around quickly yet in slow motion. I see everything as if underwater, everything is sluggish and muddled. I am so overcome by pain and fear that I don't see what happens next but somehow Jasper incapacitates my attacker and my spine connects roughly with the cold, hard sidewalk. For a while I am floating and everything is dark and then I am cognizant when I hear Jasper say my name and I open my eyes. Red and blue lights illuminate the tanned planes of his face. I register that Jasper has called 911 and that we are safe.

"I'm sorry, he got away." Jasper tells me. The cops are here, standing over us. I recognize Charlie Swan, Bella's father. He is horrified. I can tell when he looks at me he see his daughter lying on the sidewalk. It's true; this could have easily been Bella. I am surprised it wasn't. Bella is a danger magnet. Usually, I see it coming and avoid it.

I realize now that I am safe and yet in danger all at once. I am now in danger of living, just as everyone else is. I am seriously in danger of falling in love with Jasper. I am in danger of going to college and pulling all-nighters and going to parties and getting drunk and meeting new people. I am in danger of getting married. Of having babies that look just like their Daddy.

I can hear Charlie talking to Jasper; they are calling him a hero. If he hadn't been here to save me who knows where I would be. Jasper doesn't look much like a hero. His eyebrow is bleeding and every now and then he spits blood and he is testing loose teeth with his thumb.

I am caught up in a flurry of activity and I do not think about Jasper again until I am in a hospital room and the cops are telling my parents what happened. I briefly toy with the idea of telling them that I knew I was being stalked; but my mother is already sobbing uncontrollably and I bite my tongue.

I am swept under by a haze of morphine that dulls the ache in my ribs and when I wake up Jasper is sitting in the chair next to my bed. His eyebrow has a piece of gauze taped over it and his cheek is badly bruised and swollen. I briefly wonder if he can still smile and make his dimple come out even though he is baldy disfigured.

When his eyes meet mine, I find out. The dimple is shallow but still there. I find myself smiling in return.

We can hear voices out in the hallway. It's the local news crew and the cops talking to my parents. Everyone is abuzz about what's happened. Apparently I wasn't the first victim of someone they have now identified as James Dobbs. I wasn't his last victim, though. Two hours after I was attacked James Dobbs was found in an abandoned cabin in the woods not far from where Jasper and I were attacked. He killed himself.

I am relieved by the news. But his suicide and my attempted murder and subsequent rescue by a local coffee shop employee have made Jasper and I instant celebrities.

Jasper sighs, garnering my attention. "I can't stand being out there." His words sound funny, like he has cotton in his mouth because his cheek is so badly swollen.

"Why not?" I ask, trying to breathe through the great pain radiating from my right side.

"They keep calling me Forks' own superhero," he says self-consciously.

"Well, you sort of are," I tell him. "You saved me. That's pretty super-hero-ish."

"Yeah, but it's just corny. Superheroes don't exist."

"Oh I beg to differ," I say, pushing myself up on my elbows. He helps me gingerly sit up so that I can face him. I lean forward and peck him on his uninjured cheek. "You're a superhero to me."

He smiles, "When you say it, it don't sound so bad. I still don't like it, though."

"What should I call you, then?" I ask.

He shrugs. "I don't care. Just don't call me late-for-supper." He laughs at his joke and I crack a smile.

I lean forward and snag his cell phone out of the hip pocket of his jeans. With a few deft clicks I program my number into his contacts and set it on speed dial. I feel cocky doing it, but it needs to be done.

"How about you can call me," I say, handing him back his phone.

"Oh, are you trying to get me to ask you out?" He says flirtatiously.

I laugh. "Only if you want to, Jasper. I don't want to be presumptuous. I don't want you to feel obligated to."

"Well, I don't know about obligated, ma'am. But I am your superhero after all…" His voice trails off. He smiles, brushes his lips against my forehead. I can't see Jasper wearing a cape or his underwear over Spandex leggings, or some silly mask. But he definitely is my superhero. And of that, I am certain.

My entry for the Superhero Contest. GO VOTE FOR IT AT: .net/u/2379475/

And for those of you who are curious as to where this story came from here's what will probably be an epically long author's note. Feel free to skip over it. [laughs]

I have ALWAYS pictured Alice as a dancer. In the books, she is described to have incredible grace and I think she is likened to a ballerina at one point if memory serves. I don't think there are enough stories about Alice as a dancer. In fact, I don't think I've read any. Anyway for this story I wrote what I'm familiar with [aside from the creepy stalker]. I'm a dancer and have been for the last decade. I can honestly say I have been that crazy person working manically on her senior solo. I however, did not have an Edward and Bella to take me to Starbucks to meet a cute barista who draws pretty designs with caramel on my coffee. I do however know a very nice young man who works as a barista at Starbucks who always makes my coffee pretty for me. [laughs]

I also apologize for my long absence. If anyone is upset about that, please go read the author's note I've posted on my profile...I hope it explains things.