A/N I wrote this with the lovely and talented emmajanepringle, and we were delighted to come second in F/F open voting in the In The Closet Contest. Thank you to all of you who voted.
Once the excitement of Alice's reappearance dies down, there's a quiet through Charlie's house. Bella's afraid if she breathes too hard, she'll wake up from this dream, and Alice still can't quite believe that Bella is really alive. There's a slight tension in the air that Charlie isn't oblivious to, but guesses it has something to do with Alice's deadbeat brother. He figures the girls have some talking to do, and suggests that Alice stays. Bella's eyes brighten and Charlie bids the girls goodnight, glad to see Bella acting a little like the Bells he remembers. He goes upstairs to sleep soundly for the first time since Edward Cullen broke his baby girl's heart.
Bella sits on the couch next to Alice, unwilling to move from her side for even a moment. After so long on her own, so much doubt and despair, she can't believe Alice is here, perched on Charlie's battered sofa next to a pile of pillows and blankets she won't need.
They nestle together, Bella's feet wrapped in warm wool socks, Alice's toenails a bright blue.
"Aren't you cold?" Alice asks.
"I feel safer than I have in months."
"Don't avoid the question," Alice admonishes, reaching for one of the blankets. "I'm not going anywhere, even if you are a bit cold. Not tonight."
Bella refuses to acknowledge the meaning implicit in Alice's words - that eventually, she will leave again. That Bella will be alone, no Cullens around. That this beautiful, miraculous creature will disappear, and Bella will break again into millions of pieces she doesn't know if she can repair. She hates herself for being so weak. She hates them for leaving.
Bella shivers in spite of herself.
Alice gently wraps the blanket around her, tucking it in underneath her chin. "We have some time." She rubs Bella's arms, stroking her cheek softly. Bella feels as if she's melting, even under the cool touch of stone, her body relaxing for the first time. She sighs deeply and closes her eyes.
Bella thinks about him for just a moment. Compares the way his hands felt on her skin to the way Alice is running her fingers through her hair. Listens to the silence echoing out of Alice's chest, remembers how that felt for the first time. She pushes the thought away, pushes him away, hard. He isn't here. He's in South America, and it's Alice who came to see what was left. Bella had been dead in Alice's mind. Alice saw her die. And still she came to Forks.
Bella died in a different way, months before, left alone in the woods. When Sam came and found her and she couldn't speak, couldn't breathe, couldn't function. Bella thinks Alice will never understand, not really, what happened. But she is grateful for her presence now, her calmness, her serenity. Alice will see if Victoria is coming. Alice will take care of things. She'll protect Charlie and Jacob.
Alice's fingers brush lightly against Bella's closed eyelids. Bella lets out a small breath, something in Alice's touch awakening a part of her that she thought was gone. That she'd forgotten existed. That she thought died in the forest with Edward. Bella opens her eyes and sees Alice's, bright gold from her hunt, staring intently at her, and before she can think any further, Bella reaches up and kisses Alice's lips.
Alice hadn't been looking for it, and Bella made no real decision, so it catches Alice by surprise. She isn't used to surprises. But Bella herself is a surprise. Being so open to Alice's family, being capable of such openness. Then today, when Alice expected to find a grieving and lost Charlie in an empty house, instead finding Bella, intoxicating scent and all, alive and definitely breathing. Now Bella's lips are warm, so warm against Alice's own, which shouldn't be a surprise, but is, and Alice can't help herself.
She kisses back.
It's nothing like kissing Jasper, and that doesn't matter. Jasper owns her heart and her soul in a way no one and nothing else ever could. But Bella is warm and young. Bella's body is supple and fragile and still, still human. Still breakable and different, so very different from her own.
Alice's hands are cool, Bella thinks, like Edward's, but not. The temperature is the same, but Alice's hands are smaller, not quite as strong. More confident than Edward's as she pulls Bella into her arms. Alice is not afraid of boundaries the way Edward was.
Bella moans into Alice's mouth, quickly turning her body so she's pressed against Alice's chest. There is nothing clumsy about these movements, nothing suggesting the danger-magnet Rosalie claims Bella is, that Bella herself claims she is. For a moment Alice wishes she could read Bella's mind, to know why she's doing this. Alice thinks hard and realizes - Bella is alive, Alice is here, and for the first time in a long time, Bella feels whole again. She isn't mistaking Alice for Edward. Bella knows exactly what she's doing and what she wants, and Alice decides to give it to her.
Bella runs her fingers through the silky darkness of Alice's hair, twirling the strands. "Careful," Alice murmurs, "It won't grow back."
Bella smiles and kisses her again, more sure of herself this time. One hand still twisted in Alice's locks, the other running down her arm to her hip. Bella wants more of Alice. She wants to be with Alice in a way she hasn't before, to become one with her in a way few people ever could. In a way she never was with anyone else. Bella craves Alice's cold skin and silent blood, her sharp teeth and her short hair.
This shouldn't be happening, Bella thinks. This shouldn't be possible. Then she finds herself wanting to laugh, falling in toward Alice's body. She accepted that vampires existed, that her best friend was part-wolf, but this? That Alice could be touching her in such a way, cool fingers tracing across her abdomen, that Alice could want to be here, doing this? That was the impossible part?
Everything about Alice is impossible. Her tiny features, her mind, her abilities, her grace. To Bella, it seems she's her exact opposite. Alice is everything Bella wants to be, and can't. She isn't a vampire. Edward could never love someone like Bella. Bella was never meant to have the type of happy ending Alice has with Jasper. Alice doesn't need to breathe. Despite the fact that Alice's heart is no longer beating, her chest is not caving in on itself. Alice doesn't shiver. Alice makes things happen, doesn't just sit back and cry about them. She sees a future that's simply a possibility, and when she needs to, Alice tries to change it.
And now, this graceful creature, this miracle, is stretched out beneath her, is kissing her and touching her, smoothing her hand over Bella's breast, sliding beneath her cotton tank. No hesitation, no freezing. No flinging herself to the other side of the room. Bella feels wanted, desired. She tugs at Alice's pajama top, wanting more of her, wanting the cool expanse of Alice's marble skin against every inch of her own. Her eyes are half closed, then wide open, trying to drink in as much of Alice as possible. While she still can.
Alice sees Bella above her, her skin flushed with color. She supports Bella's weight easily as she tugs her top over her head in one swift move, Bella's eyes bright with anticipation as she sinks back against Alice, her hands reaching and touching and exploring.
Alice tries so hard to be careful. It's harder than trying to walk at a human pace, harder than trying to shake someone's hand. Featherlight touches across Bella's paper-thin skin, the feel of her bones under not quite enough flesh. So delicate, her heart racing like a hummingbird. The molten heat of her tongue as she presses open-mouthed kisses across Alice's collarbone.
Bella feels bold, brazen. Touching Alice like this, right here in Charlie's living room, with him snoring just upstairs.
"Wait," Bella gasps, before she realizes what she's saying. Alice draws back and instantly Bella craves her touch again. "I just meant, I mean, Charlie..."
Alice laughs, and it's like tiny bells pealing on a sunny day. "He's a heavy sleeper, Bella. Besides, I'm looking out."
Bella feels her face flush. Of course, Alice can see what's happening with Charlie. She is safe here, doing this. Alice is looking out for her. Alice will make sure tonight Bella doesn't need motorcycles or cliff-diving for an adrenaline rush.
Bella pushes up to create space, their hips flush together, so she can touch more of Alice, taste more of Alice. She takes one perfect stony nipple into her mouth, floods with pleasure at the noises Alice makes in response.
Suddenly Alice needs more, needs not to see the futures spinning and colliding behind her eyes, needs every distraction available to her. She yanks at Bella's waistband, the fabric giving way under her touch. Her palms smooth over the expanse of overheated skin, her thigh, her leg hitching up. Bella gasps, pressing down onto her, grinding against her, and Alice can't believe the closeness of her. Bella's scent is intoxicating, so strong and human and delicious, and Alice tries to breathe through her mouth to ignore the true desire inside her.
I've thought about changing you myself, Alice sees herself telling Bella, and knows how true that is. The way Bella would taste, and then forever having Bella near her - but Alice might not be able to stop.
At least she doesn't have to worry about stopping this.
Alice reaches between them but Bella beats her to it, thin fingers shoving at Alice's shorts, wriggling and shifting until she's touching her there, just there. And Alice has to put her hands above her head for a moment, grasping the arm of the sofa for support. Not breathe. To regain control. Just there. And there. And there. Bella is more than obliging, and very talented with her hands. She may not be able to open a birthday present without causing chaos, but really, Alice thinks, Bella missed her calling.
And then it's her turn. Alice slices through Bella's tank with a fingernail, casts the shreds of fabric aside, and arches up to bathe her with kisses, gentle licks across her breasts. Bella's eyes are closed, her mouth slightly open, her breathing uneven and gasping. Alice can't stand it any longer, needs to taste, needs something. She takes Bella by the hips and turns her on her back. Alice slowly runs her fingers up Bella's long legs and then lifts her up so that Alice's mouth is there. Right there. Bella cries out, and they both still. Charlie doesn't stir. Bella takes a breath, and Alice traces Bella's ribs. The spaces between, the rise and the fall. The evidence of humanity.
All Bella can feel is the cool, slow strokes of Alice's tongue, pushing Bella to an edge so different from the La Push cliff, so much more enticing and dangerous. Bella can't think anymore. She clutches the useless blankets and moans into the pillows. All she knows is the sweet, slick, slide of Alice's fingers inside her. Point. Counterpoint. Tongues, and touches and tastes. Scents, intoxicating and memorable, mixing with words unsaid. Bella is arched taught as a bow, and Alice lets go, allowing to Bella tumble over to a shivering release. Bella has to remind herself to breathe.
Then she's pushing up, leaning forward, kneeling over Alice, nipping at the cool skin over her inner thighs as her knees bend, her muscles flex. Alice is still beneath Bella, no goosebumps on her skin, no rise and fall of her chest. Bella takes the moment to watch Alice's stillness, her coldness and yet her warmth. Bella moves her mouth to Alice, moving her tongue in circles. Alice's thighs tighten, and she pulls Bella up to her.
"I want to see you," she says, and Bella's eyes focus on Alice's topaz ones. Alice wants this moment to be real, to be here, to be in the present. No future, no past, just Bella and Alice on Charlie's old couch. Blankets and pillows and the smells of home, clean laundry and Charlie's uniform jacket hanging on the peg by the door. Everything is perfectly normal; nothing is usual.
Bella looks Alice in the eye and moves her hand down Alice's body, finding the spot her tongue left only moments before. Her fingers circle again, pressing Alice close to her, and Alice gasps. Bella's unsure. Can Alice even...does she...she wonders, as Alice stretches and writhes, twisting beneath Bella's hand. She speeds her movements, watching Alice's reactions, watching her rapt expression, and then Alice's eyes close and she throws her head back, letting go of Bella and clasping tightly to the sofa beneath them. Alice's muscles contract and then she stills, letting all the air out of her lungs in long, ragged sigh.
A contented smile lights up Alice's features. She unclenches her fists and immediately wraps Bella up in a cool embrace, stroking her hair, trailing her fingers down Bella's spine. It feels so safe; it feels so fleeting.
"Shhhh," Alice says. "I'm not going anywhere." She realizes she means it, at least for a while, as Bella's warm body curls up next to her own. Bella relaxes into her, believing her. Wanting so badly to believe her, to think that this could last longer than a night.
"Sleep now, Bella." Alice gently runs her fingers over her hair. "You need your sleep, little human."
Bella begins to protest, thinking, I don't want to waste a single second and but, you don't have to sleep, but Alice's fingers are pressed against her lips, her eyes sparkling. "Don't you trust me?"
Bella sighs. "Of course I do, Alice. Of course."
She is determined not to fall asleep, but her release makes her feel more relaxed and peaceful than she can ever remember. She figures she'll close her eyes for just a moment or two, listening and memorizing the silence of Alice's heart.
She wakes up to the sound of Alice and Charlie talking. Bella pulls the blankets to her nose, smelling Alice there. They are talking about her, she realizes, and closes her eyes again, not wanting to relive the last few months, not wanting to hear how worried Charlie was, how close she was to not making it at all.
If she breaks again, at least she's been alive again. Bella will fall apart, she knows, when Alice leaves. The Cullens changed her in ways she can't explain, in ways that have nothing to do with blood and body temperature. She curls into the cushions and puts her hands over her ears. Charlie and Alice aren't going anywhere for the moment.
Bella can pretend. At least until Alice leaves. Bella can hold it together, at least for that.