Title: Blooming Faith

Summary: Alice wears her faith the way she wears her skin; confident, vibrant and unquestioning. Can Rose's faith in Alice overcome her doubt of the future foretold?

Rating: M

Pairing: Alice and Rose

Disclaimer: Brace yourself, the following may shock you: I don't own Twilight.

She is so fragile and still as she lays curled upon the narrow bed, so small as she shivers and shakes beneath the faded pink blanket—for now. I know soon the pain will pass over her again, and she will kick them off as she twists and turns within the grasp of something I cannot fathom, but covet all the same. I want to ease the agony that etches itself upon her every inch as she contorts and cries out on the bed beside me.

I want to take it inside of me. I ache for it in some place deep and lush but so heavy with its emptiness.

My envy is eclipsed by gratitude as I feel her hand grip mine again. I lace our fingers together until my knuckles turn white and our bones grind together through the thin barriers of our skin. I stroke her face and murmur encouragement as soft whimpers escape her twisted lips and tears leak from beneath her tightly clenched eyelids.

She takes my other hand and places it on the hard swell of her belly, wanting to share even this stage with me.

Her breath whooshes out in a soft whisper when the pain passes and her eyes flutter open slowly, the silver blue glassy and gleaming beneath dark and damp lashes.

"I love you," I whisper, brushing my lips over the salty sheen of her forehead.

"I can't wait for you to see her," she whispers, her fingers stroking the inside of my wrist as my hand smooths up and down her belly. "She looks just like you."

My lips tremble as I try to smile. I know it is foolish—though we giggled and sighed over donors until we found the one who looked most like me, I know the likelihood of our baby resembling me in the slightest is slim at best. But still, hope beats its heavy wings so forcefully against the cage of my ribs that I almost cannot breathe.

I spent my childhood dreaming of becoming a mother, and the majority of my adult life mourning the loss of that dream.

I know it's silly and selfish, but I want to feel some sense of recognition when I look into the face of our child. I worry that our connection will be lessened because I could not share in her creation. She tells me not to worry, that I will know the moment I see our little girl.

And that our child will know me.

I try to believe. I try to let the beating wings of hope set the rhythm of my heart.

The nurse bustles back in, breaking the quiet reverence of the room with her squeaky shoes and perky voice. "How are we doing, ladies?" she asks as she steps over to the monitors and has a look at the read out.

"They're coming about every five minutes now," I tell her. I've been timing them. Obsessively. It keeps my mind off everything else.

"Yep, looks like you're right on track. I'm going to go grab Dr. Lightman so he can check how far along you are. We'll have a baby in no time!" She claps her hands—actually claps her hands in delight—before walking out of the room on her squeaky shoes again.

Alice and I share a look before cracking up and rolling our eyes. She settles down onto the bed again, her eyes closing as she sighs. I know she is conserving her strength before the next round. Her hair is matted around her face, the blond streaks through her bangs standing out in sharp relief against the sweat-darkened brown. The fan of her lashes across her cheeks is almost the only color on her face—she is so pale she's barely discernible from the worn white cotton beneath her.

She's almost unrecognizable. Beyond the absence of the dark eyes and red lips she usually prefers, there's a stillness to her that is foreign; it's as though she is focusing somewhere deep inside, somewhere I cannot follow. I feel lonely and lost as I look down upon her, wondering for the thousandth—selfish—time if this was such a good idea. Mother and child will share a bond I cannot hope to attain—how will I fit into our new life?

She lifts her arms from beneath the blanket, reaching for the glass of ice chips on the table beside her bed and it as though a clenched fist inside of me loosens.

The painted porcelain of her skin eases me with its familiarity. With its meaning. Deep red roses riot over the skin of her right arm, twining over her shoulder and down her sides to rest over her hips. I remember the first time I saw them. I remember what she said.

We met at a party. I felt her from across the room. One minute I was talking with a group of friends, the next my entire body was rippling with an awareness that was nearly terrifying in its strength. I glanced around the room uneasily, trying to figure out the source of the feeling. Our eyes met. Held. Burned. I felt my bones turn to molten wax beneath the heat of her stare as she crossed the room toward me.

She was stunning. Dark hair with fat chunks of red framed a face so perfect I could only stare. Light eyes rimmed with black echoed the smile she wore on her glossy candy apple lips. The blue dress she wore was simple, and yet seemed impossibly elegant draped over her lithe frame.

I felt immediately awkward and clumsy as she approached. There was nothing remarkable about me—blonde and blue eyed and boring in my simple faded tee shirt and jeans.

But still, her eyes held me. Spoke to me in a language my mind did not recognize but my body seemed to understand. I trembled.

"Hi." Her voice was high and bright and shattered some thin and sharp barrier inside of me. "I'm Alice."

She held out her hand and I shivered when our palms met, the soft warm skin slid against mine, sparking to life embers long gone cold inside of me.

"I'm—" I cleared my throat against my hoarse whisper. "I'm Rose."

Her eyes widened and her confident smile trembled slightly before it fell. "Of course you are," she whispered in what sounded like awe.

I didn't know what she meant.

Then.

We were nearly inseparable from that point forward. Coffee and dinners and movies together, the pulsing tension always like a third person between us. I'd never felt this way before, and certainly never for a girl. But I wanted to touch. So badly did I want to cross the distance between us on the couch and brush my hand over her cheek, just to feel if it was as soft as it looked. I wanted to trace the ethereal blue veins in her neck, to feel them pulse beneath my fingertips.

I wanted to skim my fingers over the lithe curves of her body, make her gasp and tremble—I wanted to touch her where I touched myself when I gasped and trembled as I thought of her in the quiet dark of the night.

"Rose," she asked me one day as we sat on the couch watching a movie, "why don't you ever date?" She didn't turn to look at me as she asked. I wondered if it was deliberate.

I shrugged, blushing. "I don't know."

"I see guys looking at you all the time. I don't understand why you have so much time to hang out with me. You should be inundated with pretty boys taking you out." She laughed, but it felt forced.

My mouth twisted as a familiar fist tightened in my chest. "In my experience, pretty boys can be capable of some really fucking ugly things." My voice was sharper than I'd intended and she flinched as it sliced at her.

"In your experience?" she whispered, her head whipping around as her eyes searched mine.

I nodded, swallowing hard. And told her. I told her of the golden boy in my high school. Of the way he'd pursued me. I told her how I didn't even really want him, but it was expected of me, so I let him catch me. Homecoming and football games and prom, beach days and bonfires and his hands on me in the back of his Camaro.

I told him how I'd asked him to wait. And how he'd sighed and said okay.

Until, I guess it hadn't been okay anymore.

And I hadn't been okay—not really—since.

I hadn't even noticed tears were falling down my face until I felt the warmth of her fingers on my cheek, wiping them away. She leaned over, hugging me tightly. "I'm so sorry," she whispered, and I trembled as her breath fanned over my neck.

She raised her head to look at me once more, and our eyes caught. Held. Burned. And suddenly her mouth was on mine—just a soft brush of lips against lips that set my entire body on fire. I gasped, a small sound escaping me as my fingers clutched the fabric of her shirt.

She pulled away, her hand raising to cover her mouth as her eyes searched mine. "I'm sorry," she said again.

"Don't be." With a hand that trembled, I drew her fingers from her mouth and laced them with mine before leaning forward and pressing my lips to hers.

We ignited, pushing and pulling until we were pressed together on the couch, until there was no breath between us but the inhales and exhales we shared in the fused cavern of our mouths. Our tongues tangled and slipped sweetly, translating secrets we'd held for weeks.

Fingers skimmed over clothed curves, finding the warmed silk of skin as we rocked together.

"Sit up," she breathed. "I want to see you."

She moved with me as I struggled upright on the cushions, situating herself in my lap. The position had us eye to eye and for a moment we lost ourselves in the electric connection. I could feel the heat and weight of her stare pulsing somewhere deep inside me, stilling my breath even as it quickened the blood in my veins.

I had never wanted anyone more.

"Please." I didn't exactly know what I was asking for, only that I needed it with a kind of desperation that would have scared me had I the presence of mind to consider the consequences.

She smiled as her hands stole beneath my shirt, drawing it up my torso slowly and leaving goosebumps in its wake as her fingertips skimmed up my sides. I held my breath when she threw my shirt aside and fastened her eyes to my skin. I could feel the heat bloom from the point of her gaze to the rest of my body. I wondered if she could see the blush as it sprinted across my skin.

"God," she whispered hoarsely, lifting her eyes to mine. Caught. Held. Burned as her hands cupped my cheeks and her lips brushed over mine.

My breath shuddered into her mouth as fingers caressed the sensitive skin of my neck, danced over my collarbones and stroked between my breasts as my heart shook beneath my skin.

"Let me—can I see more?"

I nodded, swallowing hard against the lump that formed in my throat. Though my every inch strained for morepleasemore, her touch was terrifying; each brush of skin on skin built a monument inside of me, forming the foundation of my future.

I knew, even in that small moment, there was no going back from this.

Her lips trembled when she smiled, and I almost sighed in relief. She felt it too. I could feel the tremors coursing through her as her fingers fumbled with the clasp of my bra. She drew the straps down my arms slowly, her eyes never leaving the skin she revealed to herself. I shivered when I was finally bare, feeling more naked than I ever had in my life.

This wasn't a silly, inexperienced boy who would be happy with any tits he could get his hands on. Though we'd never spoken about it, I felt sure Alice was no novice at this. And she was a girl. Breasts were not a novelty to her.

Her hand came to rest above my thundering heart, so warm and soft on skin that was so sensitive it was almost sore, so hungry for her touch that it was almost painful. "You're so beautiful," she murmured, painting patterns over my heart with the back of her fingers. "Your skin—god."

She kissed me then, hard and hot and desperate. Her mouth unraveled me even as it tightened the coiled spring inside until it was taut and quivering, begging to be let free. I gripped her thighs, an anchor in the onslaught of lips and tongue and teeth, the bare skin where her dress had ridden up a welcome surprise. Smooth, warm, soft—my fingers traveled restlessly up and down the expanse of skin until they met the cloth-covered humid heat of her. Her cry was high and sharp and echoed behind my teeth.

"I don't know—I've never—" I tried to tell her between seeking thrusts of tongue and scraping teeth and sucking lips, and her hands everywhere at once—in my hair, fingers pressing into my shoulders, palms skimming over my breasts. Our hips lifted, pressed, pushed together in a rhythm that was seamless and sinuous and I was so filled with sensation that I could only drown in the liquid heat that filled me.

The breath backed up in my lungs as she tore her mouth from mine, running wet lips and hot tongue and sharp teeth down my neck as she cupped my breasts, her thumbs brushing against my nipples that tingled with the absence of touch—so heavy and aching and wanting.

She sighed suddenly, easing back and raising her heavy eyes to mine. She was so fucking beautiful—full red lips, flushed cheeks a bloom of color against perfectly pale skin, blue eyes so bright and piercing right into the center of me. She ran her thumb over my bottom lip and my eyes closed as my hips pressed involuntarily against her.

My eyes fluttered open as I gripped the hem of her dress. "Can I?" I asked breathlessly, my voice just this side of ragged.

A shadow crossed over her face, her confidence diminishing for a small second before the sly smile returned, lighting up her face once more. She nodded and leaned back, raising her arms over her head. With fingers that shook, I slipped the fabric up her body, my breath held and my heart stuttering as each inch of skin was revealed to me—

Holy fuck.

I gasped, my eyes flying to hers. Her face was completely unreadable, but her eyes caught me. Held me. Burned with the blue of their flame. Piercing hot and deep inside of me.

"I got it for you," she said quietly.

Without my permission, my hand spanned the bony cage of her ribs, my fingers tracing the twining shapes over her left side.

Roses.

Red blooms and green vines tangled and twisted beautifully over her skin, covering the entirety of her left side, from breast to hip.

"I don't understand." With an effort that cost me, I tore my eyes from her painted skin.

"I can't really explain—it's going to sound stupid." She made a move to leave my lap, but my hands gripped her thighs again.

"Don't." The panic in my voice surprised even me.

She sighed. "My whole life I've just... known things. I'm not trying to say I'm Miss Cleo or whatever, but more like I can just sense things sometimes? It's hard for me to explain." She shook her head. She was so tense, I ran my hands up and down her legs, hoping to soothe her, to tell her without words that I was listening.

She raised her eyes to mine. "I always knew you would come." Her words, her stare, cut right through me, leaving me bare and trembling before her. She hurried on before I could open my mouth to respond, "Not you, specifically, but more like the idea of you. I've... I guess you could say I've dreamed of roses my entire life, and knew somehow they were tied to you. I'd smell a rose and immediately feel that tightening in my chest and my gut that you get when you're falling in love with someone. Do you know what I mean? Like something inside of you is waking up and fluttering its wings?"

She frowned, her eyes hovering somewhere over my shoulder for a minute before she focused on me again, a small, sad smile lifting the corners of her mouth as she shrugged. "It's okay if you think I'm crazy. Most people do."

I didn't know what to think, but there was a serenity inside of me that was alarming in its novelty. My hands reached up for her face, bringing her lips to mine for a soft kiss. "I don't think you're crazy," I whispered against her mouth. "I just think I'm lucky." I drew her hand to rest over my heart. "I don't know what this is between us—I've never felt this way before—but can you feel the wings fluttering inside of me?"

She made a small sound and drew my free hand to the skin above her breast as she kissed me again. Deep and slow and so sweet. I could feel the frantic pounding of her heart just below the barrier of skin and bone and knew my own matched its rhythm.

Wings fluttering in tandem as our hearts gave birth to something beautiful and alive inside us both.

The sound of the cup she's holding crashing onto the floor and ice chips shattering and skittering over sterile white tile brings me back to the present. Her face is creased with concentration as she breaths through the contraction. I take her hand, squeezing what little strength I can into her and wishing for the thousandth time I could take the pain from her.

I smooth the wild hair from her sweat dampened brow when the rippling tension subsides and she melts back onto the bed, like liquid, as though the energy it takes to maintain her shape has been sapped.

"You ok, baby?" I ask, kneading the bunched muscles of her shoulders. "You want me to go get the nurse to drug you up?"

She cracks a smile, but not her eyes. Her lids lay like pale parchment over the blue fire I know is flickering as she tires under the strain of the life that is clamoring to come out of her. "Don't tempt me."

She has been adamant about giving birth naturally—she wants to experience every moment of the process. It's the one and only time I have ever uttered the words, "you're crazy," to her. "Anything I can do?" I ask, desperate to be useful when I feel so separate from what is happening inside of her.

"Just talk to me," she sighs. "Distract me."

I trace the blooms that now span the length of her left arm—she'd said she wanted to wear her heart on her sleeve, and the smile that her words had wrung from me nearly cracked my face. "I was thinking about these earlier," I tell her. "About the first time I saw them."

"Mmmm," she hums, and a small smile flickers over her face. "That was a good day."

"The best," I agree, bending to kiss the rose on the inside of her wrist. I feel the small weight of her other hand slipping over my hair to cup my cheek. I turn my face into her palm and lay a soft kiss there. The bold purple of the lilies that grace the right side of her body fill my frame of focus, and I smile against her skin as I lift my head.

"I remember when you got these, too." I run my fingers along her forearm. "Do you remember what you said?"

Her laugh is weak, but still it warms me. "I woke you up in the middle of the night and told you we were going to have a daughter, and we would name her Calla." Her lids flutter open, her blue eyes glassy with tears as she looks at me and whispers thickly, "And you didn't even question me."

"Of course not," I tell her as I bend to kiss away the tears that collect on her cheeks. "Why would I when you were giving me the possibility of something I thought I'd never be able to have?"

"I want to give you everything," she says as her body seizes again and she contracts around a pain I can neither understand nor ease.

"You have," I tell her as a sob wells up within me.

The nurse and doctor return just as the pain peaks and she begins to rock and keen against it. "Oh fuck," she moans.

I hold her hand as Dr. Lightman inserts a gloved finger inside to test her readiness, trying not to feel offended and repulsed by the casual and clinical way he touches skin that has belonged only to me for almost ten years.

"Everything looks great," he tells her in a soothing voice. "I'd say we'll be ready to start pushing in about ten minutes. You doing okay?"

She opens an eye to glare wearily at him. "What do you think?"

He chuckles, holding up his hands. "I think you probably don't want to hear platitudes from someone who owns a penis right now."

"It's comforting to have such a smart doctor." The last word is almost lost in a gasp as another wave washes over her.

Things progress quickly. Nurses bustle in and out with trays of gleaming silver instruments that I don't want to think too much about, checking bags of fluid and the neverending beep of the monitors hooked on her chest and belly.

The fear is welling within me, choking me until I can hardly breathe. This is it. The moment that everything changes. The unknown is an icy band of panic around my chest.

At one nurse's suggestion, I climb onto the bed behind Alice and rub her back while she clenches and cries against the tight grip of pain that fists her entire body. In one brief moment of respite, she collapses back against me, quivering as I rub the now never-quite-softened swell of her belly.

I remember the last time I held her like this.

I remember what she said.

And I relax.

Soft morning light streamed through the window, painting naked skin and the white of our tangled sheets in butter yellow and burnished gold. I watched the way it played over her skin as I rested my chin on her shoulder, my hands holding the teeming mass of life inside of her. Her belly jumped and quivered as our daughter stretched her tiny limbs, kicking and somersaulting inside Alice's stomach.

"Alien baby," I laughed as I kissed her neck.

"She's going to be such a handful," Alice said with a sigh. "Mouthy and rebellious like me, but with your quiet, steely strength underneath. The teen years are going to be fun."

"Do you really think she'll be like me?" I whispered, fear thickening my voice.

Her hands covered mine over her belly. "She has your smile. The one that is mine—except that it will be ours. And she'll bite her nails the way that you do, no matter how much I nag her to stop. She'll be gorgeous and strong and good, just like you."

"I worry that she won't love me the way she'll love you." The words were out before I could stop them, and I immediately regretted voicing my deepest doubt.

She turned in my arms, her belly bumping into me as she settled into my lap. "Rosebud, baby. Stop it," she said, cupping my chin and making me look at her. "We're going to be so happy. I've seen it. And she's going to love you so much." My eyes filled with tears and I bit my lip to hold back the desperate sob that wanted to break free. I could see it, I could see it so clearly. And I wanted it with a fervor that I'd never wanted anything else.

Except Alice.

"She already loves you," she continued, placing my hands back on the trembling skin of her stomach. "She knows your voice. She feels your touch. She feels the way you make me feel—beautiful and bright and so warm with love. She knows you, Rose, every bit as much as I do."

I nodded, leaning into the kiss Alice pressed upon my lips. I was suddenly desperate to make her feel my love. I needed to release the aching swell of emotion inside of me. I wanted to bathe her in everything I felt but could not translate into words.

I laid her back onto the bed, hovering over her as I kissed her deeply, desperately. My hands found her breasts, always so swollen and sensitive. She arched into me when I cupped them, moaned into my mouth when my fingers plucked at her darkened nipples. I sucked down her neck, feeling her pulse fly against my tongue, nipping and scraping my teeth over her throat and loving the way her groan vibrated against my lips.

My lips cruised over the gold wings that rested right above her heart, fluttering with its frantic beat. "I love you," I whispered.

Her response was lost in a sharp cry when I sucked one perfect peak into my mouth, wrapping my tongue around it as my lips drew rhythmically in time with my fingers on her other breast. When she was writhing and panting and pulling at my hair, I released her and moved further down her body.

The rolling swells of movement in her body had eased, as though Calla knew it was Mommy's time now and slipped quietly back into her place deep inside. I pressed a kiss to the center of Alice's belly, whispering, "I love you so much, Calla," into her skin. Her hands tightened in my hair, before relaxing and smoothing the strands through her fingers.

I ran my hands down smooth thighs, pushing and parting them to make room for myself as Alice sighed in contented anticipation. My fingers dipped between warm and wet skin, and her breath caught before releasing on a ragged tear as I slip two inside of her. I contented us both with the feeling of slick and smooth skin, of liquid heat and the tremors that fluttered against my fingers as I moved them in and out of her. Her sighs were soft and quiet and though she was tensed around me, her body was relaxed as she took what I gave her.

I spread her lips with my other fingers and bent down to press kisses up and down the wet, pink flesh of her, feeling her quiver and clamp down around my fingers as my lips found her clit. I kissed it softly at first, brushing my lips against the swollen skin before parting them and taking it just inside.

She jerked and moaned when the tip of my tongue touched her. Her knees lifted, her legs parted even further when I circled her clit with my tongue, building a rhythm in time with my fingers inside of her. I began to alternate long licks with sharp, stabbing flicks of my tongue until she was writhing against my face, her breaths sharp keening cries as her hips lifted and pressed against me, begging me with her body for more.

I fastened my mouth around her clit, sucking in time with the fingers thrusting in and out of her until her body bowed and contracted around me.

I kissed up her trembling body, snuggling against her as she fought to catch her breath and her bearings. She buried her face in my chest, sighing against my skin as she settled onto her side, her belly pressed between us. Her lips pressed into the wings above my heart, the matching set to hers, and I felt as they curved into a smile against my skin.

She drew her hand slowly down my side to my hip, pulling my leg up around her hip and sliding her fingers against my aching and wet warmth. "I love you," she hummed against my breast. Her tongue darted out to tease my nipple as she entered me with two fingers.

"I love you too," I gasped.

She lifted her head to smile wickedly at me as her thumb circled my clit and my hips arched into her. "I know."

I came quickly, a sudden and sharp pleasure that was almost painful, made more intense by the blue eyes that caught me. Held me. Burned me even as I melted into her touch.

She brought her hand to her mouth, licking my flavor from her fingers before leaning up to kiss me. Slow, sweet, sated. "I love us," she sighed as she settled back against me. "We're going to have the best life together. All three of us."

I kissed the top of her head, my hands tracing the colorful blooms that graced the skin on either side of her swollen stomach. Purple and red, lily and rose. Her love for us—her absolute faith in us—was etched into her skin, and I vowed I would keep the same faith in my heart.

Everything happens so quickly. One minute I am rubbing Alice's back, the next I am gripping her hand as she does her best to crush my bones to dust. Her eyes are wild and far away, concentrating on something I cannot see, her entire being focused on the miracle that is happening inside of her.

Hours fade into seconds and suddenly the room is filled with the first frantic wail of new life. Alice falls back onto the bed, completely deflated with exhaustion though her eyes are bright and the smile is etched so deeply into her face I think it might never leave. I tear my eyes away from her face when Dr. Lightman places the squirming, squalling mass of life on Alice's belly.

She is slimy and blood streaked and so fucking perfect I can't even find the strength to breath.

I sob as I cut the cord that binds her to Alice's body, falling into Alice's outstretched arms to cry as they whisk Calla away to clean her up. "She's beautiful," I sob.

"I told you," Alice answers tearfully.

I watch in reverent awe later when Dr. Lightman places Calla at Alice's breast. When the tiny, perfect mouth latches on and begins to drink. The curve of her head is a perfect mirror image to the sloped curve of Alice's breast and I can only watch in fascination as I take in every single detail of the moment.

I slide onto the bed beside them, laying my head on Alice's chest as I skim a finger over the downy softness of her head, over the perfect silk of her cheek. I touch the tiny fist that rests beside her breast, my breath catching when her fingers close over mine, holding me in a grip that is surprisingly strong.

I take her when she is full, feeling a pang of longing as I hold her against my breasts that will never be able to sustain her. Our eyes meet for a moment that seems to stretch into hours. My focus contracts, until the only thing I am conscious of are the two blurry and muddled blue eyes that hold mine as though they can see into the heart of me, burning into me so swift and sudden a love that is so deep and full that it is a physical ache, a weight in my chest.

"Hello, Calla," I whisper. "I've waited so long for you."

She sighs against me before her eyes flutter closed and I swear I see the small flicker of a smile—my smile—before her perfect rosebud mouth goes slack with sleep.