A/N: Mad love and respect for any readers who are continuing this story. I con't apologize enough for the huge stretch of time in between updates. I would suggest re-reading a few chapters if your memory is fuzzy on where we left off. I'm just so happy to be over this chapter. Some of you may recall I posted Part 2 of The Day After a while back. I deleted that version, and re-wrote the chapter entirely, because I just didn't feel it was authentic to the characters or where the story is heading. Many of the same things occur in this chapter but the tone is much different. Anyways, I hope you enjoy it.

Also, please excuse the typos, and grammar errors. I know they exist, but dammit I just can't find them. :/

The Day After (Part 2)

She answers in half a ring with a careful 'Hi Bella'.

"Hey." With that single word I try to communicate all the confidence I wish I felt. My index twirls around a loose thread on my comforter, and my knee bounces with restless energy as we lapse into a mutually awkward silence.

I can't help thinking: love shouldn't be this hard.

I used to think it was the easiest thing a person could do -to love- but that was before I knew the name Cullen. In reality, Love is far more frustrating. It's like trying to assemble a puzzle of an image I've never seen, or the old mysteries I used to watch with Charlie as a child -suspense-ridden, unevenly paced, and full of holes. Full of holes, it's how Alice makes me feel nowadays, like I'm incomplete without her but just as damaged when we're together. I wish this aching need in my chest didn't come with a prerequisite of death threats, kidnappings and bloodshed but, I'm in love with a vampire. I don't get to be picky.

I press the phone to my ear as if I could absorb her through some process of electronic osmosis. I miss her, the scent of her on my pillows is a pathetic substitute. I want her to know I can't make it through tonight without crying if she isn't beside me but it's hard, love is, and all those thoughts desperately contradict everything I said the last time we spoke. Alice is already stronger than me in every physical way imaginable, I can't afford to be emotionally weak. I need to show strength somewhere.

"Do you mind if I come over?" She asks, sounding every bit as if she if she expects for me to say 'No.' Instead I loosen the thread constricting my index, allowing the blood to circulate fully to my fingertip. The sincerity in her tone travels through the receiver and slips between the knots in my stomach, releasing the tension there.

"I don't mind." The words are barely free from my lips when a tap knocks my window. Over my shoulder Alice is balanced on the tree branch outside. I set the phone down, and unlock the window allowing her to jump in. Her hair is windswept, her shirt is crooked on her shoulders, and there are pine seeds in her hair. How long was she out there? I cringe, probably long enough to see me cuddle the note she left like a child with a teddy bear.

"You knew I was going to call?" I hope my tone is casual. The flush on my cheeks is a neon sign, so I busy myself with shutting the window as an excuse to escape her stare.

"You weren't sure if you would do it, so I stayed close in case you changed your mind." Her smile is nervous and, I watch her fidget with her hair before she finally relaxes her hands in her jean pockets. When several minutes pass and neither of us says anything more, I do my own bit of fidgeting. I sit on the edge of my bed while Alice presses her back to the wall nearest the window. The tension I thought we abandoned in the Cullen's kitchen reappears, thickening the air like a low hanging cloud.

I called her. I must have something to say, right? At least, I thought I did; before Alice jumped into my room and threw all my neatly packaged declarations out the window.

"I wanted…we didn't-" Come one Bella, you got an 'A' in English. I know that vocabulary is somewhere in there.

Luckily, Alice interrupts and sits beside me at the same moment I'm losing control of my tongue.

"It's okay. We can just sit for a while." Her arm rests tentatively around my shoulders, and I fold into her embrace like a wet napkin. I finally let the defenses I've been working so hard to keep up fall and, for no reason at all (or for every reason), I'm suddenly crying, and shit…I can't stop. She guides my head to her lap, one hand raking softly through my hair while the other rubs circles on my back.

I press my eyes shut but the images behind them play out like a slide-show: Edward beaten, James ripping into my skin, Victoria sucking out the venom. Edward beaten, James ripping into my skin, Victoria sucking out the venom…

So much for controlling my emotions.

I open my eyes and stare at the crown molding beneath my windowsill, and the slide-show stops. Alice doesn't say anything, and this time the silence is welcome. It's the second time tonight I've cried in the arms of a Cullen woman and I'm hoping it isn't becoming a pattern. The sheer idea of crying in Rosalie's arms is almost enough to force a smile to my lips.

After a few minutes the tears subside, but I don't move out of Alice's lap. It's comfortable and I think if I keep her close nothing bad can happen; though at this point safety seems like a fleeting concept.

"I messed up your shirt." I say, brushing my fingers over the piece of fabric sandwiched between my cheek and Alice's lap, noting it's wetness.

I can hear the smile in her voice as she says, "Maybe I like messes." One of her hands continues to brush through my hair while the other takes my hand. "I've got a lot of my own. Maybe too many?" It's phrased lightly, but it isn't rhetorical. She's asking if she's too much for me, if I'm ready to tap-out yet.

"Maybe." I admit. It feels more casual than it should, acknowledging our flaws, shinning a tiny spotlight on the subjects we usually dance around. I roll onto my back, keeping my head rested on Alice's thighs to focus on her face. "I was really angry with you." I say it because I need to remind myself of what I felt no less than an hour ago, even though that emotion has now melted into a puddle of warmth and affection on Alice's lap.

"And now?"

"I don't know. I just missed you." It's pathetic, I know it is, but the small bit of vulnerability is worth the smile that breaks across Alice's face. "But…" I hesitate.

"We need to talk about it, don't we?"

The pejorative 'it' being everything that's happened the past 2 days, and what we're going to do next. I nod, and when Alice exhales in resignation I realize that I'm getting far too familiar with the sound. It seems like all we do is talk…or avoid it, and experience with the latter is definitely worse. We can't keep building walls around the truth, not anymore, not when my life is balanced on the edge of every lie of omission.

Her eyes fall to my wrist, staring at it like an uninvited guest she wants to kick out. "Do you feel any pain?" She asks, the word 'pain' dropping from her lips like a foreign language she's slowly learning the meaning to.

"I'm fine," I lie, and as the words slide from my lips I know that, somewhere in the world, a trophy is being engraved for me: The World's Biggest Hypocrite. How can I expect Alice to forfeit all her truths when I can't even be honest about something as obvious as my injuries? Because if there's one thing we can both agree on it's that I'm not 'fine,' so I'm not surprised when she says as much, while stealing little micro glances at my wrist she thinks I don't notice.

"I've definitely had better weekends, but at least there was no whiplash this time." It's a joke, but the humor is completely lost on Alice who gives a look of silent reproach as her hold on my hand tightens.

"Don't joke about that." She says scowling. It's clear I've hit a nerve, and it's so raw I can feel it as if it were in my own body.

Feeling thoroughly scolded, I sit up fully to meet her eyes. "You're right, I'm not fine, but I will be." The truth is: My wrist hasn't stopped aching since I left the warehouse, there are rope burns on my arms and ankles from being tied down, and my empty stomach feels simultaneously nauseous and starving. I'm a million miles from being 'fine.'

"Okay, tell me where it hurts. Maybe there's something I can do?" Her fingers cautiously reach out to touch the cloth wrapped around my wrist but, retreat a second later like a turtle into its shell.

"It hurts everywhere." I say, being truthful. "There's nothing you can do, but that's okay. You being here is enough." She nods, but there's no acceptance in the gesture. The show of bravery is for my benefit. Her esteem is cracked, and the gears in her mind are grinding as she processes how she can fix this. Fix me.

"That's not good enough. How can I make you feel better?" She sounds so sincere -and frustrated- and I know she thinks it's her penance for allowing it to happen in the first place.

I don't want her guilt, and I want her pity even less, what I'd rather have is...

"You could kiss it and make it better." I say it hoping she'll allow the distraction, hoping she won't turn us down another dark corner of conversation. It takes a few beats but it eventually earns me a tiny smile, and a few seconds later I'm surprised when she accepts the challenge and gently presses her lips to the knuckles of my left hand.

"Did it work?" She asks, teasing.

"One more time to be sure."

Her lips seek out my cheeks next, kissing directly below my eyelids which are dark and puffy from lack of sleep. I feel my face grow warm with embarrassment of my haggard state, but if Alice notices she's polite enough to ignore it.

"How about now?" I nod and she aims for my collarbone. I'm sure she's in a playful mood, because it's the only area that isn't littered in bruises. Her lips are cold but beneath them my skin is burning, and for a brief moment, I forget the pain that is everywhere, the rope burns, and the twist of hunger and nausea in my stomach. I forget the game this was meant to be when the hand on my knee grips me harder and her kisses becomes firmer. I slip out of character to find her lips, slipping my tongue between the parted bow of her mouth and tangling her tongue with my own with all the delicacy of a sailor returned from years at sea. She accepts me eagerly, our lips crashing together like motions of a single wave. She pushes my shoulders until my back hits the mattress, pressing her lithe body atop mine.

"Near death experiences turn you on?" I whisper, recalling a similar encounter weeks ago in Carlisle's office. She pulls back instantly, and her eyes are full of a conflicting awareness as she leans further and further away, putting just enough space between us for me to realize that whatever moment we had just shared had passed.

Hello again, Awkward Silence.

"You don't have to stop." I whisper, subtly aware of the rapid pitter-patter my heart is doing for Alice. Her touch is the first good thing I've felt since leaving that damn warehouse, like Novocaine for the anxiety in my head and the throbbing in my wrist. It's little surprise that, despite all the abuses my body has suffered, it still has the energy for her.

"Yes, I do, one of us needs to stay clear-headed." She says, inhaling a steadying breath as she runs her hand through tamed wisps of spiky hair.

"And I'm not?" It doesn't help that she's still wearing the same sheer blouse from earlier, and my eyes (the betrayers that they are), steal several glances.

"You're injured; your body needs to rest." She says, sounding far too maternalizing for my tastes.

"Alice, I wasn't going to jump you. It just feels good to touch you." I realize, with a maddening clarity, that I need the closeness of her. I need it like water, or oxygen, in any measure I can get it. She is the one weakness that simultaneously makes me feel stronger.

"I know. I just…I can't." It isn't her words that send my heart into my stomach, it's the way her eyes move back to my wrist, it's the moment when I realize, in some small way, we'll always remind each other of him.

We haven't actually talked about the 'pejorative It,' and it's clear this night will not end without at least looking at the elephant in the room. I stand, deciding that pacing the space between my bed and my desk, is better than watching the gap on the mattress slowly widen between us.

"Do you think this was part of her plan?" I pause in front of my desk, leaning back to rest my hands at the edge, watching Alice's reaction closely. A scrunch of the nose indicates that elaboration is necessary. "Do you think they wanted to drive a wedge between us?"

She considers it for a moment, really analyzing my words, then turns to me and softly nods her head. "Yeah, probably."

"Why does she care what happens between us? It's none of her business who you're with." I can't stop myself from talking, hoping if I keep poking the truth will shake itself loose from her branches or mine.

"She resents me for leaving, for choosing Jasper over our coven, and then you over her. She hates humans, always has, she thinks I've betrayed her."

"And what do you think?" She looks to me then, her eyes squinting as if trying to channel Edward's power. "Because, I think it's more than betrayal she feels for you." She scowls, but doesn't deny it, and I know I'm blowing wind beside a house of cards. "Do you want to hear something funny?" I ask, unable to make the words less bitter, knowing what I'm about to say will in no way be considered 'funny.' "James was at the bar in Port Angeles. When you went to look for my bracelet, he introduced himself and tried to get me to leave with him." Her eyes go wide, then narrow, and she has this incredulous expression like, 'why didn't you tell me?'

"I didn't know who he was, I thought he was hitting on me." I say as way of explanation, dismissing the silent implication that I'd hide something that important. "He never cared about anything except my blood, it was a game to him, entertainment. He told me as much when they took me. It wasn't a game to her, it was a mission. She didn't orchestrate this entire plan to get you back because I'm human. She did it because she loves you, and she wanted to make me suffer." It almost slips out but, I don't tell her that Victoria sucked the venom out after James bit me, it seems mean to tell it this way and deep down I know Alice isn't ready to hear it. Not even a little bit.

"She told you?" She asks, jaw tightening.

I shake my head. "She didn't need to, it's pretty obvious." Like Clark Kent is Superman type of obvious. Victoria reacts to the mention of Alice the same way Jasper did, the same way I do, and she treats me like I'm a threat.

"It wasn't to me." Alice says, shaking her head as if reprimanding herself for not knowing.

"You feel bad about that?" I ask, picking up on the guilt in her tone. I know Alice is a halo; she wants to save people. She's kind -almost to a fault- but Victoria doesn't deserve her sympathy. Victoria doesn't deserve someone as good as Alice, no one does, not even me sometimes.

"Maybe...a little-" A sigh. "I don't know." She mumbles, gripping the fabric of my comforter in frustrated fistfuls. It's not the right answer, certainly not what I wanted to hear right now, but Alice seems equally as annoyed by the ambiguity of her response.

"What would you have done if you'd known?" I ask, wondering what she thinks she did wrong.

She shrugs helplessly. "I would've cared. Maybe if she thought I cared she wouldn't have lashed out, or hurt you? I ran away and expected all of my problems to disappear, it was irresponsible."

"Or maybe nothing would've changed?" I'm wary of affording Victoria the same benefit of doubt Alice is forfeiting so easily. "You had to run, she would've killed Jasper if you hadn't, you were protecting him, that's what you do for people you love. You don't blackmail them and hurt their family. That's not love Alice, it's control. How can anyone do that to someone they love?"

"It's more complicated than that Bella."

"There's nothing complicated about any of it. Why are you defending her?" I nearly shout it, and I have to remind myself that Charlie is only a few steps away downstairs, but my entire body is getting hot just listening to Alice offer excuses for the woman who nearly killed me twice.

"I'm not defending her. I'm not." Alice says, in a much calmer tone than I'm capable of, taking my hand to calm me. "I'm saying this because I want you to understand me better, not her. I hate her for what she did, but I understand why she thought she had no other choice. For vampires love is the greatest connection we have to our human selves because it makes us vulnerable. We don't need air, or sleep, or medicine, we're powerful, but when we find our mates it's the weakest we'll ever be. Being mated changes us. I've hurt people I care about to have you for myself. I've put my family, and myself, in danger to protect you. My love for you makes me reckless, and it's because of what I am that your life will always be in danger, with or without Victoria in it."

"Alice you're not a danger to me." She scoffs, and I cringe, because 'duh', of course she is. "I just meant that I think you're over-analyzing things. Love doesn't have to be a weakness; it should be the thing that brings us together not rips us apart." I know I sound like a lyric out of a Joy Division song, but I don't care. I don't want to believe that what she's saying is true, because if it is, if our love really does put everyone's life in danger, where the hell can we go from here?

"This is our reality Bella, and we shouldn't be jaded about it. You could die. It could be because of something I do (or don't do), something Victoria does, or some stupid freak accident. It doesn't matter how, all that matters is that, as hard as I try, I can't keep you safe all the time. That's why we need to think about our future. That's what being mated is all about."

There's that word again. Mate. I still don't understand what it means. I try to process what she's admitted (and what she really means when she says 'future'), but I get stuck on the word 'Mate.' "Does she think you're her mate?"

"What?" Alice asks, clearly thrown by the abrupt shift in conversation.

"Does Victoria think you're her mate?" I don't know why it matters to me. It shouldn't matter to me, but when she looks away I feel sick.

"Yes." She answers reluctantly. "Things are hazy about our history, and it's possible that I might have been closer to her than I thought." That sick feeling isn't going away.

"Might?" I repeat derisively. "What the hell does that mean? How can you not know Alice?"

"I can't remember." She says, running a frustrated hand through her hair and staring at the rug like it's a crossword riddle she's trying to solve. "She told me things about myself, from my human life, that I can't remember. Things that I did, things that happened to me and my family, things that made sense. She's been gone decades but still knows me better than I'll ever know myself."

I shudder. There's a grim thought: the psycho-vampire killer holds all the secrets to your past and memories.

"She knows who you were, not who you are." I say, trying my best to comfort her, trying to push aside my own emotional blender long enough to confront the reality of what Alice is saying. "Besides, whose to say she's telling the truth."

"I believe her." Alice responds with a defensive surety that I realize isn't for Victoria, it's for the knowledge of her past she gained from Victoria. It makes sense. Alice has always known so little about her human life, then suddenly Victoria appears holding the Encyclopedia of Alice, bookmarked and ready to read. Of course she wants to protect that history, even if what she finds out isn't what she'd expected.

"What did she tell you?" My tone is notably softer, it relaxes her and I re-claim the spot beside her on the bed. Her past has always been cast under a storm cloud, and she's been hiding the pain of not knowing who she is in the shadows of pretty smiles, and doe eyes. This is the version of Alice that Esme mentioned, the version that makes me wish I was Jasper just so I could ease her pain.

She talks and I listen. I listen as she recounts the history of her family's' slaughter at the hands of the Volturi, I squeeze her hand as she stumbles through how she was saved for her ability, and I silently grit my teeth when she reveals Victoria as her childhood protector. I ride the roller-coaster of emotion all the way to the gate, and in the end my head is so spun I know I'm holding Alice more for balance than comfort. Our relationship has never been easy, so I shouldn't expect this moment to be any different.

I'm in love with a vampire. I don't get to be picky.

"Now that you know the truth, how do you feel?" Maybe it's a silly thing to ask, but emotions should never be assumed, especially not in relationships. I need to know where the cracks are so that I can mend them.

She laughs, but it's bitter. "I feel like a tiger who has lived their entire life believing they were a bird. I always knew there was a deeper connection between Victoria and I, something stronger than the venom she used to turn me, something I couldn't fathom. I thought it'd be a relief to know the truth, but it doesn't matter how many gaps I fill with memories, there will always be pieces missing and people who want to capitalize on the person I once was. It does me no good to know something I have no control over changing. I just wish the rest of the world could forget my past as easily as I did."

"I'm sorry." I squeeze her hand as tightly as my fatigued muscles will allow; I need her to feel my presence. Her skin may be flawless, but a history that jagged is bound to leave a scar.

"You don't have to think about them when you're with me. I doesn't matter who you were back then, all that matters is who you are now." I say it and I watch Alice's mouth twitch. She stares with preoccupation into my eyes, brows furrowed and lips snagged between pearl white teeth, then slowly, she shakes her head.

"No, it doesn't." There's no malice in her tone but it has the burning effect that often accompanies the truth. "Are you going to change out of that?" She says it so suddenly I hardly know what she's talking about. I look down at the the jeans and blouse I'm wearing, then back to Alice who's trying her damnedest at hypnosis with her eyes.

'Let it go,' I hear in the silence of her stare.

'How?' My eyes scream back in futility.

She's right, I can't forget her past any more than I can forget the existence of gravity. The universe reminds me every time I look at her, or my own battered reflection in the mirror. Her past is the reason I'm afraid to close my eyes, the reason a piece of flesh is missing from my body, the reason Edward can barely lift his head from his pillow. I don't have the luxury of 'letting it go,' but this conversation has come to a brick wall. And I must admit that the elephant in the room is making me claustrophobic, and I haven't a shred of energy left to point it out.

"Yeah, I'll change." I say after some time of silent debate. Alice releases a tiny smile that I mentally tuck away for safe keeping. I'll need a reminder of that look when it fades.

"I moved your clothes to your closet." She says suddenly, watching me as I eye the oddly empty space my dresser once occupied.

"Why?" I ask, puzzled but also curious.

"I lost my temper." She adds guardedly.

"With the dresser?" I question, but soon the awareness of what (or who) caused her to lose her temper sinks in. "I never liked it anyways." I confess, hoping to interrupt any ill memories my question may have roused. "Charlie went through a woodworking and carpentry phase when we first moved here. One of his first projects was a furniture set for my room."

"And you hated it?" Alice asks, clearly glad to be on a new topic.

"No, of course not. When I was younger I thought everything Charlie made was cool, but my mom, well, she definitely hated it. She thought it was too boyish for a girls room..." I roll my eyes at the memory. "...but mostly she didn't want to encourage his hobby because he spent so much on materials that Summer. It only took one splinter before she had an excuse to buy a replacement set from Pottery Barn. Charlie got banished to small trinkets and carving."

"So I did you a favor?" She asks smiling through a lower emotion that feels notably sad.

"You saved me from dresser mediocrity." I say with a hint of jest, ignoring the look beneath her eyes as I slide open the shutter doors of my closet, pulling out a pair of plaid boxer shorts and a Deftones band tee. With the items in hand I quickly realize the difficulty of dressing with one broken arm and a barely functioning second hand. My dexterity is shot. Unbuttoning my pants and shirt is a clumsy endeavor and the ache in my muscles forces a groan that doesn't go unnoticed by Alice.

"Let me help you." She's in front of me in a blink, not asking for permission, knowing it will be granted. Her fingers start working at the buttons of the blouse slowly, undoing each one with careful consideration as I stare at the top of her head mutely. The scent of her raspberry shampoo swirls around my head like a pink cloud of Alice-infused smoke; a siren song tugging on a string wrapped around my heart. I absorb it in a gentle inhale just as Alice begins to chuckle.

"What?" My face flushes, thinking she's noticed my weird fixation with her scent.

Instead she says, "I never imagined my first time undressing you would be like this," and my blush deepens. My daydreams are rife with images of Alice and I, in this room, doing this very thing but for very different reasons. Although, I'm usually the one undressing her with far less restraint than she's showing now. I was never the patient one in those fantasies.

"Not very sexy, huh?" I ask, with a smile I'm sure reflects the tiny bit of vulnerability I feel when I ask it. Standing half-naked, bruised and battered in front of a woman who literally personifies physical perfection will have that effect on anyone's ego.

Alice shakes her head, abandoning her task to meet my eyes. "You're always sexy to me." Her eyes are quicksand, and I sink deep into them. "I just don't like seeing you in pain." She slides the shirt off my shoulders carefully, and hangs it on a hook in the closet. Her eyes settle on me again, but this time it isn't my face she's examining, it's the red welts and rope burns on my arms and shoulders. Evidence of pain.

"Jasper was immortal. He didn't bleed, or bruise, or break. I never had to see him hurting, not like this at least." She squeezes her eyes shut and turns away, and I can't tell which is the heavier load, my injuries or her separation from the man she shared a bed with for so many years? Will the shame of that betrayal hang above us forever like a broken chandelier? Something once so beautiful, now irreparably shattered.

"Being with a human, it's scary."

"So I scare you?" I ask, stifling the urge to laugh too hard.

She smiles. "Ironic, isn't it." She pushes my hair over my shoulders, and when her fingers pass over the welts again I shiver from something other than the chill of her skin. She moves her hands to the bottom edge of my undershirt and motions for me to lift my arms. I do as instructed and the shirt is quickly discarded. I'm overtly aware that I'm only wearing my bra and jeans, so it's instinct that makes me wrap my arms around my shoulders, shielding my body but not my embarrassment.

Alice smiles at my reaction, but continues to speak. "I used to tease Edward for treating you like you were made of glass, but now I understand his fear. When you have something beautiful in this world you want to protect it."

I frown as I recall how smothering Edward could be. The same guy who once cut my meal into pieces, because he deemed the portions "too large to safely swallow." Edward always saw my humanity as some sort of obstacle he needed to help me overcome, but just as I'm beginning to think Alice is repeating the same mistake she dissolves that fear. "I love him, but my brother can be suffocating at times. I never want to be that way with you Bella. I'm so sorry for how I behaved this morning."

I shrug, not one for kicking anyone when they're down, and more than eager to absolve whatever guilt she feels. "It was a stressful situation." I say simply.

Alice scoffs. "That's not a good reason. I never have the right to treat you like that, and I'm glad that you didn't let me."

"I forgive you. So you can stop punishing yourself, okay?" Alice nods, but her eyes are fixed on the welts on my arm. Her eyes give her away every time.

Hoping to dispel the enigma of human suffering I grab her hand and pull it to the swollen inch of skin on my left shoulder. It's not often that I'm able to shock a psychic, so the look of surprise on her face elicits a certain degree of excitement.

"I'm not as fragile as you think." I see the same apprehension from earlier lingering in her eyes, like she wants to run but is actively restraining herself.

"It's warm." Her fingers wander up and down my shoulder in curiosity, making me tremble before returning to the swelling. "There's blood collecting beneath the skin. It'll bruise." She's still frowning but visibly less tense than moments ago.

"Yeah, it'll bruise, but in 2 or 3 weeks I'll make it disappear. So I guess you're not he only one with superpowers."

She leans forward and presses her lips to the swelling, "Better?" I nod smiling back and doing my very best not turn a permanent shade of red.

Satisfied, she returns to earlier task, pulling the band tee from my hands and slipping it over my head. She reaches for the shorts I'm holding and the collective realization that I'll also need help removing my jeans creeps into both of our minds.

"Pants too?" Alice asks, seeking my eyes.

"Please?" I watch as she obliges, shyly undoing the button and sliding the zipper down while pointedly avoiding eye contact. It doesn't stop me from noticing the way her eyes darken as she kneels to tug the legs of the skinny jeans over my feet, and it does even less to quieten my pulse as it drums nervously beneath my skin. I swallow hard, this is beginning to feel exactly like one of my fantasies.

"Thanks." I say once she's finished, climbing into bed while she gives a quick flick to the light-switch, before lingering nervously at the closet. "Do you need an invitation now?" I try to make it sound less desperate than it feels. The idea that she doesn't plan on staying feels too heavy in my stomach to accept.

She hesitates a few seconds longer before finally pulling off her shoes and jacket and laying beside me in the moonlit room. Our knees bump beneath the sheets as I squirm to get more comfortable, fidgeting like a kid in preschool on his cot at nap-time. Every angle presses on a different bruise.

"You'd be more comfortable if I slept somewhere else." Alice says, though she makes no effort to leave which I'm grateful for.

I'd be more comfortable if every bruise on my body didn't feel like a losing game of Operation, I think to myself but, "No. It's fine."

"You need a bigger bed." She observes, probably already picking out furniture in her head as she moves closer. "Turn over." I do as I'm told and she settles in behind me, wrapping one arm around my waist and bending her knees so they fit perfectly behind mine. Her other arm rests beneath my head like a pillow, and it's perfect. Thank God for small beds.

It's a moment that feels like perfection, everything I imagined being with Alice should be like before the reality of our relationship collapsed in on us. I wish it'd always been like this, that every bit of pain it took to get to this moment had been swallowed up into the Earth, and we'd been left to love without the consequences of our circumstance.

It's several minutes longer before I feel the urge to interrupt the silence. "Alice?" Her responding "Hmm" sounds sleepy and incredibly at ease. "I want us to work." I hear Edward's voice echoing in the back of my head as my words exit. It's the same thing he said to me the day we broke up,

"We're not working, are we?"

Just like that, no platitudes or delusions. Our relationship was in pieces because I broke us in half, but I don't want Alice to be another broken romance. We're special. We're different. I need us to work.

"We will." Alice says, lips pressed to my shoulder, voice confident. I wish I had half of her confidence, or her gift of sight for a day. Maybe then I'd be comforted by the predictability of the future, rather than living in constant fear of the unknown?

"Do you remember the first time we met?" I'm not sure what makes me ask, nostalgia maybe?

I can fell her nod against my shoulder blades. "Of course. In the girl's bathroom after 3rd hour classes. Not the most romantic first impression."

"Were you waiting for me?" I ask, stroking the arm that's wrapped around my waist and remembering the look in her eyes when I walked into the restroom that day. She seemed a thousand miles away in that moment.

She pauses, "Yeah, I was."

Now I'm really curious. "What did you see?" I ask, barely able to contain the giddy inflection my voice adopts.

She goes still for beat. "My visions aren't reliable, you know that. They're like pages in a book that are constantly being re-written or torn out." She's trying (and failing) to backpedal her way out of this line of questioning.

"Alice, I don't care if it's reliable or not. I'm just curious." I nudge her with my elbow, encouraging her to continue.

Eventually -reluctantly- she answers."I saw us. We were sitting in your living room, watching a cheesy vampire drama on TV, and I kissed you."

"You saw our first kiss?" I ask, struggling to turn in Alice's arms to face her. "You never told me."

Alice shakes her head. Something about her expression tells me she doesn't think it nearly as interesting as I do."I didn't see our first kiss, I saw a version of it. You didn't kiss me back. You got teary-eyed, and ran upstairs mumbling excuses. I've never seen anyone so embarrassed."

It boggles my mind to think there was ever a time when I didn't want Alice's skin on mine, her lips on mine. I can't imagine how confusing that must've been for her, to be married to a man for so many years and suddenly see yourself kissing someone else, a woman and a stranger at that.

"Why didn't you say anything?"

She shrugs."What was I supposed to say? We'd only just met and you were with my brother. Besides, it didn't feel good watching you run away from me. What I did didn't make you feel good either, you felt guilty."

That's a good point. It took me a lot longer than I'd like to admit to come to terms with what I felt for Alice. There were so many factors to consider: she was my boyfriend's sister, a girl, and deeply involved with someone else. (In that order)

"Did you know what would happen when I invited you over?"

"No. The future isn't stationary, sometimes it's completely arbitrary, and I thought I could stop it."

"I'm glad you didn't."

"Even after all of this?" Her fingers intertwine with mine, but quickly find their way to the edge of the bandage on my wrist.

"You keep asking that like you want me to end this." I say frowning. "I don't regret you Alice." She smiles but there's a shadow of melancholy hanging above her head. I want to push it away, to sweep it up like a dust bunny and toss it in the waste-bin beside my desk. I wish it were that easy, dumping all those painful memories in the trash like rotten leftovers. She deserves to feel something good, to know her own goodness, so when I kiss her I hope she feels it. I hope she tastes the words on my tongue that scream 'I love you.'

She must, because her reaction is immediate, and it's amazing how quickly the growing dread in my stomach transforms with each swipe of her tongue into the innocuous flutter of butterflies. It's so easy to get lost in the rabbit-hole that is Alice Cullen. Lost in the taste of her, lost in the tiny sounds she makes as my hand slips behind her neck, lost so deeply in the bliss that all the little aches and pains become a distant memory. There's a heat pulsing through me that settles in the pit of my stomach, an uncomfortable needy feeling. It makes me push her harder, makes me move my lips from her mouth to her neck, kissing at the curve where her pulse would beat.

"Still intent on being clear-headed?" I ask, slipping my free hand beneath her shirt, and feeling the muscles of her abdomen twitch beneath my fingers as I do.

"I could hurt you." She says in a breathy sigh.

It crosses my mind to be smug, 'What's another scratch among the dozens,' but I hold my tongue, remembering the reaction I received earlier from that sort of joke wasn't appreciated. Besides, Alice isn't entirely wrong, she could hurt me and there would be no one around to stop her.

"Do you think that you will?" I ask, sobering a bit because this might be a moment where I should listen to the psychic.

She shakes her head saying, "Just go slowly, okay?" I relax, agreeing instantly. Slowly, backwards, upside down -I don't care- I'll do anything to keep her touching me.

The next time our lips meet it's notably softer, but despite the change of pace Alice's muscles remain rigid, tense from restraint, and I put a balloon's distance between our bodies hoping to ease the stress on her senses. It's hard, controlling my own desire as well as Alice's, especially when it'd be far more rewarding to do the opposite. Her lips move tentatively against mine, and her hands cradle my head between them like a glass vase she's trying not to shatter. I rest my hand on her waist, trying to keep my touch light, but when her tongue peeks out and licks at my lips I can't help the way my fist grips at her jeans and pulls her closer.

If anything, this unhurried dance is only making us more antsy. Alice's breathing is quickening, despite no biological necessity, and her kisses are intensifying to something more akin to bites. Little nips here and there that start at my lips but slowly work their way down my neck, until her focus is solely on the teasing and sucking of skin. I know I shouldn't allow a vampire to fixate on such a sensitive area, I know what she's doing will only add to the bruises on my body, but at the moment my mind isn't making that connection.

So, instead of protesting, I let her push me back against the bed. I let her straddle my waist and push her hand up my shirt, clawing at my sides like something hungry and desperate. I ignore the aches of protest from my overtaxed muscles as she slips a jean clad knee between my thighs and rolls her hips forward, pressing into the place that's wanting for her most. It's dizzying. We've only been at this for a few minutes, and I'm already coming undone like a poorly knit sweater.

I startle at a particularly sharp pinch of her incisors beneath my jaw before she eases the sting with a wet caress of her tongue. She's whispering something indecipherable into my neck, whatever it is must be amusing because I can feel her smile against my skin. I place my hand on her chest, giving her a gentle shove back, needing to see her eyes, needing to know she isn't too deep in this. It surprises me when she resists, sliding my hand away and pushing it to my side before returning to my lips.

"No." she whispers into my mouth, pushing her tongue into my mouth, and swallowing any sound that dare push up my throat. My mind is telling me to move away, but my hormones are more forceful, and the pressure below my waist is begging to be sated. Against my better judgment I grind into the knee Alice is offering, and I immediately know it's a bad decision because it feels so good. Too good. I repeat the action until we're in a rhythm. The air feels thick, heady with desire, and it's getting harder to keep pace with Alice who is eagerly rolling her hips into mine. Her hand has advanced from teasing strokes to full on palming my breasts beneath the fabric of my bra. It's the furthest we've ever gone, and it's moving so quickly.

"Alice, wait..." I put my hand to her chest, trying to put a few inches of distance between us.

"I'm okay." She responds somewhat impatiently, seeming to know my intention before I've had a chance to voice it. Her eyes tell a different story; they're darker than I've seen, and her chest is rumbling beneath my palm.

"Prove it." I say, dodging the advance she makes for my lips and watching awareness slowly creep up her expression. She sits back a few inches, going completely still, neglecting to breathe to avoid as much of my scent as possible, and though it takes a few careful minutes before her eyes peek open, when they do they're notably lighter than before.

"Sorry." She says while staring down at me hopefully, bringing a hand to my cheek and stroking it fondly. "Do you want me to stop?" Her eyes are open and understanding, and I know that, whatever I decide, she'll honor it without any judgments. It's not exactly how I expected this day to end, and though it terrifies me to tread the uncharted territory we're heading into, something about it feels right because it's Alice.

Still, that doesn't change the fact that, "Charlie is downstairs."

Alice smiles knowingly, "Do you want me to stop?" She repeats the question as if my father sitting downstairs, less than 30 feet away, isn't relevant.

"Of course not, but-" I don't get a chance to finish that sentence before her lips are once again locked with mine. I release a shaky exhale when she pulls away, feeling as if the oxygen has suddenly been stolen from the room. Why does it only take one kiss for me to completely lose all ability to think rationally? Now I understand why Rosalie gets her way so often with Emmett; these Cullen women are dangerous.

She sits back on her knees and brings her fingers to the topmost button of her blouse, purposefully undoing it before moving down to the next. I stare up at her dumbly. Is this actually happening? Maybe I'm still dreaming in that warehouse? Surely, if this were one of my fantasies I would've imagined myself with significantly less bruises and definitely an empty house?

"Alice my dad-"

"He's coming up the stairs now." She interrupts, with a nod towards the unlocked door.

"What?" I whisper-shout, glancing nervously in the same direction. When I try to move from beneath her she holds strong, pinning my arms to my sides in a careful embrace that's loose enough to remain comfortable, but restrictive enough that I know her intention.

"What are you doing? He can't see us like this." My dad is a reasonable man, but I sincerely doubt walking in on his daughter being straddled by another woman would be well received. And I really don't want to have "the talk" with Charlie again. Like ever. I'm surprised we both didn't combust from embarrassment the first time.

"Trust me." Alice says, continuing to undo the buttons on her shirt until she reaches the last one, and slips the fabric off her shoulders.

She's so beautiful, and I completely lose any oppositions. When did I become so easy to manipulate?

I lift onto my elbows and pull my right hand free from her grip. I trail my finger down her body like a map, invisibly marking the places I want to visit with my index. My position beneath her puts me eye level with her breasts, which are delicately gift-wrapped in a black lace bra. I'm so distracted that I don't hear the clamor of Charlie's boots outside my door until he's knocking softly.

He doesn't bother entering. Instead, he talks through the door while I have a silent panic attack beneath Alice. "Bells, I'm gonna pick us up dinner from the diner. What do you want?"

My eyes snap to Alice. She's not budging.

"I-I'm not hungry." I stutter back, noting that my voice is about five octaves higher than normal, and all the words rush out in a jumbled stream.

Doing her best to be a complete distraction, Alice decides now is the time to restart her task of giving me the world's largest hickey. I let my head tilt back, providing better access as I bite my lip to keep the groan from escaping my lips. Dammit Bella, self control.

"Say yes," she whispers before licking a path from my collarbone to my jaw, eliciting a sharp inhale of air as I try to keep my body calm enough that I don't give Charlie any suspicion to enter the room.

Taking her advice I backtrack. "Actually, yes I'm, uh...starving. I'll have whatever you're having." Alice giggles into my hair, and I bring my hand to her mouth to muffle the sound. She's supposed to be the mature one. Why am I the only one who doesn't think this is funny?

"Okay, I'll be back in a bit." I listen nervously as he descends the steps and leaves out the front door. I don't remove my hand from Alice's mouth until I hear his car exit the driveway, at which point she collapses into a fit of giggles on top of me.

"It's not funny." I sulk, pushing at her shoulders irritably.

"It was a little funny." She counters, grinning like the cat that ate the canary.

My mortification won't allow me to concede to the humor of the situation so I settle on throwing daggers with my eyes.

"Don't be mad at me." Alice coos, peppering kisses over my face. "He's going to run into Billy Black at the diner, and he won't be rushing back anytime soon. I just bought us an hour." She looks super pleased with herself, but my expression drops slightly.

"Oh," is all I can think to say while sinking into the realization of what comes next. With no more barriers between us everything we're doing suddenly seems hyper real.

It doesn't take much for her to pick up on my mood shift (or the blush creeping up my neck). "We don't have to do anything. I'm okay with that. I promise." She puts a bit of distance between us. "Just tell me what you want."

What I want?

I want her. She's first, second, and third on the list of what I want, but I can't deny that I'm nervous. I've never done this with anyone else, barely even came close with Edward. What if it's awkward? What if being with a woman is way out of my level of expertise? And how am I supposed to do anything with this stupid cast on? For goodness sake her skin is so flawless it sparkles like diamonds in the sunlight. Not to mention her entire family looks like the photo that comes inside new picture frames, and the last person she was in a relationship with is basically a Calvin Klein model. I can't help but feel a bit ordinary as I shuffle nervously under her deep stare.

"Don't worry." She interjects as if responding to the busy stream of thoughts swirling between my ears. "There's nothing you can do that I won't like." Then, leaning in closer, "You have no idea how badly I want you."Her smile is reassuring when she pulls back and I consciously have to remind myself to breathe.

"Okay." I feel a little frozen. The confidence I felt when we started this has nearly vanished, so I'm grateful when Alice takes the lead, stepping out of her jeans on the side of the bed, before crawling back into the space beside me.

Every move she makes is languid and effortlessly sensual, almost predatory, but her eyes are warm, her smile is playful, and I eventually feel myself begin to relax. I pull her back down to my lips to escape depth of her eyes. It's easier -I think, relieved- I don't have to think when I'm touching her. It gives me a mental break from the overwhelming sensations flowing through me.

It only takes a few minutes for the fire we felt earlier to rekindle, and two things become undeniably clear: 1) she definitely likes to top, and 2) I really like it when she does. She takes full advantage of her position above me as she adeptly unclips my bra, pushing it aside to toy with the sensitive skin she finds beneath it. Her hands are cold like winter, but her touch is setting me on fire. I gasp when she pulls my nipple between her thumb and index, clutching at her back for leverage as my hips automatically cant forward to meet hers.

"Alice..."

I feel totally out of control of my body's reactions. It's embarrassing how quickly I feel that pulsing need beneath my shorts intensify, though it's reassuring that Alice is clearly suffering the same side-effects. Her chest is vibrating, humming with unrestrained arousal as her tongue massages so vigorously with mine it's almost obscene. There's an animalistic -almost aggressive- nature to the way she's touching me and I'd be fooling myself if I said it wasn't turning me on. It isn't so much what she's doing that's so hot, it's the fact that my normally sweet, unassuming pixie can be so sexually assertive behind closed doors.

I feel completely ill-equipped; nothing I did with Edward prepared me for how I feel now. His control wasn't as good as Alice's.

Alice tugs at the bottom of my shirt, so I raise my arms allowing her to pull it off. She wastes no time pulling my bra off as well, dropping it over the edge of the bed along with her own. I swallow hard, distracted from my own nakedness by the sight of Alice topless in front of me.

Stars, fireworks, and meteor showers be damned. They have nothing on the magnificence that is Alice's body.

I lick my lips before placing a firm kiss above her belly button, slowly kissing to her waistband as she moans something deep, and guttural from above me. Her fingers thread in my hair, gently tugging me closer as I repeat the cycle, increasing in force each time, sucking and licking her cool skin like an ice cream cone. Her abdominal muscles clench, and I know I'll never get bored of the sounds she's making. I spend a few minutes appreciating her body before I get the courage to move higher. I settle my free hand just below the slight swell of her breasts, massaging experimentally, listening to her reaction for guidance. When I place my lips around the rounded tip of her nipple her entire body goes loose like a spaghetti noodle slipped into hot water.

"Yes, good Bella. Keep-" She trails off as her back hits the mattress, and I realize suddenly that I'm the one in control. I'm the one making all those delicious sounds come out of her mouth, and damn, it feels good. I feel bolder, so I decide to share my attention with both her breasts, switching the gentle licks to the opposite side, while teasing the other with my fingers. I feel her harden instantly, reacting automatically to the warmth of my tongue. It catches me by surprise, how human she still seems, that despite all her power and strength a simple caress of my tongue can cause such a reaction.

"Your nipples get hard really fast." I hear myself saying, awestruck, as I look up at Alice glancing down at me with an amused smile.

"What did you expect?" She asks, her tone is light but also curious.

"I don't know," I say, running my hand over the soft mound of flesh and squeezing lightly as Alice arches into my grip, "...not that."

"There's a lot of things I can show you that you don't know." She says suggestively. Her eyes penetrate like a sword, and I siege her lips once again to escape their intensity.

"This scares me." I mumble into her mouth, hearing my heart pounding in my ears, and hoping that Alice can't as well.

"I know." Alice replies, as her hands wander up my naked back. She pushes an errant strand of hair over my shoulder. "I'll go slowly. There's no rush, okay?" I nod, watching her smile materialize before she places a chaste kiss to my lips and says, "Lie back." I do as I'm told and she stretches beside me with her right hand tucked under her head.

For a while we do nothing but kiss. It's different; softer, unhurried, and somehow completely unfamiliar. We're both topless, but the intimacy isn't defined by our nakedness, it's heightened by how comfortable we feel in such vulnerable positions. When I feel her hand begin to wander up my thigh my breaths come a little quicker in anticipation, but she doesn't move it any higher than the bottom edge of my shorts, caressing every few seconds as a reminder that she's still there. I can't stop myself from fidgeting, or from squeezing my thighs together in hopes of gaining some form of relief from the warm pressure building below my waist. It's maddening how intensely I feel even the slightest touch resonate through my body like an electric current. Can she feel it?

I want her to feel it.

It's that's thought that runs through my head as I navigate my free hand between our bodies, quickly finding the edge of her lace underwear and stroking along her sex as her moans echo in my ear. I know I'm doing something right because my name is falling from her lips like a chant, and her thighs are trapping my hand between them as if she's afraid I'll stop. So, it surprises me when after only a few seconds she moves my hand away, far enough that there's no contact with her at all.

The reason comes quickly when onyx black eyes find mine. "You don't have to."

I frown at how silly that sounds. "Alice, I want to." Of course I want to.

She shakes her head. "Not yet." Her voice is gruff, tight from restraint, and it hits me how difficult this must be for her. It's a mix of pain and pleasure; the burn of venom must be nearly intolerable, but still she's smiling through whatever discomfort she must be feeling when she says, "I can't control myself if you're touching me like that..and I just...I really want to..." She trails off, exhaling a frustrated puff of air before allowing her actions to replace her words as the hand on my thigh finally slips beneath the waistband of my shorts, bypassing my underwear, and massaging intently.

"Fuck...Alice..."

"I just want to make you come, okay?" I know it's a matter of my safety, and what she's really saying is her control has very real limits, but damn, it sounds so hot.

"Okay." I manage to push out the word between rapid breaths that barely reach my lungs, before Alice steals them again. I can feel how wet I am; Alice's hand is slick with my arousal, and her bare breasts rub against mine as she practices slow, steady strokes between my legs. Her lips find my neck -kissing, sucking, biting, and bruising the skin there- and all I can do is throw my head into the pillow and mewl like a cat in heat. I press my eyes shut, and bite my lip to keep from crying out. Everything is fire. Her mouth, her hands, her petite body pressed into mine, cold but sticky with my sweat. How is it possible that I feel everything with the intensity of a bolt of lightening, but still it's isn't enough?

I peek my eyes open when I feel her lips moving lower, glancing down as she reaches for the top edge of my shorts. She pauses, and I know her hesitance is a request for permission, but it's already hers, I can barely think of anything that isn't Alice's' touch. When I don't protest she hooks her fingers under the waistband of my shorts and underwear, tugging them down over my knees. I don't have time to feel nervous, or hesitant, because the instant the clothes are off Alice settles between my legs sending my thoughts into a spiral. Her nails claw at the inside of my thighs, digging into me like she wants to carve me open and place herself inside. Her mouth traces behind the pink indents her nails make in my skin, soothing the small tinge of pressure with something sweeter and gentler. I fully understand her intention -and what's coming next- but it doesn't prepare me for the moment her lips makes contact with the center of my arousal. It's automatic, really it is, the way my hips cant upwards to meet her mouth. I try to ease my back against the mattress, but every time her tongue touches me I lose control of my body. My vocabulary is reduced to moans and a litany of swears I hadn't even realized existed in my mind. Alice is doing this humming thing with her mouth and the vibrations resonate straight through me; it feels like she's pulling a loose thread and watching the fabric of me unwind. I want it to last forever, but at the same time I think I'll explode if she doesn't finish soon.

I don't know what to do with my hands, so I settle them at my sides, bunching fistfuls of the blanket, and staring at the ceiling as I try to keep from crying out too loudly. I feel Alice shift immediately after, stopping her actions entirely. Her fingers come to my chin and tilt my head down, locking my eyes with hers, and fuck, she's so beautiful I want to cry.

"Keep your eyes on me." She says, voice husky and eyes rivaling the darkness of her hair. I do what she asks. I watch her lower herself back down, I watch her disappear between my legs, I watch her watching me, and the hungry intensity of her eyes is all it takes to send me toppling down the best of all the Alice Cullen rabbit-holes. My hand tangles in her hair as I ride out every hot second of each wave of pleasure, feeling every bone in my body ache with want.

Damn, I love her.


"I'm sorry. You're going to be really sore in the morning." I don't have the heart to tell her that I'm already really sore, the pain isn't something I want to think about. I just want to enjoy this moment, wrapped in her arms, and floating on an unbelievable high that I know won't last forever.

"You have nothing to be sorry for. You made a really horrible day better. So much better." I lay my head on her chest above the spot where her heart would beat, feeling the gentle rise and fall of her chest she's become so accustomed to imitating. She brings her hands to my hair, combing softly through sweat dampened strands.

As we lay in silence for a while longer a thought occurs to me. "Did you see this happening tonight?"

Alice laughs. "No, I told you it doesn't work that way. Contrary to what you think I don't use my powers to scope out scenarios where I can get laid." Her chest shakes as she laughs harder, and I give her a gentle slap to the shoulder.

"Good. Because I'd feel pretty cheated if you'd experienced our first time without me." I only blush a little. "How much time do we have left?" I ask, tracing my finger across the fabric of her underwear, astutely aware of how quickly her giggles have ceased and how stiff she's gone below me.

"20 minutes."

I frown, that's hardly enough time for what I want to do.

"It'll have to do." I say, smiling shyly at Alice who excitedly begins to wiggle out of her underwear.

"Okay Isabella Swan," Alice purrs in a mock serious voice that still manages to be sexy, "...lets see how quickly you learn."

Thanks for reading! Any feedback is appreciated. I need the motivation, and your reviews are my biggest reward for writing. :)