A/N: Beta'd by sweeneyanne & preread by aerobee82 and AlexisDanaan 3
Don't own Twilight.
For Annie, who will not stop asking me what happened to Alice and Garrett and the end of Bitemarks & Bloodstains. Love you, bb. Love yer pants off.
Up & Over
Sixty-seven hours, forty-two minutes, and thirteen seconds. That's how long it takes before Garrett decides that letting Jasper torch this girl might have been the merciful thing to do.
"What? No. Why are you going this way? We need to go east!"
Just to fuck with her, he changes his mind again.
"What is wrong with you?"
So maybe he's having a little bit of fun. Just a little. She's still annoying as hell, though. She gets so wound up over the littlest things. He turns around and heads back the way they came.
Another ten miles go by. Alice stomps her foot and makes a frustrated noise caught in the middle of a screech and a growl. It's one of the most entertaining things he's ever seen in his life.
He decides to veer off to the west a bit.
"You have to stop this! East! I said we have to go east!" Alice yells, screams, spits. Her arms flail as she struggles to speed her paces enough to cut him off.
"Then go east, Short-Stuff." He shrugs and turns south.
He's getting closer to admitting that he's actually having a lot of fun with this.
"Fine," he agrees, keeping his strides steady when she stops walking.
It's quite the impressive feat, the way he manages to contain his amusement at her theatrics. It doesn't take much to break down someone like Alice; she's not going anywhere.
"Go on, then," he prods, and when he turns his head he's met with the sight of Alice nearly vibrating in place with all her frustration. A chuckle escapes. She's ridiculous.
She growls. "I hate you."
"Well that sucks, princess, 'cause I'm all you got."
She mutters something about tossing herself face-first into a bonfire before taking a few small and petulant steps his way. When she looks up at him there's a fire blazing in her eyes. "I need to go to Philadelphia."
"Why?" He doesn't understand why she wouldn't just say so in the first place.
"Because I need it to be over."
He watches carefully as she grinds out the vague explanation. It was quite obvious, now that she's finally giving him something to go on. "Why didn't you just say so?"
He shrugs and heads north-east, toward Pennsylvania, leaving Alice to sputter behind him. There's no need for all the drama and secrets. She's going to have to learn that if she wants to stick around; she's far too easy of a target as is.
"That... that's it?" she asks, hurrying to catch up.
The truth is that he kind of likes the crazy girl. She's not easy to get on with, and she drives him up the wall more often than not—but she also keeps him on his toes, makes their meaningless travel back and forth across the continent entertaining. That's kind of a big deal; he's done nothing but wander aimlessly for decades.
First it's Pennsylvania, then Ontario. Then Oregon and Montana and Quebec. It's like she's trying to systematically eradicate every memory of Jasper by visiting all the places they'd been together. Like she's trying to remind herself that he's not there anymore.
He can't say it's entirely enjoyable, though. Their time is pretty evenly weighted between laughter and everything else; Garrett's taken to piling the latter all together under the heading 'bad'. He doesn't know what else to call it. Alice is obviously damaged, and he's not sure if it's as simple as recent events. It seems more like she's been breaking for as long as she's known, and she can't figure out how to walk the earth without someone crushing her at every turn. And he pities her that.
Of course, none of this means he's not going to mess with her gift every opportunity he gets. She has it coming after that job she pulled on him. He still can't decide if it was more impressive or humiliating. He'd never been taken down by such a tiny scrap of a girl before, and eventually he comes to the conclusion that if she hadn't cheated, his awe would have superseded his embarrassment of being her victim.
The burn flames hotter in his throat—thinking about Alice and her motives does that to him—and he turns toward town. Maybe just a snack.
Alice punches him square in the chest. The ease of the routine borders on disturbing.
She growls. She does that a lot, too. "Don't you dare."
"You act like you have some say over what I eat," he shoots back. He's itching for a bit of a fight, and he knows he shouldn't take it out on her—he just can't stop himself sometimes. He might have started it, but she needs to learn that she doesn't get to control him like she did with everyone else. "I don't lecture you on animal cruelty, do I?"
The Cullens are all the same—they think that they're so much better, when in reality they're killers, just the same as anyone else. The only one of the bunch who ever had any perspective was Jasper, and maybe Emmett—although, Garrett never did include Jasper as a Cullen.
"I don't know why in the hell I'm still wandering around with you." Alice is seething with her hands on her hips, and he thinks that there's something just a little off about this exchange. It's in the way she looks like he's slapped her.
He's never been one for stroking egos before, and he's not going to start doing it now. "Because I'm the only one who would have you."
"You remind me of him," Alice says. She glares up at him like she wishes she could tell him where to shove it and how hard and maybe demonstrate for him a couple times just to make sure he gets it just right. But she also knows that he's got a point. Without Garrett, Alice has nothing.
"That's a bad thing?"
"Huh." He would have thought Alice would see everything that he had in common with Jasper as a plus—after all; she was bat-shit-crazy in love with that psychotic douche-bag. He almost tells her so, but then her eyes glaze over for a half a second and she leans down to pick up one of the rocks lying by her feet. She chucks it at his head as hard as she can. He barely even has time to get out of the way—she's pretty quick.
"Tsk, tsk. Watch your language, Short-Stuff." He doesn't think that particular glare of hers will ever stop being funny.
"You're lucky you don't sleep."
He almost wished he did; it would be quite the adventure trying to keep her from maiming him.
He lets the corner of his lip quirk upward, and an unbidden visual flashes through his head. Alice may be crazy, but that knowledge has never made the potential combination of her and a bed any less appealing. Shit, crazy girls—there's always an upside to them. He knows this from experience. He tells himself that he's not willing to risk a repeat; one Mary was more than enough—but Alice has a little something working for her that Mary didn't. It could be that she's just nuts in a completely different way. It isn't hard to convince himself that the risk would be worth it; it almost always is.
Sometimes he wonders if that's why Jasper stayed with her for so long; there really aren't many other explanations he can think of.
He knows she caught a glimpse of that last notion rolling through his head; the rude question itching to push her buttons right on the tip of his tongue. It never occurred to him that he shouldn't ask.
This time she doesn't yell. She doesn't growl. There's not even that flash of hatred in her eyes that has become more and more familiar, if less frequent. She turns on her heel and walks steadily into the woods; a crash echoing in the space behind her once she's out of sight.
He thinks that maybe, this time, that was going a little bit too far.
An eerie silence spans the woods in front of him, and then a steady hum that vibrates loud and louder until it crescendos into the unmistakable boom of a tree shattering against another. The piercing scream of an animal snaps him back to his senses. He starts counting backwards in his head.
He gives her twenty minutes. Everyone needs some time to crackle and snap without a witness, even Alice.
It's not difficult to follow the trail of destruction she left, and when he finds her he has to pause at the edge of the scene. It's a massacre. Blood and guts strewn all over the forest floor, splinters that used to be redwoods weaving in and out of the mess.
And then there's Alice, lying on her back and staring up at the sky, right in the middle of it. There's blood spattered over her clothes; her face is hard and empty, eyes wide open.
"I can't deal with you right now," she says in an even and controlled tone.
He doesn't answer. His eyes sweep over the bloody rubble one more time, and he starts walking back the way he came to give her another twenty minutes to herself.
A couple of pieces snap into place. He doesn't know how she never saw it, how Jasper never realized. There's one steady string that will always tie them together; one thing Jasper and Alice will always have in common. When the world assumes the worst of them—calls them monsters—the first thing they do is set out to prove their accusers right.
She hates it when he calls her Short-Stuff. So, obviously, he doesn't call her much else. A month or so back there was a brief flirtation with Crazy-Cakes, but he's starting to find that Alice's crazy walks a thin line between personality quirk and actual insanity fed by her gift. He'd felt a bit bad for the way the nickname stung, and since his intention had not been to wound, but to irritate, he let that one drop.
As it turns out, Alice is more honest than Jasper had led Garrett to believe. Not at first, but eventually she softens enough to stop trying so hard to mislead him. He still can't figure out if the key variation lays in Jasper's perception or personality—or maybe Alice just doesn't have anything to gain from lying anymore. Maybe she's over it by now.
What he's actually coming to believe is that Alice has learned that she just can't win with him, not in that way. If she still thought that she could deceive and manipulate him into getting what she wanted, then that's what she'd be doing. But she can't, so she doesn't—and in the end that's what makes everything else change.
So maybe all these things that are wrong with her really are Jasper's fault, because he let Alice twist him around in so many directions that he couldn't even tell which way was up. Because Jasper may have thrashed and fought every step of the way, but in the end he let Alice get away with it. He let her believe it was the only way she could get through to him.
Even after almost a year of seeing the aftermath first-hand Garrett still has a hard time wrapping his head around the number those two did on each other. It's kind of a miracle that Jasper's managed to find himself a buoy; that Bella girl has got to be all sorts of special to be able to even out someone as ragged as Jasper.
Garrett wonders if that's how Alice sees him, if that's why she's stuck around all this time. The question feels different when it's turned around from the last time he thought it, when he wondered what compelled Jasper to keep her.
For Garrett, it's simple. Alice has grown on him. He likes her company, even when she drives him nuts. It's the first time he's ever enjoyed traveling, at least in this way. Sure she makes him stop at hotels far too often and scrunches up her nose when she thinks she's gone too long without a proper bathroom to lock herself in for an hour or two—but it's nice, even if she talks too much. Actually, she doesn't ever really shut up. She's a constant buzz of consonants and vowels, but at least she's not trying to order him around so much anymore.
Beneath all the noise and chatter—miles under the surface where they do nothing but snap and growl and fight with each other—there is some sort of genuine affection for each other's company. There is something deep down that recognizes they aren't all that different, and it's that part of him that can't let go of the way she keeps him interested. Like she's a puzzle; a mountain that everyone has told him he can't climb. Even she is convinced that she's damaged beyond repair, and he doesn't think he could back down, even if he wanted to.
She doesn't glare as often. She seems to be coming to grips, even as she lets go of her fight and stops treading water. One thing he's learned over the years is how to spot the ill in the herd—and Alice can't seem to make up her mind if she wants to fly or catch fire.
All this conjecture makes him feel like a bit like a traitor. He'd known Jasper first; they'd had a blast zigzagging back and forth across the country all those decades ago—but that was more of a glorified killing spree than anything else.
They'd been young and blood-thirsty and finally free of their respective chains. Jasper was out to prove that yes, he was far too volatile to settle down into anything resembling a civilized life with Peter and Charlotte. Garrett had been desperate to put as much distance and as many bodies as possible between him and Mary; that nut-job could give Alice a run for her money. At least Alice has some good qualities. Mary had been—well—a lot like he assumed Alice was with Jasper. Always talking about soul-mates and the bright, shiny future they could have together if only Garrett would just get on board already; about how it was fate.
Garrett didn't believe in destiny. Neither did Jasper. That was why they got along so well, still do.
All those decades ago they took their anger out on the world, and they'd had a good time doing it—but that was then, and this was now. Garrett doesn't care so much for massacring the townspeople any more. And looking at Alice, he can see why that is. It helps that he's gotten past the appeal of an arterial spray.
So he feels like a traitor. Like he's shifting sides and taking Alice's over Jasper's. It's hard not to when she's so obviously struggling just to break the surface. It's hard to ignore the other side of the argument, to not feel for her when she's in stuck right in the middle of some crisis he can't explain or fully identify.
It's been ten minutes since their bickering over where to go next stopped in its tracks and Alice stilled. Usually when this happens it's something to do with Jasper—something one of them said brought up a memory or incited a vision. It doesn't usually take her this long to pull it together though.
He's just about to start asking questions when she lets out a shaky breath. Awareness comes trickling back into her eyes. He's gotten good at catching the signs. That slight downturn of her lip, the way her shoulders are curved in just a bit—this one was bad.
"Jasper?" He doesn't usually ask, but she's still concentrating on keeping her breaths going; he's not actually sure why she does that.
Alice stares at the dirt beneath her and takes another shaky breath. "He hates me."
"Well, you did kind of stab him in the back. With a pitchfork. It was a bit of an overkill, Short-Stuff."
"No," Alice whispers, her resolve coming back to her. "It was just right."
The day Emmett calls is the day Alice gives up trying to hold herself together.
It's not actually Emmett that sets her off, but the familiar sound of Jasper talking in the background. Garrett can make out the girl—Bella—telling him to be nice. It would have been hilarious on any other occasion.
"We should get together sometime," Emmett says, far too casual.
Garrett could pick Jasper's growl out of a line-up if he had to, and one glance at Alice out of his periphery tells him that she can, too. He's never seen a vampire tremble before. Alice folds herself toward the ground, and stops moving; stops breathing. She just stares out at the clouds with dead eyes.
"We'll see," he answers for her, and he doesn't care that it's rude and uncalled for; he takes the phone and disconnects the line without waiting for a reply.
He watches for a couple minutes, waiting to see if Alice is going to snap herself out of it. Her hands come up to pull at her hair and when she starts breathing again the pace is so rapid that, if she were human, she'd be hyperventilating to the point of passing out.
He's pretty sure that this time Alice has actually lost it.
"Why won't he go away?" She rocks her weight back and forth. "He's never gone. Always there, always there... can't cut him out, can't stop seeing it. He fades away and floods back. Over and over. Forever."
He crouches next to her and reaches out a hand to lift her chin enough to look him in the eye. It doesn't seem as if she sees him at all. She's locked inside her head, and it's the first time Garrett realizes how much power this thing—this gift—has over her. It has the ability to torture her far more effectively than he imagined.
"You gotta snap out of it, Short-Stuff."
Garrett tightens his grip on her chin. "I know. But you have to pull it together now."
She doesn't answer, doesn't stop rocking, but he's been with her long enough to notice when clarity starts coming back. Her eyes lose that glassy tint to them; her pupils constrict to a size more reminiscent of normal. Those panicked breaths of hers even and slow.
"You need some time alone?"
The shake of her head is so slight that he's not even sure it happened, but when Alice wants distance she tends to be vocal about it. He settles his hand between her shoulder blades, and waits for the tide to ebb.
"I was wrong," she says quietly. "You're not like him. Not even a little bit."
He wants to take a jab at her, because he's sure it's the first time she's ever admitted any wrongdoing without some sort of excuse or rationalization. Instead his curiosity and sense of sympathy win out. "What makes you say so?"
"Because you see me, and he never did."
In the end, it's not the breakdown that makes Garrett worry about Alice more than he has been. He'd been expecting it, after all. She's not dealing with the root of her problems, just trying to push it to the back and forget. He knows this, and he's accepted it. He's not all that great at dealing with his problems either, so who is he to judge how Alice handles hers?
What has him worried is that she doesn't say more than ten words for the next two weeks. That's how he knows it's serious this time. Alice hasn't shut her trap for more than five minutes in the past eighteen months, and now, all of a sudden, she may as well be mute.
He's not really sure how to handle this side of Alice. This version of her is quiet and meek. She doesn't know what in the hell she's doing, and she's so damn unsure that it even makes him feel nervous. If there's one thing he's learned over the past year and a half, it's that Alice is loud. She's noisy, irritating, demanding, and so sure of herself that it almost gives him a headache. This whole thing she's got going on now is just wrong.
He just wants to see some kind of fight come back to her. He wants that Alice he learned to like to start babbling her head off and arguing before he's even had the chance to open his mouth.
So when it starts edging on week three of this strangely quiet Alice, he finally decides that enough is enough. He knows it's bad, because she waits for the words to leave his mouth. Maybe she can't see them coming any more. Maybe she just can't care enough to answer first.
He thought he was ready to find out just how broken she is. Nothing could have prepared him for what she says in response to his simple question. "What have you been thinking so hard about?"
She whispers back, "I'm just a remainder. I'm what's left over after everyone else gets their happy ending."
"Edward didn't seem all that pleased to be carted off by the Volturi," he says, unsure of why he's trying to argue that she isn't the only one miserable. She's not, but it shouldn't bother him so much that she knows it. Sure, what she did was shitty, but the one thing that could possibly redeem her was that she believed so strongly that she'd done the right thing. She knew they'd never forgive her right from the beginning.
A rueful smile crosses her face, and she sighs. "That's one of those things that nobody believes is for the best. He'll be happy there. He's better off, and he'll realize it eventually—but he's never going to forgive me for doing it."
She sounds so sad—defeated—and while she may annoy the hell out of him sometimes, he's come to like that fire in her that has her chucking rocks at his head and trying to kill him with nothing but the power of her glare.
He stands over her and steels his expression, because, for once, this is serious. "Get up. Stop wallowing. You and I both know this is beneath you. I get that it sucks, but Edward's a dick. Don't even try to pretend it's not true. Don't you dare let his anger bury you."
Alice opens her mouth, like she going to argue with him, and all of a sudden Garrett's on a roll. He's got shit he wants to say, and he's going to do it right now.
"You made this bed. You made the choice to keep everyone in the dark and act in their best interests without ever bothering to explain yourself. If you can't live with the consequences, then you're even more pitiful than I thought.
"Own it. If you're so sure what you did was right, then stand the fuck up and stop wanting for sympathy."
"You don't even know what you're talking about." Alice seethes down in the dirt. It's the most pathetic thing he's ever seen, and it is infuriating. What happened to the bratty girl stomping her foot and fighting him tooth and nail at every turn?
"I don't care. Get up."
"Why don't you hate me, too?" she asks, and Garrett doesn't even bother trying to hide his scoff.
"If I hated everyone who ever got one over on me, well shit, I wouldn't have time for much else. Get over it, Short-Stuff. You've got a lot to learn about what it means to love and hate."
"I hope you're right." She stares at the ground, takes a deep breath, and finally voices what's been stirring in her for weeks. "I always thought that with Jasper... that was just how it was supposed to be. It all seems so wrong now. That fire burning me up until there's nothing left—is that really the only way it means anything? It seems like there should be something more to it."
The last layer of misdirection and lies is swept away with the flourish of her desperation, and Garrett finally sees it. He understands just what it is that makes her so fucked in the head sometimes.
She hates Jasper. She hates him so much that it must feel like electricity running through her veins, because what happened between them just wasn't fair. As far as Alice is concerned she did nothing but try, and all Jasper ever did was fight the whole way—and somewhere along the line she convinced herself that was what love is.
"I don't know how to love any other way." Alice frowns and swipes at the dirt.
It sounds like a challenge, and he finds that once he thinks of it that way, he can't beat back the desire to see if he can pull it off. A laugh bubbles out of his chest; maybe he's just as crazy as she is. "I think I can help you with that."
She jerks her head toward his, confusion crashing over her face. It must be the first time she never spotted something a mile away. Slowly, her expression evens, and then the smallest of smiles. She's shy and curious, and Garrett thinks that it might be the happiest he's ever seen her. She was robbed of this part the last time; she's never gotten to have that spur of the moment charge of excitement running through her while she connects dots and realizes what they mean.
Insecurity starts leaking in. She shakes her head. "I don't think I'll ever be able to get it right."
"Oh, Short-Stuff, don't you know me at all?" Garrett laughs. "If there's anyone out there as determined as you, it's me."
Alice's eyes flash, and that hint of a smile crosses her face once more. Her next words are tinged with that thing she lost her last hold on three weeks back; hope. "I've noticed."
She doesn't resist when he pulls her to her feet. He makes a show of glancing right, left, and then right again—and this time, Alice almost lets out a chuckle. She starts walking straight ahead, to the north-east, with more life in her steps than he's ever seen.
This time he follows her without argument. There'll be plenty of time for that later. "Lead the way, Short-Stuff."