Title: Against a Wall
Author: Girl Who Writes
Word Count: 3,851
Genre: Human/Vampire AU; Angst, Drama, Romance.
Summary: If you asked anyone with the surname 'Whitlock', they'd tell you that the family was cursed. It was the Whitlock Curse to blame the day the bank took the ranch away from Jasper's own father.
Notes: Trigger Warnings for Suicidal Ideation, Addiction, Depression, Body Horror.
This fic was posted as part of JaliceWeek20, hosted on Tumblr. Part One was started ages ago, and I was so excited for an opportunity to finish it!
I've found so many fics about Alice meeting Jasper as a human, but very few ones where Jasper was the human (though some amazing works came out of JaliceWeek20!) and this was one of my explorations about that scenario. Part 2 coming tomorrow 3
Disclaimer: Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer; I make no profit from this fan-based venture.
He crouches behind Dewey's Bar, spitting blood onto the pavement, and trying to pretend that whatever is seeping into his jeans is just water, and not runoff from the reeking dumpster beside him.
It's Tuesday night, and Tuesdays are always the worst. Tuesdays are his mom's night shifts at the VA hospital. Tuesdays are pay-day. Tuesdays are the only day his father doesn't pull his punches.
His left cheek and eye are swollen and split, like overripe fruit. He can't see real well, and the taste of aluminium foil in the back of his mouth makes him suspect another fracture around his eye.
But was it really a Tuesday night if cerebral fluid wasn't leaking into his mouth?
He feels bad that his mother is going to walk in at five the next morning, exhausted, to find… well, to find Hettie and Flo asleep in Ava's bed, as Ava studies and worries. To find Jasper's bed empty, and Lydia's too. To find the study door locked, no matter how long she knocks.
In fact, the only thing that Louise Whitlock won't find when she gets home from work is the god-damned strength of will to leave her fucking husband.
Last time he said that to her face, she started to cry, and that made things worse.
It's still early, which sucks. There are hours to go until it is safe to move, to drag himself to school, to shower in the locker rooms and get some food out of the vending machine and savour the fact that another Tuesday is behind him. Sheldon isn't big enough for the other students and the teachers not to notice the bruises on his face, but it is small enough that everyone knows Jeremiah Whitlock, and no one is going to say anything to get him in trouble.
He could go find Lydia, hide in the tree-house, tell someone who wasn't family or a local. But he always ends up behind Dewey's. When he was a kid, it hadn't just been a bar; it had been been Dewey's Bar and Grill, and his grandfather used to take him there for fried chicken and ice cream. Dewey had been his Grandpa Jed's best friend, but even in those halcyon days it hadn't exactly been family-friendly.
It had become a dive bar sometime around the time Jasper finished middle-school, but it didn't matter - by then, Dewey and Grandpa were dead, and he was too busy trying to protect himself and his sisters to eat ice cream.
He spits blood again, and rests back against the brickwork. Nothing for it; Tuesdays were always hell.
He tries to sleep, amongst the noise of passersby, and remain unnoticed - Jasper's learnt the hard way that his uncles still frequent Dewey's, and they will march him straight back home for round two, no matter what he says. Even when he came up with the strength to tell them, about Lydia and Jerry and Tuesday nights, his uncles just tell him to shut up, man up, and maybe Jerry wouldn't have to whoop his ass.
He thinks of Lydia and hopes she's somewhere warm and clean tonight. Lydia's smart enough to stay away on Tuesday nights. Home is never Lydia's first port of call any night of the week, but never, ever on Tuesdays.
He remembers the last Tuesday night she was home, two summers ago, when Lydia stormed upstairs, a twelve-year-old hurricane with fire in her eyes, and called their father a coward for beating the shit out of Jasper.
Jeremiah Whitlock hadn't liked being called a coward. Not at all.
Now she is transient, a ghost sister who vanishes at day break; one who bunks down on couches and in treehouses before coming back to her own bed. Their mom and Ava worry about where Lydia gets her money, cigar-sized rolls of dollar bills that she keeps in a tampon box, but he knows.
He knows that his sharp and pointy little sister never let anything stop her, least of all hard work, and that a lot of people in town know that Jerry Whitlock has a lot of anger and a lot of disappointment that he tries to drown in cheap beer and cheaper whiskey. It just makes him angrier. If the only thing they can do is give Lydia Whitlock some work, well, that kid'll cut the grass, paint the garage, and walk the dog for a few bucks and a drink from a spigot.
It's easy to say that Lydia is the best of them, making it clear that she doesn't need their shitty father or their tired mother, but they are all strong in different ways. Ava, who smiles and simpers at their father, waiting for that day when she can buckle Hettie and Flo into her car and take them with her to college in Houston with a middle finger raised in the air. Flo stays quiet, stays alert, darting and hiding when the moment comes, but whose slight of hand belongs to a survivalist magician. And sweet little Hettie, who never lived on the ranch and knew their parents when they were happy, is sunshine and laughter and innocence. The one that reminds them why they stick together.
He's the boy, so his role is obvious and unquestioned: he takes the punches and slaps and kicks that were meant for their mom, for Lydia, for Flo. He mutters things under his breath so that Jerry doesn't hear what his sisters are saying, forgets that Hettie is sniffling or that Lydia hasn't been home in ten days or that their mother has burnt dinner.
He knows his place.
If you asked anyone with the surname 'Whitlock', they'd tell you that the family was cursed.
Had been since the Civil War; the youngest son had run off and joined up. Tried to desert two months in, crying for his momma, and ran afoul of someone - or something. He was dead a month later, but no one was exactly sure if he'd been executed for desertion, or if he'd just got in the way of a Yankee bullet. Either way, his last letter was rambling and terrified of something he never named, and his cowardice was rewarded with his bloodline's constant suffering.
Within the Whitlock family lore, the curse was held accountable for numerous failings - from great-great grandmother Edith running off with one of the Wilkerson boys, to little Brian dropping dead as a doornail one summer day after seven years of perfect health. It was the Whitlock Curse to blame the day the bank took the ranch away from Jasper's own father.
It was the curse that had four and a half strapping brothers (Uncle Wyatt only counted as half since he went to the war in the Middle East and got himself blown up before he was even old enough to drink, and left behind a high school sweetheart with a bouncing baby girl they all called 'Puddin') father fifteen girls, and only one lousy boy.
Make no mistake about it, Jasper was a lousy heir to the Whitlock name. All three of his uncles reminded him of this every holiday season. Whitlock men were supposed to live and breathe the ranch, were supposed to be football players and champions. They were meant to knock up the head cheerleader and serve eight years in the army, like their brothers, fathers, uncles, and grandfathers before them.
Not snivelling little momma's boys, who cried themselves to sleep when Sirius Black died, and could charm the birds from the trees. Not boys who helped their sisters catch rabbits, and keep them as secret pets, or name the house cat Socrates. Not boys who sat up all night when their horse had colic, and sit in the stable with her, begging and praying for her to be okay.
He tried, goddamnit. So hard. He was the best shot in the family (something that Uncle Bo had nearly hit him over, that one Thanksgiving. But everyone knew that Bo had the worst temper in the family.) Before things went to shit, he'd been a good student. He'd been able to convince the animals on the ranch to do anything. He was popular, without having any particular friends or putting much effort into it. He took care of his sisters.
But none of it was ever good enough.
Nothing ever was.
It's Roy Lester that chases him off, before six the next morning. Roy runs the grocer next to Dewey's, and went to school with his father and uncles - still had beers with them ever so often. The way he threatened Jasper and chased him off home whenever he caught him in the alley made Jasper think that they talked about him, and none of it flattering.
So he has to slink home because he stinks and he's starving. The security at school won't let anyone in before seven; he's tried before; it's not like he has much choice.
In a town like Sheldon, everyone knew everyone. You started kindergarten with maybe twenty other five year olds - most you probably already knew - and spent the next thirteen years with those same kids. You watched Maude Montgomery transform from the aesthetic-equivalent of Danny Devito to Jennifer Lawrence in a single summer, thanks to a late brush with puberty; you were right there when Casey Atkinson was put in a wheelchair and spent seventh grade learning to walk again. You knew that Ariel Turner was diabetic, Marley Harris was asthmatic, and you'd seen thirteen years of peanut-free lunches and birthday parties because Joey Thompson was highly allergic.
The joy of small towns.
Everyone knew that Jerry Whitlock hit his kids and his wife, but no one talked about it - not to their faces, at least. The adults tended to march Jasper home, to face his father's wrath. The kids tended to get uncomfortable, and look through him. The few people who tried to reach out were from out of town, and were usually passing through - the odd teacher, a new neighbour, a concerned face on the bus.
Better to go home until school opened up.
Louise is in the kitchen, her face pinched and pale, clutching a cup of coffee. She looks hopeful when he walks in, but seems to crumple in on herself when she sees his bloody, swollen face. She looks old as she puts down her mug, and moves to pull him into a hug. He pretends not to notice her shuddering, as she cries onto his shoulder, before pulling away.
"I'll make breakfast," she manages, sniffling. "Okay? You must be hungry."
He grunts and nods, as he heads upstairs. As if scrambled eggs and burnt toast can fix another Tuesday night.
But Wednesdays are good - the longest possible time until another Tuesday night.
He just has to keep telling himself that.
Another Tuesday behind Dewey's, but this time he's puking up the few mouthfuls of food he managed before his father hauled him out the back - only because it was his mom's week off and they were having a big family dinner. Louise resented those mid-week dinners; after a long day at work, having to make dinner for twenty-three people, and somehow find enough plates and chairs was the last thing she wanted to was the only time Lydia would cross their father's sight line, skinny and defiant.
If it had been a normal dinner, Jerry wouldn't have dragged him out of the house. He would have beat him in the kitchen, yelling over Hettie's sobs and Flo's screams, and Louise's pleading. He's had a serving platter smashed over his head before, as well as a beer bottle, and a ceramic pitcher - one that had been made by Grandma Lillian, and Louise had sobbed over those broken shards.
His head is spinning, and he can't remember exactly what he said to incite his father's rage, though he remembers Uncle Bo's jeers when he tried to stand up. The previous week's wounds have reopened, and are bleeding onto his last decent t shirt. There's vomit and alley-juice all over his jeans, and he wonders if he should drag himself to the hospital because his world is still spinning.
He wonders what will happen if he dies tonight; if Roy Lester finds him here in the morning, cold and dead. Most of the cops in town are from old families, and they've taken Lydia and Jasper back home enough times to know what goes on. It's easier to picture the cover-up, that they'll blame him and a make-believe schoolyard fight. Just a tragic accident.
Maybe then someone will help Lydia, help all of his sisters. Maybe it'll be the thing that makes his mom leave.
He falls asleep facedown in the alley, and wants to cry when he wakes up the next morning to the bellow of school kids heading to the bus stop.
He was so goddamned close to it all being over.
"Do you need some help?"
It's another Tuesday night, one that has come with busted ribs and possibly a dislocated shoulder. He missed lunch because of an English project, and his father had been drinking early, so he hasn't eaten since breakfast. It's making him feel sick, and wondering if anyone will notice if he sneaks in the back door of Dewey's and grab some food.
And then someone is there and talking to him.
Her voice is high and sweet, and he expects a high school girl, maybe a sorority sister.
She is neither.
She's only as tall as Flo, with uneven black hair curling around her cheeks. She's one of the prettiest girls he has ever seen, with huge amber-coloured eyes that remind him of Hettie's dolls and Lydia's manga. She's wearing a ragged button-up over a ruffled mini-skirt and leggings, with boots that look a size too big, a heavy man's watch that hangs from her tiny wrist, and an ancient looking cadet's cap - the entire effect makes him think of Oliver Twist as a female circus performer.
She walks over to him, and crouches in front of him, her head cocked to the side like a bird's. He can only stare; other than the dark smudges under her eyes that speak of many sleepless nights, she is beautiful.
"Are you okay?" she asks, looking worried.
"Yeah," he croaks, and winches as he jars his ribs. He doubles over, and cries out. She reaches out towards him but backs off just as suddenly.
"You're hurt," she says, looking bewildered and frightened. "Where?"
"I-It's okay," he manages, trying to reclaim his dignity in front of the prettiest girl. "I'll be fine."
The girl huffs. "Ugh, boys," she mutters. "Hold on a second." She gets up and slips out of the alley before he can beg her not to get help. In reality, going to the hospital is the last thing he should do - they can't afford the bill, and they'll call home and… no. Just no.
His head is spinning, so he finds it hard to tell how much time has passed, but eventually she returns. She's clutching two bags, and marches right up to him and crouches back down.
"This will help," she says, holding out painkillers and a bottle of water. He fumbles with the lids of both, but eventually swallows the pillows down. She watches him carefully. "Don't drink too fast," she advises. "Now, I can put your shoulder back in now, or we can wait. It's up to you."
He blinks at her slowly. "Now," he decides.
"Okay," she looks nervous, but moves forward. It's all blurry in his mind, but there is something cold, then hot, angry pain, and then he's blinking up at her again. "Sorry. But trust me, the worst is over now. At least I didn't break it worse. Hungry?"
He blinks as she reaches for the other bag - a bag of Skittles, a packaged sandwich, two oranges, and a bag of potato chips. He's not sure if he has a concussion or it's an odd selection, but he's also hungry enough that he doesn't care.
"I nearly had to call Bella, to ask what to get - Edward never let me buy her food after the chicken incident - which was entirely Emmett's fault - but I think I figured it out okay," the girl jabbers, taking a seat beside him, and smiles at him. "Better no one knows where I am, anyway."
"I… thanks," he croaked, as he reached for the sandwich. She beams at him again, and then frowns.
"Eat, then we'll finish patching you up. I've come too far to watch you die in this disgusting place," she stretches her legs out in front of her.
The sandwich is dry, but he wolfs it down - an orange too, before he takes a breath - that hurts -and takes another look at the tiny girl beside him.
"Who are you?" he finally asks, and she looks up from her watch.
"Oh! I'm Alice," she says. "Sorry, I forgot you didn't know. Do you want your ribs taped now, or are you going to open those?" She points to the Skittles.
"Um, I…" he looks at the bag of candy. "Do you want some?" This feels like a fever dream; maybe he's passed out and this is just what his banged-up brain has provided him with.
"No," she shakes her head, and the cadet's cap tilts a little on her head. "I can't. They just looked nice. Happy."
"Happy," he echoes, looking at the red package.
"I hear that sometimes little things can help," Alice says. "Come on, cowboy, take that shirt off and let me see those ribs."
His side is mottled black and blue and purple, and moving in basically any direction is a new adventure in pain. Alice gasps at the sight, and then coos at him in a way that is oddly comforting as her fingers trace his ribs - the coldness of her fingers is actually wonderful against the pain. Then comes the painful stage - as she, not entirely gently enough, begins layering tape over the pain, his head is spinning.
"All done," Alice says, and her voice is soft, and when he slumps against her shoulder, she doesn't move away. She smells like old fashioned things, like roses and linen. It reminds him of the old family homestead. He finds his eyes closing, and his side aches in time with his heart, and then Alice's gentle fingers are running through his hair.
"Sleep, Jasper," she murmurs, "I'll keep watch."
He's asleep before he realises he never told her his name.
She's gone when he wakes up, and the Skittles are in his pocket - along with the painkillers. Happy.
It's Wednesday morning, and it's not exactly 'happy' he's feeling, but he's got candy in his pocket and time to go home for a shower and more food, so Alice was right - the little things do help.
She never turns up two Tuesdays in a row, but he does see her again. She's always more prepared than the first time, with a bag that always seems to contain exactly what they need - in his less lucid states, he is reminded of Mary Poppins' magic carpet bag as she produces snacks and first aid kits, and even clothing.
Her attempts at first aid are, at best, rough and she accidentally breaks two of his fingers and nearly ends up in tears when he yells in pain, and hugs him so tight, weeping into his neck, that he ends up trying to comfort her.
Sometimes he sleeps. She's so thin and tiny that her shoulder isn't a good pillow, and he feels like a shit man, letting such a tiny girl keep watch behind a bar. It wouldn't take much to break her, and he can't defend anyone in this state.
But some Tuesdays, he falls asleep anyway, breathing in that scent of fresh roses and linen, and listening to her chatter away about people he doesn't know, about places he's never visited, about books he's never read.
Alice sounds like she's living a really nice life. One week, she quizzes him on his Spanish before his examine the next day, and her accent is flawless. When her phone buzzes and buzzes and buzzes, and she ignores it, she usually swears - he doesn't know in what language, one of the Eastern Asian ones he thinks - but it's definitely a swear.
He wishes he could see her, talk to her, out in the real world and prove to her that he's not just a beat-up kid. But she's always gone on Wednesday mornings, and he doesn't even know how to contact her anyway.
All in all, he met Alice in the reeking alley behind Dewey's with a concussion, broken ribs, and a dislocated shoulder, and now she's the best friend he's ever had in the world.
He's getting closer to that 'happy' concept that she mentioned the first time they met.
The last time he sees her, he's bleeding and he's pretty sure his eye socket is fractured. He's pissed with himself because he wasn't fast enough, smart enough, to stop his father from going after Flo. So he'd thrown a punch at his old man for the first time because Flo is his baby sister and all haunted eyes and he'll never forget the sounds of her wailing after the belt struck her, but hitting the bastard back just fuelled him and … fuck.
Then Alice is there, in jeans with stars on the knees and a billowy purple top that is just opaque enough to obscure the skin underneath. She looks angry and frustrated, and doesn't just sit next to him and open her bag like she usually does.
"It's a stupid fucking decision you're about to make," she stamps her foot, "and I am so mad at you right now, but Carlisle and Edward have made me promise not to interfere. Carlisle says that everything I'm doing now is enough. And I'm already in enough trouble, honestly."
He can taste foil again - definitely a fractured eye socket.
"What?" he manages, snappish and tired. He doesn't need this. He wants sweet Alice, who helps him patch himself back together, and gets him food, and talks him to sleep. The one who makes him laugh, even when it hurts, and seems to be light-years ahead of him but that's okay because she's always so happy about whatever she's telling him.
"I'm going to say this once," she enunciates carefully, still glaring. "I will be here every Tuesday. Don't make a dumb decision. There is always another choice."
"You're making less sense than normal," he retorts. "Either help me, or go away - I'm not in the mood."
"Happy freakin' birthday," she snaps, unbuckling her giant watch, and throws it at him before she storms back the way she came, leaving him behind.