Title: The Way of Things

Author: Girl Who Writes

Characters: Alice, Jasper

Word Count: 4297

Rating: M

Genre: Romance, Drama

Summary: Soulmates are funny things. They do not start out existence together; they must find each other. And once they find one another, they are forevermore entangled.

It is simply the way of things.

(The first time they meet, they are vampires in the land that will one day become Romania.)

Notes: Written for JaliceWeek20 Day 6: Reincarnation. This fic wrote itself. It knew exactly what it wanted to be, and I was merely the monkey at the keyboard. I had a lot of fun coming up with different lifetimes, and unfortunately a few had to get cut - including a Jessamine/Alice 'life' that I think I'll turn into a standalone fic once I've done more research.

This was absolutely inspired by a gorgeous Thor fic I read a few years ago based in Norse mythology and the creation of Yggdrasil; if I can find it, I will absolutely link it because it was an incredible piece of writing.

Thank you for reading!


Soulmates are funny things. They do not start out existence together; they must find each other - it might take one lifetime, it might take ten. It is important they undergo this struggle; some souls are not meant for regeneration - they shine and burn out within a lifetime or two. But others get stronger, more powerful, during those early searching years.

And once they find one another, they are forevermore entangled. The oldest and strongest eventually fuse, unable to be separated in life or death.

Of course, eventually, they burn out. But not in a tragic way; more like in a way that is the last page of a very good book; the wilting of a final flower in autumn; the way snow melts in early spring, with a sense of peace and satisfaction, and utter tranquillity. And as they dissolve into starlight and dust, they begin the cycle anew. It is neither good nor bad nor anything in between.

It is simply the way of things.

When they meet the first time they are vampires in Dacia - the land that will one day become Romania. It is an era of indulgence for vampires in that region, and if any records had been kept, it would have shown nearly dangerous levels of changes.

She is Alis, a peasant girl changed by a careless vampire who fed and left her in a ditch. She's a gentle beauty, with long dark hair, sharp and cunning eyes, and even after the change, her skin maintains a slightly golden tint of someone who spent their life in the sun.

He is Jesper, who mentions nothing of where he came from or what he was before he arrived to hover at the fringes of the Dacian court. He quickly builds a reputation, with the ladies and men both, and Alis is entirely aware and slightly amused by that. She catches his eye more than once but is elusive like quicksilver, unbent and unbowed.

Until she isn't.

It's been a good hunt, blood soaked through their clothes to their skin that they lick off each other in their frenzy, and she learns exactly how he developed such a reputation. He learns exactly what he was looking for as he finds himself skin to skin with the spirited girl that has always seen him coming before he could catch her. But he has her now, and he's not letting go.

She doesn't seem to mind. They become a common sight, as a pair, their hands constantly entangled. They are not at court to curry favour or power or anything more than their next meal, but their relationship is magnetic, and more than one jealous or yearning gaze falls upon them as he presses hot kisses to her neck as he ties a choker of sapphires or diamonds around her pale throat.

The Volturi attack a century or so later, and they stand with the Dacians, their leaders and their friends. He remembers thinking that they cannot possibly fail; they are on the side of the kings, of the angels. He remembers admiring her as they lined up; the way she had pinned her hair with the silver clasp he'd given her, the way her dress fit her and the smirk on her lips that promised something to look forward to in their personal victory celebrations.

They don't survive. In the chaos of the battle, it is hard to say how they each fell - the Volturi take no prisoners anyway, so a quick death in battle is preferable to an execution. But they fall and they are burnt, and their ashes mingle in the purple-grey smoke that fills the field.

When Lord Aro finds a silver hair clasp discarded on the battlefield, still clinging to a clump of dark hair, he pockets it and later presents it to Sulpicia, polished to shine and on a bed of velvet. It is a curious and beautiful piece, the shape of a raven's wing, and it quickly joins the Volturi's treasury without a single thought given to its origins.

In whatever counts as the afterlife for souls and spirits, they reunite. It will take more than one life to work out their powers, the boundaries, of this resting place - how to shape it to their preferences, how to give themselves form. For now, it is just a long horizon of contrasting light, and they are little more than sentient energy, mingling and expressing regret and pain at the demise of the other, of relief of being reunited, of contentedness being once again with the other.

Time is not something that exists on this plane, and soon they learn how to change what is around them; a swathe of sandy beach that meets perfectly clear water, expansive grassy plains that fit between quiet, looming forests. They are no more fixed than any other aspect of this space, but it remains unexpectedly consistent.

Sometimes, there is a house. It's immediate form never changes, but the outside facade does, as the lifetimes pass them by. Somethings a log cabin, other times an English cottage, or a farmhouse, or a bamboo hut. It is their every-changing, ever-evolving desire, a nod to their shared past and their hopes for the future. It is their reward, their sanctuary.

They learn how to shape themselves as well. She fluctuates a little more than him, but she is always small, always naturally dark-haired, always cunning but sweet. He is always tall and always blonde and too charming for his own good, and sometimes he is not he, but she. Still blonde and tall, and could charm birds from the trees. It doesn't matter either way; the small one greets them just the same, with enthusiasm and passion and sweet sadness at their demise but always joy at their return.

And that is where they are together until the next life.

The next life is simpler; a part of a nomadic tribe. She is married, in their customs, to him when she is little more than a child and he just barely a man. And despite how they were raised and what they were taught, he is kind and gentle to her and has no interest in her as a wife before she becomes a woman.

It is a hard year, a bad year, as they travel the mountains and ridges, the snow sharp against their faces. Few of the tribe have born children that year, and less still have lived through the winter; when food is so scarce, the dying are calmly let go so that the rest might survive. There is an undercurrent of resentment when he hoists his child-bride onto his back so that she might make the climb; that he, young and strong and likely to live long and hardy, gives his share of food and water to the bony waif he is bound to.

But she lives through that year and the next. She lives enough years that they are both ready for her to become a wife, and everyone who scorned her frailness, her smallness, the waste of a strong husband on such a girl, is shocked when she conceives and carries his child so easily. First a son, then two daughters, all born close enough together that the old women of the tribe mutter.

The tribe becomes stronger, settles in one place for longer and longer periods of time - where food and water are plentiful and they are safe from predators and other threats.

She dies during her fourth pregnancy, slipping away in an ocean of blood no one could have prevented. Her eyes are wild and frightened, and he promises that he'll watch over their children and see them safe, and weeps openly over her body and that of his second son.

He dies after his second daughter is married to a neighbouring tribe, to a boy who looks at her like she is a miracle, and he knows his job is done. The death is quiet, in the still of the night, in the shelter that he once shared with her. As he passes from the world, he remembers the nights when it was him and her amongst the furs, and then their children pressed between them, and then the firm bulge of the child who would ultimately kill her. He holds no resentment for the cause of her death, just a faint and worn sadness, and as he drifts away, he is certain he can hear her laughing.

He is a soldier, to protect his family, for a cause he finds entirely repulsive. But he mouths the words and holds the gun, and does not recognise her when he is ordered to shoot. Why would he? They've never met. She dies in the mud, and it doesn't matter anyway, because they end up naming him a traitor and he dies in prison heavy with regrets.

In their sanctuary, they reunite in silence, with sad eyes and gentle embraces. Whatever powers above govern creation, they still send the souls and soulmates to earth, to be swallowed up and spat back out by human machinations, human fears and flaws and greed.

It is simply the way of things.

She is a barefoot thief in the streets of Paris, dangerously fast, and subtle of hand. She tells no one her story, or at least, no one her truth. Ragged and smirking, people mistake her for a child, and so there is little trouble to be had - if she's caught at all.

She runs into him, lounging in an alleyway, tricking lords and ladies out of coins with sleight of hand, and is delighted with their potential. She's old enough to be charmed by sharp green eyes and a lazy grin, and young enough to contemplate the sheer levels of chaos they can cause.

They live like kings those next few years, pinching pearls and purses, watches and rubies, and living in an icy dormer room wearing stolen rings to convince others of things they'll get around to eventually. It's really not much - a narrow bed with wafer-thin blankets and a shared pillow; water that runs cold and brown into a bucket; pigeons that nest in the rafters and shit all over their clothing.

Doesn't seem to matter, though, when she welcomes his kiss and sleepily encourages him when he rolls on top of her during the late-night hours, frost forming on the weave and weft of their clothes. When their work is good, he brings her flowers from the seller on the corner, and she tucks her pockets full of cakes for them to share, and really, neither could imagine a finer life than together in their little tower.

But time marches on, and soon they recognise that the tricks that have gotten them this far in life aren't going to be overlooked forever. There are fewer nobles on the street, less coin and jewellery to be fleeced, and so they decide to leave for the country - he's not afraid of dirty work, and she's not afraid of anything.

The journey will be long, and she steals a book for him on their way - he's determined to teach her to read. It's a neat little Bible with a smart green cover with the name 'C-a-r-l-i-s-l-e C-u-l-l-e-n' written in neat script on the front page.

They settle in a village, where she becomes a laundress, then a seamstress, and he finds work with horses. They marry in the village parish, where the kind priest is happy to absolve them of the sin of living as man and wife before their vows, and keep their secret. They exchange stolen rings for ones of brass, from a jar the priest keeps for that purpose.

There's a tiny two-room cottage they occupy; those early years of hunger and neglect have left their mark on them both, and so there are no children in this life. But there is an endless parade of animals that he brings home tucked under his jacket; wounded or lost or discarded, and she finds that she doesn't so much mind waking up to a blind duck on their bed or a sickly fox on the pillow next to her, when he is always so pleased with their progress, with their improving health. He saves more than he loses, and he takes pride in that. Some are set free and returned to the wild, but others linger in their home until they are something of a spectacle in town - the house with all the animals.

They live a long life, a good one, and it ends peacefully. They are buried side by side in the village cemetery, with wooden crosses that bare their names and prayers muttered in their honour.

But one Carlisle Cullen never gets his Bible back.

The good lives give them less time together in the in-between, if such a thing could be accurately measured. They wade, knee-deep into that perfect ocean that stretches out to their infinite horizon, hand-in-hand, and then they both feel it; that fizzing, tingling feeling as whatever oversees them pulls them back; back into bodies and minds, back into lives and places, and they once again have to go through the push and pull of finding the other and crossing their fingers it'll happen sooner rather than later.

As he becomes nothing again, he holds her smile tight in his mind with a prayer that this will be the time, this will be the life, that he'll recognise her for who she is to him as soon as he sees her.

She hopes its a long life, a good one, with his hand in hers always.

He's reborn in Texas in 1863 and dies nineteen years later, only to rise again.

She's born in Mississippi in 1901 and dies nineteen years later, only to rise again.

They meet in 1948, and if he knew any better, he'd tease her about keeping him waiting for thirty-seven years, six months, and three weeks. But it will be a while more before they both remember things like that, so he can't. Instead, he falls completely and utterly in love with her, in a way that echoes right back through to that very first meeting in Dacia.

He wonders if it is possible to miss someone he'd never met before, when he takes her hand. She wonders if he's going to disappear, to startle and panic about the future that lies before them and leave her behind.

He kisses her like a starving man, and she almost immediately drags him - a willing supplicant - into her bed because it doesn't matter what life they're living, she's never been particularly subtle. He knows exactly what to do to make her scream indecently, and she puts her mouth to every single one of his scars, and he wishes he could weep - with relief and guilt and a million other things that are knotted up inside his head.

And she will untangle each and every single one with enough time.

They unknowingly draw from each of the lives that have come before - they are nomadic for more than two years, crisscrossing across the country. He is no less fixated on animals - as a human, it was the training of them; as a vampire, they are his salvation. Their hands are always entangled, their gazes always on the other.

This time, they find a family, and some quiet, subconscious little corner of her mind decides she likes that they aren't alone this time. There's a small joy in the memory of a 'family', and a warm feeling - one that she doesn't know originated from a long-ago life where they were the ones welcoming new children into their heart and home, one she doesn't quite recognise. But families are shaped so many different ways, and the Cullens are just another way to fit together, and so they stay.

It's a good life, an untroubled life - at least until Edward gets tangled up with a human girl and the cursed Volturi. Somewhere, the great puppet master jerks the strings and decides that if history is so desperate to repeat itself, well, it might as well put on a show.

They escape the Volturi once (a flight to Italy to save an idiot brother), and twice (Renesmee shall live, Joham shall die, and Aro leaves without any new amusements and deeply, infinitely disappointed in his beloved Carlisle).

Third time's a charm.

Aro's great error shall go down in history as underestimating the damage he has done assembling his collection, the rage and resentment that boils like an undercurrent in the vampire world. He is not a beloved leader, but a feared one.

In truth, which will be lost to both time and the fact that the powers above don't keep written or oral histories as humans comprehend them, his undoing is two things: the fact that in all things there must be a balance.

And an ancient silver hair clasp shaped like a raven's wing, that his Sulpicia wears in her hair as they arrive at the battlefield, cloaked and over-confident.

The battle is ugly and fatal and messy and all those things wars usually are, and there is no certainty in their victory, not with the wolves involved, with the shifters and the cryptids that have crawled out of every shadow and space to be done with Aro and Caius forever.

(Stefan and Vladimir are naive if they think they will fill the vacuum left behind in Aro's wake; Jasper takes them both out quietly on the battlefield when neither of them can call out the betrayal or identify their killer. Sometimes ugly things need to be done, and he's not above getting his hands dirty.)

The battleground is smokey and even her supernatural eyes struggle to see through the gloam; her dead heart heavy as she looks for him. Voices call for help; for missing limbs, for injuries, for protection and she ignores each and every one.

She doesn't know why she stops at the sight of a silver hair clasp, ancient and lost in the mud. Or why she reaches for her own hair, cut short.

Or why she picks it up and unlocks something inside her own mind. It is not an explosion of information, a supernova of memory. It is simply an intense awareness of who she is and who she was and who she will be. It is a confidence in her stride as she moves through the battlefield with a sense of self she has not known since before her home was known as 'Romania'.

Jasper is bent and twisted, Rosalie limp on the ground, and those vicious, hideous twins hold them captive, like fish twitching on the line. Their deaths are not imminent, because who could take down the little vipers and stop their little game?

Jane's head is off her body, and Alec's too, before Jasper has shaken off the pain, expecting Peter or Maria or Emmett to have gotten a lucky shot and dismembered Aro's little favourites.

Instead, it is his mud-streaked wife with a strange look in her eyes and emotions skittering over her skin like static. A battlefield is no place for a lovers' reunion, but she still bestows a kiss on his kneeling form (so ready for his own execution) that is so positively lascivious that it takes him a minute to remember himself.

And then he remembers himself.

The scales have been rebalanced, and the fight is won by a toss of a coin that finds Aro, Caius, and Marcus on their knees in the mud, waiting for their own trial. The oldest of the gathered line up - Carlisle, Amun, Maria, the Chinese coven - to pass their judgement, but the memories that press on both of them demand their pound of flesh, and Edward eyes them both uneasily.

Instead of violence, of sliding down a slope that turns them back into the monsters of old, into the truest of nightmares, Alice crouches in front of Aro with her wide dark gold eyes and pulls the hair clasp from her pocket.

Aro's rage is cold, at the few strands of Sulpicia's hair that are still trapped in the metal, and if he could, he'd shred her to pieces in that moment, gift be damn. But she smiles sweetly and strokes the etched feathers.

"Did you know?" she asks quietly, only loud enough for the fallen Volturi kings to hear, and Edward who hovers in case this spirals into a cataclysm, "When he gave me this, I mean?"

Aro stares at her, straining to touch her and understand, but his guard holds him tight and all he can do is sneer at her.

"The night before you brought your army," Alice plucks the strawberry-blonde hairs from the fixture and tosses them into the mud. "He pinned this in my hair and we danced; we thought we'd win. And I suppose we did."

Aro gapes at her, Caius is spitting curses, and Marcus is just pleading for his peaceful death - and how many lifetimes has he lived without Didyme, has he wanted to return to that in-between space?

She sees the scar on Esme's face and finds it hard to care.

Edward is backing away in horror from whatever he sees in her mind, and Jasper is helping her stand, returning to their place amongst the very confused witnesses - what could the diminutive vampire say to the Lords of Volterra that would inspire such a response. The three are summarily executed without ceremony, and they are scattered over the fire without reverence.

Alice tosses the hair clasp in, too. It is better to be burnt to nothing, to be forgotten and buried by dirt and ash. It is too close to becoming a cursed object, one that will follow them, if they place too much belief and trust and hope into it. It has witnessed two downfalls, and it will never witness another.

He holds her tight in the aftermath, as they count their dead and make their plans. Edward is already whispering warnings into Carlisle's ear, of the shape their thoughts and memories take. But they are family, and that comes before everything else.

(It's not exactly their fault that Edward is a shiny new soul, and it's going to take him a few lifetimes to understand what he's seeing and hearing. Harder especially for him, with his gift so strong so early in the cycle. But everything happens for a reason.)

Despite the curiosity wafting off everyone, they say nothing and they go… well, not home, but to the closest residence, the headquarters of this war. A sprawling property with enough beds for the wounded, the wolves, and the lovers.

That's where she makes good on her unspoken promises from aeons again, of their private victory celebration. She sits astride him, her hips rolling hard against his, drawing out his groans and growls as he grips her thighs almost tight enough to crack. Their gazes are locked the entire time, her tongue skimming over her lips, as she lets her emotions tell him everything that she wants and everything she plans to take.

He remembers fucking her in the dirt in Dacia; his mouth between her legs as she hollered obscenities in a Paris attic; and the urgent, passionate loving-making of a marriage finally consummated.

She remembers bloody emeralds looped around her throat and resting between her breasts as she gets down on her knees and takes him into her mouth, his fingers tangled in her hair; the delicious weight of him on top of her, their sweat mingling and cooling in the frozen night as their flimsy bed creaked against the wall; and his soft encouragement in her ear as he grasps her around the waist, their hands resting together on the gentle swell of her stomach.

It is times like this that their talents are burdens and gifts both because it is so much, so very much, and in all that passion and true love, there is also loss and regret.

But they have each other, and they will weather this new storm together.

They are hardly the only couple to spend the night tumbling together, but they must be the loudest because when they reappear the next morning with darkened eyes and clean clothes, Jacob and Emmett are looking at Jasper with a new and very specific kind of respect, and if she flips both of them off behind Esme's back, no one has any proof.

They don't talk about what they've learnt, because it probably wouldn't mean anything to anyone else. It doesn't make sense, doesn't matter until the mantle of it settles upon you. And then it is everything.

Instead, they hunt. They have won the battle, won the war, and whilst rebuilding will take time, they can take this small moment to feast with their family and relish the freedom from fear.

She truly doesn't know what comes next. He truly doesn't know if it will be good or bad. They will live this life for as long as it lasts, long may it last, surrounded by the people they love and trust.

And then they will die.

And then they will live again. Maybe they will live another ten lives, maybe another one hundred. Maybe one day they will cross paths with their family again, or they will choose to have children again. Maybe they will be long lives full of joy and laughter, maybe they will burn out fast and hard, but full of feeling.

But the thing they are now both and utterly certain of, above all else, is that they will walk each step hand-in-hand.

It is simply the way of things.


Notes

- I've wanted to write a reincarnation fic for AGES; I definitely played around with a lot of these ideas in The Brief History of Us (which I nearly wrote a sequel for instead of this, but I think I want the sequel to that to be a lot longer than I had time for.) Soldier!Jasper shooting Alice was actually an outtake from Brief History that I repurposed.

- Yes, this mythology does imply that everyone gets reincarnated after death - including the Volturi. Whether they remember their canon life would depend on a lot of variables. Frankly, Aro should be more afraid of what Didyme will do if she remembers than of the Cullens. The moral of this tale is that battlefield trophies are gross and should not be taken.

- I have mixed opinions about which of the Cullens have lived multiple lives. I think that Carlisle is still on his first life because he was changed so long ago, and that Esme has a couple under her belt just spent *looking* for him. I think Bella might be on her second or third for the same reason - looking for Edward, who is frozen in his first life. On one hand, I love the idea of Rose and Emmett being shiny and new, but I'm also attached to the idea that Rose was the second daughter who Jasper witnessed married off (to Emmett) in the tribal life. *shrugs*

- I've decided that human!Jasper loved animals, and if it were up to him, there would be cats, dogs, mice, rabbits, foxes, horses, goats etc all over the house. He'd definitely keep a cat as a vampire if he could. This is just my personal canon from now on.