Venite, venite in Bethlehem;
She stalked her prey on a street teeming with others like it. Walking, smelling so amazingly appetizing, they were just begging to be appreciated the way she could. Lines and lines of them, lines and lines... Blood. It was blood and she was a thirsty vampire. She knew this, though she was alone. She knew what she was. And her name. And that she was thirsty...
Instinct told her to wait. Her sense of smell informed her that another of her kind was near. She bristled, crouching to defend her hunting ground. Spinning, she had a vision of a pair of vampires - one tall, one petite, both blond. They approached her in the vision, and they were scarred. "Don't be afraid, little one," the female said in the vision.
Shaking her head, Alice pushed the sight from her awareness and flattened herself against the brick wall of the building. Candles, held by singing humans, cast tiny, flickering circles in the street beyond her hiding place. She could hear the heartbeats of the nearest. One of them looked positively succulent. Oh, his scent...!
"Careful, now. Lots of humans here. You don't want to get caught."
Hissing, she spat, "Mine!"
"Newborn," the male whispered to the female.
"Ah, hell," the female said, sounding resigned. "Peter..."
"Char, we have to."
Alice straightened. She hadn't seen others of her kind converse before. She had only caught scent of one or two, and they had been alone.
The male, Peter?, held up a hand while crouching a bit himself. This way, he wasn't so tall and frightening, with his moonlit scars. "I'm Peter, and this is my mate, Charlotte. What's your name?"
Alice closed her eyes, seeking the future if she could in a brief instant. She only saw the three of them, talking peaceably. Well, then... "When I woke up like this, there was a piece of paper pinned to my clothes. It said I was Mary Alice Brandon." Then, something instinctive made her try to warn the others off. "Stay away from my hunting ground!"
"Don't be afraid, little one," Charlotte said. She hadn't used any submissive posturing and, in that moment, she nudged the male to stand fully upright. "We won't be intruding. Who sired you?"
"Yes. Who made you into one of us?" The male started growling. Alice crouched defensively again.
For Alice, the matter of her sire was of complete indifference. "I have no idea. I just woke up and needed to feed. So I have been." She wanted to turn her back on the newcomers, but they made her neck itch. "You can't hunt here, so go away." She waved her hand to shoo them away - a human gesture that had been tried on her, actually. It had failed, but she tried again anyway. "Go on."
The vampire named Peter took two steps in approach. "Why don't you come with us? If your sire just left you, you need to know a few things."
"I'm fine -" Whatever she had been about to say broke as a vision assailed her awareness.
Gold. Copper. Bronze. Laughter. Deer? Reindeer?
Images of reindeer were everywhere. She knew what they were. They were always with the fat man in the red suit. Saint Nicholas. The name tickled in her brain.
Jumping on the deer. Smiling. Two males, one female.
"Who are they?" she whispered as the vision let her go. Her recovered present-awareness had her stiffening - the other vampires were now all but touching her. Oddly, she felt no threat. They could answer her questions, she was sure. "They have gold eyes. Two of them. The third has red. Like ours," she added, confused. "Gold? Golden eyes?"
Charlotte met Peter's eyes. "We've met one of us with golden eyes. About ten years ago. Have you seen him? Was he your sire?"
Peter held up a hand. "No way in hell Carlisle Cullen would turn someone. And if he did, he wouldn't let her go rogue."
"You're a newborn. You've never been taught. You're in danger." Charlotte's tone was flat. It meant, to Alice, that her words were true. Briefly, she considered running from the pair who were keeping her from her hunt. Danger? She was a vampire. No one could hurt her. They had tried.
A man with filmy eyes smiled broadly at her in a room made of stone. She saw his lips move. And then, she was lifted up, high up, and the filmy-eyed man reached for her hand. His expression exploded in pleasure. It gave her the creeps. Then, a series of images flashed through, fluttering visions that confused her. She herself was wearing a black robe. She held hands with the filmy-eyed man. Behind her was an extremely tall man, twice as broad as she was. His hands were on her shoulders.
She was trapped.
"What's his name?" she whispered, repulsed by what she had just seen.
"Whose name?" Peter asked, sounding confused. "What are you talking about?"
An odd energy filled Alice's limbs, compelling her to walk. Walk in a circle. "I see things. I see people. I just saw people. A man in black robes with filmy eyes. A huge man. Huge. And I was there." At the looks of awe on the other vampires' faces, she stared at them. "Don't you see things? Don't we all?"
"No," Charlotte said. "Most of us don't have gifts like that."
Peter's mouth turned down and Alice recognized that he was unhappy. "Well, there was Jasper..."
"Was being the word of importance, here."
"Did he meet the men with the black capes?"
"The Volturi? No. Our sire had him killed. We escaped," Peter said, sounding angry.
The people on the streets of the city were leaving, now. Fewer hearts were out there, and Alice's throat was on fire. "I have to feed," she said, dashing between the others toward the street. "So thirsty!"
"Mary Alice!" the others hissed.
Charlotte grabbed and wrenched the petite vampire back into the safe darkness. "Stop it."
Deum de Deo,
Lumen de lumine,
Gestant puellae viscera;
Genitum, non factum...
It burned. Still. So much pain! Alice lunged at the passing carolers, grabbing a young man and jerking him to herself as she ran. To the humans, she appeared as a freak wind-devil, a miniature tornado. A rarity in this part of the South, but not unheard of, certainly. They laughed together before checking hats and scarves and starting their singing again.
Until someone called, "Matthew? Matthew? Where are you?"
Peter and Charlotte, desperate to avoid the Volturi, did their level best to catch up to the ravenous young vampire. They caught her in the deep green woods outside of the city, in a place heavily laced with moss and other plant life that dangled from trees. The tiny newborn was still growling and slavering. The lad's heart was still beating.
Then, just as young man's breathing ceased, as his heart stopped pumping, as Mary Alice dropped him to the damp, cool earth, she froze, her head tilted upward, her eyes wide with some kind of emotion that neither Peter nor Charlotte could quite comprehend. She crumpled to the ground, seeing the human she had fed from. "Matthew. Your name is Matthew. And you have a sister. Her name is Mary, like mine. And I just saw them. They're so frightened. And sad. And - and it's my fault. Your Mary is so sad and it's my fault."
Peter hunched down next to her, though he refrained from touching her in any way - he didn't trust newborns. "Mary Alice. They're humans. Our natural prey. We are supposed to drink from them. It's nothing you have to feel sad about."
"He has a sister," Alice said again. A niggling memory tugged at her, and she frowned, trying to follow it. "I think I had one, once. I think..."
Rain started to fall, dripping through the branches to crash with soft, small thuds on the earth. Charlotte looked up, wiping water from her stone skin. "Peter, let's get back to our place."
Her mate nodded, rising to his feet. "C'mon, little one. Come with us."
He had bright eyes and a crooked smile. He played the piano and would be able to read her mind. She could see his future - it was filled with dead humans. The sight made her heart hurt. She could stop him.
If she could find him.
Charlotte, not as inclined to associate with newborns as her mate, had nevertheless done her best to civilize their "guest." "Alice," as she insisted upon being called, could see the future and she had been extremely helpful. As the months of 1921 rolled by, the tiny, elfin woman had kept them out of trouble, found easy prey, and helped them find some hard money to get things they wanted to have. Like new clothes when their old ones got torn or stained.
But most of what Mary Alice saw had to do with Carlisle Cullen.
"Do you think she's his mate?" Peter had wondered quietly one evening while they waited for their temporary coven-mate to return from her hunt.
Charlotte sighed and wrapped herself around him. "I don't know. I can't see what she's seeing, but he has already held a huge influence over her, Peter. If she's not his mate, then I hope he will take care of her, anyway. She's already trying so hard to please him and that other one."
The "other one" didn't have a name that Mary Alice had shared, yet. She only knew he had a gift and that he was musical. "Pansy-assed college boy, maybe," Peter had muttered once.
Only once. Mary Alice had come down on him like a hurricane. "He's strong! He's a beautiful hunter. I've seen him. You should try it! Hunting a cougar is so -" And her eyes had glossed over with something that looked like awe and desire. "He'll teach me."
She was trying, though, on her own. She had first only been able to hunt stray house cats. Then, she caught a rabbit. Later, it was a horse. And then another. Horses were domesticated and easier in some respects - but hiding the sucked-dry corpses had proven problematic. Almost more conspicuous than a dead human body.
And the animals tasted wrong. Like grass had been layered where someone was expecting pure meat. She was sure, though, that Carlisle Cullen - the golden-eyed vampire who only hunted animals - would be able to clear things up for her. They were searching for him. And for the other one who still had no name that Alice could see.
Rejoining Peter and Charlotte, Alice called out, "Hello!"
"Any progress?" Peter asked.
He meant that he wanted to know if she had found Carlisle. "Not yet. But I saw him walking near a hotel... It's on a corner. And then, he's running with the other one, the mind-reader, along a lake?"
"Is it a big lake?" Charlotte asks, her mind racing through every place they had ever been. They were in Michigan at that time - lakes were easily found.
Alice nodded, her brows drawn together in a frown. "Yes... I can't see the other side, in the vision."
Frustrated, Charlotte snapped, "Does the hotel have a name?" She liked Mary Alice, really, but she missed being alone with her mate. Having a future-seer around was really getting in the way of things Charlotte would much rather be doing.
Alice shouted, "I don't know! I'm trying, I really am, but I don't know!" The two women drew up on one another, hands spread, fingers curving into claws.
Peter stepped between them, a smile on his face that was only partly feigned; he liked seeing Charlotte riled. "All right, all right. We'll find them, Mary Alice. We will."
"Alice. I'm Alice." The combative tension left the small woman's body and she backed up to the wall of their temporary house. They had taken it from their last meal, and it was quite comfortable. At least, Peter reflected, he and Charlotte had their own room, here. "And I'll keep looking."
And so she did. Walking away from Peter and Charlotte on a snowy December day in Michigan. She sought them, in her visions. She saw that they had searched for her for a while, but not very hard. "I really was a burden for them," she told herself. "And they'll be happier without me." Each succeeding glimpse into their lives over the next few weeks confirmed that, so Alice continued solo.
But her throat burned. And the humans were congregating out of doors in festive celebrations.
Cantet nunc hymnos
Cantet nunc aula caelestium:
In excelsis Deo!
All at once, as she climbed a tree to find the freshest air possible, Alice saw the hotel's name. It was the Hotel Knight and it was on a corner and Carlisle and the other male were there and they were smiling and looking at her with expectation painted broadly on their perfect faces.
Home, the expressions meant. Home. She felt it in her vision. "I'm coming!" she laughed. Now, she could ask around for a name. She could talk to humans for a moment, surely. She would. She would.
Ignoring the burn in her throat, Alice ran from town to town along the shores of the Great Lakes, going into Wisconsin. She remembered the lessons Peter and Charlotte had given her. "Stay hidden. Invisible is safe, but if you must be seen, try to look inconspicuous. Human. Walk like them. And if they smell too good, hold your breath!"
She did her best, remembering the welcoming expressions of Carlisle Cullen and the mind-reader. When Christmas carolers surprised her in Ashland, Wisconsin on Christmas Eve, their candles lifted into the frigid air, Alice gulped down venom and clung with both hands to a large pole, trying not to look unusual. She wore a dark coat, ankle-length skirt , gloves and boots she had found in a box outside of a church. Charlotte had sometimes hunted humans of her size to get new clothes, but Alice - since she had killed the boy with the sister named Mary - didn't. She didn't have any cash money, either, since she had left it behind her when she had left Peter and Charlotte. So, she had made do with cast-offs. At least they were dark and looked much like what everyone else was wearing.
A cold wind blew in from the west. Lake Superior was in that direction. Even miles inland, Alice could scent the distinct odor. It blew the human's delectable scents away and brought to her sensitive nose the tart, sweet aroma of vampire.
Hope exploded within her. The light was wrong, but she had learned over the past year that many things influenced her visions. Her delight in her foreknowledge distracted her enough that she didn't need to ground herself to the pole so as not to feed on the humans. She could find them. They were here!
"Carlisle Cullen," she chanted softly, over and over, as she stepped to the corner.
"Have we met?" inquired a voice with a slight accent. And then, "My dear child, are you all right?"
That he called her a child as he approached didn't bother her; she was child-sized in appearance. "I'm fine. Truly. And we haven't met yet. But I've seen you. I am Alice. And you and you," she went on, nodding and smiling at the bronze-haired male, "showed me how to avoid hunting humans," she continued, her voice the merest whisper.
Carlisle smiled - grinned, actually - his face nearly splitting in evident joy. "Well, I must hear more about this. How did you-"
"Ahem." The other male nudged Carlisle with his shoulder. "Carlisle?"
Appearing flustered, the sun-blond vampire nodded. "Of course. My manners. This is just so unexpected! Right, then. Alice. This is Edward, whom I consider my son. He is, one might say, my first-born."
Edward. "Edward," Alice repeated out loud, extending her hand, for she had watched how humans interacted and she wanted to do this properly. It was already entirely clear to her that Carlisle and Edward were entirely different from Charlotte and Peter. The way they walked down the street, the way they spoke, everything was so human. But it felt right, to her. Proper. "Edward. I have seen you, too, but I couldn't see your name. He never spoke it," she went on, indicated Carlisle with her head. "I know what you can do, though."
He shook hands with her. "Alice. Nice to meet you. Do you have a last name? I feel awkward addressing you by your Christian name," he said, looking down in a shy way.
She decided to test him. Brandon. Her full name ran through her thoughts, and then the reason why she didn't go by the name of Mary any longer. Edward's expression crunched in dismay. Quickly, she concentrated on how hard she was trying to hunt only animals. And then, he chuckled. "Cats? House cats? Miss Brandon, you will have to allow me - us - to show you some better places to hunt."
"Miss Brandon?" Carlisle Cullen said, as if he had always known her. "Would you care to join us this evening?"
Both men offered her their arms at the same instant. Alice had not felt so light-hearted since she had found herself alone and terrified and thirsty, more than a year ago. With a nod and a grin at both men, she tucked one hand in each proffered elbow and slid between them.
Ergo qui natus
Jesu tibi sit gloria;
Verbum caro factum!
Christmas morning, 1921 dawned beautifully, the sunlight bouncing with vivid enthusiasm into the wintry air. Fully sated for the first time since the last Christmas she had witnessed, Alice laughed with delight. "Thank you for showing me how to do this!" she shouted, her voice musical, ringing with the high notes of bells. "It's so much easier when you know!"
Carlisle hadn't hunted for himself, choosing instead to focus on the newcomer. "You're entirely welcome," he assured her. "You did remarkably well."
"She's been practicing," Edward asserted, pride shining in his eyes as he watched little Alice dance in the morning snow. She had shared everything with him and Carlisle as they had taught her to hunt. How she had been changed and left to waken alone (which had horrified Edward's sire), how she her visions seemed to work, and how she had been found and educated by the nomads Peter and Charlotte. They had told her, it seemed, about Carlisle.
Which Edward could only be pleased about, honestly.
Carlisle was pleased, too. His thoughts centered around her at present, which Edward was surprised to find irritated him.
Edward? I've been thinking of asking her to stay with us.
A feeling of sheer, boyish enthusiasm flushed through Edward's body as he rolled up on his toes and back down again, still watching Alice. Her thoughts were filled with relief and joy and he could see himself and Carlisle through her eyes. The sun making them sparkle like diamonds. We should be getting to cover soon, but this is such a wonderful day! she was thinking.
I will, then, Carlisle decided. We'll have some variety, the two of us, and she is a rare creature, isn't she?
A rare woman, Edward thought privately as he nodded for his sire's benefit.
I wonder, Carlisle continued to muse even as he called, "Alice?"
She paused in her snow dancing and then leapt from the ground, her smile flashing brilliantly. "Yes! Yes, I would! Oh, thank you!"
Laughing, the three drew closer to one another, Carlisle shaking his head. "Really, dear girl, you could at least let me ask, first."
"Sorry?" She didn't appear apologetic in the least. I'll have to do better. Be less obvious, she resolved silently.
Appreciating the thought, Edward nodded and absently removed his gloves. If they were going to be family, he thought, he should be more personal.
She had taken hers off already, during her hunting lesson, and so it was that his bare skin clasped hers as they all three held hands before embracing in a "Welcome to the Family" sort of hug. And he froze, staring at their hands where they were joined together, hers and his. Carlisle, sensing the entirely obvious increase of wonder that flowed between his son and new daughter, laughed quietly and nodded to himself. He had walked alone for hundreds of years, it was true, but - he could not but be happy for Edward at this moment.
It was obvious in their locked gazes, in the way his focus was so tight upon her, in the way she stared into his face, enraptured.
"Merry Christmas," Carlisle murmured. "You two should get home soon, you know," he called over his shoulder as he walked quietly away.
He wondered if they'd heard him. Before he left the vicinity entirely, though, he turned to appreciate the view once more. Congratulations, my son, he thought loudly. A mate for Christmas is indeed a wonderful gift.
He found himself singing a Christmas carol into the still, morning air, Edward's laughter blending perfectly with Alice's as it reached his ear.
Venite adoremus Dominum!