The Logn Road Home, Ch 16: Off the Beaten Trail

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"I know, Jasper, but, it's so hard, I feel so...out of sorts, since I got my memories back." I sighed. "I feel...lost. Weak. Afraid."

He pulled me to him, wrapping me in his arms and holding me tightly to his chest, rocking me like a baby. "Alice, you know that I'm here for you. And no matter how you might feel right now, it's normal. You're adjusting. What you went through was awful, I guess. I'd be bothered too."

I shook my head. That wasn't quite it. Yes, the memories were horrid, but it went beyond that. But how to tell him I was afraid to be vulnerable, to trust him or anyone else with my weakness, when he'd been so open to me so quickly and easily? And would he still feel that way when I told him everything?

***

JPOV:

Now, I was puzzled. Alice was acting downright strange.

I remembered vaguely from my human years how fickle females could be, regarding their emotions. Lord knows Ginny had shown me some highs and lows in a record-breaking time span. Of course, men are often just as fickle, but in different ways, and they tend to shove down and hide the more "unpalatable" emotional responses and urges, which is generally unhealthy. Given my extra ability, I'd always been sensitive to the vicissitudes of the heart, which made me a particularly rare specimen of a man in the first place, I suppose, without trying to pat myself on the back too heavily. I also remembered how I'd dealt with Maria during those eighty long years in the dark with her: in general, I think I comported myself pretty well, given how completely and utterly horrible she was. I learned something of patience in dealing with her, at least, and Maria also taught me to appreciate how truly lucky I was when Alice and I found each other. I found in Alice a woman who gave more than she got, who admired me and valued me (always good for the ego, and something I'd never had with Maria), while retaining the strong sense of self that made her Alice. All in all, I think I am a pretty easy man to talk to, especially if the other person is her.

But now, Alice was being rather un-Alice-like, and it was very hard to understand.

We had so much fun playing during that trip north through the Rift Valley, giddy with relief at being released by the old ones and allowed some freedom, and I found myself becoming more and more infatuated with my Alice with every moment's passing. To see her tiny little form silhouetted against a crimson sky, perched atop a rocky peak thousands of feet above the ground and grinning at me with a complete lack of fear, glistening in the sun like some precious gem, I experienced something so profound I was humbled. She loved me. Me. She accepted me, she adored me, she protected and catered to me, all things I'd always wanted but never imagined I'd have. And here it was, so easy, like getting the entire world for a song. Having all the treasure in the universe just dropped into your lap with nothing required in return except a smile.

At first, after we'd left Kilimanjaro, she'd been so buoyed by relief and excitement her inner feelings had been buried deep, I think. However, shortly after the reality that we'd truly escaped death had sunk in, her emotions began to roil tumultuously. Yes, the joy and fun of our play had masked it at times, but not for long. Soon our game might end, and even after making love, she'd lie in my arms quiet and pensive, her heart a raging river of deep currents of fear and dark eddies of insecurity. What was she so afraid of?

I would let her be, because I'd learned in the past few months that she needed time to sort things out on her own terms: pressing her would only make her more skittish. I remembered breaking horses with Big John and my father when I'd been a boy: gentleness and patience is the key to calming an inquiet creature. Although Alice is nothing like a horse, and I didn't want to tame her, I wanted her to trust me to tell me things, and in earning that trust I had to give her space. Also, if she hid anything from me (even for a short time), it was usually for a good reason, and she'd eventually reveal it to me.

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