Incomplete Without You
"They are not complete without each other–and never were. They were already not-whole before they met, waiting for each other."--Stephenie Meyer
The path that led Jasper to Alice was filled with suffering, but fate was leading him to someone who could soothe his pain. Pairings: Alice/Jasper (Maria/Jasper in the beginning) Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Angst
1. In Her Power
Rating 5/5 Word Count 6041 Review this Chapter
Chapter Title: In Her Power
Rating: R for graphic descriptions of fantasy violence
Warnings: This story is very dark.
Characters: Jasper and Maria
Word Count: 5,929
Chapter Summary: Jasper felt averse to destroying Peter, so he let his friend escape. Does Maria's punishment make Jasper regret that decision?
Disclaimer: This work is based on characters and situations created and owned by Stephenie Meyer, various publishers and film makers including but not
limited to Little, Brown Books and Summit Entertainment. No money is
being made, and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Notes: "Incomplete Without You" will follow Jasper's story from Maria to meeting Alice and joining the Cullens. The early chapters will be angst stories, but they will lead to hurt/comfort chapters with Alice.
Reading between the lines of Jasper's story in Eclipse, this is the vision of Jasper's life with Maria that immediately came to me. It's different than many interpretations of the Maria time that I've seen, but if you reread chapter 13 of Eclipse, I truly believe you'll see where my ideas come from.
Parts of this story were influenced by the amazing story "The Sum of Him" by Keeper_of_stars. Right wrist is used with permission. My Jasper is also influenced by the work of very talented Pinkowitch. Parts of her Jasper have rubbed off onto mine, and vice-versa.
Special thanks to my beta and constant supporter, Pinkowitch.
I stood, frozen in shock, as they raced away. Peter had found love in this horrible place, and he was actually trying to escape with her. Part of my mind registered that I should pursue them. At the very least I had to destroy the female, Charlotte. Maria had ordered us to terminate all of the one-year-olds, including Charlotte. I shuddered at the thought of disobeying a direct order from Maria. It had been decades since I had, but even the echo of those terrible memories was enough to make me tremble. Maria had conditioned me well.
The problem was that Peter would defend her. I had sensed that in his emotions before they escaped. He would do anything to protect her. I would have to kill him as well. I should kill him; he had betrayed the coven. If our enemies found him, when they found him . . . I couldn't think about it. But the fact remained that he knew too much. He was a liability that had to be disposed of. Physically, I could accomplish that without problem. It would be a decent fight, but Peter could never best me. I had too much experience for him to overcome.
And yet it was something I wasn't capable of doing. I liked Peter. He was . . . He was . . . What little remained of my human self would have called him a friend. He was the only creature I'd had a decent conversation with in over sixty years. I enjoyed his presence. It saddened me greatly to realize that, either way, I'd never get to spend time with him again. When I finished this horrific task, there would be no one to distract me from continually reliving the feeling of death. No one else could tolerate my presence when I was in one of my depressive moods. As I thought about it, as I envisioned Peter's pain and fear as I ripped him apart, I knew it was something that I couldn't do, not to him. I would not experience his death along with him.
I attempted to swallow down the venom burning my throat. The night's work was already taking its toll on me. I wanted nothing more than to curl up into a ball on the floor and tearlessly sob out all of the unwelcome emotions. That was the only way to dispel the anguish, except for when Maria chose to reward me with a day in her bed. It was easy to let her pleasure overtake me, but that was not a possibility for this night. I was shaking again; Maria would be furious. The least I could do to appease her was to finish the rest of her bidding.
"William," I called. I purposely chose the least intelligent one remaining. They all would have heard Peter's warning to Charlotte. It was so much easier on me if they didn't know what was coming. I hated experiencing the anxiety of others. I needed someone that was idiotic enough to accept whatever lie I wove. "We've chosen you for a special assignment. Keep your voice down, though, because some of the others aren't as lucky," I explained. He was foolish enough to believe it thoroughly. He was full of pride and smugness as he followed me down a very long corridor. We had to perform this activity well away from the others to keep them in the dark as to the night's events.
Anxiety flooded me, and I silently swore. We'd made it to the death chamber, but the fire had given too much away. Perhaps he wasn't quite as stupid as I'd thought. When his fear filled me, I reacted in the same way I always did, in the only way I possibly could if I wanted to keep my sanity. Hatred replaced the fear. I hated him for forcing me to feel his emotions. I wanted to destroy him so that I could stop feeling them. At that moment, I wished that I could just go straight for his throat to end him before he could make me experience any more of his pain. I knew that was a fatal mistake, though. He would be expecting that. Going for an obvious kill point would only get me hurt.
I was not surprised when he came at me full force, in a completely predictable manner. I'd found that ripping off an arm was a good way to send a young vampire into a panic. As he neared me, I shifted my position and slashed my teeth across his shoulder. His arm clunked to the ground as his agony began to overtake me. His pain was so intense it was overpowering. I tried to focus on my hatred, as I always did. I fortified myself with anger. Who was he to force me to feel his pain? I thought of nothing but how much I wanted his death as I managed to sink my teeth into his hip, gouging it deeply. His fear and terror were too strong, though. I was still feeling him! I growled in frustration. The hatred was the wall that protected me from experiencing too much of his misery. Why was it failing me now?
It was difficult to have patience as I destroyed him. I flinched as I felt my teeth tear him apart with each and every nip. It was as if I were feeling his emotions as my own. His moves were less and less logical as I tore him to pieces, but I knew that I had to be overly cautious. He was getting desperate and more dangerous. I couldn't bear his pain any longer. It was consuming me. I no longer cared if he bit me. The physical pain I could endure; his emotions I could not. Ripping off another small piece of him would send more spikes of pain into my soul. I cried out as his teeth connected with my right bicep, but it was the opening that I was looking for. Without another thought, my teeth slashed his head off.
I tossed his head quickly into the fire and then began gathering up the pieces of him. Everything had to be incinerated. His torso and still-moving arm soon joined his head in the crackling flames. My entire body trembled in agony as I stooped to pick up a few more fragments. His emotions were still reverberating through me. Ending him had not dissipated them. I gasped in pain as I crumbled to the floor by the fire. The emotions of his death would not leave me. He had projected so much stronger than any vampire I'd killed in a long time. Or maybe it was that I was feeling extra sensitive.
I couldn't stop thinking about Peter. I wanted to believe the fairytale, that maybe he and Charlotte had miraculously found some way to escape unharmed, that they could hide somewhere together and live happily. But I knew the reality. There were no deserters from vampire armies for a reason. If they stayed in our territory, Maria would find them and kill them. She would probably make me do it. If she captured them, she'd want me to kill them slowly, in front of the newborns, to make an example of them. No one defied Maria. My entire body quivered at the thought of it. It wouldn't be the first time that Maria had ordered me to perform a public execution. Those were some of the hardest for me, because not only did I have to deal with my victim's emotions, but also the collective fear of the newborns.
But if they fled from our territory, it would only be worse for them. Our rival covens had trackers just as good as Maria. The leaders of the opposing armies would only be crueler to them. I knew what Maria made me do to straggling enemy vampires that made their way into our land. My body convulsed at those memories. It was truly terrifying how much our bodies could endure before dying. Ripping off a vampire's hand caused him excruciating pain, but that usually was not enough to make him talk. They knew we were going to tear them to pieces and kill them anyway. If you wanted information, you had to truly torture them. Burning that hand in the fire while the vampire was still conscious to feel his severed hand turn to ash was usually enough to obtain the intelligence Maria wanted. The thought of Peter going through that . . . of him actually experiencing the pain that I'd only been forced to share the emotions of . . . it intensified the agony that I caused with each bite; it made the terror that I always felt from my victims feel new. I couldn't muster the anger that I always used to numb myself. I couldn't use hatred to protect myself from being overwhelmed, not while I was thinking about Peter.
I needed to get up. I had to follow Maria's orders. There were pieces of William still strewn across the floor. I still had two more left to slaughter. Just the thought of going to fetch another one sent me into a panic. It would start with their anxiety, and then the horror, their pain . . . I couldn't do it, not in the state that I was in. I needed a break, just a little break, just long enough to center myself. I couldn't complete my task while this distraught. I had to calm myself and resurrect my defensive barriers. The first step was letting go of all of the unwelcome emotions. Curling myself up into a ball on the floor, I let the sobs begin to escape as I rocked myself back and forth. I had to cry out all of the pain.
I lost track of how long I sobbed uncontrollably on the floor. Eventually the sobs stopped, but the emotions did not lessen. The fear was paralyzing. I had to move; I had to complete my task. But when I killed one, he would feel . . . and I would be forced to share his terror. My body stayed frozen to the floor.
I couldn't help but think about what Maria would do to me. I knew that I could expect a few punishment bites. Maria always did that when I displeased her. They hurt . . . a lot . . . worse than battle wounds. She was very skilled at milking venom into me without causing any real damage. I could bear that pain, though. I deserved it for letting Peter and Charlotte escape.
What truly frightened me was the possibility of being placed on starvation rations. I had learned the rules very quickly as a newborn. Doing well earned me rewards: my pick of the humans, more frequent feedings, and eventually the pleasure of Maria's bed. But the converse was also true. When I failed, I was punished. Disappointing Maria meant suffering; it meant being held back and being forced to watch as the others fed. I shivered at the remembered pain of those first few months. The agony of being that thirsty never left you, no matter how hard you tried to forget. I could still vividly recall the fire that had burned my throat, my insides, my flesh, my entire being. Luckily, I had not been forced to endure as long as many of the others. Maria had taken a liking to me and had granted me her favor. Those early memories still haunted me, though; as did the excruciating memories of the times I'd actually failed her. I hadn't known the meaning of the word thirsty until I'd been denied blood after a battle. My entire body had ached with the agony. Blood was my body's fuel, what it used to repair itself. Without it, wounds didn't properly heal. Absentmindedly, I ran my fingers along a jagged scar across my thigh. Eventually Maria had realized that not every loss was my fault; some scenarios could not be won, but it had been a very painful decade until then.
Was my current crime severe enough to justify a starvation punishment? The thought terrified me, but I had to acknowledge the truth. It was, and I deserved it. I had deliberately defied Maria's orders. I was still disobeying them by not completing my task. I'd never intentionally disobeyed Maria before, not on purpose. I had failed to follow orders as a newborn, when I was unable to control myself. The punishments Maria had given me for that . . . My heart clenched at the recalled pain. I never wanted to disappoint Maria, not ever. What would she do to me now?
"Jasper, are you still down here?" Maria's voice called with a hint of aggravation. "We need to go over . . ."
I had not thought that she would come looking for me so quickly, or had that much time already passed? Either way, I wasn't ready for this. She stopped the moment she rounded the corner and saw me lying on the floor. Her expression and emotions changed to confusion mingled with frustration. "What are you doing?" she asked angrily.
"Maria," I breathed the word as I jumped to my feet. I lowered my eyes from her gaze. I stood at ease, a result of my military training, but with my head hung in shame. I awaited the verbal lashing that I knew I had coming and her proclamation of my punishment. I wanted to be brave, but my body was trembling.
"Are you not even done yet?" she asked with disgust as she kicked a piece of William with her boot toward the fire. Her irritation was building. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught her glancing around the room with renewed confusion. "Where's Peter?"
Perhaps my time would have been better spent coming up with a lie instead of wallowing in my misery, but I had disrespected Maria enough. She was my superior. No matter how much I feared her response, I could not lie to her. "He ran off with one of the one-year-olds, ma'am." I could only whisper.
"He what?" she screamed. "Why are they not dead? How did they escape? You let them go?" she hissed with realization. Her eyes became wild.
I was prepared for her anger; I was not expecting the fury that overtook her. Her body shook with her rage as she paced the small room. "I should feed you to the newborns!" she yelled with such ferocity that the volume of her voice made pieces of the ceiling collapse.
The crest of her wave of wrath came crashing down on me. It crushed me so that I couldn't even breathe. The intensity of it was enough to make my head feel like it was splitting open. I instinctively raised an arm to shield myself from the emotional blows that I could not fight off. She had to calm down, just a little. I deserved her anger, but this . . . I needed rational thoughts to return to her before her fury destroyed me. I didn't consciously decide to affect her. My body's natural response was to protect my mind using any means available, even my power. I didn't even realize I was doing anything until . . .
"No!" Maria gasped the moment she felt the change in her emotions. She reacted quickly, before I had the chance to actually relax her even the slightest bit. Her teeth penetrated the flesh of my right wrist in an instant. I screamed in agony as her jaw clamped down.
The pain made it difficult to think clearly, but I did recognize that she was not attacking me. She was not ripping away my flesh or biting at other places. Her mouth remained firmly set into my wrist as she slowly began pumping venom into the wound. The pain was excruciating as her poison flooded the surrounding tissue. My natural instinct was to try to defend myself. If she were an opponent I was facing in battle, I'd have her in shreds within minutes. But it was Maria. I could not . . . I had to accept the torture. What other choice did I have? Could I really fight and destroy Maria? Could I become a traitor like Lucy and Nettie? Could I turn on my own creator? Even if I could, then what would I do? Try to lead the coven by myself? It would weaken our position too much and make us vulnerable to more vicious attacks if our enemies learned that our leader had been destroyed. I could try to run, but to where? There was nowhere to run.
My only option was to accept the agony that Maria was choosing to inflict on me. The physical torture hurt enough, but it was worse than that. Her anger had not abated. It was still exploding in my mind. It combined with my own fear until I was suffocating from the emotions alone. There was nothing that I could do to make it stop. I mewled softly as the venom began to burn more intensely. The flames of pain were licking up my forearm. I had to fight the urge to pull away from her. Doing so would have resulted in her severing my hand. I had to force myself to hold still as the fire consumed me. I had no choice but to submit to her will. She would end the pain only when she chose. I whimpered at the thought as she bit down harder.
Finally, she released me. Slowly backing away from me, she eyed me suspiciously, as if she were waiting for me to make a move. All I could do was cradle my throbbing arm to my chest. The venom stung! I could not recall a wound ever being flooded with so much. My wrist was too tender for me even to massage. An odd self-pity surfaced in my thoughts as I stared down at it. This would be my worst scar yet. It was another blemish to disgust Maria and would be a constant reminder of what a disappointment I was.
"How dare you turn your power on me?" she practically spat the words.
I hadn't meant to. I knew that using my power on Maria was forbidden. I had not intended to disobey her orders yet again. It had been a completely involuntary reaction, but I doubted that Maria wanted to hear that. All that mattered was that I had failed to abide by her wishes, again. I hung my head, knowing that words could not excuse my behavior.
"I should have you killed. Letting Peter escape was a betrayal of the coven. The penalty for such treachery is death," she hissed.
Her anger was no longer the overpowering force it had been, but I was still absorbing it. I had nowhere to direct the feeling except inwardly. That felt appropriate. I knew that I deserved every bit of her fury. I was already angry at myself for my failure. The thought of being destroyed the way my kind had to be was horrifying. I knew what the emotions felt like; I didn't want to experience it first hand. Yet I still had to acknowledge that Maria was right. I deserved to be executed. I couldn't force my voice to speak, but I imperceptibly nodded my head.
That only seemed to raise her ire. "I could do it, you know. The newborns would listen to me. Their loyalty is to me. You're a good fighter, but even you're not that good. I still have a dozen left. One of them would take you down."
It did not matter if I were capable of taking on a dozen newborns single-handedly or not. I would not fight back. My faults and weakness had put the coven at risk. I deserved to die for failing Maria and my clan. The agony of William's death pressed heavily on my mind, as did the deaths of every vampire I'd ever slaughtered. I could recall the exact emotions of them all with vivid clarity. I did not want to experience that! I was so scared, but I knew that I deserved nothing less.
"Have you nothing to say to defend yourself?" Maria finally snapped.
I glanced up at her with confusion. It was not my place to speak while being chastised. Pleading with Maria would not appease her. It never had before. Did she really want me to talk now? What could I possibly say? My raspy voice did not want to respond. "I'm sorry, ma'am. I'll accept whatever punishment you deem fit."
I felt her surprise at my answer. Her expression shifted from furious to something more cool and calculating. It sent a shiver down my spine; this look was even more frightening. Her eyes narrowed as she tilted her head to the side. "You'll accept whatever punishment I feel is appropriate without protest?"
"Yes, ma'am," I whispered, terrified. What was she going to do to me? This didn't feel like a death sentence. Was she going to torture me like . . .? Reflexively my left arm curled around my waist, under where I still cradled my right wrist. I hugged myself tightly, trying to hold myself together.
Her hand reached under my chin and forced me to meet her eyes. There was a spark of something new there, something truly frightening. Her silky voice dripped with sadistic amusement as she asked, "You won't fight back no matter what I decide you deserve?"
A plaintive sob escaped my throat before I could stop it. "No, ma'am."
She smiled an evil, icy grin. It wasn't a smile of happiness, but one of malice. I could actually feel her confidence return. "Good. Come," she commanded before leading me down the dark hallway.
The corridor had never seemed so long. I dreaded reaching her room, because that was when the pain would begin. At the same time, I prayed for this to be over. Anticipation was a form of torture itself. My mind raced through all of the things that I'd been forced to inflict on others of my kind. I wondered which act she would choose to use on me. The ghosts of that second-hand pain haunted me.
I gasped when she led me, not to her bedchamber, but to the newborn's common room. Maria never punished me in public. She said it was best if they only saw me in a position of authority over them. Seeing me disciplined would compromise their respect for me. In my shock, I hesitated at the doorway.
Maria noticed and rounded on me with an uncontrollable rage. "You promised to accept your punishment. You pledged to obey me. If you wish to survive the night, I strongly suggest you display your loyalty to me here, now COME!"
I hung my head. Who was I to question Maria's decisions? If she wanted to humiliate me in front of the others, in the way we treated the defiant newborns, then who was I to object? I stayed close at her heels as I followed her to the front of the room.
All eyes were immediately on Maria. A hushed stillness came over the room. Everyone knew that Maria demanded respect. I did not glance at the witnesses to my humiliation. It was hurtful enough that I could feel their emotions. They were curious, excited; their interest was peaked. "If you have any idea what's good for you, you will behave," she hissed into my ear.
"My children, there has been a grave misconduct tonight. Someone that I trusted dearly has failed me, and therefore all of you. No one is above their responsibility to the coven. No one! I will grant him no leniency. He will be punished, as will any of you that ever fail your family."
"Strip your shirt off," she ordered after turning to me.
This was normal procedure for punishments, but it made my heart sink. The newborns had not seen the entirety of my scars. They all knew they were there. My face, neck, and hands had enough to give them an indication. They'd seen pieces of my clothing torn off in battle, but it humiliated me to think of baring myself in front of them. Maria always found me so revolting naked, and she knew what was there. My hands shook as I attempted to comply. Frustrated with the tiny buttons, I decided to just rip them. There were gasps of horror as I handed my shirt to Maria. I felt the disgust emanating from each of them. They all found me repulsive. Nobody wanted to see what a body ravaged by over sixty years of war looked like. My heart ached with shame. I was a monster even among monsters.
I vaguely wondered who she was going to have perform the punishment. I knew that Maria would not be seen dirtying her own hands with something so beneath her. It was often my duty to perform this task. Ironically, if he were still here, this would have been Peter's job. At least I could have trusted him. He would have caused me pain, but he knew what he was doing. Punishing without actually inflicting any damage required skill and emotional control. Even the most mature of the remaining vampires lacked both of those.
"Charles," Maria called one of the most recently turned. "Come here."
My eyes flashed to hers in shock. Charles had a horrible temper. He was often out of control. Due to his age, he had little experience biting anything and would have no idea what he was doing. Worse still, I'd been forced to give him a few nips recently to chastise him for nearly exposing us while he was blood-crazed. I could already feel it. He was excited at the possibility of getting some revenge.
Maria raised an eyebrow at me, almost daring me to object. "Behave," she mouthed as a grinning Charles approached us.
"Charles, give Jasper a little bite for me. Be careful not to damage anything vital. We do still want him to be able to fight in battle if need be. Maybe just his arm, here." Maria's fingers trailed along a thick part of my left arm, just below my shoulder. I saw her nod to him reassuringly before I felt his teeth penetrate my skin. My body jerked reflexively, but I did not cry out. I received worse on the battlefield on a regular basis.
"Good," Maria approved. "Now, think about feeding on a human. Think about that blonde you were so anxious to devour last week, the one he held you back from. Wouldn't she have been tasty? That's it. Do you feel the venom burning in your mouth now? Yes, share that with him. Pour all that painful poison into him," she instructed. I could feel the burning liquid fill the wound, but I held still. He was not as talented as Maria.
The stinging worsened as he milked more and more venom into me, but I refused to give him the satisfaction of hearing me cry out from the pain. I felt irritation building within him. He was frustrated. Suddenly, he clamped down harder and harder still until finally I screamed. He was going to bite my arm off!
"Tut-tut," Maria reprimanded him. "I said no ripping off anything vital." His jaw loosened its hold, but the pain did not really lessen. He'd buried venom very deep. "That's enough!" Maria called him off with a snap of her fingers.
I was panting, partially from pain and partially from fear. How many of those bites was she going to let him give me? What area would she select next?
"Anna," Maria called another very young vampire who had reason to hate me as well. Peter had been forced to put her on starvation rations for a couple of days, and I'd helped him hold her back as the others fed. I glanced at Maria with confusion. What was she doing?
"Would you like to have a turn, dear? Go ahead. Remember, nowhere important. Just give him a firm bite like Charles did and I'll walk you through how to get the venom into him."
Joy, actual joy at the prospect of hurting me, radiated off of Anna. I groaned as she bit my back, near my ribs. As before, Maria gave her some basic instructions on how to make it hurt worse for me. Then she turned to the others. "Who else wants a turn? James, why don't you join Anna on the other side? Yes, I think there's room for one more, Clara. Don't worry, everyone will get a few turns. Show me what you can do. Who knows, I may even decide to let whoever does the best job have Jasper's position. Impress me and I may let one of you take his place."
I gasped. This was the worst punishment of all. I realized, suddenly, what Maria was doing. She was putting me in my place. I had started to believe that I was special, but I was nothing. I could easily be replaced by any of these newborns. I had been given privileges, but everything had been granted to me by Maria. I was not given permission to feed to my content or allowed private chastisements because of any merit of my own, but because Maria had given me her favor. Without her, I was nothing. I was as disposable as these newborns, and I deserved to be treated as one. This humiliating public torture was to remind me of my worthlessness. I owed everything I had to Maria, and she had the power to take it all away.
Several of them were biting me at once. The flames of their venom scorched my sides, my arms, and my back. I screamed as one of them bit down too hard into my lower back. Maria snapped her fingers and made them switch out if they started to damage me too severely, but she was enjoying seeing them hurt me. I could feel it in her. This satisfied her. All of them were excited and happy at the prospect of giving me more pain. Their emotions stabbed my heart. No one cared about me at all; there was no sympathy from anyone. Why should there be? I deserved nothing besides more pain.
As they bit me over and over again, I truly wished that my body was more fragile, that I could slip into unconsciousness to escape from the torture. If only my body was more human, if only I had some mechanism of protection, something to eventually numb the pain so that I didn't feel each and every subsequent bite as freshly as the first. If only I could go into shock like a solider on the battlefield, or perhaps receive that extra rush that enabled humans to ignore their pain as they fought for a cause. But vampire bodies had no such protection. Every sense was heightened in me; I experienced pain a thousand times stronger than a human could. My head could process the precise pain from each of the five bites I was simultaneously receiving. There was no way for my mind to escape the agony. No relief was coming.
Not until Maria decided that I'd had enough. I looked up to her with pleading eyes. She was in control of every part of my being. I had learned that lesson as a very young newborn, but I had forgotten it. This reminder was to make me accept that again. Maria decided when I was permitted pleasure and when I was forced to suffer pain. My shoulders shuddered as one of them bit down extra hard, but I kept my eyes focused on hers. Could she see the complete and utter submission in my gaze? I would take this, endure this for her until she chose to end it for me. I knew I had no say in what happened to my body. Every decision belonged to Maria.
I could feel myself breaking. Each bite shattered me a little more. I could not bear the pain any longer! Finally, I dropped my gaze and began truly sobbing. Something inside me cracked. I wished that she would just let them kill me. Almost instantly I heard Maria snap her fingers. "That's enough. Anna, back off," she demanded. "Charles, I said that's enough. Obey or I'll give you a bite of my own."
Their teeth left me. Nothing was holding me up anymore. I crumbled to the floor, sobbing at the throbbing wounds that I could do nothing to relieve. Maria was immediately in front of me. Her feet and beautiful legs filled my vision. "James, fetch him a human," I heard her command.
She wrapped her hands in my hair and yanked my head up to meet her furious glare. "Because I'm so merciful, I'm letting you feed to heal. Enjoy her, because after this one, you're on starvation rations for two weeks. I think you need to be reminded of what thirsty means."
I moaned. Two weeks . . . two weeks, I would never make it. But I had to be grateful to Maria. She had spared my life. She was granting me this one feeding. She had not abandoned me, and she truly did know what was best for me. I would have to find the strength to accept her decision. Her will would be done.