Last Dance

Her day had been spent bustling about, greeting guests, and being the ecstatic mother of the groom. As far as Esme was concerned, the day could not have been any more perfect. Bella had been radiant despite her aversion to attention. And in all of their years as a family, the mother had never seen her son so fulfilled. So totally complete. But as she looked out across the dance floor, she realized that, in the excitement of the day, she'd forgotten about someone. And she hadn't just forgotten about him today either.

Esme could recall how for the past few weeks, Alice had been completely wrapped up in planning the wedding. Her days had been filled with appointments and other things that she hadn't been able to take care of after five pm when certain businesses had closed for the evening. And during the night, she had been engrossed in seating charts, wedding favors, and detailed drawings of how she'd wanted decorations. At times she had sought out Rosalie for her opinion on fabric choices, and occasionally she'd sent Emmett to pick up things like tables and chairs. Unable to resist, Esme herself had gotten caught up in the festivities. Instead of working on her latest restoration project, she'd spent her time addressing the invitations in perfect calligraphy. And while he hadn't done much, Carlisle had spent his free time watching her work and running his longs fingers through her caramel-colored locks as he'd read her the addresses. But Jasper…

Jasper had never really seemed to be a part of the planning.

That wasn't not to say that he hadn't around. Or that he hadn't helped out when he'd been able to. But it had seemed as if he had always been on the fringes of the excitement. Even if he had been sitting with his head in Alice's lap while she'd made plans over the phone. Esme understood that Jasper had preferred to stay out of the spotlight, to blend into the background. But as she thought about the past few weeks and how he'd seemed more disconnected than ever, Esme felt a wave of guilt wash over her. A mother forgetting about her "youngest" son. It was unforgivable as far as she was concerned. Even now, when Alice's planning duties were over and Esme could see how completely happy he was, she longed to go to him. To wrap her arms around his neck and apologize as she kissed his cheek. But watching him on the dance floor, she just couldn't. The moment was too perfect to interrupt.

Leaning against the glass doorway that led to the kitchen, Esme listened to her husband's rich voice coming from the front room. It had been hours since the new Mr. and Mrs. Cullen had left for their honeymoon, and he was thanking the last of the guests. As his voice swirled through her thoughts, the band Alice had hired began to play a song she hadn't heard in years. The slow bass mingling with her husband's voice sent a wave of warmth down her spine. But as she stared across the dance floor, she thought not of her husband but of Alice and Jasper. This particular song was very much theirs, and it always would be.

Unlike Emmett and Rosalie, Jasper and Alice had only been married once. For them, it was enough, and Esme knew it always would be. Her two youngest had joined the Cullen's in 1950, but they hadn't gotten married until 1961. The first years after they had joined the family had been filled with trials and tribulations as everyone had shifted their lives around to accommodate the newcomers. But the time had also been particularly challenging as Jasper had tried to adopt the Cullen's vegetarian lifestyle. It had been rough on everyone as they had tried to help their newest brother. Edward, who had shared Jasper's thoughts, had suffered the worst. No matter how hard he had tried to tune out his newest brother, the anger and despair had always managed to break through. But in the end, everything had worked itself out.

In the summer of '61, her newest children had been married in a small, simple ceremony. Carlisle had served as best man, and she had stood as the maid-of-honor. At the time, she had been sure that Alice would have preferred a large, lavish wedding and that she had only kept it small for Jasper. But as the years passed and she realized just how intensely private they were about one another, Esme couldn't help but think that she had been wrong.

Even now, over forty years later, Esme still pondered their decision to wed. They were soul mates. There was no question about it. There was nothing, save death, that could rip the two apart. From day one, it had been clear that theirs was a love that transcended 'I love you's and poofy white dresses. When it came to romance, they had always seemed to be moving on their own wavelength. And nothing about them had ever fit the typical image of love. In the end, Alice had proposed to Jasper, and Esme could only assume that they had married, because it had been what was considered proper in the early 60's. That being married would have helped them appear to be more human. She had tried to content herself with the obvious explanation, that they were in love. But that just… hadn't been enough. It hadn't even begun to cover the bond they shared.

Watching the two now, Esme could see that the love they shared today was stronger than it had been when they had first joined the Cullen's. And that knowledge warmed her un-beating heart.

As the song continued to fill the night, the singer's deep voice promised unending loyalty in the face of tragedy. The honesty in the man's rich voice made the song all the more poignant. Even more perfect as Alice and Jasper stood wrapped in one another's arms. Listening to the music, the Esme couldn't help but be sad that this was the last dance of the evening.

Alice had spent the day flitting around the party, taking care of every last detail. And Jasper had stood by talking to Emmett as he'd waited patiently for her. And thinking about it now, Esme was embarrassed to say that other than the dance they shared, she wasn't really sure how Jasper had spent the rest of the reception. Of course she'd heard Emmett and him laughing uproariously during the garter toss. And she'd also seen Alice and him share a quick kiss. But not knowing what had happened to him the rest of the time…

The mother in her was positively heartbroken at her negligence. And it took all the strength she possessed to keep herself from running to him right now. The only thing that kept her from doing so was a soft sigh that came from his lips.

Esme's golden eyes flickered to the decorations around her as she wrapped her arms over her chest. Even after hours outside, the canopy of roses hanging over the dance floor were still full and beautiful. Their soft white petals practically glowed in the light of the thousands of clear twinkling bulbs that twisted around the trees framing the dance floor. As beautiful as they were, the flowers, lights, and bows were nothing compared to the slowly moving couple on the floor. Standing in the middle of the raised wooden platform were Alice and Jasper. It was clear, even from Esme's place by the patio door, that they were in a world entirely their own.

Though the two were dancing, they barely moved. Jasper's arms were wound tightly around his wife's waist, his hands resting on the silvery fabric at the base of her spine. Esme couldn't help but notice that, even in stilettos, Alice was unable to rest her head on her husband's shoulder and so it rested on his chest instead. And instead of trying to wrap her arms around his neck, she had gently placed her hands on his arms. Her golden eyes were pressed tightly shut, and there was a small, content smile on her lips.

It was so intimate, so open.

It was rare for the two to be so free with their affection, and if she could have cried, Esme's face would have been covered in joyous tears. As Alice slipped her palms from Jasper's arms to slide them around his waist, the mother couldn't stop a sigh from escaping her own lips. Oh how she wished that the pixie-like woman could lay her head on her husband's shoulder. It was a silly concern, a mother's concern, but she still wished her daughter could experience that. (Without Jasper kneeling that is.)

She could remember so clearly the first time she'd danced with Carlisle as man and wife. He'd pulled her body tightly against his despite what had been considered appropriate in those days. And intoxicated by the contact, she'd laid her head on his shoulder as she had breathed in his wonderful scent. Even now, over eighty years later, whenever they danced, Esme would lay her cheek against the curve of her husband's neck as he held her body to his.

As the band continued to weave their way through the music, Esme realized how very wrong her worry had been. Even though she was by the house, the woman could feel waves of uncontrollable love emanating from her youngest son as he bent forward to kiss his wife. Esme wasn't sure if Alice was responding to a vision or Jasper's movements, but the pixie-like woman looked up, placing her chin on Jasper's chest. Her smile was soft, quiet, unlike the beaming grin that normally adorned her tiny face. It was a smile that was reserved only for her husband. Jasper's eyes fell closed as he pressed tender kisses onto her forehead, cheeks, and nose. He paused for barely a second before placing his lips against hers. He was slow and gentle, but Esme could see his hands twisting in the fabric of Alice's dress.

Esme knew she should look away, should give them their privacy, but she couldn't. Her children's happiness meant more to her than anything, and she couldn't tear herself away from their joy.

As the song came to an end, Esme wasn't surprised when the two didn't quit dancing. And instead of interrupting, the band began to pack away their things as quietly as possible. They never even announced that that had been their final song.

By now, Alice's cheek had found Jasper's chest once again, and the long fingers of his right hand were tracing lazy circles into the small of her back. Still leaning on the patio doorframe, the woman tried not to listen in to what was going on between Jasper and Alice. But as always, she couldn't help herself. There were no words, but the contented sighs coming from the two were intoxicating.

Wrapped up in the scene on the dance floor, Esme didn't realize that Carlisle had stopped talking in the living room, or that his soft footsteps had carried him through the kitchen. So caught up in her children's happiness, she'd forgotten everyone and everything around her. And when a gentle pair of hands slid around her waist, she bit down on her bottom lip to keep from crying out in shock. She was sure that even the smallest thing would break the bubble that surrounded Alice and Jasper. And it would break her heart to know she'd ruined their moment. When they didn't turn to stare at her, the woman allowed her body to relax back into her husband's.

"You shouldn't be watching them, you know." Barely above a whisper, his voice still managed to hold notes of teasing.

"I know." As Carlisle pressed his lips into the soft skin just below her ear, Esme sighed before continuing. "I can't help it. It's so good to see them -"

"Happy." Once again, the man's arms tightened, pulling his wife closer as his kisses continued down the expanse of bare skin. When he got to her shoulder, he placed his chin in the soft curve of her neck so that he could look across the lawn as well. He could feel the small shiver as it ran through the woman's slender body, and it made him smile. "But still, you shouldn't…"

Esme had parted her lips to respond, but what she heard stopped her instantly. The words hit their ears at the same time, and instinctively, they both froze. For the first time since she had started watching them, Esme felt like she shouldn't have been there. So caught up in each other, they had barely noticed Jasper bending over Alice once again. She had seen Jasper's mouth open, but she hadn't realized what was going on until Alice had cut him off with a simple, "love you too Jasper."

In all of their years together, neither Carlisle nor Esme could remember ever hearing those words pass between their youngest children. For them, professions of love were usually meaningful looks or touches. But as she thought about how she craved affection, Esme knew this would never have been enough for her. But as her husband's fingers spread out over her stomach, she realized that what was right for her wasn't what was right for them.

She could feel Carlisle trying to pull her away from the doorframe and into the house, but she refused to move. Not for fear that the couple on the dance floor would finally acknowledge her presence, but because she needed to see how Jasper would respond. Esme's eyes stayed on her two youngest, dying to see what would happen. When he finally quit trying to move her, Esme's small hands clenched his in anticipation.

"Do you remember the last dance at our wedding?" Once again, his lips were at Esme's ear and as his warm voice flooded her thoughts… She forgot about everything else. Even the scene on the dance floor that she'd been unable to turn away from wasn't able to hold her attention as the memories came rushing back. Instead of standing in the patio doorway of her Forks home, the woman had traveled back in time to her own wedding in 1921.

The wedding had been small in the extreme. The guest list had consisted of Tanya, Kate, Irina, and Edward. Carlisle had offered to invite some of his older friends, but she had said no. She'd been content with the intimacy of the affair. Dressed in a simple white dress, she and Carlisle had stood before a minister as they had repeated their vows. When her new husband had kissed her tenderly after the binding words had been spoken, Esme had felt as if her heart would break from happiness.

Over eighty years later, Carlisle still kissed her as if it were their first kiss as man and wife.

And every time it took her breath away.

"Of course I remember it." If her voice hadn't been breathless with the memory, it would have been at Carlisle's touch. Very gently and unbearably slowly, he was running the tip of his nose along the curve of her neck. The simple touch set her icy skin ablaze.

"Then of course, you remember wishing that everyone would leave us alone…" His quiet murmur held a trace of amusement as Esme's body froze in her arms. "Even though Edward was the only one left and he was playing your song for us." His lips found the place beneath her ears again, but this time he let the kiss linger as Esme twisted her neck in response.

When she didn't speak, he continued, placing his lips so close to her that they brushed her ear lobe. "And when he finally left… You pulled yourself closer to me even though there was no more music." The sigh that escaped from his wife told Carlisle that she knew he was right. He didn't need Edward's gift to know that the couple on the dance floor would want to be alone. Very gently and never once letting go, he pulled Esme into the house and towards the staircase, leaving Alice and Jasper to enjoy their dance.

Squeeka Cuomo's Notes
- Disclaimer: Not mine.
- This was originally written for the lj community "twilight20" (Prompt: Thrill).
- In case you were wondering, the song that Alice and Jasper are dancing to is Stand By Me by Ben E. King. It's been my favorite song for years.
- Quack: Thank you for your time and patience. My fics would not be readable without your help and input.
- As always, reviews are love.