Elle bought some words from me for the Support Stacie auction.
I'm a pink ribbon chick myself, and even though I have good health insurance, I'm still paying for my scars. So thank you, lady, for giving me a chance to help another girl out.
The fandom can do lovely things. Ask Ninapolitan about it.
Stephenie owns their names.
Legna beta'ed, Nina approved, and Mr. Blue said, "Huh. Not bad."
Edward watched his wife lay the bouquets of calla lilies on the two graves from a distance, giving her some space and because the stones made him slightly edgy. It wasn't so much the familiar names as the dates; the finality of the lifetimes made him uncomfortable.
Bella murmured a few words, and then walked slowly on through the cemetery, as was her habit, the morning's low fog swirling around her ankles like a hungry cat. He moved to follow her, worried that she might be cold in her thin blue dress, but a light lilting voice called his name.
His sister stepped out of the mist, Jasper walking at her side. The blond man placed one foot in front of the other with the quiet deliberation one always has in a graveyard, carrying his own flowers in his fist.
Alice called to Edward again, and then wandered over to where he stood. A crow glanced askance at them, and sidestepped along the top of a headstone, giving them some distance.
They watched as Jasper moved to lay the roses on the polished granite stone. His attention was drawn to the small bundle of lilies on the ground. He bent and examined them, the other bouquet slipping from his hands. He stood quickly, and scanned the cemetery rows for the person who had left them.
"Did she leave already?" Alice asked.
"Yes. I need to catch up to her," her brother said.
"Are you coming to Em and Rosalie's this afternoon?"
"We should get together sometime, just the four of us," she said.
"No." Edward slipped from the shadows and headed in the direction his wife had gone, unseen by the man at the grave.
"Edward, that's not fair! She's my friend, too!" she said to his retreating back.
"I don't care," he said, over his shoulder.
Alice lingered at the stone, while her husband arranged the white flowers together, and stood with his head bowed. After a moment, she started to fidget.
"Boo!" she said to the crow.
It flew up with a disgruntled craawk at the disturbance. Jasper turned toward the noise, and she waved, and fell back into step with him as he turned, walking the opposite direction as Edward.
Alice followed Jasper and Emmett through the kitchen door and outside through the McCarty's garage, sighing. She missed the days when Jasper opened doors for her and pulled out chairs. Emmett detoured past the cars to a fridge and grabbed two beers, handing one to her husband.
"Good to see you, man," said Emmett, leaning against his Jeep.
Jazz clinked his beer against his brother in law's bottle in reply, and took a healthy swig. They watched Rosalie throw tablecloths on the furniture they had carried outside, banned from helping any further.
Alice drifted past them to an apple tree, attention drawn to a goldfinch that hopped on a birdfeeder.
"How're you holding up?" Emmett asked.
"I'm good," said Jasper.
"How long has it been, dude?"
"Since the funeral."
"Two years," Alice whispered, speaking to the little bird.
"Too long," Emmett said. "Don't be such a stranger. Rosalie misses you."
"You just want someone else around for her to fuss at," Jasper joked.
"Bella's here," Emmett said, too casually. "She's staying up at the beach house."
Jasper grew still. He opened his mouth to speak, then closed it and swallowed. "Yeah?" he said, after a moment.
"She'll be by for dinner."
"It'll be good to see her." The blond man's voice was steady.
"You know, I always thought you and she would be the ones to-"
"No." Jasper said, interrupting his brother-in-law's quiet murmur. "It was always Alice for me."
"Really?" Emmett asked, his voice pitched even lower. "Would you two have gotten married if she hadn't gotten pregnant?"
"Of course," Jasper said, picking at the label on his bottle, not meeting the other man's eyes.
"You make it sound like it was pre-ordained or something, man."
"She was the only girl Edward couldn't take from me," Jasper shrugged. His smile was a bitter twist, pulling at the scars down one cheek.
Alice sighed, knowing better than to eavesdrop. The tiny yellow finch twittered a reply from the peg on the feeder, and flew away. She stared after it, jealous of its wings.
Bella stepped away from the line of people gathered at the picnic table, and promptly rolled her ankle, sending her sprawling into a broad shouldered man in a black t-shirt and faded denim jeans. The plate in her hands tumbled to the ground.
"Are you okay!?" Alice asked her.
The man turned around and gaped at her, then recovered and helped her to her feet. He pulled his hands away quickly, but his eyes locked with hers from under the sandy locks of hair that escaped from the leather lacing that tied it back.
She flushed, but didn't look away.
"That's a terrible thing to do to a piece of pecan pie," he drawled.
Bella jerked her eyes down from his to the dessert smeared in the grass.
Jasper's eyes never left her face. A fleeting look of naked want flickered across the man's face, but he quickly schooled his features into bland submission. Alice caught Edward's eyes and smiled; her brother scowled back.
"It was the last piece," Bella mumbled to her feet.
"You can have mine," Jasper said, holding out his plate.
"No, pecan is your favorite," she protested, then, "Ow!"
Jasper caught her as she stumbled, and slid an arm around her waist, taking the weight off her ankle. He lowered her carefully onto the steps of the porch.
"Let's have a look, shall we?" He unlaced the ribbons to the ballet flat on her left foot, and carefully eased her shoe off.
"I'm fine," whispered Bella, staring at the tanned fingers that gently prodded her lower leg.
"She needs a cold pack on that, so it doesn't swell," Alice said, hovering behind Edward.
"I'll get some ice," Jasper said. He hesitated a moment, obviously loath to leave her, but went into the house. Alice followed.
Edward touched his wife's ankle gently, and ran his hand through his hair in frustration.
"What did you do this time, Bella?" Rosalie laughed, used to seeing her best friend on the floor.
"She's got a mild sprain," said Edward.
"Isn't this how you met Edward?" asked Rosalie. "A sprained ankle?"
"Actually, I met Jasper first," Bella blushed. "He was in my writing class, and on the last day of the semester, he finally spoke to me. I immediately fell, of course, and he called his roommate, because Jazz only had his motorcycle on campus. And Edward whisked me off to the hospital for x-rays, and then to Paris."
Rosalie laughed. "What girl could resist France?"
"It's impossible not to fall in love in Paris," agreed Bella.
Edward touched Bella's cheek, and smiled. "That was my intent," he murmured.
"Y'know, I think Edward was a bit jealous of Jasper for a while," Rosalie teased.
"Rosalie, that's insane," Bella laughed. "Your brother never even looked in my direction after we came back from Europe."
Jasper's sister leaned in close to her ear and whispered, "Not that you ever saw." She laughed at Bella's blush.
"What's so funny?" Alice said, coming back with her husband in tow.
"I could only find these." He held up a bag of frozen peas, a dish towel and a small couch cushion. He arranged Bella's foot on the pillow, and set the cloth wrapped bag on her ankle. She gasped at the cold, and his eyes flicked to her blushing face, then down to her chest where her nipples were hard under the thin fabric of her sundress. He tore his eyes away, and then stood and walked off, his spine tense.
Rosalie smirked, and the brunette blushed a deeper red.
The sun slid out from the clouds, and Bella tilted her face to the warmth. Edward and Alice wandered off to the shade, and he shooed at the starlings that fought over Bella's spilled pie.
"Oh, just let them have it," laughed Alice, as one flew off with heavy wings, laden by a piece in its mouth bigger than its head.
Edward went to stand next to Jasper, in the shadows under a tree. Together they watched Bella, as she finally noticed the plate with the wedge of pie on the step next to her. She turned awkwardly to reach it, and her dress slid over her elevated leg, exposing a good length of creamy white skin and toned thigh. Jasper inhaled audibly, but didn't look away. Alice stood deeper in the shade, watching the men watch the girl in the sun. A thoughtful smile played at her lips.
Unaware of her audience, Bella tasted the pie, sucking the sweetness off the fork with a look of utter bliss on her face.
Jasper groaned softly.
Edward glared at him, but his best friend offered no apology.
Alice walked through the door of the beach house, and greeted her brother.
"What are you doing here?" Edward asked, surprised.
His sister rolled her eyes at him.
Edward glanced out the window. Jasper sat on his motorcycle, lost in thought, turning his helmet over and over in his hands.
"Where's Bella?" Alice asked.
He nodded towards the screened back door. The girl stood at the shore with her bare feet in the surf. The hem of her blue sundress was wet from the ocean spray.
"She looks lonely, Edward."
"I'm never more than a hundred feet away from her," he protested. "You know that."
She shook her head in exasperation and said nothing.
A knock sounded on the door, and at the lack of greeting, Jasper entered, hesitantly, carrying a bottle of wine. He called out again.
"Bella's out back," Alice called to him.
He walked through the house, pausing to look out the bay window at the back of the cottage. The evening sun set fire to the water, and Bella was silhouetted by the reflected light on the waves.
The blond man shed his leather jacket, laying it and his helmet on a chair, and went through the kitchen to the back door, pausing at a cupboard for two wineglasses. He slipped a waiter's corkscrew into his back pocket. At the screen door, he stopped by a decorative mirror that framed his face with a brightly painted Mexican moon, and ran his hands through the blond hair that hung in his face.
"You're a fool," he groaned at his silvered image. He pulled his hair back from his face. Jagged scars ran over his forehead and up his right cheek. The most vicious slashed his skin above his eyebrow and continued downward over his jaw and lower, slicing his neck and into the collar of his shirt.
"She can't want this," he whispered.
Edward's face twisted with guilt, as he looked at his best friend's ravaged skin. He reached out to touch Jasper's shoulder, but the blond man didn't acknowledge the gesture.
Jasper stepped through the door, and caught it behind him before it could slam, but stopped on the last step, and sat down, setting the bottle and the glasses at his feet.
Bella was sitting in the sand, and the setting sun lit her dark hair, turning it russet and cherry-wood red. Her arms were wrapped around her legs, and her chin rested on her knees.
Edward and Alice slipped through the door, and stood in the shadow of the man watching the girl. A gull landed on the boardwalk that led down to the private beach, and looked at the three of them curiously.
"She's so beautiful," both men said at once.
Edward stared at his brother-in-law, and his shoulders slumped in resignation.
"I can't do this," Jasper whispered. He stood, and turned to go back into the house, his head down in despair.
Edward's face hardened with his own desperation, and he snapped his fingers at the gull, startling it into the air. At its shriek, Bella turned to the house.
"Jasper?" she called softly, the surprise in her voice edged with something else, a breathy note of longing that made the blond man gasp, and the other jerk his face away, fists clenched at his side.
Alice touched her brother's arm in sympathy, but raised an eyebrow.
"Change your mind?" she asked.
"They shouldn't be alone," Edward said hoarsely, naming their own damnation.
She hugged him in relief, but he shook her off.
His best friend turned, and walked slowly down toward the beach, his motorcycle boots loud on the planks. Bella turned to meet him. The light wind tugged at her blue dress and the ribbons on the shoes she carried in her hands. Jasper's hesitation and desire were as apparent as the first day he spoke to her, and her eyes were wide with the same shy anticipation.
"Hey," he said, but his words were stolen by the breeze that toyed with her hair.
"Hey," she said, stopping at the bottom step of the boardwalk. Her lips were parted, and her breathing was unsteady.
"How's the ankle?" He stepped down, slid an arm around her waist, and helped her up the steps.
"Fine," she said. His hand lingered at her waist.
Edward rolled his eyes. "She was limping all evening, until you showed up," he called. His jaw and his fists were tight, still.
"I brought a bottle of wine," Jasper said, gesturing toward the house, but then he shoved his hands in his pockets and nudged a weathered board with his boot. "It's red. I didn't know what you might like."
The evening wind gusted, blowing the hair off his face.
Bella gasped and stared at the scars on his face.
He looked away, but didn't turn his head from her searching eyes.
"I should go," he finally said.
But she was reaching out with a hand to his face, and his awkward words were stopped as she traced the red welts on his face with a whisper light touch. Jasper closed his eyes, body rigid and shaking, as her fingers danced over his temple, his closed eye, cheek and jaw. Then her hand drifted, and two fingers touched his bottom lip, pressing on the soft flesh, and he opened his eyes in surprise.
She was staring at his mouth.
"Bella?" he whispered.
She jerked her hand away. The blush flamed across her cheekbones, and she looked down at her feet, but Jasper caught her chin in his palm, and gently forced her chin up. He held her face until she met his eyes, and then he slowly leaned in, and kissed her lightly on the mouth.
She closed her eyes, and sighed, and whispered his name, and the second kiss was less restrained, and the third was a heavy meeting of lips and tongue and hands, gasps and groans and laughter.
"Oh," whispered Alice, wistfully. "He never kissed me like that!"
"We are not watching this," Edward ground out. He grabbed his sister's elbow and dragged her into the cottage.
"What did I do to deserve this?" he raged.
"Don't you know?"
She nodded, and pointed to a small news item in an old yellowed newspaper lying on top of some documents on a desk.
Tragedy Strikes Local Family:
Edward Anthony Cullen, aged 24, and Alice Cullen Hale, aged 22, were both killed instantly in a tragic accident Sunday, when they lost control of their vehicle on slippery roads. Jasper Hale sustained minor head trauma and is listed in stable condition. Bella Swan Cullen was uninjured. Alice was 3 months pregnant, according to the family.
"This is devastating," said Police Chief Charlie Swan. "My daughter lost both her husband and her dearest friend."
Jasper Hale was not available for comment, but his sister, Rosalie McCarty, gave a statement. "They were visiting the family for Mother's Day. Edward and Bella had just got back from their honeymoon last week, and Jasper and Alice were married barely a month before them."
Arrangements will be announced later this week.
Alice pointed to the final sentence of the first paragraph.
"I bore false witness," she said softly.
"You lied?" Edward gasped.
"I wanted him. Beyond reason, beyond right and wrong. Surely you, of all people, could understand that."
"I never lied!"
"No, brother, you coveted. He was in love with her, completely and totally, and you stole her away from him, even though she wasn't yours to take."
Edward glowered at her, even as they moved through the door, drawn by the invisible threads that bound them to the couple that had moved down along the shoreline.
Jasper stopped, and brushed the hair out of Bella's face.
"I've wanted you for so long," he murmured under the wind, lips moving over her cheekbones, breathing words held in check for years.
She laughed, lit with the glow of love allowed to shine, and kissed his mouth, his jaw, his neck, until he hissed and arched against her and hauled her up to his chest. It was his turn then, to rain kisses over her face and neck, and then lower, pulling the tie of her dress to expose her breasts to his mouth and fingers. Bella moaned, and pressed into him, her palms frantic under his clothes, grasping at skin and muscle and passion with both hands.
"I've always been yours," she whispered.
Edward turned to his sister in horror, as his best friend lowered his widow to the sand, drawing the skirt of her dress up high.
"This is Hell, isn't it?" he gasped, trying not to listen to their seductive noises.
"No," breathed Alice, smiling. "This is redemption."
As Jasper pulled Bella over his thighs and took her, Edward felt the release of the chains of his own making. Alice clasped her brother's hand, and they stepped into the path of the evening sun on the water, trailing no shadows.
The gull called out to them as they shimmered into the light, but the lovers entwined in the sand did not hear its farewell.