A/n: This was originally intended for the Cullens Incarcerated contest but after I was done with it I decided 3 months was just too long to wait. Patience is not so much my virtue, but you can check out that contest here: http://www . fanfiction . net/u/2163960
There is a small lemon in this fic.
Disclaimer: I'm just borrowing Stephenie Meyer's beautiful creations.
Edward had told her that he wanted to take care of her. He had told her to to do whatever she dreamed about. She'd had the freedom to do anything. Write. Raise babies. Lounge around the heated, indoor swimming pool all day as if she was trophy wife material. If her dream had been to open an online knitting supply store, she could have done it.
He was gone, but the money remained. The time he had provided her was an emptiness she struggled to fill. Without him, her life had little meaning. She tried to work, but she couldn't concentrate. She fell into a natural pattern of making other people her purpose in life; making sure that their friends and his family had what they needed from her, because they could not give her what she needed. She needed Edward, plain and simple. She was a shell of a person, no longer complete. She could have had anything she wanted but it was the one thing she needed that she lost forever.
When her friends and family did not take up enough time she started to throw herself into charity work. Her life was over, though she continued to breathe. She had to bring some purpose to her existence, why not make other people's lives better? It's what she had always been good at - putting other people first.
She wasn't so sure about this one though.
Before, she probably wouldn't have hesitated. She had never believed in forgetting about a person's humanity, regardless of what they had done. She also knew the statistics, the probability of how many innocent people were in prison. Before, she wouldn't have thought twice about doing what she was doing now - bringing food and company to one of the incarcerated members of society. Bringing them a tiny slice of normality and human contact for a couple of hours.
She wondered, as she was led down the hall to the small visiting room, if she would be able to look at the inmate she was assigned and not see him. The one who took everything away from her was behind walls like these. If he was in prison, it stood to reason that people like him were there too, logically speaking. She didn't want to think about someone doing this for him. She didn't want to think about someone talking to him, granting him the gift of civilized conversation and a home cooked meal.
Yet there she was, about to grant this gift to someone just like him. She sat in one of the chairs at the one table in the room. There were armed guards at the door, but no one else. She wrung her hands distractedly, idly wondering what it would be like to view the world outside everyday and not be able to touch it, breathe it - be a part of it. She wondered what it would be like to do something bad enough that her freedom would be forfeited.
She wondered if it would be so much different from what her life had become.
The doors opened and her inmate was led in. For some reason, she was expecting orange jumpsuits. As it turned out, the prison's uniforms were blue.
Inmate 6261121. Jasper Whitlock.
He wasn't what she expected. He was muscular, but not obscenely or frighteningly so. Instead of the shaved head she had been picturing, he had long, scraggly, dirty blond hair. His glare was not malevolent; it was curiously dead. There were scars on his face and his arms. Parts of his exposed skin were blacked, seemingly randomly, with tattoos. He watched her as she looked him over, but she didn't feel threatened.
There was a time when the sight of him would have made her uncomfortable, made her afraid. She felt nothing. She wondered what the tattoos meant, if they meant anything, and how many more he had that were hidden from view. The thought was fleeting and she didn't honestly care. She was only relieved that Jasper didn't remind her of him.
Her eyes returned to his. It was almost like looking in a mirror. Flat, lifeless brown irises to flat, lifeless blue.
He looked like he might have been beautiful once.
Jasper watched her in silence for many long minutes. He noticed that the silence didn't seem to bother her. It was refreshing. The men and women who came here with this purpose were usually extremely nervous or overly friendly - to prove they were not nervous. He understood their cause and a part of him vaguely appreciated the gesture, but often enough he just wished they would be quiet. He knew there wasn't a lot to talk about. He hadn't read any interesting books, he already had a degree and no desire to go after another, he had no interest in being saved as he was sure he lived damnation every day of his life since his Alice had been taken from him.
Alice had always known when he needed her to be silent.
Bella moved suddenly, reaching for the bags she'd brought. Finger foods, he noticed. Everything she'd brought was easy to eat without utensils, since they weren't allowed utensils during these visits. Quesadillas, with chicken and green chilies. Chips and salsa. Cookies for desert. Despite the emptiness inside of him, his body responded in Pavlovian style. His mouth watered. His taste buds would enjoy it.
"It looks delicious, ma'am. Thank you." His mother might have been proud that the manners she'd instilled in him still existed, even in this place, even after all he'd seen and done, except that no mother could be proud of him now.
"Bella," Bella said, her voice just as flat and perfunctory as his. "My name is Bella."
He nodded, taking a bite. As he suspected, his taste buds rejoiced. "Bella what?" he asked, wondering briefly why he was holding up his end of the conversation.
She looked up and, though he wouldn't have thought it was possible, the light in her eyes dimmed just a little bit more. "Cullen. Bella Cullen," she murmured, looking away from him. Her voice betrayed just a hint of the agony she was feeling.
Minute as it was, he still heard it. "I'm sorry," he said, a hint of softness in his normally harsh tone.
Minute as it was, she still heard it. "Thank you."
The charity group visited the prison again a month later. Bella specifically requested Jasper.
She heard the incessant babbling of another inmate before Jasper was led through the door. The other inmate called, "Have a good meal, Red," before he turned around and headed back the way he came. Jasper didn't acknowledge him. He looked just as lifeless and defeated as he had before, but when he looked up at her, surprise flitted across his face. It was only there for a split second and then the apathetic mask was back.
"Bella," he said in greeting. If she was surprised that he remembered her, she didn't show it.
"Jasper," she responded as she set a plate of chicken and corn on the cob in front of him. Brownie for desert.
There was no conversation for minutes while his taste buds luxuriated in the rarity of herbs and spices.
"Why did he call you Red?" Bella asked, her voice devoid of any real interest.
Jasper responded in kind. "It's from the Shawshank Redemption. Red is the narrator character. He's the only guilty man in Shawshank. The name doesn't fit though. Red regretted it. I don't."
She didn't know how to respond. Some part of her knew that she should have been repulsed. Instead, her heart gave a strange lurch. She reached out and touched his hand. He stared at the sight of her fingers over his. His skin registered that her skin was so soft. He hadn't felt soft in a long, long time.
Bella started visiting more than once a month - without her charity group. There was some strange kinship between them, though neither of them talked about it. They were both broken souls, somehow recognizing each other in the blackness their lives had become. Just sitting in silence together was a bright spot in their otherwise bleak lives.
Then, one not so special day, he told her the story of why he was the only guilty man in this prison. His voice betrayed almost no emotion as he spoke. He stared down at the table, not looking at Bella.
"Her name was Alice, and she was everything. My hopes. My dreams. Everything. And we had it all. Good jobs. Good friends. A future together. Plans.
"We had just walked out of a concert in Seattle. We'd parked far away and we cut through an alley to get back to the car quicker."
His fingers, that had been drawing restless circles on the table top, suddenly clenched into a fist. "There were five of them. They wanted money, but I didn't have enough. They wanted to take what they felt they were owed from Alice's body. I swore I wouldn't let them near her. I fought four of them, while one of them grabbed her and kept her from running."
Shame leaked into his voice as he continued his story. His shoulders slumped just a little more. "They were winning. Alice begged them to stop. Finally, she said she'd do anything. She wouldn't give them any trouble if they would just stop hurting me.
"They made me watch as they beat her and raped her and tortured her. Two or three of them held me, and they took turns with her. I was helpless to stop it.
"I screamed and cried and begged for her. I threatened them. I pleaded with them. She was just silent. She just...took it all so they wouldn't hurt me. Every vile thing they did to her, she just withstood it. For me." He raised his head but his eyes were closed.
"They must have gotten tired of my struggling because one of them hit me across the head and the next thing I knew, all I heard was her voice. Her sweet voice calling me back from the darkness. She sounded tired, like when she was calling me to come to bed and she was already almost asleep. When I opened my eyes, all I saw was her face. She was lying near me, reaching her hand toward me. Her face was all bloodied up, she was such a mess, but still the most beautiful thing I will ever see. She must have been in so much pain, but she smiled at me. She smiled and she said 'I love you, baby,' and her voice could have been the wind, it was so soft. Then, the light in her eyes faded, and her eyelids came down. Her breath stopped."
His voiced cracked on the last word, finally, and he started to cry. He didn't sob, or break down in her arms, he simply cried. His eyes were closed and new tears appeared in the corner of them to replace the drops that fell in a perfect line down each of his cheeks. She put her hand on his. He squeezed her slim fingers, acknowledging her attempt to comfort him. Surprisingly, he was comforted. He hadn't told that story to anyone before.
When he was ready to speak again, he did. "I passed out again, and when I came to I was in the hospital, and Alice wasn't. I got to go home, and Alice didn't."
He finally looked at her, needing her to understand why he skipped ahead in his story. His eyes were calm and cold. "The police caught three of them and put them behind bars. I caught two of them. I made them beg, and cry, and scream before I made them die."
The room was silent after that. His eyes never left Bella's and she stared right back. Her eyes were wide and filled with compassion for his suffering, but there was no disgust, no horror. At least, not at him.
"You're not running," he said. It was not a question.
"No," Bella agreed.
She dropped her head so he couldn't see her eyes when she answered. "Because if they hadn't caught him first, I would have done the same thing."
The statement hung in the air like thick fog on the beach in the middle of the night. It didn't stop him cold, it just made it harder to see, and slightly more eerie. He reassessed this girl, this woman and tried to imagine her doing the things he had done. For a moment, he just couldn't. She looked vulnerable and small and he instinctively wanted to protect her. He couldn't imagine anyone being afraid of her, like the men he killed were afraid of him at the end. Then she looked up again and he could see it in her eyes: the coldness; the dangerous thirst that only blood could slake.
He'd known far too much darkness to be surprised.
"Tell me?" he requested, noticing with a far away feeling of shock that his voice was capable of being almost tender. He squeezed her hand, encouraging her.
Her voice betrayed every emotion as she spoke. She stared straight ahead, not seeing anything.
"His name was Edward, and he was my whole life. I didn't believe, before him, in soul mates. But when I was with him, it wasn't something I could deny. We were good together. We were right. And we had our whole lives ahead of us to figure each other out. We had a loving and supportive family. We had everything."
She had to laugh because the next part of her story could have come from any of the books that covered her bookshelf. Her laugh was raw; pained and bitter - lacking even an ounce of humor. "But there was another boy. We had been friends all of our lives. We were easy...expected. We were each other's first kisses, all of that. We were children - playing at love.
"When Edward came into my life he eclipsed everything. I had never known a love like that. I had never known anything close. What I had with... him turned out to be just a glimmer of what my life could be.
"Of course, he didn't understand. And he blamed Edward. He said he hated Edward because he loved me so much. I told him that Edward was a part of me, but it didn't matter. He tried to get him to fight, but Edward never would. I thought he gave up. If he couldn't be happy for me, and he couldn't be just friends, I wanted him to leave us alone. I thought he would."
Tears fell down her cheeks freely as she remembered. Like Jasper, she didn't sob or break down, she just cried.
"It was our wedding day. I'd fought Edward on the marriage issue for a long time, but it was important to him. It was a perfect summer wedding. The ceremony was beautiful. Dancing in his arms that night, surrounded by all our friends and family, I couldn't remember why I hadn't wanted it. I felt like I was in a fairy tale, and I would remain in the arms of my Prince, happily ever after.
"But then he showed up." She laughed again. A slightly maniacal laugh. She wished she could scoff. She wanted to roll her eyes at the banality of it all. That her life, Edward's death, had been a cliche sometimes felt like the worst injustice of all. "I could see the look in his eyes when he saw us together as husband and wife. I knew he was there for me. You know - if he couldn't have me, no one would, of course. I don't think I ever saw the gun, but I heard the gunshots. Everything happened so quickly. Edward pushed me out of the way, and the bullets hit him. All three of them.
"He ran off, they told me later. All I really remember, after hearing the gunshots, is holding Edward in my arms. There was so much blood...all over my wedding dress. My hands. Soaking Edward's shirt and staining his skin. I was trying to keep the blood in him. Even though he was struggling for every breath, he said, 'Look at me' I looked at him, and he said, 'I love you.' It must have taken every last bit of strength he had, but he put his hand on my cheek and he whispered, 'Be happy'. Then his hand fell down by his side, and he died in my arms." Her voice was no more than a whisper.
"For weeks after his funeral, I just waited for my heart to succumb to the pain. It was unfathomable that I would survive it. I was sure that I would die without him. Obviously, I was wrong. My heart kept beating, and I kept breathing."
Bella finally looked up at Jasper, and for once he was not wearing the hard mask that he had hidden behind for so long. His eyes were sad. He felt a sense of awe that she was brave enough to put words to the state of being they shared. Hesitantly, he reached up, cupping her face in his hands, and wiped her tears away with his thumbs. Her eyes never left his as she finished her story. "The ironic thing is that, for all he talked about love, it was him who taught me how to hate. I don't feel any semblance of humanity when I think about him. Just knowing that he's still breathing, when Edward never will again...if I had found him before they did, he would be dead. And it would have been as painful as I could manage."
For a long time, they stared at each other, finally seeing each other in full. Silent communication passed between them. There was a comfort inherent in the understanding of each other. No one else in the world knew the things that they knew, and they were no longer alone in their suffering. Certainly, there were people out there who knew Alice's Jasper; the man that he had been in his previous life. Certainly, the people in Bella's life - her friends and family; Edward's family - thought that she was still Edward's Bella. Only she, and now Jasper, knew that wasn't the case. She wasn't anyone anymore.
Bella stood and moved to the chair nearest to him. They were oblivious to the guards who watched them with incredulity. They were sitting close enough together that Jasper could lean forward to place a kiss on her forehead. His lips lingered there for a long moment before he kissed her cheeks, tasting the remnants of her tears. Feeling the softness of her skin beneath his lips, Jasper began to remember what it felt like to be human - before all of his thoughts were dominated by blood lust for the ones who took Alice's life; before he shut off every emotion and became the cold, empty shell that had occupied a cell in this prison for more time than he wanted to remember.
She tilted her face up to press a kiss against his chin and then she looked at him. The look was at once inviting and pleading. All she knew was that, with Jasper, she felt more than numbness. Before, looking out at a long life of emptiness had been overwhelming. She was beginning to feel that her life could be something rather than nothing. It was terrifying to feel anything again, but she comforted herself with the fact that she had already lived through the worst thing possible. She knew what she wanted.
He kissed her for the first time and it didn't feel like cheating. He was not Alice's Jasper anymore. He was not the man that once strummed a guitar on a warm summer day, serenading Alice with sweet love songs. He was not the man who had moved inside that flawless creature and known completeness. He was not the man who pondered for weeks the perfect way to ask her to be his forever, only to blurt it out when they ate at the diner where they'd met. Alice would not recognize the man he has become - scarred, and inked, and capable of the atrocities he committed. Alice's Jasper would never hurt a soul. Alice's Jasper had turned the other cheek whenever he had been presented with a fight. Alice's Jasper died in the filthy alley when she had uttered her last words and closed her eyes to sleep for the last time.
She waited for the guilt, but it didn't come. She waited for her heart to remind her of Edward; to steal any joyful reaction with the haunting memories of Edward's lips pressed against hers. Edward's Bella would have blushed and grinned, like she did after their first kiss. That girl had been silenced forever as Edward's blood crept across her white wedding dress. Yes, she had friends and family who thought Edward's Bella still existed, but in reality they loved the girl she had been; the girl she could never be again. If it would have helped she would have put herself in the coffin alongside Edward so they could have mourned them both. But it wouldn't have helped because her heart still beat and she still looked like that girl. They wanted to hold on to her and love her because she was all they had left of their son, their brother, their friend.
This kiss was not like their other first kisses. There was no giddiness, or incredulity. There was a spark though. The fire and life that they had once possessed, that they had thought had died completely, snapped back into existence. It was a low flame, but it was there. Bella opened her mouth to Jasper and he slowly began to explore her tongue with his own as their lips moved together. The spark grew stronger.
When they broke to breathe the fire was noticeable in their eyes. Once flat, lifeless brown and blue irises gained depth and clarity. It wasn't complete, but it was a start. Where there had been nothing, there was now something.
It was only a matter of time before Bella's father found out about Jasper. He was in local law enforcement and gossip spread amongst the force faster than even the most experienced of nosy old ladies could move. By then she had hired the best lawyer in the entire region to get Jasper released. Charlie brought out the big guns when he confronted her about it.
When she stepped into the Cullen house for one of their frequent get-togethers, it was immediately obvious that they knew. Edward's mother Esme's eyes were red from crying. His father Carlisle, and her father looked grave. Sue, Charlie's wife, was looking at her with a harsh expression as she held Charlie's hand in support. Even Emmett, Edward's perpetually cheerful brother, was frowning. Emmett's wife Rosalie was the only one not looking at her.
The argument started right away, any thoughts of dinner completely forgotten. They were concerned and incredulous. Bella was defensive and frustrated.
"Bells, I pulled his file," Charlie said. "If you knew the things he did to those men..."
"Pull Alice Whitlock's file," Bella responded, wiping at furious tears. "Read it and imagine that they held you down and made you watch as they did that to Sue, or to me.
"I'm not telling you it was right. I'm just telling you that I understand. I understand him, and he understands me." She ran her hands through her hair in utter frustration. She knew what it sounded like and she knew what they saw. They saw her as a naive girl being suckered into something by a criminal. It drove her mad that she didn't have the words to explain what he was to her, what he meant to her.
"Bella..." Emmett said, his eyes wide and horrified. "Do you ... like this ... guy?"
The words slipped out of her mouth before she had a chance to think about them. "I love him."
The truth of those words shocked everyone in the room, Bella included.
"Are you insane?" Emmett shouted.
"You wanted me to move on," Bella retorted, not backing down from her admission.
"Of course, we've all been worried about you. But this, Bella?" Carlisle asked. His green eyes looked so much like Edward's; always concerned for her. "Edward worked so hard to make sure you were protected, that you were always safe. And you're throwing that away, using Edward's money on a convicted murderer?"
There wasn't any judgment in Carlisle's tone. He seemed to be trying desperately to understand what had happened to his normally logical daughter-in-law. Knowing that, Bella was able to force herself to take a deep breath so that she could speak calmly. "Edward wanted me to be happy. You know that's all he ever wanted. I haven't been happy in a long time. Jasper makes me happy."
They couldn't deny the change they had all observed in her. Since she had met Jasper, she had started smiling and laughing again. She carried herself a little straighter; her shoulders no longer slumped like she would fold in on herself if she could. But knowing the cause of this change in her, they wondered what the price her new found happiness came at.
"Come with me," she pleaded with all of them. "Meet him. I'm not going to change my mind about him no matter what you say, but maybe if you meet him, you'll see. He's worth it."
They'd hesitantly agreed.
The first of the family to visit were Emmett and Rosalie. Everyone was surprised when Rosalie voiced her approval almost instantly. Having survived a gang rape, Rosalie understood what Jasper did all too well. Emmett, too, came around quickly. Rosalie's support went a long way in his book and Jasper was both not intimidated by Emmett and not defensive at Emmett's blunt attitude.
Slowly, Jasper and Bella gained the support of her family; Edward's family. It was Jasper's earnest, polite demeanor that won Carlisle over. His spotless record before and after the murders he committed brought Charlie around and collaborated Bella's version of events. If he had not demonstrated exemplary behavior, he would not have been allowed these types of visits at all.
Esme was the last to come around. For a long time, all she could see was that Jasper wasn't worthy to stand in her son's place at Bella's side. He admited to being a murderer and that alone made him not good enough for the woman her son had loved with everything he was.
As the rest of her family gave their blessings, Esme couldn't help but be affected by their observations of Jasper. He was only ever gentle, kind and loving with Bella. He never lied, no matter how harsh the questions they asked him got. He spoke to all of them with respect even when they offered him none in return.
When Esme buckled, her support was total. She started to go with Bella to talk to the lawyers and to file the paperwork that needed to be filed. She took to visiting Jasper frequently, and when she saw him she always hugged him as if he were her own.
Having a family again was just one more gift Bella's presence in his life had granted him. It was another piece of himself that he had thought he'd lost forever.
When he was led into the visiting room one day, he could see instantly that Bella was nervous. Her moods and expressions had long become recognizable to him. She was twirling a long tendril of hair between her fingers restlessly, but when she saw him her face still lit up like it always did. He opened his arms and she fell into them easily. He ran his nose along the side of her jaw. He had noticed that he never breathed as easily as when she was here with him.
"What is it?" he asked finally, holding her at arms length.
Her eyes darted away from him and Jasper frowned. She sighed and sat in one of the chairs. He sat next to her and waited for her to find the words she needed. Finally, she spoke. "The lawyer suggested...," she tried. She sighed again in frustration. She finally blurted everything out in a rush. "She suggested that we get married." Speaking in a rush, Bella relayed the conversation she had with the lawyer that morning. The lawyer had said, if they were amenable, a marriage always put a human face on the accused. Statistically speaking, husbands with Jasper's clean record were granted more leniency.
Jasper was quiet as she spoke, making her more nervous. "Jasper, please," she begged when he didn't respond immediately. "Say something."
Instead of speaking he pushed off the chair, kneeling in front of her. He grabbed her hands from where they rested on her lap, in both of his. "Bella, when I think about the rest of my life, I can't imagine it without you in it. My world, without you, is gray and lifeless. I do want to marry you, but not to better my chances, or play by statistics and probability. I want to marry you because I love you. When I marry you, I want it to be permanent, and only because you want to. If you ever want to."
She looked down at him with tears brimming in her eyes, an emotion so pure building in her chest that she thought her heart would explode. If there was one thing that Edward's Bella taught her it was not to fear marriage, when she knew it was right. "I do want to," she whispered, squeezing his hands tightly.
"Are you saying yes?" he asked, the wide smile she'd begun to coax out of him more and more beginning to blossom on his face.
She nodded, wiping away the tears that threatened to overflow so that she could see his beautiful smile.
His grin was huge and full of teeth. Letting out a whoop that startled the guards, he rose, grabbing Bella up into his arms and spinning her around. When he set her down he kissed her - his mouth fervent and feverish against hers, his hands on her back, pulling her closer to him.
When they opened their eyes again the spark that had ignited in them after their first kiss glowed with the strength of a forest fire.
Their wedding took place a couple of short weeks later. It was no fancy affair, like both of their first weddings had been. It was just them, an officiant, a few official documents and one of the guards as a witness. They glanced at each other, grinning and giggling like shy teenagers as they signed the paperwork that bound them officially.
Jasper's good behavior had earned him the right to use one of the conjugal visit cabins on the prison grounds. The special occasion of his wedding granted them the entire day instead of the typical few hours.
Away from the prying eyes of the guards from the first time, they basked in each other, just enjoying being able to kiss without an often judgmental audience. Jasper found out qickly that Bella was a lot more vocal in private.
At first, they went slowly.
Bella tugged at Jasper's shirt. She wanted to see his bare chest. She wanted to satisfy her long held curiosity that his tattoos continued past his arms. He moved his hands from her waist to take his shirt off. The sight of him was stunning. His body was toned and sculpted. His skin, as she had suspected, was littered with ink. There was one long, jagged scar running along his right side.
She touched the scar first, curious. He opened his mouth to tell her the story but she placed a finger over his lips. "Later," she said, and she knew it was a promise. She would know all of his stories. She would know every scar. She pressed her lips against the scar, kissing his body as his hands rested on her shoulders. She kissed the tattoo over his heart, the ones on each of his shoulders, and the one near his belly. Each kiss was a promise that she would know the story behind all of them someday.
Needing to see her, Jasper brought her face back up to his. He kissed her deeply as he pushed her gently back on the cabin's little bed. His lips never left hers as his fingers began to work the buttons of her shirt. Finished with that task, their hands explored exposed skin as their kisses became more urgent. Jasper's touch was so light across the skin of her belly that Bella laughed softly against his lips. He loved that her skin was so silky under the pads of his fingers. He loved the delicate whimper his touch elicited as he cupped her breast through the gauzy bra she was wearing. His thumb brushed across her nipple as it strained against the thin material. He was pleased when his fingers encountered a front clasp to the bra, and smug that he still remembered how to unclasp it with one hand.
He finally broke their kiss to look at her. Her eyes were hooded with lust; her hair splayed, dark and wild on the pillow. She was biting her lower lip and, for reasons he couldn't figure out, he found the sight incredibly erotic. Her breasts were full and her nipples were hard, as if they were just calling for him to put his mouth on them. He managed to wait long enough to get her shirt and bra all the way off before he did just that. The loud moan Bella released as his tongue swirled over her peaks went straight through him, directly to his groin. Her body arched up to press against his.
And then he couldn't go slowly anymore.
He wanted to do everything to her all at once. He wanted to feel her everywhere, but first he needed to get the rest of her clothes off. His fingers fumbled at the buttons of her jeans as his mouth moved hungrily across her collarbone, up to her neck. Picking up on his urgency, Bella moved his hands from where they were tangled in his hair to his waist. She started to tug his pants down and, when she couldn't reach with her fingers anymore, she brought her feet up to push them down his legs. Jasper caught her ankles around his waist, using her new position to pull her jeans and panties all the way off.
"You are so beautiful," he murmured. Their eyes traveled each other's bodies, drinking each other in like they had been walking through a desert without water. Really, it was not far from the truth. They had been lost in the abyss of nothingness for so long. Now they both felt alive again. They had found a reason to live again in the most unlikely of places. There, in a small bed on the grounds of a prison, they let love and desire consume them.
He forced himself to go slowly again, to savor rather than devour, as he eased into her for the first time. She was tight, hot and oh, so good. "Are you alright?" he asked tenderly, knowing it had been too long for both of them and she was biting down on her lip again.
She kissed him reassuringly. "Make me yours, Jasper," she whispered against his lips. She raised her legs, wrapping them around his waist so she could take him in deeper.
He didn't need anymore encouragement than that. He began to move inside her and her hips raised to meet his. Their rhythm wasn't slow and steady for long. Every moan and titillating noise they made increased their need for each other. Soon, all Jasper could hear was Bella's panting close to his ear. All Bella could feel was his body pressed against hers, slick with a sheen of sweat.
Somewhere, in the haze of ecstasy and the amazing feeling of the way their bodies mingled together, it occurred to Jasper that he was making love to his beautiful wife. He had thought he would never have that again. The enormity, and overwhelming satisfaction of this one fact pulled him over the threshold. He thrust into her once more, hard enough that his name fell from her lips in a gasp of pleasure. His orgasm was powerful, wracking his whole body with the intensity of it. His hands grasped the pillow beside her head as he rode it out.
"My god," he said between gasps, trying to catch his breath. He laid down carefully beside her, their lower bodies still tangled together, their faces close on the pillow. "I'm sorry."
Perplexed, Bella brushed a strand of damp hair off his temple. "What on earth are you sorry about?"
"I just.... It's been a long time. And then I realized that you're mine and...," he broke out grin as huge as the harvest moon. "I love that you're my wife, Bella. I love you."
She laughed lightly, not laughing at him, but laughing in complete adoration of him. "I love you, my husband," she said, pressing fluttering kisses across his brow, on his nose, on his cheeks. "And don't worry, you have all day to make it up to me." She captured his lips with her own.
"Mmm," he mumbled between kisses. Sliding one arm beneath her shoulders, he pulled her to him, his free hand ghosting down her thighs to find her center. She gasped when his fingers entered her, his thumb finding her clit and rubbing in slow, teasing circles. "All day."
Listening to the sensual sounds she made for him, because of him, Jasper was hard again within minutes. He dreamed of the day when he could come home to this, to her, for good.
Time passed in a flurry of lawyers, court dates and too quick conjugal visits. It was a combination of the Cullen's influence, Bella's money, and Jasper's good behavior that reduced his sentence to time served.
"What do you want to do when you get out?" Bella asked, lying in his arms on the last afternoon of their last conjugal visit.
He smiled, looking over at what was left of the homemade pizza she made him. "I want to cook you dinner," he responded.
It was such a normal response that they both had to laugh. It was surreal to think that their lives, by the next day, would be so mundane, so ordinary, when all they had known was unconventional to say the least.
The next day, his first day as a free man, the first thing Jasper did was take a shower. He stood under the spray in the middle of the afternoon, at nobody's direction, with no time limit hanging over his head. His skin turned pink under the scalding hot water, and then pruned, but Jasper didn't move until the spray ran cold.
Afterward, he stood in front of the bathroom mirror, braced with his hands on the sink, and stared at his reflection. That was how Bella found him. In the soft light, his damp, blond hair looked almost black. Her eyes raked down his form, taking in the muscular curves of his back and the way the towel wrapped around him, hanging low on his hips. He was breathtaking, but it was the somewhat lost expression on his face as he stared at his reflection that caused Bella's breath to catch in her throat. He didn't move as she walked to him, but his eyes closed as she wrapped her arms around his waist and pressed her cheek against his bare back. "What's wrong?"
He sighed and turned in her embrace, wrapping his arms around her tightly and leaning his forehead against hers. "Not a damn thing. And that's...a little terrifying. You know?"
"I do," she said. "We're going to be okay."
He smiled. "I know," he murmured before he kissed her. He was surprised to find that he felt this truth at the core of his being. He could see it in her eyes and he could hear it in the certainty of her tone that she felt the same way. The emptiness that had once consumed them both was hardly more than a memory. Their psyches would always carry the the scars, but the wounds no longer ached.
That their souls belonged to others was understood by them both. It was a twist of fate that their hearts had shattered in corresponding pieces and they fit together naturally. They never forgot their perfect others, nor did they use each other as replacements. When Jasper made love to Bella, she never compared him to Edward any more than he compared her to Alice. They never called out the wrong name or used each other to forget what they had lost. Bella didn't feel the same as Alice had. She didn't fit against his body as if she had been carved from his own flesh. Jasper didn't move the same way Edward had inside her. He didn't know, instinctively, what she needed most and when as Edward had. But their lovemaking was good, and it was right. It was sweet and passionate and theirs, with no hint of what they had once shared with other people.
They began to rebuild their lives together. Edward and Bella had frequented bookstores and music stores. Jasper and Alice had frequented malls and boutiques. Together, Jasper and Bella discovered that they liked antique stores and shopping for everything else online. Edward and Bella spoke of visiting England - the birthplace of so many of the books and plays they could talk about for hours. Jasper and Alice had planned a trip to France to satisfy Jasper's love of history and Alice's romantic notions of the Eiffel Tower. Jasper and Bella traveled first to Greece - home of comedy, tragedy and philosophy. They were reinventing themselves in this new life they had found with each other.
Of course, they had their off days.
It always happened without warning. There would be some stray item, a moment on a television show, a song on the radio. Sometimes the thoughts came from no where at all. When they hit, they were powerful and crushing and consuming.
Some days, Bella remembered exactly how his voice sounded in her ear; smooth, velvet and inviting. She remembered exactly how his voice wrapped around her name like a caress. She remembered how it felt to be wrapped in his strong arms as if she had been a part of him forever. She remembered how it felt to love him and be loved by him. Remembering everything, the pain of losing him was fresh, and consumed her again.
Invariably, when this happened, Jasper always scooped her up into his arms. He carried her to their bed and laid down behind her, wrapping his arms around her tightly and pressing his body against her back. He let her cry, or talk - whatever she needed. He stroked her hair and told her over and over that he was there and it would be okay, until, finally, Edward's ghost loosened its hold on her and she only felt the comfort of Jasper's embrace.
Some days, Jasper remembered the sound of Alice's tinkling laughter. He remembered her mischievous smirk as she plotted. Alice was always cooking up some scheme, whether it was playing matchmaker with a co-worker, or figuring out how to charm the shops she frequented into giving her a discount. He remembered being constantly in awe of her. He remembered feeling insanely lucky that this amazing woman belonged to him, that she looked on him with those sparking eyes, so full of love. He remembered and he could feel the emptiness threaten again. He could feel the bleak reality that he would wake every day for the rest of his life to an Alice-less world.
When this happened Bella never said a word. She knew that he prefered silence; that he couldn't talk about it, about Alice in those moments. Instead, she merely climbed into his lap, and guided his head onto her shoulder. The feel of her in his arms anchored him. He remembered that his life now came with the promise of Bella. She was his brightness. She was his present and his future.
It was a good future. It was not long after Jasper's release that Bella's body began to swell with new life she and Jasper created. They sat together on their bed, Jasper lounging against the headboard, entirely content with his life, and Bella between his legs, leaning back against him with a wondering smile. Their hands were splayed against the supple bulge of her belly.
"Jasper?" she asked into the easy silence.
"Hmm?" he answered, feeling his son kick his hand from inside Bella. The thought of being a father had left him with a permanent smile.
"What do you think about Masen Brandon?" she asked hesitantly.
His breath caught in his throat. Masen was Edward's middle name, and Brandon was Alice's maiden name. "Masen Brandon Whitlock," he tried the name on for size. "It's perfect, Bella."
Beneath their hands their son kicked again. Bella tilted her head to smile up at Jasper. "He likes it."
They both knew exactly how lucky they were, to have gone through what they did and to end up together. Edward's Bella and Alice's Jasper had perished in a violent hell-storm of pain so powerful that it burned like fire and reduced their lives to ash. In finding each other, they had risen and rebuilt their lives, stronger together than they ever would have been apart. Bella's Jasper and Jasper's Bella found that their lives were wonderful. They had friends and family. They had each other. They felt cheated of nothing.
Dedication: To CellaCullen and DizzyGrl28. You ladies inspire me and encourage me in ways you cannot comprehend, and I love you. Really. And to Bella's Understudy. I know you said I made you cry but you made me cry with your observations and your praise. Much 3!
Um – let me know what you think, yea? Tell you what - you review, and I'll post a light hearted, completely gratuitous smut nugget outtake as a second chapter to this story. I wrote it for Cella and Melly, but I'll share it with you if you share me your thoughts - good, bad, indifferent, I want to know.