A/n: Sorry about the delay. Here is the last (I think) O/s. There is a lemon in this chapter.
Disclaimer: These are Stephenie's characters, not mine, though I do love them so.
Jasper knew he was dreaming. He was in his old room of his first home - a place he was no longer welcome in real life - and so this had to be a dream. He stared at the posters of guitar legends and abstract paintings on the ceiling with a sense of déjà vu and wistfulness because the last time he had been here, he had been with -
The bed shifted beside him and Jasper turned his head automatically. "Alice..." he said, and his dream self was not surprised to see her there, though his heart clenched and soared at the same time. There was a nagging confusion in him because he didn't know how to feel about waking in bed with one wife when he'd gone to sleep with his arms wrapped around another.
She stretched lazily, just like he remembered her doing the countless times he'd woken to find her next to him. He marveled at her beauty – still surreal to him after all these years – and soaked in her peaceful expression. The love in her eyes as she turned to him was obvious – just as it had been right before she died. Her face and body, what he could see of it, was unblemished. It was as if the brutal assault that had killed her had never happened.
His arm stretched out automatically to stroke her cheek, as he had frequently done when they'd woken slowly, blinking and smiling at each other in the early morning sunlight. Jasper froze in shock when he realized his arm was different. He twisted it around; as if unsure it was actually attached to his body. His skin was completely free of the scars and tattoos- the constant visual reminder of the beating he'd taken and the long reaching consequences of that night.
He jumped when her hand reached out and her willowy fingers wrapped around his wrist. His eyes drifted back to hers uncertainly. "This is a dream," he murmured, more to himself than to her.
She smiled and answered anyway. "Of course it is."
Before he could even wonder aloud why he would be dreaming like this, she answered his unspoken question. "Some believe that the purpose of dreams is to work out things subconsciously that you haven't been able to in real life."
His voice was soft and non-accusatory when he replied. "Then what are you doing here?" One thing he knew for certain was that he had nothing to work out when it came to Alice. There was no doubt in his mind that she had been his soul mate and he had lost her. It was a simple story he never questioned. Therefore, whatever his mind was trying to work out was not directly related to her.
A slow smile spread across her face, like he remembered it had when she was really pleased. "I'm just your spirit guide, young Skywalker," she intoned playfully.
He chuckled. "Obi-Wan Kenobi was not a spirit guide. He was just a spirit."
She fixed him with a pointed stare. "Who guided Luke."
They laughed together before seriousness settled over them again. He reached out to touch her cheek and was taken aback, again, that he could. He used to think that her skin was as soft as rose petals, but at her funeral he'd plucked a single petal from one of the showers of roses that were draped over her metallic, soft pink coffin. He'd held it between his fingers and found that even that tiny void could not be filled, even for a moment.
The only thing that felt like Alice's skin was Alice's skin.
He banished that thought as quick as it came. It had been tiny thoughts like that which had driven him to the brink of madness and depravity before. He was stronger now, with Bella to support him if he fell, but being a husband and a father also meant protecting yourself when you could.
Alice moved her hand to cup his scruffy cheek, her thumb stroking him right behind his ear. He sighed contentedly because he had missed this. "So, guide me," he murmured. "What is it that I'm supposed to be working out?"
Her eyes darted around the room. "Do you know where we are?"
At that, his throat became a little tighter. Automatically, he tried to hide the pain in his voice. "My room in my mother's house." His room since his mother moved them there when he was fifteen years old. He had moved out at nineteen to go to college, but he had been back every summer and every break - two of those years he had brought Alice home with him. In the two years they were married, after college and before Alice's death, they had stayed in this room every time they had visited his family.
From every conversation he'd had with his mother since his release from prison, it was a room he probably would never see again outside of his dreams.
She moved her hand down to stroke the hair at the back of his neck, soothing him; knowing he had made the connection. "There's no magic combination of words you can tell her to get her to listen to you," Alice said of his mother's consistent rejection.
When he spoke again his voice was pained. "Is that what you want me to realize? That it's useless?"
"Ultimately, you can't make her change her mind if it doesn't want to be changed," Alice said plainly. "Although, I have trouble believing that Mama Maria will stay mad at you forever."
Jasper had to smile then at a memory of Alice kissing his mother on her cheek and greeting her with a, "Good morning Mama Ma."
"Why do you need her back so much? I mean, I understand that you would want her back - she's your mother. But want and need are two different things," Alice asked.
"Masen should have his grandmother in his life," Jasper said, but it sounded perfunctory even to his own ears.
Alice tilted her head at him. "What is it that you used to tell me about my parents? 'Doll, don't you worry about them. If they can't see what they're missing having a bright star like you in their universe, then they're hardly worth thinking about at all.'" She imitated his soft drawl perfectly.
"You were a child when they abandoned you," Jasper retorted softly. "Can you imagine doing something so terrible that you could shut a mother's love off?"
"You can't shut a real mother's love off. Mama Maria still loves you, baby. Nothing could break that. Mothers, however, are people, and capable of making mistakes. You need to let her realize what she's missing by holding onto her hurt." She smiled again, an adoring smile that was not for him. "When she realizes how much of your son's life she's missing, she'll come around."
Jasper sighed, leaning forward so that their foreheads were touching. "I hate that my mistakes are robbing Masen of his chance to know his grandmother."
"No one is doing that but her, baby. Let this be one of her regrets, not yours." She grinned, running her nose along his affectionately. "Your son is amazing, you know."
"He is," Jasper agreed readily. Then he paused before asking the next question. "Bella said that you knew about him before we did." It should have felt wrong or off to talk to his dead wife about a conversation that his current wife had had with her dead husband, but, oddly, it didn't.
"It's the whole reason babies exist - the primal instinct to survive. There's nothing more reaffirming than creating life." She smiled at him. "Hell, I look at that little boy and I feel alive - just seeing you in his eyes."
Jasper's smile was wistful, momentarily wondering what a child of his and Alice's would have been like. "We talked about not having kids, you and I. It made sense."
"It made sense to a young philosophy major and a happy-go-lucky free spirit who had never really been faced with some of the harsher realities of our world." Her smile was smaller, her eyes slightly pained, but still adoring when they looked at him. "We'll never know if we would have changed our minds. We'll never know the people we would have become."
His hands tightened slightly, the pain of the memories of how she died ripping through him were momentarily too much. "Alice, I'm so sorry. I should have been strong enough to...you should never have had to suffer like that."
Her eyes narrowed. "Jasper Whitlock, you know damn well that there's nothing at all you have to apologize to me for," she said slowly, watching him to make sure each word sank in. She screwed up one side of her mouth as she thought over her next words- they were not easy to say. "You know, the minute we stepped into that alley, the future was set. We were never meant to make it out of there alive. What I did was selfish. I couldn't stand to watch you die, so I provoked them. I did it knowing what you would be forced to see." She winced, her eyes dropping from his in shame.
Jasper closed his eyes. He felt tears well and fight their way past his eyelids. "Please, please don't apologize for that, Alice. You know it wasn't your fault."
He felt her fingers brushing his tears away and he opened his eyes again. "I don't regret it," she assured him. "All things considered - since neither of us had a choice in what happened to us, finding Bella and Edward was something I can't regret." She smiled at him again. "And Masen, of course."
"You do love them, don't you?" Jasper asked wonderingly.
"I do. If we'd known each other before, I can see exactly what would have happened. We'd have been friends. More than friends - we would have been as close as brothers and sisters. We'd have spoiled their children rotten. We all would have grown old together." She laughed at her own musing. "Maybe...in another life..." she trailed off and gave a small shrug.
"Do they have that? Is that...true? Reincarnation, I mean," Jasper asked, curious.
Her eyes sparkled with humor when she answered. "That's for me to know and you to find out. Don't worry. I won't come back as your daughter."
Jasper raised his eyebrows. "I'm going to have a daughter?"
"Not tomorrow," Alice quipped.
He chuckled and Alice watched him with knowing eyes. "You've gotten us off subject, as, I assume, was your plan." Her eyes told him that she knew he was deflecting - not telling her everything about his mother. "We have a little time, you have questions."
He ran his fingers over her face. "You can still read me so well."
"Of course," she chided. "My Jasper and Bella's Jasper are not so different, you know. Some things never change." She sighed at him. "You're stubborn about admitting what you feel. I think you know I've never left you. When you're ready to talk - to me and to your Bella - I will be there," she promised.
He stroked her cheek, needing to say so many things but not being able to form the words yet. He took the out she'd given him. "Why did you come to me like this when Edward came to Bella while she was awake?"
"That was an accident on his part." Alice rolled her eyes. "He never listens to me! I told him he was going to get caught and that doesn't always go well." She laughed. "I should have known Bella could handle it."
"She can handle anything," Jasper said, the pride and adoration in his voice evident as he talked about Bella. Then he sighed again, the surreal atmosphere of the moment catching up to him. He looked around his childhood room in his mother's home that he had little hope he would see again, and back to his first wife, who he vividly remembered interring in the earth, with whom he was discussing his beloved second wife and her dead first husband.
Jasper resisted the urge to rub his head.
"I feel like...I've lived two lives. Bella feels that way too, that there was her life with Edward and her life with me. But her life with Edward is all around us. His family is her family. I hear stories about him and them all the time. Masen will grow up with that - knowing both sides of his mother, and knowing about Edward," he explained. "Momma is the only link I have with my old life - and the only person left who knew you."
He stroked her cheek, his eyes full of a sadness that was not quite regret and not quite wistful either. "When I moved us here, away from my family, I didn't know we wouldn't have the time to make friends...for someone to know you, other than me."
The look she gave him was soft, and they both let go of their old dreams once and for all. "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans."
Jasper's smile quirked and his heart felt fuller somehow. "Bella says that all the time."
"I know," Alice grinned. Then her eyes swept over him as if she was memorizing him. "It's time to wake up, baby. So I'll leave you with advice from a different Beatle." She moved forward, kissing his forehead and then his cheek before putting her lips at his ear. "For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see, there will be an answer. Let it be." Her voice, as it always did, sounded breathy and distinctly sweet. His heart ached painfully, remembering all the times she sang snippets of songs into his ear. He closed his eyes and held her to him tightly, knowing he was about to lose her voice and her softness again.
"Jasper?" said a sleepy, disoriented voice that was not Alice. Jasper let out a shaky breath that he hadn't realized he'd been holding. He realized it was Bella he was holding against his body too tightly. He opened his eyes, finding himself in his bedroom with his wife - in his second life. She blinked as she woke and her hands automatically went to his face, tracing different patterns than Alice's had. "What's wrong?"
He said nothing at first, burying his head in her hair, his nose against her neck as he took deep breaths, reorienting himself. He was in his own bed, where he was welcomed and wanted, in his own room, reflecting the man he currently was, in his own house. His baby boy was asleep down the hall and Bella, the other half of his heart, was in his arms, while he knew Alice, the other half of his soul, watched over all of them.
"Jasper?" Bella whispered again, her fingers running across his scalp soothingly.
"I was dreaming," he explained, his lips vibrating where her shoulder met her neck. Inhaling the scent of her skin once more, Jasper raised his head so he could look at her. Bella's brown eyes were droopy with sleep, but soft in their tenderness as she continued to stroke his hair, and deep with her concern for his anxiety. He curled her body closer to his, hitching one leg up and around hers so that they were tangled together completely. "It wasn't bad," he assured her.
She pursed her lips and moved her hands to frame his face, looking him in the eye to gauge if he was being completely truthful. He looked back at her evenly, his hands skimming up and down her back until she spoke again. "It's early yet," she murmured, her voice scratchy. "Can you sleep?"
"Mmm," he assented, kissing the tip of her nose tenderly. "I think so."
She must have been tired because she took him for his word, almost immediately snuggling into his arms and drifting off again.
Jasper sighed softly to himself, watching Bella's face as she slept. She was a wonder. If it was only her he had in his life he would have been the luckiest man in the world - and she had given him a loving family and a beautiful, healthy son. It was more than many would ever have. It should be enough.
Bella sighed in her sleep, as if in frustration with him, and he had to smile. He carefully disentangled himself from his wife. Once she was free, Bella rolled away from him onto her belly so she could snuggle her pillow instead. He smiled affectionately, wishing he didn't feel the need to reconcile the two lives he'd lived. He rolled into a sitting position, his feet flat on the hardwood floor of their bedroom, tapping restlessly.
He wondered if it was harder to be on Bella's end of their unique existence. She still had her family, and Edward's. The drawback to this was that they often did not understand the wholly different person she had become in order to survive Edward's death at all. They understood that Jasper had brought the light back to her eyes, but they did not understand the more subtle things about her persona that had been buried with Edward, though she had been forced to remain behind in body. They did not understand when she didn't laugh at the jokes she would have laughed at before, or that she had lost her passion for music. She had told him once that she always felt just a tiny bit off - like a painting you tried to hang straight, but the more you stared at it, the more you realized it was skewed just that littlest amount - but it was that fraction of an inch that drove you mad and got under your skin.
On the other hand, Jasper had a clean slate, so to speak. There was no one left that had expectations of how he should act. After Alice had died, he'd pushed everyone away. Being sent to prison for murder had discouraged even the most persistent of his friends and his mother....
Jasper ran his hand over his face tiredly, trying hard not to think about it.
The monitor on the nightstand crackled emitting Masen's baby gibberish. Bella stirred and groaned, furrowing deeper into her pillows. Jasper couldn't help but chuckle. "I've got him," he murmured, caressing her hair gently. She made a contented noise and promptly fell asleep again. Jasper smiled down at her sleeping form, adoring and enamored.
Jasper stretched as he stood, feeling and hearing the bones of his arms and back crack satisfyingly. He strode out into the hallway toward his son's nursery, ruffling his hair sleepily as he walked.
Masen was standing in his crib, holding onto bars with both of his little fists. When he saw his father he started to chant, rocking back and forth on his feet. "Da-dee, da-dee, da-dee."
"Mas-en, Mas-en, Mas-en," Jasper chanted back. He swung his little boy up into his arms, pressing a kiss to his cheek. Masen completed the ritual, giving Jasper's cheek a wet kiss. Monkey see, monkey do, Jasper thought fondly. He laid the baby down on the changing table, expertly unsnapping snaps. "So, your first year on the planet, Little Man. What's the verdict?" he asked.
Masen just grinned and giggled at something or nothing. In between titters, he put his pudgy hands over his eyes, as if he were playing peek-a-boo with the dust mites. Tilting his head, Jasper smiled down at his son, thinking the things that parents are prone to thinking about his baby not being a baby anymore and how quickly time flew. He was standing and toddling a few steps at a time. He spoke in mostly baby babble, but the words were slipping out. Soon he would be capable of full fledged conversation.
Jasper's smile faltered.
He sighed quietly to himself as he picked Masen up off the changing table, holding him close. "Too soon we'll have too much to talk about, baby boy," Jasper whispered. Masen looked at him curiously but only laid his head against his father's chest, rubbing at his eyes sleepily. Jasper smiled again, a gentle smile, and went to sit in the rocking chair by the window. "Well, there's still a little time to sleep before we have to be at grandma's house."
He began rocking and Masen's eyes started to droop, leaving Jasper without the distraction of deciphering his words. He was brooding, he knew, about how "grandma's house" might only ever mean Esme Cullen's house. Bella's own mother was friendly but distant, and, of course, his mother....
Jasper hummed softly to his son to keep from growling in frustration.
As he rocked and sang, he turned Alice's words over in his head. Her advice - let it be - went against everything in his nature. "You'd make a good soldier, sugar," his mother had told him more than once in his childhood.
Jasper had never been a 'let it be' kind of person. He was more of a 'hold strategic meetings, plan carefully and execute his mission with perfect precision' type of person.
Calling it a draw, or worse, a failure, was adding insult to injury when it came to his mother.
It was a war that he had started, so he knew he couldn't complain.
He had started it right after Alice had died. He'd awoken in the hospital, covered in bandages and bruises, but none of them could cover the gaping wound where half of his soul had been forcibly torn out of his body. Maria Whitlock had been there, teary eyed and heartbroken over the loss of her daughter-in-law and the pain she could not spare her son. She'd tried to talk to him but he'd just stared at the ceiling.
For weeks, that was his standard response whenever anyone tried to talk to him - blank, vacant stares. Inside he was slowly dying. It was not even agony, it was like rotting. Whatever was inside of him was not being destroyed; it was being warped into something dark - curdled, ugly and black.
Then he'd driven the last nail into his previous life's coffin by putting two men in theirs.
Maria had not understood. She had raised him to turn the other cheek, be the bigger man - all of those things that it was nearly impossible to do when you had been forced to see the things that Jasper had seen. She tried, though. She tried to support him. She went to his trial.
When she learned of the things her precious boy had done - the way he had killed the men responsible for Alice's death, Maria had broken down in tears. Jasper hadn't ever seen his mother cry like that. She was a strong woman, raising him mostly by herself after his father died. If he'd had anything left of his heart it would have broken seeing her despair over what her child had turned into. Please. Jasper, explain this to me. Make this make sense, she had begged him, literally on her knees. I want to understand. Please, help me understand.
Jasper held his sleeping son close to him, taking what solace he could in Masen's reassuring weight in his arms and his tiny, warm breaths against his skin. His heart, restored back to a healthy pink state, was perfectly capable of the emotion he'd shut off then. Back then, as he was being led away, he'd merely looked at her with dead eyes. "There's nothing to understand." In his memory, his voice was lifeless - completely devoid of any emotion. "Forget I exist. Go back to Lucy and let her forget she had a brother. You're both better off without me." He had let the guards lead him away then, in handcuffs. He had not looked back. His mother's sobs had echoed behind him.
It wasn't until Bella had found him and they had started to heal the jagged pieces of their broken souls together, that Jasper had really felt the loss of his freedom. Before, prison had not been a pain or a trial. When your life has already been razed to ashes and cinder, high stone walls and iron bars were merely a formality. Bella had been like the buds of grass peaking their way out of the charred earth - green springing from black, life springing from death.
Prison became the source of his pain, rather than simply being the place where his body was kept.
As the light inside him relit, it brought back all the things that he had missed; all the things that mattered in life. Alice's loss had eclipsed everything. After Bella, he had started to miss his mother and his little sister Lucy, who had been five when Alice was murdered.
He had wanted to share his rebirth with someone who was there to witness his fiery death. He had received Charlie and the Cullen's words of thanks, and their assurance that he had brought Bella back to life. It had filled his chest with a sense of pride and purpose that had been missing from him for so long. He wanted the same for Bella.
And, of course, in every grown man there existed the little boys they had been. Little boys loved their mothers, and he was no different. He wanted his mother back.
After what he had said to her, he didn't know how to make it right. He'd often picked up the phone during the time he was allowed a phone call, only to set it back in its cradle or call Bella instead. He'd started so many letters only to crumple them between frustrated fingers.
Finding out about Masen had finally put an end to all of his excuses.
The day after he and Bella had found out that they were pregnant, Bella was out running errands and Jasper was home alone. He was grinning like an idiot, and he knew it, but he couldn't seem to stop.
But though the idea of the new life forming in his wife's belly made him joyous and proud, there was worry around the edges. Already, he wanted everything for his baby. He would do anything for the boy or girl that he would hold in his arms in just a few months time.
That included overcoming his fear at his mother's rejection.
Wielding the ultrasound photo they had obtained the day previous like a talisman for good luck, Jasper had dialed.
He hadn't realized exactly how much he missed his mother until she answered the phone. It hit him so powerfully that he couldn't speak for a moment - his heart jammed up in his throat, constricting his airways and making it difficult to breathe.
"Hello?" she asked again, sounding annoyed.
Not wanting her to hang up, he had said, "Momma," in an oddly strangled tone.
Now the pause was on the other end of the phone. "Jasper?" Her voice sounded curious, and Jasper momentarily felt hopeful.
His heart started to pound erratically. "Uh. Yea. It's me."
Another pause. Then, "What do you want?"
The coldness of her tone was like a knife twisting his chest into knots the way you might twirl pasta around a fork. "I...uh. I," he stuttered. "I'm out."
"Of prison," he mumbled.
There was another awkward pause. "Why are you calling me?"
Dread had become his primary emotion, his insides twisting painfully with her words and the coldness of her tone. "There's a lot...to talk about," he tried to find the right words, but she cut him off.
"Why would I be interested in a criminal's life?" she had asked, her tone finally betraying some emotion - anger.
He closed his eyes, sounding lost when he spoke the next words. "Mom...I'm your son."
"No. My son is dead," she said harshly. "My son would not have done the things you did. My son would not have told me to forget about him. I've done my best to forget that you exist, just like you asked."
Then there was a click and the silence that reigned the house was deafening.
He had tried again a few weeks later, after finding out they were having a boy. This time, his stepfather had answered. When he had asked for his mother, he was summarily denied.
"Don't you call here again. You stay away from my family," the man he'd lived with for a year before going off to college said.
"Wait!" Jasper pleaded. "I just want her to know. She's going to be a grandmother. Will you please tell her that?"
There was a brief pause on the other end. "Monsters shouldn't be allowed to procreate," his stepfather said before he, too, hung up on Jasper.
It was the third time that Jasper called that Bella caught him.
"You were told not to call here," his mother said when she picked up the phone.
"Did he tell you what I asked him to? Did he tell you about my son?" Jasper said quickly, expecting that she would hang up again.
There was a slight pause.
"Look," he rushed on, "I just thought that...maybe you'd want to know about your grandson, and my wife."
She'd laughed a hard, bitter laugh. "I don't want to know about the kind of trash who would marry a convict."
His anger got the better of him then. He deserved his mother's coldness. Bella did not. "Don't talk about her like that. You have no idea -,"
"And I don't want to know." There was another click, and Jasper stopped himself from hurling the phone across the room. When he turned around, Bella was standing there.
She had heard his stilted half of the conversation and had put two and two together that Mama Whitlock was angry at her son. She confronted him and he confessed, telling her of the last three conversations he'd had with his mother. Bella surprised him by being livid. She demanded to speak to her mother-in-law. Even at eight months hugely pregnant, the fire in her eyes and the cross of her arms made her look intimidating. He loved the way she wanted to protect him, but the consequences of his own mistakes were not something she could shield him from.
"Darlin', this is one battle you have to let me fight on my own."
"She's your mother, Jasper. She's supposed to love without conditions. I hate that she's making you feel this way when you didn't do anything wrong."
Jasper had raised his eyes to meet his wife's, reading the absolute conviction in her words. He would have liked to believe the words she spoke were true. He would have liked to have let the way she looked on him absolve him of his guilt. He sighed, placing both of his hands on her distended belly. Impending fatherhood did many things, not the least of which was that it made a man question what his own actions and hypocrisies and the message they might send to the impressionable mind that they now had a responsibility to mold. She had placed her hands over his, giving him the courage to put words to his thoughts. "Bella, what I did was wrong and we both know it. One day I'm going to have to tell Masen what types of atrocities his father is capable of. There's no part of me that's looking forward to that day. I feel like I've already failed as a father, having to teach my son how to be civilized when I was not. My mother raised me better than that, so I understand why she's doing what she's doing. It's my fault and my fault alone. When it comes time for me to talk to Masen... Jesus, Bella I can't imagine how I'm going to get through that without you. But right now, my mother and her disappointment in me is only my responsibility."
A hand on his arm brought Jasper back to the present. He had fallen asleep in the rocking chair, his son held tightly against his chest. He opened his eyes to find Bella standing over him, a gentle smile playing at her lips as she watched her sleeping boys. "Hey. I hated to wake you, but it's time to get ready," she said quietly.
He stood carefully, kissing the top of Masen's curly, deep brown hair before handing the sleeping baby over into the safety of Bella's arms. A silent look passed between them over their son's head. She could tell that something was wrong, despite his reassurances earlier. He leaned in and kissed her - a silent reminder that she was all he really needed and a promise that he would tell her later wrapped up in one gesture. Then he had left Masen's nursery, heading for the shower.
A couple of hours later they were at the Cullen's beautiful home, surrounded by friends and family.
It was always amazing, to Jasper, how very alive Edward's presence was - particularly in this house.
"Whoa, there, munchkin!" Emmett had grabbed his daughter, Tatania, just as she was about to climb on the baby grand piano that sat in the Cullen's living room. "That was your Uncle Edward's piano and I'm pretty sure he'd be very grumpy if he knew you were using it as a jungle gym."
"Play it, Daddy!" she gleefully requested.
"I really don't know how to play, Baby Bear," he said, grinning at his daughter. Then he looked thoughtful and sat down on the bench uncertainly, almost as if he expected Edward to come around the corner and shoo him away at any second. "Well, Uncle Edward did teach me one thing."
He played Chopsticks for his daughter as the rest of the gathered guests looked on. Masen, in Carlisle's arms, pointed at the piano, a serious look on his face and his adopted grandfather brought him closer to the instrument indulgently. The smiles on everyone's face as Masen sat on Emmett's lap and plucked at the keys curiously were enormous - and a little teary, on Esme's part especially.
There was a quiet ache in Jasper's heart that cried out for a similar haven filled and alive with Alice's memory, but he had none. He didn't know if it was selfish to want his son to know more about the woman that had been his entire life, but it didn't change the fact that he wanted it.
He tried to keep the grimace off his face as his mind automatically strayed to his mother. His analytical brain leapt into old habits, turning over her words and their stinted conversations, trying to figure out a different way to come at this particular problem and overcome this obstacle.
Though he tried to push these thoughts away and reconcile himself with the fact that he did not have the power to change his mother's mind, Jasper could not seem to let them go. What was worse was that he kept everything from Bella - his dream, his worry about Alice's fading presence in their lives, and his hurt pride at the thought of forfeiting the battle.
The thoughts continued to plague him for over a week. He knew that Bella knew something was wrong. She would give him long looks when he got distracted and he could see the worry written on her face. However, she knew him well enough to know that he would come to her when he was ready.
He was, as usual, wrapped up in his thoughts when he returned home from work one day. It took him unforgivably long to notice that the house was quieter than it should have been. Typically, he would hear the sounds of Masen playing or Bella as she moved about - on the phone talking to one of the countless charities she was involved in or playing with Masen or generally being busy. The sounds of silence made him uneasy. Unbidden, his mind conjured a variety of nightmares that might have befallen his family. Images flashed through his head of Bella and the baby – hurt, or kidnapped or…
He shook his head, trying to dispel the image and the resulting panic it caused. He was always nervous when he couldn't see or hear Bella and Masen. Logically, he knew they were fine.
He did allow himself to move faster, practically jogging through the house. He found the master bedroom empty. Then Masen's room empty. His heart started to pound faster. He passed the living room.
It was there that he found his family. Bella was lying on the couch, sound asleep. One arm drooped to the floor but her other hand was firm on Masen's back as he clung to her chest. He was also asleep.
He leaned against the wall, relieved. As he watched them sleep, he let the love he had for them both consume him and warm him, chasing away all the remaining paranoia that his unconscious mind had drudged up. The tenderness he felt for them both was deep. It made his heart full to the point of aching. Quiet moments like these, Jasper felt like he could weep with the power of what his life had become.
He remembered the darkest moment of his life with vivid clarity. After hearing the screams and the pleas of two of the men who had taken Alice's life – he had just taken theirs. Looking down at their broken bodies, he had waited to feel some kind of justice, some measure of relief. Instead he remembered how they had looked in the darkness of the ally; all smirks and sneers as he stood between them and Alice. The flame of anger and hurt and loss burned just as brightly. It had not dulled at all.
With no outlet left, Jasper collapsed to his knees with a grief so painful he felt burned from the inside; every cell in his body screaming out his agony. He writhed upright with a fury so powerful he felt the brink of sanity clearly. He waited to go out of his mind, but he remained. It felt impossible but his brain did not snap. He wanted to sob into his hands but as he brought them up all he could see was the blood. He was filthy with it – covered. Impure.
His mind cried out for peace; he felt crazed and desperate for it. He had lived with the pain of being without Alice for too long as it was. His hands searched blindly for the gun he had brought. He had not granted Alice's murderers the mercy of a quick death, but he had believed in being prepared. His shaking hands found the gun. He pressed it to his temple.
It was true – what they said about your life flashing before your eyes right before you died. He saw Alice. Alice smiling at him. Alice's sparkling eyes. Alice laughing. Alice.
He dropped the gun. He was already a murderer. He would not disappoint Alice further. He would not take his own life.
Jasper came back to the present with a shake of his head. He felt a presence in the room – familiar and comforting. Alice. "Thank you," he whispered, knowing she had saved him then even as he had been unable to save her. He had come so close to ending his life that day – what he would have missed. A profound feeling of gratefulness spread over him, and he understood why people believed in God. This world was too small to contain the feeling of thanks that came over him – and the love he had for his family.
He walked the few steps to his sleeping family and carefully moved Bella's arm off of Masen. Thankfully, she did not stir. He lifted his sleeping son to his shoulder, rubbing his back to soothe him back into sound sleep. Masen's slight weight was an incredible comfort, and as he walked to the nursery, Jasper pressed a kiss against his son's soft forehead. He laid him down on his back in his crib, rubbing his belly in circles when Masen almost woke.
When he was sure that Masen would stay asleep, Jasper went back to the living room. He gathered Bella up in his arms and carried her to their bedroom. She didn't wake fully, but as he lay down beside her she shifted, nestling against him. He stroked her cheek, watching her as she slept.
After a moment, he decided to see how much of her he could kiss before she woke. He pulled the hand closest to him to his lips, kissing each one of her soft fingers. He remembered the first time she had touched him…her soft fingers over his rough hands. He kissed her palm.
When his lips got to her wrist he paused, fingering the silver bracelet he'd gotten her for Christmas. He fingered each of the links that held a birthstone. His, hers, Edward's, Masen's, and….
There was a fifth stone, a fifth link. He turned the link over so he could see the stone.
It was a garnet. January. It was Alice's birthstone.
"She's part of us."
Jasper looked up to find Bella was awake and staring at him.
She was a vision. Her eyes were hooded with sleep and painfully deep with a tenderness for him. Her hair was wild, wisps of it falling across her face while more of it stuck to the pillow behind her, reminding him of the weeping willow trees of Texas with their natural beauty. Her lips, full and the perfect shade of red, quirked into a smile, enticing him.
His lips claimed hers softly at first as he leaned over her. His hand remained wrapped around her wrist, his fingers playing over the links on the bracelet.
He wondered if she had any idea what this meant to him.
The emotion that came over him then was fathomless. He could have wept at the beauty of the sentiment, because this was exactly what he'd needed. He needed a physical representation of Alice and her place in their life and Bella had given that to him in one gesture. He felt like he could compose songs, poetry; write entire novels of this emotion he felt at how lucky he was and how much he loved this woman.
Instead, he let the emotion run through him in the form of passion. It rolled through him like a white heat, all blinding brightness and aching skin. He wanted to consume her; pull her against him, into his bloodstream so they could be one person. He wanted to be inside her and wrapped around her.
Jasper's need drove his body as his kisses became rougher; more dominating. He shifted until he was on top of her, his body against hers, pressing her into the soft mattress and pillows as his lips ravaged hers. She moaned against his mouth, her free hand tangling in his hair.
He pulled back suddenly, kneeling between her legs. Bella let out a small mewl of protest and he grinned at her, eyes intense with his need. With his hands on either side of her, Jasper pulled Bella toward him, tugging her legs around his waist, her hot, over-clothed center against his similarly too-covered belly. His hands went under her shirt and pushed her bra out of the way of his questing fingers. She gasped as his hands cupped her breasts, her own hands resting lightly on his arms as he moved over her.
More, his body cried, and his hands obeyed. He removed his hands from under her shirt, intending to unbutton but becoming impatient and ripping the cloth keeping his eyes from her beautiful body. "Jasper!" she cried, her voice surprised and breathy.
He leaned down to claim her lips. "I'm sorry, darlin'. I got impatient," he apologized, not sorry at all.
Bella gave a short laugh and bit down slightly on his lower lip. "I didn't tell you to stop," she pointed out, one eyebrow arched when he raised his eyes to look at her.
He laughed, low and husky as he wrapped her in his arms. He adored this woman with a strength that frightened him at times. He lifted her as he sat back on his haunches, so she was wrapped around him and he was holding her up with his arms around her back. He buried his face at her neck, scraping the skin lightly with his teeth. He had decided that if he could not consume her whole, he would have her piece by delicious piece. With that in mind, he began to lick and bite his way down to the Promised Land of her perfect breasts.
As his lips, tongues and teeth worked over her, Bella arched helpfully against him, her head thrown back as she sighed and gasped. Her hands clung to his back, fingers digging into muscular flesh so hard that he was almost glad that her fingernails were worn down to the nub - nail biting being a nervous tick of hers.
When her nipples had been thoroughly licked and teased into painfully stiff peaks, her hands went to his chest, urgently working the buttons of his shirt. He had built the tension and pressure that ran like an electric current from her breasts straight down her center, ending with a pulse that beat rhythmically at her clit. With their bodies mashed so tightly together, she couldn't reach all of his shirt. When she ran out of buttons she brought her hands to his chin, urging his face up until he released the nipple he was suckling with an audible pop. "Want you," she breathed because he had robbed her of the ability to speak in full sentences. "Need you. Now."
Jasper growled, the sound as animalistic as he felt at that moment - his need for her primal. He loosened his hold on her so she fell back on the bed. "Yes, ma'am," he murmured, his voice sounding raw and in tune with his visceral actions.
He undid the remaining buttons of his shirt, tossing it to the side, his eyes not leaving hers. Her eyes were on him, drinking in his features with one look in the same way his tongue and mouth had partaken in hers just a few minutes previous. He unbuttoned his jeans, removing them and his underwear in the space of seconds, while Bella's hands worked her own clothes all the way off.
When they were both nude, the tension in the room seemed to shift. Primal and animalistic became sultry and intentional. The emotion between them was palpable, almost visual, like heat curling off the asphalt on a blistering day in Phoenix - hot enough to fry eggs on their flushed skin.
When he leaned over her again his lips were demanding - moving in tune with the soundless music that played between them. He claimed what he wanted even as he gave her lips what they sought. Bella's hand moved down his chest, tracing lines that sent delicious chills through his body, until her hands enveloped his length. She scooted down, not breaking their kiss, so that he was towering over her as her hands pumped him, urging him closer to her heat as her legs spread for him.
He was inside of her in the next second, working his way deep with fast, hard thrusts. She shifted her hips into his, in time with the tempo he set.
Their kiss broke minutes later, both their lips sore from their rough, overly zealous mouths. Jasper leaned back slightly so he could look in her eyes, and the emotions he saw on her face took his breath away.
With their eyes connected as they moved together, the intensity did not lessen. It did, however, take on a sweet edge. It was like the smell that washed over you when you stood on a beach and let the mist of the ocean's waves hit your face. It was the warmth of a perfect summer day, lying in the grass as the sun enveloped you with just the right amount of heat. It was the exhilaration of momentum and building speed when you raced down a steep hill on your bike the first time. It was the sound of his son's giggle or the weight of his tiny arms wrapped around his neck. It was Bella's voice in his ear and her presence at his side and in his life.
It was everything right in the world.
Her walls started to clench around him even as his cock began to pulse. He thrust into her tight warmth as she came, a long moan of pleasure emanating from the back of her throat. "Bella, oh Jesus," he panted, his own orgasm hitting him hard as he came inside of her.
Spent, he collapsed against her. He pressed tiny kisses against the side of her face as he shifted off of her and onto his side. Bella rolled onto her side with him, not wanting any distance between them anymore than he did. She returned his gentle kisses, moving her lips over the scruff on his chin.
Jasper enmeshed their fingers, bringing her hand up between them so he could see the bracelet again. He kissed her fingers and then the cool metal. "Thank you," he intimated, his eyes locked with hers.
She squeezed his fingers. "There's nothing to thank me for," she whispered back.
He chuffed a small laugh. "Bella, I have more to be thankful for than I could ever possibly express in one lifetime." He brushed her cheek tenderly with the pads of his fingers. "I think I lost sight of that, for a little while."
With her wrapped in his arms, anchoring him to this life and what he really needed from it, Jasper finally found the words to tell her about his struggles. She listened quietly, her little hands comforting him and giving him strength.
"I think it's a good idea," Bella said when he was done with his tale.
Jasper sighed. "I know."
"Jasper," she said softly, her hands framing his face. "You have paid enough for your actions - and you know as well as I do that there will be consequences in the future that we'll face together. It's time to let that part of your life go. I don't think you can do that as long as you continue to subject yourself to your mother's accusations."
She kissed him softly, reassuring him of her love as she continued. "I know it's not the same - but you know Alice will always be a part of our life. Whatever you need. Hell, if you want us to go to Paris and take in a fashion show, we'll do it." She smiled at him and he laughed quietly, as was her intention. "You've done enough. Leave the door open and let her come to you."
Masen's cries on the baby monitor interrupted them then and they both rose, tossing on clothes as they went.
Later that night, Jasper composed a letter to his mother. He told her everything he needed to - about how he thought his life was over after Alice had died. About the things he'd watched the five men do to Alice, and the unfathomable rage that had instilled a primal need in him to make them suffer even a fraction of what she had that night. He wrote about the emptiness afterward - the void that was worse than dying because there was no logical end to it. He wrote of how he'd had to feel nothing to keep from going out of his mind, and how sorry he was that he'd hurt her when he did it.
Putting it all down in words was hard, but Bella, as she had promised, was there by his side. When the words became almost impossible to commit to paper, she'd pulled him to her, holding him until the pain subsided and he could write again.
When he got to that part of his letter - about Bella and about learning to live again; about his son and how eternally grateful he was to get the chance to be a husband and a father; about the Cullen's and their acceptance of him as family - his smile was genuine.
He let her know that he was happy, hoping that the part of her that was always going to be his mother would find solace in that. He let her know that, though he was going to be silent, he was always here - a presence half a continent away with his door always open if she ever wanted to reconnect.
He added a family picture they'd taken recently and sealed the letter with a sad sense of closure. No, he may not have gotten the outcome he wanted, but it was far from a failure. He'd had the remarkable fortune to be loved by two incredible women. Alice was a part of him and always would be - and that was all the physical reminder of her influence that he needed.
Three Months Later
Masen giggled as Jasper launched him into the air and caught him again. "More! More, more, more," he cried out, his little fists pounding on his father's shoulder in excitement.
"Oh, god," Bella said, putting her hands over her eyes as Jasper launched their son higher into the air. "Do you have to throw him so high?!" she asked, only half joking.
"No! Up!" Masen protested as Jasper set him down on the blanket at his feet.
"Sorry, buddy," Jasper told his son. "It's Momma's turn."
"What?" Bella's eyes went wide, but before she could process his words, Jasper had thrown her over his shoulder. "Jasper! What are you doing!? Put me down!"
"What do you think, Mace? You think Momma makes a good helicopter?" Jasper asked his son, ignoring his wife's squirming protests.
"'Copter! Mama, 'copter," Masen agreed. He giggled, watching his mother scream as his father twirled them both around in crazy circles. "Mama, mama," he babbled between giggles.
"Momma," Jasper breathed, coming to a sudden stop. He set Bella down carefully, his eyes frozen on something by the street.
Bella followed his gaze, seeing he was locked in a stare with a woman. She was blond and petite, and eighteen years older than Jasper. Bella knew this because she took one look at the woman's eyes and facial features and knew she was Maria Whitlock – Jasper's mother.
A small weight knocked lightly against the backs of her legs and Bella looked down to see Masen had wrapped his arms around her. Of course, he was a little shy around strangers. He was looking at this woman he had never seen with pensive curiosity, two fingers in his mouth. Bella leaned down, gathering her son into her arms protectively. She gave Maria a hard look, not quite able to conceal her anger at the anguish this woman had put Jasper through in the last two years. Then she wrapped one arm around Jasper's waist, giving him a supportive squeeze. "We'll be inside when you're ready," she said into his ear.
He finally tore his gaze away from his mother long enough to give Bella a quick kiss. "Thank you," he murmured, promising her with his eyes that he was okay. Bella released him and walked into the house, Masen quiet as he looked over her shoulder at his father and the strange woman.
Jasper turned back to see that Maria's eyes were locked on his son's tiny form. When the door closed behind Bella, Maria took a sharp breath, as if she'd been holding it all that time. One tear, then another fell down her cheek and she wiped them away, keeping her hands on her cheeks as she turned to Jasper, though she didn't look at him. "He looks like you. I saw the picture, but...." She trailed off, momentarily unable to speak. She shook her head in her hands and Jasper wanted so badly to go to her, but he was frozen.
Maria seemed to realize that he wasn't going to speak first. With shaking hands she reached into the purse she held and took out an envelope. She sniffled and looked up at Jasper, finally meeting his eyes. "I had built up in my mind what I thought you looked like now. I pictured you with that look on your face... short hair...tattoos...not my baby boy," she said, her words cutting off into a strangled whisper at the end.
Jasper sucked in a breath, his tense body unfreezing as she spoke. Wordlessly, he rolled up the sleeves of his shirt. "I have tattoos," he said stiffly, holding his arms out.
Maria nodded, slowly, her eyes not leaving his - not because she didn't want to look, but because all the blankness, the lifelessness that had frightened her before was missing. In its place was the boy, the man she knew as her son. He was obviously wary, and obviously hurt and uncertain, but he was most certainly the son she thought she had lost forever.
Her mouth started babbling, speaking before she could let the overwhelming emotions overtake her completely. "Your wife - she's nothing like I had imagined either. I don't know what I was expecting. Cracked-out, white trash maybe." She saw Jasper's fists clench and his eyes narrow and she held her hands out, pleadingly. "She's lovely." Her eyes flitted toward the closed door nervously.
Jasper took a deep breath. His emotions were all over the map and he didn't really trust himself to speak. However, his mother had obviously made a huge step. She'd come halfway across the country to see him. Surely, she hadn't done that just to reject him in person. He took a step toward her. "She saved me."
Maria inhaled a shaky breath, hope springing into her eyes. "I wanted to save you," she whispered. "I would have done anything to help you."
"There wasn't anything you could have done," Jasper said quietly, taking another step forward.
Another shaky breath. "I think I knew that. Maybe I should have tried...but you have to understand," she said, her voice fierce and eyes pleading with him. "You were here, and Lucy needed me. You wouldn't even look at me, much less talk to me." Her voice cracked and she was crying again.
The last bit of fear and trepidation crumbled, mere specks of dirt in the face of the mountain that was his love and his longing for his mother. He took the remaining steps toward her and pulled her into his embrace. Her hands went to his chest, gripping his shirt in her fists. He could feel her shaking against him with the strength of her sobs. "My boy. I'm so sorry. I just...I thought I had lost you forever, and when I heard your voice that first time.... I couldn't live through losing you again, Jasper. I just couldn't."
"I know," Jasper assured her, his voice hoarse with emotion.
They stood together for a long time, squeezing each other. A mother and son mending frayed, but never broken, bonds without words. They had both made the mistakes, but they were mistakes borne of them both doing what they could with what little they had after their lives had shattered so completely.
When their tears were spent, they stepped away from each other, but only enough so they could walk without tangling limbs. "Come on, Momma," Jasper said, tugging her arm. "I want you to meet my family."
The smile that spread over Maria's face then was wide and full of teeth - an exact mirror image of her son's.
Jasper led his mother into his home. As she always was, Bella was waiting for him - their son in her arms. Jasper wrapped one arm around her waist, pulling her to his side while the other arm wrapped around his mother, pulling her close as well. Maria lifted her hand to touch her grandson's cheek, tentatively, and Masen did not shy away from her, though he looked at her curiously.
Holding his past, his present and his future in his arms, Jasper wondered vaguely if any man had been as lucky as he was. It was true that he knew the pain of losing everything, but he also knew the glory of finding it all again.
A/N: Wow so… wow. It's done. For real this time. I think. I guess I shouldn't promise that because I promised that last time and, five more o/S's later, here we are again.
A couple of things before I officially press complete on this journey.
Alice's Jasper, Edward's Bella and my other fic, We Don't Break, We Bend, were nominated/validated for Indie Awards. All my love to Bmango who I know nominated this fic. I can't tell you, though, I've tried, what that means to me. If you haven't checked out the amazing fics that don't get enough attention, you should seriously check them out.
For those of you who liked my Jasper/Bella interaction I am starting another fic soon called Love Will Lead Us that will have a lot of Jasper/Bella in it…however, I'm going to warn you now that I'm NOT killing off Edward or Alice again and I am a canon only kind of girl, so take that as you will. I'm really excited about the story and intend to start it as soon as I finish We Don't Break, We Bend – which only has 3 chapters left to go.
That being said, thank you to all of you who have taken this journey with me. It's been an amazing experience. All of your words of encouragement – and the fact that this fic has been rec'ed and talked about…I just… blargh. I get all tongue tied when I think about it.
To my girls.
CellaCullen who "forced" me to write/post this in the first place and continues to encourage all of my depravity and fill my days (and VERY early mornings) with too many plot bunnies and even more laughs.
Dizzygrl28 who is ever so patient with my insanity and whose love and support buoy me on a daily basis.
JadedandBoring whose words and notes guided me and whose encouragement reminded me why this story was so worth telling, even though it is SO far out of my comfort zone. She was one of two people to catch that Jasper's gift to Bella, the bracelet, was missing Alice's birthstone.
Seriously, without those three, this story would not exist. Much love, always.
EDIT: Omg I can't believe I forgot this. Shug, the amazing, talented beast, has made a banner for AJ, EB. It's in my profile and it's fucking gorgeous. Check it out!
Fuck, did I just write a page long author's note??! ::shakes head at self:: I promised myself that I wasn't gonna get all emo.
Again, your words mean the world to me so let me know what you're thinking. Please.