Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended.

Rated M for language, sexuality, graphic violence.

"to be a discoverer you hold close whatever
you find, and after a while you decide
what it is. Then, secure in where you have been,
you turn to the open sea and let go."

- William Stafford, "Security," l. 12-15


Chapter 21 – Turn to the Open Sea

JPOV

I watched his reaction carefully as I stood in the hot Mexican sun, its rays revealing my inhuman nature. I felt stripped, laid bare.

"Jasper, what are you?" Edward asked in an awed voice.

My heart was in my throat. This was the moment. After he heard my answer, I could lose him forever. I was terrified to speak, knowing this could be the end. Hesitantly, I reached out to sense what he was feeling, afraid that I would find terror and disgust.

Instead I felt wonder, curiosity.

I had vowed I wouldn't hide anything from him ever again, so I steeled myself and gave him the simplest answer I was able: "I'm a vampire."

He gave a small start. "A vampire? But you're standing in direct sunlight." I saw him give a little shake of his head, surprised by his immediate reaction, as if he should perhaps be focusing on something other than the observation he made.

"Many of the tales you may have heard have no basis in truth. We avoid sunlight because of this," I said, raising my arm to show the effect of the sun, a myriad of rainbows reflecting off my skin with each small movement.

He stepped closer, looking at me curiously. He reached for me, his expression permission seeking. I felt some of my inner terror begin to fade, and I nodded, holding out my hand for his scrutiny.

He turned it this way and that, watching the colorful prisms dance in the bright sunlight, bringing it closer to his face to inspect intently, rubbing his fingers over my hand and stroking it with various amounts of pressure, learning the characteristics of my skin he had never noticed before. I felt an uncomfortable twisting in my stomach as he examined me, poking and prodding, almost as if I were an odd specimen in some curio shop. My otherness was fully apparent and I strove to resist my creeping dismay. I had longed to be touched by him, yet the manner in which he was touching me left me feeling bereft, as if I were an alien creature, a specimen to be studied and analyzed, an unknown thing. I suppose that's exactly what I was. At the same time I burned from his touch, his busy agile fingers setting my icy skin on fire. I felt my hand begin to tremble. The gulf between us seemed insurmountable and hopelessness threatened to overwhelm me.

I almost didn't notice the stilling of his movements I was so focused on holding back my despair. I looked up and my eyes met his. "You're beautiful," he whispered reverently, as he gently squeezed my hand.

Slowly, I pulled my hand away from his, retrieving it from his grasp. My eyes never left his as I tried to express my gratitude through my gaze. Even through his grief, his anger at me, the shocking revelation I had just made, he somehow sensed what I needed and freely gave it to me.

I took a moment to try and calm myself. His initial reaction was more than I could have hoped for, but we had a long road ahead of us still.

"You have questions, I'm sure."

He barked out a laugh. "I'd say that's an understatement."

"What would you like to know?"

"I don't even know what to ask," he responded with bewilderment. "What should I know? Are Alice, and Esme…?"

"Yes. And Carlisle. And Rosalie and Emmett too."

He nodded as if he expected that answer.

I was quiet, waiting for him to process what he had learned so far. His next question was not one I expected at all and my heart clenched at the pain in his eyes.

"Why did you leave?" It was almost a whisper.

I shut my eyes, for a moment, under the onslaught of his hurt. It was so raw.

My beautiful boy.

"Come walk with me," I said quietly. He nodded and we started down the beach, the sound of the waves our footsteps' accompaniment.

"I was twenty when I was turned," I began, "a Major in the Confederate Army."

He didn't speak, but I heard the sharp intake of his breath and the quickened beat of his heart.

I continued my story, telling him of night I encountered Maria on the road outside of Galveston. I told him of my fiery conversion, my introduction to my new existence, the soldier I had drank from that first terrible night. I hid nothing about the monster I had become.

Edward's steps were faltering and I realized he was tiring rapidly.

"Let's sit for a bit before we head back to the house," I suggested. "You shouldn't push yourself so soon. You're still recovering."

"Okay," he agreed as he walked to the edge of the sea and sat, burying his toes in the wet sand.

I sat down next to him, staring out at the ocean, musing on its vastness as it disappeared beyond the line of the horizon. I was reminded of Denali and her imposing mass, the water sharing a kinship with the mountain that had helped me begin to understand my place in the world.

We didn't speak as we sat in the sand, both of us locked in our own thoughts. Mine were dominated by him, of course; I wondered how he would ultimately take my revelations. Would he give me a chance or would everything be too much for him? Would he deem me too foreign, too alien to contemplate a future together? Could he possibly forgive me?

After a while I asked, "Should I continue?"

"Not now." Then, after a pause, "I'm tired. I think I need to go lie down for a while."

I nodded, standing, wanting to help him to his feet, but afraid he wouldn't welcome my touch.

We started walking back to the resort, side by side. I reveled in his company, in the sound of his heart, its cadence vibrating through my body, his scent filling my lungs and easing the ache of my empty spaces. I had feared I would never experience such wonders again. The heat from his body warmed me even more than the bright relentless sun and I was jolted by that familiar lightning fire when I felt his fingers tangling with mine as he pulled my hand into his own. My heart gave a leap of joy, of hope. Even if he were not able to accept what he had now learned, at least I had this moment, right here and now, my hand clasped in his, his scent deep within me, his heartbeat in my ears, his fragile beauty gracing my eyes.

When we reached the building, he let go of my hand. I felt immediately anxious, realizing just how much that physical connection had calmed and reassured me.

"We'll talk more later, okay?"

I nodded. "Do you need someone to stay with you?" I asked, remembering how he had not wanted to be alone since he had learned of his parents' deaths.

He swallowed and looked away, avoiding my eyes. "No, I think… I think I want to be by myself for a bit."

I nodded again in acknowledgment, not trusting myself to speak. I wondered if I should offer to see if Marta would come stay at the resort, or if Carlisle thought it was wise to have Ava and John return. What if he were no longer comfortable staying here with us now that he knew our true nature?

"I'm fine, Jasper," he said, still looking down.

"All right," I managed say, my throat tight. "Get some rest."

I watched helplessly as he retreated to his room.

Alice came up beside me and wrapped her arms around my waist. I pulled her close to my side and leaned down to kiss the top of her head. I desperately wanted to ask her what she saw for us, even as I knew the future was for Edward and me to determine for ourselves.

It was early evening before I resumed my story for Edward. He had stayed in his room all day, only speaking to Esme when she brought him something to eat. Once the temperature cooled off, we sat out on the covered porch while he ate his dinner.

"Do you have any questions for me?" I asked, not sure where to start.

"Only about a million," he replied, rolling his eyes and giving a little laugh.

"What can I answer for you?"

"Nothing right now. Why don't you continue where you left off earlier and I'll stop you if I need to."

"All right," I agreed, before taking a deep breath. I dreaded telling him about this part of my past, but he needed to know everything if we were to have a chance together in the future.

I described my days in Maria's army, the endless fighting over territory and feeding grounds. He learned of my gift, the way I could manipulate the emotions of those around me and how I had controlled our soldiers with my talent. I tried to explain my complex relationship with Maria, how I had almost worshipped her, but then grew to hate her, especially after what happened with Peter.

I watched Edward closely as I relayed the horrific realities of that time—the despair and the hopelessness, the emotions I experienced each time I drained another victim. I tried to convey the overwhelming power of bloodlust, the difficulties I had in turning newborns, how they more often died than not when I was unable to stop feeding in time. He learned of my many carnal pursuits and the relief I'd temporarily gain through sexual release.

"I think that's enough for tonight," Edward cut in abruptly.

I reached out once again, trying to gauge his reactions and was hit with a surge of jealousy and insecurity among his other many tumultuous emotions.

"Edward," I attempted to reassure him.

He cut me off again. "No more tonight, Jasper. Please. Just… not right now."

"I'm sorry," I said as I leaned back, giving him some physical distance.

Edward pushed back his chair and stood up. "I'm going to head to bed. I'm tired."

I wanted to reach for him, but I knew that would be a mistake right now. "Good night, Edward."

He shifted uncomfortably for a moment then said, "Good night," as he turned to leave the room.

Edward joined me again at breakfast. We sat quietly together while he ate his meal and we both sipped on our coffee. I still clung to the habit, even as he sat within reach of my fingers. His discomfort was apparent without the use of my gift. He avoided my eyes and cleared his throat several times as if he wanted to speak, but kept deciding against it.

"You can ask me anything, you know," I told him gently. "I meant it when I said I wouldn't hide anything from you again."

He finally looked at me then, his face troubled.

"Did you…" he said before he paused. He cleared his throat before starting again. "Did you ever use your gift on me? To make me feel things? About you?"

I straightened in shock. "What? No! I would never do that," I exclaimed, horrified that he'd think I'd be capable of manipulating him in such a way. Ice had formed in my stomach. He must really see me as a monster. "I've only ever used it to take away your pain. In the hospital… in Port Angeles. And here, when you were feverish, and after, when you were so sad. I only wanted to ease your suffering. I couldn't stand to see you hurting." I looked at him beseechingly. "Please believe me."

His eyes searched my face, trying to determine the truthfulness of my words. I could hardly blame him for his distrust; I had been dishonest with him from the start.

He looked away from me and was silent as he stared out toward the water. I waited nervously. What was he thinking? I was tempted to reach out again to judge his emotions, but after his question even that seemed like a violation. When I was about to beg him to talk to me, he quietly said, "Good."

I heaved a sigh of relief.

He turned to me and the tears in his eyes sent a pang through me. "I didn't want it to have not been real," he said.

"It is real," I vowed earnestly as I gave in to the impulse to gauge his emotions. There was the relief I had already noted, that undercurrent of anger and grief, and a longing that was so familiar to me. "Edward…" he gave a sharp shake of his head and I stopped speaking. He turned his face to the ocean again and I watched as he reached up to wipe his face with the back of his hand. The enormity of my challenge discouraged me.

We sat in silence while I contemplated what to say next. I needed to get through my recitation of my past. I needed to let him know how everything had changed after I met him. He had to listen to me. If he heard everything, surely he would see how much I loved him. I had to make him understand.

While his attention was still directed at the ocean I started talking again, quietly telling him about my hollow numbness after Peter and Charlotte had gone, my empty existence. I told him how Peter returned for me, my growing depression, that dark day by the river when two boys became the casualties of my unbearable hunger. I couldn't look at his face as I recounted these events, afraid of the revulsion I might find.

I told him about finding Alice, or rather Alice finding me. How she pulled me from my black existence and gave me hope. How she became my family and taught me a new way to sustain myself. As I spoke, Alice came out and leaned over my chair, wrapping her arms around my neck and kissing me on the cheek. I reached up to hold her arms, squeezing them and whispering a "thank you" to her. I owed her everything.

Edward watched our interaction with a thoughtful expression and again I wondered what was going through his mind.

Alice smiled at him and asked, "Are you up for a short walk with me?"

"Sure," Edward responded, standing to join her. My eyes followed them both as they made their way down the beach. I suspected Alice was planning to tell Edward about our early days together, but in addition to that, they had their own relationship to negotiate.

I went inside to look for Carlisle. I knew he couldn't really help me with this, but his presence was comforting. I found him discussing travel arrangements with Esme. He was heading back to Washington to return the hospital. Esme was staying behind to help Edward with his travel plans and to accompany him on the return flight.

"How are things going with Edward, son?" Carlisle asked.

"I don't really know. Well enough, I suppose. He's still talking to me at least and hasn't run screaming down the beach. Alice is with him now."

"Has he said anything about staying with us when he gets back?"

I shook my head no. "We haven't gotten that far yet. He's got a lot to digest."

"Do you want me to talk to him?"

"No, not right now. Thank you. I still have much more I need to tell him first."

Esme came over to give me a hug. "Everything will work out, Jasper."

"I hope so."

Again, Edward went to lie down when he came back from his walk. I paced restlessly through the building trying not to obsess on our uncertain future together. Alice found me and convinced me to sit with her for a bit.

"Do you want to know what we talked about?" she asked me.

Of course I did. I had decided not to ask, though.

"Yes, but I'd rather that Edward choose to tell me."

"All right."

She kept me company for hours while I waited for Edward. We caught up on each other's lives; our phone calls while I was away had only been able to cover so much. I told her more about Denali and my time with Tanya. She told me about the past year in college and what Emmett and Rosalie had been up to. I also learned that Bella was dating Jacob Black, one of the wolf shape shifters down on the reservation in La Push.

Vampires were the sworn enemy of the pack. We had only been allowed to stay in the area because of a treaty Carlisle had crafted with them decades ago. So long as we kept to our vegetarian lifestyle and off their land, they would leave us in peace.

Bella's new boyfriend had caused a rift in her friendship with Bella. Not so much with Bella herself, but because Jacob's very nature caused him to despise us, he wanted Bella to have as little to do with Alice as possible.

"So Bella knows about us now," I concluded thoughtfully.

"Yes. Jacob tried to hide what he was for a long time, but somehow she discovered the truth. She always was very perceptive. Then, of course, he eventually told her about us."

"The relationship must be serious, then."

"Very serious. She's talking about transferring back to Washington to go to school in Seattle so they don't have to be apart."

"How did she react?"

"Obviously I wasn't there when Jacob told her, but we've talked quite a bit since then. It doesn't seem to make a difference to her."

I was encouraged by this news.

"It doesn't?"

Alice smiled at me. "No. She still acts the same whenever I see her or talk to her. Which isn't often," she added with a small frown. "Jacob makes things difficult for her."

"I'm sorry, Alice."

"It's okay. At least you're back now."

I understood then how lonely Alice had been while I was gone, even with her friends and school and the rest of our family.

"Come here," I told her, holding out my arms.

She came over to curl up in my lap and lay her head on my shoulder.

"I really missed you, you know," she said with a big sigh.

"I missed you too."

"I'm happy for Bella. Really I am. They love each other very much. I just miss my friend. I'm glad she's with Jacob though. This way Edward will have someone he can talk to. Someone who will understand."

Someone human, I added to myself. "Yes, that's good."

"I didn't tell Edward about Bella and Jacob. I wasn't sure how much you had told him yet."

"No, I hadn't gotten to the wolves yet. Thanks for letting me know." She snuggled closer to me in response and I wrapped my arms tighter around her.

After dinner Edward and I took another walk on the beach. The things I had to say to him were private and between the two of us. Although my family had been considerate, and had tried to keep out of our way, I knew they couldn't help but overhear us while we spoke at the resort.

As we sat together on the beach, both facing the ocean, I told him of finding the Cullens, the difficulty I had adjusting to an animal diet, the many times I slipped and the self loathing I felt for my weakness.

"Forks High was the first school I attended, the first time my family and I decided my bloodlust was under control enough to risk exposure to so many humans. And then I saw you."

I turned to look at him, remembering that first day, how transfixed I had been, the vibrant green of his eyes, so full of life, the coloring of his skin, as beautiful as the magnolia petal, his velvet reddish brown hair, like the underside of its leaf. As I stared at his face now, a little older, darkened by the sun, his jaw rough with stubble, his eyes more guarded, I was still struck by his beauty. It wasn't like that first time, when something about his innocence and youth awoke memories of the boy I had been long ago. No, he was a man now, tall and full of quiet strength. I no longer saw just the flower, but the sturdy trunk, the stable roots and the growing branches, still reaching toward the sun no matter how battered by the elements.

"Then I saw you," I repeated in a whisper, "and everything changed. I was changed."

Edward lifted his face to mine, his eyes searching. His eyes darted to my lips and I had to steel myself to keep from leaning forward and placing my mouth over his. My skin fairly hummed having him so close and that sharp desire I always felt in his presence surged to life.

Cautiously, I lifted my hand to his face, cupping his jaw and gently running my thumb over his cheek, his skin silky and warm under my touch. His eyes never left mine as he reached up to place his hand over mine and press it to his face. My lips parted in a soft gasp and his scent rushed through me. I trembled with emotions. We sat there, motionless, for a long moment until I couldn't resist the temptation any longer and leaned forward to kiss him.

I felt him stiffen and I stopped immediately, disappointment filling me. I gently extricated my hand from under his and leaned back as I saw the shutters drop down in his eyes as he retreated inwardly from me. I cursed myself for my stupidity, my impatience.

"I'm sorry," I whispered.

"No, it's okay. I'm just… not ready."

"I never wanted to hurt you."

"Well, you did."

"I know. I'm sorry."

"Why did you leave, Jasper?" he asked for a second time, as he lifted those shutters for a moment, letting me see the hurt.

"I thought I was protecting you."

The words poured out of me then. I told him how conflicted I had felt as I fell fast and hard for him. I was a monster, over a hundred years older than he, an evil creature of the night. I was dangerous, my bloodlust always just under the surface, waiting for a slip of my vigilance to emerge. I told him how venom pooled in my mouth when he was near and I feared I would harm him, even as I was helpless to stay away from him. He learned how powerfully I was moved when he kissed my scarred skin, how I felt my stone heart come to life to exist only for him. I confessed how I would stand outside his home each night, simply to hear the beat of his heart.

"You brought me to life, Edward. When I was with you, I didn't feel like a monster. Eternity no longer seemed like such a burden, if I could be spending time with you. I fell in love with you, and couldn't believe that you loved me too."

I paused. I knew I had not yet answered his question. Reliving that night in Port Angeles would be painful, but I had sworn to be honest with him. And here was the crux of his question.

"That night in Port Angeles changed everything. When I discovered you being attacked, the monster reared forth and I went for the kill without a second's hesitation. I was crazed with rage and bloodlust and fear for you. But more monstrous than my instinctive drive to destroy were the thoughts that I couldn't keep hidden."

I had spoken of my secret desires to Tanya. Sharing it with someone else had made the burden of my shame easier to bear. Now I saw things differently, but I still couldn't know how Edward would react.

Edward noticed my hesitation.

"Please tell me," he prompted. "I want to understand."

"I had no idea how badly you were injured. Carlisle was on his way, but I was terrified I would lose you. Even though I thought of myself as a monster, especially in that moment when the urge to kill was so strong, even though I had hated my existence for so long—truly despised what I was—a part of me wanted more than anything to turn you. To have you become like me, so I selfishly wouldn't have to be parted from you ever again. And for that I couldn't forgive myself."

I was afraid to see his reaction. Would he be horrified at the thought of becoming like me? I rose to my feet and walked a few steps towards the water, letting the rising tide sweep the sand out from under my feet with each successive wave. The sun was setting and the sky was a vibrant pink and orange.

Eventually, Edward rose to join me by the water.

"So you just left, without even talking to me about any of this, because you thought you were a monster," he said and I could hear the anger in his tone, even without using my gift.

"I left because I loved you, because I was dangerous, because I wanted you safe, because you deserved better.

"Because I was a fool," I added in a whisper.

"Why did you come back, Jasper?" he asked in a demanding tone.

"Because I love you. I'll always love you. You're my mate and I couldn't stand being apart from you a second longer."

He didn't reply.

"I know you're angry. Rightfully so. I should never have made that kind of unilateral decision. I know I made a mistake and I want to make it right. I hope you're willing to give me another chance."

"Do you still think you're a monster?"

"Sometimes," I answered truthfully.

"How do I know you're not going to leave again one day?"

"I won't."

He was quiet.

"You really hurt me," he finally said.

"I know. I'm sorry."

"I need some time. It's a lot to think about."

"Time…" My small laugh was rueful. "Well that's certainly something I have plenty of."

We stayed at the resort for a few more days before heading back to Washington. Each morning Edward and I would walk on the beach after breakfast. He'd ask me questions and I'd do my best to answer them. I told him about the wolf pack in La Push and Bella's involvement with Jacob Black.

"She never said anything to me," he remarked. His feelings sounded hurt.

"She wouldn't have been able to. Just as you'll be expected to keep our secret now. There are few 'rules' or 'laws' we vampires have, but secrecy is one of them." I had mentioned the Volturi during my retelling of my time in the Southern Vampire Wars and now emphasized the inherent danger of him even knowing of our existence.

"I hate having you at risk in any way, but you're my mate. You deserve to know everything."

"You keep saying that. About me being your mate. What does that even mean?" he asked.

I stopped and took his hand in mine, pulling him to face me so he could see my sincerity. "It means that I will always love you, until the end of time. When we're turned, it's as if we're frozen in time, immutable and unchanging. It takes something profound to alter us and when that happens, the change is permanent. You brought me to life. Your love changed me. Irrevocably. When a vampire mates, he mates for life. I'll be yours for eternity, Edward; there will never be another."

I could feel the moisture of his palms and the speeding of his heart as I spoke. I knew his feelings for me were still in turmoil, but I wanted whatever decision he made to be made with full knowledge of my heart.

"Jasper," he said hesitantly, "I…"

"Shhh," I cut him off. "You don't have to say anything. I know I hurt you, and you're still angry. I just needed you to know. I won't push you. I'll accept whatever you're willing to give. But I want you to know that you mean everything to me. You're everything."

It took all I had not to pull him into my arms and show him with my lips, my mouth, my hands, my body how completely I belonged to him.

"I do still love you, Jasper," Edward whispered and it was my turn to be affected by the words being spoken. If my heart could beat, it would be pounding in my chest. "But I'm not ready for anything more right now. I need time."

"Whatever you need," I assured him. "I'll give you whatever you need."

#####

The Memorial Service for Ed and Elizabeth took place two weeks after we were home. Ed had been a prominent businessman, so the church in Port Angeles was filled to capacity with those wanting to pay their respects. I couldn't help but notice how handsome Edward looked in his dark suit, even as I noted the strain around his eyes and the tight set of his mouth. His friends Mike and Bella stood on either side of him, their hands linked with his, offering support. His Godfather and partner were seated next to them. Edward introduced me after the service and I was grateful to be acknowledged as someone important in his life.

Mike had given me a dirty look when he saw me in the church. I knew he was only being protective of Edward, aware of how much I had hurt him by leaving. I simply nodded my head in recognition, trying to convey I respected the warning. It would take time for everyone to believe I was back for good, that I had no intention of hurting Edward ever again.

Edward had decided against staying with us when we returned to Forks. Mike had offered to move into his parents' house with him temporarily, until school started, so that he didn't have to face all his memories alone. I wanted to be the one he turned to, but I knew I had given up my right to that place in his life.

He had, however, agreed to move in with Alice in Seattle when he returned to the University rather than rooming in the dorms. She lived in a small house on the edge of campus and was delighted to have the company. I was pleased as well, since the arrangement would give me ample excuse to visit often.

Edward had been amenable to spending time with me after we returned. He invited me over for coffee and we resumed our runs together. He was unable to keep up the pace initially after his illness, but he was slowly getting stronger and was almost back to his old self. Conversation mainly stayed on neutral topics, although he'd occasionally surprise me with an unexpected question.

"Do you still stand outside the house at night to listen to my heartbeat?" he asked one day as we sat in the kitchen waiting for the coffee to be ready.

If I could have, I would have flushed in embarrassment. I fidgeted uncomfortably.

"I take it that's a yes," he said with a cocked eyebrow and a sly grin as he stood up to walk toward the cabinets.

"Kinda stalkerish, don't you think?" he commented offhandedly as he reached for the mugs.

I swallowed nervously. "I'm sorry," I stammered. "I can stop." My heart ached at the thought of losing my soothing nighttime ritual.

"No, that's okay," he replied, to my surprise. "I sort of like knowing you're out there."

When he returned to school we fell into a new routine. I'd run with him in the mornings and spend several evenings a week with him and Alice when they didn't have homework or other activities planned. On the weekends he'd come home to Forks.

One night as I stood outside, I heard him tossing restlessly. His heart was beating at a frantic pace and I heard him cry out in his sleep in response to his nightmare. I heard the change in breathing that indicated he was awake, and he lay there in his bed, panting, his terror still holding him tight in its grip. After a few moments I heard him go down to the kitchen, flipping lights on as he went. Then he was at the door, squinting out into the darkness.

"You may as well come in," he said quietly and I emerged from the shadows and made my way to him on the porch.

We sat in the kitchen while he drank from a glass of water. His hands trembled.

"Bad dream?" I asked.

"Yeah," he responded, setting the glass down on the counter, eyes lowered.

"Will you," he began hesitantly. Then he lifted his face to mine. I could see the shadows in his eyes. "Will you do that thing you do?" he asked in a determined voice. "To make me feel better?"

"Of course," I acquiesced. "Come sit with me."

He took the hand I extended and I led him to the couch. I used my other hand to pull him toward me by his shoulder and I leaned in to kiss him softly on the forehead.

"Lay your head in my lap," I directed as I moved us to the sofa. He did as I asked, his long legs stretching out along the couch. I ran my fingers through his hair as I eradicated every last trace of fear and sadness, suffusing him with comfort and love.

"That's nice," he whispered.

"Yes," I agreed. I was reminded of the many times we had sat, just like this, while I read him poetry and whispered words of love. The strands through my fingers were silken soft and I drank in his presence, memorizing his features, grateful to be here with him.

"Go to sleep," I whispered, as I helped him drift back under. I pulled a blanket from the back of the couch and draped it over his body as I sat with him through the night, my heart full.

#####

The rain started coming down while we were still blocks from home. We had run miles farther than our usual route because Edward was tired of "feeling like an invalid." I knew he was exhausted from the dragging of his steps and his labored breathing. I watched him carefully, in case he should falter. He slowed, eventually coming to a walk, his hands on his hips. I saw then that he was weeping, his tears washing away in the rain. Then he leaned over, his hands on his knees as sobs ripped through him. I hurried to his side, gripping his shoulders, trying to get him to look at me.

"What's wrong? Edward, what's wrong?" I asked in alarm.

He looked at me, his face a mask of grief. "I miss them," he said, his face crumpling once more.

I ached for him. I pulled his arm around my shoulder and I wrapped mine around his waist to support him as we traveled the last few blocks. He continued to sob, leaning on me all the while. When we reached the house, he turned toward me, clutching me to him, crying into my chest. I wrapped my arms around him, murmuring words of comfort.

"Please, please take it away. Make it feel better, Jasper. Please."

My mind whirled in conflict. I wanted nothing more than for Edward to be free of pain, but I already had growing concerns about the number of times he had sought me out after a nightmare. I knew the cost of shutting off emotions, avoiding pain, pushing it away. I had done so myself and the result was a heart of stone.

I didn't respond, but pulled his arms from around me and guided him up the stairs to the bathroom. I reached in to turn on the water, adjusting the temperature. He stood passively as the tears ran down his face and I reached out to pull his shirt over his head. He allowed me to undress him and I stripped off my own clothes, helping him into the shower, supporting him when his sobs resumed and his knees buckled.

"Please, Jasper," he sobbed. "It hurts."

"You have to grieve, Edward," I spoke softly in his ear. "But I'm here. I won't leave you. You're not alone."

I washed him carefully, worshipping his skin, mapping each minute change from the last time I had seen him so. He leaned back, his face under the spray of the water as I massaged the shampoo through his hair. At some point the shaking of his body had stopped as his grief abated and his sob receded. His arms hung limply at his sides and his shoulders dropped with exhaustion.

When I was finished washing him and his body was warmed from the water, I turned off the faucet, reaching for a towel. I quickly dried myself, wrapping the towel around my hips, then helped him from the shower. He stood quietly while I dried him, carefully rubbing the moisture from his body. I used another towel to gently dry his hair. Then I led him to the bedroom to find some clothes for him.

He sat on the edge of the bed while I looked through his drawers, picking out something for him to wear. I brought it over to him and sat next to him on the bed. I reached for his arms to pull a t-shirt over his head and he stirred, grabbing my wrist before taking it from me and placing it on the bed beside him.

"Thank you," he said.

"You're welcome," I replied, reaching out my hand to push his hair away from his beautiful face, stealing another touch before he withdrew from me again.

He stared into my eyes and I was held captive, my breath catching at the intimacy of this moment. Suddenly I was very aware of our naked bodies inches from each other. Desire flooded me as I saw his eyes darken before he leaned in and placed his lips against mine.

At the touch of his lips, I let out a groan, fire coursing through my veins. His mouth was hot and wet, his tongue sweet in my mouth as he plunged it between my lips, tangling it with my own. He pushed me backward, lying on top of me, our chests pressed together. God, he felt so good. So good.

"Touch me," he panted into my mouth. "Please, touch me. I want to feel good again. I'm tired of feeling angry and sad. Please, Jasper, touch me. Make me feel good."

I moaned into his mouth as my hands obeyed his command, reaching to stroke the soft skin of his back, down his sides to his round firm ass. He let out a gasp as I pulled him closer and I felt his cock through the towel around my waist. He removed his lips from my mouth and buried his face in my neck gasping, "God, yes."

His hips rocked against me and I felt every movement of his muscles under my roaming hands. I was drowning in the sounds he was making, the feel of his skin against mine, his amazing scent. How had I ever stayed away from him for so long?

I wanted to do what he asked—make him feel good. I moved my hands to his shoulders and pushed him back. I smiled as his disappointed cry turned to moans of pleasure when I covered his body with my own, my lips and tongue tracing the line of his jaw, the rough stubble causing my mouth to tingle as I moved my face over it. I next explored the side of his neck, the hollow of his throat, his shoulders and collar bones. As I moved down his body, he writhed underneath me, my roaming hands inflaming him to greater pleasure. When my mouth closed over his nipple, his back arched off the bed and he gave a long low cry.

My mouth and tongue traced the contours of his abdomen, dipped into his belly button, then moved to gently suck at his hips. His body bucked beneath me and I pressed him down into the bed, wanting him wild with desire. His head was thrashing and he was gasping, "God, please, Jasper…please," as I teased him mercilessly, my hands and mouth and tongue touching him everywhere but where he wanted most.

Finally I gave in to his frantic begging, licking up the underside of his cock in one long stroke. I groaned as I tasted the wetness at the tip and I shut my eyes at the sound of his shuddering cry as I enveloped the head in my mouth. I had Edward's cock in my mouth, the beautiful boy I feared I had lost forever. I closed my eyes against the wave of ecstasy that washed over me, almost afraid to believe this was actually happening.

I worshiped Edward's cock, taking him deep in my throat and burying my nose in his auburn curls. My tongue licked and stroked and swirled around his head as I bobbed my head up and down, taking him in deep each time. My hands never stilled as I caressed his balls, stroked his thighs, gripped the firm flesh of his ass. I could feel him close to the edge and I worked him rhythmically until he tensed under me, crying out his pleasure as he filled my mouth with his essence. I closed my eyes at the exquisite taste, gratified that I could bring him the release he needed. His hand fell weakly down to tangle in my hair as he lay panting on the bed. I gave his cock one last loving suck then moved up to lie facing him on the bed.

He turned his face to me with a lazy smile and I thought my heart might burst from the intensity of my feelings. I leaned over to give him a slow deep kiss.

When I pulled away, his eyes fluttered open and stared into mine. "What about you?" he whispered.

"I'm fine. I wanted to make you feel good."

"I want to make you feel good too," he said as his hand reached for me.

I gasped and my head fell back when I felt him wrap his fingers around me. His lips latched onto my neck and I felt his teeth gently scraping across my marble skin as his hand began to move in a rhythmic motion. I was so overtaken by ecstasy, feeling my mate's hand stroking my cock for the first time, his mouth gently nipping at my skin that I was coming in no time, too overcome with passion to hold back.

We kissed for several minutes more until I felt Edward's exhaustion returning. I pulled the sheet up over us and he drifted off to sleep, his head on my shoulder, my arms wrapped around him, our legs tangled together. I could stay like this forever.


AN: Thank you so much to everyone for reading, and for your reviews and alerts and favorites. And welcome again to all the new readers! If you didn't receive a review reply, don't take it personally; I neglected all of you equally. ;-) (I really do have good intentions. lol.)

AN Edit! It's been so long since I updated (er, sorry!), I forgot that I had a birthday in the meantime! My wonderful friend, OnTheTurningAway organized a birthday blog full of fantastic slashy goodness, including a hilarious Said and Done outtake by ICMezzo called Said and Wept Not which has her Jasper reading and reacting to I Wept Not. You can find it here: http:/www(dot)fanfiction(dodt)net/s/6437801/1/Said_and_Wept_Not and the rest of fabulous stories on the blog here: http:/happybdayarcadianmaggie(dot)blogspot(dot)com/

As always, huge thank yous to my beta, OnTheTurningAway, and to my Twilighted(dot)net validation beta, Beautiful_Distraction. xoxo