2nd Annual "For My Valentine"
A Twilight Love Story Contest
Title: All That Ends Well
Pairing: Alice x Jasper, Edward x Bella
For more information please see contest details at http://www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/~formyvalentinetwilight
Lingering for a moment with my forehead flush against the smoothly painted door, my eyes flicker closed of their own accord. Relaxation infuses every muscle, my dog-tired body fully revived by the warm hum of her vitality extending beyond the confines of her apartment. I don't remember how I ever survived without her. I barely remember my life before meeting her. I don't want to contemplate a life apart from her.
The heavy door bursts open to reveal my Alice, her face radiant with expectation as if she had sensed my presence through the barrier as keenly as I had sensed hers. She is vibrancy personified; a quantum force of nature. Alice lives life as if it is a full-contact sport and she brings out the same in everyone around her. She is the perfect counterpoint to my moodiness, making it practically impossible for me to indulge my innate gloominess in her company. I know, in return, I balance exuberance and ground her boundless energy.
Gathering her into my arms, I tenderly nuzzle her ear with my nose. A single word, contentment, reverberates throughout my mind and body. Alice's satisfied sigh echoes my emotion as I breathe, "I'm finally here. Why is it that the only time I feel completely alive is when you're in my arms?"
Alice sways us gently back and forth as she whispers, "I know exactly how you feel, Jay. My entire day seems like auto-pilot until I'm with you."
Eighteen months together and, still, every evening is like a reunion.
Abruptly halting our motion, Alice pushes her shoulders a short distance away from our embrace. Tilting her head thoughtfully to one side, she eyes me appraisingly. It's a soul-searching kind of look that makes me feel as if I've been sent to the principal's office.
"Something's up with you, Jay. I can tell."
"It's been a busy week and I'm trying to get my mind off work and onto my beautiful girlfriend, where it belongs." I shrug offhandedly, hoping she'll let it go.
I should be so lucky.
"Jaaaay," she wheedles, dancing fingertips across my chest until one lands lightly on my chin. "You should make this easy on yourself by going ahead and telling me. You know I'm going to find out anyway." She ends with a throaty chuckle, tapping her digit on my bottom lip.
Capturing her wrist in my hand, I press a light kiss on her fingertips before lifting both of her arms to rest around my neck. My hands slide to her waist, never breaking eye contact as I amusedly weigh my options.
Quickly calculating my odds, I pull Alice flush against me, my lips in her hair. "I don't know why I even try to surprise you; you're impossible. It's a good thing I love you with all my heart 'cause you spoil all my fun."
Teasing her further, I continue to silently hold her, chuckling as her impatience grows.
Alice soon pushes away from me, taking a step backward as she crosses her arms across her chest with a toss of her head. "Are you waiting for me to apologize before you tell me what's going on? What am I supposed to say? I'm sorry that I know you so well that I can read you like a book? I guess if you're so intent on keeping things from me, you're just going to have to try harder."
I mirror her pose with mock indignation, tossing my head right back at her. "Is that so? Maybe I should give up trying altogether?"
This causes Alice to resort to pouting, a gesture she's perfected to nearly an art form. How is it possible for such a childish action to be both adorable and alluring?
"Aw, Jay, don't be like that. I love that you keep planning surprises for me. I promise that I didn't know anything was up until you walked through that door tonight. So…unless you planned whatever-it-is on your way over, I'd say that you've been pretty successful at keeping this secret, right? Now… 'fess up, Mister! What do you have cooking in that beautiful head of yours?"
Alice's conciliatory tone doesn't fool me for a minute. Unsure whether I've decided to break down and tell her, she has shifted strategies.
Damn, I love this woman.
"Well, I wasn't planning on saying anything until tomorrow… but I guess that telling you a little sooner than planned won't spoil anything." I sigh for effect, prolonging our game just a bit longer. Waiting until Alice begins to squirm again, I continue, "I know how badly you want to go to your grandmother's birthday this weekend, so…we're booked on an 11:00 flight tomorrow morning. We should be in Biloxi by dinnertime."
Her look of total disbelief validates my decision, making prematurely telling her about the trip more than worthwhile. Alice's face is flushed, her eyes sparkling with excitement as emotion billows from her tiny frame. My chest constricts, my breathing shallow as I hazily notice how warm the room has become. Her beauty is other-worldly and I remind myself for the hundredth time today how lucky I am. Next thing I know, she has propelled herself into my arms, wrapping her legs around my waist, a definite advantage of having a pint-sized girlfriend.
"Oh My God, Oh My God, Oh My God, Jay! We're really going to see Nana? And Momma and Daddy? Tomorrow? You amazing, incredible man! That's the most wonderful thing anyone's ever done for me! I love you so much!" Her enthusiasm bubbles over as her lips move mine, tiny squeals of excitement erupting around our kiss.
Alice begins peppering my face and neck with kisses and I begin thinking about boa constrictors as she wraps her arms and legs ever tighter around me. If thinking that makes me her prey, I can't imagine a better way to go.
My train of thought is broken when Alice uses her arms around my neck to angle my face toward her, her kisses merging from playful to passionate in a moment's span. I chide myself for giving the beautiful woman in my arms less than my complete attention.
The lingering nature of our kiss is no less passionate than if we were tearing off each other's clothes. This is one of the many aspects of our relationship that is so well meshed; our libidos are nearly always in rapport, our bodies somehow naturally attuned to the other's mood. I have never had a partner so responsive. Convinced of my need to assure her happiness, Alice is free to allow herself to be her most vulnerable with me. Not only do our physical forms align but our spirits do as well.
I'm feeling so short of breath from the overwhelming emotion we're sharing, submerged in wave after wave of contented euphoria, that I'm finally forced to pull my mouth away. I'm barely able to swallow a breath before being pulled under again as Alice releases the top button of my dress shirt, having loosened my tie at some point during my reverie. Her lips scorch a path beginning from the hollow of my neck, gravitating lower and lower as each subsequent button is released. Her lips abandon my chest as her eyes engage mine through the dark drape of her lashes. Finger and thumb work in tandem to spring the button from her low neckline with a soft 'pop'. My moan sounds guttural even to me and swallowing suddenly requires concerted effort.
Pulling away with an indulgent chuckle, my finger toying with the lace of her décolletage, I shake my head wistfully. "As much as it pains me to discourage you, Missy, we don't have time for messing around like this. We're supposed to meet Edward and Bella in an hour and who knows what traffic will be like."
"Dinner! God, I completely forget in all this excitement." Alice's head falls to my shoulder momentarily before snapping upright again. "Hold on… you weren't going to tell me about the trip until tomorrow, Jay? What were you thinking? I need to pack and probably do laundry, maybe even go to the drug store. We can't possibly go to dinner. Bella will understand; I'll just call and reschedule…"
Extracting the phone from her hand, I flip the phone closed; disconnecting the call she'd begun. "Alice, hon, I'll help you pack after dinner. There's no reason to panic, sweetheart; we're only visiting your parents. For only three days, at that. I know you, Missy; I could reach in that closet now, pull out the first things that touch my fingers and dress you in enough fabulousness to be the talk of Biloxi. Packing is going to take 20 minutes, tops."
"'Only visiting my parents'," she snorts scornfully. "Jay, you have no idea what 'fabulous' really involves. You're such a man sometimes," she protests, already hauling luggage into the living area.
"You've never complained about that before," I tease, wrapping my arms around her waist as I settle my chin on the top of her head.
Alice nudges me with her shoulder, evidence of a smile already heralding my forgiveness. "I'm not sure why Edward and Bella want to go out with us tonight anyway. It's their anniversary. Don't you think it's odd that they want us with them instead of celebrating alone?"
Shrugging bemusedly, I speculate, "He's my brother, she's your best friend and they're excited about their first year as a couple? They want to share their happiness with us? At his age, after being single for so long, dating someone for an entire year is a huge accomplishment for Edward. But who knows with the two of them? What I do know is that Edward texted me an hour ago to make sure we're still on. It's not like him to need reassurance over something we've been discussing for weeks."
"It is exactly like him to over-think little things like that. He sent me a text this morning asking if we should try to change our reservations to La Belle Epoch. He's acting even finickier than normal! I know that Edward can be miserable to live with when he doesn't get his way but that's no reason to let him guilt us into going tonight."
Shaking my head, I begin, "Alice…"
"Besides, we'll be gone this weekend and he'll probably be over himself by the time we get back on Monday."
"Edward is family, Alice, and you know as well as I do that this is what family does for each other. C'mon," I cajole as my lips brush lightly against hers, "we can spare a couple of hours to celebrate with them, can't we? It sounds like this is going to be a big evening for them."
"You're right, Jay. Of course we should take the time to be happy for them, especially since you think it's that important to Edward." With that, Alice offers a genuine smile, acknowledging the need to honor our commitment.
My victory is short-lived as Alice continues to dwell on our evening plans.
"Wait. What did you mean 'big evening' for them?" Alice's eyes widen incredulously as her thoughts continue to take form. "There's something else that you're not telling me, Jay!"
I make a quick exit to the bathroom, hoping to stall her by putting a wall or two between us. "No ma'am," I protest, "you're not gonna drag this one out of me, Alice. This story's not mine to share and I'm honor bound to uphold the Bro Code."
Alice snorts from the other side of the door. "You boys and your secrets. Didn't we just finish a whole conversation about how pointless it is to try to keep secrets from me?"
"It's not my secret, Alice."
"Potato, potahto. Honestly, Jay, I thought you learned more quickly than this."
I love this woman, I truly do. Even when she acts like a bloodhound tracking a fresh kill, I can't fault her. Alice doesn't see herself as nosy; she truly believes that she knows best. For everyone.
"Have it your way," Alice continues confidently. "You know I'll figure it out eventually."
"Guess away, Missy. I love the sound of your voice," I taunt, curious to see which direction her guesses will take.
"You can't stay in there all night. Aren't you the one who said we needed to hurry off to the restaurant if we don't want to be late?"
The ride to the restaurant is much like our relationship in general – light and easy. Before I realize it, I've spent most of the twenty minute ride answering Alice's questions about the work project that has had me so preoccupied. I'm often amazed at the way Alice can coax words from me; I'm never as reserved with her as I am with most people. She sees a side of me, has revived a part of me, which I thought was gone forever. She patiently and persistently cuts to the core of me.
Just as I start to believe that she's abandoned her curiosity about tonight, Alice gasps excitedly and blurts out in one breath, "He's going to propose! Edward is going to ask Bella to marry him tonight and he wants us to be there!"
Giving her the sternest warning look I can muster I insist, "Alice, you're going to have to act surprised. I'll have hell to pay if Edward thinks I told you."
"Relax, Jay! I'll scream like a teenager at all the right places and nobody will know any differently. Bella is going to be so surprised! I know she's not expecting this."
Bella and Edward are already seated by the time we arrive at the restaurant. The hostess immediately shows us to our table, quickly leaving us to review our menus.
I have hardly opened my menu when Alice closes hers decisively and ventures, "So, what's new with you two? Anything coming up that we should, say…put on the calendar?"
Nudging Alice's foot under the table, I immediately attempt to change the subject. "How's your dissertation going, Bella? Have you set a defense date yet?"
Bella responds with a brilliant smile. "Not exactly. My advisor is reviewing my thesis right now but she thinks we might be able to set the date in the next few weeks."
"Looks like we all have something to celebrate tonight." Alice announces, unperturbed by my detour.
Edward takes a large gulp of wine, shooting me the skunk eye as Bella giggles, "Do you have news you want to share with us, Alice?"
"Well, since you asked…Jasper surprised me with plane tickets before we left my apartment. We're going to Biloxi tomorrow!"
Girly screams ensue, garnering startled looks from nearby tables. They cut off abruptly when Bella puts a hand on Alice's arm, suddenly serious. "You're leaving tomorrow morning and you're here with us? You must have a thousand things to do tonight."
Alice gives me the I-know-, right? look before turning back to Bella and assuring her, "We'll be fine. Jay's promised to help me and the flight's not 'til 11:00. Besides, I wouldn't have missed tonight for the world!"
"Aw, Alice; you are such a good friend. Looks like we both got pretty lucky, finding these Cullen men."Bella smiles tenderly at Edward, the affection they share evident in the look which passes between them.
"I sure plan on keeping mine for a while. How about you, Bella? Don't you think Edward's a keeper?"
Unfortunately, Edward has just taken a bite of the crostini appetizers as Alice makes her last comment. He proceeds to cough furiously, becoming dangerously red in the face.
Bella jumps up from her chair, rushing to pat Edward's back in concern. "Edward, are you okay? Poor baby, you must be starving to try to swallow before chewing like that. Here, take a drink of my water."
Edward accepts the water gratefully, thanking Bella in a subdued voice once his choking is under control. Tossing his napkin to the chair with a little more force than necessary, he stands to address me. "I just remembered that I have something from Mom in my car for you. Why don't you come with me to get it, Jasper?"
"Uh…sure, Edward; I'm right behind you." Rising hesitantly from my chair, I turn to Alice with a pointed look. "Promise you'll behave while I'm gone?"
"Scout's honor," Alice agrees, her face the picture of innocence.
As I hurry to follow Edward's retreating form I realize Alice has just invoked the Boy Scout's pledge.
Edward rounds on me just outside the restaurant door, his face colored with exasperation. "Care to tell me what Alice has on her mind, Jay? She seems fairly intent on provoking me over something."
"Look, Edward, I'm so sorry but Alice guessed on the ride over that you were proposing tonight and I had to confirm it."
"What the hell, Jasper? You had to confirm it? You had no other choice but to tell her she was right?" Edward starts pacing, more agitated by my confession than I had expected. "What if she says something to Bella? What do you plan to do then?"
Shit, I hadn't even thought of that.
"I know this is not how tonight was supposed to play out, but work with me, please? Let's go rejoin the girls and I'm sure everything will fall in to place. It'll all work out and this will be one of those stories we look back and laugh about ten years from now." I give him a one-armed man hug, hopeful that the contact will diffuse some of his anger. It seems to do the trick as I feel him relax a bit.
Patting me on the shoulder, Edward looks me in the eye, nodding, "I just want this evening to be perfect for her. She deserves that."
"My thoughts exactly, brother. So, you and I are going to make certain that this evening is exactly that: perfect."
When Edward and I return to the table Bella and Alice are engrossed in discussing the plans for the birthday celebration we'll attend this weekend. Deciding that offense is the best defense, I prompt Alice to share some family stories. I'm overjoyed when Bella chips in with stories of her own having apparently visited Alice's family many times during their undergrad years and being well acquainted with Alice's family. The remainder of our meal passes uneventfully, much to Edward's obvious relief.
I'm beginning to feel self-satisfied that the evening will end well after all when Bella excuses herself to 'powder her nose'. Things take a turn for the worse, however, when Alice decides to remain at the table instead of accompanying Bella.
Crossing her arms on the table, Alice fastens her eyes on Edward's, addressing him in a matter-of-fact tone, "Look, you know how much we love you two, Edward. And as much fun as this evening has been, as excited as we are for you, we have things we have to do tonight and the evening isn't getting any younger. Are you still planning on popping the question or should we call it a night and try this some other time?"
Recognizing how much Edward hates being put on the spot like this, I find myself at my moment of truth.
Distractedly noticing that my hands are shaking, I take a deep breath as I drop to one knee at Alice's feet, my hand on her knee.
From what seems like another world away I hear gasps of surprise scattered through the large dining room.
"Mary Alice Brandon, there was never a doubt, since the second I met you, that you are the love of my life. You've brought light to corners of my life I never knew were in darkness. I spent the first 23 years of my life unaware of how incomplete I was. I want to spend every second of eternity with you. Please make me the happiest man on the face of the earth by saying you'll marry me."
For the second time today, the second time in three hours, Alice is at a loss for words. A tumult of emotion swells within me, feelings reflected back to me in Alice's shining eyes.
"Are you proposing, too, Jay?" Alice's awed whisper reveals to me how bewildered she is at this moment. The bustle of the room around us fades to nothing as we gaze at each other, an array of unspoken communication passing between us. I'm vaguely aware of muffled shrieks coming from somewhere close by. The sound startles Alice and our moment is broken as she begins to stutter a litany of, "Yes, yes, yes…I never want to be without you, either…," as tears pool in her eyes.
Clasping my hand in both of hers, Alice pulls me to stand with her, guiding me into a kiss fraught with all of the sentiment she is struggling to express.
Removing the box from my pocket, I open the small velvet case to reveal the round solitaire within. My hand is still shaking as I move the ring to the position it will occupy for the rest of our lives.
"It's absolutely gorgeous, Jay, but knowing that this ring represents your heart is why I'll cherish it." Her eyes shine as they move from her hand to regard me.
It's a perfect fit, I had planned my shopping very carefully, and the single carat stone looks huge on Alice's tiny hand, the thin platinum band complimenting her delicate bone structure.
Somehow I find my way back to my chair as Alice turns to Bella, high-pitched sounds travelling rapidly between them. Edward nudges my wine glass toward me, shaking his head slightly as he chuckles wryly.
"You know what just happened here, don't you?" He says nonchalantly, sipping at his own wine.
I'm not sure if he expects an answer or not. "I'm getting married?" I venture.
"As proposals go, you just set the bar pretty high." Still laughing softly, Edward offers magnanimously "I'll let you make it up to me by planning a way to top this."
"Whenever you're ready, bro. Just say the word." He really has been a good sport this evening.
Catching my eye, Edward nods solemnly, "Get to it."