Disclaimer: SM's characters, not mine.

"Father taught us that opportunity and responsibility go hand in hand. I think we all act on that principle; on the basic human impulse that makes a man want to make the best of what's in him and what's been given him."

~Laurence Rockefeller

My father taught me many things. Much of what he taught I've spent most of my lifetime unlearning, but one thing I did find of value was to always do the best with what I was given.

He was a harsh man. His mind was closed to ideas and different perspectives. Anyone who disagreed with him or displeased him in any way was worthless in his eyes, so, for most of my life, I tried my best to do neither.

When I was a child my father's demanding presence was daunting and confusing. I thought I tried my hardest. He thought I could do better. Well into my teen years I wanted nothing more than to make him proud. I rarely did- at least, not that he acknowledged.

The pressure was tremendous.

Completely away from my father's influence while at college, the collection of friends I made and mentors I found began to expose a world of thought I hadn't really considered before. Some of it was good, and I found that I was able to cast away pieces of my father that I hadn't always felt comfortable with – his judgmental attitude and closed mind among them.

Of course, with the freedom that adulthood brought me, it also brought with it the potentially dangerous ideas. My friends told me for years that I needed to loosen up. They tried to drag me to parties, but my father's influence held strong for a time. The evils of drugs and alcohol were among the many things he could not and would not tolerate.

The combination of the overwhelming pressure and the promise of relief – even for an evening – were too much to resist. I gave in to temptation. After all, years of other people's viewpoints had taught me that my father was wrong about a lot of things... why not this? It was college. My friends and roommates got drunk frequently and, apart from a few poorly received, drunken pranks, none of them were worse for the wear.

What I didn't know at the time was that I was a bomb waiting to be lit. My father thought he'd done well enough by trying to intimidate me into not drinking or trying drugs. He never told me the true reason for his fear until it was too late.

A weekend of drinking here and there became every weekend, and by the time I had moved on to my Master's degree, alcohol was no longer a social event. It had become the only way I coped with all the pressure I was under. It had become something I did by myself, without my friends.

Anyone who has had even a small amount of experience in overindulging in alcohol has probably experienced the missing time that is being black out drunk. It's rather a frightening experience to completely lose hours of your life, to not have any memory of what you did.

It's an odd point to have been at, in retrospect. As a medical student, I knew a lot about what alcohol does to a human body. I knew about alcoholism as a disease. I knew the fact that I got black out drunk scared the hell out of me but, somehow, none of that was enough to stop me.

I was different when I was drunk. I felt more at ease. When I was black out drunk, those feelings were, apparently, even more amplified. All of the emotions I kept in careful check, preferring to be calm and under control, all came out when I was uninhibited. I was, according to my friends, hysterical, fun. The number of times I woke up next to a young lady or…well, two, told me I could be charming.

There were a few times though when more negative emotions came out. There was more than one time that I woke up, my head aching to high hell, and looked around my room to find holes punched in the walls or the doors. I'd look at the holes and at my bloodied fists with complete incredulity.

Denial was a stronger force than I ever could have known. I saw the evidence all around me, but I didn't acknowledge it.

My trip to Corpus Christi, the trip that would unknowingly change my life forever, was nearly the end of my descent. I am ashamed to admit I remembered very little of it. I remembered meeting Maria and her sister. I remembered waking up next to one or both of them every day that week.

Not my proudest moments, obviously.

With everything else, I pushed it away as the follies of youth. But it was only a couple of weeks after that trip that I woke up in a hospital, feeling worse than I can ever remember feeling, with my father by my bedside.

I'd never seen him look the way he did then. He looked haggard. He looked ashamed.

I came to understand that I had drunk a lot the night previous. Too much in fact. I was only lucky that a friend had come looking for an item I had borrowed and neglected to return. If he hadn't found me when he did, I would be dead.

Then my father told me about my mother. I'd never known her. As far as I had been told, she'd died in a car accident when I was just an infant. My father told me that it wasn't a simple accident. It had been her fault. She had been under the influence, but that was nothing new. She'd been an alcoholic.

He was devastated. He thought he was doing the right thing by keeping my thoughts of my mother pure while trusting his influence to keep me away from alcohol. He had only been trying to spare me unnecessary pain, and now he knew that I was in for a world of it.

Oh, I could have easily continued down the path of denial at that point. I wanted to. I wanted to believe that it was simple human carelessness that had landed me in the hospital. But I was well on my way to becoming a doctor, and I knew what alcohol poisoning was. I knew what all the numbers meant in my charts. I could not, logically, deny how close I'd come to dying. Add to that my father's completely uncharacteristic heartbreak and his revelation of a family history of alcoholism…well, denial just wasn't an option anymore.

Easy was just not a word in the vocabulary of any recovering addict.

Without being able to hide behind the shield of denial, I was forced to acknowledge a lot of nasty truths about myself. I found out that the girls who turned and walked the other way when they saw me walking through that halls did that because I'd scared them in some way. Maybe I came on too strong at some party or I'd been a little too rough with them. I found out some of the destruction I'd caused to some of my friend's property. I found out about vile things I'd said and done.

Another hard lesson was learning to differentiate between a true friend and an enabler. Many of those who would call themselves my friends offered to throw me a party when I was out of the clinic my father had put me in. After I left the clinic, and denied their frequent attempts to take me out and declined their party invitations, they were the ones who called me boring and stopped calling.

For all the people I lost when I gave up alcohol, the people that stood by me were the ones that were actually worth keeping. My true friends were the ones who smiled with relief when they learned I was getting help. They were the ones who told me fervently how they'd been scared, but they didn't know what to do. It was an overwhelming feeling – being loved in spite of some of the things I'd done to them, or forced them to witness. It was equal parts inspiration and horrendous guilt.

Imagine dealing with all of that on top of battling addiction.

You don't really realize how much you come to need something until you try to go without it. That need was powerful. It burned to the point of pain so acute that it wracked my body. It completely took over my mind almost to the point of incoherency at times. All of my carefully held control went out the window, but this time I had the presence of mind to watch it happen. Anger and frustration were my near constant companions.

My silver lining, my spot of sunshine in the darkest days – the days I first spent in the clinic with hardly a thought in my head besides how much I wanted just a drop of alcohol – was a volunteer named Esme Platt.

To this day I have no idea what she saw in me; I had a hair-trigger temper in the early stages of recovery. Somehow, though, she kept coming back to me. She said she could see the man I truly was – the one without the alcohol in him who never would have done the things I did. She was right too. That man who would treat women disrespectfully and who would destroy property of people he considered friends – that man was not me.

It was never easy but, with Esme at my side every step of the way, I made it through the worst of the storms.

After a semester break, I went back to school and started to get my life together again. I had a group of true, healthy friends around me and an amazing girl to call my own. The day that I finished med school, I proposed and Esme accepted. We were married only a month later.

Then came the call I would never forget.

My marriage was barely a few weeks old. On top of the total and utter shock that came with finding out I was a father to a toddler boy, I suddenly had to explain that fact to my wife.

I was more than a little nervous, especially because, among the litany of emotions in me at the time, there was a desire I had never even considered before. Certainly, there was a sense of responsibility that welled in me. My own flesh and blood was out there, and I was going to do everything and anything it took to do right by him. More than that though, I wanted him. I loved him instantly – this child I had never even seen – because there had to be some good that came out of my mistakes.

He needed me, and I needed him. There was only one right thing to do.

I should have known better than to think that Esme would have any other reaction than what she did. She asked me what I wanted and I told her I wanted my son. She said, "Let's go get our boy."

It wasn't as simple as all that. Jasper's grandparents and aunt contested my right to custody. By the time I arrived in Texas they had been granted emergency custody and would not allow me to see my child.

I knew how lucky I was. I had a better lawyer and a relatively clean record, save for a few misdemeanors that could be excused as youthful indiscretions. On the other hand, the entire Whitlock family had all had run ins with the law.

It was ugly, and I found a great deal more than I really wanted to know about my behavior during the five days Maria and Nettie had known me, but in the end I retained the right to take my son home.

The first time I met my son, he was two years and four months old.

The Whitlock house was small, and the lawn overrun with weeds when Esme and I pulled up. I told her that she could wait in the car – we both knew that the Whitlocks could make this very ugly – but Esme gave me a look that said it all. She'd been by my side through everything else and she was there for me now; she was there for Jasper and she always would be.

Hand in hand, we went through the door.

We ignored the angry glares and snips at our character as Nettie grudgingly led us to a back room. The house was small and dirty. My son, I had learned, slept in the same room with Nettie and her four year old daughter Rosalie. The room was tiny with very few toys lying about.

The first I saw of my boy was his back. He and Rosalie were curled on the bed together. Rosalie had her arm around him, her posture distinctly protective.

My son had hair exactly the same shade as mine – honey blond. Though I'd been fighting for him for days, the knowledge that he actually existed hit me with the strength of a wrecking ball to the chest. I suddenly couldn't breathe. It was more than I could comprehend at that moment.

I went to the bed and knelt there before I even realized I was moving. Something akin to panic washed over me…but not the kind that made me want to run. It was the kind of panic when you'd been thrown into something that was far too big to comprehend all at once.

I reached out to touch him and my fingers were shaking. Esme came to stand behind me, her hands on my shoulders. When I ran my fingers through his longish hair, Jasper almost instantly stirred. He rolled over, his eyes opening and blinking sleepily.

Blue eyes with Maria's grey-ish tint. My lips. My father's nose.

I gasped, realizing belatedly that I wasn't breathing as my son looked back at me with curiosity.

We only got that handful of seconds of peace before Nettie interrupted. It wasn't how I would have chosen to introduce myself to my son, but Nettie was angry and hurt. She brushed us aside and plucked Jasper out of Rosalie's arm's, telling him abruptly that he was going away with these complete strangers.

Things got chaotic. Rosalie woke and started yelling at us for taking away her little cousin. Nettie was yelling and snipping at us. Jasper's grandparents were leaning in the doorway and glaring. Jasper was so confused. He stood in the center of all the noise with two fingers in his mouth, crying huge, I-don't-understand sobs as I tried to get Nettie to calm down. I tried to assure her that she could see Jasper whenever she chose, and I had no intention of cutting his maternal family out of his life, but Nettie would hear none of it.

For reasons I didn't understand, Jasper's maternal family gave him up entirely after Esme and I took him home. Not even his mother tried to contact him in all that time, from the day we left to the day he went looking for them.

I went to see Maria a couple of years later. She was still in prison, of course. I had to see her for so many reasons. I needed to tell her how sorry I was, and I needed her to know that I would have helped her if I had been given the chance. It was part of my recovery to atone for my wrong-doing, and I had wronged her terribly.

She was a lot calmer than the girl I remembered. She had aged far beyond her years. She told me that giving her son the life he deserved was all the amends she could ever ask for. She told me that, as much as she didn't want to admit, giving him a mother that could care for him in all the ways that she never could was exactly what she what she wanted for him. She told me she was sorry about her sister and her parents. I had been stronger than she ever could be and I had gotten well. They still hadn't. She wanted Jasper far away from the life she'd had.

By the time I saw Maria again, Jasper and I had as good a relationship as a man could have with his five year old son. But, in the beginning, it hadn't always been that way.

Jasper spent a lot of the first forty-eight hours with us crying. He was a little better with Esme, which I understood because he'd lived with his mother and aunt all his life. With me, at first, he was frightened.

As he gradually got over his fear he was still pensive and quiet. I don't think he trusted me, but then, one thing I learned about my son was that he was very intuitive about the emotions around him. With Esme he grinned and smiled because her mood with him was nothing but happiness. She was a born mother.

But I didn't trust myself to be a good father – so how could he possibly feel comfortable with me?

My own father, though I knew now that he loved me, had not been the best example in child rearing. In retrospect, I couldn't blame him. He hadn't expected to have to raise a child on his own. He had been ill equipped.

Of course, he hadn't been a recovering alcoholic. I didn't have the first clue how to be a father, let alone how to deal with all the fears I had. How could I teach him not to go down the road I had gone down? How could I, only a little less than three years past being a fall down drunk, be the father he deserved?

Esme kept telling me I was over thinking things. I couldn't be doing everything wrong. Jasper, who had only spoken a few words the day we met him, was learning fast. His mental growth had obviously been stunted in his life with his maternal family. After a few months with us he was speaking in complete, if a little bewildering, sentences.

Still, as much as I would have liked to concentrate on only him until we'd sorted ourselves out, life had other plans for us.

Jasper had only been with us for about three months when we learned Esme was pregnant. I was in the midst of my residency – a busy, tiring time in and of itself. I had a child who was still a stranger to me, and I to him, and now a baby on the way.

Overwhelmed was becoming my default emotion.

When Edward was born, though, it was another one of those moments when you understood that every ounce of pain and uncertainty you'd ever suffered was worth it. I remember sitting on the hospital bed beside Esme. My arm was around her and Edward was cradled in her arms. Jasper was on my lap, leaning over the baby with curiosity and a big-brother grin on his face.

But, even then, I still felt out of my depth.

Edward was a fussy baby - completely the opposite of Jasper's quiet nature. He and I spent many a sleepless night pacing the floors.

On one such night I was so tired. Edward would not stop crying, and I was almost to the point of tears myself. I was frustrated and exhausted as I slumped on the sofa.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a little blond head coming toward us. Though Esme and I had put Jasper to bed hours ago, he was up. Part of me was exasperated, wondering what he wanted. My patience was wearing very thin.

But, Jasper didn't ask for anything. Instead, he ambled up and pulled himself onto the sofa with us.

I watched, wondering if I should tell him not to climb on the sofa like that or not to bother the baby. Jasper paid me no mind, almost as if I wasn't there at all. He leaned over me and patted Edward's little cheeks with his chubby hand. "Don't cry, baby," he said softly. He yawned and sat by my side, settling with his head against my stomach as he continued to pat Edward's legs sleepily. "Daddy's here. He'll make it better."

Edward stopped crying. I started.

That was one of my favorite pictures. Esme took it while we were all three sleeping; my newborn son safe on my chest with my right hand splayed protectively over his tiny back, my three year old curled against my left side with my arm around his shoulder.

Of course, I always tried to do right by the trust and faith my sons put in me. Esme and I both knew we hadn't always made the right choices. Perhaps I should have taken the time to assure Edward that I was proud of him and his brother equally. I only recognized in hindsight the reason he pushed himself so hard at everything he did. He was, unconsciously, competing with Jasper. Hindsight also revealed that I hadn't divided my attention between them as equally as I had believed.

I think, though, that we did as well as any parents could have. Endless AA meetings had drilled into me that there were always going to be circumstances out of out control.

There were the times when I was absolutely helpless.

Every second of the trip from Forks to the hospital in Seattle where Jasper lay dying was firmly etched into my memory. I remembered the sounds of Esme's sobs and the way Edward had looked in the backseat – uncharacteristically frightened with his head in his hands. I was trying to keep it together for them. I managed to do okay until we got to the hospital and found out the long, long list of things wrong.

I was a skilled surgeon and I wouldn't have given Jasper good odds. Edward and Esme looked at me, wanting me to tell them it was all going to be alright, but I couldn't. That broke me.

He survived though. He was strong – stronger than I could have been. He survived and he left us.

And there, again, I questioned our decisions as parents. It wasn't as if we parted on bad terms. Jasper was simply a little lost. I can't help but wonder if we would have gotten him back sooner if we'd reached out to him. I'd raised my children to be independent and to know that I supported them in their choices in life. I thought that meant that I had to wait for Jasper to come back to us. Now, I think he just didn't know how to come back after finding out about the part of him he'd been missing all of his life.

Then there was the whole debacle over Bella.

That poor girl – caught in the middle of two good men through none of her own design. When I prayed for my sons, I prayed for her, because I knew she had to be suffering right along with them.

I had the knowledge they didn't, the one thing that I couldn't teach because it was something that can only be learned through experience. It was often the pain in life that made the payoff so sweet; going through profound hardship was what made the happily ever after so good. All I could do was hope they kept their heads above the water.

They both persevered.

They were better for the journeys they'd made.

With Bella, Edward absolutely came alive. All of his life he'd seemed uncertain – unable to truly fit in anywhere or know what to want. With her, all of that doubt disappeared. He was sure of himself and the choices they made together. He smiled so much more often, having found a calmthat Esme and I hadn't been able to give him.

With Alice, Jasper found a partner he could constantly reinvent himself with. They were always exploring, always learning, and opening themselves up to new possibilities. It was nice seeing Jasper so at peace with his identity.

When Jasper, at Edward and Bella's wedding, started out his best man's speech with the words, "Dad was right – every moment of trouble and heartbreak is worth moments likes this," I finally knew that I had done right by my boys.

I was struck by the truth of his words, my words, at that moment.

Without falling, however accidentally, into the clutches of alcoholism, Jasper never would have been created. Without the horrible, agonizing, completely undignified journey that was recovering from addiction, I never would have found Esme or had Edward.

When it comes with that kind of joy, you simply could not regret the journey that brought you there, no matter how difficult.

All any of us could do was the best with what we had at the moment.

A/N: Want to thank josieswan for beta work this outtake and the last. Again, thanks for coming along on this journey with me.

My lovely tellingmelies wants an EPOV outtake of the proposal and the wedding. I can deny her nothing. Unfortunately, I'm drawing a blank for the moment… so no promises but that may appear here one day. Until then, I love y'all and I mark this particular story complete.