Happy Birthday, stolenxsanity! We wrote you something special and hope you'll enjoy it.
Lots of love for you, today and always.
Thanks to kimberlycullen10and theladyingrey42 for your feedback.
As ever, we do not own these characters
"Dude, seven years ago, did you think we'd be here today, celebrating your last night as a single man?"
Emmett clapped me on the shoulder as he handed me a beer. Taking it, I just chuckled and shook my head. I listened while Emmett joined Edward and the rest of our friends in joking around about the shit we used to get into in high school as my mind drifted back to those days.
Edward and I had been best friends since fourth grade, when Carlisle and Esme Cullen adopted him. He'd been orphaned not long before and was very reserved back then. It took a lot for him to let anyone get close to him for a long time. Emmett and I had been the only ones to stick around to try and, eventually, succeed.
Alice was adopted a year later, and - with Edward's help - she was integrated into our little group. Admittedly, Emmett had a lot to do with it as well, since he was their big brother, the only Cullen by blood. He had taken both of them under his wing, and anyone who gave either Edward or Alice any crap about being adopted had to deal with Emmett.
We hung out a lot as kids, but as we grew up, Alice and I became closer. Eventually, we began to date, to no one's surprise.
Over the years, I noticed that both Alice and Edward had certain similarities, namely a driving need to know where their parents were at all times, as well as Emmett and even me. Especially in the beginning, they both checked constantly to make sure we were safe and that we were there. It made sense to me, so I never had a problem with it.
This need to keep tabs on us went even further in some ways. For Edward, it was a tendency to make plans for us and adhere to them, no matter what absurd measures it took. He had once insisted that we go play baseball even though it was raining, just because that's what we'd planned to do. The weather had turned god-awful nasty, even for Forks, and we had all ended up sick as a result.
Alice, however, had a thing for wanting to make sure her loved ones had the best she could provide. This ranged from food to clothes to parties - whatever she could manipulate. At times, that went pretty far. Once in high school, she threw an elaborate birthday party for me with a huge cake and a guest list a mile long. She had claimed that - because my birthday was three days after Christmas - she wanted to give me a "proper" birthday to make the day special, rather than the usual combined celebration with the holiday. I had never minded the combination before, but...it was Alice. She spent an inordinate amount of money on the party, and to top it off, she gave me an Xbox, along with several games. The console had come out only the month before, so there was no way I'd have bought it myself. I generally preferred to wait for the second generation so the bugs would be taken care of - not to mention the fact that I didn't have that sort of money lying around.
It wasn't until our junior year in high school that Emmett hooked up with my cousin Rosalie. From then on, it was always the five of us hanging out. I knew that Edward often felt like a fifth wheel, so we tried our best to include him and not make him too uncomfortable. Well, Alice and I tried. Emmett had a harder time keeping his paws to himself until he and Rose were somewhere private. No number of disgusted looks or reminders that she was my cousin seemed to faze him, and there were many times when Edward either bowed out or spent time staring into space. But then something happened that ended up changing life as we all knew it, though none of us realized it at the time.
Bella Swan moved to town.
She came to live with her dad, Chief Swan, after the school year had already started, though no one really knew why. The whole school was abuzz about the new girl since it wasn't often that we had new arrivals in a town the size of Forks. We pretty much ignored the gossip. We knew too well how crazy some of our peers could get when it came to that, and we all preferred to find things out first hand - if it concerned us, that is. If it didn't, we usually left well enough alone.
None of us had classes with Bella before lunch, so we hadn't seen her yet, but we'd heard she'd arrived. We were sitting at our usual table, talking about how boring Mr Varner's class was, when Bella walked into the lunch room with Jessica, who was chattering away. Bella seemed to be paying her no attention, only politely nodding here and there as her eyes wandered over the mass of people around her.
Alice was sitting next to me, leaning in so close that she was practically sitting in my lap as she and Rosalie talked. Edward and I both watched as Bella made her way through the line and followed Jessica to the table where she always sat with her friends. Some of them weren't so bad; we actually hung out from time to time, but I wouldn't have wished Lauren and Mike on anybody - especially when put with Jessica. I was torn between feeling sorry for the girl for being forced to sit with them and wondering if that was the kind of company she wanted to keep. If so, then I didn't think I cared much about this latest addition to the populace of Forks high.
Lauren, Mike, and Jessica were all over Bella during lunch. Mike seemed to be doing his utmost to impress her, but all he really did was come across as an overeager puppy. I rolled my eyes as I grinned at Edward, who - to my surprise - wasn't looking at us. He was staring at Bella as if transfixed. I frowned at him, tilting my head while I watched him quietly for a moment even as Alice tried to get my attention. My gaze traveled from Edward to Bella, who appeared to be trying to hide, almost folding in on herself. I caught her stealing a glance at our table a few times, though.
Alice tickled my ribs, making me squirm and look down at her. "Hey! Stop that," I grumbled.
Her eyes met mine, her brows raised in question. I pecked her on the lips before nodding to Edward, who still hadn't taken his eyes off Bella. He looked mildly frustrated, though, and I couldn't help but wonder why. Alice observed her brother for a moment, then turned to me with a huge grin and whispered, "I do believe things are going to change soon..."
She'd been right. Things had changed. Edward and Bella ended up as lab partners in Bio, which was the first class after lunch. After that, Alice and Bella had Spanish together. By the time school was over for that day and we were all headed home, Alice wasn't able to stop talking about Bella. They'd hit it off at once, much to the chagrin of Jessica. I noticed that Edward appeared for all the world to be focused on simply driving us home, but the small tells of his body language betrayed his interest in every word spilling from his sister's lips with regards to one Bella Swan.
Alice had taken Bella under her wing from the second day of school, insisting that she sit with us at our lunch table and come over to their house whenever possible. Bella didn't put up much of a fight, seemingly happy to go along and be accepted for who she was, rather than for being the shiny new toy in town.
Where Alice was exuberant and outgoing, Bella was shy and quiet, withdrawn - an observer more than a participator. Alice always had something going on, planning this party or that fundraiser. Somehow, Bella invariably became involved, but she stayed in the background. The limelight was not for her, and it was something Alice had a difficult time remembering, I think, as she liked to make sure everyone received the credit they were due.
Edward and Bella often ended up thrown together as they helped out Alice - whether by accident or by Alice's hand, I wasn't sure. I wouldn't have put it past her to meddle. The more time we all spent together, the better I got to know Bella, and I had to admit that she was pretty cool once you got her to open up a little. She seemed to be interested enough in Edward, but it took him a couple of months to ask her out, even though he'd sure as hell had a thing for her from the beginning. I often thought it was because of his old issues of being afraid to let anyone new in, and then risk losing them later.
Struggling to force my memories aside, I sat back on the couch and nursed the beer Emmett had given me, watching as he and his brother talked. Edward had an easy smile on his lips, his eyes were dancing, and his cheeks were flushed - a sure sign that he had a couple of drinks in him, but just enough to loosen him up a little. I couldn't help but smile when I caught a glimpse of his wedding ring and thought about how much he had changed over the years. I glanced down at my ring finger and bit my lip when I realized that in a mere twenty-four hours, I would have one as well.
A pillow to my head shook me from my thoughts, and I looked up at the culprit - Emmett. "Jazz, man, did you hear me? I asked if you were ready for your surprise?"
I groaned; I really didn't want to know what kind of surprises Emmett and Edward had cooked up for me, especially since I knew it would be more Emmett's doing than Edward's. At least they had relented and agreed to have my bachelor party at Edward's house, rather than going to a strip joint, which had been Emmett's plan. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the flush on Edward's face deepening as he stood up to answer the doorbell.
Ah, hell, please tell me no strippers...
The catcalls from Ben, Tyler, and Emmett as soon as Edward reappeared in his living room were enough to confirm my fears. I drained the last of my beer and glanced at the two - yes, two! - scantily clad ladies behind Edward. I glared at Emmett and hissed, "Fuck, Em! Two strippers? Seriously? I told you I didn't want anything to do with that shit!"
Emmett shrugged but otherwise completely ignored me as he watched the girls set up. Edward put his hand on my shoulder as he held out another beer, leaning down to whisper, "Sorry, Jazz, I tried to talk him out of it, but you know how he gets. Besides, parties like this are the only excuse he has to watch girls without getting in trouble with Rosie."
I ran my fingers through my hair even as I accepted the other beer from Edward. He took my empty bottle from me, and I sighed, nodding. "Alright, fine..." I added under my breath, "Not like I can do anything about it now, anyway..."
Edward squeezed my shoulder lightly and grinned. I rolled my eyes at him, taking a long pull from my beer as the music started. I watched with disinterest as the girls began to dance. I had to hand it to Emmett, though - they were both good looking. They were slender and toned with all the right proportions. Emmett had gone for variety, apparently, as one was a brunette and the other a strawberry blond.
Their focus was on me, since I was the man of the hour, so they pulled me to the center of the room, where one pressed me down into a chair with a hand lingering on my shoulder. They moved all around me, dancing seductively as their hands trailed over my chest, neck, and shoulders. I could feel one's breath as she wrapped her arms around me from behind while the other straddled my lap, moving against me.
I wasn't nearly drunk enough to want to do anything stupid - nor did I have any intention of becoming so. I felt myself relaxing, though, some of my frustration with Emmett fading away...right up until he let out a wolf whistle and began calling out suggestions to the girls. One of them giggled and licked her lips, running her finger along my waistband as I shot Emmett an annoyed look. He just grinned and winked as he polished off his beer.
The girls continued their little performance with what little they'd had on for clothing disappearing along the way. Bare breasts in my face on the one night I wouldn't be touching any wasn't really a pleasant experience, and I allowed my mind to wander again. Most other guys might have killed for one last hurrah, but I seriously didn't want it. I was happy to be faithful to the woman I loved, in every way.
I couldn't help my smile as I thought back to our senior year. We were pretty set as a group, all paired off: Emmett had Rosalie, Edward had Bella, and I had Alice. Overall, each of us was happy - at least, I thought we were. Edward and Bella did everything together, and it was rare that you would see one without the other somewhere close by. It had been that way pretty much since they started dating, and at first I had to admit that it was kinda cute that they were so into each other. Once Edward had let her in, they had fallen quick and hard for each other, and I was happy for him. For both of them, actually. I'd gotten to know Bella well enough to know that she hadn't had any boyfriends or even a crush on anyone, really, before moving to Forks - well, the usual celebrity crushes aside, of course.
When Emmett discovered that Bella had a big poster in her bedroom of Paul Walker in The Fast and the Furious, he teased her for the longest time. More often than not, he dragged me into the teasing by asking her if she thought I was hot, too, because I kind of looked like a much younger version of Walker.
"Oh come on, Bells! He totally looks like him!" Emmett grinned at Bella, who was blushing furiously as she leaned into Edward.
I rolled my eyes at Emmett, muttering, "Jeez, Em, leave the girl alone already..."
Alice - who was sitting in my lap with her arms around my neck - chuckled as she narrowed her eyes, giving me the once-over. She pursed her lips and said, "I don't know, Jazzie, I think Emmett has a point. You do sort of look like him..."
I shook my head in disbelief as I stared at her with wide eyes. Edward pulled Bella to his chest, kissing her on the top of her head lightly as she placed her hands over his arms. He hadn't said anything yet, but he looked as if he were torn on stepping in.
Emmett was still grinning at her, loving the fact that he could make Bella blush - something he tried to do as often as he could get away with. He mock-whispered, "So if you like Paul so much," cue Bella's blush deepening, "does that mean Jasper's your type?"
We all gaped at Emmett. I shifted my focus only when I heard Bella speak in a soft voice. "I don't know. I've never seen the guy act before." Her eyes were flickering between Emmett and me, and I wanted to do something to help but was at a loss as to how to deal with this situation.
She didn't appear to need any help, though, as I saw something in her eyes before she looked right back at Emmett with the hint of a smile on her lips and said, "Besides, Paul Walker's not the only one in that poster, Em. Who said anything about which I liked more? For all you know, it could be Vin Diesel."
Right at that moment, Rosalie came into the room, and I caught Bella's eyes flicker to her before she stepped out of Edward's embrace and up to Emmett, trailing her finger down his chest. I had to bite my lip as I had a good guess at what was coming next. Sure enough, Bella said, "And I don't know, Em, but you kinda look like Vin...so maybe you should be more worried about who my type is."
I glanced at Rosalie who appeared to be torn between being amused, and amazed at Bella's sudden bravery. Her eyes widened when Bella lifted herself onto her tiptoes and murmured, "Just hope I don't decide to shave your head some night to make you look more like him." With that, she sauntered off, leaving Emmett standing there gaping.
Rosalie sidled up to Emmett, a grin tugging at her lips as she kissed his cheek and said, "The girl has a point, babe...and Vin Diesel is kinda hot..." She reached up, ruffling Emmett's curly hair, and his hand flew to his head, a look of horror on his face.
Turning my attention to Edward, I couldn't stop myself from laughing. His face held several emotions: pride, jealousy, and awe. Alice was laughing right along with me, burying her face in my neck to try and stifle the sound, but I could feel her whole body shaking with mirth. Emmett, in the mean time, looked utterly speechless. For once, someone seemed to have put him in his place, and he had no comeback - a rarity, indeed.
I was startled from my thoughts as both of the girls Emmett had hired kissed me on the cheek at the same time. The strawberry blonde squeezed my thigh and winked at me as she stood up. She and her cohort began to dance for the other guys, and I was grateful for the respite. I rolled my eyes when I saw that Emmett was having a blast dancing with them, and I heard Edward choke back a laugh as Em mimicked some of the moves the girls were doing. Needless to say, he didn't look as graceful and definitely nowhere near as sexy as they did.
I noticed Ben get up and walk out of the living room, looking about as uncomfortable as I felt. At least he has the option of leaving without those girls groping him first. Giving him a minute, I followed after him, needing to just get away for a little bit. Tyler and Emmett appeared to be having a blast, while Edward seemed content to watch them go crazy. I walked in on Ben talking quietly on the phone, but as soon as he heard me come into the kitchen, he grinned and after a quick, "Be home soon, hon. Love you," he hung up.
He went to the fridge and pulled out a couple of beers, handing one of them to me before taking a seat at the bar. We sat quietly for a minute or two, the only sounds that of music and laughter filtering in from the living room. I was staring down at my beer, but I could feel Ben's eyes on me as he watched me in silence.
I turned my eyes to him, quirking a brow in question, and said, "What?"
He grinned, giving me a small shrug. "Nothing, really. Has it sunk in yet, man? That by this time tomorrow, you're going to be married to her?"
A lazy smile spread over my lips at the thought of finally being married after all this time. On the one hand, it felt surreal, and on the other I wished that I could just get it over with - I wanted to be able to hold my wife. When I didn't say anything, Ben chuckled and said, "Yeah, you're kinda at the same point I was when Ang and I got married. Don't worry, it'll be there before you know it."
I nodded, knowing he was right and still anxious for the moment we'd be able to say "I do." Ben asked if everything was ready and if I had remembered to bring my tux, since I was to be staying at Edward's house for the night. It was one thing Alice had demanded, since it was tradition for the bride and groom not to see each other before the wedding. I wasn't going to argue it; it wasn't worth the energy - especially when she'd get her way in the end, anyway.
My tux was ready and waiting for me in Edward's guest bedroom. This, too, was something Alice had insisted on - a traditional black tuxedo with a silvery gray vest and tie. The only input required from me was my measurements and showing up at the fitting. I chuckled softly to myself. Some things never change; do they..?
Ben gave me a questioning look, but I just shook my head, muttering, "Nothing. Don't worry about it."
We sat in silence again, each lost in our own thoughts. I smiled when I thought back to high school and one of the many shopping excursions Alice had dragged me along for - Bella, too.
"Come on, Bella! We've got tons to do today. We need to make use of every minute we can. I can't believe you still haven't got a prom dress!"
Alice was talking up a storm, as always, and I simply let it wash over me. Bella, however, looked a little flustered. Even after having known Alice for a little over a year now, she still wasn't quite used to seeing her in Go-Mode. Alice, Bella, and I were going to Seattle for the day to find a dress for Bella and pick up my tuxedo. Alice was already set for prom, as were Emmett, Rosalie, and Edward.
Edward wasn't able to come along with us, as he had to go to a baseball game. It was an away game, and there had been no room for us to go along on this trip. Edward, who knew Bella hadn't gotten a dress yet, had let this information "slip" to his sister. Alice, in turn, had planned a shopping trip that would keep Bella busy - with us - all day. As soon as I'd heard about it though, I'd blown a gasket at Edward for manipulating Bella's life that way. It was an argument we'd had several times since he and Bella had gotten together, and one I was still fuming over on our way to Seattle, though I tried not to show it.
I clenched my jaw, gripping the steering wheel as I drove. Alice was chattering away to Bella, who sat in the backseat. I still couldn't believe Edward kept such a tight leash on Bella that she couldn't have a single day without us there to watch her. I'd told him time and again that he needed to lighten up because I honestly felt that he would end up pushing her away if he didn't. I wanted my friends to be happy, and I worried that his overbearing tendencies would be too much for Bella. She appeared to not have a problem with it, but I wasn't sure if that was just a show. Regardless, I didn't like it, and I had no qualms letting my feelings be known to Edward when he pushed things too far.
I took a few deep breaths in an effort to calm myself down - there was no point in spending the day out of sorts. I couldn't change it, and Alice had her mind set on getting Bella a dress. I knew from experience that we'd end up clothes shopping for ourselves as well - rather, Alice would shop, and Bella and I would parade around until she declared her satisfaction.
When we got to the first store, I watched with amusement as Alice laced her arm through Bella's. They made their way resolutely to the formal section, while I followed behind. I was content to just let them do their thing; I knew that it'd be my turn soon enough. Taking a seat and simply waiting for them to be done, however, was not an option. Alice went from rack to rack, pulling out dress after dress after dress and handing them all to me until the pile in my arms was so high I was having trouble seeing where I was going.
"Alice, enough is enough! Please! These things are heavier than you think. I'm sure there's something in here Bella will like."
Alice paused, while Bella stood by my side with a pained expression as she eyed the dresses warily. Alice sighed and said, "Alright, I suppose we can start off with just these. Come on, Bella, let's get you to the dressing room."
I followed behind them, and Alice took three of the dresses from my arms before ordering me to sit and wait. She had Bella try on all three and show them to me. They all looked great, and I told them both so, earning me a grateful smile and a blush from Bella...and an exasperated sigh with a muttered, "Men!" from Alice. Bella giggled softly, rolling her eyes at Alice.
Alice kept taking - and returning - dresses from me until there were none left to try. I had no idea what Alice was looking for, but I pitied Bella, who seemed to be thoroughly miserable. "Alice, honey, why don't we take a break? Grab a cup of coffee or something?" I asked.
Alice narrowed her eyes, but Bella added, "Please, Alice?"
"Oh, alright. Coffee, and then the next store. We will find you a dress today. Actually, coffee, and then pick up your tux, Jazzie. Get that over and done with?"
I smiled and kissed her on the temple. "Sounds good to me, darlin'."
Of course, it hadn't been as simple as merely picking up my tux. As I had predicted, Alice insisted on finding a couple of outfits for me, which meant that Bella got to watch me show off several in different stores. I decided to have a bit of fun and did the whole runway model-thing, causing both girls to fall into a fit of giggles. It was a little embarrassing, but seeing them smile and have fun was worth that price to me.
The rest of the very long day was spent going from store to store until we'd finally found something for Bella that Alice deemed worthy. In the end, my car had been loaded down with a prom dress, a tux, several pairs of jeans, shoes, a couple of button downs, and t-shirts. Bella and I were both exhausted and grateful to finally get home, but Alice was as cheerful as ever, very pleased to have succeeded in her mission.
Pushing my memories aside, I finished my beer and sighed, rolling the bottle between my fingers. I was beginning to feel a little melancholy, and I was aching to be with my love. It had been a long time since we'd spent a night apart, and I really didn't want to tonight. Ben nudged my shoulder gently, "You alright, man?"
Sighing softly, I ran my fingers through my hair as I looked up at him. "Yeah, I'm fine, I guess. I...miss her."
I shot him an apologetic smile, and he grinned in response as he said, "I know what you mean. Come on; let's get back in there. I think the strippers are due to leave." He lowered his voice and muttered, "Thank God. I can't take Emmett shaking his ass any more."
We both laughed at that and grabbed a couple of beers, certain that the other guys would be up for a refill. Ben was right; the girls were packing up their things right as we walked back into the living room. Edward came up to me, grabbing one of the beers, and put his arm around my shoulders. He asked if I was alright, and I assured him I was.
When the girls were ready to leave, he escorted them out and came back with a deck of cards in his hand, wiggling it as if to ask if anyone was up for poker - our game of choice. We played for another hour or so before Tyler and Ben both excused themselves, saying they needed to get home. Emmett hung around for a little longer, but eventually left to go home to Rosalie, leaving Edward and me to our own devices.
We sat and talked quietly for a while, and he told me that he knew how I felt because he had been just as restless on the eve of his wedding day. We reminisced for a while longer, going back over our senior year as well as college, before we ended up calling it a night. We needed to get up early enough the following day in order to get ready. Because my own father had passed away, Edward's dad Carlisle was standing in - he was the closest I had now. He was coming over in the morning with Emmett in tow so that everyone in my party would be together. Esme was working with my mother to ensure that the bridal party would be all set, too.
When we'd finally gone to bed, I could not fall asleep, tired as I was. After the conversation with Edward, my mind kept replaying the past. I thought back to when everything really started to change - when we each had gotten our acceptance letters for college.
Alice had been accepted at the New York School of Design and was looking forward to moving to the big city and being in one of the hubs of the fashion industry. I had applied at schools in New York as well and been accepted, but after my dad had a stroke during my senior year, I decided to stay closer to home. I would be attending the University of Washington to work on my teaching degree, so I would be able to get to my family on short notice. Alice and I had been reluctant to live so far apart, but in the end, we had agreed it was what was best for each of us.
Bella was also going to UW for a teaching degree, though she wanted to focus on English and literature, and I wanted to teach history. The fact that she opted to go to UW had been the cause of the first fight - to my knowledge, at least - between Bella and Edward, who had been accepted at Dartmouth. He wanted her to come with him so that they could be together, but she couldn't afford the tuition fees and flat out refused to let anyone else pay them. Edward tried everything he could think of, but she stood fast. I had to admit that I was kind of proud of her for that. It was the first time since I'd known her that she had so steadily stood her ground.
In the end, Edward had agreed to let her go to UW. The fact that it was something he had to agree with irked me, and I made sure to let him know it. On top of that, he had two conditions: one was that they become engaged before he left for school, and two, that Bella and I live together. Both of these met with some contention from me as well as Charlie. I didn't mind the living with her part, as I was planning on renting a place and have roommates anyway, but it didn't sit right with me that he felt the need to police Bella, in a sense. Edward and I had words on that, but in the end, I decided that if she was up for it, I could do worse in my choice of roommates than Bella.
Convincing Charlie was another matter entirely. He did not like the idea of his little girl living with a guy, even if the guy was me and I already had a girlfriend whom I loved very much. Nor did he like the idea of Bella getting engaged fresh out of high school. Bella didn't seem to have any problems accepting either condition. She and I were good friends, and she felt safe with me around, so the living arrangements worked for her. As far as agreeing to marry Edward went, she had one condition of her own: they wait until after college to get married. She had no plans to be with anyone other than him, so she didn't mind saying she would marry him if it gave him peace of mind, but she didn't want to get married at such a young age. I knew it had taken a lot of talking on Bella's part to get both men to be okay with her choices. It also took a good deal of convincing to have Charlie accept the fact that Bella and I would be living together.
He had a stipulation of his own: he would buy a house in Seattle for us to live in so Bella could have some privacy. Since she refused any financial help from him for her tuition, this was the only way he felt he could help her. She had argued against it at first, as did I. Charlie put his foot down, though. Their house in Forks was inherited, and he'd been putting aside money for years to pay for Bella's college and housing. Since she had the first taken care of, he was providing the second. He told us that we would need to pay rent and work on the place to improve its value so that once we were done with college, he could either rent it out or sell it - or, if Bella found she liked Seattle, it would become hers.
By the time we graduated high school, Charlie had bought a house that needed a bit of work. That's how we ended up staying in Seattle over the summer to fix the place up so it was livable, focusing on our respective bedrooms, bathrooms, and the kitchen first. Edward, Emmett, Rosalie, Alice, and even Charlie, Carlisle, and Esme all helped out so that at least those rooms would be good to go before term started.
Emmett and Rose stayed for as long as they could, but they had both been accepted to the University of Southern California and decided to make a road trip out of driving down together. Carlisle and Esme were driving Edward and Alice cross country to their colleges and then flying back, which meant that about three weeks before our term started, we were saying goodbye to our friends and significant others.
It was kind of odd, at first, to live with Bella. I wasn't used to living with anyone other than my family, and it took us a while to form a routine that worked for us both. It was kind of nice, though, since we both missed Edward and Alice and understood what that was like. We often sought out each other's company just to talk or watch TV or even simply read a book - that is, when we weren't working on the house, which took up a lot of our time.
When term started, we had many of the same classes, and we studied together, helping each other out on those subjects that gave us a harder time. We shared all household duties, though Bella had to teach me to cook, as the most I had been capable of doing without burning down the house was boil eggs and make grilled cheese sandwiches. It was actually fun to work with Bella in the kitchen. It showed me a whole different side to her that I hadn't known before, a side I wasn't sure that Edward even knew.
Bella was confident in the kitchen, hardly ever needed a cookbook, and was seemingly able to make a tasty, healthy meal from the most basic ingredients. She also became more sure of herself by teaching me to cook, which was kind of cool.
As the school year continued, I noticed that she was slowly coming into her own. She knew her coursework and was making friends for herself - something that I was quite happy to see, since back in high school she'd only really hung out with all of us. Edward tried to keep tabs on her, to keep her tied to him. He wanted me to keep her from going out on her own, but I wasn't having it. Bella needed to have the chance to stand on her own two feet and partake in the world, and I wasn't about to prevent that from happening. Simple as that.
Edward called at odd times, as well as every single night. He and Bella had webcam sessions and chatted for hours at a time. At one point, the constant communication got so bad that it started to interfere with Bella's classwork, but she didn't say anything to me about it. I found out by chance, and when I did, I had a long talk with Edward in yet another attempt to get him to just back the fuck off and let Bella have a life. I knew he wasn't being malicious, that he was worried he would lose her like he had his parents, but I pointed out time and again that he would lose her for sure if he kept suffocating her. I wanted my friends to be happy, and I was doing what I could to help with that, vain though the attempt might've been.
Meanwhile, Alice and I were trying to come to terms with having several thousand miles between us. It was hard; I missed her so much, and I knew she missed me, too. Still, she seemed to be doing alright for herself. She was always talking about the people she'd met, the classes she was taking. She was excited about her courses and her teachers, and I was happy for her.
My own classes were going well, and I'd made a few friends myself. One thing I started doing - much to Bella's amusement - was going shopping for clothes on my own. Bella always wanted to see what I had gotten, and she'd tease me about the clothes not meeting Alice's approval. She was right; there was very little Alice would have let me buy. I was comfortable, though, and that's what mattered to me. I had never minded Alice shopping for me because I didn't care enough about my appearance for it to matter, but I found that there was something to be said for wearing clothes that were simple, comfortable, and didn't necessarily make a statement.
Both Edward and Alice came to Seattle a few times throughout the year, staying with us for the weekend, though not at the same time. Whenever Edward was there, Bella reverted to her old self, something that always made me sad to see. I liked the way Bella was coming into her own, and I cared about her. We had started out as casual friends, but through living together we'd become closer. She was easily now my best friend. Edward still held that title as well for me, but it was just...different. He and I had never really had the kinds of talks that Bella and I had from time to time. We became each other's confidants, reaching out when we were upset or lonely for our significant others. Those nights we usually ended up eating ice cream or sitting in front of the fireplace with a cup of cocoa if it was cold out.
Witnessing how Edward tried to monopolize her time instead of letting her show him the life she was building for herself here...it pissed me off. She wanted to include him and introduce him to her friends, but he refused. Whenever Edward left for Dartmouth again, I felt relieved, which always made me feel guilty in turn, but I hated seeing Bella down. It usually took her week or two to get back to herself again, and in that time there were many nights where we'd end up in front of the fireplace to talk. If she was feeling particularly low, she cried. She tried to hide the tears from me, but living together made it difficult to keep stuff like that from each other.
Whenever Alice came to stay, I made sure to put the clothes I'd bought myself in the back of the closet, figuring it wasn't worth the hassle if she were to find them. Alice and I spent every minute together that we could, but we always made sure to include Bella as much as possible. They were friends, too, and missed each other. Although Alice and I were together, I wouldn't deny either of them the chance to catch up on their friendship.
The first thing I did each time Alice went to New York was put on my favorite pair of black lounge pants and a wife beater, and then Bella and I would cook a nice meal together. It always unsettled me to have Alice leave, but the cooking and sharing a meal with Bella helped a lot. It was...comforting.
Summer break was a mixture of good and bad. It was nice to have everyone together again, and we all made use of the time we had. Emmett and Rosalie hadn't changed much; if anything they had gotten even closer than they were before they'd left for college. Bella and I stayed in Seattle, using the time to fix up the house more and make some additions - with Charlie's help, of course. Like the year before, Emmett, Rose, Edward, and Alice helped us out. They all stayed at our house, and it was crowded, but it worked - for the most part, at least.
Things were almost the way they were before college. Edward was more overbearing than usual. His every action and word attested to his fears that he was losing Bella, a fact which was solidified when I went to get a drink from the kitchen one night. Emmett and Rosalie had gone back to Forks for a few days, and Alice was still sleeping when I walked down the hallway and heard Bella and Edward arguing, which was unusual. I paused a moment, wanting to help, and then went back to my room, leaving them to it. I knew that interrupting would not be the best thing, but at the same time, I also knew that I would talk to both of them later - separately, of course.
Afterward, I had tried once again to reason with Edward, and though he knew I was right, he couldn't seem to stop himself. He tried to rein in his fears, and most of the time he was caring and attentive to Bella. I was glad that he appeared to be making an effort.
Throughout the summer, Alice drug me out on a couple of shopping trips, stating that my wardrobe was out of date. I didn't dare argue or show her the clothes I had gotten on my own. Going along was easier, and it made her happy, so I figured...why not? Things between Alice and me were a little strained, though, despite being together again. Being apart for so long had changed us both more than either of us was willing to admit. We still loved each other like crazy; that much hadn't changed. It was just that we had both grown from our experiences - experiences that were no longer shared.
To me, it was almost a relief to have everyone go back to their respective colleges, leaving Bella and me on our own again. It was amazing how I'd gotten so used to living with Bella that I honestly couldn't imagine living with anyone else. Life went back to how it had been the year before in most ways, but in some, it got worse. Alice and I drifted further apart, neither of us content with being so far apart. I began to wonder if this was going to last. I still loved her, but I felt that love changing, and I couldn't make up my mind whether it was a good or bad thing.
Things between Bella and Edward went downhill, too, and all I could do was watch from the sidelines as their relationship deteriorated. I did what I could for them both, but nothing seemed to help. Edward became worse with his need to control Bella. It was completely counterproductive because she wanted her growing freedom. I tried to point it out to him, and he was frustrated because he knew I was right. He admitted it, but he seemed to be completely unable to stop himself. In one of our more serious moments, I suggested that perhaps it was time for him to talk to a counselor about that, but I didn't think he heard me.
As for Bella, it was hard for me to watch her. She loved and missed Edward and wanted to be with him, but she was finding it increasingly difficult to remain unfazed by his behavior. Several times I found her crying after a particularly bad conversation with him, and it killed me to see it. Bella had changed so much since starting college; she had come into her own and had become a beautiful, self-assured young woman. Well, self-assured in almost every way but her relationship with Edward. I didn't understand how Edward could not see the woman she had become, or how he could feel that the changes in her were a bad thing. I didn't think so at all - I was actually very proud of Bella.
One night in spring, I came home from working on a group project to find Bella on the couch. She was staring into the empty fireplace, tears running silently down her cheeks. She didn't seem to notice me as I sat down next to her - at least not until I pulled her in my arms and rested her head on my shoulder. I asked her what was wrong.
She sniffled and closed her eyes. "It's nothing..."
I put a finger under her chin, lifting her face up so I could see her better. "Bella...talk to me, please?"
She sighed, shaking her head. With a sigh of my own, I said, "Edward?"
She nodded, her voice small as she told me they'd had another fight, this time about an upcoming dance. She wanted to go with a few of her friends, but Edward had overreacted as usual and forbade her to go. Fucking idiot...
I frowned. "Bella, can I ask you something?"
She looked at me and nodded. I cleared my throat lightly. "Now don't get me wrong, Bells, you know I love Edward, too. He's been my best friend for years, but...why do you put up with his shit?"
Rubbing her arm lightly, I added, "You know you deserve better, right? To be treated better? I know he loves you; I do...but he's..."
I couldn't finish. I loved them both, and I wanted what was best for them. Edward was a good guy; he just didn't have things in perspective. Bella was a great woman. I'd seen firsthand how caring she was and how self-sacrificing. How he could push her away like that was beyond me.
Bella sat quietly for a moment, but I could tell it wasn't because she was refusing to answer. It was more so she could rally her thoughts. I'd gotten to know her well enough to recognize the meaning behind that little crease in her brow. After a minute or so, she ran her fingers through her long tresses and sighed, turning to look at me with question in her eyes. Whatever I was expecting to hear, it wasn't this.
"Why do you put up with the stuff Alice does?"
I blinked at her, dumbstruck. She continued, "Same reason, I think. You love her, just like I love Edward." She gave a rueful smile and said, "People put up with some crazy shit when they're in love; don't they?"
She sighed softly again, patting my knee lightly. "Jazz, I've seen you over the last couple of years. Alice is just as bad in her own way as Edward is, though they show it differently. And I get why they are the way they are...I know you do, too."
She glanced at me, and I nodded. A small, crooked grin came to her lips as she said, "I've seen you hide away all those clothes you bought whenever Alice comes for a visit."
I rolled my eyes, squeezing her shoulder. It wouldn't do any good to argue the point I knew she was trying to make because it was true. I did hide my clothes, and I did hide away part of myself whenever I was with Alice. Neither Bella nor I spoke for several minutes as I processed my thoughts. I'd always known it on some level, but Bella had just put it out there for me to see - to face - and I realized that that wasn't what love should be. Loving someone meant you compromised, would do what you could to make them happy - of course you would - but not to the extent of losing sight of who you were in the process.
Pushing those thoughts aside, I turned back to my original question, repeating it. This time, I was met with a small shrug as she whispered, "I made a promise to him - and I love him."
She glanced away, though, and for a second, I thought her expression was pained. I wanted to ask what that meant, but it didn't seem like she was going to answer...and part of me was scared to find out.
I woke up to find Edward shaking me, telling me I had to get up. I had no idea what time it was, or when I'd finally managed to fall asleep, but I felt groggy and disoriented as I tried to figure out why Edward was in my bedroom - until I realized I wasn't in my bedroom.
"Jasper, come on, man. Wake up. You have to start getting ready. Dad's already here and so's Emmett." Edward shook me again, adding, "I put a cup of coffee on your nightstand. Now get up. You have things to do if you want to get married today, and you'd better do them, or my sister will have my hide."
Get married today...
I felt wide awake at those words, a lazy grin spreading over my lips as I let the idea of it being my wedding day soak in. Edward had walked out of my room, only to poke his head through the door a minute later, narrowing his eyes at me as he said, "Get up, Jazz! Don't make me sic Emmett on you!"
"Alright, alright! I'm awake. I'm up...hold your damn horses already..."
With an annoyed huff, I threw the covers off me and sat up. I took a minute and drank some of my coffee, hoping to rid myself of the last vestiges of sleep. After I drained my coffee, I got up, showered, shaved, and put on my jeans from last night as well as a t-shirt. When I got downstairs, it was to find everyone already at the table having breakfast.
Carlisle smiled and bade me good morning before pouring himself some orange juice. Emmett simply nodded in greeting, too busy stuffing his face to say anything. Edward quickly swallowed his mouthful and grinned. "Well, good morning, sunshine. Help yourself. I'm under strict orders to make sure you have a hearty breakfast today, since it'll be a while before you get to eat again, I'm afraid."
I scowled at him. I wasn't hungry. More to the point, I was hungry, but I didn't feel I'd be able to eat. I was excited, nervous, and oddly worried that when it came down to it, I'd be hearing "Sorry, I don't," instead of "I do." It was utterly ridiculous, of course, but still...
There was no getting around it, though. I'd have to eat, so I dutifully sat down and grabbed a blueberry muffin. We ate in silence for the most part. I knew Emmett was quiet only because he wasn't fully awake yet, and the same likely went for Edward since we had stayed up so late. Carlisle never spoke much over breakfast to begin with. The silence was nice, like the calm before the storm - and I knew that it'd feel like one. I remembered the chaos of other weddings I had been a part of, and those hadn't even been mine. This one was.
As I ate, my mind wandered once again to the past. The night that I'd finally asked Bella why she kept putting up with Edward's behavior had been an eye opener for me. When Alice came to visit a couple of weeks after that, we sat down and talked. I think it was the first time we had openly addressed everything - from our feelings before to how things had changed for both of us. We even talked about how we both felt after all was said and done. We agreed we still loved each other and would probably always care for one another...but we weren't in love anymore.
We both apologized to each other, knowing we each had done things we shouldn't have. Alice felt bad that her actions had made me feel like I couldn't be myself, and I in turn hated that I hadn't been honest about it with her. In the end, though, we mutually decided to call it quits and simply be friends. Something told me we would be able to stay that, at least. It was a little odd at first, but over time we managed to get back to just being the friends we were before we'd gotten together - better friends, even, because we'd been together, strange at that might seem to some people.
Though I'd had my epiphany over my relationship with Alice, Bella seemed determined to tough it out with Edward. I watched, listened, and waited, though at the time I wasn't sure what I was waiting for. I hated watching my friends hurt, and they were both hurting. Over the weeks that followed my break up with Alice, all the way to summer vacation, I became aware of another change. It was very slow in the making, and it had come on so gradually that I hadn't even realized it was happening. It was a change I tried my best to hide away because what good would it do to share the knowledge of it?
What I had realized was that I was feeling less and less bothered by Edward being upset and more angry that Bella was hurting...because my feelings for her were growing, changing into something entirely inappropriate for two best friends living together.
And friends was all that we could ever be because I could not - would not - do anything to come between them. It left me standing on the outside, looking in and wishing like hell I could do something to make things right for Bella. I hated to see her hurt, to watch her try to bend over backwards in order to reassure Edward. There were just too many nights where she ended up crying. In fact, not long before finals, it got to the point where she would lock herself in her room because she didn't want me to know she was in tears again.
When finals were over and summer had officially begun, the gang got back together again. It was good to see Emmett, Rosalie, and Alice again - even if it was slightly awkward. Edward...was a different story altogether. As my friend, I was happy to see him. As my best friend's fiance, I wanted to kick his ass. I had a hard time reconciling the two, so I ended up actually going back home to Forks for a couple of weeks, rather than working on the house.
Edward stayed in our house with Bella, and by the time I came home again, things had changed. I never did find out exactly what happened, as neither of them would tell me anything beyond the fact that they were no longer together. Well, later Bella told me that she had finally had enough and had given Edward his ring back.
I wasn't sure what to make of it, but I couldn't find it in myself to be happy about this development. Both Edward and Bella were hurting over it, and though she had made the decision, she still had a hard time with it - more so because Edward was devastated, and she knew it.
I didn't know how to be there for both of them, but I did my best. Edward tried to get me to help him win her back, but I could not in good conscience help him - and not just because I was in love with Bella. Edward admitted that I had been right all along, that he should have listened to me and taken my advice over the years, which was all fine and dandy but the damage was done. For all that he had tried to hold on to her, his attempts had finally backfired, and he'd ended up pushing away the very person he wanted to spend forever with.
Bella, on the other hand, had a harder time with the fact that she had hurt Edward, than with the reason behind her decision. Whenever I'd been to talk with Edward, she would quietly ask how he was doing, her eyes clouding with pain and something else I didn't recognize. She thanked me for being there for him, though I wasn't sure why she would. I was their friend; of course I would be there for both of them.
Summer went by more quickly than I would have imagined, given the circumstances. We all spent time together, and for the most part Edward behaved. There were a few times, though, where he cornered Bella and pleaded his case, begging her to reconsider and reassuring her that he loved her. Each time, she turned him down. Once I even heard her tell him the same thing that I had tried to tell him: the damage was done, and though she loved him and knew that he loved her, it wasn't enough.
In all that time, I never let on about my feelings for her. To either of them. I didn't want to rub Edward's nose in it, and I also didn't feel right about going after Bella so soon after a bad break up...if I ever was going to pursue her. I wasn't at all sure that any advances from me would be welcomed. Sure, I was her friend and we were close and I knew that she loved me...but just as a friend.
When school started again, we tried to get back to normal, focusing on classes, the house, and just hanging out. We still had several classes together, so our schedules meshed pretty well. We cooked together more often than not, and it was during those rituals that I noticed that Bella was beginning to come into her own again. She was slowly getting over what had happened with Edward.
Still, there were many moments where she was just too quiet, too pensive. I had no idea why, nor would she tell me. She simply shrugged it off and claimed she was fine.
I didn't believe her for a second.
The week before Valentine's Day proved me right in thinking something was going on with Bella. I came home from running a couple of errands to find her huddled in the corner of the couch, sniffling.
I put my bags down and walked over to her, sitting down only after she didn't acknowledge me. It might have seemed backward, but I didn't really care. I placed my hand between her shoulder blades, watching her carefully as I asked softly, "Bella, what happened? What's wrong?"
She shook her head even as she wiped the tears off her face. Her voice was small, almost inaudible as she whispered, "It's nothing...just being stupid."
I frowned, squeezing her neck gently. "Come on, Bells. Talk to me? If it has you this upset, it can't be stupid."
She glanced at me then, and I could tell she was blushing faintly. She looked uncertain, apparently debating whether to tell me or not. Finally, she said, "I'm just lonely, I guess."
She passed me a red flier which I hadn't noticed in her hands. "Someone on campus gave me this...an invite to a Valentine's Day party this Saturday. Just kinda brought home that I don't have anybody to go with, ya know?"
Ducking her chin, she closed her eyes, and it was all I could do to keep from blurting out that I'd go with her, if she wanted me to. I wasn't sure what I should say, though, so I kept my mouth shut.
Bella said, "Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever find someone..."
The rest of the sentence was left hanging in the air, and it broke my heart for her. Neither of us had dated since we'd broken up with our significant others, but Bella had never shown any indication of being interested in me in all that time. I didn't want to risk our friendship if she didn't return my feelings.
I sighed softly as I pulled her in my arms, letting her head rest on my shoulder as I placed a tender kiss on the top of her head. "Oh, Bella..."
She put her arms around me, almost melting into my side, and we sat like that for a while. Neither of us spoke, but I could hear the odd sniffle from her. After a couple of minutes, I still didn't know what to say. I kissed the top of her head again, wanting to do so much more. I tried to ignore how good it felt to hold her in my arms, how much I wished it were for a reason other than to comfort a friend who was down.
Bella looked up at me, and once I was caught by those beautifully expressive brown eyes of hers, I knew I didn't want to be with anyone but her. She had never looked at me quite that way before, but I wasn't sure what was going through her head. I finally had to try, though. I just couldn't resist.
I put my finger under her chin, lifting it slightly as I slowly, tentatively brushed my lips against hers. My eyes never left hers as I kissed her again, a little more firmly this time. My heart soared when I felt her lips respond in kind.
She tilted her head, deepening the kiss as she closed her eyes. Her arms slipped from my waist and instead went around my neck, her fingers tangling in my hair. My hand went to the back of her head, threading my own fingers into her hair, while my other hand went to her lower back. I wasn't sure whether I pulled her to me, or if she decided to move of her own accord, but next thing I knew, she was straddling my lap. That first kiss seemed to go on forever, and I definitely wished it would never end.
Fingers snapped in front of my face, startling me from my thoughts. Good-natured laughter reached my ears as I blinked up at Edward, who had apparently been trying to get my attention. I blushed and mumbled, "Sorry, man..."
He grinned. "Quite alright. I did the same thing, remember?"
I nodded. Edward had been just as spacey on his wedding day. I felt Carlisle's hand on my shoulder as he said, "Come on, son; we need to get changed and to the church."
Nodding again, I picked up my plate and cup and carried them to the kitchen. I took my time getting dressed, wanting to make sure I looked my best. I kept having to re-do my tie, though, as I couldn't get the blasted knot to look neat and straight. Eventually, Carlisle took pity on me and tied it for me.
I was beginning to feel nervous, and my knee kept bouncing as we settled into the limo heading for the church. Edward tapped it lightly with the back of his fist, telling me quietly that everything would be fine. I couldn't help my irrational fear. What if she didn't show up? What if she said no? What if..?
When I voiced them to him in a whisper, he assured me she would be there, that wild horses wouldn't be able to keep her from saying "I do" to me, and that today would go off without a hitch.
When we got to the church, everything appeared to be in place. The flowers had arrived, and I could hear them testing the sound system as we walked into the sanctuary. I knew I was supposed to check on other things, but I couldn't focus. I kept fidgeting with my sleeves, my eyes darting all over the room in an attempt to take it all in, to make all of it real.
Exasperated, Edward pushed me into a pew and told me to stay put, that he and Emmett would take care of whatever details were left. Carlisle sat with me, and a tiny part of my brain wondered if it was to keep me from bolting - as if I would, or even could. Now that the moment was upon me, all I wanted to do was get through it so that we could start our life together as husband and wife. There was nothing in the world I wanted more than that.
I'd waited too long to get here.
After the day that I'd found her crying, Bella and I had a long talk, both of us admitting to our feelings and the desire to try for something more. When Charlie found out, he wasn't happy about it, but there was little he could do. Bella was an adult, after all. I could understand where he was coming from, though, and did my best to earn his respect. I never pushed Bella, and we agreed that her room was her sanctuary and I would not invade it.
It was weeks before we did anything more than make out, and when we finally did make love, it was worth the wait. She was worth everything. We dated throughout the rest of college. In truth, not much of our way of living had changed, other than that we went on actual dates, and we were intimate. I courted her as best I could, much to her amusement, but as I told her time and again, she deserved it.
We had our ups and downs of course, but we always managed to make it through, and we were stronger for it. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, and in our senior year - unbeknown to Bella - I asked Charlie for his daughter's hand and his blessing. It was symbolic, of course. I knew my Bella was a woman who made up her own mind about things, but it was the proper thing to do in my mind. Charlie appreciated it, too.
It was months afterward that I finally popped the question. It was graduation day, and both our families were there to celebrate with us. We'd both walked to get our diplomas, and I had never been more proud of Bella.
My parents had made reservations for us at the Dahlia Lounge, and we were waiting for dessert after a nice dinner there. I had slipped away for a moment to talk to our server and make sure that my plans were still okay. He assured me everything was set up, so I gave him the ring before returning to my seat next to Bella.
I was fidgeting a little, nervous and excited to finally ask Bella to be mine forever. She frowned slightly as she watched me, but I just shook my head and grinned at her. Charlie caught her attention, and she was quickly distracted. He knew what was about to happen, so I appreciated his help.
When our server arrived a minute later, he and a colleague placed everyone's plates in front of them, saving Bella's for last. She didn't notice at first, as she was still talking, but she flashed the server a smile in thanks before resuming the conversation. When Charlie began on his dessert, she took it as her cue to start on hers and picked up her fork. She froze when she looked down at her chocolate cake. Her lips parted in a quiet, "Oh," and her eyes flickered to mine. I took the ring that sat perched on top of her cake, wiped it on a napkin, took Bella's hand in mine, guiding her to the edge of her seat as I slipped out of mine and knelt on the floor.
Everything had gone quiet, and I could feel people staring at us, but I didn't care. My focus was solely on my Bella, who was watching me with shimmering eyes. I took a deep breath and smiled, my fingers brushing over her knuckles, both hoping to sooth and be soothed.
I had to clear my throat lightly before my voice would work. "Bella, today we closed a chapter of our lives, one that we've been writing for years. I love you with all my heart, and I want to begin this next stage of our lives together. Bella, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
I held my breath in anticipation, and it felt like an eternity passed before I saw her nod. A whispered, "Yes..." spilled over her lips. The smile that spread over my face was huge as I put the ring on her finger - a simple white gold band with a solitaire diamond. It was simple, beautiful, and very Bella.
As soon as the ring was on her finger, she was in my arms, and I could hear practically the whole restaurant erupt in applause and cheers. It was the happiest moment of my life.
Carlisle patted my shoulder gently. "Jasper?"
I blinked and turned to look at him. He smiled and nodded toward the pews that were starting to fill up. It was time. Taking a deep breath, I nodded and stood. As soon as I was on my feet, Edward and Emmett were by my side. Edward assured me everything was ready and that he'd spoken with Alice. All was well with the bridal party, too.
We stepped up to the altar; almost as soon as I set foot on it, my nerves left me and peace washed over me. For a moment, at least. And then I was struck by panic, patting down my pockets, sure I'd misplaced the rings.
Edward put his hand on my shoulder and asked, "Jazz, what's wrong?"
I turned to him and whispered, "The rings! I don't have the rings!"
He chuckled, squeezed me shoulder, and said, "No, you don't. I have them, see?" He pulled the small box that held both our rings out of his pocket and opened it, showing me that they were there and safe. I felt like an idiot - I had asked him to hold them, after all. He grinned and said, "Don't worry about it, Jazz. I told you, everything'll be fine."
I nodded, taking a few calming breaths, and turned my attention to the doors where Bella would be emerging. Everyone was already seated as the music started to play. I felt Edward straighten as soon as his wife entered the sanctuary. I chanced a glance at him to find him watching her with pride in his eyes. He had met Maggie just before the end of his junior year, literally running into her after an appointment with his counselor. They had been inseparable ever since. She matched his temper and his joy, and never let him get away with anything. She was everything he hadn't known he needed, and I couldn't have been happier for him.
Shortly after Maggie came Alice, who flashed me a grin and nodded. I was certain she would have given me a thumbs up, had she felt she could have gotten away with it. I grinned back, my eyes flickering to Alice's husband, Demetri, who was sitting in the front pew. They'd met at a coffee shop close to where she lived in New York, and after several months, Demetri had plucked up the courage to try to woo the spitfire of a woman she had become. His calm demeanor and sense of self seemed to be the only thing able to rein her in. They balanced each other out nicely, and though Demetri certainly benefited from Alice's shopping sprees, she'd never again made the mistakes she had made with me. They were happy, which in turn made me happy. I still cared for her and wanted what was best for her.
Rosalie was the last of the bridesmaids to walk down the aisle. She and Emmett were engaged, their wedding a few months off from ours. She gave me a quiet smile as she reached the altar, and then the music changed.
I watched the doors intently, involuntarily holding my breath as I waited for Bella to appear. When the doors opened, she was there, on Charlie's arm. Her eyes were fixed on mine, and I could tell that she was as eager and nervous as I was. Charlie kept petting her hand, and it was all I could do not to start laughing, or to run to her side and escape. I wanted to be alone with her, but first, I wanted to make her my wife.
It seemed to take forever for Charlie and Bella to make it to the front of the sanctuary. As they stopped before me, I finally allowed my eyes to leave hers so I could take her in. She was stunning. Alice had designed and made Bella's dress - it was strapless, white, and fit her flawlessly; the dress itself was some sort of satin, with much of it covered in embroidered lace. It was elegant, subtle, and absolutely perfect for my Bella. Her hair was slightly pulled back, so it wasn't in her face, but otherwise it was loose and wavy, just the way I liked it. The veil that was pinned in her hair kept everything in place.
I had never seen anyone more beautiful than Bella was in that moment, especially when she was smiling up at me, all her love and devotion apparent in her eyes. We stared at each other for what felt like a long time, but lasted only seconds. Charlie cleared his throat lightly before placing Bella's hand in mine and taking his seat.
We walked the last few steps to the minister together. Everything around us seemed to fade as we took our positions. As the minister spoke, I listened, but my attention was focused on the woman in front of me, the one I was promising to love, honor, and cherish, forever.
I was sure beautiful words were spoken, but I was even more sure that what I would remember most clearly from this day was the way Bella's lips curved into a gentle smile and the way her eyes glistened as she squeezed my hand. When the minister asked me to repeat after him, my chest felt full to bursting as I said, "With this ring, I thee wed; and with all my worldly goods, I thee endow," and slipped the white gold band around her finger.
When the minister turned to Bella, I couldn't help the shuddering breath that escaped me as he asked her what token she had for me. She responded as I had done, her fingers trembling slightly as she held my ring between them, hovering in front of my hand. Her eyes were fixed on mine as the minister said, "And this ring, do you give to him as a sign and seal of the endless affection with which you will cherish him, and the unbroken fidelity with which you will perform to him the vows of a wife? Do you?"
Bella's eyes glistened, silent tears escaping even as her smile widened. Her voice was strong as she said, "I do."
We hope you enjoyed reading this story as much as we did writing it. As you can see, it's not just the boys that want to play with us.
Something to keep in mind for the upcoming Fandom Gives Back, maybe? Speaking of which, cut off for sign ups are on 6/15, and the auctions themselves run from 6/25-7/2! You can find more information here: http:/ www (dot) thefandomgivesback (dot) com/
We are up for both First Come, First Served (drabbles), and for Auction for a one-shot or second chapter of existing one-shots. More information will be available on the threads of FGB.
Another thing that deserves mentioning is the Plot Bunny Contest. You can submit your plot bunnies until the 19th. http:/ plotbunnycontest (dot) blogspot (dot) com/
You can also sign up to request a plot bunny. Forms for both are on the blog. SorceressCirce is one of the hosts, whereas naelany is one of the judges. Now is your time to see your ideas come to fruition, even if you yourself are not a writer. Come on, we know you've got something good ;-)