Ummmm hi? LOL
So I have been absolutely horrible lately. This work which has been so dear to me fell by the wayside due to school and work over the holidays and I just wasn't able to get it right. I think I re wrote so much of this first page it was beginning to drive me crazy and more than that discourage me from even attempting it because of my lack of inspiration.
But time and my heart soon allowed me to do this chapter. We are winding down to the happy ending and soon this story will be done but we still have some ways to go yet. I am hoping you are all still willing to read! And best of all I think I have my groove back! I these next few chapters should go smooth now. LOL I hope haha
Even if I don't get to respond to all the reviews, those that I have received lately have been a constant source of inspiration and help more than words can say. You guys are amazing readers and I appreciate you all with your generosity and support.
Also if you all hadn't seen I started Sam and Seth's story Pulse…check it out if you haven't!
Misty Haze you are the reason this chapter is finished right now. You are a true friend and I don't think my day would be right without our twisted texting! If people ever read them they would have us committed! I love you friend!
SO onto the chapter! I hope you all enjoy it!
XoXo Maria 3
Jasper had done a lot of things in his life that should have made what he was about to do seem like a walk in the park.
Prison should have made this Christmas dinner PALE in comparison.
Life on the street was ten times worse than meeting the rest of Edwards's family.
Or at least it should have been.
But as Jasper sat in the passenger seat of Edward's Prius, he felt the claws of nervousness scratch at his belly. Edward was blissfully unaware, singing along with some cheery carol on the radio, bouncing around without a care in the world.
He couldn't tell him he was scared. And he worried as to whether or not such an admission would make him seem ungrateful or weak. After all these people who barely knew him were about to give him something he had never had all his life: a real holiday with all the trimmings. And Edward was so excited to bring him to meet the rest of his clan. He assured him that there would be enough food for certain and that his mother had sung in delight when he informed her of Jasper's participation.
"She'll give you the good seat and you'll get to have first picks of everything." He had told him laughing as they piled into the car.
"Ya' sure there is enough food Edward?" he asked softly to which Edward just smirked and shook his head.
"Honey, we are Italian. It would be a sign of the end times should anyone ever come to our house and there not be enough to eat."
Jasper had never been to anyplace in his life where an added mouth to feed had been a joyful thing.
For the first time in his life, Jasper was worried about someone's impression of him.
It was around 7 o' clock when he and Edward pulled into the side alley next to the festively decorated Cullen household. The little parking strip between two tall beautiful old houses was dark and murky but Jasper could see that the house porch around the corner gave off a soft hazy glow from the lit mini Christmas trees sitting in pots on either side of the red door. Getting out of the car, Jasper felt himself breathing deeply to keep calm for the hundredth time that day. This was a big step. Not only had he had but a few Christmas's to even go off of but this was a dinner, a holiday dinner with the family of his Edward. He met Esme, thought her to be such a wonderful bright and lovely woman but what of the others? He was particularly worried about the occupation of Edwards's brother and sister in law. Although the brother seemed clueless the blonde police officer had given him that dirty cold feeling when her perfectly made up eyes fell on him. Cops always made him jumpy and that was the last thing Jasper wanted to appear this evening. He wanted to be calm and cool and give a good impression to people he hoped would want him around their Edward. And he wanted Edward to be proud to introduce him to these people.
He was nothing special… Being around Edward or his friends was one thing. But this was a special moment. Jasper desperately wanted to fit in, to have them like him. Edward had been reassuring him all day that his family would adore him and he was being silly. But he knew better. Jasper could be so quiet and lack so many simple social skills. He didn't know the finer ways of communication with people… in a world behind bars one didn't usually express themselves with words nor was it the place for forming life long bonds.
If it hadn't been for his little Red Head's patience and persistence then he never would have been able to come out of that apartment.
Speaking of which, Edward reached over and grabbed his hands, as they stood before the snow scraped steps.
"You ready?" he asked Jasper.
"As much as I can be." He answered, "I'm a little…scared." The admission earned him a sweet kiss on the cheek.
"You don't have to be scared you know?" he whispered to him. "They will love you…my mother already does and honestly in this house that's all that matters." He rubbed his hands along his scruffy chin and Jasper smiled at the feeling of those soft hands. He couldn't get enough of the touches that he was given.
"I know…I just wanna make ya' not embarrassed of me… Ya' know I ain't used ta' this."
"I promise you, my family will love you! I am more worried we will scare you away! We Cullen's have a tendency to freak people out because we are so loud and we kiss and hug everyone. It kind of makes people uncomfortable."
Jasper just shook his head and felt a smile return to his lips. "I sorta am used ta' ya' being a bit over the top." Edward smirked and grabbed his neck bringing him down for a kiss.
"I thought you liked me on top…" They both smiled as their lips met and for the thousandth time since he met him, Jasper prayed to whoever was listening that this…his Edward, would always want to kiss him.
"They will love you," he whispered. "Just be the guy I know and you'll be fine."
He could do that…because the guy that Edward made was a good one.
Smiling Jasper stopped them in front of the steps and pulled him into yet another kiss. He needed the reassurance before they walked into this unfamiliar place. The kiss warmed him immediately and Edwards's soft little moan made him grasp him just a little longer.
The front door swinging open and a booming voice broke them apart.
"Hey! Quit making out with my brother!" The dark haired cop stepped onto the porch, arms crossed and a stern look on his face. Instinctively, Jasper stood back a little but Edward just rolled his eyes.
"Still out for defending my honor, Em?" he softly ran his hands down Jasper's back and he relaxed a little as a friendly smile took over the frown. That smile held the same brilliance as Edward's and instantly Jasper felt at ease.
Emmett was only joking.
"Eh, I never had a sister…I got to protect something from the wiles of men, huh?" He laughed as they climbed the steps and walked through the threshold.
If Jasper thought Edward's apartment smelled amazing then this place was heavenly.
The house was old. Dark hardwood floors covered the walkways and a big intricately carved staircase pooled at the entrance way in a circle. The banister was covered in fresh garland and there were pictures lined up the wall going towards the second story. To his right was the living room, a Christmas tree standing tall in golds and whites surrounded by expensive looking antique furniture that was a smooth beige color. The walls were covered in mirrors and works of renaissance art, as well as a huge china cabinet that held not only pristine stemware but graceful figurines of women and Greek goddesses. It looked like the room never got walked in as the lines from the vacuum were heavily present on the white carpet.
In all his life Jasper had never seen a room speak such volumes or look like it was a work of art.
"That's my mothers 'special occasion' room." Edward sidled up next to him smirking in amusement.
"Special Occasion Room?" he echoed.
Emmett chimed in on the other side of him. "Ma has this thing that there is one room of the house that she keeps absolutely flawless. It's the first thing people see and she engrained it into Edward and me that should there ever be a speck of dust or a foot print in HER room she would chase us with the 'scoupina'!" he laughed but Jasper was confused. Why did it need to be a room no one used? And what was a scoupina?
Edward laughed and smiled guiding him away from the room down a narrow hallway lined with pictures. "Mom has a way of mixing English and Italian…it means spoon…you know how a spoon scoups? It's a scoupina to her."
That made surprising sense to him.
As they neared what he found was the kitchen, Jasper was assaulted with smells more unfamiliar and tantalizing than he had ever dreamed. Esme's kitchen was like a sprawling land of mountains of pots and pans simmering with oceans of sauces and steaming with flavors yet untouched. Breads and pastas bountiful in shape and color covered the grand marble countertop flanked by fishes cut and ready for cooking. A behemoth cast iron stove stood tall and proud as a center piece, it's flames creating magic in the caldrons of food that boiled and burped cheerfully as if happy to be created. And there in the center of it all was Esme standing like a sorceress amongst her magic creations, the spoon as her wand and handful of spices she had bundled in her hand like a potion ready to be cast. Her hair was barely restrained by a clip and her cheeks were flushed, red and smiling broadly eyes alight with the power and joy creativity can only bring to a person.
"Jasper!" her voice beautiful and warm the essence of her accent making him melt. She rushed to him and threw her arms around him in a bone crushing hug, kissing his face and exclaiming things in Italian he had no idea the meaning of. But with the way Edward was beaming at them over his mother's shoulder told him that they were good things.
"We are so happy you come to eat at my feast!" Jasper adored that accent, how it played like a song to his ears…everything about her…was musical. She spoke as if she were singing to him.
"I make you wonderful food to eat! And Edward is so happy you come to us!"
Jasper took her hand in his own and smiled in a way he had just discovered he could only do for Edward.
"Ya'll are very nice ta' let me come to yer family thing. I hope it ain't no trouble."
"No such thing!" she laughed and whirled around to run to a pot that was bubbling a little too much. "We love others coming to us! You in for a special treats, yes? I hope Edward explain these to you?"
"I did Madre…many times." Edwards eyes were alight with mirth and he took Jasper's hand leaning into him. "Many times in fact."
"Yeah, you had to mentally prepare him for us." Emmett snickered good naturedly behind them.
Edward shot him a glare but said nothing as they walked into an adjoining room.
The dinning area was as beautiful and splendid as the rest of the house and at this particular place an older man with graying blonde hair was seating with two equally blonde and beautiful little girls. The children saw Edward enter and squealing in delight wiggling out of the mans embrace and over to Edward who hugged and kissed and cooed at them.
Jasper felt the awkwardness flow back into him. He didn't belong to this…didn't know them. Jasper didn't know what to do with little girls.
They were tiny delicate little things, golden ringlets that they no doubt inherited from their parents. One of which he was relieved to see absent. She might not like him standing so near to these little fingers and little hearts. Tiny children didn't belong next to men who could snap a neck.
"Uncle Eddie! Who is this?" The taller of the two pointed to him as he stood stiff and still. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the older man who he guessed was Edwards's father was smirking at them as enjoying the discomfort on his face.
Edward just smiled at the little girl and took her hand as well as her sisters and looked up at him. He ignored the fear that must have been on his face and just gave him that grin.
"Vanessa and Marleah this is my boyfriend, Jasper Whitlock." It knocked him over that he would introduce him that way to such young minds but the girls just looked up at him with wide blue eyes that seemed to penetrate to his core. Their little smiles were powerful and Jasper was captivated.
"Hi…" they whispered and giggled. The older one, Vanessa even curtsied in a very ladylike manner.
"What do we say when we meet people, ladies?" Emmett asked behind him.
Instantly the little girls stood straight and regal, obviously taking pride in their introductions.
"My name is Vanessa and I am 5 years old. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance." Her sweet little voice was extremely serious and Jasper felt his mouth twitch when she held out her hand which he took in his big one shaking gently.
"My pleasure ma'am. I am Jasper Whitlock." Edward's warm hand on his back let him know he was doing the right thing.
Marleah's little hand tugged on his sleeve and he leaned close to her.
"I…I…" she seemed to search for the right words and then exclaimed in a little chirping bird voice, "Me Leah! An' I dis' many." She held up 3 fingers then decided that it wasn't right and held up 2 instead. She stuck her hand out and Jasper shook it as well…he was enchanted by them.
His Red Head seemed to be by him as well. Edward's eyes were warm and dazed as he looked at the scene before him and Jasper in turn was relieved. Even when Doctor Cullen came and introduced himself he was fine. Edward's father was a quiet man with smile lines and a soft handsome face. He looked like someone who had seen much and was content beyond belief with his life now.
He had good reason to be.
"Hey Em, where's Rose?" asked Edward to which Emmett replied to his relief that the frightening blonde woman was on call tonight and would be joining them for Christmas morning dinner once her patrols were over.
Jasper was beyond relieved.
Once they sat down Jasper was bombarded by his two newest fans. The little girls instantly climbed into his lap and started talking animatedly with him about all manner of things he had absolutely no idea about. But he was so eager for Vanessa to talk about her kindergarten graduation and for Marleah to pet his hair and say that she played with her Bratz dolls all day. It was like holding all the innocence and sweetness in the world everything that he had never even seen before Edward. Usually he gave off a gruff vibe and these little ones didn't have a single fear of him. It was…precious in a way nothing had been before.
Edward was absolutely beaming, radiating warmth and happiness his smile a mile wide.
Leaning over he kissed Jasper's cheek and the little girls giggled in his lap.
"You are doing beautiful, honey." He whispered into his ear.
A little while later, Emmett and Edward gathered the girls and whisked them off to the kitchen to help their Grandmother.
Which left Jasper alone in the presence of the quiet patriarch of the family.
He really wasn't sure what to do or say to the man and he watched Edward's retreating smile and wink with a pleading look that he didn't want to think about how much of a wuss it made him appear.
Honestly, this man and he were on completely different levels of society…further than he and Edward ever were. This man was, from what he knew, a Doctor who had built a practice for years and was about to retire a well respected and beloved part of the Seattle community. What could he possibly have in common with someone like him? A man who obviously wasn't refined and was, at a glance, banging his son? Did the whole protective father thing come into play when it came to slightly feminine sons? Was he going to get his scalpel and show him how he was going to creatively remove his balls should he dare to touch Edward with them again?
Jasper must have looked uncomfortable because the warm soft laughter that issued from his smiling mouth gave way to his fear feeling less oppressive.
Dr. Cullen's blue eyes sparkled and his grin was infectious.
"Don't worry, my boy. I hardly have the urge to keep my sons virginity intact as it was discovered when he was 16 that such a mission was to prove useless." His words were crisp and gentle with notes of refined British in their pronunciation. The tone in which he spoke was soothing and Jasper could imagine him using it to calm an unruly patient.
"Yer' not from around here are ya?" he asked relaxing into the armed chair.
"No, and I suspect you are not either…Texas, Edward told me, yes?"
"That's right…I feel a bit outta place here sometimes… No one talks like me an' I have a hard time makin' myself known."
Carlisle folded his arms across his chest and nodded.
"Ah yes, I remember that awkward moment as well… you see I wasn't born in England but here and my parents brought me up into a duel citizenship. I moved back and fourth so much but this accent stuck…I figured it would be best to just pick one and go with it."
Jasper smiled then asked. "Wait, if yer' from England an' Esme's Italian then how did ya'll…?
Carlisle laughed again and stood motioning for him to follow him into another room of the house where a much more lived in feel surrounded the furniture and portraits of the family dotted the walls. The framed photo of a younger Edward smiling at them made Jasper's heart swell.
Carlisle noticed his gaze and his face warmed up even more but he said nothing.
"I'm surprised Edward never told you. You see, I was a young man whose parents being the strict Methodist ministers they were told me that the only lifelong pursuit worthy of their time and money that didn't involve making money for the church and persecuting those not worthy of being in God's house according to their rules, was the medical field. I was young and having been repressed in a starch white household where to speak above a whisper was looked upon as the gravest sin and god help you if you loved anything that was considered sumptuous…to put it simply I was eating dreadful saltine biscuits and sugarless tea everyday since I could remember. Bland and tasteless. Because that was the proper way of things according to my parents." He turned and smiled at Jasper who was fascinated by the tale. "I was a pale ugly thing then...wandering around the world like a ghost…no sunlight or warmth. And then the chance to go to Italy to be enrolled in the Medical school of Florence came to me and I immediately threw myself at the train to Europe. It was within the first few days of being idle in a land I knew nothing of and would never seem to understand that…I stopped for much one day at a Café'. I was starving…and exhausted in both life and spirit. And looking at a menu I knew nothing about…these foods confused me! I had only known about spaghetti and meatballs in England as the Italian food of choice. So when I ordered the food from this lovely waitress with a smile and beauty I had only seen in renaissance paintings I was so taken aback when she began to laugh in exasperation." They both glanced at the waitress who was pictured in the wall surrounded by her children. Jasper didn't know what the renaissance paintings were but they must have been something beautiful if they took after Edward's mother.
Carlisle continued, "Esme was so amused and appalled at the fact that I ate my spaghetti with meat in the sauce. And why were they balls of meat? She told me no real Italian would ever order food in such a callous regard to tradition….we spent the entire afternoon with her instructing me how to order in the city and what to eat…I had never met anyone who held such a passion before for anything…never had met someone who could find such love and warmth in something as simple as a glass of wine. She spoke to me as if she had known me all my life and I was…enchanted. In the 8 years I lived in Florence I visited Esme at her families Café almost weekly and let her pour biscotti and coffee, fish and spaghetti into my soul until my life before seemed as ugly and ordinary as I had thought it to be. We were in love with each other and her family welcomed me with open arms. Suffice to say though when my parents came to visit my graduating year and I told them I was marrying a non English who was not the rail thin blonde haired blue eyed stick they envisioned and who was Catholic to boot…well lets just say it was many, many years before both Edward and Emmett received a Christmas card."
Jasper was in awe of the story. What else could he say? Such an amazing and beautiful story…no wonder his Edward was so…perfect.
The laughter of those in the kitchen made the two men smile.
"Do you hear that, Jasper? That sound of laughter and joy…loud and boisterous? That was a sound that I had gone without my whole existence…and from the way you peer at my Edward is the way I looked at Esme and her family. Someone who grew up with the wrong kind of noise around them and now…they cant get enough of the voices of those they have fallen for."
Jasper felt ease wash over him. This man would not judge him when the time came…they in a way were cut from the same cloth. Though his was the sterile walls of a life of propriety and his the coolness of iron bars and vicious reality he knew that Carlisle Cullen did not see him as a threat…more of a strange kindred spirit.
He took a breath and let the softness of his feelings for Edward come out. "When I met yer son…I felt a lot like ya' say ya' did. Before him my life was like a moonless night. It was so dark, but there was stars…some lights on an' something to see a little around by. But then Edward knocked on my door an' it was like one of them meteor's across my sky. Suddenly everythin' was on fire; there was beauty an' things I ain't ever felt…even saw afore'. My eyes were blinded by light. An' everything before made no sense…an' everythin' I did from then on was to see him smile again…ta' see the meteor come near me."
The gasp behind them was soft and joyful. The men turned and there stood Edward with his green eyes wet and his smile wide…
The meteor was flashing.
And without a word Jasper opened his arms and Edward bounced into them burying his face in his neck and smiling and kissing completely oblivious to Carlisle's smiles or the two little girls giggling in the doorway.
Jasper had never felt so happy before.
In no time they were ushered back into the dining room and told to sit in the high cushioned chairs. Vanessa and Marleah insisted on sitting on either side of Jasper and he was very gentlemanly and pulled on their booster seats for them.
Edward sat across from him. Fingers curled under the table and shoes rubbing his leg his eyes full and loving.
Emmett sat next to Carlisle his booming voice singing along with the Christmas carols issuing from the stereo.
They all waited in a seemingly endless anticipation for something…and when Esme brought in the first of the dishes, Edward knew what they had all been longing for. Bowl's and tureens carrying steaming food were each placed with loving regard on the table as the family cooed and ooed at each new addition. Jasper wondered why the table was bare in respect to the rest of the house which was so richly decorated. But soon he saw that the food itself here was the decoration.
Edward seeing his confusion at the strange shapes of the food smiled and explained.
"In Italian families, Christmas is usually celebrated by the feast of the seven fishes. We can't get all of them here in the U.S. But we have the Calamari and the bacalla which is codfish and the mussels and clams. It's all made with sauces and baked and stewed with love!" He laughed heartily and spooned a heap onto Jasper's plate assuring him that he would love all of it.
And he did. More than that the tastes and the smells and the whole ordeal was quickly one of his most fond memories. Never before in his life had he had such a bounty of goodness. There was wine of every grape (although he still preferred a beer) and cuts of different cured meats and cheeses as well. Bread in crusty round loaves were torn and used as mopping spoons for the sauces as much as for their own tastefulness. Edward was moaning softly in delight across from him, his beautiful face scrunched in a look that Jasper could only say mirrored sex. To be honest at first he was slightly leery about the way some things looked but one taste of stuffed calamari he was hooked. Every smell and bite left him groaning in pleasure.
Esme was positively glowing with pride and joy and she fussed over her smiling husband and at cooed at her grand children. And Jasper…the man who but a year ago was languishing in a cell in Texas…was eating the best food of his life listening to the sounds of a real family and holding the hand of the man he loved. Who knows? Tomorrow when he met Rose maybe he wouldn't be so afraid.
With full bellies and fuller hearts they rolled to the foyer to say their goodbyes and merry Christmas's, promising even more good times the next day. The little ones hugged Jasper's knees and he wrapped them up in his arms feeling that at this point it might not be too off for him to hug this innocence.
He was…glowing. Inside he felt new.
This family…this man bidding goodbye to his parents were changing everything for Jasper. As he stood on the porch watching the snowfall and the cars pass on the street, the slush squishing under their tires, the man who once lived in a world of nothing suddenly felt like his whole universe had not only expanded but exploded.
"Ready to go?" Edward asked walking up to his side and clutching his hand in his own.
"Yeah…I think we better… snow's kinda gettin' bad."
"Hmmm…"Edward brought his hand to his lips kissing his knuckles and smiling up at him. "I think it's rather beautiful."
As they descended the steps, Jasper took a breath and spoke to his little read head.
"You done a lot for me these past weeks Edward…But I think tonight is…" he stopped and felt a ball of emotion clog his throat. They were in front of the alley on the side of the house's the snow falling around them. He took Edwards face in cold palms and kissed him soundly…again and again conveying everything in that touch of lips.
"Ya' brought me a lot more than cookies when ya' came ta' me."
Edward's eyes were shining and he giggled and pulled away from him walking further into the dark alley way where their car was parked.
"Ginger Bread cookies are magical I guess!" he did a little unmanly twirl and twist in the snow his red coat silhouetted against the darkness of the tight passageway. Jasper watched as Edward danced a ways ahead of him in the snow.
Even though the alley was dark he could see the light from the adjoining street flickering against the buildings, piled up lawn furniture and a few trash cans. It illuminated him as he stood next to the snow covered car.
Suddenly in the happiness and the beauty of the moment….in the smile of Edwards face and the laughter of his dance…Jasper felt the smallest tingle of…recognition.
He had been here before…someplace in someway he had stood in an alley, dark and still save for the distant pull of something calling him. Duty? A job? Where had he seen this setting?
He had walked down into this place…and Edward had been there…and it had been frightening…something wasn't right…
Something was about to go horribly wrong.
How could it though? All was well wasn't it? It had to be Jasper's imagination or his natural guard going up.
Edward's giggles sounded eerie and far off as a shadow moved behind the tarp covered lawn furniture.
In the distance Silent Night played as he caught the glint of metal shining with the snowfall.
The piercing shot that rang out didn't go with the holy melody.
His scream was out of place with the tune as was Edward's gasp of pure pain.
He held his arm and stumbled down to his knees blood barely catching any glint of crimson in the white on the ground. His eyes were wide and frightened as they looked at him pleading with him to make the hurt go away.
Jasper's roar turned Silent Night no more.
It was far too dark…but as the ex convict fell to catch his Red Head he didn't miss the demonic smile that crossed James's lips before he turned and ran away his feet matching perfectly with the beat of the Christmas Carol.
To be continued…
Remember I believe in happy endings! Fear not!