A/N: SM owns the characters. The storyline is my own. No copyright infringement is intended.

Many thanks to JaspersIzzy, ScuitoLover, and JaspersBella, who pre-read this for me, and to Luvmesomejasper, who talked the idea out with me when I first thought of it. Thank you also to NCChris, the peanut butter to my jelly, for beta-ing for me. I had a long military talk with my dad, an army vet who served in Vietnam, which helped me write this as well, so thanks to my Daddy too.

I also want to thank my own Jasper, who taught me what love really feels like, which makes me write it so much better. My heart is his, always.

I poured my heart into writing this, and I'm very proud of it. I hope that you enjoy it.

Here Without You

I knew the minute that Jasper sat down on the couch beside me that it was going to be bad news. The furrow of his brow and the straight set of his lips were so unlike the smile he usually wore when he came to see me, and the way he was wringing his hands together told me that he was struggling to find a way to break whatever it was to me.

I wasn't so sure I wanted to know, but I couldn't take the suspense any longer.

I reached out and rested my hand on his. "Jas, whatever it is, just say it. Please."

Jasper blew out the heavy breath he had been holding and looked up at me with sad, yet determined eyes.

"My CO called me into his office today," he began. "I've been given an assignment. A big one. It's the kind of thing that could open huge doors for me, make my entire career. It was an honor to have been chosen for this, Bella."

I was immediately filled with pride for the man I loved. Jasper had been in the army for almost a decade already, and he had been rising through the ranks ever since he enlisted. Whatever he had been chosen for, there was no doubt he deserved it.

"So, what's the assignment, Jasper?"

He sighed once again and ran a hand through his blond military-approved buzz cut. "I can't tell you, baby. It's a top secret mission, highest security clearance. All I can say about it is that I leave at the end of the week, and I'll be gone for a year."

I had been with Jasper for just over a year, but that was long enough to know what it meant when a mission was top secret. I was praying that this one might be somehow different.

"You can't come back at all for a year?"

"No, Bella. I can't even call or write. It's no contact at all. I have to disappear completely."

I stared at him with wide eyes, unable to speak. I opened my mouth several times, trying to form words, but not knowing what to say. Instead, I simply shook my head as the tears began to spill from my eyes.

A year. A year of my life would pass without a word from him, without seeing his face or hearing his voice. A year of wondering what he was doing, whether he was thinking of me, if he was alive or dead. A year of memories that wouldn't include the love of my life.

I didn't even realize that I was hyperventilating until Jasper rose from the couch and returned to the room a moment later with a paper bag in his hands, wrapping his arms around me from behind and holding the bag up to my face.

"Shhh, baby," he whispered with his mouth so close to my ear that his breath was warm against it. "Just breathe. Breathe for me, Bella."

I would do anything in the world for this man. If breathing was what he wanted, breathing was what I would give him. I focused on the air in my lungs, using it to fill and empty the bag over and over until I was calm.

Jasper finally lowered the bag from my face, but kept his arms around me. "It's going to be ok, Bella. Everything is going to be ok."

I turned my face to look at him. "How can you say that, Jasper?" I whimpered through my tears. "Do you have any idea how long a year is? It's three hundred and sixty-five days, Jasper. Three hundred and sixty-five days without you. Tell me how that is ok!"

I turned my whole body so that I was facing him, my expression pleading as the tears cascaded down my cheeks. He was asking me to do the impossible: live a year of my life without my heart. I could already feel my ribs constricting as my body desperately tried to protect itself.

"It's not ok, Jasper," I sobbed. "It's not ok!"

Jasper placed one of his large hands, rough from constant hard work, on either side of my face, and leaned in to me, pressing soft kisses over my forehead and eyes. I let myself collapse against the broad plane of his chest, staining his dark grey shirt with my tears.

"I have to do this, Bella. If I do it well, the Colonel promised that it was the last mission I'd have to go on. I'd be promoted, and I'd be able to stay home with you all the time. No more dangerous trips. We could finally start our life together, Bella. Don't you see? I have to do this. For us."

Before he'd met me, Jasper had been fine with a career full of dangerous missions, fighting the bad guys around the world. He'd been to places I'd never even heard of, done things beyond my wildest imagination and worst nightmares. But then, while he was at his home base in California, taking language training courses that would prepare him for future missions, he met me. We fell in love, and everything changed. He'd asked his CO recently for a safer, more stable career option after returning from his last mission, the second time we'd been forced apart by his work.

Now I understood why you should always be careful what you wish for.

I wrapped my arms around him, reaching up and taking hold of his shoulders from behind and holding him tightly. I was terrified. I had no idea where he was going, how much danger he'd be in, or even if he'd ever come home to me. I was being asked to say good bye to him in five short days, with nothing but hope to hold on to.

"Jasper," I breathed against his chest. It was a plea as much as anything.

"Do you believe in us, baby?" he asked.

I finally let loose my grip on him and pulled back far enough to look into his eyes. I was sure that I looked awful, my face no doubt red and puffy and stained black from my mascara.

"I have always believed in us, Jasper. I always will," I promised.

"Then hold on to that, baby. Believe in us. We're meant to be together, Bella, I know it. So believe that we'll make it through this year apart, and then we'll find each other again."

It was the hardest thing he could ask of me. But there was one thing that I'd learned in the process of falling in love with Jasper Whitlock, one thing that mattered more than anything else, and that was that he needed my support as much as I needed his love.

I looked right into his eyes, forcing myself to be strong, and smiled. "I will be here, waiting for you when you come home. I'm yours, Jasper. Always."

His answer came in the form of a passionate kiss as he swept me into his arms and carried me into my bedroom, laying me down on the bed. He removed our clothes and we made love. It was desperate and intense, both of us holding on to each other as tightly as possible, terrified that the other would disappear the second we let go.

And while no one disappeared that evening, five nights later I was finally forced to watch Jasper board a military aircraft and fly away from me to places unknown, leaving me with nothing but the deep faith I had in our love.

I worked as an English literature teacher at a high school in the town closest to the army base where Jasper was stationed. Luckily for me, spring break began the same night that he left, because I never would have been able to stand up in front of a classroom full of teenagers that first week. The truth was, I barely stood up at all.

Instead, I laid in my bed, wearing his grey shirt - the one he'd been wearing the night that he broke the news to me. He'd left it for me when he'd dressed for work the next morning, and despite the fact that I'd had it on for several days in a row, I could still detect the distinct scent of Jasper in its fabric. I had several recordings that Jasper had made me – he was a very talented guitar player and singer – in my iTunes, and they had been playing on a constant loop since I returned home from the airport.

Sometimes I felt myself sinking into the mattress, as if it were sucking me in like a black hole, the whole world disappearing around me as I let the depression swallow me. Other times, I thrashed in my bed, looking like a fish out of water, drowning in the oxygen while my lungs screamed for air, desperately fighting against the physical pain of my heartache.

When living seemed the hardest, Jasper's scent and the sound of his voice were my life rafts, tethering me to the world, begging me to hold onto the hope, not allowing me to give up.

On Monday morning, a week after Jasper left, I watched the sun rise through my open curtains, and I knew that I had to get up. The world was done waiting for me. I didn't have the luxury of wallowing anymore. I had students to teach, and a life to live. Jasper had asked this of me; to be strong and live this year, to keep the faith and be positive. I would do this. For him.

I dragged myself out of bed and showered, removing Jasper's shirt for the first time since he left. I cried through the entire shower, telling myself it was better to get it out of my system before I went to work. When I stepped out of the shower, though, I forced the tears to recede. I dressed and prepped myself for the day, ate a little breakfast, and then drove to work.

Robotically, I taught my morning classes. One of my favorite students asked if I was ok. I lied and said that I was. I ate lunch alone in my classroom, not quite ready to go to the staffroom and face other adults yet. My sandwich may as well have been made of plastic; if there was a taste to it, I didn't notice. Afternoon classes were much the same as the morning. A student asked if I was in pain when I smiled at her as she packed up her books to leave. I didn't know how to answer.

I finally went to the staffroom after the school day ended. There wasn't a choice, really; I needed to make copies of the study guide for the exam my juniors would be taking on Hamlet in a week. While I was waiting for the machine to finish printing the papers, Emmett McCarty, one of my colleagues from the History department, entered the room.

"Hey Bella," he greeted. I could see the concern hiding under his smile.

"Hi," I whispered, not sure I could say anything more without losing the tenuous grip I had on my emotions.

Emmett was a good enough friend that I didn't need to say more than that one word for him to realize just how I felt. He walked right over to me and put his arms around my shoulders, bringing one hand up to stroke my hair.

"Tell me what's wrong. I know there's something, Bella. Your eyes say it all."

I told him everything about Jasper having to leave, and how I was facing an entire year without him. I told him how worried I was that Jasper wouldn't come back, or that, even if he made it back to California safely, he might not want me anymore when he arrived. I poured my heart out to him, there in the office, unable to hold any of it back once I opened my mouth.

"Sweetie, you're looking at this the wrong way," Emmett said when the torrent of tears I'd unleashed on him had finally turned into simple sniffles. "Stop thinking about the whole year, and just focus on one day at a time. Hell, Bella, take one minute at a time if that's all you can get through right now. But you've got to stop seeing the big picture and just start looking at what you can manage. And I'll be here for you, whenever you need me."

Emmett and I had become close friends when I'd taken the job at Fremont High. He was a few years older than me, and looked out for me the way an older brother would. He was the first person I'd told about Jasper when I'd realized that I was in love with him, and he had been there with support and encouragement for our relationship ever since.

I leaned into Emmett, letting his strong arms give me the support and comfort I'd been longing for. "What am I going to do?" I whispered.

"Why don't you write to him?" Emmett suggested. "Write him every day."

"I don't know where he is," I replied.

"You don't have to know. Send the letters to his CO. He may or may not get them, but the simple act of writing the letters will help you, I think. You miss sharing your life with him. This way you still can."

It was perfect.

I hugged my friend for his brilliance, then said goodbye. After I gathered my belongings from my classroom, I drove home, stopping at the store on my way home to pick up envelopes, stamps, and some nice stationary. When I arrived at my house just as the sun was setting behind the Sierras, I set the supplies down on the desk beside my bed, and then took a seat in the chair to write what would be the first of many letters to Jasper.

March 21

Dear Jasper,

You haven't been gone two weeks yet. Every day, I wonder where you are, if it's hot or cold there, sunny or raining. I'll never forget that time that you met me in that parking lot when my truck ran out of gas...the way you looked as you approached my car, streams of water sliding over your forehead and cheeks as you walked through the heavy rain. If it's raining where you are, I'm jealous of the rain, because it gets to stroke your cheek the way I can't.

Things are going alright at work. Emmett tries hard to keep me smiling. Of course, you might not recognize me when you get back, since most of his methods involve food. Or beer. He and Rosalie took me out for green beer on Friday night – St Patrick's Day. Whose idea was it to make green beer? It looks as bad as it tastes. I bet you like it though, don't you? You like normal beer, after all. Next year, you can drink my share. Until then, I'll have to take up jogging or something, to counteract "Operation Cheer Up Bella."

I miss you so much, Jasper. There isn't a second that you aren't on my mind. You're everywhere I look – the silliest things bring memories of you. This morning, for example, one of the science teachers brought in a big bowl of fruit salad for the staff room. There were pineapples in it. I couldn't stop giggling because I remembered that comedian we went to see once, the one who kept talking about how pineapple juice would make spunk taste better. Notice I never bought any, though? You didn't need it... Oh great, now I'm going to be thinking of having you in my mouth for the rest of the night... I'm going to have to end this now.

I love you, Jasper. Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, just keep me safe in your heart.



April 17

Dear Jasper,

Today was a hard day. It didn't matter how much I tried not to, all I thought of all day was what we were doing a year ago today. It was the first time we made love. No matter what happens to me in the rest of my life, nothing will ever compare to that night, J. The way that our eyes locked and we never looked away... I can still feel the strong grip of your hands on my hips and how you guided me as I rocked over you. God, Jasper... It's been six weeks, but I still remember exactly what you feel like when you're inside of me. Do you remember? Do you miss it as much as I do?

I spent all day today laying on my bed, wearing your grey shirt – it doesn't smell like you anymore; I had to wash it - listening to every song that has special meaning for us. I usually try to be strong, but I just didn't care how many tears fell today. I miss you. So fucking much, Jasper. It's not the sex or the kissing or any of that. I miss your smile, your voice... I just miss you.

I hate everything about this, Jasper. I think about you every second of every day, wondering where you are and if you're ok. Sometimes I think I won't make it through this separation, or I worry that you'll forget me. It's just not fair, that I finally meet the man I'm supposed to be with, and after I get the chance to fall head over heels in love with him, we are forced to be apart.

I'm trying, though. I promise, I'm trying. Emmett tells me it's a test, just something we have to endure, and when it's over, we'll have everything we ever dreamed of and we'll never take each other for granted. His optimism is what keeps me going on days like today. Well, his optimism and your voice. I hardly ever listen to anything other than the recordings that you made for me. Every word you sing to me feels almost like a hug.

I've been playing your guitar. You'll be so impressed when you get back and hear how many songs I've learned. I find it helps to play – gives me something to think about and focus on other than how much I miss you. One of these days, I'll have to get my own guitar, I suppose. I'm thinking a Taylor. I know that Gibsons are incredible too, but I really like the Taylor. But for now, I like playing yours. It's a piece of you that I can have.

Until I'm back in your arms, just know that my heart is always with you, wherever you are. I love you, with everything that I am.



May 3

Dear Jasper,

I went for a walk with Rosalie and Emmett today, down in the park near the college. The flowers are in full bloom, and it was really pretty. The colors don't seem as bright this year, though. Without you, everything seems to be less vibrant. I smiled though, and did my best to enjoy it. But really, all I thought about was whether there were flowers blooming where you are. I know how much you love nature; I hope wherever you are is beautiful and lush and green. It makes me smile to think that you might have something to look at that makes you happy.

I remember that day last year, around this time, when we had the barbeque in the park. It was the first time that we went out with our friends as a couple. Peter and Charlotte were there – I think poor Charlotte sneezed all day long...LOL, she probably isn't enjoying all these spring flowers any more than I am. Leah and Seth and Jacob were there too, and after everyone was done eating, while I was helping Leah pack up all the food, she told me that we made her gag. I was embarrassed, of course, and turned bright tomato red, but she told me I shouldn't be. She said that it was so obvious how much in love the two of us were, and that, while she was happy for us, she was kind of jealous too. She and Jacob went out on their first date last week. Can you believe it? I said it was about time.

I wonder if she's still jealous now? Our situation is not exactly enviable these days... But in some ways, I still think she should be. I mean, even though you aren't here with me, even though I can't feel your touch or see your smile or hear you whisper that you love me, I can still feel you love. It's tangible, Jasper. You left your mark on my heart forever.

I love you, Jasper. No matter how far away you are, my love for you keeps you right here in my heart.



June 9

Dear Jasper,

100 days. I've been here without you for 100 days. That's proof for you that the world doesn't stop for anyone. We're not quite a third of the way through the year, and it already seems like it's been forever since you've been gone. I don't have enough pictures of you... I miss looking at your handsome face so much. The first thing I'm going to do when I see you next is touch your face.

I wonder if you're able to shave often where you are, or if that's not a possibility. Maybe you are walking around with that stubble on your cheeks and chin that I find so sexy... Or maybe a full beard. You might look Amish by now. That'd be...interesting. LOL

You'll never believe what I did today. Hell, I barely believe it myself. I wrote you something in a letter a few weeks ago, talking about how you'd left your mark on my heart forever. It got me to thinking... Well, the thing is, it was totally true. No matter what happens in my life, you've changed me permanently, and I realized that I want to keep that feeling with me all the time.

So I got a tattoo. Yeah, I know... Who ever would have guessed? It's on my left hip, and it's a black treble clef, but where it is supposed to have the swirl in it's center, it makes a heart there instead, and the heart is filled in with red. And then - this is the part that makes it super special - with help from Edward Cullen, the music teacher at Fremont High, I wrote the notation for the first few measures of the song you wrote me, and it flows on a curve out of the heart. I love it. I hope you will too.

Charlotte went with me to get the tattoo. She and I have gotten so much closer since you and Peter left on this mission. We both find a lot of comfort in the fact that the two of you are together, looking out for each other. Sometimes it's scary. Terrifying, really. We both worry that one or both of you won't come back. I live in constant fear of a knock on my front door that will bring the worst possible news. But I try desperately to believe that it won't come, that the only man in uniform who will come knocking on my door is you. Please, Jasper... Please come home safely to me. I don't think I can make it if you don't.

Some people might think I'm crazy, holding on to you this way after four months with no contact. The truth is, though, I don't have a choice. People say that the easy thing to do would be to give up, to go on with my life and forget about you. But you are impossible to forget, Jasper. And the love that we share together... I could never give up on that. I gave you my heart a long time ago, and it's there with you, wherever you are, still.



July 18

Dear Jasper,

A year ago today, you left me for the first time. It was a short mission last year, not like this one. It didn't feel short at the time, though. 3 weeks... 3 weeks of no contact, of staring at the unchanging status on your facebook page every single day, hoping for a sign that I knew wouldn't come. And to think, I thought that was unbearable. I had no idea...

Instead of thinking about how hard it was to be away from you then, though, I've spent today remembering the night that you came home. Peter called me and told me you were coming – I wasn't on your call list for the army yet. You would have laughed at me trying to get ready for you... I tripped over my own feet about ten times as I ran back and forth over and over between my bedroom and bathroom, trying to get my hair and makeup and outfit just right.

I knew I loved you before you left on that mission, Jasper. I did. But I didn't understand, until the night that you boarded that plane, exactly what that meant. But that first separation taught me that lesson. I never knew that I could be so connected to another person that breathing would seem an impossible task without them... And then I met you.

It's like that now. I know it sounds cheesy or lame or something, but I feel you with every breath that I take. I feel both your absence and your presence, if that makes any sense. You're always here in my heart, in my mind. I wonder if it's like that for you too. Even though nothing has ever hurt so much as being away from you has, I hope that you feel this way too. Not because I want you to hurt, because I don't, but just because I pray, with everything in me, that you're holding on to us as hard as I am.

Last year, when you returned home from that mission, I met you at the airport and jumped into your arms, wrinkling your green dress uniform, and kissed you harder than I ever had before. We didn't stopped kissing the entire taxi ride home, and then we made love for hours.

The relief I'll feel when you come home this time won't even compare. Emmett teases that I'll have to take a week off work. I think he's probably right. Part of me wishes that we could just fall into my bed and never leave it again, living the rest of our days lost in each other's arms, nourishing ourselves with nothing but kisses. But really, that's not what I want. Well, maybe for a few days that would be nice... But what I really want is for us to live our lives together when you come home. I want us to go to work, come home and talk about our days over dinner. I want us to play guitar together on the front porch and walk together along the beach, holding hands, as the sun is setting. I want us to fall asleep in each other's arms at night, and wake up to soft kisses each morning. A life together – a real life – is what I want for us. And every day, when things are hard and I want to cry because I miss you or I'm scared, I think of that life – our life – and I smile, knowing that some day soon, we'll have it.

I love you, Jasper. You are my dream come true. And until I'm in your arms again, just know that I'm yours.



August 26

Dear Jasper,

The school year started today. Summer seemed really long, but really short at the same time. I guess in some ways that's always true. I'm glad to be going back to work, though. Work means distractions. Nothing is ever a real distraction, though. You're on my mind as much as ever.

Emmett and Rose came over for dinner last night. Rose looks amazing – she's glowing. I always thought that was just an expression, but it's true. She actually shines with happiness. Emmett's hand is never off her belly. He's going to be a great dad, I just know it. He says he's going to have the baby call me Auntie Bella.

There's that saying about not being able to pick your family. I guess I kind of got lucky with my "brother." I don't know how he does it, but Emmett just gets me. He always seems to know what I need and how to help when I'm having a rough day. But the thing that I'm most grateful for is his optimism. He never talks about my future; he talks about our future. Yours and mine. On the days when I'm crying and worried that you've forgotten me, he reminds me that you love me the way he loves Rose, and no matter how long he was away from Rose, he'd never forget her.

I'm teaching a new class this year – it's an honors class for seniors with a focus on poetry. I've been focusing all British lit for so long that I had to spend the past few weeks going through anthology after anthology to find American and world poetry that I wanted to teach. In the process, I found a poem that I had somehow forgotten about in the years since I was in college. I had tears in my eyes as I read it, and I just knew I had to share it with you.

I carry your heart with me (I carry it in

my heart) I am never without it (anywhere

I go you go, my dear; and whatever is done

by only me is your doing, my darling)

I fear

no fate (for your are my fate, my sweet) I want

no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)

and it's you are whatever a moon has always


and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the


and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which


higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars


I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)

That poem was by e.e. Cummings. I've never ever found anything which so perfectly expressed what I felt about you. But that's it, Jasper. That was exactly it. You're with me, all the time. I feel you, as if you were walking right beside me, holding my hand. I swear, sometimes I can hear you whispering your love into my ear. Before you left, I was sure that I would spend this year alone. But now, five and a half months later, I've realized that I am never alone. I hope, Jasper, that you know the same thing. Wherever you are, my love, that's where my heart is.



September 8

Dear Jasper,

It's four in the morning. I can't sleep. I woke up in a cold sweat, hyperventilating, at one -thirty. I dreamt that you died. It wasn't even a military reason to die – you were struck by lightning. It was horrible, Jasper. Even now, two and a half hours later, my pulse is racing. I'm so afraid that you're hurt somewhere, or worse. I want to get in my car and drive...anywhere. Anywhere except here. If my dream was a warning, I don't want to be here when the officers come knocking on my door. I don't want them to come, Jasper. I need you. I need you to be ok.

I'd know, though, I think. If you were dead, I'd feel it. I'm trying so hard not to be afraid right now, but I'm sure you know I'm failing... my handwriting shows how shaky my hand is. I wish you were here, to wrap your arms around me and tell me that everything is ok. Nothing can make me feel better like you can.

I dream about you every night, you know. Usually they're nice dreams, not awful ones like the one tonight. Some nights I dream of times we've already spent together. I relive our memories. Last night, I dreamt of the day that we met. Do you remember? I was loading my truck in the store parking lot and the bottom ripped open on one of the bags, spilling canned vegetables all over the parking lot. I was chasing them up and down the row as the rolled away from me, trying to gather them all before any cars ran them over. And then, just as I was getting up off of my knees from picking up a can of sweet potatoes that had rolled under a Volkswagen Beetle, there were green legs standing right in front of me. It wasn't all that shocking, being near the army base, but I swear, I knew it was going to be special that time. I let my eyes follow your dress uniform all the way up to your face, and there you were, holding your hat and a can of creamed corn in your hands. You were the most handsome man I'd ever seen. "I think I mighta' found somethin' of yours," you said.

And you did, Jasper. You found my heart.

Other nights, I dream of memories we haven't made yet. Because that's all that anything that hasn't happened yet is – a memory we haven't made. But we have a lifetime to make those dreams come true, Jasper. Just come home to me. Please.

I love you, more than words can say.



October 27

Dear Jasper,

Some days, I'm sure that time has completely stopped. Today is one of those days. How is it that you've only been gone for seven and a half months? It seems like it's been seven and a half years. But at the same time, it's as fresh as if you had left this afternoon. I miss you so much...

Do you think of me, Jasper? Do you ever feel the wind blow gently across your face and remember the cool breeze from the Pacific Ocean like we felt last October? I can return to that beach in seconds if I close my eyes... And just as if I was really there, I can feel your hands, with your rough, calloused fingertips and warm palms, holding my cheeks, trying to keep my hair from whipping around both of our faces as you kissed me. I remember how we held on to each other, our bodies pressed together as if we were trying to climb inside of each other because we just couldn't get close enough. The salt from the ocean had seasoned your skin while we swam, and I can still remember how it tasted as I traced the strong line of your jaw with my tongue. Do you remember, Jasper?

The stones we collected on the beach that day are still on the table beside my bed, right beside the picture of us that we took at sunset. I look at it every night.

I wish there was a way you could let me know that you're out there, that you're thinking of me. I would give anything for some kind of sign. I know you can't, but it doesn't stop me from wishing.

Today I finally mastered chicken-fried steak. I'm going to cook it for you when you come home, just like your mom used to do for you. I still think it's the weirdest food I've ever heard of, with probably the dumbest name, but Charlie said it was delicious. He also said that he was really proud of me for learning to make it for you, and that you were lucky to have me. He insisted that I put that comment in this letter, but I hope you agree with him.

You know, even though being away from you is the hardest thing in the world, I feel like the luckiest girl in the world, because I've gotten to experience your love. I miss you, Jasper, and I love you so much.



November 25

Dear Jasper,

It's Thanksgiving today. Are you eating turkey? I wanted to skip the holiday completely, but Emmett wouldn't let me. I guess he has good reason to want to celebrate, though, considering the fact that Rosalie gave birth to a healthy baby boy three days ago. They named him Garrett, and asked me to be godmother. How could I say no to my nephew? They want to make you his godfather, when you come home.

It was a big dinner – Charlotte and I made the food, Emmett provided the wine and the house. There may have also been cigars. They tasted awful, but Emmett is just as hard to say no to as little Garrett, so I took a few puffs for him. When we were all seated around the table, we went around saying what we were most thankful for. It was an easy answer for me, only taking one word. Know what that word was?


That was the short answer that I gave at the table. But I want you to have the full answer. My life has been difficult these past nearly eight and a half months. I've been forced to live without the only person that I want to be with due to circumstances beyond our control. Every day, I have to wonder if the man I love will come back a hero or a casualty. Every day, I fight the fear that he might have forgotten me in the months that have passed since he last saw me. I'm scared, for many reasons. But more than that, I'm thankful.

I'm thankful for cheap plastic bags, and for your mother, who taught you to be such a gentleman. I am thankful that you asked to out to dinner that same night, and that you kissed me good night at my door afterwards. I'm thankful that we took things slow, got to know each other, and fell in love. I'm thankful that you have come back from so many missions in the past safely, and I am thankful for the optimism and hope and faith that allows me to believe that you will do the same this time.

I am thankful that I have experienced what it's like to be loved for who I am, that I've been loved completely and perfectly. I'm thankful that I have found a man who is honest and open with his feelings, who tells me that I'm beautiful and looks at me in a way that makes me believe it. I'm thankful that I've found the man who was made for me, that I didn't have to spend my whole life searching for him, but instead found him early enough to be able to enjoy him.

I'm thankful that this year apart is almost over, and that soon, you'll be home, holding me in your arms. I love you, Jasper.



December 31

Dear Jasper,

Christmas has come and gone, now the year is turning. I put on a smile for everyone for the holiday, especially since it was Garrett's first one and Jacob gave Leah a ring on Christmas Eve. Smiles were expected from me, but all I really wanted to do was cry. I don't want to do this anymore, Jasper. I'm so tired of hurting, so tired of not ever being able to be completely happy. Even the best moments are tainted by heartache. I want you home, Jasper. I need you. I just can't do this without you.

Charlie advised me, when you first left, to spend this year learning about myself, to figure out what I wanted from my life. I've done that. I learned that I am strong, and that I can get by on my own. I've lived through the hardest ten months of my life and not completely fallen apart. I'm strong enough to handle this, even when I didn't think I could. But I've also learned that, whether I can get by on my own or not, I don't want to. I don't want to face this world alone, Jasper. I want to live my life with you by my side.

So now it's resolution time. I'd say that I wanted to lose five or ten pounds – though I still say Emmett is entirely to blame for them, by the way. November was "Cheer Bella Up With Pie Month", I guess. But really, you might want to thank him for that. The weight I've gained, at least according to Rose and Charlotte, has settled very nicely in my chest and on my hips, adding some nice new curves for you to grab on to when you come home.

Instead of that, then, here's what I actually want to do this year: I want to ride to Lake Tahoe on the back of your motorcycle. I want to get up enough courage to play you the song that I wrote on the guitar. I want to learn how to properly iron sleeves so that I can keep your dress uniform looking perfect for you. And I want to learn how to crochet like my Granny Swan used to so that I can make a blanket for my godson. (Hey, they can't all be about you!)

I hope your New Year's resolution is to hurry up and come home to me. As soon as you do that, I will be able to fulfill my last resolution for this coming year: to smile for real once again.

I feel like I say that I love you all the time, even though you can't actually hear me. But I hope you realize that it's more than just words. It's my heart, Jasper, and it's yours.



January 13

Dear Jasper,

I had such a wonderful dream this morning...I didn't want to wake up. Unfortunately, I had to, because today was the first day back to school after winter break, but truly, Jasper, real life was such a disappointment after that dream.

In my dream, I was sitting on a brown leather couch in a small room. At first, I wasn't sure where I was. I was dressed up in that shirt you love – the one I wore when we went out for my birthday last year; it's black with the low v and the big pewter medallion that looks like a sun – and a pair of tight jeans and boots. I had heavy makeup on – dark, smoky eyes. I couldn't figure out why I was so dressed up when I was sitting on a couch alone, but then you came in.

Talk about a sexy man. You had on a black button-down shirt, tucked in to your jeans. Levis 501s, from the look of them. I kept waiting for you to turn around so I could see your ass. You have such a nice ass, Jasper. And under your jeans...black cowboy boots. I've been waiting to see you in boots like those since you told me you were from Texas. Hot damn. And just to top it off, you had a Taylor behind your back, hanging from a strap over your shoulder.

I asked you if you were ready, and you told me that there was a great crowd. That's when I understood – you were going to perform. And this time, it would be for more than just me.

Being the wonderful girlfriend that I am, I was determined to help you have a good show, and reminded you that relaxation was a key ingredient. That's when I went over to the door that was behind us and locked it. When I returned to where you were standing, I slipped the guitar off of your back and set it down beside the couch, then leaned in to kiss you.

Kissing you was like fire in my veins, Jasper. I swear, just the memory of that kiss from my dream has me burning all over again. I miss your lips so much. In all my life, no one has ever kissed me the way you do. My whole body feels it every time our lips touch. I can't wait for you to kiss me again. Do you think about it as much as I do?

Anyway, in my dream, I pulled away from the kiss and whispered that I loved you. Then I slid down your body, dropping to my knees in front of you, and unbuckled the buckle of your belt and the button of your pants, opening them. It was only seconds later that your entire length was in my mouth. I guess we didn't have a lot of time, since you had to go onstage, because I didn't take nearly as long as I might have liked, but I still made sure that you enjoyed yourself.

Do you know how much I love doing that for you? I really do, Jasper. I love the way you taste, the way you feel in my mouth, the sounds you make when I'm making you feel good... I love the way your body shakes when you lose control at the end, and I love knowing that it's happening because of what I did for you. I was so turned on by it that when I woke up I had to have a little private time...

Back to the dream, though. After I tucked you back into your pants, I smacked that tight ass of yours and told you to be great. Then I left the room and went down a long hall, finally ending up in the theater. I took my seat – front row, center, just as it should be – and waited for the show to start. Everyone around me began to yell and clap as the lights went down, and you took the stage. You were at home up there behind the mic, Jasper, every bit the rockstar I've always known that you are.

I woke up just as you finished singing the song that you wrote for me last January. That dream, baby, is one that we will definitely have to make come true. Hurry home to me so that we can.

I love you, more every day.



February 15

Dear Jasper,

I hate Valentine's Day. I know I told you that last year too, but I hated it even more this year because you were gone. All day long I had to see people walking around with their flowers and balloons and chocolate hearts and lovey-dovey looks on their faces.

I wanted to hit them all.

Stupid greeting card holiday.

The truth is, I just wish you were here. I hated that everyone in the world was telling someone that they loved them yesterday, and I couldn't tell you. I hope that you haven't forgotten, despite not having heard the words from my lips in eleven months. I do, Jasper. I love you so very much. I admire and respect you, and I think you're completely amazing. I am so very proud of you and all you've accomplished, and I pray that, when your mission is over, you will come home to me. That your love is as real still as it was the night we said good bye at the airport.

Charlie came over for dinner tonight. We played cards and talked about life. He was in one of those moods he gets into where he actually has a lot to say. He's worrying about me; he knows how much I miss you, and he's realized at some point along the way that the smile I've been putting on for everyone is just my way of hiding the pain. I had hoped he wouldn't realize. I should have known better. I can't hide anything from my father any more than I can from you, can I?

It's been pretty cold the past week. Well, cold for California. It makes me wonder where you are, if maybe you got to see snow this winter. It was so much fun when we drove up to the Sierras last winter and spent the day sledding. I still remember the sound of your laughter as we flew down the side of that mountain on that little piece of cardboard, the feel of your arms around me, holding me tight. I thought you were going to laugh at me forever when I panicked, thinking there was a bear coming out of the woods. I still say that raccoon was ridiculously huge... You'll probably never let me live that down, will you? Oh well. It's worth it to see the happiness light up your eyes when you smile.

I miss your eyes. They're so expressive... I always know how you feel just by looking into them. And I've never felt more beautiful in my life than I do when your eyes are on me. You see me, Jasper. In a way no one else ever has.

I'm waiting for you, my love. The year is almost over, finally. I'm anxious for you to come home.

Until you return, just know that I'm yours.



March 29

Dear Jasper,

The year has come and gone. You were due home nineteen days ago. Where are you? Emmett has been on my ass all month, but I haven't given in much. I'm afraid to leave the house, afraid that you'll come and I'll miss you. I have to go to work, but other than that, I spend most of my days sitting in my living room trying to distract myself from looking out the front window by playing your guitar. It's hard to believe that you'd only taught me a few chords before you left... I can play over 30 songs now! I've been learning fingerstyle lately – I just mastered Wonderful Tonight (Clapton, Jasper! I can play Clapton!) a few days ago.

I'm trying hard not to panic, baby, but it's hard. You were supposed to be home almost three weeks ago. And I've heard nothing. Neither has Charlotte. She and I have done our best to keep each other calm, but we're failing pretty spectacularly. I'm so afraid that you aren't here because you're never coming back. Maybe you're hurt somewhere, or you got captured... Or worse. I'm so scared, Jasper. I need you to come home to me. Why hasn't

A knock on my door stopped my writing in mid-sentence. Immediately, my heart was in my throat and my stomach was tied in knots. Emmett, Rose, Charlotte... everyone who knew me would call before they came over. They knew better than to knock. They knew how on edge I'd been lately, worrying that the army was going to appear on my doorstep any minute to explain why Jasper had not come home as scheduled.

And now someone was knocking on my door.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to run to the front door or away from it. I was thinking running to the bathroom to throw up was the most practical option, really.

Slowly, though, trying my best to focus on the air in my lungs, just like I had the day that Jasper told me about his mission, I made my way across my living room to the front door. My hands were trembling and my pulse was racing as I reached out to turn the door knob.

I closed my eyes as I pulled the door open, too terrified to look right away. I took one last deep breath when the door was all the way open, trying to steady myself, and then opened my eyes. I felt like I had been turned into a statue and cemented to the floor

Standing in front of me was a man in Army dress greens and shiny black shoes. His military-approved buzz cut was revealed as he removed his hat, holding it in his hands, which were already filled with a stack of papers. He was clean-shaven, an angry red scar marking his face along the left side of his jaw. His head was tilted downward a bit, the apology evident in his eyes as he looked up at me.

My mouth fell open as I gasped, and I covered it with my hand. And as I stood there in front of him, my wide eyes filling with tears.

"Captain Whitlock," I breathed, finally taking a step forward and laying my hand on his cheek.

"Actually, it's Major Whitlock now, Bella," he whispered, covering my hand with his. "And I'm so sorry I'm late."

We stood there for a moment in silence, just staring into each other's eyes. My thumb stroked softly over his cheek, barely grazing the skin of the face I'd been longing to touch for months. His face was filled with wonder and adoration, as if he were looking upon some miraculous thing that he'd never seen before. I knew, as I looked into his eyes, that he'd been through much during our time apart, experiences that I could tell he wished he hadn't had. But in spite of that, I saw hope overpowering everything.

I couldn't hold back the tears any longer, and they poured from my eyes in torrents of relief as I threw myself into his arms, not caring that I was wrinkling his dress uniform, just as I had the very first time he'd ever come back to me after a mission.

"Jasper," I sobbed, repeating his name over and over as I pressed kiss after kiss against his face. Each kiss was proof that he was real. "Oh my god, Jasper, you're here. You're alive."

"I am now," he replied.

I didn't understand what he meant, and pulled back from his face, furrowing my brow at him. "What do you mean?"

Jasper set me down on the ground and reached out one hand to cup my cheek, looking me deep in my eyes. Then he held up the papers in his other hand, nodding to them and smiling. "Your letters," he said, referring to the thick stack of what I now recognized as my own stationary. "I got every single one; it's what kept me going, Bella. Knowing that you were still here, that you wanted me home... That was my motivation to get through the last year, no matter how bad things got.

"There were several times that I was sure I was going to die, Bella. But I fought. I knew that I couldn't let you down. But until the moment that I returned to your doorstep and held you in my arms, I wasn't really alive."

"You didn't forget me," I said through sobs.

Jasper took his hand down from my face and reached it into his pocket. Then, with a smile, he dropped to one knee in front of me. He set the pile of letters down on the porch beside him, covering them with his hat, and then reached out and took my hand. The smile on his face lit up his eyes, just as I'd remembered them doing in so many memories.

I couldn't breathe. I could barely see Jasper through the tears that still streamed from my eyes.

"Bella," he said tenderly. "How could I ever forget you? You were put into my life, by God, fate...whatever you want to call it. But you met me for a reason... a purpose. You bring me to life; you keep me breathing when I think that I can't. You've shown me so much that I never would have known about myself. I know that we were meant to be together. I want the life that you talked about in your letters; I want us, together. Always. I love you endlessly, and nothing will ever change that, Bella. You are my everything. Please say you'll be my wife."

I dropped to my knees on the ground, bringing us to the same level, and threw my arms around his shoulders, covering his lips with mine. I kissed him just as I had imagined doing every day of the last year. Our lips moved together as I poured my love into him. He did the same. It was tender and gentle, but it was still somehow the most intense moment of my life.

"Yes," I whispered against his lips as I pulled back from the kiss.

Jasper rose from the ground, cradling me in his arms as he entered the house and walked into my bedroom. He laid me down on the bed and slipped the ring onto my finger.

"I'm yours," I said, smiling softly as I looked into his bright eyes and pulled him toward me. "Now and always."

We held each other as close as possible as we kissed, and I knew that I wasn't going to be alone any more. My dreams were going to come true.

A/N: The poem in the text is called I carry your heart. It is by e.e. Cummings. The title to this story was taken from the 3 Doors Down song by the same name.

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