A/N: This is a companion piece of sorts to Parenthetical Love. I don't think you need to read that story to appreciate this one, but what you should know is that, originally, Bella asked Jasper to donate his sperm so she could have a child. Meanwhile, Rosalie and Alice asked Edward to donate his sperm so they could start a family. The sperm got swapped at the clinic and each woman ended up pregnant by the 'wrong' man.
Disclaimer: If I was SM, I would not be writing at work, I'd be writing FOR work… Thus, I donut own these characters.
It was harder than Jasper expected, having biologically fathered a child he was in constant contact with. Especially days like today.
"What a gorgeous family you have."
Jasper looked up from his cooler, finding a grandmotherly woman in a huge, floppy sunhat looking down at him with a grin. She looked back a short distance away where Alice sat in the sand with Dashiel settled on the ground between the V of her legs. They were sitting right at the edge of the waves and Dash was giggling like crazy when the water came up, splashing over his wiggling toes.
"Thank you," he said sincerely, giving the woman a tight smile before he went back to rooting through his cooler. He hoped against hope she would drop it.
"How old is the little one?"
No such luck. "Eleven months," he answered, taking out the water bottles he'd left Alice and Dash to retrieve.
The woman looked at him again, her eyes raking him over in an appreciative way Jasper was used to. "That one's going to be a heart breaker. He looks just like you."
As usual, his heart gave an odd little twist, halfway between pain and pride. If he had a dollar for every time a well-meaning stranger had pointed out the obvious - that Dash was a pudgier, much shorter version of himself - he would have enough to start a college fund for the boy. Jasper managed a smile, thanked the woman again and headed back to his 'family'.
"Here you go, sugar," he said, handing Alice a bottle of water as he sat beside her. As soon as he sat down, Dash had raised his arms, babbling for, 'Ja, Ja, Ja, Ja.' They swapped, Alice taking both water bottles while Jasper plucked the baby up.
Holding Dash upright by his waist, Jasper watched as the boy stomped his foot, digging his heel in the wet sand.
It was confusing at times. Men were supposed to want this: a strong, healthy son that was the spitting image of themselves. It was surreal how looking at the boy was like watching his old baby pictures come to life. Yet Dash wasn't his. Jasper wasn't the baby's father in any real sense. His feelings for the boy were caught in some complicated place - more than an uncle, but less than a daddy.
A soft hand brushing his face broke Jasper's reverie. He grinned at Alice, but she only looked back at him with concern. Immediately, his grin faltered. He should have known better than to even try. Better than anyone – even Peter – Alice could read his moods as readily as if he was projecting them on her.
"Tell me," she demanded, her voice soft.
Because it was Alice, he told her about the woman. Rosalie would have gotten self-conscious, like she always did whenever they were all out together. People naturally assumed that Jasper and Alice were a couple, and that Dash was their son. Though she was getting better about not caring what people thought, it was difficult for Rosalie, feeling so left out of other people's perception of their blended family. She would not have been able to be open minded enough to help Jasper talk out his mixed feelings; her own would have taken precedence. But Alice never tried to forget the science that had created her child, and so she could be level and logical when they talked about it.
"Would it have been easier if it was you and Bella? Like it was supposed to be?" Alice asked quietly. Her voice was unassuming.
Jasper considered the scenario she presented. "Yes," he answered honestly, "but not for the reasons you'd probably expect."
A lot could be said about the clusterfuck of a situation that had resulted in Dash's birth, but finding Alice was a priceless gift Jasper couldn't have predicted. He was very much in love with Peter, nothing was going to change that, but the relationship he'd found in Alice was special. It was like the incredible connection that soul mates spoke of minus all the heat and lust.
Because of that, it was difficult sometimes to not hear the echo of his father's voice in his head, talking about what was normal and right. If Dash had been Bella's child instead of Alice's, it would have been easy to dismiss the notion. His love for Bella ran deep, but it just wasn't the same.
Sitting there on the beach with Alice leaning against his side and Dash using them both as his personal jungle gym, Jasper couldn't help but see a faint image. In some alternate universe, the picture would have been so different.
It didn't feel wrong - being part of this family.
"Hey, there you are!" a familiar voice called.
"MA!" Dash crooned merrily, craning over Jasper's shoulder and reaching for his mother.
"Hi, baby," Rosalie greeted, scooping him up. Alice stood, and Rosalie gathered her under her other arm, kissing her hello quickly.
Jasper's lips turned up, the confusion fading for the time being. They were a beautiful family that he had the pleasure of knowing. And that didn't feel wrong either.
He watched with a smile on his face as Dash babbled to Rosalie in baby speak, no doubt filling her in on everything she'd missed. He was a boy of few real words currently, and all of those were monosyllabic. His 'bub' -his bottle - was his most prized possession. His cousin Arianna was 'Ree', Alice was 'Mee', Rosalie was 'Ma' and Jasper was 'Ja'. Everything important in his life, Alice had told him once. It didn't escape Jasper's notice that he ranked before the boy's doting grandparents. Though all of that was Alice's observation. Jasper couldn't confess to distinguish one goo from another. He didn't speak baby.
But Dash was well aware of who he belonged to. He stuck to his mothers like glue as they explored the beach, clinging to them like a chubby little monkey.
After about a half an hour, a flash caught Jasper's eye and he grimaced. There was a single paparazzo on the beach, snapping pictures. The paparazzi had largely lost interest in Rosalie, Alice and the surprise of one of the world's most drooled over super models being happily committed to a woman. Still, when they caught them out playing with Dash, the paparazzi could still make a bit of money snapping a picture or two of the happy family. People were always gaga about celebrity babies.
More than one gossip rag had guessed their secret because Jasper had been caught in pictures with the little family. Still, Rosalie had confirmed nothing, so Jasper did his best to keep his distance when the cameras were out.
To that end, he stood, wading into the water until he was up to his chest. He turned away from Alice, Rosalie and Dash, squishing his toes into the sand so as not to be knocked off balance by the waves.
For long minutes, Jasper stood in the surf, letting the calm,steady beat of the waves bring peace to his unsettled consciousness. Breathing in the salty ocean breeze, he tried again to find the source of his disquiet.
Jasper had no idea where it had come from, he only knew that one day, he became aware of a subtle discontent with his life. As of yet, he had no idea where that feeling originated from or what, exactly, was wrong. By anyone's standards, his life was the epitome of the American dream. He had a fulfilling job, a loving, intelligent, funny, talented mate, more friends than he could count on all of his digits... What did he have to complain about?
What frightened him most was that he'd experienced this kind of confusing, disconcerting mindset before. All through junior high and high school, he'd grappled with the feeling that something wasn't right. Of course, that was solved when he'd won a scholarship to USC. One semester of college later and he'd had the missing piece of the puzzle. When he figured it out, it was like a light turning on in a pitch black room. Suddenly he could see all the things he'd been bumping into, bruising himself on for so long.
It seemed that he liked kissing the sun-soaked boys of California over the giggling girls of Texas.
But that was then. Now, he couldn't figure out what the hell was wrong with him. He was more than sure he didn't want to kiss anyone besides Peter so just what was the problem?
A pair of arms wrapped themselves around his waist, jarring him from his consternation. A chin rested on his shoulder, and Jasper sighed, letting the roll of the waves sway them together. He closed his eyes, finding Peter's fingers under the water and tangling them together.
"You're about to drift off to sea, sailor," Peter murmured, his voice low and light in his ear. "You didn't even see me get here."
Jasper chuffed and turned to face his lover. "I was practicing all being at peace with your surroundings, meditation. You know, becoming one with the ocean and all that shit."
Peter wrinkled his nose. "The ocean's pretty big, babe. If you become one with it you might wash up in Japan."
"Heh," Jasper grinned. "Don't look at me. We've been spending too much time with Charlotte. You're the one who let her drag us to that meditation class."
"I'm pretty sure it was a given that meditation should be done on land," Peter said, rolling his eyes. "You know - where you're not in danger of drowning?"
"You're just afraid I'd drift off to Hawaii and become one with the beaches of Honolulu," Jasper teased. "You know those Hawaii boys blow fire."
"You make it sound like that's a good thing rather than something you'd have to use a cream to clear up." Peter shot back as he put both his hands on top of Jasper's head, dunking him underwater before he could talk back. Jasper flailed, fighting against the other man's hold until he broke the surface. Sputtering, he retaliated by sweeping Peter's legs out from under him. A predictable splash war ensued, the two men wrestling and laughing as they thrashed out to deeper water.
Eventually they settled, and they drifted in relative silence with Peter clinging to Jasper's back as they swam around slowly. Jasper's eyes drifted back to shore, and he smiled when he saw Alice and Rosalie dangling Dash between them, swinging him above the waves as he shrieked with laughter.
"Maybe we should look into getting ourselves one of those," Peter murmured thoughtfully, his arms tightening around Jasper's chest.
Jasper didn't answer right away. His heart seemed to warm and twist at the same time; his thoughts were a tangle he couldn't begin to explain. Instead of trying to put words to the feelings Peter's simple comment brought on, Jasper chose to treat it as a lighthearted jest. "Kidnapping is all kinds of illegal, doll."
Peter snorted, his lips rearranging the damp drops of ocean water at his lover's ear. "Guess it'll have to be legally then," he said, but he chose not to press the subject. Instead, he moved to Jasper's side, dragging him toward the shore with the explanation that it was getting cold.
When they were back on the sand, Jasper plopped down, cross-legged, on the beach towel he and Alice had laid out before. Before he could locate another towel, Jasper found himself blinded. Peter was kneeling behind him, covering his head with the towel Jasper had been looking for. Peter rubbed the towel roughly and playfully over the other man's head under the guise of getting him dry. "Cut it out!" Jasper laughed, swiping blindly behind him.
"See, baby," Rosalie's amused voice interrupted the two men. "Peter had to take Jasper out of the water, too," she said soothingly.
Jasper pushed the towel away from his eyes, smiling at Rosalie as she sat with Dash on the towel beside his. The little boy was teary-eyed, having obviously been ripped from the water against his will. He was wrapped snugly in a big, fluffy towel and now pouted at Jasper from his place on Rosalie's lap.
"You wanna know a secret, buddy?" Peter yell-whispered as he continued to towel Jasper off.
Dash looked dubious, merely putting his pudgy hand in his mouth as he looked up at Peter.
"Jazz probably cried more than you did," Peter said solemnly. Then he put the towel over Jasper's head, making the other man protest as he mussed his hair again. Dash thought Jasper fussing was hilarious, so Peter repeated the process until the little boy was giggling again.
By the time everyone was as dry as they were going to get for the time being, Alice had rejoined their group. "I come bearing sandwiches," she declared, putting a bag with the name of one of their favorite beach-side sandwich shops down between the two towels. Kneeling, she sifted through the cooler. "Don't worry, Dash. I brought fruit for you," she said, smiling over at her son.
As they settled down to eat, Jasper happened to catch the eyes of a woman a short distance away. It was the same grandmotherly woman with the big floppy hat that'd stopped him earlier. She was staring at the five of them, her mouth rounded in an 'o' of surprise.
Jasper smirked, knowing what she was seeing. The picture had shifted considerably since she'd first seen him and Alice with Dash on the beach. Now, Alice sat pressed against Rosalie's side, with Rose's arm around her waist. Dash was squeezed between Rosalie's left knee and Alice's right, happily picking slices of strawberry out of the Tupperware Alice had handed him. Meanwhile, Peter seemed much more interested in combing out the knots he and the waves had left in Jasper's hair with his fingers than he was with eating.
Catching the woman's eye, Jasper winked at her, and then turned back to his friends and his lover.
A/N: Okay. This is not going to be a traditional story - more like a group of vignettes on the same general topic. To that end, I'm not putting it on a posting schedule. This will just update as it comes - though, if you know me, it's unlikely it will be ages between updates. I'm thinking it will be no less than 5, no more than 10 chapters long... but we'll see.
Thank you to barburella and jadedandboring for support and beta work.
Let me know what you think thusly.