A/N: Shmoopy mc schmoop schmoop. I love you guys, but more of that at the bottom. Did you see this fic is dangerously close to 1k reviews? That's INSANE for a slash that is not J/E. I love you! Have I mentioned that?
SO SORRY IF YOU GET THIS UPDATE MULTIPLE TIMES. I'm trying to make it work. Le boo hoo.
I had to move to the railing as my children went barrelling by, giggling, with their significant others perched on their backs.
Despite the fact a warm day in Forks wasn't really all that warm, the four of them were acting like we lived in Florida. Bella was clinging to Edward's neck, ducking as she tried to simultaneously target Jasper with a squirt gun and avoid the spray from his gun. Jasper wasn't ducking at all, but holding on to Emmett's neck as he shot her mercilessly.
"G'dammit, Jasper. You can't aim worth a damn. You're getting more on Edward than on Bella," Emmett protested.
"Just what is going on here?" an amused voice demanded from behind me. I turned slightly to watch my wife descend the stairs to the backyard.
"Save a horse, ride a Cullen. Right, Bella?" Jasper asked, sputtering as Bella took her chance to shoot him right in his yapping mouth.
My wife arched her eyebrow at me as if to ask, these kids, can you believe they're all adults?
I pretended to misunderstand her. "Don't look at me, honey. My knees aren't as good as they used to be."
Esme made a face at me. "Are you calling me fat?"
I started stuttering, and my sons started laughing, the traitors.
"So the uncanny ability to stick your foot in your mouth is a Cullen trait, eh?" Jasper asked Emmett, grinning and wrapping an arm around his waist.
Emmett just grinned and leaned forward to peck him on the lips. "You're a Cullen."
There was such pride in his voice. To outsiders, it might have been mildly amusing, how much this statement satisfied my eldest boy.
Jasper's answering smile was wide and blinding. "Well, luckily for me, you can't inherit bad habits by marriage."
"Thank goodness for that," Bella muttered, twisting the engagement ring my youngest had finally managed to get her to wear around and around on her finger.
Edward pretended to look wounded. "What? What bad habits do I have?"
They all started talking at once, and Edward glared. With a little squeal, Bella ducked behind Jasper to get away from her 'menacing' fiance. Then she climbed up on his back.
"Whoa, hey," Emmett protested. "What's going on here?"
"Saving a horse. Riding a Cullen," Bella quipped back, ducking her head as Jasper helped her play keep-away from Edward.
"Yeah, but that's my Cullen. Get your own!"
He lifted her off Jasper, his arms around her waist, and Bella kicked her feet in the air, laughing.
"Well," Esme said quietly, her hand on my shoulder. "Isn't this a pretty picture."
Watching my sons - thriving and in love - I had to agree. I patted her hand and squeezed tight. "We're very lucky."
This was a gross invasion of privacy, and I knew it.
Even now, over six years later, there were days my psyche plunged me into nightmares, and I woke believing Edward had lost his battle with the disease that, truthfully, threatened to destroy both my boys.
Luckily for Esme, tonight both my sons were back under my roof for the weekend, and so rather than wake her, depending on her to calm me down, I headed for the stairs up to the third floor.
Outside Edward's room, I paused, awake enough now to understand what I was doing and why it was wrong. I had no excuse. I listened, knowing full well what I could be opening the door to if I walked in on my 24-year-old son and his fiance.
Hearing nothing, I carefully stepped just inside.
Edward was sleeping peacefully, his breaths even and deep and perfectly in tune with the little brunette who slept in his arms.
Reassured, I closed the door again and turned automatically to the room directly across from his. Again I paused and listened. Again I heard nothing, and so I opened Emmett's door too.
I was surprised to find him alone, his body angled toward the empty side of the bed, his hand out as if searching.
To this day, Emmett always seemed surprised when I tried to look after him. That made my heart ache.
In my dreams - my nightmares - sometimes it was Emmett that was sick. Or sometimes, he slipped away while I wasn't watching.
Any parent would tell you there's no such thing as being prepared for kids. There was no guide book for this. There wasn't any one right answer. Every child, every situation was different.
I didn't try to excuse myself.
Esme said once that most of the time, Emmett was the only thing in our lives who could wait for our attention and so he did. It wasn't fair. It wasn't any more fair than Edward spending the vast majority of his teen years fighting simply to survive.
Edward, with modern medicine and his own will, beat his disease. Twice. And Emmett...
Thank goodness for Jasper.
I found my son's husband downstairs in the kitchen.
Jasper was a night owl. This was a well known fact in our family. Sure enough, he was settled at the table, laptop open and eyes intent on his game. He pulled a pair of enormous headphones off his ears when I came in the room and sat across from him.
I would forever regret that it took a crisis of his own for Emmett's long buried personal questions to make themselves known. Retrospect was a damning thing. In hindsight, I saw how my and Esme's actions reinforced Emmett's belief that he needed to be the easy child. He tried so hard to be the perfect son, putting aside his needs because they weren't as dire as Edward's.
By the time I realized what we'd done to Emmett, he was beyond our help. We just weren't the ones he could lean on for this particular journey. It hurt. It hurt a lot. That time was a low point in my life. One son's life hung in the balance while the other grappled with a confusion so deep it rocked him. My unshakable son who never stopped smiling was withdrawn, the light gone from his eyes for a time.
Little by little, though, Jasper brought him back to us.
It wasn't easy hearing about the battles Emmett had fought only after they happened. Yes, of course, Esme and I were still very much focused on Edward who needed a greater amount of care, but I liked to think that once we'd realized the mistake we made, we would have done our best to help Emmett too, if he'd come to us.
But we were both grateful to Jasper for being with him through all those rough moments.
It must have been a blow, for instance, when some people Emmett thought of as friends couldn't handle the changes in him. Jacob's friendship had never wavered, but the same couldn't be said for others.
In particular was a woman who had once been very important to my eldest, Rosalie. I never got the full story out of him, but she'd taken his news very poorly.
From what I understood, they'd only recently begun to repair that relationship, but it had been a low point for Emmett going through that regardless.
"What's all this?" I asked curiously, shaking away old regrets of things I couldn't change and gesturing to what looked like post-it notes sticking out of Jasper's laptop bag. They were all in a jumble, some crinkled and worn.
"Oh, uh..." To my surprise, the young man's cheeks turned a shade of red I was used to only seeing on Bella. He gave me a sheepish smile. "They're, uh... They're from Emmett."
I raised an eyebrow. Really, I should have minded my own business, but I was curious about Jasper's reaction. They were just post-it notes, weren't they?
Jasper rolled his eyes. "It's probably silly of me to keep them. You know our work schedules have been hectic the last few months, and sometimes it feels like days go by that I don't see him. So he leaves these on the fridge for me to find."
Ah. I had to smirk. Of course Emmett's version of a love letter would be a note on the fridge. "It's not silly to keep them," I said quietly.
Without Jasper, I reflected, I never would have guessed that my big, burly, bear of a son was capable of this kind of romanticism. Esme and I used to muse that our Emmett - our restless soul who could never sit still - might be one of those perpetual bachelors. We couldn't really imagine him settling down.
But he was settled and happily so.
It was about three months ago that he and Jasper ran off to Vegas. They didn't tell anyone but came to the house for a visit one day wearing wedding bands. Emmett told me later, they had a bet as to how long it would take the rest of us to figure it out, and who it would be.
Esme, of course.
Jasper's guess had been it would take her under a minute. If I'd been allowed to wager, I'd have won for certain. It took her less than ten seconds after they walked in the door. I could have told them that.
"Can I ask you a personal question?"
My son-in-law glanced up from his game, arching an eyebrow.
"Why did you take Emmett's last name when you married?"
I'd wanted to ask for the last three months, but there were always more important questions. Especially for my wife, who was still a little put out that there would be no ceremony where she could cry - okay, I'll admit I would probably cry too - and the family could celebrate their union.
Jasper looked a little sad. "It's kind of tied up in the reason we didn't want a ceremony."
"Ah, I'm sorry. I didn't mean-"
"No, it's fine," he said quickly. "It's not a secret.
"The long and short of it is that we wanted to have the same last name. Emmett's very proud of his family, very proud to be a Cullen, but he would have changed his name if that's what we decided." Jasper smiled fondly. "We came up with some pretty decent combinations.
"But when it came down to it, I realized I wasn't so attached to my last name. Really, I was much more attached to his family - to your family - than I was to mine." He was looking down when he said it, as if he was a little ashamed.
I felt a flash of annoyed irritation. Not at him, but at his parents. It was an old feeling, but it didn't get easier to swallow down as the years went by.
I didn't think the Whitlocks knew how to handle all the changes their son had gone through. I tried not to judge. How could I know how it would feel - to lose their youngest child and then to send their eldest so far away from them, only to get him back completely changed.
Maybe it felt like they'd lost both their children, in a way. I'd have thought losing one child would have only helped them appreciate their remaining child all the more, regardless of how he might have grown, but again, I had never walked in those shoes.
Even if they were completely comfortable with the idea that Jasper was attracted to men - which, they weren't complete idiots about it, but they most certainly weren't comfortable - they disliked my son and didn't bother to hide it.
Emmett had often vented to me about the situation. He worried that it was the Whitlock's disdain of him that made them so aloof with Jasper - which hurt him very much. And Emmett couldn't stand to see Jasper hurt, especially not because of him.
"It was Emmett who helped me realized who I was supposed to be, and this family who accepted me as who I really am. You always welcomed me as a son," Jasper continued quietly. "You and Esme are like second parents to me. I felt - I feel - like Edward's brother. I even adore Bella like a sister. And I wanted to be your son."
I put my hand over his, giving him a gentle squeeze before I let go. "You are my son, Jasper."
I meant it. The boy was dear to me. Bella was, too.
Before the moment could get too mushy, we were both distracted by footsteps on the stairs. I peered over my shoulder in time to see Emmett appear, rubbing his eyes.
I covered my mouth with my hand to smother my laughter. Emmett looked like an overgrown version of the tiny boy he'd once been. He stood in the doorway of the kitchen, obviously half asleep, his dark curls sticking up in every direction as he blinked, trying to focus.
He blinked a few more times, his lips pouting slightly, before he held his hand out.
Many years ago, when he was tiny, it was me he was reaching for.
Today, though, it was Jasper who smiled patiently, shutting down his laptop.
"You were gone," Emmett muttered grumpily. He really wasn't awake at all.
"Sorry, sugar. Come on. Let's go to bed." He twined their fingers, gently tugging Emmett back up the stairs, stopping only to wave goodnight to me.
Watching them go, I reflected again how very lucky I was. I had two beautiful boys, healthy and thriving. Despite their own separate stumbling blocks, they were weaving the future of our family together, bringing amazing individuals into our fold. Jasper. Bella.
And there was so much more to look forward to.
Emmett had admitted to me that he, Jasper, and Jasper's best friend Alice had recently begun talking about the future. It seemed Alice didn't want children but had told them she would carry theirs if and when they were ready.
They were thinking about it. Very seriously.
If and when they brought their own kids into the world, I would tell my children that you couldn't be prepared for what life was going to throw at you. They knew how to love. They would be wonderful parents, I had no doubt. And if, by some chance, they couldn't be enough, I wished for their children the same thing Emmett had found in Jasper.
A person who would stand by them, and help them find who they were supposed to be.
Thank you to all of you for coming along on this journey. I am particularly proud of this little fic, so your words have meant so much to me.
Thank you to Shug, jfka06, and barburella for their endless support.
And TwilightMundi who is still my sunshine.
What's coming next for me in slashville? I have a Jasper/Carlisle (holy crap) I'll be working on shortly, as well as a Jasper/Edward HS fic. I'm also still toying with the idea of a sequel to my Jasper/Riley fic, Got Your Back.
Until then, all my love and happy slashing.