Pop the Question Contest Entry

Title: Eighth Time's the Charm

Word Count (without the A/n and header): 3,886

Pairing: Alice/Jasper

Rating: M

Summary: Alice and Jasper are a perfect fit. But after twenty years of friendship and seven proposals, will Alice ever get what she wants most?

Warnings: N/A

Eighth Time's the Charm

I was five years old the first time Jasper Whitlock asked me to marry him.

It was the first day of school, and I was ready to take the class by storm with my sparkly pink dress and shoes. Other students weren't quite as ready, including the boy with scraggly blond hair who was hanging on to his mother's leg.

Being my helpful self, I went over and took his hand in mine before pulling him to my desk. I didn't care who was supposed to sit next to me; the scared boy belonged there.

I told him all about my shoes, my big brother Edward, and my perfect box of crayons, and after offering to share my chocolate chip cookies with him at lunch, he stopped crying.

He told me his name was Jasper Whitlock and asked for mine in return. Once he knew I was Mary Alice Cullen, he asked me to marry him. I nodded with a giggle and gave him a hug, familiar enough with princess movies to know that getting married meant someone liked you a whole lot.

Even though I didn't give him a verbal answer, it didn't stop us from becoming best friends. All through elementary school, we were in the same class – something I was sure our mothers had something to do with. We had play dates and sleepovers – something I was sure my dad did not approve of.

It wasn't weird to us. Jasper was my best friend.

So when he asked me to marry him again when I was ten years old, I said yes.

Of course, it was in the middle of a bad storm when thunder shook the house. We thought we were going to die, but it didn't make my answer any less sincere. I loved Jasper with all the best friend love my ten-year-old heart could hold.

The middle school years weren't the best for me, complete with awkward beginner boobs and braces. The new school also created distance between Jasper and me as we had different classes and different friends. For some reason, we weren't allowed to have sleepovers anymore, and I missed them – even though Edward laughed at us for having them in the first place.

But every Friday night, Jasper was with me until my dad drove him home. He did his best to make me feel beautiful and not quite so awkward. He was truly my best friend.

His third proposal came when I was fourteen.

After a particularly awkward and miserable day, he brought me a daisy, a handwritten poem, and his matrimonial question. I said yes once again, but this time, my affirmative answer came with a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. I didn't need to throw up, and I wasn't hungry. But saying yes to Jasper made everything feel…fuzzy.

The more I thought about the feeling, the more I realized about Jasper. And about myself. I liked Jasper. Not in the best friend way, but I liked liked him. Loved him, in fact. I loved Jasper with more love than I could handle.

I quickly discovered that being in love didn't make things easier. Combined with the melodrama of high school, it actually made things harder. My best friend wasn't just my best friend any more, and not knowing how to handle it, I pushed Jasper away.

I worried too much about things that, in hindsight, didn't matter.

Did Jasper love me back with the same kind of love? Would he ever see me as more than a friend? What if my love remained unrequited forever?

The unhappily-ever-after possibilities were endless, so the only thing I could do was avoid. Avoid Jasper like the plague. The only thing worse than him not loving me was him loving me out of obligation, and I definitely didn't want that.

The trend continued until my senior year.

I was lonely. Sure, I went out with my other friends and made some new ones, but no one could compare to Jasper. At seventeen, my view of the world was slightly less skewed than at fourteen. It was enough of a change that I realized I didn't care. I would always love Jasper. Always. And if he didn't love me back, I would just deal with it because Jasper as a friend was better than no Jasper at all.

The hardest part was swallowing my pride to apologize. We were both to blame for letting the friendship wither away, but it was mostly my fault for being a stupid little girl.

The week before our high school graduation, I went to his house, ready to apologize until I was blue in the face and beg for forgiveness.

But when Jasper answered the door, he simply smiled and held his arms open for me, as if he'd been waiting on me all along.

I spent the next hour crying inconsolably in his arms as he quietly shushed me and assured me that everything would be okay. Later, after everything had been explained and my snotty mess of a face had been dried on his t-shirt, we snuggled in his bed. Just being together like we used to be.

Only a bit of self hatred remained after Jasper forgave me. It was my fault that we had missed three years of this, but in a way, it was for the best. Our hormones would have ruled us before, probably leading to even more hurt and misunderstandings – ones that we couldn't have recovered from. But now that we knew what it was like to be apart, we were motivated to make it work and actually attempt to communicate.

During our first official date, Jasper asked me to marry him again. The love in his eyes was so clear, and I knew immediately that this wasn't for play anymore. He was serious and really did want to be with me forever. So for the fourth time, I said yes.

We weren't crazy though. We graduated, both of us with honors and scholarships. We went to college and explored our own interests while balancing a relationship. It was difficult at times, but easy all the same. When you believed in something, you did what you could to make it work. Even if it meant talking when you didn't want to talk or sacrificing things you didn't want to sacrifice.

The proposals kept us entertained too.

The fifth was unexpected. If I hadn't known my Jasper, I would have been offended that losing our virginities lasted about thirty seconds and ended with a proposal. He apologized and promised to make it up to me.

That was why the sixth proposal came from me. His fingers worked the best magic.

The seventh was after our first college party. Jasper couldn't handle his alcohol. What started with happy talk of marriage and babies ended with his head in the toilet. I was sure he didn't remember a thing the next morning, but I simply offered him some pain killers with a kiss and a smile.

In the end, the challenges made us stronger. College made us smarter. Degrees enabled us to be successful. Love kept us going.

But now that I'm twenty-five and still have a naked ring finger, I can't help but be discouraged.

Flipping through a new wedding dress catalog, I sigh, which doesn't escape Bella's notice.

"Are the dresses really that bad?" my sister-in-law teases as she flips through her own book. "You can always look at these cakes instead."

"The dresses are bad when you doubt you'll ever get to wear one." She laughs at my grumbling, but of course she doesn't understand. Edward married her promptly after college. Her man doesn't drag his ass for some unknown reason.

I'm too lost in my thoughts to notice her standing beside my desk until she gently touches my hand. I look up, and she's smiling softly. "It'll happen, you know? Jasper loves you."

I sigh again, but return her smile. "I know he does. I just want things to be official, you know? My whole life revolves around everyone's wedding but my own. We're not even technically engaged."

"It'll happen," Bella promises. She leans over and kisses the top of my head then walks toward her chair, turning back to me before sitting. "You know what, Al? Take the afternoon off. Go pamper yourself and get your mind away from all this wedding stuff for a while."

I start to disagree but change my mind. She's right. Being a wedding photographer was my dream, and though I love our little make-shift wedding planning business that Bella and I started, I do need a break. Seeing constant reminds of the one thing you want but don't have isn't good for the psyche.

Grabbing my purse, I head out the door and drive to my favorite salon. The hair cut and pedicure are exactly what I need to feel refreshed and much less depressed, but the sight of Jasper's car in the drive way when I get home is even better.

"Someone's home early," I call as I enter the house. "What are you up to, babe…oh!" I squeal as a very familiar set of arms wraps around my waist and takes advantage of my small size by throwing me over his shoulder as he heads to the living room. Placing a smack on my ass, he collapses onto the couch and pulls me into his lap.

I wrap my arms around his shoulders as I catch my breath, but his wide smile erases any brief annoyance I feel. He's beautiful when he smiles, all white teeth and happy blue eyes. With one look, I've caught his good mood.

"Hi, baby," he says, pulling me in for a slow kiss. His lips caress mine, so sweet and so good. I never tire of his affection.

The kiss is so good that my eyes close by themselves and stay closed even when we're through. This man can easily kiss me into a stupor.

When I do look at him, his smile is still there.

"What's made you so happy, handsome?" I ask, threading our fingers together.

He shrugs. "Work was good. And I just love you."

I've known him for nearly twenty years, but his simple declarations of love always make my knees weak and my heart race. Jasper's a genius with technology, making his position at his father's company well deserved, but he's never had a problem expressing his feelings, unlike what the stereotypes might say. My nerd knows exactly how he feels.

"I love you, too." I kiss him again just because. "So why are you home so early? Have a hot date?"

He nods, clearly excited. "As a matter of fact, I'm hoping to have one. That is, if the lovely lady on my lap will have dinner with me tonight. What do you say?"

"I say 'of course.' What should I wear?"

Instead of answering, he jumps up, barely catching me before I fall to the floor. With my hand in his, he leads me to the bedroom and into the closet. I'm amused as I watch him look through my clothes, laughing at his wide range of facial expressions. I know he finds what he's looking when his eyes widen, and slowly, he pulls out a dress I've only worn once. It's sleeveless teal chiffon, not at all what I was expecting for tonight.

"This," he breathes as he passes it to me. "This is perfect."

I've never seen him this passionate about my clothing, so I can only take the dress and nod. He's done nothing but stun me since I walked into the house.

"Crazy man," I mutter as I enter the bathroom.

Thirty minutes later, I'm ready to go. I keep my hair as it is and make-up natural, adding only minimal jewelry. The dress is fancy enough on its own, and now I'm curious. Or maybe suspicious. Whatever Jasper has planned is sure to surprise me.

"So where are we going?" I ask, venturing back to the bedroom to find my man. When I do, my breath catches.

Jasper has dressed himself in a white dress shirt and black pants. Simple enough, but the combination makes me want to attack him. Forget dinner. We can just eat each other.

He seems to have a similar reaction when he sees me. I giggle as his mouth opens and closes several times without any sound escaping.

"Alice…you're…you're so beautiful, baby." I twirl, giving him the full effect of my flowing dress. "God…so beautiful. Come here."

He doesn't have to tell me twice. I'm in his arms in less than a second, breathing in as much of his delicious scent as I can. He kisses my forehead and the top of my hair as he holds me. We stand for a while, once again just enjoying being close. I realize that what he's planned doesn't matter. As long as I get to spend the evening with him, I'll be happy.

Our embrace ends when Jasper mentions a reservation. He takes my hand, and I follow him to the car, trusting. Always trusting.

Twenty minutes later, we arrive at our destination – a five-star restaurant I've never been to before. We're seated on a private patio, which the late August weather compliments perfectly. Jasper takes control of the ordering and picks the perfect appetizer, wine, and entrees. It's the all around perfect date night, complete with laughter and fun stories.

Before dessert, Jasper stands and offers me his hand. I look up at him, confused by his offer.

"May I have this dance?" he asks, bowing slightly.

"You're a goof," I answer, but I take his hand and allow him to pull me close.

We dance in place to a tune that only exists in Jasper's head. He hums it for me, and I rest my head on his chest so I can feel the vibrations. It's so relaxing…until an epiphany hits me in the middle of his third stanza.

The fancy clothes. The reservation. The private meal. The dancing.

This is it. This is the night I've been waiting for. I want to jump up and down and squeal at the top of my lungs, but I somehow control myself. If Jasper's planned all of this so far, I don't want to change anything. It's been perfect.

We return to our seats, and I hope my megawatt smile doesn't give me away. Thankfully, Jasper doesn't seem fazed and remains calm and cool when the waiter brings out our chocolate dessert.

As Jasper feeds me bites of the decadent cake, I daydream, wondering when he'll pull out the ring. What will the ring look like? What will he say exactly? I already know what I'll say. It's been my answer all along.

I'm too busy day dreaming that I don't notice when we finish the cake or when Jasper takes care of the bill. Only when we're back in the car, Jasper's fingers tracing shapes on my knee do I realize that nothing happened.

He didn't ask.

We cuddle on the couch and watch a movie, but he doesn't ask. We talk about our plans for the upcoming week, but he doesn't ask. We take a bubble bath together, but he doesn't ask.

After putting on a tank top and panties, I curl up on my side of the bed and let my tears fall. I know Jasper loves me. I know he wants to be with me. But it still hurts. It hurts that I need this commitment now, but he isn't offering it. Getting my hopes up for tonight has now crushed me.

I don't want him to know that I'm crying about something so silly, but even that falls through for me.

"Need anything from the kitchen?" he asks, crawling into bed behind me. He gently turns me over, and his face falls the moment he sees my wet face. "Alice, what's wrong? Don't cry, baby."

I shake my head. "It's stupid," I say, cringing at my gravelly voice.

His soft hand cradles my face, thumb wiping the tears away. "Nothing you can say will ever be stupid. Please tell me?"

The gentle pleading of his voice breaks the dam. I can't hold it in if I tried.

"I just...I thought you were going to propose tonight. I've been waiting and waiting for you to propose – really propose, but it just hasn't happened yet. And I'm surrounded by engaged people and weddings, and I know you love me and I love you. That's totally enough, but I want to be engaged. I want everyone to know that we're stuck together forever. And when we went out tonight, I just knew it would be the night, but it wasn't and now I'm like this."

I suck in a ragged breath, letting more tears fall. Closing my eyes, I turn in to his chest, needing his comfort but not wanting to see his judgment. I know I'm ridiculous and probably hormonal, but I do feel better after getting that out.

Instead of being met with laughter or shame like I expect, Jasper shifts away for a moment before completely wrapping me in his arms. I feel more of his special soft kisses against my hair, and then his nose makes a path down to my ear.

"I want everyone to know we're stuck together, too," he whispers, hot breath making me shiver.

"You do?" I mumble.

"Mmhmm." I feel his nod. "And you know what?" I shake my head. "You were right."

I scoot back slightly and open my eyes, now knowing that I'll face no judgment. "What was I right about?"

"I was going to ask you tonight – at dinner," he confesses. "Bella and Edward even helped me set it up. But I was too nervous."

My eyes widen. This explains why Bella encouraged me to leave so early, and why Jasper was acting so crazy. But this just doesn't make sense.

"Why were you nervous?" The idea is almost unfathomable. "You know what I'll say. What I've already said."

"That's exactly why. Haven't I reached my quota of proposals?"

"Never," I say emphatically. "You never have a quota with me."

He studies me, eyes holding eyes, for the longest moment. Whatever he finds makes him smile, and he rolls out of bed and goes to the closet. Reaching up to the top shelf, he removes a small box.

My eyes are suddenly dry and my body excited as I sit up and wipe the rest of the tears from my face.

"Close your eyes," Jasper requests, and I comply as he crawl back to me. The bed dips and shifts as he settles, and all the while I'm smiling. This isn't how I pictured this happening, but I love it. "Okay, you can open them."

I peek slowly, not stopping my giggle when I see his position. He isn't down on one knee in the traditional sense. But with one knee bent on the bed and the other leg hanging off, he fits the bill. I love him so much.

He takes a deep breath and releases it, winking as he presents the little box to me.

"Mary Alice Cullen, I have loved you from the moment I met you, twenty years ago today."

Fresh tears fill my eyes as I calculate the date in my head and realize that he's right. It's been exactly twenty years since the precocious girl and frightened boy first saw each other. I can't believe he remembers.

"And we've been through a lot since then," he continues, "and I can't wait to experience everything else life has to offer with you. Only with you. So – for the eight time – Alice, will you make me the happiest man in the world and be my wife?"

"Yes!" I lunge forward and knock him over, laughing as I cover his face with kisses. "Yes, yes, yes, Jasper. Yes!"

"Yeah?" he asks.

I still and place both of my hands on his face, looking into his eyes as I nod once more. "Yes. I love you so much."

His smile is blinding just before his lips attach to mine. We kiss slow, fast, hard, and soft – all at the same time. When his hands grip my waist and tug my tank top up, I immediately lift my arms so he can remove it. My panties and his pajama pants follow, and then we're skin to skin. Warm, soft, and comfortable.

I moan into his mouth as his magic finger trail down and down, settling on my favorite spot. I grind back against him and feel how ready he is for me. Only for me.

"We've never done this before. But...ohhh…I like it." He enters me, so slowly and so good, filling me so good.

"What?" he pants, guiding my hips to help me create the best rhythm.

"Sex while officially engaged. Soooo good."

He hums in agreement as he captures my nipple, and that's the end of all my rational thought.

Every move we make together is better than the last. Deeper, harder, faster. But when his magic fingers return, I'm done. With a moan I barely recognize as my own, I fall, capturing Jasper's mouth as the pleasure courses through me.

A few thrusts later, he joins me. My body feels boneless as I lie on top of him, and I can feel the contractions of his muscles beneath me. I'm too happy and sated to move.

We lie in silence as we catch our breath. His fingers make paths through my hair and down my back, making me shiver. I scratch his scalp in return.

When we do finally roll over, Jasper tucks me into his side, and I laugh at our position. We're down at the foot of the bed, dangerously close to falling off, but I don't care. Nothing about this night was how I expected it to be, but I now know that reality can exceed expectations by leaps and bounds.

"Alice," Jasper whispers just as I'm about to fall asleep. "You didn't see your ring."

"Oh," I gasp, quickly sitting up. "I want to see it!"

He chuckles and reaches across the bed to grab the little box that was almost lost in the covers. Slowly, he lifts the lid, and I love what I see.

"Oh, Jay. It's gorgeous," I exclaim. The princess cut diamond is just the right size and surrounded by tiny diamonds that extend on the platinum band. "Just…beautiful."

Taking the ring from the box, he reaches for my left hand and slides the ring on the appropriate finger.

"Perfect fit," he says softly, tilting my hand back and forth. The ring sparkles in the soft light of the room as he lifts my hand to his lips, placing the sweetest kisses over the ring and the tips of my fingers. My heart feels as if it will burst.

"Perfect fit," I agree. I hope he knows I mean more than just the ring.

We've been a perfect fit from the start, just not always on the same page. But with twenty years and eight proposals behind us, I'm sure we'll be a perfect fit forever.