A/N: I'm back now and things should resume with a more regular schedule. Big smooches to my beta, LyricalKris, for making sure I stay in the right tense and just making things better. Also, HUGE thanks to review by beacullen in Twific Reviews - thank you so much, bb.
And now, on with the story.
Excerpt from Edward's journal - July 7, 2011
It's almost encouraging that Jasper has so much hope. His hope made him contact Carlisle, I realize that now. His hope makes him fight, makes him think he can still win.
My hope vanished years ago. I'm too tired to fight, and I don't want to win if it means leaving him.
Sleeping in my own bed without the nurses or the beeping or the constant hum of the hospital was amazing. I wanted to lay there wrapped in my duvet all morning, but I'd made a promise - one that I was eager to keep. I showered and dressed as fast as I could with one arm wrapped in the cast, grabbed a couple pieces of toast to eat on the way, grabbed my guitar, and found a cab. By the time I reached the hospice, it was barely ten, and official visiting hours had just begun.
Edward was still confined to his bed, so I found him there, dozing with a book on his lap. As soon as I stepped in the room he stirred, his eyes blinking slowly as a small smile formed on his lips. "You came."
"Of course I did." I walked to his bedside, kissing his smile lightly before pulling a chair close. I sat, placing the guitar on the floor as I took his hand in mine. "How are you feeling?"
"Mmmm, better. You can always tell I'm on the mend when the wires and tubes begin disappearing."
That's when I noticed that the IV was gone, and the monitor was still in the room but silent, the cords wrapped around the base. "That's excellent!"
He grimaced and shifted his hips. "The catheter is still in place, so I'm not totally free, but I'm one step closer."
After seeing him so deathly pale and unconscious just a few days ago, I saw any improvement as a miracle. I squeezed his hand tight. "Still good news, babe."
Nodding, he turned toward me. His still drowsy eyes searched mine for a moment, and his fingers gently caressed my cast. "So, what happened?"
I took a deep breath and told him everything I could remember: the gang at the store, Mr. Newton getting his shoulder dislocated, the time in the hospital, and even the policeman that seemed to have it out for me.
"I can't believe that cop gave you such a hard time! What an asshole!"
I sighed, knowing he had a point, but also knowing nothing could be done about it. I had a criminal record now. I'd done time. No matter how many times I wished I had done things differently, I hadn't, and the consequences would follow me for the rest of my life. "It's what I have to live with after my conviction. I will always be on the guilty side of that kind of situation."
"It's just not fair!" he said, sitting up and breathing hard.
Alarmed that he was getting so worked up, I squeezed his hand again and played it cool, trying to calm him. "I'll be okay this time. Besides, seems to me, life isn't fair all around."
He looked at me for a long moment, then leaned back and took a couple deep breaths. "So, what's going to happen now?" he asked, letting my comment slide.
"I don't know everything, but it sounded like they had Vicky in custody. She's started some story about me being an accomplice, but I don't think it'll hold with Mr. Newton's testimony."
His eyes widened. "There's going to be a trial?"
"Not for me, according to Felix, but she won't be getting off so easily."
"I'm just glad you're safe, and I'm glad Felix was there." Edward's hand held mine tightly.
I smiled, wanting to lighten the mood. "Well, nothing a little plaster can't fix anyway. Enough worrying though. I brought you a surprise."
"You did?" He smirked, the teasing in his voice a welcome sign that he was also willing to change the subject. "Is it that guitar you had behind your back when you walked in?"
I gave him my own sly smile. "Maybe."
He slapped at my hand, laughing, indicating more than anything else that he was feeling better. "Play me something!"
"That's the idea. What would you like to hear?"
"Anything. Something relaxed and happy."
I lifted the guitar and laid her on my lap, my cast luckily on my strumming hand. As long as I didn't try anything fancy, I should have been able to play something. I played some chords, warming up my fingers, and a tune popped into my head, as often happens. "How about this?"
At the opening notes he smiled, even when I my fingers missed half of them. When I began to sing, he laughed, but it was worth any humiliation just to hear that sound again. At the chorus, he even joined in.
Slow down everyone, you're moving too fast. Frames can't catch you when you're moving like that.
As the last notes faded, I looked up to find his smile a little sad.
"What's wrong, darling?" I laid the guitar aside and edged closer to him.
"Jack Johnson always makes me think of the ocean and summer."
I chuckled and nodded, wondering how thoughts of the ocean could get him down. "Yeah, I can feel that sometimes with his music, too. The hot sand beneath you and the hot sun above with the breeze off the water and the waves so close to cool you down. Summer in heaven. But why the sad face?"
He smiled again, but lowered his eyes to his hands that were fidgeting in his lap. "You are sometimes too perceptive for your own good."
"Or yours, you mean."
He took a deep breath. "Nah, it's just that I've never seen the ocean. I never made it a priority, never made lots of things priorities, and now..." He lifted his gaze to mine, and I could see tears shining in his lashes. "Now..." His voice caught in his throat and all he could do was look at me as a single tear tracked down his cheek.
In an instant, I had him wrapped in my arms. "It's okay. Shhh." I held him and rocked him as he clung to my waist and buried his face in my shoulder.
After a few moments, he loosened his grip and leaned back, his eyes red but dry. "Jasper," he whispered, his fingers digging into my arms. "I'm scared."
"No, I need to get this out." He took a deep breath and locked his gaze with mine. "I haven't been scared since my parents passed away, not scared to die at least. It meant the end of my pain, and I had no one to leave behind, no one that mattered." He kissed me soundly, our lips pressed together and his hands gripping me to him. "And now there are so many things I don't want to miss with you, things I'd thought were long lost to me."
"I want to do everything with you, too. See the ocean, watch fireworks every Fourth of July, eat watermelon."
He smiled sadly and was silent for a long moment. "I love you, Jasper. I don't want to leave you."
I pulled him into me again, amazed to hear those words from him, but knowing they felt so right. "I love you more than anything," I said, kissing him again and holding him tight. "I don't want you to leave me either." I ducked my head, unable to admit to his face what I had to say next. "I'm sorry I called Carlisle, but I was so scared when you crashed like that. I needed to do something."
Edward's fingers cupped my cheek and lifted my chin so he could look at me again. "I thought as much, but it still hurt that you went behind my back like that. You should have talked to me."
"You were unconscious! I needed something... someone... some-"
"Some hope? There isn't any, Jasper. Carlisle has no new answers. He couldn't save Benjamin, he can't save me."
His words confirmed my worst fears - that he wouldn't even listen to Carlisle. My heart was pounding in my chest, my throat was closing, and I was struggling to breathe. "How do you know? Why don't you want to try?"
He sighed. "I should have said Carlisle doesn't have the right answers. I don't want to leave you now that I have you, but submitting to Carlisle's wishes only means two things: test after test after test with disappointing results and no cure in sight, and long days and nights without you." He stroked my cheeks with his thumbs. "You have to understand, if I wanted to be tested again, I would have to go to Carlisle's lab in California. And you couldn't come with me."
I swallowed hard, the truth painful and sinking in by inches. "But-"
"The limitations of your parole wouldn't allow you to leave the state for months yet, and I don't know how much time I have left. I know you meant well, Jasper, but this is my decision. I want to spend my final days with you, doing and seeing things with you. You are my strength and my hope. Before you walked into my life, I lost all my will to fight, and without you there's no point."
"There is a point," I argued, already knowing the fight was useless.
He pulled me close, the strength in his arms surprising. "I won't lose you before I have to. I know what waits for me in California. There is nothing there for me but a white room with a small window and no chance of success. It would mean not seeing you when I need you the most." He took a deep breath. "It would mean dying alone."
My heart skipped in my chest at the thought of him in a cold, sterile room with no one with him at the end. "I won't let you die alone."
He blinked hard, and his voice softened. "I know you won't, but that's why I can't leave. Not now. It's too late for me."
His words were like a punch to my gut. "Then it's too late for us. You're giving up on me."
"No, I'm holding onto you with everything I've got." In emphasis, he held me even tighter to him. "I'm just letting go of everything else."
"That doesn't stop the inevitable, Edward. And when you go, where does that leave me?" I knew I was being selfish, wanting to keep him here just for me, but I didn't care anymore. "Then I will be truly alone. Everyone will have left me behind."
He looked at me, slightly surprised. "You have no one? I thought you had a sister?"
His memory of things I told him sitting under that tree of his shocked me. "In theory, but she's long gone."
"I didn't know. I'm sorry."
His sorrow for my situation made me feel horrible for laying guilt on him. He never asked for this life. "No, I'm sorry Edward. Life might not be fair, but it is what it is. I found you, and I will be with you to whatever end."
He kissed me, his soft lips pressing against mine and his hands tangling in my hair. When we parted, he looked into my eyes, his gaze pleading and loving. "I can't go back to California. I can't leave you."
Holding him, being able to touch him and taste him still on my mouth, I knew I couldn't let him go. Not now. My heart and head were still at war, but my heart was winning. "I know."
"I know we have more to talk about, but can't we just be happy right now? Can we just be together?"
His eyelids drooped as he spoke, and I ran my fingers over the dark shadows under his eyes. I climbed into his bed as he scooted nearer the wall. I helped him turn and pulled him to me, his back to my chest and his head resting on my arm. He held my other arm to his chest, occasionally kissing my palm or fingers. The warmth of him and the quiet of the room pulled me under. Soon I slept, feeling the same peace as the night before as I lied curled around my love.