Pop the Question Contest Entry

Title: Dance Little Jean

Word Count: 6,398

Pairing: Nessie/Jake

Rating: M

Summary: Edward and Bella refuse to marry until Rose and Leah can. In households full of love but short on marriage, Jake and Nessie find the kind of friendship that comes once in a lifetime. Sometimes the one you need has been there all along.

Warnings: Discussion of a lesbian relationship, but no slash.

Dance Little Jean

For as long as I can remember, I've had a mom and dad who weren't a Mr. and Mrs., while Jake's moms have been, well, Jake's moms. The first time I realized these arrangements were anything but the norm, Jake was snoring in the floor in the front of my closet, the footy Batman pajamas he wore all the time keeping his toes warm. This was fortunate, since he didn't really fit in his sleeping bag, even back then.

"And they lived happily ever after."

Dad leans in to kiss the top of my head, smoothing my fuzzy brown hair out of my eyes with long fingers. Mom says dad's hands look this way because he plays piano and God knew it would help him reach all those keys. I think they just make him look like one of those cartoon aliens Jakes watches on satellite all the time.

Dad starts to close the book, but I stop him, staring at the photo of the blonde-haired Cinderella in her white wedding gown beside the handsome Prince Charming.

"Daddy, why don't you and Mommy get married? Then Mommy can wear a pretty dress like Cinderella and you can take her away to the castle."

Dad sighs, deep and whooshy, and this seems weird to me because he sounds really tired. He never goes to bed this early.

"Nes," he says, but he stops and rubs his face with his alien hands. "Nessie, there's no reason for your mommy and I to get married. We already live together and have you. Our home is our castle."

"But I want Mommy to wear a pretty dress. Please, Daddy? Please marry Mommy? I could be a flower girl! And then I can have a dress like Mommy's."

Daddy looks at me funny. He looks sad and I don't like it.

"Why are you sad, Daddy? Don't you want to marry Mommy?" I reach up and hold his cheeks in my hands. I don't like to see him sad.

His long fingers come up around my hands and he kisses them as he removes them from his face.

"Oh, baby, of course I do. But it's more complicated than that."

"Compycated?"

"That's the word you use when you mean something is not easy, Renesme."

"But you always say loving us is the easiest thing in the world!"

I can tell right away that I've really upset him. He bites his lip and scrubs his hands through his crazy hair, making it stick up more than usual. Mommy says this makes Daddy look like a mad scientist, but I think he just looks mad. I don't know why. I don't know what I said wrong.

"I'm sorry, Daddy! I didn't mean to make you mad. You don't have to marry Mommy if you don't want to."

Daddy pulls me into a hug and it's a big hug, a it's-kind-of-hard-breathe hug. "Daddy! You're squishing me!"

Daddy lets go of me and looks over at Jake, who is drooling into his pillow.

"Nessie, you know how much Jake's mommies love each other?"

I frown. This is an easy question, but I don't see what it has to do with him not marrying Mommy.

"Sure, Daddy. Leah and Aunt Rose love each other big as the moon. Aunt Rose says so."

"Right, and the moon is really big, right?"

"Um hmm."

"Their love is so big it won't fit on the piece of paper the government gives you when you get married. It's so big that some people in our country are afraid of it. They're afraid that if two people like your Aunt Rose and Leah love each other that much, it will become bigger than the way they love their husbands and wives. They're scared that it will change what loves looks like, and some of those people who are scared have small minds that can't understand a love as big and wonderful as Leah and Rose's. For now, until those people aren't afraid, or until our leaders aren't afraid, Leah and Rose can't get married."

I feel like Daddy is trying to tell me something important here, but now I'm mad and I'm not sure if I have it right.

"That's not fair! That's not fair for them to tell Jake's mommies they can't get married. They're good mommies. They should be able to get married if they want to!"

Daddy smiles, and I'm glad. He doesn't look mad any more.

"That's exactly right, Nes. Your mom feels that way, and so do I. You know that mommy and your Aunt Rose have been friends a long time, right?"

"As long as me and Jake?"

"Just as long. Their mommies were neighbors and friends when Grandma still had Mommy in her belly."

"Wow."

"I know. Aunt Rose and Mommy grew up together, Nes, just like you and Jake will. They are very best friends. So when the government says Aunt Rose can't marry Leah, your mommy takes that very seriously. I do, too. We won't get married until Aunt Rose and Leah can get married."

"But why, Daddy?"

"Because friendships like your mom's with Rose are once in a lifetime, Nes. You honor those friendships because you will never get another one like them. You stand up for your friends, especially when it's not easy."

*DLJ*

"So you're not gonna eat lunch with me anymore?"

"Just not today, Nessie. Me and Mike are gonna play Power Rangers: Dinosaur Invasion at recess."

I open my chocolate milk and take a big swig, glaring at Jake the whole time. "So?"

"So Mike says I can't play if I eat lunch with a girl."

"Mike's a jerk, Jake. Why do you want to play with him anyway?"

"All the boys play with Mike, Nes. I have to."

"No. You don't."

Jake pushes his peas around on his orange cafeteria tray and sighs. He picks up his pizza and takes a huge bite, rolling his eyes at me.

"You don't get it, Nes. You're a girl."

"No kidding? I never even knew that! You're so smart, Jacob Clearwater! Gosh, I wish I was as smart as you!"

He drops his pizza. His brown eyes are angry and mean. His mouth is all twisted up. His dark skin looks like a mask. I swear this is the ugliest he has ever looked. I hate him.

"Why do you have to be such a whiny pants, Nes? Why can't you just let it go?"

"Let what go? That you're a stupid head for wanting to play with Mike Newton?"

"Whatever, Nessie. Whatever."

He picks up his plate and storms off to the trash cans. He tosses what's left of his pizza and peas into the bins, and crushes his milk carton with his hand before dropping it, too. I guess he thinks it makes him look strong. It doesn't. He just looks stupid as he walks off, wiping milk on his jean shorts with the back of his hand.

*DLJ*

Jake and I don't talk for almost a week. Mommy and Aunt Rose try to fix it, offering us cookies and sleep overs and even a movie on a school night, but we are both too mad to give in. Daddy says boys like to play with other little boys more as they get older, but that after a while, Jake will want to play with girls again. He says I shouldn't take it personally, that Jake will come around. I don't care if he comes around. I don't care if he dies. I don't ever want to talk to him again.

The weekend is a blur of reading and playing outside in the tree house, but it's kind of boring. One hour bleeds into the next with none of Jake's dumb jokes or crazy plastic sword fights with the bushes to break up the time.

Angela and Jessica ask me to play jump rope with them at recess, and seeing Jake locked in a battle of Kung Fu masters with Mike and Tyler, I smile and go with them. Jessica takes one end of the rope and Angela takes the other. I've jumped twenty-five in a row when loud voices, one of them Jake's, breaks my concentration. I stumble and Angela holds her end of the rope.

"You okay, Nessie?"

"Yeah, I'm fine."

I step back from the rope and turn to look as Mike sneers at Jake.

"Tigress? Nobody likes Tigress the best! She's a girl!"

"So?" Jake throws his head back. "She's awesome. She works the hardest and she knows the best moves."

Mike's hands are curling into fists at his side. His pudgy face neck has gone all red and blotchy.

"She does not. Everybody knows Po knows all the best moves. He's the Dragon Warrior!"

"Po just gets lucky, Mike. Tigress knows a lot more than him. She's been doing Kung Fu since she was a little kid!"

"So? Tigress is just a girl!"

"So what? She's awesome!"

Mike leans in close to Jake, stabbing him in the chest with a dirty finger. "Only a weirdo like you with two moms would think Tigress could beat the Dragon Warrior! Is that what your mommies, taught you, Jakey? That girls are better than boys? Is that why you don't have a daddy?"

Jake's face has gone a chalky shade of gray. He's quivering all over, and although it might look like anger to most people, I know the truth. He's going to cry, right here in front of everybody. I can't let that happen. Not in front of Mike Newton. He'll never let Jake live it down.

"Better no dad than a loser dad like yours, Mike!" I shout, barreling toward them. Jake blinks at me as though he's not sure what I'm doing there.

"Don't you call my dad a loser! You take that back, right now!"

"Make me."

"I don't waste my time with girls, Nessie. Dad says I shouldn't hit people weaker than me."

"Weaker? He'd know all about weak, wouldn't he, Mike? The heaviest thing your dad has ever lifted is a box of doughnuts!"

Spluttering, Mike takes two steps forward and punches me in the gut, hard. I go down like a rag doll, biting my lips and groaning in pain. I will not cry. I will not cry. God, it hurts. I want to throw up it hurts so bad.

"Nessie!" Jake is kneeling beside me in an instant, his sadness replaced with fear. "Are you okay? I can't believe he hit you! I'm gonna kill him!"

Mike looms over me, spreading his legs a bit and posing with his bicep up. "You want some of me, too, Jakey? Cause I got plenty more where that came from!"

I can see, through the haze of water leaking from my eyes, that while all the other kids are gathering around, Angela's braids are whipping out behind her as she runs for the school and probably Mrs. Cope.

"Mike," I whisper. "Mike, come here, I want to tell you something."

He bends down next to me. "You gonna take back what you said about my dad?"

"No. I'm not."

With all the hate worked up inside me, I roll my tongue and spit in his face.

He coughs and screeches, wiping his face and jumping toward where I'm still laying, but Jake throws himself between us.

They are rolling and punching, scratching and screaming when Mrs. Cope comes running out of the building with Principal Banter and Angela behind her.

As Banter hauls them both off by the necks of their t-shirts and Mrs. Cope helps me sit up, Jake catches me eye. "That was an awesome move, Nes!" He yells. "For a girl!"

His lip is bleeding and one eye is already turning black, but he's laughing. Even though it makes my tummy hurt, I laugh, too.

*DLJ*

At fifteen, Jake gets really into classic rock. He buys a $400 old steel guitar and a shitty amp from Embry Call's older brother, Sam, and spends hours holed up in his room with an old Emerson record player and Leah's dusty vinyl collection.

"Come on, Nes, just put the book down already. I learned this one just for you."

I look up from my book and huff. "Seriously, Jake? If you spent half as much time with Orwell as you did with that stupid chords book you'd be acing English right now."

"We can't all be writers in training, Nes. I don't have your genes. My parents didn't both graduate summa cum laude."

"No, you don't. You have better ones. Don't give me that crap."

He grins at me and grabs my elastic off the table to pull his shoulder length hair back from his face. He started growing his hair about the time the guitar fascination started. He thinks rock stars look more authentic with long hair. I don't have the heart to point out that this hasn't been the case since the decade of the albums he's so crazy about. Besides, it does look kind of good. If you like that longhaired, muscle man thing.

He walks over to the stereo and drops the needle on a new record. He's picking out the intro, a playful, twirling tune that I recognize right off. I groan.

"I have heard this before, Jake. Really? Can you be any more corny?"

"Oh, come on." He's laughing and that smile of his is so bright and warm, I can't help but grin back. "Dance for me, Jean."

Heaving a great sigh, I close the book and stand. He strums in the corner, and I give him an exaggerated bow. "This is stupid, Jake. I look like an idiot."

"Just dance, Nes. Go on."

His fingers smooth across the strings and his voice, so much deeper these days than it has ever been, lays out the first stanza and I shiver.

"I played a wedding for the money

And I wished that I could tell the bride and groom

Just what I thought of marriage and what's in store after their honeymoon –"

I begin to twirl, lifting my skirt up around my knees and skipping. I flip my long hair over my shoulder and bow again, and his voice wraps around me like a bow on a present, tight and secure. He's the only boy I ever dance for, and I don't know why that is. Several of them have asked me out, and though the dates are fun, I never enjoy myself as well as I do when Jake and me are just goofing off at my house or his. It's hard to compete with a friendship like ours. Years of tree house wars and shared popsicles have given way to study sessions and nacho-eating contests. He always wins, but I keep trying.

I swish around the room while he sings and smirks, rolling his eyes at me as I fling myself in circles, arms wide and free.

"Dance little Jean, this day is for you,

Two people you love, stood up and said 'I do,'

Dance little Jean, the prayer that you had

Was answered today

Your mama's marrying your dad…."

I spin and spin, pulling my arms in close to me like a misplaced figure skater. The song winds down as Jake plucks out the wedding march and I lose my balance and trip to the floor, shrieking like a fool.

"Dizzy much?"

"You're the one that told me to dance, jackass."

"I did." He puts the guitar down on the floor and crawls over to lay down beside me on the floor. "But I think that was less dancing and more – convulsing?"

I smack him in the chest and am struck once again by how much my hand hurts when I do that now. He's all muscle these days. I don't know where his chicken legs and scrawny chest went, but they're long gone.

"Oh, shut up. It was fun." I stretch and pull my fingers through the snarls of my hair. "Good God, my hair's a mess. I always end up looking like crap around you. You're such a bad influence."

He leans up on one elbow, looking down on me. "That's me. Bad to the bone." His eyes are almost black from down here, like onyx or glistening tar. I feel like I'm getting stuck in them and that's weird, so I close me eyes to block him out.

He runs his fingers through my hair and his thumbs are hot around my temples. "You don't look like crap, though, Nes."

I peek at him out of one eye, waiting for the punch line. "Yeah? How do I look, bad boy?"

His hand catches my chin and his voice is a rasp, sandpaper set to stone.

"Beautiful. You look beautiful, Nessie."

Both my eyes snap open and what I find there makes my breath catch. Jake swallows and his Adam's apple bobs in his russet throat. I follow it to the top of his t-shirt, where his neck meets his shoulders. He's not laughing. He's not even smiling. He looks so serious that I sit up on my elbows in surprise, inhaling the dust and grass and sweaty boy smell of him without really meaning to do so.

"Jake?"

"Nes-sie." His voice breaks and he gulps. "Nes, can I – can I?"

I reach up and thread my fingers into his shiny black hair, pulling him toward me by his warm neck.

Our lips touch and it's awkward for a minute. His nose is in the way, and my tongue doesn't know where to go and how the hell am I supposed to breathe like this?

The next second, his warm lips ghost over mine, and his tongue paints my bottom lip with wet heat. I sigh and he groans and suddenly, like everything about us, it just works. I want him closer to me, as close as he can get. I pull his shoulders, digging my nails in without really meaning to, and he rolls, never breaking our kiss as his hips settle on either side of mine.

Several minutes later, he pulls away and I trace his cheekbones with my fingers, grinning with swollen lips. "Why are you stopping?"

"Um." He's blinking and raising up off of me, pulling his hips away from my thighs. "Um, I think we better cool it, Nes. If my mom or Leah comes in, we're toast. I don't want it getting back to your dad that we got caught like this."

"Mr. Bad to the Bone is afraid of my dad?"

"Totally. Edward scares the hell out of me."

"Well," I touch my lips and sigh, feeling soft and happy. "You better get over that if we're going to do this again sometime."

"You wanna do it again?"

"Do you?"

"Shit, yes, Nes. That was epic."

I laugh. He's right. It wasn't my first kiss, or his either, but it was definitely my favorite so far. It sounds like he agrees.

"Epic and beautiful? You're full of compliments today."

"What can I say? I'm a teenage guy. I'll say anything to get kissed by a hot girl."

"Jerk face."

"Whiny ass."

We're both laughing and his arms are around me, tickling me till I am shrieking with laughter.

*DLJ*

At twenty-three, I should have known better. I should have known that a guy who wears tighter jeans than me would have the emotional aptitude of a fucking scoop of mashed potatoes, but no. I went out with him anyway, for eight fucking months.

Now here I am, standing on Jake's stoop in the pouring rain on a Wednesday night, when I know he's got work at six a.m. with the crew on a new site. Through the rain and my tears, I glance at my watch and shiver. Quarter after twelve. He's gonna be so pissed. I would be, if it were me. But then the situation would never be reversed. Jake never gets hung up on girls. He dates bright, attractive, successful women, each of them for about three months, and then he moves on to the next one.

I hear him cursing as he bumbles through the apartment, his footsteps heavy with sleep, and not for the first time – try a million and one – I found myself wishing I had never broken up with him before college. I couldn't help it, really. I'd spent four years in high school watching girls throw themselves at him. I couldn't let us go off to college together where he could break my heart. I apologized over and over. I lied. I told him I wanted my space, my freedom to explore, without risking our friendship. What I wanted more than anything, honestly, was to spare myself from being broken up with first. I couldn't stand the idea that he would find someone smarter, someone prettier, and that would be the end of us, and the end of nearly two decades of friendship.

"Just a damn minute! Do you know what fucking time it is, man?"

The door swings open and he's standing there in a pair of wrinkly gray sweats that I'm positive he has owned since 2003 and nothing else. His chest is a work of art, one I would want to look at for hours if I weren't freezing, exhausted, and five minutes off a really ugly cry.

"Nes? Good God. What's wrong, babe? I thought you were Embry."

He steps forward, his bare feet broad and bony on the wet concrete. "You're crying. What the fuck, Nessie? Get in here."

I launch myself at him and as his arms come around me, I breathe in his scent, my nose pressed against his slightly furry biceps. As he shushes me, I cry harder. I can't help it. Nothing seems able to quiet me, and whatever small amount of control I amassed on the drive across town evaporated when the smell of Old Spice hit me. I love that he wears that cheap ass, old man deodorant. It's Jake to a T.

He leads me over to the lumpy futon in the living room and starts helping me out of my raincoat and wellies. "This has something to do with the hipster, doesn't it? Tell me what he did, Nes. Do I need to go smash his designer glasses?"

"He's so horrible, Jake!" I can't seem to make myself stop sobbing as he throws my coat and boots in a corner by the window. "I thought we had so much in common, but we don't. He's just a liar, a stupid, self-possessed liar."

"What happened, Nes? Is there someone else? Did he touch you? I swear to God, I'll kill him."

"No, no, nothing like that."

Jake's beefy hands smooth down my calves. He rubs circles across my heels and the tops of my feet and it feels so damn good. Taking a deep shuddering breath, I try to string together a few sentences.

"We just fight all the damn time anymore, about absolutely everything. And then tonight we were watching the news, and I was waiting you know, to hear what Benneton is saying about the new marriage equality vote next week, and he was just trying to pick a fight with me, I swear he was. He says, 'What's it matter, Nes? A piece of paper isn't going to make anybody accept them.'"

Jake bristles. His shoulders square and I can feel how rigid he is, across from me in the darkness. Lit only by the street lamplight coming from the living room windows, he reminds me a bit of Bruce Wayne, you know if Bruce Wayne were a 6'7" Quileute.

"That's a shit thing to say, Nes. It really is. He knows how you feel about it, right?"

"Of course he does. That's why he said it, I think. He knew it would be a huge fight, and God but I gave him one. I told him if he was just going to pop off with whatever ignorant, bullshit thing he wanted to say, than he could get the hell out of my house and out of my whole goddamned life."

"What'd he say?"

I purse my lips. This is why I shouldn't have come. It's all so gloriously awkward. Of course if I lie, Jake will know it. He probably already knows I'm thinking about lying, because I've paused too long.

"The truth, Nes."

Damn it.

"He said if I really cared about him I'd pay more attention to our relationship and less to some stupid law that I only care about because it affects my ex-boyfriend's dyke parents."

For a few moments, only the rain drumming on the windows and Jake's measured breathing lets me know that he is still here with me. When he speaks, it's the last thing I expect him to say.

"He's right."

"What? Jake! What the hell? No, he's not right!"

"Well, not the dyke bit. Mom would kick his ass for that one, and Leah –" he whistles. "Clearly, he's never spent much time around real lesbians. But the point is, ignorance is ugly, Nes, but it's not always a permanent thing. If you really love him, you should be focusing more on him than on me and my family's issues."

"Your family is my family, Jake. Don't be an asshole. My parents will never marry until yours do. And anyway, your mom and Leah want to get married as bad as Mom and Dad do. It's just this fucking state that's backwards."

"What about hipster Henry?"

"What about him?"

"Why would you let a dumb comment about your ex-boyfriend's parents ruin what you have with him?"

I pull one leg back and tuck it under my chin. "Why wouldn't I? He always says the stupidest things, Jake. He hates nachos. And he's never even heard of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band!"

Jake's laughter surprises me, but I drink it in, a warm balm for my troubled soul.

"Clearly, you two are completely incompatible, Nes. Pardon me. I should have known you knew what you were talking about."

His fingers find my ankle again and he gives it a squeeze. "Come on, babe. Let's get some sleep."

He stands and pulls me toward his bedroom, where he digs out an old oversize football jersey of his and hand it to me.

"Um. I'll go get you a pop," he offers. "You take the bed, okay?"

I nod, too tired to refuse, and slip out of clothes, peeling away my socks and bra before finally pulling the huge shirt over my head. I turn in the mirror on the back of his closet door, admiring the way "CLEARWATER" looks across my shoulders.

I've snuggled down into his plaid comforter and pilled flannel sheets when he comes back with a Diet Coke in a glass full of ice, just the way I like it.

I sit up, taking a grateful gulp. "God, that's good. Thanks, Jake. For everything, I mean."

"Sure, sure." He yawns and flashes me a toothy white grin. "Lights out, yeah? I'm beat."

I set the alarm on my phone so I'll have time to get fresh clothes at my place before work while he makes a pallet for himself on the floor with the futon mattress and an old comforter.

"Jake?" I can't control the timbre of my voice. I feel like a teenager, about to ask for a beer.

"Yeah?"

"Will you – can you – will you just stay with me? I mean, over here? Till I fall asleep at least?"

He's pulling the covers back and sliding in beside me almost before I can blink. I'm enveloped in soft sheets and warm, strong bronzed arms. He's Old Spice and cotton and I find my eyes drooping faster than I thought, my body sapped of all energy as his hot skin lulls me to sleep.

He's muttering to himself as he strokes my forearm, my back to his front. I can't catch the words, though, and I'm too sleepy to really try.

*DLJ*

The sun isn't up when I wake next. It's so fucking hot I can barely breathe, but that makes sense, since Jake is still wrapped around me. I pull my hair away from my neck and try not to hit him in the face with it. Good God, it's an oven in here.

I try to wriggle lose, but as I do, he tightens his hold and drags me back against him. His thighs are solid steel, and not surprisingly for the hour I guess, so is something between them. Without even thinking, I arch back against him, pushing my bottom experimentally against his erection. Talk about hot. I want to grind myself against him, but I'm afraid he'll wake up and it will be weird.

His groggy voice spooks me, and I try to jump over to my side of the bed, but his arms have me pinned. "Nes? Did you just, um, grind on me?"

Fuck. Shit. Fuck. Fuck. Whore. Oh, God. Can you just end the world right now, please? Please?

"Maybe?" If voice could be colors, mine is red. Bright fucking red.

He snorts and I twist down to whack his forearm. "Shut up, you oaf. You're the one with something to grind on right now. What about that shit, huh?"

He laughs. "It's the middle of the night, Nes. You asked me to stay with you. And you're all warm and" he sniffs my hair, "good smelly and stuff."

"Be still, my heart. You really know how to charm a girl, Jake."

One of his hands latches on to my hip through the thin jersey. "Do you wanna be charmed, Nes? I mean, because clearly I'm up for it."

"This conversation is not fucking happening. I don't even believe this. Get off me. I've got to go pee."

"Oh, fine. Spoil the fun."

His hands loosen and he relaxes back into the bed as I climb out, racing for the bathroom and the safety of the fluorescent lights.

I brush my hair out a little with his comb and splash water on my face. I'm flushed. I look crazy. I feel a little crazy.

Shutting off the light, I creep back to bed and settle on my side, watching him sleep. He's such a deep sleeper, of course he's already out again. My fingers inch forward. I want to touch him, but I'm afraid. If I do this, we can't come back from it again. I couldn't live through losing him twice. It could end us.

My fingertips find the pads of his eyelids and smooth over the rich brown velvet of them. His spiky black lashes flutter and he sighs. "Feels good, Nes." His hands find my hips again, pulling me toward him. "You always feel so good, babe."

"Jake." I can't do it. I can't ask him, and so instead, I tell him with my hands, sliding my fingers down his neck to his chest, where I drop kisses between my splayed hands.

His breath hitches and he groans, his eyes rolling beneath his lids. "Don't tease me. Don't you do it."

I kiss him again, between his clavicles and lave at the bone there with my flattened tongue. He hisses, and his fingers on my hips dig in painfully. "Renesme. Oh my, fuck. Renesme, baby, please."

I look up and into his eyes, nearly black with lust, and he reaches up with the hand on my hip and hooks his fingers into my panties, tugging as I kick as helpfully as I can. His lips are on mine now, searing the promises he's muttering into my soul.

"Thank you, thank you, oh, God. Please. I'll never leave you, Nes. Never, never, never."

He keeps dragging at the scrap of fabric until it's gone and then his large hands are soothing me, rubbing slow circles across my inner thighs and along my bikini line until I'm so worked up that I clamp my legs together, trapping his hand, hoping for friction.

He pulls away from me and stands momentarily, to push down his own clothes and when he slides back over me, the smooth hard head of his cock has replaced his fingertips. I gasp and arch, but he holds back, watching me.

"Nessie? Nessie."

When our eyes meet in the pearl gray of pre-dawn, he whispers just loudly enough for me to hear. "Tell me we're real, Nes. Tell me you won't go away again."

"Never, Jake. I promise I'll be here till you kick me out."

"Not gonna happen. This dance is never gonna end, little Jean."

And then his mouth, hot and luscious and liquid pleasure, is on my breast and my neck and the bones of my wrist and everywhere he can reach. I can't catch my breath but really who needs to breathe all the time anyway? This light-headed coasting through life is just fine, too. It feels like he's devouring me and I part my legs, waiting for him to take and take and take whatever he wants.

I pull his head back to me after several minutes of feeling his tongue against my folds and taste myself on his mouth. It's heaven and hell and heartache all wrapped into one kiss. If I ever lose him, I will lose myself, I swear it.

His fingers replace his mouth and I squeak and squirm, and shift until my hands wrap around the massive head of his cock. He's not the longest guy I've ever touched, but he is by far the thickest, and just thinking about how it will feel while he slowly fucks me with his fingers almost sends me over the edge. I pull roughly on his dick, and he cusses, suckling my breast and biting my nipple in return.

"Brat. That hurts."

"Unf. Good. Oh, fuck, Jake. Please. I need it. I need you."

He withdraws his fingers and lines us up. I'm rocking against the tip, sucking myself off his fingers and he's kissing me now, licking at the lines of my mouth and down my throat as he pushes, pushes, and surges forward until he's found home.

"Nessie. Holy fucking hell, Nessie. You're so tight. You're so," he kisses me hard, deep, his tongue delving into the back of my mouth, "So, so good."

"Are we okay?" I'm gasping, because oh, God. He's perfect. This is perfect. "You want me?"

"Since we were fifteen," he rasps. "I've never wanted anyone like I want you, Nes."

When he starts to thrust, he laces his hands through mine above my head, and his words cleave me in two as surely as his cock. There's never been anyone else for either of us, not all this time, really.

"Jake," I murmur over and over, as he rocks into me and when he touches me there, I howl it, and shiver and shake until all I can see are his black eyes and the shimmery outlines of light and rain and a love I never lost.

*DLJ*

It's after midnight that Tuesday when the news finally makes the announcement. We put Aunt Rose and Leah on speaker first, and then Mom and Dad, and all of them are as drunk with happiness as we are. They're going to do a double wedding, probably the next day, on the steps of the courthouse in Seattle.

I'd already taken the day off work, because I knew I'd be up late waiting for the results either way. Jake arrived back at his place late after work with Chinese food and a slab of red velvet cake from a bakery down the street. We ate and drank beer, and watched the polls close, and cussed a lot as the percentages went back and forth all night.

Now that it's finally, finally happened, I'm not even sure how to behave.

"What are you thinking about, Nes?" He asks after we hang up with Mom and Dad. He's cleared away the takeout boxes and I am sprawled across the futon, my mind a blur of hope.

"About Cinderella, actually. This is it, Jake. It's really happened. They get their happily ever after, after all. I swear I don't think I could ever be happier than I am right this second."

I rub tears away from my eyes with the backs of my hands, and am surprised when he kneels in front of me and kisses them away.

"I could."

"What?"

"I could be happier, Ness."

I'm so shocked I nearly forget to close my mouth, which has fallen open. "What? How?"

His hands palm my face and he smiles.

"Marry me, Nes. Marry me and make me the happiest man in the world."

"Jake? What?" My mind feels like it's spinning out of control, a child's top about to fall off the edge of a table. "Marry you? Are you serious?"

The ring box he pulls from his back pocket convinces me that he's serious.

"I mean it, Nes. Marry me. I'll make you nachos every year on your birthday and for Cinco de Mayo, and I'll feed you red velvet cake whenever it rains because I know this damn rain depresses you, and I'll play the Nitty Gritty Dirty Band at our wedding if you will just promise that every dance the rest of your life is for me. Please, Nes? I swear to God, my life is meaningless without you. Every good memory I have you're in. Every one of them from the time I have memories, babe. How many people can say that? I know you're afraid of losing us, and I am, too, but this is how we fix it. This is how we never say goodbye again. Marry me and I'll spend my life with the only woman I can ever love."

Trembling, I pull him to me and kiss him, whispering yes, yes, yes, and then shouting it, "Yes!" as he picks me up and spins me all around the room.

He sets me down and flips through the records and then we're skipping around like fools, our laughter accompanying the music in time with the beating of my heart.

Dance little Jean, the prayer that you had, was answered today…