THIS IS THE SAME CHAPTER POSTED ON UNDER THESE LIGHTS. NO NEED TO READ THIS IF YOU'VE ALREADY READ THAT.
Aw, you guys liked it! Thanks so much for reading!
This one is a bit silly, but I just had a grand old time writing it. Hope you enjoy it! For those of you who are enjoying the gown up kids, you'll like this one. Those of you who want more Edward and Bella, I suggest you check out my most recent fic, By Way of Sorrow. It's nearly done.
Anyway, love you guys. This is the end. It's been really great.
Donna is the best.
I don't own.
I stare at the swanky downtown club and the accompanying sign that declares this venue closed for a private New Year's party.
"Why did we let Sam plan the evening?" I ask, huddling in my coat in defense to the wind as we inch forward in line. "Do you see that? Everyone in this line has legit invitations."
"They are even embossed," Heidi observes, leaning down to better stare at the invite held by the guy in front of us. She gets obnoxiously close to him and then makes the bedroom eyes at him when he looks at her like she's a crazy person.
"Oh ye of little faith," says Sam, dragging his attention away from the rest of our group to defend his honor. "Looky this."
He magics an invitation out of his, coat and Heidi and I regard it with awe.
"It's glorious," Heidi whispers worshipfully.
I snort and snag the thing from Sam, inspecting the piece of paper that will supposedly get us in to this swanky ass affair.
"How?" I ask when I decide it is indeed not a fake.
"Megan is banging the dude who owns this place," he explains, referring to his older sister. "Her sluttiness has its perks."
I smack the back of his head. "Don't you say that word, bucko."
He rolls his eyes in response. Heidi links her arm through mine, and we take a step closer to the doors.
Inside is rather expected. It could be any other packed club on New Year's Eve, although the patrons do seem a bit more richly dressed then my pack of college friends are used to. My slinky black dress blends right in, but I do kinda wish I bothered to do something with my messy bronze hair.
We do shots. A guy at the bar buys me a drink. I pawn him off on Heidi and wonder what Jackson is up to tonight. I didn't ask, even though I wanted to, and he offered no information on his plans.
"You're pouty," Sam says, pushing another whiskey into my hand and poking at my bottom lip. "Why are you pouty?"
"I'm not pouty."
"Dude, you are in full on pout mode. Is this about your baseball player?" he asks, frowning. I give him a sympathetic smile because as friendly as we are these days, I totally get weirded out when he dates, too.
"He's just a family friend. We went home together for the holiday so I just saw more than enough of him, thank you very much," I insist.
"Brought him back to meet the folks, huh? You haven't done that with anyone since me," he replies.
"They're his godparents, you fool," I deadpan.
"Drink your whiskey."
More shots are consumed. There is a giant clock on the wall that ticks down the seconds until midnight, but for me it is just marking time until I can sneak out and drunk dial Jax, demanding he meet me back at his place to ring in the New Year proper.
Heidi and Sam drag me to the dance floor. I half-heartedly shake my hips and sip my drink, eyes darting to the clock every few seconds.
And then there are hands groping my hips. I swirl around to maybe sock this asshole right in the nose, stumbling slightly in my haste to get the creeper to back off, but the words get caught in my throat when I have to look up to see familiar blue eyes and all American good looks.
"You!" I say, not realizing I was this drunk until just now. Jackson grins and takes a sip of my drink as his arms come around my waist, nimble fingers resting at the small of my back.
"Me," he replies, talking in my ear to be heard over the throbbing dance music. "I've seen you dance, Nessie Cullen, and I must say this is a piss poor showing. You don't appear to even be trying."
My hand tightens on the collar of his button up, tugging until he leans down so I can whisper in his ear. Taking his words to heart, I dance and move against him.
"I ain't had the proper partner until just this minute," I tell him, laying the Texas on thick.
"And suddenly this night just got so much better," he replies, fingers tightening in the fabric at the small of my back. "I've been staring at that clock for the last hour, just waiting till midnight so I could go home and wait for you to stumble in."
My answering laugh is somewhat hysterical. "Sorry for ruining all your plans," I manage.
"You, my sweet," he yells in my ear, continuing to dance with me, "have ruined absolutely nothing for me. Well, except a few goodnights sleep."
Jackson finishes my drink and then dances us over to a table where he sets down my empty glass. He takes my newly freed hand and I can't stop laughing as he actually two steps us to the horribly ill-fitting music, amongst the masses of writhing, grinding bodies.
Sam and Heidi find me again. Sam takes my hand, trying to pull me away from a confused and slightly amused Jax. When we go out dancing like this Sam often saves me from guys when I'm done dancing with them. I guess I can't blame him for misinterpreting the scene now.
"Wait!" Sam yells. I can't hear the words but I can make out the way his mouth moves. I lean over and let him speak in my ear. "I know this guy. That's Jackson Whitlock. He's the rooky pitcher that pretty much carried the Rockies last season."
I sigh heavily, going back into Jackson's arms.
Sam freaks out some more while Heidi just looks on in drunken confusion. I gesture towards the balcony where people go outside to cool down and smoke up. We stop at the bar on the way for another round.
"You sneaky little bitch," Sam says the moment we get into the cool night air. Jackson has me pressed into his side and I can feel the tension in his body in reaction to Sam's words, despite the jovial tone.
"You figured it out?" I ask, smiling ruefully.
"Some family friend my ass," Sam continues. "This is Jackson Whitlock. He's kinda a big deal around here."
"I am aware."
"He can totally get us tickets next season!"
"Me, you mean. He probably is disinclined to give you anything being as you just called his best friend a bitch."
I ignore Jackson's wince, a negative reaction to the term friend no doubt.
"It was a compliment!" Sam says, defending himself. "I am impressed you managed to keep this from us for so long. And this is the guy who took your virginity and snuck out on you in the middle of the night to actually fly to a different state."
"Samuel!" I shriek as Jax looks at his shoes.
"Dude doesn't exactly have the moral high ground, is all I'm saying. Shit. Relax," he crosses his arms over his chest. Standing next to Jax he looks so short and so young.
"I thought this meeting your fuck buddy thing would be more fun," Heidi muses.
Jackson lets out a strangled laugh. He hasn't said a word to my friends. It's very disconcerting because he is Mr. Charisma typically. I take a deep breath and decide to start over.
"Jax," I say. "These are my roommates, Heidi and Sam. Please excuse their idiocy. They are drunken lunatics."
Sam looks like he's going to protest, but Heidi slaps a hand over his mouth. "Harsh but fair."
"Roommates," I continue, determined to do this thing right now that I'm being forced to do it at all. "This is my… Jackson."
I don't have a title for him. My Jackson is horribly fitting, I'm afraid.
Things get better. Sam forgives Jackson for being more important in my life. Jackson forgives Sam for calling me a bitch. Heidi entertains us all. Sam pretty much wets himself when Jax introduces us to some buddies of his from the Rockies. There is even a Denver Nugget or two thrown in there.
They all know who I am and I believe them when they say Jax never stops talking about me.
It's a good night but we still leave just after midnight, just after I let him kiss me senseless in front of all my friends and his too.
The walk to his apartment should take us maybe thirteen minutes, but tonight it feels like it lasts years.
Part of the delay could be our need to be all over each other. Every few steps I feel the need to shove him into a building, kissing him until he forgets his own name.
Sitting at the breakfast bar in nothing but Jackson's button up and a pair of clean black panties I found in the drawer I refuse to call mine, I nibble on a piece of extra crispy bacon and watch Jax scramble eggs.
Shirtless breakfast cooking seems totally ill advised, but he knows just what the sculpted planes of his back and chest do to me. This is probably some manipulation to get me to spend yet another day here in his fancy high rise apartment.
Something changed on New Year's – maybe it was him meeting my friends, maybe it was me meeting his teammates – and I've spent every night since here with him. Now I only have three days left until classes start up again. I'll have to start sleeping alone and my dismay over this fact is disturbing. I'm far too dependent on him.
We should probably have that stupid conversation of his, damn it.
I continue to nibble and enjoy the view.
Every few minutes Jax throws me a grin over his bare shoulder. The look on his face makes me all blushy.
He loads two plates with fluffy eggs and fried potatoes before he slides into the stool next to me. As usual, he's given me way more than I can reasonably stuff into my stomach. As usual, he'll devour my leftovers.
I reach for the fork in his hand and pout when he holds it out of my reach.
"Pay the toll," he says like the complete dork he is. Rolling my eyes at his absurdity, I lean over to give him a smacking kiss. "Yum," he says, handing me my fork. "Bacony."
"Gross," I say, digging into the feast lain out before me.
"I'll be the judge of that, thank you," he replies primly.
"This is so good," I tell him through a mouthful of scrambled eggs.
"Talk about gross."
I'm too busy eating to respond to his insults.
We chow down in silence. There are definitely perks to dating one's lifetime best friend, one being the easy silences. Even after everything that went down four years ago, things have never been awkward between us. I don't worry about messy hair or morning breath. This boy has seen me at my absolute worst and my most embarrassing. He knows my every secret, lived through the every drama of my life.
We've taken baths together, for goodness sakes, so when he makes me blush now by staring at my legs with a concentration he usually reserves for the pitcher's mound, it's all about pleasure and not about embarrassment at all.
I push my leftovers to Jax when I can't manage to fit another bite in my mouth and get up to do the dishes. Already we have a routine. He cooks and I clean.
"So what's your plan for the day?" he asks as I scrub. "You close at the coffee shop, right?"
"Yeah, I don't go in until six."
"And when do you get off?"
"Not until midnight." Damn it's going to be a long one. Jackson kept me up way too late last night.
"I'll pick you up," he declares.
"It's two blocks from my house," I reply. "I think I can manage."
"Are you going to your house?"
I turn from the sink to stare at him while I have an internal debate. I should go home. I haven't seen my friends in days. I'm nearly out of clean clothes, but I really don't want to go without him.
"Fine," I say with a frustrated growl. "I'll stay here tonight but I have to go home tomorrow. "
"We can sleep there tonight, if you prefer," Jax suggests. He is trying so hard to be casual, but I haven't let him through my front door yet and I can hear a tremor in his voice.
As trivial as it seems compared to all the sex we've been having since last summer, letting him spend the night means something.
Taking a moment to collect myself, I finish loading the dishwasher slowly, methodically.
I want so badly to just blindly throw my whole heart into loving him again, but the naive little girl that fell for him all those years ago disappeared the moment he snuck off in the middle of the night.
Sometimes he makes me feel like her and it terrifies me. I need to go into this thing with extremely cautious optimism. Although I believe him when he talks of regret and promises not to hurt me, he could still break my fragile heart all over again without even meaning to.
But then I glance at him, sitting there on that stool, looking so beautiful and familiar and so hopeful.
Aw, fuck it.
"Okay," I say with a shrug. "You'll pick me up and we'll sleep at my place."
I enjoy his dumbstruck joy. It is not often Jax is struck speechless.
Jackson is trying to badger me into running with him to the gym despite the freezing weather, when my open laptop starts beeping.
"What's that?" asks Jax.
"Anthony is trying to Skype with me."
"Cool," he says, leaning back on the couch. I stare at him pointedly until he gets the hint and stands.
"I'm going to change for our run," Jackson says with a heavy sigh. I don't answer my brother's call until Jackson's bedroom door shuts behind his sexy ass.
"Yo," I say when my little brother's face fills up my screen. For whatever reason, he appears to be shirtless. An orange knit beanie covers his dark hair and pink sunglasses shaped like stars cover his green eyes. Anthony is such a kook. People don't often know what to make of my eccentric football star little brother.
"Took you long enough," he mutters.
"Are you at home?" I ask, surprised. After winning their bowl game earlier in the week, I thought he'd want to stick around for all the subsequent parties.
"Yeah man," he replies, swiveling around in his desk chair. "It was a long season and I'm in the mood to be pampered."
"She's doing your laundry and cookin' your favorite meals."
"You know it."
"Two nights in a row."
We air high five.
"Where are you?" he asks, studying the view out Jackson's living room windows that provide my backdrop.
"Home," I lie.
"Liar," he says.
"At the coffee shop?" I try again.
"Why are you callin'?" I ask, changing the subject. "Not that it's not lovely but we just saw each other like ten seconds ago."
"You're at Jackson's, ain't ya?" he says, not buying it.
I wish I could see his stupid eyes. "How do you know that?" I demand, crossing my arms over my chest.
"You don't have a monopoly on communicating with our very favorite pitcher," he says. "We've video chatted. Although I've heard that you currently do have that monopoly on his penis."
I blink at Anthony. It takes me several long seconds for me to process just what he's saying.
"What?" I shriek, jumping slightly. My computer almost tumbles off my lap and onto the ground, but I catch it at the last moment. When I look at the screen again, I'm met with an image of my brother laughing his ass off. "Why would you say that?"
"Hold up," Anthony says, getting to his feet and disappearing from view. I protest with great volume until he returns with Masen in tow.
"Oh no," I say, shaking my head as they both take seats at Anthony's desk. "I am so not having this conversation with the baby of the family. I am so not having this conversation at all."
Except I've gotta know whatever he knows.
"Hey," protests the baby of the family.
"He's sixteen," Anthony says. "And he has way more sex than I do."
I scream and cover my ears. What in the hell is happening here? We've entered the world of the surreal, and if I wasn't so desperate to know whatever it is they know, I'd slam my laptop shut and pretend this never happened.
"This is not happening," I chant. "This is so not happening."
They stare at me until I collect myself.
"Okay," I manage, sounding somewhat normal. "What do you two morons know?"
"That you and our godbrother are doing it," Masen says.
I shriek again.
"In fairness to Nessie, we only know they've done it once," Anthony says, confusing me totally. How is it possible they know anything at all? "Actually they could've not done it, I guess. But it seems damn unlikely."
"Is godbrother a thing?" asks Masen.
"No," Anthony replies. "Don't say that. It makes it creepy."
I do nothing but stare at them in shock as they have this bizarre little argument.
"It's already creepy. He's family!"
"Yeah, but there's no blood there. This seems like the natural progression of their ever evolving relationship."
Mase and I gape at the middle child.
"What?" Anthony continues as if we're the weird ones for not having any idea what he's talking about. "Uncle Jasper loves to tell that story of how Jax decided to marry Ness when they were like toddlers."
"Do not even go there," I scream. I'm doing a lot of screaming.
Both boys laugh at my discomfort and I collect myself once more.
"I don't even know what you're talking about," I say, fooling no one. "Jackson and I are friends, like we've always been."
"Except those years when you hated him," Anthony reminds me.
"You noticed?" I ask, wincing.
"You're not as sneaky as you think you are," Mase says. They are in gang up on me mode. I hate gang up on me mode.
"Okay," I say, at my wits end. "Just tell me what you think you know."
"Send her the link," Masen says, doing some sort of weird Darth Vader impression. Anthony grins and sends me said link.
With great trepidation, I click on it, and am sent to a fan site devoted to Jackson. Totally confused, a few seconds of scrolling makes all clear.
"Jackson!" I scream, totally panicked. My voice is so piercing both my brothers wince at the sound. "Jackson Alexander Whitlock! Get your scrawny ass out—"
"What?" he yells back, slamming out of the bedroom in nothing but a pair of athletic shorts. He glances around wildly, prepared to deal with a robber or something. Beyond words, I can do nothing but wave him over and gesture at the laptop.
"Hey, guys," Jackson says, greeting the boys as he takes a seat next to me. "No shirt?" he continues when he takes in Anthony's similar lack of attire.
"Nice," replies Anthony.
They pretend to fist bump.
About to completely freak out, I minimize my brothers and pull up the fan site.
"Did you minimize us?" demands Masen.
"Dude," says Anthony. "Give them a minute."
I would mute them too, but the pictures are making my hands shake. Unable to look anymore, I stare at Jax, trying to gauge his reaction. His eyes go wide and his mouth pops open in shock, but then the son of a bitch actually smirks. Smirks!
"Damn," Jackson says. "We look hot."
With a groan of pure misery, I flip face first into the couch.
"This is horrifying, Jackson," I mumble into the cushions. "There are pictures of us all over each other on the internet!"
There are a whole slew of them, taken on New Year's Eve as we were leaving that club. A couple is a little bit cute of us smiling at each other, but mostly they are downright pornographic.
"Yeah," he agrees, sounding properly shocked now. "This is fucking surreal."
"Dude, you're totally groping my sister's ass in this one!" yells a minimized Masen.
"Oh my God," I mutter.
"So what are your intentions with big sister Van?" Anthony asks, sounding shockingly stern. Dad is so ridiculous, the boys have never really felt the need to do the whole over protective brother thing. Until now, apparently.
"Don't answer that, Jax!" I insist.
"I'm crazy about her," Jackson replies.
More groaning sounds come from me as my brothers make sounds of approval.
"Where did you find these?" asks Jackson. His voice is fluctuating between horror and awe. I'm sure a little part of him is stoked to have such evidence of his adoring public.
"Nicole Cheney met Jax a couple times growing up and has apparently fallen in love with him since Jax got all famous and shit," Masen explains. "She follows this sight and told Kimmy who told me."
I groan again.
"I thought I was only sort of famous here in Denver," muses Jackson.
"And in Dillon. You're super famous in Dillon," points out Anthony.
"Dad is gonna kill you," Masen says with cruel glee. "I hope I get to watch!"
"Masen!" Jax, Anthony, and I all reprimand at once.
"Are y'all lookin' at porn?"
My mother's voice has me scrambling to sit up. Everyone seems too stunned to speak for a long moment and then my mom is in the shot, leaning between my two brothers to get a closer look at the screen.
"Come on, Ma," Anthony says, leaning back in his chair and trying to look casual. "No way."
"Oh, it's just Jackson and Nessie." All my inner organs disappear as I stare at her familiar, inquisitive face. "Hi, Jackson and Nessie. My dear boy, where is your shirt? Are you sittin' there talking to my children in the nude, young man?"
I breath again as it becomes obvious that my sneaky little brothers have minimized the damned fan site. We're safe.
"Shorts, Bella," Jax explains, standing to demonstrate. "We're about to go on a run."
"No, we are so totally not. It is freezin'. Go put on a damn shirt," I mutter, having a very hard time trying to sound normal.
"What are my favorite children talkin' about?"
"Jackson being famous," Anthony supplies. Not totally lying.
"Now don't you let that get to your head," Mom lectures. "You best be keeping it humble."
"What do we do?" I ask as he drives me to work after our jog and me freaking out a whole lot.
"We tell your parents we are dating," he says. "And then we tell my parents we're dating."
"We're not dating," I say. This is totally frustrating. We've been having this conversation incessantly in the last few hours since my brothers ruined my stupid life.
"Okay. Then we should start dating," he says, predictably. "Then tell your parents. Then tell my parents."
I slouch down low in my seat, pulling the hood of my sweatshirt down over my head to cover the top half of my face.
"Ness," he says, reaching out to hold my hand. "They are going to find out. This is Dillon we are talking about. Nothing stays secret long."
I grumble some more and hold his hand a little tighter.
"I am sorry this happened," he murmurs.
"It's not your fault."
"Guess this is going to be an adjustment, huh?"
"Nessie, it's time to figure this out. I love you, I want you, and I'll do whatever you need to convince you, but you've got to talk to me." He speaks so quietly and so earnestly. It is far removed from his typical jovial self, and suddenly I feel so guilty. He's braved it well, but dealing with all my crazy these last few months has worn on him. I haven't given him a little scrap of anything, but he's been unwavering.
Peeking out from my hoodie, I let my head flop against the headrest and turn to look at him. The tension in his jaw is all my fault and I reach out to soothe him instinctively.
"I know. I'm just so scared, Jackson," I whisper.
He glances quickly at me, frowning again. This is horrible timing and he must once more focus on the road.
"Because I fucked up so badly last time." His mutter is full of self-loathing and I can't stand it. "You think I'm going to freak out on you again."
"Fuck, I was scared too," he says, once more sounding nothing like himself. "You were so fucking young and I'd been trying not to notice how you looked at me for years. We were fucking perfect together, but I just couldn't see any possible way that it could work. You were fucking seventeen! And we're practically family. And your dad would've killed me because you were fucking seventeen, but none of that prevented me from loving you because I really loved you, even then. Loved you forever, even when it was fucking creepy and the three years between us meant so much. It scared me how much I loved you and how young you were and how impossible it all seemed so I did the worst possible thing. I left you and I've regretted it every moment since my plane took off four years ago."
His driving gets erratic. I freak out a little, a tear or two collecting in the corners of my eyes.
"Jax—" I attempt to calm him but then he's slamming on the brakes as he parks on the street in front of my place of employment and talking over me.
"I'm a fucking idiot. The lowest of the low and fuck, how I missed you. I didn't even realize how much I loved you, how you were a part of me, until you cut me totally out of your life. I deserved every second of the misery, but fuck, how I missed you. There wasn't a moment I felt whole until I moved here and you let me close again."
"Jax!" I shout, interrupting his ranting. "I know, honey. I know. That's not what I meant. I know you're not just gonna up and leave me again. Mostly. It's just…"
I trail off, looking at my place of work and then the clock. I still have a few minutes until my shift and Jackson just looks so troubled.
"It's just what, Vanessa?"
"I'm terrified because if we do this, it has to be for real," I confess. The leaving me four years ago thing is upsetting, but I understand why he did it. Now that I'm speaking, I think this is the real reason I've been trying to keep him at arm's length for the last six months. "The stakes are so high. It's you and me. You and me. This is so big. We're in forever kinda territory here, and it terrifies me."
His expression softens and he gives me a hint of a smile. Leaning across the gearshift, he cradles my jaw. "The best things are always a little scary, Ness."
I smile back. "You think we're the best thing?"
"Oh, without a doubt. We're inevitably, baby."
I give him a lingering kiss before I really have to go to work.
"Well, the whole lot of them will be here for opening day," I say to Jackson as I sort through the mail on the kitchen table. Classes started back up early this week, but Jax still has another month before the pitchers report for spring training so he's been around plenty.
"You really think that we can keep this a secret until April?" he asks, leaning against my kitchen counter.
"Yeah, Ness," puts in Heidi. "Those pictures are basically porn. Do you really want them to find out that way?"
"I don't want them to find out period," I grumble.
"Dude, he's standing right there," Heidi whisper yells. "Do you want him to think you're ashamed of him? You really don't know anything about boys, do you?"
I roll my eyes. Jackson snorts. "She's not ashamed of me," he explains. "She's scared her dad will kill me."
"You can't be serious," Heidi says. "That's a serious thing?"
"Well, maybe not kill. But it's gonna be bad," I say.
"Why? Isn't he your godfather? Shouldn't he be happy that you guys are together?" Heidi continues.
"Eventually he'll get there," Jackson assures her. "But… well, it might take a while. He's going to be more pissed if we don't tell him."
"He's absurdly overprotective," I say listing my father's faults on my fingers. "He thinks I'm still a little girl. He considers Jackson one of his sons so we're getting into some seriously creepy territory there. He's certifiably nuts. Should I go on?"
Heidi laughs. "No, it's all coming back to me. He made Sam piss his pants the first time you introduced them, right?"
Jackson grumbles under his breath, hating all things Sam. It's understandable, I suppose, but there really is nothing left there besides an oddly antagonistic friendship.
"It's going to be so bad," I say, covering my face with her hands.
"Worth it, babe," Jackson reminds me.
"Well, I'll see you two losers later," Heidi says, exiting the kitchen with flourish. "Unlike you old married people, I have a date."
The word marriage makes me shiver violently in horror, but Jackson manages to say goodbye to my roommate.
"What do you want to do tonight?" he asks as I turn back to the mail. "Stay in?"
"Yeah, whatever. Look at this. It's from your mom," I say, nodding at the thin cardboard package that I find at the bottom of a stack of mail.
"And it's addressed to who?" he asks, moving to look at the item I hold in my hands.
"Me, you fool," I snap. "Whose house are we in?"
"Right. Open it."
I do as he says, pulling a framed picture out of the box.
"Oh," I say breathlessly, staring down at the oil painting in her hands.
"Yeah," Jackson murmurs.
It appears to be the painted version of the sketches she did of us this Christmas. We were all folded up together in an arm chair by the fire back home. Alice has captured something here I wasn't even really sure existed until the last couple days. It is more realistic than her usual art, but still rather impressionistic with its bright color and thick brush strokes.
To Alice, we are one entity.
"Wow," Jax says. "Look at us."
"It's beautiful," I whisper. But then I look at it a little longer and freak out. "Did you tell her? How does she know?"
"Relax," he replies. "You know my mom. She just knows things. This is probably something she's been anticipating for years."
I let out a huffing breath, feeling all jittery inside.
"It looks like I like you in this picture," I mutter, gently placing it on the kitchen table. It really is so very pretty.
"You do like me," Jackson declares, arms snaking around my waist. I turn to face him, grinning.
"Always have," I admit, returning his embrace.
"It's good to hear you say that."
"I know. I'm sorry I've been so crazy about this," I say, feeling bad for the ridiculous way I've been treating him since he moved out here.
"It was a long six months," he agrees. "But I get your hesitation. I really do, Ness."
I let my forehead rest against his chest for a moment before looking back up at him again. "Do you really think we're inevitable?" I ask, feeling irrationally shy.
"Oh yeah," he replies, reaching up to wipe away my frown with the pad of his thumb. "Always have been. Even when it was creepy."
"Like when I was seventeen and you turned into a woman over night with the boobs and the lips and the hair." He gives a bronze lock a little tug. "One Christmas you're a kid and the next summer I'm in Dillon you were so totally not. I was such an asshole for noticing."
I grin because Jackson still seems genuinely disturbed by his attraction to fourteen year old Ness.
"Aw, you liked my little mosquito bites."
"I told you it was creepy." He actually shivers.
"I ain't fourteen anymore," I remind him, rolling my hips forward against him. He groans and lowers his lips to mine.
"Thank God for that," he mutters. "About damn time."
My giggle is swallowed up by his mouth. He walks me backwards into the fridge, nibbling on my lips as he cradles my face. I giggle again because I am just so happy to finally be here with him.
"You're cute," he says, pinning me to the fridge with that long, lean frame of his.
"I don't want to be cute." When I pout he bites my button lip, eliciting yet another giggle from me. "I want to be sexy."
Jax is the laughing one now. Before he can collect himself, a knock on the front door interrupts his little fit.
"Hold that thought," I say as I slip around him. He grumbles as he follows. "It's probably just Sam. He always is forgetting his key," I explain over my shoulder.
"Idiot," Jax mutters. "I like watching you walk in front of me."
"Creepy," I reply, throwing open the front door.
The playful smile falls right off my face when I take in Edward Cullen on my doorstep, in the flesh. I gape at him, totally stunned. He stares down at me, arms crossed over his chest, before his gaze lands on Jax, frozen behind me in the hall.
Slowly, my dad raises an accusatory finger, stabbing the air in Jackson's general direction.
"You," says my father, his voice low and dangerous and totally terrifyin'.
I swallow, bracing myself for the coming horror. Dad lunges forward and I act on pure instinct, slamming his face and throwing the lock.
"Vanessa!" yells Jax. "What the hell?"
"He was going to attack you!" I squeak.
"Are you shitting me?" he asks, apparently shocked by my behavior. He rushes forward. "Edward wouldn't attack me. Have you ever seen him attack anyone?"
"Well, no," I admit. "But there are stories from his misbegotten youth."
Jackson stares at me as if I've totally lost my mind. I struggle to comprehend just what's happening here.
"Open the door, Vanessa," Jackson commands.
"I don't want to," I mutter, feeling and acting like I'm about eight years old.
"Ness, come on. You're being irrational. Things may be a little tense at first, but it will be fine. They will be happy for us," he assures me, rubbing my shoulder.
"I just slammed the door in my father's face," I say in a sort of daze.
"You sure did, baby."
"I just slammed the door in my father's face!" I squeak and cover my mouth with my palms, horrified by my own actions. "What is wrong with me? Why did I do it?"
"Because you're a little crazy and freaking out," Jax says, still rubbing my shoulder. 'The good thing here is that you can always open the door."
With a heavy sigh, I do as he says.
The scene before me is chaotic and a bit difficult to understand.
Dad stands hunched over, hands on his knees. Mom holds a bloodied scarf to his nose. Alice – who is apparently here – appears to be pacing in front of my parents, arms flailing as she yells at Dad. This leaves Jasper trapped in the street unable to get over the curb by his self. He's just shaking his head a lot.
Jackson joins me in my silent gaping for a long moment. I lean into his side as we absorb all the crazy that is our family.
"Nessie!" my mom says, using her teacher voice that has everyone immediately quieting. "Do you have something to tell us?"
"I believe you already know," I reply, smiling ruefully.
"Nessie, eat," Mom instructs at breakfast the next morning. I push my delicious diner eggs on my plate, studying Dad's bruised and slightly swollen nose. I feel really awful about that.
Dad hasn't said a word since I picked them up at their hotel this morning. Alice and Mom managed to convince Dad to just go to the hotel and deal with all this in the morning.
Last night I was relieved. Now I wish we'd just gotten it over with.
"How's your nose?" I ask. Dad just grunts and shrugs. Mom sighs.
"Are you alright?" she asks me. "You don't look so hot."
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just tired. Didn't sleep much last night," I reply.
Dad looks up from his omelet to scowl at me. My eyes go wide when I realize just what that sounded like.
"Because I was worried about your nose, Dad! I'm really so sorry," I say in a rush. My eyes tear and Dad's expression softens.
"I'm okay, Ness. I know you didn't mean it. We surprised you," he mutters. I relax slightly.
"Yeah, so what are you guys doing here?" I ask. And that has Dad scowling into his eggs again.
"You know what," he mumbles. Mom sighs again and rubs his back.
"Your father thought it would be a wise idea to get on a plane the moment we saw some pictures on the internet," Mom explains. "I called Alice and they jumped at the chance to visit."
"You couldn't have let me know with like, a phone call?" I ask, annoyed.
"Oh, like you let us know about your new relationship with our godson?" Dad drawls.
"Good point," I concede. I think about those damn pictures and bury my face in my hands. "I can't believe you saw those."
"Well you shouldn't be surprised," Mom says as gently as possible. "We work at the school and it started with the kids, but pretty much everyone's seen them now."
"Have they damned me to hell yet?" I ask. Mom winces. I wonder if she's remembering her own time as the scarlet woman of Dillon high. The rents don't talk about that sketchy time when they got together, but I've heard all the stories, so I know it must've sucked.
My mom and Jackson's dad is literally the most disgusting thing I've ever even heard of.
"Most people think it's cute," Mom says. I don't totally believe her because Dad growls again, but I really don't care what the good people of Dillon think, with the exception of the two seated across the booth from me.
"I'm sorry you had to find out that way," I murmur, feeling ashamed all over again. My parents have done so much for me and this feels like a betrayal.
"As you should be," Dad says his voice icy. He leans back in the booth, crossing his arms over his chest.
"When did all this start?" Mom asks, playing the good cop in this little interrogation drama.
"Last July," I admit.
Dad slams a fist on the tabletop. It has me jumping right along with the silverware. "I knew something was up at Christmas. She was way too nice to him," Dad grumbles, turning to Mom.
"Hush," Mom says, rolling her eyes. "This is the reason she didn't want to tell us, you know." Dad sighs and relaxes slightly as Mom turns back to me. "So you started dating last June?"
"Uh, yeah! Dating. Yes. We were dating a lot," I stutter, sounding like an idiot. Mom purses her lips so I know she's on to me, but Dad thankfully remains oblivious.
"Bout damn time," he mutters. I blink at him in shock.
"Pardon?" I manage when my lips are once again capable of movement.
"You've been making googly eyes at each other for years. Bout damn time," he repeats.
"So you're not mad?" I ask, beyond totally confused.
"Of course I'm mad," he snaps. "I'm furious. Damn fools, the pair of you."
I glance at Mom for a translation because she is fluent in Edward Cullen.
"He's mad that you didn't tell us," she explains. Dad nods as if this should've been obvious.
"Damn," I shout, totally annoyed with myself for all the unnecessary drama I've caused in the last few months. I slump back against the booth in defeat. "Jackson was right. I hate it when Jackson is right."
Mom laughs. Dad cracks a smile.
"You're seriously okay with this?" I ask, smiling slightly.
"Ness," Dad says with a sigh. "We accepted long ago that you were half of a whole. You've always been way close, even with him only in Dillon for the summer. We've talked about this for years."
He shocked the shit outta me with his insight.
"I thought it was a joke," I mutter, blushing slightly.
"If only," Dad replies with a snort.
"Why didn't you tell us?" Mom asks quietly, making me realize I hurt her too. With the exception of Jax, I've always told her everything.
"Well," I say, feeling extremely uncomfortable but determined to tell as much as the truth as I can. "It's weird, you know? He is family, practically your son!"
Dad pulls a face but Mom just nods, encouraging me to continue.
"And I wasn't sure. I mean, there is no way to just casually date Jax and being so serious freaked me out and I was still so mad at him in the beginning—"
"Mad?" Dad asks, interrupting my ranting. Mom gives me a knowing look as if she understands exactly what happened. It's very Alice of her.
"Um… That summer before my senior year of high school I had such a crush on him and we kissed." Dad's growls are once more ignored. "That's why he left town early because he knew it wasn't right. I was only seventeen so it was sketchy."
"And illegal," Dad points out.
"But it broke my heart," I continue. "I get it now, though. The timing was wrong. I was too young. He knew we'd have a long story and he knew I needed to get out of Dillon and strike out on my own first."
"Aw, that's beautiful," says Mom, actually tearing up. "They have a long love story."
"Awesome," says Dad through a clenched jaw. His grim expression makes me giggle. "Just don't get married until you graduate. Promise me that."
I nod because that is really not something he needs to worry about any time soon.
"Where have I heard this before?" Mom asks with a laugh.
"Worked out, didn't it?" Dad replies grinning.
And they've totally lost me so I make gaggling sounds when they kiss, just to be obnoxious.
"He shoulda come to me and told me like a man," Dad declares, pouting slightly.
"This isn't the freaking 19th century, Dad," I say with a huff. "He didn't need your permission to court me. Although, to be fair, he wanted to talk to you over break but I wouldn't let him. I still wasn't sure."
Dad looks like he feels slightly better.
"Are you now?" Mom asks. "Are you sure?"
I beam at her, thrilled to finally, finally have an answer. "Yes," I say. "I'm sure. I love him, like, a lot. Way more than I ever even knew was possible."
Mom cries. Dad smiles slightly.
"Alright then," he says, getting up and coming to my side of the booth. I accept his offered hand, letting him pull me up out of my seat and into a bear hug. "Was that so hard?" he murmurs as I squeeze him with all of my meager strength.
"Kinda," I reply, the word muffled because my face is pressed into his chest. "Was it really worth a plane ride?"
"You bet your ass," Dad replies, voice gruff. "I love you, kid."
I pull away to grin at him and squeeze Mom's hand when she reaches out for me. "Yes we do," she says.
"I love you guys, too," I reply. "Like, a lot."
"Jackson decided he wanted a marriage of his own the day I married his mama," Jasper says the words, beginning a story I've been hearing for as long as I can remember.
Jackson and I give the expected groaning and grumbling, but this story sounds different to me now. What was once childhood embarrassment; is now proof of what Jax has been telling me for months.
"And even then," Jasper continues, grinning over and Jax and I where we are seated in an oversized chair in Jackson's living room, our position reminiscent of the painting Alice sent me a few days ago. "Five year old Jax only had one lady in mind."
"Dad," Jackson groans. I am amused to see him actually blushing. "Stop, Seriously, just stop."
"Listen to the boy," says my father. I grin at the camaraderie. They went off and had some heart to heart yesterday and now their relationship seems just as strong as it always was.
Our parents start bickering and I lean over to kiss Jackson's cheek.
"They're older than we were," says Mom, catching my attention. "When Edward and I got together we were basically babies."
"By the time we were Nessie's age we already had a kid," Jasper says.
"Oops," says Alice, shrugging.
"Thanks, Mom," replies Jax.
"When we were Jackson's age we had a kid, too," my mom muses.
"Yeah, you guys are slacking," Alice says with a chuckle. "Get on it!"
"Alice!" screams Dad.
"Remember how cute they were," she coos in response.
And then the four of them are off, remembering what it was like to be a young parent with us as young kids.
I zone out, choosing instead to look at Jax. He's happier than I've ever seen him and the feeling is definitely mutual. I'm over come with a feeling of absolute rightness. It's as if we were all somehow meant to be just as we are, right here together.
When I think of all the little decisions and events that lead us here, that ultimately brought around the possibility of Jax and I, this moment seems that much more miraculous.
Stretching back almost thirty years, if Gramps never cheated on Renee, my mom might've never figured out that my dad was always right there, staring her in the face. Just like that, Jackson and I might not even exist.
Our parents made a thousand little decisions that let us get here. Jackson and I made a thousand more. But I'm thankful for the way it's turning out.
So very, very thankful.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!