Disclaimer: Though revised, all characters are property of Stephanie Meyer, author of The Twilight Saga. No infringement intended
Hope you all have a blessed Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah
To Give and Receive
A Christmas Story
"No, Mom, I'm fine, really."
This conversation had gone on for almost thirty minutes.
"You and Dad deserve to get away." I folded my shirt, laying it beside my overnight bag.
I understood why Mom was sad. It was the first Christmas we had ever spent away from each other. But Chicago was the last place I wanted to be this year.
"Make sure you bring back some of Grandma's apple pie . . . Mom, you can't bribe me with pie to get me on a plane, on Christmas Eve, to fly to Chicago."
Every year we traveled somewhere to visit family for the holidays. Mom and Dad went to visit my mother's sisters and mother this year. I like Chicago and usually would have went. Being around my cousins, aunts, and uncles, whom I only got to see twice a year, was always nice and lots of fun. I laughed thinking of what practical joke I would be missing this year.
"I promise I won't be alone for Christmas, Mom."
I would be volunteering at the Cullen Homeless and In-Need Shelter. I had been working with Carlisle and Esme for six months. What started off as fifty hours of community service to add to my undergraduate portfolio, turned into a passion. I met a lot of great people there; men and women who were down on their luck and truly appreciative of the services the Cullens provided. Esme Cullen had a heart made of gold. I wondered how it fit in her body. Being around her always made me smile. Dr. Carlisle Cullen was an inspiration. I enjoyed working alongside him as well. Knowing I was studying to be a doctor, he allowed me to assist in his part-time free clinic that was inside the shelter. He was truly a mentor. There was Rosalie, their fiery but caring daughter, and her husband, Emmett. Alice was Rosalie's best friend and regular volunteer as well. I knew Alice from around campus, as she was studying interior design, but it wasn't until we met standing over a steaming pot of Chicken Noodle Soup that we began to become friends. They were all great people that I loved to spend my time with –be it in the soup kitchen or around Esme's dinner table—but they were an added bonus to being able to spend time with Jasper.
"Okay Mom, love you too. Tell Dad I'll talk to him when he gets back. Okay . . . bye."
I smiled at the thought of my overly worried mother. I smiled more when I looked down at the half packed to-go bag.
The streets were still bustling with the pre-Christmas energy. The snow had stopped earlier in the day and tracks littered the street showing how people had been going to and fro. The cabbie was playing soft instrumental Christmas songs. It was a wonderful sound track to the world outside that car; a woman standing in the cold talking and twin Santas standing only feet away from each other, ringing bells as they asked for donations.
As the cabbie pushed us further down the road the crowd began to change some and the once cheerful Christmas music he played seemed sort of out of place. The stores became less flashy and more of a necessity. The cars that were on the street weren't as new. In this part of the city the snow wasn't neatly and freshly plowed to the side of the street. There were no Santas ringing bells, but kind ladies baring the cold to hand out cups of what I could only assume to be hot chocolate. Slow moving old hands took the cups thankfully. I sent up a silent prayer that those hands would be warming themselves over at the Cullen Shelter in just a few hours.
The Cullen Shelter was a nice size building. It was once a one-level bank Esme was happy to transform into an open house of love. The giant floor plan of the building was divided into a soup kitchen that could fit one hundred people at a time. The room adjacent to the dining hall was a fully, equipped kitchen but there was a hot bar in the dining hall as well. Esme wanted to be amongst the people; seeing who wanted and who needed second helpings. Carlisle had built a small clinic wing. There were two exam rooms and a small waiting area with a would-be receptionist desk. Carlisle saw most of the patients but occasional doctors would volunteer as well. Rosalie and Alice often managed the "closet;" one of the last rooms in building. Through donations from people and companies they were able to provide needed coats, shoes, even toiletries. The entire operation was done on donations and Esme's love. A few times a month Carlisle would hold church services in the dining area for those who were too ashamed to go to a church looking, or smelling, the way they did. Religion was very important to Carlisle and it was just another way he could give.
I stepped out of the cab, tipping the driver more than he had probably seen in tips all week. Working with the shelter had shown me how blessed and privileged I was, and I wanted to share it. I walked straight into the kitchen where I knew all the magic was happening for the night. We had a dinner for Christmas Eve, a breakfast for Christmas day, and a special ceremony to get prepared for. It was sure to be a long day and night and I couldn't wait to get started.
Esme, Alice, and Rosalie were already cutting up vegetables, talking up a storm. I walked around the all too familiar kitchen handing out kisses on the cheeks as they continued their fast paced talking. Despite everyone talking all at once, about what sounded to be three different conversations, they all seemed to understand and respond to the other. I loved to sit and watch the three go at it this way; it reminded me of my mother and aunts. I put my bag and coat off to the side where they belong, grabbed an apron, some potatoes and a knife and fell in listening to the women go at it. Two potatoes peeled and sliced later Emmett, Carlisle and . . . Jasper . . . joined us.
I couldn't pull my eyes away from him. He was gorgeous without a doubt, but Jasper was so much more than baby blue eyes and wavy blond hair. He had a heart as big as Esme, a passion that could rival Carlisle, and a glorious aura of inspiration and insight to the good that was still present in the world. It was because of him that we had such a wonderful surprise for Christmas day.
It seemed like forever ago when I started volunteering. I just knew when he first met me that he couldn't stand me. The first time we worked together Jasper and I was assigned to sort through some clothes for the closet. His face was covered in agitation the entire time. Before the final box could be collapsed and put into storage he had ran out of the building. A few days later we were again assigned to the same task, but Jasper had asked to be moved to something else. He didn't speak to me for the first two weeks of being at the shelter; after that I only received a hello and goodbye and we never worked on the same assignment again.
I was completely taken by Jasper, immediately. Of course his looks were a turn on and it didn't help matters that I could see his muscles beneath that gray T-shirt he wore the first day we met. It was days later, after a few placed greetings, I caught on to the accent. I was staring often.
I completed my fifty hours of mandatory service within a month. I think Jasper was surprised to see me come back that next Monday afternoon.
"Why are you here?" he asked as a greeting.
I couldn't place the tone of his voice. Was it shock or was he upset?
"I . . . um . . . I'm helping Carlisle in clinic today." I attempted to avoid looking into those eyes that regularly left me speechless. Something about Jasper was too bright to look at directly. I didn't know if it was his crystal clear eyes or the eternal glow that was about his golden skin.
"Huh," was his only response.
As the months passed by I slowly began receiving conversation from Jasper. I learned of his hometown in Texas and how a needed change landed him in Washington. I learned he was studying to be an elementary school history teacher. As if I had earned my place amongst them, I was invited out to lunches, dinners, movies, and hang outs with Alice, Rosalie, Emmett, and Jasper. I was sure it was Rosalie and Alice intention to always ensure Jasper and I were sitting next to each other, but I didn't mind one bit. Secretly, I prayed it was Jasper who created the allusion that we were paired off. After four months of volunteering, and slowly being accepted into Jasper's circle, he asked me if I wanted to join him at a movie. Lost in the beauty of this man I assumed it was a group event but to my delighted surprise only he showed at the theater. More and more it was only Jasper and I alone at dinner and lunches and movies . . . and I couldn't be happier.
I tortured myself in the "Is-He-My-Boyfriend-or-Not" game. I tried to get Alice and Rosalie, and on occasion even Esme, to pry into his mind for me, but all they would report back was that Jasper was enjoying the time we spent together, and I was content with that. The next time we would be out together he would hold my hand, or stand extra close with his arms around my waist. He never asked if he could and he never had too. I was even happier with those times. I eventually stopped trying to figure out what we were and started enjoying what we had.
Apparently Carlisle, Emmett, and Jasper had been put on hauling duty. Each man carried in a box of can goods pulled from the vault-turned-storage-room. My cutting stopped as I watched Jasper drop his box and walk to me. Everything was in slow motion as my body felt every ounce of the feather light pressure his arms placed on my waist and stomach as he slid around me to take me into his arms.
"Hey," he whispered, before placing a single kiss to my ear.
"Did you . . . um . . . bring your bag? Are you still staying?" These were rare times when Jasper was shy.
Unable to find my voice, too lost in having his soft cologne fill my senses, I only nodded my head and watched the smile grow across his face. It would be the first time I ever stayed with Jasper. It would be the first time we would ever see each other in the manner of which a bed or personal door was closed. We hung out at each other's places, watching movies, sitting intimately close, but never in a way that required an overnight bag or implied "sleeping" together. I was lost on formalities.
Would I sleep on the couch? Should I expect something to happen? Do I want something to happen? That was a dumb question—of course I wanted something to happen with Jasper—but did I want it to happen tonight or on Christmas? Was that cliché? Was that his Christmas present to me, a next level of intimacy?
"Are you okay, Edward?" I heard him ask.
"Uh? Oh yeah, I'm fine. Why? What is it?"
"You looked a little . . . confused for a second." Jasper paused before continuing through his own look of sadness, "If you are having second thoughts we don't have to . . . I mean I will take you home."
"No! Of course not. I want to be with you." I placed my hand on his chest. I hoped the touch was confident enough, 'cause I was too shy to look into his eyes. When I did brave the beauty that was before me, his smile melted me away.
"I want to be with you too, Eddie."
Though the moment was as private as one could be, standing in the middle of a kitchen surrounded by friends (who I only just realized were watching us), he used my hated nickname to ease the tension. Pushing him away with faux annoyance, I went back to attacking my potatoes. We had a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it in. Mind numbing conversations about where I would sleep would have to wait for later.
Hours flew by as food of every kind was prepared. Dozens of cooked turkey, ham, and chicken were delivered from caters, some donated and some purchased. There were mashed potatoes and potato wedges, corn, green beans, dressing and cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, gravy, and rolls, cake, pies and drinks galore. When all the eyes on the stoves where simmering with food of one sort or another we paused our cooking to decorate the dining hall. Esme insisted on linin table clothes with miniature Christmas trees on each. The smaller trees were decorated identical to the full size tree in the corner with red and copper ornaments. I didn't get to go with the men when they went to chop down the Christmas tree but I was blessed to arrive at the shelter just in time to see Esme's vision was bigger than the building. The tree scrapped the top of the ceiling in a desperate attempt to fit its final three feet of foliage. It was a treat to watch our own Tennessee lumberjack, Emmett, trim away the tree to allow it to fit in the dining hall.
We carried in the red and copper wrapped presents that were more than decorations. We were both fortunate and unfortunate enough to have plenty of children dine with us regularly. I would often watch Jasper with the children. He volunteered to monitor the children's table, entertaining them with stories and jokes. He seemed even more right in the world when he was surrounded by chubby, smiling faces. I could see him as the perfect father, and wondered if he aspired to have children of his own one day. We all purchased boy and girl toys, wrapped them, and labeled them from Santa for the children to open after they finished dinner.
The hours gone, the food ready, and table settings made perfect. Rosalie, Jasper, Alice, Emmett, and I took our place behind the hot bar as Esme and Carlisle escorted those in need in from the dark cold winter night. They sat the elders and feeble down at the tables and served them personally as the able walked down the line collecting plates overflowing with food for themselves and their children.
It was behind this bar that I learned that stubborn pride can be soothed with a smile and a hot plate. Most of the men, rather they came alone or as a head of their house, looked angry, and I'm sure they all had their reason. They all said very little and wore stern faces. Even beautiful smiles from Rosalie, Alice, and Esme couldn't crack the hard exterior they felt they had to wear at all times. Their pride was bruised to ask for assistance, a feeling I had never felt before. I watched as they would sit their family down at the table, watching and waiting as their families began to eat before they would take a tentative bite of the food. I asked Carlisle one night after dinner had ended why the men behaved in such a way, but it wasn't Carlisle who answered me.
"They think themselves less of a man, not being able to provide for the family he created. It is their nature to see to it that their wife and children are full before they are allowed to eat, to ensure if they need more he can give of his own food. He has to suffer to make sure they have all they need. This is what is important to him; their needs and wants. They are good men."
Emmett's voice was filled with so much wisdom and emotion. He was filled with conviction as he spoke of these honorable men fighting a daily battle for their families. There was no need to ask Emmett how he was parted with such knowledge. I didn't know his personal story, but the far off look in his eyes and the love that dripped from his words spoke of an experience. His words were filled with honor and respect for a man that lived through it.
It was Emmett who saw to it that these hard men got what it was that they needed as they watched over their families. He made sure their plate had a little bit more food if we could spare it, and we always could. He sat aside clothes and coats for the regulars. Emmett had become the saint of the weary men.
The dining hall quickly became a murmur of talking and surprising cheer. The people sitting around the tables became like extended families to each other. Men and women who may have never met before hugged, ate, and laughed together. As we filled their stomachs, they filled each other's hearts with well wishes and happy New Years. Children played together anxiously waiting to open the gifts under the tree. When the time finally arrived I looked up with a warm growing and very new feeling, as I watched Jasper bounce excitingly with the children on the floor along the tree. Families were still pouring in for a hot meal but I happily took Jasper's stand over the Macaroni and cheese and green beans to allow him his joy of being with the children.
"A little distracted there?" Rosalie nudged me in the side.
"Oh, sorry." I could feel the heat growing in my cheeks at being caught watching Jasper . . . Again.
"He is having too much fun down there."
"Yeah, he is going to be amped for hours." I thought back on the night he got to watch "The Muppets" with the kids. He quoted Kermit the Frog for days, which was cute and annoying, but seeing his eyes shine that much brighter made it worth it.
"He is one of a kind, that one. Hold on to him."
"I plan to," I said without realizing the implications of my words.
I was shocked at the honesty in my voice; the feeling in the bottom of my stomach that always told me I had spoken a life changing truth. I looked at Rosalie expecting to see a look of shock or wonder, but instead I saw her all knowing smile. She was like Esme in a sense. Though brutally honest at times, Rosalie seemed to have a way of pulling things out of people that they may not have otherwise intended to share.
"I'll go get more carrots," she said, walking away leaving me to deal with my own personal revelation.
My mother taught me to acknowledge my feelings, accept them, but never let them run my life. I believed that we had such strong emotions for a reason and running away from them, hiding them, was a waste of time and energy. I made it a point to evaluate each one-be it anger, concern, and especially attraction. Yes, I was undoubtedly drawn to Jasper, and seeing him smile was the highlight of my days. When he was content, so was I. When he was sad and hurting like when he had to return home to bury the grandmother who raised him, I was sad as well. Not just because my close friend was distressed but because there was nothing I could do to take his pain away. When he was happily displaying his inner kid as he sat on a floor playing with Christmas presents, I was happy too. Those emotions meant something. I did have every intention on keeping Jasper for as long as I could; for whatever our forever may have been.
The hours fell away and the crowd began to thin. The last of the families finished their meals, collected their children's gift, any needed items from the closet, and even to-go plates as we had so much food left. Though it was late, very well past midnight, the work of us volunteers was not done. We cleaned up the tables and cleared out the trash. We wiped up the counter tops and cleaned all the dishes. We had a breakfast to prepare for in about seven hours . . . not to mention a special celebration.
Jasper and I quietly walked to his waiting car after ensuring Alice made it to hers safely. The drive to his apartment was quiet; no music and no talking. I was a ball of nerves to imagine how the next two nights would go. My feelings only intensified when I looked over to see Jasper the picture of calm. We pulled into his parking lot and Jasper opened my door, took my bag, and held my hand; always the gentleman. His touch was warm even through the chill in the air and it calmed my jumping stomach.
It was nothing new to be in Jasper's apartment but it was new to stay the night. I nervously walked into the door opened for me, waiting for instructions to come from somewhere. The hour was late, I had been up literally all day, and we needed to be up and at the kitchen bright and early. Part of me wanted to crash in the middle of the floor with the clothes I had on, aching for sleep. But the energy and possibility to be a little closer to Jasper was buzzing, keeping needed sleep at bay. I wanted and needed both.
"Why don't you get cleaned up in my room? I'll change in here."
"Okay . . . . I'll be right out."
"Hey, how about some hot apple cider?"
"Yeah, that would be great."
We stood staring at each other as if we were waiting for something to happen. I turned on my heels and all but sprinted into the waiting open door.
Stepping into Jasper's bedroom was a little surreal. It was the only place in his apartment I hadn't been in. I quietly closed the door, trying to breathe deeply to calm my rapidly beating heart. Jasper's cologne filled my senses, reminding me of where I was and where I wanted to be.
It was rude, but I couldn't help but look around. I was getting to know Jasper but this room was a carbon copy of the man. Just like the rest of his apartment, his bedroom showed how simple of a man he was. His dark color sheets weren't fancy. I doubt Jasper knew that eclectic combinations like orange and green where bedroom style these days. More than likely they were just two sheets he chose for his bed. The night stand, dresser, and high-boy were three different wood types. His television and video games seem to be the only high priced items and still looked brand new. There was no art or photos on the walls. It was a room, a very simple room and yet it was important to me because it was Jasper's.
I quickly threw on a pair of sleep pants and college T-shirt. I was exhausted. I had been up early all day unable to sleep thinking about the next two nights with Jasper. We worked all day at the kitchen preparing for dinner and we were going to have to be up in just a few hours to prepare for the breakfast. I was too tired to worry about anything else. I wanted to be with Jasper but it would happen when it happened and secretly I hoped it didn't happen that night. I was too tired to enjoy it and after what I knew would be a great night of passion with the man who occupied every ounce of my thoughts, I didn't want to have to jump up to work.
I walked around the corner settled in my decision that there would be no more thought of sleeping with Jasper (besides literally sleeping with him), but as I entered into the living room I got an eye full of a bare chest, muscles and all, perfectly tanned despite Washington's lack of sun, that belong to the very man I had decided to stop lusting over.
"Hey, the cider is ready," I heard Jasper say pulling me out of the fantasy I so quickly fell in at the sight of him. I could smell the spices of the cider filling the room, very warm and inviting, but it was Jasper taking my hand that moved my feet.
Jasper sat on the couch and pulled me close to his side. I fit so perfectly in the crease between his limb and body that my eyes closed at the sensation. Jasper didn't release my hand and I looked into his face to find his eyes closed. I stared at the two steaming cups of cider, not really seeing them. Instead I saw futures with more nights like this. I felt Jasper's thumb rubbing circles on my hand. I smelled the minty scent of his hair as it hung close to my face.
"Jasper?" I called his name hoping he wasn't sleep just yet.
"Are you ready for tomorrow? Are you nervous?"
"What do I have to be nervous about? I have the easy part. I'm ready though." Jasper stopped to yawn before continuing, "Tomorrow is going to be great."
I felt Jasper shift our weight slightly, forcing me to look up into his eyes. The beautiful blue orbs were full of the need to sleep, but still bright, warming, and welcoming all while being too intense for me to stare into for too long.
"All of tomorrow is going to be great," Jasper said before his lips softy touched mine.
My eyes closed on contact. My body wanted to keep going, begging for more pressure, more intense passion, and yet my heart leaped and said it was perfect.
I never reopened my eyes. I sighed from the contentment of Jasper pulling me closer still to his body. Before long my sleepy body took over and forced me to sleep, but not before I heard Jasper's soft snores; the sound somehow relaxing me more.
The next morning was filled with Jasper and I quickly and quietly moving about his apartment preparing for our long day both at the kitchen and with our friends. We both occasionally glanced up at the other wearing giant smiles as if we now shared a secret; as if something happened the night before. Of course nothing happened. Sometime during the night Jasper adjusted our position on the couch, lying us down and covering us with a blanket. I hardly remember falling asleep let alone being moved. I was in a state of complete peace in Jasper's arms.
Maybe we were grinning at the remarks we were sure to get from our friends today. Emmett didn't mind making sexual innuendos, that's for sure. Maybe Jasper was just as content with the short hours of rest as I was, being who I was with and all.
Before we stepped out of the door in our haste to hurry to start our busy day Jasper stopped me at the door.
"Hey!" He called out before I could open the door.
I turned around only to find myself in my personal heaven; Jasper's arms.
"Merry Christmas," he said just as he pulled me to his smiling lips.
It was everything I wanted the kiss the night before to be. What started off slow and reassuring built in passion. His arms wrapped tighter around my waist; my arms and hands pressed between our bodies as I fisted his shirt. I very slowly drifted back down to earth; breathless from the moment we shared. When I opened my eyes I was met with a gorgeous smile and a look of devotion. Jasper's finger moved to my cheek stroking it softly with the back of his finger.
"Merry Christmas," I was finally able to return after spending time looking into his clear eyes.
The streets were still dark and empty. The drive to the kitchen was quiet but not the nervous silence from the night before but rather the usual calm that rested between Jasper and I. Thinking over the day before, our night, and the kiss that still had my heart racing, I couldn't help but smile. Could it be that after only two months I could know that Jasper was it for me? I wondered if he noticed the ease in which we moved about each other as if his apartment was mine; as if we did this often. It made me think of a future with Jasper, a future that involved me, him, and our own shared space.
We stepped into the already occupied kitchen, hand in hand. All talking stopped and all eyes were on us. I watched as the smiles spread across each face in front of us. I was frozen like a statue. The heat from the blood rushing to my cheeks was intense. I dropped my head to avoid the stare. Not to my surprise Jasper looked the picture of calm; nothing ever affected him. He was like a shield and I tried to hide behind him. Recognizing my attempt to retreat from our awkward moment, Japer pulled me closer to his side. He didn't say a word but in those eyes I couldn't mistake what he needed me to know: He was there and nothing else, no one else, mattered. He quickly kissed my lips before taking my jacket and walking away. Emmett and Carlisle followed him out of the kitchen; leaving me there with Alice, Esme, and Rosalie. The door that took Jasper away wasn't closed before the squeals began and demands for details were being begged for. I almost felt disappointed that I had nothing to share but warm arms, a sweet kiss, and apple cider we never got to drink.
The breakfast was a lot simpler than dinner the night before. Oatmeal, grits, sausage patties, bacon, scrambled eggs and toast were served. There was plenty of coffee, Hot Chocolate, and apple juice being poured. Some of the families from the night before returned but there were several new faces. Rosalie and Alice worked in the closet, finding any extra toys and clothes for the new children and their parents. Emmett, Jasper, and I operated the hot bar. Soon the early morning hours drifted by and the families made their exits. We washed up the dishes and cleaned up the tables but the work of a volunteer is never done.
"It's time!" Alice came beaming into the kitchen carrying a white garment bag.
Jasper, Emmett, and I looked to each other, dropped our cleaning rags, running to the front entrance. The two stood at the door embracing Esme and shaking Carlisle's hand while Alice bounced in excitement. The blushing bride's smile was beaming; the man standing beside her looked nervous but visibly relaxed when Jasper stepped into his sight. As soon as Rosalie came bouncing into the foyer she all but carried the waiting bride away with Alice and Esme in fast tow behind them. We men stood there smiling, slowly making our way to Carlisle's office to get ready.
A few months ago a new couple had started coming to the kitchen. They were very reluctant but they looked as if they had no choice any longer. The woman was tall with bright, wavy red hair. She clung to a gentleman with dirty blond hair, pushed straight back from his face, giving you a clear look at his dark brown eyes. He wore a look of alert as his eyes shifted back and forth around the kitchen. Both the man and woman were good looking, but there was something about their presence that seemed painful.
"Hi, welcome. Is there anything else we can get for you," Esme asked the man and woman after they finished their meal.
Neither of the two said a word, as if they were afraid to speak. They simply stood and walked out the hall, wrapped around each other.
They continued on that way every day for a week. Coming, eating, always at the same table, and leaving. Rosalie and Alice noticed the woman always wore the same clothes. They saw the reluctance of the couple to ask for help. They packed bags of clothes for the two and left them sitting at the table we knew they would occupy, with a note begging them to take it. The next time the couple came they seemed a bit more at ease, telling Esme 'no' they didn't need anything else before standing and leaving. It took a bit of time but they began to open up about who they were.
Their names were James and Victoria, both in their early twenties, and both from Texas. Hearing that they only grew up a few counties over from Jasper gave the man a trusted ally and he began to open up even more. James and Victoria were high school sweethearts, but Victoria's father was apparently a vicious man; he abused Victoria physically and mentally. James' home wasn't much better. His father died when he was young and as a mean to escape his mother began to drink, neglecting James. As soon as they graduated, James and Victoria ran away with nothing but a couple thousand dollars and a car James had bought. Hoping to find work doing something, the couple headed west but instead of finding release from their troubles in Texas they found themselves destitute and alone in Washington.
James and Victoria became a regular staple at the kitchen. Alice felt closeness to Victoria that was apparent in the way she always embraced the woman at her return. Jasper once told me that Alice and Victoria had a lot of things in common but never went beyond that explanation. I knew Alice was an only child who lived with her mother but I knew no details of her personal life. I couldn't imagine how a woman who smiled as much and had as much energy as Alice, could empathize with someone with a story like Victoria.
"A smile covers a multitude of tears," Esme told me.
Alice was able to help Victoria get a job at a diner not far from the hostel she and James lived. Eventually, she was also able to get James a job on a construction crew. After a few months of working Esme and Carlisle assisted them in finding a small apartment that they could manage on the money they made and slowly things began to look up for the couple. Feeling like they finally had something to give back, they would sometimes come and volunteer at the kitchen.
One night I was spending time with Jasper in his apartment and I couldn't help but notice something was heavy on his mind. He had been quiet most of the night.
"Jasper, is everything okay?
"Are you sure? You know you can talk to me, right? If something is bothering you, you can tell me . . . or Carlisle . . . you know if it's personal . . . or if it's me . . . Is it me?" As selfish as it was for a minute I was afraid Jasper was having second thoughts about us.
"No, sugar, it's not you," Jasper laughed. "It's James, he told me something today and I want to try and help him. I just don't know how."
"Oh, well unless he asked you not to, you can tell me, or Esme and Carlisle. You know they would help. What is it?"
"James told me that he wants to marry Victoria. He already asked her, and of course she said yes. But he doesn't want to get married in front of a judge."
"Oh, that's excellent." I sat back beaming at the thought of how sweet James was. He didn't talk to me much, but I could tell he really loved Victoria. He watched over her like a hawk, always concerned for her.
"You know all you have to do is drop a word to the girls and this wedding will take place in like a week right?"
Jasper laughed but he knew it was true . . . and that is exactly what happened. Jasper arranged for a priest to preside over the service and the ladies took care of everything else. The date was set. On Christmas Day Victoria and James were to wed.
James stood at the head of the make shift altar, nervously ringing his hands. Carlisle let him wear one of his tuxedos and James was breathtaking. Jasper stood at his side wearing black slacks and a white button down shirt, clasping his friend's shoulders in an attempt to keep him calm. Alice and Rosalie stood at the opposite side of the aisle as Victoria's bridesmaids. They both wore a yellow sundress, apparently Victoria's favorite color, designed by Alice herself. In the seats before the altar sat Carlisle, Esme, Emmett, and several others. Victoria had invited two friends she made from the diner, as well as a few of the families they met at the kitchen. At the last minute after seeing two of our regular doll faced little girls in attendance with their mother Angela, Alice provided rose petals for Jessica and Lauren to drop along the aisle for the bride. At the signal from Alice, I pressed play on the CD player. The bridal march ushered in the lady of the hour.
Victoria was stunning in her dress. Her dress was more cream than white, flowing to the ground. The sleeves were also long and wrapped around her middle finger. The lace over the top of the dress was detailed and elaborate. Alice had found the dress in a second hand store and couldn't stop brimming about it.
"People pay thousands of dollars to get a dress to look like this. Such a beautiful piece of art and design and someone just tossed it to the side. Oh well, their lost is Victoria's beautiful gain."
Rosalie had styled Victoria's hair. The long red hair was pinned up into a bun with cascading red curls falling from above. In her hair was a pearl pendent that Esme allowed Victoria to wear as her something borrowed. Victoria had a natural beauty. Her make-up was simple with a bit of color to her lips. She looked as if she was from a different place, a different time. I looked over to see James had calmed at the sight of Victoria. She didn't belong in a different time; she belonged with him. Victoria slowly walked down the aisle smiling at the people who stood in her honor; faces that smiled back at her. We sat at the joining of James and Victoria's hands and watched as their union was made official.
Esme and Carlisle hosted a small and short reception for the new husband and wife. We all waited as Victoria smashed the wedding cake, Esme made for the special day, into James' face. He returned the favor.
Christmas day was coming to a close. Jasper, Alice, and I joined Carlisle, Esme, Rosalie, and Emmett at the Cullen's home for Christmas dinner. We were also joined by the newlyweds, James and Victoria Hunter. I smiled at the conversation I had had with my mother on Christmas Eve . . . I was far from alone on Christmas Day.
I sat on the deck looking out at the forest that surrounded Esme and Carlisle's home. A fresh layer of snow had fallen as we sat enjoying dinner. The white powder was uninterrupted by man or animal. All was calm. The crisp evening air soaked through my coat, but I didn't mind. For some reason it made me feel blessed. I was cold, but I was also only a few feet away from a warm, inviting shelter. At any time I could get into a car and drive to my own home where there was plenty of heat and food. If I didn't want to be there, I could go to my parent's home or even back to Jasper's. I was in good health and doing well in school. There were opportunities in front of me and a loving family and group of friends who supported me.
I looked over my shoulder and into the house. Emmett was still talking to his mother on the phone while Rosalie lay in his arms as she talked to her own parents sitting across from her. Alice was on the staircase on the phone as well, likely with her own mother. Jasper sat at the table with James and Victoria smiling brightly.
Jasper . . .
The very thought of him made me realize again how blessed I was. I turned back to the trees; too afraid someone would catch the giant grin I wore at the thought of the man. Jasper was an addition to my life that I hadn't counted on just six months ago and now I couldn't image a day or thought without him. It had only been a few months and the newness of it was still too fresh to call anything but infatuation, but I was happy it was Jasper that had me so infatuated. He was giving and honest. He was tough but could be so soft and intimate. He was a protector and he was mine.
There was so much that I had that so many others didn't; things that I took for granted, things I always assumed would be there. Every day I helped dozen of families and every one of them could teach me something new, something about my own life to appreciate more. Even the men and women I stood with behind hot bars, sorted clothes with, mentored me, and dared to care about me were teaching me about all the things I overlooked in life.
"If I can't see you for a week because you have caught a cold from sitting out here all night I am going to be very upset with you." Jasper's whispered voice tickled my ear as his lips were pressed there. His arms wrapped around me, bring a contrasting heat to the cold air I had grown used to.
"You could still see me. Who else is going to nurse me back to health?"
"Last time I checked, you were the one studying to be a doctor." Jasper turned me around in his arms.
"Small details," I said as I cleared the space between us and stole a kiss.
Jasper's lips were so soft, moving against mine as if they were designed with that only job in mind. His taste was so sweet and his scent, so close to me, was minty. Jasper was the embodiment of the taste and smells of the Christmas season. Warm, inviting, and I was the lucky person to be wrapped in his arms.
"Why are you out here? It is freezing." Jasper vigorously rubbed his hands up and down my back, letting the friction warm me more.
"I'm okay. I just wanted to look at the snow."
"Yeah?" Jasper searched my face as if he was looking for the truth in my statement. If he was going to see anything it was going to be my giddiness and thankfulness of all that I had. "Are you ready to get out of here?"
"Yeah, I'm ready."
The drive back to Jasper's place was quiet but not awkward. I was still buzzing from the great day we had and didn't want it to end. I had a new sense of what I wanted and at that moment it was Jasper.
We made it inside from the bundles of snow that had begun to fall again. Jasper held my hand tightly; making sure I didn't slip on any of the dark ice that was hidden beneath the snow. We laughed and rough housed in the elevator as we knocked the white powder from each other's hair and coat. It turned from playful banter to an electrifying moment as I was lost in Jasper's eyes. The moment couldn't have last for long but when the ding of the opening elevator doors disturbed us, it seemed as if we had been standing there forever. The moment was lost but the electricity surrounded us as we stepped into his door.
We decided to try again for that cup of warm apple cider. I hurried off to Jasper's room to change clothes while he did the same after starting our drinks. I quickly changed into my dry warm sleeper pants, some dry socks, but held my shirt in my hands. I looked back and forth between the cotton shirt in my hands and the door that separated me from the rest of Jasper's apartment. I stood there knowing one thing: I wanted Jasper, and I wanted him to know that I wanted him . . . in every possible way. After battling my fears of what to do I tossed the shirt on the edge of the bed and proceeded to make my way to Jasper. Just as I stepped into the living room space Jasper looked up from the cider he was sipping. I could only blush as I knew his eyes were lingering on my bare chest.
I was filled with a Christmas confidence as I walked to the island that separated the kitchen from the living room, took my drink and made my way to the couch. I tucked my feet under my legs, carefully sipping my drink, hoping Jasper would follow soon.
I was still staring at my cup when I felt the depression of the cushion beside me.
"Today was great," Jasper said. He was still staring at me and it made me feel more nervous.
I carefully put down my cup and slid closer to Jasper, laying my head on his shoulder.
"Yeah it was. I'm so happy for James and Victoria."
At my touch Jasper relaxed, sliding his hand around my waist. I relished in the feel of his thumb as it moved up and down on my hip. Such a simple thing was driving me crazy and it only made me want Jasper more. Everything under his touch was buzzing with excitement. I turned my face towards his, expecting to see his eyes closed but instead was met with dazzling, clear blues.
"What is it?" I asked, for some unknown reason my voice sounding as a whisper.
"You are the most beautiful man I know," Jasper said but I sensed he was going to say more, so I waited to respond. "Edward," he began before pausing again.
I sat up more under his arm, wanting to look him in his eyes as he spoke. He placed his free hand under my chin bringing back the buzz that I so enjoyed when we touched.
"Edward, you are the best thing that has happened to me in so long. Every day I look forward to seeing you, being near you. I wanted to touch you the very first time I saw you, but I was so afraid of ever being anything to you, afraid that it wouldn't last."
I closed my eyes, focusing on his words and his touch, feeling as if it was the reason he was finally able to speak.
"But you began to break down every fear that I had, and I don't even think you were trying to," Jasper snickered. "Every minute with you, I would relive in a heartbeat."
Jasper's words and touches stopped and I felt lost without them. Not wanting to make him nervous again, but wanting to know why he became quiet, I opened my eyes to seek his out. I was met with a bright smile and tear filled eyes. My stomach dropped not knowing what could bring this perfect man to tears.
"Jasper?" I called as I watched the first of the tears roll down his cheek.
"I love you, Edward Masen." Jasper's voice was so clear, so sure.
I was light headed and the breath was knocked out of my body. Just hours earlier I thought about what the feelings were I had for Jasper, how it was too fresh to call it something so strong, but maybe I was wrong. Did it matter we had only dated for a few months? Did it matter we were still getting to know each other? Did it have to be on some strict time schedule?
In that moment I knew that it didn't.
I knew that I had something with Jasper that few others had with anyone.
I knew that my world would stop moving if there ever came a time I could no longer look into his blue eyes or run my hands through his soft, blond curls.
Eternity felt to have passed in just those few seconds as my mouth formed the words my heart knew and my mind was accepting:
"I love you too, Jasper."
The revelation was made and I could see that there was never a moment that I didn't think I was going to say it back to him.
I was in Jasper's lap, slowly tasting his lips before a second could pass between then and another moment of silence. Jasper wrapped his hands into my hair as he held me tightly to his body. I clung to his shirt in fists full, and I could feel his cooling tears on my cheeks as if I had cried them myself.
It was there we stayed, on his couch, surrounded by the smell of apple cider that we still had not drank. We eventually came up for air but how much time had passed was unknown. I was happy and finally the thought of something more happening between us didn't really matter to me as much. His declaration and my acceptance of mutual feelings meant far more.
We had love.
The gifts we exchanged were meager in comparison to what we had already shared that day. Yet the smile Jasper gave me at the sight of his "The Muppets Take Manhattan" DVD and his Texas shaped belt buckle in silver, baring the Texas flag was priceless. For me Jasper decided to begin contributing to my medical equipment with my very first Doctor's bag with toy stethoscope, clipboard with a happy face and sad face to check off how my patient was feeling, and a toy syringe and band aids. He offered to be my first patient.
Our first Christmas together ended with us sitting on his couch, in each other's arms, legs wrapped together, covered in a very large blanket Esme had knitted as a gift for us both, watching The Muppets.
"Hey! We got to see two weddings today," Jasper joked at the scene of Ms. Piggy and Kermit's wedding in the play.
"You are such a dork," I laughed and teased him.
"Oh, yeah?" Jasper said as he began to tickle me under the blanket.
It was only after I begged for mercy that the assault stopped and we righted our position on the couch; me back in his arms.
"Hey," Jasper called for my attention before I looked into those crystal, blue eyes, "I love you, Edward."
"I love you too, Jasper." I sighed in contentment.
Watching the final credits roll, happily trapped in this angel's embrace, I imagined this would be the perfect end to every night with him, for the rest of my life.
I know it is not really like me not to provide a nice citrus to a Jasper/Edward tale but I thought the message here was a bit better. I really hoped you all like it.
Story updates are underway with Content Not To See being stressed over and my Jacob/Leah story stuck somewhere between my brain and my typing fingers!
If you like The Mortal Instrument Series - Go Check out my story Our Time (Alec/Magnus with lemon!) I will be writing more in that fandom in 2013!
Talk to you guys soon. And I promise to respond to all reviews