AN: This is completely different from any of my other stories, get your tissues ready. I planned to make a full-length story out of this but I couldn't flesh it out quite enough, so I'm putting it down as a one-shot instead. It's my first attempt at an all-human story, so let me know what you think!
Disclaimer: I own nothing but the story line. SM owns all.
~Out of the Ashes~
"...the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust..." Reverend Weber continued speaking, though most were not listening to the words.
The family was gathered around the open grave, lost in their memories and grief. Carlisle and Esme were clinging to each other and Esme was sobbing loudly. Her son, her little boy, the one who looked just like her, was gone. His bright green eyes would never sparkle with mischief, his bronze hair would never blow in the wind, and his long, delicate fingers would never stroke the piano keys. Her world was a darker place, lacking hope and joy. Edward was dead.
The only thing heavier than Carlisle's grief was his guilt. He just knew if he had been at work that night, he could have saved his boy. He knew what Charlie said- that there was nothing he could have done- but he would never forgive himself for not being there for his son. He had saved countless lives over the years but he couldn't save the one he needed to most.
The largest Cullen, Emmett, was standing with his wife, Rose, and his twin sons were clinging to his legs. He looked nothing like the other Cullens, since he was adopted as a baby. Doctors had told Esme she could never conceive a child, so the Cullens put their applications in and within a few months, they were bringing Emmett home. He was the happiest baby they had ever seen, with his curly black hair, dark brown eyes, and huge dimples. As time went on, they realized his dimples were not the only thing huge about him. He grew quickly, surpassing all his classmates, and was now 6'6" and close to 300 pounds of pure muscle. He had played his way through high school and college and now had his dream job of tight end for the Seattle Seahawks. None of that mattered to him today; he was completely lost without his little brother.
Esme had been thoroughly shocked when Emmett was three months old and she found herself pregnant. Edward was born just days after Emmett's first birthday, and the boys were inseparable from that day on. They were polar opposites in every way- appearance, personality, interests, but it didn't matter to them. They were the best of friends. Edward was small and thin, just like his mother. He was a musical prodigy, composing songs on the piano by age three. His music was sometimes the only thing that would calm the overactive Emmett. Kids at school were never allowed to pick on Edward, because his big brother was his constant defender. It didn't take long for his little brother to protect him as well.
Jasper. Surprise number two for the Cullens. It felt like déjà vu when Esme once again brought home her third baby boy in three years. Jasper looked like an angel when he was born, with his father's curly blonde hair and sky blue eyes. He was tall like Carlisle, eventually passing him in height, though never quite catching up to Emmett. Jasper was quiet, calm, and loved to work with his hands. He was happiest outside, and loved working with both cars and animals.
Jasper was the only Cullen not currently focused on his own grief. His long arm was draped over the shoulder of the smallest Cullen. Edward's wife, Bella, was petite and delicate, a perfect fit for him. She was quiet and sweet, but with a stubborn streak and a good sense of humor that the serious Edward had needed. They began dating in high school, went to college in Seattle together, and came back together, married, to teach in their hometown of Forks.
Everyone considered them the ideal couple, completely in love. Edward taught music at the high school, along with English, but Bella was in her element teaching kindergarten. She loved her job before she lost Edward, but now she had no idea how to go on. How could she face her life when her heart was sitting in a box about to be put in the ground? What reason did she have to live now?
As if to remind her, she felt a small nudge from the swell of her stomach. Her hand drifted down absently to rub over the child growing inside her. Her motion caught the attention of the other mourners and there was no longer a dry eye to be seen. Edward's daughter would never get to meet him, never hear his beautiful voice sing her a lullaby, never hear his talented fingers play the songs he had already written for her. He would never rock her to sleep or walk her down the aisle. Not even born yet, she was already a victim in this senseless tragedy.
Behind the immediate family, Bella's father, Charlie, leaned heavily against his new wife and began to cry. He knew the pain his daughter was facing, the pressure and loneliness of being a single parent. Charlie never dated after Bella's mother died, and he knew now what a mistake that was. Bella had needed a mother, and Bella's daughter would need a father. Charlie hoped his daughter wouldn't take twenty years to move on like he had done. He prayed there was hope for her heart to heal enough to someday love again.
Jasper's arm tightened around Bella as the casket was lowered into the ground. She wrapped one arm around her stomach and the other around his waist as she finally gave into the tears she had been holding back. He pulled her close and murmured nonsense words to her as he rubbed her back. When her legs gave out, he helped her sit carefully, keeping his arm around her shoulder and his free hand resting lightly on her belly. He stayed with her long after their friends and family had gone, until she was finally ready to leave. He helped her up and drove her home, parking himself on the couch with no intention of leaving anytime soon. He couldn't protect his brother anymore, but he'd be damned if he would let anything happen to Bella or their child.
~Out of the Ashes~
I was walking carefully downstairs, something that had gotten harder to do since I could no longer see my feet below me. About halfway down, my cell phone rang in the kitchen. I made it there before my voicemail picked up and frowned at the caller id. I thought Dad was working tonight.
No, love, it's me. The voice was labored and hoarse, but it sounded like my Edward. What was wrong with him?
"Edward? Is that you? Why are you on my dad's phone? Is something wrong with him?"
No, Bella. Just listen to me. I don't know how long I have. I just need you to know how much I love you. I have loved you from the very first moment I saw you, freshman year. You remember? You were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. You have made my whole life complete and I am so proud of you and all you have done. I love seeing you grow with our baby, and I wish I could be there to see her born, but I don't think I'll be able to do that now. Tell her I love her so much, and play her songs for her.
"Eddie? What's going on? You're scaring me, baby."
He coughed for a long moment and my dad picked up the phone. Bells, I don't really know how to say this, but Edward's been in an accident. I'm here with him and we're waiting for the ambulance, but it's pretty bad, baby girl. Paul has already called Jake and Jasper over at the shop and they're gonna come pick you up, but Eddie wanted to talk to you. Oh, here he is again, I think he can talk now.
There were some shuffling noises and I heard a distant siren drawing closer. Bella, love, I'm so sorry. I promised you forever and I don't think I can keep that promise now. I love you so much though. Can you tell my parents I love them, too? And don't let my brothers feel guilty. They always tried so hard to protect me. I'm so sorry Bella, I love you. I love you so-
"Edward? Edward are you there? Eddie, please! Please talk to me! I love you, baby! I love you so much! You're my whole world! You can't leave me! Tell me what's happening! Please, Eddie, please!" I heard my front door open and Jake and Jasper ran in to find me crying into the phone.
"Bells? What is it? Where's Edward? Paul said we had to come over right away." Jake was frantic, but Jasper looked scared out of his mind. I think he was connecting the dots on why my father's partner would call and tell him to come to me if I wasn't the one hurt.
Bella? Baby girl? You there? I'm so sorry, he's- my dad cleared his throat and I heard him start crying.
"No! NO! NO! Please! EDWARD! EDWARD!"
"Bella? Wake up, Sugar. You need to wake up now. It's just a dream. You're just dreaming. Can you wake up? Bella? Please?" Jasper's voice dragged me from my nightmare and back to reality. Not that reality was any better. At least in my dream I could still hear his voice. My Edward. My love.
"He's gone. Oh, Jasper, he's gone! What am I going to do? I don't know how to live without him! There's a huge hole in my chest and I can't breathe. I can't-" I broke off sobbing and trying to catch my breath. It's been this way for the past week. Every time I finally manage to go to sleep I have the same dream and I wake up panicked and unable to breathe. After the funeral, Jasper was the only one who would stay with me. I think everyone else was either scared, or too upset. Nothing reminds you of your loss like a pregnant widow who won't just disappear.
Jasper's strong arms were around me, helping close the hole up a little bit. "Shh, Bella. It's ok. I'm here for you. Just follow my breathing. In... and out... That's it. In... and out... Good girl. You're doing it. That's it." He rocked me slowly until my breathing evened out. "You want me to make you some tea? It's still early, but you have that appointment with Dad this morning. Remember? Do you still want me to take you?"
Oh, god. I had forgotten. Edward was really looking forward to this appointment, he had taken the morning off school with me and we were going to go shop for the nursery after we left the hospital. He loved seeing our daughter on the ultrasound, and he would talk to her constantly just to see her reaction on the screen. She loves his voice just as much as I do. Or did.
"Jake said he would come too if you want him to. We can close the shop for the morning, or see if Seth can fill in for us. We're both here for you, whatever you need us to do." I knew they were. Jake had always been there for me, he was my version of the Cullen big/little brother. He was a year younger than me, but he was always bigger and he constantly looked out for me. Edward was scared to death of him the first few months we dated, and that was pretty funny considering who his brothers were.
Shaking myself from my memories I looked at Jasper's earnest gaze. "Do you think he really wants to come or is he just offering to be nice?" I knew Jake sometimes had trouble asking for what he wanted, he hated to impose if something didn't involve him directly. Jasper was good at reading him and knowing what he really wanted.
"Honestly? He loves this baby just as much as I do. He stares at that ultrasound picture we have up on the shop wall every chance he gets. You know he talks about your little girl growing up and marrying his and Leah's boy. He's already got the wedding planned and they aren't even born yet. When I told him I was taking you today he looked a little hurt. I think he really wants to be here, for you and for the baby. He loves you too, you know." I took a deep breath and nodded. I did know. Jacob was my very best friend, and today I really needed a friend.
"Go ahead and call him. He can meet us here and we can ride together. I'll just go and get my shower so I can be ready to go when he gets here." I was suddenly very aware that I was still in bed and Jasper was sitting right next to me. I was so embarrassed; I needed to move. I jumped up as fast as my unbalanced body would let me and awkwardly stepped around him to head for the bathroom. Just as I shut the door I thought I heard him sigh and say,
"I'm sorry, Bella."
~Out of the Ashes~
I stayed where I was until the water turned on in the bathroom. My head dropped down on my hands and I found myself asking what on earth I was still doing here. What did I think I could accomplish? I told myself that Bella needed me, but did she really? What could I offer her? I wasn't Edward. As I stood up to leave the room, a picture on the nightstand caught my eye. It showed my brothers and I, together with Bella, at one of our many Forks High baseball games. Baseball was the only sport Edward played, and the only one we all did together. He was in the middle of the picture, as always, with Emmett and I towering over him on either side. But despite that, he looked ten feet tall, standing there with his arms wrapped around Bella and a cocky grin on his face. Her head was turned, looking up at him with a look of pure love on her face. They were truly made for each other.
I knew the picture well, my parents had it up on the wall in their living room. Bella was thrilled when Mom framed it and said it was a picture of all four of her children. Emmett had studied the picture like a famous painting in a museum. I finally walked up to him one day and asked him what he was looking at. He pointed to Bella and said, "I'm not going to marry a girl unless she looks at me the way Bella looks at Eddie. Just look at her. She is head over heels in love with the runt. I'm gonna have that some day." And he had done it. He brushed off countless girls in high school and college until he found Rosalie. She was an icy bitch to the rest of the world, but when Emmett came around she was the sweetest girl in the world. They had a big lavish wedding with tons of photographers and paparazzi everywhere, but the picture they framed above their mantle is one my dad took of the two of them sitting on the steps of the church, with Rose in Emmett's lap. Her shoes were kicked off and her bouquet tossed to the side and she is looking up at him with the same look of pure adoration on her face that Bella had in this picture.
After that I was done. I had dated girls off and on, never anyone seriously, but none of them were quite right. I wanted what my brothers had, that complete and total consuming love. I would settle for nothing less. The only problem was, I wasn't sure I was worthy of love like that. I mean, I was nothing special. Not an artist like Edward, or an athlete like Emmett. I was always just Jasper. I did ok in school, but not great. Schoolwork never held my interest. It wasn't that I didn't like books, because I did. I would lose myself in novels or historical texts all the time, I just didn't like traditional schooling. My parents were great, they supported me when Jacob and I decided to open our garage here in Forks rather than pursue a college education. I loved working on cars, where there was a concrete problem to be solved and nothing too big to think about. I could let my mind wander as I changed the oil, or tinkered on an engine and it didn't hurt anything.
Thinking of our garage reminded me that I needed to call Jacob, so I did. He said he would be right over and I could almost feel his excitement through the phone. He and Bella had a very close relationship, almost like siblings. Their dads were best friends and they had both lost their mothers at a young age so they were basically raised together. Before Bella met Edward, I think Jacob might have wanted more than friendship from her, but it was impossible not to see the connection between my brother and his wife, even when they were in high school. Once we got the garage up and running, Leah Clearwater came home from college and discovered that little Jake was all grown up. They were inseparable after that and just got married last summer. I teased him mercilessly about their royal wedding- Jake's father is the chief of the tribe, and Leah's father is a tribal elder. They had a very elaborate Quileute ceremony, befitting the future leaders of the tribe.
I was startled by a knock at the door, followed by Jacob's voice calling out. I hadn't heard his car, and his car is pretty hard to miss. He came in, breathing hard and covered in the fine mist that was falling outside. "What happened, did you run here?" I asked.
"Yeah, I thought we could take Bella's truck to the shop afer her appointment- you know, for her monthly oil change." He gave me a conspirational wink at that. Bella loved her ancient Chevy and Jake has been keeping it running since she got it for her sixteenth birthday. When we opened the shop, and Edward and Bella moved back home, we made it our personal mission to keep that truck alive.
Despite our parents' offers, Eddie and Bella didn't have much money. Two school teacher salaries, along with their student loans, meant they were barely making ends meet. The only reason they had a house was because Charlie sold it to them dirt cheap when he married Leah's mom, Sue Clearwater. He didn't want anyone else moving into the house he had shared with Bella's mother, and she was happy to move out of the tiny apartment they were living in at the time.
When Bella's transmission went out, we knew they couldn't afford to fix it so we just told them it was a broken belt and paid for it ourselves. Since then, we had her bring it in monthly for an "oil change" where we fixed whatever had broken or was about to break, and we always topped her gas tank off. If Eddie knew what we were doing he never said anything, and Bella was clueless, if sentimental, when it came to cars. After Edward's wreck, I was even more determined to keep her truck running. It was solid metal with a sturdy frame, and I knew it would hold up in an accident much better than Eddie's Volvo had. Of course, there's not much that can take being t-boned by a log truck at 60 mph.
Jacob brought me out of my dark thoughts with a hand on my shoulder. "How's she holding up today?"
I shook my head and listened to make sure she was still upstairs. Her hair dryer was going so I had a few minutes. "She woke up early with the nightmare as usual. I swear I don't know if him calling her gave her closure, or has just made things worse. She relives that night over and over; that can't be healthy."
"Just give her time, Jas. It's still too fresh. With the baby on top of that, it's a miracle she's even getting out of bed every day. She's always been tough as nails, but she lost her soul mate. You don't just get over that. It will be a long process." He squeezed my shoulder and gave me a knowing look. "She'll remember who was here for her during her darkest moments. Hang in there, we'll all get through this, ok?"
"Everything ok down here guys?" Bella's soft voice pulled our attention to the staircase. She was dressed nicely in black leggings with a teal maternity top that flattered her round belly. Her face was still drawn but she had put on makeup and curled her hair for the first time since the funeral. Jacob and I exchanged a glance at the subtle differences and he nodded as if to say, "I told you so."
"We're great Bells! Ready to go see our new little princess!" Jacob swept her up into a hug, spinning her around before setting her down and covering her stomach with his large hands. "Oh! She kicked me! Did you feel that, Bells? She kicked my hand!"
Her giggle brought a smile to my own face and my heart swelled at the happy sound. "Of course she did! She thinks she's on a roller coaster!" She laid her hand on his and gave him a sweet smile. "Besides, she loves her Uncle Jacob and your voice is pretty hard to miss. I'm really glad you're here, Jake."
"Wouldn't miss it for the world, Bells."
~Out of the Ashes~
"Do we need milk?" Jasper asked as he walked up with Lizzie on his shoulders. I had to laugh when I saw that she had both hands fisted in his long curls and was leaning over to chew happily on his hair.
"You need a haircut, Jas," I said, reaching up to untangle Elizabeth's hands and pat his hair back into place. I tucked a few loose strands back behind his ear and suddenly realized how close we were standing when he sucked in a sharp breath. I blushed and stepped away quickly, "I'm sorry, Jasper. I shouldn't have-"
His strong, calloused hand fell on my shoulder. "Don't Bella, it's fine. It's more than fine. I-" It was his turn to stop and look away. This was ridiculous. We had grown extremely close over the past nine months of living together. He was there for me through every step of my pregnancy, holding my hand in the delivery room, and he even cut Elizabeth's umbilical cord. He walked miles in the hallway when her colic was at its worst, and cheered her on from her first smile to the first time she rolled over, to just last week when she finally crawled across the living room floor.
I honestly never expected Jasper to be such a large part of our lives after we lost Edward. When he showed no intention of leaving after the first few weeks he spent on my couch, I told him to move his stuff to the guest room so he would be more comfortable. About a month before Lizzie was born, I tore my master bedroom up in a fit of grief-driven anger and he calmly set about cleaning it up without a word. We ended up moving the nursery to that room and I moved into my old childhood bedroom.
Much of the town gossiped about our strange living arrangements, but not many had the courage to confront us when Carlisle and Esme were not bothered by the situation. Everyone knew us and most thought Jasper was quite noble, stepping in to help me care for Lizzie. They also thought we had a strictly platonic, familial relationship. And up until this moment, it has been. But I have seen the way Jasper looks at me when he thinks I'm not paying attention. I see the way he reaches for me, and then pulls back.
I know I have never had a brotherly relationship with Jasper, the way I have with Emmett. Emmett and I clicked immediately, the two brown-eyed Cullens he always said. He teased me mercilessly and we could talk about anything and everything. It took Rosalie all of five minutes of seeing us together to realize she had nothing to be jealous about when it came to me.
Jasper was different. He was the quiet one, always blending into the background behind his louder and more outgoing brothers. Content to spend time alone, we often had to coax him to join our group activities, and then he still did so quietly and unobtrusively. I never spent much time alone with Jasper until after Edward's accident. He stepped in and took charge of me when no one else would bother, and he has been there every single day since then.
I realized my feelings toward Jasper were evolving when we were at the diner last week and the waitress kept flirting with him. It took me almost the whole hour we were there to realize that I was jealous. He never even noticed she was there, he was completely focused on me and Elizabeth, but the fact that another woman was interested in my Jasper really irritated me. I was honestly stunned at this realization, and I began watching him closer to see if he felt the same way.
Two days later we took Lizzie in for her 6-month checkup. Jasper had taken us to every appointment from the time she was a week old, and listened intently to everything the doctor said. I teased him once, reminding him that we knew a pretty good doctor who would gladly make house calls if we had any concerns, but he looked at me seriously and said he would never forgive himself if something happened to Lizzie because he didn't make an effort to know everything he needed to know to care for her properly.
When we walked into the office that day, I was surprised to find Eric Yorkie filling in for the usual nurse that worked there. I hadn't seen him since he left for college and we spent several minutes catching up while he weighed Lizzie and took her measurements. He awkwardly offered his condolences on our loss, before looking at Jasper in question. Jasper stalked off to the room Eric pointed us to, and I followed behind more slowly.
Eric stammered through an invitation to dinner the next night and I swore I heard Jasper growl from inside the room. Peeking my head around, I found him reading a book to Lizzie with his hands locked on the pages in a white-knuckled grip. I think it was safe to say he was not thrilled with my potential suitor. I let Eric down gently, since he was not quite as obnoxious as Mike Newton, and went to wait for the doctor with my baby and my... Jasper.
Looking at Jasper now, in the middle of the dairy section with my- our- daughter playing happily on his broad shoulders, I knew he was exactly what we needed. More than that, he was exactly what I wanted. I knew he would never in a million years make a move on me, for fear of risking our current relationship, but I no longer had such fears. I knew all too well that we weren't promised a tomorrow, and I wasn't going to let another minute pass without letting Jasper know how I felt.
Stepping close to him, I placed one hand on his bicep, marveling again at his strength, and leaned up to gently press my lips to his. His eyes widened almost comically and he gasped again, giving me a chance to press my luck further by deepening the kiss. He moaned quietly and reached one hand down to pull me closer, his other hand keeping Lizzie steady. His lips moved against mine, warm and sure, and his taste exploded on my tongue as he tentatively stroked his against mine.
After much too short a kiss, he pulled back and looked at me in wonder. "Bella? What? I mean, are you? Are you sure?" he asked softly.
I laughed, feeling freer than I had in months, and wrapped my arms around him, hugging him tight. "I've never been more sure of anything in my life."
~Out of the Ashes~
"Jas, come look at this," Emmett called me over from across the room. I was picking up the leftover gift wrap and assorted plates and cups from Lizzie's third birthday party. It had been a long, full day and my little princess was upstairs asleep, surrounded by her new toys, while her mother was cleaning in the kitchen. Bella always worked so hard to make things perfect for our little girl, and her birthday party was no exception.
The handcrafted decorations in a vintage cowgirl theme had taken her hours to perfect, and the three-tiered cake took days. She said it was all worth it when Lizzie came down the stairs with a million-dollar smile on her cherubic face. Her dark brown ringlets were in wild disarray as usual, and her clear green eyes danced with glee. The only thing that could make the moment better was when she ran straight to my arms squealing, "Daddy!"
My relationship with Bella had not been easily accepted by the town, or our family. It took time, and a lot of difficult conversations to get them on board. Despite all that, we had no real issues between the two of us. Our relationship was as easy as breathing. It felt natural, and despite our connection, we still moved at a snail's pace when it came to our physical relationship. Part of that was based on respect for Edward, and part of it was simply caution.
Bella was afraid she was leaning on me for the wrong reasons, grief and loneliness were the main fears. I knew in my heart that I loved Bella, and had loved her for years. Her feelings took longer to cultivate, or for her to recognize, and while we continued our day-to-day lives we gradually added intimacy in small doses. It still took until after Lizzie's first birthday for us to have sex the first time. We just looked at each other one night as we were about to part ways at bedtime and Bella reached her hand out to me without a word.
I pulled her into my bedroom, moving slowly so that she had time to change her mind. I kissed her deeply for several minutes before she pushed me away. I couldn't meet her eyes and see her rejection, but she pulled my face to hers and looked at me as she said fiercely, "I'm ready Jasper, make me yours."
Our first time was full of a year's worth of repressed passion on her part, and a lifetime's worth of love on mine. It was rougher than it probably should have been, but she loved every minute of it. We fit together like two pieces of a whole, and I had never felt so content in my entire life. She truly was the other half of my soul.
Time flew by as we moved through life and our baby grew to a toddler, then a young girl. Her third birthday took me by surprise, and I realized I couldn't imagine my life without either of my girls in it. I had been waiting to ask Bella to marry me, not sure if she was quite ready to give up her last tie to my brother or not. She rarely brought up the subject, and when she did it was always in the context of "someday."
Realizing I hadn't answered Emmett yet, I walked across to where he was sitting on the couch scrolling through pictures on his phone. Bella called out asking if we needed something to drink but he waved her off with a tender smile he reserved just for her, before turning his attention back to me. "Look at this one," he said, handing me his phone with a look of awe on his face.
I stared at him for a minute longer before turning my attention to the small image in front of me. It was taken this afternoon, just before Lizzie blew her candles out. My mom had coaxed us together for a group picture behind the kitchen table, and I had just walked up to Bella, who was holding our daughter as she reached for her cake. I knew my parents and Charlie had all been snapping pictures, but Emmett was standing off to the side and he caught Bella and Lizzie's faces just as they turned to look my way.
As I studied their expressions I realized why Emmett wanted me to see it. My girls were both looking at me like I was the most important person in the world, their faces full of complete and utter devotion. I was blinking back tears as I looked at my brother, and he was making no effort to hide the emotion on his face. He had a wide smile as he nodded at me eagerly, "Do you see it? Jas, it's the look!"
I nodded at him, still in shock. Bella really did love me, for me. Not for what I had done or the void I filled, but for what she saw in me, myself. I looked through the doorway to the kitchen and she glanced up at the same time, somehow knowing I was watching her. Her smile was free and genuine, and came much more easily now. I'm sure I must have looked strange as I tried to return her smile, but I was up and moving the next instance, needing to be by her side.
"Jasper, what is it? Is something wrong?" she asked, putting her hand on my arm in concern. It was a security move for her, whenever she was unsure or upset, her hand went instantly to my bicep. She confessed one time that it reminded her of my strength.
I knew this was it, this was the moment I had been waiting for. The house was still a mess, we were both exhausted, and our families were scattered around. But none of that mattered because she was here, I was here, and we were going to be here, together, from now on. Reaching in my pocket before I could change my mind, I dropped to one knee and took her small, beautiful hand in mine.
She gasped and her eyes widened and filled with tears as she covered her mouth with her free hand. I could still see the love and joy shining out as she looked down at me. "Bella, I love you with all my heart and all my soul. I love our daughter, and I love our life together. I will continue to love you for the rest of time, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
She was nodding frantically and finally pulled her hand away to reveal a breathtaking smile. "Yes, Jasper, yes!" she cried as she launched herself into my arms. I held her to me tightly as she cried, tears of joy this time, and managed to work the ring onto her finger. She sat in my lap and held her hand out as we admired it together, but I began to worry when her tears didn't slow.
"Bells? Are you ok, Sugar?" She tucked her head into my neck and nodded as I continued to rub her back. It took her several tries before she cleared her throat and began to speak.
"Yes, Jasper, everything is perfect. I honestly could not be happier than I am in this moment. I had been worried before, but you just turned my worries into joy and I hope what I have to say will make you happy as well." She looked at me with her wide brown eyes, and suddenly I was the one who was worried.
"What is it? What do you need to tell me?" She wasn't going to change her mind was she? Did she want a long engagement? Was she worried about the reaction we would get? What-
"Jasper, I'm pregnant."
~Out of the Ashes~
Edward Jacob Cullen, or EJ, as he was called, was born on a stormy Tuesday afternoon to his extremely excited parents. His wild bronze hair was a shock to everyone, but it could not be seen as anything other than a blessing from their loved one in heaven. Apart from his hair, he was the spitting image of his father, with his mother's sweet personality. His blue eyes danced with mischief and he charmed everyone he met, but he always held a special place in his grandmother's heart.
His younger sister, Mary Alice, was born a few years later just a month after Rose and Emmett's twin daughters. Rosalie swore she was finished after that, and even Emmett's puppy dog eyes wouldn't coax another baby out of her. They moved back to Forks when he retired, and he took a job coaching his old football team at Forks High.
Rose worked at the garage with Jake and Jasper when she wasn't busy with the kids, and Esme ran Nana's daycare while Bella, Elizabeth, Emmett, and Emmett's boys were at school. Having her mother as her kindergarten teacher was the only way Lizzie would agree to start school. So Bella began teaching again for the first time since losing Edward, and she finally remembered why she had loved her job so much.
It took years of heartache and slow readjustment, but the Cullens proved they were strong and not even death could pull them apart.
Carlisle looked at his family filling the pews around him. Such a large family that he and Esme were once told they would never have. They had lost so much when they lost Edward, but Bella and Jasper had found new life and love together, bringing their family closer in the process. He squeezed Bella's hand as they looked to the back of the church.
Lizzie was holding back tears as she held her father's arm. They were tears of joy, as well as sadness. Jasper waited for their cue to begin the walk down the aisle, and as one of Edward's former students began to play her lullaby, the tears spilled over from father and daughter alike. Looking up, the bride caught her groom's eye, and Will Black stood even taller if that was possible. Across the aisle, Jake and Leah wore matching teary smiles as they watched a lifetime of dreams come to fruition.
Elizabeth paused by her mother to hand her a rose, and Carlisle caught sight of a picture hanging from the ribbon around her bouquet. Edward's face smiled back at him, and it was Carlisle's turn to weep. Esme's hand on his shoulder and Charlie patting his back brought him back to the present as Jasper spoke the words that handed their granddaughter to another man.
A few minutes and a few vows further united two families as Elizabeth Renee Cullen and William Edward Black were joined in marriage. The reception was a lighthearted celebration, but before Lizzie threw her bouquet, she slipped the picture of Edward from its ribbon. Walking to her grandfather, she pressed the small frame into his hand and whispered, "He's here too, Papaw. We haven't forgotten."
Looking from the picture of his eternally youthful son, to the laughing faces of those surrounding him, Carlisle was reminded of a Bible verse his father quoted when he was a boy.
"...he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair..." -Isaiah 61:3