That said, this story comes with a huge tissue warning! (character death & cancer warning)
I do not own Twilight.
See you at the bottom for another A/N. I’m going to leave you to these boys now.
I sat with my pen poised over my notebook – I had always hated writing on the computer. I glanced at the picture on my desk and traced the smiling face with my finger. I do this for you, love. I miss you.
With a sigh, I thought back to when this whole mess started.
I put my hand on Jasper’s shoulder as he sat doubled over on the couch, his fist pressed just below his sternum and a look of pain on his face. He shook his head. “Nothing, darlin’. Just indigestion or something…heartburn. It’ll pass in a minute.”
He put the cigarette he’d been holding in his other hand in the ashtray before sitting up and leaning back against the couch, his fist still held against his stomach. I settled down next to him, taking his free hand in mine as I ran the other through his hair. He’d been having heartburn issues for a few weeks now, and I was getting worried. He played it off, though, saying it was just stress from work. He hated doctors, but I had been after him to get checked out, especially after Alice had made a comment the other day about Jasper losing weight. It had been so gradual; I hadn’t noticed it until it was pointed out to me, but then I suppose it’s one of those things that’s more noticeable to someone you don’t see on a daily basis.
“Jasper, please call the doctor tomorrow? For me? I’m worried about you, love. Even if it is only heartburn, they should be able to give you something to make it better. I don’t like seeing you in pain like this, sweetheart.”
He took a deep breath, closing his eyes briefly before finding mine and nodding his ascent. “Alright, I’ll call and make an appointment first thing in the morning.”
I paused, my hands trembling slightly as I fought to keep my emotions in check. Glancing up at his picture again, I breathed out, “Would it have made a difference if you’d gone sooner, love?” It was a question I had asked myself many times – and one I would never know the answer to.
I picked up the frame, holding it in front of me with both hands as I looked at him. He looked so happy, so alive. His smile was wide, and it was reflected in his sky blue eyes as they looked right at the camera – at me. I could just make out the two booths in the background, some stuffed animals, and a couple of balloons. We had been at the local fair, just having fun and kicking back, enjoying a rare day off together. Tracing his face gently, I whispered, “Where did the time go? It feels like that was just yesterday, and yet…” In truth, the picture was taken three years prior. When life was still simple, happy. Complete.
Putting the frame back in its place, I wiped the stray tears from my face before picking up my pen again so I could keep my promise to him.
Jasper walked into the kitchen where I was cooking dinner. He was rubbing his chest again, but stopped once he was behind me and hugged me tight, kissing me right below the ear. I smiled, patting his hands as I turned my face to kiss him lightly on the lips.
“How did it go? Did he figure out what’s going on?”
He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair as he leaned against the counter. “Doc thinks I’ve managed to get an ulcer…”
I put the spatula down and turned to him. “What? How?”
He gave a wry smirk as he pulled out his packet of cigarettes and waved them in front of me with a roll of his eyes. “Apparently these things are bad for you.” He handed the packet to me with a sigh. “You were right, as usual, darlin’. I wanted to give them to you so you’d know: I quit. As of today, cold turkey. Doc says I have to do that, and change my diet…or, rather, make sure I eat regularly. Though I’m not sure how I’ll manage that with work. He gave some meds to try, too, so we’ll see.”
Glancing at the cigarettes in my hand, I wondered if this ulcer might be a good thing if it meant he was finally quitting the disgusting things. I’d been trying to get him to for years but never managed it. He watched me dump them in the trash, and together we rounded up every ashtray, packet of cigarettes, and lighter we could find before tossing them away or putting them somewhere out of sight. Once we were done, I hugged him tight. “Thank you. You need to take better care of yourself, baby. I love you so much.”
He grinned. “I love you, too, Edward. Always and forever.”
I looked up at Mom as I felt her hand squeeze my shoulder. She smiled sadly at me as she put her other hand on my cheek, her thumb brushing away the tears that just didn’t seem to want to stop; I wasn’t even really trying to keep them at bay anymore. Her voice was soft, but I could hear the emotions she was trying to hide. “How are you holding up, sweetheart?”
“I’m not, Mom. I know I promised, but I don’t know that I can do this. I miss him so much.”
She put her arms around me, kissing the top of my head as I wrapped my arms tightly around her, my forehead resting against her stomach. I muttered, “Forever didn’t last long enough.”
Rubbing my back and arms, she sighed, “I know, sweetheart, I know…”
We stood like that for a while, only breaking apart when Alice knocked on the door with an apologetic look. “Sorry, Edward, but your lawyer’s here to see you. She’s waiting in the living room.”
I nodded, and Esme let me go with a tender caress to my cheek. She left my room, and I looked around, once again wondering just how I had ended up back in my old bedroom, living with my parents, when only a few short months ago, I had lived in my own home with Jasper. It was a home that now sat abandoned and empty, save for all the memories we made there. I leaned down to scratch my ankle, only to be blocked by the tracking device that surrounded it. It was annoying, on so many levels, but wearing it and being at my parents’ place beat being in jail. With a sigh, I got up and endured a long meeting with Tanya, our family lawyer.
It was hours later – well after dinnertime – before I found myself back at my desk. I was exhausted, and I didn’t want to write anymore, but I picked up my pen anyway and continued to write.
“Jasper, you need to go talk to him again, please!”
He shook his head stubbornly even as he grimaced in pain, his fist rubbing just below his sternum again. It had been weeks, and – in spite of his quitting smoking, eating better, and taking the medication the doctor had given him for the ulcer – he just kept getting worse. He’d continued to lose weight – not much, but enough to have me concerned – and he was starting to have issues going to the bathroom. I’d woken up a couple of times now only to hear him moaning in pain, and it scared me.
“Jasper, for God’s sake, call him! This isn’t right.”
He shook his head again and opened his mouth to speak, but a knock on the door stopped him. He frowned, giving me a puzzled look as I went to open the door.
“Emmett! Thank God, maybe you can talk some sense into him, since he won’t listen to me.”
Emmett hugged me briefly before striding over to Jasper. His eyes took Jasper in from head to toe, scrutinizing every detail. I had walked over to stand behind Jasper as he remained seated on the couch – another sign that he was in more pain than he was letting on. Under normal circumstances, he would have gotten up to greet his best friend and business partner.
“Emmett, what the hell are you doing here?”
Jasper shot me a warning look, but I held my hands up and said, “I didn’t know who else you’d listen to, but you need to listen to someone, Jazz.”
He opened his mouth to retort, but Emmett cut across him as he grabbed the phone from the side table and held it out to Jasper. “Don’t you dare give Edward a hard time, Whitlock! He loves you, and he’s worried about you. Frankly, so am I. I go away for a few weeks, only to come back and find your scrawny ass on the couch. I can see you’re in pain, man. Now call the damn doctor and make an appointment, or I will!”
Jasper glared at each of us in turn before grabbing the phone with a huff and arranging an appointment for the next day to get checked out. After he hung up, he tossed the phone on the other side of the couch and grumbled, “There, happy now?”
I murmured, “Thanks, love,” and kissed the crown of his head.
Emmett just grinned and flopped down on the loveseat, kicking up his legs so that he was sprawled sideways, and grabbed the remote. “Now that that’s settled, where’s my damn beer? We gonna watch the game tonight, or what?”
Both Jasper and I laughed, and I went to grab us all a beer.
I let out a huge yawn, rubbing my eyes in a vain attempt to stay alert. I glanced at the clock and, realizing it was after midnight, I smiled ruefully at Jasper’s picture. “I’m sorry, love; no more tonight. I have court tomorrow, but I will write again when I get home. I…I wish you were here, Jazz. I miss you so much, it hurts.”
The next day, we all went to court – Mom, Dad, Alice, and Emmett were all going with me for support. When we got to the courthouse, Jasper’s parents were already waiting. Helen stepped up to me and held me tight for a moment, crying quietly as she whispered in my ear, “I’m so sorry you’re being put through this, Edward. Please know that this isn’t coming from us. We know what Jasper wanted, and though we miss our son, we know this was for the best. We both love you, too, Edward. Never forget that.”
With that, she kissed my cheek and let me go, only to fall into her husband’s arms as he quietly rocked her back and forth for a few moments. He turned to me with a sad smile, holding out his hand to me. “Thank you, Edward, for loving Jasper. You’re a good man.”
I could do nothing but nod as I shook his hand, having to swallow back my own tears at hearing their words. This was the first time we had been able to talk since Jasper’s passing – the time I had been allowed to leave the house for the funeral just hadn’t lent itself to talking to anyone.
I was vaguely aware of Mom and Dad talking to Helen and JR, but I couldn’t focus on anything then. Alice slipped her arm through mine, resting her head on my shoulder. She didn’t say anything, though; she didn’t need to. I turned my face slightly and kissed her forehead, murmuring, “Thanks, Sis.”
She smiled softly at me and nodded. Tanya walked up to us, saying it was time to get inside. As we took our seats – Tanya and I at the defendant’s table, while the family sat behind us – Tanya again briefly went over what to expect. The prosecutor kept glancing our way, but I did my best to ignore him. He was a hard ass with a chip on his shoulder, and he seemed to want to try and make an example of me. I didn’t care if he succeeded because, either way, I had already lost what was most dear to me. That was, after all, the whole reason we were here.
The prosecutor called witness after witness – cancer experts stating that Jasper’s case could possibly have been cured, that his life could have been prolonged. They told me nothing that Jasper and I hadn’t already looked into – none of it had mattered in the end, because it all held the same result. I tuned most of it out – not because I tried, but because my memories wouldn’t leave me alone.
We both stared at the doctor in shock. He had to be wrong. He had done some tests after Jasper had gone to see him last time, since the medication hadn’t worked and he was getting worse instead of better. Neither of us had thought much of it, but when the office had called saying the doctor wanted to meet with Jasper, he had begged me to come along. Something just hadn’t felt right.
Jasper grabbed my hand, holding it so tight it hurt, but I couldn’t find it in me to care.
“Are you sure, Doc?” he rasped out.
Doctor Haagen nodded solemnly, tenting his fingers while he rested his elbows on his knees. He was sitting in the chair next to Jasper, which told me that this was just as serious as I feared. He gave a soft sigh and looked at us both in turn. “Jasper, there is no doubt. The only questions are, how far has it gone, and what treatment options do you have? And for that, we need to do more testing. I’m referring you to a specialist, and Renee will schedule a time with you for those tests. We need to do this quickly; the sooner we find out, the better your chances are.”
Tanya placed her hand over mine, drawing my attention back to the present. She gave me a gentle squeeze, and I mouthed, “Sorry.” She smiled softly and nodded, slowly blinking as if to say, “It’s okay.”
The day proceeded in much the same way. Details would be brought up, expert opinions were given. Both the prosecutor and Tanya fired off question after question. In the end, I felt dizzy, and I just wanted to go home. I didn’t need to hear all the symptoms, the steady progression of the cancer, the deterioration of Jasper’s health. At one point, they had even tried to make it seem as if Jasper hadn’t been capable of making any decision regarding his health anymore, trying to make it look as if I had coerced him. I wanted to laugh – laugh and cry, all at once, because it hadn’t been me trying to convince him to die; it had been the other way around.
Jasper sat back in his chair, which creaked as his weight shifted. He pulled at his hair in frustration and growled. I walked up to him, placing a cup of tea next to his keyboard before slipping my arms around his neck, murmuring, “Take a break, love. You’ve been at this for hours now.”
He put one hand on the back of my neck, his fingers playing idly with the hairs on my nape as he sighed. “I know, baby. I just can’t…I have to try…there has to be something I can do to…”
I hugged him tighter to me, closing my eyes as his voice broke. My own voice was in danger of doing the same as I said, “I know, Jazz. We’ve both looked at every website, read every article we could lay our hands on, called every cancer center, every doctor. They all say the same. I wish…I…”
The tears came then, for both of us, and Jasper turned his chair slightly, pulling me onto his lap so that I straddled him. He wrapped his arms around my waist, burying his face in my neck as we just held each other close. Our emotions had been running high ever since his diagnosis had been confirmed.
Pancreatic cancer – stage IV.
The doctor had explained that it had already progressed to his liver and the tissue in his abdomen. He had said that his chances of survival were slim to none. “Six months to a year…and that’s being optimistic,” had been his exact words.
“I love you, Edward. Never forget that. Please.”
I hugged him tighter, forcing my voice to work, though it was barely a whisper. “I love you, too, Jazz. I’m scared, baby.”
He sighed, his breath fanning my neck. “I know, sweetheart. I am, too.”
We sat wrapped up in each other for a long time before either of us spoke again.
“Edward…I…I need you to promise me something.”
He pulled away so he could look at me, and I saw different emotions warring in his eyes – fear, love, determination. I frowned, running my fingers through his hair in an effort to comfort him. “What is it, Jazz?”
He closed his eyes briefly, and the way he clenched his jaw and tightened his hold on me told me that what he was about to say was not going to be good. He was steeling himself to say it, and for me to hear it. I felt my heart beat faster in trepidation – surely things couldn’t get worse than they already were?
He opened his eyes, looking straight into mine as he said, “I don’t want to prolong my life, Edward. I don’t want to have to live with the pain to a point where it’s just not living anymore. Medicine can only do so much, and…” He gulped, his voice lowering as he added, “I want to be able to leave this world my way. Without too much pain, and with dignity. Not tied to all sorts of tubes or being in so much pain I won’t know myself anymore.”
I shook my head, not believing what I was hearing. Why was he talking about dying – his way – when he should be fighting this? I vaguely heard a chanting, and it took me a few seconds to realize that it was me, saying “no” over and over again. I tried to scramble out of his lap, but he held on to me too tightly for me to move.
His eyes implored me. “Edward, please, please listen to me, baby. I’ve seen what this cancer can do to a person. I’ve had to watch my uncle wither away in front of my eyes – witnessed the agony he was in, day in and day out. I can’t do that. I don’t want you to have to live through that. It’s too much, sweetheart. There is no dignity in that kind of death. Please understand…”
Tanya handed me a Kleenex, nudging my arm slightly to get me to take it. It was only then that I realized that I had tears streaming down my face. The judge ordered a break, stating we would reconvene in the morning. I got up slowly, only to find myself being hugged from all sides as my family surrounded me. I kept hearing someone say, “I’m sorry, so sorry,” but couldn’t discern whose voice it was – I felt like I was in a fog that I had trouble getting out of. I wasn’t even sure who I held in my arms, just that the body was shaking with suppressed sobs, like mine was. I just hurt so much, missed him so much.
Finally, Tanya patted me lightly on the shoulder and said that she would see me in the morning before court. She told me to try and get some rest, since it was likely that I would need to take the stand. I just nodded. Dad started shepherding us all out to the car that was already waiting outside, and this time we had to make our way past several people from the press. Being that I was Carlisle’s son meant the fact that I was being charged with murder was a big deal. He was very well-known in the community, as was Esme. It had been enough of a scandal when I had come out, and then again when Jasper and I had gotten married – even if it couldn’t be done legally, we had still held a ceremony of commitment with our friends and family present.
We gave no comment, though – all statements that we were going to make for the time being had already been issued. We would wait for the final verdict before giving the press more. When we finally made it home, I went to the couch and sat down, pulling a cushion into my lap, hugging it close to me as I buried my face in it in an attempt to hide the tears. It felt like my heart was breaking – again. Alice snuggled up next to me, wrapping her arms around me as she rested her head on my shoulder. Her presence soothed me, like it usually did. Ordinarily she was always buzzing with energy, chattering away about whatever subject had gotten her attention – but in times like this, she had a quiet strength – one that I had come to rely on, and that I appreciated very much. She had been there for Jasper and me from day one, and she had been my number one supporter when I came out all those years ago. I loved her for that, and for all the other things that just made her Alice.
After a while, Mom walked into the living room with a tray of sandwiches, followed closely by Dad, who had a tray of cups, a sugar bowl, a milk jug, and a pot of tea. They put everything down on the coffee table in front of me and took seats close to me. None of us spoke as we ate, each of us digesting the day, as well as the food.
Once we were all done, I kissed Alice’s forehead and excused myself. I had a promise to keep. Mom got up to give me a hug, and Dad put his hand on my arm. They all knew how hard this was for me, and I knew that they would be there if I needed them; it wasn’t something that needed to be said anymore.
I took off my suit jacket, hanging it back on its hanger before sitting down behind my desk for the first time that day. I traced Jasper’s smile, wishing I could hold him close just one more time. “I love you, Jasper.”
I picked up my pen and began to write.
Jasper’s arms slid around me as I sat hunched behind my computer, desperate to find something, anything that might work – some miracle to cure him. I didn’t want to face the fact he was going to die – and I especially didn’t want to have him take his own life. I wanted him here, with me. Always. Forever, like we had promised each other all those years ago. It could not just be over. I wouldn’t accept that we were nearing the end. I couldn’t.
He rested his chin on my shoulder, kissing my neck lightly. “Darlin’, please come to church with me?”
I snorted in disgust, shaking my head. Jasper had gone back to church after his diagnosis – he had stopped going after he came out – and he had had long talks with the pastor at his family’s church. His mother had been thrilled to see him return, as was his dad. Years ago, I had gone, too – but, like Jasper, I had quit church after coming out. I had felt at the time that church had quit me, and I still felt that way. I felt that God had quit on me – on us. I had refused to go with Jasper, saying that if God existed, then why was he allowing this to happen? Jasper kept trying every week, though.
He gave a heavy sigh. “Please, baby? You have to stop this. We’ve looked into everything; we both know what is going to happen. The pain meds the doc’s got me on are barely keeping me going as it is, and it’s only going to get worse. Come with me; it might give you some peace, too.”
I turned in my seat, shaking my head stubbornly. “No…I can’t. I’m sorry….I just…I can’t.”
Of all the things he had ever asked of me, that was the one thing I couldn’t do for him. It was the one thing, because I was beginning to realize – albeit reluctantly – that he was right. There was only one way this was going to end for him. The choice lay in how he was going to get there.
I tilted my head up, my eyes focused on the ceiling as I tried to keep from crying. He didn’t need to see my tears again. I took a shaky breath before lowering my eyes to meet his, cupping his face in both hands and kissing him tenderly.
“You go, Jazz. If it brings you some peace, you go. I just… I can’t, I’m sorry.”
He kissed me again, whispered “I love you,” and went to church. I spent the few hours he was gone on the computer, looking up information about hospice care, assisted suicide, and whatever else I could think of that might be of use to us.
I put my pen down with a sigh and stretched out. As I did, my eye fell on the calendar – the one I had been studiously ignoring for the past few weeks. When I saw the date, I froze. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think – hell, I think even my heart stopped beating for a moment.
There was a strange, strangled kind of sound coming from somewhere – I couldn’t figure out from where, or what it was; my brain refused to work right as I sat staring at that stupid calendar. I was vaguely aware of my body trembling, of tears running down my cheeks as my vision blurred, but nothing else seemed to want to penetrate. It wasn’t until I felt arms around my shoulders and a body holding me close – it was soft and smelled of lavender and vanilla; it wasn’t him – that I realized the strangled sounds came from me, and that I was crying again. I clung to Mom as she made soft shushing noises, stroking my hair in an attempt to calm me down.
She crooned softly, “I know, baby, I know…shhh.”
I held tight, taking in deep, shuddering breaths as I tried to get a hold of myself. I had forgotten – or, more accurately, I had pushed it far from my mind – that today would have been our twelfth anniversary.
“I can’t do this…I can’t. He left me…why did he have to leave me alone? I miss him so much, Mom. It hurts…so much.”
“Edward, honey, I know how hard this is for you, and I’m so sorry. If there were any way for me to take this pain away from you, to give you Jasper back, alive and healthy – I would do it in a heartbeat, sweetie. You know I would. And if Jasper had the choice, a real choice, you know he would never have left you behind. He loved you with everything that he was.”
I pulled away, sitting up straight in my chair as I looked at the picture of Jasper on my desk, my fingers tracing his beautiful face as I nodded. “I know he did, Mom. I do. I just…” I wiped my tears away angrily as I turned to her. “This was supposed to be a time to celebrate. We were supposed to go on vacation, travel through Europe together. We’d planned it, saved for it, looked forward to it. And now…now…”
She smiled sadly at me, her own feelings of loss and grief shining brightly in her eyes as she brushed my cheek with the back of her fingers. “Sweetheart, I know.” She stood up and held her hand out to me. “Come with me? There’s something you need to see.”
I shook my head with a sigh, feeling drained and aching all over – both mentally and physically. “No thanks, Mom. I’m not really in the mood…”
“Edward, come with me, please.” Her tone brooked no argument that time, so I got up and followed her to the living room, where Carlisle and Alice were waiting. The TV was on the DVD channel, but the screen was blue, and I briefly wondered what was going on before Mom pulled me down to sit in between her and Alice. She nodded to Dad, who hit play.
I gasped when I saw the image of Jasper appear on the screen, my hand going to my mouth even as my eyes welled up again. My beautiful husband was smiling at the camera – at me. I could see the pain etched in the corners of his eyes, and how it threatened to dull those bright blue irises. But he was there, smiling and looking better than I had seen him in the last few weeks of his life. I glanced at Mom, who was smiling at me as she patted my leg with one hand and pointed at the screen with the other.
He grinned his crooked grin – the one that always made me a little weak at the knees when he unleashed it – and gave a silly wave. “Hey, darlin’. If you’re watching this, it means that I’m not there to celebrate our anniversary with you, and for that, I am truly sorry. It also means that Esme, Carlisle, and Alice are sitting there with you, watching this.” He nodded his head slightly – eerily doing so at each of them in turn, as if he were there with them rather than on a recording made in our own home.
“I know that they’ll be there for you when I no longer can be, but I wanted you to be able to hear it from me one last time. I love you, Edward Anthony Cullen, with all my heart. Always and forever. I just wish forever could have lasted us a little longer.”
I whispered, “I do, too. I love you, Jasper.”
Esme squeezed my leg gently, while Alice snuggled closer to me and, as usual, rested her head on my shoulder. I wrapped my arm around her as I laid my head on top of hers. We watched together as Jasper talked about some of the things we had shared in the past and his gratitude for everything we had. After a while, Carlisle left the room, shortly followed by Alice and Esme, who each gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek before leaving.
It seemed oddly timed, because while they were leaving, Jasper had gone quiet and was smiling patiently. He spoke up again almost the instant the door had closed behind them.
“Edward, I can’t even begin to tell you how sorry I am for everything. I love you so much, baby, and I’m so fucking proud of you and so grateful to you for doing all of this. I know how hard it was for you to come to terms with things, and to grant me my wish.”
He paused a moment, sighing deeply as he reached toward the camera as if to touch me – I found myself on my knees in front of the TV, my hand reaching out to his as silent tears ran down my face. I couldn’t seem to stop them, and I didn’t see the point in even trying. The grief I felt was still too raw.
“I know there’s a good chance that you’ll face charges for helping me die, baby. And I know we talked about the risk, and that we both decided to do it this way…but still. Thank you. You always were much stronger than people gave you credit for, and you’re going to need your strength for this, sweetheart. I only wish I were there to help you through it, but then, if I were, you wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with, now would you?”
He chuckled nervously and ran his fingers through his hair – my own fingers ached to be able to do that for him. Instead, my hand clenched into a fist as it pressed over my heart. How could it feel so good and hurt so bad to see him, all at the same time?
“I’m so sorry you’re having to go through all of this, Edward. And I’m sorry that I ended up missing our anniversary. We had so many plans, didn’t we? We were going to go visit London first, visit the British Museum to see the Egyptian exhibit, and you’d finally get to see the real Rosetta Stone.”
He smiled tenderly at me, and I couldn’t help but smile back as I thought about all the plans we had made. He talked about going to visit Stonehenge and several other points of interest before taking the ferry to Calais – neither of us were interested in the train, preferring the more leisurely way of traveling that the ferry afforded. From there, we were going to go to Paris, to visit the Louvre and several other museums. Next, we were supposed to go to Germany and visit several places that held interest for Jasper, who had always been captivated by World War II.
Our journey would have lasted us almost two months, ending in Venice, Italy. We both had already gotten our leaves of absence approved, and we had been saving up for the past three years so that we could make the most of this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Once in a lifetime…that he never got the chance to do.
That thought felt like a slap in the face, and I scrambled back from the TV, searching for the remote, unable to stand this any longer. It was Jasper’s voice calling my name that stopped me in my tracks and made me turn back to the screen. He knew me too well after all the years we had been together. When I looked back at the TV, it was to see Jasper on his knees, the camera angle changed to keep him in focus.
“Edward…please listen to me, baby. Please don’t forget about our plans. I want you to go on our trip after this is all behind you. Go; see all the places we were going to see together. Make memories for both of us, sweetheart. I wish with all my heart we could have gone together like we planned, but I’ll still be with you, darlin’. Every step of the way, I’ll be there. I’ll always be there. I love you.”
I just stared at him, my mouth open in shock. How could he expect me to do that? To go and see all those things without him? I shook my head. “No…you can’t be serious…I couldn’t…not without you…”
Jasper sighed, his fingers tangling in his hair again as he appeared to be watching me with a sad smile. “I know what you’re thinking, baby. You can, and you will. And you don’t have to go alone. Alice has agreed to go with you if you want company. You need to do this, Edward – for both of us, but most of all, for yourself. You have to remember to live, to enjoy life while it’s yours to live it. Don’t waste your time by hiding away for too long. I know you. You’ll try to go it all alone once all this is over, and you’ll end up miserable. Let your family and our friends be there for you, Edward. Promise me.”
I nodded, whispering, “I promise, Jasper.”
He smiled, as if he knew that he had gotten what he wanted – my word that I wouldn’t push people away, though that was exactly what I felt like doing half the time. I wanted to be alone, to grieve. He was right, though. If anything, his passing should have made it clear just how short life can be. We were both still young – in our early thirties – and were supposed to have the world at our feet.
I frowned when I saw movement to the side as someone handed Jasper his acoustic guitar. He held it close to him for a moment, smiling softly as he closed his eyes briefly before looking right at me again.
“I heard this song a few weeks ago, and it made me think of you, darlin’. I wanted to give this one last gift to you. Listen to the lyrics, and remember: always and forever, baby.”
He began to strum the guitar, and while he did, I sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the TV. I heard the door to the living room open and quiet shuffling as Alice settled down next to me. She wrapped her arms around me again as I slipped mine around her waist, her head on my shoulder as we watched and listened in silence. The only sounds in the house were that of Jasper’s voice and his guitar.
“I will not take my love away
When praises cease and seasons change
while the whole world turns the other way
I will not take my love away
I will not leave you all alone”
By the end of the song, Mom and Dad had come back into the room and sat down on the couch together, mimicking the position of Alice and me. Jasper let the final chords play out and then looked up at me. He smiled softly, and with one final, “I love you,” he nodded again toward the others before the screen went blue.
Mom got up and came over to us, kneeling beside me and hugging me tight. I put an arm around her neck, holding her close. I felt Dad come up behind us, getting to his knees so he could embrace us all, and we just sat there, holding on to one another. After a few minutes, I cleared my throat and wiped the tears from my face as I tried to get my emotions somewhat under control. I sniffled a few times, giving them a watery smile as I croaked, “Thanks. For everything. I love you all so much.”
Alice smiled at me, and I noticed for the first time that she had been crying, too. I turned around completely and hugged her tight as she whispered, “I love you, too, Edward.” Both Mom and Dad echoed her sentiment, making me smile. When I finally pulled away from Alice, she took my hand in hers and looked at me with a serious expression in her eyes.
“Edward, I made a promise to Jasper. I think you can guess what it is, but I wanted you to know. I know I’m not him, and I could never replace your husband for this trip, but he asked me to go with you, should you want any company. I told him I would be honored to do it. I know how much this trip meant to both of you, and I know that he wants you to go. He made me promise that no matter what, whether I go with you or not, that I would make sure you went. He wants you to try and enjoy it, see the sights for him, even if you can’t see them with him.”
I nodded, unable to speak. I turned to Mom when I felt her run her fingers through my hair. She smiled softly at me before planting a soft kiss on my forehead, just like she used to do when I was a child and I was upset. It would always make me feel better, and I smiled when I realized that it still had that effect.
I stifled a yawn, shaking my head as I apologized. Dad put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a half-smile as he said, “Son, you should try and get some sleep. You’ve had a very long, very trying day, and you’re facing another one tomorrow. You need to rest.”
With a sigh, I nodded and got to my feet. “You’re right, Dad. I’ll see you in the morning, I guess.”
When I got to my room after saying goodnight to everyone, I walked to my closet and pulled out one of Jasper’s favorite shirts and his pajama pants. I needed to feel him, be closer to him – somehow. Once I’d changed, I slipped under my covers and grabbed his pillow, hugging it close to me – it no longer held his smell, but it was his, and that was all that mattered. I stared at the picture of us on my nightstand – we were sitting on the beach, each having an arm around the other as we leaned close, watching the sun set – until I fell asleep. I dreamed of him that night.
The next morning when I woke up, it took me a while to remember where I was. The dream I had been having had felt so real; I wanted it so badly that it hurt to realize that Jasper was not there with me, that I was at Mom and Dad’s house instead of in our own bed. I hugged Jasper’s pillow tight for a moment before getting up with a heavy sigh, resigned to the fact that I was alone. I felt cold – both inside and out – as I got ready to face another day in court. Everyone was quiet over breakfast.
As we walked to the car, Dad pulled me to his side and put his arm around my shoulders. I shot him a grateful look as I put my arm around his waist and whispered a quiet, “Thanks, Dad.” He just squeezed my shoulder, smiling sadly at me as he nodded. The drive to the courthouse was made in silence, each of us lost in our own thoughts. I kept staring out of the window, worrying about what was likely waiting for me at some point today. I didn’t want to take the stand, but Tanya and I had agreed that I should, if it looked like they needed to hear what happened from me. She had promised to try and get through it without that happening, but I trusted her judgment.
We once again avoided any press and made our way directly into the courtroom where Tanya was already waiting. She smiled at me, patting my arm as I sat down, giving me a quiet reassurance that we would get through this. She said that she had received a copy earlier that morning of the DVD Jasper had left me, with a note in his handwriting directing her to use it only if necessary, but to do so over calling me as witness. I swallowed hard a few times, trying to keep my emotions in check as I nodded my understanding.
Everyone was there again, seated behind me as they had been the day before. I looked around and noticed a few faces I didn’t recognize immediately, as well as a few people I hadn’t expected to see.
The judge ordered the court in session, and this time, Tanya was the one calling witnesses. She called on several people: both the doctors we had used, as well as nursing staff; people Jasper had worked with – including Emmett, who made it quite clear how he felt about all of these proceedings. The most important witness – according to Tanya, at least – was Pastor Garrett, the minister of the church Jasper’s family went to, and the one Jasper had talked to about everything. I had only seen the man once, and that was at Jasper’s funeral – but I had never talked to him. Since I hadn’t gone to church with Jasper, and I had flat out refused to talk to him at the funeral, there had been no contact between us. Tanya had explained that it was because of this that his statements were so valuable.
She asked him to tell the court about Jasper – how he knew him, what his relationship to Jasper was. Did he know about Jasper’s illness, about his wishes with regard to that? Had he any relationship with the defendant? Garrett quietly explained everything, answered every question posed to him, both by Tanya and by the prosecutor. To hear him speak of Jasper was difficult, but it also showed me something I hadn’t been willing to see before. Jasper had – despite his many colorful conversations with God that I had overheard when he thought I was asleep – found peace in everything. In the end, he had accepted his fate. He had asked for and given forgiveness for any wrongdoings he had done, or that had been done to him – including those who had wronged us both for being what we were, which was something I hadn’t been able to do, myself.
Garrett spoke with respect and awe about my husband, and for that I wanted to thank him. I hoped I would get the chance.
After a short recess – during which Tanya said that she felt it would be best to show the court the message Jasper had left for me, and finally got me to agree to it – a DVD player and a TV were brought into the room. You could almost feel the tension in the air, almost hear every heart beat, every gasp for breath as Jasper’s face appeared on the screen. My entire being was focused completely on the screen, and though I had seen and heard all of it just last night, I couldn’t control my reactions to it. Tanya had to grab my hand to keep me in my seat, to keep me quiet when all I wanted was to cry, scream, argue with him and beg him to please just return to me – even though that was impossible.
I didn’t hear what was said after the short video stopped, didn’t see everyone get up and leave. It took Emmett and Dad lifting me up and supporting me to get me to even move and walk to a room set aside for us to wait while the decision for my life was made.
I sat by the window, just staring outside, unable to really take in anything or anyone as my mind went back to the last day Jasper and I had had together.
We sat on the porch swing and watched the lowering sun set the sky ablaze. I held Jasper in my arms as he leaned against me, his head lying on my shoulder while mine rested on top of his. He had said goodbye to the family and to our friends already. Today had just been for us – one last day together before he would leave me, leave this world, forever. It had been something we had discussed at length; how he wanted to go, what he wanted to do when those final moments came. Part of me was glad that the day was here. He had deteriorated quickly, his pain increased to the point where the morphine didn’t always seem to work anymore, and he had lost even more weight – something that was easy to see now. He looked gaunt, tired, and haunted most of the time.
Though it had been his wish to leave this world, he had held on longer than I knew he initially had wanted to, for my sake. He had been allowing me time to come to terms with things, which was something I was much slower to do than he was – it was selfish of me, and I hated myself for it. I was afraid to let him go; I needed him too much – but in the end, I couldn’t keep him, and I had begun to say goodbye.
Tonight, though, he looked almost relaxed, a soft smile on his lips as he watched the sky change colors, from the fiery reds that streaked across it to indigo after the sun had finally set. We had upped his dosage of morphine already, and it was clear to see he was in less pain now, though not entirely free of it.
This morning, we had put the last words on paper for our journey together, as he had wanted. The rest would be up to me alone to do, and I had promised him I would. We had found out through our research that assisted suicide wasn’t legal where we lived, that it was a topic many people had opinions on, but few knew enough about. There weren’t many cases that told the story of the person who faced that choice – to suffer endlessly, or take their life – or death, as the case may be – in their own hands. He wanted our story told, to show the world both sides of this – that of the person taking their life in their hands, and that of the one left behind. We were well aware of the risk for me in all of this, and I knew that that was the one thing he had regretted most, though I had assured him that I wanted to do this for his sake. It had become important to both of us – and, in truth, a part of me kind of hoped that I might be found guilty and would suffer the consequences, allowing me to be with him again, though I made sure never to reveal this to him. If he had known, then I was certain he would never go through with it, instead suffering until the bitter end – and that was something I couldn’t live with.
We had spent the rest of the day just being together, with no interruptions from outside our own bubble, having disconnected the phones. He had wanted to talk about our past, reminisce about all the good things that had happened in our many years together. We told each other countless times that we loved each other – exchanged kisses and caresses, anything to let the other know he was loved.
We had cooked together one last time, even though he could hardly eat anymore; the familiar ritual felt good and helped us to connect with who we were. It was a simple meal, just grilled asparagus, Hasselback potatoes, and roast beef. It was simple, but it was his favorite dish, and it was his last meal, though I tried hard not to think about that.
After dinner we had gone outside to watch the night sky, and once the stars had come out, he smiled and made a wish.
“Star light, star bright, the first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.”
He closed his eyes then, and I tightened my arms around him as I kissed the top of his head, murmuring, “What did you wish for?”
He hummed softly, burrowing closer into me. “If I told you that, darlin’, then my wish wouldn’t come true, now would it?”
I rubbed his arm, smiling in spite of myself. “I suppose you’re right.”
He shifted slightly so he could take my hand, threading his fingers between mine. He gave a quiet sigh, which sounded both content and sad, all at once. He lifted his face, watching me closely for a moment as I stared back into his eyes, trying to memorize every little thing I could. I put my free hand on his cheek, my thumb brushing tenderly over his skin, making him smile.
“Thank you, Edward, for loving me enough to give me this.”
I swallowed, having to work hard to hold back that part of me that wanted to be selfish. I couldn’t speak, so I just nodded. His fingers gently traced the frown that was on my face, smoothing it out as he whispered, “I know, darlin’.”
He lifted his head and pressed his lips tenderly to mine. I sighed quietly as I closed my eyes, returning the gesture, trying to let him know just how much I did love him – always had, and always would. Forever.
He pulled away just far enough to say, “Edward?”
His eyes searched mine, and I felt like I was falling, losing myself in the sheer mess of emotions I saw in them – hope, despair, love, determination, loss, passion – and I had to wrap both my arms around him just to feel grounded.
“Make love to me? I want to feel you, one last time.”
My throat worked hard in an effort to speak, but in the end, all I could do was nod. He sat up, allowing me to get up first so I could help him stand. We hadn’t been intimate often these past few weeks because he had been in so much pain, and part of me rebelled at the idea of it now because of that. Another part welcomed it, not out of a sense of release for myself, but simply for the fact that I would get to see him, feel him, connect with him in that way one last time. It would give me one more chance to memorize how he felt, sounded, looked, as he came – as we brought each other pleasure.
Together we walked to our bedroom, and once we reached the bed, I began to undress him slowly – reverently. My fingers and lips caressed every inch of skin as it was revealed to me, Jasper’s soft moans and murmurs of content leading me on. As soon as he was naked before me, he began to remove my clothes in a similar fashion. I wanted to close my eyes and just feel, but I couldn’t. I had to see him. I had to be able to remember it all. It felt so good, every touch that lingered, every kiss that was bestowed upon my body seemed to sear into me – it was almost too much, but it would never be enough. Ever.
When he was done, I helped him onto the bed – not because I needed to, but to keep the contact between us for as long as possible. I crawled over him, kissing him soundly when I reached his lips, his hands tangling in my hair as he held me close. I would miss his lips, the way they would mold against my own, the way they were soft and strong and supple all at once; the way they would make my skin tingle in the most delicious ways; the way he could bring my body to sinful heights. I wanted to experience it all, just one more time.
His hands ran down my back, cupping my ass as he simultaneously pulled me down and bucked his hips up, causing us both to moan. Setting a slow rhythm, I began to move my hips, the friction, the heaven and hell of feeling our cocks brush together – heaven because it just felt so damn good, and hell because this would be the last time I would ever get to do so – it all set my senses on fire. Everything was augmented as it was burned into my memory. I concentrated on every sight, every sound, every feeling – and Jasper seemed to do the same.
We spent what felt like hours making love – tasting each other, touching each other, bringing each other to the brink again and again, neither of us eager for release, though my body was screaming to just let go. Release would signify the end – an end I suddenly found myself not ready to face. Ultimately, though, the end was inevitable, and we came together as one as I rocked into him again and again, each gazing into the other’s eyes, refusing to let that one moment pass us by.
As I pulled out of him, I felt the tears that had threatened finally spill over. The loss of contact hit me much harder than I ever had anticipated it would, and I ached. I grabbed a baby wipe and quickly cleaned us both off, trying to hide my crying from him, and failing, of course. He pulled me to him after I had discarded the wipe, holding me close as he crooned softly, keeping up a steady stream of “I love you” and “Thank you” as he calmed me down. It took some effort on my part, but I managed to pull myself together again. This wasn’t how I wanted his last moments to be. I had to stay strong, for him.
I wiped my tears away before peppering his face with soft kisses and whispers of love and devotion. We spent several minutes like that before I pulled away as he sighed and said, “It’s time, baby.”
I nodded quietly, my eyes automatically drawn to the one place I’d managed to avoid all night. He had laid out several doses of morphine, ready to be taken. We both got up and put pajama pants on before getting back in bed. He took the first dose – the first of the ones intended to deliver him, anyway – and settled into my arms. I held him as the morphine began to work and he got sleepy. He talked about the things he wanted for me in life, and I listened, though it was hard to hear because all his dreams were ones without him in it. I promised him that I wouldn’t do anything stupid. His drawl became more and more pronounced as he spoke, his eyes drooping as he started to get tired.
He asked for another shot, and I helped him take it, only guiding his hand as he insisted on doing it himself. I felt my heart break as I cradled him in my arms afterward, pulling his face to my chest as he murmured, “I love you, Edward.”
I kissed the crown of his head and whispered, “I love you, too, Jasper. Sleep now, my love. Sleep and be at peace.”
I felt his breathing even out and slow, his muscles relaxing as the morphine took hold of him. The tears came again, and this time I let them fall freely as Jasper slowly slipped away. I watched as his features relaxed completely for the first time in months, a small smile playing on his lips, and I couldn’t help but wonder what put that smile there. I shuddered slightly as a line from a song popped into my head: “I’m going home, to the place where I belong.” I prayed that he was, and that he finally had found peace. It was the first prayer I had said in years, and I hoped that it would be heard – for his sake.
A knock on the door startled me from my memories, and I lifted my head to see what was going on. I was surprised to find Mom standing behind me with her hands on my shoulders and Alice sitting on a chair she had pulled up next to me. She was holding on to my hand, and I hadn’t even noticed it. She gave me a wan smile, squeezing my hand lightly, letting me know it was okay. Tanya – who had stepped to the door to find out what was going on – turned to the rest of us with a look of determination and said that it was time – they had come to a decision.
Dad walked into the room right as we were getting up to leave, and Tanya filled him in quickly as we went back into the courtroom. I was having a hard time staying focused, the memories of our last night together still haunting me. Tanya helped me to my feet when I was told to stand and hear the verdict – I hadn’t heard the directive to do so. I barely was able to take in what was going on around me, my mind overloaded from all the emotion and stress I had been dealing with for so long now.
I didn’t even register the verdict coming back as “not guilty” until the cheering that erupted from behind me shocked me to my senses. Within minutes, I was surrounded by people who were hugging, kissing, and congratulating me, as well as offering their condolences. I was in a daze as I was put through the motions of getting released, having the anklet removed, and being sent on my way.
Mom, Dad, Alice, JR, Helen, and Emmett all insisted we go out to dinner to celebrate my so-called victory – the first time I had been able to go out at all since Jasper’s passing. They all appeared happy and were talking amongst themselves for the most part, while I kept to myself, just watching and listening. I wasn’t up for participating in anything, so I just let everything wash over me. The only person that took notice – or, rather, that let me know it – was Alice. She gently rubbed my back as she continued talking to Helen about something – I wasn’t paying enough attention to find out what. I smiled at Alice, though, to let her know I appreciated her giving me my space.
When we finally got home, I excused myself and went to my room. I stripped out of my suit, hanging it back up and putting my shirt in the laundry basket before slipping into another of Jasper’s shirts and pajama pants. I ran my fingers through my hair and sighed as I sank down into my chair. I picked up Jasper’s picture, tracing his face tenderly as I told him what had happened – what I remembered of it, anyway. I promised him I would talk to Mom and Dad to find out what I had missed today, so that I would be able to write it all down.
I stared at him for a long time before finally putting the frame back in its place and picking up my pen to write until it was time for me to sleep.
It took a few months, but after many days and nights spent writing, and then finally transcribing everything, editing, and getting it ready for print, it was finally here: the last draft. I was reading through it one last time before adding the final touch – the dedication on the first page. I was in our home, sitting in front of the fireplace, a glass of red wine on the coffee table behind me and some finger food on a plate next to it – food that had as yet remained untouched.
When I finished reading it, I looked up at the pictures above the fireplace – each one showing a part of the life Jasper and I had lived together, showing the love we shared.
“We did it, love. It’s finished. Well…almost. It just needs one more thing…”
I turned around so I was facing the coffee table and picked up the pen that was waiting there. I carefully flipped to the page that was to hold one final message, the most important one I could think of. I paused a moment, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, and then I wrote in neat script:
Dedicated To The One I Love
Always And Forever
A/N: I hope you’re still with me, and that you made it through this story okay. I thank you for reading it. I’m well aware it was difficult to do. I hope that, after hearing from these two, you will think about the issue of assisted suicide, and maybe – if it ever is within your power to do so – you will help give someone else this choice legally (though for your sake, I pray you will never end up in Edward’s position).
Normally, I do my Thank You’s in the top A/N, but this time I’m doing it down here, simply because this story took a village to make.
Thank you, as always, to SorceressCirce and kimberlycullen11 for beta’ing this, and holding my hand while writing, even if they were crying right along with me.
Thank you, also, to aciepey and DrTammy1511 for their medical help, and to Legna for her legal help. And last, but not least, thank you to Mombailey and Mynameisserendipity for their support.
DefinatelyStaying, thank you again for bidding on me, and for all your support.