Though I hated the thought of leaving Edward, especially after our declarations of love and phenomenal love-making, I knew I needed to go home and study. My parents expected me to be responsible and complete my degree, and I expected no less from myself. So once we’d spent an amazing morning cuddling and making out in bed, we’d roused ourselves, made lunch together and then I had asked Edward to drop me off at home.
“Jasper, is that you?”
Crap! So much for being lucky and slipping into the house unnoticed. I sighed as I closed the door behind me. Edward had already driven off, and I had hoped to just go straight to my room without talking to anyone. No such luck though, as I found myself in the kitchen where my mom was just closing the fridge door, a bottle of water in hand.

“Yeah, Momma, it’s me.”
I walked up to her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She smiled up at me, her blue-green eyes – so similar to my own – lingering on mine. I shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other, before opting to break the stare by ducking into the fridge for my own bottle of water and hoping that by the time I was done, the scrutiny would be over. Apparently, I wasn’t that lucky today, as she stood watching me as I straightened up, a curious look on her face. She twisted the cap off her bottle and took a sip before she spoke, tilting her head as she did so, her long blond hair falling over her shoulder.
“So when do we get to meet the lady that’s been captivating you, Jasper? You’ve been spending an awful lot of time away from home.”
I fidgeted with the bottle, as I looked anywhere but at her. I had thus far been able to avoid the third degree – with Rosalie’s help – and I really didn’t want to get into things this afternoon. Ever, really, but I knew that wasn’t an option. I wanted to be able to enjoy what had happened a little while longer and have this weekend for some personal reflection. I pinched the bridge of my nose, a habit I’d picked up from Edward, trying to think of something to say that wouldn’t be a lie. As I opened my mouth to speak, I was saved by Rose walking into the kitchen.
“Momma, leave Jasper alone. I told you, he’ll let us in on his affairs when he’s ready to.”
I shot her a grateful glance. Never in my life had I been so glad that Rosalie has looked out for me over the years. Our parents tended to defer to her after she became saddled with the responsibility of watching over me. Rosalie gave me a slight nod, which I was sure my mom missed, as she didn’t comment.
Rosalie walked up to Momma, slipping an arm around her waist as she spoke, “Jasper’s happier than I’ve ever seen him, Momma.  Let that be enough for now, okay?”
Momma sighed, her eyes resting on me. I watched the two of them standing together. She looked like an older version of Rosalie. They had the same build, same hair color – though Momma’s hair was starting to gray a little bit – they were within an inch in height when barefoot. The only real difference between them was their eyes. I had Momma’s eyes, whereas Rosalie had Daddy’s. I twisted the top off my bottle and sipped my water as I watched my mother. I was afraid to say anything at all. I really wanted to tell her how happy I was and that I’d finally found someone to love who loved me in turn. I knew that, given different circumstances, she would be happy to hear my news. I just wasn’t sure how she would react to learning that my “someone” was a man.  And what a wonderful and loving man he is!  I am confident that Momma would love Edward if she met him as my “friend” but as my “boyfriend”…I’m not so sure.  Homosexuality wasn’t a topic we had ever discussed. The only reaction I was fairly certain of was Daddy’s, and Momma tended to follow his lead.
Momma squinted her eyes at me, and I was sure she was looking for something; whether or not she found it, I had no idea. Her voice was soft as she asked me, “Jasper, are you happy, dear?”
I felt the smile spread across my lips as I thought of Edward, my cheeks warming from a faint blush before saying, “Yes, Momma, I am.”
She watched me for a moment before her face became stern, every bit of her exuding that air only a parent can convey.
“You are being safe, young man.”  It was not a question. 


Rosalie’s lips twitched, and her eyes were gleaming wickedly as she asked, “Yes, Jasper… you are being safe, right?”
I felt my face heat up, and I was sure I was red as a beet, my eyes wide as they flicked from my mother to Rosalie. Why was I glad to have her here again? Shit! I looked down at my hands, wishing the floor would just open up beneath me. My answer came out as part mumble, part groan. “Yes, I’m being safe . . . ”  I added, under my breath, “For fuck’s sake…” 


Momma nodded and stepped up to me, placing her hand on my cheek, “Alright. Just don’t wait too long, dear. I’d like to meet the one that seems to have won your heart.”
With that, she gave me a kiss on my cheek before sighing softly and walking out to the living room. I watched her leave, frowning slightly as I reflected on what just happened. Rose walked up to me and fluffed my hair, pushing it out of my eyes. I looked at her, scowling slightly, my voice low, “Thanks for stepping in, Sis, though that last bit wasn’t necessary, was it?  Did you have to go there?”
She grinned, raising an eyebrow in challenge as she spoke, “Jazzie, you have bigger things to worry about than me teasing you about safe sex.” She grabbed my hand and headed towards my bedroom, dragging me along behind her. I didn’t put up much of a fight, as I knew we needed to talk. So much for keeping this weekend to myself for private introspection. I sighed and shook my head as I closed the door behind me. 


Rosalie settled herself on my bed, sitting cross-legged at one end. I put my bottle of water on the nightstand before taking a seat against my headboard, mirroring her posture. We sat silently for a couple of minutes as she watched me, undoubtedly trying to determine how things had gone. When I couldn’t stand the silence anymore, I let out a slow breath before speaking. 
“It went great. His parents are some of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, Rose, and they welcomed me with open arms.” 


I leaned back against the headboard, pulling my knees up to my chest and wrapping my arms around them. I rested my forehead on my knees, parting them slightly so I could still speak.  Suddenly I felt overwhelmed, first remembering my nerves before meeting Edward’s parents, then our dinner and conversation, playing music together and Edward’s singing, all the way through our return to his apartment – I told Rosalie everything. My voice was shaky, at best. She just sat quietly, letting me get everything out, as she usually did. Her only reaction was when she moved to my side and rubbed soothing circles on my back.
When I got to the point of my teasing Edward, I hesitated,  blushing fiercely. That was not a topic I felt comfortable discussing with her, no matter how open she was about my being gay. I wouldn’t tell her the details if it was a woman, so why would I share anything more specific because it is a man? 
Of course, Rose being Rose, easily put two and two together and said, “Jazzie, you popped your man-cherry! Congrats!”
My head snapped up at her words, my eyes wide and my mouth agape as I looked at her in shock. “Rose!”
She crossed her arms over her chest, a Cheshire cat grin on her face as she cocked a brow and looked me dead in the eye, “What? Am I wrong? Was he any good?”
I groaned as I covered my face with my hands, muttering, “I can’t believe you, Rosalie. This is so not something I want to talk about.” I lowered my hands and glowered at her, “What Edward and I do is between us and none of your business. You don’t find me making lewd comments about your sex life, do you?”
She rolled her eyes and held up her hands in defeat. “Alright, alright! Sorry.”
She nudged me lightly in the ribs, and I rolled my eyes with a sigh before hugging her to me. She hugged back and kept an arm around my shoulders as she looked at me. “Okay, so you had a great weekend. I’m happy for you, brother mine. Truly.”


She kissed my cheek and then sat back against the headboard, stretching her legs out in front of her and folding her hands in her lap. She kept her eyes on me as I settled back as well, my posture again mimicking hers. She sighed softly and reached her hand over to take one of mine, intertwining our fingers as she spoke. “Jazz, when are you going to tell Momma and Daddy?”
I lowered my gaze to our entwined hands, frowning as I thought things through. I hated being in this situation. I hated putting Rosalie in a position of having to be dishonest, if not outright lie, in order to keep our parents from knowing. And most of all, I hated not being able to just be me – and being me very much included Edward. I thought about Esme and Carlisle and how welcoming they had been. I wished with all my heart Edward could have a similar experience with my parents, but I feared the opposite would be true. 


I sighed and looked up at her. “I don’t know, Rosie. I want to tell them, especially after this weekend. I’ve never been happier, and it felt so damn good to let it show. I know he felt it, too. You should’ve seen him, Rosalie, when we were at his parents’ house. He was so relaxed, happy, and I loved how that felt. And then when we got home…” I let my voice trail off, unwilling to go further into that. “Coming here after all that, it’s like having to bottle it all up and tuck it away. I don’t think I can keep doing that, Rose. I know I won’t be able to and more importantly, I don’t want to hide my happiness from them.”
She squeezed my hand, and I gave her a sad smile. “But I’m scared, Rose. I know what I want; I don’t have any doubts there. I know you’ll be there for me; I don’t doubt that, either.” I raised our hands to my lips and pressed the back of her hand to them briefly, before lowering them again. “I wish I could give Edward the same experience as he gave me, but Momma and Daddy…” I paused briefly, shaking my head as I whispered, “they’re going to hate me. Daddy is, anyway…”
“Jazz…you owe it to yourself and to Edward to tell them. If you don’t, if you keep avoiding this conversation, it’s going to eat away at you. Eventually, it will get to the point where one or both of you will resent the situation and each other. That’s not healthy. You love him, and I’m assuming you’ve told him. Has he told you he loves you, too?”
I nodded, blushing a little at the memory. “Yeah, he did.”
“Then you need to come clean – and sooner, rather then later. I know this isn’t easy for you, and once they know, I’m sure it’ll get messy for a while. But we’re family. I don’t know what will happen; I can’t tell the future. But I can have faith in our family, Jazz. Eventually, I’m certain things will even out again once they have time to come to terms with any initial reactions. You’re their son, their baby boy.”
She ruffled my hair affectionately and grinned. I chuckled softly and batted her hand away playfully. I let go of the hand still in mine and sighed, pinching the bridge of my nose; “Seriously though, Rose. How on earth am I going to do this? I can’t very well go up to them and say ‘Hey, guess what, I’m gay now.'”
She laughed and shook her head. “No, that would not go over very well. I don’t know, Jazz. I will be there when you do tell them, though; I can promise you that. I think this might be something you need to discuss with Edward. He’s been through this before; he might be able to help you figure that out. Just do it soon, okay? I don’t want to see this cloud looming over your head. You deserve to be happy, Jasper.”
“Thanks, Sis.”
She leaned in and hugged me tight, whispering in my ear, “I love you, Jasper. Remember that, okay?”
I hugged her back, smiling softly. “I will. I love you too, Sis. Thanks.”


I kissed her cheek before letting her go, and as she got up off the bed she said, “Talk to him?”
I nodded as I looked up at her; “I will, I promise.”
She gave me a very mischievous grin as she placed her hand on the doorknob; “Oh, and for the record? Emmett’s great in bed. If you want any pointers, I’d be happy to tell you what some of his best moves are…” 


She winked and shrieked as she ducked out the door to avoid the pillow I flung at her as I yelled, “Rosalie Hale!! T.M.I. – I so do NOT want to know that!” 


When I woke up Monday morning, I was already frustrated as I’d slept through my alarm clock. When I sat down to work, I had a hard time concentrating.  This didn’t really come as a huge surprise, but it annoyed me all the same. It was taking me far longer than it should to get through my assignments, which meant that I couldn’t afford to take the time to visit with Edward. I had to finish them come hell or high water, and I had warned him that I would need to buckle down until they were completed. I went as far as not logging onto my IM, so I wouldn’t be tempted to chat with Edward. God knows I wanted to. I was hoping though, that spending time together at the club would be enough until I caught up with my schoolwork. 


Of course my mind was continually replaying the events of the weekend, and the next time I arrived at the club, I realized that I had a new problem. What I wanted to do as soon as I saw Edward was to go to him, wrap my arms around him, and kiss him senseless. What I ended up doing was struggling to keep my distance, because I knew that I would not be able to control myself once I touched him, however innocently. 


Edward appeared equally frustrated and pained by the dilemma. After class and training were finally over, while we were putting away the gear, I knew we were alone so I pushed him into the storage closet. Oh, the irony of being in the closet!  I pulled his face to me, kissing him feverishly as I pressed my body into him. His arms went around my waist as he kissed me back. After a minute or so I pulled away, knowing someone might come by and find us. I rested my forehead against his and sighed, “I’ve been wanting to do that for the last couple of hours. I missed you.”  
He gave me a peck on the lips before letting go of me with a soft sigh. “I know what you mean. I missed you, too. Did you finish your assignments?”


I shook my head. “No. I keep getting distracted by memories.” I quirked a brow and smirked.
He groaned softly, looking up at the ceiling briefly before returning his gaze to me. “I wish you could come over.” He sighed softly as he kissed my forehead. “You’d better hit the showers; I’ll wait until you’re done.”
I went through the motions of showering and getting changed, and then waited for him to get done. I knew I needed to talk to him, though in all honesty, I wasn’t quite sure what to say. I sat out in the hallway, lost in thought. When I noticed someone standing in front of me, I looked up and smiled as I saw Edward, dressed in faded blue jeans, a blue-gray t-shirt, and white tennis shoes.
“Hey,” I said.
He chuckled as he held out his hand. “Hey, yourself.”
I grabbed his hand so he could help me up, but he pulled a little harder than I was ready for, and I ended up standing flush against him. His eyes flashed briefly before he stepped back, and all I wanted to do was close the distance again, but I was rooted to the spot. I groaned and shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts. Fuck, I’m going crazy here. How am I supposed to talk to him about this? I looked at him, noticing that his eyes had stayed on me, a worried look on his face. 


The hallway was deserted, so I stepped forward, grabbing his hand in mine and squeezing it lightly.
“Sorry about that, darlin’. I just…” I sighed. “I’ve just got a lot on my mind.” I lowered my voice a little before continuing, my thumb tracing circles on the back of his hand as I spoke. “I would love nothing more than to be with you tonight. I just can’t; if I don’t turn in these assignments on time…”
He leaned back against the wall as he nodded, squeezing my hand in turn. He looked resigned but smiled softly at me. “It’s okay, Jazz. Just hurry and get them done so we can spend some time together.”
After promising him I would do my best to be done by the next training session, we each went our separate ways.


Tuesday I barricaded myself in my bedroom, even going so far as to put up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ note on my door. I only ventured out to grab something to eat or drink or use the bathroom. The IM stayed off – again – and I actually managed to finish one assignment and make decent headway on completing a second.


The only interruption to my day was a phone call from Esme. She invited me to have lunch the next day. I smiled as I thought about how she and Carlisle had welcomed me and told her I would very much like to meet her again. She gave me the address of a little bistro she liked, and we agreed to meet there at noon. It felt so good that Esme truly seemed to want to be a part of my life. That thought simultaneously made me happy and sad – a stark reminder of the situation with my parents and what I felt I could expect from them.


At the end of the day, I was happy to have accomplished so much, but I was also frustrated that I’d not talked to Edward all day. So I ended up sending him a quick text message before going to bed, telling him I loved him, and I missed him. I was asleep before I got his text telling me he loved and missed me, too.


Wednesday morning I focused on the last assignment, determined to finish it before my lunch with Esme. When eleven o’clock rolled around, I had finalized my edits and emailed each assignment to the respective professor with a sigh of relief. I glanced at my inbox to see if there were any messages that needed my attention. Not finding anything, I decided to try and get ahead on my next assignment, so that I’d have more free time the rest of the week – free to spend with Edward! 


The alarm on my phone went off, slightly startling me out of my homework coma.  After losing track of time once too often, I’d made it a habit to set it.  I closed my books and stretched, muttering, “Thank God. I’ve had enough for one day!”


Esme had told me the bistro was a casual place, so I didn’t change out of my faded blue jeans and white button-down shirt. I’d rolled my sleeves up earlier because I was warm, and the top two buttons were undone. I looked in the mirror briefly, taking a deep breath and nodding. Lunch with Esme. I can do this. I ran my fingers through my hair, wondering why I was starting to feel nervous. I’d met and liked her. I put on my boots and had to hurry to make it to lunch on time.


When I got to the bistro, Esme was already waiting. I was relieved to see that she was also wearing blue jeans and a button-down blouse, hers a forest green. At least I’m not underdressed. Good lord, I am sounding more like a teenaged girl every day! I mentally rolled my eyes at the thought. I started to apologize for keeping her waiting, but she waved me off with a smile as she got up and hugged me.


“Don’t worry about it, Jasper. You’re not late; I just finished a little earlier than anticipated and decided to go ahead and relax here for a bit. It’s good to see you again, dear.”


I hugged her back with a sigh of relief.  “Thanks, Esme. It’s good to see you again, too. And thank you for dinner the other night. It was nice to meet you and Carlisle.”


As we sat down, she handed me a menu and smiled softly at me. Her eyes lingered on my face, as if she were searching for something. “Are you alright, dear? You look a bit tired.”


I smiled and nodded.  “Yes, ma’am, I’m fine. I’ve just been working hard on some assignments that are due this week.” I hadn’t intended it, but even I could hear the thickening of the drawl in my voice. I cleared my throat self-consciously.  “I actually just completed them before heading here.” I added quickly, noticing the look of concern that started to form on her face.


“Well I’m certainly glad to hear that, dear. So, aside from schoolwork, did you and Edward have a nice weekend?”


I blushed slightly, clearing my throat again. “Yes, ma’am. Though aside from class and training, I’ve not seen Edward since the weekend.”


I couldn’t help the frown as I said that. I looked down at my hands, which were folded on top of the table. Just then a waitress came by to take our order. Esme got a chicken panini and ice water; I ordered a steak sandwich and iced tea. After the waitress left, I looked up at Esme again, only to find her watching me closely. Her expression was kind and motherly, and I relaxed a little, smiling at her.


She leaned forward slightly, her eyes intent on mine as she spoke, as if she was worried about how I’d react. “Jasper, can we be frank with each other?”


She smiled reassuringly, and I nodded before responding, “Of course, Esme.”


“Good. I asked you to lunch because I’m worried about you. I assume Edward’s told you he explained to me what transpired between you back at camp?” She must have noticed the panic that threatened to build in me, as she quickly added, “No details, dear, just the general gist of things.”


I nodded quietly. Edward had told me he’d talked to her, but I still couldn’t help the guilt that I felt over my actions back then. She must have read as much on my face, and she put her hand over mine. “Jasper, he doesn’t blame you for making the choice you did back then. Neither do I. You were sixteen, and you were dealing with something that is hard for an adult, let alone a teenager, to fully understand and accept. Please, don’t feel bad for making the choices you did. It’s in the past, and it needs to stay that way, or it’ll hurt you in the present. Don’t let it, okay?”


I tried to smile as I nodded, though I’m not sure it was convincing. She patted my hand though and smiled back at me. “As I said, dear, I’m worried about you. I know this has been a lot for you to deal with, especially without much support from home.  Though I understand your sister knows what’s going on and is on your team, as it were, is that correct?”


“Yeah, she knows. She’s been great, actually.” I looked down at my hands again, our waitress choosing that moment to come with our drinks, letting us know our food would arrive shortly. I saw Esme nod to her, and she left.  Esme watched me in silence for a moment.


Her voice was quiet as she spoke, “But you haven’t told your parents yet, have you?”


I shook my head, and her hand came to rest back on mine. I looked up at her, my heart feeling heavy. I hadn’t thought that this would be our topic of conversation when I agreed to have lunch with her, and I wasn’t entirely certain how I felt about it. I decided to just go with it. Rose had said I needed to talk to Edward, but maybe Esme could also help me understand how I should approach the subject with my parents. After all, she’d been on the receiving end of such a conversation herself. “No, ma’am, I haven’t.  To be honest, I’m not sure how to bring it up.”


She chuckled and nodded. “It’s not exactly a topic for dinner time conversation, is it?”


I grinned. “No, ma’am, it’s not.”


“Have you spoken to Edward about this yet?”


I shook my head and sighed. “No, not yet. I know I should, and I will. I’ve just not been ready to deal with any of that yet. But after this weekend…” I let my voice trail off and sighed again.


She squeezed my hand and nodded. “I figured as much, which was part of the reason why I asked you to meet with me.”


I looked up at her, puzzled.


She continued, her hand still on mine as she looked into my eyes, “I wanted to tell you a few things. Some, I’m sure you already know. Some, maybe not.”  She smiled softly at me. “Jasper, since you and Edward have gotten back in touch, I’ve seen a change in him that I could not be happier about.  Edward has always been affectionate. As a little boy, he loved to curl up in my lap and cuddle, and he still hugs and kisses his father and holds my hand. It’s simply a part of who he is. Ever since Alec, he’s been more reserved, and he hasn’t really been involved with anyone. He has been as kind and friendly as ever, but he has been holding part of himself back.”


She paused a moment as our food arrived. We thanked the waitress and waited for her to leave again before continuing the conversation.


“When you came back into his life, Carlisle and I watched him become more like his old self again. He smiled more, and he’s been in better spirits than he had been in a long time. We both knew that he found love again, just by how he looked every time he saw you, spoke to you, or even messaged you. Thank you for that, Jasper.”


I sat back, slightly stunned by her words.  I wasn’t sure what to say so I just nodded. 


Her brow furrowed as she studied me for a moment as if weighing her words.  When she finally spoke, her voice was softer, and she squeezed my hand tightly. “I am not trying to tell you what to do, dear, but please remember that my son loves you, and he wants to show you.” She looked as though there was something more she wanted to say, but she simply watched me in silence for a moment. Her eyes tightened briefly before she relaxed, squeezing my hand again and smiled.
“Secondly, I want you to know that if ever you need anything, you’re welcome to come to us. Carlisle and I love our son, and he loves you so very much. Whether you realize it or not, you’re a member of our family now. We will be here for you, just as we’re here for Edward. 


“Jasper, I don’t know how things will go when you tell your parents.” She took my hands in both of hers as she leaned across the table, her eyes on mine as she continued. “It can be a very difficult thing for a parent to hear, or understand. When Edward told us, I was relieved in a way. I’d known something was troubling him; part of me had even wondered whether he might be gay. So when he told us, I was happy that he finally had accepted himself fully and was willing to share that part of himself with us.”


She paused a moment, letting her words sink in.  “For Carlisle, it was a little more difficult to accept.  He’d been raised in a very conservative family with the belief that homosexuality was a sin, and he himself felt that men were responsible for continuing the family line.  After a short time of reflection, Carlisle realized that it didn’t matter what he’d been taught by his family because he was a father who adored his son, and nothing would cause him to turn away from Edward.  But even though he had never personally embraced the religious beliefs about homosexuality, I think he felt at first that Edward’s being gay meant that the line would end with him.  In truth, though, we would not be guaranteed grandchildren if Edward were straight…nor are we automatically denied them just because he is gay.  Carlisle loves Edward dearly, and even while he struggled with learning the truth about his son, he never failed to show him love and support.”


I nodded, unable to speak. I wondered briefly whether Edward ever knew any of this. Esme squeezed my hands, though, and brought my attention back to her.
“I know that Edward was afraid to tell us for a long time, and I wonder if there was something we could have done differently so that he wouldn’t have had that fear. I am not sure that there was. I think it’s understandable for children to fear telling their parents something as deeply personal and as potentially charged as their sexual orientation.”


I acknowledged my understanding, as she continued. “My point is, Jasper, that he was, is, and always will be our son. A son we love dearly. You are your parents’ son. They love you; of that, I’m sure. There’s every chance that they might surprise you and be accepting of you and of your relationship with Edward. There is also the possibility that they will allow their own emotions and prejudices to cause them to temporarily lose sight of the simple fact that who you love and how you love does not change the man you are. Obviously, I hope for both you and Edward that your parents have a positive or even neutral response. But Jasper, regardless of how your parents react, you will have family. Can you believe that? Have faith in that?”


I swallowed hard past the lump that had formed in my throat as I listened to her words and nodded. My voice barely made it above a whisper, “Thank you, Esme. You don’t know how much that means to me to hear you say that.” 


She smiled again. “You’re welcome, dear. I realize that you’re still trying to figure things out, and I know that it can be difficult at times. I just wanted you to know that you have people who support and love you, even if we’ve only just met.”


“Thank you, Esme. I don’t quite know what to say.”


She patted my hand before gesturing to our food. “That’s alright, dear. How about we eat, before our food gets too cold?”


I chuckled and nodded as I tucked into my sandwich. We kept up the conversation as we ate, keeping things light and general as we discussed the house she was currently decorating.  She was so animated as she talked about color schemes and crown molding.  The sparkle in her green eyes reminded me of the man I loved.
Esme smoothly turned the conversation to me, asking about the classes I was taking and the assignments I’d completed. She kept me talking, filling the pauses in a way that felt comfortable rather than forced, and I found I liked her even more as our meal went on. 


Eventually, the waitress returned, asking if we needed anything else. We declined, and Esme settled the bill before I could protest.
“I invited you, Jasper, so lunch is my treat. A mother’s prerogative.” And with that, she winked, grinning an all-too-familiar grin. Now I definitely know where Edward gets that.


She got up, smiling as she beckoned me to do the same. As soon as I was on my feet, her arms were around me in a tight, motherly hug as she murmured softly, “It’ll be okay, Jasper. In the end, whatever happens, it’ll be worth it as long as you two stick together.”


She placed her hand on my cheek, smiling up at me. I smiled back, “Thank you, for everything, Esme. I don’t know what I did to deserve it, but I sure am grateful for it.”


She grinned Edward’s grin again, her eyes taking on that same sparkle of mischief he so often wore, “Oh, don’t thank me yet, dear. You know what they say about ‘mothers-in-law’.”  She put air-quotes around that last bit, and I couldn’t help but snicker and shake my head.


“Esme, that term, in relation to you, will never have a negative connotation to it.” I winked at her, grinning.


She laughed and patted my chest lightly. “Why thank you, Jasper. And thank you for meeting me today.  It was nice to get to know you a little better.”


I whole-heartedly agreed and nodded. “Thank you for inviting me. It’s been… enlightening, to say the least.” My lips twitched as I tried – and failed – to suppress a smirk.


We parted ways with a mutual agreement to have lunch again soon, perhaps inviting Edward to join us the next time. When I made it home, I went straight for my room and sat down in the window seat, looking out over the garden. My thoughts went over everything Esme had told me, as well as what Rosalie and I had talked about. Can I really do this? I sighed and thought of Edward as I pulled my knees up to my chest, hugging them. If I don’t, eventually I’d lose him again. I closed my eyes, resting my forehead on my knees. I’ve got to do this; I owe it to him, to us. I refuse to keep hurting him; he doesn’t deserve that. I have to… 


There was a knock on my door, startling me out of my thoughts as I heard Momma call my name. “Jasper? Can I come in?”


“Of course, Momma.”


I turned in the seat to face the door, putting my feet back on the ground as she walked in. She smiled as she walked up to me. “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that Daddy called. He needs to attend a meeting down in Houston, so he took some additional time off so we could visit our old stomping grounds. He and I will be leaving tonight and won’t be back until Friday of next week. You and Rose’ll be on your own for a while, but I trust you’ll be alright.”


She smiled, knowing full well we would be just fine, and very likely not even be home much.  Though she had no idea where I would be spending my time. I rolled my eyes at her, smirking. “Yes, Momma, you know we will. You and Daddy enjoy your time in Houston.”


I got up and hugged her. “Do you need help with anything before you leave? How are you getting to the airport?”


She hugged back. “Don’t worry about that, dear. Your daddy’s got it all under control; you know how he is.”


I chuckled and nodded. “Indeed I do. Thanks for letting me know, Momma.”


My alarm went off on my phone again, and I quickly kissed her on the cheek. “Will you still be here when I’m done with training?”


She shook her head. “No, we’ll be gone before then, I think. You have a good time, alright? And behave yourselves, for goodness sake.”


I nodded and frowned, thinking over the past few days.
“Momma? Do you think maybe we can sit down and talk when you get home? All of us? I…” I took a deep breath, trying to gather my thoughts as well as the gumption to go through with this. I continued quietly, “There’s something I need to talk about with you and Daddy, and there is someone I would like you to meet, if that’s okay?”


She looked thoughtfully at me for a moment, her eyes searching mine, and for a fleeting moment I wondered if Esme had a point, if Momma knew, on some level at least. She nodded, placing her hand on my shoulder, “Alright, why don’t we all have lunch on the Sunday after we come back? Does that sound okay to you?”


I placed my hand over hers, giving her a small smile. “That sounds fine, Momma. Thank you. I have to go!”


Hurrying to grab my things, I got to the swimming hall with a few minutes to spare before class started. I quickly showered and changed before walking into the swimming hall. I looked around for Edward and found him sitting on a bleacher in the stands, apparently absorbed in his thoughts. Wonder what’s going through his mind. I walked up to him, coming to stand in front of him. I watched him closely, frowning as he didn’t seem aware of my presence. Something’s bothering him if he’s this lost in thought.


He finally noticed I was there, seemingly shocked to find anyone near. Next thing I knew, he had his arms around my waist and his head resting against my stomach. Automatically, it seemed, my body tensed, and I scolded myself for not being able to control the reaction. I knew he had felt it, too, as he started to pull away. I put my hand on the back of his head, holding him to me, silently letting him know it was okay, that I was okay.


Whatever had been on his mind, it seemed he needed this contact, and I wasn’t going to deny him. Not anymore. I knelt down in front of him, taking his hands in mine as I smiled sadly at him. I watched him for a moment before shaking my head with a sigh. “I’m sorry, darlin’. I’m not making things easy on you, am I?”


He squeezed my hands as he lowered his eyes to them, frowning slightly. “Jazz…” He raised his eyes to mine and gave me a small smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I’m not going to say that everything’s entirely perfect and nothing’s bothering me. You and I both know that’s not exactly the case. I understand, though, and I’m trying to respect your wish not to have any public displays of affection. I’m sorry I did that just now, I wasn’t thinking.” 


His eyes left mine and roamed the swimming hall briefly before getting to his feet, squeezing my hands again and letting them go. “Can we talk about this after class and training? I’m alright, I promise.”
I looked in his eyes, and I swore I could see the anguish there. I can’t keep doing this to him. He put his hand on my shoulder and whispered, “I love you, Jazz.”
I grinned at him as I whispered back, “I love you, too. Go, Edward, teach class, we’ll talk later.” God knows, we need to; so much I have to tell him about, have to ask him. 


Tilting my head to the pool, I turned around, patting him on the shoulder. I watched as he took a deep breath as if to gather himself, nodding before walking to the side of the pool to start class. The kids were all lined up, and though I walked to one of the lanes, I didn’t pay much attention to Edward’s instructions to the kids. I watched him instead; he seemed more distracted than usual.  This only made me more determined to do right by him. I sighed softly as he wrapped things up and instructed the kids to start swimming.  My attention returned to focus on the two kids that were in the lane I was supervising. 


Before too long, I heard the whistle blow, and after making sure all the kids were out of the water safely, I walked over to Edward and the other helpers to tally the results. Edward handed me the list with winners, and after asking if I’d announce second and third place, he took James aside. Once I had called the winners and made sure everyone knew to go to the cafeteria to pick up their ice cream, I went to stand behind Edward.  I waited for him to be done, listening quietly as he spoke with James. 


I couldn’t stop myself from smiling at him as he sent James on his way – the boy looked very pleased with himself. I was certain he’d never been told by anyone that they were proud of anything he’d done, and I felt my own sense of pride at Edward having recognized that as well, and for telling James that. Edward looked at me with mild surprise.


“Nothing. That was a nice thing you just did, is all. I don’t think he’s ever been told by anyone that they were proud of him.”


He smiled at me as he rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, I got that feeling as well, and he honestly was good today.”
I stood and watched him for a moment, smiling at him. Esme was right; he truly is a caring, giving person. He is so good with these kids. I sighed softly as he closed his eyes, wanting to just go up and kiss him, show him I love him. I glanced around the swimming hall and noted all the kids had gone, and there were only a few people from the team there, Bella included. I was fairly sure they all knew anyway, so I took a deep breath and decided to take this step. I had to, for myself as well as for him.
I stepped up to him and placed my hand over his heart, his eyes snapping open as I leaned in and said, “You’re a good man, Edward Cullen,” and kissed his cheek.


I quickly walked to the locker room to change, and in no small part to try and collect myself again, as I was blushing. By the time Edward came in to the locker room, I had calmed down, and I smiled at him as I passed him on my way into the hall. As soon as he had changed, we started training.  He had us split the team so we could scrimmage. It felt good to be able to focus on training, and it helped to clear my thoughts for a while. 
It was only after training was done that I let myself think about the things that I needed to discuss with Edward. Emmett and some of the others were starting to help with clean up, but I told them to just leave it to Edward and me, giving us some privacy to talk. Emmett nodded, and from the look on his face, I had the distinct impression he knew – in general terms at least – what was going on. Rosalie! I shook my head with a sigh; I’d have to deal with her later. Then again, I couldn’t really begrudge her talking to Emmett, since she didn’t really have anyone to talk to about any of this, either. 
After everyone had left, we set about getting everything put away. I watched Edward bend down to grab the net of balls, and stepped behind him, wrapping my arms around his waist. I just couldn’t help myself in that moment. He straightened up, and I squeezed him briefly before letting him turn around. I didn’t let go of him though, and he smiled at me as he put his hands on my hips, his eyes on mine. I could tell he was trying to see how I’d react, and it made me realize again just how much I was putting on him by all of this. 




I took a deep breath, letting it out slowly to give myself time to gather my nerve. I needed to do this. “Can I come over tonight? We should talk.” 
I saw him frown as he nodded, his eyes searching mine for answers, “Of course, Jazz.”
I smiled at him before placing a chaste kiss on his lips and letting him go. I just wanted to get this done and over with so we could go home and talk. I had a feeling it was going to be a long night. As we finished putting the equipment away, getting showered and dressed, I could tell that Edward was distracted. If I knew him at all, he was likely worrying about what I wanted to talk to him about. I waited until we were in his car though, before saying anything.
He started the car and was about to put his seat belt on when I placed my hand on his cheek, causing him to turn around and look at me questioningly. As soon as he was facing me, I smiled and put both my hands on either side of his face before leaning in and kissing him, tilting my head to deepen it. I felt him respond, hesitantly at first, but before long he had his hand on the back of my neck, his fingers knotting in my hair. I moaned softly before pulling away with a soft sigh.
“As much as I’m enjoying this, I think we should get going. How about we pick up some Thai or Chinese on the way home, darlin’? I don’t think either of us are going to feel much like cooking tonight.”
Edward’s eyes flickered briefly, several emotions crossing his face so quickly, I couldn’t catch them all. His brow furrowed slightly as he nodded.
“Okay, we can do that. Jazz…is everything okay?” 


I still had my hands on his cheeks, so I leaned in and gave him a peck on the lips before dropping my hands, smiling.
“Yeah, it’s just been an interesting couple of days. Don’t worry, darlin’, I’m fine, I promise.” 


I buckled up and waited for him to do the same. I watched him as he gave me another searching look before pulling out of the parking lot. We stopped by a small Thai place close to his apartment, and we got some chicken satay, pad thai, and salad to go. I had him stop by a convenience store on the way as well, grabbing a cold six pack of Black Butte Porter. I figured it couldn’t hurt to have it, since I was starting to feel nervous again. Damn it, this has got to stop! I knew there was no reason to be nervous, at least not when it came to talking to Edward about meeting my parents. I was certain he’d say yes and go with me. But still…


When we got home, we both put our bags by the door and toed out of our shoes. Edward went to grab plates and utensils, setting them down on the coffee table and dishing up our food, while I grabbed two of the beers and put the others in the fridge. We settled on the couch, each on the opposite end, with our legs curled up, facing the other. I grinned when I noticed our mirrored positions and quickly crawled over to him, kissing him lightly on the lips before whispering, “I love you.”
I settled myself back in the corner of the couch, the same way I was before, grabbing my plate and fork as I did so. I looked over at Edward to see him smile at me with a quirked eyebrow; he sounded somewhat amused as he replied, “I love you too, Jasper.”
I chuckled softly, took a bite, and sighed happily, closing my eyes a moment. This was nice.  The moment we got through the door, I had felt a sense of peace come over me, and I took a moment to let that sensation sink in. When I opened my eyes, I saw Edward still hadn’t touched his food, his eyes intent on me. He looked thoughtful, and I wondered what was going through his mind, “What?” I asked, as I took another bite.
He just smiled and shook his head, grabbing his own plate finally and digging in. I shrugged and took a swig of my beer. We ate in silence, occasionally stealing glances at each other. When I was done, I put my plate down and watched as he finished eating, playfully nudging his leg with my foot. He grumbled slightly about not letting him eat in peace, but the twitch at the corner of his mouth assured me he was anything but annoyed.
Finally done, we quickly put away the leftovers, did the dishes, and grabbed another beer each before going back to sit on the couch. Edward took his spot again, but this time I sat right next to him, one leg pulled under me so I could face him. I glanced down at my beer and fidgeted slightly, not sure how to start. I heard Edward open his beer and looked up when he spoke.
“So what did you want to talk about?”
He took a swig. I could see he was curious and maybe a little hesitant, worried about what I might say. I went over the last few days, wondering where to begin. I took a deep breath and gave him a tentative smile.
“I had lunch with your mom today. She loves you very much.” He smiled and nodded, waiting for me to continue. I sighed softly. “She…” I paused, trying to find the words to what I wanted to say. “She helped me put a few things in perspective today.” 


I took the bottle of beer from him and put both our drinks on the table before grabbing his hands in mine, rubbing circles on the backs of his hands as I tried to order my thoughts. Edward remained quiet, sensing I needed to do this on my own time. He always seemed to know when to just let me figure things out for myself – it was just one of the many things I loved about him, and I couldn’t help but smile at the thought. His answering smile and gentle squeeze of my hands were all the encouragement I needed.
“I know I’ve made things more difficult for you, Edward, and for that I am truly sorry. I feel like I keep hurting you, and I don’t mean to.”
He frowned and opened his mouth to speak, but I squeezed his hands to stop him.
“Please, let me finish? It’s not right that you should have to, for all intents and purposes, put yourself back in the closet, darlin’. It isn’t, and I’m sorry that I ever put you in that position.” 
I lifted his hands to my lips, kissing the backs of each of them before placing them between us again and continuing, “It’s time I stopped hiding, Edward. This past weekend, the last few days… meeting your parents, making love with you – it was amazing, all of it, and I have never felt as free and loved as I did last weekend. I have you to thank for that.” I paused and watched as he smiled softly, nodding. I noticed his eyes were shimmering with emotion.
“Being with you, feeling all that, and then having to go back to my parents’ place, it felt like I had to bottle everything up and put away all the joy I was feeling.”
My brow furrowed, and I looked down at our joined hands as I continued speaking, “I didn’t care for it. And then Momma was there when I got in, and she started asking questions.” I shook my head, looking up into his eyes. “I wanted to tell her, Edward. I wanted to say I’d found you, and that you love me. But I didn’t do it, and it hurt to not speak the words I wanted to say, but I was scared. I suppose I still am, but…”
I took a deep breath as I trudged on, glad that he was just letting me get it out without interrupting, “I can’t keep doing this to you, or to Rose, or to me. I love you too much, and I am tired of holding that back. Rose says she’ll be there when I tell Momma and Daddy. I asked Momma if we could get together and talk. I was hoping…” I searched his eyes, which had seemed to darken with the emotion he was holding in check. My voice lowered slightly, nervous again all of a sudden. “I was hoping you might want to be there, too. Meet my parents?”