I sat in silence, listening to Jasper as he told me what had happened to his friend. I wasn’t sure what to do or say, so I slowly pulled him to me and held him close. He rested his head on my shoulder and wrapped his arms tightly around me. I couldn’t even imagine going through something like that. I stroked his back, hoping it’d offer him some comfort. It had been quite the morning. Everything had started out just fine; we’d made love, and everything was good. Great, even.


And then everything changed, because of one stupid sandwich. I knew that memories could at times be triggered by inane things like that, but I was sorry to have caused him distress now, of all times. We were supposed to be meeting Rosalie and Emmett in – I glanced at the clock – about two hours. I wasn’t sure if he even wanted to go out anymore. I’m not sure I would have, if I’d been in his shoes.


I sighed softly and pressed my lips to his forehead. “Do you want me to call Emmett, see if he and Rosalie would mind rescheduling? We can just stay home, if you like?” 

I felt him shake his head against my shoulder. “No, it’s okay. It’ll be good to get out, I think,” he shifted slightly, pressing his lips to my neck. “Thank you, though.”


I ran my fingers through his hair as I pulled away far enough to be able to see his face. “You sure?”


He nodded, putting his hand on the back of my neck, pulling my face closer to his as he spoke quietly, “I’m sure, darlin’. I’ll be fine.”


He kissed me softly, and I closed my eyes as I tilted my head a little. I wrapped both my arms around him as our lips continued to move together. I could feel his body start to let go and relax, and finally he pulled away with a soft sigh. I watched him carefully and gave him a small smile when I saw the look of peace that had taken over that sadness from a little bit ago.


He’s been through so much already; and now he’s likely going to go through even more. For me, this time. Jasper had closed his eyes and put his head back against my shoulder. I kissed his forehead again before resting my head against his, wondering just how I was lucky enough for him to love me so strongly. I found myself wishing I could take away the pain of the past, though I realized that that pain was what had made him the man he was today.


We spent the next two hours just snuggled together on the couch. We didn’t say much; occasionally he would tell me a little more about Brendan, but mostly we just sat quietly, reflecting on things. When it was time to get ready to go, Jasper got up and smiled, though it didn’t quite reach his eyes. He reached his hand to me and pulled me up, wrapping his arms around my waist. “Thank you, Edward.”


I quirked a brow at him in silent question as I slipped my arms around him as well. He gave a half smile and said, “For letting me tell you about Brendan, for listening and just being there.”


I rested my forehead against his, looking into his eyes. “I’ll always be here, Jazz. What ever you need, I’ll try to give you, even if it’s just a shoulder to lean on.”


He gave a soft chuckle, and this time, the smile on his face was in his eyes as well. “Well, right now I need for my boyfriend to get ready to go out with my sister and her boyfriend.”  


I pulled back and searched his eyes. Jasper frowned slightly, looking puzzled at what I was sure was the look of shock on my face. I felt my lips twitch before smiling broadly at him. “What did you just call me?”


Jasper’s frown deepened briefly before he turned serious. “Well, darlin’, I do believe I just called you my boyfriend. Was that not accurate?” 


I felt my mouth open slightly as I attempted to speak, but nothing came out. Then I saw the corner of Jasper’s mouth twitch slightly, turning up into that impish grin of his. I glowered briefly at him before rolling my eyes. He chuckled softly as he placed his hand on my jaw, his thumb tracing my own grin lightly. I turned my head slightly to kiss his palm before taking his hand and placing it over my heart, holding it there.


I rested my forehead against his again, whispering, “I would hope that is entirely accurate, Jazz. For my part, it has been for a while.”


His grin widened as he nodded once before giving me a brief but deep kiss. “C’mon darlin’, Rosalie may be many things, but she is not patient and does not like to be kept waiting.”


I chuckled softly, which earned me a quirked brow from Jasper. I grinned as I said, “Then I’m truly surprised at how well she and Emmett seem to be getting on. With the possible exceptions of work and water polo, that man is perpetually late for most everything. He’s way too laid back to care about trivialities like time. I’ve learned over the years to give him a time that’s earlier than what it really is, just so he’ll show up when he’s supposed to be there.”


Jasper laughed and shook his head. “Maybe Rose can…” he paused as if searching for the right word, “train him?” He thought for a moment and then shook his head. “Nah, probably not.” He winked and chuckled.


I couldn’t help but laugh at that. The thought of a punctual Emmett was a foreign one, and I doubted it could be accomplished outside the realm of work or water polo – though I’m sure it’d be interesting to see Rose try. We got showered, dressed, and ready quickly, as we had taken longer than we should have snuggling earlier. Both of us opted to not shave, and I had to admit that a Jasper with stubble was a very sexy Jasper.


Who am I kidding? He’s always sexy.  


Since we were just going to McMenamins, we’d both gotten dressed in our jeans; he’d chosen a black button down shirt, leaving the top two buttons undone and his sleeves rolled up. I’d chosen a navy blue button up and – like Jasper – had left the top two buttons undone. I was just rolling up my sleeves when my phone rang. I checked the caller ID and smiled when I saw it was Bella.


Jasper looked at me as I answered, “Hey Bella, what’s up?”


He went to the bathroom as I was talking to Bella. She was calling about her upcoming birthday; traditionally, we all got together for dinner and then went out dancing. This year, it seemed, she wanted to do something different. When I asked her why, she explained that she would like Jasper to join us, and that she was aware that he still wasn’t too comfortable being out and about, so she asked if we could all get together at my place so that he wouldn’t feel excluded.


“So I was wondering…would you and Jasper mind cooking for everyone, too?  And do you think Jasper would want to be there?  I mean, I don’t want him to feel like he has to be, but I want to include him, you know?” she asked.


The grin on my face alerted Jasper something was going on as he walked up to me, and I held up a finger for him to wait a moment. “Bells, why don’t you talk to him about it? I’m fine with doing that, but…”


“You’re fine with cooking?  Seriously? That would be awesome!  And yeah, put Jasper on the phone?”


I nodded, even though she couldn’t see that. “Okay, hold on a sec…” I held out the phone to Jasper, “Bella would like to ask you something.”


He frowned slightly but took the phone and walked to the bed, where he sat down and started pulling on his socks as they spoke. I watched him, my smile widening as I saw him sit up straighter and look at me with raised eyebrows. He put his hand over the mouthpiece and whispered, “Is she serious? Are you sure you’re alright hosting her party?”


I nodded and walked up to him, coming to stand in front of him and running my fingers through his hair as I listened to the rest of his conversation with Bella. “Sure, Bella. Thank you for that; I appreciate your thinking of me.” He paused as he listened to her; he looked up at me through his eyelashes and flashed me a grin. “I’m fairly sure we’ll be able to manage something. Anything in particular you had in mind?” He paused again. “Okay. Yeah, I’ll let her know, too. Thanks again, Bella.” Another pause. “See you Monday. Bye.”
He hung up and handed the phone back to me with a slightly stunned look on his face. “I can’t believe she’d change her plans for her birthday, just so I’d be able to be there, too.”


I squatted down in between his legs, taking his hands in mine after placing the phone on my nightstand. “Jazz, you’re part of the group now. Bella’s considered you a friend for a while, and as such, there’s little she won’t do to try and be helpful in whatever way she can. More so because you’re special to me. That’s just Bella’s way.”


He grinned slightly. “I’ll have to figure out something special to give her then.” He tilted his head and frowned. “I think I might need some help with that though.” He chuckled and shook his head. “And you do realize that she’s asked us to cook for everyone, right?” He gave me a skeptical look.


I chuckled. “Yes, she’d already asked me before I handed over the phone to you. I don’t mind; actually, I think it might be fun.”


I pecked him on the lips and got to my feet again. “Come on; we’d better hustle if we want to get to the restaurant on time.”


We made it to McMenamins right at two, finding Emmett and Rosalie sitting at the bar waiting for us. Rosalie was sitting with her back to us as she was talking to Emmett, but they both got up once he spotted us and waved. Jasper and I looked at each other, sporting matching raised eyebrows and grins at Emmett’s being here on time.


“Hey guys.” Rose hugged Jasper tightly, kissing his cheek before letting him go.


I smiled as she stepped up to me and hugged me. “Hello, Rose,” I said, hugging her back warmly.


Emmett was releasing Jasper from his typical ‘man-hug’, and I couldn’t help but chuckle as I stepped up for one of my own. I turned to Jasper and saw him standing next to Rose again, his arm around her shoulder as he whispered in her ear, causing her to blush and roll her eyes. Wonder what’s up with that. He grinned at me as he spoke up, his drawl a little more pronounced than usual, “So, y’all ready to sit down and have something to eat? I’m starvin’!” 


A round of “Hell yes,” “Absolutely,” and “Lead the way” followed, causing me to chuckle. This should prove to be a good time after all. Jasper’s certainly looking happier now. As we found a booth in a quiet corner, Jasper slid onto the bench first; he grabbed my hand and pulled me down next to him as Rose and Emmett took the seat across from us. I smiled at him, squeezing his hand briefly before slipping it out of his and handing everyone a menu.


We each looked over the choices before we agreed to share a couple of starters. After some back and forth, we finally decided to get the chicken wings – at Emmett’s insistence, we went with the ones tossed in Dante’s Infernal Hot Sauce – and some spinach and artichoke dip. Rose wanted to try the Brewery Taster, so we ended up getting two of those as well with Rose and Emmett sharing one, while Jasper and I split the other.


The waitress who’d taken our order came back and explained which beers were which, told us she’d be back in a few minutes with our starters, and left us to our devices. Conversation flowed fairly easily as we enjoyed the different beers. We all agreed that we didn’t care for the IPA, but other than that, our tastes varied. It was actually fun to try the different flavors and see the responses from everyone. When Rose tried the Terminator Stout, she pulled a face and almost gagged, which had the rest of us laughing.


Emmett thought the IPA and Ruby were for sissies, which earned him a smack on his chest from Rose as she proclaimed that the Ruby was her favorite. Jasper and I winked at each other as we sat back and watched the two of them go back and forth. They definitely seemed to be an even match; Rosalie wouldn’t put up with any shit from him, and she seemed to be bringing out a side of Emmett I hadn’t seen before. The way he looked at her at times made me feel as if I was intruding on a deeply private moment. I had never seen that look on his face before. Ever.


The waitress stopped by a few times to check on us and to find out if we were ready to order our main courses yet. Emmett tried to order the Communication Breakdown Burger, but backpedaled when he saw Rose’s lips purse as she raised an eyebrow at him. I chuckled, covering it quickly with a cough, but Jasper caught me, bumping my leg and seemingly having to fight hard to keep a straight face as well.


Both of us started laughing, though, when Emmett pointed at the menu as he looked at Rose and said, “The Beer Garden Burger?” though it came out as a question. Rose’s lips twitched as she nodded before turning to the waitress and ordering the ale-battered fish and chips. As soon as Jasper managed to stop laughing, he ordered Maria’s Masterpiece, and I ordered a cheesesteak sandwich.  


Jasper cleared his throat slightly, glancing at me briefly before turning to Rosalie. I could feel him tense up, so I put my hand on his thigh, squeezing it lightly and watched his shoulders relax minutely. He took a sip of the Ruby before he put both hands in front of him. “Rose, did you talk to Momma at all before she left the other day?”


Rosalie sat back against the booth and watched us both, her brow furrowing slightly. I could practically see the wheels turning in her head. She shook her head and said, “Not since she called me to let me know about her and Daddy leaving, no. Why? What’s going on?”


Jasper took a deep breath and looked right at her. “I asked Momma if we could all sit down and…talk…after they get home. She suggested lunch on Sunday.” He glanced at me, and I nodded for him to continue. “I’m going to tell them, Rosie. Will you be able to be there? I’ve asked Edward as well…”


Rose’s eyes shot to mine, and I could see the silent question in her eyes. Are you going?


I nodded as I lifted my hand and placed it over Jasper’s, looking at him to make sure this was okay. When he smiled softly at me, I turned back to Rose. “I’ll be there; if he wants me there, then there isn’t anywhere else I would be.”  


She gave me a brief but scrutinizing look, and I saw Emmett leaning into her, whispering something in her ear. She sighed and seemed to relax at whatever he had said to her. I raised an eyebrow at him, but he just shook his head ever so slightly and mouthed, “Later.” I nodded and turned my attention back to Rosalie, who was now watching her brother.


“Jasper, I told you I would be there. You won’t be doing this alone; don’t ever think that for one second.”


Her voice had softened considerably as she spoke, and I could see the love she had for her brother shining in her eyes as she leaned forward and reached her hands across the table. She placed them over both of ours, smiling gently at me. I put my other hand on top of hers, squeezing it to let her know I appreciated her being there for him. She grinned and nodded, understanding what I meant without words.


I looked at Jasper, who was looking down at our hands. His expression was serious, from what I could tell, before he nodded once and looked at each of us in turn. When he met Emmett’s eyes, Emmett spoke up, “Jasper, for what it’s worth, I’m behind you, too. Not just because I’m dating your sister, either.”


He grinned for a moment before adding a quick, “And not quite the same way as Copper Top,” in a lower voice that passed as a whisper for Emmett, but we all heard anyway.


Jasper’s eyes widened slightly before shooting back, “Good thing, too, Emmett, because you’re not my type.”  


My eyes flicked from Jasper to Emmett and back, and in the half-second it took for what was said to sink in, we all burst out laughing. The waitress chose that moment to arrive with our food, which was a welcome distraction. She asked if anyone would like any more to drink; Rose had another Ruby, Jazz and I both ordered a Porter, and Emmett got a Hammerhead.


After a few minutes of just enjoying our food and some much lighter conversation, Jasper spoke up again, “Hey Rose, before I forget. Bella asked me to pass along an invitation to her birthday party to you.”


Rose looked up and frowned, looking from Jasper to me. “Who’s Bella?”


Emmett chuckled softly as he leaned back against his seat and looked at Rose. “Rosie, she’s one of the girls on the team. The one that trips over her own feet a lot, long brown hair, all smiles?”


It took Rose a minute to put a face to the name, and it was funny to watch the penny drop for her. “Ahh, okay. ” She frowned and looked at Jasper again. “Jazz, not that I’m opposed to being invited to a party, but why am I invited? I don’t even know the girl, I think I’ve spoken to her…all of two times.”  


Emmett chuckled as Jasper grinned and answered, “You’re my sister, for one. And for another, you’re with Emmett, which is good enough for her, I guess. Will you come?”


She shrugged. “Sure, when is it?”


I looked at her and smiled. “Next Friday at six, it’ll be at my place. Bella asked Jazz and me if we would cook for everyone, so don’t worry about dinner.”


Rosalie quirked a brow as she asked with a grin. “You cook?”


I chuckled and nodded. “Yes, I do. My mom’s a good teacher. And speaking of cooking, I wanted to thank you for helping Jasper with dinner awhile back. It was delicious.”  


I glanced at Jasper and saw him turning his head a bit to the wall, blushing slightly, and I was sure he was thinking about what happened after dinner. I had to shift slightly to get comfortable as my own thoughts went back to that night. I cleared my throat. “As I said… thank you.”


Rosalie looked at me and grinned, her eyes flicking quickly to Jasper and back to me. “I’m glad you liked it. I take it you had a…nice…evening, then?”


Jasper, who had just taken a sip of his beer, choked and spluttered at her words, coughing out a hoarse, “Rose!” and glaring at her.


Emmett leaned into her and told her to be nice, to which she rolled her eyes, but she made no further comment. After we were all done with our food, the waitress stopped by again to check on us and see if we wanted dessert or coffee. Rosalie wanted some but said she couldn’t possibly finish off one by herself, so Emmett suggested they share whatever she wanted. Jasper and I quickly agreed to do the same, so we ordered the Raspberry Decadence for them and the Banana Criollo for us as well as coffee all around.


When Jasper suggested the Banana Criollo, I glanced at him, remembering what happened this morning, but I could find no trace of any distress coming from him. I was relieved, to say the least.


While we waited for dessert to show up, the topic turned to Rosalie as Jasper asked her how ‘her kids’ were doing. It took me a moment to remember from our many IM conversations over the past months that Rosalie volunteered at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital in their inpatient play room. I listened with interest as she talked about some of the kids currently at the facility. She spoke in general terms, avoiding any details that would give away confidential information, but it was clear that the job was tough on her at times.


It was obvious, though, that she loved what she did and that she loved those kids. I was beginning to really like Rose, and I could see what Emmett saw in her. Well, for the most part, anyway. While she had been talking, the waitress had delivered our coffees and desserts. I was stuffed to the gills after we were done, but it was worth it to have spent time with Emmett and Rosalie, getting to know Jasper’s sister a little better.


“So, are you guys up for catching a movie or something?” Rose looked at Jasper and me in turn.


I leaned my head back against the seat as I looked at Jasper. “What do you say, baby? Movie, or something else?”


Jasper let out a long breath as he put his hands on his stomach. “Movie…I don’t think I can move to do much else.” He chuckled.


When the waitress came to give us our bill, I quickly snatched it up, grabbed my wallet, and handed the bill back to her with my card before anyone had even registered what was going on. I shrugged at the protests that came across the table and looked at Emmett. “Lunch was on me. You can buy the movie tickets and concessions if you want.”


I raised a brow at him, and he grumbled his consent while Rose and Jasper both looked as if they could throttle us. Jasper scowled a little as he leaned into me and whispered, “One of these days, you will learn to let others foot the bill.”


I snickered, “Maybe,” and winked at him.


Since we’d all had something to drink, we opted to get a cab to go to the theater. Emmett and Rose wanted to go see the second Transformers movie, and neither Jasper nor I were opposed to seeing it, so that’s what we did. I thought to myself that Emmett must be very happy to have found a girl who was as into cars as he was.


Emmett did indeed end up paying for everything at the theater, and when Rose protested, he pulled her to his side, wiggling his eyebrows as he smirked and said  that she could always pay him back later. Jasper and I both rolled our eyes at that and chuckled as Rose smacked him upside the head, muttering something in his ear.


During the movie, Jasper sat next to me, his body inclined to mine so our shoulders touched. Once the lights had all gone out, he grabbed my hand and held it through most of the movie. It felt good to have that contact with him. We’d touched before while at the movies, but we’d always been alone; this time was a little different. Even if it was his sister and Emmett, it still made me smile.


After the movie was over, we hugged Emmett and Rose goodbye after thanking them for a great time. It had been freeing to spend time as a couple with other people.  For the rest of the evening, we just relaxed, cuddling and talking about the day. It felt good, comfortable, and right.


The rest of our week together passed much the same as the first few days. Sunday, Jasper insisted we go shopping for Bella, as we wouldn’t have much time or inclination to go anywhere during the week. I didn’t usually care to shop around town, but I found myself enjoying it as we tried to find something for her. I was still careful to not have too much PDA with Jasper, not entirely sure just how comfortable he would be with it. It made my heart swell whenever he’d take my hand in his or put his hand on my back or arm to get my attention and let it linger there.


After a couple of hours, we finally found something we thought she would like. Victorious in our efforts, we went home to relax and just have some quiet time together. Jasper worked on some more homework while I caught up on lesson plans for the kids and training for the team. I was tempted to call Dad and take time off this week but thought better of it.


I did, however, talk to him on Monday to ask for the day off on Friday, so Jasper and I would have plenty of time to get everything ready for the party.


Before I knew it, it was Friday morning. I woke up and saw that Jasper was still asleep. I just watched him for a while, thinking back on the week. I loved coming home to him, waking up with him next to me, and going to sleep with him in my arms, or me in his. Every day I looked forward to coming home, knowing he would be there. He seemed to relax more and more with every day that went by, and I loved seeing him become so free.


Now it was Friday, which meant that our time of living together was almost at an end, since his parents were coming home today. I watched Jasper, who looked so peaceful in sleep, and I wondered what would happen this weekend, how things would be. I scooted closer to him and put my arm around his waist, snuggling into him. I was feeling a little melancholy, and though I knew we should get up soon and prepare for tonight, I wasn’t ready to leave the sanctuary of this bed.


Jasper stirred and gave a soft groan as he stretched. I raised my eyes to look at him, and his voice was groggy as he gazed back at me with sleep-hazy eyes. “Mornin’, darlin’.”


I lowered my head, smiling against his skin and taking a deep breath, letting his scent flood my senses before looking up at him with a soft smile, “Good morning, Jazz.”


I felt his fingers skim across my side. I shifted so I could kiss him, and I closed my eyes when I felt him respond to me. I hummed my pleasure as Jasper gently rolled me onto my back and crawled over me, pressing into me. I wrapped my arms around him, holding him as close as I could, and resumed our kiss. I can’t think of a better way to wake up. I let my hands roam over his body, reveling in the feel of the muscles flexing under my touch, the way his body seemed to come alive just for me.


Before too long, we were making love, and I tried to commit every touch, every thrust, moan, and kiss to memory. The feeling of him writhing beneath me as I took him, the heat of him, the smell, sight, and sound of him. Everything. I wasn’t sure why, but I did it anyway. He was going home too soon, and I wanted this to last. With whispered ‘I love you’s’ traded back and forth between us, the urge to just let go soon became too much.


After we were both sated and spent, we lay together for a while, Jasper’s head lying in the crook of my neck. We were just enjoying this moment of contentment, knowing we would have to get up and get ready soon. Jasper was the first to stir as he looked up at me through his lashes, silently letting me know it was time to get moving. I smiled and kissed his forehead, murmuring, “I know. We have a lot to do today.”


We took a shower together, washing each other with tender care, just taking our time. I hugged him close after turning off the water, kissing his neck. He wrapped his arms around my waist, nuzzling my neck in turn, whispering, “Edward, are you alright?”


I pulled back slightly and sighed. “Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just not ready for this week to be over yet.” I pushed his wet curls from his forehead and smiled sadly. “I love having you here, Jasper. I love you.”


He leaned in and kissed me tenderly, murmuring against my lips, “I love you, too. And I love being with you, darlin’. But this week isn’t over yet, and we have a party to prepare for. So, ready or not, we have to get hoppin’.”


With that, he smacked my ass lightly and grinned. I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was trying to lighten the mood and not think about this almost being the end of our time together. It just wouldn’t be quite the same, and we both knew it. I pecked him on the lips before grabbing a towel and handing it to him. We toweled off in silence and got dressed comfortably, knowing we’d change again just before the party.


I grabbed the list of things we’d need from the store on my way out the door. We decided to grab something quick to eat before beginning our shopping venture, so we stopped at the coffee shop around the corner and grabbed a couple of coffees to go as well as bagels and cream cheese. It wasn’t much, but it would do, and neither of us was very interested in anything special.


After about an hour-and-a-half of running around, we finally made it home. Jasper started up a pot of coffee and turned on the stereo, while I put things away. Jasper had, over the course of the week, done what cleaning was needed – which, thankfully, wasn’t much – so we could concentrate on cooking, baking, and getting the place ready.


We’d decided on serving lasagna, since that was relatively easy to prepare in larger quantities, and we both were good at making it. Jasper was also going to bake a few different kinds of bread from scratch, as well as a birthday cake. All the baking to be done made me very glad of my ovens, as we would need them both for most of the day. We also had gotten the fixings for a salad, and I was going to make some flavored butters for the bread.


After we each got a cup of coffee, we set to work, falling quickly into an easy rhythm. I had never been so glad that Esme had insisted on my having a larger kitchen – initially I hadn’t seen the need for one, since I was single and not likely to be getting the husband and 2.5 kids. I had entertained at times, of course, but never quite like this.


I found myself enjoying working with Jasper. We joked back and forth about various mishaps we’d had in the past as far as cooking or baking went. We’d steal a kiss or hug when we were able, careful not to startle the other and cause any accidents.


I made us a couple of panini as a quick lunch, after which I went and decorated the living room while Jasper kept working in the kitchen. Everything seemed to be right on schedule, and before we knew it, it was time for us to change for the party.


I got dressed first, since Jasper was putting the finishing touches on the cake and making sure everything else was ready to go. I put on my khakis and a cobalt blue button down shirt. I kept the top two buttons undone, like I usually did, and walked into the kitchen while rolling up my sleeves. Since we weren’t going to be leaving the house, I decided to just go barefoot and be comfortable.


Jasper looked up as I walked in, and I grinned as I noticed his eyes roam over my body. I walked up to him and kissed him briefly. “Your turn, baby. People will be showing up here in a few minutes.”


I chuckled softly at his stifled groan. He sighed and nodded before pecking my lips, murmuring against them so low I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to hear or not, “You look too damn hot for my own good.”


I quirked a brow as I looked at him, grinning broadly. He blushed slightly and cleared his throat, mumbling, “Never mind.”


I watched him walk out of the kitchen, shaking my head and chuckling. While he was getting dressed, I checked to make sure everything was ready for Bella’s party. I had the dining table pushed against the wall and set up buffet style. I had gotten a few balloons and streamers and scattered them around the room. I’d thought about candles but reconsidered since there’d be quite a few people here, and alcohol would be involved. Better safe than sorry.


I walked back to the kitchen to open a couple of bottles of wine. I’d opened the fridge and was leaning on the door in an effort to find the wine I’d put in earlier when I felt Jasper’s arms snake around my waist and squeeze me to him. I smiled, closing the fridge door as I straightened up and leaned back into him.  He kissed my neck briefly before allowing me to turn around and get a look at what he was wearing, and this time it was my turn to stifle a groan.


He was dressed in black jeans and an eggplant-colored dress shirt. Like me, he had his sleeves rolled up, top buttons open, and no socks. I whispered softly, “Fuck me…”


The cocky grin he gave me as he heard me did nothing for my restraint, and I cut him off as he began to talk, crashing my lips to his. He moaned into the kiss, and I started walking him backwards until he hit the counter, pressing into him. His hands were in my hair and on my lower back, pulling me closer still.


The buzzer of the intercom rang loud into the room, startling us both. I rested my forehead against his. “Fucking bad timing…”


Jasper chuckled softly before pecking me on the lips and pushing me away so he could answer the door. “C’mon, darlin’. Let’s get this party started.”


While Jasper went to answer the door, I managed to finally get a few bottles of wine opened so they could breathe. When I was done, I walked into the living room to find Rosalie and Emmett talking to Felix. Apparently they’d arrived at the same time. Rosalie came over and gave me a hug and a kiss on my cheek, which I returned.


The buzzer sounded again, and this time I answered it, leaving Jasper to talk with the others. A minute later, Bella, Alice, Angela, and Ben showed up. I picked Bella up, hugging her as I  swung her around, causing her to giggle. “Hey there, Birthday Girl!”


I blinked as a flash went off right in my eyes, and I stopped dead in my tracks. “Ah, what the hell, Alice? Careful where you point that thing!” I put Bella down gently, rubbing my eyes, trying to get the spots to stop.


Alice giggled and stood tippy toe to give me a kiss on the cheek. “Sorry, Edward, but that was a Kodak moment. You know it’s tradition!” She waved her digital camera in front of her with a sly grin.


I groaned. “Yeah, alright, Alice. I know it’s tradition and all…but you know I’m not fond of getting my picture taken much.”


That last bit came out more as a whine, which caught Jasper’s attention as he walked up to Bella, kissing her cheek. “Happy birthday, Bella.” He looked at me and grinned slightly. “What was that about pictures?”


I rolled my eyes and sighed. “Nothing. It’s ‘tradition’ that whenever we get together with the gang for birthdays or special events, Alice takes tons of pictures, which she puts together in a scrapbook for us. She’s done it for years, and there’s no stopping her. The scrapbooks are her Christmas gifts to us every year.”


Jasper looked around the small group and chuckled softly at the varying looks of acceptance and resignation he saw; when his eyes landed on Alice, he smirked. He walked up to her and leaned down to whisper in her ear. I couldn’t tell what he said, but I was certain it wouldn’t be anything good, given the way  Alice’s eyes lit up as she nodded in agreement. When he straightened up and looked at me, I raised my eyebrow in question, but he just shrugged.


I rolled my eyes, but any further response from me was cut off by the buzzer, indicating more arrivals. Within the span of five minutes, the rest of the team had arrived. It seemed like everyone had been able to make it, and Jasper had made sure that Bella was front and center for everyone to greet and wish her happy birthday – something I was sure she wouldn’t be overly happy about but would tolerate.


I went to check on the lasagna, pulling the foil off of the dishes so the cheese could brown a little. As I was doing so, Jasper came in to check on things, and we worked together to assemble the salad, cut the breads, and put everything out on the table, including the flavored butters I had prepared earlier. I’d even gone so far as to make small signs to put with the butters, indicating what was in them – Blue Cheese, Rosemary, Garlic, Ginger/Peach, and Herb. I was fairly sure there’d be something there for everyone to enjoy. 


Jasper had made several kinds of bread as well. There were a couple of focacia breads – Parmesan and rosemary. He’d made a couple of French breads as well. As Jasper finished setting everything on the table, I took out the lasagna dishes and set them to rest for a few minutes. Rosalie came in to ask if she could help, and I asked if she’d take some of the wine out to the table.


Emmett came in shortly after, and I had him grab one of the lasagna dishes and take it out. I took a moment to just breathe and regain some peace before heading back into the throng of people in my living room. I loved them all, but it was definitely new to have everyone congregated in my home like this. There was a reason we normally went out when getting together – there were so many of us, and some of the guys were a little…boisterous, especially when alcohol was involved.


Jasper came back into the kitchen and walked up to me, putting his hands on my hips. “You alright, darlin’?”


I smiled softly and nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just enjoying some peace and quiet before going in there again.”


He chuckled before leaning in and kissing me tenderly. I closed my eyes, tilting my head a little as I kissed him back, putting my arms around his neck. We both startled at the flash that went off, and we looked over to see Alice with a triumphant grin. “Gotcha.”


I looked from her to Jasper, worried about his reaction, but I was surprised to see an impish grin on his face as he blushed. I rolled my eyes, shaking my head as I looked back to Alice. “Why do I have the feeling I’d better get used to this tonight?”


Both Alice and Jasper feigned innocence as they looked back at me, and Alice chimed, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Edward. Now come on, let’s go enjoy the feast you two have been slaving over all day. We have a birthday to celebrate, after all, and it won’t do to have you two hidden away in the kitchen.”


She winked and turned on her heel, heading back to the others. I gave Jasper a peck on the lips and gathered the second lasagna dish up to take in. Jasper grinned as he walked ahead of me. As soon as all the food was on the table, Emmett put his fingers to his lips and gave a sharp whistle to get everyone’s attention. “Yo! Food’s up! Birthday Girl gets first dibs!”
He grinned at Bella, who blushed as she grabbed a plate, muttering under her breath. Soon everyone had a plate of food and a glass of wine and had found a seat somewhere. Conversations were flowing freely around us, and I took a moment to take it all in. I listened as Jasper, Felix, and Bella chatted about the upcoming games; Ben, Angela, Tyler, and Eric were all talking about something and laughing, though I couldn’t tell what about. Rosalie and Emmett were sitting with Kirk, Demetri, and Vicky, and judging by the animated look on Emmett’s face, I was sure cars had to be involved.  


Alice was flitting around, taking pictures, pausing now and again to actually eat a few bites. Jasper was sitting on the floor against my legs, and I smiled down at him as he looked up, asking if I wanted anything. I shook my head, and he got up, took my plate, and walked into the kitchen. Bella and Felix both looked at me with a grin, and I couldn’t help but grin back even as I rolled my eyes at them.


Once everyone was done eating and the left over food had been put away, it was time for presents. Bella had been put center stage in the chair-and-a-half with Angela sitting on one arm and Felix hovering on the other side. Jasper and I sat on the couch together along with Emmett and Rosalie. The others had found seats on the floor or on the love seat. We each gave Bella our gifts in turn, and I chuckled as I watched her blush deepen. She’d never been able to control that reaction, and she hated it, but I had to admit it was cute.


When Jasper got up to give her our present, he kissed her cheek, whispering something in her ear. She smiled brightly in response and wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him to her as she whispered something back. He blushed, handed her the envelope, and sat back down with me. I put my arm on the back of the couch, my thumb caressing the back of his neck.


He flashed his eyes to me briefly before turning to look at Bella again. She opened the envelope gingerly and gasped as she took out the voucher. She looked at us both with her mouth open, trying to speak. She finally gave a small squeak, got up, and all but ran over to us, hugging us both and kissing our cheeks. “Thank you, thank you, thank you! You really shouldn’t have! But thank you!”


Jasper and I both laughed, hugging her back. When she sat back down, she gazed down at the voucher again, a look of awe on her face. After a minute, Felix nudged her side and grumbled, “Well! Are you going to tell the rest of us what got you so excited? What did they get you?”


Bella grinned from ear to ear as she looked at Felix, waving the voucher in front of her. “They got me a culinary weekend getaway! Cooking classes, tasting, a tour of the local market…they even got me a flight!”


I grinned at her excitement. Felix turned to us with wide eyes. “How on earth did you come up with that?”


Jasper chuckled and explained that we’d been trying to find something last Sunday but weren’t having any luck. “Then Edward pointed to a sign advertising trips like that at the travel agency we were walking past. We figured it was something ‘Bella’ and made all the arrangements.”


Felix, Ben, and Emmett all gave a low whistle, while Rose scrambled to her feet to look over Bella’s shoulder, her eyes wide as she read everything that was included. She scowled at Jasper. “Damn, Jazzie, why don’t I ever get cool gifts like that from you, hmm?”


Jasper chuckled, shrugging. “Like you didn’t love the NASCAR trip last year.”


I looked from one sibling to the other, not quite sure what to make of things, before Rosalie’s lips twitched. She turned to Emmett and pointed at him. “You, take notes.” She then gestured to Jasper and me with a wink.


Emmett laughed as he got up, grabbed Rosalie, and lifted her in a bear hug. “Yes ma’am!”


He kissed her soundly on the lips, and after he pulled away with a big grin, she actually giggled and blushed as he put her down again. I glanced at Jasper, who sat watching it all with great amusement. I heard Felix whisper loudly, “Bitten bad, man…” as he shook his head at Emmett.


I chuckled softly as I leaned in and whispered to Jasper, “I know the feeling. Must be something about you Hales.”  


I grinned, kissing his cheek, noting the faint blush on it as I did so. Jasper leaned a little further into me, and I put my arm around his shoulder, squeezing it lightly. I wasn’t paying attention to anything other than him until I saw his eyes flicker around and his blush deepen. I looked up and saw several people – Emmett, Rosalie, Bella, Alice, Angela, and Felix – watching us, each of them wearing a knowing smirk.


Felix looked at Jasper, raised his glass, and nodded at him, winking. Jasper nodded back as he put his hand on my knee and started talking to Rosalie. I looked at Felix, giving him a nod and a grateful smile. He just grinned back, winked at me, and then started talking with Bella.


The next few hours were spent talking, laughing, and even singing. Bella insisted that Jasper and I play for her, so we agreed on the condition that everyone had to join in as best they could. Emmett even grabbed a guitar as well and played along with a few of the songs. Around ten, Alice piped up, saying it was time for cake. Jasper and I both went to get it as it was a large sheet cake, and we lit the candles in the kitchen.


We carefully placed it on the table, and we all sang “Happy Birthday” to Bella, Alice clicking away furiously as Bella blew out the candles. Once everyone had procured a slice of cake, we resumed the easy conversation. Jasper, Bella, and I were standing together, a little away from everyone. She was thanking us again for having the party here and catering for everyone. Carefully balancing my plate, I put a hand on her shoulder and squeezed her to my side, kissing the crown of her head lightly. “It was our pleasure, Bella.”


I looked over her head at Jasper, who nodded. I frowned slightly as I noted his thoughtful expression. “Baby, is everything okay?”


Jasper’s gaze went from Bella to me and then around to the others before settling back on the birthday girl. “Bella, I wanted to thank you, too. For including me. I know this isn’t how you normally celebrate your birthday.” His eyes flickered to mine, but I couldn’t tell what was going through his mind before he looked back at Bella again. “What would you say to ending the evening by going out after all?”


He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, his eyes shifting from Bella’s to mine. I was stunned. Is he serious? He nodded slightly, his voice low as he spoke, “I think it’d be nice to all go out… and I kinda like the idea of dancin’ with you, darlin’.”


Bella pulled away from me and pushed me forward with a muttered, “Talk,” before walking over to Alice. Putting my plate down, I grabbed Jasper’s and placed it next to mine before taking his hand and pulling him to our room. I closed the door behind us, and I couldn’t help but take a deep breath at the instant quiet that surrounded us. I turned to look at him, cupping his face in my hands as I searched his eyes.


He covered my hands with his own as I asked, “Are you sure, Jasper? I’d love to go out and dance with you, but …”


“But, nothing, Edward. I want to do this, and I won’t let my issues get in the way of you or my friends anymore. Bella changing her plans just for me…it meant a lot. It was a gift to me, and I know why she did it.” He sighed softly before wrapping his arms around my waist and pulling me into a hug, resting his head on my shoulder as he continued, “Darlin’, tonight I don’t want to think about what might happen after this weekend is over. I want to celebrate my friend’s birthday and be with my boyfriend, dance with him. We’ve had a great week, and I will not let what ever fears I might have spoil that.”


I wrapped my arms around him tightly, nuzzling his neck as I listened. I tried to speak, but my throat had tightened, and it took me a minute before I found my voice again.”You never cease to amaze me, Jazz.” I pressed my lips against his neck and smiled. “If Bella is up for moving the party, then I would love to take you out for a spin on the dance floor.”


He hugged me tight for a moment before pulling back, smiling. “Thanks, darlin’.” He paused as if considering something and grinned. “Though I’m not entirely sure how that’ll work. Haven’t exactly danced with many guys before.”


I rolled my eyes and chuckled. “That you’re worried about…?”


He just shrugged and grinned. “Nah, not really.”


Pecking his lips, I opened the door and gestured for him to go first, giving him a cocky grin as if to say ‘ladies first’. His response was to sashay through the door and burst out laughing as he did so, shaking his head. I followed him back to the living room, both of us laughing as I put my arm around his waist and fell into step with him. I looked around to find Bella and called out as I spotted her across the room, standing by Felix, Ben and Angela, “Bella! What do you say?”


She looked at us, tilting her head slightly before grinning. “I’m game! Hey everyone…want to go watch me embarrass myself on the dance floor, step on some toes?”


She giggled at the various reactions, ranging from groans about being the one stepped on to enthusiastic hoots. We decided that the gang would meet up at the club, while Rosalie and Emmett stayed behind to help Jasper and me clean up enough so that things wouldn’t spoil or be too difficult to clean if we were gone for a long time. As we were heading out the door to catch the others, Rosalie’s phone rang, so we hung back, knowing that if she got in the elevator, she’d lose the signal.


She sighed as she hung up and walked up to Jasper. “That was Momma; she wanted to let us know that their flight was delayed and asked if I could still pick them up when they arrive. She said she’d call, as they have no idea when that‘ll be. So I may have to leave before the party is over.”


Jasper frowned as he nodded. “Sure thing. Are they alright?”


Emmett slipped an arm around Rose’s shoulders as she nodded. “Yeah, they were already boarded. She said something about another plane being stuck on the runway they were already in line for, so they’re waiting, I guess… didn’t quite get what was going on. She wasn’t speaking very loud; I don’t think she was supposed to be on the phone.”


She winked at Jasper, who chuckled. “Sounds like Momma. At least they’re okay. Shall we head out?”


Emmett had called a cab while we were cleaning, and it stood waiting for us in front of the building. It took about ten minutes before we arrived at the club, where Eric was standing outside, smoking. He grinned and stubbed out his cigarette as we walked up to him. “There you guys are. The others are already inside, but I figured I’d wait for you all to show up and join us. Give me a chance to smoke, since you have that strict ‘no-smoking policy’ at your place.”


He smacked my shoulder lightly as I chuckled. “And I appreciate you sticking to it.”


He rolled his eyes as we were let through and paid our admission. Luna Nueva had been our go-to place for hanging out as a group for years, and I smiled at the familiar faces I spotted behind the bar. The place was impressive with its dark furnishings, candles, and the fireplace. It was the perfect setting to hang out in a large group while still having the intimate feeling of being in someone’s home.


We found a place to sit close to the fireplace, ordered some drinks, and most of us just continued talking for a little while, though Ben, Angela, Vicki, and Tyler all ventured onto the dance floor. 


The place was relatively quiet still, which lent itself well to talking. Alice and Bella were discussing the weekend getaway we’d given her, and I smiled at Jasper as I listened. After we’d all finished our first round of drinks, we all got up to dance. No one partnered, we just had fun as a group, though I made sure to stay close to Jasper, figuring that this would be more comfortable for him for the time being.


The place started to fill up, and after a couple more dances, we all decided to take a break to get another round of drinks. When we went back to our seats, Jasper and I sat next to each other, our legs touching. I smiled at him as I put a hand on his knee, squeezing it lightly as I leaned in so he could hear me. “Enjoying yourself?”


He smiled that impish smile that made my heart beat faster as he nodded. “Yeah, this place is great. I’m glad we came, especially since Bella seems to be having a great time.”


I turned to look at Bella, who had her head tilted back and was laughing at something Felix had said. Her face was flushed, her smile broad, and she looked like she was having the time of her life. For all her clumsiness, she enjoyed going out and loved to dance. Her enthusiasm for life was something I had always found endearing. She looked over at me with a raised eyebrow, so I winked at her, grinning. She giggled, rolled her eyes, and turned her attention back to whatever Felix was talking about.


After a while, Felix grabbed Bella’s hand and led her to the dance floor. I felt Jasper get up, grabbing my hand as he pulled me to my feet. I smirked at him as he led the way to where Bella and Felix were dancing. Emmett and Rose were not far behind us, and we all paired off, dancing close together. I put my hands on Jasper’s hips as we moved to the music, my eyes fixed on his to gauge his reaction. He looked at me with a grin as he put a hand on my shoulder, his eyes alight as we danced. I was happy that he seemed to be having such a good time.


We danced like that for a while, stealing a kiss every now and then when one of us got caught up in the music and the movement of our bodies. I caught the glances Emmett and Felix gave me, both of them wiggling their eyebrows suggestively at times, which made me roll my eyes. They’re as bad as each other.


Bella excused herself, saying she needed to go to the restroom, and Felix decided to join Emmett and Rosalie. I kept my eye on Bella, knowing that, at times, the guys in the club could get grabby, and I wanted to be able to intervene if needed. She had to push through a group of five guys, but none of them paid her much attention, as their focus was on the dance floor…and, I thought, us. I frowned, not sure I liked the feeling I was getting, but I shook it off. We were in a large group, and the bouncers here kept a good eye on things, usually.


Emmett, Felix, Jasper, and I decided to grab the next round of drinks as soon as Bella returned. She and Rosalie walked back to the rest of the group, chatting away as they went. I noticed the same group of guys standing by the bar; I tried to get a place to wait for our drinks as far away from them as I could, but there wasn’t much room. As we stood waiting for the bartender to take our order, I could hear parts of their conversation drifting towards us. They were drunk, and I tried to block them out, but without too much success.


“… they thinking…”


“…fucking fags…”


“…ought to teach them respect…”


I frowned and chanced a glance at Jasper. He’d heard. It was obvious by the sudden stiffness in his posture. I squeezed his hand and whispered to him, “Ignore them.”


I had gotten somewhat used to stuff like this happening over the years, but this was all new territory for him, and I was worried about how he would take it. He nodded, but his posture didn’t change. I’m sorry, Jasper…


The bartender finally got around to us, and as soon as we got our drinks, we headed back to the others, who had been watching us. I noticed that Tyler, Eric, and Ben were standing, their arms folded across their chests.


I shook my head at them as I handed them their drinks, and they relaxed somewhat, taking their seats again. We all sat and chatted for a while, Emmett and Felix both lightening the mood by telling embarrassing stories of previous nights out with everyone. Jasper, who had remained tense even after rejoining the group, started to loosen up again and, after a while, was laughing right along with everyone else.


Bella insisted Jasper dance with her, and Emmett, Rosalie, Felix, and Vicky  joined them. I decided to just sit this one out as I tried to keep an eye out for the men from earlier, but I could not find them. I was hoping they had finally left. I looked at my watch, noting it was already around one in the morning, and I was beginning to feel tired. It had been a long day, and I wondered if Jasper would mind if we went home soon.


After another song, the others came back from dancing. I smiled at Jasper as I grabbed his hand, pulling him down next to me. I leaned into him so he could hear me without my having to raise my voice too much. “You about ready to go home? It’s been a long day.”


He nodded, squeezing my hand. “Sure, darlin’, let me just go to the restroom before we head out. Won’t be long.”  


He pressed his lips lightly to mine, and I smiled against them. One more night of just us. We’d agreed that since we were out this late, and his parents weren’t home yet anyway, he’d stay one more night before heading back. Maybe after this weekend, if things go well, we can talk about figuring something else out. I hate the idea of not being able to fall asleep with him every night.


I watched him walk through the crowd but soon lost sight of him. I sat back in my seat with a sigh, catching Bella’s eye. She grinned and leaned into me. “I’m glad to see you so happy, Edward. You two are good for each other.”


With that, she kissed my cheek and giggled as she saw me blush a little. I smiled. “Thanks, Bells.”


I pulled her into a hug but soon was interrupted by someone yelling my name. I let go of Bella and turned around, my eyes landing on a frantic looking Angela as she pushed her way through to us. I got up and hurried over to her, grabbing her by the shoulders. She looked panicked and was having trouble getting out a coherent sentence. “Edward! Jasper… just saw him… emergency exit…hurry!”


What the hell? I had a really bad feeling, which wasn’t helped by her turning me to the restrooms and giving me a push. Emmett, Felix, Rosalie, and Bella were hot on my heels as I hurried to where Angela had directed me, and I was sure that Ben would take care of Angela and hopefully alert the staff to whatever was going on.


When I opened the door of the emergency exit, I felt my heart trying to jump out of my throat at the sight before me. Two of the guys had Jasper by each arm, holding him while one other was landing punch after punch to his gut, his face, his chest. Two others stood to the side, yelling obscenities and various derogatory slurs, I’m sure, but my mind wasn’t able to filter through them.


“Shit! Jasper!”


Felix and Emmett ran past me, shouldering me out of the way. I was aware of the sounds of their cursing and fists meeting flesh, but I had eyes only for the man I loved…the man who crumpled to the ground as soon as the two intolerant bastards holding him up let him drop to defend themselves.


I didn’t know how long it took for the bouncers to break up the fight. I sat on the ground, cradling Jasper in my arms as the sounds of fighting surrounded us. Jasper clung to me as I rocked with him, and all I could hear myself say was, “I’m so sorry…I’m so sorry…” Jasper was trying to comfort me, telling me he was okay, but we were still little more than a useless tangle on the ground by the time the police arrived.


Jasper was pressing his shirt sleeve to his lip, which was split and bleeding; the cut he’d received over his eye was also bleeding, and I finally came to my senses enough to pull my sleeve down and press it against the wound as best as I was able. He was clutching his ribs with his other arm but otherwise appeared to be alright, as far as I was able to tell. Though this didn’t mean much, given where we were.


Slowly, my senses began to take in what was going on around us. I heard Bella cursing loudly, which caught my attention, and when I looked up, she was cradling her hand to her chest. I looked around and saw that Emmett and Felix were still upright, though both looked very disheveled, and Felix had the makings of a black eye going.


Rosalie came over to where Jasper and I sat and knelt down beside him, her hand hovering over the wounds, as if wanting to check them but not daring to touch him. She whispered, her voice shaky with emotion, and probably adrenaline, “Jazzie…?”


He gingerly moved the arm that was clutching his chest, taking her hand in his. “I’m fine, Rosie. Well, not fine obviously.” He pulled his sleeve away from his lip, testing to see if the bleeding had stopped, which it had. “But I’ll be alright.”


He frowned as he turned to look at me. “How did you know?” His voice was quiet and a little shaky.  


I kissed his temple. “Angela saw them take you outside and came to warn us.”


He nodded, shifting a little and wincing as he did so. The EMT’s had arrived and started checking everyone out. Only one ambulance had been dispatched, and one of the guys who had beaten up Jasper was being taken away in it. When they began to call in for another ambulance for Jasper, he refused, saying he could get to the hospital under his own power. They made him sign a refusal form before they left.


The police were asking everyone what had happened, taking statements. After the ambulance left, they took a little while longer to get final statements from everyone and told us to stop by the station in the morning to sign them. Jasper would also have to let them know what his injuries were, so they could file the proper charges against the men who had attacked him.


Felix, Bella, and Emmett needed to go to the ER as well, and the others decided to come with us, so we wouldn’t be alone as we waited. They felt horrible about what had happened, I was sure, and wanted to make sure we were all okay.


After those of us who needed treatment had been signed in and triaged, we were left waiting in the waiting room. It was a relatively quiet night, but the wait was still long. We all sat together. Felix and Bella sat next to each other. Emmett had taken a seat to the left of Jasper and pulled Rosalie into his lap, and I sat on Jasper’s other side, my arm around his shoulders. I was careful not to hurt him, but I needed the contact, and the way he pressed against my side told me he did as well.


Jasper was very quiet and kept shooting glances at Bella, frowning. I wasn’t sure what was going through his mind, until he finally lifted his head and spoke to her in a soft voice, “Bella? I’m sorry for ruining your birthday like this. I…”


“What the hell, Jasper?” Bella was furious, and her eyes flashed when she looked at him. “Don’t you dare apologize for this! You didn’t ask those bigots to beat you up. This,” she held her injured hand up as she continued, “isn’t your fault! If anything, it’s my own for clocking the bastard that was hitting you.”


Jasper blinked, swallowing hard before answering, “Thanks, Bella.”


She got up and carefully hugged him, letting go after a little while. She kissed both our cheeks, murmuring she’d be just fine before sitting back down with Felix and quietly talking to him.


I leaned a little closer to Jasper, pressing my lips to his temple. “Don’t worry about the others, baby. Everyone’s going to be fine. I’m more concerned about you right now…make sure nothing’s broken or anything.” I just need you to be alright. It was my fault we were here, if I had said ‘no’ to going out, none of this would’ve happened. I wasn’t sure how he was doing, he was so quiet.   


Jasper leaned toward me, his shoulder resting against my chest as his right hand came up to cup my right cheek. My left arm was around his shoulders, my fingers gently stroking his upper arm in an attempt to comfort him. I rested my cheek against the top of his head, and we sat that way for the longest time. No one said anything further, each of us lost in our own thoughts.


Eventually Jasper stirred, shifting slightly in his seat as he lowered his hand from my cheek to my thigh. He murmured softly, “I love you,” as he settled back against me with a sigh.


Someone gasped loudly somewhere to my right, and I started to turn around when I felt Jasper stiffen next to me.