I heard someone gasp, and I turned my head to see what was going on. The sight that met my eyes made my heart clench, and I froze in my seat.


Momma stood not two feet away from us, to our right and slightly behind our seats, with a hand clasped to her mouth, her eyes full of shock and sadness.


My gaze reluctantly went to the person right behind her. Dad. He stood – rigid – his hand on Momma’s shoulder, his jaw set and his eyes… I’d never seen him look like that before. The look in his eyes, the pure, unadulterated disgust…hatred? Not even the men who – not hours before – had tried to ‘teach me a lesson’ for being who I was had looked at me like that.


I was frozen in my seat and only vaguely aware of the people around me. I could feel Edward turn around to see what was going on, but other than that, all my attention was on my father. Why are they here? Why now? Oh, God…

I swallowed hard as Dad straightened up further still and took a step back. My eyes shifted to Momma, who looked at me with tears swimming in her eyes. “Momma…?”  


I stood slowly; not even fully aware of what I was doing, I moved to her but stopped as she shrank back against Dad. Shit. I was starting to feel sick to my stomach. This couldn’t be happening. Not here. Not now. Running my fingers through my hair, I looked over to Rose. Her face was drawn, all color drained from her features as she looked from our parents to me. 


I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath – wincing at the stabbing pain from my ribs – before turning back to look at them. I felt Edward standing behind me, not quite touching, but close enough that I could feel the heat coming off his body. I was afraid to turn around and see his reaction, so I kept my eyes forward as I addressed my father, my voice sounding strained. “Dad, what…”


Anything else I might have wanted to say died in my throat as I saw his eyes flash with anger, his nostrils flaring as he growled out, “Not. A. Word.”  


I blanched, my eyes flickering to Rosalie before looking back at him. Momma turned her face away, unable to look at me; the sight of her turning away from me made my stomach clench. Dad continued to speak through gritted teeth, his voice brimming with contempt and venom, “So this is who you’ve been spending your time with, Jasper? The ‘special person’ you were wanting to introduce to us this weekend…is him?” He jabbed a finger toward Edward as he spoke, and the gesture was like a knife straight through my heart.  


I nodded, my voice barely a whisper, “Yes, Sir.” I was too stunned by just how hostile he was to answer any differently. Edward put his hand on my shoulder, squeezing it to let me know he was there. Oh God, Edward, I’m so sorry…


Dad’s eyes narrowed as he took in how close we stood, and that Edward was trying to support me, comfort me. His eyes shifted to Rosalie, his jaw clenching several times before he spoke, “And you knew?”   


He didn’t even allow her the chance to speak up but continued on, directing his words at me once more, each syllable deliberate and strained. “I do not know you. No son of mine…” he paused, taking a deep breath as he glared at us. He drew himself up, squaring his shoulders as his eyes grew colder. Any recognition, any fatherly affection I’d ever seen directed toward me was gone, replaced by absolute hatred and disgust. “I will not stand for this. I will not have a fucking fag for a son.” Those last words were practically a growl as he spat them at me.   


I cringed at his words. The men who had beaten me had called me that as well, that and worse, but it was nothing. Nothing compared to hearing the words coming out of my father’s mouth, directed at me; nothing compared to hearing the finality in his voice and knowing that all I was to him now was a fucking fag. Edward’s grip tightened slightly on my shoulder. Momma had closed her eyes as Daddy was speaking, and I noticed tears streaking down her face.


God, no… please no…  


My worst nightmares appeared to be coming true, right in front of my eyes as I saw my father put his arm around Momma’s shoulders and start to walk back the way they had come. I blinked rapidly, fighting the tears that were stinging my eyes as I stepped forward, my hand reaching out for them as I choked out, “Daddy, please!”


He turned around, though Momma kept her back to me as he spoke, his voice low and menacing, “I have no son. Do not come home. I will not allow you to disgrace my home again!”


With that, he turned around, and he and Momma left the ER. I watched them walk out of my life, and the pain of it was worse than any punch or kick I had received that night. They hate me. I felt Edward’s arms around my waist at the same moment my knees buckled, and he helped me slowly to the floor. I couldn’t hear anything, other than my father’s words running over and over in my head. “I have no son.”


My hands went to my hair, gripping it tightly as I looked up at the ceiling, without seeing anything. My eyes were too blurry from the tears that pooled in them. I shut my eyes tightly, stupidly thinking that when I opened them, none of this would have happened. Edward and I would be home, alone, and none of it – not the guys from the club, nor my parents walking in on us in the ER – would have happened.


I lowered my head, wrapping my arms around my chest as I became aware of the pain emanating from my ribs. I vaguely wondered why, before realizing that I was shaking. I felt Rosalie’s hands as she placed them on my cheeks and lifted my face to hers, and I had to focus to hear what she was saying. “Jasper, I’m so sorry. Momma called while we were on our way to the ER, and I told her you’d been hurt. I told her you would be okay, for them to just take a cab home because I wasn’t going to make it to the airport. I didn’t know they’d come here, Jazzie. I’m so, so sorry.”


Unable to find my voice, I could only nod. She had knelt down and wrapped her arms around me awkwardly, since Edward was still holding onto me as well. He hadn’t said a single word as far as I was aware, and I was beginning to worry about how he had taken everything, scared that my parents’ reaction would put him off and send him on his way, just like in my nightmare.


After a couple of minutes, I just couldn’t stand it anymore and had to look at him, had to see his face, his reaction. As I started to turn around, Rosalie let me go and went back to Emmett, who had been standing close to us. I warily looked at Edward, taking in the set of his clenched jaw and the frownlines marring his forehead. When I looked into his eyes, I could see anger and hurt there, and it nearly floored me, knowing that he was hurting because of me. Again.


He looked into my eyes, his hand slowly – hesitantly – coming to rest on my cheek. I took in a wavering breath, averting my eyes from his when he didn’t say anything. Please not him, too. I felt him pull me closer to him, his arms wrapping around my shoulders now as he whispered softly in my ear, “I’m here, Jasper. I love you.”


I stifled a sob as I heard him, wrapping my arms tight around him, fists clenching his shirt. I wanted to tell him I loved him, too, but I couldn’t find my voice, so I just nestled my face into his neck, taking in deep breaths of his scent as I tried to calm myself down, though every breath I took felt as if I was being stabbed.


We sat like that for a few minutes before he pulled away slowly to look at me again. He gave me a tentative smile as he placed his hand on my neck, his thumb resting in front of my ear. “Come on; let’s get you off of this floor and onto a chair. This can’t be comfortable for you with those ribs.”


I nodded and got to my feet slowly. As I did, I became aware of everyone else around me, and I groaned in humiliation. Everyone had been privy to the exchange between my parents and me, and my falling apart afterward. I closed my eyes briefly before letting Edward guide me to a chair – I kept my eyes focused on the floor, unwilling to look at anyone and see the pity I was sure would be on their faces.


I’d just taken my seat when my name was called by the nurse. I got up, grabbing Edward’s hand in mine and looked at Rose, who nodded in understanding. Emmett pulled her a little closer to him as I turned to follow the nurse.


The next few hours went by in somewhat of a blur. They’d taken x-rays to make sure my ribs weren’t broken – they weren’t, just bruised – stitched up my cuts, and taken numerous pictures to catalog all my wounds. I didn’t really pay much attention, my thoughts on a never-ending loop of the night. I was aware of Edward being by my side through it all, and I answered questions when asked. Edward had the doctor repeat the care instructions, but I was at the point of not really caring anymore. I just wanted to go home – to go to bed and just have this day end.


We stayed long enough to make sure everyone else was alright. Emmett also had a few cuts and bruises, though he was able to get away without getting stitches. Felix’s eye was now almost shut, and the doctor had told him to be mindful since he had a minor concussion. Bella had managed to break her hand and was let go with a cast. She was less than happy, as it meant she’d be out of the upcoming games.


We said our goodbyes quickly after that; I was anxious to go home, feeling uncomfortable and exposed around everyone. We drove home in silence, and when we finally got back to his apartment, I made a beeline for the bedroom, got undressed, and slid in the bed. I rolled on my side, wincing in pain before curling up into a ball and pulling the covers over me. I pulled the pillow up partially and pressed my face into it to muffle my cries as I finally was able to let go.


Everything that had happened from the moment we left for the club played itself over and over in my mind. My body was shaking as I sobbed, feeling the sting of the words Dad had spoken as keenly as the sharp pains in my ribs. I had been right. All those years ago, I had been right about how he would react – that I would lose my family if I stayed with Edward. I would never be able to forget the look on their faces tonight.


I could not have chosen differently this time though. In my heart of hearts, I knew I could not have given him up again. Why does loving him have to come at that high a price? Why can’t they just accept him? Accept me?  


I felt Edward climb into bed with me; he curled his body around mine, slipping his arm around my waist and hugging me close to him. He pressed his lips to my shoulder and neck several times but didn’t speak, just letting me know that he was there. We lay like that for a long time before I finally drifted off to an uneasy sleep.


When I woke up the following morning, it took me a moment to realize why I was stiff and hurting all over. My ribs protested as I tried to stretch out, and I turned around gingerly, only to find the bed empty.  A hollow feeling had settled in my chest, and all I wanted to do was curl up into a ball again and hide. I didn’t want to get up, didn’t want to deal with what had happened.


I’d just pulled the covers back over my head and curled up, trying to fall back asleep again, when I heard the door open quietly. The sound of footsteps came closer, and I could smell coffee. I felt the mattress dip next to me as something – presumably the coffee – was put down on the nightstand. I made no move to acknowledge whoever was with me, not even when I felt a hand placed gently on my arm.


Edward sighed softly, shaking me a little in an effort to rouse me. “It’s time to get up, baby.”


My only response was to turn my head deeper into my pillow and try to keep the tears at bay. Part of me wanted to just be left alone; another part wanted nothing more than to have him crawl into bed with me and hold me. I could not reconcile the two, so I just lay there. He leaned over, his head resting against my shoulder, his voice low as he spoke, “Jazz, you have to get up. We have to go to the police station to sign our statements and give them the photographs.” He paused as he took a deep breath to steady himself. “I am so sorry, baby.”


I turned around, mindful of my ribs, and faced him then. He looked up at me, his eyes filled with sadness, pain, and something I couldn’t readily identify. “Why? You did nothing wrong; why should you apologize for anything?”


He sighed, lowering his eyes briefly as he ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. “If it weren’t for me…if we’d not gone…”


He couldn’t seem to finish his thoughts, let alone his sentence. I rubbed my face with my hands, taking in a deep breath – regretting it instantly as pain seared through my chest – before looking at him. “Edward…what are you saying? You saw what happened, how my dad reacted. Do you think he’d not have done that if we’d gone on Sunday as planned?”


He looked away; for a moment it felt as if he were turning away from me, and the thought of that stung. I put my hand on his thigh, squeezing it. “I’m the one that’s sorry, Edward. I shouldn’t have asked you to come with me. I know the point is moot now, since obviously lunch tomorrow is off. I just…”


My throat constricted as tears threatened, and I had to swallow hard before I could speak again, though my voice was barely a whisper, “I can’t lose you, too. I love you, Edward. What happened yesterday…none of that changes how I feel. No matter how much it hurts…” My voice broke with a small sob, the tears rolling down my face and onto the pillow. I closed my eyes, focusing on trying to keep my breathing even.


There was no response from Edward, and I couldn’t help but worry that maybe what happened yesterday had changed things for him. After a minute, I felt the bed shift as Edward climbed on top of me, straddling my thighs and resting his elbows on either side of me to keep his weight off of me. As I opened my eyes, I found his face inches above mine, his eyes searching mine as he spoke, his voice hoarse with emotion, “Jazz, I’m not going anywhere. I’m where I want to be, baby.” His lips grazed over mine briefly before he continued, “I love you, too.”


He sighed as I ran my fingers through his hair, my eyes fixed on his, “I just hate that you’re hurting, baby.”


Nodding, I whispered, “I know, darlin’.”


He leaned in, kissing me softly before pulling away with a frown. He shifted his weight a little, freeing one hand. He lifted his fingers to my lips, barely brushing over them, lingering over the stitches as he sighed. “I wish I could take it all away…”


His eyes – which had been following his fingers tracing my lips – flicked back to mine. His brow was furrowed as he seemed to think about something. He lifted off of me, settling down on his side next to me. His hand cupped my cheek, his eyes never leaving mine. He took a deep breath, letting it out slowly before speaking. “Jasper… this wasn’t how I wanted to do this… I mean… I was going to ask you, but now…”


He stumbled over his words, growing frustrated with his inability to just get it out. He started to blush slightly and cleared his throat to begin again, his voice barely audible, “Jazz…would you…move in with me?”


He bit his lip, watching me carefully, his thumb caressing my cheekbone as he waited for me to speak. I stared at him for a while, searching for answers to questions I wasn’t even sure I really knew. I covered the hand on my cheek with my own, whispering, “You mean that? You were really going to ask…?”


He nodded. “Yeah… after this last week… I can’t stand the thought of not being with you, not falling asleep with you or waking up next to you. I just wasn’t sure how to bring it up. I was worried it might be too soon for you.”


Neither of us spoke for a while, just watching the other as he let me think things over. I knew that, despite Dad throwing me out, I wasn’t without means to get a place of my own, but did I want that? If I was honest with myself, I knew that during this past week, I’d come to feel more at home here than I had ever felt…anywhere. I remembered the other day when the thought had struck so clearly that Edward was my home, as corny as that might sound.


I pulled his hand to my lips, placing a soft kiss on his pulse point on his wrist, my eyes never leaving his as I whispered, “Edward, there’s nowhere I’d rather live than here with you.”


The smile that spread across his face was catching, and I couldn’t help but return it. He leaned in, placing a tender kiss on my lips. I put my hand on the back of his neck, threading my fingers in his hair as I kept his lips pressed to mine, returning his kiss fervently. His hesitation lasted only a split second before he responded in kind. His fingers trailed over my arm, to my side, moving slowly – almost reverently – back and forth as we continued.


I tilted my head just enough to deepen our kiss, slipping my tongue in between his lips. He groaned softly into my mouth, our tongues caressing, exploring. Everything was momentarily forgotten. Nothing existed but Edward, me, and this bed. I needed to feel him – be connected to him – so badly; his hand had come to rest on my hip, kneading it lightly, and I just wanted him to move, to do something.


My ribs were starting to hurt, but I ignored the pain as best as I could. I tugged lightly on the strands of hair my fingers were tangled in, eliciting another groan from him. I moved away from his lips, using the leverage I had on him to shift his head to the side enough for me to move to his neck, nipping and kissing as I went. Before I knew it, Edward finally moved his hand, shifting it to my back as he pulled me to him in an attempt to pull our bodies flush.


I let out a gasp, releasing my hold on him completely to wrap my arms around my torso instead as I rolled onto my back, trying to just breathe without making the pain worse. I saw Edward bolt upright, hovering at my side. “Shit! Baby, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…. I didn’t mean…”


Edward looked horrified that he had hurt me. It took a few tries before I was able to speak, “Shh, darlin’. It’s okay…I’m fine, just…give me a minute.”


He heaved a sigh, running his hand over his face as he tried to compose himself. He watched me for a short moment before getting up and walking to the bathroom. When he came back, he held out a glass of water and some ibuprofen. “Here, take these, Jazz.”


I sat up gingerly, took the offered water, and downed it along with the ibuprofen, putting the glass next to the coffee cup. I reached out my hand to him, and when he took it in his, I gently pulled him down to sit on the bed next to me. “It’s probably better things didn’t go any further right now anyway, darlin’,” I sighed. “As you said, we have to get to the PD, and I’d rather get that shit over with sooner, as opposed to later.”


He nodded, running his fingers through my hair with a soft sigh. “Yeah,” he smiled ruefully at me, “I can understand that.” He glanced over at the coffee, which had turned cold. “Do you want me to get you a fresh cup?”


I shook my head. “Nah, somehow I don’t think I’ll be needing caffeine to keep me awake right now, darlin’.” I chuckled, but stopped short at the stabbing in my ribs. Damn it all!


It took a lot longer than normal for me to get ready. Edward ended up helping me take a shower – something that I could have done alone, but was in no mood to argue when he pointed out my limited range of motion. He made sure to take care of me, and I admit that I actually enjoyed the attention he was giving me. His tender touches were loving but not sexual, something I wouldn’t have minded, though I knew he wouldn’t want to risk hurting me again.


His special care touched me deeply, making me feel adored and wanted, but the reason it was necessary plagued my mind. I realized I was slipping away, becoming more distant, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself. Edward talked, and I answered, but it was more to keep him from becoming alarmed than out of any real desire for conversation. When we stepped out of the shower, he helped dry me off, and I nodded numbly when he held out the clothes he’d chosen for me.


I felt disconnected, hardly myself, the whole time Edward helped me dress and drove to the PD. I was having a hard time focusing, the nagging pain in my ribs ensuring that images from last night kept replaying in my mind. Fists punching, feet kicking, mouths growling out insults and slurs – naming me things I hadn’t even considered myself to be a few short months ago. Through it all, I saw the disgust and rage in my father’s eyes – and the hurt and disappointment in my mother’s.


At the PD, I made my statement and signed my forms. I turned over pictures and answered questions. It was all very sterile, very cold…so unlike the heated emotions that had caused this catastrophe.


Before I knew it, we were back home. As we walked through the door, I stopped and looked around the apartment. Despite the cleaning we had done before leaving for the club, there was still evidence visible of the party. I felt Edward slip by me as he closed the door behind us, careful not to bump into me. He stepped behind me again, wrapping his arms around my waist as he rested his chin on my shoulder. Neither of us spoke, my thoughts a whirl, wondering how things could have gone so wrong, so quickly.


Only yesterday, everything had been fine; we’d been happy and whole. We were celebrating, and it had felt good to be around people and be open. Now, I knew that being open could come at a price. I sighed as Edward pressed his lips to my neck, just behind my ear, before asking me if I wanted something to eat. I hadn’t had anything yet today, but I honestly wasn’t hungry. Food held no interest to me, so I just shook my head.


He sighed softly, running his hands over my arms. “Maybe you should go lie down, take a nap? I know you didn’t sleep well, baby…”


His voice trailed off as I nodded. “Yeah, I think I will.”


I turned around far enough to give him a chaste kiss on the lips before walking to the bedroom, closing the door behind me, going straight to the bed, and crawling under the covers. I didn’t even bother undressing, just curled up as I grabbed Edward’s pillow, hugging it close to me.


I must have fallen asleep, because the light coming through the window fell in a different spot than when I’d first gone to bed. I wasn’t sure what woke me up at first, but after a few minutes, I realized I could hear people talking. I lay quietly as I tried to listen to the voices coming from the living room. Edward must have come in to check on me at some point, because the door to the bedroom was ajar, the voices sifting through the opening.


After a few minutes, I gave up trying to figure out who was there. All I was certain of was that there was more than one person, so I knew it wasn’t Edward talking on the phone. I was also fairly sure it wasn’t the TV, since he wouldn’t have had it up loud enough for it to possibly wake me. So that left visitors, and I had no idea who’d be stopping by. I slowly, gingerly got up out of bed and made my way to the living room quietly. I stopped out of sight, as I finally heard who was here.




“…hours, Edward. He won’t listen to reason. He’s serious about not wanting him to come back to the house.” She sighed, and I could imagine her running her fingers through her hair in frustration. Her voice lowered, and I was barely able to catch what she said next. “He wouldn’t even allow him to come and pick up his things. Emmett and I packed what we could, and we brought some of it with us, figuring he’d be staying with you.”


I slumped against the wall, burying my face in my hands, trying to stay quiet. I wasn’t ready to face Rosalie just yet, or Emmett, if he was here with her now. I didn’t hear what Edward said, as his voice was too low, but I heard footsteps and then the door open and close. It was silent for a moment, and I thought that maybe Rose had left.


He’s never going to be able to get past this. Never going to forgive me…I snorted quietly in disgust at the thought of even needing forgiveness. It wasn’t as if I’d done something to wrong him in any way. I had broken no laws, done no misdeeds of any kind, betrayed no trusts.


I just loved Edward.


And for that, he now hated me. I felt stuck somewhere between being pissed off at him, and so hurt I just wanted to hole up and not come out again.   


I pressed the heels of my hands over my eyes, trying to stop thinking for a second. The sound of footsteps heading to the kitchen made me pause and listen. I could hear the fridge door open, then close, and then footsteps again, followed by Edward’s voice as he spoke softly, “Here, you look like you could use one.”


The tell-tale clink of a bottle cap being popped off of a beer bottle followed, and I heard Rose as she thanked him. Another pop, and I knew Edward had gotten a beer, as well. They sat in silence for a moment longer, and I contemplated whether I wanted to go and join them, or go back to bed. Either option was appealing, at this point.


The silence was interrupted by a thump on the front door, and I heard Edward get up to open it. “Emmett, here… let me get that.”


I pushed off the wall and stepped into the middle of the hallway so I could see what was going on. Emmett, who was facing toward me looked right at me, his voice gentle and soft, bringing home even further how fucked up things were at the moment. “Jasper…”


At this, Rosalie spun in her seat to look at me, since she’d been sitting with her back to the hallway. Edward turned around more slowly, almost as if he were worried he might scare me off. All three of them looked at me with worry and pity. Rosalie got to her feet, quickly making her way to me and wrapping her arms around my neck as she pulled me into a fierce hug, whispering, “Jazzie, I’m so sorry.”


I didn’t answer, just wrapped my arms around her waist and held her tight. She was all the family I had left now, and I clung to her as if she were a life preserver. She pulled back after a moment, slipping out of my grasp as she grabbed my hand, leading me over to the couch. Emmett and Edward had put the suitcases and bags Emmett had hauled in down by the door and taken a seat in the chairs on either side of the couch. Rose pulled me down next to her on the couch, taking both my hands in hers as she turned in her seat so she was facing me, her eyes taking in my face.


I was sure she wouldn’t like what she saw there, but she didn’t say anything about it – which in and of itself meant I probably looked like shit. She sighed, lowering her eyes briefly before looking at me again. “Jazz, I don’t know what to say. I…we…” She gestured to Emmett as she paused, and I idly wondered what it must have been like for Emmett to be put in that situation. I wasn’t even sure if he’d been properly introduced to our parents yet. “We spent most of the morning trying to talk to Daddy. He wouldn’t listen to reason. He just…”


She trailed off, reluctant to finish, but I had a fair idea of just what he had done. Especially after last night. I pulled my hands out of her grasp and scooted further back into the couch, pulling my knees up to my chest, wrapping my arms around them and ignoring the pain the movement cost me. I vaguely noted Rose shoot a quick glance at Edward before she turned back to me. I closed my eyes and sighed, “Rose, did Momma say anything..?”


I opened my eyes so I could see her face, as she remained quiet for longer than I expected her to. She was frowning and worrying her bottom lip, a nervous habit she rarely portrayed, only when she knew you would really not like whatever would be coming out of her mouth next.


“Jasper, I didn’t see her at all. Daddy said she’d gone to her room and hadn’t come out. He kept going on about how heartbroken she was and…” she paused, taking a deep breath, obviously skipping over some of the finer details of Daddy’s rant as she continued, “he wouldn’t let me go see her. You know how he can get…”


I groaned softly, the guilt I felt for causing Momma to be hurt churning away in my stomach. I ran a hand through my hair, muttering a soft, “Fuck…” and fighting to keep the tears at bay. I was sick of crying, and yet it was all I seemed to do. Cry, or be numb. Rose put a hand on my knee, rubbing it gently with her thumb as she spoke, “Jazz, I need you to know that I told Daddy I was moving out. I can’t live in the same house as him, knowing what he’s done…is doing, to you.”


My eyes snapped to hers, anger finally bubbling to the surface as she spoke.


“What the fuck, Rose! How could you do that? How could you leave, when Momma’s hurting…because of me? She’s going to need you, and you left her?”


I knew that what I said wasn’t all rational, but I was pissed. I was pissed at the guys that had attacked me, pissed at the man who I had looked up to all my life, pissed at myself for causing pain to everyone around me, pissed at Rose for bailing on our mother when she’d essentially already lost one child. None of it made sense anymore, and I just let loose.


The shock on Rose’s face at my outburst brought me up short, and I closed my eyes, taking deep, calming breaths. When Rose spoke again, she did so in a soft, but firm voice, and I cringed slightly as I heard what she said.


“Jasper, I will allow you that outburst. Once. But don’t, for one second, believe that I won’t be there for Momma. Or for you. I cannot and will not stay in the same house as Daddy. She knows how to reach me, and I’m going to call her once I know he won’t be in the house.”


She paused, and I opened my eyes again to look at her, nodding quietly before she continued, “I don’t know if you heard what I told Edward, but he won’t let you go near the house. Emmett and I got some of your things here already, but we’re going to go back and get the rest after my shift at the hospital on Monday. There’s no point in going there while he’s still home, and Monday he’ll be back at work again.”


I nodded again and sighed as I unfurled myself off the couch and leaned forward to wrap my arms around Rosalie. Hugging her tight, I whispered, “I’m sorry, Rosie… I didn’t mean to yell at you. Thank you; I do appreciate what you’re doing.”


She hugged me back, murmuring softly, “I know, Jazzie.”


Emmett, who’d apparently gotten up to grab a beer of his own, sat down behind Rosalie on the arm of the couch, placing a hand on her shoulder as he took a quick pull from his beer. I let Rose go but took her hand in mine as I sat back against the couch with a sigh. She squeezed it lightly, giving me a tentative smile. I watched Emmett as he gestured with the hand holding his beer to Edward. “Hey man, about that. Any chance of my borrowing your car on Monday? My Jeep’s not exactly well-suited for moving stuff. I could rent a car or something, but there isn’t all that much left; I just don’t have room in mine.”


Edward stood without saying anything and walked to the door, grabbed his keys, and took off his car key. He looked at it for a moment, and I saw him release a slow breath as he put his keyring back in place and walked over to Emmett, silently handing him the key to his Lexus. My eyes followed Edward as he sat back down. I was amazed at what had just happened. Edward never let anyone drive his car. Ever. Aside from me, anyway. He’d offered to let me drive, but I never took him up on it. I had my license, and I was a good driver, but I just didn’t have the inclination to do so. For Edward, driving was relaxing, so I was happy to leave him to it.


For him to even think of letting Emmett drive his car, without any comment or reaction…to use his car to move things with…things that were not his own…  


I turned my eyes to Emmett, who sat with a similar expression of shock on his face as he looked at Edward – who still had not said a word. By the time my eyes were back on Edward, he had grabbed his beer and was holding it in both hands, between his knees, his eyes locked on the bottle.


Finally, Emmett seemed to snap out of his shock as he muttered, “Thanks, man… you know I’ll take care of her for you.”


Edward just nodded before tipping the bottle to his lips and polishing off the rest of his beer. I watched as he got up and walked quickly to the kitchen, frowning as I realized I hadn’t heard him say one word since I’d made my presence known. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, and I had been unable to get a read on him, being in too much turmoil myself. It scared me a little to think that, in spite of his earlier words to the contrary, he was closing himself off from me.


“Jasper…” I turned to Rosalie as she spoke my name, the sound of it having startled me a little. “I think Emmett and I are going to go. You should…talk, I think.” Her eyes flickered from mine to the kitchen and back to mine again before she continued, “I think he’s taking things harder than he’s been letting on.”


I looked up at Emmett as I saw him nod in agreement as he murmured, “I haven’t seen him like this in a long time, Jasper.”


He got up, and I did the same as he stepped toward me. His arms came around my shoulders in a warm but careful hug – different from what he usually did. He actually was comforting, and I couldn’t help but smile a little at the thought. As he pulled back, he gave my upper arm a squeeze and said, “We’ll stop by tomorrow, see how you two are holding up, if that’s okay?”


I nodded. “Sure, Em. And thank you.”


He shrugged. “For what? Not doing anything special, bro.”


Tilting my head toward Rosie, I said, “For being there for Rose, for taking care of her now.”


Rosalie rolled her eyes as she overheard our talk, and I chuckled softly as I caught her. She got up from the couch and hugged me tight once more. “I love you, brother mine. I’ll see you tomorrow.”


I walked them to the door, thanking them again for everything, and closed the door behind them, locking it. I turned and leaned against it for a moment, my eyes on the kitchen where Edward was still hiding. I wasn’t sure what to do. I drummed my fingers against the door nervously as I found myself once again wondering whether this was all too much.


I sighed softly, muttering to myself, “Only one way to find out.”


I pushed myself carefully away from the door and made my way to the kitchen. When I got to the doorway, I stopped. Edward was seated at the island, his elbows on the surface and his head resting in his hands. His whole countenance was one of defeat; it at once scared me and made my heart hurt for him. I walked quietly over to him, my eyes never leaving his face, but he made no move to acknowledge I was even here.


I stood next to him, my hand hovering over his shoulder, unsure if my touch would be welcomed right now. Damn it. Why am I so nervous all of a sudden? Part of me realized that this was still Edward, who loved and wanted me. Another part – a small, but loud part – kept going over all the reasons why things between us may have changed, why he no longer would feel the same. I clenched my jaw, closing my eyes as I tried to force myself to stop. Thinking like that will only give power to what happened. I don’t want that. Not for me, but especially not for him.


I took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as I slipped my arms around his shoulders, kissing his neck right under his ear before whispering softly, “Edward?”


He didn’t say anything; instead, he turned around and wrapped his arms around my waist as he rested his head against my chest. I was beginning to worry about the fact that he had yet to utter a single word, either to me or in my presence. I placed a kiss in his hair, sighing softly as I held him to me, my hands gently rubbing his back.


I wasn’t sure what exactly was going on with him, but he seemed to need the contact, and I wasn’t about to deny him that, so we stood like that for several minutes. At first, he just held on, his head resting against me in a way that didn’t allow me to see his face. After a while though, his breathing changed, and I felt something against my skin. By the time it registered that what I was feeling was dampness, I realized Edward’s shoulders had started to shake lightly.


Alarmed, I pulled away, putting both hands on his cheeks so I could coax his head up. He lifted his face to me, his eyes closed as he took a steadying breath. I gently wiped his tears away, whispering, “Edward, what…?”


He cut me off by shaking his head with a huff, harshly wiping his face with a short sound of disgust. I frowned, not sure what to make of it but not liking the feeling of rejection that washed over me. Ridiculous. I scolded myself for thinking it. He had turned his face away from me, looking down at the countertop with a frown. His voice was so low, I barely caught his “I’m sorry.”


I grabbed the other stool, pulling it next to him, and took a seat so we could talk. I placed my palm on his cheek to turn his face to mine, needing to put more force than normal behind it. He was being stubborn. I felt myself getting pissed off again; I knew it wasn’t entirely his fault, that my anger was caused by other things and this just triggered it. I knew it, and yet I couldn’t quite keep the force of it out of my voice as I put my other hand on his shoulder, shaking him.


“Damn it, Edward. Talk to me.”


He cringed slightly but lifted his hand to cover the one on his cheek as he finally looked at me. There were still silent tears running down his face, and the pain in his eyes took my breath away. There was something else there, too, just behind the pain. Taking a deep breath, I gently cradled his face in both hands. Oh, Edward…


My voice was much softer this time. “Please, darlin’. Please talk to me. I don’t know what to do here. I need for you to tell me what’s going on. Don’t shut me out, please?”


He swallowed a few times before he was able to speak, his voice husky and broken when he did.




He paused for a bit as if unwilling to put voice to his thoughts. His eyes shifted away from me again for a moment, before coming back to linger on mine. I let my hands drop to take both his hands in my own, resting them between us as my thumbs caressed the backs of his hands. Finally, he continued, his voice barely above a whisper.


“I don’t know how…you and Rosalie… I’m so sorry, Jasper. So very sorry for all of this…” He pulled one hand free to wipe at his eyes again before running his fingers through his hair as his eyes raised to the ceiling. “Your whole family’s blown apart because of me.”


He was silent for a while again before he turned his head away from me and added in a soft voice, “I was so selfish…shouldn’t have…”


My heart skipped a beat at even the thought of never having had this time with Edward, never having known the love we shared. Of losing that now. No! I squeezed his hand – probably harder than I should have – trying to make him look at me again. My throat felt dry, and I had to work to swallow a few times before I could say anything.


“Edward, you don’t know what you’re saying.”


I scooted the stool closer, forcing Edward to part his legs a little, and I ended up with my legs between his, resting my feet on his stool. Leaning forward, I put my hands on his thighs, rubbing small circles with my thumbs as I spoke.


“My family is ‘blown apart’, as you put it, because my father can’t get his head out of his ass long enough to see that I’m still his son and that I finally figured out what it’s like to be in love.”


He gave me a skeptical look, as if unsure he could believe what he was hearing. I had to remind myself of what he’d been through before, what he had dealt with when something similar happened when his last boyfriend had come out. I took a deep breath, trying to keep my focus on Edward, realizing that he needed me now. He needed to hear this, to be reminded of us.


“Darlin’, if you’d never come back into my life, if I’d continued living the way I was…I’d never have settled down. I wasn’t ever truly happy, never really loved anyone before you. How can you say you’re selfish, when you’ve given me so much? You’ve taken such care of me, right from the start. You gave me your heart, and you waited for me to be ready at every step, putting your own needs second to mine. You’re the one that showed me how to be true to myself, Edward.”


His glistening eyes searched mine as I spoke, but he remained quiet. He put a hand on top of mine, his fingers idly tracing my wrist. Sighing softly, I continued.


“You’ve changed my life in so many ways, I couldn’t even begin to tell you all of it. All I know is this: I love you like I have never loved anyone before. And I know that you love me, too, because you’ve shown me by your actions and your words, Edward. Please, don’t let what happened last night change any of that. Not those guys and certainly not my father. Yes, it hurts – a lot – to know how he feels. But Edward… it hurts me more to think that you’re pulling away from me. If I had to choose between having him, or being with you… I choose you, darlin’. Please believe that.”


We sat in silence for a minute or two, as he seemed to process what I was saying. I didn’t know what else to say to make him understand, how else to let him know that – as far as I was concerned, at least – we were okay. I could only pray that we really were okay. He nodded slightly before leaning forward and resting his head on my shoulder, his arms slipping around my waist as he murmured, “I’m sorry.”


For a split second, I was worried about why he was saying he was sorry, but when I felt his lips on my neck, I was certain we’d be okay. I put my arms around him, turning my head a little to place a soft kiss behind his ear as that was all I could reach.


I pulled away after a few minutes, starting to feel uncomfortable sitting on the stools as we were. He sat up, his eyes searching mine questioningly. He still had a slightly haunted look in his eyes, causing me to frown as I cupped his cheek. I couldn’t find the words to make the last of his pain and worry melt away. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to do that.


Standing up slowly, I grabbed his hand and tugged lightly, urging him to follow me as I whispered, “Come on.”


He got up, and we walked to the bedroom, hand in hand, turning off lights as we went. When we got to the bed, I turned around and began to undress him. I took it slow, mindful of my ribs, but I knew I had to show him as well as tell him. He seemed to understand my need to do this and made no effort to stop me; he just watched me with a soft smile that didn’t quite chase away that look in his eyes.


I so wanted for him to just smile again, to be happy and not hurt anymore. I wanted to rid him of those last vestiges of pain. I would do whatever I could to make that happen. I’d have to prove to him that I was alright. He needed me, needed me to be strong.


When I tried to take off my shirt, I winced in pain. No matter how strong I wanted to be, I was still injured, and my ribs were definitely letting me know certain movements were still a no go without pain. Edward’s hands were instantly there to help me pull off the offending object before going to my jeans and gently taking those off, too.


Again, no words were spoken, and I let him help me without any complaint this time, as I realized that he needed to be able to do this for me as much as I needed to do it for him. Once I was undressed, he stood and surveyed my body, taking in the various bruises and cuts. The pain in his eyes was more visible as his fingertips traced over my ribs. I couldn’t let him go there again, so I took his hand and climbed in bed, urging him to lie next to me.


He paused for the briefest moment before climbing in, carefully lying down a few inches from me. I rolled my eyes at him as he settled on his back, his right arm under his head while his left hand was splayed over his stomach. Rolling over to my side, I rested my left arm over both our heads, my fingers idly running through his hair as I curled up to him. His eyes fluttered closed as I let my fingers trace up and down his chest and stomach, just gentle touches.


I watched him as he visibly relaxed at my touch, and I smiled softly as I dipped my head, kissing his chest lightly. We lay like that for a while as Edward seemed to relax more and more, and a smile would tug on the corner of his lips whenever I’d lean in to kiss his chest. Finally, he opened his eyes with a soft sigh and turned to face me. He put his arm over my hip as he moved closer to me, our bodies flush against the other.


He looked into my eyes, his thumb tracing small circles on my hip. He pressed his lips briefly against mine before murmuring, “Thank you.” He kissed me tenderly, and in between kisses he kept whispering, “I love you.”