“I’m fine, Edward!”


I pinched the bridge of my nose as Jasper threw his hands up in the air in exasperation – or rather, he tried and flinched, hugging his torso as his ribs protested. Rosalie and Emmett had stopped by earlier to check up on us. They’d left after we’d sat down and eaten lunch. Jasper had been putting on a brave face for all of us, claiming he felt fine and was going to be okay. He flat out refused to talk about their parents, though Rosalie had tried to coax him into a conversation about them.


He hadn’t let me help him get dressed, either, insisting on taking care of himself. That I could understand, in part at least. Because every time I saw his injuries, it felt like I had failed him somehow, and I knew I didn’t hide those feelings very well. His bruises were darker, angrier; he was stiff and sore even if he claimed the contrary – it was obvious in the way he moved his body. He was being stubborn in trying to show me that he was fine and could manage, that he was stronger than I thought he was. I guess he didn’t realize that I felt he was the strongest man I’d ever met.  

I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to take care of him. I wanted him to heal, to be careful, and to give himself time to recover. Not just from the physical damage he’d received, but the emotional as well.


Because no matter what he said, I knew that what had happened plagued him. I knew, because he was tossing and turning in his sleep last night…and the night before. He had, at one point, even talked in his sleep – uttering pleas to his father and apologies to his mother. I had tried to wake him but was unable to, and in the end I simply held him close to me while he slowly settled back down. When I asked him about it after we’d gotten up, he didn’t remember a thing.


I had brought it up to Rose while Jasper had stepped away for a moment, to see if he had ever done that sort of thing before. She’d informed me that he had done the same for a long time after Brendan had died, and he even had a short episode after he had come home from camp the summer we met. She had added this quietly, stating that she was the only one who knew about that time, and she wasn’t even sure he was aware of it. She’d told me that he had never mentioned my name in his sleep or given any indication as to why he was so upset, but that he had just kept uttering pleas in his sleep.


I sighed as I looked up at Jasper, trying to not get upset that he didn’t seem to want me near. I had suggested I stay home for the next couple of days. I didn’t feel right leaving him to fend for himself until I knew he was doing better. Jasper, however, wouldn’t hear of it.


He grimaced as he tried to breathe through the pain his ribs were causing him. “I’ll be fine, Edward. Just go to work tomorrow.”




“I mean it, Edward. I don’t want you to miss work over this. Or swimming!”




He shook his head with a sigh. “No, you have to go. Especially since I’m not going to be able to be there. They need you, darlin’.”  


I tried again. “They can find someone else to do the session, Jazz. And I know Dad wouldn’t mind my staying home under the circumstances. Hell, I can even work from home on some of the things I have waiting for me.”


I bit the inside of my cheek as he shook his head. I was loathe to admit it, but it hurt that he wouldn’t let me be there for him. At least, it felt that way. I closed my eyes, running my fingers through my hair as I sighed in resignation.  


“Fine. I’ll call Dad to see if he can come pick me up in the morning.”


I didn’t look to see his reaction as I got up, grabbed my phone, and headed to my office. I closed the door behind me, leaning heavily against it as I wondered for what was sure to be the first of many times whether things would ever be okay again. Jasper’s reassurances were anything but comforting, given the fact that it was painfully obvious that he wasn’t alright – that he was hurting, and not just from the attack.


I rested my head against the door, tilting it up as if to look at the ceiling, closed my eyes, and whispered, “Please help me help him. Show me what to do…”  


I scrubbed my face before pushing off the door and walking to my desk. I sat down heavily in my chair, holding the phone in both my hands as I wondered what to tell my parents. I realized that I should have called them the day before, but with everything that had happened, it had simply slipped my mind.  


I muttered, “Well, sitting here staring at the phone won’t make it go any easier…”


I dialed home, and the phone rang only twice before Dad answered with a cheerful, “Hello, Son! How are you?”


I pinched the bridge of my nose, closing my eyes as I said softly, “I’ve been better, Dad. I’ve definitely been better.”


“What’s wrong, Edward? Did something happen?”


I sighed deeply, my voice catching several times as I explained what had happened. He was quiet through most of it. It was a relief to tell him everything, but at the same time, I felt weighed down.


“Dad, I let Emmett borrow my car tomorrow so he and Rosalie can get the last of Jasper’s things; could you give me a ride to work?”


There was a brief pause on the other end of the line. “Of course, Son. Good God…I don’t even have words to say what is going through my mind right now. Edward, are you sure you’re alright?”  


“Yeah, Dad, I’m sure. It’s just been…hard.”


“And Jasper? Is he going to be okay? Physically, I mean… I can’t even imagine…”  


I gave a humorless chuckle as I ran my fingers through my hair. “Yeah, physically he’ll be fine once the bruises fade and his ribs are healed. He was lucky, in a way…” My voice lowered to barely a whisper, “Things could’ve been so much worse, Dad. If Ang hadn’t seen them take Jazz…”


I couldn’t even think about what could have happened. I didn’t think I could stand the idea of losing Jasper in that way. I sat back in my chair, closing my eyes as I ran my fingers through my hair, tugging at it in an attempt to stop my thoughts from going in that direction.  




I startled at the sound of Dad’s voice. “Sorry, Dad…what was that?”


He sighed softly. “I’ll be there tomorrow around seven, unless you want us to stop by tonight? If you think it would help…?”


I thought about it for a moment. I knew my mother would want to be here, for both of us, but in reality I wasn’t at all sure that would do any good right now. Biting my lip, I wished there was a right answer to all of this. With a sigh, I said, “No, I think we’ll be okay. Thanks. And Dad? Tell Mom not to worry too much?”


“Will do. Did you want to talk to her?”


“No, that’s okay. I should get back to Jasper. I’ll see you in the morning. Love you.”


“Love you, too, Son. And give our love to Jasper as well.”


“Will do.”


I stared at the wall for a few minutes, trying to gather myself before heading back out to Jasper. Part of me really wished that Mom would show up anyway. I could have used her warming comfort right then, and I briefly contemplated calling them again and asking them to come over. Shaking my head at myself, I got up and headed to the living room in search of Jasper.  


I found him sitting on the couch, staring blankly at the TV, seemingly watching Forrest Gump. Taking a seat next to him, I carefully pulled him to me. He rested his head on my shoulder as I wrapped my arms around him loosely, my cheek on the crown of his head. He whispered softly, “Is your Dad able to pick you up tomorrow?”


I kissed the top of his head lightly. “Yeah, he’ll be here around seven. He said to give you their love.”


He nodded slightly, and I wondered whether or not he was changing his mind about wanting me to go, but I thought better of asking him. We sat like that for the rest of the movie, only shifting now and then to get more comfortable when his ribs bothered him too much after sitting in one position for too long. Once the movie was over, we decided to just go to bed, in spite of the early hour.


Jasper got up with me the next day, making us coffee, scrambled eggs, and toast for breakfast while I was in the shower. I made sure he took some ibuprofen, asking him one last time if he was sure he wanted me to leave, which was met with a roll of his eyes.


We had just finished eating when the buzzer sounded, indicating Dad was here. I looked at the clock, frowning a little as I saw that he was early. I went to buzz him in, and a minute or so later, both he and Mom walked through the door. As soon as she saw me, she hugged me tight, and I had never been more thankful for her love for me.  


Her eyes were shimmering as she pulled away to look up at me. “Are you sure you’re alright?”  


I nodded. “Yeah, Mom, I’m okay. Well, as okay as I can be, I guess.”


She cupped my cheek with her hand, nodding to indicate she understood what I wasn’t saying. She pulled me down enough to kiss my other cheek, whispering, “Where’s Jasper?”


“He’s in the kitchen.”


She nodded and walked to the kitchen in search of him. I watched her as I ran my fingers through my hair with a sigh before looking at my father. I tilted my head slightly, raising a brow in question. “Not that I’m not happy to see Mom here, but…why did she come with you, Dad?”


He shrugged. “You know your mother.”


He stepped up to me, pulling me into a warm hug. I wrapped my arms around him and sighed. “Thanks, Dad. I’m so grateful that you and Mom have always been there for me. I can’t even imagine what I would have done if…”


He patted my back gently. “Shh, Edward, it’ll all work out.”


He let me go then and indicated we should probably go check on Jasper and Mom. She was standing next to Jasper, who was still sitting on his stool at the island. She had her hand placed over his, and they were talking quietly, but stopped as Dad and I walked in.  


Mom looked up at me and smiled softly before patting Jasper’s hand and walking over to us. She took her keys out of her purse, grabbed my hand, and placed them in my palm, wrapping my fingers around them. I looked at her with wide eyes.


“Mom, what..?”


“Hush now. You are going to take my car to work today, so you can go to the club after. Your Dad’s going to stop by here after work, and we’ll all have dinner together.” 


I gaped at her, my eyes flickering to Jasper, who had a similar expression on his face.  




She gave me a stern look – one that I knew better than to argue against – as she said, “No but’s! I have nowhere to be today, and if you’ll let me use your computer, what little work I have can be done from there.”  


I nodded slowly before looking at Jasper. He seemed slightly puzzled and perhaps a little bemused, though it was hard to tell. I walked up to him and ran my fingers through his hair, smiling softly at him.


“Think you’ll be okay having Mom here all day?”


I stifled a chuckle at Esme’s indignant, “Hey! Watch it, young man.”


Jasper smiled, though it seemed a little strained – sad, even. “Yeah, I’ll be fine. I’m not sure I’ll be great company, though.”   


I leaned in, kissing him tenderly – closing my eyes when I felt him return it as his arms slipped around my waist. For just a few minutes, things felt like normal – that is, right up until Dad cleared his throat, saying it was time to head out. I pecked Jasper’s lips one more time, sighing softly as I told him I loved him.  


His whispered, “I love you, too,” put the first genuine smile on my lips since the party. I hated leaving him, but I knew that with Mom there, he would at least be taken care of – and he would not be allowed to do anything that he shouldn’t be doing until he got better. So it was with that in mind that I was able to go to work and even attempt to get something done there.


The day seemed to drag by. Not because there wasn’t anything to do, but I just could not focus on anything. Dad stopped by often, making sure I was holding up okay. I appreciated it, but at the same time, I wished it wasn’t necessary. My mind kept going back to Jasper. I stayed logged in to my IM, but he never showed, and I wasn’t sure what to make of that. He normally logged on at least once, just to catch up, so I was worried.  


Finally, around lunch time, I couldn’t take it anymore and called the house. Mom answered the phone, and when I asked her how he was doing, she told me that they had talked and that he had gone to bed again – exhausted. Somehow, this didn’t quite alleviate my worry for him. I wanted to know what they had talked about, but I knew better than to ask. Mom would just say that it was between her and Jasper, and it was up to Jasper to tell me himself if he wanted for me to know. Instead I just thanked her for being there for him.  


The rest of the day didn’t fare any better, and when I finally arrived at the swimming hall, I had to work to put a smile on my face for the kids – or at the very least not to scowl at them. They were supposed to train for the swim-a-thon again, and a few of the kids had come up to me with their forms already.  


Jessica’s mother was waiting in the stands, a habit she had developed ever since the incident with James. I knew it wasn’t out of a lack of faith in us; it was just a mother-thing. Jessica walked up to me and tugged at my shirt to get my attention. She handed me her form, a serious look on her face as she tilted her head.


“Mister Edward, where’s Mister Jasper?”


I knelt down in front of her, forcing a small smile as I took the form from her. “He’s not feeling well, honey. He’ll be back soon, though.”  


Not feeling well. I mentally scoffed myself for putting it like that, but what else could I say? Jessica gave me a thoughtful look for a moment, biting her lower lip. Her eyes flitted to her mom, who was watching us. I chanced a look at her, and she smiled at me, letting me – or Jessica – know that it was okay. When I looked back at Jessica, she smiled tentatively at me and hugged me briefly. I was a little taken aback – she had hugged me before, of course, but this seemed different.


She looked sternly at me, and I had to work hard not to laugh at the expression on her face, my heart feeling lighter than it had in days at the sight of it. “That was for Mister Jasper. Will you give it to him? Tell him I hope he feels better soon.”


I was stunned, so I just nodded. “I will. Thank you, Jessica. I’m sure he’ll appreciate it.”


She smiled, looked at her mom again, and then walked to the helper in her lane, babbling at her about something. I watched in amazement, shaking my head slightly. Does she know?


I was startled when Mrs. Stanley spoke from behind me. “Is Jasper alright, Edward?”


I stood up, turning to her as I ran my fingers through my hair. “Yeah, he’ll be fine. He just felt it was better not to…expose…the kids today.” God, what a way to put that, Cullen.  


She gave me a scrutinizing look before smiling softly. “You’d better be sure to pass along her hug, or she’ll not let you hear the end of it, I’m sure.”


I blushed slightly, stuttering, “Err, yeah, I will.”


She chuckled softly, putting her hand on my shoulder. “You two look great together, you know. Jessica and I saw you at the store the other day – though I don’t think you saw us.”


She winked, and my blush deepened. I rubbed the back of my neck, unsure of what to say. Though I had certainly never made it a secret I was gay, Jasper and I had always tried to ensure we behaved in front of or near the kids.  


Mrs. Stanley smiled warmly at me as she continued, “She asked questions, especially after you kissed. She understands – well, as much as any ten-year-old can, anyway.”


She cleared her throat lightly and smiled. “Anyway, I just wanted you to know. I think Jess might have a minor case of hero worship for the two of you, so…”


I couldn’t help but chuckle at that, shaking my head slightly. “She’ll get over it, I’m sure.”


Mrs. Stanley grinned. “I’m sure she will. And I’m certain she will end up making life miserable for her father in the process.”


“Probably, yeah.”


“Anyway, you’d better get back to those kids. They’ve already started without you. Please tell Jasper to get well soon, okay?”


“I will. Thank you, Mrs. Stanley.”


The rest of the lesson went by quicker than I expected, and before I knew it, I was telling the kids to go get dressed. The team showed up – surprisingly almost all at once – as soon as the last of the kids had filtered out. None of them went into the water, instead grouping together near the deep end. Even Bella was there, though she was dressed normally but wearing flip flops so she could go through the dressing room with the other girls.


With a sigh, I walked over to them. I looked at everyone, my eyes lingering on Felix’s face – who was sporting an angry bruise that practically covered one side of his face. When I looked at Emmett, he nodded slightly to let me know he had my back as always.


Turning my attention to the rest of the team, I sighed. I ran my fingers through my hair again, feeling nervous and not really sure why. Bella stepped up to me, wrapping her arms around my shoulders as she pulled me into a hug. I closed my eyes as I returned it, whispering in her hair, “Thanks, Bella.”


She rubbed my back before letting go of me enough to turn around, one arm slipping around my waist instead. “You’re welcome. How’s Jasper holding up?”


“He’s…he’s doing okay, I guess. All things considered, anyway.”


Felix piped up. “I thought he’d be here today?”


I shook my head. “Nah, he can’t move very well with his ribs right now. Plus he didn’t want to scare the kids. Though I’m sure your ugly mug did plenty of that…”


I grinned at him and he just scoffed, though my remark earned me a pinch to my side from Bella. I looked at her with a raised brow. She narrowed her eyes at me but said nothing. I would have to figure out what was going on with her later. The others on the team asked questions, wanting to know what the police had said, how Jasper was doing aside from his injuries. They wanted to know if they could help in any way. And to a man – or woman, as the case may be – they said they were behind us all the way. Their support meant the world to me, and I was sure it would to Jasper as well.


After a few more minutes of talking, we ended up just doing some throwing practice, since we had taken so much time to discuss what had happened. I wasn’t happy about that from a training perspective as we had a game on Saturday, but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. We could make up for it on Wednesday, and I warned them of that before we all headed to the locker rooms to shower and change.  


Emmett held me back as the others left. He thanked me again for letting him use my car, but I brushed off his thanks. He sighed softly as he said, “Look man, I just wanted to let you know everything went okay. Their Dad wasn’t home, like Rosie predicted, but if their Mom was there, she didn’t let on. We got everything packed up and moved over already. I left your keys on the counter.”


I frowned slightly as I nodded. “How was Jasper when you got there?”


He cleared his throat, scratching the back of his neck. “I don’t know. Esme said he was asleep, so Rose and I were as quiet as possible. I left Rose there though; I hope you don’t mind?”


I shook my head. “Mind? No, of course not. She’s his sister; why would I mind?”


He grinned slightly. “No reason, it’s just…all of this is just weird… and I don’t know…”


He shrugged, and I couldn’t help but grin at him. It wasn’t often that Emmett got flustered at all, so it was intriguing to see to say the least. I clapped him on the shoulder as I said, “So I take it that means you’re coming over for dinner?”


He chuckled and nodded. “Yeah man, you know your Mom! The woman does not take ‘no’ for an answer.”


“Truer words, Em…Anyway, see you at my place in a few, yeah?”


With that, we parted ways – only to meet up again by the elevator in my complex. We were both lost in thought as we rode up to my floor. I wondered what I would be coming home to; if Jasper would even be up and around now that there were people over. I hated that I had no interaction with him all day, no way to read how he was doing, so to say that I was surprised when I heard laughter coming from the kitchen – Jasper’s laugh as well as Mom’s – would be an understatement.


I glanced over at Emmett, who looked equally surprised but shrugged as he caught my gaze. I walked to the kitchen after putting my things away, untying my tie as I went – I was curious as to what was going on. Before I got there, Jasper walked out, holding a basket full of dinner rolls as he headed to the dining room table. The smile that lit his face when he saw me made my heart skip a beat.


He walked up to me and cupped my cheek as he leaned in, whispering, “Welcome home, darlin’,” before kissing me deeply. My eyes closed of their own accord as I returned his kiss, my hands moving to his hips and pulling him closer to me – losing myself for a moment. The stitches on his lip caught on mine, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to care since it didn’t seem to hurt him – it felt so good to feel him like this again as his lips moved languidly with mine. He seemed to really be here, almost as if the last few days hadn’t happened.


Emmett walked past us, clearing his throat before loudly whispering, “Get a room, you two.”


I pulled away from Jasper, scowling at Emmett as I said, “Fuck off, McCarty.” I momentarily forgot that my parents were also around.


Mom’s “Edward Anthony Cullen! Language!” from the kitchen was a painful reminder, causing me to blush and mutter an apology. Everyone laughed, even Jasper joining in as he pecked my lips again.


I reluctantly let him go with a sigh, which just made Jasper grin. He went on to put the basket on the table before walking back to me and grabbing my hand, leading me into the kitchen where everyone else had congregated. I squeezed his hand once before letting it go, and I walked over to Esme, who was dishing up what looked to be a pot roast into a serving dish. I waited for her to be done so no accidents happened as I hugged her, kissed her cheek, and apologized again for my language.


She patted my hand with a smile before ordering me to take the dish with the pot roast and put it on the table.


I chuckled. “Yes, ma’am.”


I saw Emmett take out plates, Rosalie following him with cutlery and Jasper with glasses. I chuckled at the sight. Leave it to my mother to have assigned a role to everyone. Behind me I heard the distinct sound of a cork being popped and turned to see my father grinning at me, wine bottle and corkscrew in hand. I grabbed the dish and headed out to the dining table, placing it in the middle.


I kissed Jasper on the cheek. “I’ll be right back. I want to get out of this suit.”


He nodded, his attention on the table as if trying to make sure everything was there. I left them to it, figuring they would ask me if they needed anything. I changed quickly into blue jeans and a gray t-shirt, wanting to get back to Jasper. He seems to be doing better…


I sighed, trying to stop worrying and just enjoy the evening.  We could talk after everyone had gone home. For now, I was happy to have the old Jazz back again.


When I got back to the living room I paused, watching as Jasper seemed to tease Emmett and Rosalie. I didn’t hear a word of it, so intent was I on seeing my Jasper happy and apparently carefree again.


Right as I started walking toward him, Mom called out, “Dinner’s ready.”


Jasper looked up, catching my eye as he smiled, holding his hand out to me. I grabbed it as soon as I was within reach, allowing him to pull me closer. I caressed his cheek with the back of my fingers as I smiled at him. “Hey…”


The lopsided smirk that appeared as he said, “Hey…” back warmed me. I looked into his eyes, trying to find any hint that he was troubled, but I found none.


I brushed my lips against his, murmuring, “I love you.”


He hummed softly as he pressed his lips to mine. “I love you too, Edward. Now come on, let’s eat.”


He led me to the table where everyone else had already sat down, leaving room at one side so we could sit next to each other. Dad got up and poured wine for everyone, squeezing Mom’s shoulder gently when he got to her, and I couldn’t help but smile at that small show of affection. I glanced at Jasper, silently wondering – hoping – if that would be us in thirty years or so.


I was fairly quiet throughout dinner, just watching everyone else, listening to what they had to say – enjoying the comfort of having those we loved around us. Jasper was quiet as well – a content look on his face as he seemed to soak everything in – though he interacted more than I did. It was good to see him laugh, and every time he did I couldn’t help myself – I put my hand on his thigh, squeezing it lightly, needing to touch him. Every time I did, he’d look at me and smile. 


After everyone was done eating, I thanked Mom for cooking for us. She smiled and said, “You’re welcome, but I had help. Rose and Jasper both seem to know their way around the kitchen pretty well. Yours, especially.”


She smirked and gave me a knowing look, leaving me wondering just what – exactly – had been their topic of discussion today as I blushed. Jasper snickered as he leaned in, kissing me by my ear and whispering, “Don’t worry, darlin’. I kept everything PG.”  


Chuckling softly, I turned my head and pecked him on the lips, murmuring, “You’d better. There are certain things my mother does not need to know about.”


I winked at him and stood up, picking up our plates to take them to the kitchen. Emmett and Dad followed with a few dishes as well. As I went back to get some more dishes, Jasper walked in, handing the rest of the pot roast to me. “Here, you put this away while I grab dessert.”


I raised my eyebrows at him as I took the dish from him. “Dessert, too?”


He grinned briefly before schooling his face to look serious. “Yep! Something Rosie and I made. Old family recipe, very difficult.”


Rose called out from the table, “Don’t believe a word of it, Edward! It’s easy, but no less delicious!”


Jasper’s lips twitched as he rolled his eyes. I just shook my head, happy to have him teasing again. When all the leftovers had been put away and the dishes rinsed – with the help of Emmett and Dad – and coffee made, we all sat down to enjoy dessert.
Rosalie handed me my plate with a smile. “Hope you like it.  Supposed to taste sort of like an eclair.”


I grinned as I took the plate. It almost looked like tiramisu with the layers, but it was more like a pie topped with melted chocolate. “You and Jasper made this. I’m sure it’ll be great.”


Once everyone had gotten theirs, I finally took a bite and hummed in delight, my eyes widening as I glanced at Jasper. He was grinning broadly at me. “I take it you like it?”


I nodded, swallowing so I could answer. “Heck yeah. Better than any eclair I’ve ever had.”


Rose chuckled softly, her eyes dancing as I looked over at her. I quirked a brow. “What?”


“Oh, nothing, nothing…”


I frowned, glancing from her to Jasper, who was scowling at his sister. When I looked back at Rosalie, I just saw her put her hands down as if she had held them up in surrender – though she was sporting a wicked little grin, one that reminded me forcibly of Jasper’s. I shook my head, deciding I really didn’t want to know, and went back to enjoying my dessert.


After everyone was done, Mom insisted on helping with the dishes though I tried to dissuade her, saying she had done enough already. She wouldn’t hear of it, so while everyone else went to sit down in the living room, she and I took care of the dishes, by hand. I knew that meant she actually wanted to talk, so I grabbed a dish towel and got busy, waiting for what she would have to say.


It took her a few minutes before she said anything at all.


“Edward…how are you holding up, dear?”


I bit my cheek to keep from groaning. I was worried: worried about Jasper and his injuries, about how he was doing after how his Dad had treated him, how his Mom had gone along with that. Worried how Jasper would be now, if he would retreat back into the closet after the club fiasco. And a part of me wondered whether he had said yes to moving in mostly because he didn’t have anywhere else to go – though I knew rationally that he was more than capable of taking care of himself and getting a place of his own.


I told her all of it in a quiet voice as we continued to do the dishes and even after we had run out of dishes to do.


I hung the towel up on its hook and leaned against the counter with a sigh. “Most of all, Mom, I’m just worried about how he’s going to be able to handle all of this. I can’t even imagine what he’s got to be going through right now. His family is all he has, and now…”


I couldn’t finish my sentence. I ran my fingers through my hair and looked away from Esme, my voice so low I wasn’t even sure she’d hear. I wasn’t sure I really wanted her to. “I can’t help but feel like all of this is my fault…”


For a moment there was nothing but silence, and I closed my eyes, afraid of what I might see if I looked up at my mother. I should have known better than to doubt her, though. I felt her hand touch my shoulder gently as she whispered, her voice trembling slightly with emotion.


“Edward, honey… none of this is your fault. You have to believe that. Bad things happen, sweetheart. I wish they didn’t, and I wish that Jasper could have been spared this, but they do happen. I’m just glad that both you boys are okay.”


She hugged me tightly, and I wrapped my arms around her, allowing her love to comfort me. As good as it felt, though, a small part of me still nagged about what had happened at the ER.


“But Mom, if it hadn’t been for me, then Jasper’s Dad wouldn’t have…” I whispered, but she cut me off.


“Edward Anthony Cullen! That man’s actions are not your doing. You did not make him a bigot who can’t see past his nose to see his son for the man he is. What he did is inexcusable, and in no way are you responsible for his actions!”


I nodded, sighing softly. Jasper had already told me he didn’t blame what happened on me, that it wasn’t my fault. I knew he meant it when he had said that he would have gone through life without being truly happy and in love if it hadn’t been for me. But a small part of me still wondered, and I hated it.


I frowned as thoughts of Alec and what had happened with him came to mind. That same part that doubted Jasper’s words feared that he would eventually react the same as Alec had, and I wasn’t sure I could handle that again. Especially not from Jasper – I loved him so much.


I opened my eyes when I felt her hand on my cheek. Her eyes were shining with unshed tears, but the look in them was a mixture of love, sadness, and determination.


“Sweetheart, I know. Believe me, I know, but this situation is very different than what happened with Alec. Jasper loves you. You will get through this, together. I know you will, because you love him, too. You just have to be there for each other, and remember that you are not alone. We all love both of you. You have great friends, honey; don’t be afraid to ask them for help if you need it. Or us, for that matter. Your Dad and I will always be there – always.”


I gave her a wan smile as I nodded. “Thanks, Mom. I needed to hear that.”


I didn’t know how she knew exactly what was on my mind, but she always did have a knack for knowing what I was thinking without me having to voice my thoughts – and usually she knew just what I needed to hear, like now. I hugged her tightly, feeling truly fortunate to have them as my parents.


I kissed her cheek, whispering, “I love you, Mom.”


She smiled, hugging me back warmly. “I love you, too, Son. Now come on, enough dilly-dallying; let’s go see what the others are up to.”


I nodded, frowning slightly as I thought of something. “Hey, Mom…how was he today?”


I looked down, unsure if I was really ready to hear the answer, but realizing I had to find out. She sighed softly as she put her hand on my arm, her eyes searching my face for something. Her voice was tender as she spoke.


“Honey, he’s having a hard time with all of this, you know that. To be honest, I am not sure that everything’s really sunk in yet for him. He’s hurting, and I’m afraid he will be for a while. Just be patient, sweetheart.”


I nodded again and with a sigh, I told her to go ahead, that I had to use the restroom before heading back out. In truth, I wanted some time alone, to process what we had talked about. Mom patted my arm briefly, telling me again that she loved me before walking out of the kitchen. I stood there for a moment longer, then headed to the bathroom.


It had felt good to talk to her, to get some of what was bothering me off my chest – to hear the same words Jasper had spoken come from someone else. It helped ease my guilt…a little. I just wished that I could quiet that nagging voice in my head – the one that doubted the truth of those words. The one that told me that this would end up like Alec all over again.


After meticulously washing my hands and drying them – effectively unable to stall heading to the others any longer – I entered the living room. Emmett sat on the chair-and-a-half with Rose on his lap, while Mom and Dad sat close together on the love seat. Jasper sat in the corner of the couch, and the image of him sitting alone struck me hard, stopping me in my tracks. I had to swallow hard a few times before I managed to get my feet moving again.


When I got the couch, I placed my hand on the back of Jasper’s neck before making my way around and sitting down next to him. He looked up at me with a smile, but there was something in his eyes that made me squeeze his neck again to let him know I was here.


I kept my hand on the back of his neck, running my thumb across it – just staying connected with him. It was almost as if I couldn’t let go. Jasper put his hand on my thigh – like he, too, needed the connection. That thought alone was enough to make me smile. If he needed to touch me, too, then maybe that little voice was wrong.


I couldn’t tell you what all was talked about while everyone was there that night. I wasn’t paying much attention to the conversations around me, especially not after Jasper began to brush his pinky finger against my inner thigh. I chanced a glace at him, but he never looked at me. He just continued talking with my Dad about…something.


It was another hour or so, maybe longer, before Mom and Dad decided it was time to go home. As they were getting ready to leave, Rose and Emmett said they would head out as well. I hated to admit that I was happy to see them leave. As much as I enjoyed their company, I needed some time alone with Jasper – I keenly felt the fact that I hadn’t been able to touch base with him all day. Despite having been able to feel him next to me for the last couple of hours, to see him and to hear him talking…it just wasn’t quite the same.  


He stood close to me as we were saying goodbye.  His hand rested on my lower back, and his hip was pressed against mine while my dad helped my mom into her light jacket.  A smile curved my lips when both my parents hugged Rosalie – it meant a lot to see them being so welcoming toward not only Jasper, but his family as well.  We hugged each of our guests in turn, and as soon as the door was closed on Emmett’s booming laughter, Jasper gave a small sigh and leaned into me.


I turned our bodies, holding him close as our heads found each others’ shoulders. I inhaled deeply, closing my eyes as I relished the feel of his arms wrapped around me, his breath tickling my neck.  I felt tension drain from him as he began to relax, and then his hands slipped from my hips, moving up my back as he lifted his head.  I raised my head in response, my eyes seeking his.


I couldn’t make sense of all the emotions I saw warring in his eyes, but he didn’t give me time to try to figure it out.  His eyes fluttered closed as he tilted his head, pressing his lips to mine.  I could feel the stitches in his bottom lip, prompting me to be gentle and keep our kiss light, but Jasper lowered his hands to my hips and walked me backwards.  After two steps, my back brushed against the door, and he took yet another step, pressing me against it as his lips parted mine.  His sigh seemed to be a sound of both relief and longing when his tongue met mine, and his kiss became more insistent.


Worried about hurting him yet again, I pulled away, but he wasn’t deterred, his hand moving from my hip toward the button on my pants as his lips kissed along my jaw. I caught his wrist, sure that if he kept going, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself, and I didn’t think he was up to anything physical just yet.  Before I could ask, he breathed, “Please…” in my ear, his tongue teasing the edge of my earlobe.


“Jazz, baby…are you sure?  I mean…you…shouldn’t we…?” I swallowed, unable to finish my thought as he sucked lightly at the skin just beneath my ear.


Gathering my resolve, I put my hands on his elbows and pushed him away so I could see his face.  The look in his eyes – hurt? rejection? – made my breath catch, and I placed my palm on his cheek, brushing my lips against his lightly.  When I pulled back, his eyes were smoldering, determined, and he whispered huskily, “I need this.  We need this…”


I didn’t say anything, utterly torn between being responsible enough to insist we wait until he healed and desperately longing to be with him, to make love to him.  My decision was made for me when Jasper looked straight into my eyes, his expression pleading as he murmured, “Don’t say no…just…please…”


I caressed his cheekbone with my thumb, watching him for a moment before I closed my eyes and tried to let it all go – my worries about Jasper’s feelings changing, my anger and despair over what had happened, even my need to be responsible and watch out for him.  He was right.  We needed this.  I needed to feel him wrapped around me, taste his lips on mine, hear his panting voice whisper his love…hear his moans as I brought him the pleasure that only I could while he did the same for me.


Our kisses were slow but insistent as my hands made their way up his chest and began working on the buttons of his shirt.  He moaned into our kiss, sensing both my agreement and my desire for him, and he began to undress me as well.  Our movements were reverent, lips following hands as we kissed and caressed.  We moved toward the bedroom in silence.  We didn’t need words to express our thoughts…all was made clear through the looks we exchanged and the worship each of us gave the other’s body.


Standing just beside our bed, I slipped the shirt from his shoulders and kissed along his collarbone.  His hands had fallen to his sides, his head tilted back as he let me silently say what I needed to say.  I kissed down his sternum, pausing at the angry bruise along his side, and my fingers trailed lightly over it as my heart ached for him.  My lips caressed his ribs softly as I felt his fingers lace through my hair.  His nails gently scratched my scalp, and I lifted my head again.


He pushed my shirt off my shoulders, letting it fall to the floor with his, but when he bent to kiss my chest, he gasped, his hand pressing against his side.  He straightened gingerly, trying to hide the pain on his face as he breathed shallowly.


My eyes whispered their apologies as we watched each other, and he shook his head.  “Don’t,” he murmured just before his lips met mine in a soft kiss.  “Just you and me,” he breathed against my lips, and I nodded, forcing it all away again.


For a while, I found myself watching every move carefully, worried I was going to hurt him, but as we continued to kiss, our hands ghosting over sensitive skin as we undressed each other, I gave myself over to the sensations of being with this man I loved.  Placing one more kiss on my lips, Jasper took my hand and turned back the covers on the bed, sliding between the sheets.  He pulled me down beside him, and I rolled onto my side, placing a hand lightly on his chest as our lips moved together.  My hand drifted downward, and when I felt the drop of wetness on my skin as my hand brushed against his erection, I moaned loudly, stretching up to deepen our kiss.


I was keenly aware of Jasper’s hand as it left my waist before his warm fingers wrapped around my aching length.  I had been so focused on him that I hadn’t even fully realized how enthusiastically my own body was responding.  We hadn’t made love since Friday morning – we hadn’t even come close to it – and even though only a few short days had passed, so much had happened that it seemed like months.  Years.


Jasper really was right…we did need this.  We needed us


The battle that had been raging in the back of my mind quieted, calm taking its place as I stopped doing this for him and started acting with him.  I was still careful, but it wasn’t my total focus anymore, and I wasn’t trying to bring pleasure to him only.  This was about both of us…he needed for me to enjoy this, to feel this just as strongly as he did.


And so did I.


As Jasper began to stroke me slowly, I shifted, moving to hover above him as my lips found his chest, my tongue teasing his nipple.  He sighed softly and arched his back as his hips shifted, his hard-on pressing against my thigh.  I backed down the bed, forcing him to let me go as I kissed my way down his abdomen.  I paused a moment at his navel, smiling against his skin when he squirmed beneath me as I teased his belly button with the tip of my tongue and blew on it lightly.  His hips rocked again, a sense of urgency behind his movements this time, and I licked my lips as I lowered my head still further. 


I took him in hand, raising my eyes to see his reaction.  He had stacked both our pillows and was reclining against them, watching me as his hand lifted to lace in my hair.  I squeezed him as my hand moved up and down, and I had the satisfaction of hearing a soft, “Oh god…” as his eyes fluttered closed.  He inhaled audibly, his fingers tightening in my hair, and when I placed a small kiss on his head, his eyes popped open again so he could watch me.


I threw myself into pleasuring him, my tongue and lips caressing and teasing his length as I took him deeply into my mouth.  I heard his whispered words, curses and encouragement alike falling to my ears as his fingers roamed my head, my neck, my shoulders…everywhere he could reach.  I felt him growing harder between my lips and moaned quietly, my hips moving automatically as I sought some sort of relief from the pressure building within me.


His grunt reached me through the haze of desire I felt, and my eyes snapped to him, finding him bending forward slightly as he tried to reach me.  I could tell he was trying to pull me to him as he worked to hide the grimace of pain on his face, so I released him, placing one final kiss on his head as I made my way to him.  Neither of us spoke as I trailed kisses along his ribs, nibbling his neck before I settled the weight of my hips on his.  We moaned as one, and Jasper’s hands slid over my hips to cup my ass as I braced my hands against the mattress to keep my weight off his upper body.


“Edward…” he breathed, the sound awakening a fierce feeling in me – love and protectiveness and desire all rolled into one emotion I’d never felt so strongly.  I lowered my lips to his, kissing him soundly until we were both panting.  All the while, his hips were moving against mine, the rhythm of my own guided by his hands kneading my flesh.


I broke our kiss, resting my forehead against his with my eyes closed as I memorized the way his body felt beneath mine, the way his staccato breathing drifted over my skin.  Opening my eyes, I found him watching me and offered him a small smile.  I was going to ask him if he was sure, but the warning look in his eyes changed my question, and I whispered, “Are you ready?”


His grin was crooked and perfect, prompting my own when he murmured, “I’ve been ready, darlin’…”


I kissed him lightly and then moved away, reaching into my nightstand for the items we would need.  Jasper’s hands brushed mine away as he took the condom from me, slipping it on me.  My eyes rolled back in my head as he stroked me the way he knew I liked, and I heard the tell-tale snap of the bottle of lube as he coated my length.  I opened my eyes, taking the bottle from him so I could prepare him as well.  When I hovered over him once more, my eyes followed my hand as I reached between us, but his left hand cupped my cheek, and I looked up at him.


“I love you.” His voice was soft, barely audible, but strong, and there was a finality to it that made my heart swell as I whispered my love for him. 


I was looking into his blue-green eyes when I guided myself into him, moving slowly, inch by inch, as my fear of hurting him returned.  I tried not to let it show, but he saw it on my face, and his thumb caressed my cheek as he reassured me.  “I’m fine…” I couldn’t help but smile as his eyes rolled back as he moaned when I pressed further into him.  “God, Edward…” His hips lifted from the bed, and I bit my bottom lip against my groan as I was fully buried within him.


Our bodies felt so right, so perfect, joined this way, and as we moved together, I saw the light begin to shine in his eyes – that mix of playful and loving and just…Jasper.  I grinned, nipping at his jaw as his fingertips dug into my hips.  He growled at me, a low, rumbling sound that carried his words to my ear.  “You feel fucking amazing…”


I kissed him then, losing myself in the feeling of his lips on mine, his body writhing beneath me.  I was vaguely aware that his movements were stilted and more reserved than normal, but the moans and whimpers passing his lips were sounds of pure pleasure, so I wrapped my hand around his hard cock, the lube helping my fingers glide smoothly along his shaft as I pumped into him.  We were both tensing, our muscles clenching as we fought to hold off our releases, but I just wanted Jasper to feel good.


“Let go, baby…I’m coming with you, I promise…be with me, Jazz…please…” I murmured a steady stream of encouragement as he pressed his head back against the pillows, his eyes closing.  I glanced down between us, a breathless “Fuck” escaping me when I saw his cock twitch as I stroked him.  The sight of his legs wrapped around me was my undoing, and I grunted, gasping as I shuddered.  My body seemed to tingle with the force of my orgasm, and I felt the heat of Jasper’s release spilling across my chest. 


I raised my eyes just in time to see him open his, and I watched as his throat worked for a moment, though I couldn’t tell if he was trying to speak or swallow.  Finally, he blinked several times and put his hand on the back of my head, pulling me to him so quickly that our lips crashed together painfully.  I felt a jab of alarm, but I returned his kiss just as passionately, and when we parted, his eyes were shimmering.


“Thank you,” he whispered, his voice choked.


I licked my lips, unable to speak for a moment as I nodded, giving him a small smile.  I brushed his lips with mine tenderly, murmuring against them, “Thank you.”