A/N: I cannot ever thank TwilightMundi enough for her help as my beta, and my friend. Thank you to afeistyginger, who didn't have a chance to pre-read because I was working on this until the last minute again.
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It was dark and I couldn't really see her, but I felt as she moved above me, her body pressing into and covering mine.
"I'd love to live with you, baby."
Saturday morning I woke up feeling awful. My eyes were gross and crusty, a sure sign I'd been crying in my sleep. I could also tell that the time I'd spent in bed was mostly tossing and turning, and not a ton of sleeping. With a sigh, I dragged myself out of the warm cocoon and into the bathroom. Lying in bed any longer was pointless, and I just risked waking Alice up.
I turned the shower as hot as I could stand it, the heat pelting my skin like a punishment. Leaning against the wall, I kicked my own ass repeatedly in my head. I should have been happy that Alice had agreed to move in with me. I was happy about that, I just couldn't help the nagging ache that I was being a terrible friend to Jasper. Had I been too selfish asking her? Should I have waited?
I had no idea what the protocol was for this situation or how the rest of our trip would be.
We were all supposed to go to Zumanity that night; would the boys even want to go? Should I bring it up? If they didn't, should we stay with them instead of going? They were both far more important to me than a Vegas show. Should we just go home early?
When my skin couldn't handle any more heat and I was clean, I turned the water off and climbed into one of the plush terrycloth robes hanging just outside the shower. After I wrapped my hair in a towel, I plopped on the couch and picked up my phone, typing out a text to Jasper. I knew him well enough to know he probably hadn't slept much either, and was likely awake.
How are you? I typed quickly, pressing send and hoping for the best.
As I waited, I quietly called room service and ordered two pots of coffee; one would never do, I could already tell.
Back at the couch, I saw Jasper's reply and immediately began another.
Yes, please come over! Alice is asleep still. Let's snuggle. Ordered coffee.
A few minutes later, there was a soft knock at the door. I had no idea if it was Jasper or the room service person, so I tugged my robe tighter. When I answered, it was both. The delivery woman put the carafes of coffee on the table, along with the cream and sugar, and promptly left. After we'd poured ourselves a mug, we sat together, snuggled up under a blanket we'd found in the closet.
The TV played as I curled underneath Jasper's arm, both of us sliding into a more horizontal position. Even though Jasper and I hadn't spoken about anything of consequence while he was there, I could feel the depth of his grief and it spilled into me. Our legs wound together and my eyes closed, lids heavy and chest tight with sadness.
When I woke up, Alice was tenderly touching my cheek.
"Hey," she said quietly.
Jasper was still completely asleep beneath me.
"Hey. What time is it?" I croaked, my throat scratchy and dry from the hotel room heating.
I moved slightly, trying to gracefully roll off Jasper, but failed epically. When my ass landed on the floor, I laughed a bit. Jasper's hands went to my shoulders, clearly stifling his own laughter.
"You okay?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said, looking up at him. "Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."
"It's okay. I should probably go."
"You don't have to," Alice said. "You can let Edward know that he can come down and we can all just have a low-key breakfast here, if you want."
My heart thumped in my chest. Alice's kindness wasn't entirely unexpected – she was always gracious and understanding – but it was overwhelmingly appreciated.
Jasper smiled and they held each other's eyes for a beat longer than usual. I imagined some sort of unspoken understanding between them, both such vital parts of my life and heart.
"Thank you, Alice. I think I'd like that."
He stood, stretching, and fished his phone out of his jeans pocket. I couldn't help but watch him as he sat back down, phone in hand, presumably texting Edward. His eyes were dark and his usually tidy hair was a disaster.
Turning my head to face Alice, I mouthed coffee to her, one eyebrow raised in question. When she nodded and smiled, I walked to the table and poured her a cup, fixing it exactly how I knew she liked it. The thought that she'd been in my life long enough to know these intimate details made me smile. Then I remembered she'd agreed to move in with me, and I had to contain the urge to jump up and down.
As I refilled Jasper's cup from the carafe, I pondered how to ask him a few of the questions I had.
"Do you want to go home?"
"No," he said a little too loud. "No, this is your vacation and we tagged on. If anyone's leaving, it's just me. Edward can hang out with you guys, right?"
Jasper seemed to be working through his thoughts out loud, and I wondered if he'd talked to Edward at all during the night about things. It was going to be even worse if he shut down and shut Edward out, that much I knew.
"Did you talk to him about that?" I asked. "I mean, of course he's welcome to stay and hang out with us, but I don't think he's going to want to do that, J."
Our eyes met as I set the carafe down and took a spot on the couch.
"I know," Jasper said, sighing. "Fuck."
There really didn't seem to be much else to say. No one knew what to do, or how to help, not even Jasper.
Edward showed up a few minutes later and we ordered breakfast, then ate, mostly in silence. The clatter of silverware and dishes was loud above our silence, and each sharp noise felt like it was stabbing my brain.
"I'm going to grab a quick shower and we can figure out the rest of the day, okay?" Alice asked, standing from her chair.
"Sure," I said, nodding.
"Do you need to go back to do any work?" I asked quietly, not sure how to broach the subject of if he needed to be with the family or anything. I had no idea what happened or what the procedure was when a child did such a thing in a facility like his.
"No," Jasper said quietly. "There will be an investigation, but it won't start until Monday at the earliest. I don't know if I could even face the family right now. I'd like to be there for the ..." Jasper trailed off, his throat clearly closing with emotion. "Nothing will happen until Monday, I'm sure."
"Do you want to stay, or do you want to go?" Edward asked. "Either way, we'll all be there for you."
I nodded, even though Jasper was looking at Edward. I knew that even Alice would gladly go back to Salt Lake without complaint, if it meant supporting Jasper.
"I want to stay," Jasper said quietly. "Does that make me a horrible person?"
Jasper settled into Edward's arms, well, as much as he could from the other dining chair. I watched as his shoulders shook and I felt strange witnessing such an intimate thing between them. Edward's eyes met mine again and he motioned me over with a small movement of his head. I took a seat on Jasper's other side, grabbing the hand that I could reach, and smoothed over his palm with my thumb.
I tried my hardest to make my voice as soft and loving as it had ever been, as I spoke. "It doesn't make you horrible, Jazz. We can stay in, or go home, or go out. Whatever you want."
"I might suggest you take a shower first, though," Edward added, tilting Jasper's chin with his finger. As they looked at each other, Jasper laughed a little, then nodded.
"You're right," Jasper conceded. "I smell terrible. Bella is a saint."
"I didn't even notice," I confessed. "But go on, you two. Go get a shower and come back fresh and clean. We can figure out how to spend the day then, okay?"
With a few nods and hugs, they left and I was alone in the silence. I decided to give Alice her gift, the mood having lightened between all of us considerably.
A few minutes after I set the package on the couch next to me, the bathroom door opened. Alice stepped out fully dressed, probably expecting the boys to still be in the room with me, and smiled.
"Hi," I said back.
We shared a quick laugh, and then she sat next to me. Her eyes drifted to the sash around the robe moments before her fingers fidgeted with the knot. As she hesitated, her eyes shifted to my other side, spotting the wrapped gift.
In a moment of ooh, shiny lack of concentration, she grabbed the box and began shaking it.
"Is this for me?" she asked, eyes wide and bright.
"It is," I said with a laugh. "But don't you want to go back to what you were doing first?"
Alice bit her lip and looked at me, a true look of conflict on her face.
I laughed again. "It's okay. Unwrap the box first. Then me."
Her fingers played with the pink ribbon, then pulled one end, untying it. The silk fell onto her lap and she hesitated before opening the box. It was too big to be a ring box, but still made her nervous for some reason.
The white box sat unassumingly inside, shiny silver logo staring back at her. She tipped the box, spilling the iPod box out into her hands.
"You got me an iPod?" she asked, her voice a mix of awe and something else.
"Yeah," I said. "Totally lame? I asked around, it seemed like the best gift people could suggest for you. You know, for the studio? I bought and loaded a bunch of music onto it. I can take it back, though, if you don't like it."
Her fingers touched my lips, silencing me. When she lifted her eyes to meet mine, hers were glassy and watery.
"This is the nicest thing anyone's ever given me," she said quietly. "Thank you."
"Alice," I mumbled against her fingers, "I'm pretty sure people have..."
She moved her fingers and replaced them with her lips, truly silencing me. The iPod box dropped to the ground and she covered my body with hers. My legs parted and she slid between them, pressing herself against me perfectly. She didn't bother to untie the robe, she just moved her hands beneath the fabric and pushed it to the sides. As she cupped my breasts, I pushed up against her, seeking friction. Her fingers and hands teased me, playing my body like only she could, as she kissed me sweetly.
Her lips trailed from my mouth over my chin and down the side of my neck. "Go get dressed before the boys get back," she said.
Alice kissed the space between my breasts, then used her hands to pull the robe closed again. She got off the couch, motioning me over to the bedroom.
By the time I was finished getting ready, Edward and Jasper were back. The three of them looked so relaxed, talking and laughing as I walked into the room.
"So what's the plan?" I asked.
"We're going to walk the strip for a bit, then grab dinner before the show," Jasper said. "We can sit outside and watch the fountains after. Sound good?"
I nodded and smiled.
That was exactly how we spent the afternoon: walking, talking, and laughing a lot. It was really nice to see Jasper lighten a bit. He seemed to genuinely be enjoying himself.
When we passed the Sugar Factory, we stopped in and bought way more sugary junk than was wise. We decided to indulge in a buffet for dinner that night before Zumanity, so we stopped at the Paris and over-stuffed ourselves. When it was time for the dessert round, we all ordered coffee to try and counteract the food coma threatening to take over.
The show was … interesting. I'd expected it to be laced with sexuality, as per the reviews I'd read, but it was so beautifully done and honestly, a little more tame than I expected. We discussed our favorite parts as we walked slowly back to the Bellagio. It was the middle of a water show, so we stood and leaned closer to our partners as we watched the rest of the show and two after. It was the perfect way to end the night.
Sunday morning, we were all exhausted and ready to go home. We gathered in the lobby after checking out and got some breakfast together. It was quiet, the mood somber. Reality was going to invade our lives again and we all knew it.
After touchdown, the drive back to our street was filled with the same quiet sadness. The city was cold and grey, snow clouds looming. Everything seemed brown and ugly, the way I was suddenly feeling inside. When it was time for Jasper and Edward to walk back to Jasper's house, I hugged them both tight.
"Gym in the morning?" I asked Jasper.
"Yeah," he said. "See you then."
He gave me a half-smile, but I didn't buy it for a second. I was glad, though, that he was going to attempt to keep a routine.
When Alice and I were inside, I asked her to stay the night, but she had too many things the next day and needed to do laundry. I argued that she could use my washer and dryer, but after a laugh and a kiss, she was gone.
Once I'd started my own laundry and dealt with packing my gym bag, I turned on the shower. After I stripped my clothes off and was under the warm water, I leaned against the shower wall, all of my strength evaporated. I wanted to slide down to the ground and sob for a few hours, like they show in the movies. The tears flowed heavy and thick, loud heaving sobs overcoming me.
Several minutes later, I composed myself... somewhat. Everything ached, my heart, my head, my eyes, but it was time to dry off and climb into my softest pajamas. I fixed myself a mug of tea and crawled into bed to watch FoodTV and try to get some sleep. My phone vibrated shortly after, though, and once I'd responded to Alice and told her I loved her and wished her a good night, I curled down as far as I could.
What would happen when we shared space and I felt like this? When I needed my own space to be dramatic and over-emotional? The thought terrified me.
As Chopped came to a close, the winner having been declared, my eyes fluttered slightly. I was thankful to be so sleepy, hoping a good night of rest would help. That was bullshit, though. Jasper would still be just as crushed in the morning and I knew it. My phone vibrated as my heart began to ache for what he was going to have to deal with, and I wondered why Alice was texting me again. I was surprised to see it was Jasper, asking if he could come over for a sleepover.
After I'd sent my reply, I scooted to my side of the bed in anticipation of him. I could tell he'd walked, listening to him shrug off his jacket once he'd come inside the front door. When he got to my room, he smiled a tiny little smile and crawled under the covers. I managed to stay awake for another few minutes, my arms wrapped carefully around his body. He was so big, but he needed me so much.
I wished I could somehow take away his pain, but knowing I couldn't, was grateful he'd asked to come over. I could do this. I could hold him. I could listen. I could be his best friend.
When we woke up, we each got ready for the gym, then did our usual routine of sweating together. The sauna after was warm and exactly what I needed. We grabbed coffee, and with a quick kiss on my cheek, Jasper was gone. We'd barely exchange ten words the entire morning, allowing our comfortable ease with each other to take over as we moved and interacted in familiar ways.
"Call me if you need me, okay?" I'd said after my kiss back to his smooth cheek.
His quick nod and squeeze of my hand was the only answer I'd get.
I checked my email constantly, waiting to hear from him. Edward was in my office more than usual, and I could tell he was completely wound up as well. By the time I left work, I needed a big glass of wine and a hot bath.
Alice and I talked for a few hours, even while I was relaxing in the tub. When the topic of Jasper spending the night came up – it wasn't like I'd tried to hide it from her – I reassured her that we were just friends. She knew that, of course, but I also understood her concern. I was glad it hadn't been a huge issue for her.
After our call was over, I curled under my covers again and called Jasper. I hadn't heard from him all day and I wanted to check in on him.
When his phone went to voicemail, I sent a text.
When my text went unanswered, I sent one to Edward.
I couldn't wait, though, and I called him just a few moments after pressing send.
"Have you heard from him?" I asked, my heart feeling like it might pound out of my chest with worry.
"No," Edward said. "You haven't either?"
"No," I said. "I'm going over there. Hang on, I'm setting you down while I put some clothes on."
My throat felt tight with unshed tears as I threw on whatever I had closest to the bed, slipped into my shoes, and nearly ran to the door.
"Fuck it's cold," I said as I walked quickly down the street.
"Supposed to snow tomorrow," Edward said quietly. "Hurry, please."
I understood exactly what I meant and picked up my pace.
I didn't bother to knock on Jasper's door, I just jiggled the handle. It was locked and I fished through my huge jacket pockets to find my keys.
Fucking Jasper, locking his fucking door in the safest neighborhood ever.
Finally, the door was open and I rushed in, frantically calling his name and looking around. I started in the kitchen and made my way to the living room. I could tell he'd been home at some point, and I wondered if maybe he'd gone out to get something. My brain was spinning a thousand miles a minute creating safe scenarios of where Jasper might have been, and why he wouldn't have answered his phone or my text.
When I got to his bedroom and saw him sprawled on the bed, I panicked. My chest burned with each breath I took as I got closer. The reek of alcohol was almost wafting off of him, it was so strong.
"Bella?" Edward asked. "Did you find him?"
I hadn't realized I'd been whispering to myself, worried about if he was passed out or dead.
"Yeah. Shit, Edward. There's an empty bottle of Patron on his nightstand. He looks … okay, just like hell. I think he passed out."
His body moved slightly as I spoke, but settled back against the bed quickly.
"Jasper?" I said, nudging and trying to rouse him. "Jasper, are you okay?"
I began cursing and tears fell from my eyes down onto his body as I shook him harder.
"Oh Jasper," I whispered. "What the fuck did you do?"
I'd forgotten about being on the phone with Edward until I heard a loud pounding on Jasper's front door. Through the phone line, he began to plead with me to open the door and let him in.
Running as fast as I could, I let him in and we both sprinted back to Jasper.
"I just think he drank too much," I said. "I don't see anything else."
I left what anything else might have been unspoken. I'd never, ever thought Jasper could have been capable of doing anything to harm himself before that very moment. The seed of doubt crept in when he hadn't answered my call, and only grew larger as I saw him lie in front of me, still warm but lifeless, just like in my worst fears.
Edward's fingers wrapped around Jasper's wrist, clearly feeling for a pulse. Why had I been so stupid and not done that?
Once he was satisfied with whatever it was he felt, he pulled Jasper's arms, lifting his body to a sitting position.
"Jasper, can you wake up?"
His voice was frantic and held so much fear, it scared me even more.
Edward's voice vacillated from fear to anger back to fear and desperation. "Jasper!" he shouted. "Jasper, wake the fuck up, please."
When I saw wetness streaking down Edward's cheeks, I felt helpless.
"Do I need to call 911?" I asked.
"I don't know," Edward snapped. "Sorry. I'm sorry," he said, shaking his head. "Let's just try to get him up and lucid and we can decide from there."
Sitting on either side of Jasper, we talked and tried to get him to wake up. At some point, he began to move and slur. I wanted to both thank God and smack the shit out of Jasper.
"Jasper, wake up, honey," I said.
He mumbled a bit and lifted his head to look at me.
"Yeah, J, it's me. Can you stand?"
"Don't want to stand," he said. "Want to layyyyyyy dooooownnnn."
"Jasper, how much of this bottle did you drink?"
"Edwarrrrrrrrrrrrddd," he slurred again, looking over at Edward. "I can see two of you."
"Answer me, please," he begged.
"Lots," Jasper said. "So good. Why are you two moving?"
"Bella, we need to get him into the bathroom. I think if he throws up, we'll be okay. If he passes out again, we should take him to the hospital. I don't want to risk alcohol poisoning."
Working together, we lifted Jasper off the bed. He continued to complain about the room spinning and moving, his body wobbling and swaying between us. Once we were there, Edward and I worked together to get him out of his work clothes and down his boxers. When Jasper started to complain about being dizzy again and needing to throw up, I left relieved.
It felt like he threw up forever, but with each heave, I felt more and more of my own ability to breathe returned. He'd be okay. We wouldn't need to go to the hospital. When Jasper could stand, we helped him back to his bed.
"I guess I'm going to go," I said quietly to Edward.
"No," Jasper groaned. "Stay. Both."
Edward and I flanked Jasper, and in the dark silence of the room, I let the tears slip from my eyes again.
"Edward, how'd you know he'd be okay if he threw up?"
"Alice has told you about Sasha, right?" he asked.
"This is nothing compared to some of the nights I spent helping Alice with her."
I thought I'd whispered it mostly to myself, but when he said, "Exactly," I just reeled.
My eyes began to close on their own, the endorphin rush I'd felt when I found Jasper having worn off, and I yawned.
"Goodnight, Bella," Edward whispered. "Thank you. For everything."
"Goodnight, Edward. Thank you for trusting me."
I knew exactly what he'd meant, and I hoped he knew just how deeply I was thanking him, in return.
In the morning, my entire body ached from over-exertion and sleeping in a tiny sliver of a bed. The only thing that saved the day was the glorious smell of coffee coming from Jasper's kitchen. I assumed it was Edward since Jasper's warm body was still snuggled into mine.
When I tried to leave, he pulled me back and I had a nanosecond of inner war again about whether I wanted to snuggle with him or punch him.
"You scared the fuck out of us," I said, giving in and letting him wrap his arms around me.
Jasper's voice was so small and child-like as he said, "I'm sorry."
A mug appeared on the nightstand in my line of vision and I looked up, meeting Edward's eyes. "Bless you," I said.
"You're welcome," he replied, quirking a brow in confusion.
"Get in here," Jasper said.
"There's no room," Edward replied.
"Fuck that noise," Jasper said. "You slept in here, crawl back in."
The bed jiggled as Edward complied.
"I'm sorry," Jasper said, turning to face Edward.
I followed, rolling and then shifting up on the bed so I could look at Edward's face.
"You can't do that shit, Jasper," Edward said.
I was glad he'd been less of a pansy than me.
"I know," Jasper said. "I have an appointment today with a grief counselor. I just ..."
He didn't need more words. We all knew. We all felt it. We didn't have to live through his experience to feel the deep grief and regret Jasper had.
The workday was long, and I cut out early, just after sending email to Edward to let him know he could do the same. I was eager to hear about Jasper's therapy session, and had asked him to check in with me after it. I called Alice to keep me awake on the drive home, and I wasn't at all surprised when her smiling face greeted me in my driveway.
"I love you," I said, practically collapsing in her arms.
"I know you do."