Happily Ever After?

Chapter Six - Happily Ever After?

Jasper felt a huge shockwave of pleasure travel through his body the moment he came in contact with Bella. He wrapped his arms around her and refused to let her pull away. He inhaled her new vampire scent and felt his body immediately begin to respond sexually to her scent. This startled him enough to lean back and look deep into her eyes. The crimson vortexes staring up at him drew him in until he felt like he was falling inside of her. He felt as if something was passing back and forth between them, an energy or a spirit connecting and bonding them together. To his amazement, there was no disgust or judgment in her scarlet pools, despite the fact he felt as if she could see his very soul, as if she knew all his weaknesses and past sins but had deemed them irrelevant to her feelings for him. He began softly purring and started nuzzling her neck, rubbing himself against her instinctively to coat her in his scent. A lightning bolt epiphany struck him as he realized what he was doing. Isabella Swan was his true mate, just as Alistair was Alice's.

Bella pulled back slightly and raised her eyebrows in silent question, reminding him of her offer for him to stay in Volterra with her, rather than return to America with the Cullens. Jasper smirked in response, knowing there was really no question as to what he would choose. He'd never leave his mate behind, now that he had found her. Wherever she went he would follow, to the ends of the earth and beyond. He would rather have all his limbs removed than cause his mate pain or distress. If staying with the Volturi made her happy, he would gladly comply. He was a flexible man, easily pleased and able to be comfortable with all kinds of vampires. He had no problem living with human drinkers. In fact, if his mate chose to drink from humans, he'd join her in that as well. He could render his victims unconscious before draining them, reducing any exposure to their negative feelings. Being with his mate would provide a level of euphoria that would counteract the bad feelings of others regardless.

So, Jasper didn't have to think about it at all before quickly agreeing to Bella's offer. He felt his family's feelings of hurt and betrayal, but he blocked them out. The way Bella looked at him made him feel like a man, a strong warrior. Alice had always looked at him as if he might snap any minute, as if he were the weak link of the family, as if his monster was barely contained and might rip free at any moment. Alice had always tried to control him and made him feel like he was damaged goods who could never quite live up to her expectations of pristine perfection. Yes, he could certainly get used to the love, respect, admiration, and desire he felt from Bella whenever she regarded him through her heavy-lidded crimson eyes. In fact, he had forgotten just how sexy crimson eyes could be. Here in the arms of his mate, Jasper was feeling better than he ever had in his life, both human and vampire.

"Both of you are welcome to stay with us!" Carlisle protested, not wanting to lose two of his precious children. Esme quickly agreed, flitting over and unintentionally interrupting their private moment, as she threw her arms around them both.

This didn't endear them to Jasper and Bella, who both stared at them as if they were crazy.

"I think we'll just stay here for a while, but I'm sure we'll come visit before too long, and you're always welcome to visit us," Bella replied diplomatically. She was still upset at the way the Cullens had abandoned her, even if it was really Edward's fault. She knew she would forgive them, but she wasn't quite ready to trust them with her wellbeing again so soon.

Jasper was upset on behalf of his mate, for the way they underestimated her and abandoned her, but he was also angry that they hadn't listened to him on several key points that would have made a difference in the way things were handled regarding Bella, Edward, and the nomads. Additionally, he was feeling resentful at the way Alice had always made him feel inferior for his past, making him hide his scars, his accent, his military background, and his tastes in clothes, vehicles, music, art, etc. She had turned him into someone he didn't even recognize, like, or respect - a preppy, shy, silent pacifist, submissive to his wife's every desire, whim, and command.

In only a matter of minutes, Bella was restoring his sense of self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. He was remembering who he really was, back before he suppressed all his natural personality, instincts, desires, wishes, history, and skills in order to fit Alice's image of who he ought to be. Now that he knew Alice wasn't his mate and had no right to force him into a shell of himself, unable to think or make decisions without consulting her first, he was angry about the sacrifices he had made on her behalf. He was remorseful about letting his relationship with Peter and Charlotte slip through the cracks, just because Alice didn't approve of them, and they didn't approve of her. He was suddenly conscious of all the mistakes he'd made over the years, blinded by his gratitude at being 'rescued' from his lonely existence. The unconditional love and support he was now receiving from Bella was making him distinctly aware of all he had been missing over the years.

He wondered now how he had ever believed Alice was his mate when she didn't actually like or love who he really was, instead loving the idea, the character she had created in her mind and forced him to personify. He felt the need to be away from her for awhile, fearing he might snap at her or otherwise express his anger and frustration with her in a way they would all later regret. He also had no desire to watch her public displays of affection with her new mate, even though he too had a new mate. After all, she had been lying to him for years, convincing him what they had was all they were ever meant to have. Some instinctive male part of him would naturally balk at seeing his wife of fifty years kissing another man, even though he didn't want her for himself anymore.

"Don't worry, Carlisle. We'll take good care of Bella and Jasper," Aro assured him, grinning smugly as he stepped up behind the couple. "Major Whitlock is certainly an incredible asset for any coven he chooses to join. We consider ourselves very lucky to have him with us. Jasper, you are welcome to continue hunting animals or to drink donated blood like the rest of us. Bella has convinced us to open up blood bank operations that pay for donations and then provide the clean blood to the hospitals and clinics, while providing all blood considered unfit for human medical use to the vampire world. Thus, all blood we drink now is freely given and duly paid for, without reducing the supply available for human medical services. In fact, we are actually doing our part to help the humans, as we have vastly improved the quality and quantity of medical grade blood, while also improving the speed of both testing and delivering.

We heat the blood to 99 degrees before drinking, which makes the flavor virtually indistinguishable from that obtained fresh from the source. Bella made a very convincing argument against killing humans merely to satisfy our thirst. We are really quite pleased with the results. The donated blood is so much less messy, and there are no corpses to dispose of afterward. Thus, not only is it easier and less risky to obtain, but it is also available at all times – no need to have set feeding times or rely on fluctuating tourist traffic. A win/win for everyone, humans and vampires alike. That should please you, Carlisle."

Carlisle appeared distinctly disconcerted. He really couldn't argue against it. If anything, their plan was better than his, at least in terms of being more helpful to the world's human and vampire populations, yet it still felt wrong to him. It disturbed him greatly, for he had always considered his way to be morally superior and had found a sense of pride and contentment in that knowledge. However, now his way of life was challenged in a way that left him unable to defend it as superior. The only advantage his way had was the production of yellow eyes versus red, making it easier to blend in with the humans.

However, his way had several disadvantages compared to the Volturi's plan. The vegetarians still killed their prey, requiring the disposal of the corpses and the careful monitoring of animal populations to avoid overfeeding in a particular area or within a species. They could easily be accused of carelessly wasting valuable resources and increasing the risk of exposure. Additionally, they would always suffer the thirst, as the animal blood never fully satisfied them, whereas the donated human blood was just as thirst-quenching as the fresh stuff. The human drinkers would actually be more stable around humans than the animal drinkers, as long as the human drinkers kept themselves well fed. They would have an easier time resisting open wounds than the vegetarians, because their thirst could be fully sated, unlike the vegetarians' thirst.

The only way for the Cullens to improve upon the Volturi plan would be to open up veterinary blood banks to supply their needs, so they wouldn't have to kill the animals. Yet, that still wouldn't be providing the kind of service the human blood banks did for the world. It wouldn't be saving human lives, the way the Volturi plan did. Carlisle didn't know what to say, so he chose to remain silent on the subject for the time being. He needed time to process all that he had learned in such a short period of time.

Alistair was thrilled to be reunited with his soul mate and couldn't wait to marry her, as he had planned so many years ago. Aro agreed to officiate over the nuptials the following morning. The Cullens were amazed that Alice readily agreed, not insisting on months to plan an elaborate affair with custom wardrobes and handmade decorations. It was obvious now how much she had been secretly coping with loss and emptiness via her shopping addiction as they watched her interact with her new mate, oblivious to his wrinkled, dusty, outdated outfit. There was a peace about her that had never been present before. No longer was she bouncing around, filled with nervous energy. Instead, her entire being was focused on her mate, calm and still in his embrace.

The Cullens felt bad for Jasper at first, seeing the love emanating from the reunited couple, but soon realized he had found a new focus for his own feelings and attention. He and Bella had separated from everyone else and were lost in their own little world together as she brought him up to speed on everything she had seen, done, and learned since they had last seen one another.

It was decided for all the Cullens to spend the night in order to attend the wedding of Alistair and Alice the next morning. Jasper and Alice agreed to dissolve their marriage instantly and amicably, without the necessity of human paperwork and lawyers. Since neither Jasper Hale nor Alice Cullen had ever actually existed, the marriage was never truly valid in the first place. Alice was choosing to be married using her original maiden name of Mary Alice Brandon, and Jasper was reverting to his own human name of Whitlock.

To the Cullens' surprise the next morning, Alice's wedding was then followed immediately by Jasper's wedding to Bella, with Aro cheerfully officiating over both unions. The Volturi brothers granted Jasper and Bella exclusive use of a honeymoon 'cottage' on a private beach far from prying eyes, which the new couple eagerly accepted. In fact, despite the fact their vows were said after Alice's and Alistair's, they were in the air on one of Aro's private jets long before Alice even considered tossing her bouquet at the reception.

The time came for the remaining Cullens to return to America, but they found they really didn't want to leave. They still considered Bella, Jasper, and Alice to be part of their family, along with Alistair now, and they couldn't stand the idea of losing them. After an intense discussion between Carlisle, Esme, Rosalie, and Emmett, the Cullens decided to move to Europe. They wanted to be close enough to visit Jasper and Bella, but far enough from the Volturi that they wouldn't have Aro breathing down their necks. They also wanted to be close to Alice and Alistair, who were going to be living in his old family home in England for a while.

Carlisle and Esme got over Edward's death surprisingly quickly once they realized how much happier and more relaxed everyone was without him brooding or judging their thoughts. They loved their new mental privacy, though they still had to put up with Alice foreseeing things. At least she was so preoccupied with Alistair that she no longer actively sought visions, just letting the important ones come to her naturally. She was much too happy living in the present to waste precious time scanning the future.

Jasper was thrilled that Alice could no longer see his future, now that he lived in the Volturi stronghold with Bella. He was well respected by all the vampires there, and nobody in Volterra ever dared think of him as weak. Those who had tried were quickly put in their place within the first two weeks. His fighting skills alone had won their respect, and when combined with his gift, he was formidable indeed.

Now that he and Bella were together as a couple, they were virtually unstoppable, as Bella naturally shielded him as well as herself, and he taught her how to fight. Aro was happy that neither of them thirsted for power and were perfectly content to simply be part of a 'family', as they had come to think of many of the elite guard, along with the three brothers themselves and their wives. Aro was fully aware that as long as he treated them both with respect and caring, they would be completely loyal.

Having their talents and gifts added to his already impressive collection made the Volturi nearly indestructible, nearly impervious to attack, so Aro was thrilled to adopt them as his niece and nephew, giving them anything that would make them happy. In return, their insight and compassion helped the Volturi get in touch with their own humanity, causing their rulings to be much more 'humane'. They also helped curb Aro's power collecting instincts and Caius's violent, sadistic proclivities, while bringing joy and meaning back to Marcus's existence.

They all lived happily ever after, except Edward.

Edward was very surprised to see his mother waiting for him after his death. She didn't look happy. In fact, the first thing she did was take him over her knee and whip his butt good. She then proceeded to lecture him over every mistake he had made in the years since her death and every time he had disappointed her by not living up to her expectations of him. She also showed him all the good things that would have come his way if he had only accepted his fate and made the most out of being a vampire, rather than considering himself damned and sabotaging his own happiness. As he suffered through the lectures, the spanking, and the knowledge of what could have been, he couldn't help but wonder – was he in Heaven or Hell?

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