5. Title: The Plunge

6. Summary: After a life-altering event wreaks havoc, Jasper is there to pick up Bella's pieces. He has a secret, though. A secret that once revealed could either make or break life as he knows it. Will he confess? Will he take the plunge?

7. Pairing: Jasper/Bella

8. Rating: T

9. Word Count: 3538

10. DISCLAIMER: Twilight and its inclusive material is copyright to Stephenie Meyer. Original creation, including but not limited to plot and characters, is copyright to the respective authors of each story. No copyright infringement is intended.

When it's raining, we have to pull the fuses. You don't dare turn on the lights. The house that Tyler rents,-

I glanced up at the clock on the mantle, any minute now.

it has three stories and a basement. We carry around candles. It has pantries and screened sleeping porches and stained-glass windows on the stairway landing.-

I idly wondered how long this would go on. How long she would stay here with me and let me hide her away from the world and its bullshit. Away from Forks and the vicious rumors Jessica, Lauren and others like them were flinging around. Because what happened to her? Is the biggest bunch of bullshit in the history of ever. The mere thought of it caused me to glare at the innocent looking envelope that was still on the coffee table. I forced my eyes back to the book, lest I get wound up again. She didn't need that right now.

There are bay windows with window seats in the parlor. The baseboard moldings are carved and varnished and eighte-

The pat-pat-pat of footfalls on the hardwood pulled me away from the story but I continued to pretend like I was reading anyway. The whole thing was humiliating enough for her, no need to add to that by making it obvious that I was waiting.

Moments later and she was peeking around the corner in the silly pajamas she loved so much. Normally I would tease her about the animal union suits she favored, but they gave her comfort and I was not going to squash that. I finally looked up to see what it was tonight. A fox, how fitting. Bella always had been a vixen after all.

I didn't say anything, just scooted over in the recliner and opened up my arm. She needed no further encouragement, quickly slinking across the expanse of the room and climbing over the arm of the recliner. She tucked herself into my side and I couldn't help but think that she was so small next to me, fragile feeling despite knowing the opposite to be true.

She spied the book in my hand and gave a playful eyeroll, "Fight Club? Again?"

"And which one are you on for the billionth time? Order of the Phoenix or-" both my train of thought and speech was cut off by a small, soft hand pressed against my mouth. It made me wonder, not for the first time, what that hand would feel like wrapped around me, but it also made me wonder what she'd do if I licked it.

"Ok, ok, I get the point," she pouted, removing my gag before I could wage slobbery retaliation. She plopped her head down on my chest and relaxed into me.

At least she understood. Edward and Emmett could never understand why I always returned to the same few books every time I was stressed or upset. For her, it was either Wuthering Heights or Harry Potter. For me, it was Fight Club or Game of Thrones.

She settled in with that little hand on my chest, fingers idly drawing random patterns with a featherlight touch. It was distracting, the way her nails would gently scratch out random patterns as she lay there and thought about whatever was on her mind. I gave up on focusing on Tyler and the unnamed protagonist as they moved in together. Instead my brain went down a different path.

I was exceptionally torn with the situation I was in. I had dreamed of getting Bella up to my hunting cabin alone for the past few years and doing all the things we'd been doing over the past few weeks. Which, coincidentally, was how long I'd been in love with her. Yet, I couldn't appreciate any of it in any real capacity. Not us waking up together in the recliner or on the bed after falling asleep watching movies, not making breakfast together, not us cuddling in my favorite chair, none of it. And it was all because of that mangy beast she'd called a boyfriend.

They'd been together two and a half years when all of a sudden he ups and disappears. His father, nor anyone else outside of his "pack" had any idea where he'd gone to. Then, three weeks later after filing a missing persons report and put up flyers all over Forks, La Push and Port Angeles, he'd returned like nothing had happened. Avoided her phonecalls for another week before she recieved the wedding invitation in the mail. I took her to his house myself, not trusting her to drive with the state she was in. Not only that, but I was done with seeing her so destroyed over that douchebag. I was the one that talked her into going down there and so I facilitated.

He'd met her on the porch, made her stand in the rain while she peppered him with questions.

'I met someone. You wouldn't understand, Bella. The only way I can describe it, well, it's like gravity moved. The Earth doesn't hold me here anymore, only she does. Sorry Bella,' he'd shrugged, giving her a sympathetic look.

She disappeared inside herself, completely checking out. The breaking point for me came when he moved to touch her and I decked him with everything I had in me. His nose broke easily under the force of the blow and his body hit the deck as complete dead weight. I barely paid the other guys of his 'pack' any attention as they ran to him, having watched the whole thing from Jared's front porch. I put her back in my truck and buckled her in before driving us back to Charlie's.

I didn't bother taking her inside, she was too far gone. I found Charlie in the kitchen and explained what had happened. Then I told him about my plan. It hurt to see the tears of pain and anger well up in his eyes over the state of his daughter. While he went outside to check her over himself, I went up to her room and packed a couple of bags with all of her favorite things and, of course, her toiletry bag.

I loaded her bags into the back of the cab while Charlie hugged her to him. She was hugging him back but it was a robotic motion. He tucked her back in the truck and gave another kiss to her forehead, shutting her door afterwards. After we were on our way, I glanced in my rearview mirror to see him backing the cruiser out of the driveway. I didn't need three guesses to anticipate where he was going. I put all of that out of my mind and only made one more stop to pick us up some groceries before we headed for my home away from the world. It was small, but clean and it had everything we needed.

The first few days were hell. All she wanted to do was sit out on the front porch and stare into the forest. I had to constantly keep watch over her, lest she sit there and get too cold or wander out into the yard and just stand there while getting drenched. At night she'd have hellish nightmares. On the third night after waking her up for the umpteenth time, she grabbed me as I made to go back to the couch and pulled me down to lie next to her. I wrapped her up in my arms and for the first time since the whole debacle happened, she seemed alive again, if only by a little bit.

Her fingers played with my t-shirt, pinching and rubbing the fabric between her fingers in a fidgety manner. It was better than Robo-Bella, so I wouldn't complain.

"Do you think, that, maybe…" Her soft voice trailed off and I looked down at her.

"What I think, Bells, is that you deserve far better than someone who would disappear on you for weeks and then leave you via wedding invitation. A wedding invitation where he's getting married to some other woman, at that," I'd said, shutting down that conversation. I tucked her against my chest and spent the rest of the night stroking her hair or back until I eventually fell asleep.

Since then, she had made slow yet steady progress back to normality. It would take much longer for her to really get over it, of course, but this was as good of a start as I could hope for.

One hand started stroking her hair out of a recently developed habit. I found that it was soothing not only to her but to me as well.

"How long do we have left here?" she muttered.

"As long as you like. The Chief went by Newtons and explained that you would be away for a while. Mrs. Newton was pretty understanding, said that she was going to have to cut your hours pretty hard anyway since the natural lull in business was right around the corner. I work remotely, as you know, so there's no real need for us to leave if we don't want," I explaied, hoping she'd want to stay sequestered here with me longer.

She bit her lip, thinking.

"I'd like to stay a little while longer. Now that it's just me again I have some freedom to go somewhere else. I could actually go to college now rather than doing all of my classes online. There's all sorts of options I'd like to think through now that I've got my wings, ya know?" She said, peeking up at me from underneath her eyelashes.

Panic shot through me at the idea of her leaving. I had loved her in secret since high school. First, she was with Edward, then he'd left for college and they broke up. After that, she had gotten together with Jacob, so all I had been able to do was admire her from afar and continue being her friend. If she left now, I just knew that I'd lose her forever.

"Sounds like a good plan, Bella. You've got another month until you have to decide whether you want to stay here or start a new adventure in the big city. That's plenty of time, Darlin'," I reassured her in the strongest voice I could muster.

"Yeah, the idea of distance from everyone and everything here is so tempting. It's just..." she trailed off, staring at me.

"Just what?" I asked lowly.

"I don't want to go alone and I've never lived on my own before," she started, her fingers going to my shirt to do that nervous plucking and rubbing thing again while she coralled her thoughts "Would it be too much for me to ask..." her eyes fell to my shirt, those white teeth of hers digging further into the flesh of her lip.

I needed to know what she was thinking. My thumb brushed along her lip, pulling it from between her teeth before she broke the skin. Hooking a finger underneath her chin, I gently tilted her head to where she'd look at me again.

"You can ask me anything, Bella. You know that," I gently reminded her.

She nodded before gathering her courage, "Is there any way I could talk you into coming with me?"

The hope that resided in her eyes was like a candle flame. Bright and dancing, yet delicate and easily put out if one wasn't careful.

Relief replaced the short lived dispair that had sprang from the thoughts of losing her and I couldn't stop the grin that stretched across my lips.

"No convincing needed, Bella. I'd love to go on a grand adventure with you!" I promised her, doing my best to keep that flame going.

Her relief was palpable. I could feel it as if it were seeping into me from every contact point we shared.

She let out a relieved breath and I could practically see the cogs beginning to turn in her head. Bella was a planner, always had been and I had no doubt that she'd have this thing planned within an inch of its life before the week was over.

This would be good for her, getting out of Forks, away from all the things that now made her unhappy.

"Jasper?" she asked, peeking up at me again, now with curiosity and just a smidge of leftover courage.

"Yeah, Bella?" I said, giving a strand of her hair the smallest tug. I was sure she was about to start in on the questions and logistics. Scheming sessions were frequent with us.

"Why have you never left Forks?" She asked.

I could see immediately where I had made my mistake. I had underestimated what that tiny nugget of courage was about. My mind had went to apartments and the actual moving portion, but no. She asks the one thing I wasn't ready to answer. So I tell the truth. Mostly.

"There was never anywhere else I cared about going," I shrugged.

"Nowhere? Jasper you work remotely, you could go anywhere!" She pressed on.

Fuck. Me.

"Why bother? My family and my best friend is here. What good would leaving do me?" I asked her, attempting to sidestep without being overly obvious.

"Well, for one, you could get the hell out of the wettest place in the Continental U.S. For two, you would have a chance to find someone good for you," she said, fixing her eyes on a point over my shoulder as she did.

"What do you mean, find somebody good enough?" I asked in a low voice. Dread was whipping itself into a Cat 1 tornado inside my stomach.

"None of the girls in Clallam County are good enough for you. You deserve the best, Jasper, not just a thin choice of whichever girls decide to hang around Forks or La Push. Better than Leah and way better than Alice," she said, fingers twisted up in my shirt as she gave her laser focus to whatever it was behind me.

A thought flickered across my mind and had nearly gone again by the time I'd grasped it by the tail end.

I let it swirl for a few seconds before taking a deep breath in and letting it out slowly. I felt nausea threaten to take over because I had somehow found myself on the precipice that I had been miles away from five minutes ago. I had had so many plans, foundations to lay, bonds to build and I wasn't ready for the plunge I was going to have to take without any of them there as a tie off point. Now I was going to have to trust Bella to catch me after I jumped, because I couldn't take the look she was trying to fight off of her face. I had no choice but to tell her the truth now.

I sighed quietly, the hand that was in her hair going to her face, tilting it gently to face mine and staring at her until her reluctant, sad gaze met mine.

"I'd hoped for more time, before we had this conversation but here we are," I said, my trembling thumb taking the chance to stroke her cheek, then her bottom lip while I had the chance. The odds had never been in my favor and chances were after she heard what I had to say there may not be many, if any chances to do it again.

"The reason I never left Forks is, like I said, I had no reason to leave it. I had no reason to leave it because in all the cities in all the world, none of them had you there. They would be but empty places for me," My fingers traced along her cheeks and across her forehead, brushing wayward strands back into place.

Her eyes darted rapidly between mine, her breath hitching as her eyes glassed over with tears. Bile bubbled in the back of my throat, threatening to fly up from the now Cat 3 tornado churning and twisting up my stomach. This was what I had dreaded, my worst-case scenario. Now either she would run away from Forks or I would have to in order to escape the torment of seeing, but no longer having.

"Jasper, you can't. I'm…" she looked around frantically, as if the word was hidden in the room and was just waiting for her to find it, "I'm not good for you. I'm tainted, cursed," the softest of sobs shook from her lips, "I'm not worth it and you deserve so much better," she finished finally, the glassy pools finally breaking and slipping down her face.

This girl was absolutely ridiculous and now I had a new reason to go stomp Jake further into the ground and then find Edward and pay him the same courtesy. I let another quiet sigh fall from my lips as I wiped away her tears. Just as I had felt her relief earlier, I now felt sadness, worthlessness and loss.

"Bella, Edward and Jacob were fucking stupid, both of them. You are far too good for either one of them, darlin'," I had to stop her from shaking her head and pull her face back to where she was looking at me again. I could tell that she wanted to get up and run from me, from this conversation or else bury her face against me. Anything to hide what she perceived to be her humiliation all over again "Bella, I can feel what you're feeling right now, and you are worth it, Darlin', you are. You're all I've ever wanted."

And there it was, the heart of me laid bare in her hands to hold or to crush.

She looked like she'd had the wind knocked out of her for a few minutes. I, of course, continued my touching of her hair and face because any second now she would come to her senses and run the fuck away from me. As it was she could do better than me. She deserved a man who could scratch up the courage to tell her his feelings rather than waiting until he was forced to the edge of the cliff. One who did more than yearn and let fear rule him to the point that he would be satisfied with being a friend, because it was better than losing the very best thing in his life.

"Why didn't you ever say anything?" she whispered, her little fingers freeing themselves from the tangle in my shirt and resting themselves against the thundering pulse on my neck.

"Because, I was afraid, B. In tenth grade I was afraid that you would say no and I would lose the cornerstone to my world. Then, along came Edward and you were with him for two and a half years until you split up when he left. I had wanted to give you space. I knew first-hand how badly he'd hurt you. You didn't need me trying to date you, you needed a friend. Being there for you and looking out for your best interests was more important to me than seizing an opportunity. Then before I knew it, you were dating Jake and I had missed my chance again. All I could do was stay. Being your best friend was better than having a life without you," I spilled my confession shamefully.

"I was so blind, Jasper, and so stupid. So stupid. I wanted to ask you out after I had recovered from Edward's abandonment, but like you, I was afraid of losing you. You've always been my port in the storm, the bedrock of my life," she admitted. She looked like she wanted to say more, but whatever it was had gotten stuck somewhere on its way up.

Her admission both elated, and saddened me. We were shorted two and a half years together because of mutual fear. I was elated because if I played my cards right, I had the rest of my life to spend with her, if she would have me after my years of cowardice.

"Does this still mean we're moving to Seattle together?" The question was out of my mouth before I could stop it. That wasn't even remotely the question I was going to ask, but there it was.

The nerves dropped from her face, the sadness melting away as if it never existed. A small grin curled her mouth, "I sure hope so."

I couldn't stop myself, but after years of cowardice it was high time I took some risks on my own. Leaning forward I captured her mouth with my own, kissing her gently at first. Reality clicked on in her brain, a few clicks late, but better late than never and she was kissing me back.

Peace settled over me like fresh fallen snow, pure and soft. Hope was now a solid, warm feeling in my chest after so long of it coming in the form of a flimsy, slick balloon string that I fought to keep ahold of. I could now see my way forward in life, now that the light of it was finally mine.