*Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer
It's the first week of July and it's truly hot in Arizona. However, Phoenix's sweltering weather outside isn't affecting Jasper Elio Hale at all, the aircon is on max.
Too anxious to finish that part of the project, the twenty-three-year-old building designer is completely shut off from the world around him, as he usually is when he's focused on something. He adjusts his thick nearsighted glasses for the sixth time before outlining the final details of the building's entrance on his graphics tablet. He's so engrossed on the task that he doesn't even push away his wheat-blond strands, he just ignores how they're completely covering his serious face like a curtain while the loosely curled tips are spread over the table.
His long fingers are precise when he traces another perfect line, and so far he is satisfied with how the sketch is coming up.
He doesn't really hear the first knocks on the door. Only once they become a bit more vigorous they are able to catch Jasper's attention.
He sighs impatiently. He doesn't want to lose focus now when he's so close to finishing. He tries ignoring the person outside his office but whoever this is, is pretty insistent, so he forces himself to answer.
"It's open." He speaks loud enough to be heard on the other side of the wooden door.
Jasper recognizes the unmistakable presence as soon as the architect steps foot inside the room, but he never raises his eyes from his drawing.
"You forgot again."
Although Jasper hasn't needed it, the man's deep voice confirms his assumption. He asks for a minute with his forefinger, knowing that the tall redhead will wait.
Half a minute later he's done, so he finally brings his big jade green eyes to the face he's been familiar with for his whole life.
"Did you check the sketches I left in your office earlier?" He asks in his husky voice as he turns off his tablet.
Edward Jaden Cullen, the recently promoted company's head architect standing before his desk, nods once as Jasper gets up from his chair.
"I did. We need to discuss the space you envisioned for the first deck on Salazar's building. I think you went a little overboard… but Bergman's and Stratford's projects are flawless, so I've already approved them."
"Great." Jasper replies while putting on his jacket. "Can we deal with it over drinks?" He smiles his dimpled smile, purposefully and heavily resting his big hand on his best friend's shoulder.
"Hard day?" Jasper nods in answer to Edward's question. "I know what you mean."
"First round is on me." Jasper states with his devilish grin. "By the way, I didn't forget we're meeting the clan."
The moment he sees the redhead's mischievous smile and the enthusiastic glint in his sapphire-blue eyes, he understands that his roommate is glad.
They leave Jasper's office together after the blond turns off the lights.
"BG said he would show up."
Jasper knows that Edward's comment is intended to prepare him, so he won't be taken by surprise, but still, he feels the tension that Emmett's nickname and he himself provoke in him.
As a normal reaction, he nervously cards his fingers through his mid-back long hair, gathers all strands, and ties them in a loose ponytail.
"He'll probably take his girl with him, right?" His reply to Edward's comment comes up in a slightly grumpy tone.
He is surprised for a moment when he sees Edward shaking his head negatively.
"Not sure about the details, but Bells told me he broke up with Emily last night."
"Wow, your girlfriend is gossiping? That's so unlike her." Jasper ironically utters. "That's more baffling than this news."
He raises his eyebrows to Edward when the redhead turns to look at him.
"And the two of you used to be best friends… I still don't get the animosity."
Jasper rolls his eyes.
"You should've gotten used to it by now, Dade. It's been there for a long time."
"Yeah, I know. At least you two are civil enough so I can have you both in my life."
"Well, I try to be diplomatic." Jasper clarifies after throwing his strong arm around his best friend's shoulders while they walk. "And," He prolongs the conjunction for emphasis. "I'm aware that I'll be the one cast aside in case I don't behave."
Edward's silence is confirmation enough for Jasper.
They get in the elevator together in silence. Then Jasper pulls away and leans on the metal wall with his head bent.
"It doesn't really make any difference, anyway." He says in a low pensive voice. "He'll never notice me the way I want him to."
Because Edward remains quiet, Jasper looks up.
"You already know what I think." It's what he hears from the redhead.
"That I should tell him how I feel." Jasper repeats the advice Edward's been giving him for years. "It's not easy, you know."
"I do, I never said it is, but how do you expect him to know that you're in love with him?"
"I don't want him to hate me."
Jasper sighs as he sees Edward rolling his eyes before looking at him.
"Ellie, Emmett will never hate you, you're one of his closest friends, and it's not even like he doesn't date guys."
"He only dated one." Jasper argues as he pushes away from the wall. "He mostly dated girls."
"It doesn't make him less bi."
"I'm not his type."
"How do you know?"
"Look at me, Dade."Jasper asks dejectedly. "I'm no one's type, I'm nerdy and too lanky,"
"What are you talking about? You're not lanky at all, you're just pretty tall."
"I'm lanky," The blond insists. "and Felix was… well… stunning."
"Felix was buff. You're stunning, Ellie."
"Oh, come on, you're biased, I'm your bestie, we grew up together, we're practically brothers. Besides, you don't even know what you're talking about, you're straight."
"I'm not blind."
Jasper just dismisses the emphatic tone Edward uses and rolls his eyes once again.
"You're just trying to encourage me, 'cause that's what you do."
They leave the elevator, both shaking their heads, and walk to Jasper's blue Mitsubishi Mirage.
"I'm not really encouraging you." Jasper hears Edward say in a nonchalant tone as they close the car doors. "I just think you need to deal with it or move on. You've been hung on this long enough."
The blond sighs heavily as it dawns on him that his best friend is right… he's been secretly in love with the big guy since he was sixteen.
As he pulls the car out of the parking spot and starts to drive out of the building garage, Jasper envisions unwillingly how his confession to Emmett would be.
"Can you not space out?" He hears Edward's smiling voice.
The redhead's chuckle tells him he doesn't believe the lie.
"Forget what I said. Just relax, it's a normal end-of-the-day happy hour with the clan, you don't have to tell BG anything, at least not tonight."
"Okay." Jasper promptly replies with his eyes on the road.
And although his stomach is filled with butterflies as usual when it comes to the big guy, he pretends he's just fine and calm as he and Edward head to the bar where they meet their friends every Friday.
The DVV clan was originally founded by Edward and Jasper when they were seven-year-old kids and siblings Isabella and Peter Swan, then ages six and seven respectively, joined the select group of friends formed by the former two and their sisters, Alice, Edward's younger adoptive sibling, and Rosalie, Jasper's twin, after their parents moved from Chicago to the Desert View Valley suburb.
Edward and Jasper had known each other since they were babies by then, given that their parents had already been neighbors and close friends for a couple of years when the redhead was adopted and the twins were born.
Emmett became part of the group only eight years later when he and his widowed father moved to the house across from the Cullen's.
At the very first sight of sixteen-year-old Emmett Alexander Marty, fifteen-year-old Jasper was mesmerized. He crushed on the big guy instantly, but it wasn't until a truth-or-dare game proposed by Bella and Rosalie a year later, on the very last night of summer, that the blond realized his true feelings for the brunet after the kiss that Bella dared Emmett to give him.
Unfortunately for the blond, it was just a game, and the big guy clearly wasn't affected by their brief exchange at all, so much so that he started dating Alice two days later, and dated her for almost two years.
Jasper went on with his life, pretending he felt just the same as his close friend while trying to overcome his romantic feelings for him, and he was successful for some time. He hooked up with some guys and even got into his first serious relationship with Christian, his Berkley's dormmate to whom he lost his virginity, but that didn't last long. And all along, the idea that Emmett was straight kept him from feeling worse.
It was when the big guy introduced Felix as his boyfriend that Jasper felt the hurt he'd been suppressing. Finding out that the big guy was bi and had never noticed him made him feel rejected, and from that point on, the blond's self-confidence, which had never been really strong, was deeply affected.
Jasper had never been one to approach guys, but he became shier, reserved. He's been on dates and even hooked up once or twice after breaking up with Christian, but the truth was he wasn't trying hard enough, because he didn't want to.
He wanted Emmett… He loved Emmett. And he simply couldn't get over it.
Sitting across from him at the bar table, Jasper bites the corner of his bottom lip and bends his head. He tries to understand why he still has these feelings for Emmett after over seven years.
He feels so stupid and angry at himself that he grabs the bottle before him and swigs the beer in five gulps. He notices the warm hand on his forearm only once he's done.
"What are you doing?"
He looks at Edward beside him, deliberately ignoring the disapproving look the redhead is giving him. Then he looks around, noticing that his friends are too engrossed in their lively conversation to perceive his mood.
"I need some air." He says after shaking his head.
Jasper stands from his seat and walks to the deck at the back of the bar. He tries to calm himself down while staring at the beautiful night view, but it's useless.
He unties the ponytail and cards his fingers nervously along his strands many times before twisting his hair into a bun at the base of his head. He ties it loosely as usual and then sighs.
That voice makes him shiver inwardly and he's promptly tense. He doesn't turn to look until the big guy leans on the wooden rail beside him.
"Yeah." He utters uncertainly, gazing up with guarded eyes.
As Emmett sighs and purses his lips, Jasper knows the big guy isn't convinced.
"Did Edward send you?" He blurts out.
"Actually he told me to leave you alone when I asked what was wrong."
"There's nothing wrong, I just have a lot in my mind right now." Jasper replies and looks away from Emmett's intense hazel eyes.
"Don't you wanna talk about it?"
Obeying his instinct, Jasper turns his whole body towards Emmett.
"Why are you worried about me?" He asks softly. "I know what happened, and I assume you must be hurting right now."
He stares cautiously at Emmett as the brunet nods.
"Actually, I'm kinda relieved." And he sees the emotion in the big guy's eyes. "Emily and I have been over for some time, we just needed time to realize and admit it." Jasper nods slightly as Emmett shrugs. "But even if I was hurting I would still worry about you."
"Because you're one of my closest friends, Jay."
Holding back the automatic cringe the sentence provokes in him, Jasper takes in a deep breath and unconsciously gnaws his bottom lip before turning to the rail again.
"You don't need to worry, there's nothing, I'm fine. I'm just mulling over work stuff, there are these new projects I'm working on and…" He trails off before shrugging.
"Anything I can help?" Jasper looks at him incredulously. "I know, I know, I'm just a chef, I know nothing about building designs, all I know is cooking great food but… I'm a good listener and problem solver." Jasper chuckles with the big guy's obvious attempt to cheer him up.
And that reminds him of the reasons he's been hung up on Emmett for so long…
It's not just because the big guy is exactly his type, tall, strong, and simply gorgeous… He's also super funny, super loyal, generous, thoughtful, intelligent…
An embarrassing sigh leaves Jasper without his consent and he bents his head.
"Okay, you truly don't wanna talk, so let's make a deal." He hears Emmett's suggestion but doesn't look at him. "Let's get shitfaced tonight. You try to forget whatever it is that is bothering you and I celebrate my newly acquired freedom. What do you think?"
The blond forces himself to bring his eyes to the big guy's and, seeing the enthusiasm in his irises, he nods after sighing.
Jasper holds back a shiver once Emmett rests his heavy arm on his shoulders, but he doesn't pull away.
"C'mon, I'll pay for your next round."
The blond just nods again as the big guy takes him back to the table.
"Ellie, wake up. We're home."
It takes Jasper a minute to open his drowsy eyes and look at the source of that soft voice. Edward's crystal blue eyes are the first thing he sees.
"Wow, I just blacked out." He murmurs to himself.
"You drank too much."
He doesn't take Edward's slightly disappointed tone to heart. He knows how much the redhead cares for him, so he understands.
"I'll be fine after a cold shower."
Jasper tries not to weigh too much on Edward's shoulder as his best friend helps him get out of the car.
As they walk to the elevator Jasper chuckles.
"Remember when I used to be shorter than you?" He asks while looking at Edward from above.
He smiles broader when he sees that his friend is smiling too.
"Yeah, I do, but that was a long time ago…"
"It's weird that you're shorter than me, you know? You're older, so you should be taller. You should be the one with 6'4."
"I'm just two months older than you, Ellie. And I'm only three inches shorter than you."
"Still, I feel weird when you tilt your head up to look at me. Actually, I hate to be this tall."
"Not the lanky shit again."
He chuckles again as he identifies the annoyance in Edward's tone.
"Okay, not gonna say another word." He promises and then gestures as if zipping his mouth closed.
Once they are inside the apartment, Edward takes Jasper to his room and sits him on his bed.
"You're okay to take care of yourself?" Jasper nods. "Okay, I'll go to Bell's, I'll sleep there tonight, but if you need anything you call me, I'll have my phone with me."
"Don't worry about me, I can hold my liquor."
Jasper hears Edward's chuckle before seeing his friend shaking his head.
"Go take a shower, I'll leave a bottle of water for you on your nightstand. Drink it before you sleep."
"Yes, sir." Jasper mocks before standing unstably on his feet.
He sees Edward shaking his head to him again before he walks to his ensuite. Then he's alone in his shower, and he allows his mind to wander off.
He closes his eyes once Emmett's face becomes clear, and as he lets the water run throughout his body he makes a sudden decision.
And maybe it's the alcohol affecting his better judgment but he's determined.
He will confess to Emmett, he wants to. He's not chickening out this time.