"Why don't you like Jasper?"

I looked up at Rosalie, completely nonplussed by the question.

"I like Jasper just fine." I said.

"He thinks you hate him." Rosalie replied. I stared at her. Where was this coming from? Since when did she care, anyway?

"I don't hate him." I informed her.

"You avoid him." She pointed out.

"He avoids me." I replied.

"He doesn't avoid anyone." Rosalie argued.

"Neither do I." I retorted.

"You did it today." She insisted.

"When?" I challenged.

"When you walked into the living room, then turned and walked back out when you saw him sitting there."

"He stiffened when I entered the room." I countered.

"He stiffens anytime he gets near a human." She insisted.

"Why would I hate him?" I demanded.

"He tried to kill you." She replied.

"He couldn't help it." I answered her. "Besides, he didn't succeed.

"Do you ever talk to him?" She challenged. "Do you ever go near him?"

She had me there. "No, but that doesn't mean I hate him. He doesn't exactly like to hang out with any of you." I pointed out. Why all this fuss? She didn't even like me. Why was she doing this?

She rolled her eyes. "He wrestles with Emmett. Watches football with him too. He steals Carlisle's books. He watches Esme paint. He 'hangs out' all the time."

"He doesn't hang out with you." I snapped, and she scowled at me.

"Whatever. He still thinks you hate him, and nobody else can convince him otherwise." She huffed, and stormed out of the room.

"Actually, he does." Edward said, coming in through the other door.

"What?" I asked, irritated.

"They do hang out." Edward said. "They just don't like to admit it."

"Why?" I asked. "Why wouldn't they want people to know?"

Edward smirked. "Because their version of 'hanging out' involves spending several hours at a time bickering over who is actually the older sibling."

"Why does it matter?" I asked. "It's just a cover, isn't it?"

Edward shrugged. "It doesn't matter." He said. "But it used to." He regarded me curiously. "What brought that up, anyway? I only heard that last bit."

I shrugged. "Does Jasper think I hate him?" I asked. Edward blinked.

"Did Rosalie tell you that?" He asked. I didn't answer, and Edward sighed. "I don't know. I haven't heard anything like that from him, but they all have their ways of keeping me out."

"Really?" I asked, intrigued. "How?"

Edward sighed. "Rosalie thinks mostly about herself, which is why I tend to ignore her. Carlisle reviews medical cases, Esme thinks about her paintings. Alice recites songs in her head, and Emmett- Emmett thinks about Rosalie." He paused, and I blushed as I realized what he meant. He cleared his throat. "Jasper's different. He usually just avoids me if he's got something on his mind he doesn't want me to hear, and it isn't always because of something recent."

"Recent?" I asked.

"He may be fine tonight, then tomorrow he's bothered by something that happened fifty years ago." Edward clarified. "Or even farther back." He regarded me for a moment. "Do you think he hates you?" He asked.

I looked at him, puzzled. "Why?" I asked. He shrugged.

"You just seem to be uncomfortable being around him." He said.

I shrugged. The truth was, I had gotten the idea that he didn't exactly like me. "Maybe I've just been waiting for the right moment." I said. Of course, now would be a good time. Few people in the house. Just Jasper, Emmett, Edward and me, since Rosalie had stormed out.

Edward smirked. "He's upstairs." He said. "Reading." He turned to leave me.

"I thought you couldn't read my mind." I threw at his back.

"I can't," He replied. "I don't need to this time."

I guess it had been rather obvious. I slowly left the kitchen and made my way to the bottom of the stairs. I looked up, contemplating a hundred things I would rather be doing than this. I took a calming breath and began walking up the stairs.

I nearly tripped on the last step. Mercifully no one came to my rescue. I found the door to Jasper's room and knocked, softly and hesitantly.

It must not have been latched, because the door swung open. I was relieved; he wasn't there, or so I thought at first.

His room probably looked the least lived in. It was bare except for a bed, a desk, curtains on the windows, a guitar case in one corner, and a lamp in the opposite.

I saw him then, sitting cross legged on the floor. He was beside the lamp, leaning against the wall. A book was in his hands, and he held it towards the light as if he actually needed it to read. He was still on the same page when I cleared my throat, wondering if he had noticed me or was merely pretending he hadn't.

When he didn't look up, I spoke. "Um, can we talk?" I asked nervously, trying to ignore the fluttering in my stomach. He still didn't answer, and I started talking. "I don't mean to bother you or anything, it's just that Rosalie seems to have this crazy idea that I don't like you, and said you seem to think that I hate you or something ridiculous like that, and Edward kind of agrees with her."

He continued to stare at the book. Perhaps he was afraid that I did hate him. I took a deep breath and kept going. "Well, I thought maybe we could talk things out, because I certainly don't hate you, but sometimes I get the feeling you don't care for me, and since we're going to be family someday, and I don't really know you…" I trailed off as he continued to ignore me. "Um, hello?" I asked, irritated. "I was talking to you?"

There was still no reply. I might as well not have been there. Exactly who didn't like who? "I don't know what you're problem is, I'm just trying to iron out a misunderstanding, but if you want to ignore me, then fine. I'll leave. Forget I even came up here and said anything." I was angry now, and could feel the tears threatening to spill forth.

I turned and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind me in my fury. I flounced all the way downstairs, blinking furiously in a vain attempt to keep from crying. I tripped on the last stair and fell, straight into Emmett.

"Hi, Bella." He said, then realized my predicament and caught me before I hit the ground. He chuckled as he set me upright. "What's wrong?" He asked, noticing my face.

I sniffed as I shook my head. "Nothing." I snapped at him, though it wasn't his fault. Stupid Jasper.

Emmett frowned and crossed his arms. "Did Edward do something?" He asked. I guess it was the only reason he could think of for me not to tell him.

I shook my head. "No." I sniffed, tears threatening to overflow.

Emmett looked thoughtful. It was an odd sight. Not that he's stupid, it's just that he doesn't seem to put a whole lot of thought into much of anything. He didn't seem to feel a need to.

He scowled then. "What'd Jasper do?" He asked, alarm crossing his features. I guess he had realized that Jasper was the only one upstairs.

I shook my head again, but the words came out anyway. "I was just trying to talk to him, make sure he knew I didn't hate him or anything, and he just ignored me."

"That doesn't sound like Jasper." Emmett said, confused. "He's usually more polite than that. Unless-" He paused for a second, listening for something, I guessed. Then he looked at me, and let out a guffaw. "Come on." He said, leading me back upstairs. "Silly Bella." He shook his head in amusement.

I followed him dismally up the stairs and back to Jasper's room, where Emmett knocked on the door. He turned to look at me.

There was no answer. Emmett waited for about fifteen seconds before knocking again, louder. When there was still no reply, Emmett swung the door open. I winced as it hit the wall, but Jasper didn't even look up.

Emmett walked over and stood in front of him. "Hey." He said. Jasper ignored him, too. Then Emmett turned back to face me. "He gets like this when he's reading." He said matter-of-factly.

"Like what?" I asked.

Emmett smirked. "Oblivious. Watch." He left me there as he darted across the hall and into the bathroom. I heard water running, and a second later he was back.

He carried a glass of water, the one that had been placed there mainly for my benefit when visiting. He walked with it in hand over to where Jasper was sitting, and with caution and grace, set it to balance on Jasper's head.

I gasped. "Won't that bother him? What if it spills?" I asked as Jasper moved to turn another page, and the glass tipped. I gasped, but he never even seemed to notice as water ran down his shirt and into his lap.

I stared at Emmett in horror and confusion. He seemed to be enjoying himself. "It'll only bother him if it gets the book wet." He replied.

I didn't get it. "I don't get it." I said.

Emmett smirked. "He's reading." He said, as if that explained everything.

"Okay?" I still didn't get it.

"He doesn't notice anything else when he's reading." Emmett clarified. "It's weird. He'll notice two things; one is his name."

"And the other?" I asked.

He snorted. "Alice, of course." He replied.

"Of course." I said. "So he has no idea we're even here?"

"Nope." Emmett confirmed cheerfully. He backed out the door. "Have a nice talk."

I was left alone with Jasper.

I turned hesitantly to him, reluctant to interrupt, and feeling silly for being so angry with him before.

"Jasper?" I asked, timidly. He looked up instantly, then frowned at the empty cup on his lap.

He didn't say anything about it, though. "May I help you?" He asked. He could be as polite and proper as Carlisle at times.

I hesitated, swallowing nervously as I tried to figure out what to say. He must have sensed my unease, because he frowned again and closed the book, setting it on the floor beside him. He stood, moving the empty cup from his lap and setting it upright beside the book, and I realized he was giving me his undivided attention.

I took a deep breath and decided to start at the beginning, wherever that was. "Rosalie asked me a question this morning." I said, and realized I was stalling.

"I see." He said politely, though he didn't, really.

"She asked why I don't like you."

"Ah." He said, his eyes drifting to the floor for a second before they returned to my face. He was waiting for me to continue, but I could see in his eyes he was dreading what he might hear.

"I told her I do like you." I said, but the words sounded hollow and empty. "I don't hate you." That was true at least. "She says I avoid you."

He didn't say anything. He merely stood there in silence, watching me, waiting.

"I guess I do, to be honest." He stiffened. "I guess I've never felt particularly comfortable around you." I paused, trying to figure out how to have this one-sided conversation. "But I always thought it was because you weren't comfortable around me."

"I'm not." He admitted, and I blinked, trying not to get upset. He had a right not to like me, didn't he? His eyes widened, and he continued hastily. "It's not you, Bella." He said quickly.

I frowned. "Then what is it?"

He blinked, and sighed. "Remember your birthday party?" He asked. I nodded; I still hated thinking about it. It had been the night that had triggered Edward's decision to leave. I swallowed, trying not to think about it.

I focused again on him; he had closed his eyes and looked completely miserable. "I'm sorry." He mumbled. "I know it doesn't change anything. I should have been stronger. Edward would never have left-"

"Stop it, Jasper." I said firmly. "I never blamed you." I meant it; I never had. I hoped he could see that, could understand it.

He shrugged. "I should have been stronger." He said, but seemed more at ease. Or, at least, at ease for him when I was around. "The problem then is the same problem now. If I seem uncomfortable around you, Bella, it's for the same reason I'm uncomfortable around every other human." I waited for him to continue.

He did, after a few seconds. "The problem is that you are human. That you smell like prey. The problem is that I'm not as good at resisting that smell as the others. They've gotten used to you, Bella, and they care about you, and that helps them as well."

He hadn't gotten used to having me around. He didn't care. He really didn't like me, did he? I tried to control my emotions, but it wasn't working very well.

Jasper rolled his eyes and slapped a hand to his face. Literally. Then he sighed. "Golly, Bella, are you thick-headed. I told you it was nothing personal. I'm glad Edward finally found someone he loved, and as far as people go, you're wonderful. The problem is me, Bella. I get tense when you enter the room because I don't know if I can keep my control around you. Especially since that night. If I've given you reason to think the fault lies with you, I truly am sorry."

I simply stood there, blinking, trying to absorb this new information. "Okay." I said. "So you don't hate me." He nodded. I continued hesitantly. "But you think I hate you?" I asked. Again his eyes darted away from mine for a split second. "Well, that's just ridiculous."

"I tried to kill you." Those had been Rosalie's words. She had been echoing his, I realized. How long had that been bothering him?

I repeated my argument with Rosalie. "You couldn't help it. Besides, you didn't succeed."

He sighed. "I wanted to. I would have, if-" I cut him off.

"You wouldn't have had to worry about it, if I weren't so clumsy. But then again, if I had wings and pink feathers, I'd be a flamingo. If's are pointless. And a waste of time." He didn't look convinced. I groaned. "You didn't want to kill me." I pointed out. He raised his eyebrows. I sighed in exasperation. "You know what I mean. The vampire in you may have been longing for my blood, but you, Jasper, would not have been happy if you had succeeded. You're already unhappy you tried."

"It wasn't enough to stop me from trying." He argued.

I rolled my eyes. "You aren't trying to suck my blood now." I pointed out with a scowl. "And it's just the two of us. There's no one in the house but Emmett and he wouldn't have time to get up here and stop you."

He sighed. "I want to, Bella. That's the problem."

I stared at him angrily. This was ridiculous. "Then why don't you?" I challenged him. "Why not? You're fast enough, strong enough. You could do it quickly and easily. You could chalk it up as an accident. I tripped, cut myself, and you couldn't help it. Probably they'd believe you. So why don't you?" I took a step nearer, and he tensed. "Come on, then, Jasper." I challenged him. "If all you are is a blood-sucking murderer after all, then do it. Bite me." I snapped, moving so close we were practically touching. His eyes blazed, and for a moment I was very, very afraid that I had pushed him too far.

"No!" He practically shrieked, and shoved me away from him. "No!" He repeated, desperation laced through that one word.

I hit the opposite wall, just hard enough to leave bruises. I yelped as I stumbled forward and lost my balance; the floor came rushing up at me.

Jasper caught me, and gently set me upright. "See?" I gasped. "I told you you don't want to kill me."

He rolled his eyes. "You are an idiot." He informed me. "I nearly did just now. Twice."

I smiled. "But you resisted the first time, and we both know I wasn't going to make it out of here without injuring myself somehow."

He sighed, relaxing somewhat. "So the point of all this was what?" He asked. "That you don't hate me and I don't hate you?"

I nodded. "With a little practice, I bet we could even like each other."

He chuckled, and I realized that odd upward twist of one corner of his mouth was actually a smile. "I like you just fine, Bella." He said.

I snorted. "Yeah, well, that's what I told Rosalie about you, and she didn't believe me."

He raised his eyebrows. "So what do I have to do to prove it?" He asked. "Sit beside you on the bus? Give you my milk money for a week?"

I stared at him. Alice had said he had a sense of humor, but I hadn't believed her. He appeared to be completely serious.

I considered how to answer him. He was joking, of course, but the underlying question remained. Did I believe him? What would he have to do to prove it? And how could I convince him that I liked him just fine too?

I grinned as I figured out the answers, and looked up at him. He was waiting warily for my response. I smiled sweetly. "If the others think we actually do hate each other…" I trailed off.

"They think if we aren't careful a minor misunderstanding could cause us to." Jasper corrected.

I rolled my eyes. "If they think the potential is there…" Again I stopped, waiting for him to realize what I was suggesting.

He scowled. "You don't have to worry about keeping Edward out of your head." He informed me. "And Alice might see anyway."

"He says you have your ways." I insisted. "Would Alice go along with it?"

He frowned, thinking. "It depends. If no one's going to end up hurt she should be fine. She may not even see it, but-" He broke off and shrugged. "She watches me."

She watched out for him, I realized. To keep him out of trouble, more or less. And he was admitting this to me.

"Well?" I asked.

The suddenly wicked gleam in his eye took me by surprise. "If they've been on to you about our relationship as much as they have me…" He muttered. Then he looked straight at me. "What, exactly, do you have in mind?"

I grinned and closed the door.

Disclaimer: I am not the author and none of any of this is mine. Obviously.