A/N: These drabbles are written for victoriajane who requested Jasper's point of view around the time of the First Beach photos. Thank you so much for your contribution during Fandom Gives Back and for your incredible patience. You are amazing :) I really hope this is something like what you had in mind. I do warn you that Jasper's mind was a dark place for a time… Enjoy!
Thank you so much to EchoesOfTwilight, kimberlycullen10, naelany, and theladyingrey42 for being fantastic betas and pre-readers. Love you ladies :)
The title is from John Milton's "Il Penseroso" and just struck me as very Jasper at this time of his life.
I tasted the brine in the air as I licked my lips, my eyes never straying far from Bella. This was the first time she'd really ventured outside with a group since she came home from Phoenix, and I was expecting her to bolt any minute.
So far, she hadn't.
But she walked with her hands in jacket pockets, her head down. Her eyes darted around, never settling in one spot for long, and she jumped at every sound.
I closed my eyes, swallowing hard as I fought back… everything. Rage. Sorrow. Absolute confusion.
How the hell did this happen?
The wind whipped along the shore as we tossed the football Jake brought. It was half-hearted, though, on all our parts. We kept glancing over at the girl sitting alone on the driftwood trunk.
One by one, we dropped away. Embry was the first to go, throwing the football to Felix and then just trotting off. He settled on another log not far from Bella and stuffed his hands in his pockets, leaning forward and talking to her with a smile.
My protective streak surged, and my feet carried me straight to her, even though I knew Embry was safe.
As the day warmed, Bella's spirits seemed to lift a little. She watched with amusement when Quil made fun of Embry, and as soon as the guys noticed, they became clowns. They insulted and pushed each other, putting on a show almost like they would for a little kid.
I moved to sit beside her when Felix threw Jake over his shoulder and started marching toward the ocean. Bella laughed.
It was a hollow sound, almost like she'd forgotten how, but she laughed.
I winked at her, slipping my arm around her shoulders. "You doing okay, Bells?"
She smiled tentatively.
Eventually Bella took off her jacket, warming her hands over the bonfire the guys built. We sat around, eating hotdogs and trying to joke, but we were more subdued than usual.
No one brought up why.
Jake hovered close to Bella, helping her with her food and nudging her shoulder from time to time. She managed weak smiles for him.
When Quil pulled out his camera, Felix struck a pose, throwing a made-up gang symbol and crossing his arms over his chest.
Bella giggled quietly, drawing us like moths to the flame, but our smiles faded before Quil's camera clicked.
Weeks passed, then months, with no sign of change in Bella beyond the fact that she talked a little more.
She wouldn't talk to anyone else – not her father, her therapist, our other friends.
I was grateful that she spoke to me, at least, but it wasn't about anything real.
I found myself clenching my jaw whenever she spoke, barely keeping a tight rein on my temper until she was gone. Our friendship deteriorated into nothing more than me fighting a losing battle to control myself.
Every time I looked at her, I saw a shell. Hollow. Fragile.
I lay flat on my back on the hardwood floor. For weeks, I'd been avoiding sleep, trying to ward off nightmares that were sure to come as soon as I closed my eyes.
I was exhausted.
I felt tears rolling across my temples and was powerless to stop them. I didn't want to. I didn't care.
They pooled in the crevices of my ears as my shoulders began to shake and my breath came in shuddering gasps.
I wondered if I had the strength to end it all.
I knew I didn't have the strength to go on.
My mattress sank with someone's weight, and I groaned. I'd finally given up, crawling into bed rather than acting on my darker thoughts. Once I was asleep, I wanted to stay that way.
"Talk to me, Jasper," Rosalie's soft voice said.
Rosalie was a lot of things, but soft wasn't one of them.
I rolled over to tell her off, but all I saw on her face was concern. I fell apart.
Before I knew it, I was shaking, sobbing, holding tightly to her.
"You have to talk to someone, Jazz," she whispered. "You can't do this alone."
The sound of Jessica's voice from around the corner grated on me, and I started to tune her out like always. It stung to watch her become such a frigid bitch after being so close to her for all those years.
Sure enough, Lauren's voice joined hers. "You know he just dumped her because she was such a lousy fuck."
"Totally. She made all that shit up."
"Probably trying to get in Jasper's pants."
An uncomfortable certainty grew between my shoulder blades, and I turned the corner just as Jessica said, "Definitely. Bella's such a lying little whore."
I had time to see Jessica's eyes fly wide before my fist connected with the wall beside her head. I heard a sickening crunch, and the pain fueled my wrath.
"What the fuck did you just say?" I snarled.
Jessica was already trying to escape, backing away with a whimper before grabbing Lauren and fleeing down the hall.
I let my arm drop and stood there, head hanging down, as I worked to control my breathing. A distant part of me couldn't believe I'd almost hit her while the rest screamed that I should've.
"Hey, man," Felix murmured. "You okay?"
Bella climbed into bed while I turned on the closet light, knowing she wouldn't be able to sleep otherwise. When I slipped beneath the sheet, she cuddled close.
"I heard what you did," she said simply.
"Yeah?" I answered uncertainly.
"Yeah," she said. "Thanks."
"You're welcome, Bells." I kissed her forehead, letting my eyes flutter closed.
All was silent and still, and I felt myself drifting off. Bella brought me back, whispering, "You really believe me, Jazz?"
"I absolutely do," I said gruffly.
I could hear change in her muffled sob, fissures spreading along her armor as she repeated, "Thanks."
A/N: Several of you have PM'd or tweeted or contacted me in various ways to ask if I am planning to finish JOotG. The answer is absolutely yes. I am spending NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) fulfilling my fanfic obligations from auctions and the like so that I can then focus solely on my ongoing fics. I really appreciate your patience and your concern – and all the support and love you've given me :)