Note: For those who prefer to read elsewhere, FitV can also be found on both ADF and Twilighted.
None of this would be possible without Legna.
The title is from Aaron English's "The Lullaby of Loneliness."
Disclaimer: Not mine.
In Which Jasper Shows Up at the Door
The first time Jasper Hale showed up on my doorstep, thunder and lightning were warring in the sky and I should have seen it as a sign.
"This sucks, Bella, we never have thunderstorms in Seattle!" Angela lamented, her voice reedy static in my ear.
"I know, I can barely concentrate. I'm giving up." I held my cell phone between my ear and shoulder as I tried to gather my schoolbooks.
"Do you at least have tomorrow's reading done?"
"Yeah, I have all of tomorrow's work done. I'm just trying to get ahead so I can relax this weekend."
"No, nothing. But, no work, no kids, no classes. Just Bella-time." I shoved my books into my bag one-handed and sat back on the couch. "What about you?"
"I think Ben and I are going to check out the Cherry Blossom festival. You know you're welcome to join us if you'd like."
"Thanks, Ange. I'll let you know." Lightning flashed and thunder cracked simultaneously above my house and Angela's barely repressed shriek a moment later mimicked my own. We giggled together. We were ridiculous.
"Think we'll lose power?"
"I hope not," I said, but I got up from the couch to go search for a flashlight, just in case.
Just as I was passing through the front hall, the doorbell rang and I nearly screamed. I was definitely going to need a beer before trying to go sleep if I wanted any rest tonight.
"What was that?"
"My doorbell. Hang on a sec."
"At this time of night?"
I glanced quickly at the clock on my cable box before heading for the door. 9:21. Well past the appropriate time for a neighborly visit.
Without looking through the peephole, I pulled open my front door. The sight of the rainy night visitor standing on my porch left me slack-jawed in surprise.
My ex-boyfriend's best friend. My ex-best friend's boyfriend. However I labeled him, he was one of the last five people on earth I'd expect to show up at my door.
"Bella. I'm seeking refuge," he said, raising his voice to combat a thunderclap and the thin glass between us.
I flinched at the crash although a bright flash of lightning had warned me it was coming.
"Bella? Who is it?"
"I think I have to go, Angela."
"Why? Who is it?" she asked again.
Another crash of thunder drowned out the click of the lock. I swung the door open and stepped aside to let him pass.
He trailed water along the floor and stopped on the small rug in the hall.
"Um, do you remember Edward's friend Jasper?"
"The blond one. Is Edward with him?"
I looked toward the street before shutting the door but didn't see anyone behind Jasper. "No, he's alone."
There was concern in her voice and I immediately understood it.
"Ange, it's fine, I promise. I won't forsake you again, don't worry."
She laughed and we agreed to meet for coffee in the morning before class.
I snapped my phone closed and regarded my visitor.
Jasper was drenched. He was wearing a University of Washington track jacket, meshy running shorts, and what used to be high-quality sneakers. His blond hair was dark with rain and sticking to his forehead.
"Out for a jog?"
"Uh, yeah. Kind of got caught off guard."
We stood in silence as he peeled off his jacket to reveal an equally wet long-sleeved compression running shirt.
I stepped around him to pull a clean towel out of the laundry basket I'd put down in the hall earlier. I held out my hands. "Trade ya," I said, pointing at the jacket.
"Thanks," Jasper said, accepting the towel and handing me the wet mess. He wiped his face and started to dry his hair.
"Actually, just a sec." I dropped the jacket on the rug by his feet and headed upstairs to my bedroom. Over the years, I had commandeered enough of my dad's and ex-boyfriends' clothing that I would have something to outfit Jasper temporarily.
The dresser drawer set aside for clothes that weren't originally mine was filled with an assortment of things. I riffled through it and pulled out an old Forks Police Department hoodie, a pair of navy Quileute Wolves sweatpants that were embarrassingly frayed but still functional, and a short-sleeved Aerosmith t-shirt that I had a habit of using as a nightshirt. They were all far too big for my small frame but I loved them anyway.
I jogged back down the stairs and handed the clothes to Jasper. "Here, change before you catch pneumonia and I have to call Carlisle. I'll put your things in the dryer." I realized with mild dismay how quickly Carlisle's name had come to mind. One minute around Jasper, a de facto Cullen, and I was already thinking of things and people I thought I had left behind.
Jasper nodded, his jaw tightening.
I paused in the hall. "You okay?"
"Yeah, fine," he said. He plucked at his shirt. "Just uncomfortable."
I pointed to the bathroom door. "I'll get some tea started?"
In the kitchen, I put two mugs of water and tea bags in the microwave and started to search my drawers for the flashlight I hoped I wouldn't need. As I sifted through a drawer, another massive thunderclap sounded overhead and my kitchen lights flickered once and died.
Immediately, silence consumed me. The kind of silence that only results from the loss of the everyday background noise that you take for granted: the refrigerator's hum, the light bulbs' buzz. The streetlights that ordinarily illuminated my kitchen when I snuck down here at night for a snack were out and the pitch-blackness was crushing.
I jumped at the creak of the bathroom door and the unfamiliar voice, and cracked my wrist against the top of the drawer in which I still had my hand.
"Fuck!" I pulled my arm into my body and leaned against the counter, trying to get my bearings.
"Bella?" Jasper's voice was closer now. "You okay? Where are you?"
"Here, Jasper. Hang on, I'm looking for a flashlight."
I closed the drawer on which I'd whacked myself and opened the one below it. I carefully reached inside, trying to remember if there were any kitchen tools inside that would be dangerous to unprotected fingers. I almost immediately felt the cold barrel of my Maglite and breathed a sigh of relief.
I flipped it on and ran it over the ground to where Jasper's voice had last sounded.
He had one hand on the wall and had managed to finish changing. He held his wet clothes in his other hand. It was strange to see someone else wearing my favorite clothes and I was amused to note the sweatpants weren't the best fit for him.
"Sorry about the pants," I chuckled. "Funny that you really were out in a flood." I hadn't realized Jasper was so much taller than my ex-boyfriend Jake had been, and sophomore year of high school, Jake had been the tallest guy in his class.
He looked down at his legs and shrugged. "Hey, they get the job done. I'm happy I could put your kleptomanic tendencies to good use. You wear this stuff?"
"Yeah. I sorta have to roll the pants up. A lot. But I like to be comfortable. Alice always gave me a hard time about it." Alice... the past was flashing through my mind more quickly now.
Jasper nodded and even in the flashlight glow, I noted the lack of usual easy smile at his girlfriend's name.
"Well, so much for drying your clothes and making tea. You want a beer or something instead?" I hovered my hand over the fridge door handle, waiting for his decision. I kept the flashlight beam trained close enough to him that I could see his face.
He hesitated and I immediately realized that I had casually presumed he would stay for a bit.
"Unless you want me to bring you back to wherever you need to be?"
He shook his head. "No, it sounds like it's still pretty bad out there. No one should be driving in it. A beer would be great."
I pulled out two bottles of Sam Adams and grabbed an opener off the fridge door. The kitchen table was inviting, but I decided the blankets in the living room might come in handy if the house got too cold. Jasper followed me back down the hall. I paused so he could put his clothes in the bathroom sink, and then I handed him the beers so I could rummage around in the hall closet for a minute.
"Candles," I said, holding up a box.
"Ah, I see being the Police Chief's daughter has taught you some things about being prepared."
I snorted. "Well, that's what Charlie likes to believe."
I led us into the living room and sat down on the couch. Jasper helped me put some votives in little glass holders and I lit them while he opened our beers.
We settled on opposite ends of the couch and looked at each other. It was weird to have him here, to say the least. I didn't feel as uncomfortable as I would have expected, but the pseudo-romantic setting, plus the memories of the last time we saw one another, hung awkwardly between us.
"How the hell have you been?" I broke the silence. "Been a long time."
"Yeah. Okay. You?"
"Oh. Good, fine."
Waiting out the storm was going to be excruciating if we couldn't speak more than three words at a time.
"So..." I took a long drink of beer. "How are the Mariners going to be this season? They playing tonight?" I picked up the remote and mimed flipping on the TV. I stared intently at the screen.
I looked at Jasper and could see the hint of a smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth. I giggled. His smirk turned into a full-blown smile and I completely lost it. The whole situation was utterly ridiculous and we both knew it. Our laughter cleared the tension.
I wiped a tear from the corner of my eye as Jasper's laughter faded into chuckles.
"How's the family?" I asked, both interested in and nervous about the answer. Might as well get the hard stuff out of the way.
"They're good. Status quo," Jasper answered, and again I noticed that hesitance I'd caught a couple of times now. Jasper and I had spent our share of time together, when I'd been dating Edward, but Alice and Edward had almost always been with us. I couldn't claim to be an expert on the ins and outs of Jasper, but he had a very expressive face and I wasn't blind.
"How's Alice?" I asked, trying to poke a hole in whatever was going on. I'd peeked at his hand earlier and there was no wedding band. Alice had all but had their wedding planned the last time I saw her, even though they weren't yet engaged then. She must be vibrating with anticipation by this point.
"We broke up, actually." He took a drink of his beer and almost succeeded at sounding casual.
"Oh." That was surprising. I'd never seen them anything but happy. They were polar opposites when it came to temperament – he was as laidback as she was manic – but it had always seemed to work for them. They balanced each other. "What happened?"
It was a blunt question and none of my business, but he'd witnessed the demise of my last relationship firsthand. I only felt a little guilty for asking. He could refuse to answer if he wanted.
He shrugged and swallowed another sip of beer. "She was just... too much."
I snorted and smirked in the dim candle glow. "Yeah, that's simplifying it a bit."
He looked like he wanted to grin but his face didn't quite agree with him. Then he added, and I wasn't quite sure he had meant for me to hear it, "And I wasn't enough."
My grin faded. He sounded empty.
"I'm sorry, that must be tough. You were together for so long." I wanted to add that he could talk about it with me if he wanted to – I didn't know how many friends he had outside of the Cullen family – but it seemed presumptuous that he would be comfortable enough with me to do that. We'd really only been friends of circumstance.
"It's been... pretty strange. But it's okay. It ran its course."
That sounded so similar to my own sentiments about my relationship with Edward that I again almost offered my ear, but he had a look on his face that suggested this wasn't he favorite thing to talk about.
I shifted topics. "How's your job?"
We talked about his work; he had taken the CPA exam last summer and was working at his dad's investment firm. He didn't love it but said it would do for now while he tried to figure out what he wanted to be when he grew up.
I talked about the classes I was taking for my Master of Teaching degree. He was interested in the student teaching Angela and I were doing twice a week at an elementary school, and asked how we could possibly be patient with so many little kids. I laughed and admitted it wasn't easy at all, but teaching them about creative writing – particularly when they were so young – was rewarding and made up for the annoyances. I grabbed my bag and read to him some of the crazy and amazing things the kids had written. Jasper admitted that when he was seven he'd written a story about a restaurant that catered to dogs and cats and kept the people chained up outside.
We finished our beers and I went back to the kitchen to get two more.
I told him I was taking a kickboxing class that helped me vent some of the frustration that built while I was teaching. He chuckled and I reached out and swatted his arm when he wondered if I kickboxed wearing a padded suit to avoid hurting myself. He apparently hadn't forgotten my legendary klutziness. He told me he'd been spending a lot of time at the gym and running.
"That's what you were doing when the rain started?"
"Yeah, I was at Husky but decided to hit the streets for a change of scenery. I had no idea there was going to be a storm. I'm glad I recognized your neighborhood – I wasn't sure I was going to get the right house but your truck was easy to spot."
I loved my truck but it was as old as I was and a bit of a sore thumb. I narrowed my eyes at him but he didn't look inclined to start teasing me.
"Isn't it kind of late to be out?"
His voice was a little tense when he responded. "Just needed to get out for a bit."
We had jogged together a few times when I'd been dating Edward and I knew he used it as much for stress relief as I did. It sounded like the Alice thing, or maybe something else, was bugging him.
I finished the rest of my beer and put the bottle down on the table. I looked around for my cell phone to check the time and remembered I had left it in the hall after I had spoken with Angela. Just as I was coming back into the living room from retrieving it, my lights flickered twice and then came on.
"Looks like we're good," Jasper said, standing and stretching. "And it sounds like the rain's let up."
I realized that I hadn't noticed when the thunder and lightning stopped.
Jasper collected our bottles and headed for the kitchen.
"Can I take you to your car?"
"It's late, I can walk back. I don't want to be responsible for a late-night truckjacking."
I finally looked at my cell. 10:45. That had been a quick ninety minutes.
"Please, Jasper. I'll kickbox anyone's ass who tries to drag me from the truck." I faked a Falling Star at him and giggled when he ducked out of my way.
I put his still-wet clothes in an old grocery bag and handed it to him in the front hall. He looked down at his outfit and back up at me.
"I can get it from you later," I said, not sure when later would be, but I wasn't going to make him redress in his wet clothes.
"You sure? I don't want to keep you from the clubs this weekend."
I laughed when I realized what he was suggesting and half-considered not holding back on the Falling Star.
"Yes. I'm sorry I don't have any other footwear, though. That's one thing I can't justify stealing."
He was pulling his wet sneakers onto his bare feet and I was uncomfortable just watching him.
"No big. I'll be home soon."
"Your feet will peel."
"They will?" He looked at his feet with some concern and I laughed.
"I'm sure your sister has some cream you can snag."
I was happy to find it was barely drizzling when we headed out to my truck. I'd been living in Washington when I learned to drive with the Chief, but I still wasn't a fan of driving on rainy nights. A little inconvenient for Seattle.
We drove to the campus listening to Led Zeppelin and the Eagles on KZOK, the local classic rock station. As we neared Husky Stadium, Jasper turned to me.
"It's been good to see you, Bella."
"Yeah, you, too, Jasper." I was a little surprised to find that I had really enjoyed talking with Jasper. Angela was the best friend I had and I rarely spent time with anyone other than her and her boyfriend, Ben. I had gone out with a few guys in the past several months but none of those "relationships" had gone past two dates. It was nice to hang out with someone different and the past couple of hours with Jasper had been unexpectedly relaxing. I smiled at him in the dark of the cab.
I swung into the massive parking lot next to the stadium and pulled up next to Jasper's Audi. It was the only car in the parking lot.
"Glad you didn't have your bike," I said.
"Yeah, that wouldn't have been a pleasant ride."
He paused, running a hand through his hair. Dried, it curled along the sides of his face and the nape of his neck. "So, your stolen clothes."
"Whenever. I'll call Charlie and see if he can ship me something else for this weekend's festivities."
Jasper smiled and picked up my cell phone from the center console. "I'll give you my number and maybe we can meet up sometime?"
I nodded and watched as he programmed his number into my phone and then called his phone, which was in his car, for my number. He put my phone down and picked up the bag of clothes.
"Thanks for the refuge, the ride, Bella."
"You bet, Jasper. Say hi..." I trailed off and shrugged.
His eyes searched mine for a moment, possibly assessing whether or not I meant that. I didn't know how he'd decide because I wasn't even sure myself. "Yeah, I will," he said, although I doubted he would. He dug out his keys and climbed out of the truck. "See ya."
"Bye, Jasper." I waited as he unlocked his car and got in. I gave a little wave when he looked over at me and then I pulled away.
I sang along to Aerosmith's "Blind Man" on my way home. I was halfway there when it occurred to me that it might not have been the best idea to send Jasper home wearing a Forks PD sweatshirt.
So much of the credit for this goes to Legna989. If you're not sick of me praising her by the time I'm done with the story, I haven't done my job as an author. She's my beta, delta, zeta, mu(se), rho, and psi. And lots of the letters in between. It was something she said that started the plot bunnies ahoppin'. She's read page after page of rambling character development and has patiently endured endless rounds of chapter revisions and insecure-author emails. She's been invaluable for unsticking the unavoidable writer's block. Bella, Jasper, and I owe her huge for this...
Thanks also to AccioChocolate/AccioBourbon, americnxidiot, and Touchstone. Accio gives me wonderful feedback and support; americnxidiot, despite her prejudices against my "unholy union" pairing, hasn't yet died from what she's read of it; Touchstone is responsible for my awesome banner (you can see the whole thing on Twilighted), and talks with me non-stop about Jasper&Bella. And all of them told me today to take some deep breaths. I swear, I'm breathing.
Thanks for reading!