"What's wrong?" I looked up to see my older and younger brother standing in the doorway. Older because, next to Carlisle, Jasper was the oldest of us, and younger because he was also the most recent to join our family.
"Hey, bro." I said, trying to sound as easygoing and happy as ever, hoping he would go away and leave me alone. No such luck.
"Sup?" He asked lightly, leaning on the doorframe. I stifled the urge to growl at him.
"Thought you were going out with Alice." I managed to sound only mildly curious as to the sudden and almost unheard of change in plans.
"She went out with Rosalie." He replied with a shrug, his tone neutral. That meant, of course, that I was stuck here with Jasper. We sat in silence for several minutes, me trying not to sulk, he pretending not to notice.
"What's wrong?" He asked again.
"Nothing." I lied.
"Something's wrong." He insisted.
"You figure that out yourself?" I replied sarcastically, my attempt at appearing fine failing as I sneered at him.
Jasper moved to sit down cross legged on the floor in front of me, waiting. I sighed. "It's nothing, bro."
"Sure." He said. Silence again fell upon us, with Jasper waiting, and I unwilling to speak. Finally, he took the initiative.
"Edward said you nearly blew our cover." I chose to remain silent, and he continued. "Alice said you're grounded until your grades improve." I met his gaze levelly, challenging him to do better. "Rosalie said you're an idiot."
He was up and backing out of the room before I even realized I was seeing red. I glared at him, furious. I was shaking, I was so angry. I wanted to hit him. Hard. Maybe break something.
Jasper watched from the doorway, his eyes narrowed, his body tense, ready to act. We stood facing off. I didn't feel like calming down, and I was swamping Jasper with my fury. It only made things worse. Rosalie had called me an idiot. Several times now.
Did Jasper think I was an idiot too?
They all did, didn't they?
I was the slow one. The idiot Cullen. All brawn and no brain. Clueless. Tactless.
The words slipped out before I had even decided to ask them. "Do you think I'm an idiot?"
Jasper swallowed nervously, relaxed minutely. "I don't know what happened." He replied.
I sighed. "It's stupid." I didn't really want to talk about it. I didn't really want to explain, if he didn't know. He regarded me with patient eyes. He was willing to listen to me rant and rave, since that was what he thought I needed.
"I hate going to school." I complained. Jasper nodded; he knew full well how I felt on the matter. "It's all the same crap, year after year. Nothing ever changes. It was boring enough the first time."
"Which is why you put as little effort into it as possible." Jasper commented.
"Yeah." I agreed. "I have better things to do with my time than homework, especially when I've done it all before. Several times. So I don't have the grades you guys do."
"But you've never failed." Jasper pointed out. "So what's the problem?"
"The problem is I get teachers who decide they need to worry about my grades, or offer to help me do better, or think they need to talk to Carlisle and Esme. And I get teachers, and students, who assume I get the grades I do because I'm not smart enough to do any better. And so they treat me like an idiot." I glared at Jasper, though it wasn't his fault. "In fact, most everybody seems to think I'm some kind of idiot."
"Just because you don't demonstrate your knowledge or intelligence, doesn't mean it's not there." Jasper noted. "It bothers you, that they think that?"
I shrugged. "Not so much, with most humans." I admitted. "I don't really care what they think."
He understood immediately. "But you think your family feels the same. You think we think you're an idiot."
"Don't you?" I challenged.
Jasper frowned, thinking. "We do tend to forget at times that you aren't as simple as you let on," he admitted, and I let out a low growl, "but I always assumed you wanted it that way."
"Why would I want you guys to think I'm an idiot?" I demanded indignantly. That was just stupid.
"Nobody here thinks you're an idiot." Jasper returned, my anger causing him to speak sharply. He took a breath, and forced himself to calm down. "We think you act like an idiot on occasion, but then, most of us do. Alice called me an idiot yesterday, and Edward called her a moron last week, remember? And I seem to remember you telling Edward he was a stuck-up snob who was more depressing than Christmas in the desert not too long ago. Do you really think he's a snob?"
I shrugged again, not wanting to admit that he was right. He sighed, then changed the subject. Sort of. "So what happened?" He asked.
I slouched and turned away briefly, not really wanting to explain. It was stupid, and I had been acting like an idiot. "I failed another pre-calculus test." I told him. He raised an eyebrow, but wasn't really surprised. It wasn't the first test I had failed, and certainly wouldn't be the last. "And didn't do the homework from yesterday. And then he got mad because I wasn't 'paying attention.' Like I need to pay attention in his class. It's pre-calculus. Nothing I haven't done before."
Jasper nodded in agreement as I continued. "So anyway, he goes into lecture mode," Jasper winced, everybody at school knew the horrors of a pre-calculus teacher in lecture mode, "and goes on this deal about how if I wanted to be a failure in life that was fine with him, but not to sit around wasting his time. He said he could fail me just as easily without me bothering to pretend to do the work or even come to class, and I could be there again next year, if I didn't end up just dropping out. Then he went on about how disappointed Carlisle and Esme must be in me and how much smarter and better the rest of you guys were and all this junk, and said that I'd better wise up, that the real world had little tolerance for idiots who were too dumb to have an interest in their own futures."
"This has been bothering you for a while, this whole 'idiot' thing, hasn't it?" Jasper asked carefully. I growled, which was really all the confirmation he needed, and continued.
"Yeah, well, anyway, I snapped. I was mad, Jasper. So I just told him off. I told him I could ace his and every other class I was taking if I wanted, and that there was nothing he could possibly teach me in this class, and that if he were half the mathematician he thought himself to be, he'd realize that the problem he was working out for us on the board was wrong, and that the two should actually be a four and so on. I worked the rest of the problem out in my head, right there in front of everyone. Then I growled at him, and walked out. I think I knocked the door off its hinges as I left." I knew I had, and that it had been a mistake. I was strong, but I wasn't supposed to be that strong."
Jasper was silent for a moment, trying to decide what to say, I guessed. "Well," he said slowly, after a minute, "I wouldn't go so far as to say you nearly blew our cover. I mean, it would be seen as a little odd, but I don't see how it could connect to us being vampires."
I rolled my eyes at him. "Is that all you have to say?" I demanded. He probably thought I was an idiot now too, but was afraid to say it.
He thought for a moment longer, then smiled. "Nope. I'll also say I would've loved to have seen his face when you corrected his work in your head. That would have been priceless." I remembered that Jasper had never had much of a fondness for the pre-calculus teacher. Of course he would have found that amusing. "He's definitely going to think you're weird now, though." He added with a laugh.
I growled, and Jasper grew serious. "Look, Emmett. I never figured I'd be the one to say this to anyone, let alone you. But you need to hear it, I think, from someone, and I'm the one available. It doesn't matter," he said softly, hesitantly, "what you look like, or where you were born, or what you've done in the past. It doesn't even matter what other people think of you, or who or what other people think you are. What matters is who you are inside. Who you decide to be. What other people think doesn't change reality. It doesn't change what's inside. So be who you are, who you want to be, and screw what anyone else thinks. Be yourself. Be you."
I nearly laughed. Jasper was telling me this. Jasper, who had struggled for years, and still struggled even now, with his past, his appearance, what he thought people thought about him.
But it made all the more sense, coming from him, whether he always believed it or not.
And it didn't matter, really, what anyone else thought. I wasn't an idiot. I knew I wasn't an idiot. I acted the way I did because that was how I wanted to act. And I didn't really want to change that, not even to get people off my back.
Of course, I was still grounded, and Rosalie and Edward still probably thought I was an idiot. Well, they could think that, and I could deal with being in trouble for my outburst. And anyway, if nothing else, Jasper knew I wasn't a complete moron. That had to be worth something.
"Nice speech." I finally said. "Where'd you learn that?" He smirked at me; he had noticed the change in my mood.
"My grandmother, I think. Only thing I remember about her." He replied, his brow furrowing in concentration. "That and that she was always hitting me in the back of the head for not paying attention in church." He added.
I snorted, and he grinned. He turned to leave, but hesitated in the doorway, "You gonna be alright?" He asked, genuinely worried.
"Sure." I replied. "I'll be fine."
And I would be.
Disclaimer: Twilight does not belong to me.