The first time she ever saw him it was raining. From afar he looked disheveled and slightly homeless, his faded red pack thrown over one shoulder with the abandon of someone who just wasn't all there in the head. As she and her father drew closer the figure raised a hitchhiker's thumb into the air, but from the hunched shoulders and downcast gaze she guessed that he really did not expect much out of the motion.

Bella was apprehensive. Though she felt (and felt bad) for this person, trudging hopelessly through the god-forsaken rain storm, all her instincts screamed. Of course, the more curious side of her brain reasoned, this was a police cruiser and there was a gun on Charlie's belt. There was no more reason to be frightened by this ominous character than there was to be infatuated.

Charlie sighed quietly and flipped on the cruiser's lights as he stopped the car. She glanced at him with a panicked expression when he rolled down her window and spoke out into the rain,

"Jasper Hale, get in the car." Surprisingly, it was not the tone of a police officer but that of a paternal guardian.

Bella hardly had time to consider this before the door behind her opened and "Jasper Hale" slid into the car. She turned – a covert gesture on her part that aimed for secrecy – to catch a glance of the stranger. He was obviously tall, but other than that she could not see much because he had slouched back into the shadows. Frustrated, she turned back, focused on her hands, and tried to ignore the flush that came to her cheeks whenever she was being watched intently.

The ride was fairly quiet, with only a few awkwardly placed questions on Charlie's part. Curiosity, however, tickled the back of Bella's throat; eventually she slid a glance to the review mirror. For a moment she was able to peer uninterrupted at his pallid skin and half-closed eyes; though the shadow on his jaw was heavy, Bella half suspected that he was not always so haggard. There were times…

She had not noticed that she was still staring until his eyes met hers through the glass. His eyes were a hazy shade, like an ocean too confused to keep a color. They were not hazel, but they were a distorted shade of blue. Interesting, but Bella pulled herself away from the mirror and looked at the scenery; she felt mortified to be caught looking so closely.

The cruiser pulled around the bend and up a gravel drive. There was a convenient circle at the end of the driveway that reminded Bella of Cinderella's arrival at the grand ball. The house was almost large enough to fit the palace (at least to what she was used to), and the stark whiteness of it made it stand out from the multitude of dark trees lapping around it like waves. The beauty was so severe and startling that she could not hold in a gasp.

When eventually their car came to a stop and Charlie got out to open the door for his pseudo-prisoner, Bella surprised herself by turning to watch him exit. As if on cue, he turned back and met her face fully. He was frightfully pale, though the effects were made more apparent by the wet strands of honey-colored hair that clung to the prominent features of his face. There was grit under his jaw that Bella passed over for the obvious scar lower on his neck; that was not a shaving nick. While his eyes studied her face, her own eye roamed observantly over his body and she saw that he was thin – even for his height – but wiry.

Then, after this one instant, he ducked gracelessly and exited the car. Charlie slid back behind the wheel and sighed before pulling the car into gear. Bella noticed absently, her eyes still on Jasper Hale as he stumbled up the stairs awkwardly. She was glad that she did not crane her neck once they were past the range of peripheral vision; that would have been too obvious for her taste.

This was her first day back in Forks and her first time spent with Charlie in years. It was filled with uncomfortable silence and, Bella thought, there was no better way to break a silence than offhand conversation. Wringing her hands slightly, she spoke.

"You know that guy?" She hoped the words came out casually. To her relief, Charlie nodded.

"Yep," he said without taking his grim eyes off the road, "and he's always in some sort of trouble. He's a good kid, hun, but –" Charlie seemed to catch himself in time edit what he had been about to say "he cannot stay away from that trouble."

"Ohh," Bella said, as if understanding the great meaning her father was placing on the repetition of "trouble," and said no more. His tone had dead-ended that conversation quickly.

The stranger – Jasper, she reminded herself firmly – had not seemed overtly dangerous or bad. He had an edge to him that Bella was sure she had figured out already; though she was of the minority that had never experimented, she knew the glazed look of a pothead when she saw one. It made him almost appealing in a Bohemian sense, though she chided herself firmly for wanting to think about a virtual stranger in such a romanticized manner.

Bella Swan, never one for sweeping romance or nervous giggles, swept the brief tug against her heart to the back of her mind. She was here for school, for Charlie, and her future. When she arrived at her own modest house with only a single, monstrous tree to guard her bedroom window, her eyes became focused and clear. She would need to unpack, survey the space, take stock of the kitchen… the list ran on.

On that evening, she was too busy to dream of Jasper Hale.