I was in a bad mood today. This was pretty rare for me. I'm a laid back guy, as a rule. But today, things weren't going my way. I mean, it hadn't been a particularly bad day. Only, I hadn't seen Alice all day, because she was too busy with her final project, Mike called in sick again so I had to work the whole day in the store and then there's this drama with Bella and Edward… so yeah. Bad mood.
The day that I met Isabella Swan, I was in a bad mood too.
My coffeemaker had exploded whilst I was in the bathroom. I'd set it going so I'd have a steaming hot cup of caffeine but when I came out of the bathroom, I'd found my kitchen splattered in hot water and coffee granules. The second thing that went wrong was that I didn't have any food. Usually I don't eat in the morning, but without coffee, I definitely needed something. Man cannot function on toothpaste alone.
I glared at the non-functioning machine and decided to find a diner. I was due to open work in about an hour, I had time to get some breakfast first. I didn't eat out much, but I recalled seeing a diner about four blocks away from the store.
Sure enough, the 24-hour diner was open, with just one or two people inside. I pushed open the door and slid into a chair at the counter, looking around for a waitress, but she was with someone else. I examined the menu carefully, deciding on pancakes. I liked pancakes. Man, I wish I'd learned how to cook before deciding to 'strike out on my own'. OK, so I'd left home three years ago. I could probably have bothered to learn how to cook in that time, but it never seemed necessary when there were 24-hour diners and take-out menus readily available.
"What do you want?" The waitress asked flatly, appearing behind the counter. I blinked at her, taken aback.
"Huh?" Well, that was articulate. She gave me a dry look.
"What do you want to order?"
"Not good at the customer service, are you?" I grinned and she shrugged.
"I've been here since midnight. I couldn't give a crap if I've hurt your pretty-boy feelings. You going to order something?"
"Pancakes and a cup of coffee. Please." I emphasised the word with a big smile and she rolled her eyes slightly. She was pretty, big brown eyes and long brown hair that she had tied back in a ponytail that swished as she walked away.
OK, I checked out her ass. I'm only human and she was darn cute.
She was also darn clumsy. As she turned and started to carry my cup of coffee back, she tripped over thin air. Gasping, she twisted and the hot of steaming coffee went straight over her shirt and arm before she landed on her backside with a thud. I jumped over the counter and helped her up. She was gritting her teeth and let out a hiss as I looked down at her drenched arm.
"Son of a bitch!" She spat and I held up my hands apologetically.
"Not you. Just… ow." She looked around the diner. There was no one else in so she turned and went to the kitchen. I followed, a little uncertainly. On the one hand, I wanted to make sure she was OK – on the other, I wasn't too certain that she wouldn't just hurt me. She had her arm stuck under the faucet, letting the cold water soothe the burn. Her skin was bright red and she was biting down on her lip, glaring down at the injury. My natural instincts took over.
"You got a first aid kit around here?" I asked.
"Over by the door. And there are some ice packs in the fridge."
I found the ice packs and watched as she hopped up on the surface, patting her arm dry with a towel. I took her arm and pressed the ice pack to it. She groaned again and I smiled.
"I don't think it's going to blister."
"Probably not." She muttered. I handed her the second ice pack and she held it against her upper arm, where the redness was less obvious. I caught her name on the badge of her uniform.
"So, Angela... do you make a habit of throwing coffee over yourself?" I asked conversationally.
"My name isn't Angela."
I glanced at her name badge and she shook her head.
"I forgot mine. My name is Bella. And there's no need for the sarcasm." She said pointedly. The back door opened and the cook appeared, his apron stained with food. He took one look at us and smirked.
"Burn yourself again? What was it, coffee?"
I laughed and she rolled her eyes again.
"You hurt yourself a lot?" I asked and she frowned.
"That's an understatement." Paul sniggered, reaching for a pack of bacon and throwing some on the grill, where it hissed and spat. Bella glared at him and looked around as an older woman appeared in a waitressing uniform. She sighed at Bella, shaking her head.
"You hurt yourself again, Bella?"
"Irene, I'm out of here." Bella said flatly. Irene winked at me.
"You go on, honey, get your young man out of here."
"I don't even know this guy." She protested, waving a hand at me and I grinned at her, giving her my most charming smile.
"The name's Jasper. How about I take you somewhere for some breakfast where you aren't going to injure yourself?"
She stared at me for a moment with narrowed eyes and I feared for my testicles. Irene smiled proudly and patted my cheek.
"You're a good boy. She likes bagels and there's a little coffee shop down the street that does them."
"Come on, Bella. I'll just have time to feed you before I have to go to work." I offered and Bella frowned at me.
"I don't need you to feed me."
"Didn't say you did."
"… I just happen to want a bagel." She muttered, "I'm going to change my clothes."
Sure enough, ten minutes later I was sat in a café I'd never been in, with a girl I didn't know, drinking a coffee I hadn't paid for because she'd given me a ferocious look when I'd tried to buy her breakfast. Now she was watching me suspiciously over the top of her coffee cup and I smiled at her.
"Everything OK, Bella?"
"Fine." She said flatly and then lowered her drink, "Actually, I want to know why you're doing this."
"Being so…" She gestured wordlessly and I chuckled.
"Nice?" I grinned and she blushed slightly, wrapping her hands around her cup.
"Because you're entertaining." I said cheerfully, "I've known you for less than an hour and you'd already insulted me, injured yourself, called me a son of a bitch and questioned why people are nice. That's more entertainment than a night at the theatre."
She stared at me for a minute, her cheeks glowing pink as she fought between amusement and embarrassment. I smiled at her and she eventually gave in, grinning and shaking her head.
"OK… you're a bit weird."
"Look who's talking, sweetcheeks. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to be getting to work. I'll be in tomorrow for those pancakes and some coffee. In a cup, if you can manage that. Bye Bells." I patted her shoulder and strolled out of the café but not before I heard her say, "Bye Jazz."
And that is what they call the start of a beautiful friendship. Over the next couple of months we went from tentative strangers to tentative friends to excellent drinking buddies. It was nice to meet a girl who could hold her liquor as well as I could. We met for meals at random times in the day (ever had Dinfast? Takes place at about three in the morning and consists of cookies and the first tin out of the cupboard), watched DVD's, compared musical tastes (and poked fun) and generally enjoyed each other's company.
Bella wasn't alright though. I could see it. There was some bad shit in her past, worse than what I'd experienced, but she wasn't willing to talk about it. I'd asked her once where she'd come from and she'd told me to 'shove it up my ass'. I didn't ask again, although she'd mumbled some stuff one night, almost unconscious from drinking and she didn't remember the next day. Some stuff about seeing her father shot dead in front of her.
It was no wonder she had a hard time opening up to people. But I knew she'd tell me eventually, because we were going to be friends for the rest of our lives. How did I know?
Because one night we got real drunk. I don't just mean tipsy or kinda wasted. We were off our faces, winding along the pavement and laughing at nothing in particular as we went up to my apartment, half-crawling up the stairs. I dug out a bottle of Southern Comfort and held it up.
"Nightcap?" I slurred and she nodded, heading for the bathroom. I sat on the sofa and poured us each a shot of the amber liquid, throwing mine back and pouring another.
Bella appeared on the sofa next to me and threw hers back with a satisfied gulp.
"Christ, I think I'm drunkered." She mumbled lazily and I sniggered.
"Yup. You are."
"You are too," She protested, reaching across me for the bottle, "You've gone all southern soundin'! Like, more than usual."
"I's a southern boy, Hells Bells!" I grinned, waggling my eyebrows, "Besides, ladies love the accent."
"Bullshit. Gimme the bottle." She snatched again at the bottle, throwing her leg over my knees to push herself closer to her goal.
The next thing I knew, we were kissing. I was kissing Bella. Or she was kissing me. Who knows how it started? But she was sprawled across my lap, our mouths attacking each other messily. It was nice. Comforting. And a little damp. But certainly not earth-shattering. Then again, did that matter? I had a hot girl in my lap who I liked a lot. This wasn't headed to a relationship, but a night of decent sex wasn't something to turn down.
So why wasn't I reacting to the aforementioned hot girl?
I came to the drunken conclusion that I just needed to put in a little more effort and I pulled her harder against me. She groaned and I put my hands on her ass, squeezing a little. A moment later she was fumbling at the fly of my jeans, never taking her mouth from mine and I pulled her closer, still groping at her behind and putting my hands under her shirt. Instantly she broke the kiss, hissing slightly.
"Jesus Christ, your hands are cold!" She muttered and I pulled a face at her. She sneered back and reached for the alcohol, drinking straight from the bottle. I took it from her, taking a gulp myself and suddenly very aware of the girl in my lap. She was watching me too, with a slightly confused look. Tense awkwardness filled the air as we looked eat each other uncertainly. I dropped the bottle to one side and rested my hands behind my head, sighing as I realised that nothing was going to happen here.
"You alright there, Bells?" I queried and she chewed her lip, pushing her hair out of her face.
"… This is weird, Jazz." She mumbled and I frowned.
"Yeah, it is." I agreed.
"I don't get why. We get on really well. You're kinda hot. So why is it weird?" She demanded and I shrugged casually.
"Don't know, Bells. But you're right. It's weird." I tried to act like this didn't bother me. I wasn't used to not getting the girl. I mean, I was 'kinda hot' and a nice guy. Bella was a great girl.
What was going on here?
She slid off my lap and sat cross-legged on the sofa beside me, looking deep in thought. I tossed the bottle of alcohol to one side and got off the sofa, going into the kitchen and coming back with two large glasses of water. Bella took hers and sipped it slowly, still frowning to herself. I poked her in the side as I sat down again and she looked at me.
"We're good friends, right?" She asked uncertainly and I nodded with a smile.
"Could we stay friends? I mean…" She shifted uncomfortably, putting her drink down on the table, "The thing is, I haven't got a lot of friends. And you're a good one." My heart just about melted at that and I smiled at her.
"C'mere, Bells." I held out my arms and she crawled into my hug. I kissed her forehead fondly, "You're pretty special, Bella Swan. I think I'll keep you around."
"You're not so bad yourself, Jazz." She mumbled, "I think we'll be OK."
"Sure will, sweetcheeks." I assured her, yawning widely. Because, given the choice, I was pretty certain that I'd rather keep her in my life long-term rather than exchange her for a quick fuck.
You don't go through something like that without becoming the best of friends. So we became friends, except 'friends' isn't strong enough to describe the bond we have. It's more like family, but a family that you've chosen, out of the millions of people in the world. We'd chosen each other because we needed each other. We were there to help each other, for emotional support, for the good times and the bad.
Which brings me back to exactly why I was in a bad mood today.
It started with a phone call. Actually, that's a lie. It started with me trying to seduce Alice. Not that that takes a lot of effort, since we can hardly keep our hands off of each other most of the time. But she'd prepared dinner (and by that I mean she ordered in and arranged it beautifully on a plate) and had put out an icy cold beer when I got in from the store.
I swear to god, I love that girl more than anything. She's an angel. We'd only been living together for a couple of weeks and it felt perfect. I didn't even care that she'd transformed my bona fide bachelor pad into a regular couple apartment. There were cushions and vases and all kinds of crap all over the place, but I could live with that. It was worth it to see her every morning. She looked just right in my apartment, in my bed. The best part of my day is waking up with her next to me, sometimes with my arms around her, sometimes with her curled up against my chest. I loved waking up just to see how we were lying. And then there was our way of dealing with food. Neither of us can cook for shit, so we'd had to learn how to get through mealtimes. Boiling was manageable, as was microwaving, but she'd stunned me the other day by making a casserole, using a recipe from a book called 'Cooking for Dummies'.
Tonight she was delighted to see me, skipping towards me with a huge smile on her gorgeous face.
"I handed in my project today, it's gone for good! Now I just need to wait for my final mark and I can graduate!" She declared happily, leaping into my arms for a kiss which I was glad to deliver. We ate dinner, had a few drinks and things were just starting to heat up when my home phone began to ring.
"Ignore it!" Alice pleaded, running her tiny hands under my shirt and I obeyed, helpless against the movement of her delicate fingers. The answer machine kicked in.
"This is Jasper's number. I'm not in so leave a message and I'll call you back, if I can be bothered."
"Jasper? It's Edward. Is Bella there? I'm sorry to call, but she's pulled a disappearing act and I want to make sure she's OK."
Alice and I looked at each other in confusion. I leaned over and picked up.
"Jasper, you're there? Put Bella on." The poor guy sounded desperate and I scratched my head as Alice watched curiously.
"Bella's not here. It's just me and Alice. What happened?" I asked and he sighed, the sound crackling noisily.
"We had a… disagreement."
"I… I told her that I wouldn't take any money from her. For bills or rent. I mean, I already own the apartment, why would she need to pay anything? It doesn't make sense. I told her that I would pay and she started shouting at me." He sounded desperately confused.
I groaned, rubbing my eyes. The idiot had made a huge mistake and was about to fail Bella 101. I'd come close to flunking on one or two occasions but had crawled my way back up with extra credit, usually consisting of alcohol. I rubbed my forehead as he explained the situation, mentally cursing both him and Bells.
"Sweet Jesus, Edward… do you not know Bella at all? There's no way in hell she'd let you pay her way." I said tiredly.
"But she doesn't need to!"
"Doesn't mean she won't want to! You know how much she likes her independence; it's an insult to her to suggest you make her a kept woman. Man, you really screwed up."
He was silent and I could actually hear the misery in his silence. I sighed and squeezed Alice's hand,
"Edward, stay where you are. I'll go find her."
"Thanks Jasper. Apologise to Alice for me, I know she was planning on having a quiet evening in with you." He said sheepishly and Alice arched an eyebrow, listening in on the conversation.
"You owe me, Edward. I get to decorate your apartment when ours is finished." She called into the phone.
I hung up and leaned over, kissing her sweetly.
"I'll try not to be too long, beautiful."
"Better not be. I've got plans for you, Whitlock." She winked and then patted my behind as I stood, "Go find Bella. She needs you."
I got out into the cold night air and pulled out my phone. There was no way I was going to crawl all over Seattle in the late evening to find Bella without having some idea of where she was. I scrolled down to her number and pressed dial, sighing heavily as the ringing started. After a few long rings, there was a muffled noise like somebody shuffling around with the phone.
"What?" She snapped and I rolled my eyes, leaning against the side of a building.
"Where are you, HB?"
"Don't call me that, assface!" She slurred. I groaned for what felt like the millionth time that evening.
"You're wasted, aren'tcha?"
"Lil bit." She agreed miserably. "He's being a dumbass…"
"Where are you? I'm already out anyway, may as well get drunk too." I said airily. No use getting mad until I found out how bad things were.
"Go back to Alice, Jazzy." She mumbled miserably and I sighed.
"Nope. Come on, Hells Bells, don't make me search every bar in Seattle. You want me out here all night when I've got that sweet pixie waiting for me?"
"Order me a beer."
I ended the call, setting off down the street. Jack's wasn't far and wasn't one of our regular places, but I had a feeling that Bella would have expected Edward to go looking for at our normal haunts. I wondered what state I would find her in. There was a time, not too long ago, when the idea of Bella alone and drinking would have sent panic through me, fear for what she might do, what she might have already done by the time I got to her.
That panic was still present, but only a flicker in the back of my mind. I had seen how far she'd come in the last year and the thought filled me with love for that girl. She'd changed so much for the better, it was inspirational. She'd gone through hell and come right on back again, how could anyone not adore her for that? I sure as heck did. As did my sister, my girlfriend and her family. And I had a great deal of respect for Edward for being the one to help her find her way.
And that was the main reason I was dragging my ass down to some dive bar instead of getting some from my hot girlfriend on a Friday night. And that was the reason I was in a bad mood.
Jack's bar wasn't too busy, even for a Friday. It was a 'regulars' bar, the same crowd of middle-aged men and a group of students playing pool every night. I paused by the door, scanning the room for a sign of my girl. She was perched on a stool at the bar, glaring down at a beer and swinging her converse-clad feet. I liked that she continued to wear her favourite shoes, even in the face of Alice's wrath. She was also drowning in a large black hoodie, one of Edward's, and wearing some ragged cut-off jeans, exposing her bony knees. She looked messy and young and so darn cute as she drained her beer and waved for another one. I watched as one of the students, a red-haired guy, leaned on the bar beside her. I moved closer, hearing her reaction to his line. She gave him a glare that, even in her adorably disarrayed state, was mildly threatening.
"I'm trying to get drunk here. Stop distracting me."
"You want to join us for a game?" He tried again, gesturing at the pool table and she rolled her eyes. I recognised the warning signs of a guy who was about to lose his ability to reproduce and stepped in, sliding into the chair beside her.
"Where's my beer, sweetcheeks?" I queried cheerfully and she gave me a half-glance before sliding a bottle over to me. The student gave a disappointed sigh and disappeared.
We sat for almost twenty minutes in silence, drinking slowly. The bartender glanced over at us and gave Bella a concerned glance. I raised my eyebrows at him, signalling that I'd got her. That was Bella for you – even complete strangers wanted to take care of her, even if she didn't notice. I looked at her sideways.
"So… you going to tell me about it, honey?"
"Nothing to tell." She said bluntly and I snorted.
"Didn't sound like that from what Edward told me."
"Go ask him then." She looked at me angrily, the blood rushing to her face, "Why the hell are you even here? He already told you what happened!"
"I'm here because this is always where I am. You should know this by now, Hells Bells," I said flatly, "Even though I'd rather be in my apartment, with my girlfriend, I'm here, taking care of you whilst you run away from your problems. As usual."
She gaped at me, shocked by my frankness. I smiled grimly, finishing my beer.
"Well? You gonna go talk to him? The guy screwed up, HB, but guess what – he's not perfect. He wants to bundle you all up in bubble wrap and keep you safe and make you happy for the rest of your life. He's not going about it the right way, that's for damn sure, but it might be an idea to explain why it's not the right way instead of running to the nearest bar and getting hammered."
She simply looked at me, mouth hanging open as I put my empty bottle down and threw some bills down for the bartender. Then I lifted her off the stool and half-carried her out of the bar, ignoring her shrieks of protest.
"God damn it, Jasper, put me down!"
"I'll vomit on you! I swear, I'll do it!" She threatened as we moved onto the sidewalk. I strolled a little way down the street until she gave up struggling. I paused and dropped her down onto the sidewalk, holding her steady.
"You able to walk in a straight line?"
"You're an ass." She muttered, leaning against me. I put my arm around her shoulder and began to walk her back to her apartment but she began to slow as we got closer and closer to the building. I looked down and sighed at the anxious look on her face.
"Jasper, I yelled at him. Like, really yelled. I think I upset him." She whispered, her brow creasing as she stared reluctantly at the door to the building.
I paused as she looked at the door for a moment longer and then groaned, putting her face in her hands and sitting heavily on the steps that went up to the door.
"Why do I do this, Jazz? Why do I keep messing things up when they're so good?" She mumbled into her hands. I chuckled, sitting down on the cold step beside her watching as she huddled in Edward's hoodie.
"You haven't messed things up, Bella. But you've got to stop trying to push Edward away. Yeah, you two need to talk about some of this stuff. Think about it from his point of view – he's got everything and wants to share it with you, he doesn't see anything wrong with that."
"But I don't want his money!" She objected instantly and I held my hands up to calm her.
"I know that. Money doesn't matter to him because he has it and his money doesn't matter to you, even though he wants to share it with you. Not because it's money, but because he wants to share everything with you." I reminded her. She leaned back, resting the back of her head on the doorstep, her eyes slightly glazed as she mulled this over. I kept an eye on her, knowing that with the amount she'd had to drunk she could easily doze off. But she sighed heavily before sitting up slowly.
"Not going to mess it up this time, Jazzy." She said decisively, "Not this time. He's it, he's everything, even with that stupid knight-in-shining-armour complex he's got going. Help me up?"
I held out my hand. She took it and I pulled her to her feet. She swayed a little and then pulled out her keys, opening the door and clutched my hand as we went to the elevator. I recalled the day we'd moved her things in and how ridiculously happy she'd been to be living in a building with a working elevator. She'd never believed that her old building even had one, she was convinced it had been an empty elevator shaft. Just one of the quirky things about Isabella Swan that made her so great.
Edward was on his feet in the middle of the living room as we entered, my hand on Bella's shoulder. She looked at him with a sheepishly anxious expression and he ran a hand through his hair before looking at me briefly, signalling his thanks with his eyes. I nodded back and patted Bella's shoulder.
"Back in one piece and Bella has something to say." I said and she stepped forward, looking him in the eye.
"I'm an idiot." She said and he gave her a half-despairing, half-adoring look, "You're an idiot too, though."
"Great apology, Bells." I muttered but she ignored me. Edward furrowed his brow, his hand going to his hair again.
"Bella… I didn't mean to upset you. I just didn't think that this would be an issue." He said quietly and Bella shuffled towards him, still a little unsteady.
"We need to be equal, Edward. Half and half all the way, in everything from paying the bills to doing the laundry." She said firmly, reaching up and putting her arms around his neck, "Because we're not fighting about stupid stuff anymore, OK?"
"Alright." He said softly and smiled down at her, "We can work this out. Half and half."
They kissed and I raised my eyes to the ceiling, leaving before I saw anything I really didn't want to see. They didn't notice me going, unsurprisingly.
Alice was waiting when I got home, lying upside down on the sofa. It was her favourite way to watch TV, with her head dangling over the edge of the seat.
"Everything OK?" She asked as I leant over, looking down at her.
"Crisis averted. They're making up as we speak." I pulled a face, "Actually they started making up whilst I was still there."
"You poor boy." She sat and knelt on the sofa, wrapping her arms around me with an adorable smile, "You're a good boy though, to help her out. I love that you care about her so much."
She may have loved me for that, but I loved her understanding my relationship with my best friend more than any other woman I'd had in my life. For understanding it and reacting with affection, not jealousy, not hatred. She quirked an eyebrow at me.
"Done adoring me? I did mention that I had plans for you."
"You think I'll ever be done, darlin'?" I grinned, holding my hand out to her. She laughed, taking it without hesitation.
"No. You won't be." She said lightly, walking backwards as she pulled me towards the bedroom.
"Another vision of the future?" I teased and she smirked teasingly.
"Saw you, didn't I?"
"That you did, beautiful girl." I agreed, leaning down for a kiss and running my hands down her sides to tug her hips to me. I loved this girl; my girl.
A/N: Oh, my little pot pies, I'm so sorry for the wait! It's been a terribly busy couple of weeks, with uni and work – one of the other receptionists at work got fired, so we're all having to pull extra shifts and then I've been at uni too, and I have over an hour to travel either way, so that eats into my time. I've also been indulging in a social life, how shocking!
Anyway, this is Jasper's story. Originally it was just going to be how he and Bella met, but then I kept thinking about this last part, where it got briefly mentioned in Chapter 35 and I wanted to show his devotion to Bella properly. But that's it. This story is officially over, as of now. No more chapters, outtakes, no sequel. Done.
And now for a little bit of lovin' – for all you reviewers who, through excellent teamwork, have given my little story over 500 reviews. I adore you so much for that.
Before I say goodbye, just for old times sake…
Reviewers will get to sit in Jasper's lap. Go on. You know you want to.
Adieu, my cherry tarts.