A/N: Hello, sweet friends. Yes, I'm alive. See you at the bottom.
WARNING: This piece of fanfiction is rated M for slash, graphic language, and adult situations. Minors and wusses, click away, please. Also, S. Meyer owns all Twilight-related material. Thanks for letting us detail your Ferrari, Mrs. Meyer.
Chapter 8: Three's Company…
"Fuck." I pushed my plate away and grabbed my wallet out of my back pocket. "Emmett, you gotta drive us," I said, throwing down a couple of twenties, hoping it was enough to cover breakfast.
"Whaddaya mean? I haven't finished eating yet."
"Sorry, man, but we gotta go. You gotta drive us to Bella's house. Right now."
Emmett blinked. His jaw dropped slowly, then tightened, his mouth a grim line.
"I'm such an idiot," he muttered, standing and reaching into his back pocket. "Pick up your money, Jasper. I told you breakfast was on me." He tossed down some bills. One landed half on his plate, barely missing a glob of ketchup.
Before I could react, Edward swiped up my twenties and shoved them into my hand. I grabbed them unthinkingly, not really caring who paid for our food, just wanting to get the hell out of there and over to Bella.
We scrambled out of the coffee shop and piled into Emmett's Jeep, with Edward ceding the front seat to me. Emmett pealed away from the curb and banged a U-turn right in the middle of the street. I stared blankly out the window, stomach churning.
Edward reached across the back of Emmett's seat and laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Em, take it easy. We won't get there at all if we get stopped by a cop, or have an accident."
Emmett blew out a breath and eased off the accelerator.
"I can't believe I was so stupid. How could I not have realized…?"
"Em," I said, shaking off my shock. "Don't worry about it. It's not like you could've done anything about it, anyway."
"I could have at least warned her, before she got blindsided, ya know? I just thought she looked up to Alice. Why the hell didn't I put two and two together?"
I gave him a quizzical look.
"What were you supposed to put together?"
"Come on, Jazz. I knew you were gay, and you and she were, like, joined at the hip for the past coupla years. It totally makes sense that you were each other's beards. Shit. It's so obvious now. How the fuck did I miss that?"
"At any rate," Edward interjected, "whether you knew or not, it isn't your fault if Bella got hurt. The only thing we can do is be there for her, let her know she's not alone." I glanced back over my seat and met his eyes, grateful to him for being the voice of reason.
"Yeah, you're right," Emmett conceded, sighing. "Shit, do you think Alice has any idea?"
"I don't know, man," I said. "She's your sister. You would know better than we would."
He considered for a moment.
"I don't think she does," he said slowly. "If she did, she would have been more careful not to give Bella mixed signals. I know she thinks of Bells as a good friend. She wouldn't want to hurt her or mislead her."
"I know, Em." I gave him a small, hopefully reassuring smile. "Alice is a sweetheart."
I thought about what Edward had said, that we needed to let Bella know she wasn't alone. I pulled out my phone.
Im coming, Bells. Hold on. B there asap.
Five minutes later, we pulled onto Bella's street. Emmett stopped the Jeep in front of her house. The chief's police cruiser was gone, but the Red Monster was parked in the driveway, meaning Bella was home by herself. If she hadn't gone for a walk. She hadn't responded to my text.
"Jasper," Edward said quietly, "maybe it would be better for just you to go in. The last thing we want is to overwhelm or embarrass her."
Emmett looked like he wanted to protest, but he nodded.
I turned in my seat to face Edward.
"I'm sorry about this, baby. I wish—"
"I know," he said, reaching up to touch my cheek. I leaned into his palm for a moment, soaking in his touch, his scent, before straightening up.
"Thanks, guys." I opened the car door, sliding one leg out. I turned back to look at them. "Hang out here until we're sure she's home. I don't want to be stranded." They nodded in agreement, and I slid off the seat and onto the sidewalk.
Before I made it halfway up the walk to her house, Bella's front door opened. She stood back from the entryway, holding herself in shadow. I vaguely registered the sound of the Jeep pulling away as I reached her and wrapped my arms around her small body.
"Jazz," she sobbed into my shirt as I kicked the door closed and lifted her up. I carried her up the stairs to her room and lay her gently on her rumpled bed. Climbing in next to her, I pulled her to me. She buried herself in my embrace, soft sobs making her shoulders tremble and pitch. I stroked her long, thick hair and murmured nonsensical soothing words in her ear.
She cried for a long time. I rocked her, every so often planting kisses on top of her head. Eventually, her shaking subsided and her breathing evened out. I gently pulled back, intending to let her sleep, but she tightened her grip.
"I'm awake," she said hoarsely. "Don't go."
"I'm not going anywhere, darlin'. I'm here."
She let out a shaky breath.
"I'm okay. Well, not really, but I will be."
"I know, Bells."
"It's not like I've even lost anything. We weren't together. She didn't even know how I felt."
I said nothing, just letting her talk it out.
"Anyway, she's obviously straight. I mean, she couldn't stop talking about this guy…" Her voice caught.
I raised her chin with my finger, looking into her tear-glazed eyes. The skin under them looked bruised, and I knew she hadn't slept.
"You hungry?" I asked. She shook her head, briefly closing her puffy eyes.
"Don't think I could keep anything down right now."
I shifted us into a more comfortable position, me on my back, her head on my chest, and resumed stroking her hair.
"Sleep, Bella. I won't leave, I promise."
After several minutes, Bella's hitching sobs ceased and her breathing evened out. I held her, letting my eyes unfocus as my mind wandered. The sunlight coming through her window rippled, fading and brightening with the passing clouds. The walls of her bedroom went from slate to sky-blue and back again as I watched.
Eventually, my bladder protested. Carefully, I eased out from under her and arranged her on the pillow. Exhausted, she didn't stir. I tiptoed to the bathroom in the hall and relieved myself. Pulling my phone out of my pocket, I noticed two things: one, it had been more than two hours since I'd gotten here; and two, I had a text message.
Bella ok? Txt when u get a chance. –E
Warmth spread through my body at the idea that Edward was thinking about me. Well, about Bella and me, anyway. The time stamp said his message had come in about thirty minutes ago. I typed a reply.
She's sleeping now. Think she'll b ok. Where r u? –J
Twenty seconds later, my phone beeped.
Look outside. –E
I peeked through the lace curtains over the small bathroom window. There, parked across the street, was my car. My pulse leaped when I saw the long, lanky form leaning casually against the driver-side door. I stared dazedly at him for a few seconds, and then flew as quietly as I could down the stairs to open the front door.
He grinned when he saw me, pushing away from the car to lope up to the door. His smile dimmed somewhat as he gazed into my eyes.
"Is she really okay?"
My heart melted at his concern and painted my insides with warm liquid goo.
"She's hurt, but she's a realist. She didn't sleep last night, so she's totally exhausted." I put out my hand, grasping him gently by the shoulder. "How long have you been waiting outside?"
"Only a little while," he said, shrugging. "Maybe half an hour."
Could he be more adorable?
"Get in here, you."
"Are you sure?"
I nodded eagerly and tugged him inside the house.
"She'll be sleeping for a while. When she wakes up, I think she'll be happy you're here," I said, closing the door behind us. "I know I am."
"Well, you left your keys at my house, and I figured you'd need a ride home at some point. I wasn't sure if Bella would be up to driving anywhere, so…" He trailed off as I drew closer to him. "Jazz?"
"Kissing you." And then I was.
"But… Bella…" he tried to say around my lips.
"Shh. She's sleeping."
"What about her dad?"
I huffed, pulling back half an inch.
"He goes fishing at five a.m. every Saturday morning. Spends all day on the boat and comes home in time for dinner. He won't be back for hours. Any more questions?"
He gave me a little grin, the heat rising in his eyes.
"Nope, I'm good." He closed the distance and took my mouth with his again.
"You are the sweetest," I mumbled against his lips, "most thoughtful, most amazing guy in the world." My hands wove through his soft hair as his trailed up and down my back.
"Nuh-uh, you are," he murmured back.
"You hardly even know Bella, and you're all worried about her." I sighed as his mouth moved down over my jaw.
"She's your best friend, which automatically makes her my friend, too."
We stopped talking for a little while after that. Our mouths were otherwise occupied.
Eventually, we slowed our movements, neither one of us really willing to go further while Bella was passed out upstairs. Instead, I led him to the small living room and sat on the worn but well-kept couch. Edward sat next to me, leaning his head on my shoulder.
"You know something, Jazz?"
"I feel like I've known you forever, but really, we hardly know anything about one another. We only just met last night."
"Wow," I said, my eyes widening. "You're right. I can't believe it's been less than a day."
"Tell me something."
"Sure," I replied.
"When's your birthday?"
"October sixteenth. When's yours?"
"June twentieth. Man, are you gonna be seventeen next month?" At my nod, he sighed.
"I'm always the youngest in my class. I just turned sixteen this summer."
Something clicked in my dazed brain.
"Ohhh. No wonder you didn't wanna drive my car last night. You didn't get your license in Chicago before you moved, right?"
"Yeah." Edward chuckled, his cheeks pink. "I got my permit as soon as we moved here, so I just have to wait four months until November to take the test."
"I'll be your chauffeur, baby." I pressed a tender kiss to the top of his head, nuzzling my nose in his hair. A mental image of my car sitting outside Bella's house flitted through my mind.
"Wait a minute," I began, confused. "How did you get my car here?"
"Emmett. Rosalie followed us here and took him home."
I thought about that for a moment.
"Does that mean Rose knows everything, too?"
"Uh, yeah, I think so." He sighed against my shoulder. "Does that bother you?"
It wasn't ideal. I still wasn't entirely comfortable with Emmett knowing. Adding more people to the mix made me wary.
"Honestly, I don't know, Edward," I said. "I don't really know her all that well, and it feels weird for her to know something so private about us – you, me and Bella, I mean."
"Yeah, I understand. I don't think she'll say anything, though." His hand found mine in my lap, and he laced our fingers together. "She's pretty private herself. Plus, Emmett trusts her."
I snorted at that.
"Emmett just wants to get in her pants."
"True." He grinned at me. "But I think he has real feelings for her… like, as a person. The way he talked about her this summer, when the other guys weren't around, made me think it's more than just a hook-up for him."
I nodded, remembering the look in Emmett's eyes last night when Rose had shown up at Newton's.
"So, I kinda spilled my guts last night about wanting to talk to you and… all that. Did, uh…" He cleared his throat. "Did you notice me at all? Before the party last night, I mean?"
I pulled back in surprise, my wide-eyed gaze finding his hesitant one.
"Are you kidding? I was freaking out! I was so hot for you that I couldn't even look at you without worrying I was gonna—" I shut my mouth with a snap before I could embarrass myself any more.
Edward's jaw dropped. Then his lips drew up into a goofy grin.
He looked so happy, I couldn't deny him, humiliation be damned.
"I was a total mess. When I saw you in the auditorium the first day of school, it was like… I'd been struck by lightning or something."
"Me, too," he said. "When you locked eyes with me, I thought I was going crazy."
"Yeah, I told Bella about that. I made her help me figure out how to avoid you until I could talk to you without completely losing my shit."
"You were avoiding me?"
He sounded so sad. I took hold of his chin and gave him a peck on the lips.
"It was only because I didn't know how to be around you without giving myself away and outing myself to the whole school. All I wanted to do was touch you and hold you."
He leaned into me.
"I want you to touch me and hold me."
"Mmm." My chest rumbled with the husky sound.
His voice dropped to a seductive whisper.
"Don't think I've forgotten that you're not wearing any underwear under my jeans."
"Ungh." I groaned as his hand stroked my thigh, inching higher and higher. I forced myself to stand up and head toward the kitchen.
"Want something to drink?"
His smirk sent a little jolt to my groin, and I groaned again. I turned away and practically ran to the fridge. The wave of coolness that swept over me when I opened the door brought little relief. I grabbed a couple of water bottles and went back into the living room, deliberately sitting in the recliner instead of next to him on the couch.
"Here," I said, tossing him a bottle and grinning at the cute little pout that pushed his bottom lip outward.
We fell easily and naturally into conversation. He told me about his life in Chicago, the few friends he'd left behind, and the tension in his family caused by his dad's long work hours. He talked about his friend Liam, the first person he'd come out to when he was fourteen, and the only boy he'd ever kissed and fooled around with. I was relieved that he'd only been with one other person – it made me feel less awkward about my lack of prior experience.
I shared with him the details of my summer in New Orleans, and my now-faded attraction to Emmett. I told him about Lauren Mallory going down on me, and about how Bella and I became best friends. I even talked about my Mama and Daddy, and my fear that my relationship with them was becoming more and more superficial the longer I hid who I truly was.
I'd never felt a connection with anyone like I felt with Edward. Even Bella and I had taken some time to open up to one another. With Edward, it was effortless. My trust in him was automatic, instinctive. From the look in his eyes, from the way he gravitated toward me and couldn't seem to stop touching me, I knew he felt it, too.
Our conversation was rudely interrupted by my growling stomach. Edward chuckled, then grimaced as his own belly gave an answering grumble. I stretched my limbs and glanced at my phone.
"Holy shit," I said, blinking. "It's almost three in the afternoon. No wonder we're starving."
"Hmm, I definitely could eat," Edward said. "You want to order in? Bella's been out a long time. Bet she'll be hungry soon, too."
"That sounds great, babe. What do you feel like? Pizza okay?"
Edward stepped outside to call in the pizza order, not wanting wake the Sleeping Beauty upstairs. I tiptoed up to her room to check on her. As I reached for the doorknob, the door opened, revealing a sleepy-eyed but rested-looking Bella.
"Hey, darlin'. I was just coming to check on you."
She blinked up at me with a small smile.
"I'm okay. Better than when you first got here, anyway. Jeez, how long was I out?"
"Well," I said, "I got here around eleven, you fell asleep around noon, and it's about three now. You look a lot better, not so pale. You hungry?"
"Could eat a horse," she said, her smile widening.
"Well, I don't think they use horse on the meat-lover's pizza, so you'll have to settle for sausage and pepperoni."
"You love me and my dorky jokes. Admit it."
Her grin turned mischievous.
"I'll admit that when you admit you spent the night with Edward Cullen."
I gaped like a fish.
"What? I mean, how did you—"
"Elementary, my dear Jasper. You don't own a University of Chicago shirt. Edward's from Chicago. Ergo…"
I stared at her, blinking furiously.
"You scare me sometimes," I said when my mouth started accepting signals from my brain again.
"So it's true? You guys really got together last night? Tell me everything."
My cheeks heated.
"I would, but, uh… he's downstairs ordering pizza for us."
It was Bella's turn to blink. Before she could open her mouth, I continued.
"He's worried about you, too, Bells. We went to breakfast with Emmett, and that's when we found out about Alice. I made Em drive us here, and they left 'cause they didn't want to overwhelm you. But then they brought my car over and Edward stayed to keep me company while you were sleeping—"
"It's okay, Jasper." She put her hand on my arm, calming my rant. "If you trust him, I trust him."
I breathed out a sigh.
"I really, really do, Bells. He's amazing. He said that, since you're my best friend, that makes you his friend, too."
Bella studied my face, her eyes dancing back and forth between mine. After a few seconds, she nodded.
"You're happy, Jazz. That's all that matters. What's important to you is important to me. I can tell he's important to you."
"He really is," I sighed. "We just… fit. You know?"
"Jazzy, I'm so happy for you." She wrapped her arms around my waist, pressing her cheek into my chest.
"I'm happy, too. But I'm sad that you're hurt, darlin'."
She pulled back a smidgen to look up at me, a telltale wet sheen in her eyes.
"It's just not my time yet. It'll happen for me, too, someday. I have faith in that."
I kissed the top of her head, and she excused herself to freshen up. I managed to remake her rumpled bed before she emerged from the bathroom two minutes later, and together we walked downstairs.
As we reached the foot of the staircase, Edward came around the corner from the living room.
"Pizza should be here in twenty…" He trailed off as he saw Bella. She gave him a shy smile, and he returned it.
"Hi, Bella. I hope you don't mind my being here."
"Hi, Edward. Not at all. You're important to Jazz, so you're important to me, too."
His smile dampened a bit.
"I'm so sorry, Bella. I wish…"
"I know." She stepped closer to him. "Can I… can I give you a hug?"
His eyes flicked to me in surprise for an instant before he opened his arms to her. She stepped into them tentatively, hugging his waist like she'd hugged mine upstairs. He rubbed his hands soothingly over her back.
"Thank you for making Jasper so happy," she whispered into his chest.
His gaze met mine over her head, and his megawatt grin could have powered Seattle.
"You've got it backwards, sweetie," he said. "It's Jasper who makes me happy."
At that, I couldn't resist stepping in behind Bella and wrapping myself around both of them.
Two different pieces of my heart – the one Bella held, and the one that I'd given to Edward – melted together as the three of us embraced. I felt the circle of my life expanding, the scattered bits of me coming together to begin forming one whole Jasper. Now having two people in my life whom I trusted completely with my true self… the power of that hadn't merely doubled, it had exponentially increased. It filled me near to bursting.
We ended up sitting on the floor in a close circle, Bella teasing us about our "sexcapades," as she put it, and Edward and I laughing and blushing. When the doorbell rang, I jumped up and grabbed my wallet from my back pocket to pay for the food. I sprang to the door and swung it open, only to be struck dumb.
"Someone here order a pizza?" said Emmett, balancing a stack of steaming boxes in one hand and gripping Rosalie's hand in the other.
A/N continued: Yes, it's been a very long time since I last updated. I've been dealing with some life-changing (though, thankfully, not life-threatening) medical issues for the past few months, which put the kibosh on any creative juices I might have had brewing. While the issues are on-going, I promised before to finish this story, no matter how long it takes, and I stand by that promise. If you're still reading (and from the reviews and alert messages that keep coming in, it seems you are), I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
To the wonderful person or persons who nominated this little fic for The Slash Awards (Best Wank), I'm extremely grateful you thought enough of the story to put it forward as a candidate. Jasper (being the wanker in question) is somewhat mortified, but I'm quite giddy. Voting for the contest ends on September 24th, and some outstanding fics have been nominated in all categories. Please visit theslashawards(dot)blogspot(dot)com to vote for your favorites and show these authors your love.
One more thing of note: as you are no doubt aware, the Twilight fandom has a fantastic history of coming together for worthy charitable causes. The most recent of these is Fandom for Preemies. Visit fandomforpreemies(dot)blogspot(dot)com to learn more about this event and how you can participate, either as a contributing author or as a financial donor.