Said and done
Chapter 1: Questions and answers
A/N: Bazillions of thanks to TwilightMundi for betaing this story for me.
The song for this chapter is Death Cab for Cutie's "No Sunlight." The link is on my profile page.
Stephenie Meyer owns everything you recognize. Rated M for mature themes and eventual slash. As always, thanks for reading.
"H-A-L-E. Voilá!" Jasper said laughing as he finished typing his last name on the title page of our paper, "The Golden Ratio in Debussy's Reflets dans l'eau," by Edward Cullen and Jasper Hale. Finally complete.
I looked over at him, chuckling at his reaction.
"Seriously, this class is definitely the last music elective I'll ever take!" he swore. "That shit is hard!"
I laughed harder. I guess when you had limited time on your hands, having to complete a lengthy term paper was irritating.
I had all the time in the world. Plus, I hadn't gotten close to anyone outside of my family in a really long time, so spending a lot of time working on the project with Jasper had felt like a breath of fresh air—a breath of fresh air that scorched and scraped and tore at my throat, of course, but that goes without saying.
I thought about again asking Jasper why he'd taken an upper-level music theory course as his elective when he seemed to dislike it so heartily, but ultimately decided against it. Not that I wasn't still unclear on this point, but his response was always "I play" with no further details as to what exactly it was that he played. I had tried several times to find out more, with no success. Also, my questions always seemed to make him uncomfortable.
I hoped to avoid that today. I didn't want to tarnish his good mood, and I liked seeing him laugh. I suppose the fact that I could take delight in a human's happiness was a testament to the fact that my family's vegetarian lifestyle truly made us different from the rest of our kind.
So I settled instead for asking Jasper what he was going to do with all of his free time now that we had completed our project and classes and finals were winding down. Winter break was only a day or two away.
"Not much," he replied, leaning back in my desk chair. "I have to leave the dorms, but I'm not traveling or anything, so I'll be local. I'll probably house-sit for some friends while they're away over break. You?"
I genuinely liked Jasper. It felt odd to enjoy the presence of a human—it was much different than how I felt for my family members. I didn't usually find humans worth the trouble it was to be with them. There was too much restraint necessary, and too many secrets to keep. But Jasper was fascinating to me. I never knew what to expect from him. Plus, he seemed smart, funny, and genuine.
I certainly never forgot the difference between Jasper and I, but sometimes he made it seem irrelevant. Which is why the conversation progressed as it did.
"My parents live nearby, so I'll be spending the holiday with them," I replied. I watched my words so I could speak the truth, yet give nothing away. "I have quite a few siblings, but I am the only one who attended school nearby. So it can be pretty lively when everyone reconvenes at home after a semester apart."
"That actually sounds really nice." He sounded wistful.
"It is," I agreed. Sure, my family members sometimes annoyed each other, or fought and wanted to rip each other to shreds, but most of the time, we were glad to have each other and certainly we loved seeing each other after a lengthy time apart. Judging by Jasper's reaction, I realized his family must not be close and that seemed to bother him, perhaps because he felt lonely. My reflex to alleviate his pain caught me off guard.
"Perhaps you would like to join us one day during the break," I offered. I knew humans often asked each other to drink coffee or beer, or to eat dinner as a way to socialize, but a mealtime was not something I could offer. But if he was lonely, I could provide him with company, even if it was only the company of a vampire.
"That would be nice," he said simply.
I wondered why he didn't appear to be nervous around me. Most humans were, and the instinctual reaction was appropriate. Whether Jasper knew it or not, his life became a lot more dangerous the day our professor assigned me as his partner for our class project. I usually avoided classes requiring group work as much as possible; it was easier on the other students and my throat. Completion of this music theory class had been required for my major, however, had thus been unavoidable.
But Jasper had survived working with me. His heart still beat. The thought made venom pool in my mouth and my thirst suddenly multiplied.
Not killing Jasper? Now that shit is hard, I smirked, recalling his words.
He must have noticed my smirk and his face became puzzled. I quickly adopted a more sincere smile, and we discussed plans to connect during the break. I would see him during our final class this week, and then we decided he would visit my family's house the following weekend. Soon after, he put on his coat, and left for his own dorm room to study for a final exam.
I didn't want to imagine what my family members would have to say about the human visitor, this classmate who was becoming a friend. I imagined that some would be pleased. Alice and Esme worried I was alone too frequently, and would probably support this new friendship, odd as it was. Others, especially Rosalie, would have little use for Jasper. To be fair, I understood her reaction. Inviting Jasper into the house meant my family would have to pretend to be human in their own home, which was something we tended to avoid. Everyone appreciated having a place we didn't have to hide. So I could see that the visit would be a bit of an annoyance for them. I just hoped they wouldn't mind putting on the familiar human charade for a few hours as a favor to me.
And why again was this human worth making my family go through the trouble?
I'm not sure I'd had an answer to that.
When I told my family members later that week about Jasper's upcoming visit, they reacted as expected. Some cheered, some grumbled, and others simply thought me odd. But it didn't matter what they thought, I decided. I had a friend. So what if that friend had a heartbeat?
On Saturday I heard Jasper arrive at my house long before he suspected, of course. I noticed that he hesitated at our front door for a long time before actually knocking. And then when I opened the door, his heart began beating erratically. I thought perhaps something about our house had given us away. Did our entryway scream "vampire"? No, I decided that everything seemed normal enough. And I did recall that his heartbeat had been irregular a few other times lately, which seemed odd considering we had only been working on our project in each case. It was probably nothing, I decided. Maybe even his instinct to fear me was finally kicking in. Nevertheless, I decided to have Carlisle inconspicuously listen to his heartbeat at some point during the visit to be sure there wasn't a medical problem Jasper would need to have checked out.
I invited him in, noticing his cheeks were pleasingly pink from the cold. We would have to spend more time outside, I decided. But first, it was time to introduce him to my parents.
"Mom, dad, this is Jasper. Jasper, this is my mom, Esme, and my dad, Carlisle."
Esme hugged Jasper, welcoming him to our house. Jasper said hello and blushed, color once again flooding his cheeks, to my delight.
"My sisters Rosalie and Alice are actually out holiday shopping today," I explained afterward, as I led him through the house. "But you might meet them later depending on when they get back. My brother Emmett is around somewhere though, so I'm sure we will see him at some point as well."
He nodded as we entered my room. He seemed interested in my books and music, so I let him peruse as I stood back and tried not to overanalyze his reactions.
Before he could comment, however, I heard my mother approach. "Edward?" she called loud enough for Jasper to hear as well.
"In here, mom," I replied, as though Esme didn't already know exactly where I was. She came into my room.
"Your dad and I were thinking today would be a good day to get our Christmas tree. Emmett isn't interested because he's busy working on Rosalie's Christmas gift while she's away. But I thought I'd ask if you two wanted to come along?" she asked.
I looked at Jasper. He was smiling. "That sounds great," he answered. "I needed a few things at Target, so I was thinking of going at some point this weekend anyway. You wouldn't mind if I picked up one or two things while we were there, right?"
Had he misheard? Was human hearing that bad? Well, whatever he wanted to do was fine with me. My parents certainly didn't need physical help with the tree. Esme could uproot one and bring it in one-handed.
"Sure, if you want to go to Target we can. My mom and dad can pick out the tree on their own."
It was his turn to look confused. "Oh, were you going to get your tree somewhere else? I didn't realize there were other options in the area. I'm happy to go wherever. I can go to Target some other time."
Esme giggled. "No, dear, no need to go to Target for a tree. We just go outside. Look out the window—plenty of Christmas trees in every direction. We just need to pick the perfect one and I thought you might want to help us choose."
"Oh! Of course. In southern Texas we couldn't just go outside and cut down the nearest tree, unless we wanted a Christmas cactus," he joked. "In any event, we never had a real tree growing up—just one of the plastic ones."
I smiled; his accent became heavier as he talked about his home state.
But Esme looked dismayed. "You've never had a real tree? Well, Jasper, that decides things. You are definitely helping us with the tree."
He laughed. "Happy to, ma'am!"
"Esme is fine, dear. But now that I think about it, perhaps you and Edward should just go yourselves," Esme continued on. "You don't really need our help, and I know it isn't fun hanging around with parents. Edward, just don't choose one too big to fit in the house, but otherwise, let Jasper pick the one. His first tree!"
As Esme flit away, I turned to Jasper. "Are you up for this?"
"Absolutely," he said, grinning.
We bundled up to go outside. It had started to snow, and I wanted Jasper to be warm enough. I made sure to throw on a scarf and gloves as well, if only to keep up with pretenses.
It was actually a bit of relief to be outside with Jasper. His appealing scent was less concentrated thanks to the open space and light breeze. However, it was hard for me to ignore the color that again quickly reached his cheeks.
"Edward? Should we have brought a saw or something?" Jasper suddenly turned to me and asked after we'd already hiked a good distance into the woods.
"Oh! Right. Shoot. I guess we should head back for that. I'm sorry." My family members and I didn't need any tools to bring down a small tree, of course. But I could hardly snap a tree in half in front of Jasper. He was right. I needed a prop. We had to go back. I couldn't believe I'd made such a stupid mistake. I suppose it was because Jasper and his beating heart had distracted me so thoroughly. We were already quite far into the woods, and I felt bad for him having to walk all the way back. Too bad I couldn't just pick him up and run with him.
We trudged back to the house slowly. The snow had gotten a bit deeper, and it was slower going for Jasper as we walked on.
And then, about halfway back to the house, he stopped and turned to me again.
"Edward, the snow. It's… accumulating… on your head."
I looked at him instantly and noticed the snow that had landed in his blond curls had indeed melted and soaked his hair. Mine, of course, had not; I was as cold as the ice itself. I could have an inch and a half on top of my head at this point.
I could think of no remotely plausible explanation—at least not an explanation I was able to share with him. So I nodded. "Yes, I suppose it is."
He nodded as well, but didn't respond otherwise. I couldn't read his face. I wondered what on earth he could be thinking, how he could be rationalizing what he had seen.
I stopped and shook the snow free from my hair. No need to make this even weirder for him and have it continue to pile up, I thought. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed him watch me while I did so, his heart speeding up again. Carlisle would need to look into that, I decided.
But when he took his next step forward, he was still watching me. And while I heard his foot catch on an unseen rock beneath the snow, it was impossible for me to stop him from tripping while still maintaining a human façade. I would have needed to move far too quickly. I was stuck. I gritted my teeth and tried not to watch as sure enough, he went flying forward with his next step. He landed awkwardly on his arm before he slid on the icy ground into a nearby tree.
Knowing he landed face-down, I felt free to move as quickly as I was able to his side.
"Jasper!" I cried. "Are you okay?" Instantly, I knew he was not. I could smell the blood.
He groaned. "Yes. I feel like an idiot, and I'm kind of scraped up, but I'll be okay."
I helped lift him up, holding my breath. His scent made my head swim. I had to get him to Carlisle before the monster in me undermined my self-control.
"Come on. Let me get you to Carlisle." I scooped him up, ignoring his protests, and took off toward the house as quickly as I dared.
Carlisle met us at the front door. Doubtless, he smelled the problem long before we arrived. When I put Jasper down, Carlisle led him into his office to clean up his cuts and make sure he had no other injuries.
Esme quickly left the house, claiming she was going to quickly go pick a tree, knowing that Jasper and I wouldn't be bringing one back after all. I also knew she needed to put space between herself and Jasper's wounds.
I waited outside of the office, and listened as Carlisle verified Jasper wasn't seriously injured in any way, and then helped clean and bandage his scrapes and cuts.
Soon after, Jasper emerged, looking sheepish. "That was a lot of fuss for a few scrapes," he joked as we headed back to my room. I was immediately relieved that he seemed unbothered by his injuries.
"Well, my dad is a doctor, so we are lucky to be able to provide first-class care to our guests," I replied, turning to look at him.
"Uhm, I see you changed?" I continued. He was no longer wearing the grey sweater he'd had on when he arrived. Now, he just wore a t-shirt—that had "Guitarists do it with a strap on" emblazoned on the front.
He turned brighter red. "It was a joke," he explained. "Someone gave it to me, and I never thought anyone would see it. I just had it on under my sweater, but I had to take that off so your dad could fix up my elbow." He pointed to his bandaged arm.
"I see. Well, that answers my question anyway," I smirked.
"It does?" he looked really confused now. "Didn't you… already know?"
"No. You never wanted to talk about it. I'm not sure why though; there's nothing to be ashamed of. It's great you play the guitar," I explained.
"The… guitar…?" he asked.
"Yes. I always wanted to know what you played, but you always just changed the subject and never answered. So now I know," I smiled.
"I see. The guitar. Umm, Edward…" he hesitated. "The rest of what it the stupid shirt says… it doesn't bother you?"
I looked at him. "Well, I understand the innuendo, if that's what you mean." I'd been around too many years to claim ignorance to that. "Plus, you said it was a joke, so beyond that, I'm just happy to have solved the mystery of why you'd take a music theory class."
"So Edward, is it that you don't know that I'm gay, or you don't care that I'm gay?" he asked.
"You're gay?" I replied. I didn't care, but he'd never mentioned it.
"Well, I guess that answers that," he sighed. "Wait. Do you think a straight man would wear this shirt?"
"I suppose not. But whatever you are is fine with me. Really." Who was I to be judgmental? I wasn't even human.
"I guess I thought you'd care a bit more than you appear to." He looked a bit wistful. "I mean, I thought you knew, or at least you would be glad to find out. I thought maybe…you liked me. I mean, I'm pretty sure we like hanging out together, and you're always watching me with this look in your eyes that made me think you might want me—want to be with me," he stumbled through his words. "Was I wrong? Did I imagine it all?"
Bloodlust. He'd seen the hunger in my eyes, the desire for him I felt in my bones, the need to sink my teeth into his neck, to hear him call out my name as I did so.
Wait. Well, that was new.
But there it was. I wanted to hear my name roll off his red lips. Venom pooled in my mouth at the thought.
Why was that suddenly a part of my fantasy? Normally I thirsted only for blood, but with Jasper, it seemed, a simple drink would not be completely fulfilling. I wanted something else, something more, not just the blood. I looked at him, took him in.
I'd never considered anything such as what Jasper had just suggested. Sure, I liked being with him, even if we were just doing school work. And yes, I liked seeing color cross his face when he was feeling shy, and of course I appreciated hearing the careful rhythm of his heart. But it was impossible.
I'd never even felt any kind of real desire for another vampire. And I'd certainly never thought that way about a human. I would never let myself. But how could I explain that to the man before me, who was looking more and more embarrassed with each passing moment?
"Jasper, I can't like you like that." I hesitated. "I'm different. So even if… well, it would be impossible."
"You think I didn't know that?" he asked. "I don't know the details, of course. But I've known you are different for awhile. I just don't really care."
I heard a hiss from downstairs, reminding me to keep our secret.
"Jasper, I'm sorry. It really is impossible. Perhaps you should go. I'm so sorry you were hurt."
"Edward, first, it's just a few stupid scrapes. Definitely no big deal. Don't worry about it. Second, I want you to hear me when I say that what you are, whatever you are, it doesn't matter to me. And finally, when you recognize the fact that you might want to be with me the way I might want to be with you, I would like you to call me. Please, just consider it. Allow yourself that. Now, you're right. I probably should go. Please thank Esme for her hospitality and Carlisle for his help."
I nodded, then followed him down the stairs and out the front door, passing by the already decorated 12-ft Christmas tree now standing proudly in our living room. From years of experience, I knew it had taken Esme approximately four minutes to locate, cut down, and bring the tree into the house, and then another three to put it in the stand and decorate it.
As Jasper walked out the door, he turned back to me. "Edward, I hope to hear from you."
There was nothing to say to him, no false promises I could offer. So I just watched him leave, while my granite heart cracked a bit inside me.