A/N: This chapter and each chapter following will be from Jasper's POV only. If that changes, I'll let you know ;-)
Characters aren't mine, and this fic is rated a firm "M" for adult content.
Chapter 1: No Use
Historical sense and poetic sense should not, in the end, be contradictory, for if poetry is the little myth we make, history is the big myth we live, and in our living, constantly remake.
~*Robert Penn Warren*~
Out of breath and dripping in sweat, I stepped through the door of the apartment after a long run and was greeted by the smell of sushi, rice and wine. Soft music played from the kitchen, and I smiled as I thought of her dancing on hardwood floor barefoot, probably wearing her apron that said "Kiss the Chef".
My stomach growled at the smells wafting from the kitchen, and though I knew I should shower before sitting down to dinner, my feet tactlessly ambled toward the promise of mouth-watering cuisine. I loved the nights that it wasn't my turn to cook; she was so much better at it than I.
Bella's back was to me when I walked through the archway between the kitchen and hallway of our old San Francisco apartment; she was chopping the last of the onions. A delicate, pink sweater and flowing knee-length white skirt clung to her curves, and I smiled at the bare, perfectly pedicured feet. Her hair was up, and she looked stunning.
"Big date, tonight?" I asked, crossing my arms over my chest and smiling and leaning against the curve of the archway as her head popped up and eyes met mine.
She grinned. "In a manner of speaking."
Bella and I had moved in together during grad school. We'd both attended the Art Institute of San Francisco, and we'd been lucky enough to find an apartment to sublet for a steal downtown. The little apartment had been perfect for us then, and six years later as we settled into our careers and our adult lives, it was still perfect.
I nodded with a smile. "If you don't need any help, I think I'll go take a quick shower."
"Please. I cannot have you in my kitchen all smelly and sweaty, Jay." Her face was stern, but her twinkling brown eyes gave her away.
I winked. "I know, darlin'. Give me ten minutes."
I left her singing along with Daughtry as I went down the hall to our bathroom to shower. Our apartment was as old as the rebuilding of the city in 1909. When we'd first moved in, everything about it - its history and the secrets it held within its walls - had intrigued me; it continued to intrigue me even after having lived there for nearly a decade. The small and charming little nook had quickly become a home.
After a quick shower, I wrapped a towel around my waist and darted into the bedroom to dress for dinner. With my blond curls still wet, I hastily threw on a pair of dark-wash jeans and a light blue shirt that Bella always said brought out my eyes.
I heard the buzz of the door and hastened to the intercom in the living room.
"Hey Jas. It's Emmett."
"Hey Em, come on up," I replied.
I unlocked the door and headed back to the kitchen. Bella was setting the table and pouring the wine. She looked up at me and smiled her beautiful smile.
I couldn't help but grin back at her when she smiled like that. "Yeah, it was great. You'll have to come with me next time."
She nodded. "Tomorrow morning?"
"Yeah. We could go across town and have a beach run. We haven't done that for awhile," I said with a wink.
Her eyes widened with her alluring smile. "Yes! That'd be great."
Bella and I often spent our Saturdays together. Sometimes we ran, sometimes we hiked, sometimes we stayed home and watched old movies, but it was our day together. Sometimes our friends joined us, and sometimes not, but very rarely did we spend that day apart.
I kissed her cheek. "Emmett is here."
She smiled, her cheeks flushing a nice shade of pink. She turned, and the hesitation in her eyes made me frown.
"Don't be mad, Jay..."
I narrowed my eyes. "What did you do?"
"Well...Emmett and I were talking...and...well, he has a brother. And we thought maybe it'd be a good idea if he brought him along tonight."
I inhaled sharply and rolled my eyes. "Bella, I really don't need you to play matchmaker all of the time, you know? I'm happy with my life. After all of these years, you still don't seem to understand that I don't need a significant other to be content."
She bit her lip in the way that she did when she was nervous.
"I just...I want you to be happy."
My heart softened a little with her words and expression. I knew she always meant well with these "chance" meetings and introductions. I wrapped my arm around her in a hug, kissing the top of her head.
"I know you do, Bella. But I am happy. I have the job of my dreams, the very best friend and roommate a guy could ask for. I don't need your matchmaking skills as much as you think I do," I finished softly with a wink.
I was relieved when she smiled.
Our moment was interrupted by a loud and obnoxious knock, a familiar signature of Emmett's arrival.
"Please be nice to him, Jay. Emmett said he's kind of...well, he's not..."
I frowned, already dreading the evening seeing her struggle to explain this mystery man. It was going to be a disaster.
"He's just not very social, Jay. Be gentle."
I snorted at her terminology with a raised eyebrow, and she hit my arm.
"Pervert," she said under her breath as she pushed past me to open the door.
I grinned, following close behind.
"There's my baby," Emmett, with the stature of a giant, picked up my best friend in his arms, twirling her around as she giggled.
I couldn't help but smile. He really was good for her, and she was just as good for him. I watched for a moment as he whispered in her ear an endearment that brought to her cheeks a flush of joy. He made her happy, and he treated her the way that she deserved; I couldn't have handpicked a better man for her.
When they finally separated Emmett's blue eyes locked onto mine and he clapped my shoulder. "Hey Jasper."
"Hey Emmett, come on in."
Bella and I stepped out of the doorway and Emmett walked in, followed by who I assumed to be his brother. I took a moment to covertly study him as Emmett made introductions. He was just an inch or two taller than my six foot frame, and I'd never seen an odder shade of hair. It was a strange mix of copper and bronze and blonde, and I couldn't help but wonder if that was natural or if he'd paid a ridiculous amount to get those colorful swirls. My eyes swept down, studying his own as he looked at Bella and shook her hand. His eyes were fiercely green.
"Bella, Emmett has told me so much about you. Nice to finally meet you in person," he said, his voice smooth and soft, if not a little melancholy.
I'd missed his name while lost in my study of this beautiful man in front of me. I shook my head as Emmett turned his brother toward me.
"This is Bella's best friend, Jasper. Jasper, my little brother, Edward."
He reached out his hand to shake mine and our eyes met. His were not only fiercely green, but some kind of jade pool of rich minerals. I tried to remember how to breathe – how to move my hand to shake his.
I finally managed a smile, shaking off the Edward-induced sex haze clouding my mind.
"Edward. Nice to meet you."
Edward's eyes flickered with something I couldn't identify before he nodded. "Jasper. Good to meet you."
We all stood awkwardly in the doorway for a moment before Bella and I remembered our manners and the mouth-watering dinner that she had created for us.
"Please come in. Dinner is ready and the wine is poured," Bella said with a nervous laugh.
I glanced over at her with a quirked eyebrow, curious about her uncharacteristic nervousness. Nothing scared this girl. I truly hoped that she hadn't had high hopes of me hitting it off with Emmett's broody brother. He was beautiful; I would give her that, but so far, his personality left a lot to be desired. He hadn't smiled once since stepping across the threshold.
We sat around the oak table in the dining room; Bella sat on one side of me, Edward on the other. She and Emmett and I fell into an easy, comfortable conversation as we so often did. Edward's gaze remained focused on either his plate or his wine glass; he didn't speak.
"So Edward," I said, trying to play good host – if for nothing else than to make Emmett and Bella feel as if they hadn't completely wasted their efforts. "What is it that you do?"
Edward's eyes met mine in surprise. I watched, fascinated, as he set down his fork, wiped his plump, sultry pink lips with a napkin, and cleared his throat. "I paint."
I glanced at Emmett for some help. Edward hadn't given me much to work with before glancing back down at his plate. I was struck by the odd behavior.
Emmett glanced from me to Edward. "Edward has several pieces on display right now in the Fine Arts Museum. He's also just been featured in The Chronicle."
I glanced at Edward again. When his gaze met mine, I smiled, and was only slightly unnerved when he didn't return it but glanced at Emmett. "The Chronicle wasn't really a big deal," he mumbled.
Emmett smiled ruefully, glancing at me again. "Edward's modest about his work."
I smiled, looking to Bella, who, oddly enough, was fidgeting. What was with her tonight? I gave her the 'what is your problem?' look, and she smiled her 'I'm really uncomfortable and regretting this' smile.
"So how long have you been painting?" I asked, trying to keep him in the conversation.
"Since I can remember," he said quietly, once more meeting my gaze before flitting his eyes back to his plate.
Something within me jolted at that look. Something dark and sad lingered beneath the short answers and the way that he closed himself off. I ventured another smile, and he looked away.
I inhaled slowly. "You must really enjoy it," I said, though I knew I'd lost him.
He simply nodded, and took another bite of his fish. I glanced at Bella.
"Haven't had a chance to ask you how your day was," I said to her, smiling at the enormous relief I felt to be talking to a friendly face.
She smiled apologetically, and as we shared an actual verbal conversation, we also shared an unspoken one, as we so often did.
"It was great," she said after a swig of wine. "Our head chef gave me a great performance review today, and I have a meeting with her and the owner next week about becoming a co-head chef."
I smiled at the grin of pride that she was trying to keep under control in an effort of modesty. "That's great, B. I'm proud of you."
Emmett smiled brightly. "I'm not at all surprised, babe. Edward, this woman can cook like you wouldn't believe. Tonight's dinner is just the tip of the iceberg, man."
Edward glanced at Bella and nodded. "The sushi is very good."
She smiled. "Thank you, guys." She glanced back at me. "So it was a good day."
I nodded and returned her smile with a wink.
The conversation lulled, and we all became a little awkward for a few terrifyingly long moments. Finally, Bella stood.
"I hope everyone likes tiramisu," she said with a wink, knowing full well that at least two of the three men at the table loved her tiramisu.
We all mumbled our anticipation as she gracefully and purposefully walked back to the kitchen. "Jasper, can you help me, please?"
I glanced up at her in relief. "Of course."
Once we were safely in the other room, she grabbed my arm. "I am so sorry, Jay. I...I thought Emmett was exaggerating about Edward's awkwardness."
I chuckled, kissing her forehead. "Don't worry about it, darlin'. Your heart was in the right place – it always is."
She smiled. "You were right about the matchmaking. From now on, I promise I will leave your romantic life up to you."
I grinned. "Thank you. Now, shall we serve our desert and get this evening over with?"
She giggled softly. "Yes. Let's."
Her tiramisu, as always, was a huge hit. Emmett had two very large pieces; I made myself stop after one, though it took considerable willpower not to have another, and Edward....Edward hardly ate his.
Bella started clearing the table, and as I started to stand to help her, Emmett jumped up.
"Let me help you with the dishes, babe."
Bella gave me a small smile, and I sighed, standing the rest of the way and dreading the next part of the evening. Even more so, I dreaded being alone with Edward trying to force conversation with a man that refused to speak more than five words at a time.
"Edward, would you like to come to the living room?"
He didn't answer, but stood, following me into the small living room, decorated with modern flare that was a strange and cozy mix of Bella and me. Edward and I sat on the ivory leather couch, and I turned slightly to face him.
"I haven't been to The Fine Arts Museum for about a year. I will have to go check out your work," I said, feeling completely awkward.
"It's not a big deal," he finally said in a quiet voice. "Emmett exaggerates everything."
"Apparently not everything," I murmured under my breath.
Edward looked at me curiously, the most expression he'd shown all evening. I smiled a little.
"I'm a writer," I offered, since he hadn't bothered to ask.
I studied him for a moment, surprised when he kept eye contact with me. I quirked an eyebrow, willing him to continue. Had Emmett already given him the scoop?
"I..." he said, his perfectly sculpted eyebrows meeting in a frown above his nose as he swallowed. "I've read your work."
I felt both eyebrows lift before I could control the reaction. "Oh?"
A ghost of a smile danced at the corner of his lips as his eyes met mine again and he nodded. "Fascinating work. You have a brilliant mind."
I was at a loss for words...not only had this silent and sullen man just smiled at me, but how does one respond to a near-stranger telling you in such a matter-of-fact way that you had a brilliant mind? I smiled at the strangeness of it all.
"Um..thanks. What pieces have you read?"
"All of them," he mumbled.
My heart rate sped as I was beginning to realize the Edward I'd seen all night might not be the real Edward. I couldn't keep myself from wondering if anyone actually knew the real Edward.
"So you must have an interest in history then?"
He smiled. It was such a simple human action, but on his face that had been so serious and obviously awkward all evening, I was stunned into a silent stupor. That smile transformed his entire face.
"Yeah, I guess you could say that. I..." Embarrassment filled his features and he looked away.
I waited silently, hoping he would continue.
"My first featured paintings were inspired by your work."
"What?" I breathed out, filled with shock and awe and intrigue. After a few heartbeats to recover from this shock, I added: "You...really?"
His eyes met mine once more and my stomach flipped. "Yes."
And then the moment was over. He looked away, and I could almost physically see the walls rising between him and me. He did not look at me again, and a moment later, Bella and Emmett joined us. Edward looked as if someone was torturing him, and I was left completely befuddled as to how to react to all that had taken place in the last ten minutes.
I couldn't understand my own fascination with him; I wanted to know more about this strange man. His odd and unpleasant countenance was meant to keep people away, yet I was intrigued that it had just the opposite response within me. It called to me in such a strange way, and I couldn't quite put my finger on it.
Shaking off the odd feeling, I dove into the conversation with Bella and Emmett.
The two had been dating for a little over a year, and while they had been physically hot and heavy since the beginning of their relationship, they had taken everything else very slow. Bella was independent, and Emmett was carefree. They were exclusive, but as far as I knew, no talks of major commitment had even been broached yet.
Selfishly, I was glad for that. Bella was the most important person in my life. She always had been, and though I knew we couldn't live together forever, that one day she would want to get married and have a family, I hoped that the day was far into the future. It was a change in our lives that I loathed to think about – that most often times I refused to think about.
"How did you and Jasper meet?" Edward asked Bella abruptly.
The three of us had been laughing at a joke that Emmett told, and the laughter immediately screeched to a halt with his blunt question.
Bella smiled at him, getting that far away look in her eye – it was the look she always got when someone asked either of us that question. "Jay and I have been best friends since the second grade. Some sixth grade boy was picking on me, and Jay kicked his ass. I helped. We were in detention together for a week. We've been inseparable ever since," she said proudly, grabbing my hand with a wink.
"How does that work? I mean..." Edward glanced at Emmett. "How does that work?
"What do you mean, bro?"
"Doesn't that make you feel weird?" Edward asked Emmett, and it was obvious that he was much more comfortable addressing Emmett than anyone else in the room.
Emmett frowned. "Of course not. Why should it?"
"They're obviously closer than you and Bella are. Probably always will be with a history like that."
"Edward –" Emmett started, and even I could hear the warning in his voice.
My pulse quickened, and I couldn't be sure if it was because of anger or absolute shock at the audacity of his impolite questioning.
"No, I mean, I imagine that if I had a beautiful girlfriend and she lived with a man with whom she was extremely close, had grown up with, and obviously felt a connection to, I think that would probably bother me. Make me question the circumstances, and whether they're entirely honest with you about things."
My breathing sped and I stood up. "Now, just a minute –"
"Jay," Bella interrupted quietly, grabbing my hand and pulling me back down to my seat shaking her head.
She turned to Edward. "That was out of line, Edward."
"Yeah?" he responded, meeting the challenge in her tone. "So is pretending you're interested in men when you're clearly in love with your female roommate."
His glare turned from Bella to me.
I was boiling, and I met Emmett's gaze. He was angry, too. "Edward."
Edward glanced at Emmett and backed down slightly. "Whatever. Forget about it," he huffed angrily, and I watched, mostly furious but slightly fascinated as he stood in one sweeping motion and stormed out of the room.
Emmett sighed. "I'm sorry, you guys. I..." then he growled. "I don't know what the fuck his problem is."
I glanced at Bella. She had tears in her eyes as she wrapped her arms around Emmett.
"Maybe I should take him home."
Bella nodded. "I think that'd be a good idea."
"Now," I growled.
Emmett looked at me. "I'm sorry, Jasper."
I nodded, willing myself to calm. "It's not your fault, Emmett, but please, don't bring him back here ever again."
Emmett hesitated. "Jasper...Edward is...he's gone through some things, and he hides behind his behavior. He doesn't let people in."
I couldn't understand why he was telling me this, and I glanced at Bella, who looked sadly between the two of us.
"Emmett," she said softly. "I'll call you later."
It was her quiet, but unmistakable request for him to leave and to take his brother with him.
He held my gaze for another long moment before handing me a piece of folded paper, which I angrily took from him, and without giving it a glance, I tossed on the coffee table.
"I'm sorry again, Jasper."
I nodded sharply. He looked at me then the crumpled paper, as if he wanted to explain it, but then thought better of things; he kissed Bella before walking out of the room. A moment later we heard the front door open and close again, and I turned to her. Tears pooled in her eyes.
"I'm so sorry," she whispered, hugging me tightly.
"Hey," I said against her hair. "Don't. We know each other better than a bitter and socially inept asshole, right? I do love you, Bella, and if things were different...if I could..."
"Shh," she said, squeezing me tightly to her. "I know. I know. I love you, too, Jay, but I've always known we would never be that," she whispered.
We'd talked about the most personal of things; our sex lives, our love lives, our families and our innermost secrets, but before this night, before the obnoxious Edward had entered our lives, we had never had this conversation aloud.
I nodded, holding her tightly. "Are you okay?"
She nodded against my chest, her wet tears soaking through my shirt. "Are you?"
I smiled, though she couldn't see it. "Of course."
"I'm going to bed," she sighed.
"Okay. Sweet dreams, darlin'."
She pulled away and smiled, and I wiped her wet cheeks with my thumb. "Love you," I said quietly.
She grinned, leaning into my hand. "Love you."
She slipped from the room, down the hall and into her bedroom, shutting the door quietly behind her.
I finally settled onto the couch, adjusting my reading glasses as I grabbed a newly released book on the Civil War from the coffee table, but I couldn't concentrate on it.
My mind wandered over the events of the evening. I wasn't naïve enough to deny that it took a special person to be with either Bella or me and be okay with our unique and rare type of relationship. It required our significant others to have a great deal of not only self-confidence but also trust and understanding.
Typically it was Bella who had the harder time with her relationships when it came to me being in the picture. Most men that she had dated couldn't accept that I was who I said I was, that Bella's relationship to me was as innocent as it truly was. I resented the hell out of those men, the ones who would accuse her of lying to them on my account.
I had things a little easier. Romantic relationships had never been something I'd actively sought out. I was okay with one-night hook-ups or longer arrangements that didn't necessarily tie me down to any kind of commitment or solidarity with another. It wasn't that I was scared of commitment, per say, it was more that I had never met anyone that I was willing to take the next step with, and that fact didn't bother me. If it happened, it happened. I would not be relentlessly searching for it.
Our problems rested in the fact that Bella and I were closer than most married couples could boast. We were friends and companions and had seen each other through the highest of the good times and the pits of the bad. We were cemented together in a way that neither she nor I could understand. We were perfect for one another in every way. Every way but one.
While I appreciated Bella's beauty – inside and out – there wasn't an ounce of attraction. I'd never in my life felt drawn toward female curves, soft contours or pretty smiles. I would be lying to say that I hadn't resented the hell out myself for it at times. Sometimes I couldn't help but let my mind explore a fantasy in which I couldn't resist Bella's body, just as in reality I couldn't resist her mind, her personality and her soul. But it was no use. No matter how much I wished I could will my soul to want something different, it would not change the inner workings of me that could not be changed. We both knew and understood that, and yet, we could not sever all of the ways that we were connected.
I did love Bella.
I sighed, throwing the book on the couch and standing once more. My eyes lingered on the crumbled paper on the table in front of me, and I thought of Edward.
Edward. Him, I was attracted to. Or had been. Until he opened his mouth. His comments this evening had made me angry more because of Bella than myself. He'd hurt her feelings, and that was never something I took lightly.
With a sigh of frustration, I grabbed at the yellow paper and unfolded it to reveal a number. It was just a number. No words. No explanations. Just a ten digit number.
What the fuck am I supposed to do with this?
I liked Emmett. I trusted him, and I respected him for the understanding he showed about Bella and I. As mentioned before, decent guys who could do so were few and far between. Even more rare were the guys actually worth her time.
With these thoughts in mind, I pulled out my cell and dialed the numbers, anxiety dancing inside my stomach as it rang.
The voice startled me.
"Hey, I'm glad you called. Is Bella near you?"
"No. She's in bed," I responded quietly.
"Good. I wanted to talk to you about some things."
I sat slowly, feeling an overwhelming sense of foreboding. It was the feeling you get during the calm before a monstrous, destructive storm; the feeling that was sheer instinct with no logic or evidence to back it up.
"Okay," I finally said, even less assured.
"Edward and I are brothers, which you already know. Actually, we're half brothers."
He paused for what seemed like some significant purpose while I waited quietly, feeling my stomach turn and not understanding why.
"My mom had left my dad when I was little. It wasn't long before she met Edward's dad and they married. She sent me away – to live with my dad about a year after she married Edward's dad. Edward was still a baby. Edward and I never really got a chance to know each other until after my mom finally left that asshole...we were raised differently, Jasper...and Edward...well...he had to deal with a lot of stuff before they left."
The tone of his voice made the hairs on my arms stand to attention. "What do you mean?"
"There are things I can't tell you, Jasper. Things that aren't mine to tell. I just...I like you, Jasper. I like you a lot. Bella trusts you with her life, and that, in turn, makes me trust you, too."
"Okay..." I said, my voice now dangerously close to a whisper. "So...why..." I cleared my throat. "Why did you want to talk to me then?"
"Will you call him?"
"Why me? He doesn't even like me, Emmett."
"Yes he does, Jasper. He likes you a lot, which is why he was such an asshole. He pushed you away so he could keep those walls up. I know you don't understand, but Edward needs you. I can't tell you why right now or how I know it's you he needs."
I sighed. "Why?"
"Jasper," he paused. "Will you call him?"
The night had turned into one of the most confusing, and quite frankly, frightening, nights of my life. "I really don't understand, but...if it's important to you, yes I will call him."
"I know you don't get it now...but you will. Thank you, Jasper. Got a pen? I'll give you his number."
I took down the number, and we ended the call. I couldn't move; I could barely breathe as I sat staring at the number I had written down. None of this made sense. I picked up the paper I'd scribbled on and headed to my room across the hall from Bella's. Her light was out and all was quiet, so I slipped into my own room, closed the door, and leaned against it for a long moment.
I sighed and put the paper on top of my dresser followed by my glasses. I dreaded the phone call I had just promised to make, and I couldn't understand the necessity for it. However, Emmett had asked, and I felt like I owed him at least that much.
I stripped from my clothing, pulling on a pair of flannel pajama pants and crawling into bed. My head swam with thoughts I couldn't fully form and a nagging feeling, unsettled and unsound. I fell into a restless sleep dreaming of Edward...Edward and a faceless, nameless monster of the past.
A/N: Okay so if you haven't guessed already, this fic will be a slash. It's not going to be immediate and there will be lots of Bella, too (for all of us who harbor the fantasy of having a best friend like Jasper ;-) )I hope you enjoy :-)
Big thanks to the girls who I have started lovingly referring to as my fab four ;-) marabarella and NCChris for beta'ing and seriously keeping my words from sounding first grade. :-) Then to my girls Clurrabella and addictedtotwilight79 – my creativity consultants ;-)
Would love to hear what you think so far! :-)