Author's note: This is not a happy story. I won't be so presumptuous as to assume you would need tissues, but it is a possibility. This o/s was originally submitted under the Twislash Unveiled pen name for their anonymous slash contest in which it won first place in public voting.
Thanks to TwilightMundi for the beta work.
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. No copyright infringement intended. This story contains mature content. If you aren't old enough to vote you really shouldn't be reading this.
Edward had always thought of his life in shades of color. The anger he felt was carnelian, deep and dark. The despair that was his constant passenger was cerulean streaked with gray. The times he felt joy were sunglow, not quite as bright once painted on canvas. His mother was flamingo pink, his father a shade of umber, but Jasper… Jasper was always yellow.
They were at dinner with their mothers. The prominent color that day was ochre; there were wooden dividers set up between tables, each cut with multiple diamond shapes. The yellow placard on the table was a stark contrast to the muted earth tones surrounding it. Jasper's eyes curiously flitted across the shapes in the divider, contemplating speaking his mind.
"Did you know that some diamonds are rhombuses?" Jasper said, turning his eyes on Edward and then shifting them to his mother. Edward remembered the way Jasper's slate gray eyes gleamed with newfound knowledge and the burning desire to share.
"What are they teaching these kids in kindergarten?" Jasper's mother voiced. "I remember learning colors in kindergarten, not algebra or geometry or whatever a rhombus involves." She shook her head in disbelief, her mahogany ponytail bouncing. Jasper just shrugged and grinned at Edward before taking a large bite of his burger.
As Jasper pulled the sandwich from his mouth, a smidge of mustard plopped onto his navy blue shirt. Edward laughed.
"Oh, man, this is my favorite shirt," Jasper whined as his mother reached for a napkin.
"I kind of like it with some yellow on it," Edward said, taking a long drink of his chocolate milk. Jasper put his chin to his chest, trying to see his shirt the way that Edward did.
"I think it makes it look better," Edward explained further, nodding his head and causing his unruly, coppery hair to fall into his eyes. He quickly swept it away because he wanted Jasper to know he was serious.
Jasper giggled a bit and pushed his mother's hands away; she grinned at him and stopped her attempts to clean the spot.
"Really?" he questioned cocking his head to the side.
"Yeah, it was way too clean and plain before," Edward said.
Jasper dipped his finger in the blotch of mustard on his shirt, swirling and smearing it against the dark navy blue before bringing it to his lips and licking it off. "I hope it won't come off then," Jasper smiled.
Edward liked the way the mustard stained Jasper's fingernails and created a misshapen circle on his shirt. He decided he would be a painter and yellow would be his favorite color, and, maybe, one day he could paint a picture of Jasper.
Looking towards his mother he said, "Mommy, I want a real paintbrush."
Her emerald eyes –so much like her son's— sparkled as her cherry lips curled.
"Absolutely, sweet pea," she replied.
Jasper had come over to Edward's house along with his mother for some chocolate chip cookies and lemonade.
After the four of them had finished their snack, Edward and Jasper were banished outside so that their mother's could talk about "grown up stuff." The boys were more than happy to comply.
Running outdoors, they excitedly raised their voices when speaking to each other, enlivened by the warm summer sun on their arms and faces.
Edward turned his closed eyes straight toward the fiery orb in the robin's egg blue sky and delighted at the almost orange color inside of his eyelids; his favorite part was when he opened them and he would see little streaks of yellow retreating from his vision.
Jasper always laughed when Edward did that, but joined in every time. The colors he saw were different; Edward was sure of it.
"Do you want to play hide and seek?" Edward asked.
"No. We're going to be third graders and we're too old for hide and seek," Jasper replied.
"I didn't think you could ever be too old for hide and seek," Edward mumbled, then spoke up asking, "Well…what do you want to play then?" He honestly couldn't imagine anything more thrilling than trying to stifle his giggles while Jasper attempted to search for him. The funniest part was when Jasper would get so frustrated he would cry, and then Edward would laugh out loud, giving himself away; Edward always did it on purpose, and Jasper always said he was not really crying.
"I want to play soldiers," Jasper answered, searching through Edward's back yard for sticks that could be pretend guns.
"Mom says that I shouldn't play like I have a gun," Edward said, shifting his feet nervously. He didn't want Jasper to think he was a baby.
"She won't ever know, Edward. I won't tell her and neither will you. It'll be fun, ok?" Jasper urged, handing Edward a stick that was practically a tree limb.
"Ok," Edward said reluctantly. Jasper was his best friend, and he wanted him to be happy.
They were careful not to play directly in front of any windows, and Edward had to admit that pretending to be a soldier was pretty fun, until he had to play dead. It made Edward uneasy to lay on the ground so still and so quiet; he liked it even less when Jasper did it.
His favorite part was when Jasper let him paint his face with mud. The soil was a lovely shade of sienna, and it seemed as though Jasper's skin under the sensitive pads of his thumbs was made of peach jersey cotton, and Edward took longer than necessary applying the camouflage. As Edward made the final swipes across Jasper's cheekbones he abruptly had the urge to go inside and try to paint Jasper again, as he had done so many times over the last few years.
"Edward?" Jasper asked.
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Uh-huh," Edward replied. Jasper's features were stone; Edward had never seen him look so grave. He found it difficult to take Jasper seriously when his face was caked with mud.
"Where's your dad?"
"Oh," Edward blurted in surprise. He thought it was a strange question to ask; they'd known each other a long time. "I see him every other weekend."
"I heard my mom talking to your mom on the phone about it, and, well, I'm sorry he's not around much. I'm sorry I haven't said I'm sorry sooner. You're not mad are you?" Jasper finished, looking concerned.
"Course I'm not mad," Edward replied. "I don't need a dad all the time. My mom is awesome, and I've got you for a best friend. I don't really need anything else."
Jasper chuckled; it sounded bright and yellow. "You're my best friend, too. I'll share my dad…if you want."
Edward stood under the lukewarm shower spray, his flushed cheeks pressed against the cool, ash grey tiles of the locker room wall. He was so tired of baseball, and decided that next year he wouldn't play, no matter how much Jasper begged him. Anyway, next year would be high school, and he knew that participating in any sport would be just that much harder.
He was brought out of his exhausted stupor by the sounds of the other boys laughing as they entered the locker room; Edward always made sure he was the first in the showers, and generally liked to be finished by the time the rest of the team came in. That day was a rarity, as he was more worn than usual.
Jasper abruptly came up behind him, slapping him on the shoulder.
"Good job today, man," Jasper said, while Edward closed his eyes and turned his face, placing his forehead on the wall.
"You don't have to say that, Jas, I know I suck at sports," Edward replied, his voice cracking a bit towards the end.
"No, Eddie, you're way fast! You should see yourself out there. I'm gonna have your mom record you next game. Seriously," Jasper replied. Edward heard him turn on the spray to the shower closest to him, but he firmly kept his head down.
"Yeah, well, it only helps if I can hit the ball," Edward laughed humorlessly. "I'm no athlete."
"You're getting so much better. Maybe you should stop sneaking cigarettes from your mom's purse," Jasper said.
"Just wait until next year in high school. We'll have to practice a bunch more and you'll be perfect by the time we graduate," he continued.
"I," Edward paused to swallow; he hated saying no to Jasper, "don't think I want to play next year."
"What? Why?" Jasper spluttered. Edward looked towards him finally. His brow was furrowed and his mouth hung open. He was also, quite obviously, naked. Edward didn't like to admit –even to himself—how that had been affecting him over the past year.
"I think I would rather paint more. Maybe do some sculpting. You know…do something I would enjoy with my spare time?" Edward finished, leaving his statement sounding like a question, as though he needed confirmation from his best friend to do what he liked; which, he'd always felt like he did.
"Oh," Jasper looked down in disappointment for a few seconds before his cheeks turned sunset pink, and he looked towards the wall. He began fidgeting and fingering the knobs for the shower, turning his full body away from Edward. "Well, I understand that. I-I'll miss you out there. You really are good."
"I only played to hang out with you," Edward stated. He wanted to make sure Jasper understood that his decision to quit baseball was not because he didn't want to be friends anymore. "I still do want to hang out with you, just not by playing ball together anymore. Is that okay?"
"Sure, it's okay, Eddie." Jasper abruptly turned off the shower without finishing washing and wrapped his fluffy, yellow towel around his waist. "I'll wait for you outside, alright?"
"Okay," Edward replied, watching Jasper's retreating form. It was then he looked towards his groin and realized he was half-erect. Embarrassment washed over him in a haze of red, and he felt his cheeks flame ruby.
"Damn it," he muttered, once again placing his face against the cold wall, attempting to calm himself.
Finishing his shower as quickly as possible, Edward dressed and rushed outside to find Jasper waiting on him. He smiled at him awkwardly.
"Do you want to come to my house for dinner? I know my mom wouldn't mind. You can bring your mom, too. Dad's out of town. You know how our moms like to gossip and stuff. I'm sure your mom would want to," Jasper babbled. Edward could tell he felt awkward, as well, but was making his best effort to ignore it. It made Edward like him more than he already did.
"That's a great idea," Edward replied, making a game of kicking gravels across the sidewalk. They looked towards each other and laughed, Jasper joining in on the game.
Walking into the hospital bathroom, Edward closed the door and locked it behind him. He turned on the light which burned his eyes as its dying fluorescent bulb flickered.
Everything in this place is dying, he thought, as he glared at himself in the mirror. He was seventeen and a half, and his mother was in the adjacent room about to succumb to cancer.
From where he stood staring at his reflection, he reached for the light switch flicking it off, then on, then off, then on, trying to catch that second when the onyx of his pupil fully embraced the Kelly green of his iris before it constricted. He did that for so long that he started to see yellow spots in his vision; he immediately felt comforted.
Jasper, he thought. He wanted to see Jasper. Since starting high school the two boys rarely saw each other anymore. Not that they weren't still best friends; they were just so different. Jasper played football in the fall and baseball in the spring; Edward spent most of his spare time holed up in his room creating something. Where Jasper's skin was tan from spending time outdoors, Edward's was ivory.
They spent some time together on Saturdays, but it wasn't nearly enough. Edward still visited with his father every other weekend, however much he didn't want to; his mom still insisted. At that moment, though, the need to see Jasper was overwhelming.
The humming of the garish lights overhead caused his already aching head to split, and he turned the light off with a flourish, reveling in the darkness for a few seconds before exiting.
His breath hitched every time he saw his mother, and that time was no different. It was as though in the miniscule moments he was not in her presence he would completely forget how sallow her skin was, her labored inhalations, or the perpetual sheen of sweat across her brow. Her arms, that had once firmly pushed him on the swings at the park, were so bony and feeble; her hair that was normally so coiffed and clean was dirty and clinging to the perspiration on her forehead. Edward walked to her bedside and gently swept the tendrils away before placing a kiss on her forehead, the salty flavor or her skin invading his mouth.
Edward's father entered the room as he was backing away from his mother. Edward barely glanced at him before returning his gaze to her. His Dad walked up to him and put a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"I'm so sorry about this, son," he said. Edward looked towards him again and saw his lips pursed, a circle of white around them where they were pressed together so tightly.
"Isn't it a conflict of interest that you're her doctor?" Edward asked petulantly, deliberately running his eyes up and down his father's umber scrubs and white coat.
"I'm not her doctor officially, Edward. I just wanted to make sure…." he tapered off. Edward scoffed, finding it funny that the man before him was arrogant enough to think he could cure cancer.
"I don't want you to make her decline faster," Edward retorted, somewhat angry that his dad was pretending to care.
"Edward…How many times do I have to tell you? It wasn't a lack of love that caused your mother and me to separate. We simply—"
"Couldn't get along…right, I have heard that."
The older man sighed loudly, rubbing his cheeks vigorously. "Why don't you go get some rest? I'll call you if anything changes, ok? You look like hell."
"I'm fine. I've been sleeping in that chair over there and it's quite—"
"You can even go to my place if you want. Esme is there and she—"
"If you're making me leave I'm going home. It's closer anyway." Edward turned to exit, massaging his temples attempting to soothe the blinding pain behind his eyes. He did crave fresh air; that room smelled heavily of sickness.
"You know that once this is done, you'll be moving in with me. You might as well get used to staying there."
Edward spun around slowly and stared at his father. "Like hell I will. I can't believe you would even…. How could you bring that up? Now? Forget it; I don't want to talk about this. Goodbye." He swiveled on his heel and left the room, wishing he could've slammed the door without the risk of waking his mother.
On the way back home, Edward tried to call Jasper's phone three times and each one went straight to voicemail. His vision blurred as he gripped the taupe steering wheel, his knuckles white. Continually he tried to blink back the traitorous tears that attempted to overflow. The normally dreary sky overhead was cruelly clear, attempting to mock Edward with its charmingly offensive sunset.
He pulled in his driveway and dragged his feet into the house going into his mother's room. Throwing himself atop her comforter, he brought her flamingo pink pillow to his chest, burying his face in it as he let the tears seep out of the corners of his clenched eyelids. Edward inhaled deeply, the smell of grapefruit that he always associated with her invading his nostrils.
Edward heard a knock at the door but ignored it. The knock got more persistent, and he just put the pillow over his head. He realized he'd forgotten to lock the door when he heard it open, still not able to make himself care. Hopefully it was a thief who didn't mind ridding the world of a witness.
The feet shuffled their way down the hall and abruptly stopped. Edward felt a presence staring at him and lifted his head. Jasper stood in the doorway holding a bottle of whiskey and a box of Twinkies. Edward chuckled darkly, rubbing his red-rimmed eyes trying to clear away the evidence of his weakness.
"It's okay, Eddie. I'd be crying, too. You can do that in front on me," Jasper said while walking over to Edward and sitting next to him on the bed, laying the box and bottle next to him. Edward had insisted that everyone stop calling him Eddie years ago, but, for some reason, didn't mind when Jasper did it.
"How did you know I'd be here?" Edward asked.
"Your dad called me awhile ago. Said he was going to try to make you come home and then he called when you left. Told me you'd be here," Jasper said, putting a hand on Edward's shoulder; the gesture from him was much more soothing than it had been from his father. "I ran out so quick I forgot my phone," he finished, throwing his empty hands in the air.
The ache in Edward's spirit eased a bit with Jasper's proximity; it was as though Jasper was made of light, and he emanated that wherever he went.
"How'd you get that whiskey?"
"My Dad just bought it a few days ago," Jasper chuckled.
"Won't you get in trouble?" Edward sat up. He didn't like the thought of Jasper getting grounded because of him.
"I think, if he notices, he'll understand. If not? I don't really give a shit. We need this more than he does right now," Jasper said, picking up the bottle and sloshing the amber liquid around.
"Shall we?" Jasper asked, grabbing the box of Twinkies and jumping off the bed. Edward nodded and followed.
Several hours later the two boys were sufficiently intoxicated. Edward had managed to talk Jasper into sitting still for a bit while he tried to paint him again. That didn't go over very well, as Jasper kept slipping off the stool and wouldn't stop singing. Edward didn't mind and felt he had done a fairly good job depicting Jasper's hands. He finally conceded defeat and gave Jasper the go ahead to meander around his room.
Stumbling about drunkenly, Jasper squinted at the different paintings, sketches, and sculptures that littered Edward's room. He made appreciative sounds from time to time, which Edward took as praise.
"I haven't told you in a long time, Eddie, but you're really fucking good at this stuff," Jasper slurred, nodding and pointing his finger at Edward.
Edward broke out into raucous laughter because Jasper's right eye was squinted closed while he left remained open. He tried it too, and understood why Jasper was doing it; it seemed as though things became clearer looking through one eye when he was drunk. The realization only made him laugh harder.
"What's so funny?" Jasper said, attempting to sound angry, but his giggles ruined the illusion.
"You're funny, Popeye!" Edward replied, his voice loud even though he hadn't meant for it to be. His lame joke had him laughing so hard he couldn't breathe, and he sat in the floor gasping for air. Jasper was having a similar problem and came over to sit next to Edward.
"You know what, Eddie?" Jasper said between fits of giggles. "I love you. A whole shit ton!" he finished, laughing some more.
"I love you, too, Jas. Also a shit ton," Edward replied, the words sounding strange but nice in his ears.
"I miss hanging out like this. Stuff isn't the same without you around," Jasper said, his laughter dying away. Edward nodded in complete agreement.
"This shit with your mom sucks, man. I wish there was something I could do." Jasper turned his head to look at Edward, all traces of laughter gone. Some unknown emotion flitted across his features and was gone before Edward could decipher it.
"You're doing plenty," Edward confirmed, maintaining eye contact with Jasper. His gray eyes were boring into Edward; his brow was creased in the middle. Edward wished he could read his mind.
"You know what, Eddie?" Jasper asked again. "I think I love you more than I should." He puckered his lips and nodded his head slowly as though rolling the thought around his brain. Edward suddenly felt very sober.
Jasper's eyes noticeably looked at Edward's mouth before he closed the few inches between them and pressed his lips against Edward's. Jasper's lips were soft and warm as they melded with Edward's; their mouths fit together like a puzzle Edward hadn't known he'd been trying to solve.
Edward closed his eyes as yellow clouded his vision. Jasper's mouth enveloping his was excruciatingly pleasurable. Nothing mattered in that moment as Jasper's tongue darted out, sweeping across Edward's lower lip. He opened his mouth for Jasper as the piquant flavor of whiskey and sugar blossomed on his tongue.
Jasper hummed against Edward's lips, the sound going straight to his groin. Edward's hands traversed across the heated skin of Jasper's cheeks and into his honey-colored hair, tugging gently as his fingers curled in it. Pushing Edward back until he was flat on the floor, Jasper crawled over him, covering him with his body.
"Edward," Jasper panted out, "I think we should have sex." Jasper was obviously still very drunk. Edward looked at him, shock plainly displayed. It was one thing to kiss, another thing completely to…
"I don't mean right now," Jasper pressed his lips to Edward's again, the rightness of it overwhelming, before continuing, "I've thought about it a lot lately. I want my firsts to be with you, all of them. It's just…I trust you and you trust me," Jasper said -his speech still clearly affected- then laying his head on Edward's shoulder. Edward had no idea what to say, and feared what Jasper would think when he was sober if Edward said the wrong thing.
Edward found out a few seconds later that he wouldn't have to say anything, because Jasper started snoring.
They wouldn't speak of that night for some time to come, because the next morning, Edward's mother died.
Jasper was leaving in two days. Edward had never felt so lost.
Since before he could read, Edward had looked towards Jasper as an extension of himself, and in a few days time, that extension would stretch over a thousand miles.
When they were children, Jasper wanted to play soldier; as they had grown, Jasper decided that he would be a soldier. Jasper wasted no time after turning eighteen and had enlisted in the Marine Corps as soon as he had been able.
Edward was sickened by this, but had to support him; Jasper always supported Edward whether he agreed with his decisions or not.
Jasper would have basic training for thirteen weeks. Thirteen weeks Edward would suffer through without seeing him. Then he would have infantry training, and there was no way to tell when Edward would see him again. He couldn't pretend to understand anything about the military.
Getting ready for Jasper's going away party, Edward padded through his apartment in his socks. He didn't like to walk around with his shoes on; the only carpeted place was his bedroom and the soles of his footwear echoed everywhere else, reminding him of how alone he was.
After his mother died, Edward had lived with his father until he was eighteen and could take control of his mother's assets. Their house had been sold, but Edward was able to get a nice apartment close to the university he would be attending in a few short weeks. He was relieved to be away from his father and generally liked the quiet, but he also liked having the option of Jasper's laughter bouncing off the high ceilings and ringing through the cold, silver fixtures.
Sitting on the small bench next to his door, he slid on his russet shoes, pulling the laces as tightly as possible so that they cut into his fingers creating pallid lines surrounded by scarlet to appear on each digit. It felt raw and real and Edward relished it.
Edward's mind went somewhere else on the drive to Jasper's parent's house; he couldn't remember how he arrived there. Edward composed himself, looking in the vanity mirror on his car's visor and practicing fake smiles –of which he had seven different varieties. His teeth were pearly white and his lips chapped and too rosy, but overall he thought his expressions were rather convincing.
Counting his footsteps to the entrance -it was always the same number- he knocked on the door cautiously. Jasper's mother answered it and promptly brought Edward into a fierce embrace.
"I still can't believe my two boys are so grown up and handsome!" she exclaimed. Edward could smell alcohol on her breath, but did not blame her for having a few drinks. "And my baby is leaving us, Edward. How will we make it?"
Edward plastered on fake smile number three and shook his head. "I can't even begin to imagine how," he answered quite honestly. Jasper's mother just flung her arms around him again and tugged him further into the house.
Being in that house made Edward feel overly-large. He didn't visit Jasper in his home very often, and most of his memories of it were through a child's perspective; still, it felt welcoming and the scent that permeated the air made him think of action figures and cartoons. He hoped it always would.
Jasper must have heard his mother's boisterous salutation because he emerged from the hallway, smiling while stuffing the remainder of a sandwich into his mouth. He approached Edward and wrapped his arms around him with enthusiasm that mirrored his mother's. Holding on a few moments longer than necessary, Jasper finished the hug with a back-breaking squeeze causing Edward to lose his breath.
"Are you sure you want to do this honey? You really don't have to," his mom stated, her eyes growing large and wet.
"Mom, I already told you I've signed papers. I can't back out now, and I don't want to," Jasper replied, rolling his eyes and mouthing, "she's drunk," to Edward.
Edward chose fake smile number seven and forced a chuckle and mouthed back, "I figured."
Feeling uncomfortable in the packed house, Edward wondered how soon he could leave without hurting Jasper's feelings. It wasn't that he didn't want to spend time with Jasper –because he did—he had just never been good at sharing him.
"Wondering when you can leave?" Jasper asked, catching Edward looking around anxiously.
"No, man, just looking to see who I knew," Edward lied.
"It's okay, Eddie. I was wondering the same thing. I was hoping you might want to hang out after all this dies down?"
"Absolutely," Edward answered giving him a genuine smile.
"Great," Jasper grinned. "I'm going to mingle with these people so we can get out of here ASAP. You should get a drink. Dad totally made his liquor cabinet free for all."
Edward took Jasper's advice and had a few drinks, passing the time talking to some of his former classmates.
He caught glimpses of Jasper here and there as he visited and charmed those around him. He was so charismatic and genuine, his smile wide and inviting, and the dimple in his left cheek was so perfectly shaped that Edward was certain the tip of tongue would fit inside. He shook his head when he realized he was staring, attempting to quell his impious thoughts.
People were beginning to disperse, and Edward sought out Jasper's mother and father to tell them goodbye, finding Jasper with them.
"Eddie!" Jasper greeted. "I was just telling Mom and Dad how I was going to drive you home in your car. You've had way more to drink than me, and you can just bring me back in the morning, right?" It was the first Edward had heard of it, but wasn't going to disagree, even though he was fairly certain that Jasper had had more to drink than he did.
"Right," Edward answered. "Safety first." Edward attempted to cement his drunkenness for Jasper's parents by giving them fake smile number six. It seemed to work because they said their goodbyes to Jasper, and his mom once again squeezed Edward with all her might, reminding Jasper to be home for dinner the following evening.
The drive to Edward's apartment was mostly silent. Once they were within a few miles of their destination Jasper began speaking.
"How's that painting coming along?" Jasper asked, glancing towards Edward. Edward knew which painting Jasper spoke of without having to ask.
"Still a work in progress. I'll finish it someday," he answered.
Jasper sighed as he ran hand over the steering wheel.
"I saw all the sketches you'd made of me. You know, that night before…" Jasper trailed off, discomfited about mentioning something painful. Edward thought about that night every day for many reasons.
"Yeah, I know. What about them?" Edward asked feeling embarrassed. He hadn't thought about all the papers that littered his room with sketches of Jasper's shoulders, fingers, cheeks, nose or eyes.
"Why are there so many?"
"Umm," Edward tried to think of a reasonable excuse, "You have a very symmetrical face. It's easy to draw." A larger lie Edward had never told; in fact, one of the reasons there were so many was because Edward could never get it right.
"Oh," came the whispered reply.
Jasper pulled into Edward's driveway and parked the car.
Once inside, Edward immediately started taking off his shoes as Jasper strode in without pausing. His footsteps echoed throughout the dark space. Edward did not want to remember the sounds of Jasper's feet in his apartment.
"Take off your shoes," Edward called as he heard Jasper fumbling around for the light switch in the living room.
"You're so weird," he replied, evidently finding a lamp as soft, white light flooded from the entryway.
Edward walked into the doorway and leaned against the frame as Jasper plopped down on the couch, leaning his head back. His throat was plainly exposed and Edward saw him swallow, his Adam's apple bobbing.
"I can't believe I really signed up for that shit, man," Jasper blurted, running a hand over his face.
"It is unbelievable," Edward agreed.
"Do you think it was a bad decision?" Jasper's head perked up and he looked towards Edward.
Edward carefully formulated his words. He didn't want to give anything away. "Well, you've always wanted to be a soldier, so, no; I don't think it's a bad decision for you. Everyone you're leaving behind will be worried, but proud, regardless."
"What about you?"
"What about me?"
"Will you be worried? Proud?"
Edward clenched his eyes briefly and walked over to the couch and sat next to Jasper, slapping on fake smile number two.
"Yes, I'll be worried. Yes, I am very proud of you. You're my best friend, and, as far as I'm concerned, the only family I have," Edward said, his answer leaving him blue and cold because it was true. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't dreading the next four years." He laughed without a trace of humor.
"Nothing more than a best friend?"
Feeling Jasper's gaze on him, he looked up. Jasper's expression was open and expectant. Edward couldn't speak; he'd found himself in another situation where he wasn't sure what Jasper wanted to hear. He knew the truth: Jasper was everything. He could never say that out loud.
Part of him wanted to shut Jasper down, play dumb and pretend like he had no clue what he was talking about, but the biggest part of him felt hope spring forward and circulate through his veins. He decided that hope was lavender—a color with the possibility of going much lighter or darker.
"Edward, I can't leave without… I need to know… I'm sorry to do this now, but… Do you remember that night, Eddie? That night with the whiskey?" Jasper asked.
"You remember everything?"
"Yes." Edward tore his gaze away from Jasper's stormy eyes and looked at the floor.
Jasper was still wearing his shoes. Edward gestured towards his feet. "Can you take those off, please?"
Chuckling to himself, Jasper propped his foot on Edward's knee. "Would you mind doing it for me?"
Of course Edward didn't mind.
He untied the laces on Jasper's pumpkin and cream sneaker –left foot—and slid it off. Edward chuckled; Jasper was wearing yellow socks.
"That's your favorite color, right?" Jasper asked. For some inexplicable reason Edward felt his eyes burning. He nodded gathering up Jasper's other foot to remove that shoe as well.
"Edward, I'm in lo—"
"Don't," Edward interrupted, panic stiffening his chest like rust, "I can't hear that and watch you go." It wasn't that Edward didn't want to hear him say it –he did—but wouldn't that mean he was losing more when Jasper left?
"Me, too," Edward said, eyes still on Jasper's feet. He ran his hand up Jasper's pant leg along his calf and hooked his index finger in the brightly colored sock. Edward pulled it off slowly and repeated the action on Jasper's other foot.
Edward hadn't realized how empty his hands had been until they were filled with Jasper's skin. His fingers traced the protrusion of his ankle bone, ghosted over the iceberg veins, and inadvertently tickled Jasper's toes.
"Is this ok?" Edward asked as he pushed up Jasper's pant leg, lowering his head to pepper kisses across Jasper's shin. Jasper inhaled audibly and Edward could hear his teeth chattering.
Finally looking at Jasper again, Edward saw how his cheeks were flushed vermillion, his nostrils flared, his eyes half-closed, and his mouth slightly open.
Sliding his hands over Jasper's shins, across his thighs, on top of his hips, up his quivering stomach, Edward rested his right hand over Jasper's thundering heart, the pulse below becoming his own.
Edward hummed as his traversing palms rested on either side of Jasper's face, his thumb swiping across coral lips that were as warm as the color and smooth as a stone that had rested for ages on the bottom of a stream. Jasper's breath fanned across his digit, moistening it with the humid air that was expelled.
"Do you still want to…?" Edward couldn't voice the full question, afraid of the answer.
"Yes," Jasper replied, his hands finding their way under Edward's shirt, fingers digging into his shoulder blades as he was pulled down into a kiss. Edward fell into it willingly.
Passion and love were always painted as shades of red, but as Jasper undressed him, all Edward could think of was a light color: the color of the sun, of mustard, of a laugh, of Twinkies, of a fluffy towel, of a pair of socks, of Jasper.
Their bodies pressing together naked caused Edward to tremble. Edward's erection was resting against Jasper's and when he moved his hips, he felt pleasure curling in his toes.
"Umm, Eddie, do you have any," Jasper paused looking away, "lubrication?" Edward would've laughed if he hadn't been mortified as well.
"Yeah… in my bedroom. Do you want to go in there?"
Jasper only answered by standing and leading the way. Edward took the opportunity to watch the sinuous muscles of his back move as he walked. The curve of his spine was so elegantly sculpted, stopping at two perfectly round dimples above the swell of his ass. His skin was smooth, tan, and glistening with perspiration, and the curls at the nape of his neck were visibly darker than the rest of his hair.
They silently made their way into the bedroom, and Edward shut the door behind them, unsure of why he did it. He made his way to his bedside table and retrieved what Jasper had asked for, handing it to him.
"How do you want to do this, Edward?" Jasper asked, wrapping his arms around Edward's middle and bringing him close.
The one time he had allowed himself to fantasize about it, Jasper had been top. Edward knew it would be uncomfortable, but was overwhelmed with the need to feel every bit of Jasper, to be connected to him, to share his body with him.
Trailing kisses up Jasper's throat, Edward whispered in his ear, "I want you inside of me." Voicing those words aloud caused Edward's already turgid cock to pulse impossibly harder, and he knew Jasper felt the same, because he could feel Jasper's erection weeping on his stomach where they embraced.
Releasing Jasper, Edward laid himself flat on his bed, and Jasper wasted no time before lying on top of him. The kiss that followed was fervent and passionate, needy yet giving. The meeting of their mouths as they prepared to experience real intimacy for the first time was a culmination of years of boyish playtimes, exchanged confidences, supportive words, and sympathetic ears.
Edward heard Jasper open the cap on the bottle and his lips separated from Edward's, leaving a path of pinpricks and shivers in their wake, as they travelled down his body. Edward gasped when Jasper placed open mouth kisses across his shaft before his lips moved over Edward's hips.
Gently, Jasper nudged apart Edward's thighs and brought one slick finger to his entrance. Edward lifted one knee, putting his foot flat on the bed to give Jasper better access.
Jasper circled the tight opening before slowly inserting one finger. Edward let out a slow breath; that hadn't been so bad. Once Edward had grown used to that, Jasper inserted a second finger, and it was a bit uncomfortable. Jasper moved his fingers around, stretching Edward to accommodate him, and finally added a third finger. That was very uncomfortable, but Edward was past caring and wanted Jasper.
"I'm ready," Edward said, looking down at Jasper.
"I don't want to hurt you, Eddie—"
"It's okay. I don't think there's any way around that. It's you, though, and that's what matters. That's what makes it okay," Edward said, wondering if he'd made any sense.
Jasper nodded and coated himself –probably more than was necessary—with lubrication. He hooked his left arm under Edward's right knee and used his other hand to line himself up with Edward's opening. As smoothly as possible, his pushed past the tight ring of Edward's entrance.
He stopped about halfway in as Edward's eyes were clenched, his brow furrowed, and his breath coming out in short gasps.
"Are you going to be okay?" Jasper asked.
Edward nodded, trying to find his voice. It hurt, but he didn't want to tell Jasper that. "Are you all the way in yet?" he asked.
"No. I'm sorry. Can you relax at all?" Jasper asked. Edward could tell Jasper was about to give up, and he didn't want that. Edward thought about all the time that would pass before he could be with Jasper like that again, and he took a deep breath, unclenching his muscles.
"Move," Edward said, and to prove he was okay, gently thrust his hips upwards, pushing Jasper deeper inside. Jasper moaned at the friction, and in one more motion, rested with his length completely buried in Edward.
The discomfort and the pain were nothing compared to the fullness and rightness and reality of Jasper as close to Edward as humanly possible. Edward knew he never wanted anyone else that intimately, never wanted anyone else to know his body from the inside out.
Jasper withdrew from Edward and thrust back in, a long, low moan escaping his lips.
"You can speed up, Jas," Edward breathed, his fingers digging into Jasper's back.
"If I do, I'll…nnnnn…It feels better than I could've imagined, Eddie," he paused to pull out and roll his hips back towards Edward, "God, oooh…"
Edward reveled in satisfaction knowing that Jasper's puckered brow, pursed lips, and tightly shut eyes were results of the offering of his body. The look of euphoria that embraced his features was Edward's doing.
It seemed that Jasper couldn't help but speed up, and his hips started moving faster. Edward met each snap of Jasper's hips, and the harder Jasper thrust into him the better it felt.
They moved together in tandem, a knot of thighs, fingers, lips, and tongues. Somewhere in their coupling they had blended and Edward thought of the most perfect shade of green: green for inexperience, a green that winter could not fade, green that meant life.
Grasping Edward's erection, Jasper frantically began stroking him. His thrusts had become frenzied, and beads of perspiration trickled down his nose, dripping on Edward and cooling his face. Edward raised his head in search of Jasper's lips, but found his chin; Edward nipped at it allowing his tongue to peak through his lips, creating a path across Jasper's jaw.
Edward felt his orgasm coiling in his spine and warming his abdomen, but he knew Jasper was much closer than he was. It didn't matter. What they were doing wasn't about release.
"Eddie," he panted, shaking his head, "I can't stop it…" Jasper groaned loudly, and his features screwed up even tighter than they already were as he inhaled sharply, holding his breath. "Ohhh, mmmm…" he cried, thrusting one final time, hiding his face in the crook of Edward's neck as he climaxed.
He raised his head to look at Edward and kissed him deeply. Without a word, Jasper began stroking Edward again.
The sweaty heat of Jasper's palm and the sight of him –naked and flushed — hovering over Edward brought him to the edge within a few moments. Jasper watched with curious eyes as Edward came in spurts, coating his hand and chest.
Few words were spoken as they cleaned up. They fell into bed together; Jasper was exhausted, but Edward felt enlivened.
As they lay next to each other, Jasper's eyes flitted across Edward's face and he reached out ghosting his fingertips over Edward's cheekbone.
"You know we can't tell anybody about this, right?" Jasper asked, a slight frown marring his features.
"I know," Edward answered. "Don't ask. Don't tell."
Holding on tightly to Jasper, Edward waited until his breathing reached a deep rhythm before slipping into his studio.
With large brush strokes, water colors, and lots of blending, Edward finished the painting of Jasper. It evolved into more than just that, however. Edward had painted every fleeting glance, each lonesome night, every brush of their hands, the meeting of their lips, the joining of their bodies, and it was all done in colors only they would understand.
Edward left the canvas to dry, satisfied with what he'd created.
Edward had never felt so out of place in his life.
Jasper's graduation had been a slew of marching, shouting, clicking, and stomping. Edward couldn't pick him out amongst the sea of tan and olive green men that all looked the same.
He needed to see him so badly, and his hips were aching from forcing himself to hold still.
Sitting with Jasper's parents had been a poor decision because his mom cried the whole time. Edward couldn't even bring himself to try to care about her feelings. He was being completely self-absorbed.
Once everything was finally over they were allowed to find Jasper to offer their congratulations. The people parted and Edward got a glimpse of Jasper speaking with another uniformed man, and he was smiling and nodding about something. Edward felt a flash of jealously which caused him to cringe; he pushed it down knowing better than to be worried.
Don't ask. Don't tell, remember? He thought to himself.
Jasper looked so different. The lines of his face were harder, his gray eyes were grayer, and his hair was almost all gone, but when his gaze met with Edward's and his smile grew exponentially, it was as though nothing was different. Jasper still wanted Edward, even though he wasn't allowed to say that.
He hugged his mother, shook his father's hand, but only nodded at Edward. Edward understood why, even though his arms ached from lack of color.
They were able to take Jasper out for a meal. Edward got to sit next to him.
When no one was paying attention, Jasper laid his hand on Edward's knee and squeezed it briefly. Underneath the table their thighs were touching, as were their feet. It would have to do, even though it was not nearly enough.
They pretended that they were just best friends. They pretended that they'd never touched each other intimately. They pretended they didn't want to press their lips together and taste, smell, and feel one another. They pretended they weren't in love because nobody was asking and they weren't telling.
Three hundred and thirty-seven days had passed since Edward had seen Jasper. Each of those days ended with Edward raptly watching the news, ears straining to hear anything that might mean something for Jasper. The images flickering across his screen of flat black smoke, orange-red flames, and sometimes bodies dotted with crimson did nothing to ease his mind, so generally he would turn it off, burying his head in his bedding, hiding from reality.
Six months Jasper had been overseas, one more month to go.
The letters they exchanged never said anything meaningful. Edward told Jasper he'd started welding and was doing well in school. Jasper told Edward it was hot outside and rarely rained. Edward knew, however, that the hand writing the words had once been lost in his hair, trailed down his spine, and entwined its fingers with his own; the words hardly mattered.
The worst part was the drive to school. He passed trees with yellow ribbons around them, caution lights, restaurants with neon signs, bumper stickers on cars. Yellow was everywhere except for where he needed it.
Edward would glare at the faded, ubiquitous 'support our troops' magnets that were on every other vehicle he saw. Support our troops, but only if they're straight, he would think bitterly.
"Only a little more than a year, Eddie," Jasper said, as he pushed into Edward, eliciting a throaty moan.
"I know," Edward panted, "Three hundred and eighty-nine days."
"God, I've missed the way your body holds me so tight," Jasper groaned, pulling back and thrusting into Edward.
Their bodies combined, sliding together amongst sweat, tears, needy hands, and puckered lips.
The static of reunion electrified the air surrounding them. Edward's hips bucked upwards as the sound of their flesh meeting filled his ears, creating an even cadence that orchestrated the breathy, concupiscent moans tumbling from both their mouths.
Edward's hands clenched the tangles of Jasper's hair, delighting in the fact that it had grown out so much. He held Jasper firmly in place, both men's mouths open as they tried to breathe and drink one another.
The handful of times they'd been together had taught Edward how to get past his discomfort, and he could thoroughly enjoy being with Jasper.
"I can't wait until you can fuck me every day," Edward said, one of his hands clasping Jasper's hip, encouraging him to thrust harder. Jasper breathed a wanton moan.
Putting Edward's knees over his shoulders, Jasper pounded into Edward, eliciting sharp pants and gasps from him. Edward bit into his lower lip, mindful of his volume.
"I like to hear you, Eddie, don't bite your lip," Jasper said, grasping Edward's cock and pumping him vigorously.
"God, Jas," Edward moaned, pushing his head into the bed.
Even though he barely saw him, Jasper knew his body better than he did. In turn, he knew Jasper's. He knew about the big freckle right over his heart, his appendectomy scar, how ticklish his toes were, and that his ear used to be pierced. He knew how Jasper rubbing his feet together as they laid in bed meant he was thinking about something, and Edward knew that no matter how hard he pressed, Jasper wouldn't talk about it.
They came together and collapsed into a heap of sticky limbs. Jasper rested his head on Edward's shoulder tracing triangular shapes around his nipples. Edward chuckled.
"You know, a lot of the guys have pictures of their girlfriends or wives that they like to show off. One day, one of my buddies asked me if I had a girl back home. I said no, and it was the truth, but I wanted so badly to tell him about you," Jasper raised his face to look at Edward, "even though it would probably get my ass kicked," he finished, laughing quietly, placing a soft kiss on Edward's mouth.
"When I'm done I want to tell my parents first. I'm nervous about Dad's reaction, but I think it'll make it better since it's you. You'll go with me right? To tell them?" Jasper asked.
"Of course, I will."
"Edward, I want you to know that I love being a soldier, and I'm not sure what I want to do once it's finished, but I lo—"
"Don't," Edward interrupted, "Tell me when you can tell everybody."
Jasper sighed in exasperation. "I've never understood that."
"You know that I feel the same," Edward added. After the years of spending time apart, Edward still could not bear the thought of watching Jasper's back after an admission of love.
"Whatever you say, Eddie. Three hundred and how many days?"
"Eighty-nine," Edward answered. Jasper kissed him again.
Edward felt guilty about Jasper quitting a job he loved, but not guilty enough to stop him. He had never been able to share Jasper easily.
"You're getting deployed again?" Edward said, squeezing the receiver of the phone, surprised when it didn't break.
"Yes," Jasper answered, already sounding as though he were on another continent, even though he was only in San Diego.
"This close to the end?"
"I have nine months left, and the deployment is for seven. I didn't figure I'd get out without another one."
"Jesus, Jas, why is this happening?" Edward knew he would cry once their phone conversation was over; there was no way of stopping it.
"It's what I signed up for, Eddie. I'll be fine. I was last time."
"Please, just, be smart, okay? Please, be careful." Worry burrowed into Edward's chest and settled in it like maggots in a corpse.
"Don't worry. Be happy," Jasper chuckled.
"You're so lame," Edward replied, a half-smile curling his lips.
"I miss you. This will be over so fast, Eddie, we've already been through the worst. Then we can start," Jasper whispered.
"I miss you, too." Edward felt like his life had been on pause. He was standing in a wide-open field, no trees, no mountains, no flowers, just waiting on direction from Jasper -waiting on everything to start.
"I have to call my mom now, ok?"
"Ok," Edward paused and sighed, "Bye, Jas."
Edward found out that Jasper would be coming home sooner than expected on an early Friday morning. He had been up all night welding, finishing a sculpture on which inspiration had suddenly struck.
Standing outside, he watched the sun break the horizon, the light streaming through his overly-large potted plant causing buttery orbs of sunshine to dance across his patio. He watched them leap about in a chaotic rhythm and chuckled as he brought his coffee cup to his lips.
His fingers embraced the hot mug to keep them warm, the heat rising from the cup meeting the cold air creating fine wisps of steam that joined in on the frivolous dance with the light. Edward loved nature's perfect choreography, and he adored those early mornings of decorated skies and simple pleasantries, especially after a sleepless night.
The shrill sound of the phone ringing indoors broke Edward from his halcyon morning, and he rushed through the glass doors, stumbling a bit over the frame in his hurry. Still early, Edward was a bit curious about who would be calling.
He reached over his kitchen counter and grabbed the telephone –which was on its fifth ring—and brought it to his ear, unable to see the caller ID from his position.
"Hello?" he said, his voice rough from no sleep and lack of use.
"Edward?" came a shaky female voice, meek and quiet.
"Yes, this is Edward," he answered. The voice was familiar, yet not one he could distinguish over the phone.
"Oh, Edward, I'm so glad you answered…" the voice broke off and the woman sniffled before taking a deep breath. "This is Mrs. Whitlock, Jasper's mom?" Edward nodded his head dumbly at the phone, but she continued even without a verbal confirmation of what she had said. "Edward…it's Jasper…"
Edward dropped the phone which collided with the floor, a thud resounding through the quiet of his apartment; it did not register with Edward due to the tremendous ringing in his ears. No, no, no, no, Edward though consecutively. His body was frozen yet he felt sweat break on the back of his neck, and the dark, dreaded feeling of loss followed the beaded drops down his spine. His vision faded black as pitch, as sunbursts of yellow exploded and shrank away in front of his eyes.
He already knew, but he had to get confirmation. Slowly, he looked down at the shiny, black phone that lay on the tiled floor of his kitchen. Hearing Mrs. Whitlock's voice muffled by distance, he bent over to pick up the phone, staring at the tiny thing that could hold such life-altering news. He returned it to his ear, the receiver hot in his clammy hand.
Swallowing he asked, "What h-happened? Is he h-hurt?" Voicing the question was hard; awaiting the answer was harder, even though it came almost as quickly as one of his fluttering heart beats.
Mrs. Whitlock sobbed, vibrating the object Edward held and choked out, "He's d-d--, he's gone Edward. Jasper's dead…" She could not speak anymore, and Edward didn't want her to.
Edward numbly went into his studio after mumbling to Jasper's mother that he would be by later that day. He stared at the painting he had agonized over and redone countless times from the time he was five until he was eighteen.
Unable to bear the thought of ever looking at it again, he mixed together all of his bright colors until they were dark and indistinguishable. Instead of using a brush he used his hands, paint splattering on his clothes, face, and floor. Not even bothering to take it from the wall, Edward blanked out his life's work, but covering the canvas did nothing for the lacuna that had ripped open in his spirit.
Sitting on the floor, he ran his paint covered hands through his hair. His fingers travelled to his face and dug into his cheeks, tiny half-moons decorated his face, and he wept colorless tears.
Sliding his arms into a black shirt, Edward pondered purchasing a pack of cigarettes. He had not smoked since his Mom died, but was in desperate need of something. Fingers trembling, Edward struggled with his tie, having to redo it multiple times. He pushed his arms through the charcoal coat that matched his trousers, and tucked the last letter he had received from Jasper on the inside pocket. Letters took time coming from overseas, and that one had arrived the day before.
He left quietly, pulling his door closed with a barely audible click. The silence was heavy; the silence embraced him; the silence was golden.
Stopping at the closest convenience store Edward bought a pack of cigarettes, ripping them open with his teeth as he exited the store. Before he reached the corner where he had parked he had one lit, and watched as his shadow on the beige wall of the store brought it to his lips, the exhalations of smoke creating dark tendrils on the painted concrete. He felt lightheaded but not from the smoke.
At the funeral home, he walked to the side to have another cigarette. Edward sat on the umber, cold, metal chair that had been placed outside, and pulled out the last thing Jasper would give him. The creases were already worn from Edward unfolding it multiple times, and he once again traced his fingers over the indentations where Jasper's pen had pressed into paper.
I love you.
Edward refolded it again and put it back in his jacket, the cigarette hanging from his mouth, the smoke causing his eyes to water. He stubbed it out with unnecessary brutality, and entered the funeral home.
Jasper's mom found him first, her tears soaking into his jacket, making the charcoal as black as his shirt. Jasper's dad shook his hand, his ashen blond hair and steely gray eyes painful reminders of what would be going into the ground.
"It's times like this I really miss your mom, Edward. She was my best friend, you know." Saying that only made her cry more. Edward didn't know what to do, so he soothed her as best he could by smoothing down her mahogany hair that was beginning to show streaks of silver.
"You'll sit with us, son," Jasper's dad commanded. Edward nodded. He rode with them to the gravesite.
The flag fluttered and caressed the edges of Jasper's ebony coffin as they placed it over the hole. The shiny, yellow-gold hand holds appeared dull under the overcast sky. Edward knew that Jasper lay inside so still and so quiet, just as he had when they played soldiers as kids.
A recorded version of Taps was played –apparently buglers in the military were sparse—as people around him wept and sniffled. Edward closed his eyes, wishing the red, white, and blue weren't already burned into them.
They folded the flag, white, crimson, white, crimson, and hid the brighter colors in the blue field of stars. Handing it over to Jasper's mom, they said, "On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's service to Country and Corps. God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America."
Words like appreciation and grateful nation echoed through Edward's head. How can anybody but he fully appreciate Jasper? Edward was the only person who knew Jasper. No one else had been allowed to.
Don't ask. Don't tell, Edward thought.
He waited until they lowered him into the sienna dirt, remembering the feel of peach jersey cotton under the pads of his thumbs, lemonade and cookies, diamonds and dirty navy blue shirts…remembering the sensation of smooth, warm lips, the sight of dimpled smiles and blond curls.
Everyone had left, and Edward was alone. Yellow had been lowered and covered, leaving a barren plot. The only reminder of what they'd had was folded in Edward's pocket, their secret forever untold.
He decided he would paint him daffodils once he found the right color again.
Edward stands in a spartan room, once bursting with a full spectrum of hues. His stare is unfocused and pointed towards a blank canvas, the floor below him stained. Holding his paintbrush in his left hand, he bends his elbow as though drawing it closer.
He holds a palette in his right hand. The color yellow is glaringly absent.
DADT doesn't make gay soldiers straight, it only ignores it, and that bugs me.
I feel like there should be equality for all Americans. I know I'm not saying anything that most reading this don't already know, but I felt I needed to say it.
Thanks for reading. Review if you feel like it.
ms-ambrosia made a lovely banner for this story. It really brings it all together. You can check it out on my profile.