I wrote this for the In the Closet Contest. If you like slash, go read, there were some great entries: http:/www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/u/2424392/intheclosetcontest

All copyright and trademarked items mentioned herein belong to their respective owners. The remaining content is all mine. No copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without my express written authorization.


~s~s~s~ ~s~S~s ~s~s~s~

You know I'm not good with words, so I decided to write this note to make sure I covered everything I wanted to say. Watching you walk out that door tomorrow is going to be hard enough. It was the words I didn't say that wasted so much time that we could have been together, and it was the words I did say that are making you leave.

~s~s~s~ ~s~S~s ~s~s~s~

Clink, clunk, clink.

"Thank you, ma'am."

The blond man slung his guitar over his shoulder and kneeled down to rifle through the bills and change in his guitar case. Eight dollars and fifty-nine cents. Not too bad for the morning crowd. Enough for a cup of coffee and even lunch.

Though some might call him other names—vagrant, homeless, street person, bum—Jasper preferred to think of himself as a true traveling troubadour singing for his supper. He did not consider it begging—he was merely being paid for the music he provided, by anyone who enjoyed his playing as they walked by. He lived his life as a free-spirited nomad, a traveling gypsy. Unencumbered by any schedule imposed on him by someone else, able to follow his whims wherever they took him.

When he traveled to a new city he stayed simply as long as it felt right to him. Until he had seen all he wanted to see or until he felt the itch to move on.

He couldn't say it was one of those "itches" that brought him to Seattle though. It felt like something more—like something stronger was sending him there.

He had been traveling up the coast of California for the last six months. Spent one whole month in San Francisco, longest he'd stayed in one place in a long, long time. San Francisco was a chill, easy town to be "him" in—lots of coffee shops and bookshops and parks and prime locations for him to hang out with his guitar and play. The weather was warm and sunny; the people were pretty friendly. And the high numbers of hot men were a mighty big plus. Jasper wasn't looking for attachments, didn't believe in them with his nomad lifestyle. But there were tons of clubs and places in San Francisco where he could easily pick up a one-night stand, no muss, no fuss.

For the first time ever, he was actually contemplating staying where he was, permanently. But, when the restless itch started to appear, he did what he always did when he didn't know where he wanted to go next: he took out a map of the U.S. and closed his eyes and pointed. When he opened his eyes he looked at what was under his finger—Seattle. Seattle? Doesn't it rain there a lot? Jasper frowned. The map had never failed him before, but there was no way in hell he was going to Seattle.

Decision made. Looked like he'd be sticking around SF a while longer. Except that suddenly he began seeing references to Seattle everywhere: his favorite diner posted a new sign announcing they now carried "Seattle's Best Coffee;" he picked up some newspapers and saw that Seattle had just been named one of the best cities in the U.S. to live and work; when he flipped to the next paper there was a large front-page article about the widely popular search engine "youfindit . com" taking over the world—headquartered in Seattle, naturally. And when he went to his favorite music club to relax and hear some good music, a Nirvana-tribute band was playing. He got up and walked out.

One of his regular spots to set up and play his guitar was in front of a small family-owned coffee shop. He had become friends with the owners, and they allowed him to hang out outside their shop and play. On this particular day, the owner, Al, brought him a free cup of coffee and a magazine.

"Hey Jazz, you were talking the other day about wanting to move on. One of the customers left this Travel magazine behind, thought maybe you'd like to look at it?"

"Sure, I'll take it, thanks Al." Looking down at the cover, he groaned. It was a special issue—dedicated entirely to visiting Seattle. He tossed it aside disgustedly. Clearly the universe was trying to sell him something, but he wasn't buying. Whatever was going on, he was more sure than ever, at least, that it was high time to get the heck out of San Francisco.

The next morning, his guitar and all his possessions packed up, he stopped at the diner for one last meal and also with the hope of finding a ride. A lot of truck drivers stopped there, and he was sure he could hitch a ride with one of them. Where to, he really didn't care, he just wanted to escape San Francisco and Seattle.

His luck hit quickly. One of the other regulars at the diner was a truck driver he had talked with a few times. The guy was more than happy to give him a ride and Jasper was so glad that he didn't even bother asking where. Once they were both settled in the truck cab and ready to head off he asked where the guy was headed. The truck driver's response—Seattle. Jasper just started laughing uncontrollably. All right travel Gods, I give up, he thought to himself. The universe apparently was sending him to Seattle and he was just along for the ride.

After two weeks he had to admit Seattle wasn't so bad. The rain rarely ever hung around long. He scrounged together enough money the first couple of days to buy some waterproof tarp material that helped keep him dry at night. Seattle was a busy city, lots to see and do and lots of places to play for the public. He varied his afternoon routine playing at spots along the waterfront and around Pike's Place. He started his day off always the same though. As was his MO when arriving in a new city, he had scoped out and found a popular little coffee shop that didn't mind him playing outside. They got a lot of traffic from the morning commuters.

Even though he was enjoying Seattle he still wasn't sure why he was there, in fact he thought he probably wouldn't be staying much longer, maybe another few weeks.

And then on week three he felt it, he felt him, for the first time.

He was playing as usual in front of the coffee shop, when he felt some kind of draw, as if someone was watching him. Which, being a street performer, was a strange statement to make since people watched him all the time; he was used to that. But this was different, it felt…more intense somehow.

Everyday around mid-morning he would feel it, the same sensation of being watched. And he felt the loss acutely when it was gone.

This went on for two weeks and he began to welcome it, the feeling, the pull. Whoever was watching him, it for some reason made him feel calm and gave him something to look forward to. He'd look out everywhere—his eyes would roam up and down the street but never caught anyone who appeared interested in him that intently.

Then one day out of the blue, a brown bag from the deli across the street started appearing. He had gone inside the coffee shop for his morning bathroom break, and when he came out he found the bag sitting there on the sidewalk, next to the spot where he played. He assumed someone had maybe dropped it or absent-mindedly set it down and then walked off, forgetting it. He left it undisturbed, but after an hour he realized no one was coming back for it. He peeked inside and the sandwich inside looked freshly made. And it was sitting in the spot where he played, after all. Maybe some generous soul had decided to leave him a meal rather than money.

Like clockwork, every day that week the same thing happened. He'd go inside for his break, he'd come out and find a sandwich waiting for him.

He was determined to find out who was leaving the sandwiches for him. Monday, he went into the bookstore as usual, but hightailed it out the back and around the side of the building. He saw a tall, lanky young man leave the diner carrying a bag and hurrying across the street. As he got closer he saw that the man was very conservatively dressed in khaki pants and a white, button-down, long sleeve shirt with every button buttoned. Sensible brown oxfords and dark framed glasses completed the package. His hair was the only thing that seemed out of place in this very bland, conservative, buttoned-up look he had going—it was wild and untamed, sticking up everywhere. And it was the color of autumn leaves on fire.

The man placed the bag gently on the sidewalk by the building, and then turned quickly.

"Excuse me, sir? Hey, man…hold up a minute!" The tall man did not answer or stop moving until he was forced to by the hand tugging on his arm. He whirled around, his eyes growing wide when he saw who it was. Jasper paused, losing himself for a moment in the beautiful mossy green eyes he was now staring into.

"Um, have you been the one who's been leaving me the sandwiches?" The tall man was trying to pull away, visibly uncomfortable. Finally he gave up and nodded his head vigorously.

"Well…I just wanted to thank you, it's much appreciated." Jasper let go of the other man's arm. The redheaded man started to shrink away, stepping backward one step at a time.

"If you want, you can bring two sandwiches tomorrow and join me." Jasper didn't know what possessed the invitation to come out of his mouth when the red-haired man was so clearly upset he had been caught. It was only later that he was shocked to realize that the same sense he got every day of someone watching him was there in the air when he was talking to the redhead…and that it waned and then disappeared as the man scurried back across the street. It was him. The redhead must be the one secretly watching him?

The next day Jasper skipped his break and sat down against the building instead, absently strumming the guitar and waiting to see if the redhead would show up, or if he'd scared him away. Just when he thought it was the latter, he saw him slowly making his way across the street until finally he stood before the Jasper. He stopped, unsure, clutching a brown bag in each hand.

Jasper looked up into those skittish green eyes and smiled broadly.

"I wasn't sure if you were coming, thought maybe I scared ya' off yesterday." He reached up to take the sandwich bags and indicated that the redhead could sit down next to him. Very slowly he did so, clumsily folding himself down into a sitting position.

Jasper turned and held out his hand to the other man. "My name's Jasper. Jasper Whitlock." When the other man just stared at him, Jasper brought his hand down and started opening the bags.

"Edward."

"Excuse me?" The other man spoke so quietly Jasper had to ask him to repeat himself.

"My name is Edward…Cullen." He was a little bolder this time, as he offered his hand.

Jasper grinned and gripped Edward's hand firmly. "Glad to meet you, Edward." Immediately he felt an unusual tingle that began to spread from his hand up through his arm.

"It's really kind of you to bring me a sandwich every day, Edward. And I'm glad you could join me. So . . ." Jasper rubbed his hands together. "What do we have today?" he asked as he eagerly dived into the bags. Busying himself with the sandwiches, he missed the slow smile that crept across Edward's face.

Lunch became a new routine for the two. Edward would show every day, like clockwork, two bags in hand and they would sit and have lunch together. Jasper had always been a very gregarious type so he did most of the talking, usually tales from his travels. Edward was definitely more quiet and inquisitive. He would ask a lot of questions, but Jasper never minded. He could tell Edward was not trying to be annoying or condescending, he was just genuinely interested.

~s~s~s~

"Where do you go at night?" Edward blurted out one day.

"Well, there's a nice quiet little park a few blocks over from here, on Franklin and Third. It has really nice, wide park benches. And it's really close to an old Y that still lets anyone come in and use their facilities and their showers, etc. every morning." Jasper responded matter-of-factly as he bit into his sandwich.

Edward's eyes widened. "Are you saying you sleep there? On a park bench?"

"Yeah. I've got a roll-up sleeping mat. It's pretty comfy."

"But there are homeless shelters all over town. Why don't you at least go to one of them?"

Jasper shook his head. "Because there are a lot of people who need those beds more than I do. I am young and strong and healthy, so far. I wouldn't feel right takin' a bed away from a child or a mother or an elderly person. There will always be someone needier than I am, Edward. I don't have to live this way, I choose to live like this. There are so many, many more who don't have a choice in the matter. That bed at the shelter is all they have to depend on, the only small comfort they have."

Edward nodded, quiet for the rest of the meal, his respect for Jasper greater than ever.

~s~s~s~

"So what made you give everything up and start traveling?" was Edward's question the next day.

Jasper sighed.

"Never mind if it's too personal, I didn't mean to pry." Edward immediately looked down and turned his attention to his turkey on rye.

"No, no, it's all right. My life's pretty much an open book. Not that much to tell, really. I grew up in a little town in central Texas—conservative-obey your parents-go to church every Sunday kind of town. Not exactly an easy place to live if you're gay. I was just countin' down the days till I was off to college. I planned to go as far away from there as possible, I couldn't wait till I could be free to really be myself. Summer after I graduated I met a boy. We both worked the same boring summer job at a ranch. I'd never met him before because he went to a private school in the next town. Anyway, my daddy caught us one day and that was that. He said some nasty things to me, said I wasn't his son and threw me out of the house. From that point on, I've been on my own. No way I had the money for college after that, so I had to withdraw. I moved to Austin, held down a lot of odd jobs and such, but it was never enough. I was always behind on bills or rent. I got evicted more times than I could count. Finally I got tired of moving my shit from dingy apartment to dingy apartment and that's when I decided to just leave. I sold or threw out whatever I couldn't carry and took off to see the world." He grinned. "Well, the lower forty-eight at least."

Edward nodded. "That's awful," he said quietly. "About your father, I mean. Throwing you out. Do you ever hear from him or your family?"

"Nope. I do miss them sometimes. But it is what it is, ya' know? I can't help what they believe in anymore than I can help who I am. I mean, maybe it would have been a little better if I had told my family myself instead of getting caught in a "compromising situation," shall we say. But either way the truth came out and it was for the best. I was done hiding.

"I can't really complain about my life; I have seen a lot of amazing places, met a lot of great people, probably learned more than I would have in school anyway."

The conversation grew silent again after that as they concentrated on finishing their lunches. Later that night though, as Jasper was trying to fall asleep, he couldn't help but keep going back to their conversation. He'd basically just came out to Edward and he couldn't tell from his reaction how Edward was taking the information. He knew so little about him, all of their conversations centered around Jasper. Edward was so quiet. What if he wasn't comfortable now, knowing that Jasper was gay? He hadn't said much the rest of the time they were together; he just kept glancing over at Jasper, more than normal. Did he think Jasper was a freak now? Would he stop showing up for their daily lunches? Jasper was surprised to find the thought of not seeing Edward everyday made him sad. He felt an uncomfortable twinge in the pit of his stomach. Suddenly, he realized just how much he had grown to look forward to lunch with Edward. And how fond he was of Edward—he was adorable, so shy and awkward in those geeky glasses and buttoned-up shirts. Definitely not the type of guy Jasper was generally attracted to…and yet, the few times they accidentally brushed their fingers against each other or brushed a hand against an arm while sitting next to each other, there was always a bolt, a heat, a spark of something Jasper had never felt with anyone else.

Jasper tossed and turned on his park bench all night. He knew he had to stop such thoughts. Edward was just a really nice, generous guy. If he was gay, if he had any interest in Jasper in that way, he would have spoken up during their conversation. So instead Jasper went back to worrying that he might have seen the last of Edward.

~s~s~s~

Jasper sighed. He didn't have a watch but he knew by the time on the bank clock two doors down that Edward was late. He put his hand down to help lift himself off the ground so he could go off to find something to eat…alone. Just then he heard heavy footsteps. The shadow cast over him was out of breath but spoke with a familiar voice.

"Ham and cheese on wheat or tuna salad? Sorry-I-was-late-but-the-deli-had-a-ridiculous-line-and-then-the-lady-in-front-of-me-had-ten-freakin'-orders-to-place!" Edward spoke so fast his words all ran together and he barely took a breath. Jasper couldn't help but smile up at him, biting his lip to not burst out laughing at hearing the word "freakin'" come out of Edward's mouth. So far he'd never heard the guy utter anything even close to a curse word. Actually that might have been the biggest sentence he'd ever heard him speak.

The frazzled and worried look on Edward's face immediately eased into his own big smile of relief that Jasper wasn't mad.

"The ham and cheese will be fine. I hope you brought extra mustard packets though."

Edward tipped the bag upside down and about ten packets rained down into Jasper's lap.

Now Jasper did throw back his head and laugh. Edward had definitely remembered his penchant for lathering his sandwiches in mustard. "All right, all right, geez boy, I think that will be plenty."

Edward grinned and then broke out into laughter himself.

~s~s~s~

Somewhere along the line, Jasper had stopped thinking about leaving Seattle—until the weather started changing. During the day it was tolerable but the temperatures were starting to drop at night, making sleeping on a park bench uncomfortable. After a couple of days of this he woke one morning feeling quite a bit warmer than usual under his tarp. As he opened his eyes he found out why—someone had draped a blanket over him during the night. He poked his head out from under the tarp and looked all around but didn't see anything or anyone unusual. The reason Jasper had picked this as "his" park was because it was so quiet, there were never very many people around and it was no different this morning. He looked back down at the blanket and ran his hands over its fleecy softness until his fingers hit some rough embroidery thread.

EMC.

Jasper sighed. He didn't know if Edward's middle name began with an "M" but the blanket most certainly had to be from him. He was the only person he'd told about the park.

At lunch that day, Jasper was quiet, waiting for Edward to mention the blanket, but he said nothing. Finally Jasper couldn't wait anymore.

"So…there's apparently some mad cap, crazy guy on the loose going around to parks in the middle of the night and throwing blankets on people while they are asleep."

Edward refused to look up at Jasper, but his telltale blush gave him away.

Jasper's voice dropped so that only Edward would hear. "Thank you, Edward, that was really nice of you. I really appreciate it."

Edward's head whipped around and he looked honestly shocked. "How do you know it was me?"

Jasper burst out laughing. Was this kid serious? "Edward, it was monogrammed with your initials. I don't know your middle name, but I know I personally don't know anyone else in town with the first and last initials of 'EC.'"

Edward's blush grew deeper and he rolled his eyes sheepishly. "It was a spare, a gift from someone. I forgot about the monogram."

They went back to eating.

"Masen, by the way."

"What?" Jasper was confused.

"The 'M' stands for Masen. It's my middle name. Family name from my mother's side."

Jasper blinked, understanding now, but also surprised. That was the first piece of personal information Edward had shared with him.

He nodded. "Ah-ha. Mine's Hale. It's a family thing too—my momma's maiden name."

They both grinned at the commonality and understanding of being saddled with stuffy family names.

A few minutes later Edward spoke again. "You know, Seattle is pretty temperate compared to most of the U.S., but we still have a winter season. It's only going to continue getting colder." He snuck a look over at Jasper to see his reaction.

Jasper let out a loud sigh. "Yeah, I figured as much. I almost didn't come here because of the weather. The rain's been bad enough. That's why I've always traveled through the warmer states. A lot easier for my way of livin.' Just means it's time for me to be moving on, that's all."

Edward quickly looked away again so Jasper wouldn't see the disappointment on his face.

~s~s~s~

When a week passed and Jasper still hadn't left, Edward brought him a heavy weatherproof jacket with a plush fleece lining.

"Edward, this is too much, I can't accept this."

"It's an old one of mine I don't use anymore."

Bullshit, Jasper thought. It was not only an expensive brand name, but there was also no evidence of any wear and tear; so it was clearly brand new.

"I won't take this Edward. Or, let me at least give you some money…let me make payments or somethin'" Jasper started digging into his guitar case, even though he knew what he had wouldn't even come close to paying for one sleeve.

Edward sighed. "Jasper, I know you're cold, I see you trying to add another layer of clothing every day.

"Besides, you're not planning to stay in Seattle anyway, right? So how about we just look at it as a loan. When you leave you can give it back."

Jasper looked Edward in the eye. Edward looked dejected. He surely wasn't that sad over Jasper not wanting a jacket, was he?

"All right," Jasper spoke quietly. "Again, thank you, Edward. I am considering it a loan though."

They started unwrapping their sandwiches. Edward had also brought them each some hot tomato soup.

"So, have you decided where you're heading next?" Edward tried hard to sound nonchalant but his voice faltered a bit.

"Umm, no, not yet." Jasper said no more on the subject and the rest of their meal was pretty quiet. The truth was, Jasper wasn't quite sure why he hadn't moved on already. He used to be eager to pick out a new city, ready to move on to the next adventure, to see new people and places. He'd pulled out the map a couple of times but he felt…nothing. No place that he looked at on the map excited him, none of them felt right. He'd lost his itch. And he didn't know what to make of it.

~s~s~s~ ~s~S~s ~s~s~s~

I knew Seattle was always temporary for you, another stop on the road of life. I knew I would never be able to hold you here. But, I took the risk with my heart and jumped in anyway. Every day, every week, every month that I woke up and you were still here was like a gift. You brought color and music and happiness into my dull life. It was hard, but I forced myself to not dream of the future; it would have been too heartbreaking. So, I focused on the day-to-day, appreciating every minute you were still here with me.

~s~s~s~ ~s~S~s ~s~s~s~

A week later a freak, early storm blew into Seattle. Heavy winds and several inches of snow had been predicted. It came in just after midnight and within an hour the ground was covered with a thick layer of snow.

Jasper was shivering under his blanket and tarp and jacket. Edward had tried to suggest he go to a shelter tonight but he brushed him off. He knew he was being stubborn, but he didn't realize how much of an idiot he was really being until the storm hit and now it would be too late; all the shelter beds would be taken. Weather had been the only thing he let guide his travels because it was just smart if you were going to be working and sleeping outdoors. Hitting the warmer states in the winter and hitting the colder states in the summer, allowed him to avoid ever having to deal with inclement weather.

He dozed in and out a bit, but the rest of the time he was shivering and shaking.

"Jasper…Jasper!"

His tarp was thrown off him and he blinked against the rapidly falling white flakes.

"Edward? What the hell are you…."

"Come on, you can't stay out here like this." Edward started gathering up Jasper's stuff.

"But, where . . ."

"You're staying with me tonight."

Jasper couldn't believe Edward had showed up in the middle of the night, but he wasn't going to protest. He didn't really have any other options.

He picked up his guitar case and his backpack and followed Edward to his car. He didn't even know Edward owned a car. It was a plain, staid, Volvo. Nice one, though. Jasper swore he could still smell faint remnants of "new car smell."

The heat was blasting and it felt so good. It would take awhile for his body to stop shivering.

As usual, Edward was silent during the drive. Once his teeth stopped chattering, Jasper tried to make conversation.

"Nice car."

"Thanks."

Silence.

"Your parents'?"

Edward gave him a confused look.

"The car; is it your parents'?"

"Oh." Edward chuckled. "Um, no, it's mine."

Jasper had no clue how Edward could afford such a car. Maybe his meek image was just a cover-up and he was really a drug dealer? Jasper shook the idea out of his head. The cold and lack of sleep must be playing with my brain.

It was hard to see in the pitch black and swirling snow, where Edward was going. Jasper just knew it was a short drive and soon they were pulling into a garage. They got out and grabbed all of Jasper's stuff. As Edward was unlocking the door into the house, Jasper cleared his throat.

"Well thank you for this Edward; I can never repay you for comin' out in the middle of a snow storm like that. I promise I won't be any trouble; I'll be happy to bunk on your couch. And I won't bother your roommates."

Edward chuckled again. "I do have a guest bedroom or two, so you won't be sleeping on the couch, and I don't have roommates, so no need to worry about bothering anyone."

Jasper was surprised, because although his vision was obscured by the dark and the snow, it was obvious this was a pretty sizeable house. He just assumed Edward was renting it with some other college students or something.

As soon as Edward opened the door and flicked on lights, Jasper's mouth dropped open.

They were in a large, bright, spotless kitchen with heavy granite countertops and shiny aluminum appliances.

"Quick tour, this is obviously the kitchen," Edward was moving fast and all Jasper could do was follow silently.

"Living room." This room was light and airy—rich leather furniture, a large abstract painting on one wall, a fireplace, and a huge flat screen TV on one wall. Jasper was so dumbfounded by the opulence of Edward's house, all he could do was stare.

He followed Edward up a staircase.

"Just bedrooms and bathrooms up here." Edward strode down the hall to a doorway about halfway down and opened it. "You can stay in here."

It was a simple guest bedroom, but like a palace to Jasper. A large double bed, nightstand and dresser; a plush comforter on the bed and lots of pillows.

Edward followed Jasper into the room, and set his stuff down. "There are clean sheets on the bed, and the bathroom is in here." Edward walked in and flicked on the light. I put towels out, and there are more if you need them in the small closet there."

His room had its own bathroom? Jasper couldn't believe Edward lived here. He had so many questions, but his brain was growing foggy, overwhelmed and physically exhausted.

"Jasper…Jasper? Are you okay?" Edward held his hand up to Jasper's forehead and frowned. "Your skin's still cold but you look flushed." He started helping Jasper off with his jacket and then went into the bathroom and Jasper heard the shower start up. Soon steam was pouring out of the doorway.

"Why don't you go in and stand under the hot shower for a while, try to warm yourself up. I'll set some fresh clothes out for you and bring you up some tea, okay? Jasper, can you make it into the shower?" Edward had a very concerned look on his face. Jasper's eyes felt so heavy. He managed to nod. He just felt so tired….

"Shit, Jasper, don't pass out! Come on!" Edward's voice sounded like it was coming through a tunnel.

~s~s~s~

The next time Jasper opened his eyes it was still dark in the room. It took him a few minutes to remember where he was and how he'd gotten here. He remembered, finally, Edward coming to pick him up at the park. It was snowing. He remembered walking in the house. He remembered Edward showing him this room. It all got a little fuzzy after that. He was vaguely aware of Edward saying something about warming him up, Edward's hands on him, undressing him, helping him into the shower. The hot water pouring down on him felt so good. Jasper looked down. He was covered in the warmest softest material he'd ever felt, a thick down comforter. Underneath that he was dressed in a long sleeve thermal shirt and flannel pajama pants. Even thick, woolen socks.

He sat up a little and looked across the room. Edward was scrunched up in this overstuffed chair with a blanket over him, his head leaning to one side, his mouth open, eyes closed and his glasses perched crookedly on his nose.

Jasper lay there quietly, not knowing what to do. He didn't know why Edward was in his room and he didn't feel comfortable wandering around a house that didn't belong to him while Edward slept. Should he wake Edward? Or should he just quietly grab his stuff and leave before Edward woke up? He was thankful for the warm bed to sleep in for the night but he didn't want to impose any longer than he had to. Jasper started to swing his legs over the bed and then remembered that he didn't know where they were. It was so dark last night he couldn't see the streets Edward had driven. He didn't know if it was far to walk to the coffee shop or if he'd need to take a bus…or if there was even a bus stop nearby?

Edward snapped awake at the sound of Jasper's rustling in the bed.

"Jasper, are you okay?"

"I'm fine. What are you doing in that chair? You didn't sleep there all night, did you?"

Edward fumbled with straightening his glasses. "I did sleep there for the rest of last night, then I spent the day doing some work in my office and checking on you periodically. Then I came back in about eleven and I guess I fell asleep again in the chair." He paused to check his watch. "That was oh…about four hours ago."

Jasper frowned as Edward's words sunk in. "I've been asleep for twenty-four hours? You should have woken me up. And you still didn't answer me why you slept in that uncomfortable chair all night?"

Edward grimaced as he walked over to Jasper and put his hand on his forehead. "I was worried about you, you doofus. Hmm…well you don't feel like you have a fever anymore. Do you remember anything from last night? You passed out on me. I think you were just so cold and you were so exhausted, your body shut down. You really scared me." His voice quieted at the last four words. Edward was staring into Jasper's eyes and his hand lingered a bit longer than necessary on Jasper's forehead before he yanked it back and blushed.

If Jasper didn't have a fever, then his skin was now scorching from Edward's gentle touch.

Edward backed away awkwardly and headed toward the door. "You must be hungry. I'll go fix us something. You want me to bring it up here or do you think you can come down?"

"I'm sure I can make it to the kitchen."

"All right, come down when you're ready."

Jasper was glad Edward was giving him some time alone; he was still trying to process everything. Within twenty-four hours he had been rescued by Edward and was now in his house.

Jasper used the bathroom and splashed some water on his face. He walked out into the hall, but hesitated for some reason before going down the stairs. As he was standing there, he noticed he kept periodically hearing this pinging noise. It was so quiet upstairs it was hard to miss. Curious as to what it was, Jasper followed the noise to the room at the end of the hall. It was the only room other than his with the door open. It was none of his business and he told himself he shouldn't be snooping in Edward's house. Glancing behind him one more time to check that he was still alone, he peeked his head into the room. The only light in the room was the glow from the screen of the laptop that sat on a desk. The pinging noise was some kind of alert from the computer, probably e-mails or something. Jasper flicked on the light for a quick look at the room. Strangely, it didn't look like a college student's office, it looked more like a businessman's. There were papers spread all over the desk, some charts and spreadsheets hung on the wall. A bookshelf adorned one whole wall, filled with books, binders, and piles of magazines. He went over for a closer look—they were mostly all computer magazines and the binders had labels like "Quarterly Projections" and "Potential Earnings based on User-Click Throughs." Jasper frowned. Edward lied to him when he said this wasn't his parents' house. Clearly, this was his father's office. Really feeling intrusive now, Jasper turned to leave and just as his hand was poised over the light switch, something else caught his eye on the other wall. There were several pictures on the wall and several larger frames on a shelf, just leaning against the wall. They were all pictures of Edward—posed PR pics of Edward shaking hands with some old guy in a suit, Edward smiling while pretending to dig his shovel into a pile of dirt, Edward grinning and cutting the ribbon in front of an office building. And Edward…banging the gavel at the New York Stock Exchange? Jasper didn't get it. He started perusing the other frames not on the wall. They were mostly all newspaper and magazine articles—about some young college kid who created a popular search engine software, and how he eventually took the company public, earning millions and millions of dollars for himself, all before the age of 25. And every article contained a picture of an uncomfortable, but smiling, Edward Cullen.

Jasper's mouth hung open in complete shock. What the hell? Edward was some kind of rich wunderkind? Why had he never told him any of this? Jasper had openly shared so much of himself, but Edward never uttered a word about who he was. Granted, Jasper never really asked or pushed Edward to share because he just seemed so shy and reserved. Jasper felt hurt and he slammed the light off and headed downstairs.

"I didn't know how you liked your eggs, so I hope scrambled is okay," Edward called over his shoulder at Jasper's approaching footsteps.

"I'm surprised you can cook, why don't you just write a fancy computer program that does it for you!" Anger was evident in Jasper's voice.

Edward's shoulders slumped, but he didn't turn around and he didn't say anything.

"Edward, I know we've only known each other a couple of months, but how come you never even once mentioned that you created youfindit . com?"

Edward turned, his face looking weary and nervous. "How'd you find out?"

Now it was Jasper's turn to look contrite. "I saw your office. I wasn't prying really. I heard your e-mail pings and was trying to figure out where the noise was coming from."

"Sit down, the food's ready."

They sat and Edward told him everything, not that it was really any big long drawn-out story. Edward had always been smart, ahead of the other kids in his class. He fell in love early on with computers and programming and all that goes along with it. He was halfway through college at M.I.T. when he started playing with the concept of searching the web and how it could be made easier. He worked on it little by little, bit by bit. When he graduated, he finished it and then it just kind of snowballed into this huge thing that was now used by ninety percent of people worldwide.

"I didn't say anything because you didn't seem to know who I was. It was kind of nice, I'm used to meeting new people and getting the—'Hey you're that kid that developed

youfindit!' Or, worse—'Hey you're that rich dotcom kid!'" He let out a huge sigh. "It was kind of nice just being me and hanging out with someone like a normal person again."

Jasper immediately felt guilty for his tone earlier. Edward was just staring down at his food, pushing it around on his plate sadly.

"I can understand that, I guess. It just hurt a little, you know, that you never shared that with me. I don't care if you flip burgers or wear hundred dollar suits."

Edward grimaced. "I hate wearing suits."

Jasper laughed. "Me too."

Edward finally turned toward Jasper. "So…we're okay?"

"Yeah," Jasper said softly. Edward's grin lit up his whole face.

"Can I ask you something though?" Jasper said a few minutes later.

Edward nodded.

"Why did you bring me sandwiches? Why did you join a homeless stranger like me every day, sitting on the dirty ground, and have lunch with me? When you have all this?" Jasper gestured around at…well, everything.

"Because I wanted to know you," was Edward's simple statement.

~s~s~s~

Jasper insisted on doing the dishes since Edward made the food. Edward opted to go back to bed for a few more hours. Jasper, of course, was wide-awake after all the sleep he had. Edward told him to make himself at home, but after what happened earlier, Jasper refused to do any more exploring in the house. Instead he went up to the guest room and strummed the guitar, trying to finish a song that had been on his mind for a while.

When Edward woke up again he came to Jasper's door and found him packing up his stuff and tugging on his shoes. "Jasper what are you doing?"

"Thought I'd take off. I appreciate you lettin' me stay but I don't want to bother you any more. Umm…is there a bus stop near here?"

Edward sighed exasperatedly. "There is, but the busses aren't running today."

"Why not?"

Edward scratched his head and laughed, "Have you even looked outside yet?"

Jasper went and looked outside and saw everything was under a heavy, deep blanket of snow.

"Seattle's not used to getting this much snow all at once. Things are going to be shut down for a couple of days, until they get the roads plowed."

Jasper frowned.

~s~s~s~

And Edward was correct. It took a couple more days till everyone in the city was up and moving around again. Since it was officially "winter" in Seattle now, Edward finally managed to convince Jasper to stay in the guest room, at least during the nights, until spring came, if Jasper was still here then.

The owner of the coffee shop Jasper played in front of, offered to let him play inside his shop with a tip jar so that he could still make money. And, even though they saw each other every night and morning now, Edward still met Jasper at the deli every day for lunch, except now they ate inside at a table.

Jasper couldn't believe how well things were going. Living with Edward was easy and comfortable. They got along well, although Jasper sometimes still felt uneasy staying in such a big house. He wanted to pay Edward something—weekly, monthly, whatever—but of course, Edward refused. Jasper offered to work off his "room and board" by cleaning the house or doing laundry, but Edward just blushed and explained that he had a cleaning lady come in twice a week.

"Jasper, just relax for once will you? I respect that you want to do something to repay me, but…." Edward's voice faltered then and he had to pause. "Just your being here is payment enough. I…I…I like having you here." Edward was staring down at his feet again.

Jasper's heart twisted a little for Edward. In the short time he'd been staying with him, he'd never heard Edward mention any friends or invite anyone over. Or go out on the weekends. He knew Edward was shy, but it was sad that more people didn't realize how special and amazing he was.

"All right, all right, I'll 'relax' as you put it. But only until the weather gets better, I swear!" That got a smile, albeit a weak one out of Edward.

Feeling like he was mooching off of Edward wasn't the only issue Jasper had with living with Edward. Seeing him every day, getting to know more about Edward's life and his personality just made Jasper's attraction to him grow stronger. The way his eyes lit up when he was excited about something, the way he smirked with that crooked grin when something was funny. The way his eyebrows furrowed when he was deep in concentration over something. And when he got shy or sad, Jasper had to fight back the urge to touch him or brush his fingers through his hair in comfort. Then there was the first time he saw him out of his standard geek uniform of button-down shirts and baggy khakis. Edward came downstairs one night, fresh out of the shower, his hair still damp and mussed, in an old t-shirt and worn jeans and barefoot. The t-shirt was just tight in all the right places and Jasper had just blinked dumbly at him. Edward caught him and asked him what was wrong, and Jasper just fumbled for some random answer that he didn't think Edward really believed. When Edward looked away, Jasper had to reach down and adjust himself.

It eventually got bad enough that Jasper pulled out his map again. Jasper had met a lot of wonderful and interesting people in his travels, but he never stayed long enough to get as close to someone as he had with Edward. For all that he had done and seen, in the end he really wasn't any better off than Edward—he didn't have any real friends, either. Just Edward. And he didn't want to mess that friendship up with the feelings he was having. At the same time, he couldn't go on torturing himself like this either. It was a frustrating situation—it was his feelings for Edward (as a man) that made him need to leave and it was his feelings for Edward (as a friend) that made him want to stay.

~s~s~s~

"Jasper? Jasper is that you?"

Jasper was just on his way into the deli to meet Edward for lunch one day when he heard a voice from his past. He turned around incredulously. "Peter? No way! What the hell, man!" They stared at each other for a minute before embracing in a friendly, but intimate hug. They chatted and laughed back and forth for a few minutes before giving each other another quick hug and pat on the shoulder, and then moving on.

When Jasper walked inside and looked around the restaurant, he didn't see Edward. It was unusual because Edward was always there before him. He shrugged his shoulders and grabbed a table but as the hour passed and Edward never showed, he began to get concerned.

He cut his afternoon session at the coffeehouse short and hurried to Edward's to see if everything was okay.

When he walked in the door, the house was uncommonly quiet. Normally sounds and smells would be coming from the kitchen as Edward would be either in the middle of or finishing dinner when Jasper got home. He peeked in the doorway, but the kitchen was dark and empty.

Jasper frowned. "Edward?" he called out loudly. "Edward, are you home? Edward?"

He started searching through the house before he finally heard the faint strains of piano notes coming way from the other end of the house. "This house is too damn big," he muttered under his breath as he headed in towards the music. Edward had a "music room" at the back of the house where he kept his ridiculously expensive baby grand piano. As if he wasn't perfect enough at everything else, he was also fairly accomplished on the piano. He usually only played when he was trying to work something around in his brain, though. He said it helped him think better.

"There you are! I was calling out for you. Hey what happened at lunch, you never showed. Did you have an unexpected conference call or something?" Jasper suddenly stopped talking. Edward was sitting hunched over on the piano bench barely fingering the keys, hitting random notes, not really playing. And he never looked up at Jasper.

"Edward…are you okay? Did something happen?"

He spoke so quietly Jasper had to walk closer to hear him. "I was there."

Jasper frowned. "At the deli? But…I didn't see you. I waited for an hour…."

"I figured you would want to have lunch with your friend. So I left."

Jasper was still trying to comprehend what Edward was upset about. "My friend…?"

"I thought you said you didn't know anyone else in Seattle. You sure looked like you knew him pretty well."

Suddenly, it became clear to Jasper. "Wait, you mean Peter? You saw me with Peter?"

Edward didn't answer. Jasper sighed and sat down on the piano bench next to Edward.

"Today was the first time Peter and I've seen each other in about five years. I honestly did not know he lived in Seattle now, it was a completely random thing running into him. Remember when I told you how my dad found out I was gay? That he caught me with someone? Well, that was Peter." Jasper's voice softened. "We weren't exactly 'in love,' but there was an attraction. We were just two scared kids trying to figure out who we were. We were each other's firsts in well…everything I guess. His parents threw him out too, but he had a full scholarship to school, so his path was a little different than mine. Apparently he went to the University here and that's how he ended up in Seattle."

"So, you'll be getting back together with him now?" Edward's voice had a cruel edge to it and Jasper just looked at him in disbelief.

"Well not that it's any of your business, but Peter has a long-term partner; not that I would be 'getting together' with him if he was single. And not that I have to explain myself to you, Edward, if I did meet someone."

Jasper stood up and strode out of the room. He was pissed. He had just shared a very intimate part of his life with Edward and got no sympathy, no caring concern at all from Edward, just anger. "What burr got up his butt?" he mumbled to himself.

He was up the stairs and halfway down the hall when realization struck him so hard he stopped dead in his tracks. Maybe Edward wasn't angry…maybe he was…jealous? Jasper's body suddenly went hot and cold. Could it be? Or was Jasper just hoping?

Jasper whirled around and ran back down the stairs and to the music room. Edward was still sitting there in the same position. He rushed in and kneeled down next to the piano bench.

"Edward did you get upset when you saw me with Peter because you're…jealous?"

The only sound in the room was Jasper's heart; it was beating so hard, waiting for Edward's answer.

"Yes."

Jasper took a deep breath and moved closer to Edward. "Jealous in a 'friend' way…or jealous in…another way?"

Edward was looking at him now and the air between them was thick and crackling as they stared intently at each other.

Suddenly Jasper felt Edward's lips on his, pressing and moving against him, hard and needy and forceful. Jasper's lips parted in surprise and Edward's tongue was moving with his then, swirling and tasting and sucking greedily. Edward's hands were gripping Jasper's face as if it were a life preserver. Jasper reached for Edward's body, leaning forward as he did so, pushing Edward backward onto the small bench. Somehow Jasper was hovering over him, one foot on the floor and his other knee on the bench, between Edward's legs. Edward's legs were wrapped precariously around each of Jasper's.

They were clutching and grabbing at each other as best they could, their mouths still fused together. One of Edward's hands had snuck up into Jasper's hair, and he was fisting the silky curls tightly in his fingers.

Jasper moaned finally, breaking their kiss. "Jesus Christ, Edward." His body was on fire and it was hell to pull himself away, but he had to, the bench not nearly big enough or comfortable enough for what they both wanted. Edward reluctantly moved as well, so that Jasper could sit on the bench. The room was silent again, save for the sound of their accelerated breathing. Jasper looked over at Edward. "Why the hell didn't you say anything before now?"

Edward's mouth turned down. "Look at you, and then look at me. I'm just a geeky computer nerd and you…you're beautiful. I was sure I'd never have a chance."

Jasper scoffed. "I'm not beautiful, Edward. I play for pennies and I sleep on park benches. That's a far cry from all…this." He motioned to the room for emphasis. Now it was his turn to look sad.

Suddenly Edward was crawling over Jasper, straddling him on the bench, pressing his chest and his hips hard against Jasper.

"I thought you were beautiful from the first time I saw you outside the coffee shop." Edward's face was almost touching Jasper's and the breath from his words heated Jasper's skin. Jasper moaned and Edward wrapped his arms around Jasper's neck, reaching for his hair, his mouth devouring Jasper's hungrily.

Edward started rocking his body against Jasper. Jasper grabbed Edward's shirt and started ripping it from his chest, the buttons scattering across the floor. Edward moved his arms long enough for Jasper to get his shirt off and then his hands were back on Jasper, reaching down and yanking his T-shirt upward and off his body.

Skin on skin, their naked chests fused together, Jasper threw his head back and his eyes rolled back. "Oh God, Edward you feel so good."

Edward turned his attention to Jasper's neck, licking and sucking and kissing the sensitive skin, all the while working his body so hard against Jasper's. Their nipples touched and rubbed against each other, igniting intense sparks up and down their bodies. Jasper growled and grabbed Edward's ass, crushing him against his own hips. Their cocks were both straining and aching and rubbing against each other through their pants. Edward began rocking his hips faster and faster, banging Jasper's back against the piano keys, creating a chaotic, frenzied melody of random notes ringing throughout the room.

"Oh fuck ,Edward…oh hell, baby…I can't…I'm gonna…." Jasper could feel the fireworks starting in his groin and his balls tightening. He slammed Edward harder against him and thrust his hips upward, roaring as he felt the warm wetness explode out of him.

Edward was still bucking erratically, his hands gripping the piano behind Jasper; until finally he cried out loudly, his head falling onto Jasper's shoulder. The rest of his body collapsed against Jasper's, both of their chests heaving and sweaty. Jasper slowly stroked up and down Edward's back, placing gentle loving kisses on his neck and shoulder, quietly bringing him down from the intense moment they just shared. When Edward finally lifted his head up to gaze at Jasper, Jasper's heart swelled at the flushed, euphoric look of happiness on Edward's face.

"That was amazing," Jasper whispered.

"Uhm hmmm…and just think what it will be like next time if we can manage to get our pants off too."

Jasper laughed and slapped Edward playfully on the ass.

They finally untangled themselves and headed to their respective bathrooms to change and clean themselves up. Edward ordered take-out and, ravenous for both the food and for each other, they devoured every bite quickly. Then they chased each other upstairs and Edward pulled Jasper into his bedroom. Unable to keep their hands off each other and making up for lost time, they kissed and touched and stroked and sucked and worshipped each other's bodies—sans all clothing this time—for hours until they fell asleep against each other, exhausted.

~s~s~s~

Jasper awoke, still tangled up in the sheets and Edward. Shifting up to lean against the headboard, he checked Edward's clock on the bedside table. It was after one o'clock. Not surprised they'd slept so long, considering that they hadn't fallen asleep finally until the wee hours of the morning.

Edward was still asleep, face down on his stomach, one cheek pressed into the pillow, his breathing light and even. Jasper couldn't resist brushing his fingertips lightly across Edward's cheek and up into his even-messier-than-normal hair. He stroked the strands softly, rubbing his fingers back and forth across Edward's scalp.

Edward started humming and moving his head into Jasper's touch. He finally opened his eyes and looked at Jasper sleepily, a happy smile spreading across his face.

"Wake up sleepy-head, we missed our lunch date," Jasper teased him.

"Hmm…totally worth it," Edward mumbled into the pillow, as he closed his eyes again.

Jasper was silent, continuing to stroke Edward's hair while trying to enjoy the moment of waking up in Edward's bed. Still, some thoughts kept nagging at him though.

Edward opened one eye to watch Jasper. He saw the far away look in his eye and distraction on his face and Edward's heart skipped a beat. Was he regretting last night?

He moved to also lean against the headboard, mirroring Jasper's position. Jasper's hand fell from Edward's hair unexpectedly, causing him to look over at Edward.

"Are you okay?" Edward barely got the words out, nervous to hear Jasper's response.

Jasper took his time answering him and when he did, it wasn't what Edward expected.

"Edward how come you never told me you were gay? I told you my whole story, you've known for months and never said a word? Are you…not out?"

Edward let out a huge breath. "No, I'm out, for the most part. I mean, professionally it's not like the world knows, but if someone found out I wouldn't hide it." He paused.

"I'm sorry, you're right, I should have mentioned it before now. It's just…the day you told me, I was at first shocked, then so thrilled. Inside I was jumping up and down, even though I knew it was a long-shot you'd ever be attracted to me." Edward blushed again and Jasper reached up and touched his flushed cheek.

"How could I not be attracted to that adorable blush," Jasper smirked at him.

"Umm…there's another reason I didn't say anything that day. I felt so bad for you, and how your dad and your family disowned you. I didn't feel comfortable sharing my story…and then, well, another good time just never seemed to come up."

Jasper's eyes grew concerned. "You can tell me, baby. I'd like to know."

"I knew I was gay once I hit puberty. I hid it pretty well all through school, since not even girls wanted to date the class computer nerd." He smirked. "Before I left for college though, I told my parents and my sister."

"And . . .?"

"Well, my parents have always been pretty open-minded. They hugged me and said all the right things, were very loving and supportive. A little too supportive sometimes—mom was president of the local PFLAG and constantly asks me if I'm dating any 'nice boys' yet." He blushed again and Jasper chuckled.

"Edward, that's wonderful, I wish you didn't feel you had to hide that from me. I didn't share my story to make you feel pity for me, I was just explainin' what happened. You're lucky that you have such a supportive family. And speaking of said family, I have got to get you talking more, man. In all the time we've known each other you never once mentioned you even had one!"

Edward laughed, "Sorry."

"So do they live in Seattle?"

"Nah, I grew up in a little town a few hours south of here, called Forks. Mom and Dad still live there, when they're home, at least. Dad's retired now, so they spend as much time on their island as possible."

"Did you say 'their island?'"

"Yeah, when Dad retired a couple of years ago I gave them a private island off the coast of Brazil. They love it there, spend most of the colder months there."

Jasper's eyes grew wide. ""You gave them an island? As in, you bought them their own island?"

Edward looked at him blankly. "Well, it's just a small one. It's one of my property investments."

"What about your sister? Is she younger, older…?"

"Alice is the same age as me; we're twins, though we look nothing alike. She's always been into fashion and splits her time between her offices in Paris and New York."

"Her offices? Wait, let me guess you bought her her own fashion company?"

There was that blank stare again, as if it were completely natural to be buying people things like islands and fashion companies.

"It's really just another business investment, part of my portfolio…it just happens to be run by my sister."

Jasper shook his head in amazement. "I can't believe I used to assume you were a struggling college student. I use to worry you were spending all your tuition buying me sandwiches every day!"

~s~s~s~

Jasper was amazed at how easy it was to transition from being friends with Edward to sleeping in his bed every night. He worried they were rushing things a little, then again they knew each other for months before they'd even kissed, how much slower could they go? Living with someone was new for both of them. Neither one had any previous relationships of any length of time worth talking about. Nagging doubts and insecurities would start creeping into Jasper's brain little by little. Luckily about that time Edward would walk in with a look on his face and a spring in his step that Jasper knew hadn't been there before they got together. And all doubting thoughts would get pushed away for another day.

Jasper's "itch," however, was trying to rear its head again. He tried shoving it down and ignoring it, but it kept getting stronger. Except this time Jasper just felt nauseous every time he thought about leaving. So then he would try to imagine staying with Edward and he would get even more nauseous for different reasons. He didn't want to hurt Edward, but he didn't know if he could be what Edward wanted.

Finally it all reached a head. Several things happened to force Jasper's decision. First, the weather started to warm up a bit. It was still a little too cold at night for staying outside, but the first full day of bright sunshine was like a big, huge banner saying "Lookout, I'm spring and I'm on my way!" Jasper had never stayed an entire season in one place.

Next, Jasper went digging for his map, sort of just to reassure himself that he still had it. It had gotten buried at the bottom of his backpack and the night of the big snowfall his backpack (along with practically everything else he owned) had gotten soaking wet. He thought he'd gotten everything dry but apparently had missed the map. When he pulled it out, the pages were stuck to each other, dry and brittle and warped and it ended up ripping in half when he try to pull it apart. It was destroyed. Jasper knew it was weird to freak out over a damaged piece of paper, but he had had that map since he left home all those years ago. It was the last thing he bought as he headed out of Texas, never to return again.

The third thing was completely unexpected. Edward had some meetings in New York that he absolutely had to attend and was gone for three days. As soon as he left, Jasper felt a hollowness in the pit of his stomach. He was jittery. He realized that from the time he first met Edward, he had not gone a day without seeing him, even if it was just an hour for their lunch date. He felt uncomfortable staying alone in this house that was not his. The only time he felt relief was in the evening when Edward would call. By the day Edward was due home, Jasper was missing and craving Edward so badly he couldn't stand it. As soon as Edward walked in the door, Jasper had him pinned up against the door and was attacking his mouth, his neck, his chest—every inch of him he could reach or touch. They left a trail of clothes all over the house and up the stairs and barely made it to the bed. At one point as they were naked and sweaty and thrusting against each other, Edward whispered, "Please…fuck me Jasper." Jasper faltered for a minute and Edward started reaching for the nightstand table. Jasper instead bent down and took Edward's cock in his mouth, effectively distracting Edward from his request.

Fucking…making love…was the one thing they hadn't done yet. Jasper had plenty of one-night stands during his travels where he fucked guys without a second-thought. But for some reason with Edward he couldn't bring himself to take that step. Not because he didn't want Edward—God knows he could only imagine the heaven that burying himself inside Edward would be. It's just, he knew…he knew with Edward it would not be like it had been with those other guys, guys he didn't care whether he ever saw again. Edward was not going to be easy to leave.

As they collapsed against each other that night before falling asleep, Edward leaned over to give him a kiss, but suddenly stopped. Peering directly into Jasper's eyes, and without once looking away, he murmured huskily, "I love you Jasper Whitlock." He kissed Jasper and snuggled back down into his pillow, while Jasper's heart sped up so much he almost thought he was having a heart attack. He barely slept at all that night. All he kept hearing in his head were Edward's words—I love you. Forming attachments was not what Jasper did, he was never in one place long enough and this was why. It could only lead to pain and hurt and he didn't want to do that to Edward.

The next morning Jasper was unusually quiet as they ate breakfast. Finally, he broke the silence.

"So you liked New York, hmm?"

Edward looked over at him curiously. Jasper already knew Edward's opinion on New York, they talked every day he was gone.

"Yeah it was pretty cool."

"Strange, but you know I just realized I've never been. With the weather getting better, maybe I'll head there next. There's actually quite a few places I've never been on the East coast, maybe I could start more south somewhere and work my way up the coast. A lot of beach communities are welcoming in the summer to traveling musicians. Then I could end up in New York last. Yeah, that could be pretty cool."

Jasper purposely got up and took his plate over to the sink to wash it off so he couldn't see Edward's devastated reaction.

~s~s~s~ ~s~S~s ~s~s~s~

I knew the moment you'd truly decided it was time to move on. I saw it in your eyes, I felt it in your body, I knew it the moment I uttered the words. And yet I wouldn't take them back. I would still say them. Because I had to, I wanted you to know.

~s~s~s~ ~s~S~s ~s~s~s~

Somehow, Edward managed to keep his heart off his sleeve and he masked his real feelings about Jasper leaving, instead making encouraging comments whenever Jasper talked about his plans.

Jasper kept telling himself this was the right decision. He had to leave, he shouldn't stay. And yet he found himself a little hurt at Edward's seemingly supportive and indifferent attitude.

He only had a couple weeks left. Knowing their time together was growing limited, they still reached for each other in the dark—groping, needy, fiery touches on heated skin.

~s~s~s~

Finally the day arrived. It was Jasper's last day in Seattle. Living with Edward all these weeks had afforded Jasper to save most of the money he made from playing at the coffeehouse. He actually had enough money to buy a bus ticket rather than trying to hitch rides clear across the country. He was heading to South Carolina first and then he'd play it by ear as he always did, traveling on to the next town and up the coast as he felt like it.

He'd booked a ticket on a bus leaving at nine o'clock at night, thinking that leaving in the dark of night might make it easier somehow—he wouldn't be able to see what he was leaving behind. And that he could sleep the miles away, waking only after he'd put several states between he and Seattle, between him and Edward.

They both were putting their best faces forward, neither wanting to show their true emotions to the other. They decided to have a late lunch one last time at the deli. Then they went back to Edward's house, where Jasper was surprised as Edward pulled him upstairs. Jasper tried to protest, but Edward shut the bedroom door behind him and gently pressed him against it.

"Edward…."

"Shh…" was Edward's response. He took Jasper's lips between his, caressing them with gentle, sweet kisses, that slowly built in intensity. When he finally broke away, Jasper was gasping for air. Edward kissed up Jasper's jaw to his ear, gently biting and sucking on his earlobe. His hands drifted down to Jasper's T-shirt and he sensually slid his hands underneath the hem, gliding his fingers over every inch of Jasper's chest. Jasper moaned quietly and lifted his arms up, begging Edward to take his shirt off.

As Edward tossed the shirt to the floor, he licked and nibbled and teased Jasper's sensitive nipples until they were both hard and Jasper was humming in pleasure. Next Edward trailed loving, reverent kisses down Jasper's chest to the waistband of Jasper's jeans. His cock was prominently hard and very evident even under the thick fabric. Edward deftly undid the button and slowly drew the zipper down. Jasper let out a very clear sigh of relief when Edward pushed the jeans and boxers simultaneously to the floor. As he wrapped his hand around Jasper's hard, thick cock, Jasper tried to protest again.

"Edward…"

"One last time, Jasper, let me taste you." Edward's voice was quiet and strained.

He stroked his hand up and down a couple of times, purposely slowing his movements over the head and slit, drawing forth a very hoarse moan from Jasper. He bowed his head and licked up Jasper's entire silky smooth length, swirling and licking around the tip before wrapping his full lips around Jasper's cock. He slowly inched his way down and then back up again, taking more and more of him in each time. Jasper was gripping Edward's hair tightly and trying to restrain his hips from shoving his dick down Edward's throat, but not being very successful.

"God damn, Edward…yes, oh God yes." The heat of Edward's mouth and the heat building in his groin were creating an inferno Jasper couldn't control.

"I need…ungh…coming…coming…oh Edward!" Jasper finally felt his cock releasing in long hot streams down Edward's throat, as he slumped back against the door.

Edward finished licking and cleaning him up while Jasper watched from hooded eyes. When he was done, he pulled Edward up to him and crashed their lips together, his hands weaving and curling in Edward's hair as he pulled him as close as he could. Their tongues tangled and tasted the remnants of Jasper left in Edward's mouth, causing them both to groan loudly.

"Your turn," Jasper rasped as he hurriedly stepped out of his pants and shoes and backed Edward toward the bed. Not quite as patient as Edward had been, he fisted Edward's shirt and yanked it over his head. He pushed Edward to lie down on the bed and he crawled on top of him, reaching for Edward's pants, unzipping and pulling them down and off his legs. His boxers were tented pretty severely and Jasper ripped them off quickly too. Edward had the most long and perfect cock. Jasper worshipped it with his hands and his mouth and his tongue, bringing Edward to an incoherent frenzy before taking all of him in his mouth. He bobbed and swirled and teased and tasted until Edward was bucking his hips wildly and gripping the sheets.

"Fuck, Jasper…fuck, fuck fuck…ungh!"

Jasper smiled and hummed around Edward's cock. He loved hearing Edward let go and let this side of him out. No one would ever imagine the straitlaced computer geek could swear like a dirty sailor.

He was whimpering and gasping for breath. "Oh God, Jasper!" Edward began convulsing in Jasper's mouth and he held still, letting Edward fuck his mouth as he needed. Jasper drank down every last drop.

Jasper let go of his soft cock and looked up at Edward. He saw love shining from his eyes, but tinged, Jasper knew, with a little sadness. Edward extended his hand towards him.

"Come here," he whispered. As Jasper crawled up to him, he opened his arms and wrapped Jasper in his embrace, tangling their legs together. They didn't speak; the room was quiet, just the gentle sounds of their kisses, their bodies shifting around on the crisp sheets, their low murmuring words of desire and passion. Slowly the fire between them began to build again. When they were both hard and aching again, Jasper reached down to wrap his hand around Edward's cock, until Edward stopped him.

"Wait…stop Jasper," he murmured. Jasper watched Edward reach into the nightstand drawer for the bottle of lube and then his heart stopped when he saw what else Edward pulled out.

Edward held the shiny foil packet up to Jasper.

Jasper hesitated, not sure this was a good idea and yet every nerve ending in his body screaming yes at him.

"Please," Edward whispered.

"Are…you sure, Edward?"

"Yes Jasper. I need you. I want to feel you, to remember you inside me."

Jasper reached out and closed his hand over the packet and Edward's hand. He leaned down and nuzzled Edward's cheek with his own, whispering to him. "I want to feel you, too. I want to bury myself inside you and never…never…" Jasper's voice broke and he couldn't let the words go. He wanted to say "and never let you go," but he didn't have the right to. It wasn't fair to Edward to say it now.

Edward slid his hand out from under Jasper's hand and took Jasper in his arms, stroking his hair softly. "It's okay, baby…it's okay."

Jasper disentangled himself from Edward's embrace, and not looking at him, grabbed the bottle of lube and the condom.

He kneeled between Edward's legs and gently massaged Edward's sensitive skin around his entrance. He coated his fingers with lube and started with one fingertip, gently pressing inside. He knew it had been a long time for Edward, and he took his time prepping him, wanting to go as easy as he could and make sure Edward was as comfortable as possible.

When he finally got two fingers in, he could tell Edward was still feeling some discomfort. He took Edward's cock in his mouth and licked and sucked him while his fingers pumped in and out. He heard Edward cry out and finally relax, bucking against his fingers. Jasper very quickly added a third finger and soon was easily sliding them in and out of Edward.

"Please, Jasper, oh please God, enough…I can't take anymore, I need you now."

Jasper let go of his cock and straightened up so he was kneeling. He ripped the foil packet and quickly put the condom on and slicked it up with some more lube. He lifted Edwards legs wider and very slowly entered Edward. He took his time even though he was painfully hard himself and trying to keep himself from coming. He felt Edward's tight ring of muscle give way finally, making it easier to slip further in.

Jesus Christ it had been far too long for Jasper as well and Edward felt so tight. "My God baby you feel so good, fuck," Jasper was panting. Edward was grunting and grimacing.

Jasper stilled. "Edward are you okay?" he whispered.

"Yes," he said hoarsely. "Please, don't stop."

Jasper kept moving in him until he could see the moment the pain gave way to pleasure.

"Jasper…oh fuck…Jasper!"

"I'm right here, baby." Jasper shifted Edward's ankles up over his shoulders and then bent him forward so that Jasper was practically on top of him, his face mere inches from Edward's.

Jasper began moving a little faster. He was completely buried in Edward and as he predicted earlier it was pure heaven. Both of them were moving together, moaning and calling out each other's names, their heated bodies glistening with sweat.

"Harder Jasper, please, please, please!"

Edward needed as much of Jasper as he could get. "Fuck me baby, please."

Edward's desperate pleas were too much for Jasper, the coil in his abdomen was letting go.

He reached down between them and stroked Edward, only needing a few movements before Edward shook violently, crying out with his release.

Edward was still clenching around him and it was only moments until he shattered with his own release, feeling like his whole body was in pieces.

He stayed in Edward as long as he could afterward, both of them silently acknowledging this last connection they would ever have. He placed gentle soothing kisses all over Edward's chest before finally pulling out. Edward bit back a whimper and his eyes were glassy as he watched Jasper walk toward the bathroom. Jasper came back with a warm washcloth and tenderly, lovingly, cleaned Edward up. When he crawled back into bed, he pulled Edward into his arms, curling himself around him.

"Thank you Jasper…thank you."

Jasper couldn't speak around the lump in his throat, even though there was so much he wanted to say.

"What time do you have to leave?" Edward asked, his voice visibly strangled.

"Shh…Not for a while, just go to sleep, baby." Jasper stroked Edward's hair soothingly until he could tell he had drifted off to sleep.

Jasper lay as long as he could with Edward in his arms. It was so hard to let him go. He stared at the blaring red numbers on the clock beside Edward's bed, watching every minute ticking away.

Finally it was time.

Jasper quietly got out of bed, finding his clothes and dressing as quickly as he could. He walked over to Edward and started to bend down to give him one last kiss, then stopped himself, deciding maybe it would be better not to wake him up.

He grabbed his guitar and his backpack and walked out the door.

~s~s~s~

Outside, parked in front of Edward's house was a black car. As Jasper walked down the walkway, the driver's side door opened and a man dressed head to toe in black scurried around to the passenger side. He opened the door and held it open, waiting.

"Mister Whitlock?"

The driver was waiting on him? "Umm…yeah?"

"I'm here to drive you to the bus station."

Jasper turned and looked back at the house and then at the driver, shaking his head in disbelief. Edward, of course.

The driver tried to make polite conversation with Jasper, asking him where he was headed and how the weather was probably beautiful there this time of year. But it was pretty obvious Jasper didn't want to talk and so the driver kept quiet the rest of the drive, giving Jasper the silence he wanted.

Jasper kept hoping the drive would last longer, but it was over far too early, and soon the car was pulling away, having left Jasper and his belongings in front of the bus station. Swallowing thickly, Jasper grabbed his things and headed inside, his bag and guitar feeling like lead weights.

There were a surprising number of people inside, considering the hour. Jasper still had an hour before his bus was due, so he sat down heavily in one of the hard plastic chairs. He ducked his head down, leaning over with his elbows on his knees.

He was breathing heavily, and he swore he felt pain in his chest. Could you feel physical pain from a broken heart? God damn you Edward! Why did you start leaving me lunch every day? Why did I invite you to join me? If he hadn't met Edward, he would have probably stayed in Seattle a few weeks, seen the sights of the city and happily moved on. Then again he couldn't imagine not having met Edward.

Jasper ran his hands frantically through his hair over and over. He was a nomad, a gypsy, happily making his way through the world, when he wanted, where he wanted. So why did he feel no happiness this time, no thrill for the next adventure? He'd bought a new map a few days ago and he opened it up, folded and refolded it, the hard, crisp paper very unwieldy. It wasn't soft and faded like his old map, it wasn't comfortable. This one just felt…wrong.

The announcement for his bus came loud over the intercom. Arriving in fifteen minutes…arriving in five minutes…last call for boarding.

Jasper never moved. There was a disconnect somewhere, his brain not being able to tell his body to move. His heart was in the way.

He didn't feel devastated or angry at missing his bus. There would always be another, when he was ready. He just needed a few more minutes…another hour…or two…or three.

He reached for his bag finally, unzipping the front pocket to pull out his ticket, when a piece of paper fell onto the floor. As he reached down to pick it up he saw familiar handwriting on the front, spelling out his name, that had his heart pounding again.

With shaking hands he unfolded the piece of paper and read Edward's words.

~s~s~s~ ~s~S~s ~s~s~s~

I love you. I know those words scare you, but I would like to believe you feel them too. I know we have grown up differently, in different families and have had different life experiences, but none of that ever really mattered to me. All that mattered to me was you.

I don't know what you're looking for, but I truly do hope one day you find it, I only wish as much happiness for you as you've given to me.

I guess I just want you to know, as you go about your life in the world, Jasper, that I will always love you and I will always be here for you. If you ever find you need…anything, you know where I am.

E

~s~s~s~ ~s~S~s ~s~s~s~

Jasper's eyes were wet, and he found himself both sniffling and chuckling at the same time. Edward was better with words than he realized—because he used them more carefully than most and always said exactly what he meant. Jasper knew Edward had to be breaking inside too, but he'd never got angry with Jasper or tried to make him change his mind; he'd never begged him to stay. Even now in his letter, he was letting Jasper go. He was giving Jasper the space he needed to decide. Because he wanted Jasper to be happy and he thought that was what Jasper wanted.

He'd asked Edward once why he brought him a lunch, why he sat on the dirty sidewalk every day to share a meal with a man who slept on park benches. Because I wanted to know you.

It was that simple. Edward had never seen the well-worn clothes or the holes in his shoes or the beat-up guitar case. All he cared about was the man inside. He accepted him for who he was.

And he was right…Jasper was scared, he was scared he couldn't give Edward all that he needed.

~s~s~s~

Edward opened the door to get the paper, his hair all askew and wearing only pajama pants and an old t-shirt. Despite looking like he just woke up, there were circles under his eyes that matched Jasper's own. Jasper was parked there in the doorway, curled up into the corner. He stood up immediately, holding two small brown paper bags.

"I know it's still too early for lunch so I brought breakfast instead—muffins. All they had were blueberry or banana-nut, but I know you don't like walnuts, so I got the blueberry…is that okay?" he asked tentatively.

"Definitely," Edward choked out, knowing Jasper was asking about more than just muffins.

"I don't know if I can do this…" Jasper said nervously.

"It's okay." Edward opened his arms, pulling Jasper into them.

Jasper dropped the bags and held on tightly to Edward, with all he had in him.

"I love you," he whispered.