A/N: Following the news the past few weeks has been a very sad event. Five teenagers took their lives over the span of two weeks. Why? Because they were being bullied for being gay - or being accused of being gay. It struck a chord with me, as I'm sure it did with many of you. This story is the result. I hope you read it with an open mind and an open heart.
Warning: there is suicide involved. Bring your Kleenex.
Thanks to vampireisthenewblack,ealasaid77, kimberlycullen10,and atypicalswan for prereading and offering feedback.
Thanks as always, to SorceressCirce & Rhenea5018 for beta'ing.
As ever, I don't own Twilight. Its characters just continue to speak to me.
"Rose, come on, hurry up, would you?" Jasper yelled from the car, looking like he was in a hurry - though why, I didn't know. He'd been in a hurry the last couple of weeks, though once we got home, he'd always stay in his room never explaining why he was in such a rush to get there.
"Yeah, yeah, keep your shirt on, Jazzie. I'm comin'." I turned to Lauren and hugged her, murmuring, "I'll see you tomorrow. Chin up, 'kay?"
Lauren nodded while giving a covert glance to Jasper. I didn't think anything of it as Jasper always received looks. Honestly, we both did. Jasper and I were twins and were both blessed with not unfortunate looks. I wasn't ashamed to use mine to my best advantage but Jasper was a little more laid back about it. He wasn't interested in turning heads.
It hadn't been until a few months ago that I found out exactly why he had never made a big deal about it. Why he never pursued any of the girls that always seemed to throw themselves at him. He confided in me after yet another attempt by Jessica to get in his pants. She never seemed to give up, or take "No," for an answer. No matter how it was delivered.
My brother - my twin - was gay. And still very much in the closet. He only told me after much pressing on my part, because I could tell something was bothering him. I'd known for a while that something was different about him, but hadn't been able to confirm anything one way or the other until that day.
I sighed, walking over to the car. He was already behind the wheel, looking anxious, tense, and almost jumpy. Sidling into the passenger seat of his Camaro, I looked at him. He didn't speak the entire drive home. Finally, as he parked into his spot in front of the house and was about to get out, I said, "What happened?"
He turned to me, his hand still on the door handle. His voice was forced, his jaw flexing as he said, "Nothing." Then he got out of the car and hurried into the house.
I sat, slightly stunned by his behavior. He was usually never short with me, and we'd always talk about anything that happened at school. We didn't have any secrets between us - well, not anymore; not since he'd come out to me. His being gay was now our secret as he was not yet ready to tell our parents.
Frowning, I followed after him, heading for the kitchen after dropping my bag at the foot of the stairs, as always. Jasper's bag wasn't there, which meant he'd gone straight to his room. My frown deepened, wondering what had gotten into him. I hadn't heard anything at school, and usually the rumor mill ran pretty smoothly - too much so, at times; especially among the cheerleaders, and the football team.
The only thing that had really come to my attention was that Tyler had broken up with Lauren again. I grabbed a few baby carrots and a glass of ice water then sat down at the kitchen island as I mulled over things, wanting to find what I had missed. Still, I couldn't think of anything.
With a sigh, I cleaned up after myself before heading to my room to do homework. When I passed Jasper's room, I could hear his "angry" music playing. Something was definitely up. I knocked on his door, calling out, "Jasper?"
The only response was the increase of volume to the music. A clear message saying, "Leave me alone." I placed my palm on the door as if I could somehow touch him that way, feel what it was he was feeling. I couldn't, of course, and after a minute of silence amidst the blaring music, I gave up and went to my room.
I had to put in my headphones and play my music fairly loud in order to be able to concentrate on my work - not the most ideal of circumstances to do homework in, but it worked. By the time dinner rolled around, I was done. Jasper emerged from his room, looking for all the world as if nothing bothered him. I could tell it was a front. Call it a twin-sense, or whatever, but I knew.
When his eyes met mine when we both stood at the top of the stairs, they looked harder, pained - determined. I put my hand on his shoulder, without saying a word. Silently asking him to tell me what was wrong. He just shook his head and headed downstairs.
Dinner went as always, with Mom and Dad asking how our day was, and telling us about theirs. Asking whether we had any plans for the weekend. Well, plans beyond the game, of course. Jasper would be playing with the Spartans against the Port Angeles Rough Riders on Friday, and I'd be cheering at the game. Our team was doing pretty well, and we were all hopeful that we'd be able to end this season with a high ranking. Something that'd look great for Jasper, as we were both in our senior year, and he was hoping to get a football scholarship to the University of Washington. They'd already been around to scout.
After dinner, we hung out for a while, playing Scrabble as we always did on Thursdays. Some might find it lame - and a few of our friends had made fun of the fact that we still played boardgames, especially with our parents, but we didn't care. It was tradition.
Before long, it was time for bed. Jasper still hadn't said anything to me about what had gotten him upset earlier, and it was with that in mind that I fell into a fitful sleep.
The next day started off with a pep rally, and everything seemed normal enough. Except I noticed that a few people were giving me odd looks. I asked Lauren about it, but she just shrugged and told me to concentrate on our cheers, so I did. By the time we were done and heading to class, I'd forgotten all about it.
The day went by fast, as it usually did on a game day. I hadn't heard anything specific that might indicate something was going on, but I did see a few people whispering - and stopping as soon as I was within earshot. Something that was highly unusual. I tried to find out what was going on, but no one would say anything to me. If anything, they'd just look at me with a strange look in their eyes, and turn away.
Jasper seemed to be more tense as the day went on, but insisted it was just pre-game jitters. I wanted to believe him, but somehow couldn't. I was actually beginning to get a little worried about him. This wasn't like him at all. He was usually a laid back kind of guy, and quick with a smile, a laugh, or a joke. None were there, that day.
I didn't get much of a chance to ask him about it, because things went their usual crazy in preparation for the game. It was a home game, and things always were a little more intense with those. The town of Forks supported their Spartans.
The game itself went well. Jasper helped make several touchdowns happen, and everyone was cheering. I noticed to my dismay, that he appeared to be getting sacked more often than necessary, and much harder than I'd ever seen before. The longer the game went, the more trouble he had getting up after each hit, but he seemed determined not to give in.
I was actually relieved when the game ended - with a win, thankfully. We'd won 24-10, and the crowd was ecstatic. No one seemed to notice that as the team left the field, Jasper was limping. I tried to get close enough to him, but was hampered by the people coming up to congratulate us. Giving up, I resigned myself to simply get changed and meet him by the car as soon as possible - certain the coach would check to make sure everything was alright with his star player.
As I hurried through my post-game rituals, I overheard a couple of girls snicker and whisper, "Bet he liked being tackled-" They came to an abrupt stop when they realized I was there. They attempted to look abashed, failing miserably, but before I could ask them what the hell they were talking about, Lauren came up to me, talking about a couple of our cheers she felt we could do better.
It was a relief to finally get to the car, though it was short-lived, as Jasper wasn't there yet. This was unusual, and I didn't take it as a good sign.
Was he hurt worse than I thought? Where is he?
He always beat me to the car after a game. Always. Using my own key, I opened the car, dumping my bag inside before locking it back up again and setting off toward the locker rooms, intent on finding Jasper.
I rounded the corner of the building, only to stop dead in my tracks. There was Jasper, with his back against the wall - and three guys standing too close to him, their manner threatening. I gasped as I saw one of them hit Jasper in the ribs, hissing something I couldn't hear.
"Hey! Leave him alone!" I yelled, running to them. A stupid thing to do, really, because I certainly wasn't any match for these guys. I should've turned and run to get someone to help, instead.
Jasper's eyes shot to mine in utter shock, and fear. "Rosalie! Go! Get out of here, please!"
As I got closer, I recognized the faces of the guys bearing down on Jasper, all three of them having turned to me at my outcry. They were Jasper's teammates. I couldn't understand why they were intent on hurting him. Jasper had never done anything to anyone - he was the kind of guy who made friends with everyone. He never picked a fight but would stick by someone if they were in a bind.
A trait we both shared.
One of the guys - Royce - sneered at me, then turned to Jasper. "Well lookie here, seems the fag has to be rescued by his hag. How sad."
The other two - James and Mike - snickered at that, while my stomach twisted. Jasper's eyes held panic in them. Fear, not for himself, but for me. I could tell. Swallowing my own sense of dread, I walked up to them, keeping my head held high and narrowing my eyes at Royce. "What the hell do you think you're doing, Royce King? You're on the same team, why would you attack-"
Royce barked out a laugh, cutting me off. "You're wrong there, Rosalie. This fag and I are most definitely not playing for the same team. No dick comes near my ass."
At that, Jasper flinched, looking away with a blush on his cheeks. I wondered if there was something more going on, for him to react that way, but I had to keep my wits about me. I glared at Royce. "No, it wouldn't have any room to go in there anyway, since your ass is already full of that stick you've put up it. Now knock that shit off and go home! Jasper's never done anything to you."
The other two burst out laughing, but Royce turned to me fully, advancing on me, his voice low and threatening as he said, "You be careful, Hale, or else..."
I took another step closer, reaching for Jasper's hand and clasping it tightly in mine as I kept my eyes on Royce. My voice was sharp, my heart beating a mile a minute - I felt sure it would betray my false bravado. "Or what, Royce? Get over yourself. I wouldn't go near you before, I sure as hell won't now. Now back off! You leave us alone, all of you," my eyes flickered briefly to the other two before settling back on Royce's fuming visage, "or I'll be sure to let Mr. Greene know what's going on."
Royce snorted, and I thought I heard Jasper gasp. I ignored them both, pulling Jasper away from these idiots. "Come on, Jazz, we're leaving."
I walked as briskly as my legs would take me, Jasper following after me. I didn't turn around to check if they were following us, but I couldn't hear them, so I prayed we were in the clear. Once we got to the car, I got in on the driver's side, not giving Jasper a chance to object. He didn't, simply folding himself into my usual seat without any comment at all.
How we got home I wasn't sure, but I pulled into the driveway before I was even truly aware that the car had been moving. When I cut the engine, I just sat there, staring out of the window as my entire body began to tremble. Jasper leaned over the console, wrapping his arms around my shoulders as he pulled me to him. My own arms wound around his back at the same time I felt the tears begin to fall.
We sat like that for long minutes, until I'd calmed down enough to handle going inside. Before we stepped through the door, Jasper and I shared a look that told him quite plainly that we would talk, and that I expected answers. He sighed, nodding in resignation, and then walked in to greet our parents. I ducked into the bathroom quickly to erase all traces of any tears before doing the same. We both claimed to be tired after the night's events - events that only extended to the game, as far as our parents were concerned.
Jasper and I got ready for bed quickly, donning our favorite slouchy pajamas. Once I was done, I walked into his room, locking the door behind me. He was waiting for me on his bed, sitting Indian style, his head bent as if mesmerized by the patterns his fingers were tracing on his quilt. I climbed up on the bed opposite him without a word. After about a minute of silence, Jasper drew a heavy sigh, glancing up at me with sad eyes.
Quirking a brow at him, I pulled my knees up and wrapped my arms around them. He cleared his throat, his brow furrowing as he spoke in a low voice that I had to strain to hear.
"I'm sorry, Rose."
"For what, Jasper?"
He swallowed hard a few times, then said, "Sorry you had to see that - that you got involved. I never-"
Frowning, I settled back into Indian style, leaning forward so I could take his hand in mine. "Jazz...how did they know?"
He gave a derisive laugh, shaking his head. His voice almost too low to hear. "Mike caught me with Lee..."
He sighed, sitting up to lean his back against the head board, stretching his long legs out in front of him. His hands clasped tightly together as he told me how Lee had approached him, how they had each turned to the other. How he'd gotten his first kiss from Lee, and Lee from him. How they'd kept everything hidden from everyone, because Lee was even further in the closet than Jasper. At that he gave me a pointed look, letting me know Lee hadn't told a single soul outside of Jasper.
I nodded, letting him know I got his point. He told me that a couple of weeks ago, Mike had walked in on the two of them, kissing. More to the point, Mike and Jessica had walked in on them. Apparently those two had been looking for a hide-away to do the very thing Jasper and Lee were doing. I idly wondered how Jessica had been able to keep her mouth shut about that particular discovery, but wasn't left wondering for long.
Mike had threatened to out them, unless they did what he wanted. Jasper had gone along solely for Lee's sake - he might not have been ready to come out, but he would have done so otherwise, just to keep Mike out of his hair. They'd never liked each other, and Mike was all too happy to have Jasper do his bidding.
I listened with growing disquiet. How had I not known about any of this? How had I missed all of it? And then I realized that that's where Jessica had come in. She had served to distract me, made sure that none of it came back to me, so I wouldn't step in and spoil their fun.
Jasper's voice cracked, "Mike let his little secret slip after practice the other day. Rose, I tried so hard...I never, never looked...never did-"
I knew what he was trying to say. I could guess the accusation that had flown at him from the likes of Royce and James. I moved to sit next to him, wrapping my arm around his shoulder as I whispered, "I know, sweetie, I know."
He huffed, rubbing furiously at his eyes, shaking his head. "They've been after me every day since. Cornering me every chance they got. Had the whole team against me - everyone believes their stupid shit. These are guys that've known me their whole lives, Rose! But that doesn't seem to matter anymore. Royce and James have them so scared, they do whatever those two say. And they say to beat me down."
At that, he shrugged from underneath me, pulling up his shirt to show me the bruises on his back and chest. All places that weren't visible under normal circumstances. I gasped in horror, "Oh Jasper...why didn't you tell anyone?"
He shook his head. "I tried. Coach wouldn't believe me. Said that the training had been rough and to buck up and be a man. If I couldn't take it, he'd find another guy to take my spot, said he didn't need a wuss as a QB."
I closed my eyes in disgust. That sounded like something Clapp would say. Jasper pulled his shirt back on, settling himself against the head board again, his eyes focused on his lap. There was more - there had to be.
And then I remembered something Royce had said, and Jasper's reaction to it. "Jasper...?"
He turned to look at me hesitantly. My eyes searched his for a moment, and after a minute, he answered my unspoken question. "Lee and I kept seeing each other. We were being even more careful than before - or we thought we were, anyway."
He paused, looking back to his hands folded in his lap again. Placing mine on top of them, I said, "Go on..."
I heard him sniffle, and then he tilted his head up, his eyes raised to the ceiling as he gave a hollow laugh. "Rose...let's just say I'm not exactly a virgin anymore, okay?" He mumbled, "God, this is embarrassing on so many levels..."
I blushed, clearing my throat. "Okay...but what-?"
He whispered, "I don't know how, exactly, but Mike caught us on camera, Rose. Like in the act..."
He glanced at me, running his fingers nervously through his hair as he waited for me to catch on.
My eyes flew wide. "How do you know..?"
He snorted. "That asshole came up to us just before class started - you know Lee and I are lab partners - waved his iPhone in our face, playing a snippet of what he had. It was enough."
Jasper pulled his knees up, resting his elbows on them and burying his face in his hands. I could tell he was blushing, as it spread all the way down his neck.
I was stunned. If what he said was true - and I had no reason to doubt him - then this was even more serious than I had thought. I was kicking myself for having missed all the signs that, in retrospect, were clear as day. In that moment, I wanted to hurt Mike. Hurt him for putting my brother through this hell. Jasper was one of the best people I'd ever met, and that wasn't just because we were twins. He had a kind soul, was open, loving, trusting, and he would give you the shirt of his back if you needed it. I couldn't fathom why anyone would want to hurt him in any way.
Wrapping my arms around him, I kissed the top of his head with a sigh. "Jasper, you have to tell Mom and Dad."
He shook his head, groaning, "No...please, Rose..."
"Tomorrow, Jasper. I'll be right there with you. You have to tell them, sweetie. Something has to be done about those idiots."
He didn't say anything for a while, but after a few minutes, he nodded, mumbling, "Alright..."
I hugged him tightly, wishing more than anything that I could take his pain away. I'd never seen him like this before. It was as if my Jasper - the Jasper I'd known my entire life - had bled away, leaving this husk of a person. Someone who was scared, uncertain, tormented. I wasn't at all sure whether he had agreed to tell them because he saw the need for it himself, or because I was pushing him to, but I didn't know what other course to take.
Part of me wondered if he really was going to tell them. I wasn't certain what their response would be. This wasn't a topic that was normally talked about in our house, though I had the feeling it would be for a long time coming.
We sat huddled together like that for a while longer, and then I couldn't contain my yawns anymore. I looked at the clock, shocked to see it was after midnight. It was a Friday night, but I normally never stayed up past eleven.
With a sigh, I pulled away. "It's late, Jazz. Try to get some sleep, and we'll figure it out tomorrow, okay?"
He nodded again, sitting up so he could wrap his arms around me in a hug. He buried his face in my neck, and he whispered, "Thanks, sis. I love you."
Hugging him back, I murmured, "I love you, too, Jasper."
I left him to hopefully get some sleep, though I lay staring up at my ceiling for what felt like hours. Everything Jasper had told me tonight, and all the things I had missed over the past too many weeks, replayed in my mind. When I finally did fall asleep, it was with an uneasy feeling that things were about to get a whole lot worse.
The next day, I woke much earlier than normal, which surprised me considering how late I'd gone to sleep. It occurred to me that the house was almost eerily quiet. On an average Saturday, especially after a game day, I could usually hear Jasper tinkering in the garage. We were restoring an old Mustang for me, and he always liked to unwind the day after a game by working on it. Today, I couldn't hear any sounds coming from there at all.
I hoped that meant that he was still sleeping, since we'd had such a late night. Even so, I felt the first stirrings of trepidation in my stomach. After a quick stop in the bathroom, I went to check on him. Knocking on his door gave me no response, and when I opened it, there was no sign of Jasper inside at all. I noticed his laptop had been pulled out, but apparently it had been a while, as it was in sleep-mode.
Thinking nothing of it, I decided to see where he was at. It was too early to call out for him, so I ended up going through the house. His shoes and jacket were still in their place, which meant he hadn't gone for a run, but I couldn't find any trace of him anywhere.
I hadn't checked the garage, since everything was so quiet, but after finding no sign of him anywhere else, I went there anyway. Walking through the kitchen, I frowned when I saw one of the bar stools was missing.
Fear gripped my heart then, making it beat faster, my breath becoming shallower as I rushed to the garage door - my feet almost carrying me against my will. I knew that I didn't want to go there - knew that I wouldn't like what I would find there, whatever it was.
I yanked the door open, and for a split second, I was frozen in place at the sight that met my eyes. The first thing I saw was the stool that was knocked over in the middle of the garage. My gaze traveled unwillingly upward, taking in the bare feet, the odd bulge in his pajama pants, the limp hands hanging by his side...
And then I reached his face - his blue, puffed up face, his tongue hanging out of his mouth.
I let out a bloodcurdling scream then - it echoed through the garage, hurting my ears. I ran to him, hopelessly - futilely - trying to support his weight as I cried out.
"Jasper! No, please God, no! Please Jasper, come back... Why did you do this? Please...God, no!"
I was sobbing, tears flowing freely down my face as I begged, "Please don't leave me...please..."
How could he do this? How could he leave me here alone?
"Oh God, Jasper...please!"
The noises started then. I heard the footsteps of Mom and Dad thundering down the stairs, their concerned voices mingling as they asked, "What happened? Are you alright? Rose?"
Mom's cries and screams joined mine as soon as she saw us - Jasper, still hanging from the rafters by the electrical cords he'd used, and me beneath him, trying to hold him up. I was vaguely aware of Dad as he called 9-1-1. "Please hurry...my son...hung himself...our address..."
I couldn't listen to him - refused to hear what I knew was true. That it was too late.
We managed to get him down before the paramedics came, and Mom cradled his head in her lap, tears streaming down her face as cries of agony tore from her throat. Asking again and again, "Why?"
I lay my head on his chest, grasping his too cold hand in my own, crying. I felt so lost without him here, even though I was touching his body - his soul was gone, and I could tell. An eternal hollowness filled his place inside of me.
Dad tried to get me to move - and mom, too - to step back, but neither of us really heard him. I refused to leave Jasper's side. If I did, it meant goodbye, and I couldn't...I just couldn't!
When the paramedics arrived though, I had no choice but to move, and I hated them for it. For making me leave his side. I wanted to blame someone for the fact Jasper was gone. Something I couldn't lay at his feet, even though he was the one who'd taken his own life.
Again, Dad tried to get me to leave the garage so I wouldn't have to see, but I refused. I had to be there. I turned to Daddy then, clutching at his robe as my knees buckled. He had to wrap his arms around me tightly to help me stay upright, but I wasn't leaving. My place was right there, by Jasper's side, just as it had always been. I cried again at the realization that it would no longer be.
He was gone, and I was alone.
It wasn't until after they had taken Jasper's body, and after the police had asked us to come to the station later, that I went back upstairs - numb. I wandered into his room without even realizing it.
When I saw his laptop, I automatically turned it back on - I didn't even think about it, I just did it. What I saw next had me turning quickly, only barely able to reach for his trashcan in time before losing the contents of my stomach. When I looked at the screen again, my hand reached forward to touch it.
There, on the screen, was Jasper's FaceBook, with a message on his wall, with a video.
The message read:
You asked for it, you fag. See if your hag-sister can save you from this.
I glanced again at the video, sobbing as Jasper stared back at me from a distance. A very naked Jasper, and behind him the hands and torso of Lee. It couldn't be anyone else. I didn't need to hit play to know what I would see if I did, and my stomach roiled again at the thought. Especially since there was a link to YouTube, and a XXX site right below it.
It took me a minute to realize that Jasper had written something on my wall.
i can't fight this. i'm sorry.
I broke down, collapsing onto his bed and curling into a ball. It hurt so much - my heart and soul felt as if they'd been torn apart. Irreparable.
I cried for me - for never again being able to turn to my brother, for being doomed to forever be alone, instead of half of the whole.
I cried for our parents - for the fact that they'd forever be denied to really know their son. To have had the chance to be there for him, to love him for who he was.
I cried for Jasper - that he had felt so alone, so desperate, that he'd seen no other way out. I wondered if I had missed the signs. I grabbed his pillow, hugging it to me as tightly as I could, wishing it were him instead.
They killed him!
They killed him as surely as if they'd strung him up themselves.
They killed him...oh God! He's dead...gone... Jasper...
They had taken away the other half of my soul - my twin. The one person in the world who had always been there for me, and because of them, I'd failed him. I hadn't been there when he needed me the most.
I didn't know if I'd ever be able to forgive them for that.
A/N: *holds out a box of Kleenex* Yeah, sorry about that. I know this wasn't easy to read. It sure as hell wasn't easy to write. I hope that you will share - if not this story, per se - the sentiment with those around you. Bullying is wrong. It is hurtful. It can change lives, forever. And not in a good way, as we have seen these past few weeks, in particular.
If you know anyone that's being bullied for being who they are, please, let them know they're not alone. And that things do get better.
Direct them to the
http:/www (dot) thetrevorproject (dot) org/
for help. There are many organizations, besides this one, that are geared to help LGBTQ youth.
Educate those around you. This isn't something that will just 'go away'.