This was originally posted as an entry in the Twilight No Stress Love Fest, on LiveJournal

Prompt(s): 16. Lonely teachers shopping for Valentine's Day art supplies. One package of red construction paper. They both reach for it. Fingers touch. Sparks fly?

Disclaimer: All Twilight characters belong to Stephenie Meyer, Little, Brown, et. al. No profit was made and no copyright infringement is intended.

A/N: Big thanks to Naelany and OnTheTurningAway for creating this wonderful "Love Fest." :) It was great fun to write for, and to participate in. Also thanks to everyone who read and participated in the guessing poll.

If you haven't checked out the Love Fest stories yet, please do so, and please leave the wonderful and talented authors some review love. There were SO many wonderful fun and gushy and romantic and heartbreaking and vampy stories submitted. They were all fabulous! :)

community(DOT)livejournal(DOT)com/twi_love_fest

Also big thanks to urmistaken70 for pre-reading and providing the title! ;)

Oh and just in case you've made it this far and didn't notice the pairing, this is SLASH. :)


~~ * V * ~~

FEBRUARY.

I winced as I flipped the calendar page, and the big, bold, red letters screamed out at me. The top page was teeming with red and pink hearts of all sizes, jumping off the page to taunt me even further.

Every year I dreaded this moment—the end of January. The moment we're forced into February. Most people hate January, looking upon it as nothing but cold, frigid winter weather. But really, January wasn't such a bad month—I chose to look at it as the birth of a new year, full of new beginnings and fresh starts.

And March—March was an optimistic month too, bringing with it the promise of spring and warmer weather soon to come.

I don't know who created the months and the modern calendar, but why they just didn't go from January to March, I'll never know. Why did they feel compelled to stick February in the middle? The whole month was like a weird afterthought squeezed in there. I mean, they didn't even have enough days left in the year to make it a full month—it only got twenty-eight days. It was like the teenager of the calendar year—not quite as mature as the other months. Except every four years when it grew an extra day, just like a big, red, teenaged pimple.

Its holidays were just as childish. Groundhog Day? Come on, really? A whole day celebrating an ugly rodent-like creature who may or may not see his shadow and therefore "predict" when spring was going to arrive. Now how crazy was that?

But Groundhog Day was, of course, not the big day everyone looked forward to in February. No, that would be the month's other insane holiday—Valentine's Day.

As my eyes slid down the calendar to the big red "14," I could feel my face muscles twitching into a grimace.

Valentine's Day. Some pooh-poohed it as a day manufactured by the greeting card and candy companies to sell more products and I certainly wouldn't disagree. No matter, it didn't stop millions of people—or perhaps I should say, millions of couples—in the world from celebrating it. All of those couples professing their love for each other with food and flowers and balloons and stuffed animals and sexy underwear.

I sighed loudly. I hated Valentine's Day. Not once in my twenty-six years had I ever had a happy one.

It all started in the second grade. This was before any "political-correctness" swept into the schools and kids were "strongly encouraged" to give every one of their classmates a valentine, so that everything was equal and no one was left out. No, when I was in school it was pretty much anything goes—at least along gender lines.

The room was a madhouse, all of my fellow classmates and I running around in circles stuffing our valentines into everyone's individual box. Then when it was all over we rushed back to our desks, sweaty and eager to dive in and see how many valentines we had received. Well, okay, admittedly, the girls in the class were way more excited to see their valentines than the boys. Most of the boys were more excited over the fact that now we could all eat the cookies and cupcakes that some of our parents had provided.

I was one of the few boys that actually opened my valentine box and opened each and every valentine . . . only to be crushed that I hadn't received one from Matt, my best friend. I didn't understand it. I'd given him one; in fact I gave him my favorite one, with Superman on the front. I had given a valentine to everyone in my class, even the stupid girls. Originally I just wrote ones for all the boys, but when my mom found out she sat down and very calmly explained how it wasn't fair that I was leaving out all of the girls, and surely there were some of them I wanted to give a card to, weren't there? (Now that I think of it, maybe it was my mom who started the PC rule of every classmate getting a valentine.)

So, I gave one to everyone, but the only ones I got were from the silly, twittering girls in the class. I managed to hold it together until I got home. I walked in the door and mom came rushing out of the kitchen to greet me, asking how the party went and I immediately burst into tears. When I finally was able to tell her through my sniffles what was wrong—all my valentines were from stupid girls—she did her best to console me but I could tell she was trying to bite back a giggle. I threw all the valentines into the trash and later when mom tried to give them back to me, I told her they were full of girl-cooties and I didn't want them.

The next year, third grade, Valentine's Day rolled around again. We had a new boy in our class that year— Bobby Bukowski. He had the biggest brown eyes and dark, shaggy hair. He was funny and easy to hang out with; all the kids liked him. And his parents owned the new ice cream shop in town so he was automatically cool. Everyone wanted to be invited home with him after school. But he invited me the most. Of course, it was usually when he needed someone to do his math homework for him, but a triple chocolate sundae and the chance to be near him seemed more than an even exchange for a few multiplication tables.

Just like the year before, I gave everyone—boy and girl—a valentine. Bobby got my favorite valentine that year though. The next afternoon after recess, I was called to the principal's office. Bobby's parents were just leaving as I got there and they were giving me a funny look. When I went inside, my mom was sitting in the principal's office waiting on me. Turned out Bobby's parents had seen my valentine to him and they had gone to the principal to complain about how "inappropriate" it was—I had signed it "XOXO Love, Edward." I didn't understand what was wrong. He was my best friend and I liked him. All the valentines I got from the girls in my class were all covered with X's and O's and "I love you." Why weren't all of them being called into the principal's office?

Mr. Banner, the principal, seemed quite flustered and droned on about the appropriateness of what we say and do and how we need to learn to consider the consequences of things we write and say and how they might affect others, blah, blah, blah.

When mom and I were finally released, we stood there in the hall for an awkward moment just looking at each other. I must have still had a confused look on my face, because my mom quickly bent down and gave me a kiss on the cheek. She looked right into my eyes, with a sad smile on her face.

"Don't worry about what he said, baby, you spoke with your heart and there's nothing wrong with that."

And that was the first time in my life I realized I was different.

Mom never spoke another word to me about that day. The next year, though, she sat there with me and checked every valentine I wrote. She did it on the pretense of "helping me," by offering to put them in the envelopes for me, but I saw her sneak a look at each one before she sealed the envelope.

I'd learned my lesson though. I signed all the valentines—boy and girl—with nothing more than my name.

In a few years, when puberty started to hit, I realized just exactly why I was different. As all of the boys sprouted up and developed muscles and cracking voices, they also began paying more attention to the girls. Talking and joking about them incessantly—specifically, which of them were starting to grow boobs and wearing bras. And what it was like to touch said boobs. Eventually some of the guys started walking down the halls holding hands with some of the girls.

None of the girls in our school interested me and at first I thought it was just the specific girls themselves. Then one day, I was home alone and decided to sneak a look through one of mom's women's magazines, to see if I could figure out what was so appealing about girls. I flipped a page and there was a double-page spread ad for some perfume. Standing next to the half-clothed female model was a buff male model in nothing but a tight pair of briefs.

I got hard. Really hard.

Finally, I knew why I was different.

I liked boys.

After that epiphany, I did what every gay boy does to survive.

I hid it for a while. I was quiet anyway, so it was east to get away with everyone just thinking I was shy and didn't date. I went on a few dates with girls when I was forced to by peer pressure, mostly double dates or group dates. When I couldn't avoid it, I played along with the typical teenage games of Truth or Dare or Seven Minutes in Heaven, kissing girls when required.

Senior year of high school finally brought my first boyfriend, at least for a little while. Peter and I were assigned to be yearlong lab partners in biology. Besides working together in class, we had to do all homework and any out-of-class projects together. Which led to a lot of time spent at each other's houses. In each other's bedrooms.

Peter had moved to town the year before and he was in the closet too. In the beginning it was exciting, having a secret relationship no one knew about. Eventually though, it became more and more frustrating, not being able to hold his hand walking down the hall, or not being able to even give him a quick kiss in public. I began to question why we were hiding this, to question what would happen if we came out. Every time I brought it up, Peter would quickly shush me up, either in pleading and begging tones or with kisses and touches, distracting me so he wouldn't have to talk about it.

The final straw was Valentine's Day. I was so excited to have a real honest-to-goodness valentine to buy a gift for and to spend the evening with. I assumed we would do something quiet together, just the two of us. But for some reason Peter wanted to go to the Valentine's dance at school. I protested because, obviously, we couldn't go together. We argued for days until finally, he broke down and confessed that his mom had been badgering him about why he never dated. She was pushing him to invite her best friend's daughter, Charlotte, to the Valentine's dance.

So, in the end, I gave in. He fixed me up with Charlotte's best friend, Bella. She was nice enough, but of course not the person I wanted to be holding in my arms. Having to watch Peter all night, across the room with someone else was bad enough. But having to watch him smiling at her, and whispering in her ear, and holding her close, while I was miserable and lonely was heartbreaking. If he was faking it, then he deserved an Oscar for that performance. I caught him looking over at me a few times and he looked contrite and apologetic, but it was too little too late.

The next thing I knew he was kissing her, and that was all I could take. I feigned food poisoning to Bella to explain why we had to leave. And then dropped her off at her house on the way back to mine.

I spent the rest of the disastrous holiday night alone in my room, ignoring Peter's hourly texts. I realized I couldn't and didn't want to hide who I was anymore.

The next day I told my mom and dad I was gay. Thankfully, they took it well. Mom with a few tears in her eyes but a smile of support, and Dad . . . well, Dad cleared his throat a few times uncomfortably and after a "Are you sure, son?" he seemed to accept it. Looking back, I'm sure they must have had suspicions ever since the valentine incident with Bobby Bukowski.

Although I didn't "come out" in any official way at school, I was no longer going to deny it, either, if anyone asked. Or go out of my way to pretend with any girls. Of course, it also meant I had to break it off with Peter. I told him I understood if he wasn't ready to come out, but that I couldn't be with him in the meantime. My heart was crushed when Peter chose to stay in the closet rather than be with me.

Luckily, I was soon off to college. Things were easier there. I met a few guys, went on some dates, even had a couple of short-term relationships. Still, every Valentine's Day that rolled around, I always seemed to be single. Alone. Forced to watch all the other people in love celebrating the day. And as if the point had to be hammered home that I had no "someone special" in my life, I worked part-time at a drug store and couldn't help but be smothered by the holiday. January had barely begun and we were already unpacking the heart-shaped boxes of candy and the teddy bears that bleated out "I Wuv You" when you squeezed them. February thirteenth was the absolute worst day to work and, lucky me, I somehow always seemed to pull that shift. Last-minute shoppers, (usually men) always desperate for whatever cheap card or bauble was left, desperate to have something to give to their loved one. I was never so grateful for February fifteenth.

Then, one day, I met Garrett. I'd been out of college about a year, working at my first (and current) job. We met through mutual friends—at Jake and his partner Seth's housewarming party. Garrett and I had an instant physical attraction and I ignored my better instincts about taking things slow. The sex was amazing and he was easy to be with. We moved in after only a few months together and by February we'd already been together almost a year. I couldn't have been happier. Except when Garrett worked late. . . or was in one of his moods . . . or constantly ignored my plans.

Yeah, looking back I should have seen the signs. But I was so happy to have someone in my life, I guess I overlooked a lot. Valentine's Day rolled around and I was over the moon to finally, finally, for real this time, to have my own "valentine" to celebrate with. I had all kinds of plans—cooking Garrett's favorite meal, some champagne and strawberries later…in the bedroom. I hurried home from school, anxious to get the food started and get everything else set up. Unlocking the door to our apartment, the huge bouquet of roses I was carrying blocked my view, but I couldn't mistake the loud groans and grunts and expletives I heard. I let the roses crash to the floor . . . and got a full view of Garrett's naked ass fucking some other guy over our couch.

So yeah, Valentine's Day and I were mortal enemies. I was done with any hope that I'd ever have a good one. As far as I was concerned, I'd rather sleep straight through the whole day. Wake me when it's all over.

~~ * V * ~~

I was still cringing at the calendar when I heard a little voice below me.

"Mister Cullen, I hafta go to the bathroom really bad!"

I swiveled my head away from the calendar of doom to peer down at the source of the voice, keeping that stern grimace on my face.

"Michael, we just took a bathroom break. You were supposed to go then."

"I did! But I hafta go again!"

I sighed and shook my head. From the first day of class in the fall, little Mike Newton had been the student that I knew was going to try my patience the most this year in my class of second graders. And so far, he hadn't proven me wrong.

"Okay, Michael, you may go. But you go straight there and then come straight back here okay? No wandering the halls, understand?" I handed him the hall pass, and he dashed out the door yelling an "Okay!" behind him.

"And don't slam—!" My warning came too late as the door crashed shut behind him.

~~ * V * ~~

A week later, I watched the last of my students file into the music room before I turned and headed toward the stairs. The next hour was a free period for me, but of course teachers never really have "free" periods. There's always something to prepare for, or papers to grade. Today I was headed down to the art room. All the teachers in the building were allowed to take supplies from the art room as long as it was for a legitimate class project with your kids. As much as I, myself, hated Valentine's Day, I still had to have the kids do something fun for the holiday. Usually I gave the kids a heart pattern to trace and then let them loose with the crayons and glue and glitter to make valentine cards to take home to their parents. On second thought, maybe I'd nix the glitter usage to avoid hours after school cleaning up the mess.

Even though Valentine's Day wasn't until next week, I wanted to make sure I had everything I would need for the project. I learned my first year that you had to get to the art room early before they ran out of red and pink construction paper. Because of my personal feelings toward the holiday, I had put off the concept of the kids making valentines until the day before, and when I went to get some paper for the kids, there was a huge barren spot on the shelf where the red and pink paper would have been. The next day was not a pretty sight—one man, alone in a room with twenty confused and upset second graders who vehemently let me know that hearts are not green and yellow. I nearly had a mutiny on my hands.

As I entered the art room, I threw a quick wave over to Alice, our art teacher, to let her know I was there. In the middle of a class of her own, she just smiled and nodded back in greeting.

The supply room was fairly large with a second entrance door at the other end of it. I immediately headed for the shelves of construction paper, grabbing a good quantity of pink first. I heard footsteps and the presence of someone entering the room and, assuming it was just Alice, I didn't even bother looking up.

"Hey Alice, I'm just grabbing some paper for a project with the kids." Just as I reached up to grab a stack of red construction paper, my fingertips brushed the hand of the other person in the room, who was also reaching for the red paper. Except it wasn't Alice's hand. It was a male hand. My head whipped around to see who it was and I found myself looking at someone I didn't recognize. He had the most gorgeous baby blue eyes and curly blond hair framing his very masculine face. When he smiled at me, the dimples on his perfectly sculpted cheeks made him look like a grown-up Cupid come to life.

He pulled his hand away immediately, but my fingers still buzzed with the warmth of his brief touch. My hand was still resting on the stack of paper, and my lips started to move but then shut again, as I realized I was absolutely tongue-tied as to what to say to this modern day God in front of me.

Apparently my lowly human presence didn't affect him the same way, as he was quite easily able to find words.

"Oops, sorry about that, man." He was apologizing for accidentally touching me, great.

I managed to mumble a response. "Um . . . that's okay."

Suddenly he was holding his hand out again, this time in greeting. "I don't think we've met yet, I'm Jasper Whitlock. I'm Mrs. Cope's replacement."

Mrs. Cope was one of the fourth grade teachers, and had probably been here since the school was built. She'd finally retired at the end of December. I heard they had found someone to replace her, but obviously hadn't had a chance before now, to meet him.

His hand was still hanging out there in space so I had to get my brain back together and be polite to him.

"Hi, Edward Cullen, I teach one of the second grade classes. Welcome to Lincoln Elementary." As I grasped his hand in mine, the warmth burned again and engulfed my whole hand.

I was still just sort of standing there as he continued to speak. "So, red. Popular color this time of year. I was told it runs out quickly." He nodded toward the shelf and I finally broke out of my brief stupor.

"Oh yeah. And um, I can tell you from personal experience, the kids get mighty upset if there's no red paper for making valentines." I reached up again to grab what I thought I'd need for the class. As I did, I realized there were only a few sheets left. I frowned for a minute looking at the stack in my hand and the stack left on the shelf.

"Uh, I'm sorry…"

"Hey no worries, you were here first, you get first dibs. Besides I don't need much, I just wanted to decorate one of my bulletin boards." He had that kilowatt smile on his face again that was totally going to make me stupid if I didn't get out of there soon.

"Okay, um . . . well you might ask Alice, she might have more stashed somewhere. I, uh, need to get back. Good luck and again, welcome."

"Sure man, thanks, I'll see you around." He raised one hand in kind of a half-wave before turning back to the shelves of paper.

I high tailed it out of there and rushed back to my room, collapsing into my chair. My heart was racing but I convinced myself it was just from rushing back from the art room. It had absolutely nothing to do with the hot new teacher in our building. Nothing at all.

~~ * V * ~~

The next day, after delivering my kids to the lunchroom, I headed to the teacher's lounge for my own lunch break. I was just starting in on my ham sandwich, when I heard his voice.

"Is this seat taken?"

I gulped my bite of food down so fast, I almost choked. I looked up to see those blue eyes, those curls and that sexy smile. Jasper Whitlock.

"Um, no." I gestured toward the other chair, and he placed his lunch bag on the table before pulling out the chair to sit down.

"Thanks, Edward."

Silence passed for a few minutes as I stared at him and he began unwrapping his own lunch.

"So . . . you're Mrs. Cope's replacement?" Duh, Edward, he said he was yesterday! I just had no clue where to start a conversation, now that I was stuck at the table with him.

"Yep. I've been subbing in the district since the fall, I figured I'd have to wait until the end of the school year or the end of summer before a permanent job opened up."

"Did your lunch hour get changed? I mean, we all have set lunch times and I've just never seen you in the lounge before." I was stammering, not wanting to appear too overeager to find out why he was here today.

Of course I'd caught him chewing a big bite of his sandwich, so all he could do is shake his head no until he swallowed and could answer.

"No, this is the time my regular schedule allows for. The first couple of weeks I was here I ate at my desk, while trying to catch up on Mrs. Cope's lesson plans and notes. And then the past two weeks, I was on lunchroom duty. Today has been the first chance I've had to venture forth to the lounge to meet any other teachers other than the ones on my floor." As his eyes scanned the near-empty room, his expression turned humorous. "I guess I wasn't missin' much."

There were only three other teachers in the room, beside us, sitting over at the corner table murmuring amongst themselves.

"Yeah, Tanya, Irina and Kate are a pretty tight clique, they always sit together and aren't really inviting of new people to join them."

Jasper threw his head back and laughed out loud. "So in other words, the teachers' lounge is no different than the students' lunch room, hmm? Everyone has their own friends and specific place to sit?"

He made a good point; I couldn't help but shrug my shoulders in agreement with him. And then suddenly that wide, gorgeous smile of his was trained on me again.

"Well, then I'm so glad I found you here today, Edward. Thank you for being so nice to the 'new kid in school' and letting me sit at your table."

I felt warm all over, but especially my face, so I knew I was probably blushing.

The next day I almost hid in my room for lunch, but I was afraid it would look too much like I was avoiding him. So I was late getting to the teachers' lounge, but as soon as I opened the door I saw him and my heart skipped a beat as he grinned and waved me over to the table.

Every day I both yearned for and dreaded the lunch hour. I looked forward to seeing Jasper because I liked him; he was smart, funny and seemed genuinely interested in learning as much about me as I was about him. And, I also dreaded the lunch hour because I liked him. Fucked up, I know. It's just that he would be so easy to fall for, and that just seemed way too dangerous. I mean, first of all, we worked at the same place—we were colleagues. We needed to remain professional at all times. Then there was the fact that I didn't even know if he was gay. He'd talked a little bit about his family but never mentioned a significant other, male or female. And then there was the fact that . . . well, I just didn't know if I was willing to put my heart on the line again. Even though my friends and family had been trying to get me "out there" again, the whole situation with Garrett had really done a number on me.

When Friday came, I was so glad to have a couple of Jasper-free days to not have to think about him. As the bell rang, signaling the end of lunch, we both wished each other a good weekend and went our separate ways.

Saturday, the two fifth-grade classes were going to the new Science and History museum about an hour away. The two fifth-grade teachers, Ms. Brown and Mrs. Becker had asked for extra chaperones so I signed up over a week ago. I had no plans this weekend so I didn't mind helping out.

I was sitting on the bus, reviewing the schedule for the day and the list of students in my group.

"Edward!"

Oh no . . .

I slowly looked up. "Jasper, what are you doing here?"

A huge grin spread over his face. "Well, same thing as you, it looks like. I couldn't pass up a chance to see the new History museum, so I signed up to chaperone. Hey, anyone sitting with you?"

Oh God, it was the teachers' lounge all over again.

"No."

"Great!"

Yeah, great.

I scooted over as close to the window as I could, but there was no escaping the closeness of Jasper. Sitting next to me. On a small bus seat meant for two young children, not two grown men. And Jasper was very fidgety.

The next hour was torture as Jasper constantly shifted in his seat, his thigh brushing my thigh, his knee bumping mine. His arm touching mine as he stretched his arms to make a point about something. My cock twitched every time it felt the spark from his contact, and I nearly broke out into a sweat every time from nerves. Nerves, because here I was on a bus trip with young children, as their chaperone, as part of my job, and I'm struggling to keep the bulge in my pants from being noticed. I could just hear the headlines now—

Local elementary teacher loses job for lewd behavior on class trip. Film at Eleven.

When I wasn't focused physically on Jasper, I had to admit I actually enjoyed the trip a lot more because of him. He was a big history buff and he loved talking about it. He had actually double majored in college in history and education. When I asked why he wasn't teaching history at the high school or college level, he said he loved little kids and wanted to spend some of his career teaching them first. There was plenty of time to go the collegiate route later if he wanted.

There were other chaperones—parents and other teachers—on the trip, but Jasper and I were the only two male chaperones. When there was a scuffle at the back of the bus—two boys who were getting in a fight over a portable video game they were playing—Jasper didn't hesitate to jump up and take action, breaking the two up, using a stern but calm tone with them.

And at the museum, we had to separate, each taking our individual groups of students to different parts of the museum. But I caught sight of him once in one of the big gallery rooms—his face was alight with knowledge and his hands waving wildly as he clearly tried to relay some important historical event to his group.

Only talking to him at lunch, I had never had a chance to see him in action as a teacher and I was impressed.

As if I needed one more reason to like him.

The rest of the day went amazingly quick. I had a good group of kids and the museum was really quite interesting. Before long it was time for . . . the bus ride home.

Part of me was fearful Jasper would sit next to me. And part of me was fearful that he . . . wouldn't.

I should have known better, of course. When he climbed onto the bus, I actually saw him pause and look all around as if he was searching for something. When he found it, his face lit up in a big smile.

He was looking right at me.

The drive home was a test in control again for my body, but at least this time I knew I could go home when it was all done. After the last kid had been picked up, I sighed in relief and turned to head toward my car. Jasper called after me, but for once he paused, hesitant in whatever he was going to say. I told him I really had to get going and I swear he almost looked . . . disappointed? Instead we both did the quick "Have a good night, see ya' on Monday," type of good-byes.

I went home and jumped in the shower. My poor dick had been through so much today I knew I should just jerk off and be done with it . . . but I knew the first thing I'd start thinking of was Jasper and I just couldn't do that, it didn't feel right. I needed to get my mind off of him; he was my friend, my coworker, and nothing more.

~~ * V * ~~

Strong fingers . . . stroking up and down my cock, swirling over the wetness at the swollen head…then down again, gripping, pulling. I groaned loudly, "Please, baby . . . please." Then I felt his soft lips surrounding me, pulling me into their wet, velvet-hot warmth, sucking me in hard until I felt the back of his throat. My hips began bucking uncontrollably. "More, oh God, more, harder . . . oh Fuck!" As I felt everything I had exploding out of me, I looked down to see blond curls and blue eyes looking back up at me . . .

My whole body jerked awake, sweaty, my heart pounding. I felt a warm, stickiness and looked down to find my own hand in my boxers, around my cum-covered dick. I'd been jerking myself off in my sleep, no wonder the dream had felt so real, so vivid.

Damn. So much for not thinking about him.

~~ * V * ~~

Monday when lunchtime rolled around, I was sure it would be impossible to look at him and not think of that dream. My face was going to be red the whole time; he would surely know something was up.

As it was, I guess I was able to hide my thoughts pretty well. I kept quiet but he didn't seem to notice, he just made conversation as if everything was normal.

Meanwhile, the countdown to Valentine's Day was on. Thank God we were in the homestretch. Only four more days and then it would all be over for another year.

On Wednesday, out of the blue, Jasper asked me if I had any big Valentine's Day plans.

As an automatic reaction, I felt myself grimacing in the usual way whenever someone brought it up.

"Wow, that's quite a face!" Jasper exclaimed.

"Yeah, Valentine's Day and I don't get along too well."

His face contorted into a confused look. "Oh come on . . ."

"No." I stopped him. "I mean it, I've never had a good Valentine's Day and after the memory of last year's debacle . . . I'd just rather forget about the whole holiday."

Jasper frowned. "What happened last year?"

Shit. Now I had said too much. Aw, hell . . .

I couldn't believe I had just brought this up in front of him. For a split second I debated not telling him, but he had such a look of genuine concern on his face, as if he really cared.

I sighed. "Last year I was with someone, someone I thought I loved very much and I thought he loved me too. Until I walked in on him . . . with someone else . . . on Valentine's Day."

I'd just completely spilled everything. Not only about my experience with Garrett but also that I was gay.

My eyes slid slowly over to see his reaction. The frown was still on his face but his eyes had softened.

"Damn, that's . . . that is horrible Edward, I'm really sorry. But you shouldn't give up completely on the holiday or on love. There are better guys out there Edward. Ones who will treat you the way you deserve to be treated." His voice grew softer at that last part.

"Well, my only plan is to go home, pull the covers over my head and not wake up until the day is over."

We were both silent after that. Luckily the bell rang and I threw the remnants of my lunch in the trash as I hurried out the door.

~~ * V * ~~

Jasper never said any more about Valentine's Day, including nothing about what his own plans were. I tried not to think about what he might be doing; I was sure whatever it was, it would involve a perfect night with . . . someone special. Precisely why it was better not to think about it. Like I needed another reason to be depressed on Valentine's Day.

~~ * V * ~~

Friday finally arrived. February 14th. As I hit the alarm clock that morning and headed to the shower I just kept telling myself, only twenty-four hours to get through and then it will all be over.

Thankfully the kids made it go by fast. They were antsy and excited from the moment they walked in the door. I hadn't planned too much "heavy learning," today, knowing they wouldn't be able to concentrate long. After a few lessons, I pulled out the red and pink construction paper and glue and markers and let them go to town on making Valentine cards to take home to their moms and dads.

After lunch, we watched a video and then it was time for the party. A couple of the mothers brought in cupcakes and punch, and then the kids got to pass out their valentines. I had to admit it was fun to see the excitement on their faces.

I ended up with the usual pile on my desk of valentines and mini boxes of candy, all from the kids.

Once the bell rang and I had helped usher all of the kids out the front door and to their waiting parents or the bus, I finally exhaled. The big part of the day was over and I could finally go home and hibernate . . . alone.

When I got back to my room, I immediately noticed a new valentine on my pile. It was bright red construction paper cut in the shape of a heart, larger than most of the kids' store bought valentines, and hard to miss.

On the front it said simply Be My Valentine, written in marker.

Inside there was a hand-written message.

Edward,

I know you've had bad Valentine's Days in the past, but I hope you'll let me change all of that for you. Please let me take you out for drinks and dinner? And for dessert . . . well, maybe we can see where things go from there . . . ?

It may sound cheesy and schmaltzy, but I really hope you'll be my valentine. Because I would love to be yours.

Jasper

Next to his name he'd taped one of those small foil-wrapped chocolate hearts, the ones that come pre-printed with various love messages. I didn't know if he had chosen the candy randomly or specifically, but the message on the heart, ironically, was four simple letters—XOXO.

I just sat there staring at it in shock.

"Looks like you got quite a haul there."

He was leaning casually in my doorway on his shoulder, hands in his pants pockets, ankles crossed.

I just stared at him.

Slowly he walked over to my desk and perched on the edge so that he was a little closer to my eye level.

"You're not saying anything, Edward, you're making me a little nervous here. I was sure the chocolate heart would seal the deal. " He was still smiling and trying to keep the mood light, but he did honestly look uneasy.

I still didn't know what to say. I was stunned that he was asking me out, that he wanted to be with me. My heart was screaming YES, but my brain was holding me back, not sure I should take the leap again.

"Edward, don't let the past rule your life. Have some faith." His placed his hand over mine. The electricity sparked, as always. He leaned over so that he could whisper in my ear. I could feel the warmth of his breath on my neck and I had to bite back a groan at the tingle that went down my spine. "I know you feel this too," he said as his thumb stroked slow circles on my skin. "Let me give you the Valentine's Day you deserve, Edward…."

Oh if only this were any other day of the year, why oh why did he pick today to ask me out? The one day of the year I detested, the one day I always failed at. I didn't want to fail with Jasper. I opened my mouth to speak, the word "no" right there on the tip of my tongue . . . when out of the corner of my eye I saw the red paper heart still lying with the other valentines. My first real valentine . . . from a boy . . . who liked me.

And I felt my lips turn upward into a smile as I heard myself telling him . . .

"Yes."

~~ * V * ~~

A/N: P.S. I may add a couple of chapters to this so add me to your alerts if you want to see more of these two. :)