A/N: This was originally written for the High Times contest run by Yogagal and AngstGoddess003. There were some amazingly beautiful stories written for the contest *cough*Chicklette's Candy from Strangers*cough* so please stop by the profile page to check them out. http : / www (dot) fanfiction (dot) net/u/2685261/High_Times_Contest
Story Name: Racerback
Total Word Count: 12,212
Summary: "As I watch him do the breast stroke through the choppy morning waters, I almost want to be in his place. What would it be like to be so alone?" AH/AU Ed, Jas and pot cookies.
Author's note: The "high" times in this story allow Edward to see what he refuses to acknowledge when he's straight and sober. Hehe. Pun.
"You can have some friends over if you want," my father, Carlisle says and I smirk. Friends. My friends aren't exactly my favorite people. They're more like props. "You know, a girl, too. If you want."
Carlisle is trying to be subtle, and failing. I smile and nod as he walks out the door for another graveyard shift at the hospital. The man works harder than anyone I've ever known, but deep down I think he's just hiding. I don't blame him; I can't. We all hide. It's the natural default setting of the human system.
As for his not-so-subtle request, I doubt that will happen. I've never had a girlfriend. There is no desire in me to acquire one. If I feel pent up, I have my fist and the Internet. If I want more than that, I have alcohol and fucking a nameless cheerleader with my eyes closed at a friend's house party. Beyond that, I don't care. There's nothing in me that craves that kind of connection.
Every once in a while, I find myself wondering why—whenever my friends whine about one of their chicks getting them down—but I never dwell on the subject for too long. I never dwell on anything for long. If something is lingering at the back of my brain, itching at me for its attention, I have the ocean to run to. And yes, I do run and hide. Just like my father at the hospital, I have the waves to lose myself in.
I'd always rather be at the ocean. Waking up before the sun to catch the early tide, paddling out past the break and waiting for the perfect swell to appear on the horizon. Feeling my stomach drop at the first dip when my board catches the sweet spot at the top of the crest of the wave, and I know I'm in for a good ride. The peace of being alone and without pressure or expectation beating me down. That's what I crave. Nothing more is needed.
But I've noticed more and more that my perfect solitude isn't entirely my own. Someone is always swimming out past the break, far beyond the drop-off in the deep waters, practicing laps from jetty to pier.
I know that kid. I've known him since middle school, back when he was overweight and wore glasses on his round, pimpled face. His name is Jasper Whitlock and he has no one. No one asking him about his non-existent girlfriends, or kindly asking to practice at the piano for one more hour; no one expecting him to fix the world because his father couldn't save his mother...or whatever.
He's the outcast of the school. If I crave for the world to leave me be, he's been forcibly driven to the outskirts of society where the world ignores him completely.
As I watch him do the breast stroke through the choppy morning waters, I almost want to be in his place. What would it be like to be so alone? To worry about no one's expectations except your own? But then I remind myself that he didn't ask to be shunned, he was sentenced to such an existence. I should know; my friends were the ones who put him there.
He used to smile a lot. I remember seeing him in the halls, not caring about the pointed whispers and the glances that passed him by as he walked to class by himself. Even then he was alone, but he'd yet to become the introvert he is now. He had a mop of curly blond hair and wore purple checkered vans on his too-big feet. I can still picture it.
But no one seemed to like his smile, or his happy demeanor, and so, they broke him. One by one, they shoved his books out of his hand, pushed him into the walls, snapped his glasses, and spit in his hair. I know because I watched it happen. I saw his smiles turn to frowns and his outward, happy appearance turn black with his mood. His bright colored clothes became dark and torn, adorned with pins and hand spray-painted sayings that lashed out at the world around him. His once blond hair was dyed black, and hung low down to his shoulders, no longer curly, but dank and greasy.
When he started carrying around a tackle box freshman year—the kind the fisherman along the jetty would always use for their lure—the rumors flew. He was dangerous, he was building a bomb, he was carrying a gun...everything. High school kids are nothing but drama—it's almost like they wanted Jasper to go Columbine on their asses. I never believed any of it, he was always just quiet and kept to himself. Alone. Like I wanted to be.
During sophomore year two things happened to Jasper that made the school take notice of him for a different reason: his father died and he joined the swim team. The first correlated to the second since his mother made him take up a sport to keep his mind off his father's death. She too, became an eccentric, taking steps to become a yoga instructor and started eating all raw food. I remembered my dad talking about her wanting to start up a vegetarian cooking class in the hospital's cafeteria, and regretfully, having to turn her down.
It seemed they were both trying to move past William Whitlock's death as fast as possible, and I couldn't blame them. My mother died when I was twelve, and the only way I dealt with the pain was to ignore it entirely.
While Jasper was pushing himself to become as fast as his teammates, his body started to change; we all saw it. He shed the baby fat as if it were nothing but an outer layer of clothing, dropping weight faster than anyone could keep up with, making the girls with self-esteem issues who ate their feelings rage with jealousy.
His once clumsy, heavy limbs became lanky and he walked with a purpose down the halls, his head no longer hanging low and hidden behind his long, black hair. He developed muscle tone and speed in the water, bypassing all his teammates and practically giving the swim coach a semi each time he clocked in a new record. People started talking to him again, inviting him to parties, asking him to sit with them at lunch.
He ignored them all. Turning down each offer and walking off to the art rooms to spend his time, tackle box in hand.
He sort of fascinated me.
After years of being treated like shit and going through the pain of losing his dad, he was finally given respect. People called him by his actual name as opposed to the many monikers my classmates had provided him with over the years, and yet he still turned his back. He didn't need their approval, he had his own.
I want to be able to do that.
I've always been given approval, and I've never even asked for it. People respect me because I look the part. I'm tall, with a strong jaw and green eyes. I'm lean and muscled—thanks to the waves kicking my ass each morning—and I like to wear nice clothes. I have the grades needed to get me into an Ivy league school and enough writing chops to weasel out a scholarship or two. Girls think I'm pretty and guys think I'm tough or some shit because I don't talk and they just all assume I'm in my own head. I'm constantly flanked by idiots who don't really know me and never have.
In one way, I'm just like Jasper: I travel in the circle I was placed in.
But even I know that's a lie. I wasn't placed in anything, I was just assumed. Jasper wasn't placed either, he was beaten into his introverted corner, and I've been too much of a coward all these years to ever do a thing to stop it.
I know I'm too late to save him that kind of torture, but as I watch him swim rhythmically through the morning tide, I find myself wanting to know him. I want to know why he still keeps to himself if everyone in school now considers him mysterious and dark as as opposed to dangerous and freakish.
But he ignores me too.
Each morning, if we've somehow shown up at the same time, he keeps to his spot at the other end of the beach—stretching and warming up—while I walk down towards the pier to catch the waves that swell up in between the pillars.
I try to catch his eye but he never looks my way. It almost makes me angry at how easily he can shake off the existence of the people around him, as if we're nothing but blights on his personal landscape. Not that I can blame him since that's exactly how he was treated for years, but how can he remain so god damned stoic?
I want to know how. I want to know him.
There is one little problem though: I'm a coward. The reason I don't talk isn't because I want to put out the aura of strong and silent. No. I don't talk because I'm afraid that I'll scream if I ever dare to open my mouth. I give one word answers in school and I keep my conversations with my father to a minimum.
Despite my mouth being sealed like a vault, my brain never shuts up. I can't help but analyze everything, over think everything. I observe and organize the information I see around me into little drawers in my head, complete with labels and categories. My therapist calls my cataloging a latent Obsessive-Compulsive tendency, I just call it life.
One of the many things I've cataloged over the years? Jasper. I have file upon metaphorical file of him stored away in my mind. Starting at his stupid purple vans to his still, ever-present tackle box that I know he sells pot cookies out of it behind the school and along the pier. How he doesn't get busted, what with carrying it around blatantly during school, I've yet to figure out.
I feel my stomach drop out from under me and curse. I've just lost a wave due to my never ending over thinking. I put my head down on my board for a moment and breathe in the smell of the coconut wax and the salt of the sea, letting it calm me before pushing up and turning round, having drifted too far down the shoreline for my liking. In the distance, I see Jasper climbing out of the waves towards the beach. He's done for the morning, and that means it's close to seven a.m. I need to get moving.
That night—after a silent dinner in front of the TV with Carlisle—I decide that in the morning I'll approach Jasper. As I lie in bed with my hands behind my head, I allow myself to smile just the tiniest bit, picturing how the conversation will go.
But in the morning as I stub my toe getting out the door with my board—cursing at the glimpse of sun peeking out behind the horizon—I know I'm late. I overslept, having woken up several times in the night sweaty and frustrated, not remembering why I felt so pent up and edgy.
I throw my board in the back of my brother's old Jeep—he's been off at college for the past year—and gun the gas pedal. No one is on the road except for the few dedicated runners who jog past me as I fly down towards the beach, but I still check out my rearview for sleepy, hidden cops.
Jumping out of the Jeep at the pier, I rush down the dunes, not even bothering with grabbing my sunscreen or a towel, scanning the water for what I'm looking for.
He's not there.
Sagging my shoulders I drop my shit at my feet and trudge towards the water's edge, disappointed and angry at myself. My toe is throbbing and despite the overcast of the morning, I know I'll walk away from this depressing day sunburned because my skin is fucking pale, and I need to slather myself in 80 proof if I want to keep from looking like a blistered lobster for a week.
Something catches my eye down the shoreline and my head snaps up in time to see a hand shoot out of the water.
"What the...?" Another hand, more splashes. Someones fighting the current in the waves. Who the hell would be stupid enough to swim this early... "Jasper!"
I run down the beach, throwing off my shirt and kicking away my sandals as I go. I can see it's him the closer I get, and my heart pounds wondering what's wrong with the school's champion swimmer that he suddenly can't tread water.
Diving in, I paddle as fast as I can out past the break to where he's struggling, grabbing him as soon as I can reach him. Strong arms and one leg latches around me in a vice grip as his hot, gasping breaths tickle my ear and his black hair tangles over my skin.
"I got you," I say, pushing back through the tide, struggling with the added weight. Jasper's arms are slick against my shoulders and his one leg slides back and forth across my thigh as I work us closer to the shore. He's clearly remembered sunscreen and I'm cursing the oily texture of his skin because it's making it impossible for him to hold tight to me.
When I finally find my footing, I take a deep breath and turn to help Jasper sling his arm over me. There's something wrong with his one leg, but he limps towards the shore with me holding him up by his side.
We both fall to our knees in the sand and he leans heavily away from me, grabbing onto his bum leg.
"Shit...fucking shit..." he's mumbling as he massages the muscles in his calf and rolls along the shore, his head thrown back.
"Charlie horse?" I ask, my hands hovering over his leg.
Taking a chance, I grab hold of his leg and gently try to extend it from it's bent position. Jasper flinches and he grabs onto my thigh. I jerk, suddenly enraged, but I bite back my irrational anger and continue to stretch out his leg.
"Breathe," I tell him and he nods, his fingers digging into the rubber of my half-suit covering my legs. After a few moments, I can see the muscles in his calf relax, and his rapid pants start to subside.
We both sit in the sand calming down and I realize my heart is pounding in my chest, though I can't reason why. Adrenaline, I finally decide and remove my hands from Jasper's leg.
His hand still lays limp on my thigh and his other arm is thrown over his face as his long, black hair splays out in the sand...he looks like a picture or something.
Why the hell am I thinking that?
"I knew I shouldn't of had all that shit last night."
"I drank too much. I'm dehydrated. Hence the cramp," he explains, sitting up and brushing the sand off his skin. I watch, wide-eyed.
"Thank you...by the way. For that," he gestures towards the water with a sandy palm.
I nod, my throat suddenly feeling thick, my tongue heavy.
"You're Edward Cullen. I see you here a lot."
I nod again, still unable to speak, wondering why he never talked to me if he knew who I was. Jasper smiles and I'm so distracted I forget to ask. I blink back at him, amazed. I haven't seen him smile in years. When he grimaces and tries to bend his bad leg, I jump up, something occurring to me.
Jogging over to his tackle box by his other things in the sand, I grab a package of cookies from the bottom and hand them to Jasper. He quirks an eyebrow at me, questioning.
"Have one. It'll calm you."
"You're Dr. Cullen's kid."
"You know what's in these?"
I shrug and hold back a smile. If he doesn't realize how obvious it is that he mysteriously disappears at the beginning of each lunch period before a stream of kids show up ten minutes later in the cafeteria with dazed looks and an overabundant need for nachos each day, he must be stupid.
But wait, Jasper isn't stupid. It's just...no one pays attention to him as much as I do. My amusement fades and I slump in the sand.
"Thank you," Jasper says, drawing my attention away from that depressing realization and taking a cookie from his own stash. "It will help. Thanks."
All I can do is nod. Again. When I feel a cookie being pressed into my palm, I look up.
"You look like you could use one."
Cautiously, I take a bite, never having ingested pot in any form before. I don't smoke and only drink when I want my brain to shut up. The cookie tastes normal, if not extra chocolatety with a bit of peanut butter. I smile despite myself and eat the whole thing in one more bite. Jasper laughs and hands me another. I thank him quietly and eat it just as fast as the first. It's such a good fucking cookie.
"You make these?" I ask.
Jasper quirks an eyebrow and smirks at me. I duck my head, not used to seeing him look so...normal, happy, light? I can't think of a word, though I'm feeling rather normal, happy and light myself.
"Do you know anything about pot?"
I shake my head, only half lying; I know the consequences of every controlled substance. Being a doctor's son, I've had information pamphlets and case files and lectures shoved down my throat since I was old enough to talk. But in terms of making baked goods with them, I'm at a loss.
"I'm not gonna corrupt you, Cullen," Jasper says, standing and brushing the sand off his legs. He's in a black Speedo. Only. I hadn't noticed that particular detail earlier. Or maybe I had cataloged that information away somewhere, but then again, his Speedo has never been so close to my face before.
He walks away, chuckling softly to himself before I can say goodbye or even okay, no problem. I feel like an idiot.
I don't surf, nor do I move from my spot in the sand, I just sit and watch the waves for an hour, completely zoned and awed by how they look extra curly-cued and supple today. Those two words don't make sense in my brain and I smack my lips together, needing a drink.
The ocean is not a viable option. Salt water...bad.
Trudging back to my Jeep with heavy feet, I curse Jasper and his cookies. At the rate I'm moving, I'm never getting home—but everything feels so nice, why not take it all in? Not to mention my all consuming need for a cheeseburger. Dammit.
I don't go to the beach the next day. It's two days before the end of summer and Carlisle insists on bonding time before the start of my senior year. Why he's suddenly nostalgic and sentimental, I'll never know, but we pile the boards on the top of his Mercedes and head on to my great-grand parents cabin three hours down the coast. I learned how to surf along that stretch of shore, so I don't put up much of a fight in getting a chance to visit again—even if Nan and Pop are long gone. It's a welcome escape away from my nagging thoughts about Jasper.
"Something on your mind, Edward?" Carlisle asks as we drive, the open windows pushing our hair every which way and keeping the sweltering heat of the noonday sun at bay.
"No," I tell him, giving him a few good seconds of eye contact so that he's not suspicious. He nods and pushes on the gas pedal. Something tells me he's running, just like I am.
I don't ask. I give him the same respect he gives me. It's just the way we do things.