SLASH BACKSLASH 3.0 CONTEST

Title: Behind the Curtain
Author: mw138
Pairing: Edward & Jasper
Rating: M
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight. No copyright infringement intended.
Word Count: 8,812

Please see all entries at www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/community/Slash_Backslash_3_0/74941/14/0/1/

This story was inspired by the song Fuckin' Perfect by P!nk. :)

Thank you to my beta, content1!


Senior year!

After endless study groups, boring lectures, and a few too many keg parties, I was finallya senior in college. People always said your senior year in high school was memorable, but this year was going to be even better! Studies in general always came easy to me, so I was one of those fortunate few who could party with the best of them, but then buckle down and maintain and 3.8 GPA…magna cum laude, baby!

Years ago, I made my father extremely happy when I decided to follow him in the family business of medicine. It was all I'd ever known, and I found the human body to be an incredible machine. To be able to heal people was an honor I couldn't wait to hold. My family life was pretty normal. My father was a well-respected surgeon who decided to give up his fast-paced job as Chief of Surgery to work at a smaller, much less stressful hospital in Forks, Washington, much to my mother's relief. I had an older brother, Peter, an architect working in Washington, DC with a wife and a baby on the way. My younger sister, Angela, was currently studying journalism in New York, and then there was me; pre-med and ready to haul ass to med school.

Northwestern University seemed like the perfect choice for my undergrad and grad work. It came highly recommended from a very persuasive alumnus, my dad. He didn't force me to attend, but the joy in his eyes when I told him my final decision was something I'd always remember.

Things were always pretty easy with my family. My parents were very liberal and they raised us to have open minds and hearts. So you can imagine my surprise when I came out to my family two years ago on Thanksgiving. I expected to hear things like "we support you, son," "it doesn't matter as long as you're happy," or even "that's fucking awesome." Instead, I was met with blank stares and silence. To say the situation was uncomfortable would be an understatement. I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out because I couldn't believe my family was acting this way. Thankfully, Angie was my only saving grace at that point. She already knew about my sexuality because I'd come out to her six months earlier. She didn't care who I dated or slept with, as long as he treated me right.

Growing up, Angie was always my biggest cheerleader and confidant. When I couldn't keep my secret any longer, it was natural to want to tell her. Even though she was thousands of miles away, she supported me as much as she could. She was the person I called when I broke up with my first serious boyfriend, and she was the one who convinced me that our parents had a right to know the realme.

So as my parents, Peter and his wife, Maria, all stared at me like I'd just grown a third head, Angie beamed. I looked around at each of my stunned family members and sighed.

"God, will somebody please say something!"

Silence continued to reign, and I started to become extremely uncomfortable.
"Well, I think it's pretty fucking great," Angie exclaimed.

It was now Angie who received shocked looks. The quiet good girl rarely swore, period, let alone in front of our family.

"Thanks, Ang," I whispered.

"Are you sure?" Dad asked.

I whipped my head towards him defensively. "Of course I'm sure. Why would I say I'm gay if I'm not?"

"It's not that, son. We're just worried because of all of the obstacles you'll have to face."

I felt my anger increasing and gripped the edge of the table.

"Damn, Dad, obstacles? It's not like I lost a leg and went blind! I'm still the same person I've always been. I just prefer to date guys instead of women."

"Edward, please calm down," Mom interjected.

"Calm down? What the hell happened to my understanding, liberal family? I guess it's okay to support gay rights and causes as long as one of your own isn't gay."

"That's not fair," she replied.

"Isn't it? What's not fair is thinking my family would support me during this incredibly stressful and scary moment, but the only one who doesn't look like a damned owl is Angie. She's the only one who's accepted me."

"Edward," my dad cut in. "Of course we support you! We're just afraid for you. We don't want you to have to deal with the unnecessary hatred that ignorant people think is appropriate because they don't understand."

Calming down a little, I took a deep breath and closed my eyes momentarily.

"I understand, Dad. I don't broadcast my sexuality to the world, but I also don't want to hide it either. If people want to be pricks about something that has nothing to do with them, so be it. As long as they don't threaten physical violence, I can handle it. If it gets to that point, I will defend myself."

With tears in her eyes, Mom stood up and walked over to me, wrapping her arms around my shoulders from behind.

"We'll always support you, sweetheart, and I'll try my best not to worry about you too much. I'm your Mom, it's in my nature to worry about you and your siblings."

Giving her arms a gentle squeeze, I sighed.

"I know, Mom, and I appreciate it."

I looked over at Dad, who was smiling with pride shining in his eyes. As my eyes moved around the table, I noticed that the rest of my family members were all smiling as well. Even though it started out kind of rough, everything turned out well in the end. I had the support of my family, I was finally able to be me and I had my entire life in front of me. Things couldn't get much better.

x~x~x~x~x~x~x

I was a week into the new semester when I came to the conclusion that my roommate was not going to show. I didn't know what happened to him, but I wasn't going to complain. I had the whole suite to myself, so I could throw as many parties as I wanted and have a place for people to crash. I was going to be living the life this year!

With a pep in my step, I ventured out to my third and final class of the day. It was going to be a breeze because it was an elective class I needed just to be able to stay on campus. I chose a film studies course because I liked watching movies and figured it would be an easy A. As everyone found their seats, I noticed a tall, somewhat lanky, guy walk in. He wore worn jeans and a long-sleeved sweater. He had to have been extremely hot under that thing because it was still quite warm outside, but that's not what reallycaught my attention. What drew my eyes to him was the chin-length sheet of dirty blonde hair that hung over the left side of his face. The hair on his right side was pushed behind his ear. I was perplexed, wondering why he'd hinder his sight like that with his hair. He quickly found a seat in the very back and kept his head down while fiddling with his iPod. Everyone else seemed to be engaged in some sort of conversation or activity, but he secluded himself.

I instantly felt bad for him because I couldn't imagine going through life like that. I needed to have people around me and the thought of secluding myself just seemed weird, but it really wasn't any of my concern. I looked back at him one more time and at that exact moment, he looked up at me. He had the saddest eyes I'd ever seen and I felt compelled to smile to lift his spirits a little. He looked like someone who had been bullied a lot, and if there was one thing I hated, it was bullies. When it registered that I was actually smiling at him, he attempted to smile back, but it looked more like a frightened half smile. He then quickly looked back down at his iPod as if the exchange never occurred.

I shrugged my shoulders and turned back to the front of the class. I'd done my good deed for the day. At that moment, the professor walked in and explained that we were going to be split up into groups for a group project. For the project, my partner and I would have to choose a topic and then select appropriate films to support our thesis. We would have to analyze each film and write a paper explaining the impact of those films on society.

Dr. Matthews started calling out all of the groups, asking us to raise our hands in case we didn't know each other.

"Cullen…"

I raised my hand.

"…and Whitlock."

Seeing that no one in front of me raised his or her hand, I turned around in my seat to survey the rest of the room. There in the back corner, with his hand barely raised, was the guy with a curtain of hair. He locked eyes with me and looked as if he were two seconds from bolting. Quickly turning around, I wondered why I would elicit such a response.

I bet he's been bullied and thinks I'm one of those pricks.

I gritted my teeth and seethed. Like I said, I hated bullies.

Dr. Matthews continued to explain the project and asked us to break off in pairs to start brainstorming. Everyone quickly joined their respective partners while I slowly stood and walked to the back of the room. Whitlock was still engrossed in his iPod when I approached.

"Hi," I said.

"Hey," he responded quietly.

I stood for another moment or two, figuring he'd look up at me, but no such luck. With a sigh, I pulled up a chair and sat in front of him.

"I'm Edward," I said extending my hand.

Whitlock looked at my hand warily and returned his gaze to his notebook.

"Jasper," he responded.

My hand hung in the air as I slowly came to the realization that he was not going to shake it. Embarrassed, I quickly pulled my hand back and laid it on my desk.

"Um, what kind of movies do you like?"

"All kinds," he murmured.

"Oookaaay. Do you know what you might like to write about?"

He shook his head silently, the curtain of hair further hindering my view of his face. Along with bullies, one thing I hated was not being able to look someone in the eyes when they spoke. The eyes can tell you everything and always speak the truth, so the fact that Jasper refused to even chance a look at me increased my annoyance level.

Sighing, I stood up.

"Look, if you don't want to work with me, fine. I'll just ask Dr. Matthews if I can do the project on my own."

As I was getting ready to walk to Dr. Matthews' desk, Jasper spoke up.

"No, wait. You don't have to do that."

I stopped and slowly turned around. Jasper was slouched in his seat with his head still down.

"I-I'm just not used to people actually wanting to be around me."

I frowned, wondering why in the world he would say something like that. Pulling my chair in front of him again, I leaned in. "What do you mean you're not used to people wanting to be around you?"

He looked up at me for a split second and when our eyes locked, I saw immense sadness and defeat in them. The weight of his despair seemed to plow through me like a truck, and I immediately wanted to comfort him in some way. I wouldn't do that though. Just because I was comfortable with myself and my sexuality didn't mean Jasper wanted to be associated with the gay guy. I'm sure he'd been through enough as it was, and I didn't want to add to it.

"Nothing. Just forget it."

"Alright, but just so you know, I have no reason to not want to be around you. I'm not one of those assholes who thinks he's above everyone else or doesn't like people because they're different. I've had my fair share of bullying, and I would never put something else through that."

As I looked at him and tried to convey my sincerity, I briefly saw a flicker of something in Jasper's eyes. It looked like happiness or awe, but I couldn't be sure.

"So," I started, "I love gangster films. What do you think about using that genre for our project?"

Jasper's entire being lit up.

I guess he likes gangster films as well. That's the most animated I've seen him yet!

"Yeah, that would be great," he responded, almost giddy.

"Great! Let's name some of our favorites and I'll write them down."

"Goodfellas," he started.

"Okay, The Godfather," I responded.

"Of course The Godfather Part Two,"

"But not part three," we both said in unison.

You see, the final film in The Godfather trilogy is horrible and shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath as the other two films and I was so glad he felt the same. We both broke out into laughter and I was almost shocked to see just how gorgeous his smile was, even though I could only see half of it. I couldn't explain it, but something about Jasper made me want to take care of him. Maybe it was the fact that he looked so sullen and had his arms wrapped his torso as if he'd fall apart if he let go. I'll admit, from what I could see of him, he was cute, but it was the sudden urge to protect him that startled me. I'd never felt such a strong emotion like that towards a guy before.

We continued to name our favorite gangster movies until we had a pretty good list.

"I think what we have so far is more than enough. I already own all of them, so viewing won't be a problem."

"Cool."

Looking down at the list, I remembered one of my all-time favorite classic gangster films. I couldn't believe I'd forgotten it.

"Scarface!"

Jasper looked up at me suddenly, and I watched as anger marred his relaxed features. He quickly stood up, gathered his stuff, and stomped out of the room. I sat there completely shocked because I couldn't understand what in the world I'd done to piss him off like that. Since we only had a couple of minutes left in class, no one really cared or noticed that Jasper left early.

Gathering my things, I quickly ran out of the room to try to find Jasper. I spotted him just outside the building and called out to him.

"Jasper! Wait!"

He continued to walk, but only a faster pace. I was now jogging trying to catch up to him. When he was finally close enough, I reached out and grabbed his shoulder, turning him around.

"What the hell, man! Why did you storm out like that?"

"Fuck you, Edward!"

"Fuck me? What did I do?"

"You are just like all the others. You lull me into a false sense of security and then you strike!"

"What are you talking about?" I screamed.

"Scarface?" He questioned. "You called me scarface!"

"Um, no I didn't. I was talking about the movie. You know…the classic Al Pacino movie?"

I tried to imitate Pacino's bad Cuban accent and said, "Say 'ello to mah leetle friend!"

Recognition dawned on his face and he smiled meekly. "Oh yeah, I have heard of that."

I stared at him, as he looked everywhere but at me. I could see a blush on his cheek and continued to wonder why he'd think I would call him scarface, so I just flat out asked.

"Jasper, why did you think I'd call you scarface?"

I kind of had an idea, but I wanted him to tell me.

He looked around nervously and said, "Is there somewhere more private we can go?"

I nodded my head. "Yeah, we can go back to my room. I don't have a roommate, so no one will barge in."

"Okay," he whispered and we started to walk towards my residence hall.

Once he'd walked in and I shut the door behind us, I turned and found him standing in the middle of the living room area wringing his hands. I stepped closer and placed my hands on top of his in an effort to calm him. He briefly looked at me, but allowed my hands to remain where they were.

"Come on," I said softly, "why don't we sit on the couch?"

He nodded his head again, turned and sat on the couch. I quickly sat next to him and waited as he took a few cleansing breaths. I really wanted to know what was behind his sudden outburst, so I was willing to wait as long as it took.

"Um…" he started, "growing up, I had a great life. My mom and dad were very loving and kind, and my little brother, Riley, was my best friend. We did everything together, and I think he looked up to me even though I never really understood why because I was just a regular 15-year-old trying to get through high school. I was never in the 'popular' clique, but I played sports and played in the band, so I had a pretty decent amount of friends. That all changed when I revealed my secret."

He paused and the anticipation killed me.

"What secret?" I asked.

He lifted his eyes to mine and held my gaze for a moment, looking as if he was trying to figure something out.

"If I tell you, will you promise not to say anything?"

"Of course."

"Will you also promise not to…hurt me?"

I frowned, thinking his request was odd and extremely sad, but I agreed. I would never purposely hurt him.

Sighing and closing his eyes, he spoke again. "I'm gay."

He looked at me once again to gauge my expression. I tried to project as much compassion as I could muster, because I didn't want him to think, for one moment, that I thought less of him. Hell, I'd been in his shoes before, so I knew what it felt like to receive acceptance andrejection.

"Okay," I responded and nodded to tell him to continue.

He looked at me, confused for a moment, but I think once he realized I wouldn't kick him out or try to hurt him in any way, he continued.

"I came out to my family and they were supportive for the most part. They were worried about me because we lived in a relatively small town, but they said they loved me and just wanted me to be happy. Riley took it hard because he'd heard what some of his friends said about gays and didn't want them saying that about me. Even though he was younger, he always looked out for me just as much as I looked out for him. When word got around school, I endured the comments and sneers because I expected them, but then one day a group of jocks jumped me behind the school and beat me pretty badly."

My hands balled into fists as I imagined Jasper lying on the ground, helpless, while a bunch of sick bastards beat him mercilessly.

"I tried to fight back, but there were too many of them. After a while, I just curled myself into a ball to shield my head, ribs and groin. Then one of the guys must have had a pocket knife or something because the next thing I knew…."

He took a deep breath and I watched, saddened, as his eyes began to tear up. His usual curtain of hair still hid half of his face and he kept his head down, but I could still clearly see the pain etched across his face. My hand reached out and squeezed his. I had to let him know I was there for him.

"Uh, the next thing I knew, my face felt like it was on fire. I immediately touched my face and felt warm liquid. Some of the guys gasped in shock, while a few of them laughed. I guess they eventually realized how serious the situation was and ran away, but not before yelling out a bunch of slurs…saying nobody would want me now and that I was lucky that was all I got."

"I slowly stood up and saw blood covering the front of my shirt and dripping from my hand. I panicked because I had no idea what to do. I knew I had to get help from someone, so I slowly made my way back towards the entrance of the school. One of my coaches just happened to be walking by and saw me collapse. When I came to I was in the hospital surrounded by my family. They all looked horrible; grief stricken and angry. The doctor told me that the guys at school cut a huge gash into my face and it required 30 stitches to close. I was hysterical, but I wanted to see the damage. Mom and Dad tried to talk me out of it, but I was stubborn and insisted."

"As I lifted the small hand mirror in front of my face, I instantly burst into tears. I looked like Frankenstein's monster with a gash that ran from just below my eye to my chin, neatly sewn together with black stitches. I was lucky they stopped where they did. Otherwise, they may have hit my carotid and I'd be dead. For a long time, I wished they had."

I struggled to fight the tears that were threatening to fall. Jasper then reached up and slowly pushed his curtain of hair behind his ear and revealed a scar that ran from beneath his eye to his chin. It wasn't a particularly bad scar, but it was definitely noticeable. His hand shook as he returned it to his lap.

"It's not that I'm so vain that the thought of having a scar made me wish I was dead. It was the constant reminder that these people hated me that much to disfigure me…weaken my spirit and create unnecessary fear that made me want to give it all up. I'd never done anything to those guys, but they felt it right to hurt and humiliate me."

Tears streamed down my face as I took in Jasper's words. Everything made sense to me then - his guarded demeanor, the curtain of hair to hide his scar, his defeated stance and clothes. Those assholes did more than disfigure his face, they killed part of his soul, and for no good reason other than he was gay.

I thought his horrible tale was finished, but, unfortunately, there was more.

"My parents pulled me out of school because the thought of returning to the place where those guys attacked me triggered terrible panic attacks. Mom homeschooled me and I did well, but the only people I talked to were my parents and Riley. I didn't trust anyone. I was always afraid someone would hurt me in some way and I couldn't risk it. We pressed charges on my attackers and they were convicted, receiving only minor sentences like probation, but I didn't really feel any relief or justice. I just felt hollow and damaged."

"After my scar healed, I refused to look at myself in the mirror. I grew my hair extra long so that I could cover my face, and I rarely left the house. I knew everyone was worried about me, but I figured my behavior was the sure fire way to keep myself safe. As long as I was in my house, or around my family, everything was okay. Then the worst possible thing happened."

He took another deep breath and played with his fingers nervously.

"What happened?" I asked quietly.

"My parents convinced me to go along with them to visit my grandparents one Sunday for dinner. They told me no one else would be there, so I thought everything would be alright. To this day, I wish I'd done something, anything, to convince them to stay home."

"My grandparents lived about an hour away. About 20 minutes into the drive, we were hit head on by a drunk driver. Mom and Dad were killed instantly, but since Riley and I were in the back, we didn't receive the brunt of the impact. I broke a few bones, but Riley hit his head against the glass."

As Jasper continued his story, his hands shook so hard I had to reach out and hold them in mine to still them.

"You don't have to say anymore, Jasper."

He looked at me, eyes filled with tears ready to fall, and shook his head.

"No, I need to get this out. It feels good to actually tell someone."

"But I don't want to make you relive such a painful experience."

He stared at me for a moment, and I noticed a slight softening around his eyes. His face continued to hold an immense amount of anguish, but there was a brief flash of calm that flickered across his features.

"It's okay, Edward. Um, Riley and I were taken the hospital and treated. Because of the severity of the blow to his head, the doctors eventually declared him brain dead. There was a large amount of cerebral swelling, and if he had survived, he would have been a vegetable. My grandparents had to make the final decision to take him off of life support, and we literally watched the life drain from his body. He was my best friend, my only friend, and then he was gone. Forever!"

Just then a cross between a wail and sob escaped from Jasper. I immediately moved closer and wrapped my arms around him as he cried on my shoulder. There was nothing I could do to make his pain go away, so I just held him tightly and rocked a little, hoping the movement would soothe him.

"I didn't know why I was the only one to survive. Why was Ileft here while everyone I loved, more than life itself, was taken from me? I still feel guilty. I mean, for all intents and purposes, I'm damaged. I'll always have issues, so it wouldn't have been a great loss if I'd died, but Riley had so much going for him, and my parents…they were just good people."

"I'm so sorry, Jasper, but don't sell yourself short. There's a reason you're still here. I don't believe for a second that your death wouldn't have been felt and mourned by many. You area good person."

Minutes passed as I continued to hold the broken man in my arms. He calmed down and slowly pulled back wiping his eyes with his hand.

"After that, I went to live with my grandparents. They've been great, and with the help of a therapist, encouraged me to step outside of the protective bubble I'd created after my attack. I continued to be homeschooled by my grandmother until I earned enough credits for my diploma. I made a couple of friends from my grandparents' church, so that was nice, but I still kept everyone at arm's length. I just couldn't risk getting hurt again."

"When the time came for me to go to college, I wasn't sure if I could do it, but I wanted Mom, Dad, and Riley to be proud of me, so I bit the bullet and here I am. I still keep to myself, but I'm nowhere near as bad as I used to be."

I smiled, happy that Jasper was starting to overcome some of the obstacles and adversities he'd suffered in his short life.

"What about your roommate?" I asked. "Does he know about your past?"

"No, and I don't plan on telling him. He just thinks I'm some Emo freak and barely talks to me. I don't care though."

My desire to take care of Jasper increased tenfold now that I knew his history. Without conscious thought, my hand reached out and I lightly traced his scar. Jasper sighed, closing his eyes.

"Thank you," I whispered

Opening his red-rimmed eyes, he looked at me confused. "Why do you say that?"

"Because you didn't have to tell me all of that. Believe me, I'm happy you did, but what made you open up to me?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. There was something about you that made me trust you; like you would understand."

"I've never had to endure many of the things you have, but I do know what it's like to come out and fear the worst."

I noticed a flicker of happiness in Jasper's eyes as I continued.

"When I came out to my family, most of them just sat and stared at me. My little sister was okay, but that's because I'd come out to her already. My parents were supportive, but they were also surprised and worried. However, after I'd gotten everything out in the open, I felt so free and light. It was a great feeling!"

"It's definitely nice to be around someone who knows what it's like," he whispered. "I'm glad Dr. Matthews paired us together. I usually dread group projects."

"Me too!" I exclaimed. "But, I think we'll work well together." I punctuated my words with a wink and watched as Jasper's cheeks flushed. It was kind of adorable.

Looking at the clock, I noticed it was pretty late in the afternoon, and I was suddenly very hungry.

"Hey, do you want to get something to eat? I'm starved."

"Um," he said while looking around nervously again.

"We can just order a pizza or something…and we can watch Scarface."

As soon as the word left my mouth, I cringed. I'd brought up the very thing that upset Jasper earlier. I felt even worse because I now knew why that name disturbed him so much.

"I'm sorry. We don't have to watch it…"

He reached out and placed his hand on my shoulder.

"No, I don't mind watching it…with you," he said while looking down quickly. His blush was back in full force.

"I'm also sorry if my mentioning it earlier upset you. I just didn't know…"

Jasper hadn't removed his hand from my shoulder and I enjoyed the warmth that emanated from it.

"It wasn't you, Edward. It was just that after the accident kids used to tease me and call me that name all the time. I guess I just flashed back to all of the taunts when you were just making an innocent comment. Sorry for overreacting."

I nodded my head. I guess I didn't realize that I'd been staring at Jasper because suddenly his curtain of hair shielded his face once again.

Lightly pushing his hair behind his ear again, I said softly, "Please don't hide yourself."

He looked at me shocked, but hesitant.

"I'm not those other people, Jasper. I would never tease you. Hopefully, I can be a friend. We already have a few things in common andwe're on the same team, so to speak."

Now it was my turn to blush. He nodded his head and looked down, taking a deep breath.

It was way too tense in the room, so I decided to lighten the mood by asking Jasper what he wanted on his pizza. After I placed the order, I popped in the movie and we spent the rest of the evening eating, laughing at the movie and taking notes for our project.

I'd really enjoyed spending time with Jasper, but I was also exhausted by the end of the movie. Jasper and I had been through quite an emotional experience, and all I wanted to do was curl up in bed and drift off to sleep. Noticing my fatigue, Jasper stood up and said he'd better get back home. My protectiveness kicked in, as well as my desire to keep him close, and I stopped him before he reached the door.

"You can stay here if you want. Like I said earlier, I don't have a roommate, so I have an extra bedroom in the suite. You're welcome to use it."

Jasper looked back and forth between me and the door, trying to figure out what he should do while I wished I could read his thoughts.

"Uh, I don't know…"

"I just don't want you to have to walk home by yourself in the dark, that's all."

He smiled and I felt my heart warm in my chest. He thought for another moment or two as my anxiety shot from a three to a ten.

"Okay," he murmured. "But only if you're sure."

I smiled widely and nearly feel to my knees when he did the same. Dimples, that I hadn't noticed before, emerged, and I think I swooned a little.

Shaking my head to break the spell I was under, I directed him to the spare bedroom and told him to make himself at home. He thanked me and began walking towards the bed. Before I had the chance to turn, he rushed back towards me and threw his arms around me.

"Thank you, Edward, for everything."

Pulling back, he walked into the bedroom and closed the door behind him. I remained where I was desperately trying to hold on to the warmth he'd left behind. I told myself I needed to be careful. While it was obvious I definitely liked this guy, I didn't want to freak him out or push too hard; he'd been through so much. However, I couldn't help the way my heart beat a little faster when I thought about him and a goofy smile spread across my face as I walked into my bedroom.

x~x~x~x~x~x~x

Over the next several weeks, Jasper and I grew pretty close. We saw each other almost every day, and I soon found myself developing pretty strong feelings for him. I was afraid to reveal my feelings, but I used every excuse out there to be near him, usually resorting to our film studies project.

I noticed a change in Jasper after the night he talked about his scar and the accident. He was still quite shy around people, but he seemed to be an open book around me. I discovered a whole new side to him that I loved. He had a wicked sense of humor that was dry and a little sarcastic, and we'd often find ourselves laughing at his random observations. I also learned that he was extremely intelligent with the mind of an encyclopedia. He told me he planned on getting his Ph.D. so he could possibly work for a museum and create exhibits that would teach future generations about the wonders and complexities of mankind. Anytime he talked about his future career with such passion, I found myself completely in awe. All of his shyness and self-doubt melted away and what stood in front of me was a confident, self-assured man. It was an incredible turn on.

Every once in a while, I'd notice Jasper staring at me, only to avert his gaze when he'd been caught. I wanted so badly to just tell him how I felt, but something continued to hold me back. I was so afraid he'd run and I'd lose him as a friend.

About halfway into the semester, I received a frantic call from Jasper asking me to come to his dorm room. He didn't give any details, but the tone of his voice made my blood run cold. I sprinted to his residence hall and banged on the door. He opened it quickly, and I surveyed the place. Jasper's head was down, and he looked broken. My fierce protectiveness, once again, kicked in as I asked him what happened.

"What happened?" his drunk roommate asked. "What happened is that I'm living with a fairy and this asshole never bothered to tell me."

Jasper wrapped his arms around his body, something he hadn't done in weeks, as a defense mechanism. He spoke quietly.

"Ben, I didn't think it mattered. We're rarely in the same room together."

"I don't care," Ben screamed as he stood from his bed. "I don't want you or your faggy friends near my stuff." He emphasized his words by jabbing Jasper in the chest with his index finger.

I stepped up to him and said in a calm, even tone, "Motherfucker, touch him one more time and I'll make sure that no one, not even us fags, will want your sorry ass."

Ben's eyes widened as he squared his shoulders ready for a confrontation.

"Is this your boyfriend,Jasper? Is this the Edward you call out for in the middle of the night?"

My eyes met Jasper's as his face went pale and he looked at the floor, remaining silent.

"Just make sure you don't get your nasty cum on my stuff when you're jerking each other off or whatever the fuck you gays do."

I saw red as I reached over and grabbed him by the collar. Ben latched on to my shoulders and we stood, deadlocked, practically snarling at each other. Jasper rushed towards us and tried to break us up.

"I don't know why anyone would want your deformed ass anyway," Ben spat at Jasper. "Who would want to look at your ugly mug every day?"

Jasper jumped back as if he'd been electrocuted. Shame and sadness I hadn't seen in a long time returned in full force as he raised his hand and covered his face. Tears sprang to his eyes, my anger reached epic proportions and I blacked out.

When I finally returned to reality, I was standing above an unconscious Ben as Jasper stood off the side looking shocked and scared.

I looked at him and asked him where he bags were.

"Uh, they're in my closet. Why?"

"Pack your stuff. You're coming with me."

"What?" he exclaimed.

"Jasper, you're not staying here with this asshole. I have an extra room, and you're going to move in. I don't want to hear another word about it. I'll help you pack, and then I'll run and get my car so we can load it up."

He nodded his head and started gathering his things.

An hour and half later, all of his belongings were in my suite. I needed to sit down for a moment, my body crashing from the huge adrenaline rush that resulted from my confrontation with Ben. I couldn't remember what occurred, but I must have hit him hard enough to knock him out for the entire 45 minutes it took for us to get all of Jasper's stuff out of the room. I think the alcohol in his system helped as well.

Sitting on my bed, I held my head in my hands. I was glad that I stood up for Jasper and got him out of a bad environment, but I also couldn't get the look on his face after I'd punched Ben out of my head. He looked positively bewildered and frightened. I'd taken such care not to scare him or make him think I was like all of those violent pricks who used their fists more than their brains to accomplish things. I sighed as tears stung my eyes.

Just then, I felt my bed dip and a warm arm wrap around my shoulders. I slowly turned my head and saw Jasper staring me concerned.

"Are you okay?" he asked.

Unable to speak, I just nodded my head.

"You don't look okay," he said while rubbing my back.

I closed my eyes and enjoyed the feel of his hands on my body. "I'm sorry," I whispered.

"For what?"

"I shouldn't have acted like that. I…I just don't want you to see the guys who hurt you…in me."

A tear slid down my cheek as I sniffed and looked away.

Jasper moved closer to me and moved his hand across my neck and finally into the hair at the nape of my neck, gently playing with the strands. My body shivered at his tender touch.

"I could never see you like that, Edward. You stood up for me and took care of me. If you hadn't come to the rescue, I probably would have just stayed there and endured his abuse."

"But, I shouldn't have resorted to violence, Jasper, not after what you've been through. I wanted to show you that there are good people out there who lo-, I mean care about you."

"What were you going to say?"

"Nothing," I said, feeling my cheeks burn.

"Were you going to say that you love me?"

Looking into his eyes, I nodded my head. "Yes, I love you."

Jasper gasped and I searched his eyes to figure out if my confession was wanted.

"Edward…"

"It's okay," I interrupted. "I understand if you don't feel the same way. I wouldn't really expect you to, but over the past few weeks, I've fallen so in love with you that it scares me. I've never been this drawn to a person before. I've never felt such strong feelings so fast."

He continued to stare, and I quickly started to lose my resolve.

"I-If you don't feel comfortable staying here with me, I'll also understand. We can go to residence life tomorrow and try to find you another place to live. Regardless of how you feel about me, I will not let you go back to that hell hole with Ben."

Jasper's hand continued to run through my hair and I quickly found myself feeling as though I was hypnotized. His fingers were working some kind of magic and my stresses and fears seemed to melt away.

"I'm fine just where I am," he said quietly.

Processing his words and wondering if I'd heard him correctly, my breath caught in my throat when I felt his soft lips touch my cheek. I turned towards him and probably looked flabbergasted. He chuckled to himself, but turned serious once again. Leaning in, he gently pressed his lips against mine. You know when you watch TV and angels start singing when something really awesome happens? Well, the entire angelic Heaven's Gate Choir sang the most beautiful aria when Jasper Whitlock kissed me.

He tentatively explored my mouth, and after a moment or two, gained more confidence, holding my head and kissing me with increased passion. Moaning into my mouth, he pressed his body against mine. Grabbing his hips, I pulled him so that he straddled me. When I parted my lips to breathe, Jasper took advantage of the opportunity and pushed his tongue into my mouth, finding mine efficiently. We both moaned at the newfound taste of each other and I began to lose myself in a delicious fog of pleasure and contentment.

When he pulled his wonderful lips away from mine, I whined in protest. He smiled that heartbreaking smile I loved so much and leaned forward to take my earlobe into his mouth.

"I never thought I'd be able to say this to anyone else but my family, but I think I…no, I know I love you too."

My body leaned backwards in an effort to look into his eyes. His face was alight with a beautiful crimson blush that made me want to lick him. I pushed his hair back on both sides and tucked it behind his ears wanting to see all of him. He looked deeply into my eyes and released a wave of love. I smiled and absorbed the feelings he projected.

"Edward, you…you showed me there was no need to be ashamed anymore. I can hold my head high and not hide behind my security blanket of hair."

I reached forward and lightly traced his scar again.

"I know when you see this," I said, "you see pain, humiliation and defeat, but all I see is strength. Not to sound clichéd, but you're a survivor, Jasper. I don't think I could have endured half of what you've been through, but here you are. I've learned so much from you and I've seen firsthand how beautiful you really are. You are sobeautiful."

A lump quickly formed in my throat as I moved closer to kiss Jasper's sweet lips once again.

"I love you," he whispered against my skin. "You've always made me feel beautiful, even when I didn't want to believe it."

"I love you too."

Pulling each other close, we held one another and relished in the love we shared.

x~x~x~x~x~x~x

I stood nervously at the door, anxiously awaiting Jasper's appearance. We were up next to give our presentation in our film studies class and it was now down to the wire. Jasper left before I awoke this morning and left a note saying he needed to run an errand, but would meet me for our presentation.

Dr. Matthews asked if I needed more time to wait and just as I was about to answer, Jasper strolled in looking every bit of a GQ model. My jaw hit the floor as I took in the sight in front of me. He was wearing his normal attire of jeans and a sweater, but they fit him like a glove and accentuated his body, something I'd gotten to know quite well in the past month or so. I smiled as I appraised his appearance, but his new clothes weren't what nearly knocked me off my feet. It was his hair. It was still kind of long, but it was cut in much more contemporary style that showed off his strong jaw line and high cheekbones. Pushing some stray hairs behind his ear, he smiled and stood beside me at the front of the class. I was in complete and utter shock, so much so that he had to squeeze my hand behind the podium to get my attention.

We began our presentation, running through all of the gangster movies we viewed and organized crime/the mafia's role in society. When we came to Scarface, I cringed internally. I still didn't like to talk about it even though Jasper assured me he was fine. In fact, he requested that he handle that part of the presentation. I wasn't going to deny him, so I stood back from the podium and let him speak. I watched in awe as Jasper spoke. Just as he announced the name of the film, he pushed the hair back on the left side of his face revealing his scar. He beamed as he talked about the infamous Scarface characters Tony Montana and Antonio Camonte (we made sure to cover the original 1932 film as well the more widely known 1983 Pacino version).

I looked at our classmates and tried to see if any of them showed any hint of disgust after Jasper's big reveal. I was ready and willing to jump over the podium and set them straight if need be. Some of them looked surprised at first, others smiled as if his scar was the coolest thing ever and the rest just didn't seem to care in the least. Relief coursed through my body as I turned my attention back to Jasper as he wrapped up his portion of the presentation.

As we were walking home at the end of class, I pulled Jasper into a tight hug and kissed him with everything I had.

"What was that for," he asked while laughing.

"For being such a wonderful, intelligent and sexy man!"

He blushed and dipped his head down. When he looked back up, his now shorter hair fell over his face. Pushing it behind his ear, I leaned forward and lightly kissed his scar. He sighed and held me tighter.

"I don't know why you love me so much, but I won't complain."

"That's easy, Jasper. You're fucking perfect!"

He smiled widely, making my heart skip a beat.

"Come on," I said looking into his bright blue eyes, "let's go home and celebrate our A!"

Pecking me on the lips, he smiled and held my hand tightly as we walked home. I knew he'd always carry a little insecurity with him, but I knew that as long as the two of us were together, we could conquer anything. I would spend every day of the rest of my life letting him know that he was loved and perfect in my eyes.