SLASH BACKSLASH 3.0 CONTEST

Title: Less Than We Think We Are
Author: MySlashyFriend
Pairing: Edward/Jasper
Rating, Disclaimer, and appropriate Warnings: NC-17. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. Warning for infidelity, Bella-hating, references to underage sexually activity, drug use, lack of plot...
Word Count: 9688

Please see all entries at .net/community/Slash_Backslash_3_0/74941/14/0/1/


The phone rang and Bella stood up to answer it after shooting Edward a look that said "you could be doing this." He rolled his eyes and heard Bella say "Hi, Rose" and was glad he didn't bother getting up.

"Jasper's here?"

Edward froze, hand halfway to his mouth. His fiancé hated Jasper like she hated no one else in the world—viciously and with determination.

Jasper was Bella's only enemy. He was also Edward's best friend (or at least used to be, but Edward hadn't seen him for a while), and Rose's older brother. He'd left Forks years ago and life had been considerably more peaceful for Edward since then.

Edward heard Bella talking about a dinner party and wine and he looked over to check he hadn't misheard her. Why the hell would they be going to see Jasper? Bella spoke firmly into the phone, looking directly at Edward, already seething at the mere mention of Jasper's name. She was never going to accept that Jasper didn't try to break them up, because she was stubborn like that. But who was Edward to talk? He was never going to admit she was right.

Bella hung up the phone and explained to Edward how everyone was getting together at Rose and Emmett's. She didn't look happy about it at all but there were no surprises there.

"Don't you even think of fucking him," she said sternly, dead serious.


"I've got the cake, you grab the wine," Bella yelled as she raced out to the car.

They were rushing because Bella wanted to arrive before Jasper and gossip with Rose about him. Not that she'd ever admit that, but Edward knew what she was like—how when it came to Jasper, her nasty streak couldn't wait to get out.

Edward grabbed two bottles of red from the cupboard and followed Bella outside. She was already sitting in the driver's seat, the engine running so the heat could start circulating. Edward climbed into the passenger side without commenting and smiled at her as he took the cake from her hands—a peace offering. She smiled back.

"I'm just pissed off he's here. Sorry for taking it out on you," she apologized.

"It's okay."

Apologies came easily from Bella so he accepted it for what it was worth. The truth was the evening was going to be tense enough without having unresolved shit between the two of them as well.

She drove carefully over the icy roads to Rose and Emmett's house and pulled into the driveway, giving a satisfied murmur when she saw there were no other cars there yet. Then they quickly made their way inside and out of the chill.

"Thanks for coming," Rose muttered as she opened the door. She exchanged cheek kisses with Bella and took the cake from her hands. Bella removed her coat before making a beeline to the fireplace.

"Bring the wine, Edward," Rose hollered out.

He made his way through to the kitchen where Rose was pulling wine glasses out of the cupboard.

"Bella's really worried," she started. "And I don't blame her. After what happened last time, I think it's pretty obvious that where Jasper's concerned, you make bad choices."

Rose often did this thing where she talked at people. Edward always thought it was the maternal side of her, like she needed to coddle and lecture and give advice. A long time ago, he figured out he could just nod and hum and she wouldn't realize he wasn't listening. He nodded. Eventually, she handed over two glasses of red and he was able to escape in search of Bella.

Bella was still huddled by the fireplace, trying to defrost. It was her own fault for wearing a dress instead of the bulky pants that would actually keep her warm. She'd insisted on it, which was stupid. It's not like her wearing a dress would impress Jasper.

Bella gratefully accepted the wine and looked eagerly toward Rose.

"So," Bella asked impatiently, "what happened?"

"Mom said that he just came out of a really bad break up," Rose answered.

"Oh, how terrible," Bella said caustically. "Wouldn't want him to have to deal with something like that, would we?"

When Bella first started making comments like that, Edward used to intervene. She'd always assumed Jasper was being malicious when he'd tried to coax Edward away from her. It wasn't like that though. Jasper saw Bella as this super bitch (and really, she'd never given him any other impression) and sure, Jasper had been telling Edward to break up with her, but it was only because they were both drunk and high, without filters and inhibitions. Jasper wouldn't normally be like that.

Everything would have been fine if Bella hadn't walked in just at the point when Jasper's deep and meaningful had started to turn into something more. There was definitely kissing involved, but Edward was a little hazy on the other details. She'd flown into a rage and so had Jasper. That's all she remembers—the yelling, the callous name-calling, the accusations. Jasper steered clear of everyone for the following couple of weeks and then left town. This was the first time any of them had seen him in about four years.

"Mom said he's really pretty messed up. She wants you to go easy on him."

"Oh, I'll go easy on him, so long as he keeps his hands off Edward."

Rose raised her eyebrows at Edward, giving him his cue.

"Nothing's going to happen, Bella. Stop worrying about it. Let's just have a good night, okay?"

Bella didn't look convinced.

"Sports?" Emmett asked.

"Yeah," Edward replied, not even trying to hide his relief.

They left Bella and Rose to talk about Jasper and made their way to Emmett's room. It was Emmett's room because it was filled with all things Emmett: his sports paraphernalia, his rifles, his big-ass flat screen. For most people, that kind of spending would seem extravagant, but Rosie and Emmett didn't have any kids—could never have any—so it was understandable they tended to indulge themselves.

"Are you worried?" Emmett asked as he grabbed a beer from his bar fridge.

It was the first time someone had asked Edward anything about the whole mess. "No," he said truthfully. "I'm even looking forward to it a little." Emmett's eyebrow shot up and Edward shook his head and laughed. "Not like that, Jeez."

Emmett cracked a smile and then turned the enormous screen on, searching for something aggressive and manly.

Edward really was looking forward to seeing Jasper again. Four years was a long time to not see someone you liked, especially when you used to be inseparable. They hadn't been close since Edward had started seeing Bella. He'd made the mistake of telling her about Jasper and how they occasionally used to be together. When he'd seen the look on her face he'd quickly followed it up with the typical excuses. The it didn't mean anything'sand it was only when we were drunk or stoned, but Bella hadn't bought it. From that day on, she'd always acted weird around Jasper. And then at some point, weird became nasty.

Rosalie's voice wafted down the hallway and Edward nudged Emmett so he'd turn the sound down.

"Jasper's here. I'm serving dinner!" she yelled again.

Edward got up quickly, not wanting to leave Jasper out there with Bella for too long. As he entered the room, he could literally feel the tension. Jasper had his back to him, but he could see Bella standing stiff and gripping her wine glass so tightly, it was a wonder it hadn't cracked.

"Jasper," Edward called out and Jasper turned around. He looked awful, all tired eyes and cheekbones sticking out too much, but he gave Edward a big smile and Edward returned it. Despite Bella's glare, Edward walked straight up to him and they embraced in a back-slapping kind of way.

"Come on," Edward said. "Dinner's ready."

They moved through to the dining room leaving Bella to follow behind. Edward didn't think he was being mean but he knew Bella would take it that way. The problem was that Jasper looked so sad, Edward couldn't bring himself to treat him indifferently. And really, Bella was being unreasonable if she expected him to.

"Okay, here we go." Rosie entered the room with a steaming platter. "Everyone dig in."

Emmett sat at the head of the table, Rose next to him on a side, Jasper next to her. Edward went to sit across from him but Bella took the seat before he could. Edward rolled his eyes as he realized she was worried about him sitting even that close to Jasper, with a big fucking table in between.

Rosalie made the best chicken. She had one of those expensive ovens that used steam as well as heat, and the meat always came out so tender. There were sides of beans and corn and gravy, and it was all delicious. Everyone filled their plates and when the sound of dishes and serving died down, Emmett piped up.

"So, bad break-up, hey?" he asked.

"Yeah," Jasper answered him, glancing up briefly.

"Was it a . . . guy?" Emmett could get away with these types of questions. He was the only one without an agenda.

"Yeah," Jasper replied flatly.

"How long were you together?" Edward asked.

Jasper eyes met his and again Edward was struck by just how sad he looked. "Two years."

"That sucks," Edward sympathized. Jasper gave him a reserved smile and went back to eating his dinner.

"So, did you cheat on him?" Bella asked in her cattiest tone.

"Bella," Rosalie firmly cautioned her while Edward glared.

"What?" she replied, feigning innocence. "It's just a question."

Jasper looked her squarely in the eye. "He cheated on me. Thanks for asking."

Bella ignored the looks she was getting from Edward and Rose, jutted her jaw out and narrowed her eyes. "I'm glad you know what that feels like now," she snipped.

Rose and Emmett both turned to look at her, disbelief etched on their faces.

"For fuck's sake," Edward cursed, while Rose chastised in her best mother-is-warning-you voice, "You said you wouldn't do this, Bella."

Bella rolled her eyes and began to aggressively saw into her chicken breast. Jasper chewed a mouthful of beans, pointedly ignoring her.

Edward sent one last glare Bella's way and then attempted to save the dinner. "So, how long are you back for?"

Jasper waited until he'd swallowed before answering. "I was only planning on a couple of weeks . . ." His gaze shifted to Bella for a split second. "I'm not back permanently or nothing."

"That's a shame," Rosie said. "Mom's really happy you're here. They get bored there all by themselves now." She didn't elaborate. Everyone knew how much Mrs. Whitlock loved having people to take care of. It was one of life's great tragedies that she would probably never have grandchildren.

Bella glared at Rose, probably feeling betrayed.

Rose noticed. "Bella, honey, you need to relax. We're not here to fight, remember?"

Bella dropped her eyes to her plate, but not her scowl. They all ate in silence for a few minutes, scared to talk for fear of starting another round. Emmett could only ever take uncomfortable silences for so long though, and being Emmett, he tried for humor.

"Did you two," he gestured between Edward and Jasper, "really have sex?" No doubt he meant to lighten the mood, but he couldn't have picked a worse topic to joke about. Bella pursed her lips in annoyance.

Jasper smirked at her as he replied, "Several times."

She snapped. "Well, you're not anymore are you? You're not having sex with anyone now."

"Jesus Christ, Bella," Edward yelled at her. She just couldn't keep the vitriol intact for even five minutes. "Rosie has already asked you to lay off."

"You know, Edward, don't even worry about it." Jasper put his fork down noisily. "I'm just gonna leave. It was nice to see you Rose, Emmett, Edward. Bella—fuck you."

He pushed his chair out and stood up, then headed over to the entry to retrieve his coat before leaving and slamming the door behind him.

"That asshole," Bella said, looking like she'd been slapped.

Rose looked at Edward, her eyes pleading. "Edward?"

"I'm going." He stood up just as noisily, shooting Bella an annoyed look before leaving. He could hear Rose and Bella start up at each other and spared a thought for Emmett.

Jasper's car was already gone, so Edward took the Volvo, reasoning Bella could get Emmett to give her a ride home.

Edward drove to Jasper's house, well, Jasper's parent's house. Mrs. Whitlock greeted Edward with a tight-lipped smile and said Jasper was in his room. Edward climbed the stairs feeling brief pangs of nostalgia from times long ago when he used to walk this path. Back then, their lives had been trouble free. There were no break-ups, no bitchy fiancés who yelled at your friends. They were free to enjoy each other's company without anyone jumping to conclusions.

Edward reached his door and knocked gently.

"Mom, I already said I'm okay!"

"It's me."

The door swung inward and Jasper stood there, looking surprised.

"Quick, come in and close the door," he said, glancing up the hall. Edward caught the slightly sweet smell of weed so hurried in. Jasper walked over to his bed and sat down, then picked up a joint that was smoking away in an ashtray on his bedside table.

"You want some?" he offered, holding it out toward Edward.

"Nah, that stuff messes with my head now."

He took one last drag and stubbed the joint out, maybe to be polite. Edward sat down on the desk chair, swivelling so he could face Jasper.

"I still don't know what you see in her," Jasper said, anger still very present in his tone.

"Truthfully, I'm not so sure now either."

Jasper scoffed. "Every time I see that bitch she pulls this shit. I was surprised she let rip like that while you were there though. She normally saves it for after you've left the room."

Edward looked at him skeptically. "Really?" Jasper nodded. "I didn't realize she was worse when I wasn't there. Sorry."

"Why do you think I left? No, wait, better yet, what did you hear was the reason for me leaving?"

"Rose said you were sick of the small town crap."

"Wrong," he said bitterly. "I left because of Bella."

Edward hid his surprise. Honestly, he'd never thought Jasper let Bella get to him that much. "Does she even know?"

"Of course she fucking knows; she's the one who told me to leave."

"When?"

"Day before I left." Jasper put the joint out and stretched out on his bed, visibly relaxing as the weed went to work.

"What the hell did she say?"

He took a deep breath. "I don't know, lots of things. She told me that you would never want me that way, that you weren't like me. Then she said that as long I was around, I would have to put up with her. I went home and realized I didn't need that shit in my life." He shook his head. "As much as I hated to admit it, she was right—you'd had plenty of opportunities, but you were still with her."

Jasper went quiet again while Edward mulled over what he'd said. What they'd had was fun. No strings, no expectations. It was just fooling around.

"That wasn't what you wanted," Edward pointed out.

Jasper scoffed.

Edward tried to recall anything that could have tipped him off. Nothing came to mind. "Look, I was with you too, right? But I never thought of us being a couple. I just assumed it was the same with you."

Jasper rolled his eyes. "After I came out, you knew then. You knew when we had sex I wasn't just doing it because I couldn't find a girl for the night."

His words evoked old feelings of guilt. Edward had always had a niggling doubt that he was taking advantage of Jasper.

"I just thought we were having a bit of fun," Edward said, defensively. He felt confused now, and worried about what else he may have inadvertently done.

They were both silent for a minute and then Jasper asked, "Are you really going to marry her?"

"Shit, I don't know." Edward didn't want to right now, but it wasn't like this was the first time he'd felt this way. They'd always recovered before. "Probably."

"You're insane if you do. She'll turn into one of those psychopaths and chop your dick off because she thinks you might have an affair."

"She's only like that when it comes to you. I mean, I hang out with Rose all the time and Bella never bats an eyelid. But as soon as your name is mentioned she gets all . . . I don't know. I think she worries that I'm going to leave her because I'm secretly gay or something . . . " Edward trailed off. They'd had this talk before and he was sick of defending Bella.

Jasper chuckled in that lazy stoner way. "It's because she knows I'm better at fucking you," he said, probably only half joking. Edward laughed. She couldn't know that.

Jasper opened his eyes and looked at Edward. "It's true," he said, waiting for Edward to agree with him.

"It's . . . different with you." Edward shrugged. "Apples and oranges."

Jasper groaned. "Come on, Edward, you gotta give me something over her. At least tell me I give better head."

Edward ran his hand through his hair a few times, embarrassed for no real reason. "Like you need me to fucking say it—you know you do."

Jasper smiled smugly. "You're not too bad yourself—for a straight guy." He stared into the room and Edward watched as Jasper's smile died. "I just don't understand what you see in her."

Edward let out a loud sigh. This was too close to my own thoughts at the moment.

"She's nice, you know, except around you." He fidgeted, swinging back and forth on the chair. It was hard to think of reasons when he was mad at her. Lamely, he added, "And when I come home and see her in the kitchen, I like that. It's nice."

"But what about the other times, like tonight, when she's being an ϋber-bitch?"

Edward didn't like her at all when she was being like that. But were few those times enough to outweigh the good?

"I just try to ignore that," he admitted.

"Leave her."

Edward tilted his head back and rubbed at his eyes. It was getting late and he was tired. "I don't know."

"Come on, just fucking do it. You can come live with me and we can give each other awesome blow jobs for the rest of our lives." His voice was lazy, relaxed, and he made it sound so easy.

"And what happens when you find another . . . whatshisname?" Edward wondered. "Then where would I get my awesome blow-jobs from?"

Jasper rolled his eyes. "His name is Peter. And there would never be anyone else. Despite what she might think, I don't cheat." He stretched out again and yawned. "Are you gonna stay here tonight?"

Edward thought about for all of a few seconds before remembering the shit-fight that would cause.

"I'd better get back."

"I'm telling you, leave her." Jasper hauled himself out of bed and pulled Edward in for a hug, sneaking a kiss on the lips before letting him go. "Thanks for coming over."

"No worries," Edward said, then after a quick smile, turned and left.


Bella was still seething when Edward got home. He walked in the door to find her sitting on the couch, drinking a glass of wine and staring at the door—waiting for him. The room was uncomfortably warm, and again he scowled at her inability to dress for the weather.

"Did Jasper enjoy having you come running after him?" she asked spitefully.

Edward didn't sit down, just stood in the entryway and glared. "You made him leave."

She gave an exaggerated sigh. "He left because he finally realized you aren't gay." Her voice couldn't be any more condescending. Edward hated when she used that voice.

"Why do you have to be like this? Why can't you just get along with him like everyone else?"

Bella looked like she'd been slapped. "You're supposed to be on my side!" she yelled. "And yet you're always defending him. Is that how it's always going to be? Whenever he's around, I come second?"

Edward was fuming. He'd spent so much of their relationship being passive, but this—he couldn't put up with this. "I shouldn't have to make a choice." There was so much he wanted to say, to yell and scream. "You can't dictate who my friends are."

"But—He's not just a friend!"

Bella was flushed, caught between anger and tears, and Edward knew he should retreat, let them go to bed and wake up ready to ignore the fight the next day. But he was too worked up. His blood pulsed with how much he wanted to keep this in motion.

"If I'm not gay, what does it matter?"

It was her turn to shake her head, and she was doing it emphatically. "Because it's him. Jasper does this to you, don't you get it? When you were kids, all that stuff he made you do, it's messed with your head."

For a moment, shock outweighed Edward's anger. "What the hell are you talking about?"

She blushed, which was never a good sign. But then she straightened up again. "Alice told me everything."

Extreme embarrassment warred with outrage. Edward's hands flew to his hair and pulled. "That little fucking big-mouthed . . ." He was furious. At Alice for telling Bella something like that. At Bella for taking it the wrong way.

Bella straightened up, emboldened, looking like she thought she'd won.

"You're wrong," Edward said, his voice deceptively calm. "Jasper never made me do anything. Don't you ever think for a second that I didn't want it." He turned to leave, so disgusted with her that he had to get away. But when he reached the doorway, he stopped.

At the back of his mind, he knew he was too angry, that he should wait until he was less upset and being more reasonable. But that's what he always did—waited until the anger was gone and apologies were made. He didn't want to keep doing that for the rest of his life.

"Bella, I can't marry you."

As he closed the door, he heard her snap.

"Fine!"


It was late when Edward showed up at Jasper's house. All the lights were out, so he figured Jasper was asleep—probably dead to the world from smoking earlier. Edward walked to the side of the house where he could see Jasper's window, pulled his cell out and tried calling him.

"Hello?"

"I'm outside your window and it's freezing. Come let me in."

Jasper was silent for a moment but then Edward saw light flood his room. His curtain was pushed aside and he squinted out as his eyes adjusted. Edward waved, kind of a dork move.

"I thought you meant, like, literally outside my window." Jasper laughed as he backed away from the window and Edward could hear his footsteps as he made his way down the stairs. "What the fuck are you doing out there?" Jasper asked.

"I left Bella," Edward answered as he headed toward the front door. It opened a moment later, a sleepy looking Jasper holding it, and Edward ended the call. He was careful not to make too much noise as he slipped off his icy shoes, then they made their way up to Jasper's room. Edward went straight to the heating vent and stood over it, trying to warm his hands.

A moment later, Jasper walked up beside him and held out a thick sweater. "You wanna talk about it?"

"You still got that pot?" Edward pulled off his cold jacket and changed into Jasper's much warmer offering.

Jasper grinned and walked back over to his drawers, then opened them and pulled out a small box. "Thought it messed with your head?"

"Yeah, well, so do women."

Jasper laughed and began rolling a joint. "So, what happened?"

"I'm sick of having the same fight with her." Edward accepted the joint from Jasper and took a deep drag, holding it in just a little before passing it back.

Jasper took his time to smoke before responding. "You're gonna wake up in the morning and go back there, and that's just going to piss me off."

"Not this time," Edward said. He couldn't remember ever feeling this mad with Bella before. It was like all of her faults had come out at once, and Edward couldn't handle that.

"She's been talking to Alice," Edward said, taking the joint from Jasper and smoking before continuing. "And she found out about . . . how we used to . . . you know. Well, whatever Alice's skewed version of it is anyway."

Jasper half smiled and rolled his eyes, but his cheeks still colored. Edward pushed on. "It's just extra ammo for her, and she doesn't understand that we were just kids fooling around." He inhaled again before handing it back. His mind was already beginning to relax, and he let his thoughts go. "I'm sure she's convinced you're some kind of pervert on a mission to take advantage of me."

Jasper grinned. "I can't believe she's more upset about us humping each other when we were kids than the dirty shit we were doing as adults. How fucked up is she?" Edward shook his head, smiling. That was one way to think about it.

Jasper laughed and continued. "That was like the worst day of my life, when Alice walked in on us. I thought I was going to go to jail or some shit."

"Yeah, me too. We're lucky Alice's silence could be so easily bought. Imagine what would've happened if that had gotten out at school."

They'd always known it was pretty indecent. At the time, Edward justified what they were doing as "practicing." They'd take turns rubbing their dicks up against the other's ass, sandwiching it in between their cheeks and humping until they came. When they discovered lube they didn't leave Jasper's room for a whole day.

Jasper shook his head. "Pretty sure you wouldn't have been as popular with the ladies." He took a deeper drag and blew it out. "Why would Alice tell her that?"

Edward collapsed into the chair, enjoying the relaxing buzz spreading through him. "Bella probably got her drunk. You know what Ally's like when she's pissed."

Jasper nodded his agreement then sat silently for a while. Edward just started to get lost in his hazy thoughts when Jasper spoke.

"Bella is kind of right, though."

That was about the last thing Edward expected out of his mouth. "Like fuck she is."

Jasper's brow screwed up as he stared at the floor. "I did kind of take advantage of you."

He looked so damn guilty, but that was stupid. "Well, I was there, and I distinctly remember using your ass to get off. I think it's safe to say we used each other."

Jasper pushed some of his hair behind his ear. "Yeah, but I knew I was gay."

It didn't shock Edward. If he'd ever really dwelled on what they'd done as kids, he would have realized that was how it was.

"It's no big deal," Edward assured him, shrugging. "Like you said, we were just kids."

Jasper let out a nervous laugh which died out too quickly. "What about when we were in college?"

"What about it?"

"You never thought I was . . . you know?"

"Taking advantage?" Edward asked.

Jasper looked ashamed. "Yeah."

"Were you?"

Again, he let out that nervous laugh. "Kind of. It wasn't always a fluke that we ended up alone together."

College was when they'd really worked on experimenting with each other. There were a lot of drugs involved, a lot of parties. By the end of the night, Edward was always horny as fuck and Jasper was always there.

"You used to set us up?" Edward asked.

By this point, Jasper looked like he was in pain. "Maybe? Let's just say that once I found out you had a weakness for guys when you were inebriated, I may have gone out of my way to make that happen."

Edward shrugged. "We had fun. It's not like I didn't enjoy what we were doing. Fuck, half the time I felt like I was hitting on you."

He could still remember how some days he'd just want Jasper so bad. Sometimes it was in class, sometimes at those parties. He'd catch sight of Jasper's ass or his lips and it'd trigger a memory of how good he felt. Edward would spend the rest of the day trying to get them alone so he could get off. "You weren't the only one who was scheming, either," he admitted.

Jasper's eyebrows shot up. "Really?"

"Really. So stop feeling guilty over nothing."

A slight grin spread out across Jasper's face and he lounged back on his bed. After a few moments, he asked, "What are you going to do now?"

This was the part that was really hard. Breaking up was a piece of cake compared to the ramifications. Bella and Edward had been together for years. They had a house full of jointly owned crap, a deposit on the venue for their wedding.

"I have no fucking idea."

Jasper laughed and so did Edward, because it was funny how little he'd thought this out.

"You're welcome to stay here. Mom would love having you around."

"Thanks." It was a nice gesture, but living at the Whitlock's could never be a permanent arrangement. "I guess I'll look at getting an apartment or something . . ."

Jasper nodded in understanding, and that was the first point Edward realized Jasper was going through this exact same thing.

"How are you handling it?" he asked.

Jasper shrugged. "I came back here, didn't I?" He sighed loudly and closed his eyes. "Half of me wants to take off, just get in the car and drive. I don't care about work, or any of my stuff. None of it means anything to me." He opened his eyes and stared at Edward. "The other half of me knows that's about the stupidest fucking thing I could do right now. It's the part that tells me I should get back to work before the end of the month like they want me to, that I should be looking for a place to live." Jasper paused. "Do you think you'll stick around here?"

Edward hadn't even considered the possibility that he might go somewhere else. Anywhere. That he could. It was a concept so alien, and it may have been the weed, but he wanted that—to go someplace just because he wanted to.

"Chicago."

"Chicago?"

"I was born there, remember? It'd be nice to see it again. And then maybe go somewhere else . . . I don't know." He felt overwhelmed by the possibilities.

Jasper nodded and yawned.

"It's pretty late," Edward conceded.

Jasper was already on his bed, but at Edward's words he got under the covers. "You want sweats?" he asked. When Edward shook his head Jasper moved to the far side and held the blankets open to him. "Come on."

Edward stood up from the desk and crawled in next to Jasper, clothes and all. Jasper's arm encircled him and within minutes, he was asleep.

The next morning, Edward was hazy. He always slept well after smoking, but there was a residual grogginess that was hard to shake. His mind shuffled through the events of the night before and a small smile came to his lips.


Bella wasn't next to him, already beginning to panic about the day before they'd even hopped out of bed. In her place was Jasper, snoring quietly, his hand resting on Edward's thigh. The calm closeness was different and Edward's mind sifted through all the other times they'd woken up together and how they'd ended up that way.

Edward rolled further into Jasper and draped his arm across Jasper's chest, pulling him in closer. The movement woke Jasper up and he squinted at Edward through sleep-crusted eyelashes.

"Morning," Jasper said, stretching his body a little.

"Morning."

Edward leaned in and kissed Jasper, chastely. He didn't know what he was doing, but Jasper was right there and it had been so long. He pulled away and waited for Jasper to respond.

Jasper licked his lips and smiled slyly. "You hitting on me, E?"

"Maybe? Is that okay?"

Jasper still had the smile on his face, but didn't look at Edward as he asked. "You sure you're up for that kind of thing?"

Edward laughed a little at his unintended implication, before seriously assuring him, "My heart isn't broken."

"Yeah, yeah." Jasper rolled onto his side so he was facing Edward. "I give you two weeks before you're blubbering about how she was the love of your life."

Edward had no idea if he was joking or not, so he ignored him, instead moving in and kissing his neck.

It felt good to touch Jasper—so much better than he remembered. Bella and he had been exclusive for years, and the feeling of someone else was new again. Kissing was new, rubbing was new, shoving his hand down Jasper's pants was new.

Edward didn't waste any time, going straight for Jasper's dick. As soon as he touched the silk-smooth skin, Jasper pulled away, asking, "What are we doing?"

"Kissing," Edward answered, shutting Jasper up by doing just that while he kept working Jasper's dick. They fumbled around for a few moments getting undressed, and then pulled the covers up high to keep them warm. Jasper took control, climbing on top of Edward but keeping their hips apart.

He continued kissing down Edward's chest and back up to his lips. "I've missed this," he muttered, and Edward felt it too—a longing for how they used to be, free and easy. Jasper hovered above him, as though uncertain he should continue. "You sure?" he asked, and Edward groaned and pulled Jasper down against him, barely restraining himself from grinding away.

"Easy boy." Jasper chuckled huskily. "Just how long has it been?"

Honestly, it hadn't been that long. But this was different and exciting in ways Edward hadn't felt for years. "Without you? Too long," he answered.

Jasper moved his hips a little and asked again, his tone more suggestive this time. "What are we doing?"

And there was that feeling again, of being free to do whatever they wanted. And after all the talk the night before, what Edward wanted more than anything else was a blow job from Jasper.

"Suck my dick?" he asked sheepishly, feeling a lot less confident with voicing it.

Jasper's mouth cocked up into a smug grin and he started to move down Edward's body, looking at him the whole time. Once he was between Edward's legs he began kissing around his dick and teasing him. Jasper had no idea how bad it was though. While Bella and Edward still had sex, she rarely went down on him.

Finally Jasper settled on licking the head and wetting his lips, and then he was taking Edward's dick into his mouth. Edward bucked and moaned and the whole thing lasted only a couple of minutes before he was letting Jasper know he was close. Jasper kept going anyway, and Edward came, pulsing into his mouth.

A second later, Jasper was kneeling over Edward, his hand frantically pumping his dick. Wanting to reciprocate somewhat, Edward cupped his balls and tugged a little. Jasper's face screwed up and after a few quick grunts he climaxed and shot his load all over Edward's chest.

Jasper collapsed beside Edward while he caught his breath. "Sorry," he mumbled when he noticed he'd smeared his come everywhere.

"Don't be." As if Edward cared about anything after the blow job Jasper had just given him. "I love it."

Jasper reached across me for a box of Kleenex, and their sweat-chilled skin touched. They cleaned up and calmed down and again Edward felt different and yet comfortably familiar. He wanted to keep touching Jasper, to keep kissing him and rediscovering how good everything felt. He'd just started doing that when they were interrupted by a voice outside the door.

"Edward? I need to talk to you." It was Rose. "I know you're in there. And I'm not leaving until you come downstairs and talk to me."

Jasper groaned while Edward swallowed the lump that had suddenly appeared in his throat.

"I'll be out in a minute," he said, then climbed over Jasper and out of his bed, grabbing his clothes to get dressed. Jasper started pulling on his boxers.

They finished getting dressed and made their way downstairs, looking as culpable as teenagers sneaking back in after a night out. Rose was sitting at the dining table, her hands wrapped around a steaming mug of coffee. She gave Edward the evil eye then turned it on Jasper as soon as she saw him.

"This doesn't concern you," she said pointedly. Jasper just shrugged and sat down, knowing she couldn't make him leave.

Rose glared at Jasper for a moment more before looking at Edward. Her expression changed completely to something more akin to compassion than contempt.

"Bella called me this morning," she said slowly. "She was crying so much, I could barely make out what she was saying. So I went over there and found her curled up in bed, sobbing all over herself." She raised her eyebrows the slightest bit, but that was the only indication of her disapproval. "She told me about the fight you had, and that you'd left." Her eyes flicked back to her brother's but she continued to speak to Edward. "Then she blubbered on about how you would have gone straight to Jasper. I actually told her not to be worried."

Edward sighed heavily. "Rose, Bella and I . . . the fight we had last night, it was kind of the last straw for me."

The tiniest hint of surprise widened her eyes, but she didn't acknowledge it. "You two fight all the time. You've never left before." Again she glanced at Jasper. "And don't you feel even an iota of shame? Come on, Edward. You left her last night."

Talk about going for the nuts. Edward hadn't felt any shame, at least not until he heard Rosalie's voice outside Jasper's door.

Defensively, Edward tried to explain. "Where else was I supposed to go? And you don't know what she's been doing. Did you know she's the reason Jasper left the first time?"

"That was years ago," she answered, then seemed to realize what she'd said. "It's not like that was the only reason." She took another sip from her mug. "I can't believe you're able to throw away your whole relationship like this. She's falling apart and here you are . . ." She gestured toward the stairs.

Jasper spoke up. "He wouldn't have even been here if it weren't for her."

"And you!" Rose started, but then stopped, shaking her head. "I think you should at least go and see her, Edward, today or tomorrow. If you're going to split up, do it the right way—not while you're angry." She took another long drink from her mug and then stood up, wrapping her scarf tightly around her neck.

"You coming over for dinner tonight?" she asked Jasper. He nodded and went to say something, but she beat him to it. "Edward can come, too," she said. Her tone and the look in her eye made it clear she'd said it grudgingly.

"Thanks," Jasper replied.

She didn't hug him or anything, just headed straight out the door. Jasper followed her anyway, then lingered after she left in the entry way with his hands shoved deep in his pockets.

"She's right," Jasper finally said. Edward nodded, knowing she was as well. "You should talk to Bella—try and work things out."

"I'll go and see her. It won't change anything, though," Edward said, annoyed that Jasper seemed to think he wanted to go back to the way things were.

Jasper looked doubtful and shrugged. "You were angry last night." He looked around himself, as if unsure of how to continue. "I might go and take a shower, and then we can grab some breakfast?"

"Sure."

Jasper escaped up the stairs, and Edward went into the kitchen for coffee. He didn't like seeing Jasper like that, so uncertain. It was like he didn't really believe Edward.


Jasper's mom had come home from the store shortly after and prepared a huge brunch for her "boys." The tension that had settled over the house that morning evaporated, at least temporarily. Jasper and Edward hung out for the rest of the day, playing Halo and doing little else. It was bliss for Edward: no pressure, no obligations.

But then Peter called in the afternoon, and Jasper came back looking tense and uneasy. He brushed Edward off when he asked what had happened, instead going and talking to his mom about it. Edward stared at the TV for a while, trying not to feel hurt by Jasper's rejection. He didn't like not knowing what Jasper was thinking.

They took Edward's car to Rose and Emmett's and like the night before, they rushed through the cold to get inside. Once again, the smell of Rose's cooking greeted them and Emmett led them down to his room until everything was ready.

"You really left Bella?" Emmett asked as soon as they were out of range. He uncapped a beer for Edward and then one for Jasper.

Edward took a big swig before answering simply, "Yeah."

"Why the hell would you do that?" He was staring at Edward, puzzled, unable to fathom why he would want to leave his partner. Of course he couldn't understand—he had Rose. That woman was a domestic goddess, and beautiful to boot.

"Things with Bella . . . they just aren't really working out."

Emmett shook his head and turned on his big screen, Edward's answer obviously lacking.

As the players collided and Jasper and Emmett commented, Edward was busy stressing over Emmett's reaction. Was it that unusual for him to leave her? People split up all the time; why not Edward and Bella?

So Edward sifted through his reasons: Bella was bitchy and bossed him around; she hated his best friend and was determined to keep them apart; she went digging through his past and used it against him; and she could be so fucking overbearing sometimes.

They'd been together for almost six years. Just a month ago, they'd been trying to decide on a wedding date, and now . . . nothing. He didn't feel anything for her now. Maybe he hadn't for a while.

Rose's voice brought him out of my musings and they made their way back to the dining room. Rosie had made steak and scalloped potatoes and she dished a huge serving onto all of their plates. Once they were all seated, they picked up their forks and dove in.

Except for Rose. "Have you thought about what I said, Edward?"

Edward finished his mouthful, taking his time to savor it before answering. "I'll go and see her in the morning."

"Go easy on her. She's a lot more upset than you."

Edward chewed and swallowed down his annoyance. "I don't know if it will do any good. This thing with Jasper has always been a problem and she's never been able to just . . . let it go."

"Have you ever thought about it from Bella's point of view? She's just scared she can't trust you." Rose took a sip of her wine, waiting for Edward's response.

"Almost six years, Rose. I didn't cheat on her at all, not once in all that time. What else can I do to earn someone's trust?"

Rose persevered. "She was fine before she saw Jasper and you kissing—which by the way, qualifies as cheating—"

"You're wrong," Edward cut her off. "From the moment Bella found out that Jasper and I had a past, she didn't like him."

"It's true," Jasper added.

"And the kiss, she just lost her shit over it. She didn't even give me a chance to explain first—just jumped to her own twisted conclusion."

Rose ate quietly for a moment and Edward's blood cooled. It would be so much easier if Rose would just concede Bella was out of line.

Emmett had stayed out of the discussion so far, probably all too aware of when to argue with Rose and when not. After he'd finished his plate, he began piling more food on to it, and started to speak. "For what it's worth, I think you should try to fix things up with Bella. Rosie and I have had our problems in the past, but you work through them. I couldn't imagine living without her now."

"Yes, but . . ." Edward trailed off. What could he say? But I don't love Bella.

"Remember how great things were before Jasper came back. As soon as he goes again, everything with Bella will go back to normal," Rose added.

"And what do Jasper and I do in the meantime? Not see each other? I want to be able to see my friend without worrying about how Bella's going to react."

Rose was looking Jasper expectantly. "Jasper?" she prompted.

He sighed and looked up, though avoided Edward's eyes. "I'm not going to be around for much longer," he said hollowly.

"What?" Edward asked. "I thought you were here for a couple of weeks?"

"I was . . . We sort of worked things out today."

His words seemed too stark against the silence that followed. Edward was stunned. He knew they hadn't made any plans to be together or anything, but he'd just assumed . . .

He finally found his voice. "You're going back to him?"

Jasper nodded.

"But he cheated on you," Edward stated.

"He's apologized and explained himself. And he doesn't want to be apart anymore. And I . . . I miss him." He didn't look at Edward once as he said it.

Rose's face brightened. "I think it's great. And now you see, Edward, you don't have to worry about Bella and Jasper. She'll be fine."

Edward was too disheartened to argue with her. "Right," he responded flatly.

He didn't have a second helping, and neither did Jasper. Rose tried to have a proper "dinner conversation," but Emmett was the only participant. Not long after, Edward mumbled about being tired, which he was, and they stood up to leave, thanking Rose for such a beautiful meal.

They were silent during the drive home, Edward's thoughts spiralling even more now. He was pissed at Jasper. How could he just go back to that guy?

When they pulled up in the driveway, Jasper cleared his throat. "If you want to go and see her tonight, that's cool."

Edward huffed. "That's not what I want."

"But you'll go and see her tomorrow?"

Edward stared into the dark, feeling so cold and heartless. "I don't know. The obligation is a little overwhelming right now."

Jasper sighed. "Sometimes you've just got to suck it up and do the right thing." With that, he opened his door and climbed out of the car.

It was a long time before Edward fell asleep—in the guestroom. Just twenty-four hours ago, he'd been in bed with Jasper, relaxed from being high and optimistic. Now there was no more Jasper, and it felt like everyone wanted him to get back with Bella. Gone was the feeling of freedom, of being able to make his own decisions. He'd never felt more disappointed.


The next morning, Edward parked outside his own house but couldn't bring himself to get out of the car. Bella would know he was there—would have heard the car pull up. He couldn't go inside though; just being back in the driveway made him feel suffocated. After a few minutes, the living room curtain pulled aside and Bella looked out, probably wondering why Edward wasn't already inside. He stared back at her, neither of them moving or showing any sign of emotion.

There were no tormented feelings, no struggle to decide. He didn't like her anymore. It didn't matter that he couldn't put it into words or that he was probably being cruel, he just knew that going back inside that house and pretending he wanted to be there would be akin to stabbing himself in the soul.

The engine kicked into life after he turned the key, and as Bella comprehended what was happening, her face collapsed and she pounded the glass with her the flat of her hand, tears coming too quickly to her eyes to have been absent for long. Edward wasn't indifferent to her pain, but he wasn't going to allow guilt to override what his gut was telling him. Not again.

He looked away from her, harshly ignoring her pleas, and reversed out of the driveway.

Jasper was sitting in the living room when Edward returned, watching TV. "How'd it go?" he asked.

Edward took his jacket off and hung it up. "It didn't."

He shook his head slightly, smiling but not amused. "It should have."

Taking the seat next to Jasper, Edward sat down and also stared at the screen. "About the only thing I'm certain of right now is that I don't want to go back to Bella. Everything else is a giant fucking mess."

Jasper scoffed. "All you have to do is walk through the door and tell her you're sorry, then that whole other big fucking mess will disappear."

"Why are you doing this?" Edward snapped. "You hate her. Out of everyone, I thought you'd at least understand."

Jasper stared at him before answering. "I said it before, in two weeks time, you're gonna wonder what the fuck you were thinking. When you get tired of eating take-out and washing your own clothes and remember how fucking cold it is at night when you sleep alone, you'll be looking to blame someone for what happened. I don't want to be thatguy." Pointedly, he stared back at the TV.

"Is that why you're going back?"

Jasper rolled his eyes. "I've already told you why I'm going back."

Edward couldn't help but wonder if it was something else, though. Carefully, Edward pushed him. "Tell me it's not because of me. This isn't some stupid martyr attempt to save mine and Bella's relationship, right?"

Jasper sighed. "I'm leaving because I hate this town, and just being back here makes my skin crawl. I'm leaving because my sister will blame me forever if you and Bella don't work things out, and I don't need Rose lecturing me for the rest of my life. And I'm leaving because I shouldn't have told you to leave her. If I wasn't here, none of this would have happened."

Edward leaned back in his seat. "It would have eventually," he said, but Jasper was already steeling himself against Edward's reasons. Instead of pushing Jasper to believe him, Edward sagged. "I have shitting timing."

Jasper nodded, the corner of his mouth turning up. "Me, too."

And Edward knew, even though Jasper was telling him to go back to Bella, he didn't want him to.


Edward stayed at the Whitlock's that night, and the next day, Jasper was leaving. He'd already been to Rosalie's and said goodbye to her and Emmett, and afterwards he'd gone home and packed his car with his few belongings. Mrs. Whitlock had cooked all morning and he now had a cooler of food to remind him of what he'd be missing. She'd been hugging Jasper every chance she got, and he'd been pretending like he didn't love it.

Edward had been hanging back, wondering if he should try and stop Jasper. The thing was, Jasper looked happy to be going. He's eyes were brighter and he'd finally shaved, and Edward couldn't ask him to stay in Forks just because he liked having him around. Not when he wasn't sure what he wanted.

"So . . . I'm almost ready to get out of here," Jasper said quietly as he entered the guest room where Edward had been hiding out. "I'd offer to go with you to see Bella, but for some reason, I don't think that'd help." Edward smiled weakly and Jasper grinned. "Good to know you can still smile."

"Are you gonna be okay?" Edward asked. Bella hadn't cheated on him, and he was sick to his stomach at the thought of going back. He could only imagine how hard it was for Jasper.

"I'll be fine. Kinda looking forward to it, actually." Edward shook his head, confused, and Jasper laughed. "What? Does Bella not give great apology head?"

Edward scoffed. "Not really, no."

Jasper sat down beside Edward and pulled him into a hug. "It's gonna be fine, yeah. What's the worst that can happen? Either things between you two work out, or they don't."

Edward mumbled against Jasper's neck, "Is that what you're doing with Peter?"

"Yeah." Jasper dropped his arms and pulled away. "He deserves another chance. And if he does, even she does. But if she can't keep her bitch down and you need someplace to stay, just call, right."

Jasper leaned in then and kissed Edward goodbye, more than he should have, and smiled guiltily when he stopped. Then he led the way out of the room and down the stairs.


Bella knew Edward was coming; he'd sent her a text. It should have been some indication of his enthusiasm, but it was probably too subtle for her to notice.

He raised his fist and knocked. Two sharp raps. There was no warning of footsteps, no hint of her even being there. So when the door opened, it was sudden.

She looked smaller than ever, her hair loose and natural, her eyes red-rimmed and tired. A very wary smile graced her features, almost like a test to see if he'd be responsive. Edward tried—he really did, but all he could manage was a soft grimace.

"Come on in."

She stepped aside and Edward walked into their living room, feeling nervous. He sat down in his favorite recliner and waited for her to start.

She sat across from him and linked her hands together tightly, and as always, apologies came easily to her lips.

"I'm so sorry, Edward. I don't want to be apart from you. You're my whole life . . ." She sniffed and swiped quickly at the tip of her nose. "I swear I won't do it again. If you want, I'll never go near Jasper, and I won't ever complain when you want to see him—"

Her voice rambled around in his head, her words meaningless. "Bella, stop." He'd meant to patch things up, really he had, but hearing her say the same words she'd said before strengthened his earlier resolve. "I think we should break up."

What little color she had drained away from her face. "But—"

"Before you jump to any conclusions, Jasper has nothing to do with this. He told me to come back. Everyone thinks I should come back. But I can't. And I think, even if I did, we'd just end up like this again."

"You asshole," she said, disbelief leaving her voice soft.

The insult didn't even touch Edward. He felt clarity like he hadn't in days; everything made sense now. He looked around the room, wondering if he'd miss anything.

"You can have all the furniture. I'll just take my clothes, and my car." He looked at Bella's hand. "You can keep the ring."

Bella nodded and a sobbed escaped, but Edward couldn't help but notice the look of relief she had. He was struck by a suspicion that maybe that was all Bella had been worried about—that she'd lose all of her things, her perfect little life in Forks. Any guilt he'd felt quickly faded as he stood and left to begin packing.


Bella's tears had dried up by the time Edward was ready to leave. The backseat of his Volvo was piled with clothes, his laptop and music, and although Edward was a little scared, he felt free and unburdened and had to constantly fix his expression to stop the smile that kept trying to creep onto his face.

"I'll miss you," Bella said, crossing her arms across her chest and holding herself tight.

"Only for a little while," Edward said, wrapping his arms around her and placing a quick kiss on top of her head.

They'd agree amicably to split their savings, so Edward wouldn't be penniless. For once he was glad they'd been putting aside so much for the wedding.

He climbed into the driver's seat and started the car, staring at Bella and again failing to find any trace of regret. He reversed out of the driveway, then waved goodbye before driving up the street.

The stereo was up too loud and the heat wasn't on so high and everything was perfect. Well, almost perfect.

He pulled over and found his cell, then typed out a quick text and pressed send.

Heading to Chicago. What's the worst that can happen? Either things work out, or they don't.