A/N:

First of all, my apologies for this being three months late. I hope it was worth the wait.

To those who felt part 1 ended on a cliff-hanger, that was not my intent. The boys did exactly what they planned - woke up before Maria came home, Peter went back to his room, and she never found out. And that was only the first of many Friday nights they spent together. ;-) Part 2 starts two years later, with Peter at 16 and Jasper almost 18.

Huge thanks to jadedandboring, fr33bird, RaindropSoup, and JointGifts for beta'ing and pre-reading.

Some of my inspiration for Jasper and Peter: addictedtoedward (dot) tumblr (dot) com / tagged / forbiddenlove


Two Years Later ...

The car comes to a stop in front of my house. I turn and smile at the petite blonde next to me. "Thanks for the ride."

"No problem, Peter," Charlotte replies. "See you tomorrow?"

"Yep. Save you a seat at lunch." I grab my backpack and gym bag, and then wrestle my long legs out of the tiny car.

I take a deep breath before going in the house. Can't decide if I'm hoping that Maria's home or that she's still AWOL. It's been over two weeks since we've seen her; this has been the longest stretch I can remember.

The house is quiet when I enter, so she's either not here or passed out. Jasper's in the kitchen, searching the contents of the fridge. He's taking way too long to look for the number of items in the fridge. The sliver of his face I can see tells me he's concerned.

He grabs something – cheese? – and turns. Worry lines cover his handsome face, but he relaxes the minute he sees me watching him. "Hey. Didn't hear you come in. Good practice?"

I shrug. "S'alright. Coach ran us hard like always."

"That's good. Builds character." His voice is deep and almost fatherly, but he winks and flashes me his patented Jasper smirk.

My legs become jelly. He doesn't play fair.

He fishes out the last four pieces of bread and begins to butter them. I join him at the counter. Our arms brush against each other as he turns on the stove burner to warm up the pan. I glance at him every few seconds. He's staring at the pan, refusing to look at me.

I pick up a slice of the processed cheese product, slide the edges against my fingers, and ask the question I don't want to ask. "You haven't heard from her, have you?"

He sighs as he places one slice of bread into the pan, butter side down. Finally, he turns to me. "No," he replies calmly, but I can see the tension in his face. He can't hide anything from me, and he knows it.

"Do you think she'll come back?" I cringe at the crack in my voice. No matter how hard I try, I can't keep my emotions in check the way Jasper can.

Jasper brushes the long bangs out of my eyes and cups my face. His thumb grazes my cheekbone.

My breath catches.

"Yes." He's standing so close that his tickles my face. "Don't worry."

He touches his lips to mine, soft and reassuring. I lean into him.

For two lovers, it's a chaste kiss. For two brothers, a forbidden kiss. For us, both.

He pulls away and when his eyes open, I see the hunger in them. The same hunger I feel. Every day at school, we all but ignore each other, afraid someone will learn our secret. An innocent look that lasts just a moment too long. Sitting too close together at the lunch table. A casual touch that turns into something that means more. Wednesdays are difficult because I have track practice after school and don't get home until after five o'clock.

I wrap my arms around his neck as his arms slide around my waist. He pulls me to him and kisses me again. He licks my lips. I eagerly open them. My fingers fist in his soft blond hair, and I tug at it the way I know he likes.

He moans against my mouth and takes a step forward, pushing me back. His body presses me against the fridge. His fingers dig into my hips as he rubs against me. His sweatpants and my mesh athletic shorts leave little to the imagination. There's a throbbing against the crease where my leg meets my pelvis. Knowing he's getting hard, that I'm doing that to him, makes me want him more. I tilt my hips and grind against him.

"Fuck, Peter," he breathes as he kisses down my jaw.

"Missed you." I try to catch my breath.

His hands slide down to my ass. Next thing I know, he's lifting me off the ground. I let out a squeal that's so girly I bury my face against his shoulder in embarrassment. He holds me as if I weigh nothing; I love how strong he is. Wrapping my legs around his waist, I bring my lips back to his.

We're both achingly hard now, pressing and grinding. His lips travel down my neck. I hiss when he hits that spot. He hums against my skin and then bites, just hard enough to make me cry out. A tiny bit of pain, but so, so good.

It's all too much. I begin to tremble as he continues to lick and suck and bite. My dick throbs; the pressure and the friction are exactly what I need and yet not enough. One hand pulls at his hair. The other strokes his hard body - his shoulders, his back, his arms, any place I can reach. I try to tell him how much I love him, but it just comes out as moans and gasps.

I'm so close. We both are. He's panting and moaning in between the nips on my neck, and every noise he makes is delicious. I tighten my fingers in his hair and bury my nose to take in the scent of his shampoo. It's the same as mine, of course, but it smells so much better on him.

I breathe in deeply and realize there's something else besides him I smell. Something off. Burnt. He must smell it too because he unlatches from my neck and tilts his head.

"Oh, shit!" He backs away from pinning me to the fridge and my legs slide back down to the floor. He grabs the pan off the stove, scrapes the black brick that used to be bread into the trash, and then drops the pan into the sink. Steam hisses and sizzles from the cold water he runs over it.

As I watch him, I'm leaning against the table with one hand and palming my aching dick with the other. My breathing slowly returns to normal. I smile when I realize he's in the same position, leaning against the counter and rubbing himself through his pants. Trying to find a way back to comfort after coming so close to euphoria, only to be yanked away at the last minute.

He smirks at me. "Stop distracting me while I'm trying to make us some dinner. Make yourself useful and go start a load of laundry."

I stick my tongue out at him, but I don't argue. I'm starving and there's not enough food in the house to ruin more. Never knowing when our mother will show up with money or food has taught us to ration wisely.

I grab the laundry basket and head to Jasper's bedroom. It's practically my room too; nearly half the clothes strewn around the floor are mine. Growing up, when I'd have nightmares, it was Jasper's bed I crawled into, not my parents'. You don't run to the source of your fears for comfort. Even now, at sixteen, there are nights I don't want to be alone. Jasper always makes me feel safe.

I pass by Maria's room. She can do her own damn laundry.

By the time I return to the kitchen, Jasper has put a grilled cheese sandwich on a plate for me and has a half sandwich for himself.

"No way, Jazz! I'm not having a whole sandwich if you just get half."

"There were only three pieces of bread left. No big deal."

I grab his plate and switch it with mine. "You need more calories than I do. I'm just a stick."

"You had practice tonight. And there's a meet on Saturday. You need to eat. I'm fine. Really."

I cross my arms and refuse to eat anything.

He rolls his eyes when he realizes I'm not going to give in. He cuts the whole sandwich in half, then one of the halves into quarters, and tosses a piece on my plate. "Fine. Dead even. Now eat!"

It's a ridiculous and childish argument. Not like a quarter of a sandwich makes much of a difference either way, but I refuse to let Jasper always sacrifice for me.

We're quiet as we eat. We take small bites to make it feel like more. Thanks to the pre-paid subsidized plan, we both have full meals for lunch in school. So things could totally be worse than they are.

He avoids my gaze as we eat. He's moody, annoyed that I made him take some of the food he gave me. I stretch my legs out in front of me until I find his foot. I simply leave my foot in contact with his. He still doesn't look up, but I see a small smile on his lips.

I smirk. "Hey, isn't there some protein in jizz?"

He throws his head back and laughs. It's so good to hear him laugh, really laugh. Once he gets himself back under control, he waggles his eyebrows. "A little midnight snack?"

"I was thinking more like dessert."

But no, Jasper insists we do homework after dinner. Our relationship gets complicated. He's my brother – half-brother, really. At times, he acts like my father, a far better father than our real ones. And he's also my secret boyfriend.

We stretch out on the small couch in front of the television with our books. We each sit at an end, facing each other, with our legs bent so our laps can act as a desk. My right leg rests between his legs and his between mine. Every now and then, our calves touch, sending a jolt of excitement up my leg.

I've finished my geometry homework but have only scribbled down a few words for my history essay when he tosses his books onto the coffee table. I put in one more minute of pretend effort before I toss mine too.

"Finished?" I can hear the skepticism in his voice.

"Yep."

He gives me a look.

"Just as finished as you are."

He tries to keep the stern attitude, but he knows I've caught him. "Okay. Wanna put on a movie?"

Classic Jasper - trying to keep me from the bad stuff - but I'm not having any of that crap today. "How do you know she'll come back?"

He sighs. "If she was gone too long and something happened to us, she'd have to answer to that."

If something happened to us. Like what? We get sick? Have to go to the hospital? Get attacked by a burglar? Could we … starve?

"It won't come to that," Jasper continues, as if he's heard my thoughts. "I've already put in applications for a job around town. That's just for now. I'll be eighteen soon. I could get work down at the oilrigs or something. A real job that pays good."

"You can't get enough hours to make good money while you're in school."

He looks at me like "no shit."

"Hell no! You're not dropping out of school just months before graduation."

"If that's what I have to do then yes, I fucking am. What good would a diploma do me? I'll be working manual labor my whole life anyway."

"I can work, too."

"No, you're going to focus on your schoolwork and track." He even goes so far as to point his finger at me. "You're going to graduate. I'll make damn sure of that."

I cross my arms. "I'm not more important than you, you know."

A small smile appears. "You are to me. And it's my job to take care of you."

I pull my legs up, removing myself from contact with him, and scowl. "That's what I am to you? An obligation?"

The way his face crumbles breaks my heart. He reaches over to grab my hands. "Of course not! It's my job because I love you. You do know that, don't you? That I'd do anything for you?"

I throw myself at him, wrapping my arms around his neck. "I know. I'm sorry. I just wish you'd realize I'd do the same for you."

He stares at me like he's seeing me for the first time. "You're right," he murmurs. "Sometimes I forget you're not just my kid brother anymore. You're growing up into an amazing man."

He kisses me, hungry and fierce, and pulls me closer until I'm straddling his legs. We're going from zero to sixty again, hands and lips everywhere.

. . .

Jasper writhes below me as I lick and suck the head of his dick. I'm relentless, pretending to ignore the way his moans are getting more urgent. Only once I know he's about three seconds from exploding do I take his dick so deep into my mouth that the coarse hair tickles my nose.

We'd moved to his bed, discarding our clothes into a pile somewhere on his floor, and I'd immediately gone down on him. I love that I've found something I'm better at than he is. Something much more satisfying than running. I know how to take him to the edge and how to push him over it. I know how to slow it down and keep him going as long as I'm willing.

Despite our earlier teasing about jizz for dessert, I want more. I want everything. I want to feel him everywhere. All around me. Inside me. I drag my lips back up his length and swirl my tongue around the head one more time before kissing a path to his bellybutton. I take my time traveling up the rest of his body with my lips and tongue. His eyes slowly open as he catches his breath.

I kiss him with purpose. "I'm ready. I want this, with you. I want you."

He doesn't have to ask if I'm sure. He can see my love for him in my eyes, feel it in my touch, hear it in my voice.

I kneel next to him and he sits up. I know I'm ready - so ready - but what position? What should I do with my body? Where do my legs go? My hands?

The panic bubbles inside me, and then Jasper holds my face to him as he kisses me softly.

Right.

It's Jasper. No need to be shy and awkward. Unless, of course, I do something so wrong that he hates it and never wants to do it again.

Breathe, Peter.

He climbs off the bed. He rummages around in the pile of clothes on the floor until he finds his discarded jeans. When he pulls out his wallet, I'm about to ask him what the hell he's doing, but then I realize the packet he's just tossed on the bed is a condom.

I turn away from Jasper and get on my hands and knees. Even though it's Jasper, and we've been naked together before, I can't help but feel more vulnerable than I've ever been. I'm sure my whole body is red, not just my face. Worse yet, I can't see what Jasper's doing. What if he's disgusted and changes his mind?

I've just about worked myself into another panic when I feel the lightest of touches on my back. Jasper's fingertips trail down the sides of my spine. I feel the bed dip when he climbs on it, settling himself behind me.

"Fucking gorgeous," he whispers when his fingers reach my ass. He kisses the small of my back as he spreads my cheeks.

Oh, God. Here it comes. Jasper's about to - Oh! Oh, wow …

This is not what I expected. Instead of Jasper pressing into me, all I can feel is warmth and wetness. He's licking my hole. And it feels amazing. Better than amazing.

I reach down and grab my throbbing dick. A few strokes are all it takes to forget about being nervous and awkward. Instead, I push my ass back into Jasper's face. I moan and gasp without shame.

When Jasper finally ends this perfect torture, I'm breathless.

"That's called rimming," he tells me. "You like?"

I say yes, but I'm not sure it was clear enough for him to understand, so I nod vigorously.

He chuckles. He leans over my body, and I can feel him pressing against my ass. He whispers into my ear, "Turn over. I want to watch you while I fuck you."

Holy crap.

My body turns to jelly; my arms can no longer hold my body up so I fall flat onto the bed. I manage to turn myself over while Jasper digs in the nightstand drawer for the bottle of lube.

He kneels between my legs and looks me straight in the eye. "You'll make me stop if it's too much?"

"Promise." Please, just put your dick in me. Now.

Jasper squirts some lube on my ass and spreads it by rubbing circles very gently. "Shit. Too much."

"S'okay." I can feel the lube sliding down my crack and getting everywhere. Did he use the whole bottle? I bite my lip to keep from laughing.

He presses a slicked finger against my hole so very gently. Slowly, painfully slowly, he pushes his finger in. We've done this much before, but only a couple of times. Knowing there's more to come afterward makes it that much more pleasurable and nerve-wracking all at once.

"Need to stretch you," he explains.

The pressure of his second finger makes me gasp and jerk away.

"You okay? Deep breaths." He pulls away. "Maybe we shouldn't do this."

"No, no, no. I want to." Without his fingers, I feel empty. It's easy to believe, right in this moment, that I can take not just his fingers but his whole dick. Maybe even two of him. "I can handle it."

Jasper looks uncertain. "The more you can relax, the easier it will be."

"Right. Relax."

Easier said than done. After a second failed attempt, Jasper leans down and kisses me under the ear. "Stop being such a tight ass."

I burst out laughing.

Jasper pulls himself back up and grins. "That's more like it."

Jasper dribbles some lube onto my dick and brings my hand there. I slowly stroke myself and focus on that. The slickness from the lube feels wonderful. I alternate between squeezing and holding loosely. Jasper circles my hole again with his fingers. I stroke faster as I feel him push them in.

I can do this. I want this. I need this.

With every stroke, I feel better, and Jasper pumps his fingers faster. "Feels so good," I moan.

"That's three fingers. I think you're ready now."

"Three? Wow." I have to take deep breaths to keep from panicking again.

Jasper absentmindedly strokes himself with one hand while he turns over and examines the condom with the other.

Oh, God. Jasper's dick will be in my ass. Inside me. We'll be – deep breath – fucking.

OhGodOhGodOhGod.

Jasper's face scrunches in frustration as he tries to put on the condom. He studies it once more, and then flips it over before trying again. "Sorry," he mutters. His cheeks have a touch of pink.

Right. This is Jasper's first time, too. He's just as nervous and inexperienced as I am. My big brother, who's always known how to do everything, who's always been the one to teach me, struggles with a condom. We're on even ground here. We'll be learning together.

I lean over, grab his wrist, and pull him down on top of me. "Kiss me." My voice cracks with overwhelming desire. I crush my lips against his. My forcefulness surprises him, but he goes with it and lets me take the lead. I kiss and nip and curl my fingers in his hair as I hold his face to mine.

"Need you. Now," I say between frantic kisses.

He leans back on his heels and spreads my legs a little further apart. And then I feel it … Jasper's dick against my stretched hole. Thick. Heavy.

"Breathe, Peter. And keep stroking."

I hadn't realized I'd stopped both breathing and stroking. I nod and focus.

Breathe and stroke. You can do this.

There's a moment I think I can't do it, and I can feel myself starting to panic again, but I focus on breathing and on Jasper's blue eyes. Just like that, the moment passes.

"Oh, fuck," Jasper moans. "So tight."

He leans down and rests his forehead against my shoulder. "I can't … have to … you okay?"

"Yes."

He moans and pulls out slowly; it feels like forever. As he continues, he picks up speed.

Oh. God.

Jasper raises his head off my shoulders and puts his hands on either side of my face. "Still okay?"

I nod.

"Love you. So much," he says before kissing me.

All I can get out is a hum that's supposed to be, "I love you, too."

I wrap my arms around him and hold him close to me. As close as I can. Our chests crush against each other. His body presses against my dick with each stroke. Squeeze, release, squeeze, release.

I kiss him harder and stroke his skin everywhere I can reach – his cheeks, his back, his shoulders, his ass. I can't get enough. I need more of him, but there's no way two people could possibly get closer than Jasper and I are right now.

I squeeze my eyes shut and tears sneak out the corners. I hope Jasper doesn't see them and stop because he thinks I'm hurting. Because I'm not. Jasper's dick filling my ass is unlike any feeling I've ever experienced before, but I don't want to stop. Not now. Not ever.

Jasper leans back again and wraps his hand around my dick. "Let me."

He starts out slow but quickly increases the speed of both his stroking and his thrusting. He finds a rhythm. It's not long before we're both crying out and moaning. "Not gonna last much longer," he pants.

"Same."

He lets go of my dick just long enough to hook his arms under my legs and scoot me closer. I didn't even think it was possible to get any closer.

Just that slight change in position has changed everything. It's still the feeling of fullness, the pressure, the pounding of Jasper's body against mine … it's just all more intense.

I lose it, screaming his name. I try to slam harder against him and increase the speed of his hand on my dick.

"Oh, fuck yeah, Peter," he cries as he watches my jizz squirt out over his hand and onto my belly.

"Jazz," I whisper when my body finally finishes. It's all I can manage.

Seconds later, I can tell he's coming by the way his thrusts become harder, more erratic, and frantic.

He collapses against me, not even caring that my jizz is getting all over him too. We don't speak; just try to catch our breaths.

I trail a finger up his spine. He shivers. As I play with the sweaty curls at the nape of his neck, I say, "That was …" I can't even think of the word for how I feel. "Amazing" doesn't quite capture the way my whole body is still tingling, satisfied.

He kisses me, just a peck on the lips, and then rolls off to the side and removes the condom.

Immediately, I miss the weight of his body on mine, but he turns toward me and holds out his arms. I scoot closer, resting my head against his arm. He stares at my face without saying anything. His free hand cups my cheek, gently rubbing behind my ear, down my jawline, and back. I stare back at him, taking in his matted down hair. It's dark with sweat, almost as dark as mine. He's still breathing heavily, but with every breath or two, it becomes steadier.

We don't move for what feels like hours. No speaking, just touching, watching. I can see when he comes completely down from his high, when he has returned to reality. It's a subtle change in his face, but I see it immediately. He's deep in thought. The emotions are playing across his face. Worry. Doubt. Self-hatred. Carrying the world on his shoulders.

I realize then, more fully than I ever have before, Jasper is so much older than I am. He had to grow up too fast, becoming the man of the house at eight years old, if not younger. He was the one cleaning Maria up when she came home drunk and puking all over herself. He was the one who made sure I was safe and fed and cared for. He was the one who kept our sorry excuse for a family running.

No one took care of him. Made sure he was safe. Fed. Cared for.

"I'm sorry," I whisper.

"Don't be. I should have stopped."

"Not what I meant." I try to swallow the lump in my throat but can't quite manage, so my voice sounds strained. "You think we shouldn't have?"

He doesn't answer right away, and that scares me more than anything. He just keeps looking at me and caressing my face.

My fingers trace the ridges of his abs. "You haven't been to the gym as much recently," I blurt once I can't take any more silence.

"No sense lifting when I can't eat what I need to." His voice is flat.

I wait for him to say more, but he doesn't. "You didn't answer my question."

He blinks, keeping his eyes closed for a moment too long. When he opens them again, he says, "Do you?"

"No! Not at all. It was …" Again, I struggle for a word. "Perfect."

"It's wrong, Peter. We shouldn't feel this way."

"Why do you care so much? I mean, who cares that some god – who maybe doesn't even exist – thinks we shouldn't be together? Do you also believe that gay people are wrong?"

"No, but –"

"Is this all that different?"

"We're brothers, Peter. Same blood in our bodies. This" - he gestures between our naked bodies - "isn't supposed to happen between brothers."

I lean on my elbow. "Who are we hurting? No one. It's not like we can have kids or whatever."

He doesn't say anything, but he touches my face again, urging me to lie back down against him.

The next time I blink, tears fall. "I don't want anyone else but you, Jasper."

He wipes away a tear. "Please don't cry." His voice cracks. "Kills me when you cry."

"I thought you felt the same. I mean, I don't think it feels like that with just anyone, you know? Only with someone you really love."

Oh no. What if everything has changed? Just like they warn you in those cheesy movies they make you watch in school. What if Jasper's feelings about me have changed? "Do you … do you still feel that way … about me?"

He brushes my cheek so gently it makes me want to cry. "I will always love you. Always."

I fill in the words he's left unsaid. "As a brother."

"So much more than a brother."

"But you regret, ya know, doing it? With me?"

He drops his eyes and says quietly, "In my head, I want to say yes." He brings he gaze back to mine. "But in my heart? Never."

"Really?" I whisper.

He kisses my nose. "Really."

I slide my finger down from his chest to his belly to his dick and trace a slow path from the base to the head. "And how about here?"

"Definitely not." He half growls, half moans before grabbing the back of my neck and pulling my mouth to his. His kisses are hot and hard, and when he pulls away, we're both panting. "We better stop or he'll be ready for round two." He motions toward his growing hard-on.

"And that's a bad thing?" I tease.

"I don't think you're ready for the next round just yet. Let's get some sleep."

As much as I hate to admit it, he's right. I'm definitely sore, but damn, I can't wait to do it again.

I turn over, being careful not to fall off the too-small-for-two-teenage-boys bed and settle in against Jasper's chest. He wraps a strong arm around me and kisses my neck. I want to sleep like this every night for the rest of my life.

"I'll take care of you, too," I whisper. "And keep you safe."

Jasper's already asleep.

. . .

My eyes drift open slowly. Jasper's on his back, snoring lightly. My cheek rests against his bare chest. I trail my fingers from his belly to the patch of hair that runs down his chest between his nipples. It's darker than the hair on his head.

There's not a single hair on my chest. Like a child.

A bang from elsewhere in the house makes both of us sit straight up. Our wide eyes meet for a fraction of a second before Jasper glances at the alarm clock beside his bed.

"Oh, shit!" he cries as he jumps out of bed.

We didn't set the alarm. We've gotten lazy 'cause Maria's been gone so much.

What'll we do now? No way I can get back into my room without her seeing me. No way I can pretend to be coming from the bathroom.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

"Peter," Jasper whisper-yells, and I jump. "What are you doing? Get out!"

"But she'll catch us!"

He pulls a shirt from his closet, a pair of boxers from his drawer, and then fishes my jeans out of the pile of clothes we tossed last night. Shoving them against my chest, he whispers, "Get dressed. Go out the window."

I nearly fall over while stepping into the boxers. Jasper's boxers. I'm putting on Jasper's underwear.

Focus, Peter!

My arms tangle in the sleeves as I try to make my shaky hands do what I need them to do. Faster, come on! Jasper's shirt, made to stretch across his muscular chest, hangs from my shoulders but I don't care.

"My shoes!" I whisper when I realize they're still in the living room.

"I'll grab them for you. And your backpack. Meet you around the corner." He pulls me in for a quick kiss before pushing me toward the open window. "Go!"

I pull myself up and over the sill, and with every second that ticks by, I wonder if that'll be the second Maria comes to Jasper's room.

I've only just crouched under the window when I hear her. "Jasper! Where the fuck your brother? School today, no?"

My heart pounds so loudly in my chest. How can they not hear it?

"Jesus, Ma, I'm trying to get dressed here. Peter spent the night at a friend's house. They had a biology project they had to finish or something, I dunno."

I don't have to see him to know that, just like his voice, his face gives nothing away. How does he do that?

She must have bought it and left his room because her rambling voice fades away. Several minutes later, my legs stop shaking enough for me to walk to the corner to meet Jasper. As my panic fades, anger rises. How dare she pretend to care where I am! About school! Maria made it clear she didn't care about us when she started leaving us to fend for ourselves. No. Way before that.

My fist clenches. God, I'd love to turn her in. There's no way a judge wouldn't see the neglect and do something about it … but what? Put me in foster care? Jasper, too, 'til he's eighteen? I sigh. It's the same argument Jasper and I always have. It's the reason we've never told anyone anything after all these years.

It doesn't really matter what happens as long as Jasper and I are together. We can handle anything. Together.

. . .

As I walk into the cafeteria, I can feel every pair of eyes on me. The whispers, the sidelong glances, the not-as-discreet-as-they-thought pointing … I knew I hadn't imagined them.

I glance up at Jasper sitting at his usual table with the Cullens. They're the only ones not paying any attention to me. Of course. The one person I want to look at me isn't.

I sweep my eyes around the room. No one is really looking at me. It's the talk-about-him-but-turn-away-as-soon-as-he-looks game. High school. Can't wait to get out of here.

Charlotte heads toward me, flanked by Jessica and Lauren. I honestly have no idea why she hangs around with them.

As they reach my table, Jessica nudges Charlotte. "We'll leave you two alone. C'mon, Lauren."

She links arms with Lauren and they walk away, giggling.

Charlotte rolls her eyes as she sits across from me. "Whatever," she mutters.

"What was all that about?"

She glares at me.

"What?"

"Peter Joseph Hamilton, have you nothing to say to me?" Her icy voice shocks me; she's never been so upset with me before.

"Um … hi?"

"Really?" She crosses her arms over her chest.

The tears are starting to sting. Jasper's out-of-bounds at school, and Charlotte's my best friend. I've only managed to survive 'til lunchtime because I knew that talking to her would help. "I have no idea what's going on. Why is everyone talking about me behind my back? Why are you mad at me?"

"Here's a clue: next time you want me to be your pretend girlfriend, ask me first."

What in the hell?

"Honestly, I wouldn't have minded at all. I don't think you need a pretend girlfriend, but if you thought you did, I'd have done it for you."

I suppose the shocked look on my face finally gets through to her because her voice becomes softer. "Are you really that clueless, or are you hoping the puppy dog act will save you?"

"I swear, I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Didn't you tell people that you and I are dating?"

"Why would I?"

She ponders. "I guess whoever started the rumor just came up with that on their own since we spend so much time together anyway."

"We've always spent a lot of time together. What's so different today?"

She looks at me like I'm an idiot.

Now I'm getting annoyed. "What?"

"Yesterday you didn't have a huge hickey on the side of your neck. Really, Peter, you didn't even try to hide it." She shakes her head. "What did you think people would say?"

My hand flies to my neck, to the spot Jasper seemed to favor yesterday. He didn't … Oh, God … He did. "I didn't know it was there." I'm sure the rest of my face matches the red mark on my neck.

"How could you miss it?"

"I, uh, kind of left in a hurry this morning. Overslept. Wait …" Things are starting to fall into place. "Everyone thinks you and I…Oh, God." I touch the spot again.

She smiles. Then begins to giggle. A lot.

I'll never understand girls.

"I can't believe" - she gasps between giggles - "you've been walking around all day" – giggles - "with a hickey and you" - and more fucking giggles - "didn't even know it!"

I cross my arms. "Done yet?"

She gets herself under control. "Oh, come on. That shit's funny, and you know it."

"Whatever."

"Fine. Kill my buzz. Remind me that I'm upset with you."

She reaches over and play-punches my arm just as Tyler Crowley walks by our table.

"Oooh, trouble in paradise already, you lovebirds?"

"Ass," I mutter at his back as he keeps walking. "And anyway, why are you still upset with me? I didn't start the rumor."

"Because you didn't tell me you were seeing anyone, idiot. How could you keep that from me?"

Please don't let her read the guilt on my face. There's so much I've never told her. My father beating us. Maria the alcoholic. Her neglect. My relationship with Jasper is just the latest.

No, losing my virginity is the latest. I can't keep from blushing further as I think about that. Without thinking about it, I squirm in my seat. I can still feel, though very faintly now, the effects of last night.

Glancing at Jasper across the room, I give her the best answer I can. "It's complicated."

She sighs. "It's not, Peter. I've been waiting and waiting for you to tell me your secret. Why don't you trust me?"

Stay calm. Channel Jasper. "I don't have a secret."

"I don't even know why you're keeping it a secret. It's not a big deal."

"Not a big deal?"

"I've never thought any differently of you."

"How long have you known?"

"A while." She leans across the table. "It's kinda obvious, actually. To me, at least."

Kinda obvious? I try to think of every time I've been with Jasper and Charlotte at the same time. It's rare at school since Jasper and I pretend to ignore each other. But when she comes to our house …

No … since Jasper and I have been more involved, I've made excuses for her to not come over.

A while? How long is "a while?"

Never thought any differently of you. Never different. Known for a while. It's true; Charlotte's never treated me any differently.

"Peter?"

I hold up my hand. I'm having some kind of episode here. The earth might as well be changing the direction it rotates; my whole world shifts before my eyes. Charlotte knows about me and Jasper? And she doesn't care?

I could kiss her. Right here, right now. On the lips even. Never mind that she's a girl.

"But even if youdon't care, Char," I say slowly, trying to hide my glee, "that doesn't mean everyone won't, ya know?"

"True, but things have been all right for Edward Cullen, haven't they?"

I look over at the Cullen table again. Edward and Jasper are chatting and laughing. My hand closes in a fist. Everyone knows Edward has a crush on Jasper. Jasper thinks of him only as a friend, but it kills me that they can talk and laugh and be friends when Jasper and I can't.

"I mean, Edward doesn't exactly have a bunch of friends," Charlotte continues, "but that's really more because the Cullens all keep to themselves. Not because of Edward."

"Because of Edward?" I repeat absentmindedly, still watching Jasper.

"Ohmigod! It's Edward, isn't it?"

"What?" Once again, I'm lost. I'll never figure out the way the female brain works.

"That's why it's complicated? Cause he's your brother's best friend's brother? Oh, yeah, that does sound funny." She laughs.

Jasper looks over and sees me more or less staring at him. He raises an eyebrow, silently asking if everything's okay. I barely incline my head, but he sees it. He nods before turning back to Edward.

Charlotte, meanwhile, continues like I'm not even here. "But I thought he had a thing for – Oooh. I get it. That's really awful. No one wants to be runner-up." She reaches over and squeezes my hand.

I drag my eyes away from Jasper. "Huh? I think you lost me back at 'Edward Cullen.'"

"Oh, you've got it bad for him! And he's treating you like shit. I could kill him." She grits her teeth and, for a minute, I honestly think she's going to get up.

"Charlotte!" I grab her arm. "Slow down and tell me what the hell you're talking about."

"Edward can't have Jasper, so he'll take the next best thing? I mean – not that you're second best to Jasper. I meant that from Edward's viewpoint. Know what I mean?"

Now she's rambling. I swear I'm going to have whiplash from trying to keep up with her.

"If you and Edward are together, he shouldn't be flirting with your brother. He should be here with you!"

I finally catch up to her words. "Me and Edward together? No. Not at all." I laugh now that I finally understand what in the world she's talking about. "I don't even really like the guy. Why'd you even bring him up anyway?"

"Well, I was just pointing out that, you know, he's gay and out and everything, and it seems to be working out for him."

"And?"

"So you could be out, too. You don't have to keep it a secret."

Oh. My "big secret" is that I'm gay. I never even realized I was keeping that a secret. I guess I focus so hard on keeping everything else a secret - especially my relationship with Jasper - that I don't even really think about it.

The world switches direction again. Back to normal. Jasper and I are still a secret. "I'll keep that in mind. Thanks."

"So if it's not Edward …"

I raise my eyebrows.

"Well, aren't you gonna tell me who your boyfriend is?"

"Abso-freakin'-lutely not."

"Aww, come on, Peter," she whines.

I roll my eyes. Then I remember something she said. "Hey, what did you mean by 'it's obvious'?"

"Well, you're shy and soft-spoken and your best friend's a girl-"

I cross my arms and huff. "That doesn't make someone gay."

"Oh, I know. Just wanted to see your reaction." She winks. "Really what tipped it off was … well, when was the last time you ever checked out a girl?" She's smiling in that 'told you so' kind of way and I want to smack her. Except, you know, she's a girl and all that.

She looks at me over the top of her soda can. "And don't even try to tell me you've never checked out Edward's ass."

. . .

The walk home from school with Jasper is agonizing. To be so close to him and not be able to touch him, even casually. I can't even look at him. There's so much I want to say, and I don't trust myself not to blurt it all out the minute I see his eyes. We have to wait until we're in the safety of our house, the only place we can truly be ourselves. Assuming Maria's not there, 'cause then even home isn't safe.

She's not. No big surprise there.

Jasper walks straight to the kitchen. "Thank fucking God," he says as he closes the fridge. It's not full, but it's not nearly as empty as it was yesterday either. There are cans in the cabinets, too.

It's tempting to indulge now, but we're smarter than that. Unless Maria cooks our meals - a very rare event - we eat every day like it's the last day she'll bring food. Who knows? It just might be.

"So what's with the rumors about you and Charlotte?" he asks as I'm trying to figure out how to start the conversation.

"You heard about that?"

He laughs. "Only from about a billion people. That what y'all were talking about at lunch?"

"Yeah, and by the way, thanks for the hickey, asshole. Everyone thinks I got it from her."

He laughs harder, then leans in and kisses me right on the same spot. "Sorry. But it's really sexy to see on you."

"Yeah?"

"Oh hell, yeah." His voice is deep and throaty. That's sexy. "Was she pissed?"

"At first, yeah. She thought I started the rumor. She thinks I have a thing for Edward."

"Told her you were gay?"

"She figured it out on her own."

"So, do you? Have a thing for Edward?"

I know he's just joking, but I shove him anyway. "You know I can't stand the arrogant bastard."

"Give him a chance. He's not so bad once you get to know him."

"He looks at you like you're something to eat. I don't like it."

"Aww, jealous?" he teases.

I roll my eyes. "She's my best friend, Jasper. She wants to know where I got this from." I point to my neck. "How long do you think I can get away with not telling her who my boyfriend is?"

His smile fades as he nods. "We'll think of something to tell her."

"It's just hard, you know? I don't want to have to keep this secret from her. Hell, I want the whole world to know I'm in love with you. I hate having to hide. I hate having to feel like we should be ashamed."

"I know." He cups both of my cheeks with his hands and kisses me gently. He pulls back to look me in the eyes, and one hand goes to the back of my neck to finger my hair. "I was thinkin', earlier today. Once you're eighteen – and graduated – things will be easier. We'll move somewhere no one knows us. Different last names, we don't look alike, no one will know. We can be free and open and …"

I imagine the possibilities of this life he's planning for us.

Free.

We could be ourselves.

Open.

We could be like any other couple.

"Normal," I finish.


A/N:

So this was supposed to be the end of this story. Then Charlotte stuck her nose into Peter's business, and well...there might be a part 3. And maybe a pre-part 1 Jasper POV. With more of the Cullens.