A/N: Below in the text, you will find words I stole directly from someone else. They are marked in itals, and they are stolen directly because I think they are important and utterly perfect words for anyone who's had to recover from any sort of mental illness or come back from a monumental mistake. When I read those words, I breathed a little easier, and I want to spread them on.
In my text, Alice says them, but I want to repeat THESE ARE NOT MY WORDS. They are taken from a wonderful tumblr blog called finding my recovery, and they can be found at findingmyrecovery dot tumblr dot com. I encourage anyone to follow her. We all need to see more positive things come across our dash instead of all the judgment and nastiness. Even if you have no idea what it's like to recover from a mental illness, we can all use a pick-me-up, eh?
"See you, Mom."
"Have a good time, honey."
Jasper paused on the stoop, processing what had just happened almost a minute too late. A slow grin spread across his cheeks, and he raced back inside. He picked up his mother from where she was bent over the table, her plans spread out in front of her. She squeaked as he spun her around.
"Jasper, what on earth has gotten into you?" she asked when he set her down.
He kissed her cheek. "Nothing. See you later, Mom. I love you."
Every time Laurent had arrived to pick him up or Jasper ventured out to meet him somewhere, his mother had at least a thousand questions about where they would be and how long he expected to be out. Even when there were no more questions to ask she still had that look on her face like she was disappointed in him for continuing to choose going out with Laurent over being safe at home.
She had forgotten to worry about him today. Maybe it had nothing to do with the fact she was slowly coming to trust Jasper again and everything to do with how absorbed she was in finishing her work project. Whatever the case, he was always grateful for a glimpse of normalcy. He was always grateful when he could forget he was an addict for five minutes, ten minutes, even a few seconds here and there.
"You're in a good mood this evening," Laurent said as Jasper got in the car.
"I am in a good mood," Jasper said, buckling up. "I've almost got enough saved up for a decent car. I might get weekends off pretty soon here." His smile softened. "I have a pretty gal coming to visit me in another week, and for reasons defying rationality, she likes me. She really likes me. And that same weekend I'm going to turn thirty-two. Thirty-two with a roof over my head, food in my belly, and a warm, soft bed to crawl into at night. That may not seem like much to most people, but fuck it. By all rights, I should be almost two years dead in the ground by now."
Laurent chuckled and raised an imaginary glass. "I'll drink to that," he said.
Jasper tilted his own imaginary glass. "Well. I won't."
Laurent hadn't been joking when he said he would drink. Jasper knew this about his friend, of course. He didn't take the straight and narrow path Jasper had. He drank on occasion. Jasper didn't approve, but it wasn't his place to dictate how Laurent went about his life.
That night, though, an uncomfortable feeling began to creep up Jasper's spine when Laurent said they were going to a party.
"It's been a couple months since we got together, man," Jasper said, trying to ease his way out of the situation. "I thought it would be just us."
"That's half the problem, isn't it? You've said yourself you want to meet more people. Well, here's your chance." Laurent flashed him a grin. "I can't blame you for wanting me all to yourself, man, but I'm taken."
Jasper rolled his eyes and looked out the window. "You know what I mean."
"Yeah. I know. Don't worry so much. They're good people I'm taking you to."
At that, Jasper resigned himself to the idea of a party. Doubtless there would be alcohol, but he could deal with that. And Laurent was right. He did want to meet new people. He was beginning to become closer with a few people at work, but one could never have too many friends, right?
They drove into one of Seattle's higher class neighborhoods. Jasper whistled as they drove down a street lined with mansions he thought only existed in L.A. "Where the hell are we going?"
Laurent spared him a sideways glance and waggled his eyebrows. "I have friends in high places these days. This is actually the CEO of my company's house. He's got twin kids who are our age. Big wigs in the company. Nepotism of course, but I can't complain about that, can I? Not with how I got my job. Anyway, I'm in the employee parking lot headed toward my car when I see another of the bigwigs, Felix, doing this whole pacing thing in front of this beat up Chevy, right? He's prowling back and forth like a caged tiger, tugging at his hair, looking at his cell phone. And I hear him make a call. I gathered that he'd been having some torrid love afraid with one of the guy's in Accounts Payable and it had gone sour. The guy locked up some huge presentation in his car. Mr. Scarpinato, aforementioned CEO of Volturi Industries, was going to have Felix's ass.
"Course no amount of pleading or threatening is getting this guy to budge, and he just sounded so desperate. You should see this guy, Jazz. He's maybe bigger than Emmett. I seriously thought he was going to cry."
Jasper chuckled. "Okay. So what did you do?"
Laurent's lips tugged down at the corners briefly before he brightened again. "Well, it's no secret from you that I have a set of particular skills I picked up from my time with James. I went over and opened the car for him."
"Risky, isn't it? I mean, it begs the question."
"It did beg the question, but luckily for me, Felix thought my adventures in grand theft auto, among other things, were hilarious. In any event, he brought me before the wonder twins and before you know it, I had a golden ticket." By then, he'd pulled up into a ridiculously long driveway already brimming with cars. "Come on. You're going to love the place."
Jasper brushed at his jeans. "I feel underdressed."
"Don't. No fancy pants here. Well. Designer jeans, I'm sure, but we'll be fine."
It wasn't bad at first. Jasper, guilty by association with Laurent, was prodded into telling the sordid tale about where his scars came from. As Laurent promised, he was met not with derision but with a bizarre kind of acceptance. It was a condescending variation-it seemed like they found the story of his life an amusing anecdote-but it was acceptance nonetheless. Though he couldn't say he genuinely liked anyone right off the bat, they were friendly enough. Jasper began to relax.
Everyone was drinking, but that didn't really bother Jasper. They tried to wheedle him into a drink, but they got bored of that soon enough. It was only when Jasper began kicking ass and taking names at poker that things got a little more tense.
"It's cheating," Felix said. He poured a liberal amount of whiskey in a tumbler and shoved it at Jasper. "Come on, tough guy. You gotta keep up with us or you got the advantage, dontcha."
Jasper put his cards down and shoved his chips-they weren't even playing for anything-to the center. "Where's the restroom?" he asked, his smile even.
He made his escape and took his time meandering to the bathroom. When he came back out, he took a wrong turn and ended up in a part of the house he hadn't seen before-not difficult considering he hadn't exactly been given a tour. But what he saw had him pulling up short.
Jane Scarpinato sat with a friend Jasper vaguely remembered had been introduced as Heidi. Jane was bent over the table in front of her, doing a line of what had to be coke But Heidi…
Heidi had heroin.
Jasper found he couldn't move his feet. His eyes were riveted. He'd walked in just as Heidi pushed the needle into her vein. The visceral memory that hit him seized his body and mind. He saw the exact moment the rush hit Heidi, and he rode the high with her. He remembered perfectly the way it hit, like a bomb going off at the center of his chest, but instead of spreading fire and destruction it spread warmth and sense of tranquility. It was a selective kind of fire that obliterated only the things you didn't want in the first place: stress, anxiety, worry, sadness. All of it slipped away, leaving only peace in its wake. That was the beginning of the problem with heroin. It was what Jasper thought normal should feel like.
His throat went dry with need. There wasn't a rational thought in his body, just a knowledge of what he felt versus what he could be feeling. Desperation crept up his spine, and he took a step forward. He remembered at the last second he shouldn't, though he couldn't, in that moment, remember why. It was enough to freeze him in place again, but that was the limit of his willpower. He couldn't run. He couldn't turn. He couldn't take his eyes off the beautiful sight in front of him.
"Oh, we're caught." Jane wiped at her nose and giggled, a giddy sound. "We started the party a little early, but poker is so boring. You should join us though. You know we have the good stuff."
Jasper's eyes darted to Jane, and she patted the couch beside her. He swallowed once, twice. His mouth was too dry to speak. His eyes drifted back to Heidi's side of the table.
"Oh. You want this, don't you?" Heidi asked.
She had everything he would need, all the equipment. It was ready. It wouldn't take anything. She fixed a hit as he watched and held the needle out toward him, taking away even that small hurdle. "Come on. It's okay. We know how to share." Her voice was low and seductive, but that hardly mattered. Jasper didn't need the extra incentive. He licked his lips, and Heidi grinned. "Come sit here with me," she said.
"Hey Jasper. Where'd you get to?"
The sound of Laurent's voice was like a suckerpunch to Jasper's gut. He gasped in a breath and had to reach out to lean against the wall to steady himself. He was dizzy with the strength of his returning rationality. When Laurent rounded the corner into the room, he grabbed his friend by the arm.
"We need to get out of here," he said through gritted teeth. "Right now."
"Don't go," said Heidi.
"Come back. Laurent can vouch for us. He's had our stuff before," Jane said.
Jasper raised his head, his eyes wide as he looked to his friend. "What?"
Laurent looked sheepish, but as he glanced furtively from Jasper to the table, his shame was quickly replaced with a hunger Jasper knew all too well. "It's just one hit, after all."
"You've done it before?" Jasper asked, incredulity gaining on his rush of other emotions.
"One hit every now and again is harmless." His eyes were glazed over. He took a step into the room, and Jasper held him back.
"Kate," Jasper said. He was having trouble formulating words himself. Even though he was turned toward his friend, he could feel the presence of the drug he wanted so badly. "Do you… You can't."
"Sure he can." Felix had appeared from behind them. He slung his arms over Jasper and Laurent's shoulders, elbowing his way between them. "Kate doesn't have to know. What happens in Casa Scarpinato stays in Casa Scarpinato." He laughed. "Don't worry so much, Jasper. Come relax. Take the edge off. You've been a good boy, and you deserve a little break. It's no big deal."
No big deal. It would be so easy to believe the words. Just one hit. One. One couldn't hurt. Jasper let Felix draw him forward.
Then he sucked in a breath and ducked out from under Felix's arm. "I have to go. Laurent. We have to go. Can we go?"
Laurent looked back and forth, but Felix had already pulled him down between him and Jane on the couch. He gave Jasper an apologetic shrug. "It's really not a big deal. Sometimes I cheat."
Jasper hesitated. He knew now he had to get out of there. Quickly. Before the rational voice got drowned out by the need. God, it was right there. But he couldn't believe Laurent wasn't fighting this like he was. He couldn't believe the other man was even now rolling up his sleeves.
He wanted to save his friend from what he was about to do, but his willpower was already burning fumes. It was now or never. He had to run or he was going to succumb.
"Come on, Jasper. It'll be fine," Laurent said.
Jasper wanted desperately to believe him. He'd never wanted anything so badly in his life. Just one.
But a name, a single name, echoed through his thoughts just then.
Kaylee. Mom. Dad. Edward. Emmett. Bella.
He pivoted, trying to find the strength to keep going, trying to remember how to walk, how to run.
He brushed by Jane's brother Alec so hard, he almost sent the man toppling to the ground. "What the hell?" Alec grabbed Jasper's arm and gave him a shake. "What the fuck is your problem?"
Jasper wrested his arm from Alec's grasp, and he bolted. He heard Laurent and one of the girls calling him back, but he fixed a mental image of his daughter in his mind and kept running.
But even as he kept moving forward, something inside him twisted. Moving away from his fix, from his deepest desire just felt so wrong. He thought of his life, his accomplishments, small as they were. He thought of the tiny shred of trust his mother had showed when he left the house. He thought about Alice, and the far away dream he had that someday, he might actually be capable of being someone's partner. He thought of his baby, his daughter, all he'd lost in her and all he still stood to lose if he went back.
He still wanted to.
Out past the gates of the mansion, on the sidewalk, Jasper stopped. He bent at the knees, gasping for air, befuddled and scared and sick with the knowledge all the turmoil he felt could fade away in seconds if only he'd turn back now. He fumbled in his pocket for the phone. He needed to be away from here. Far away. His hands shook as he tried to find the right number.
"Please. Please. Please," he murmured under his breath, finding the will to shuffle forward a few more steps. "Please pick up."
All Jasper's breath left him at the sound of that voice. He'd accidentally called the last person he wanted to call right now, the person who wouldn't understand. "Shit."
"Jasper?" Edward said, his tone sharp.
"I, um… Fuck. I meant to call Emmett," Jasper said. He didn't have anything resembling a filter right then. "I thought I called Emmett. I'm sorry. Fuck."
"What's going on?"
Jasper closed his eyes, despair creeping in around the edges of everything else. Why did his brothers both have E names? Why Edward? If he had to misdial, why did it have to be Edward? Edward who was slowly, so slowly, starting to treat him like a human being again.
But he didn't trust himself to try again if he hung up now. It was Edward or he was going back in that house. "I need you…" He swallowed hard. "I need you to come get me. Right now. Please. Look. There are drugs in that house, and I want them. I want to do them. I'm going to do them if you don't come get me. Please. Please help me."
The silence that followed was almost too long, but then Edward spoke. His tone was harsh, but he didn't say anything except, "Where are you?"
The words brought enough relief that Jasper had the presence of mind to give the vague location of the shopping center they'd passed right before they started into the fancy neighborhoods. He started moving again. Having a destination in mind helped.
"Okay," Edward said. "I can google map it." He paused. "I need the phone…"
"I'll call Alice," Jasper blurted. "Just please hurry."
He hung up the phone and did as he promised. When Alice picked up, he babbled an approximation of what had happened. "God, I'm sorry. Ally, I'm so sorry."
"Hush. It's okay. You're okay."
"It was stupid. I should have known better. It just happened so fast, and then it was there. I'm sorry."
"You didn't do anything wrong. You did everything right. You walked away, Jasper. I'm so proud of you."
"I shouldn't have been there in the first place." Panic was making him jittery and borderline incoherent. "They were just drinking at first, but they were pushy about it, you know? I should have known. I swear I didn't know, Ally. I should have, but I didn't."
"You couldn't have known. It's okay. You're okay."
Finally arriving at his destination, Jasper looked around the parking lot. "Edward is here."
"Good. That's good. Let him take you home."
Jasper took a shaky breath, and cursed quietly. "He's not going to understand."
Alice sighed. "You did the right thing, Jasper. Don't let him tell you any differently. Let him be a prick about it if he's going to be. Just as long as you get out of there. But remember you didn't do anything wrong. Nothing at all, and I'm proud of you," she repeated.
"Call me after you get home, okay?"
As soon as he was in his brother's car, Jasper slumped over, putting his head between his knees. The want hadn't left him. It made him dizzy. His heart was pounding too fast, but the vice grip on his lungs had eased the slightest amount. He gasped, trying to take a deep breath and failing.
"Christ. You're a wreck." As Jasper had expected, Edward didn't sound pleased. "Did you take anything?"
"No," Jasper said between pants. "No, I didn't."
"But you wanted to."
"Look, I know you're pissed, but-"
"Damn right I'm pissed. I had to leave my very pregnant wife home alone to drive across the city to pick you up because you needed a hit?"
"That's not what happened."
"Yeah right. You said you wanted to. After everything, you wanted to."
"Yes." Jasper reared up and surprised both of them by punching the dashboard. The bloom of pain through his knuckles was a welcome relief to everything else he was feeling. "Yeah. I did want to. I wanted to really fucking badly. For a few minutes there, nothing, nothing mattered more to me than the fucking hit they were offering me. None of it mattered. You know why? Because I'm a fucking addict. I'm a fucking-" He couldn't speak anymore. His throat had closed off. He just drove his fist into Edward's dashboard again.
"Okay. Okay. Jasper. Stop. I'm sorry. Just stop, okay? You're going to break your hand."
Jasper wheezed, realizing his eyes were stinging with tears he didn't want to shed. He groaned instead and buried his head between his knees again. "I didn't go there looking for drugs. It wasn't my idea."
"Okay. I believe you," Edward said, and his voice, incredibly, was gentle. "It doesn't matter. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have yelled at you. You scared me, but I'm glad you're safe. I'm glad you called me. Just… catch your breath. You're going to hyperventilate."
By the time they got home, the lingering sense of panic had receded. Jasper could think again, but the downside of that was nothing was protecting him from the onslaught of emotion assailing him. He knew how close he'd come to losing everything, and he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt he wasn't exaggerating. It would have taken seconds, seconds, to undo two years worth of work. It would have been so easy.
And he still wanted it.
He was disgusted with himself and tired. So tired. He was tired of the fight. It shouldn't have been this hard to merely survive. It shouldn't have been this hard to breathe. He didn't want to face his parents' disappointed faces.
"Come on," Edward said, surprising him again when he put his arm around Jasper's waist and helped hold him up as they walked to the door. Jasper hadn't even noticed he was trembling so badly he could hardly walk.
"Mom. Dad," Edward called, and Jasper groaned. He didn't know if he could face his parents right then.
Before he knew it they were there, and for the second time that night, he was stuttering out apologies in between telling them what had happened.
He waited for them to say "I told you so" about Laurent. He waited for them to tell him he was so stupid. Or weak. He was weak because he'd almost given in. He'd come so close.
They didn't say any of that. Esme and Carlisle pulled him down to sit between them on the couch. They hugged him and rocked him as he finally calmed down. They stroked his hair and his back. Esme murmured the nonsensical words that weren't meant to be condescending. They were simply the words a mother spoke to soothe her child. "Good boy. You're a good boy, Jasper..
"We love you," Carlisle said. "We're right here."
About an hour later, when Jasper was alone again in his room, he called Alice. The turmoil he'd felt had died down somewhat, leaving behind a hollow, desolate place at the center of his chest. His parents' words of love and encouragement buzzed around him, but they wouldn't settle.
"I'm just lost, Ally," he told her when she asked him to try to pinpoint what he was feeling. "I've been trying so hard. So fucking hard, and tonight, none of it mattered. If Laurent hadn't come into the room when he did, I would have done it. Right then I would have done it. And even after that… I barely made it out of that room. It was so close."
"But you made it out. You did it. You ran away."
"It shouldn't have been that hard. Two years. Two fucking years, and I'm still right there. I'm right back where I started. Shouldn't I be stronger than that?"
"You're so much stronger than you think," Alice said. "Getting stronger isn't about not faltering. That's not how it works. You are not going in circles.
"You are making progress in a spiral. You do come back around to where you were at the start, since recovery and healing take time, but every time you come back around to that point you're a little higher up because you've got more experience, more knowledge, and more strength.
"You ARE making progress."
Jasper closed his eyes. He slumped down in his bed, wrapping all his blankets tightly around him. "I want to believe you. I really do."
"Just sleep now, honey. Go to sleep. I'll talk to you tomorrow, and I'll be there in a week, okay?"
A small smile tugged at Jasper's lips. "Yeah, sugar. Okay."
"I love you, Jasper Whitlock."
His heart gave a flutter. He didn't understand why. He didn't understand how she could say it, but right then, he decided it didn't matter. It felt good to hear those words, even if they also hurt. "I love you too, Alice."
A/N: Many thanks to barburella and jessypt.