A/N: First and foremost, thanks go to Squalloogal for purchasing this outtake in The Fandom Gives Back auctions. She has given me more leeway than I expected, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as she did. Although, to be fair, she did say her gut hurt and had tears streaming down her face...
Thank you to my beta, TwilightMundi, for helping me work out and fix some of the tiny details that make all the difference in the world.
THIS PREQUEL/OUTTAKE IS NOT WUSSPERV APPROVED AT ALL. I'm sorry in advance. I had to take several breaks while writing this, because I just never knew Jasper had all this going on inside his poor head and heart. This takes place in their senior year of high school which is referenced briefly in chapter 37 of The Trip Home.
All copyright and trademarked items mentioned herein belong to their respective owners. The remaining content is all mine. No copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without my express written authorization.
High school is pretty awkward for most people, right?
Now imagine you're gay.
Well, technically, you suspect you're bi. You're also in love with your best friend of just about forever. And there's no chance you'll ever be able to tell him, or anyone, because you're trying desperately to get recruited to play professional soccer.
Welcome to my senior year of high school.
My adoptive parents were older than Carlisle and Esme, my chosen parents, and I never felt very bonded to them. That was the year their health began to fail, as well, and they had other, born-of-their-bodies children, who cared for them. I would watch at our family functions, few and far between, as we all interacted. More correctly, as they interacted and I observed.
Soccer had been the constant in my life, since I was small. Soccer and Edward. When I was on the field, watching down to the goal, I could narrow my focus and be good at something. It felt like one of the few things I was good at. I had failed my mother, who gave me up for adoption, simply by being created. I had failed my adoptive parents by not gaining their deep love, settling for the surface affection we shared for each other. I had failed Edward by falling for him, completely and irrevocably in love with my straight best friend.
Of course, I suspected for a long time before that year that I had feelings for Edward. I also knew I was attracted to women, and there just wasn't an understanding of what was going on in my head. The one time I needed my best friend the most, and we had somehow drifted the farthest apart we'd been in years. Since we'd met, probably.
Allowing my gaze to linger on Edward was one of the few pure pleasures I allowed myself that year. Home was … nowhere. The closest I ever got to feeling as though I belonged, as though my heart was at home, was on the couch in Edward's room.
Curiosity got the better of me one weekend. Edward was studying, Edward was always studying those days, and I didn't want to stay home. I had a fake I.D. burning a hole in my pocket and that was going to be the night I used it, I decided.
Realizing I had a choice, for once in my life, this night was in my power. My control. My hands. What did I want to do? Go to a bar, pick up a deliciously curvy woman? Drink alone, swallowing away my troubles?
Before I even had too much time to think about it, I was driving to Seattle. There was nothing to do in Forks, nowhere to go. I could get a seedy motel room in Seattle fairly cheap, so I'd just enjoy a night out and crash, telling my parents I was at Edward's. They'd never check, and I felt a pang of guilt that I was lying to them, but I was almost a man. Almost eighteen. I could taste the freedom in the air, lingering and teasing me.
Once I'd decided to go to the city, I made a quick call to Edward.
“Hey Jazz,” he answered, already sounding a million miles away.
I was bitter. Angry that he'd abandoned our friendship for his studies. He was the smartest person I knew, there was never a doubt in my mind he'd get into the college of his choice. He doubted his every move, however, and that made the year particularly difficult.
Our senior year should have been spent living it up together, but he insisted on spending so much fucking time at his house.
“I'm heading to Seattle to use those I.D.s Mike made us. You wanna come?”
Unable to keep the tinge of hope from my voice, I chastised myself internally for even allowing my hopes to get up. As I suspected, he let out a gust of air.
“Can't, Jazz. Studying.”
Papers were being shuffled and I could imagine him in his bedroom, at the desk he'd once decorated with Spider-Man stickers. Okay, I might've helped.
“Edward, all you ever do anymore is study. Come on, man, it's just one night. You can tell your parents you're at my place, mine think I'm at yours, it'll be fun.”
Even as I pled, I was headed outside Forks city limits.
“Jazz,” he said with a sigh. “I wish I could. I really do.”
There was such sadness in his voice, it took me a moment to formulate a response in my head, then send it out my mouth. I wondered if Edward was struggling with the same feelings and emotions I was. The realization that he might have been nearly made me turn around and rush to his house.
“Maybe next time?” I asked.
“Mmm,” he replied.
Unable to hold the dirty thoughts at bay after his guttural noise, I ended our call quickly. I realized then that I was lonely. I wasn't just alone anymore, I genuinely longed to be with someone. The longer it was drawn out, the more desperate I became to connect to someone in order to take away that awful feeling.
Edward and I had been up to Seattle several times to shop or hang out, so I knew the streets fairly well. It was dark by the time I arrived, my plans to find a companion for the evening set in place. If I couldn't be with Edward, I could find someone to take his place, I reasoned.
I got a room at a seedy motel (at least it was cheap), and planned to walk to the bar. It was a cool night, not too cold, just cool enough so that I wore a jacket. The streets were busy and my mind wandered as I walked. Maybe what I felt for Edward was just a really strong bond. Maybe I just loved him like best friends do.
The more I tried to convince myself, the more it became a laughable attempt. Best friends don't generally want to touch each other the way my fingers ached to touch him. I tried to distract myself from those thoughts. I wanted a crystal clear, clean night with someone who would take my mind off all that.
Pausing at a lamppost, I leaned against it, people watching. It took a few minutes for me to realize I wasn't just standing outside a bar. I was standing outside a gay bar. I knew they existed, had even looked up where they were in the city, I just had no conscious plan to go into one. Ever.
Somehow, though, my feet led me to the door I could see men going into and coming out of. I took a deep breath to steel my nerves and pulled out my laminated lie, giving it to the doorman along with my cover charge.
Miraculously, he waved me in, handing the plastic rectangle back to me. The music was loud, too loud, and I couldn't hear myself think. All around me were men in various states of undress and sobriety. I wondered briefly what I was doing there. What was I trying to prove, and who was I trying to prove it to?
I had to figure out if it was just Edward. I needed to know right then, apparently. I scanned the room. My body didn't respond to anyone the way it had to Edward, and I was even more confused. Making my way to the bar, I ordered a drink and slugged it back in one quick gulp. I turned so my back rested against the wood, and watched. Was I like these men?
Only one way to find out.
Wasting no time, I wandered to an opening in the dance floor. The lights swirled overhead, music thumping a heavy bass I could feel in my bones. It wasn't long before someone moved to dance with me. It felt awkward, but not entirely unpleasant.
As I tried to determine if the awkward was from grinding against a strange man or the fact that I was grinding against a man period, his hands went to my waist. I was surprised. Surprised by everything: the feeling of his hands against my denim-covered hips, the planes of his body as they fought with the hardness of mine, the way his scent washed over me. Mostly, I was surprised by my reaction. I shouldn't have been, but for some reason I kept trying to convince myself that it wasn't men, it was just Edward. This would be indisputable proof that I was flawed, broken.
The stranger moved even closer to me, his erection pressing into my stomach. His hands moved up to my face and he kissed me hard. I wasn't expecting it and it was like a punch in the gut. My eyes flew wide open and I practically ran out the door of the club. I stopped when I had gotten out into the cool air, hands on my knees, panting for air.
Once I was composed, I began the walk back to my motel room, chastising myself for chickening out at the last minute. How was I ever going to solve this personal mystery if I couldn't even go through with anything? Maybe the fact that I couldn't go through with it was proof enough. Did I really need to know, either way? Maybe I didn't need to know.
But I did know.
I went back to the club a few weeks later. Edward and I had grown even more uncomfortable with each other. I couldn't remember the last time we'd had a sleepover. He looked too stressed and I tried to remind him several times that he needed to relax more about his classes, but the circles grew more and more dark under his beautiful eyes.
Once, I met someone that reminded me of Edward. His eyes weren't as beautiful, his face not as distinct and handsome, but he'd do. Somewhere deep inside, I ached to be experimenting with Edward. Even as I met a guy and let him take me back to his place, I closed my eyes and it was him. Edward's scent. Edward's hands. Edward's mouth.
It was surprisingly cold and unfeeling. Even as my knees rested on the hard floor of his apartment, I began to regret my decision. I didn't want it to be like this, with some random guy I'd probably never see again. I wasn't a candy-and-flowers kind of a guy, but this? Giving some dude whose name I didn't even know a BJ after knowing him for all of five minutes? That wasn't me. And this guy? No matter how hard I pretended, he certainly wasn't Edward.
Thankfully, he fell asleep after I gave him what I was certain was a piss-poor virgin blow job. I had refused to let him reciprocate, and once he was sleeping, I put my clothes back on and took a cab to my car parked at the seedy motel. As I drove home, the confusion grew so deep and profound, I found myself at Edward's house that night. It will forever be etched into my brain – the Sunday I sought Edward, settled for Carlisle, and found myself.
The door was answered by Carlisle, who ushered me in. He explained that Edward had gone out with some girl Esme set him up with, and my body tensed. Again, I was being prioritized so low on the list, and it hurt.
“Why don't you come up to my study, Jasper. You look like you could use a friend,” Carlisle offered.
We sat across from each other in Carlisle's study, the air charged with some weird emotion I couldn't identify. I was surprised when he poured me a small glass of scotch, then did the same for himself.
“Jasper, I can see that you're struggling. What's going on with you and Edward?”
I was even more confused then.
“I'm not sure I know what you mean,” I said.
“Edward hasn't been himself lately. You two hardly see each other anymore. Did you have a fight?”
Shaking my head, I replied to the best of my abilities. “No, we haven't fought in years. I honestly don't know what's going on with Edward.”
Sipping the rich, honey-colored liquid, I weighed my options. Carlisle was the closest thing I'd ever had to a father. Did I need to confess that I'd given one lousy blowjob and suspected I might be in love with Edward? Could I hide it forever? Would that help?
On the flip side, maybe Carlisle would have some advice for me. Some words to soothe the ache, to ease the pain. To help me to see clearly what the situation was.
Could I say it? Could I get the words out of my mouth?
I took another deep breath. I needed someone, anyone, to be on my side. To help me. To guide me and give me advice.
“I think maybe, I might sometimes want... I mean, I....”
Fuck. This was not at all going how I imagined. I could only think of the most true words I knew to say right then.
“I think I might love Edward. I'm so confused. I went to this club downtown, trying to figure it all out. I don't know what's what in my head anymore. Am I gay? I don't think I'm gay. Fuck. Is this wrong?”
My fingers tapped on the stretched leather of the club chair I sat in. I listened to the ticking clock. I breathed deeply, feeling the residual burn of the liquor in my esophagus. I waited.
It felt like fucking forever.
I couldn't bring myself to look up at him; if he showed any signs of disappointment, I'd be crushed. I had opened myself, bared my soul to only him, and I waited for his words to either salve my heart or crush it.
“I think Edward might love you, too,” he all but whispered. “I don't have any magic words, Jasper, just know that I see something there. I don't know what, I could be wrong, I certainly wouldn't advise pushing him into anything. But maybe....”
Carlisle gave me hope with that conversation. Hope that I would be okay. Hope that I was still loved by him and Esme. Hope that Edward and I might be able to work something out, someday.
Edward called me that night, and I had no idea if Carlisle had hinted to him that he should do so or if it was out of the blue, but the reconnection was welcome. I began spending more time with him again. I would bring music to listen to or a book to read as we studied, and I felt our bond return slowly.
When we resumed having our usual sleepovers, I did the very slightest of testing the waters and brushed against him a little more than necessary to keep the thought in his head, while still keeping what Carlisle had told me fresh. I would give him time. It was one of the few gifts I could give him in return for his unending friendship and love.
Things evened out between us and I eventually decided the tension that year had been caused by my own discomfort with who I was, who I had become, and who I wanted to be. My Edward returned and I felt lighter again.
In our time spent in Washington, I never went back to the bars. Things inside of me settled down, and I took what I could get in that span of time. I kicked up my training schedule and made sure I got recruited to Chicago, where I knew Edward wanted to go to college. It would be my only saving grace, I decided. I could make it through the uncertainty, if I had Edward.
Intense didn't begin to describe the level that I competed at, from then on. I talked to my team coach, I made whatever promises needed to be made, and I took care of my body properly, focusing all of my extra anxiety on being the best physical athlete I could be.
My life would have been infinitely easier had I just been able to push aside my feelings for Edward. Had we not been so close, had we not decided to live together, spend every waking moment we weren't otherwise occupied together, I could probably have done it.
But we did live together.
We were close.
We did spend all that time together.
Looking back, I don't regret one single day of heartache. Not a moment of uncertainty, not a day of confusion. It all led right where it was supposed to.
You know those moments when your parents fight, and think you're completely oblivious?
I'm not talking about the all-out screaming matches that the neighbors hear. I'm talking about the quiet whisper-wars adults engage in when they're attempting to be discreet.
I had no idea what provoked them, I couldn't ever hear specifics, I just heard the whisper-wars as they began, then ended in stomping feet leaving the house.
Curious, I would leave my room and tip-toe to the end of the hallway. Always the same. I sighed. My fingers reached for the doorknob, needing to comfort her. Desperate. But I couldn't. It felt wrong to violate the secret that she was so desperately trying to keep.
Lying in bed, I would let my mind wander to what they might have been fighting about. Was he cheating on her? Was she cheating on him?
He began to work nights around that time, saying his boss demanded it of him. Did she want to move? he had asked with venom in his voice. Did she want to leave this beautiful house, the home they built together?
I heard her remind him it was only a home if they were both in it.
They always seemed so happy. These were my first lessons that the outside sometimes did not match the inside, and I bit down the bitter irony that they could dress in their fanciest clothes, spend time with their closest friends, and yet no one but me seemed to be noticing as they crumbled to bits. It was as if they were two pumice stones, bashing into one another, slowly wearing each other down to nothing. Dust.
His eyes had sunken into his face; my dad had always been a handsome man. I heard the nurses at the hospital talk about him, knew he could have his pick of any of them, should he want them. Did he want them? Was he planning to leave us?
She was just as bad off. I could tell she wasn't sleeping, pacing the floor during his night shifts. She would creep downstairs and turn the TV on, watching infomercials far beyond my own tolerance for being awake. Soft sobs sometimes escaped under her closed bedroom door; those nights were the hardest.
Jasper and I sometimes attended hospital functions with them and it irritated me to no end to see their public personas. Esme would get dressed in a beautiful dress, hair and makeup done by a paid professional, and Carlisle would wear his tuxedo.
I had stopped calling them Mom and Dad in my head; they'd lost those titles and the privileges that came along with them.
We'd spend the night talking to other hospital staff families, schmoozing, and having a generally good time. Except that inside, I was slowly being eaten away. The guilt and stress of watching my parents' marriage falling apart before my eyes was turning my stomach into a caustic wasteland.
Instead of spending my nights with Jasper, laughing and having a good time, I avoided him. Didn't want to burden him with this same pain I was going through. Refused to let him see what they had deteriorated into. If he stayed over, I was risking it being a quiet sobbing night, and I didn't want him to have to watch as I joined her. My silent show of solidarity with her pain.
Deciding I had to know who was to blame – there was always someone to blame, right? – I strained and listened harder for the next few weeks.
Things were worse with Jasper. He was frustrated with me and upset that I never wanted to go out or do anything anymore, but he didn't understand what I was going through. There was no way he could, since I wasn't telling him about any of it. I just had to hope we'd still be friends when this nightmare was over.
I felt more alone than I ever had. Esme was falling apart, Carlisle was falling apart, and I could see Jasper beginning to unravel at the seams as well. He'd begun taking weekend trips to Seattle, telling his parents he was spending the time with me, and I was worried.
School had become increasingly stressful. I needed to keep my grades up to get into a good school so that I could also get into a good medical school. I desperately wanted to be a doctor like Carlisle, although my opinion of the profession and its demands was beginning to wane slightly. Worrying that I'd lay an unfair burden on my family as Carlisle had, I would lay awake and think about a solitary life. I could do it. I was a fairly solitary person anyway.
Late one night I heard Esme down in the kitchen and decided to join her. She didn't seem to be crying and I'd heard no fighting that evening before Carlisle left, so I deemed it safe. Giving her a smile, I touched her shoulder briefly as I walked by.
“Hey, Son. What are you doing up so late?”
“Studying,” I lied.
I needed my mom back. I needed her soft comfort. Her wise words. Her warm arms.
“You study too hard, Edward. You're too young to be so stressed already,” she said, head shaking lightly.
“I told one of my girlfriends you'd take her daughter out. They're new to the area and she doesn't really have any friends yet. Could you do that for me?”
We sat across from each other in silence for a moment. My mug of coffee sat untouched as I tried to read her expression.
“Sure, Mom. How old is she?”
“Same as you: seventeen. She lives in Port Angeles, so I said you'd pick her up Saturday at seven. I'll give you some gas money and enough to take her to a nice dinner and a movie, alright?”
Nodding, I sipped my coffee. I'd been out with a few girls, and with a few girls. It would be a nice distraction. Maybe she'd be interesting, physically or mentally. I could allow myself a crazy night, I decided.
When the night arrived, I took extra time in the shower. I shaved carefully. Dressed nicely.
It was one of Carlisle's rare nights off, so part of me wondered if the whole thing was a ruse to allow them the privacy to yell and scream, shouting out the names they'd only dared to whisper thus far.
Esme gave me cash on my way out the door, along with a peck on the cheek and a tight hug. She seemed so anxious for just sending me on a date, and I wondered if maybe this was the daughter of someone important.
On the drive, I considered calling Jasper, but thought better of it. I didn't need his opinion on this, he'd been acting too strange lately. Instead, I planned out in my head how I thought the night might. We had dinner reservations at a nice place. If things went well from there, maybe I could take her back to her parents' house and we could make out for a bit, depending on how strict they were. If I got really lucky, maybe she'd be frisky and we could see some action in my beloved car....
I picked her up right on time, her parents nowhere in sight, which I was slightly thankful for. She was pretty, not stunning or beautiful, but not awful either. We talked in the car, then at the restaurant, and she seemed smart as well. Before dessert, I reached and took her hand in mine. We exchanged awkward, nervous smiles, but she didn't make any move to pull away.
“You know, Edward, I wasn't sure how this date was going to go,” Jane said. “I mean, I overheard your mom telling mine how quiet you are, but I'm having a nice time.”
Smiling, I squeezed her hand. I was having an okay time, too, I had to admit. We finished eating and I took her home. There was an awkward kiss on her porch, but I didn't want to lead her on.
Once I was home, I just wanted to take a hot shower and go to bed. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the silent house. Well, mostly silent. Yep, my parents were upstairs. Upstairs. I had never heard them so loud before, not even when they argued.
Just for the briefest moment, I listened to double-check they weren't actually fighting, my brain still confused by this obvious outpouring of love. I quietly left, locking the door behind me, and sat in my car.
I did the only thing I could think of – I called Jasper. We talked for hours, laughing and teasing each other as if nothing had happened. When the sun came up, I went back inside and indulged in the quiet house. A long, luxurious shower was just what I needed, I decided, and I climbed under the hot spray.
Trying not to think about Jasper and our renewed connection, I let my thoughts drift to my parents. Even I wasn't so naïve that I thought one night of loud sex was enough to fix whatever was going on between them, but maybe it was a start.
Yawning, the warm water soothing and comforting me, lulling me almost to sleep, I finished up in the shower. I put on some lazy clothes (pajama pants and a t-shirt) and made my way downstairs.
“Hey Mom,” I said.
As I passed by, I placed a kiss on the top of her head and gave her a half-hug on my way to the coffee pot.
“Good morning, Edward. How was your date?”
“It was okay.”
“Are you going to call her for another night out?” she asked.
I sat next to her and tried to read the expression on her face.
“Umm, probably not. She was nice enough, but not really long-term material, you know?”
Mom nodded. “I just hate seeing you so down. But, Edward... I know you didn't come home last night, I checked your room when I got up. Did you stay with Jane?” Her eyebrows furrowed, the unspoken judgment of me having a one-night stand.
“No, actually,” I said with a laugh. “I ended up staying in my car. I did try to come home, but uh....”
My eyes went wide, pleading and imploring her to understand what I'd walked in on without making me say it.
She laughed and turned pink, shaking her head. “Oh dear,” she muttered somewhat to herself. “Sorry about that.”
“Are things better, then?” I asked tentatively, hesitantly.
Confusion was written on her expression, and I could see then as little pieces began to knit together in her brain. I felt bad for intruding on their privacy and asking, but seeing as I'd been subjected to listening to my parents go at it like wild animals, I figured maybe just this once she owed me a bit of information.
Her face morphed several times before she spoke; the confusion melted into pain, which changed back into confusion and hurt. I could see her trying to process exactly what she wanted to tell me, and the table was uncomfortably silent for a few minutes.
“Things are getting better, Edward. I'm sorry, I didn't realize you knew anything was off.”
Chuckling, I weighed my options. I could lie and tell her it'd been just bits and pieces I had picked up here and there, or I could explain the nights I'd stayed awake listening to her and beg her to tell me every detail.
I settled for a slight shrug.
“You know, Edward, I can hardly believe some days that you're going to be an adult soon. Off to college, building your own life. Being with someone is hard work, Son. It's not like you just get married and it's all roses and sunshine. It takes work. Sometimes, more work than it should, but that's what it's all about – being in it for the long term. You can't go into a relationship, any relationship, whether it's a friendship or a co-worker, or a lab partner, whatever, you can't go in expecting it to be non-stop fun.”
Nodding, I took a sip of my coffee and thought about what she said. Until that very moment, I guess I had idealized what marriage and friendships were. I had taken for granted that my interactions with others would always be pleasant, and if not, that they would likely just end. Friendships and romances had been so fleeting up to that point in my life. The idea that a marriage could go through a rough patch and come out okay on the other side, perhaps even better, was a novel one to me. Her voice startled me out of my thoughts and I could see her fiddling with a bracelet sparkling around her wrist as she spoke again.
“Speaking of friends, I haven't seen Jasper in forever. Is everything okay with you two?”
I wasn't sure how to answer that one.
“He's good, I think.”
“Everything okay with him at home?” she continued to prod gently.
“Oh yeah, I think things are fine.”
“That's good. You boys have been friends for a long time, and I can't imagine your life without Jasper, or vice versa.”
My thoughts were wrapped up in Jasper, then. Was she right? Would Jasper and I be friends forever? I felt sick to my stomach at the thought of him not being around.
“Well, we won't have to worry about that for awhile, if we live together in Chicago.”
“Oh yes, I can't wait to renovate the apartment when you get accepted and move. I've been looking at listings, you know....”
Laughing, I half-hugged her after I stood. I needed to get a nap and think about things. I was looking forward to Chicago. A new city with an old friend... what could be better?
A/N2: Please review/comment, I would love to know what you think.