“Damn it…come on; change!” I yelled at the light that had turned red moments before I got to it. I was already running late thanks to work. Just as I’d feared, I hadn’t been able to get out in time to go to class – and as it stood now, I wasn’t going to be able to get there for training to start.
At least Bella was able to cover class for me. And Emmett’ll start the session if I don’t make it on time.
I ran my fingers through my hair in frustration. I really could do with a good work out after today. Hell, after the last couple of days – work some of the stress out.
Thankfully, the light changed, and I drove a little faster than I probably should have to the club. Luck seemed to be on my side as I found a place to park near the entrance. Grabbing my bag, I ran inside, showered, changed, and walked into the swimming hall. Bella came up to me with a worried expression.
I smiled at her and said, “Hey Bells, thanks for covering for me…what’s wrong?”
She bit her lip, her eyes flickering between me and the pool. I followed her gaze, not immediately seeing what might have her reacting so strangely.
I looked back at her, quirking a brow in question. “Bella?”
She sighed, crossing her arms as she hunched her shoulders a little, a habit she had when she needed to say something she wasn’t happy about. “Is it a good idea for Jasper to try and train right now, Edward? Shouldn’t he be taking it easy for a few more days?”
What the hell? What is she talking about? My eyes went back to the water, looking more closely at who all was in it. And then I saw him. Jasper?
Turning my attention back to Bella, I said, “I have no idea how he got here, Bells. I told him he shouldn’t try just yet, but…”
She tilted her head for a moment, then looked back to Jasper. She sighed, shaking her head as she turned her attention to me again. “He’s not dealing too well, is he?”
I frowned, my eyes flickering to the blond head floating in the water. He looks more relaxed than I’ve seen him in days. I shook my head.
“I don’t know…” It bothered me to realize that I really didn’t. He had yet to talk about what had happened, how he felt about any of it. To me, anyway.
She stepped up to me, slipping her arms around my waist as my own automatically did the same with her. “How about you?” She asked, looking up at me.
Taking a deep breath, I looked into her eyes, giving her a small smile. “I’m okay, I guess. I’m not the one that’s lost everything.”
That nagging voice had been growing louder all day – well, ever since last night, really. After dinner, when Jasper had asked me to pick him up today, he had been frustrated when I said I couldn’t – and wouldn’t. He had left the table, and I had let him, thinking he just needed time and then we could talk. But he never did – and neither did I. I was afraid to push him away further.
It didn’t help that I never heard back from Jasper after I called him earlier – not even a response to my IM telling him I loved him. He had just disappeared offline seconds afterward, and I had to admit that it had bugged the hell out of me. I had tried to push it away so I could focus on work, but I’d had a difficult time doing so. It was why I had been looking forward to getting a good work out today – to focus on something else altogether and try to step away from things for a moment.
Bella patted my back, saying she was going to head out since she had to rearrange her schedule in order to cover for me. I hugged her tight for a moment, thanking her again, and then went to the side of the pool.
Standing there, I watched him for a moment. He had yet to notice me, or apparently acknowledge anyone around him. I sighed, running my fingers through my hair, while resting one hand on my hip.
What am I supposed to do now?
I saw Emmett swim up to Jasper, nudging him to get his attention. It wasn’t until he had motioned to me that Jasper turned to look at me. I felt my jaw clench as I bit back the words that wanted to come out. I wanted to know why he was doing this. Why was he being so stubborn, and not letting his body get the rest it needed in order to heal. It almost seemed as if he was determined to prove that nothing had changed – when everything had.
I jumped in and swam to his side, hoping to talk some sense into him. I kept my voice low in an effort to keep this between us and not embarrass him. “You shouldn’t be here, Jasper. Please, sit this out.”
Please just go, Jazz. Don’t make this any harder than it already is. I hate that you’re hurting, but this isn’t the way to deal with this. Not when you’re injured. Please, baby…
He shook his head stubbornly, his eyes held an air of determination and defiance as he said, “I need to be here. I need to do something, Edward. I’m fine.”
Fuck! I don’t want to do this, baby, but…
I muttered under my breath, cursing myself for what I was about to do, but he was leaving me no choice. If he didn’t want to listen to reason, then I would have to show it to him.
I looked at Emmett, telling him to get in goal. He frowned at me, the look on his face clearly telling me he didn’t understand what was going on, but he did as I told him anyway. I turned my attention back to Jasper, who looked a little puzzled but no less determined than before. Not taking my eyes off of him, I called out to Alice to come over with a ball, then directed her to keep Jasper from scoring a goal. I knew she was fast and would do everything in her power to stop him – and she was a formidable adversary in when it came to playing the game.
God forgive me for doing this…
“You want to prove you can do this? Is that it, Jasper? Prove that you’re fine, like you keep telling me? Alright then.”
I took the ball Alice had left with me and swam a few feet away from Jasper. I tossed it, with as much strength behind it as I could to prove a point – that’s all any of this was…to bring the point home to him that he was in no shape to be in here with us. At least not yet. If I hadn’t known Jasper as well as I did and hadn’t been paying as close attention to him as I was, I would have missed the wince he tried to hide as he caught the ball.
“Score a goal, Jasper. I want you pump-fake twice, and then hit your mark. Do it.” I challenged him. I knew he wouldn’t be able to do it. He simply did not have the range of motion for it at the moment.
He nodded curtly, and I held my breath as I watched him. I could tell he was already having trouble, was already hurting – and yet he kept going. A small part of me had to admire his tenacity, while an even bigger part wanted to throttle him for being so careless with himself.
I knew that by now the whole team was watching what was going on, but I ignored them. My focus was solely on Jasper as he pushed on. The more he tried, the angrier I got. He was hurting himself without any regard to what he was doing to his body. He wasn’t thinking about how this affected the team, or how it affected me. I didn’t think he even considered how it would affect himself in the long run.
I had to think about how his injuries – as well as his attitude – affected the team as a whole, though. I was team captain for a reason, and I couldn’t afford to let his stubbornness hurt them or their chances for Saturday. If I were to allow Jasper to play, we would all be paying more attention to him than we would to our opponents. I couldn’t let that happen – and not just for the team. I knew that, should we lose if he played, he would blame himself for it, and that just wasn’t something I would stand for.
Jasper finally saw a way past Alice’s defense and tried to take the shot, but as he brought up his arm to do the pump-fake as I had instructed him to do, he gasped, dropping the ball as he hunched forward a little. I swam to his side as quickly as I could, my voice pleading. “Jasper, would you please let yourself heal before you hurt yourself worse?”
When he didn’t respond in any way, something in me snapped.
Why is he being so stubborn about this? Surely he can see that this isn’t working…
My hand hit the water as I tried to rein in my temper, though by this point I was so mad I wanted to hit something – something with less give than water. It fucking hurt that he was in essence ignoring me – and it pissed me off that he wasn’t thinking about any of the others. I knew he knew better, that he cared about them just like I did, so why..?
“God damn it, Jasper! If you won’t listen to me as your boyfriend, you damn well better listen to me as your team captain! You. Are. Benched. Get out of the pool and don’t come back until you’re healed! I will not allow you to hurt yourself for a game. And I will not allow you to do anything to harm the team. Now go!”
He just stared at me, still not giving any indication of leaving. I took a deep breath before adding, “Don’t make me kick you off the team, because if that’s what it takes to get you to listen, I will. Please, Jasper…”
I would do it. I hated the thought of having to resort to those tactics, but I would do it if it meant keeping him from hurting himself further.
Please don’t make me do that, Jasper, please.
His eyes flickered between mine, and I looked right at him. He would find no hesitation from me. I would kick him off the team, and he had better realize it. After a few moments, he finally swam to the side. He didn’t utter a word, but the look on his face as he turned away from me bespoke murder.
He. Was. Pissed.
I had never seen him like this, and it honestly scared me a little. Not that I was afraid of him, but for him – for us. I watched with a sick feeling in my gut as he grabbed his things and stalked off to the locker room. There was no sound as he left.
I wanted to go after him, to talk – to make things right between us again – and I started to swim after him when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to look at Emmett, who shook his head as he said softly, “Let him go.”
He was right. I needed to let him go for now and give him space, but that didn’t mean I had to like it. Needing to do something, I grabbed the ball Jasper had dropped and threw it at the wall, putting everything I had into the throw. “Goddamnit!”
My back was to the team as I tried to regain my composure. I could feel Emmett hovering right behind me, though he made no move to get my attention or try to tell me everything would be okay – he was just there. I loved him for knowing that I simply needed a moment, needed some space.
I closed my eyes, taking several deep breaths before turning around. The entire team was either sitting on the side of the pool or in the water, watching me. Not a single person said anything. If I had been them, I wasn’t sure I would have known what to say – hell, I didn’t know what to say.
It was Emmett who finally spoke up and snapped us all out of the whatever moment we were in. “Alright, are we going to train, or what? What’s everyone waiting for? In the water, let’s do some sprints.”
His eyes had been on me as he was talking; I nodded my thanks to him. He was right – we needed to train if we were to have any shot at winning this weekend – especially since two of our best players were out of the running. Not to mention, working out my frustration before facing Jasper could only be a good thing.
Training ended up being grueling. I worked everyone hard – myself even harder. My frustrations about what was going on definitely were shining through, but I could not seem to prevent it from happening, and no one made any remarks about it that I could hear. At least not during the session.
As Emmett and I began putting everything away, I overheard Felix mock-whisper to the others, though I only caught part of what he said. “…fucking slavedriver.”
I straightened, intending to say something – though I wasn’t sure whether it would be an apology or an angry retort – but Emmett placed his hand on my shoulder, saying, “Ignore him, Edward. You know he doesn’t mean anything by it.”
I turned to Emmett with a frown as I ran my fingers through my hair. “Doesn’t he? He’s right. I shouldn’t have taken out my frustrations on you guys…”
He looked at me for a moment, his own fingers going to his short-cropped hair as well, mimicking my movement. He shrugged and sighed. “Edward…I would’ve been surprised if you hadn’t reacted the way you did. And honestly, I’d rather you vent out your anger by working us in training than by doing something stupid. It’s okay, man, really. They all understand, even if they’ll be belly-aching over sore muscles tomorrow.”
He grinned at me and winked, and I couldn’t help but chuckle darkly at his observation. Giving a sigh of my own, I nodded. “Yeah, I guess you’re right…”
We set about putting everything away in silence. I was certain there was more on his mind and didn’t doubt he would bring it up before we left. Sure enough, as we were heading out of the locker room, he paused.
I looked at him, swinging my bag over my shoulder as I waited for him to continue.
“Are you alright? I mean…after what happened in there?”
The expression on his face told me more than his words did, and I knew he was wondering about Alec and if we were in for a repeat. My eyes darted around the empty locker room, and I idly wondered where Jasper had gone to – I hadn’t seen him since he walked out earlier. That, coupled with Emmett’s concern, made me feel sick to my stomach.
My eyes found his, and the worry I saw in them caused my throat to tighten up. I had to swallow a few times before I was able to speak, and even then my voice sounded soft – vulnerable.
“I don’t know, Emmett. I’m trying so hard not to…” I took a shuddering breath, willing myself to keep calm. “Not to compare this to last time. I’m scared, Em.”
I leaned back against the wall, my head resting against it as I kept my eyes on my friend. He’d taken up a similar position next to me as he listened.
“It’s too…” I searched for the right words to explain what I was feeling, though I was sure he already knew. He’d been there the last time, after all. “It’s all eerily familiar, isn’t it?”
“Yeah bro, it is. I’m sorry. He does love you, though.”
I nodded, finally having to avert my eyes as I whispered, “Yeah, I know. I love him, too. Question is, is it going to be enough?”
He put his hand on my shoulder, squeezing it gently. I looked up at him with a sad smile, which he returned. He knew this was hard for me – and I knew that I could count on him to be there. “Thanks, Em.”
He grinned, patted my shoulder once, and then tilted his head to the door. “Any time, Copper Top.”
I chuckled. Leave it to Emmett to try and lighten the mood.
Emmett and I walked out to the parking lot, talking about the upcoming game, but the entire time I kept looking around for Jasper. Where the hell is he? When I got to my car, he wasn’t there, and I turned to Emmett. He was frowning, too. I unlocked the car to put my bag away, intending to go back inside to look for Jasper when Emmett tapped me on the shoulder.
His voice was low as I turned to look at him. “Here he comes. Good luck, bro. You know where to find me if you need anything.”
With that, he gave me a brief, one-armed hug and walked off. I watched Jasper as he approached the car. He wasn’t looking up, his gaze firmly fixed to the pavement, so it was difficult for me to gauge if he was still mad at me. My stomach clenched at the thought of having upset him to the point where he might still be pissed with me. He walked right past me and got into the passenger side of the car without a single word.
I sighed, climbing in as well, and turned to him, intending to say something, but the words died on my lips as I saw him sitting hunched and shifted away from me. I couldn’t see his face at all, and I honestly didn’t know whether to be hurt by or mad at how he was acting. I started the car and made the drive home in utter silence. It felt like it took much longer than it should have, and I was both relieved and anxious about having made it home. I wasn’t sure what the rest of our night would look like at this rate.
Going up to our apartment, he still refused to even acknowledge me, and as soon as I opened the door, he made a beeline to the bedroom, closing the door behind him with more force than necessary.
Damn it, he’s still pissed…
I stood, watching the door to our bedroom for several minutes, unsure what to do. I felt myself getting angry again and figured it would be best to just give us both space. I put my bag down by the front door and, after grabbing a bottle of water, I sat down behind my piano. As much as I would have liked to have something stronger, I didn’t think it was wise to add fuel to the fire, so to speak.
I sat staring at the ebony and ivory keys for a long time. I kept trying to figure out why Jasper was acting the way he was, and I couldn’t understand it. The feeling of déjà vu about it all wouldn’t be shaken either – and not just with regards to Alec, but in a way to camp, too. I took a long pull from my water before putting the bottle to the side and finally placing my fingers to the keys.
The music that flowed from my fingers was harsh, angry, as I allowed my frustrations the only outlet I could afford at that moment. The more I played, the more my thoughts were able to focus and the more my anger seeped away until I was left feeling more hurt and scared than anything else. It felt as if things were slipping through my fingers, and I didn’t know how to keep it from doing so. Not without Jasper helping me, at least – and he wasn’t. I knew I couldn’t do this on my own.
The tone of the music shifted from anger to melancholy as I allowed myself to be swept away for a few moments. I felt a presence, unseen eyes tickling along the back of my neck, and I looked up from the piano to find Jasper sitting Indian style on the floor in the hallway. His back was against the wall and his eyes were on me. His face was partially hidden in shadow, so it was impossible for me to read his mood.
As I let my fingers rest on the keyboard, he gingerly got to his feet and walked over to me, his eyes never leaving mine as I turned to face him fully. He kneeled in front of me, and I was shocked to find his eyes were red-rimmed and bloodshot. He placed his hands on my thighs, his eyes flickering between mine for a moment.
I started to whisper, “Jazz…” but he silenced me by placing two fingers on my lips, shaking his head. He took a couple of steadying breaths before finally speaking up, his voice sounding raw and shaky as he kept saying “I’m sorry,” and “I love you,” over and over again.
I slid down to the floor as I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, feeling his arms go around my waist. I pressed my lips below his ear, murmuring softly, “Shh, Jasper, I love you, too. Shh…” My anger was forgotten as I felt his body shudder.
He finally quieted, and we just sat there for a moment. He tilted his head slightly, and I could feel his breath wash over my neck as he whispered so softly I could barely hear him even with him being so close to my ear. “Please don’t leave me…”
I briefly hugged him tighter to me before pulling away so I could look in his eyes. He tucked his chin in, lowering his gaze, so I sank further down – my ass resting on my heels in order to catch his eyes. I cupped his cheek, rubbing my thumb gently over his cheekbone as I sighed. “I won’t, baby, but we need to talk…”
The expression in his eyes – a mixture of fear, pain, and sheer vulnerability – almost floored me. The anger that had been there earlier seemed gone, at least for now, but what it left behind was broken.
He grasped my hand, holding it against his face as his eyes darted between mine. I watched as he seemed to war with himself, and I felt helpless. Almost more so now than back behind the club, or in the ER. I didn’t know what was going on with him, had no idea what was going through his mind or how he was feeling outside of the things that were immediately obvious – but I knew there was more.
He leaned forward slightly, his lips tentatively brushing against mine as he whispered against them, “Please, Edward…please.”
His lips became more insistent as his hands came to my face, holding me to him. He pressed his body closer to mine, seeking more contact, and for a moment, I couldn’t deny him – my body responding to him of its own accord.
It was with some effort that I managed to pull away, groaning softly when I felt him press harder against me.
I covered his hands with mine, gently loosening the grip he had on my face. My eyes searched his briefly, my voice soft as I said, “Can we talk? You need to tell me what’s going on, Jazz. I don’t know what to do here.”
He didn’t say anything, but the hurt in his eyes seemed to grow. With a sigh, I got to my feet, pulling him up gently before guiding him to the couch. As we sat down, I pulled my leg up and turned to face him, and he mirrored my position – our legs were touching, and I reached for his hand again. I held it in both my own, cradling it as I traced soothing circles on it with my thumbs.
We sat like that for a good five minutes before either of us spoke. Jasper watched our hands intently, his brow furrowed as he chewed on his bottom lip. I was trying to give him some time to sort out his thoughts, but I was beginning to wonder if he would open up to me at all.
Finally, he looked up at me and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. His voice was small when spoke. “I overheard you talking to Emmett.”
I frowned as I wondered where the hell he had been as I had thought the locker room was empty aside from Emmett and me. When I didn’t say anything, he continued, “I’m scared, too, Edward. So fucking scared that you’ll turn away from me like…” He stopped, averting his gaze again as he kept talking, though his voice had lowered even further. “Is it going to be enough?”
I closed my eyes briefly as I let out a soft sigh. “Oh, Jazz…” I squeezed his hand, waiting to say more until he looked at me again. “Baby, I want it to be.” Lifting his hand to my lips, I placed a soft kiss on his knuckles. “I love you, with all my heart, Jasper. Don’t ever doubt that.”
He frowned even as he nodded. “But what you said to Emmett…”
“Had no bearing on how much I love you, baby. Or even on how much I know you love me, because I know you do, Jasper. Even with that, I…” I paused with a sigh, wondering how to put into words what I was feeling. I watched him carefully as I tried again. “It’s not just what happened with Alec, Jazz. Yes, it’s something that’s on my mind – more so than I care to admit – but that’s only part of it. Jasper…I feel like…like this is camp all over again…”
His brow furrowed as he looked at me with confusion. “I’m here, darlin’…I made my choice.”
I ran my fingers through my hair, mildly frustrated with myself for not being able to find the right words. “Jasper, I know you’re here with me. Physically, at least. But you’ve been pulling away from me. Again. Just like back then, when you wouldn’t talk to me about what was going on. And it scares me to think that eventually you might do the same thing again and leave. I watched you do it once, baby, and it about killed me. I feel like I’m stuck watching history repeat itself and am powerless to change it because I can’t do it alone.”
There. I had said it. He sat in silence for a while, his eyes on mine as if trying to figure something out. When he still hadn’t said anything after a few minutes, I added quietly, “You can’t expect to get different results if you keep doing the same thing, Jasper. It doesn’t work that way. I want us, baby, so much. But you have to let me in.”
His frown deepened before he raised his eyes to the ceiling and let out a humorless chuckle. He sat like that for a few seconds, taking calming breaths. His eyes were shining brightly with emotion and his voice was raw with it when he spoke. He apologized again, telling me the last thing he wanted to do was to push me away – that he needed me. Then he apologized for how he had acted at the swimming hall and asked if he was still on the team.
I rested my arm on the back of the couch and tangled my fingers in my hair as I looked at him. “Yeah, you’re still on the team, baby. I’m sorry for putting you through that…you didn’t leave me much choice. Will you tell me why you felt you had to prove something? You don’t, you know.”
He sighed heavily, leaning against the back of the couch as he rested his head on it. I could tell he was still struggling, and I was at a loss as to how to help him. After a minute or two, he finally spoke, though his voice was so low I had to strain to hear him.
“Did your mom tell you about our talk the other day?”
When I shook my head, he continued, “She pointed out that maybe Momma reacted the way she did because of how she knew Daddy’d react.”
He frowned as he turned his face away slightly, and I could tell he was trying hard to control his emotions. I shifted, nudging his leg so I could sit closer to him, and wrapped my arm around his shoulder as I coaxed his head to rest on mine. I kissed the top of his head lightly, running my hand up and down his arm in hopes of comforting him.
He murmured a soft, “Thanks,” before taking a deep breath. “I started to hope that maybe…maybe she didn’t…wouldn’t…”
I felt him tense against me as he struggled to regain his composure. When he was able to talk again, he told me how he had called yesterday, but she hadn’t answered. How he had left a voice mail asking for her to please call him. How he had tried again today, only to have his mother tell him to not call again.
My heart was aching for Jasper as I pulled him closer. He wrapped his arms around me. He was shaking, and I had no idea what to do to help him. So I just held him, rubbing his back as I tried to calm him, whispering words of love and – hopefully – comfort in his ear.
At least now I understood a little more about why he had acted the way he did, but that didn’t make things any easier. I was out of my depth – well and truly – with no way of fixing this situation. I couldn’t heal his pain, nor could I undo the damage already done.
We sat like that for a while, Jasper trying to calm down as I tried to figure out what we could – no, what we needed to – do. I put a finger under his chin, lifting his face up so I could look in his eyes.
I kissed him lightly on the lips, and I gave him a small smile when I felt him return the kiss. I sighed softly, running my thumb across his jaw as I spoke. “Baby, I think it might be a good idea if…if you saw a counselor. Actually, if we both did. I think this is too big for us to try and deal with on our own, Jazz. What do you say?”
He watched me quietly for a moment, his eyes flickering between my own before he nodded. “I think maybe you’re right, darlin’.” He lifted his hand to cup my cheek. “I don’t want history to repeat itself, Edward. I want this to work.”
I smiled at him. “Good, because I do, too. I’m willing to fight, Jasper, but not with you. But I will do whatever I can for you. I love you.”
His smile was watery but genuine when he said he loved me, too. I leaned in, kissing him tenderly, and I moaned softly when I felt his tongue brush against my lips. We spent the next however long just making out, neither of us in any hurry for things to go further. It was enough to simply connect with each other again. I knew we were nowhere near where we had been before the party, and I wasn’t sure we ever really would be again, but I was certain that – as long as we worked at it together – where we ended up would be so much better.
For now, just being here with him, really being with him…it was enough.