“Come on, Felix! Go! Go! Go!”
“To Edward, to Edward! Yes!”
Loud cheers and thundering applause met my ears as I scored a goal, tying the score right at the whistle for half-time. I’d been vaguely aware of the guys on the side of the pool cheering us on, but it wasn’t something I focused on. For one, it was hard to hear over the water and the things that were going on around me. And for another, I could not afford to lose focus on what I was supposed to be doing.
I allowed myself a moment, though, as each team went to their respective side, to check who was there. Jasper and Bella were standing side-by-side in the front row, only slightly removed from the rest of the team because they weren’t able to play. They were both fully clothed, so sitting too close would’ve meant getting wet. I grinned at them.
My eyes fell next on Rosalie sitting behind them, her attention divided between her brother and her boyfriend. She smiled at me as she caught my gaze, and nodded slightly.
I got out of the water, signaling for Ben to take over, giving him the chance to score. After going over tactics for the second half, I grabbed my water bottle and went over to Jasper and Bella. Jasper watched me, and the look he gave had me wanting today to be over so we could go home.
He kissed me briefly, startling me a little. This was the first time since the club that he’d done so in public. When he pulled away, he just grinned and shrugged.
The whistle blew, signaling the start of the second half, and my attention was forced back onto the game. I sat down next to Jasper, my eyes scanning the water, analyzing the opposing team. Jasper leaned in, and indicated one of their players as he whispered, “I know him. I’ve played him before. He’s good, but cocky, and doesn’t think girls are any good for water polo. It makes him over-confident. When he gets in, you should put him against Alice, Angela, or Vicky. His guard’ll be down.”
My eyes cut to his briefly, and he grinned. I nodded, then saw Bella narrow her eyes. It made me wonder just what those two had been talking about earlier. As soon as the guy got into the water, I replaced Tyler with Vicky — after making sure she knew what to do. The gleam in her eyes told me she’d enjoy messing with her opponent.
Sure enough, Jasper was right in his predictions. The guy was cocky, and Vicky was able to give him the slip more than once, toying with him. She scored two goals before the other team cottoned on and pulled him out again.
There were only a few minutes left on the clock, and the score was 8-7 for us. The other team managed to score the tying goal with seconds left. Just before the final whistle, the lead player on the other team intercepted the ball and threw it clear across in a desperate attempt. Emmett’s fingers glanced the ball, but it slipped past him into the net, ending the game with our first loss of the season. It sucked, but we’d given them a good run.
The guys seemed to take it in stride, and everyone was upbeat and looking forward to the next game. When I looked at Jasper, though, I frowned. He was sullen, staring at his feet, and I knew he was beating himself up.
I walked up to him and knelt down in front of him, trying to get his attention. He didn’t look up at me, not even when I rested my hands on his thighs and sighed. “Jazz, baby…this isn’t your fault. So we lost. They were good, better than we were. Everyone played their best. That’s all I ask of anyone.”
He scowled, and muttered, “They weren’t, though. I know we could’ve beaten them, if…”
I squeezed his thighs. “Jasper, I love you. I do. But you playing in this game would not have made enough of a difference. You’re a great player; we both know that. But you cannot take all this on your shoulders. We’re a team, Jazz. We work together. And this team does not revolve around any one person. Not you, not Bella, not me…or any one of the others, okay?”
He sighed heavily and nodded, running his fingers through his hair. “I know, but still…”
“Not ‘but still’, baby. Now come on. I thought you and Bella were supposed to be our cheerleaders? We have another match coming up, so you’d better get your cheer on, mister.”
He narrowed his eyes at me, but I could tell he was holding back a smile. When I grinned at him, he shoved my shoulder lightly, mumbling, “Ass…”
I wiggled my eyebrows, and that did it. Jasper laughed, shaking his head as he said, “All right, all right…cheer on.”
He rolled his eyes and stood up. Once I was on my feet again, he handed me a sweater and shorts, which I gratefully put on. The second game of the day had started, but I couldn’t be bothered to watch it. We’d end up playing them later on. For now though, I needed to get something to eat so I could last. The others were already in the cafeteria by the time Jasper and I got there.
They were talking animatedly about the game, about the things that we’d done well, and critiquing the things we needed to work on. Vicky was talking about the guy she’d played against, stating she couldn’t understand how anyone could be both that cocky and that condescending.
Jasper chuckled. “Easy. He’s an ass. Always has been. I’ve played against him a few times, and it’s always been the same. Might have something to do with the fact that he’s only ever played on all-male teams, though. I don’t know.”
Vicki looked at him and shrugged. “Dude, I don’t care, but I’ll bet he’ll be thinking twice about playing against girls after today.”
She winked, and Jasper and I both grinned. Once we were all done eating, we headed back into the swimming hall. Jasper and I sat with Rosalie and Emmett. We were talking, making observations about the team we’d be playing next, when the door opened and Mom and Dad walked in.
I waved them over, and gave Mom a hug. “Hey, I’m glad you guys were able to make it in time for the second game.”
Dad apologized for not having it made it sooner, but I waved it off. As soon as Mom had let me go, Jasper stepped into her waiting arms. The sight of it made me smile, and Dad, too, from the look of it. He put his arm around my shoulders, and grinned at me knowingly. My smile matched his, though I rolled my eyes a bit.
We sat down again, but though I tried to pay attention to the conversation they were having, I found it difficult, as I also had to keep an eye on the second team we’d be playing. So far, they weren’t doing very well against the team that had beaten us earlier.
They ended up losing by a wide margin, which bolstered our team’s spirit. After a short break, it was our turn to play again, and we all went for a quick shower before going in the water once more — pool policy.
Before I jumped into the water, Jasper stepped up to me, kissing me lightly on the lips and said, “Good luck, babe.”
I grinned, and made a clean dive into the deep end, where our goal was located. The game went fairly well. The other team tended to try to foul us as often as they could, which pissed all of us off, but we took it out on them by scoring — a lot. We won the game by an even wider margin than the previous team had done, which was good enough for me.
We were climbing out of the pool when I heard Dad say loud enough for the whole team to hear, “Go get dressed, and meet us outside. Esme and I are treating you all to dinner to celebrate.”
Jasper’s eyes went wide, but the rest of the team simply cheered and hurried off to the locker rooms. I chuckled as Jasper stammered, “Are you serious? The entire team?”
Mom and Dad both grinned at Jasper, nodding. Mom said, “Oh yes, dear. Quite serious. Cullen Tech is one of the sponsors for the team. This won’t be the first time we’ve done this.”
“Wow,” was Jasper’s only reaction, causing all of us remaining — Mom, Dad, Rosalie, and myself — to laugh.
After a brief hug, I left Jasper to my family and his sister, and hurried to get changed. Felix was by the door when I walked out of the showers, and yelled, “Come on, Cullen! Time’s a wastin’! I’m starving.”
Emmett laughed, and I chuckled, shaking my head as I waved him off. “Don’t get your knickers in a twist, Felix, I’m getting there.”
I knew better than to say “I’m coming,” with him around, because that was sure to elicit a smart-ass remark. He grinned, as if knowing exactly what I was thinking, and walked into the hall. Emmett hung around until I was finished.
“Hey man, I didn’t have a chance to ask. Everything okay with you and Jasper after the other day?”
I nodded as I tied my shoes. “Yeah, we’ll be fine. We had a long talk. We’ve got a long road ahead of us, but I think we’re both on the same page now.”
Emmett clapped my shoulder, and grinned. “Good. Been worried about you. Both of you.”
“Thanks, Em,” I said, smiling.
Together, Emmett and I walked into the hall to find everyone congregated around my parents. I chuckled as I stepped behind Jasper, and wrapped my arms around his waist. He turned his head as he leaned back into me, and smiled. “Hey.”
Squeezing him briefly, I kissed his cheek, and whispered, “Hey.”
Dad did a head count, and when he was sure we were all there, he said, “All right, I’ve already called ahead, so let’s go. Everyone know how to get to Papi’s?”
Papi’s was an Italian buffet-style restaurant we went to whenever we all went out as a group like this — well, whenever my parents would take us out, I should say. It wasn’t far from the club, and they always welcomed us with open arms. Both the food and the service were excellent. When we got there, everything was already set up for us, and we sat down at the tables that were pushed together.
As it happened, Jasper sat to my left, and Bella was cater-corner to my right, with Felix next to her. Mom was sitting next to Jasper, and they were talking about his classes. As we were eating, I just took it all in, letting my gaze fall on every member of my team, and I smiled. I was lucky to be surrounded by such a good set of people.
Bella and Felix were huddled together, talking quietly with their heads leaned in to each other. It wasn’t unusual for them to be so engrossed in a discussion, but for some reason, it felt a little more intimate than that. I watched them for a moment, and was stunned when I saw Felix duck his head and kiss Bella’s neck. She blushed, her eyes flickering across the table to see if anyone had noticed. When she saw me, her blush deepened and she muttered, “Crap…”
Felix looked at me, winked, chuckled, and shrugged his shoulders, kissing Bella on the corner of her mouth. She smacked him on the shoulder, but there was no heat behind her action at all. Moreover, she was now grinning from ear to ear.
Shifting closer to her, I leaned in and said softly, “Well, well, Miss Swan, you have been holding out on me, it seems. What gives?”
She shrugged, crossing her arms as she rested her elbows on the edge of the table, and said, “Nothing. I just didn’t want to make a bigger deal out of this than it was…and then all that other stuff happened… I just figured you had more important things to worry about.”
I glanced between her and Felix, who now sat right up close to her with his arm over the back of her chair, all pretense of distance and subtlety seemingly forgotten.
“How long?” I asked.
Bella shrugged. “Only a couple of weeks, really – officially, anyway. Guess it’s always sort of been there.”
Her eyes cut to Felix, who smiled at her as he played with her hair. Others were beginning to notice the change in demeanor, and Emmett’s wolf-whistle rang loud over all the noise, making her blush again.
Picking up a breadstick, I waved it between Bella and Felix, and with my eyes on the latter, said, “He’d better treat you right, Bells, or those drills from Wednesday will seem like a cakewalk after I’m done with him.”
Felix threw his head back and laughed, and the others joined in, though several of them admonished Felix to please behave, as they had no desire to be that sore again any time soon. This just made him laugh even louder, and even Bella joined in.
Jasper rubbed my back, and I turned my head to smile at him. He grinned at me, and for a moment he looked like his old self again — utterly content and happy. I shifted so I could press my lips to his temple and hug him sideways. I murmured, “I love you.”
He leaned into me, turning to catch my lips with his, and said in an assured voice, “I love you, too.”
I watched him closely for a second, and brushed the back of my fingers against his cheek. “You’re really okay with this?” I said softly.
He nodded. His eyes flashed with determination as he said, “Yes. I know it might be a little weird, considering what happened and all, but…”
He shrugged, frowning. “I don’t know…I guess it’s made me even more determined to be out, or something. I just…I don’t want them to push me back in the closet. That would mean they won, and I refuse to let them. Refuse to let my dad win, too.”
Rose, who sat within earshot of us, looked at her brother with a mixture of worry, pride, and pain in her eyes. The pain was for his sake, I knew, and not so much their parents.
Bella reached over, patting Jasper’s arm, and said, “Good for you, Jazz.”
He grinned at her, nodding.
I wasn’t sure whether this new attitude would last, or if he merely felt capable of being like this because so far, he’d been in familiar surroundings — or at least with familiar people. I wondered if it’d hold once we were outside of that comfort zone. I hoped so, but I knew better than to count on it — not after the attack. Nor would I hold it against him if it didn’t.
After that, conversation flowed easily again among the group, until Emmett called out, “Hey, Ed, when’s the next game?”
Pulling out my phone to check the calendar, I said, “Three weeks from today, actually. Jasper should be good to play again by then, and I think Bells might be, too, provided she doesn’t trip over her own two feet before then.”
I ducked, laughing, only narrowly avoiding getting hit on the arm by Bella, who glared at me. “I’ll promise to try not to trip, but I can’t make that same promise as far as not kicking your butt goes, Cullen.”
Mom, who was doing her best to keep a straight face, said, “Now Edward, be nice to Bella. Wouldn’t want to risk re-injuring one of your star players, would you?”
At that, the whole table cracked up, and Bella gave me a triumphant grin.
After a couple of hours of eating, drinking, and just hanging out and shooting the breeze, people began to disperse, thanking my parents for their hospitality and support. In the end, it was down to Rose, Emmett, Jasper, my parents, and me. We hung out for a while longer, after Dad settled the bill, and talked.
Mom wanted to know how things were going between Rose and Emmett, and was happy for them when they said that they were getting along great. Mom beamed as Rose explained how incredibly supportive the big guy had been throughout all of this to all of us.
Rose’s eyes flickered to Jasper briefly, before refocusing on my mom, as she said, “For the first time in, well…ever…I think I could be happy. I want to stick around to find out.”
From what Jasper had told me about his relationship with Rose, I knew that for her saying that, wasn’t just a reflection on how things stood with Emmett, but also how they were between Jasper and me. I smiled at her, and said, “I’m glad to hear it. Let me know if he steps out of line though, I’ll try to talk some sense into him.”
I winked. Rose grinned as she patted Emmett’s hand, and said, “Oh, I don’t think I’ll have need for that. I think I can keep my man under control.”
Emmett rolled his eyes, but the way his lips twitched up into a smirk belied any irritation as he said, “Yeah, yeah…”
Emmett leaned in to kiss her, and Jasper ducked his head, his eyes twinkling as he fought to hide his smile. I wrapped my arm around his shoulders, softly pressing my lips to his temple. Rose giggled, then cleared her throat. “Sorry to cut out, but we have to get going. Thanks for inviting us, Esme, Carlisle.”
Dad smiled, and said, “Any time, my dear. Perhaps you and Emmett’ll consider coming over to the house at some point, for dinner? I know Esme would enjoy that.”
They both nodded as Mom got up to hug them both. They promised to call soon, to discuss details, and then left after saying goodbye to us. Mom went to use the restroom, leaving just us guys at the table. Dad asked how things had gone yesterday, and Jasper smiled as he said, “Good, thanks. We got almost everything taken care of already. Just a few things left to unpack, and that’s it, I think. Thanks again for giving Edward the day off in order to make me feel more at home. It’s very much appreciated.”
I watched Jasper as he spoke, and was happy to note that he seemed to mean what he said. When I’d first told him about Dad having given me the day off, I thought Jasper’d been a little ticked off about it. Now, though, he was nothing but sincere as he thanked him.
Dad said, “You’re welcome, son. I know that most of today’s gone already, and tomorrow he’ll be too tired to be up to doing much of anything. I remember that from other double-headers. Never plan anything on those weekends, because it’ll do no good.”
He laughed, and Jasper joined in, saying, “Oh, I believe it. I’m usually not worth a lot the day after, either.”
Mom walked back then, and sat down, looking politely curious, but didn’t ask what was going on. Jasper shot me a glance, nodding nigh imperceptibly to let me know I was good to ask her now.
I ran my fingers through my hair and sighed softly. “Hey, Mom? How would you feel about helping Jasper and me redecorate the office? We’ve made some space for him in there, but I think it’d be nicer if we each had our own desk, and…”
She didn’t even let me finish, her eyes lighting up as they flickered from me to Jasper, and back. “Are you sure?”
We both nodded, and Jasper said, “Yeah, we talked about it last night. I think it’d be nice if you helped us make the place ours. I know you’ve got great taste, Esme, so I’m not worried about that.”
She clapped her hands together excitedly, then leaned her elbows onto the table as she began to ask us questions. Did we want the same color scheme, or would we want something new? Was it just the office we wanted redone, or the whole place? What kind of furniture were we thinking about?
Question after question after question, until Dad intervened, put his hand on her shoulder, and said, “Esme, dear, perhaps you and the boys can sit down soon and talk things over? I think it’s high time we let them go home; I’m sure Edward must be tired by now.”
My mom’s eyes widened, and she placed her hand over her heart. “Oh how silly of me; I’m so sorry, boys. Here I am, babbling away…”
Jasper chuckled, shrugging his shoulders. “It’s okay, Esme. We don’t mind. Though perhaps it would be better to do this another time?”
She nodded and grabbed her purse, putting it on the table. It landed with a louder thud than I was expecting it to. I frowned at her. “You hiding bricks in there or something?”
Her face lit up, and she began rummaging around in her bag as she said, “Oh, no. I almost forgot.”
She looked up at Jasper, holding out a white jar with a mint green label on it. I couldn’t tell what it said, though. He took it from her with a raised brow, and she said, “A massage therapist friend of mine suggested this, it’s supposed to help with bruises and muscle aches.”
He turned the jar in his hand, and I saw the label. “Sombra?” I asked.
Mom nodded. “Yes, she swears by it. You remember April, don’t you, Edward?”
“Ohh, yes. She’s into all that herbalism and stuff, right?”
“That’s the one. Anyway, she gave me that after she heard what happened, so that Jasper could try it. It should help him heal a little faster.”
Jasper blushed a little, then hugged her. I heard him whisper hoarsely, “Thank you, Esme.”
Mom patted him gently on the back. “You’re welcome, dear. I hope it helps.”
We said our goodbyes not long after, and headed home. I was tired, but I was also looking forward to having a few quiet hours with Jasper. He asked me if I was up for watching a movie, which was perfectly fine with me. We ended up watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, another Danny Kaye movie we both enjoyed.
When the movie was over, we decided to go to bed. It was early still, but I was tired, and I could tell that Jasper was, also. I grabbed the jar of Sombra, sat down on the edge of the bed, and read the label. “Hey babe, want me to put this on you?”
I glanced up at him as he undressed, only to find him watching me curiously. I held up the jar. He tilted his head, then nodded before lying down on his stomach. Quickly shedding my own clothes, I opened the jar and took a whiff, instantly pulling back and blinking rapidly. “Whew! That stuff stinks…strong, too. It’d better help…oh man…”
My eyes were watering a little, and Jasper watched me with both worry and amusement. I held out the jar for him to take a whiff himself, and he wrinkled his nose. “Ugh.”
“You sure you want to try this?” I asked.
“Yeah, just…take it easy?” He sounded a little anxious.
Scooping up a dollop, I gently began to massage the goop onto his back. It didn’t take very much pressure for Jasper to be uncomfortable, but I managed to get it worked in without causing him any real pain. After a few minutes, having finished massaging around the rib area, he gave a soft sigh of contentment and closed his eyes, murmuring, “That actually feels really good.”
I grinned. “I’m glad to hear it.”
Once I was done with his back, arms, and legs, I nudged him so he’d turn around. He did so, grumbling, “I was comfortable…”
Leaning in, I kissed him languidly, earning me a soft moan that turned throatier as I straddled his thighs, our cocks brushing against each other. My movements were slow, and borderline teasing as my hips rolled into his.
Jasper pulled away from our kiss with a gasp. “I thought you said you were tired.”
I grinned, kissing him again as I continued. “I am…”
Jasper’s hands ran down my back, to my ass, where he held me tightly, his back arching as much as he was comfortably able as he moaned, “Then shouldn’t you go to sleep?”
I quirked a brow, moving just a little faster as I said, “Does that mean you want me to stop?”
He quickly shook his head, his eyes intent on mine as he breathed out, “Oh, fuck no…feels so good, baby.”
Chuckling, I ducked my head, nipping lightly on his nipple before licking, and teasing it with my lips and tongue. Jasper was writhing underneath me, his hands kneading my ass, urging me to move faster, harder, to give him more.
I wanted to take both our cocks in hand, but thought better of it, since I still had that stuff on my hands. Somehow, I didn’t think menthol would be such a good thing to have down there. I kissed my way up to his ear, and whispered, “Wrap your hand around them, sweetheart, I want to feel you.”
Jasper muttered, “Shit,” before doing as I bade him, and turning his head to claim my lips with his, kissing me fiercely as he began to jack us off. The feeling of his strong hand, his long fingers as they wrapped around us both, and his length sliding along mine was absolute Heaven.
Soon, there were just moans, and whimpers, soft uttered oaths mixed with words of love as Jasper worked us over. All the while, I kept up my own movements, and before too long, I felt his cock spasm as he came, which spurred on my own orgasm.
I rested my forehead against his, trying to catch my breath. Jasper’s fingers trailed lazily up and down my spine, his eyes intent on mine, and a half-smile playing on his lips. His voice was a little hoarse as he said, “Goddamn, darlin’, you need to be tired like that more often.”
Rolling my eyes at him, I chuckled and kissed him. I hummed, closing my eyes briefly before focusing them on him again. “Very funny. I’ll be right back.”
He nodded. I went to the bathroom, washed my hands vigorously with soap to get the smell of menthol and witch hazel off of them. That done, I grabbed a washcloth and cleaned myself up. Rinsing the cloth thoroughly, I went back to Jasper, who was lying with one arm folded under his head, and staring up at the ceiling.
I sat down on the edge of the bed and cleaned him, my eyes flickering to his every now and then. He seemed lost in thought, distracted. When I was done, I went back to the bathroom to dispose of the cloth. He hadn’t moved an inch since I left him by the time I got back in bed.
“Jazz? What’s on your mind, sweetheart?” I whispered.
Jasper slowly turned his face to mine, a curious expression in his eyes. Scooting down, I shifted to lie on my side, and cupped his cheek. He smiled then, albeit a little shyly. “Nothing. You’ll think it’s silly.”
This, I doubted very much. I frowned. “What is it, baby?”
He sighed, giving a half-shrug. “Just wondering what other things I’ve been missing out on all these years.”
I blinked. “That’s what you were thinking about?”
Jasper nodded, blushing a little. I shook my head, chuckling as I pulled him to me and shifted onto my back. “Come here, you.”
He snuggled up to me, resting his head on my chest, his arm wrapped around me. We lay like that for a few minutes, with me running my fingers through his hair as I thought about his comment. It made me realize that there was still a lot I didn’t know about Jasper, despite the many talks we’d had over these past couple of months. Not that I really wanted to know about his sexual past beyond the usual ‘safety’ things, which we had covered.
After a while, I said softly, “I don’t know, but I do know that I’m looking forward to finding out with you.”
He lifted his head to look at me, and smiled. “Me, too,” he murmured, kissing me briefly.
We lay in silence a little longer, and eventually drifted off to sleep.