"Woohoo, it's finally Christmas Eve! I've been waiting for this day for months. Everybody raise a glass with me to toast the day before Christmas!"
Edward thrusted his half-empty beer bottle in the air with such enthusiasm that he nearly slipped off his stool. He let out a quiet giggle over his clumsiness and then chugged down the rest of his drink.
"Hey bartender, over here!" he called upon noticing the unfortunate state of the bottle. "I need another drink, stat. This day's not gonna celebrate itself, you know."
A tall figure appeared in front of him on the other side of the bar. "What about the one you already have?"
"What about it? It's all gone, that's what. I want another one." Edward scowled at the blond-haired man. "Who the hell are you? Where'd the pretty girl go? I'm sure she's smart enough to see that the beer in front of me is clearly…whoa! How'd that happen? Are you trying to magic me or somethin'?" He narrowed his eyes and looked the man up and down. Abruptly, his expression brightened. "Hey, you're kinda pretty, too. For a dude, anyway."
The "dude" smirked as he pulled a towel from his back pocket and wiped a ring of condensation off the shiny wood surface of the bar. "Thanks, I think. And to answer your questions, I'm Carlisle, the owner of this fine establishment. The 'pretty girl' is one of my bartenders, and Bella is currently waiting on tables at the other end of the room. She wanted to get as far away from you as possible."
"What? Why?" Edward asked indignantly. "I'm the e-tip-o-me of…the e-pim-o-tee of…fuck, I'm awesome."
"And sloshed. You didn't even realize that you were drinking your neighbor's beer."
Edward stared down at the full Sam Adams in front of him, then at the empty Corona in his hand, then at the mildly amused woman sitting to his right.
"Shit," he said, blushing undetectably due to his already red cheeks. "I'm really sorry about that. I didn't even realize—"
The blonde dismissed his apology with a wave of her hand. "Eh, don't worry about it. It was mostly backwash, anyway."
"Oh, well that's good." Edward tilted his head to study her, then broke into a wide smile. "Damn, girl, you're hot. Like, smokin' hot. I think we'd make some cute babies together." He paused as his eyes widened. "Babies? Fuck, it's way too soon for that kinda talk. We should have a date first—maybe go out for drinks…wait...oh my God, we're already at a bar and have our drinks! How perfect! Except…dammit…I just drank your drink. D'ya wanna take mine instead? I'm pretty sure it's backwash-free." Edward grabbed his beer and pushed it toward her, spilling a few drops on the bar in the process.
"Uh, no. Thanks anyway, but that one's all yours." She picked up her handbag and rose to her feet. "See ya, and good luck with the hangover you're going to have." After patting him lightly on the shoulder—anything harder and he surely would've toppled over—she nodded to Carlisle. "I'm gonna tell Bella goodbye and then head out. See you back at the house?"
He leaned over the bar to kiss her cheek. "Yep. Later, hon."
Edward watched their exchange with a horrified expression. After the woman walked away, he groaned and buried his head in his arms.
"Aw, dammit, man, I'm sorry. I just told your girl I wanted to have her babies." His words were muffled by his shirt sleeves. "That's all kinds of messed up."
Carlisle laughed heartily. "First of all, both Rose and I would love to see you try gestating children. And second, she's my sister who's visiting from out of town. Definitely not my girl in that sense." He glanced around the room to make sure his employees had everything under control and then walked around the bar to sit in the seat his sister had just vacated.
"So, is something wrong, or do you make it a habit to get obliterated by yourself on a weeknight in a random bar?"
"S'not a habit," Edward mumbled, his head still mashed into his arms.
Carlisle waited, but when the other man didn't say anything further, he ventured a well-educated guess based on his decade of bar ownership.
"Relationship problems, huh? That can drive even the best people to drink. Only trouble with drowning your sorrows is that you still have to deal with them the next day, and with a headache to boot."
His desolate customer still didn't respond, but Carlisle was patient.
After a few minutes of silence, Edward reached into his pocket and pulled out a small black box. He tossed it onto tabletop without bothering to look where it landed.
"Ah," Carlisle murmured. "I can imagine a number of scenarios involving what this likely represents, but based on the distilled alcohol currently seeping out of your pores, I'm guessing yours wasn't the one you wanted." He tapped the box with a single finger and shook his head in sympathy. "Did it happen before or after you gave this?"
Edward made a low grunting sound, one that was full of pain and heartache. But he didn't give any further clues regarding the cause. Still, Carlisle continued to wait without saying anything. He knew there was a fine line between gentle probing and pushing too hard.
And then, in one rushing deluge, the words came.
"It was gonna be tonight, at midnight, right at the beginning of Christmas. I had it all planned out: a fancy dinner, a carriage ride in the park, drinks in front of the fireplace. It was gonna be perfect. Fucking perfect. But when I left work early today…or yesterday…or whatever…I fucking came home to find some other fucker fucking my ex-almost-fiancé in my fucking bed. How fucking wonderful is that? Fucking wonderfully wonderful is what it is. And so, instead of all those Christmas Eve-y proposal-y things I was gonna fucking do, I guess I'm just gonna sit here on this fucking stool and drink the whole goddamned fucking day away."
By the time he finished ranting, Edward had not only pulled his head out of his arms to sit up but was also spinning drunkenly on his seat with his arms flailing about in the air. Carlisle jumped up and steadied him just as he began to slip off.
"As much fun as that sounds," Carlisle said, holding Edward by his shoulders, "I close in an hour. I think the best thing for you would be to head home and get some sleep. Sit tight, and I'll call you a—"
"No!" Edward cried. "I can't go to sleep! I can't go home and see that bed right now. I just can't. You can't make me!"
"What about your couch, then? Or maybe a friend's couch?"
"Everybody is either at their parents' or with their families. I'm not gonna screw up their cheery holiday with my shitty problems." Edward jerked away from Carlisle and threw himself over the top of the bar stool. He wrapped his arms around the wooden legs. "I just wanna stay right here, with my chair. Can I, please? Just leave me here when you close. I promise I'll be good and not drink all your beer."
Carlisle did his best not to chuckle, even though the sight at the tall young man holding tightly onto the stool as if it might try to walk away was pretty damned chuckle-worthy.
"Sorry, kiddo, but I can't let you do that," Carlisle told him instead. "And I'm also sorry that all this happened to you. Excuse me for saying so, but your ex sounds like a Grade A piece of shit."
Edward huffed. "Yeah, he sure is…I mean, my ex sure is…fuck…" He lifted his head to peek at Carlisle, his face redder than ever due to its recent upside down orientation. "Whatever. I said it. My ex is a guy, and I'm a guy, but apparently, I was too much of a pussy to keep him satisfied. So…go ahead, judge away."
"Hey, that's not fair to either of us," Carlisle replied sternly. "Or to pussies, for that matter. Don't you dare put yourself down when he's the shitstick in this situation. And as far as everything else goes, I'm not going to make any judgments…other than me thinking you've had enough to drink for the night and should go sleep it off."
"Well duh," Edward retorted, letting his head fall back down so that he was making a U-shape over the bar stool again. "I wanna sleep right here, but you're being a jerk. Maybe I'll just do it anyway. You'll have to call the cops to get me to leave, and even if they take me jail, at least I won't have to go back to my apartment."
"You really don't want to go back there, huh?" Carlisle asked, mostly to himself.
Edward just grabbed onto stool more tightly than ever.
"Hey, Bella, c'mere" Carlisle called out over the din of the room.
The brunette cut her way through the tables and approached her boss with a wary expression.
"What's up? You want me to call this one a cab?" she asked, her nose wrinkling up in distaste.
"No, I'll take care of him. But I'd like you to close up tonight. Go ahead and have Jake shut down the kitchen now so he can give you and Alice a hand."
"Sure thing," she said, still eyeing the doubled-over figure and his adopted bar stool. "Just promise to be careful. You hardly know anything about him."
"I know enough," he reassured her with a smirk. "And I still have that can of Mace your dad gave me."
"Yeah, like you'd need something like that," Bella scoffed. After shaking her head at both Carlisle and Edward, she stood up on her tiptoes to peck the blond man on the cheek. "Text me in the morning so I know he didn't chop you into tiny pieces or something."
"Fuck, I don't feel so good." Edward groaned and clutched his head with both hands as the brunette walked back to her tables. "What was she talking about, anyway? You're gonna get chopped up? Gross."
"Bella and I look out for each other, and right now, she's not happy that I'm letting a drunk stranger crash on my couch."
"I don't blame her. That's a pretty dumb thing to do."
"Yeah, probably. Now let's go," Carlisle said, patting Edward on the back. "You've got a date with a couch."
"Who, me? I'm the drunk stranger?" Edward made a growling sound and tilted his head enough that he could shoot a one-eyed glare at Carlisle. "I told ya, I'm staying right here."
"No, you're not. Don't make me carry you upstairs."
"Pfft, I'd like to see you try."
The words had barely passed his lips before he was in Carlisle arms, bar stool and all.
"Whoa," Edward whispered, his eyes wide. "You're, like, really strong." He was so shocked he didn't even hear the whistles and catcalls as he was carried out of the customers' area and through a hallway in the back of the bar.
"I do alright," Carlisle allowed with a furtive grin. "Of course, you're not the first man I've held up in one position or another for an extended period of time."
It took Edward a few moments for the subtle inference to filter through his alcoholic haze, but when it finally did…
"Holy fuck me—are you…too?"
He ducked his head, suddenly aware of just how much of him was pressed against the bar owner named Carlisle.
The really strong, really hot bar owner named Carlisle, who stopped his ascent up a narrow staircase and nodded in response to Edward's vaguely formed question.
"Yes, I'm gay, but that's an irrelevant detail as far as I'm concerned. I'm loaning you a couch for the night, nothing more or less. Of course, if you're not comfortable with that, we can go back downstairs and get you in a cab."
"No, no, it's okay, I'm fine with it," Edward said quickly. "You can keep going."
Carlisle was quiet for a moment and then let out a soft snort of amusement. "I'm glad you're being a little more reasonable. Here, let me put you down so I can—"
"But…but I'm feeling all light-headed and wobbly," Edward protested. "I don't wanna fall down the steps, especially with my stool. It might get hurt."
The tone of his voice had a touch of whine to it—just enough to be cute without being too annoying. Carlisle rolled his eyes.
"Fine, but you're walking after we get to the top."
Edward turned his head and smiled into a nicely firm chest as he enjoyed the rest of his short ride up the stairs.
Carlisle's two-bedroom apartment above the bar was small but comfortable. Edward tried to take it all in, but he actually did feel rather light-headed and wobbly. His eyes kept closing without permission as he stumbled to the blurry beige blob he assumed was the couch. A pillow and blanket seemed to materialize out of thin air when he plopped down on the plush cushions. He grabbed at them as if they were pieces of manna falling from heaven.
"Aw, hell, this feels so good," Edward slurred, his tension melting away and taking much of the day's shittiness with it. "And I feel so much better…thanks to you, Carlisle. Your beautiful bar gave me lots of beautiful beer, and I made friends with the best bar stool ever." He blindly reached out a hand to pat the wooden piece of furniture standing watch by his head. "You and Bar Stool are way nicer to me than stupid Felix, that fucker-fucking fucker. What the hell kind of dumb name is 'Felix,' anyway? Well, it's dumb on him, at least. Every time I say his name, I think of that happy black cartoon cat, but he isn't black or cartoon or cat. And he's not always happy…though he seemed pretty damned happy this afternoon—you know, when his lily-white fucker-fucking pickle dick was fucking that other fucker. And in my fucking bed!" Edward yawned widely and pulled the blanket closer around him. "Now I hate my bed. But I like your couch, Carlisle. Huh. Carlisle. That's another weird name. But still way better than Felix. You're way better than Felix. I like your eyes. Did you know they're blue? I like blue…it's the color of the ocean…and the sky…mine are green…like grass and leaves…if we put our eyes together…they could be a planet…"
Carlisle, who'd been highly entertained by the drunken monologue, could tell Edward was fading fast. He leaned over the limp form, poked two Advil between a set of chapped lips, and then stuffed a straw in the resultant opening.
"Drink," he commanded.
Edward dutifully complied. "Cheers," he mumbled into his pillow after the tablets had been swallowed.
"Cheers," Carlisle replied in a soft voice as he smiled down at the young man who'd had a hell of a day. Unable to stop himself, he brushed a few errant strands of hair off Edward's forehead before straightening up. "And merry Christmas Eve."
Edward's mouth turned up at the corners.
"It wasn't going to be, but it is now," he sighed and then fell fast sleep.
A little cathartic somethin' somethin' for me.