A/N: It's been a hell of a night for me, my friends. Sorry, or I would have posted this earlier. But let's see what our boys are up to.


Edward's job, working at Target for the Christmas season, was going on almost a year and a half now. It had its moments. Sometimes, the customers sucked. Sometimes, his boss sucked. Some days, he was run so ragged he got home and just collapsed on the bed—where his boyfriend was waiting with a nice back massage, so that wasn't too bad.

Most of the time, though, Edward enjoyed his job. Maybe it wasn't much money, but it was enough to ensure he wasn't dependent on anyone for the things he wanted and needed. He worked hard, did well in school, and lived peacefully for the most part.

"Hey, Edward."

Edward looked over as he stowed his things to see his co-worker Mike headed toward him with his signature wide smile. "Hey, what's up?"

"I've been waiting for you to come in all day."

Edward nodded his head at the paper stuck to the corkboard. "The schedule's right there, man," he teased his friend. "You knew when I was coming in."

"Yeah, yeah. Hey, listen. Are you free Friday night in three weeks?"

"Uh, I'm not working if that's what you mean." Did Mike want to switch shifts? Jasper liked to go out on some Fridays, but it might be worth it to have Mike owe him a favor.

"I know you're not working." Mike tapped on the schedule. "I actually can read this." He took his phone from his pocket and shoved it into Edward's hands. "Look."

Edward looked and his face lit up. "IAMX is coming here?"

He and Mike had bonded over their similar taste in music including the band IAMX. They didn't tour very often. The last time they'd been in California, Edward had begged Alec to take him, but his now ex-husband had told him he had horrible taste in music.

"You have to come with me," Mike said. "No one else even knows who they are."

Edward's eyes went wide as he processed what Mike was asking. "Me?"

"Yeah. My treat, man." Mike took back his phone and shook it. "I already have the tickets. Let's do this."

~0~

It had been a long day at school followed by a hard day at work. Still, Edward was in good spirits as he entered the apartment complex where he lived with Jasper.

It still felt strange sometimes. For so many years, Edward's home was the only thing he could claim. It was where he was supposed to be—waiting at home for his husband to return, with everything neat, dinner on the table, or at least being prepared, if he knew what was good for him.

One of the first challenges Edward and Jasper faced when they started living together was Jasper's definition of what an acceptably clean home was. A home, Jasper said, was to be lived in and enjoyed. The disorganization and clutter was a source of no small amount of anxiety for Edward. They were both working on it.

But stranger still were the days like today when Edward was the one who walked in the door, tired from a day's work, to find his boyfriend in the kitchen. Their apartment smelled amazing, and Edward was instantly ravenous.

Edward went into the kitchen and wrapped his arms around Jasper's waist, resting his chin on his shoulder.

"Hey, honey. You're home," Jasper said, turning his head to catch a quick kiss.

"Whatever that is smells amazing." Edward reached over to take the lid off a pot.

Jasper smacked his hand playfully. "It's not done yet."

"But I'm hungry now."

"You're just going to have to be patient."

"Hmm." Edward tightened his hold around Jasper's waist. "Maybe some pre-dinner snacking then." He latched his mouth to Jasper's neck and nipped.

Jasper laughed turning to catch Edward's mouth with his own.

"Mm." Edward hummed, sighing as he leaned into the kiss. "You know how to distract me."

"Yes." Jasper ran his hands up and down Edward's back, kissing him again. "Now, can I finish this so I can feed you?"

"I suppose." Edward took one last kiss before he retreated to the small table tucked into the corner of the kitchen. "How was work?"

"It was...work. Nothing good. Nothing bad. Stuff got accomplished, other stuff got added to the pile."

"Sounds like fun."

"Oh, yeah. Such a blast." Jasper was focused on his pots and pans, stirring and adding spices. "How was your day? Anything exciting?"

"Yeah, actually." Edward straightened up, remembering. "Mike got tickets to see IAMX and he wants me to go with him."

"Which one's Mike?" Jasper asked, his eyes on the pan in front of him. "He's the one who flirted with you, right?"

A chill went down Edward's spine. When Mike started working there, it took Edward forever to recognize his attention as flirtatious. Once he figured out what was going on, he'd let slip that he had a boyfriend and that was that. They'd gotten along just fine as friends and coworkers.

Suddenly freezing, Edward rubbed his shoulders, trying to shake off the cold that crept along his skin. "I, uh… I didn't think about that."

"Think about what?" Jasper asked.

"That he's the one… He, um…" His thoughts had gone blurry around the edges, and he couldn't string his words together. "I...Don't worry. I'll tell him no. I'm sorry. I just forgot about that."

Jasper turned, a weird look on his face. He turned off the burners on the stove. "Why would you tell him no? Isn't IAMX that band you go crazy about?"

Edward rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah, but…" Jasper took a step toward him and Edward was up out of his seat before he could think about it, his hands out in a placating motion. "I won't go. It was stupid of me to say yes to him. I wasn't thinking. I'm sorry."

Jasper had frozen mid-step, his eyebrows furrowed in concern. "Edward...do you think I'm upset about this for some reason?"

"I...I mean, I would understand if you were." Edward shook his head, clenching and unclenching his hands in fists at his side. "It's...at the very least, it's rude. I know Mike is attracted to me. I have no business going anywhere with him." He double-checked the logic in his head. That made sense. It was the wrong thing to do. It wasn't good boyfriend behavior.

"You like him."

"What?" Edward's head snapped up, his eyes gone wide. "N-no. How could you— No."

"Whoa. Baby, hey." Jasper reached out and took his hands. Edward hadn't realized he'd been wringing them until that moment. "I meant you like him as a friend. You talk about him a lot."

"I'm sorry."

"Will you look at me, please?" Jasper asked, his voice soft. When Edward raised his head, he smiled reassuringly. "It's not a problem. You need friends and a life outside of me. I want that for you."

Edward gave his head a sharp shake, trying to throw off the cobwebs. "Of course I can have friends. But it's a bad idea to have friends that are a potential threat. That's relationship 101."

To his surprise, Jasper snorted. "Baby, Mike the Coworker isn't a threat. Not to me." He reached forward slowly and cupped Edward's cheek with the gentlest touch. "See, I can't exactly blame the guy for flirting with you."

"You can't?"

Jasper shook his head, a smile playing at his lips. "That makes perfect sense. You know why?"

"Why?"

"Because you're smoking hot."

Edward laughed. It was a small, shaky sound. He looked down, but Jasper kept a hand to his cheek, stroking his skin. "You told me about Mike the day it happened," Jasper said. "Remember? Or at least the day you figured it out."

"Yeah, of course."

"And you said he backed off immediately."

"He did." Edward searched Jasper's eyes, trying to read if his boyfriend believed him. He did, of course. He always did, but it didn't stop Edward from looking anyway.

Jasper nodded. "So why would I worry? I trust you. He's been respectful. There's not a reason in the world you can't be friends." He ran his fingers through Edward's hair, and Edward closed his eyes, enjoying the soothing sensations of his tender touch.

After a few more seconds, Edward took a deep breath and raised his head. The cobwebs were gone. He winced. "Shit," he said under his breath, turning away from Jasper and walking the few steps back to the table. He threw himself down in the chair, running his hands over his face.

Fucking anxiety attacks. They came on quietly like that sometimes. His paranoia spiked, triggered by situations like this. He'd lived so long never knowing what would set Alec off from one day to the next, but some things… some things were unthinkable. Like talking to a gay coworker, let alone agreeing to go somewhere with him alone. A concert. Alec would have said a concert was an automatic date. Something woven deep in his psyche knew that even thinking he could have that—a friend—would have brought him endless amounts of pain once upon a time.

But not now.

Jasper's soft step came closer. He didn't say anything. He just dropped into the chair next to him and took his hands. He held them and stayed quiet.

Now that the haze had dissipated, Edward's head was loud. They both waited while he sorted himself out. Jasper wasn't angry. Maybe he could have been, maybe he even should have been, but he wasn't. He was so patient. Edward took so much patience. So much work. He didn't understand why Jasper, an otherwise normal person, would want to put in that much work. He had to be exasperated. Edward wasn't worth this. He was too much of a freak. Still too broken.

But Jasper was there. Maybe it didn't make sense, but Edward could feel his hands, warm and firm, around his. He could hear his calm, even breaths. Better or worse, Jasper loved him. He wasn't going anywhere.

Calm now, Edward scooted closer to Jasper. He tilted his head so their foreheads touched and sighed when Jasper raised a hand to scratch the hairs at his nape. "You're going to get sick of me one day," he murmured. He didn't really mean it. It was the remnant of the torrent of anxiety; just one of the voices in his head that had to have one last say before it rested.

Jasper snorted anyway. "What kind of fool do you take me for, hmm? You think I could do any better than you?"

Edward raised his head with a sardonic expression. "Not in the mood to be placated," he warned.

"I'm not placating you." Jasper was massaging Edward's hands now, working his fingers along the bone. "We already talked about how hot you are. This is why I could never take you to Hollywood. Do you realize how quickly you'd get snatched up just walking down the street? They'd make you a big star, and you'd figure out quick how you could do so much better than me."

Edward snorted and rolled his eyes. "You're so full of shit."

"No. I'm not. You're ridiculously hot, babe. I have eyes, that's all." Jasper's fingers had worked their way up to his wrist now. "And you're smart. You see how well you do in school? Do you know how much it pisses me off that you don't even have to try? You know, most people look at the Gen. Ed. crap they need and take the easiest classes possible. You? Hell, no. You go for the obscure crap that would take us mere mortals thirty-hours of study a week to even begin to pass. You do it for fun."

Edward shrugged. "I don't know what I'm into yet." He frowned. "I need to decide."

"You still have time, and that's not the point. The point is, you're getting A's in all those classes with your eyes closed."

"It's...just school." Edward ducked his head, but he was beginning to smile.

"Says my genius boyfriend." Jasper took hold of his shoulders, massaging him there and looking him in the eyes. "And you're brave, babe."

"Ha." Edward never felt brave. He felt different levels of scared. Sometimes he felt just fine. Never brave.

"You are. I wish you could see that. But if you can't see it for yourself, you can't deny what you did for that kid was brave."

Edward huffed, but he knew what Jasper was talking about. A couple of months after Jasper moved to Washington, Bella had called them to let them know Demetri had walked into her station. He was black and blue at Alec's hands. He pressed charges, and Alec ended up back in jail.

Demetri had never forgotten what Edward had said that night, and so he'd never fully trusted Alec. So, after he hit him that first time, Demetri hadn't believed his lies and excuses. He'd gone to Bella as soon as he'd defused the situation with Alec long enough to get away.

"You saved me," Demetri had said. "And it couldn't have been easy."

Jasper took his face in his hands. His smile was tender, his voice soft. "You're so good, Edward. And I love you."

Looking in his eyes, Edward couldn't doubt it even if he tried. So, he didn't. Instead, he cupped his hand behind Jasper's neck and pulled him in for a kiss.

It was a hungry kiss. Jasper's words had chased away the awful cold anxiety always left in him. He was heated, his blood charged, and his heart pounding. He was so in love with this man, but he didn't have pretty words like Jasper had. He was better with music.

He was also better with showing how he felt.

Edward rested his hand on Jasper's knee, deepening their kiss. He stroked his tongue along Jasper's, letting his fingers play along his inner thigh.

Jasper groaned into his mouth. "Ah, hell. Edward," he panted. "I thought… I thought you were hungry."

"Dinner can wait."

That was all Jasper needed to hear. He returned the kisses in kind, running his fingertips along Edward's spine. Edward shivered, his nimble fingers making short work of the buttons of Jasper's shirt.

Sex was so different when it was a conversation between two people, an expression of what they shared. Not a duty. Not a chore or a punishment.

It was fun. Like when they were lazing around, relaxing on a Saturday, sprawled over their bed, and their feet brushed. That always led to retaliation—playful wrestling, grasping hands and tickling fingers until one of them pinned the other under him, silencing their taunts with a kiss.

It was so tender, Edward thought his heart would break; it was too full to keep beating. Like when they just stared into each other's eyes, like they were reading each other, memorizing every line, every beautiful detail. When wondering caresses became soft, insistent touches. When they moved together like they were playing the most achingly beautiful piece of music. Sex could be poetry and song.

And it could be this—fire and passion. When his hands fluttered, wanting to touch and tug and grab all at once. When Jasper getting to his feet and hauling Edward along with him sent delicious chills down his spine.

Sex could be like this—stumbling out of the kitchen as they tugged at each other's clothes, leaving a trail and almost tripping in their haste, in their need. It was the reason they kept a small bottle of lube tucked discreetly between the couch cushions—hey, sex was still fairly new to their relationship.

Jasper fell backward onto the couch so suddenly, he let out a huff of air. Edward didn't let him catch his breath before he straddled him, raining kisses down on his face while he rutted over his cock.

"Edward," Jasper said around a groan. He licked his kiss-swollen lips, looking him in the eyes. "You want me?"

It was a valid question. Edward knew he need only give the word, and Jasper would gladly bottom for him. It was still incredible to Edward. That he could have Jasper on his knees begging, literally begging, "Please, please. Oh, hell, Edward. I need you. I need you right now." Just totally undone for him.

"I want you," Edward said. "Now. Please." And even though he'd asked, it was Edward who took Jasper's cock in his hand, stroking and stroking as he lubed him up. Then, it was Edward who raised himself up and let Jasper guide his cock inside him.

Edward grunted, throwing his head back at the stretch and ache as he took Jasper deep inside him. "You okay, baby?" Jasper asked, breathless. He pressed kisses along Edward's throat.

"Yeah," Edward said, moving his hips, finding a quick rhythm.

Jasper's hands cupped his ass as he moved. "You like this, don't you. You love riding my cock."

That was another delightful discovery. Edward tended to be monosyllabic during sex. Jasper, on the other hand, never shut up, and Edward loved it.

"You like that? Huh? Fuck, you feel so good." Jasper drew his fingers down Edward's chest and took his cock in his hand, pumping it in time with their motions. "You know how beautiful you are?"

He felt beautiful. Loved. Wanted.

Happy.

Some minutes later, Edward lay kind of crumpled against Jasper as they both caught their breaths. He was in no rush to move despite being sticky and slip-slidy with sweat. He was content where he was, feeling Jasper's hot breath on the top of his head and feeling his heartbeat slow.

"I love you," Edward whispered.

Jasper cupped his face, and Edward looked up. His breath caught. The look on Jasper's face then was so unfathomable—warm and affectionate and full of more love than Edward knew existed. His heart filled with it, expanding so it seemed to fill his chest. Jasper ran the back of a single knuckle along his cheek, watching the motion for a few heartbeats before he looked back up to Edward's eyes.

"I really want to marry you some day," Jasper said.

Edward froze. His body stiffened, and he swore his heart skipped a beat.

"I'm not asking." Jasper stroked his back, holding his gaze. "I just want you to know. When I think about the future, one of the things I want to be is your husband. When you're ready. If you wanted."

Edward blinked, staring at him, trying to figure out what to think. It was a daunting prospect for more reasons than one. There was his first marriage to consider, and Edward didn't know what to feel about that. He knew, though, that like sex, being married to Jasper would be a whole other ball game.

And he wanted it. He wanted it so much in that moment, he was dizzy with it. He wanted a wedding his family could attend. He wanted Jasper in a suit, his eyes shining as they took their vows. He wanted matching platinum bands and…

Well, everything. Houses, and babies, and growing old together.

It was still so scary to want, to have something it would kill him to lose.

Edward swallowed hard and pressed a shaky kiss to Jasper's lips. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and made a promise to himself.

When Jasper did ask, he would be ready to leap.

~The End~

A/N: So many thanks to Packy, MoH, Eleanor, Betsy, Mina, and JessyPT for all their help, love, and support.

Same goes to you out there. I know I don't review reply very often, but I want you to know that your investment and your kind words are often the difference between a good day and a bad one. Thank you for sharing your personal stories. Thanks for everything.

Catch you on the next ride.