A/N: cosmo9 and ArcadianMaggie are two of the loveliest gals in the fandom. Instead of bidding against each other in the FGB auction, they joined forces and bid what they could. I'm constantly floored by the generosity exhibited during FGB, and this is a perfect example of how big-hearted we can be.
So, this third chapter is brought to you by ArcadianMaggie and cosmo9. It's EPOV and covers a long stretch of time. If you enjoy it, please send them a PM and say thanks. They're in my fav authors.
The music was loud and the vibe was awesome in the club. I was out on the floor, collecting bottles and glasses, smiling at the regulars and loving the atmosphere. I approached the bar and started unloading my haul.
"Goddamn!" Alec, the barman, was staring at the doorway, looking like someone who'd missed out on his favorite pie.
"What's wrong, Alec? Another pretty boy turn you down?"
"I didn't even get a chance! You should've seen him, Edward. Tall, scruffy, blond—and he had a beautiful ass. It's like my dream guy just walked in and out of my life in less than a minute."
I wanted to laugh but Alec had a weird sense of humour—a little too cocky and you didn't always know when he was joking. So instead, I offered him sage and practical advice. "If he walked straight out, then he probably didn't mean to come in here in the first place." He wouldn't be the first guy to come in looking for a beer only to find Chardonnay. "Don't pine after a straight one. It's never worth it."
And hadn't I already learned that? I'd spent long enough yearning for my own tall, scruffy blond, and all I had to show for it was the realization that he just wasn't gay. But I wasn't going to think about that now. It was a good night at work and I wanted it to stay that way.
I smiled at Alec. "Chin up and look cute. The boys aren't here to see you brood."
He smirked at me so I knew he couldn't be too crushed over the disappearance of his "dream guy." And by the time I'd finished stacking the glasses in the dishwasher, he was already eye-fucking a dark loner at the end of the bar.
With an amused sigh, I strolled back out of the bar, tray in hand, and tried to recapture some of my earlier good mood.
My class finished and I took my time packing up my books. I really didn't feel like sitting at home and wallowing again. Thinking about Jasper yesterday at work had brought back all the usual feelings. In retrospect, I knew I'd kind of taken advantage of him, and there was a lot of guilt that kept resurfacing every time I thought about it. Last night had been particularly rough, though, as I'd been remembering the good times as well.
I didn't want to put myself through that again, so I headed home for a quick shower. My class had been a late one but it was still reasonably early by the time I arrived at the club. I walked in the door and caught the attention of Alec behind the bar. He nodded at me and then quirked his head at a figure hunched over the stool in front of him. Tall, shaggy, and blond—it could only be his "dream guy" from the night before. I smiled encouragingly until I saw the size of the drink he was pouring for him.
Alec wasn't always... honorable in the way he picked up. Sometimes he'd get guys a little too drunk; sometimes he'd get them wasted. He also seemed to go for the less experienced guys, and I often wondered if he was driven by some kind of inferiority complex. Height was not one of his advantages.
I tried to frown at Alec but he was ignoring me now, tending to something under the counter. As much as I would've liked to just walk away and not get involved, I just couldn't stomach when people were used like that. Plus, the guy kind of reminded me of Jasper, and after all the thinking I'd done last night about him, I felt like I had to say something. So I approached the guy at the bar, thinking I'd order a drink and maybe be able to give him a hint without pissing Alec off too much.
I didn't like the look of his slumped posture. He was well on his way to being too inebriated and beyond the understanding of a simple warning. I reached the bar and Alec stood up, drawing the attention of his dream guy. He looked up from his drink, his hair falling away and revealing his face.
Recognition gripped me in the gut. "Jasper?"
He turned around, almost falling over in the process. His limbs were hanging from his lax body and there was something so pitiful about the sight. He looked awful, an empty shell of the man I'd known.
I asked him what he was doing there and he slurred his cold responses. My first instinct was to be hurt, but I had enough sense to not give into that. He was just drunk.
Alec was hovering behind the bar, annoyed but waiting to see how things played out. He'd been priming Jasper tonight. The thought of it was sickening and I had to get Jasper away from there. So I hauled him up off the stool and outside despite his many attempts to stop me.
Once we were outside, I didn't know what to do. There was no way I was bringing him back to my place—not in the condition he was in—but I couldn't just leave him there on the sidewalk. So I pushed him into a waiting cab, found his wallet, and took him home.
The cab ride was tense. I was kind of furious with him and thoughts kept tumbling through my mind, getting me increasingly riled up. He was a pathetic mess. He was in my town, in my bar. Even the old grudge that he'd left me on that fucking ship was resurrected. Maybe I was just angry at him for everything.
I was polite to the cabbie though, and thanked him for taking Jasper even when he was a vomit risk.
"Look after your friend, yeah," he added before I hopped out.
His words left me feeling guilty. Jasper was obviously messed up, and all I could think about was how he was pissing me off. I pushed my irritation aside and tried to do the right thing. I helped him up the stairs and tried very hard not to let my old feelings rise up. It wasn't too hard, because other ideas were occurring to me.
Jasper was at my bar where I worked. Maybe this was his big call for help. Maybe he'd somehow tracked me down and was looking for a friend tonight.
When we reached his door, he looked even worse. His eyes were sad and his face was sallow and he was angry, and I realized...
It was exactly the same way I'd looked... five years ago. Back when I was hurt and lost, sad and confused.
I invited myself in. He needed to talk to someone before he headed down the same destructive path I'd trodden. There were people out there who took advantage of the confusion—people like Alec. If I could save Jasper the pain and embarrassment I'd gone through, I would.
And maybe I'd finally get a little closure. I'd never really gotten over my feelings for Jazz. I felt so much for him, but I'd also pushed him to do things he wasn't comfortable with, and I had no doubt his hindsight was just as good as mine. I was sure we both regretted what happened, though probably for very different reasons.
He let me in and we talked, but before I could ask him any of the questions that were buzzing around my brain, he was at me, kissing me sloppily and rushing his hands over my chest. It wasn't right. I'd come in to help and I'd be damned if I was going to take advantage of him.
He didn't see it that way though. His door slammed and the noise echoed in his tiny cement-walled apartment. I was left alone, sitting on his couch, wondering what the fuck had just happened.
Here I thought Jasper needed help, but what if he was already past that point? What if he was out and had genuinely just hit on me? My whole impression rearranged itself and suddenly, there were a lot more possibilities. And a lot more questions.
I left him a note.
It's funny how things turn out sometimes. I would never have imagined that one day, I'd have Jasper back in my life. But that's exactly what I had. He was with me—wanted to be with me—and had been for about four months now. In my eyes, it was serious, but I wasn't going to fuck things up again by assuming he felt the same. This time, I wasn't pushing for anything.
It wasn't too difficult as I was pretty preoccupied most of the time. I had class during the day, worked four nights a week at the club and occasionally still made it to a gig. And Jasper worked as well, odd days and hours, depending on the charter.
This week, we both had Wednesday night free, so we'd planned to spend it together. I'd wanted to go out—to take the pressure off a little, so we'd gone to dinner and were now headed to the club for a few beers.
We walked in the door and Alec grimaced, knowing full well I could see him. I still wasn't sure if he was truly jealous or not. I knew he'd wanted Jasper, but I also knew Alec liked to whine, so he may have just been doing that.
Jasper took a seat next to Demetri—one of our older regulars. He was in almost every night but always home and in bed before the lights started up. He was nice, without being too nice.
I pulled up a stool and sat next to Jasper, staring in Alec's direction and waiting for him to come over.
He did, and he let his eyes wander over Jasper before looking at me and definitely not smiling. "I feel like I shouldn't even serve you." Again, it was hard to know if he was being serious.
"That's fine," I responded, then trying to make everything a bit lighter, added, "But at least get Jasper a drink."
Alec smiled brazenly at Jasper, causing him to blush. "What can I get for you?"
Jasper glanced at me, appealing for my help, but I just nodded, letting him know he could handle it. He cocked his head and stared Alec in the eyes. "Two beers, thanks," he replied. I grinned.
Alec rolled his eyes before walking over to the fridge and pulling out two bottles. He opened them, setting them both down in front of Jasper.
Demetri watched the exchange quietly, a small grin on his face. "Alec," he said in a condescending tone, "you really shouldn't be so bitter."
Alec grabbed Demetri's empty glass and poured him another, then pushed the whiskey across the bar. "Well, I'm not gonna pretend I'm happy for them." He turned to Jasper and smirked, an wicked glint to his expression. "When you feel ready to switch it up, call me." He winked and Jasper choked on his drink.
"I'm sure we can manage," I responded dryly as I reached for the other beet. Alec gave me a smarmy smile, drawing his chin in as he tucked his bar towel into his back pocket. It swung back and forth as he walked away to serve a young guy who'd just walked up.
"I'm sorry," I apologized to Jasper. "Alec is..."
Demetri jumped in. "An asshole. He's kind of a cunt, too. Don't listen to anything he says." I smiled gratefully at him, letting him know his input was welcome. Demetri kept going. "Everyone here has been played by him, so it's not like you're alone."
Jasper mulled his words over while he drank from his beer. After a moment, he turned to me and raised his eyebrows. "Everyone?"
Inwardly, I groaned. Demetri piped up. "Eddie went home with Alec the first time they met. Took him whole minutes to work his magic."
I glared at Demetri while Jasper glared at me, which pissed me off. "Hey, before you get mad, remember where you were going that night I first dragged your drunk-ass home."
He shrugged and drank some more. Demetri wasn't oblivious to having just put his foot in it. "Point is—he uses people. He'll say anything to get what he wants, whether that's sweet-talking or planting some seeds to make you uncertain. Ignore him. And don't be too pissed at Eddie, he was still finding his way back then."
I drank deeply, knowing this was all just going to lead to more questions later. Instead of hanging out and relaxing, we were teetering on the edge of an argument. Even though I knew booze wasn't going to help, I still threw back the rest of my drink and signaled to Alec that I wanted another.
He strolled toward us, towel whipping around his legs. I knew what Alec was like. No one really liked him, but we all sort of felt compelled by pity not to hate him. Yes, he was a bit of a bastard who used underhanded methods to get what he wanted, but I always suspected it was driven by how pathetically desperate he was.
Next to me, Jasper cleared his throat. "I think I just want to go." I glanced at him and saw him eyeing Alec, his face clear of any softness.
"If that's what you want."
He nodded and began standing up. I turned to Alec. "Don't worry about the drink. We're just gonna head off."
"Fine," he said with annoyance. Demetri scoffed.
I pulled out some bills and left them on the bar. "Catch you later," I said to both of them as I pushed my stool in. Jasper was already on his way and I went to follow, but Demetri grabbed my arm.
"Sorry," he said quietly, genuinely. I gave him a resigned smile. It wasn't really his fault; I should have already talked to Jasper about these things.
"Don't worry about it," I said. "He'll come around." Demetri nodded and returned to his whiskey and I headed out the door.
Outside, I found Jasper standing with his hands in his pockets, staring up into the cloud-covered moonlight.
"You want to get a cab or walk?" I asked.
"Walk," he muttered. He wasn't looking me in the eye and I was starting to worry. I wasn't sure what he was upset about. I mean, I knew it was about Alec, but I wasn't sure which part had put him in this mood.
I was familiar enough with counseling one-oh-one to know not to make assumptions, though. "You wanna talk about it?"
He paused for a moment before continuing to walk. "I don't know..." His voice was full of stifled frustration, his jaw set in a way that made me think he was grinding his teeth. I didn't push, just waited until he was ready.
Two blocks into our trek home, he finally spoke. "I guess I always pictured you being this... put together? You just seem so... not messed up about this stuff, and then to hear that you slept with him... Why would you do that?"
I waited for a bit, making sure he was finished. "You know I haven't always handled this well; I've already told you about Bella." I paused. "After we split up, I struggled. I hadn't really been alone before, and it was a whole new life I was discovering. I started going to a few clubs and... I made some poor decisions. One of them was Alec."
Jasper winced when I said it. I hated disappointing him like this.
"Were there many... Alecs?"
"A few." I didn't want him to think the worst of me though, so I quickly added, "I haven't been like that for years."
He nodded and seemed relieved. "I don't even know why this is getting to me so much. Like you said, I almost went home with the guy. I just... I hate the thought of him having touched you."
I laughed because it was a familiar sentiment. "I guess you can understand why I was so eager to keep you away from him. It would have killed me if he'd suckered you like he did me."
Finally, he smiled. It was just a quirk at the corner of his mouth, but it was something. We walked in silence for another block.
"Have you ever... switched?" he asked suddenly, almost sounding casual about it. But I could see the way he was chewing the inside of his mouth, so I knew he was uneasy.
I didn't want to lie to him, but I was tempted. Having just overcome one hurdle from my past, I wasn't keen to rush into another one. Even so, I answered him honestly. "Yes."
He nodded as though it was the response he was expecting. "Did you enjoy it?"
I wanted to say something sarcastic but knew he wouldn't appreciate humor at this point so I reined it in. "Yes."
Surprised, he looked at me. His expression changed and his brows pulled together, confused. "Is that something you'd want to do? With me?"
Now it was my turn to be surprised. "The way we are... that's my preference. But that's not to say we couldn't..." I stopped. I'd promised myself I wouldn't push him to do things this time, and that included making suggestions.
He was quiet—too quiet. We walked the rest of the way home like that.
By the time we were inside my apartment, I was spent. It was a fair walk and we were full of good food and drink. The strained conversation was just the kicker.
"I think I'm gonna head straight to bed," I told Jasper. He looked just as exhausted as me as he pulled his boots off and left them by the door. I walked ahead of him to the bedroom and stripped down to my briefs and pulled the covers down. Jasper came in and helped me, then we brushed our teeth together. It was almost grossly domestic.
I lay down on my side and he did the same. There was a huge gap between us though. Normally, I was the cuddler, the one who crossed the invisible line and wrapped my body around his because I couldn't bear being that far away. But tonight, I didn't think he was in the mood, so I stayed put.
Jasper put both hands behind his head and asked me, "What's it like?"
It took me a second to realize what he was referring to but when it did, I smiled. "It feels good. Like, really good. Well, not straight away, but you know that." I blushed a little.
"Can we try?"
Glancing over at him, I noticed he looked curious. This wasn't driven by libido or need; he just wanted to try it out. But it would be infinitely better for him and me if there was a bit of both.
I moved across in the bed and laid my arm across him to draw him closer, then kissed him lightly on the lips. "We can try." I kissed him harder and then moved my mouth to his neck and his ear. My hand inched lower over his stomach and I could feel how tense he was. And unexcited.
I ducked under the covers and put his soft cock in my mouth, sucking until he grew. I felt his balls and then slowly moved my hand further back and lightly traced it back and forth. He liked that. A lot. His hips were moving and I waited a moment before I pulled away, tossing the covers off us.
He was horny now, his chest heaving and his cock straining toward me. "I'm just grabbing some lube," I offered as an excuse for stopping. As quickly as I could, I had him back in my mouth, working him back to the point of total distraction.
My fingers returned to his ass, but this time I began to really feel him. I pressed in and halted, continuing to suck. Once he relaxed, I pushed until I was all the way and began to slightly move at the same pace as I sucked him.
I stopped sucking but kept my finger inside him. "You okay?" I asked.
"Yeah." He caught his breath.
"Does this feel good?"
He nodded and looked even more needy. I added more lube and slowly, another finger. He winced and tightened up, so I grabbed his dick and stroked him. "Relax, okay."
Jasper closed his eyes and laid his head back. He was spread in front of me, his cock dark with arousal. My own dick was close to bursting at this point and I was kind of gently humping the bed to keep my sanity.
I couldn't really add a third finger, not without making him too uncomfortable, so I worked on stretching him. There's only so much I could do though.
"You ready?" I asked.
"Yeah." His eyes were hooded and his dick was hard and so was mine as I smothered it in lube. Gently, I pushed just the tip in and waited.
Jasper was stoic. He didn't say a word but his body clenched up. Again, when I felt him relax, I pushed a little more, and then more, until I was all the way in.
I didn't move. His eyes were squeezed shut and his brow furrowed. Pain.
Through a strained breath, I said. "We don't have to do this." It was the opposite of what I really wanted. I was in his ass; I just wanted to fuck it. But I wouldn't if he didn't want me to.
He let out a shaky breath and shook his head ever so slightly. "No, it's... it's getting better."
Nodding, I tried not to look as eager as I was. Jasper and I'd had a lot of sex, but this was something different. I'd always thought he'd need to be in control for this relationship to work for him. And I understood that, which is why this wasn't something I ever considered we'd be doing.
I very gently moved out a bit, and although he tensed, he was still mostly relaxed. So I moved again, feeling his body tight all around, and went a bit further. Soon, he loosened up and while I missed the tension, the greater freedom was worth it. I groaned as I began thrusting softly.
He chuckled. "Good, huh?"
I bit my lip and smirked at him as I moved again. "It's been a while."
Jasper moved up to meet me so he must've been past the pain. I angled up where I knew it felt best.
"Jesus," he murmured and I couldn't help but smile.
I added even more lube and when I went back in, it felt even better. I was able to move without fear of hurting him and I picked up the pace, and added more force.
"It's hot seeing you like this," he said in between pants.
It was such a reversal of our roles. I loved seeing Jasper breathless and sweating above me, feeling him inside me while I squeezed his body between my thighs. Now it was me in that position, and he was enjoying it too. Trying to hold off my orgasm, I slowed my movements and leaned down to kiss him, then reached down and felt him.
He groaned into my mouth and took his dick from me. "Keep going," he said.
I placed my hands either side of his chest to give him room and started moving again, feeling everything pulling and needing release. Jasper clenched around me as he stroked, mimicking what I do for him. He was even tighter and it was just too much. I threw my head back as I came, my body thrusting of its own accord. Jasper wanked harder and faster and I stayed inside him until he was finished. His face was flushed but his eyes were clear and he looked in awe.
I lowered myself, pressing my body against him and his release, and kissed him roughly. I loved Jasper, had loved him for years, but I was a goner now. He now held my heart in his hands, and it was his to do with as he pleased.
Jasper was different after that night. He was more relaxed, easier going. It reminded me of what I was like after the first time I had sex as a teenager. I walked around feeling a power I didn't have before, all self-satisfied and a little smug. That's what Jasper was like now, and it scared me.
He didn't do it when it was just us together, only when we were out. At the club, he'd hold his head a little higher and he'd make eye contact with... everyone. I tried to act like I didn't notice, and honestly, I didn't think the way he was behaving was on purpose. When we'd get home from the club, he'd blow me better than he ever had before, intensely and with confidence, and it wasn't until the next morning that I'd remember and begin to worry.
I worried because after I had sex the first time and felt that sense of importance, I just wanted to do it again and again; in different ways and with new people, as much as I could. Jasper was comfortable in his skin now, so did that mean he'd want to be with other people? I knew he wouldn't want to hurt me, but needs are rarely rational.
This went on for about a month—Jasper standing straighter and me feeling insufficient. Then slowly, his confidence seemed to fade, his certainty replaced with a kind of vagueness. This was worse in a way, because something had to make him change, and I was terrified of what it was. But at the same time, I was kind of understanding. By this point, I'd kind of resigned myself to the idea that Jasper would cheat on me. I knew what the clientele at the club were like and just how many blowjobs were given in dark corners. It seemed inevitable that one day, Jasper would branch out—just like I had.
Then one night, we were both home and I could just sense something was wrong. This is it, I thought to myself. He was going to tell me about whatever it was that had left him so hesitant.
Thinking a drink might be a good idea, I asked him, "Do you want to go out tonight?"
He didn't even meet my eyes, just kept staring at the TV. "Nah, I just wanna stay in." His face was pale and he looked a little ill, and I changed my mind. He wasn't going to say anything.
I had a choice. I could ignore my gut and continue on in blissful ignorance, or I could question him and quite possibly learn things I didn't want to know. Internally, I debated what to do. I loved Jasper and I was shit scared of getting hurt. No one had ever meant this much to me before and I was terrified of losing him. On the other hand, if there was something wrong, I needed to try and fix it. If I could stop him from outgrowing me, I had to.
That decided, I went and sat beside him on the couch, sinking into the soft leather. "Can you tell me what's wrong?"
He glanced at me and looked nervous, but that could have been my imagination. "Nothing's wrong. I just don't feel like going out."
I swallowed. This was the point where I had to tread carefully. Did he really want to stay home, or was there perhaps someone he wanted to avoid? Someone he'd done something with? My chest ached but I did my best to ignore it.
"Is there... someone else?"
He looked at me in shock. "What? No! Why would you even think that?" He was annoyed and glaring at me. "Fuck," he added with an exasperated groan.
He wasn't lying; this was honest Jasper. I felt bad for insinuating he'd done something wrong but then I thought better of it. I had reason to assume. "You're different now," I said. Ever since..." I trailed off, my thoughts failing me. What could I say? That me fucking him up the ass had somehow changed everything. "I don't know," I finished lamely. I couldn't verbalise what my instincts were telling me. Every thought I had just sounded whiny and unfounded.
Jasper shook his head. "I've just had some stuff on my mind."
I wanted to scream at him to tell me, to let me know what he was thinking. Was he going to leave me? It wouldn't be the first time, I thought and then wanted to slap myself. Dredging up our old grudges would not help matters.
Instead, I gently tugged on his shirt so he'd look at me, and I showed him my concern and fear and love with my eyes. "Please tell me if there's anything wrong," I asked him.
He looked slightly pained and I wished he'd just say whatever it was, but I knew him better than that. So I gave him his space and disappeared into the study where I picked up my old Gibson acoustic and distracted myself with sounds borne of other people's pain.
Jasper came to bed late that night. I hadn't slept—was too strung out on nerves. He lingered in the doorway of my bedroom, looking uncertain as to whether he was going to join me.
"Hey," I said. "Come to bed."
He walked in the room and I smelled beer and was disappointed to think he'd gotten drunk over what had happened.
He plonked down on the bed beside me. "I'm sorry," he said, without any trace of a slur. I was relieved.
He rubbed his hands together, staring at them intently. "I should have talked to you first." My heart sank in my chest and I almost wanted to stop him from saying more. Before I could move the lump from my throat to tell him though, he was talking again. "It's just... I called my mom today."
"Oh," I said, while I cursed on the inside. No wonder he was so fucking distracted. Here I was thinking the worst when he hadn't done anything wrong. I was a stupid, self-absorbed idiot for doubting him. "I guess I don't need to ask how it went." I reached across the space between us and placed my hand on his thigh.
He scoffed. "It wasn't really that bad, I guess."
I sat up in bed to show he had all my attention. "What did she say?"
His hands ground at his forehead before he spoke. "At first she was just happy that I'd called and she talked my ear off for a bit. And then she asked if I was getting back together with Alice—you know the girl I was seeing years ago." I nodded and he continued. "Mom's always loved her—thought we were perfect together." He paused for a bit. "I said I was seeing someone. And then I told her it was you and she just went all quiet..." I moved closer to him because this was the hard part. "She just brushed it off, thinks it's just a phase I'm going through."
"Hey, she'll come around eventually. At least she talked to you, right?"
He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, maybe keeping himself together. "She told me not to say anything around Dad, and that's the bit that's really pissing me off. It's like, I've only just really come to terms with all this, and this is just a giant fucking reminder of how nothing with us is ever fucking easy."
His face was scrunched up now and he was definitely gritting back his emotions. He was having a bad day—something I'd had plenty of before. They're the days when you wonder if the effort is worth it and you ask stupid rhetorical questions about why life is so unfair. There's no straightforward solution, no way to make the path easier to travel. The only thing that gets you through is the belief you're doing the right thing for yourself.
But it helps knowing others have been through it, too.
I climbed out of bed and pulled him up with my hand. "Come on," I said. "I've got a bottle of whiskey with our names on it."
We sat up until the early hours of the morning, talking and sharing. When we finally went to sleep, it was with a "fuck everyone else" attitude and smiles on our faces. It was the first night I felt like we were friends again.
After that night with the whiskey, we were great. I quit the band because music didn't seem as important anymore, not when it was just stealing time away from me and Jasper. Summer had started and classes were finished. I swapped night shifts for days at the club, because I no longer wanted to stay out all night. I had Jasper in my bed, and that was far more enticing than any offers I was getting at work.
Being together was easier now than it had ever been. We'd settled into our life as though it were preordained, like fate or something. I was used to his idiosyncrasies and he was (hopefully) used to mine. And I was in love with him.
Even if I was too chicken shit to say it.
Well, that wasn't really true. I wanted to say it, but things between us were perfect, and who messes with perfect? I'd made a promise that I'd never push him again, and saying something like that was just begging for a response. He was never that kind of guy, so he'd feel uncomfortable and only say it back for my sake. I didn't want that. And he knew anyway. He felt it whenever we were together. He saw it whenever I looked at him. He heard it when I told him about my day.
I'd be lying if I didn't admit there was a tiny part of me that wondered how he felt. But I whipped that tiny piece of me into submission and locked it away where it couldn't keep me up at night. This was the happiest I'd ever been in my life, and nothing was going to ruin it.
Our one year "anniversary" was approaching and I was planning on asking Jasper if he just wanted to officially move all his shit into my—our—apartment. He lived here anyway, so it wasn't that big a deal. It was just waiting for one of us to make it official.
He was sitting on the couch, pretending to watch TV. He looked too uptight to really be watching it; there was something he was thinking about.
"What do you feel like for dinner?" I asked. He didn't seem to hear me, so instead I just yelled out "Mexican?"
He insisted on pizza, just like I knew he would. He still looked tense but I wasn't worried. Over dinner, I was going to ask him to move in with me, and then distract him with head, again and again. My mood was playful, and I wrapped my arms around him, but then he flinched. What the fuck?
"What's wrong?" I asked, feeling panic seeping in. That tiny piece of doubt was shedding its chains and raising its insecure head.
"Nothing. I've just got a sore arm." He shrugged away from me which only made me worry more. I felt for the "sore arm" and was surprised when I really did feel something.
Concern quickly replaced panic and I was trying to force his top off, my mind scrolling through the number of ways he could have been hurt. But then I saw the dressing running all the way around his arm and... All this over a new tatt? Why wouldn't he just tell me?
Carefully, I unstuck one end and unfurled the gauze from his arm, revealing two ropes intertwined and knotted together. The black outline was stark against the pink skin surrounding it and seemed to accent the design. It was similar to the ropes the crew would get tattooed on their arms when we were at sea, but the knot set it apart. It had no beginning or end, entwining the two lines together—the eternal union of two people. Love.
I stared for a full minute, not wanting to get my hopes up.
"Do you mean this... that way?" I asked, because this was Jasper, and he wasn't that kind of guy.
He swallowed and nodded as he said, "Yeah."
I felt the word through every part of my body, excitement and fear because Jasper loved me. He meant it. And even when I checked, he still meant it.
And I finally got the balls to say it, too.
The next morning was bliss. I called in sick to work because Jasper had the day off and I just wanted to lie around with him all day. I woke him up with the blow job I'd planned to give him the night before, and he swore and came and reciprocated.
I made us coffee and brought it back to the room and sat our mugs on the bedside table.
"So... there was something I was going to ask you last night, but I was a little distracted," I began smiling sneakily. I wasn't nervous about his response at all. Last night told me he felt exactly the same way about us as I did.
"I was thinking it was about time you let your lease go and move in here."
He smiled back. "I've been thinking the same thing." He reached for his coffee and drank some, licking his lips after. "You sure you want me living here? I can be a bit of a pig."
"I know, and I'm still sure."
"Then I'd love to." He emphasized the word and I knew he was sort of making fun of me, but I was too happy to care.
"I'll book a truck and we can move you on Sunday if you want."
"Sounds like a plan."
Now that the talking was over and done with, I grabbed my own coffee and lay down beside him, propping my back up against the headboard. His tattoo still looked fresh but no longer red, and I lightly traced it with my hand.
"I wish I had something to show for you," I murmured wistfully.
"You just asked me to move in with you; I think that's a pretty clear indication," Jasper replied, smirking at me.
"That's not what I mean... I meant a tattoo. Something to remind me of you."
He rolled toward me and propped himself up on his elbow. "You should get 'Jasper's' tattooed on your dick." He tried to look serious but his face cracked.
"Fuck you," I said, grinning despite myself. I tossed a pillow at him for not being serious and spilled coffee on myself in the process.
"Sorry," he apologized, looking contrite. "Look, you have enough ink to last a lifetime. This was my pussy way of saying something I couldn't figure out any other way to say. You don't need to do that. I'd prefer it if you didn't."
I nodded, understanding where he was coming from. I still wanted something though, and I was determined to think of the perfect symbol. I needed something that meant strength, unity and love. Something heartfelt and not tacky.
Jasper started talking again. "One of the old captains I used to work with would always tell these stories about guys he knew who'd lost fingers working at sea." I quirked my eyebrow at him because this was one random fucking story, and I was busy trying to think about something that mattered.
He saw the look and huffed in annoyance. "Just hear me out, okay?"
"So, this captain... he said the sailors lost their fingers because ropes would get caught on their wedding ring and it would rip it clean off their hand." I screwed my nose up and sipped at my coffee. "This guy's wife didn't believe that he wouldn't wear his wedding ring for safety reasons—she thought he was pretending he wasn't married or something. So he went and got a wedding band tattooed on his ring finger to keep her happy." Jasper stopped talking and it took a few seconds for his words to sink in. I met his eyes, wondering if he was really suggesting what I thought he was suggesting.
"Maybe one day," he began, and then had to clear his throat. "Maybe one day we could do that."
I felt the excitement build up in my chest but I refused to act like a fucking girl in front of him. "Maybe," I agreed, wearing the worst attempt to conceal a smile ever.
He laughed at my expression. "Besides, it's like the only place on your body where there's any room for new ink."
I elbowed him and spilt more coffee, but I didn't care. I put the mug down and took my shirt off and then kissed the shit out of him.
I squirmed, because, fuck... it was really fucking sensitive. My face scrunched up and I tried like hell to think of anything except what was going on.
"You're such a pussy sometimes. You know that right?"
"Yeah, just wait until it's your turn," I whispered between gritted teeth. The needle was just at the crease between the base of my finger and the next, and I was almost thankful for the pain. It was the only thing keeping it from tickling.
He casually flicked through another folder of stencils. "Nah, I'm gonna skip outta here before my turn." He winked to let me know he was joking, but it still freaked me out a bit. This wasn't just exchanging rings—it was ink. Permanent.
"Don't even joke about it," I muttered. At least his comments had distracted me for a bit. Emmett was nearly finished. Just a bit more fill to go.
"You bolt now, Jazz, and I'll hunt you down," Emmett said as he worked, not showing the slightest change in expression.
Jasper laughed but didn't say anything else. He'd spent the whole time poking around the parlour, checking out the designs on the wall, looking completely at home. It felt that way, too. Walking into Emmett's shop was like stepping back into the mess all those years ago. There was something about the place, something familiar, and I suspected it was helping Jasper feel at ease.
"Relax, Em. I'm not going anywhere." Jasper came to stand beside me and shoved his hands in his pockets, suddenly earnest.
Emmett came ashore years ago but he'd only just gotten enough capital together to open his own shop. He was only a short drive away in the lake area of New York State, and we'd visited him a few times in the last six months or so.
Emmett finished and looked over my finger one last time with a trained eye. Carefully, he wrapped a dressing around it and taped it down, then smiled at me before looking expectantly at Jasper.
"All right, Jazz. Your turn."
I stood up from the stool and tried to smile reassuringly at Jasper. He was still kind of grimacing, being oversensitive to Emmett's comment, so I leaned in and kissed him, trying to be tender and loving and supportive.
"That's enough of that."
My lips turned up and I reluctantly pulled away from Jasper. He was smiling as well, though, so I'd sort of achieved my goal. When he sat down, his expression turned stern, and he splayed his hand on the table, practically daring Emmett to question how committed he was.
Emmett smirked as he picked up his pen, amused by something. As he began to stencil the simple band around Jasper's ring-finger, I realized what it was.
Jasper was clenching his hand, his bones straining against the skin. His face was drawn in concentration—brow furrowed, lips pursed.
He wanted to squirm.
Emmett appeared to be taking great pleasure in Jasper's discomfort, and I wondered if he wasn't using a sharper pen than he'd used on me. My face broke into a grin and he must have caught it, because he was looking up next, smiling with me.
"For fuck's sake," Jasper swore when he saw our exchange. He pulled his hand back from Emmett's grip and shook it. "You were doing that on purpose," he said.
Emmett's deep laugh bellowed through the room. "Had to teach you a lesson. Eddie's no pussy."
After a few more moments, Jasper grudgingly laid his hand back on the table and kept a close eye on Emmett as he resumed his task. Jasper wasn't really aware of how Emmett had taken a protective, almost big-brother role in our friendship. Most of it had developed after he'd disembarked.
Emmett changed the needle and started it up, and I stepped away to give them some space. I made my way over to the folders and began flipping the pages. Tattoos didn't really hold the same appeal as they once had. For starters, I didn't have a whole lot of skin left that wasn't already inked. And I guess the other part of it was that I just didn't have much I needed to express anymore. Life felt complete.
But then I turned a page and a whole new world was opened up to me.
"I didn't think you could really get these," I murmured, amazed.
"What's that?" Emmett asked over the faint buzzing.
I stared at the snake design that was entwined around a stiff, hard cock. The dark green body of the serpent was wrapped along the shaft with its head just below the ridge. A fine forked tongue sneaked toward the tip.
"Penis tatts," I replied almost absently. The picture was... kinda arousing.
"Fucking what?" Jasper spluttered. His head jerked in my direction, which earned him a curse from Emmett.
"Stay. The. Fuck. Still."
I'd barely noticed what they were doing, too busy wondering about how you'd go about it. How exactly would it be done? Hard or soft? How much would it hurt? And how the fuck could people ever let a needle get that close to their dick? I shut the folder quickly and made my way back over to the guys, still a little stunned.
Jasper was looking at me questioningly and I shook my head. Yeah, there was no way we were doing that.
Finally, Em was finished and Jasper held up his hand, showing me how it looked.
"Married man now, huh, Jazz," Emmett said. "Never thought I'd be playing the role of a fucking priest."
I laughed loudly and gratefully hugged Emmett. It wasn't marriage, and it would probably be a long time until we'd be able to do that, but it was just as meaningful to me.
Emmett wouldn't take any money, instead just subjecting us to a few bad jokes about how he shouldn't have to explain to us how to care for our new ink. We left his parlour a bit sore but lighter in a way.
"Em seems pretty happy," Jasper observed.
"I think he's mellowed a lot since he left the ship. Rosalie's a good woman and she looks after him, and he doesn't have to cook anymore."
Jasper laughed and we continued to walk in silence for a bit. He glanced at me when we stopped at an intersection. "So... about those tatts..."
I grinned, remembering his face when I first mentioned them. "There were some really nice ones."
"Yeah. Some nice tattoos, too," I teased.
He smiled, but there was a mischievious edge to it. "So... when are you gonna get it done?"
I shook my head, laughing. "Not a chance."
"Fair enough," he conceded, then grabbed my hand and started linking his fingers through mine. I pulled my hand away though, because his tatt was still raw and I didn't want to hurt him.
"I just want to hold your fucking hand," he said.
I smiled as I remembered back to when that was too much for him, then threaded our hands together proudly.
A/N: Thank you for reading and for the constant support this story seems to get. Love to mopstyle and ArcadianMaggie for the beta bsns, and to allysue08 and cosmo9 for prereading.
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