SLASH BACKSLASH ONE-SHOT CONTEST
Story Name: Structurally Unsound
Pen name: starfish422
Disclaimer: Any recognizable characters are the sole property of their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended.
To see other entries in the "SLASH BACKSLASH" contest, please visit the C2: http ://www. fanfiction. net/c2/74941/3/0/1/
The room is dark; the air is humid, heavy and still. The only sound comes from outside, the infinite loop of the Pacific Ocean waves meeting the shore a hundred yards from our home. We both lie in our bed, facing away from each other. We've lain here, not speaking, for several hours; though it's now well after midnight, we're not sleeping. We have a king-sized bed, but it might as well span the Grand Canyon, so great is the chasm between us.
They threaded their way through a maze of living room sets, dining tables and bedroom suites, to the rear of the showroom where the mattress sets were displayed. They had it narrowed down to a few choices within their price range and were debating between foam or innerspring when the salesman approached them.
"Something in particular you're looking for?" he asked with a friendly smile.
"Definitely a king. Something with room to stretch out," Jasper answered.
The salesman nodded. "Especially for someone as tall as you," he agreed.
"And room to maneuver," Edward added, sitting down beside Jasper on the edge of one of the mattress sets.
The salesman's expression changed from friendly to perplexed. "I'm sorry...which of you is shopping?" he asked.
Edward and Jasper both grinned at him and Jasper wrapped his arm around Edward's waist and kissed him on the cheek. "We're shopping," Edward replied, stressing the "we".
The salesman's face twisted into a disgusted sneer. He turned on his heel and walked away. Edward and Jasper burst into laughter, the man's bigotry no more than an amusement to their youthful unconcern. Lacing their fingers together, they left to go elsewhere, their derision still echoing through the open shop door after they had disappeared from sight.
A storm is approaching. Far away, flashes of heat lightning dance, hidden inside the thunderheads that crowd the Western horizon. The air is still calm and sweaty; soon, the wind will begin to pick up, blowing a cooling sea breeze in through the windows that face the ocean shore. The lightning will move closer, the thunder will rumble, and the rain will pound against the grey-worn cedar shakes of the little beach home we've shared for five years.
This house has seen every kind of weather in the decades since it was built here on the southern Oregon coast. Days of bright sunshine when the sky was so blue, the line between ocean and air was nearly imperceptible…They played in the surf for hours, laughing as they jumped the waves. Sometimes the swells knocked them over and they surfaced, sputtering and spitting out the briny water. When they were worn out, they flopped onto towels on the sand and let the sun warm them through…Long days of endless rain, when the only thing to do was to put a fire in the little parlor stove in the living room and curl up with a book and a cup of tea...Jasper's head rested in Edward's lap as they read. The cat jumped up to join them, making herself a soft bed on Jasper's stomach before they each nodded off, lulled to sleep by the soft pattering of the rain…Tumultuous nights when storms blew in from the ocean, the wind screeching, the rain pounding down in torrents and returning to the beach through wide rivulets it carved into the sand…Jasper led Edward out onto the screen porch that faced the ocean, and they fucked there, Edward bracing himself against the porch railing as Jasper pounded into him from behind, their shouts all but drowned out by the violence of the storm…Even a freak snowstorm one January night that covered the sand with heavy, wet snow, a brilliant white contrast to the deep, angry grey of the turbulent ocean...The first time either of them had seen snow – they had an impromptu snowball fight and then made a droopy, lopsided snowman.
After seventy years, our house is still as strong as the day it was built. It was built with the fierce Pacific storms in mind, and over the years has been reinforced and maintained so that it can withstand whatever nature throws at it. The window in our bedroom looks down on the beach and the ocean beyond.
"What do you think?" Edward asked Jasper excitedly as they stood on the porch overlooking the beach.
"I thought we weren't going to get carried away," Jasper warned gently. "Even if we put in an offer, babe, there's no guarantee…"
"I know," Edward said, pained. "I just love it so much."
Jasper sighed, admitting, "I do too. It's…well, it's perfect. You could put your piano in the corner of the living room that has the windows on both sides--"
"Yeah!" Edward jumped in. "And the little room at the top of the stairs is exactly right for your office, isn't it?"
Jasper smiled broadly, indulgently. Edward was so excited, and he would do anything, everything in his power to ensure that Edward was blissfully happy. "And the gable bedroom…" he murmured, gathering Edward into his arms and speaking softly, suggestively. "Making love under the eaves, hearing the rain hitting the roof…"
Edward hummed softly so the real estate agent wouldn't hear him. They heard the click of her heels on the ceramic tile of the kitchen floor as she approached them, and they pulled back slightly, turning towards the ocean. In a normal voice, Jasper said, "Plus, you can't beat that view."
"So?" the agent prompted expectantly. "What do you think?"
Edward and Jasper looked at each other for a moment before Jasper turned to the agent with a grin. "I assume you brought some comparables? Let's figure out what to offer."
I don't even know why we're lying here angry at each other tonight. I do know that, as usual, we hardly spoke all evening. It just seems to be the way with us now - we don't have conversations anymore. We barely have arguments.
We have more money now than we did the first several years we were together. Our careers are more solid – he's a published author, I compose music for movie scores – and you would think that with more security and plans for a solid future, we'd be relaxed, even happier than we were when we were young and broke.
Instead we've become apathetic, an insouciance pervading every aspect of the life we share. I don't know when it started – I'm ashamed that I don't know. How could I not realize that the evenings we spent with barely a word exchanged between us, had replaced the nights when we could scarcely stop making love long enough to rehydrate our bodies? When did he stop looking at me with a hunger that made my cock instantly hard and my thighs tremble? When did we stop making eye contact at all?
Edward stood in the aisle of the record store – because he insisted on still calling it a record store, though it hadn't sold music on vinyl in almost fifteen years – re-alphabetizing the classic rock CDs that had been rifled through and left carelessly out of order. He grumbled quietly to himself, wondering whether it was, in fact, possible for the students he employed to have made it to the upper grades of high school without knowing the alphabet.
The chime on the front door jingled, and he looked up to greet the customer who entered. He was temporarily struck dumb by the sight of the divine creature standing just inside the door. He was tall, lanky, with wheaten curls that were tucked behind his ears. He wore slim-fitting jeans and a white t-shirt, and – Edward smirked – flip-flops. His demeanor was serious, Edward thought; but perhaps it was because he frowned a bit as his eyes adjusted from the bright sun outdoors to the comparative gloom of the store.
When he focused on Edward, who was, that afternoon, the sole person working in the store just off the university campus, he gave him a smile, then turned to browse. Edward returned to sorting, at the same time furtively watching the customer who walked slowly up and down the aisles between the tables. Several times Edward caught himself making alphabetizing errors, and it was when he realized he'd placed Golden Earring after the Grateful Dead that he gave up and decided to approach the stranger.
"How's it going today?" he asked, and the blonde looked up with a smile.
"Fine, thanks," he returned simply.
"Anything I can help you find?" Edward offered.
"Do you have any Alan Parsons?" the blonde asked. Edward's eyebrows climbed his forehead and the man said, "I know – it's lame, right?"
Edward chuckled. "Not lame – they had some good stuff. Just that it's usually the older guys that come in asking for that."
"Fair enough," the customer conceded. "I remember my dad listening to it when I was a kid – like, pretty young – and I didn't know if I could still find it, but it might be fun to listen to again. Remind me of him."
"Well, you're in luck," Edward grinned as he pulled out the disc he'd been looking for. "I have 'The Turn of a Friendly Card."
"Awesome!" The blonde's face lit up. "That's one of the ones I remember."
Edward peered at the back of the jewel case. "Came out in 1980. You must have been a baby."
"I was two," the blond grinned.
"Same age as me, then," Edward replied as they strolled to the cash. He rang through the disc - $3.99, because, after all, it was 22 years old – and as he handed the blond his change and the receipt, his hand lingered a bit as their hands touched. Their eyes met, and the blond raised one eyebrow gently.
After gazing at each other for another moment, the blond pulled his hand away, putting the change in his pocket. Edward felt the tiniest bit of disappointment until the boy said, "I'm Jasper."
"Edward." He breathed his own name with a soft smile.
"You own the store?" Jasper asked.
Edward shook his head. "I manage it. Helps feed my music addiction."
"What time do you close tonight?" Jasper continued.
"Nine," Edward replied.
Jasper rested his elbows on the counter and placed his chin on his hands, looking seductively at Edward. Edward's stomach did flips as he looked into Jasper's piercing green eyes. "I just got this new CD I'm dying to listen to," Jasper murmured. "How do you feel about Alan Parsons…?"
Three hours later, they were at Jasper's apartment, making out on his couch as Eric Woolfson's breathy vocals on "Time" washed over them.
That disc used to be one of the ones that never left our CD changer; it was the song we made love to more times than I can count.
I don't know where it is now.
The storm is getting closer and the wind begins to pick up. It pushes its way into our room, cool and fresh, forcing out the close, stale air and bringing with it the ozone smell of lightning and impending rain. The wind and the intermittent rumbles of thunder can't drown out the unrelenting silence. It holds a presence in the room as real and as physical as the bed upon which we lie.
We have a gable room. The walls on two sides are only about five feet high; and the west-facing wall has a large window. It looks down onto the roof of the screen porch; the beach, which is just a moment's walk through the sea grass; beyond that, the ocean shore; and farthest away, the sunsets that throw a million sparkles across the water in the evenings.
This room has been our sanctuary for five years, the place that is ours alone. Even visitors have seldom seen the inside of our refuge. Work has never been allowed here – no staff paper on the bedside table, no notebook and pen for "just one more paragraph." No arguments are had in this room; discussions, yes, but never a fight. It's our inner sanctum, consecrated to a single purpose: to shelter us and our love.
Edward held up three paint samples against the wall. "Arctic White?"
"It's…very white," Jasper said dubiously.
"Not very cozy," Edward agreed. "Cape Cod Blue?"
"You know we're on the Pacific Ocean, right?" Jasper smirked.
"Smartass," Edward grinned good-naturedly. "Okay, this should make you happy, Mr. Particular: Pacific Sand."
Jasper stepped closer to the wall where Edward was holding up the samples, peering at the way the light reflected from the swatches. "I like the sand color a lot," he admitted. "It's calming."
"Yes," Edward agreed, tossing the two rejected samples on the bedside table and picking up a card with accent colors on it. "I think so too. And maybe a pale sage green to accent it."
Jasper took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. He could feel himself relaxing already. Edward's choices were perfect; but he decided to have a little fun. "Wait, here's the one I want," he said to Edward, who turned curiously. Jasper picked up Edward's hand and held it against the wall. "Edwardian Excellence," he murmured. "But I don't want just an accent – I want the whole room drenched in it." He picked up Edward, who shouted with laughter and delight, and gently tossed him onto the bed. He climbed on top of him, pulled off Edward's shirt and began to lick and suck his neck, working his way down over his chest and beyond.
They didn't get to the hardware store to buy paint that afternoon.
We used to be happy. We used to lie together in silence because words were unnecessary; we were joined at the soul. Everything was passion – even our arguments blazed hot and fast, and died out quickly. Now it feels like we can't be bothered arguing. Why have arguments neither of us cares enough to win?
We've already lost. And it isn't because someone came between us; there's no impasse or heartbreak that has thrown a roadblock. We lost when we became indifferent.
I wish it weren't that way. I wish we still had the fire. I wish we had the strength to admit that it's gone or the courage to try to find it. I wish we talked about things – life, or our work, or the potted plants on the fucking deck – anything.
The first drops of rain hit the gable roof over our heads, and within a few minutes the rainfall accelerates to a full-on downpour. A bolt of lightning illuminates the room and almost immediately an earsplitting crack of thunder sounds directly overhead. The wind is strong enough that the rain is blowing in one of the open windows, and since I'm the one facing the window I'm forced to throw back the sheet that covers me, and get up to close it before the rain soaks the wide plank floors.
After the window is secured, I stand gazing out at the midsummer storm. A marker buoy thrashes about on the turbulent waves, the bright green light atop it rocking wildly back and forth, glimmering through the rain drops that shatter against the window pane. I sigh, trying not to think about what we used to do on nights like these as I turn back to the bed.
I'm startled to find him sitting up looking in my direction, though I can't tell if he's looking at me or the window. I pause in the middle of the room, wondering what he's about, why he's looking this way. Why now? When he doesn't move or speak, I continue to the bed and slip under the sheet again, settling back down into my original spot, with my back to him.
The room is a bit quieter now with the window closed against the tumult outside. Even with my back to him I know he hasn't moved from his spot, sitting up. For long moments we make neither sound nor movement, until…
"We always made love when it stormed," he says, sounding lost in thought.
I consider not answering; but he, too, is remembering how the raw power of the storms used to ignite us, spurring us to such visceral, passionate lovemaking. For the first time in I-don't-know how long, we're of the same mind, even if it's only for a brief moment. My conscience won't let me ignore him.
Without stirring from my spot, I quietly reply, "I remember."
Another long silence elapses. "I'm starting to forget." No longer a pining reminiscence of happier times - the pain in his voice is acute. My eyes fill with tears. He remembers how we loved each other; he misses it too. The tears spill over and run down my right temple, dampening my pillow. I try not to make a sound as I weep, but surely he can hear the change in my breathing, the sniffle even when it's barely audible.
"Edward," he whispers, and again I battle with myself. Ignore him or turn over? Seconds tick by as I choose between conscience or pride.
Conscience wins. I roll onto my back enough that I can look at him. I do my best to glare, though we only get glimpses of each other in the lightning. When it's dark I can just make out the outline of his body, but when the lightning flashes the room is flooded with pure white light. Completely naked, I know he's quite tanned but his skin looks colorless in the near-constant bursts of illumination that invade our room. He hovers over me, and his green eyes almost seem lit from within as he stares down at me. An instant later his body falls to rest on me, his mouth finding mine. Vehemently his tongue pushes against my lips and I open, unable to resist the desire to be touched by him again after so long. The congress of our mouths is not sweet or gentle – it is desperate and fervent.
They'd gone out that night, out to a club Jasper said he enjoyed. It was two weeks after they met, and Edward wasn't the type to dance, or to go to a noisy bar filled with people – a jazz club or a piano bar would have suited him more. He couldn't, however, pass up the possibility of seeing Jasper dance, despite his discomfort at knowing he'd have to dance too. Jasper's long, lithe body was made to move, and his passion for music rivaled Edward's own. The melodies would fill him, taking hold of his lean body – his feints and capers were utterly involuntary. When Edward joined him that night, the spirit coursed through Jasper to Edward, an extension of Jasper's own self – they moved as one.
As they danced, the fiber of their souls wove together into an elaborate, knotted blanket; ensconced in an akashic mantle, they had neither ability nor desire to look at anyone else. They found themselves at Edward's apartment without really knowing how they got there. Shoes were kicked off, clothing landed on the floor; for the first time their intimate parts were revealed to each other. Reverently they gazed at the beauty they found; slowly they explored the recesses of soft skin and warm embraces. When Jasper was deep inside Edward it was a spiritual fusion. As they found their release they cried aloud the words that had become infinitely more dear than any other words – each other's names.
Afterwards they could not let go of each other for many hours, refusing to disentangle their arms and legs and souls. When their human needs finally forced them to draw apart, each did so with the knowledge that the only place they would ever again be whole was in the other's presence.
His hands are everywhere, roaming my arms and shoulders, clutching and releasing as though seeking something he's lost. Still we kiss, deeply, searchingly. My arms wrap around his back, holding him tighter. His hips thrust against me, his swollen cock pressing into my groin. In my chest, I feel the burn, the fire we've missed for so long – burning so hot now that it hurts, threatens to scorch me from the inside.
I ache to be taken by him, to feel his hard length inside me. I reach to my bedside table drawer and wordlessly hand him a bottle of lube. He takes it, lifting himself up onto his knees and quickly preparing himself. A moment later he lowers his body to mine, placing the head of his cock against my opening. For an instant, I'm afraid – I know our bodies fit together like the mold to the cast, but it's been so long since he's been inside me. Will my body accept him as readily as it always did?
Jasper wasn't easily convinced. He worried about Edward. He would be turning his back on many years' worth of indoctrination, propaganda that had instilled the intended fear into him. But Edward lobbied, partly with reason and partly with cajoling; but mostly with negative STD tests.
"Please," Edward entreated. "It's been five years since we were with anyone else. We're both healthy. I can't believe you're still going to refuse me."
Jasper didn't know what to say. He wanted to do this – he wanted to do it for Edward and for himself. Still that voice inside his head screamed, "Danger!!"
"I want to feel you, and only you, with nothing between us." Edward gripped Jasper's shoulders and looked beseechingly into his face. "I've waited so long for this, baby." He allowed his eyes to widen innocently. "Unless you don't want me that way."
"Don't say that," Jasper pleaded. "You know I do. It's just, babe, if something happened to you because of this…" He rubbed his forehead, closing his eyes to shut out the possibility of harm coming to Edward.
"Jasper," Edward said, forcing Jasper to look at him. "Nothing is going to happen to either of us. We've been tested over and over, and we're fine. You have to let go and just trust."
Jasper stared at Edward. He knew he would give in to what Edward wanted – to what he himself wanted, despite the fear he felt. He picked Edward up; Edward wrapped his legs around Jasper's waist and kissed him. Jasper carried him up the stairs and into their room – they would never have this conversation in their room, knowing it was a contentious issue – and placed him on the bed. Slowly they removed each other's clothes, and Jasper did what Edward wanted.
Though he wanted to close his eyes, he forced himself, as a strange sort of penance, to watch his lube-slicked cock as it slid unsheathed into Edward. If anything happened to Edward, he knew, he would remind himself of that sight over and over again. It would be the punishment for his crime.
Edward, very much absorbed by his own experience, assuming that the sensations Jasper felt were as delightful and rapturous as his own. Jasper was instead plagued by guilt. Even when they both came and Edward called out his name, it felt like accusation and indictment in one.
"Thank you," Edward said as Jasper collapsed on his chest, shaken and grey. "Thank you, thank you. You felt amazing, baby."
Jasper said nothing, pressing his face into Edward's neck and apologizing silently. He pulled out of Edward and a trickle of semen came with him. "Mmm," Edward said drowsily. "I'll still feel you tomorrow when I get up."
Jasper wanted to throw up.
They held each other and Edward soon drifted off to sleep. Jasper carefully extricated himself from Edward's embrace, and silently padded out of the room and across the hall to the bathroom. He put down the toilet lid, and then he sat down and cried. He was feeling guilty; but worse, he felt miles away from Edward. He resented that Edward didn't acknowledge, perhaps didn't even realize how difficult this was for him. He was angry that Edward couldn't wait until he was ready, and that their first time doing it raw was traumatizing for him.
After he had released the pent-up emotions that racked him, he took a shower, rinsing away the vestiges of their sex – the sounds, the sights, the emotions. He let them all run off him and down the drain. When he was clean and dry he went to his office and wrapped himself in the afghan that lay on the little couch.
Edward found him there the next morning, asleep on the couch that was much too short for him to lie on comfortably. He looked dotingly at him, assuming he had stayed awake to work and simply fell asleep there. He didn't notice the puffiness around Jasper's eyes or the way he was curled into a fetal position. He couldn't see that Jasper had taken one step away from him that night.
He presses into me; my depth opens to his silken head. There is pressure, and a little bit of pain, as he slides all the way in; but the pain soon disappears. His eyes are locked on mine and he begins to move, every slow thrust a bellows upon the fire burning in me. This is it, what I've longed to feel; the emotions and passions within me that have lain inanimate and forgotten are brought to life once more. I feel warmed from within, the way I used to. I don't want to lose this. I don't want us to lose this.
We can't lose this.
He moves faster, finally breaking our gaze when he screws his eyes shut. His face contorts, an indefinable expression – pleasure? Pain? I close my eyes too – I don't want to see. I just want to feel – I want us both to feel the fire, to know what we could have again. If I just let myself feel it fully, perhaps I can communicate that to him; certainly he'll feel what I haven't said in so long.
The blaze climbs higher still, flames licking the sky, and I am quickly reaching the point at which I will boil over. He is too; his body is coiling like a spring, tensing before his release. Soon his body stiffens and he cries out, throwing his head back, holding himself deep inside me. A stroke or two of my cock and I reach my peak as well, sending semen, heated to molten by the fire, shooting across my belly.
When it's over, he falls to my chest. I wrap my arms around his shoulders and hold him tight to me, his head tucked into my neck. Our breathing eventually slows, and soon, he pushes himself up, holding his upper half above mine with his arms as he stares into my eyes. The thunderstorm's natural lightshow illuminates the look of desperation in his eyes.
Seeing him so forlorn, looking lost and empty when we should be feeling an intense bond is like a bucket of cold water upon the fire. The warmth is slipping away, oil held in the palm of my hand. I can't stop it; I can't hold on to it. I don't know how.
He moves off me and rolls away, back to his side of the bed where he once again faces away from me. I feel abandoned, rejected. I too resume the place where I lay earlier this evening. Silence settles upon us once again; interrupted now and then by a scarcely-perceptible sniffle from his side of the bed, the kind of sound one would make if they were struggling to weep silently.
I should turn to him. I should take him into my arms and hold him. I should plead with him to come back to me, beg for a return to the love we had, whatever it takes for us to find it again.
But he didn't do that when I was crying.
I wake to silence. It's still dark; the storm has passed and the lightning no longer serves as a beacon into the room. I roll over to find his side of the bed empty. He must be in the bathroom.
As I lie there waiting for him to return, I realize what a fool I am. Refusing to hold him when he cried simply because he didn't hold me? He may not even have heard me. I heard him, and I did nothing; I'm ashamed of myself. When he comes back to bed I'll tell him. I'll apologize for the part I've played in what we've become. I'll put my heart on the line again for our relationship and ask him if he can do the same.
As the minutes pass, there's no sound from the bathroom or elsewhere in the house. I sit up and turn on the light on my bedside table. Squinting in the light, I call, "Jasper?" I'm answered with silence.
Getting out of bed, I cross the room to the window to open it. It's no longer raining and the room has become stuffy. As I pull open the sash the cool salty breeze blows in, refreshing the room.
I turn back towards the door, determined to go find wherever Jasper has hid himself away in the house. As I pass the bed, my attention is caught by the sight of a sheet of bright white paper, folded in half and lying on Jasper's pillow.
I pick it up and unfold it – it's staff paper from my piano. In Jasper's hand a short message is scrawled across the staves that line the paper. Four simple words:
I can't remember anymore.
Edward could perhaps have healed the breach his actions caused, if he had realized what he'd done, if Jasper had told him how he felt. Jasper could have forgiven him and the fissure wouldn't have widened. Instead, the tiny chip was allowed to continue unmitigated, compromising the foundation of their relationship. Indeed, each placed their unspoken grievances and unresolved resentments, one by one upon the weakened structure. A little at a time, the crack travelled across the expanse until it could no longer sustain the weight placed upon it; and then…it failed.
Musical inspirations for this story were "Electrical Storm" by U2, and "Time" by The Alan Parsons Project. Both can be found on my blog, starfish422 dot blogspot dot com.
Thanks and love to Bethie and Shannon.