The "AwkWard" Contest
Story Title: It's Just a Flesh Wound
Pen name: Zigster
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. A sense of disappoint at my old art professors? Yes, I do posses that.
To see other entries in the "AwkWard" contest, please visit the C2:
A/N: The pompous point of view below belongs to Edward.
Smearing the blue between my fingers, I allow the oil and granules of lapis to permeate my skin, staining and turning the lines of my thumbprint into a landscape of blue pinstripes. I'm hypnotized by the image, and I can feel my eyes widen to take in all of what the tiny pad of my thumb can visually offer me.
The paint isn't meant for my daydreaming; it's meant for the canvas in front of me. The canvas I can't bring myself to look at. For a full hour, I've been sitting in front of a half rendered field of beige and blue, contemplating working the newly mixed paint into the swirl of color—or throwing a fit and tossing it off the roof. I'm leaning towards the latter option. As I zone out on the pinstripes, hoping they'll curl and twist into ocean waves before me, one thought keeps on piercing my brain...
What's the point... what's the point...
What is the point? This pathetic school has taught me nothing. The only thing it's been good for was giving me a pedestal to perch upon. But all that glitters is not gold, and my pedestal of accomplishment was as false as the qualifications of my washed-up professor, masquerading as a troubled artist in hiding from his imaginary public.
"Mr. Masen... Mr. Masen." My name cuts through my musings, and I lazily turn my head in the direction of the offensive sound of "Masen" being pronounced with a fake French accent, wherein the offender drops the 'n' and lets the 'e' float up through his nasal cavity as if it were an 'o.' It's amazing how pompous one can seem by dropping a single letter off a word.
Raising one dark eyebrow, I respond, "Yes?"
"What do you have planned for this piece?" the cordial professor Whitlock asks, gesturing towards my heinous excuse for a "piece" of art. I turn my eyes back to the painting, which never has any chance of becoming fully realized, and sigh dramatically.
"What don't I have planned?" I say, the sarcasm as thick as the titanium white paint beneath my brush. Silence follows before my church mouse of a professor coughs, attempting to start up the conversation once more.
I only half listen as he gives me advice on the different directions I could take the painting, and I nod every two minutes or so, just to keep up the ruse that I'm listening.
In truth, I couldn't care less, and so in the middle of his speech, I pick up the razor blade I have sitting on my table–used for refining the pigment–and start to cut out a brocade pattern from a piece of scrap fabric I'd found outside the theater on my way in today. The swirls are attractive to me; maybe I can use them to somehow pretty up the piece of crap in front of me.
Professor Whitlock eyes the razor warily as he continues to blather on, and I continue to nod my head at appropriate intervals. As he speaks, I find myself wondering if this isn't my professor's goal in life? To act the part of Peter Sellers in Pink Panther for as long as anyone will let him get away with it. Is this just some kind of strange performance art, in which he ends up having the last laugh?
I wouldn't put it past him.
If it were some kind of performance, I can almost smile at his determination to keep up this hilarious facade. Who has that kind of patience? I tend to embarrass myself enough on a daily basis; I can't imagine going from a southern gent to a French countryman one day and just expecting people to accept it. That'd be as ridiculous as having a president who grew up and was educated in the Northeast suddenly adopt an affected accent for the fun of it...
Professor Whitlock talks at me, I nod at him; it's all very civil until someone comes up behind the professor and me and slaps us both on the back. My hand slips and the blade cuts straight through my finger, leaving a long, angry red line down the length of it. I stare at the drop of crimson left over on the blade in my right hand and seethe.
"Sup pops!" the imbecile says behind me, oblivious to my condition. I cringe at his heavy arm over my shoulder, making me hunch further down on my stool. He feels warm, and his voice is relaxed and inviting. This person is clearly not an introvert, like me, and for that, I'm intimidated.
"Jasper!" my professor scolds, seeing the blood now literally flowing from my hand. The boy behind me is still oblivious as he asks his father what's wrong before I raise my index at him with a resigned sigh. Such an idiot.
"Oh shit!" he exclaims while grabbing ahold of my hand, pulling it closer to his face. "That cut is hella deep. I'm so sorry. Come on, I'll get you some band-aids."
He turns with his hand still holding mine and immediately makes his way towards the door of the studio, dragging me as I stumble with him. I turn my head, mouth agape, to stare at the professor–this boy's supposed father–only to see him scratching his head at us as we retreat from his view.
I exhale in a resentful sort of way before wrenching my hand back out of his grip. "I'm fine," I call to him as he presses the "up" button on the elevator out in the hall.
"You're not fine; you're bleeding."
The boy, or Jasper, as Professor Whitlock called him, doesn't answer my retort. He merely makes a face at my indignation and crosses his arms while waiting for the lift to reach our floor. I stand back several feet, making sure to keep space between us. I'm not comfortable around this person at all, for he's too comfortable, and that makes me nervous. He isn't even fazed by the blood. And who throws their arms around a complete stranger? This boy apparently has no qualms about invading someone else's personal space. Nothing could offend me more.
And by offend, I mean make me blush and hate myself for it.
The door to the elevator slides open as the chime dings its arrival. Jasper arches a welcoming eyebrow and nods his head towards it. He is letting me go first, like a gentleman would a lady. Odd.
I don't let myself think too much of his mannerly ways before stepping into the small, confined space with him and holding my breath as the doors close.
I hate small spaces.
"Breathe," Jasper says to my left, sounding closer than I had expected. I jump slightly at the sound, and Jasper chuckles. I blush, again, despite myself.
Trying to calm down, I focus on the numbers ticking by as we ascend. Level 8 is the highest we're allowed to venture as students, so when the lift goes right on past 8 and 9, heading towards the top floor, I shift on my heels somewhat nervously. I'm going to have to ask him why we're going so far for a simple band-aid, and speaking isn't a favorite pastime of mine.
"Uhh," is my brilliant, oh-so-eloquent, opener. "Why are we–"
"Shortcut to my place. Well, my father's. There's a bridge connecting the buildings from the roof. My father and some of the other professors live next door in the co-op. It's easier to go this way then heading all the way down to the lobby and walking over, only to have to take another elevator. Besides, don't you hate them?"
Jasper looks at me with a warm smile, and I blink back at him in confusion. How does he know? Or was that question meant to be rhetorical?
I'll never get to ask, since the elevator dings the second I open my mouth, signaling our arrival to the top floor. What the doors reveal makes me gasp.
The previously uncharted hallway is lined entirely with glass windows on the opposite side of the lifts. They all look out on a quiet and simple roof garden, complete with deck chairs and a telescope for stargazing (or to enable someone's voyeuristic tendencies).
"Why aren't the students allowed up here?" I ask, mostly to myself. I feel immediate anger at the lack of common space we students are given at the academy. This simple little roof haven would be a very nice place to get some much needed fresh air after spending hours in the pungent studios of the lower floors.
"It's reserved for the professors. What a bitch, right?"
Again with the rhetorical questions. I nod my agreement, and Jasper once again gestures for me to go first. I try to hide my smile as I walk out onto the roof.
"This way," Jasper calls as he leaps effortlessly over a bank of potted shrubs. When I attempt this maneuver, my momentum manages to die mid flight, and I land splayed across the shrubs, with pine needles in my ass.
Grumbling, I try to nonchalantly eradicate myself from the heinous shrubbery, only to have my legs stretch as my body sinks further into the needles.
ow. ow. ow. ow.
To Jasper's credit, he doesn't laugh when he sees me spread eagle in the bushes. Instead, he moseys over to me like a god dammed cowboy and offers me his hand. I grimace up at him and his chivalry before taking his outstretched hand and allowing him to pull me up and over the evil plotted plants.
The strength I gain by being pulled from the foliage of pointy, prickly wrath only serves its purpose for about two seconds, since I manage to right myself, but then continue to fall directly into Jasper's chest with a loud, "Ouf!"
We stagger and stumble for a moment, my nose somehow squished in between Jasper's pearl-snapped shirt and warm skin. It's only when I regain my footing that I realize I face-planted directly inside his shirt from the few buttons he'd left undone at the collar. The image is complete as my arms flail at my sides.
Great. This isn't insanely humiliating or anything. I do this all the time with strangers. It's my way of greeting, like a dog sniffing a fellow canine's ass.
Jasper chuckles in an uncomfortable sort of way as his hands tighten around my shoulders and ease my face out of his shirt. I keep my head ducked once all limbs are rightly placed on the ground and my face is back where it belongs.
"Thanks," I say, chancing a look at the boy in front of me, embarrassed beyond all reason at this point. Jasper simply smiles and walks ahead, leading me towards god knows where.
Soon, I find myself in a large, open space that's been turned into a maze, thanks to the never ending bookshelves, sofas, poufs, side tables, and lamps that are strewn about the place. The dark, warm wood of the furniture clashes oddly with the industrial feel of the exposed vents and large, floor-to-ceiling factory windows in the apartment. I hadn't anticipated anything as bizarre as the walking bridge between the buildings, outfitted with what look like French street lamps and stained glass. The academy has never seemed more exotic than it does today.
"One thing after another," I comment to myself while eyeing a book I recognize on the shelf. My fingers twitch to touch it, and I then realize why I'm here. My finger. The cut. The pain had subsided for the most part during the adventurous, cringe-inducing journey we took getting here. I'd almost forgotten.
Something warm and wet touches my skin, and I flinch away, hitting my hand on the shelf in front of me.
"Fuck!" I shout. The pain is most definitely back now, and I cradle my hand to my chest, rocking slightly.
"Shit. Sorry, it was just a wash cloth."
I look over at Jasper; he's holding his hands out in front of him, showing me the wet towel. I shut my eyes and try not to lose my temper. I'm not angry at him, but rather at myself and my ardent stupidity.
"The blood," Jasper says, pulling me from my internal countdown of 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. My eyes fly open and I stare down at my shirt, now covered in spots of the dark red liquid.
"Come on," he says, once again taking hold of me and dragging me with him. He never asks permission, I realize.
In the cramped kitchen, he quickly brings me to the sink and turns on the faucet. He then takes my hand, again without asking, and puts it under the water, effectively washing away the blood. Or at least attempting to.
"It's not stopping, dammit," he curses after a few moments, and turns off the tap. I stare at him in disbelief. Why does he care so much? And why is he treating me like a child? I'm a grown man; I can hold my own damn hand under a stream of water.
Jasper moves my hand towards his face, inspecting the damage. I sigh and bow my head, sick of the attention this odd boy is giving me. I focus on the Dutch tiles of the kitchen floor, allowing the white and blue to blur in front of me as I attempt to zone out of the situation.
I'm rocketed back into the present the next second, when I feel heat and softness envelop me. Or, more accurately, my index finger on my left hand. My head snaps up in shock. What is he doing?
Jasper's eyes are closed, and a crease is present between his brows. When his head tilts to the side and I feel his tongue press fully against the length of my finger, my eyelids fall shut and I moan, despite myself. The warmth and the wetness, mixed with the push and pull of contrasting pressures in his mouth, are in danger of making my knees buckle. I lean my body against the counter and press my head into the curve of his shoulder, drunk on the sensation, unaware of my actions.
The unimaginable feeling of heat stops the moment my body touches his, and I jump back, anxious. "What are you doing?" he asks. I blush furiously.
"Um... I..." I can't think of anything to say. I simply stare back at Jasper, whose eyes are dilated with shock or hatred—something I can't pinpoint, and yet he won't let go of my hand, so I can't flee like my body is telling me to.
"I'm sorry," I manage to push out of my slack jaw. "I haven't eaten anything today. I felt faint just then."
"You felt faint?" Jasper asks, arching his eyebrow. I nod back, too nervous to speak, too scared to voice any type of explanation. I try to force my limbs away from this strangely intoxicating and now angry man, but he won't let me go.
I jerk out of his grasp after the third try and turn from him, moving out back towards the living room and the maze of bookshelves beyond.
"Wait!" he calls, but I shake my head, pushing his voice out of my ears.
I turn past the bookshelf where I had hit my hand. I run past the bank of windows that line the far wall. I turn again into the rows of shelves, looking for the door that isn't in the corner where it's supposed to be. "Shit," I curse, turning around in the middle of an aisle. Why did this apartment have to be so large?
"Hey." I hear Jasper's voice at the end of the row of books, and my body freezes. His tone is clipped, tense. I instinctively want to run, but I'm rooted to the spot. I turn my head, searching out his angry gaze, willing myself not to cringe—not to seem weaker than I already appear.
In three strides he's beside me, his breathing heavy, his body close. I take a quick mental assessment of how well I'd do in a fight against him. He's taller than I am, but only by a few inches. He's slight, but muscled. Compact. He could most certainly hurt me if he wanted to. I pray it doesn't come to that.
"I'm sorry," I apologize again, wanting to quell his anger.
"Why?" he asks, his voice strained and small. I look to my right, confused. Why does sound upset?
"You're upset?" I ask, wondering about his tone, but he thinks I'm explaining my apology.
"No. Well, I'm concerned... you just... yes, I'm upset," he rambles, looking directly at me. His eyes bore into mine, demanding honesty, and I turn from him, embarrassed once more. His emotions are unsettling.
A minute passes with no words spoken. I stand, frozen, and stare at the books in front of me. A series of Russian dictionaries and an out-of-place volume on the American Civil War stare back at me. Their quiet, solitary bindings mock me in my quaking anxiety, but what else do I have to distract myself with? Jasper is at my right, inches from my side. His breath fans across my neck with each passing moment, and I beg myself to stay lucid. To not give in and close my eyes, to not breathe in his scent, to not lean into him.
The tension swells to an unbearable silence, to the point where I want to scream. He's waiting calmly at my side, intimidating me with every breath, and I want to pummel him for his patience.
Finally, I find the willpower within myself to turn from him. "I should go."
"Stay!" he practically shouts, but this time, the hand that tries to stop me does not grab my own. Instead, I feel his fingers on my neck, and I freeze again, mid-stride. His hand doesn't clamp down around my throat like I expect, but falls to my shoulder and gives it a gentle squeeze. It's a gesture I associate with reassurance, not fear, yet I can't shake the sensation of his cold fingers drifting over my skin.
"Stay," he repeats, and I close my eyes, bartering with my body to move. To walk away from him.
"You're an artist, right? I know what you need," he taunts before I feel him move behind me.
His footsteps tell me he's walking away, back into the depths of the apartment. He's expecting me to follow.
I ball my hands into fists at my sides and command myself to leave. So, why am I walking in his wake? Why am I following him? I brush off my own ponderings, too chicken even to answer my own questions.
He leads me to another part of the apartment I haven't seen, with more floor-to-ceiling windows, mismatched furniture, and even more books. The one startling difference... there's a bed. It's shoved up against the windows, next to a moth-eaten sofa, where Jasper sits.
I eye the ochre-colored bedspread with a nervous glance; I don't like other people's bedrooms. I also hope this isn't my professor's room. I feel uncomfortable enough around him as it is. Knowing where that insufferable man sleeps is not something I aspire to learn.
Without my say so, I snort at the thought. It seems my brain is no longer sending signals to my body, but instead is flying solo. My theory is proven the next second when my snort turns into an embarrassing bout of little giggles that I literally have to hid behind my hand, like a damn girl.
"Hideous, isn't it?" Jasper asks, making me flinch. My giggles die in my throat, and I look at him for the first time since the bookshelves to assess what he's talking about. He answers my unasked question. "The bedspread. That color? Butt ugly. Am I right?" The easygoing smile I saw in the studio is back on his face, but it feels like he's trying this time. Like it's not so easy. I nod at him for lack of a better thing to do and let my eyes fall to a guitar in the corner. It didn't escape my notice that he was fooling with some sort of exotic looking contraption before I turned my eyes away, and I can hear the crinkling of—leaves, maybe?—coming from where he's seated.
The walls in this room, the ones that aren't covered in more bookshelves, are a dark, exposed brick. "I'm so glad no one painted them," I say to myself, grateful that they haven't been covered in the requisite white wash that most landlords slap on the beautiful old red blocks these days.
"Hmm?" Jasper hums, a tentacle of the contraption now dangling from his lips. I can't bring myself to answer; the image in front of me is startling.
"What is that?"
"A hookah," Jasper says with a smile, before it turns to a frown. "Wait, you've never seen a hookah? Shit, haven't you ever watched Alice in Wonderland?"
I shake my head at him and attempt to shove my hands in my pockets. It's only when I push my fingers past the tight denim of my jeans that I feel the pain flare up again in my finger. I quickly withdraw my hand from my jeans pocket and curse a strangled cry, turning from Jasper.
"Damn," he says before I see him jog from the room and down the hall out of the corner of my eye. Before I know it, he's at my side and once again cradling my hand in his own. I'm hesitant to let him touch me this time, scared of my reaction to his closeness, and even more frightened of his reactions to me. He did not seem pleased the last time I slipped up and gave into my urges.
"I promised you a band-aid, didn't I?"
I exhale in a laughing sort of way, nervous and on edge. He's warm and present, the crease of concern back between his brows. He gently wraps the oversized band-aid around my poor, abused finger, and I hold my breath, willing myself to stay calm. A minute passes, and he doesn't release me from his grasp. The longer we stand face to face, the less I breathe.
"I don't know your name," Jasper notes, breaking the silence between us, and I gasp for a much-needed breath of air. I've started to feel faint, and the gulp of oxygen doesn't help. My head spins, and I sway on my feet. Jasper's hands grasp my shoulders, steadying me. "You okay?"
I nod a few quick times and try to move away from him, but again, he won't let me go. I stare down at one of his hands, warm and coiled around my upper arm. I decide then and there to throw his words back at him, "What are you doing?" I ask.
This time, it's Jasper's turn to jerk away from me. He releases my arms, and I see the forced smile appear again on his lips. "Just making sure you don't fall."
Another charged silence follows. I've been in this apartment for no more than ten minutes, spoken fewer than twenty words to this guy, and I'm exhausted from the effort. I sigh, exasperated, and turn to sit on the sofa that Jasper had previously occupied.
"Okay, how does this thing work?" I ask, attempting to make conversation. Something I never do.
"I'll show you as soon as you tell me your name," Jasper drawls, piquing my interest. His voice is a dangerous weapon, thick with charm.
"Edward," I tell him, refusing to drop my eyes this time. I want him to be the first one to look away, the first one to blush and duck his head. But he isn't. Instead, he walks towards the sofa and sits down, unbearably close to me. I feel his body heat coming off of him in waves, and I again have to keep my emotions in check. I don't like being this unnerved by someone. I like being in control of my body's reactions to things, but today the part of my brain that allows me to keep things in check has most definitely taken a vacation. Traitor.
"Well... Edward," Jasper says, putting extra emphasis on my name as if it's a treat to do so, "this right here is not only a hookah. It's a tool." His voice holds a bit of whimsy; he's clearly being tongue-in-cheek.
"A tool?" I repeat.
"Yes, a tool. A mellowing-out kind of tool."
I try to hold back a small laugh. "We need to stop saying 'tool.'" I'd never realized it, but "tool" is an annoying-ass word. No wonder people universally associate it with douche bags.
Jasper smiles at my strangled laughter, and as opposed to expanding on what exactly this hookah is supposed to be, tool wise, he pulls out a lighter and lights the leaves before handing me another tentacle.
"That's a pipe. Give it a minute and then take a drag," he says while smiling. All I can focus on is the heat of his body next to mine, and the confusion I feel over his behavior. He was angry before, genuinely angry, and now he's smiling and wants to get high? I shake my head and sigh, turning my attention to this strange instrument in front of me. The "pipe" I'm holding is finished at the top with a copper mouth piece, and connects back to the main body of the hookah with what looks like a thick, woven fabric surrounding a hose. As I sit and study its eccentric beauty, I feel it warm beneath my hands, and I smile, fascinated.
"Go ahead," Jasper urges in a soothing voice, and I don't even think twice before bringing the pipe to my lips and pulling in a drag of smoke. "Hold it," he tells me when I've had my fill, and I do, sitting up straight and closing my eyes, concentrating on not letting the burn in the back of my throat overtake me.
About fifteen seconds pass before I can't take it anymore, and I have to exhale. Jasper, somehow sensing my need for relief, puts his hand, firm and steady, directly in between my shoulder blades, silently telling me to breathe. But when the warmth of his hand sears through the flimsy fabric of my threadbare t-shirt, I no longer care about the amount of oxygen not making its way towards my brain; I'm focused solely on the tingling sensation his touch creates. Instead of releasing the smoke slowly from my lungs, I cough it out in several harsh rasps, falling forward. Jasper moves with me, putting his other hand on my shoulder, steadying me again.
Why does he touch me so much? I wonder. I hate it and somehow crave it, simultaneously. I've known this person for less than an hour, and I crave his touch? My god, that's not good, I tell myself as I try not to gag from the smoke still trying to force its way out of me.
"You okay?" he asks, his breath on my ear. I shiver and try to move away, but his hands are on me, making my movement pointless. My head is dizzy, albeit in a calm, clear sort of way, and I let my upper body fall back onto the sofa, leaning my head back on the worn upholstery. Staring up at the ceiling, I stay impossibly still while the dizzy, light-headed feeling moves through my body, ending in the tingling tips of my fingers.
"Well, damn," I say. "That was... damn." My eloquence has apparently taken a rain check. Or maybe it's on vacation with my brain signals? I can't find it in myself to care.
Jasper chuckles next to me, deep and sweet, before I feel his body expand as he takes a drag off of his own pipe. For a moment, I find it odd that I can feel his body movements so clearly, but then I loll my head towards him and realize his arm, the one that had previously been supporting my back, is wrapped around me, his side plastered to mine. My head has fallen to his shoulder, and I find myself smiling into his neck, breathing in his scent as he holds his own breath, the smoke now thick in his lungs.
When he exhales, I turn my head outward, watching the smoke rings he creates with each little push of his diaphragm. His head falls to the side, leaning on my own, and with each release of smoke, we slump further on the couch.
"Here," he says a moment later, handing me his pipe–mine has been forgotten on the couch cushion next to me. I take it from his hand, our fingers grazing, creating a little tingle between our bodies. I freely smile at the feeling.
For the next five minutes or so, we take turns taking drags using the same pipe. All semblance of tension has left our bodies as we become more entangled in each other on the sofa. What started as a confusing and stiff beginning to this strange smoking session has turned into a relaxed and comforting span of time in which I can't imagine moving or wanting to do anything else except stay here, pressed close to Jasper, staring at the patterns of the brick on the walls.
Jasper's thigh presses into mine and I push back. I think he's trying to get my attention, but I don't care. I enter into this war of push and pull with him as we start laughing like fools on the sofa about nothing at all. Such is the nature of getting high; something or other triggers an infectious bout of inevitable laughter. What does it for us is this ridiculous game of pressing into each other. I see it for what it is—an excuse to touch, tease, feel—but at this point, I can't bring myself to care or question, only to enjoy.
I throw my leg over his, my thigh resting over his knee, attempting to stop this faux battle, but Jasper grabs my thigh and pulls me further towards him. My head slides down to the arm of the sofa as my body goes horizontal and Jasper looms over me. There's a devious glint blatant in Jasper's gaze as he stares down at me, his hand still very present on my upper thigh. He squeezes my leg, and my entire body jolts with a shock. I go rigid for a full second before slumping further into my lounged position and staring at Jasper in disbelief. He's smiling lazily down at me, his pupils dilated.
"Do it again," I breathe, switching my attention to his hand on my thigh. I watch as his fingers dig into my leg, through my jeans, with just the right amount of pressure. The jolt this time is more prolonged, and I can feel it in my toes and belly, tight and good. I moan out, arching my back when Jasper does it again without my needing to ask.
Our giggles die, replaced by our quickened pulses and sharp breaths. Jasper's elbow buckles, his strength to hold himself up gone, and he falls onto my belly in an inelegant plop. I laugh at his waves of caramel and sand colored hair, bouncing with his movement, and I bring a hand up to push the stray locks out of his eyes. The gesture is involuntary, but it causes Jasper's smile to dim, and I retract my hand, self-conscious once more.
"No," he commands, crawling up my stomach a bit, his chin coming to rest on my chest, his eyes opening and closing in a slow rhythm before me. "I liked that," he tells me with a slight drawl to his speech. His fatigue is evident, and even as I notice his tired eyes, I feel my own eyelids starting to fall.
"Okay," I tell him, my eyes closing as my fingers weave their way into Jasper's soft hair again. We both sigh, relaxing further into each other's bodies. I can feel every angular plane of Jasper's torso pressed into mine and the weight of his arms draped around me. My hands tangle and tease in Jasper's hair, hopefully soothing him. His breathing evens with every gentle run of my hands, and soft, appreciative sounds come from his mouth. I smile as sleep overtakes me, feeling content, my nerves at peace.
Clang, clang, clang, clang... cuts through my sleepy brain, and I try to move away from the noise, holding on tighter to the large pillow on top of me. The pillow does the same, curling further around me, cringing at the noise. This is strange, since I'm pretty sure pillows aren't supposed to move independently, so I tell said pillow, in a voice thick with sleep, to please stop defying the laws of physics.
The pillow grunts and nuzzles its head into the crook of my neck. Again, pillows don't have heads, nor do they possess the ability to nuzzle.
Clang, clang, clang, clang...
What the hell is happening? I open my eyes and squint, only to see a body on top of me. The scent of potent haze is still permeating the air, and that alone reminds me of where I am, and who I'm with.
"Ehem," someone says to our right, and I turn my head, my eyes not wanting to open further than a sliver, searching out the source of the noise.
I blanch at what I see: my professor, standing in the doorway, with his cane clanging in between the rungs of the furnace nearby. His other hand is on his hip, and one of his eyebrows is raised.
"Jasper," I say, warning clear in my tone. All I hear from him is a small hum before his hot breath fans across my neck, his lips desperately close. I close my eyes, shutting out the sight of his father in the doorway, and try to calm my suddenly aware—achingly aware—body. "Jasper," I say again, shaking his shoulders, willing him to please wake up. Instead, he scoots up my torso a fraction of an inch more, his lips moving across my throat, wet and warm. I gulp, praying that I don't moan with his father in the room.
"Oh come on, Jasper!" Prof. Whitlock calls to his oblivious son, and his body finally jerks with awareness above me. He peeks out from under my neck at his father for only a second before he turns his head and buries it again into the curve of my neck.
"Mornin' pop," he mumbles into my skin, making me shiver. My anxiety is growing with each second, since I'm pinned beneath this extremely uninhibited boy, with no hope of being able to crawl into a hole of embarrassment any time soon.
"It's seven in the evening," Prof. Whitlock retorts, his accent slipping. I continue to stare at my toes, wondering when I kicked off my shoes. If I focus on something other than this extremely uncomfortable situation I've found myself in, maybe I won't self combust.
A minute passes. No one says anything. The tension in the room could be hacked away at with a chainsaw at this point, and it still wouldn't dissipate. I just stare at my toes.
My toes don't judge me; my toes are my friends. I have ten of them... they're pale... ten pale toes.
Prof. Whitlock sighs. "Oh, for Christ's sake. Fine. Ignore me." I can practically feel him throwing his hands in the air in defeat as he speaks. "I'm gonna go start dinner, and I expect to see you BOTH in the kitchen in une demi-heure.* And clean out that damn hookah! Letting the resin burn too long in the bowl ruins the tarnish," he explains in an exasperated tone. I hear him turn to leave before he yells back at us from the hallway, "I hope your finger feels better, Edward."
"Oh. My. God," I breathe out as I slump impossibly further into the sofa cushions, hoping to eventually just melt into them. I can feel Jasper vibrating with silent laughter on top of me, and I shove at him in frustration. "It's not funny!"
"Ha, yes it is," he says as he climbs off of me. The loss of his weight pressing down on my body makes me utter a pathetic whimper. This does not escape his attention, and he turns to smile crookedly back at me.
I blush red and smile... a little.
His subsequent, self-satisfied smirk tells me all I need to know, and I stand up, swaying, unsteady on my feet. There's a crick in my neck from having slept with my head at an odd angle, and whatever semblance of peace I felt when we had fallen asleep has been completely erased at this point. I'm so uncomfortable, it's painful.
Jasper, apparently sensing my unease, steps behind me, his hands coming down on the curve of my shoulders. "Shh..." he tells me as he starts to work knots out of my angry muscles. I slump completely at his touch, my body going limp against his. I don't really trust my lack of control around him. I have no hesitations, no social clues to keep me safe from ridicule.
"Uhh..." I try to say, but it comes out as a moan. Jasper chuckles behind me.
I try again. "Um, your dad?"
Jasper snorts and then pulls me back until I feel like I'm falling. Which I am, apparently. Our bodies plop half on top of each other back on the sofa as Jasper continues to laugh at my seemingly innocent question. I stare at him, waiting for him to finish.
"You noticed, huh?" he finally says, and it's my turn to snort. Jasper's eyes turn hard at my lack of respect towards his father and I choke on air, trying to stop myself from laughing further, suddenly scared that I might have insulted him. When Jasper sees my face, he smirks.
"You're too easy," he says.
"Wait, you just got all angry," I say, pointing at his face, expecting the tension to return to his features.
"Nope, I was just messin' with ya."
"Dude, not cool." Like my anxiety isn't spiked enough on a regular basis. Jesus, man.
He continues to smile at me—a dazed, adorable smile. "Sorry. Can I make it up to you by trying to explain my crazy-ass father?"
I nod, my mouth feeling too dry to speak. Odd.
Jasper shrugs before launching into a rather colorful story about his father being an ardent Francophile and how he slowly developed an accent while learning the language. I lose interest halfway through his tale for some unknown reason–I'm normally a very good listener–and slump into him again, tracing little patterns on his thigh with my finger. Jasper doesn't seem to care, so I continue as I listen to his voice and not the story behind it.
"Boys!" Prof. Whitlock shouts from the recesses of the apartment, some five–or maybe ten–minutes later. Jasper laughs beside me, grabs my hand, and drags me to the door. I sigh, resigned to the inevitable, and follow him.
This will be a rather interesting dinner, I tell myself.
And by interesting, I mean, fuckuncomfortable, wherein many laughs will be had at my expense by Jasper.
Despite my nerves about the impending torture-fest, it has not escaped my notice that Jasper still has my hand in his as we enter the kitchen. I smile down at our fingers intertwined and try to force myself to stay calm as Prof. Whitlock gestures for us to sit with a flamboyant wave of his hand.
It doesn't work. I snort, but so does Jasper, and suddenly, I don't feel as out of place as I normally would. When I see Prof. Whitlock eyeing the two of us with a curious smile, however, I almost miss my chair and land hard only half on the seat, my left butt cheek seriously angry with me.
Jasper drops my hand to hide his smile and I give him a look. Will my humiliation ever end?
Resigned to the fact that I'm in this for the long haul, I take a deep breath and say "fuck it," to no one before placing my napkin in my lap like the proper boy my Grandma raised me to be. Jasper and my Professor start at my language but don't comment. The dinner continues, and for a while, things feel almost... normal.
Everything seems to go fine until Jasper decides to grace us with a rehashing of my ass-meeting-plant stunt without so much as a sideways glance in form of warning to me.
"Hey pops, you should have seen Edward today. He did a full on spread eagle over the potted plants up on the roof."
At that exact moment, the sip of Bordeaux I'm gingerly trying to swallow decides not to go down my throat like I'd planned, but instead is sprayed from my mouth and all over the unfortunate soul in front of me...
He wipes his face with his napkin as I stare at him slack-jawed in horror. At my side, Jasper is vibrating into his napkin with silent laughter, and I can't help but blush red at the idiot I've just made myself.
I drop my face into my hands, tugging at my hair... well, shit.
One painful minute of silence goes by before Jasper clears his throat at my side, and I pick up my head. He's holding the wine bottle aloft in his hand and gesturing to me with a smirk on his face.
I roll my eyes and grab the bottle out of his hand before refilling my glass.
Is that even a question? Yes, I need more wine. I'm gonna need all the libation I can get tonight.
(edit: I forgot to add this the first time) * une demi-heure = a half an hour.
A/N: Beta'd by Galla... *hugs* Thank you for the hand-holding, and your constant reassurance.
Believe me, there was a lot of hand-holding going on. Some footsie as well, but that's inevitable. Galla's just too cute.
Thank you to Manyafandom and AngstGoddess003 for hosting this contest. It was fun playing with an awkward Edward, and having the excuse to talk about Alice in Wonderland and hookahs in a fic.
And thanks to y'all for reading.