Just a little AH Edward/Jasper oneshot. Here be boy-on-boy slash. Possible tissue warning. If that's not your cup of tea I suggest you go and check out some of my other fics or my favourites list. If it is, hope you enjoy it! Reviews are highly appreciated.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of Stephenie Meyer. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. I sadly don't own Edward and Jasper. If I did I'd be watching them, js.

** Much love to my dirty little friend venis-envy for the beta job, spending hours plot-pounding with me and insisting on more coming. And to Alverdine, who is never afraid to tell me what she thinks. My work is invariably better for it. **


I tilt the glass to my lips, savouring the taste: mint, cedar, spice. I drink it down, relishing the slow, sharp burn as the whiskey works its way inside me, searing away at least a little of the numbness. The hot, dark amber is soothing as it slips down my throat, and for a moment, I imagine that he's still here. That any minute I'll turn my head from the bar stool and see him smile at me, feel his warm hand slip into mine, and hear him order his usual - just a plain old beer. He never quite acquired my taste for whiskey, something I'd often tease him about. Now I'd give anything to have him here drinking his watered-down-piss beer and running a hand through his burnished copper hair; that nervous habit I always adored on him.

The bar is packed with drunken laughter and an air of happiness and contentment. It's just under a month until Christmas, and traces are everywhere: tinsel, the tree by the bar strung with colourful lights, the frost clinging to the window frame. It's the end of the working week, everybody coming together to enjoy the preamble to the weekend. This stings me more than it might, because usually, he would be here. We'd be sitting over in the usual corner with friends, laughing and talking as we let alcohol wash away the week's stresses. Even while absorbed in conversation with others, our eyes would meet from time to time in a silent promise of later. A promise of heated sweat-slick skin against cool sheets and hot, hard kisses as bodies, hands and mouths moved together.

Edward. My lips form the syllables of that oh-so-familiar name automatically, even if I do not verbalise them. It tastes harsh and bitter on my tongue, like unripe fruit or milk that's soured, a far cry from the sweetness it once held for me. Sitting in a bar alone downing whiskies sounds like something out of an old country song, but at least it's a break from the routine. I've already spent fifteen days barely acknowledging my co-workers, and fifteen nights lying on his side of the bed hardly sleeping, wrapped in sheets that still faintly smell like him. I haven't dreamt since he left. And then there are those moments in the shower when I give in desperately to a need for comfort, imagining it's him instead of my own hand until I'm spilling myself over the tiles, fighting back the tears in my eyes.

I drain the last of my drink and hand the glass to the barkeep. He knows Edward and I, and must have wondered why neither of us have been in here for the past couple of weeks. However, I don't want to tell him anything. The more people I tell, the more real it seems, and for now, I'm happy to cloak myself in the sad desperation of denial.

"You okay, man?" he asks, and I nod silently despite the fact my stomach is tying itself in knots on the inside.

"I'm fine, really." He shoots me a sympathetic glance that I pretend not to see, and I heave myself off the stool. "Have a good night."

As I make my way to the door, I try not to look at the smiling faces, luminous in the dim lights, full of promise and excitement for their futures. Everyone's swept up in the post-Thanksgiving-pre-Christmas vibe, and I realise that being around people is too much for me right now. It reminds me of everything I won't be doing. Edward and I missed our usual Thanksgiving dinner at my Mom's house last weekend. And when Christmas rolls around, we won't be putting up our tree, exchanging presents, or fucking with abandon in our living room until the fire burns low in the grate.

As I push the door open, a wave of icy, freezing air hits me, and I choke back a sob that dies in my throat just as quickly.

I miss you.

The snow is thick on the ground and it's been compacted by all the feet that have traversed it throughout the day, turning it to treacherous ice. One boot slides a little on the path, and I tread carefully as I begin to make my way home. The air's crisp, and despite its chill, it reawakens my alcohol-fuddled brain. Not that this brings me any comfort, for it only brings back the memories I've spent the past two hours trying to ignore.

.-.-.-.-.-.

"What?" I snapped in irritation, pushing my glasses up my nose as I looked up from the dull spreadsheet I was currently scrutinising. His face fell, and I winced. "Sorry. I just have to finish this. You don't have to wait up."

"Jasper, come on – come to bed. You look exhausted."

In spite of myself, a wave of anger surged through me.

"Thanks," I spat, the barb coming out far more sharply than I intended it to.

"You know I didn't mean it like that. I'm just worried that you're running yourself into the ground."

"I'm not, I really just have to finish this," I protested with a heavy sigh.

"Jasper, you're shutting me out. It's been happening for weeks, months – and I just left you to it. I thought to myself 'He'll come around. He'll want to spend time with me again.' But it didn't happen, and whatever's going on with you, you haven't even talked to me about it. I don't know how to help you, because all you do is push me away."

"Don't say that." It came out feebly, no conviction in my words because deep down, I knew he had a right to say those things.

"Why not? I don't know what the fuck's going on with you these days. It's like you're frozen. That job's sucking the life out of you. I have no idea what happened to the idealistic Jasper who used to talk about making a difference all the time. That's the one I fell for – I don't know who this one is. I know you hate what you do, but you never used to mind so much until you got that promotion."

Six months ago, I'd been promoted to assistant manager of human resources within the dull, faceless corporation I worked for. It was soulless stuff – dealing with the payroll, staff contracts, wages, redundancies, but it was a fair bit more money. At the time, we'd welcomed it, given that we wouldn't struggle with the bills so much. However, my boss started to demand more and more of me, and slowly, I'd started pushing my home life to the side in favour of work. When I did spend time with Edward, all I did was complain.

"Well, being the assistant manager means, apparently, I have to do most of my supervisor's work as well as my own. You know this. You know how hard they've been working me."

"Don't give me that," he said harshly, and for the first time, his eyes held a hint of contempt. "People always make time for the things that are important to them, no matter how busy they are. And right now, frankly, I'm feeling pretty damn neglected."

I got up from my chair and passed a hand over my eyes, consumed with guilt, for I knew everything he was saying was true. But at the same time, this poisonous weed inside me insisted that he was only making it harder, and putting added stress on me at a time where I didn't need any more.

"Can you even remember the last time we had sex?"

That one threw me. My mind was blank, unable to even recall the last time it had happened.

"Of course you wouldn't remember," he says with a sigh, his hands sinking into his pockets. "It was almost five months ago."

That surprised me. I hadn't even realised it had been that long, and I was lost for words. Of course, the occasional drought in a relationship is normal, but not for me and Edward. Not that long, anyway. I pushed back my chair, crossing the floor until I was just inches from him. I ran my fingers down the edges of his face, tracing his jaw line, and his hand found mine, holding it there.

"I'm sorry," I told him quietly. "That isn't what I want. I miss it. Don't think I don't."

"Then come to bed now," he whispered, his hand travelling to my neck. As his fingertips touched the sensitive skin there, I shuddered. I let my own hands wind round the nape of his neck and then brought my lips to his, too wrung-out to deny myself the comfort any longer. He let out a sharp breath into my mouth, obviously surprised at my willingness. I can't deny that the knowledge of that hurt me a little, although that started to fade when his hot, hungry mouth melded with my own, drawing me into a sweet yet desperate kiss. Knotting my fingers into his hair, I could almost feel how much he was aching by how tightly his body was pressed into mine and the eagerness of his lips as we kissed.

Slowly, I felt myself starting to relax, the knots unwinding at the base of my spine under the warm touches that he so selflessly offered . It had been too long since we'd hugged like that, kissed like that, and I wanted so much to show him that he was wrong, that he was important, that I needed this as much as he did. Unfortunately, I was torn from my reverie by a soft pinging noise in the background. Edward's lips paused on my own, and I blinked, realising that it was my laptop.

"What?" he murmurs distractedly.

"Just an email," I say breathlessly, twisting round so my eyes flickered towards the screen.

"Leave it," he said, and his hands pressed into my lower back in an insistent touch at the same moment I wriggled out of his grasp, seized by a sudden guilt over my unfinished work.

"It's probably work with something about tomorrow's project meeting. I shouldn't. It might be important." As I turned back to him, I could see the disappointment in his eyes, and was just in time to catch the flicker of contempt that passed over his face. It stung me, and suddenly there was nothing more I wanted than to just go back to this and get it done, so that I could find out what the hell was going on with us without any distractions.

"Of course," he said, stepping back from me, his voice heavy with a sarcasm that wasn't his own. "I forgot. Nothing's more important than that."

The hurt in his eyes wrenched something deep inside me, but I didn't move. It would be so easy just to give in, but I was nearly done with this, and if I didn't have my reports ready, my boss would rip me a new one in the morning. I held up my hands, trying to say something, anything that might make Edward understand that I'd be there as soon as I could.

"Just give me half an hour. I have to finish this."

"Fine. Whatever's more important to you, like I say." Irritation spiked at those words. I couldn't help being pissed off that he was trying to emotionally blackmail me – that wasn't Edward. It was at that moment I wondered what I'd turned him into. I remained silent, and turned back to my hated task. Rushing through it, I managed to finish in fifteen minutes, shut off the laptop and head through to the bedroom. I expected that Edward would be pretending to be asleep in annoyance, but I could hopefully either talk him out of it, or...well, maybe something other than talking. I wasn't prepared for the sight that greeted me. He was sitting on the edge of the bed fully dressed, staring at the carpet as if it were the most fascinating sight in the world.

"What? I was faster than I said I would be."

"I didn't want you to say half an hour," he said wearily, looking up at me. "I didn't want you to say you shouldn't. For once, I wanted you to put me first, and you proved just then that you won't. Do you know how fucking awful that feels?"

"Why don't you just leave then, Edward?" I shouted, losing my temper. "If I'm making you that unhappy, just go."

I never expected he would.

"I will, then. Because I'll tell you something, I can't stand living like this any more."

Those words stung me deeply, and blinded by my own wounded pride, I just let him go. When he yanked the drawers open, shoving some things into a bag, I let him. I didn't go after him, tell him that I was sorry for being such a fucking misery day in and day out, explain that it wasn't his fault that I wasn't happy with the way my life was going. I just sat there in silence, watching while the only person I'd ever loved walked out the door.

.-.-.-.-.-.

I'd met Edward Masen in my second year of college at Northwestern when we'd attended a showing of Walk The Line, the Johnny Cash biopic, at the first meeting of the film society. He'd confessed afterwards that he was studying music at the Chicago College of Performing Arts and had gatecrashed the event. He told me then he wasn't much of a Cash fan but had enjoyed the film regardless, which sort of amused me. During a cup of coffee afterwards, I'd teased him about his lack of knowledge of country music considering I'd pretty much been raised on those songs during my Texas upbringing. We never went to another meeting, but the bond between us had been forged already. Over the coming weeks and months we grew closer, meeting between classes here and there. I began to uncover all the beautiful nuances of this boy who'd at first seemed so shy and quiet.

I learned that Edward had an insane addiction to cinnamon cappuccinos, a pathological dislike of exercise that somehow granted him a slim, muscular physique anyway, and a hilariously filthy sense of humour once you got to know him. At the heart of him, though, I came to discover, was his music. When Edward plays, emotion pours from every fingertip into the piece of music he's so painstakingly created. One of the hardest things about him not being here is seeing the piano standing silent in the corner, unplayed, untouched. Not hearing the notes soar as his long fingers play over the keys, my heart near-aching with the beauty of the music he forms so effortlessly.

Upon graduation, our paths began to go in different directions, but we were still ultimately headed to the same place. I'd wanted to do something worthwhile with my English Literature degree, maybe even teach, but somewhere along the line, that had fallen by the wayside and I'd ended up on the corporate ladder. Edward, on the other hand, had flourished in his work as a composer. With the basis of his world-class musical education, he'd composed several small chamber settings, and had just recently started putting together his first orchestral pieces. I admired his talent and was proud of him for everything he'd achieved. But I was also deeply, deeply envious of him, that deadliest of all sins that creeps in bit by bit until it turns to resentment.

Despite the ugliness of that dreadful fight that led to him walking out on our entire history, I don't blame him for the things he said, hurtful though they were. I know how difficult I've been to live with over recent months. I stopped appreciating the person I should have shown my gratitude to every day, and what's worse is that I did it without even realising. Withdrawing became second nature to me, and I didn't make time for us. At this second, however, I know that it doesn't matter how dissatisfied I am with the choices I've made in my life. For if I've lost Edward, I've lost everything that's important to me. And nothing I could ever do will be the same without him by my side.

As that thought hits me, the last of the numbness is stripped away and I'm left with only a cold emptiness that reminds me of everything I threw away so carelessly that night. Trudging on through the snowy night, I push my gloved hands deeper into my pockets, shivering from more than just the freezing Chicago winter. Pinpricks of icy dampness hit my face and I realise it's started to rain, droplets of water falling swiftly from the sky to add to the already miserable weather.

Great, I think, picking up my pace as the rain starts to soak into my thoroughly non-waterproof jacket.

I pray that he hasn't yet sought comfort in the arms of someone else, while knowing at some point it's inevitable. Even if I feel sick to my stomach at the thought of someone else touching him, being with him. In an attempt to dispel that thought, I check my phone, and see another missed call from my Mom. I've been diligently avoiding her calls since the first one after it happened.

Yes, Edward had left. No, I wouldn't tell her what happened. No, I didn't know if or when he was coming back. Yes, I knew we made such a nice couple and that it would throw the numbers off for Thanksgiving dinner. No, I wasn't going to call him.

She went on and on like that for over an hour, and eventually when she suggested it must have been my fault, I lost my patience and slammed the receiver back in its cradle. I've allowed myself to feel guilty over that once or twice, but I sent her the odd text to tell her I was okay and not hanging from my shower rail or anything.

As I turn the corner into our road, I stop outside our building, still clutching the phone in my hand. Dimly, I realise that might not be the smartest thing when the rain's pouring down, but I'm past caring at this point. I'm happy to delay entering the apartment for as long as possible, the place that is full of reminders of him. It saddens me to think that somewhere that once held such happy memories for me is now a place I can hardly bear to spend any time in. Edward and I had been lucky enough to find our apartment two years ago, and even paid a little extra for the one out of the four that had a fireplace. I shiver, but I don't feel like going inside and turning the fire on just for me. It'll only remind me of cosy winter nights spent with him in the warm glow of its flames, and that hurts too much.

I scroll through my phone contact list idly until I reach his name. Hovering over the button, I take in every digit that I already know by heart, not even sure why I'm looking at it. Unfortunately, my gloved fingers are less than precise and I end up clumsily stabbing the call button. I swear loudly as it connects, knowing if I hang up straight away it's going to look like I pathetically drunk-dialled him out of loneliness.

With a deep breath, I press it to my ear and let it ring, not knowing what is it I'm going to say. Maybe I'll hang up when he answers, but just hearing his voice would be enough to get me through what's been the worst night so far.

I'm distracted from the bleeping as it rings by a tinny sound somewhere nearby. The sound grows louder, and when I pull the phone away from my ear for a second to listen more carefully, my heart stops. It's the beginnings of a jaunty tune with trumpets, and it's oh-so-familiar. I put the phone back to my ear and it's still ringing while the song continues, growing louder and louder by the second. I know that song, and for just a second, I allow myself to hope.

He rounds the corner and then he's indeed right there, just yards away from me, in his black jacket that's far too thin for this weather and looking so indecently good that it almost hurts. I'd known it was him from the second I heard it – Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire. Edward hated the song, and so I'd made it his ringtone a while ago just for a joke. He'd grumbled about it as soon as he realised I'd done it, but it had stayed. I'm surprised he didn't change it after we broke up, and as ridiculous as it sounds, I hope that it means something.

"It's annoying as hell, but it reminds me of you," he'd told me one lazy Sunday morning over eggs and coffee in the kitchen. "So I'll keep it."

As his eyes fall on me, standing there in the snow outside our apartment with the phone, he lets out a quiet gasp before his mouth snaps shut, his jaw tautening with the effort.

"Jasper?" His voice is tremulous, and it's obvious that he isn't at all at ease with the situation. My shoulders sag, but then, how did I expect him to act?

"What are you doing here?" I hear myself say dully, my fingers digging into the sides of my phone so hard that it's starting to hurt. He takes a step closer, and I release the breath I've been holding without even realising, watching the mist disappear into the cold air. "Come to pick up your stuff?" I add in a petulant tone, and his eyes narrow.

"No, not now. I just wanted to..." he begins, failing to finish the sentence. Even in the unearthly glow of the fluorescent street lamp above us, I can see the green of his eyes, and what could be a slight dampness at the corners of them. "It's pretty rainy out here," he adds, turning his face to the sky and squinting into the slanted curtain of water that's cascading down upon us, driven against us harder by the wind. Just for a second, I think both of us have forgotten the fact that we're currently being drenched.

"I guess you'd better come in, then," I say gruffly, turning away so he won't see I'm shaking from both the cold and the effort of holding myself together. I'm still reeling from the fact that Edward's even here, let alone coming into the apartment with me. I have no idea what his motives are, but my heart's hammering with all the possibilities running through my mind. I'd assumed he'd be sending over a friend or family member to pick up his stuff, but the call had never come.

He says nothing, but I hear his shoes crunch on the snow behind me and know he must be following. As I reach the top step and lean over to turn the key in the lock, I lose my footing on ice that's been rained on and nearly go flying. Except for Edward, who catches me before I slip over and manages to pull me upright. As his fingers grip my hand, I let out a strangled sound, partly from the shock of falling, but mostly from his touch, even through my gloves. I close my eyes, squeezing them tightly as I try to fight back the wave of emotion that threatens to overcome me.

"Careful, there," he says, letting go of my hand just as quickly, and I wince at the bland, indifferent tone of his voice.

Straightening up, I feel my cheeks burn, although it won't be visible to him in the darkness.

"Uh, thanks," I say quickly, turning away again. I silently curse the weather as I concentrate on unlocking the door – this is awkward enough as it is without me falling on my ass, too.

In seconds, we're inside and making our way up the stairs to our apartment. I don't draw a breath until the door closes behind us.

"The place looks the same," he remarks.

"It's been two weeks. What did you expect?"

I can't bear to tell him that I've left everything exactly the way it was when he left. His toothbrush sits untouched in the striped mug in the bathroom, his meticulously-alphabetised CDs remain in their racks in the living room, and the framed photos of us are still around. I haven't been able to put those away, even if it wrenches me every time my gaze falls upon those images of love and contentment. So permanent and unchanging, as I thought Edward and I were. Or perhaps that was the problem, my inflexibility and wilful nature in the relationship. I pull my sodden gloves off, throwing them down on on the radiator to dry off and shove my phone on the hall table. He's still standing there, and my skin prickles as I sense him step closer.

I open my mouth to speak but my teeth are chattering so badly now I can barely form words. I'm soaked to the skin from being caught in that stupid rain storm, and would love a hot shower, but there are more important things to deal with.

"You're freezing," Edward says, and for the first time since he saw me tonight, I detect emotion in his voice. It's heavy with concern and so many other unspoken things that we both choose to ignore. I go over to the thermostat and turn the heat on, but it's going to take a while for the place to warm up again. Shivering, I shrug out of my wet jacket and hang it on the radiator.

"Edward, why are you really here?" I ask abruptly, and as soon as the words are out of my mouth I'm kicking myself internally, convinced that my mental state must be impaired because I'm just that freezing cold.

"I don't know," he mutters, casting his eyes down to the floor with a weary sigh. "It's felt so weird, not being here, you know. It's my home."

"I know," I reply, my voice thick and low like my throat's been lined with glue. "It's felt weird with you not being here. Well, more than weird. Fucking awful."

He looks up when he hears me feed his own line back to him, and for a moment, his fine features twist into a sad smile.

"I don't mean everything I say, you know," he says slowly, and the green eyes are bright and intense.

My heart clenches, and I have to dig my nails into my palm to stop myself reaching out and touching him. He's so fucking beautiful. It's almost physically painful to have been without him for this long, and I'm reminded of what an idiot I was to let us throw away what we had. I'm longing, aching, pining, and it's a thousand times worse with him not three feet from me. He's been in my apartment for barely two minutes, but I'm already wondering how on earth I'm going to bear whatever long, drawn-out painful conversation we're going to have. And then maybe he'll get his stuff, and he'll leave. Or perhaps because it's so snowy he'll stay on the couch, and I'll lie awake all night unable to sleep with the knowledge that he's so near and yet so far from me. I can't decide which would be worse.

"I don't mean everything I do," I reply, unfurling my fist and noting the crescent-shaped marks gouged into the skin of my palm.

"Did you finish that project?"

"Yeah." I turn back to him, running a hand through my damp hair and I'm undone by the sight of him again. I can't take this any more. "Do we really have to do this?"

"Do what?" he says, his voice even quieter now. He's dropped his own coat to the couch and I can see he's wearing this light grey sweater. It's simple, but clings to every line of his hard, lean body. I ache, heat flaring beneath my skin despite the fact that I'm still freezing cold. I want to be closer to him so much it actually hurts, knots pulling painfully tight in my stomach.

"Talk to each other like we're strangers. We don't need to talk about work, or what we've been doing, or anything, while ignoring everything else. It's like the elephant in the room. I don't know what you want from me, and I don't know if I can..." I trail off, biting down on my lip to stop myself saying anything more. My voice is quavering, and I'm so close to the tears I've never even let myself shed thus far.

He's so much nearer now, and as he steps towards me, I feel my own feet shuffle forward as if of their own accord. My wet sneakers squeak on the floor, breaking the tension for an instant as he looks down and smiles.

"Those shoes really are falling apart."

"Uhuh," I say, my voice barely audible in the gloom. Neither of us has turned the light on yet for some reason, and under the cloak of darkness, it's easier to pretend. To pretend that nothing even happened, and we're just Edward and Jasper again.

My hand reaches up to curve round the inside of his elbow, my fingers closing round his upper arm, but I leave my other arm cautiously at my side. He jolts at the touch and I pause, not even sure what I'm doing, or what's going to happen. But before I've even registered it, warm hands are in my hair and one slips to the nape of my neck, drawing me closer. I can feel his hot breath against my lips, and he's so close, but I don't know if I should move. He smells like woodsmoke and cinnamon and rain, and it's sweet torture willing myself not to surge forward and claim his lips.

"Come here," he whispers, and my eyelids close instinctively as his lips press against mine.

I groan with relief as his tongue slides into my mouth, tasting, needing, wanting. The kiss becomes rougher, the lines of tenderness and lust blurring as it deepens, my hands gripping his upper arms so tightly as his fingers twist in my hair. His body's so warm against me that I sigh into the kiss, but then his lips come away from mine.

For one terrible second I think he's going to tell me that this is a mistake, that it changes nothing, that it's only hurting us both. Even if that's true, I'm happy to let him break the shards of my heart into further pieces as long as I can just be with him now. But then he shivers, and I understand what it is. I'm still pretty soaked to the skin with icy water, and he must be starting to feel it.

"Jesus! You really are freezing," he exclaims with a soft laugh, playing with a tendril of my wet hair.

"Sorry," I reply with a small smile. "Appropriate clothing for the weather obviously wasn't on my mind tonight."

"I'll warm you up," he murmurs in a tone that's low and gravelly and utterly irresistible. This time it's me who knots my fingers in his hair and tugs him insistently towards me. It's not quite like the first kiss, all raw need and desperation – it's reverent and achingly poignant. Gentle but insistent lips give way to slow, moist kisses that are nonetheless knee-weakening. Somewhere along the line I become aware that my hips are shifting against his and he's already as hard as I am. I'm breathless by the time we break apart again, and when his green eyes focus on mine with such naked, open desire, I tremble.

"Edward," I whisper, just wanting to say his name. It tastes like dark chocolate, alternately so sweet and so bitter, coming from my lips as a half-whispered groan. He responds by bringing his lips back to mine, his hands everywhere at once, on my back, my hip, against my thigh.

It reminds me of the time I tried to bake him a cake for his birthday, but got distracted and managed to burn it. He'd laughed and said it didn't matter as we still had the bowl of vanilla buttercream I'd made and left on the counter ready for icing the cake. We stood in the kitchen and swirled our fingers in the buttercream, licking it off each other's fingers and laughing. Such a different time, and yet, I still want him just as I did then. The memory threatens to bring tears to my eyes, but when he kisses me again, the pain melts away.

Edward's hands slip under the edge of the wet cotton that's sticking to my skin and he inches it up my torso bit by bit, my arms raising so he can tug it over my head. Before I lose my nerve I do the same with his sweater and the t-shirt beneath, until we're skin on skin, heat and cold and pressed against one another. I can hardly believe this is happening, and I'm reminded of how painfully I've been missing physical contact. I don't want to let go of him, because I need this. I need it so much right now.

Dipping my head, I absorb myself in the vital warmth of his neck, my tongue darting out to taste his sweet skin, and his gratified moans are my reward. I feather kisses up the side of his neck and jaw line, lips touching to the corners of his own before I move to repeat my actions on the other side. My hands caress his toned back, and I feel his fingers inch into the front of my waistband, hardly daring to breathe from how badly I want him to touch me.

"Oh, God, Jasper," Edward groans. "Wait." I raise my head, just letting him speak. He removes his hands from where they were, and I suppress a groan at the loss of contact. "I'm not saying I don't want to do this. I mean, hell, look down." I do, and can't suppress a smile as I can see his arousal's straining against his buttons.

"So your point was...?" I ask in seductive tones, massaging the sensitive area behind his ear with my thumb. He sighs, and for a moment, I feel a sense of foreboding, pausing my movements.

"Shouldn't we be having a serious, soul-searching talk right now? We should be on the couch drinking tea or something. I mean, don't people drink tea in these kinds of situations?" He's still breathing heavily, and the uncertainty in his voice is somehow so endearing.

"So, you're saying we should put our shirts back on and drink tea? Is there even any in the house?" My tone's light, but every fibre of my body is so suffused with need for him that I can't bear the thought that we might have to stop now. Please no. I let go of him with a sigh. "Shall we talk, then?" It comes out so half-hearted, but given the fact I'm painfully hard, I can think of little else than of what I want right here, right now.

"No," he says decidedly, and his eyes flash with longing as they meet mine. "Well, we should. But later."

"Yes, later", I murmur in agreement, keeping one hand at his back while the other tugs at the hair at the nape of his neck.

"You're still cold," he marvels as his arms wind round my back, and I bury my face in his neck, just letting him hug me tightly to him. He feels so warm and the embrace so intimate that I can't help but pull him even nearer, no amount of physical contact ever feeling like it's enough. Every inch of my skin feels as if it's been lit on fire, cold though it is on the surface. "Come on."

We extricate ourselves from the hug and then his hand links into mine and he pulls me in the direction of the bathroom. Immediately, my heart's hammering in breathless anticipation. I've been longing for a hot shower since I got in, and the thought of his hard body against mine beneath warm, soothing water is altogether too appealing.

As we enter, I snap the light on and we blink, unused to the blazing fluorescence after spending so many minutes in the dark. For a moment, I wonder if I'll be able to bear it if this means nothing to him, but I know that it has to. It has to. Just as I'm about to completely indulge my paranoia, a hot, insistent mouth finds mine and I think no more. Kisses hard enough to bruise lips and warm, confident hands fumbling at the clasp of my belt dispel any fear, leaving only a raw, acute need. I pull back to meet his burning gaze and then reach down and unclip the buckle myself. Edward smiles, and then I'm kissing him again, hard and fast, soft and slow, deep and wet as his tongue moves with mine. I let out a strangled groan as he pushes my pants and boxers down so they fall to my feet, still tasting my lips.

Momentarily, I break the kiss to kick off my pants and shoes. I unbuckle his own belt and pop open each button slowly and deliberately, taking my time. He watches me, and when I hook my thumbs into his waistband and pull, he lets out a stilted, shaky breath that makes me even harder, if that's possible. I let him divest himself of his clothes completely and then I step back, lacing my fingers into his so I can see every inch of him properly. The light glints off his gorgeous, pale body, making him appear almost luminous before me. He's utter perfection, in the sculpted planes of his face, the outline of his toned muscles , the deep v of his hips, his hard, beautiful cock that I'm already dying to wrap my fingers around. Edward's eyes rake over my own body and when he bites down on his lip in this way that's incredibly seductive and yet entirely vulnerable at the same time, I'm captivated.

In that moment, I close the distance between us and slide a hand round the back of his head, pulling him into a forceful, passionate kiss. He eagerly responds, and his tongue's rough, probing as it seeks my own, pants and moans escaping us both as we press, lick, suck, bite, taste. My hands wander down his body, coming to rest on his ass, and when I squeeze the firm roundness, he kisses me even harder. His fingers dig into my back, pulling me ever closer as we do a kind of awkward side-step towards the shower, both unwilling to break the intense embrace we're wrapped in. Regretfully pulling my lips from his for a second, I stretch one hand out and twist the dial to turn the shower on. There's a rumble as the pipes come to life and heated water starts to cascade down, steam escaping into the rest of the bathroom.

I groan as I step under the shower, deliciously hot water pouring over my skin and searing away the chill the outside gave it. Edward steps in right after me, closing the glass door behind him. Closing my eyes, I lift my face to the spray, letting the water soak into my rain-sodden hair as I run my fingers through it. Almost instantly, he's pressed up against me, his arms encircling me from behind as his hardness grazes me. Warm lips find my neck, and I let my hands drop to find his, wrapping his arms about me tighter. His tongue traces a shape on my throat and I let out a guttural sigh, relaxing into the feel of hard, wet bodies rubbing against each other in a hot and steamy enclosed space.

"I missed you," he whispers in my ear, and it's all I can do to not let a sob escape me.

"I missed you more," I tell him, my voice cracking slightly, and when he reaches for the shampoo, gently nudging me forward, I know that right now I'll let him do whatever he wants.

I hear him squirt some into his hand and then his strong, deft fingers are in my hair, gently massaging my scalp. Edward washing my hair feels amazing, a hopelessly intimate gesture of the kind I thought we'd lost forever. He tugs me to the side and I rinse my hair clean, closing my eyes against the streams of soap pouring down my face.

"Now let me," I murmur, turning to face him as he steps sideways and then we're both fully covered by the water. I pull him against me and do the same, taking the time over washing his hair as I run my fingers through every soft tendril. With every touch and swipe of my fingertips, I'm trying to let him know how sorry I am. How I never stopped caring, or wanting him, that it was all down to my own stupid self-loathing.

When he steps under the spray and washes the shampoo out, I close my hands over his hips, letting him know that I still need this. I still need all of him. His eyes flicker open, and his expression's full of yearning and loss and pain all at the same time. At this second, I can tell he knows exactly how it's felt for me these past couple of weeks. A dull, foggy, numbness with occasional crystal-clear sharpened edges of memories that make your head spin and your eyes fill with tears.

I grab the soap from the shelf and lather it up in my hands, starting at his neck downwards. I know every inch of this body by touch, a path I've traversed so many times and in so many ways. As I trail my fingers over his skin, Edward takes my hand in his, flattening his palm out over my soapy knuckles. The next second his other hand is at the back of my neck, drawing me into a kiss that's wet and messy and not in the least bit cautious or hesitant. I groan into his mouth as his other hand lets go of mine and slides down my back, wet fingers dropping to the base of my spine, causing me to shiver in a way that has nothing to do with the temperature. We carry on kissing as my hand continues its downward path, fingertips splayed out against his chest. My palm grazes an already tight nipple and I tweak it gently as my soap-slick hand slides further down his body. He's all but panting into my mouth now as my hand dips below his navel, reaching lower. Pulling back to meet his eyes, I finally close my hand around his cock and he mutters something unintelligible, one of his hands resting on my shoulder and the other on my hip. Oh God, he's so hard and he feels so good in my hand that I'm almost on the verge of coming already. I can feel the moisture glistening on the tip that's nothing to do with the water all around us and I spread it with my thumb, making slow, torturous circles that elicit a strangled cry from him.

"I missed hearing you make those sounds," I tell him, placing an open-mouthed kiss on his neck, and he shudders.

"I missed you doing this. Fuck, Jasper, I can't even..." The words die away in his throat as I grip him firmly, my soapy hand sliding along his hard length, and I watch his face every second. There's nothing more beautiful to me than to watch Edward's changing expressions as I make him come undone, coaxing him to a release that probably isn't going to take long as we're both so ridiculously turned on.

His mouth smashes to mine in a hard kiss as I continue to stroke him, and I become aware that his hand is slipping down in between our bodies while the other grasps my ass. I gasp in surprise, heat flaring inside me as he wraps his fingers around my already over-sensitive cock. It's all I can do to keep my hand moving over him as he teasingly slides up and down, a minimum of friction in his movements. I groan deeply against his lips and the hot tongue that's pushing against mine while his hand continues to do the most divine things.

Running my other hand up his thigh, I seize his hip, gripping onto it tightly with a need for some sort of purchase as I lose myself in the twin sensations of touching and being touched. Our bodies press into one another, warm and slippery from the shower's heat and steam. Drawing back, I let my eyes lock on Edward's, and it's amazingly erotic to watch each other as hands and wrists slide and bodies shudder. I feel him pulse in my hand and know he's about to break, so I increase the pressure and speed, letting out a low, needy moan as he presses his thumb against the head of my cock. I'm almost there myself, but I want him to be first, so I grasp tightly, moving my fingers over him faster until I feel him tighten in my hand and cry out. He comes hard, trembling against me as his nails dig into my ass, his release leaking onto my thighs even as the shower washes it away. He's so fucking beautiful as he falls apart in my arms that when his quivering wrist moves over me with the lightest touch, I lose it too. I gasp and shake as I bury my face in his neck, my knees threatening to buckle as I explode all over his hand, tears in my eyes from the overwhelming relief.

I press one hand into the tiles, trying to steady my weakened legs that have turned to jelly as I breathe in the sweet scent of his neck. Edward's hand slips under my chin and I raise my head, drawing back to meet his eyes. He kisses my bruised lips softly, and all at once, I feel like crying. I don't want this moment to end, because when it does, I have to remember why we're here in the first place. A desperate need for sexual comfort doesn't change that, and maybe dragging each other into the shower straight away wasn't the right thing. It felt so wonderful that I almost don't care if he decides he doesn't want me after all. Except, I know that the memory of this will break my heart if that brief taste of perfection is all there is.

"Hey," he says quietly, and his expression's calm, his voice affectionate but laced with a serious tone. "Let's get out in a sec, get dry, and then we'll talk, yeah?"

"Sure," I say, trying to sound businesslike but failing miserably. We quickly clean ourselves up under the water and then I turn off the shower, the sudden silence in the room increasing the growing tension that wasn't there a second ago.

"Is that my towel?" he says, pointing at the light blue one that's hanging on the rail, just where he left it the morning of that terrible day. I feel my cheeks colour at the evidence of how pathetic I am.

"Uh, yeah, it is," I say, a little defensively as I grab another towel and rub myself down with it. As he turns away, I catch the beginnings of a small smile, but I'm not even sure I've seen it by the time he has his back to me. My nakedness feels altogether more vulnerable than I'd like, and I wind the towel around my waist, tucking it in as I run another one over my wet hair. I can't resist sneaking a glance at Edward who has his back to me, his brownish-copper hair damp and sticking up all over his head from being towelled in the most adorable fashion. "I'm just going to go through. I'll see you in a minute," I say as I leave the bathroom, retrieving my clothes that are scattered all over the tiles as I go.

I hear a muttered "okay"called after me as I pad softly to the bedroom, and my stomach starts to twist itself into knots again. Momentarily, I panic when I realise it's a mess in here, and I rush to hurriedly make the bed, straighten the pillows and kick piles of clothes under the bed as there's no time to put them away properly. Sure enough, seconds later I hear a door creak open. I barely have the time to grab a pair of boxers out of the drawer and shove my clothes back on and then he's here too, looking devastatingly handsome in loose jeans and a grey t-shirt with rumpled wet hair.

Wait a second. I recognise that t-shirt.

"Are you wearing my shirt?" I ask, my eyebrows arching, and he looks uncomfortable.

"I may have accidentally taken it when I left, yeah," he says matter-of-factly, but I almost want to smile.

He took my shirt.

For reasons I can't explain, the knots loosen and I can breathe again. However awkward and difficult this is going to be, I get the feeling that he hasn't quite given up on us yet. If there's even the slightest bit of doubt in his mind - and considering what just happened, I suspect there is - then I can hope that he'll consider what I have to say. He sits down in the armchair by the bookcase and I take a seat on the bed, nervously drumming my fingers on the comforter.

He clears his throat. "Okay, so..."

"So, what the hell just happened?" I say, launching right in and immediately cursing myself for my sense of timing.

"I have no idea," he says quietly, but he doesn't immediately sound as though he regrets it, and I cling to that pathetic little sliver of hope. At least, I hope he doesn't.

"I guess we got a bit carried away," I say carefully, unsuccessfully trying to flatten down my unruly damp hair with my hand. "And fuck, I'll just say it – I've missed you. I meant what I said in there, just in case you thought it was some kind of sex haze thing."

A sad smile comes to his lips, one that's beautiful and yet a little heartbreaking at the same time. "So did I. I know we shouldn't be doing that seeing as we're not technically together and it makes things complicated, but, well..."

"We definitely shouldn't have," I agree. "So inappropriate."

"Worst idea in the world," he furnishes, and he's smiling again.

"Absolutely fantastic," I blurt out.

"Completely," he replies without a second thought.

"Okay, so...good we figured that out," I continue, locking my fingers together and twisting them. I meet Edward's eyes and he's chewing on his lip apprehensively, knowing that everything has to be serious now. The silence runs and the echoing quiet of the room swells with every second that passes, neither of us wanting to break it. After a minute or two, although it seems like longer, I find the words to speak again.

"Why did you really come here, Edward?" I ask, twisting one hand in the comforter so the cotton's taut between my fingers. "For two weeks, I hear nothing from you, and then you're suddenly here and all over me. What am I supposed to think?"

"Don't think that meant I didn't care," he murmurs quietly, closing his eyes for a second. I watch his eyelids flicker apart again, and he's radiant, but his expression is guarded, careful. All the same, he's so stunning it makes me ache, and I want to kick myself even more for letting us fall apart. "I thought about you every second I was away."

"So did I." My breathing catches, my chest tight enough that I'm unable to draw a deep breath.

"I don't know what else to say" he admits suddenly, passing a hand over his eyes. "I'm sorry." I can see a dampness at the corners of his eyes, and it's all I can do to not cross the room and envelope him in my arms and let my lips say what my voice can barely even communicate. But I don't. It's not the right moment for that, and I know that nothing is solved yet, thousands of unasked and unanswered questions hanging in the air between us.

"Me neither," I say, a sinking feeling in my stomach giving me the sensation of being doused in icy water. To my surprise, there's anger, too, flaring unexpectedly. I know I pushed him too far that night, but I can't help but wonder if the outcome would have been different if he'd just stayed. I've spent two weeks in a living nightmare, and deep down, there's still plenty of anger towards him. If we're going to come to any conclusions tonight, I have to tell him everything, even the things he won't want to hear.

"Actually, I do, Edward," I add, finding my voice. "It hurt so fucking much when you walked out on us like that. I know I hadn't let you talk to me about it, and I know I was self-absorbed. But you could have tried harder. " I can feel how harsh I sound, and I'm hating myself for it while knowing at the same time I just need him to care. I need it to matter to him that I'm still angry and hurting and torn apart inside.

"I know," he says in a hollow voice, a far cry from the easy, intimate tone he spoke to me in just minutes ago. "I was just so angry, and I felt like you didn't even care. It was like you'd given up on yourself, and you were starting to give up on us at the same time. That was the worst thing." His words sting me, more than they might because I know every one is true. I take a deep breath, trying to collect my thoughts before I respond.

"I cared. I still care," I say thickly, focusing my eyes on the carpet. "I hated what I was doing you know, every time I heard myself say I was too busy or I had to work late again. And you're right, maybe I was giving up. I just ended up stuck in an awful routine of hating all the extra responsibility they gave me but never doing anything about it. I always want to do something, but I know I haven't, and I never do. But even if I'm giving up on myself, I'll never give up on us." I really am on the verge of crying now, my hands shaking uncontrollably, and I'm too afraid to look up and see his reaction.

"I don't want you to give up on yourself!" he says, frustration apparent in his voice, and when I finally wrench my gaze upwards, he only looks concerned. "You're so much smarter and better than that shit job where they run you into the ground. It absolutely kills me to see you feeling like you're stuck doing something you hate, because I saw it every day. I saw how hollow you looked every time you had to go in early, or your boss wanted something else doing at the last minute, and I just wanted you to see what was happening to you."

I'm painfully aware of just how right he is, and his words have hit home. Hollow. That's exactly what I am without you, I think to myself, but I choose not to verbalise that particular thought. I'm struck by the realisation that I don't want to do this for the rest of my life and get stuck in a rut. There were things I wanted once, even if I can't remember what they are now, and maybe if I just take some time, I can rediscover them. I just can't bear the thought of having to do it without him.

"I just feel like I'm nothing, I'm nowhere," I eventually say, and a tear finally slips from my eye, making a moist path down my cheek. I brush it away with my hand, and Edward blinks, his expression dismayed. "You're going places, and you're doing what you love. I don't begrudge you that, of course, but I can't claim I haven't resented you for it. I never wanted to be like this, some taciturn, bitter resentful bastard who isn't who you deserve. I don't want to wake up one day and realise I threw away the best thing that ever happened to me because I was too afraid to change and let something be uncertain, and to find out what I really wanted in life."

"You know you aren't nothing to me," he says fervently, shaking his head. "I just know you could do more – not that I'm trying to force you into anything. I know you're going through something, and even if you don't want to talk about it, don't shut me out. Let me help you."

"I'm sorry," I say, swallowing back a sob from the guilt over what I did to him, and to us. "I should have."

"I'm sorry, too, Jasper," he replies, and his voice is as cracked and weak as mine. "I never should have left like that. I was so pissed at you I just let it cloud everything. I wanted to take it back, but I guess sometimes I'm just too proud for my own good. You know that."

"Believe me, I do." I nod in confirmation of that flaw that, despite how obstructive it can be, makes him beautiful and strong and everything that he is. Blinking away hot tears, I let him continue.

"I've driven Alice crazy these past couple of weeks." I'd wondered where he'd had been staying, and now it all made sense. Alice was Edward's older sister, a fashion buyer who lived in one of those trendy industrial lofts in River North. She was a sweet-natured person, but unfortunately she'd always had this stupid crush on me. It wasn't like she would have ever tried it on with me seeing as I was with her brother, but it did get a bit on the wearisome side. I think these days it was more of a joke than anything, though. Edward was well aware of it and found it hilarious. Alice herself could be impossibly exuberant but also possessed some wise insights from time to time, and I knew that she cared about her only brother more than anything. I could only imagine the advice she'd tried to "helpfully" give him over the past fortnight. Perhaps I'd have cause to thank her – I couldn't as of yet tell.

"You were staying with Alice?" I say, finding that my voice sounds stronger.

"Yeah." He made a face. "I didn't want to go to my Mom's because, well, you know how it is. She'd just be on at me the whole time."

"I know, believe me." I almost want to laugh at the similarity of our circumstances. "My Mom keeps calling all the time asking how I am, and I have to ignore her or she'll never stop talking. So what did Alice say?" I'm surprised when he cracks a wry smile, a hint of light through the murky darkness that fills me with even more hope.

"She called me a girl and told me to get the hell over here because we're obviously disgustingly in love and I shouldn't give up on it because things are tough." I couldn't help but snort a little at that. "Took me a while to actually listen to her, of course."

"You've always been stubborn," I agree, starting to feel like I can breathe again. "I didn't want to be the one to back down either. I understand why you did it, and in some really fucked-up way, maybe it was a good thing. It hit home to me exactly what I was doing, and how I was just letting you slip away and not doing a thing about it. Unless I have lost you completely. And if I have, then I – I'm so sorry."

My voice is weak, cracking, and all my effort is going into not completely breaking down, because I don't want to seem like I'm begging, or make him feel sorry for me. If he decides to want to give us another shot, I don't want guilt or pity to come into it. All our friends and other people we know from our college years have gone from one disastrous relationship to the other, or just compulsively bed-hopped. That's fine, but it was never us. Edward and I were always together, and even through all the changes our lives have gone through since college, we're still here, and I still love him, want him, need him. I know that has to count for something, and to me, it counts for everything.

"You haven't lost me," he says, and then he's at my side, the bed springs sagging as he sits down beside me. "Jasper, I love you."

An unfathomable relief laced with love and need and gratitude floods me, overwhelming me with its magnitude. His hand stretches out to comb through my still slightly damp hair, sweeping it out of my eyes, and suddenly I'm hardly breathing again. When his fingers drag over my cheek I reach up and take his hand, holding it against me. Briefly, I press my lips to his hand and then move it out of the way, drawing closer as his head dips towards mine. This time, I'm not sure who moves first, but within seconds all I feel is a hot mouth and gentle lips moving with my own, a kiss that tingles because of our already slightly sore lips.

"I love you too," I murmur breathlessly between kisses, and he responds by capturing my lips so insistently that I couldn't say any more if I tried. I breathe in the clean scent of shampoo and soap, mixed with Edward's own irresistible smell, and it only fuels the fire of my growing need for him. He's so warm as he slides his arms round my body, pulling me into a tight embrace as I fist one hand in his hair, the other twisted in the fabric of his t-shirt. I feel my body bowing into his as he pulls me closer, my fingers tugging at his hair, and it's so good, so right, so natural. I feel a tear prick at my eye from the relief that he still loves me, but I'm not a total sap, so I blink it away, concentrating on the wet, deepening kiss we're currently engaged in. It's intense, needy, wanting, and I rapidly feel my arousal swelling in my jeans. Warmth, heat, taste, Edward, need, now. I need him.

"My lips are going to hurt by the end of this," I remark, and he laughs into my mouth, dragging my lips back to his.

"Shh. I'll make them hurt," he whispers, and who am I to argue? Our kisses alternate between gentle and loving and desperate and urgent, soft, moist lips devouring each other. I shift into him, pulling him closer as I draw my knees up on the bed, and then I'm sitting atop his thighs, never even breaking the kiss for one second. Our bodies even closer now, I can feel the outline of his hardness through his jeans, and when I grind myself against him, we let out this combined groan into each other's mouths that's deliciously uninhibited and yet so satisfying at the same time.

"Fuck," he mutters, long, deft fingers combing through my hair so carefully and gently as his mouth takes a break from mine for a second.

"Just what I was planning to do," I say with a smile, moving to nip at the sensitive skin between his neck and earlobe.

"Were you now? And what exactly does this plan entail?" His voice is playful, teasing, and my heart leaps upon hearing him to speak to me in a way I feared he never would again.

"Well, I was planning on fucking you into the mattress, unless there were any particular objections there?" His hair's tousled in this absolutely irresistible way, and when he blinks at me with lust-confused eyes and nods, breathing heavily, I swear I almost come right then and there.

"Uh...yeah...I'm not complaining," he murmurs in a slightly dazed voice, and all at once his kisses are fiercer, hard, hot, sweet lips pressing to my own as his tongue roughly pushes against mine. There are just as many nights where I'd be begging him to fuck me, but tonight, God help me, I need it to be this way. I need to feel all of him around me, to be as close to him as I can ever be. I groan as his hand drags down to palm my cock through my pants, and I run my hands through that beautiful hair that's now almost dry under my fingertips. I'm drowning in our combined want for one another, euphoric kisses and a need to show him that everything we just so painfully discussed means something to me. I trail my lips over his neck, nip at his earlobe and when I whisper "I want you", it's my promise that I'll always be his, whatever happens.

"Always," I murmur into his ear, wanting him to hear it too. It's then I realise we'll always find our way back to each other.

"Forever," he says against my lips, and then we're submerged in a kiss that's so fucking perfect I can hardly even tell what the hell's happening. It's white hot stars and fireworks and everything like that, but at the same time, it's loving and sweet and full of promises that I know this time, we'll keep. I lean over him, my body pressing into his and he falls backwards, both of us landing on the mattress with a soft flump so we're lying sideways across it. The next couple of minutes pass in a blur of t-shirts pulled over heads and unfastened buttons and zippers. Finally, I'm naked but he's still just barely wearing his jeans. They're low on his hips and he looks absolutely delectable. I drag them down his legs as he lifts his hips to aid me, and realise, for the first time, that he isn't wearing boxers underneath. I feel like I probably shouldn't mention how much that turns me on, but it's likely obvious seeing as my cock's out on display and I'm harder than I can ever remember being.

"Going commando?" I ask with a smirk, and he laughs.

"I didn't want to put my old ones back on, did I?" he responds innocently, and a light, easy laugh follows his statement. "And all my other ones were here in the bedroom..."

"Mmm, whatever the reason is, you should do it more often," I tell him, just letting myself stare down at him for a moment. God, he's exquisite lounging back on our bed propped up on his elbows, all messy hair and parted lips and green eyes burning with lust. I kiss him again as he sits up and his hands drag down my body, gripping me unexpectedly and so firmly that I choke out a strangled groan. "Stop, too good, too good," I protest, and feel the hands loosen, his gaze intense. "Otherwise I won't be able to..."

He nods in understanding, but leans forward briefly to whisper in my ear. "Fine, but I haven't forgotten how fucking delicious you taste. I'll have to remind myself tomorrow."

That's possibly one of the most erotic things he's ever said to me, and that coupled with his hardness pressing against my belly sends a jolt of pure ecstasy through me. Even the mere thought of Edward's warm, skilled mouth wrapped around my cock makes me shudder, but right now, it's him I want to pleasure.

"Can I hold you to that?"

He responds with a swift kiss. "Absolutely," he whispers throatily.

"But now, I think..." I flatten my hand against his back, encouraging him closer towards to the edge of the bed. "I'm going to taste you."

Shifting backwards, I drop to my knees, trailing my hands up his thighs. His breathing's erratic and stilted, and when I press a teasing kiss to his hipbone, his hand finds mine, nails digging into my palm as it rests against the sheets. I run my tongue all along the skin just below his navel, tasting every inch and breathing in his sweet scent. When I repeat my actions in the opposite directions, still staying right above where he needs me, he makes this frustrated noise that's entirely adorable.

"Jasper..." his voice is truly pleading, and when my other hand reaches down and grips him at the base, he lets out this low, needy cry that makes me want to give in immediately. Sometimes there's nothing I love more than being on my knees in front of Edward and letting my mouth work at his beautiful cock until he loses it. And so I give in. Glancing up into his eyes just for a second and seeing only unashamed lust and desire for me, I squeeze his hand and then take him into my mouth. He's sweet and slightly salty and velvet against my tongue, and when I flatten it, running it over him from base to tip, the nails dig into my hand harder. I keep my mouth tight over him, letting the hand that's wrapped round it shift with the movements of my lips and tongue. He jerks in my mouth, and I flick my tongue over the head, causing his hips to rise off the bed. Seconds later, his other hand's in my hair, preventing me from moving.

"Wait. I don't want to come yet," he says with great effort, and I know what he wants. I release him from my mouth, straightening up and smash my lips to his, my legs at either side of him as I push him backwards onto the sheets, shoving the comforter aside as I do. He kisses me back as our bodies press together, hardness against hardness that feels indescribable before he pulls back for a second.

I lie there breathlessly as he rummages in the nightstand drawer, tipping things on to the bed haphazardly. I reach over, finding what we need and then I spread slickness on to my palm as he lies back down beneath me, knees drawing up. At other times I'd love to press my lips against the hollow of his neck, thrusting into him as he moans and grips the mattress with shaking hands, but tonight's not the night for that. It needs to be like this, where I can kiss him and look into his eyes, and I can see that it's the way he wants it too.

Edward's hands come round my back, forcefully pulling me closer and I press a soft kiss to his lips. Swiftly closing one hand over his length and sliding it up and down, I relish his half-whispered moans as I let my other hand slip lower. I press my thumb against the tightness of his entrance, circling it before I slide warm, slick fingers inside. He moans louder and oh God, he feels fucking unbelievable. Twisting my fingers inside him, I feel him arch into my hand in pleasure with a low, deep moan that kills me. For a moment, I think to myself just how amazing he looks like this, open and trusting and pleading for my touch.

Rubbing some more of the slickness over my cock, I wipe my other hand over the sheet before running it through his soft hair, still-sticky fingers caressing each lock.

"Just fuck me," he rasps, and I press my lips to his, leaning over him. His eyes are open, longing, and as the tip of me nudges against him, I think how I'm so grateful for this, just to have him. I push inside slowly, aware it's been a while so I should be gentle. He gasps at the sudden stretching feeling, but I cover his lips with another soft kiss and don't move for a few seconds, waiting until I hear his breathing get easier.

"Okay?" I murmur.

He nods, and when he pushes against me, taking me deeper, I let out this grunt that's barely human. He feels so unbelievable that I have to squeeze my eyes shut, gritting my teeth as I fight for control. Without our earlier tryst in the shower I probably would have gone instantly. All the same, he's so hot and gripping me so tightly and it's been so long I slip my fingers between his, warning him to stay still.

"Wait a sec," I choke out, barely recognising my low, gravelly voice. Sliding my hand between us, I wrap slick fingers around his cock and he lets out this low, desperate groan that touches every nerve ending inside me.

He unclasps his hand from mine and reaches up to push back a lock of hair that's fallen in my eyes, brushing it out of the way as he moves to wrap his fingers round the back of my neck. He pushes against me, indicating it's okay, and I begin to move again, shifting the angle so that I stroke different places every time I thrust into him.

"Uh...yeah, that feels good," he says in a strained voice, and his other hand drops, fingers digging into the side of my hips. "Right there." I comply, my teeth clenching as he drags me deeper, his ankles pressing into my back. I know I'm not going to last long, he's so warm and tight and feels so fucking fantastic around me. The bed springs give a sudden loud squeak, and we both pause, laughing breathlessly.

"We really need to get a new bed," I tell him, sweat beading on my forehead. I love the way Edward looks right now, lying there with ruffled hair and flushed cheeks while I'm buried inside of him.

"Let the neighbours hear," he replies with a smile, his hand closing round the back of my neck and pulling my lips back to his. We move together, making unashamedly dirty noises into each other's mouths as the bed squeaks and not caring because it's just so perfect, so right and exactly what we both need right now. My eyes close involuntarily, my hand sliding over his cock as the other grasps the sheet, shaking from the effort of holding myself up. The searing ache inside me intensifies, and I know I can't hold on much longer. Edward groans as I thrust into him harder, his lips hard on mine as we move with desperate pants and moans into each other's mouths. His hardness jerks in my hand and I know he's so near, and no matter how close I am, I want him to lose it first.

I thrust slow and hard, rolling my hips to find that angle that he likes, and I'm rewarded with a soft cry of my name as his body starts to shake. His teeth sink into my neck, nails tight on my back, and I continue to stroke him as he comes all over his stomach and my hand. As his shaking fingers lace into mine, pulling them from the sheets, I kiss him deeply, my lips gentle on his as he continues to tremble with his release. Drawing back a little, our eyes lock and I'm reminded of how much I've missed these moments. He's utterly magnificent and completely vulnerable all at the same time, and silently, I'm letting him know how grateful I am for him. Edward's hands tighten in mine as his aftershocks subside, and I brace them against the sheets, continuing to move within him, knowing I'm only seconds from following him.

Mine. All mine.

His ankles push against me, forcing me deeper than ever, and I let go. I come with a shuddering groan of his name, my head falling to the hollow of his neck as I squeeze his fingers so hard I'm sure it has to hurt him. My arms finally give out and I collapse on top of him, breathless and sweaty and shaking.

His lips press to my hair as I try to get a handle on my pounding heartbeat and limbs that feel like they've been liquefied, and it's soothing in the wake of such intensity. Raising my head to place one more kiss on his swollen lips, I slowly withdraw, trying not to sigh at the loss of contact. Grabbing some tissues, we clean ourselves up a little and then curl up in a sweaty, dishevelled heap, no sound but our swift breaths and rapid heartbeats.

Edward turns to the side and pulls me against him, his body warm and sticky and sweaty against mine, and I don't even care, because it reminds me of everything we just did.

"Is that your way of saying sorry?" he finally manages, his voice still weak and his breathing shallow. "Because if it is, you know, you can piss me off more often..."

"Oh, shut up," I murmur, twisting to kiss him again and feeling how much my lips are stinging. "Next time I'll know not to."

I can feel his lips curve into a smile against my back, and I can't help grinning myself, though he can't see. Taking the arm that's wrapped around me, I pull him closer as he tucks his leg round mine, filled with a sudden stupid insecurity that makes me want him as near as possible. "I'm not going anywhere, you know," he says into my ear with a trace of amusement. I know I have to trust that he's speaking the truth, but even though I want to so much, that doesn't come overnight. What I do know is that with time, I'll believe him.

"I know. Me neither," I tell him, extricating myself from the embrace and turning round so I'm facing him. God, he looks so thoroughly fucked-out, all dishevelled bronze hair and sweat-slick skin that I'm momentarily distracted from what I wanted to say to him. "I really am so sorry. I promise I'll make an effort not to be so closed off. But maybe we should sort of check in on it every so often? We haven't actually talked about things in so long. Maybe if we had, I wouldn't have become such a..."

"Emotionally closed-off withdrawn bastard?" he supplies, and I manage a shaky laugh. "Yes, though," he adds. "I'm fine with the idea of just making sure we talk about stuff from time to time."

"I mean, I'm not naïve enough to think that everything's suddenly going to be perfect again. But I know if we just work on it, we'll get there."

Edward shakes his head, his smile endearing as he tries to flatten his hair that's sticking up all over the place. "Jasper, it was never perfect. Trust me on that. You annoy the hell out of me half the time, and sometimes you're so frustrating it makes me want to tear my hair out. Like now."

My breath catches, but his expression's light-hearted, and I feel a smile slowly growing on my own lips."But you know what?" he continues, his hand slipping under the sheets to take my own sticky one, but he doesn't flinch. "I love you anyway, so, yes, I know that we'll get there."

"I know," I tell him, realising I might be starting to believe him already. The surreal nature of our current situation isn't lost on me, Edward and I curled up together other in our sex-sheets. It's so far from the alcohol-numb thoughts and bitter cold of loneliness that formed the earlier part of my evening, and that thought sends a wave of happiness and contentment through my sex-addled brain. For the first time in so long, I feel hopeful, not just for our relationship, but for the possibility that I can change something for myself.

"And you know I love you," I say, my words heartfelt. "Just put it down to a – er, young-life crisis?" He laughs and squeezes my hand affectionately, and finally, I feel like we'll be okay.

"You know, I've just remembered you were calling me," he remarks thoughtfully, propping himself up on one elbow.

"It was sort of an accident, but then, I didn't hang up," I admit, and he can't hide his slightly superior smirk. "I'm so glad you came here tonight, you know."

"I was the idiot who walked out, so sooner or later I had to just swallow my pride," he says calmly, and I'm still smiling.

"You took my t-shirt." I can't resist teasing him, and I'm fully expecting him to deny it, so when he speaks I'm taken my surprise.

"I know. Well, I'll be honest, I took it out of the laundry hamper when I left. It wasn't even clean. But it smelled like you."

I can see a flush creeping across his cheeks in the dim light, and I find it so irresistible when he turns away under the pretence of getting the comforter that's half-fallen off the bed, not wanting me to see. I can't resist placing my thumb beneath his chin and turning his face to mine, kissing him swiftly and without hesitation. When Edward's lips are on mine in soft, soothing kisses, everything painful and complicated melts away, leaving only pure love for the one person who truly completes me.

"Of course, I did wash it. I didn't end up taking that many clothes considering I left in such a hurry," Edward qualifies, and I just laugh at him fondly. The sound is rusty and unfamiliar to my ears; I haven't laughed in what seems like forever. "We should probably get up and..."

"Can you really be bothered?" I say, a wave of exhaustion washing over me, and I lie back against the pillows, tugging the comforter over us.

"You're disgusting," he says faintly. The sheets rustle and then he's wrapped right round me again, his head resting in the hollow of my neck.

"I am. We're going to wake up stuck to each other and the bed tomorrow, you know," I tell him playfully, resting my arm on top of his.

I hear a snort. "Mmm. And I probably won't be able to walk. Don't care."

"I missed you," I murmur as eyelids close and we drift into a spent, satisfied sleep.

.-.-.-.-.-.

"Alright, everybody, put your cards away – it's time to go home," I call, and all the small faces in front of me erupt into an excited chatter which dies away when I shoot them my best stern look. "Carefully, now - you want to keep them nice for your Moms," I warn as they try to shove them into their book bags haphazardly. "Now, whatever table shows me they can be the quietest gets to go first."

A scuffle ensues, with excited whispers as they more or less vibrate in their seats with the effort to remain still. Like so many times in this job, I'm finding it so hard not to laugh, but I manage to remain professional. Although, that's virtually impossible when you're teaching kindergarten, I've come to find. Today there's glitter all over the classroom and my fingers are stuck together with glue and covered in cardboard paper cuts. Making Mother's Day cards with overenthusiastic kindergartners certainly does have its hazards.

"Blue table, you can go," I say with a smile and they jump up, and then I motion for the others to slowly follow them. Heading out into the corridor, I keep a watchful eye on my little charges as they scramble to grab their coats and lunch bags from the benches outside. The quiet space fills with the sound of high-pitched chatter, and it's a sweet sight.

"Who's that? " says Jennifer, one of my more gregarious students, and I look up, already knowing what I'm going to see. It's Edward, standing there against the wall, a newspaper in his hands he's obviously been occupying himself with while I finished up the class. There are dark circles under his eyes and he looks tired as hell but gorgeous, and the smile playing on his lips is warm and affectionate.

"Oh, he's a good friend," I say matter-of-factly, glancing back for an instant, and Edward and I share a conspiratorial glance. Coat on, Jennifer grabs her freshly-made card from the bench and bounds over to him unexpectedly before I can stop her, holding it up in front of him.

"Do you think my card's pretty?" she pipes up with a toothy grin, and I can't help but laugh at his initial "rabbit frozen in the headlights" expression. Edward's really not a kid person, and always swears that children scare the wits out of him. When I tell him about some of the things I have to deal with all day, he shakes his head and just says that he couldn't do it. I smile to myself as I watch the interaction between the two of them.

"It's the prettiest card I've ever seen," he manages, blinking swiftly, and she beams at him before scampering back to join the other children who are ready to leave in a well-organised line, for once. In that moment, I'm filled with a rush of warmth and love for him that's so powerful it threatens to make me dizzy.

"Be right back," I mouth, and he nods as I follow the children down the corridor, gently reproving those who are running or shoving each other. It's a warm spring day outside and I breathe in fresh, clean air, luxuriating in it after the stuffy heat of a classroom full of bodies. When I deliver them to their waiting parents in the playground, I stop and talk for a minute, thanking my lucky stars that there isn't one of my awkward parents to deal with today – those ones that just have to complain about every little thing. This job certainly has its frustrating aspects, but the fulfilment I've found from it far outweighs any of the negatives.

As I turn to go back inside, I'm reminded of how far Edward and I have come these past eighteen months. Somehow I found the courage to quit my soul-sucking job and was lucky enough to be able to go back to Northwestern. I managed to score a place on their prestigious Master of Science in Education programme and started the following spring. The year's training threw me straight in at the deep end, combining education theory with volunteer experience in different schools. I decided to focus on elementary teaching as I'd always been good with kids, and it was incredibly hard work, with a lot of paperwork to do on evenings and weekends. But somehow I got through it and then passed the requirements to become a state certified public school teacher.

Keeping five-year-old preschoolers entertained is no mean feat, and yet somehow, I've taken to it, finding a gift for leadership that I never knew I had. The nurture of young minds is a far greater responsibility than anything I ever had in my other job, but even on the days where I just want to kick the wall and give up, there's always a moment that reminds me of why I do this. Moments like when the children give me shakily-crayoned pictures they've drawn of me, or when a child who's been struggling with their reading manages to read a whole sentence aloud clearly. That's why I do it.

It's remarkable how one can find joy in the simplest of tasks – whether it's sorting shapes with them, teaching them to draw or paint simple images, or even managing to stop a child crying. This is my third month in the job and I can see that they're already coming on leaps and bounds in what is their first experience of schooling in a classroom environment. It's a challenging learning curve for us, me most of all, but I can't help thinking that thus far, it's been successful. The rest of the staff, the parents and the school's head teacher certainly seem to think so too, with the glowing evaluations they've given me so far.

From what I can tell, Edward's never been more proud of me. He's continued to flourish in his career and has steady commissions for his music along with his work as a music teacher and playing in various orchestras. These days the two of us seem to be busier than ever, but we always make time for each other.

"Have a good day?" he asks cheerfully, folding his paper and shoving it in the inside pocket of his jacket. "Just thought I'd swing by on my way back."

"Exhausting, but good, yes. I think they're really starting to settle down and get used to learning. No tears today, either. It's progress."

He laughs. "Should I even ask why you have glitter in your hair?" He swipes a hand over it, and sure enough, sparkly flecks fall from the strands. I sigh in frustration, remembering the incident with Michael and the glitter dispenser earlier. One of my most difficult students, I'd had to ban him from taking part in show-and-tell tomorrow after he'd covered two chairs with glue and shaken glitter all over them. We'd probably still be picking it off things tomorrow even after the cleaners had been in.

"We were making Mother's Day cards today." I shake my head in an attempt to rid the stupid sparkly crap from my hair and manage to inadvertently shower Edward with glitter.

"Now there's glitter all over me, " he protests, trying to brush down his coat. "Could I be any gayer right now?"

I snort. "Oh, I don't know...so did you finish the piece, then?" When I left for school this morning, Edward still hadn't been to bed, having stayed up all night to finish something new he'd been composing for weeks. A company had commissioned him to do a commercial and he'd wanted to make sure it was good. He'd been deeply immersed in it I'd just left him to it, but I couldn't help but be concerned for him sometimes.

He nods. "Yeah, I didn't finish it until like two hours before I had to be there, but they loved it."

I quickly glance around and when I see the corridor's deserted, I slip my fingers into his and squeeze his warm hand, telling him more about how proud I am of him than words ever could.

.-.-.-.-.-.

Later that night, I'm sitting at my desk going through progress report cards and idly listening to the snippets of different melodies and harmonies Edward's trying out on the piano in the other room. My task is relatively simple and could probably be left until tomorrow, but I just felt like getting it out of the way. As a rule these days, I never like to spend too much of my evening on paperwork, preferring to stay a little later at school to do it. Today, though, I'd wanted to come home with him, and we even went for dinner at this little Italian place in the neighbourhood for a change.

Sometimes I can hardly believe how lucky I am to have him, and how happy we've been since that terrible time where we almost lost everything. Of course, nothing is ever easy, and there are still times where we raise our voices or slam the door on each other. But we always come back together in the end. I've learned that even in perfection there are always cracks, but quickly smoothing them over isn't the answer. You have to let them heal first.

The music stops, and seconds later I hear soft footsteps and he's at the doorway. "I think I'm gonna go to bed now, I'm beat," he says with a yawn, rumpling his hair with one hand.

Getting to my feet, I cross the floor to him and wind my arms round his neck, breathing in his sweet, calming scent. Sliding my palms down to his shoulders and back, I rub out soothing circles to unknot tense muscles, and he sighs pleasantly. "That feels nice."

He reaches up to take my chin in his hand and then pulls me into a sleepy kiss, winding his other arm round me. The embrace is incredibly tender and the kiss soft and sweet at first, but it quickly deepens into something that's lustful and longing and leaves me breathless. His mouth's insistent on mine and when we pull back to look into each other's eyes, I can see his face is flushed and he's breathing as heavily as I am.

"How tired are you, exactly?" I wonder out loud, moving to scrape my teeth over his earlobe.

He lets out a sharp intake of breath, half-closed lids snapping open to reveal those beautiful green eyes. Smiling, he dips his hands beneath the collar of my shirt, tracing the tautness of my stomach muscles, and I moan softly. "Not that tired. But don't you have to finish that?"

Glancing at my desk, then back to him, I shrug. "It can wait."


So there you have it. My first slash ever. Yes, it was heartfaily, but in the end there was an HEA. I panicked a lot, and at times wasn't sure I could do it, but I loved writing these boys and I'm sad to leave them behind. Reviews would be wonderful. Thanks for reading! xxx