A/N: So...here it is! The inaugural effort at a "round robin" type slashy fic from The Slashtastics. We hope you hop on board our boylovin' train and join us for this crazy collaborative adventure. Yogagal took the plunge and wrote chapter 1. For future chapters the author's name will be the chapter title, so you'll know who's at the helm for each one.
I have to thank PerfectlyPersuasive and ICMezzo for beta-ing this chapter for me and for BMango for the preread. All mistakes left are totally my own
Disclaimer: We don't own these characters, we just like seeing the boys kiss.
Edward looked down at his watch for the third time. He figured he couldn't put off the inevitable any longer, and made his way inside the conference room, almost dreading what he would find there. As he walked in, he found a quiet corner to hide out in and surveyed the scene before him. The conference room had been given a make over. The familiar oval table and dark walnut chairs that surrounded it had been removed. In their stead was a long rectangular table covered in a red and green plaid plastic tablecloth. Where laptops and notebooks usually sat, trays of food had been carefully laid out amidst tiny potted poinsettias. Music was being piped in from somewhere and the crooning voice of Bing Crosby let everyone know that he was dreaming of a White Christmas. Edward grimaced, but decided that he'd take Bing over the bastardized Christmas muzac he'd been subjected to for the entire month of December in his office building's elevator.
Trying his best to ignore the music, Edward continued to look around the room. A large poster of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was positioned over the window that normally looked out over the city of Seattle. However, Rudolph's red nose was nowhere to be found, with the assumption that folks would gather and try to pin it on while blindfolded later in the evening. Most people who had already arrived made sure to avoid that area until after they had enjoyed their first and perhaps even second drink. Edward knew he would be avoiding that area at all costs, since he was no longer a five year old and didn't feel like pinning anything on Rudolph.
Away from the poster, stuck in the corner of the room was a Christmas tree. With the pine fresh smell that lingered in the air, most people thought it was a real tree, and as they walked by remarked at how fresh it seemed this far into the season. Had they looked just a little bit closer they would have noticed that the needles were in fact plastic, and the slightly off smell of pine came courtesy of an air freshener discreetly plugged in behind the tree. Edward shook his head as he took this all in. The tree itself was adorned with all sorts of shimmering ornaments, carefully straddling the line between gaudy and tacky. In addition to the tree, red and green strips of crepe paper were intertwined and strung across the ceiling. They were hanging just low enough so that Ben from accounting actually got twisted up in some as he walked in.
"Oops, sorry Ben!" Alice exclaimed, looking sheepish. She handed him some bright red punch topped off with a candy cane. "I probably should stand on a chair next time I string these."
Ben shook his head, but gave Alice a quick wink before walking away to sample a pig-in-a-blanket that he noticed across the room. After cleaning up the torn streamers, Alice spotted Edward and turned her attention on him, eager to engage him in conversation. Edward, however, was less than enthusiastic to do so. He wasn't quite sure why they were having a Christmas party in January. He was even less sure why the party was scheduled for the Monday after New Year's eve. His head still throbbed painfully from what was one of the longest and worst weekends of his life. As Alice continued to yammer on, Edward squeezed his eyes shut and brought his right hand up to rub at his pounding temple. It seemed to do the trick for the moment and he ended up catching the tail end of what Alice was saying.
"...and so I told Marcus that although retro was a little overdone that I would of course be happy to help him out, and voilà..." she trailed off, her hands gesturing wildly to the room they were standing in.
Edward blinked as he took in the decorated room. It was definitely...something. The room certainly didn't offend him, but Edward simply wasn't a man who thought that a retro party was ironic in the same way that many of his coworkers did. Retro might have been the new 'hip' thing to do, but just because they worked for an up and coming graphic design firm did not automatically make them hipsters. Well, it didn't necessarily make all of them hipsters, Edward thought as he looked down at his faded jeans and white button down shirt. Of course, glancing across the room, Edward noticed what he thought was his coworker Maggie's silent judgment of his relatively bland clothes. Perhaps if he wore a cardigan, a pair of skinny jeans and cut his hair so it resembled the love child of Justin Bieber and a lesbian he wouldn't be subject to all the holier-than-thou appraisal he seemed to garner at work.
Realizing he had yet to say anything, Edward remained quiet, offering Alice a shaky smile to fill the awkward silence that had fallen upon them. The bright grin that had been plastered to Alice's face began to fall, and Edward knew he had screwed up. He never had the right thing to say. He wracked his brain for something and had just started to speak when Alice interrupted him.
"Oh, um... I see you made sure to include fruitcake. That's always..." Edward trailed off.
"Jasper!" squealed Alice as she left Edward and ran to the door.
Alice's shriek pierced Edward's already throbbing head, making it hurt worse. He didn't bother checking to see who she ran toward, and instead he made his way to the punch, hoping it was spiked. He ladled some into a paper cup and found an empty chair in the corner, away from most everyone. His head was still pulsing, so he closed his eyes and took a sip of punch. Unfortunately, it wasn't spiked, but it was cold and went down smoothly. As a new song came on, Edward did his best to distract himself by humming along to the lyrics. His hums soon turned into words as he sang along.
"Feliz navidad. Feliz navidad. Feliz navidad. Pro..." Edward trailed off, realizing he actually didn't know all the words.
He heard laughter and looked up to see Mike Newton staring at him. Edward hoped that if he remained silent that Mike would just move on, finding somebody else to annoy. Unfortunately, Mike had other plans. He plopped himself down into a nearby empty seat and playfully punched Edward on his shoulder.
"Merry Christmas, brah."
Edward cringed internally and wasn't even that concerned with whether or not Mike noticed. Mike was always trying to start up conversation with Edward, and Edward was always trying to do his best to rebuff it. It helped that Mike worked in IT and Edward's computers actually behaved themselves for the most part. But invariably Mike would find ways to come into his office for a quick chat. Edward was not interested in the talk of sports, booze, or women Mike always had to share.
"First of all," he answered Mike. "I'm not your 'brah.' Second of all, you know it's not actually Christmas, right? I mean, hell. It's not even New Years anymore."
Edward shook his head, as he pushed the sleeves of his button down shirt up before crossing his arms over his chest. Mike seemed to disregard everything Edward just said and instead started talking again.
"Did you get new ink, brah?" he asked, taking in the lion that now graced Edward's right forearm. "Righteous."
Edward grunted in response, which Mike took as a sign to keep speaking.
"Yeah. I have a tribal arm band which is hella cool, but I want to get something else. Jessy keeps pestering me to get her name or something, but I keep telling her to cool it. You know how chicks can be, am I right?"
Mike grinned at Edward, but instead of encouraging him, Edward tuned him out. Mike didn't seem to notice and continued his monologue on tattoos. Instead of listening to Mike's story about wanting a flaming dragon across his entire back, Edward focused in on the sound of somebody laughing. The laugh was unfamiliar, but it grabbed Edward's attention. Granted, anything was better than listening to Mike drone on about things he knew nothing about, but something about that laugh made Edward want to know more. It was loud, cheerful, and almost sexy, nothing like Mike's annoying bray of a laugh.
Edward scanned the room, trying to figure out who it was. He saw his boss Marcus over by the punch bowl talking with Lauren from HR. When Lauren saw him looking at her, she thrust her tongue out, moistening her garishly painted lips. When she opened her mouth, he noticed the same hot pink color staining her front teeth. Shuddering, he quickly looked away, still on his quest to find the owner of that laugh. He was certain it wasn't Ben, who was now lounging against the wall chatting up Angela, one of the office administrators. Angela apparently knew where the booze was, because her eyes were a bit glassy and her skin was flushed red. Edward guessed they'd end up in the copy room before the end of the night. He would definitely need to wipe down the copier the next day.
After looking over almost the entire room, he heard the laughter again, this time closer. Edward looked over towards the buffet and saw Alice talking to somebody he didn't recognize. The man was tall and slender, with a mop of blond hair on his head. Edward couldn't see his face from where he was sitting, but he had no problem looking at the man's backside. The blond man's dark wash jeans hugged him in all the right places and Edward had a hard time not staring. Another laugh chimed out, snapping Edward out of his haze.
The first thing he noticed was Alice's hand gripping the man's arm. Edward pouted, figuring that the blond with the fine ass was a lost cause. Now he had to sit back and listen to Mike prattle on about something inane again. When he turned and looked over at Mike, Edward was pleased to find that he was already gone, having left while he was busy staring at the new guy. Edward didn't dwell on it for too long, hoping Mike's absence was permanent, and instead, took another gulp of his punch.
With nothing better to do, his gaze returned to the blond. He struggled to remember the name Alice had called out earlier.
Jefferson... Jonathon... James... Jasper!
Without being able to see his face, Edward was unable to decide if he looked like a Jasper. Instead, he focused on what he could see. The dark wash jeans ended with a pair of well worn brown leather boots. Edward wondered if they were for show, or if the man was actually a cowboy. With a snort, Edward shook his head, knowing that the likelihood of a real cowboy up in the Northwest was probably slim to none. However, it was that very slight chance that pushed Edward to keep looking, for he wasn't sure he could continue in good conscience if he thought the man was wearing the cowboy boots as an ironic fashion statement.
Moving up from the boots, Edward took in the rest of the outfit and noticed how the gray v-neck sweater clung to his body. The man didn't seem overly muscular, but he wasn't scrawny either. In fact, according to Edward's careful assessment, he was just about perfect, cowboy boots notwithstanding. Edward continued to watch as Alice whispered in the man's ear, and gave him a hug. Watching their obviously close display, Edward felt a smidge of remorse for so openly ogling him, but he didn't feel bad enough to stop.
"I'll be right back, Jasper!"
Edward had never been more thankful for the fact that Alice's voice seemed to always carry across a crowded room. He gave himself a mental pat on the back for having correctly recalled Jasper's name. Unsure when Alice would return, Edward took the opportunity to stare. Jasper finally turned towards Edward, allowing the seated man a glimpse of his face.
While he was no slouch, Jasper was gorgeous. Piercing blue eyes, an angular jaw peppered with scruff and a delectably long neck. Edward watched as Jasper spotted a little quiche on the buffet. He carefully picked one out, holding it up to his lips. As Jasper popped it into his mouth, Edward watched intently as the blond man's throat bobbed when he swallowed. A glint of silver peeked out as Jasper's tongue flicked between his lips to capture some errant crumbs. Edward couldn't pry his eyes from the sight, transfixed at the thought of what Jasper could do with a tongue ring.
Edward could feel himself getting a little hot around the collar and shifted slightly in his seat. He finished off the cup of punch in his hand and crushed the paper, trying to get a grip on himself. A wayward hand found its way into his hair and he self consciously tugged at his wild locks.
From out of nowhere, he felt another, much smaller hand in his hair and looked up in time to see Alice hovering over his shoulder, poking and prodding him.
"What the hell, Alice?" Edward grumbled, trying to pull away, but the forceful minx wouldn't be deterred.
"Sit down," she instructed and gave him a little shove. "I'm fixing your hair. You've gone and messed it all up. And it was looking so good..."
Edward could swear he heard Alice clucking her tongue at him as she finger combed his hair back into place. Finally, she was done and stood back, admiring her handiwork.
"Not bad. Not bad at all, really. Although..."
Alice eyed Edward up and down for a second before continued her thought.
"...have you ever thought of wearing a sweater vest? It would give you a nice, broad look in your shoulders and a rich chocolate colored one would bring out the green in your eyes."
The sparkle of excitement in Alice's eyes scared Edward for a moment before he regained his composure slightly.
"Er, no. I'm all set Alice. But, uh, thanks."
Alice just shook her head, smiling the whole time.
"Suit yourself," she said with a slight huff. "But I happen to know that Jasper has a fondness for sweater vests..."
At the mention of Jasper's name, Edward could feel his face flush. He stared at Alice and wondered what her deal was. She was the one who brought him to this party. Why would she be insinuating something to Edward about him?
Edward knew that Alice was aware that he was gay. Unlike Mike, Alice wasn't an idiot and could tell that Edward didn't dig women like that. Alice also happened to be the office busybody and made it her mission to know exactly what was happening in everyone's personal life at any given moment. In some instances it was a useful trait. There was always a tasty cake waiting in the break room on people's birthdays and some liquor filled chocolate candies discreetly placed on your desk if you were having a bad day. Other times, however, Alice was known to overstep her boundaries, and Edward was almost certain this was one of those times.
"I...I'm not a fan of sweater vests," was Edward's meek reply. He shook his head as he realized how lame he sounded.
"Not the point," Alice replied, thankfully no longer fixated on sweater vests. "But what about Jasper? Are you a fan of him?"
Edward's eyes widened at Alice's loaded question. He wasn't sure how to answer it. From what he'd seen so far this evening, he was definitely a fan. But it's not like he actually knew the man. Plus, hadn't he come here with Alice? Before Edward was able to reply, Alice sat down next to him and leaned in so she could whisper.
"And...and I heard about Garrett."
Alice sounded sad, as if she pitied Edward, but that was the last thing he needed at the moment. He wasn't sure how she found out, and he wasn't even sure he cared at the moment. Anger began to bubble below the surface and combined with his lack of sleep and pounding headache, it made Edward all sorts of annoyed. He really didn't want people to feel sorry for him. He was about to tell her where to stuff it, which was a very un-Edward thing to do. Just as he was about to explode, and most likely make a scene, Alice continued to speak.
"If you don't mind me saying so. I'm kind of glad it happened."
Edward spun around to look directly at Alice, his face having taken on a look of confusion rather than anger.
"He was a dick Edward," she explained, placing her hand on his forearm. "Sure he was insanely hot, but he was never that nice to you. I mean, I know I didn't really know him all that well. But from what I saw...did he really make you happy?"
Edward didn't answer Alice right away. To be honest, he really didn't want to have to think about Garrett. That whole relationship had been one big ball of fail from the start. But for Garrett to dump him on New Year's Eve? Well...that just stung. He thought back upon their few short months together.
Had there been happy moments?
Edward thought there were a few, but most of the ones he could conjure up in his head took place between the sheets, and always at his house, never at Garrett's. Upon reflection that did seem a bit strange. He didn't have time to dwell on it, since Alice started talking again.
"Anyway, it's a new year, Edward, and I really think that you need to find yourself somebody who deserves you. You're super smart and wickedly funny, even though you're kind of quiet. Oh, and you're hot, too. So you've got that going for you."
Edward felt his cheeks heat up at Alice's compliments.
"You're welcome," said Alice with a giggle. "Anyway, I invited Jasper along today because I thought you might want to meet him. He lives in my building and we've gotten friendly. He's quite the catch and I think you two would hit it off. Now where'd he go?"
While Edward was more than happy to hear that Alice wasn't actually with Jasper, and that he might, in fact, be gay as well, he wasn't sure if he was ready for a set up like this. As Alice craned her neck all around in hopes of spotting Jasper, Edward steeled himself to respond.
"Oh, Alice. I'm not sure I..."
Before he was able to finish his sentence, Alice was already up and running over towards the Rudolph poster. From where he was sitting, Edward could see Lauren and Mike attempting to pin the light up nose somewhere decidedly not on Rudolph's face. With hands on her hips, Alice read them the riot act, berating them for trying to trash up her party. Mike kept laughing while Lauren rolled her eyes, which ended up making Alice even angrier.
Edward stifled a laugh as he watched it all go down. Despite his reservations of Alice's little matchmaking scheme, Edward couldn't help but scan the room, looking for Jasper. Unable to spot him, Edward decided he might as well get something to eat. Alice had really done a good job of ensuring that the food adhered to her retro theme. In addition to the finger foods, there was a jello mold, a little fondue pot with bubbling cheese and an assortment of brightly decorated sugar cookies.
It took Edward a few minutes to decide what looked the most appetizing. He finally zeroed in on the Swedish meatballs, and reached across the table to grab one. Before he was able to make contact with the questionably colored meat, however, his hand got knocked away. Edward looked over to see who the meatball enthusiast was and was more than surprised to find himself staring into a set of striking blue eyes.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Jasper exclaimed, obviously startled. "I didn't realize you were going in for a ball."
Edward just stared at him, his eyes blinking rapidly.
"Please," offered Jasper, motioning towards the food. "After you."
Edward finally got it together enough to grab his plate and tossed a few meatballs onto it.
"Th-thanks," he managed to reply. "I...I hope they're good."
Edward mentally berated himself for not coming up with something more intelligent and debated just dropping his plate of meatballs and making a run for it. The only thing that stopped him was the grin that slipped across Jasper's face as the blond man looked him over. It was a good thing Edward stayed put, because not even a second later, Jasper leaned in to and spoke quietly.
"I happen to know that these meatballs are quite tasty," Jasper said, his warm breath washing over the side of Edward's face.
Edward gulped, and shoved the meat in his mouth to prevent him from saying something idiotic. He was surprised to note that despite the greyish coloring, the meatball wasn't half bad.
"So? Like my balls?" Jasper asked Edward, causing him to choke on the piece of meat left in his mouth. Jasper was quick to respond, thumping his fist repeatedly on Edward's back until the chunk dislodged itself and shot across the room in a spray of meat, narrowly missing the cheeselog coated in walnuts.
"Shit, I was just playing around, man. Are you okay?" asked Jasper in a panicked voice.
Edward held his hand up and made the universal sign for "all good" while he worked to regain a normal breathing pattern. After the wheezing stopped, he finally looked up at Jasper, ready to see the disgusted look he probably had on his face. Instead, he noticed Jasper biting his lip, his brow all furrowed in concern.
"Thanks, I appreciate it," Edward offered, genuinely grateful that Jasper had helped him out, even though it was pretty humiliating.
Jasper shrugged in response, looking a bit sheepish. The two of them just stood there for a bit, trading nervous glances in the somewhat awkward silence. Edward, surprisingly enough, was the one to break it first.
"I think I'll live," he joked, offering Jasper a weak smile.
"I'm glad," replied Jasper, giving Edward's shoulder a quick squeeze.
They returned to the silence, only this time it seemed more natural between the two men. As they stood there, Edward realized that while he knew Jasper's name, he had no clue if Jasper had any idea of who he was. He figured that now would be an opportune time to remedy that. While Jasper had turned his attentions back to the buffet table, Edward mentally ran some lines through his head so he wouldn't sound like a total idiot this time.
My name's Edward by the way, and I usually don't choke on balls.
Your ball was really tasty. Oh, and I'm Edward.
Edward wasn't quite sure why he kept thinking of balls, but being so close to Jasper seemed to muddle his brain. Finally, Edward turned to face Jasper, intent on introducing himself.
But before he was able to get his name out, Jasper held up a hand, signaling for Edward to hold on a second. After pulling out his phone, Jasper mouthed "I'm sorry" to Edward and turned away to answer it. Edward couldn't quite make out what was being said, as Jasper kept his voice low, but the phone call seemed urgent. After less than a minute Jasper whipped back around, looking anxious.
"I'm so sorry, but I need to run. There's been an emergency and..." Jasper spoke in a rush as he looked frantically around the room. "I...I can't spot Alice, but can you please tell her I had to leave and I'll speak to her soon..."
Jasper's eyes finally landed on Edward's face. Jasper looked as if he wanted to say something else, but then his phone buzzed again and whatever words were about to leave his lips disappeared. Jasper reached out to give Edward's hand a quick squeeze before answering his phone and rushing out.
Edward stood there, surrounded by crappy Christmas carols, cafeteria-quality food, and drunk coworkers, wanting nothing more than to run out of the room and chase after the man who turned his stomach into knots from one small touch. However, by the time his courage showed up, Jasper was long gone, and there would be no finding him. Edward cursed himself for letting Jasper slip away, just as they had started talking.
Noticing a mini bottle of vodka tucked behind one of the poinsettias, Edward got himself another cup of punch and liberally helped himself to a Christmas cocktail, figuring that if he had to stay at this fail of a party, he might as well be drunk for it. Taking a large sip, Edward sighed at the warmth of the vodka as it entered his system. After a few more sips his headache even started to go away. By the last sip, Edward was feeling brave enough to decide that tomorrow he might even ask Alice for Jasper's phone number.
So what did y'all think of Yogagal's start to the story? Are you excited to see where this is all going to go? We are too! Yogagal is also the author of the sweet and smoky Bella/Edward story: The Hood. She loves the slash, and she has written some super smexy oneshots to prove it. Just click back to our profile for links to her profile and all the author's profiles.
Next up... bmango!