Sleeves Chapter One
I had already tugged off my tie and shoved it into my coat pocket, and as I slouched into the only empty stool at the bar I quickly undid the top two buttons of my crisp, white shirt. I felt like I was suffocating. The smoky air was thick in my lungs and my chest felt tight. Too tight. Pushing another button out of its hole I breathed in as deeply as I dared.
"Scotch," I grunted at the guy behind the bar as he scurried past, I guess my demeanour wasn't all that welcoming tonight. Trying to relax my shoulders slightly I wiped the grimace off my face. Was he cute? Fuck, I didn't even have it in me to care. He nodded and set about making my first drink of the night. First of how many I couldn't be sure, all I knew was that I needed to forget and if four glasses of scotch and a couple of beers would help dull the aching in my heart then I was all for it.
I shrugged out of my coat and dropped it on the seat of the stool before carefully rolling up my cuffs. Twice. Only ever twice, out of habit. I had to look professional at all times, conduct myself as a good doctor would and that meant only ever rolling my cuffs twice. I took a second to wonder just how professional I had looked when I broke down in front of my patient's parents today. Fuck, where was that drink? Chancing a quick glance around me I noticed that the place was pretty busy for a Thursday night with every seat at the bar and most booths occupied. I felt eyes on me and a low hum through my body that chipped away at the pain, if only scraping the surface. I couldn't see anyone I recognised but in a dive like this I doubted I would. I shrugged it off and turned my attention back to the bar just in time to see the barman slide my drink toward me. He was a good looking guy; average height, dirty blonde hair tied at the nape of his neck and dark eyes. He smirked when he caught my eye but I ducked my head and took a long, slow sip. The last thing on my mind was taking this guy home with me tonight, although I could tell he certainly wouldn't be opposed to the idea. I couldn't shake the guilt I felt that I was here, sitting quietly in a bar while Mr. and Mrs. Robertson were spending the first night without their son, probably sitting in cold, hard, plastic chairs in the hospital somewhere, wondering how they could possibly face the world now.
I had done everything I could to help Peter, everyone had. But that didn't make my heart feel like it had shattered into a million razor sharp pieces any less. It didn't help me when I closed my eyes and all I could see were his parents devastated faces, or when I could feel Mrs. Robertson's nails digging into my forearm as she crumpled to the floor with sobs racking her tiny body.
As I took another long sip of my drink I savoured the burn in my throat and the sick feeling as the amber liquid landed in my empty stomach. I had purged all of its contents on the locker room floor after my meltdown in front of Peter's parents. So professional.
I loved my job, I really did, but fuck if I didn't hurt when it turned out this way. It fucking broke my heart to think about the families left behind after the loss of their children, or parents or lovers. I think that's part of the reason I was still single, if I'm honest with myself. No one to leave behind if something were to happen to me, no one to get sick or hurt and leave me, broken and alone. It was easier this way. I would be just fine on my own.
"Can I get you another?" a low voice asked. I looked up to find the barman looking at me with a small smile playing at his lips. He winked at me and nodded towards my now empty glass. If it was any other night I might have been tempted to flirt back a little, tell him exactly what he could get me. But tonight it made me shudder to think about it.
"Thanks," I replied, not meeting his eyes for longer than necessary.
He set a new glass in front of me and cleared his throat. "Listen, I get off in half an hour." My shoulders tensed and I stared hard at the grain on the bar in front of me. Obviously not sensing my awkwardness he went on. I cringed; this was the last thing I needed to deal with tonight. "How about -"
"Hey. Sorry I'm late baby." The barman was cut off by the sound of a husky voice, low and deep, that went straight to my dick. Fucking hell. I was startled to feel a light kiss being pressed to my temple and was overcome with the most delicious fucking scent I'd ever smelled as the owner of the voice leaned over me. My skin tingled where his lips had been and I felt a loss immediately as he pulled away. He ducked his head slightly so he could look at my face more easily and I found myself staring into the most beautiful ocean blue eyes. They gave me a pleading look and he nodded towards a booth in the corner, asking me with his eyes if I'd follow him. I was in a fucking trance, I'd follow him anywhere.
I nodded my head slowly and stood up on shaky legs to make my way after him. When I got my bearings I looked up to see this guy properly. Fuck. Me. He was stunning. At least as tall as my 6'2 frame but not quite as lanky. In fact, under the white t-shirt stretching tightly across his broad chest and shoulders he looked lightly muscled. His waist was narrow and his jeans looked fucking incredible stretched over his ass. I might have actually drooled a bit. As I got closer I could just make out the shadows of some sort of tribal art covering his back. He was inked. My dick felt heavy and achy, throbbing in my pants. No one had ever affected me like this before. He had me hard with a kiss to my fucking forehead. I was in deep shit. He led me over to the booth and sat down, leaving enough room for me should I choose to sit next to him with my back against the wall. I did.
"I'm sorry man. You just seemed pretty uncomfortable there, thought you could use an out." He laughed softly and the sound spread waves of warmth through me. "That was presumptuous of me, I don't even know if you're..." He cut himself off and left the question hanging heavily in the air.
"I am." I answered quickly. Too quickly? I don't know shit any more. He smirked at me and seemed to breathe a small sigh of relief. "I mean, uh, thanks." This guy had rendered me speechless. Fucking ridiculous.
He nodded in return. "I'll leave you to yourself if you like? You look like you've got something on your mind tonight."
"No. No, stay." All at once the reason that I was sitting here at all came rushing back to me and the guilt out weighed this sexy stranger's warmth. I sunk lower in my seat and closed my eyes against the memories of the day. I didn't deserve to be having a good time; I should be mourning the loss of my patient.
"Let it go man." The voice from my right was laced with concern. "Whatever it is that's got you all tied up in knots like that. Let it go."
I breathed a heavy sigh and tried to do just that. This man's presence alone was enough to calm me. He somehow knew that I was struggling with something and put me at ease without even knowing me. Or my demons. I felt lighter than I should have at that moment, sitting with a complete stranger, wanting to share my dreams and fears with this man, but it felt right.
"Jasper." The man turned his body to face me and reached out his hand to shake mine. I felt a surge of electricity through my body as his large, warm hand touched my own. His skin was rough, with callouses on his fingers. He must work with his hands. A mechanic? A sculptor? He loosened his grip and my body felt the loss as instantly and as extremely as before. The dull throb in my hand and arm a reminder of his touch. I was fucking captivated.
"Edward. Edward Cullen." I let myself smile at him and his returning smile was blinding. He settled back into his seat and picked up his beer bottle, taking a long pull before setting it down. I expected him to say something else. To ask me why I was empty and aching. He never did. He sat quietly and left me to my thoughts.
I saw him bite back a laugh as the barman stalked past us but he didn't otherwise engage me. I was thankful. I didn't know if I had the ability to string coherent thoughts together around him, let alone commit to conversation.
I ordered us both a beer as he finished his own, not quite so intent on drinking my way into oblivion tonight. As the night wore on and we each nursed our drinks I caught him glancing my way from under his lashes every so often. A few times I swear I could see him move toward me out of the corner of my eye, as if to say something then softly shake his head or sigh under his breath and sit back into his seat.
It was in these quiet moments that I chanced a look at him, noticing something different and more alluring every time; the strong line of his jaw, the band of ink peeking out from under the sleeve wrapped around his strong bicep, the different shades of gold in his hair which was curling softly to his chin, the fucking barbell in each of his nipples that I could just make out under the strain of his shirt. My dick was aching with need. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, pulling at the label of my beer bottle.
The bar began winding down after midnight and my cock was demanding that I either get the fuck out of there or take a much overdue bathroom break to relieve a little tension; my balls were fucking throbbing. I stood to make my move, making sure to keep my back to Jasper, unsure of how to walk away from him without parading my straining erection around the place. Fucking tight jeans; my zipper was digging into me uncomfortably and I had to get out of them one way or another. Before I could take two steps I felt a strong hand on my forearm. Jasper hadn't spoken to me in hours and yet it felt like the most natural thing in the world when he ran his hand down to grasp my own.
He squeezed my fingers softly and tugged me to follow him out of the door. "Come on."
I just nodded dumbly, grabbed my coat and staggered behind him. The bitter, winter air slammed into me and helped clear my mind from the haze of lust clouding me. Whether because of the lack of smoke now in my lungs or the man guiding me along the sidewalk, my hand still firmly grasped within his, our arms brushing with every step and his thumb rubbing smoothing circles in my palm, I felt calmer than I had all day. Happier. More alive.
Alive. Was that what I'd been missing? I spent my days and nights fighting to save my patients; to give them another chance at life, another day to embrace, another chance to love and yet could I honestly say that I lived my own life? I decided then and there that I wouldn't let my job take over my life any more. I would be the best fucking doctor I could be but outside of those cold, sterile walls I would be a man first. I would do it for myself; for my future. For Jasper? Where the fuck had that come from?
Before I could freak myself out too much I was distracted by Jasper leading me up a set of cold, concrete stairs. We had only walked a few blocks from the bar but apparently we had reached our destination. Jasper's building was old and in desperate need of a little TLC. The once red paint of his door on the second floor was cracked and peeling and the strip light in the stairwell was blinking and hissing menacingly. He had the good grace to look a little bashful as he pulled me through the door. That blush. So fucking cute.
I stepped through the doorway without even an ounce of hesitation. I was living my life. And I was starting tonight. Jasper seemed to be in the same mind set as I was; the second I heard the door close behind me I was being pushed up against it. Jasper let his full weight fall against me with a light grunt and it couldn't have been more perfect. I could feel the pebbles of his nipples and his barbells flush against my chest as he placed a kiss against my jaw.
Chapter two coming soon.
Massive thanks to my wonderful beta, harrytwifan. Your support and guidance have been incredible. Thank you.