AN: Happy Birthday, to one of the coolest gals in the fandom. I love you girl, but I'm waiting impatiently for my aPtA review reply. :=)

*smooches* Have a great day Robyn. To read more of her birthday stuff go to: http: / rmhalebday(dot)blogspot(dot)com

Thanks to OnTheTurningAway for beta-ing this in the final hour.

I also want to say thanks to Cullen818 (my normal beta) and Leckadams for being so patient while I find my writing muse again. They both bought FGB auction items and I won't forget about it. I've gone back to college, so now I'm working full-time and going to school part-time. The homework is killing me, but I'm starting to find a rhythm, so hopefully I can continue writing and pick back up some of my reading.

I don't normally rec fics or authors because lets face it, we all pretty much read the same stuff. I don't normally rec songs either, but if you want to get into Jasper's frame of my mind for this fic listen to Can't Forget You by My Darkest Days. Very cool song.


Can't Forget You

"It's been forever, and I can't forget you."

Edward is coming back.

Edward is coming back.

The meeting is in full force, and co-workers are talking all around me, but I haven't managed to sustain a simple thought since 8:46 this morning. That was the exact minute that my boss, the Vice President of Finance, told me that Edward Cullen is going to be in town for another visit.

I have no idea what the visit is for, or how long he will be here this time. My position as the Director of US Accounting, and Edward being the Chief Marketing Officer at our international office in New Zealand, means that we lead completely different areas of the organization. So, it isn't unusual that I'm not advised about the goings on of our global alliance marketing summits.

The branch in New Zealand is pretty self-sufficient. They are equipped to handle all of their business and books in their own territory, only supplying quarterly financial reports to the top Execs here. So, communication between their offices and the US offices is gratuitous. The executives keep us on a need to know basis and apparently Edward's second visit doesn't fall into that category. Little do they know.

It's been five years. Five goddamn years. Why come back now? After all this time? It had taken me so long to function properly after he left…to act normal again.

Edward is coming back.

I don't know whether to be ecstatic or terrified of this new development. Edward…Jesus…

It's been five years, but hearing his name opens wounds that I thought were healed. Memories I had become so good at suppressing come flooding back, and can no longer be contained. Knowing that he will be here in two and a half days has me reeling with the memories I haven't allowed myself to dwell on for many years.

Fuck.

Five years ago Edward was named the CMO and he was brought to the corporate headquarters in Michigan for some in depth, intense training. He was here for one month, and that's all it took for Edward to etch himself into my heart, body and soul. I would have never guessed that someone I had known for such a short time could have such an impact on my life, but it did…he did.

Since the memories will not abate, I relent and sit back in my chair, pretending to listen to Maria as she drones on about our current costing dilemmas. I suck in a quick, shaky breath as I give myself permission to envision Edward from five years ago.

After Edward had arrived, he had been pulled into all-day meetings. Only a few of the personnel in the office had an opportunity to meet him during those first couple of days. I remembered how Jessica had gushed about how hot he was after delivering them lunch one day.

By the third day almost every girl in the office was chomping at the bit to set their eyes on the man. Poor guy, I had thought, he had no idea what he was going to walk into. I had to admit that I was anxious to meet him myself. Not that I suspected that he'd be gay or anything, but I just wanted to see if he lived up to the office gossip. I could look couldn't I?

Neither Jessica nor any other women could have prepared me for my first sighting of Edward. I'd just been delivering a budget plan to Jessica for copying and distribution when he walked out of a conference room. Thankfully, I had been standing right next to her desk, because I needed to put my hand on the mahogany surface to steady myself when he had walked toward us with a half smile on his face. I'd been surprised at how young he looked for being one of the Chief Officers of a major corporation. But the girls had been right on, he had been a true vision of beauty and masculinity.

Thoughts of messy locks, jade eyes, and a strong jaw swirl in my mind. They are familiar features I have recalled so many times over the years…usually they're quick flashes that beg to be re-lived and cherished before I can squelch them, locking them into a recess of my brain I never permit myself to wander. I've tried to tell myself to let the past be the past because honestly, it hurts so much more not being able to live with those memories, when in fact they should actually be showcased as unequivocally the best times of my life.

He looked like a GQ model in his fashionable navy blue suit. The first two buttons on his pinstriped shirt had been undone, drawing my attention to the modestly exposed area. Saliva had pooled in my mouth, and I had to swallow thickly so I could introduce myself to him. He smiled in such a genuine way, holding out his hand for a firm handshake. Our hands gripped and held for a little longer than what would be considered business appropriate.

We had barely gotten our names out before he was called back into the meeting. He gave Jessica instructions on printing a PowerPoint presentation and quickly made his way back to the conference room. Before he opened the door, he turned around and said it had been a pleasure to meet me and that he hoped to see me around.

"It figures." Jessica had muttered disdainfully. I laughed knowing exactly what she meant by that, but I hadn't believed her. No one knew what Edward's orientation was, so she based her frustration purely on assumption. It wasn't until a few days later when a horde of women had surrounded him, desperately attempting to get his attention, and earn one of those sexy smirks that only he could deliver so fucking convincingly that we all learned the truth.

I observed the scene unfolding from the doorway of my office. It was there that he made his confession. I watched smiles disappear and shoulders slump as the realization dawned on the girls that he wasn't just teasing them. As they all dragged themselves away in fits of pouting and despondency, he smiled shyly at me.

Hands in his pockets, and with his head hung forward, he took steps to approach me. I hadn't even realized that I had also taken steps until we were practically toe-to-toe in the midst of cubicles…and prying eyes. "I hope you don't mind Jasper," he had said quietly.

I would have kissed him right then and there...if I had been bold.

But I wasn't.

In retrospect I wish that I had been daring that afternoon. It would have given us more time to be 'together'.

Because 'together' only occurred once during that month.

After I told him that I was not only fine with his sexual preference, but that I also shared it, we became inseparable outside the office. I took him to several local tourist sights, but mainly we both liked to eat in and watch movies the best. We had a lot of fun being together, we got along great, conversation never lagged and boredom never became an issue.

It had been heartbreaking to realize that inevitably he would go back home, and the likelihood that we would never see each other again was immense. I still believe that is why we tried so hard to deny our attraction. It had always been there…the longing was practically tangible, and the need to touch…so fucking overwhelming. But the demands of our hearts were ignored as we tried to protect ourselves the best way we knew how.

I wish I could have known that it really wouldn't have made a difference anyway. Even without the physical aspect, I had fallen in love with Edward. I think I still might be. It's apparent that I haven't forgotten, and I'm finding that the feelings are still fresh. I can feel the desire wash over me, and it burns just as hot as it did during our last night together, and I can still replicate in perfect clarity the agony of the next morning when I left him at the airport.

"Are you okay Jasper?" My assistant, Angela, whispers next to me, and I realize that my arms are crossed over my stomach, and who knows what sounds had come from me as I made my small trip back to my very own Neverland.

"I'm fine. Just something I ate for breakfast." I look up to see Maria frozen in place waiting to see if I'm alright. Okay, what in the hell did I do? Evidently, I need to continue this unexpected rehash in solitude, before I manage to embarrass myself further. "Maria, very well researched. I have another meeting to get ready for, so Angela can fill me in on the rest later."

"Sure thing, Jasper. Take it easy…Geez, I hope you aren't getting the flu that's going around," Maria says.

This starts everyone on their own little sidebars, talking about their personal experiences with the latest flu epidemic, so no one notices my retreating figure as I seek the solace of my office. When I get there I don't even turn on the light. I open the shade to the window that stretches along the north wall and look blindly through the pane.

When Edward came to the States I had only been twenty-four years old. I had barely moved into the small office I had acquired when I was promoted to the position of Manager of Accounts Payable, which basically made me a nobody on the organization's complex, multi-layered pyramid. Edward is two years older than me and he had already made it to the top of the ladder. It had amazed me through and through that he even wanted to spend time with me.

I never felt worthy of his attention, which is just one more reason why I never made any moves on him. It makes me wonder, since my rank in the corporation has improved, as well as my confidence level, if I could be more assertive if we end up in a similar situation this time around. God only knows.

Edward is coming back.

It doesn't matter how many times I think it, I still can't believe it, and I definitely don't know what I am going to do about it.

I think back to the last twenty-four hours that we had been together and I'm not really sure I can go through that again, because it's the same damn thing all over. It doesn't matter what I do, how I act, how fucking irresistible I can make myself, it won't change the outcome. When all the business is concluded, he's going to go home.

The mere thought causes a sharp pain in my chest. I sit down, fold my arms on my desk and rest my forehead on them.

The last day that Edward was here was monumental in every sense. It was the most blissful, and the most painful day that I had ever experienced. To say that tensions were running high that night would have been the sickest of understatements.

We tried to have a nice dinner out, which was an outright failure. Smiles given over our meals never reached our eyes, and the few discussions we tried to have were cut short with monosyllabic answers, if we had been paying attention to what each other was saying to begin with. His hand quivered on the table, giving away his inner struggle. I laid my hand on top of his to try and calm him, but his burnished eyes shot up to mine, and the despair was plain as day.

"Jasper, take me back to the apartment. I…I can't do this…" His mouth stayed open, as if he wanted to say more, but nothing came out, and it almost caused me to burst out into the fit of tears I so badly wanted to succumb to, but I swallowed it back, saving it all for the next day, after he was gone. I grabbed his hand and with neither of us relinquishing that hold, we clung to one another as we made our way back to his apartment. Once inside he wasted no time in turning his tear filled eyes to mine, and whispering fervently, "take me to bed Jasper…make love to me. Please."

He didn't have to ask me again, and it would have been pointless for me to ask him if he was sure or not. We were both aware that we were probably making a colossal fucking mistake. We had never talked about what would happen when he left. We never discussed the future, but it made no difference, because the infinite hopelessness of our situation was lost on us in that moment.

We staggered into the bedroom, tripping over pant legs and half naked limbs. We fell onto the bed with eager tongues and hands. With muted moans and gasps suffused with unrestrained pleas, hushed words of desperate entreaties, and unanswerable prayers we joined in such a way that could never be forgotten, nor ever equaled.

I let out one agonized sob before I can shush myself. I hold my breath and squeeze my eyes shut to prevent another outburst. No other man has ever matched, or even come close to, the pleasure and intensity that I received from Edward during our lovemaking that night.

And I've really tried hard not to compare, but it's impossible not to unconsciously distinguish the difference between a decent date/fuck when you have achieved thee ultimate desire, and an unparalleled connection with someone else. Even when I don't realize I'm doing it, I wake up afterward with a sense of being lost, which is always chased by a day or two of weakened depression.

Over the years I've learned to cope with my post-coital drama. Peter makes it slightly easier to handle. He isn't my boyfriend and I can't even really call him a friend, but when baser instincts can no longer be ignored, or dealt with by a simple wank in the shower, Peter makes himself available. With the passing of time I've surrendered the idea of finding the elusive happily ever after. I am content…I really am. I have a wonderful family, and a great group of friends who have supported me unconditionally. If I'm not meant to have someone special to stand beside me then so be it.

I wipe angrily at the few tears that have slipped past. I stopped crying for Edward long ago. I learned how to repress my emotions. I stopped putting a name to my moodiness after a night with Peter, I've lived my life and now he has to go and come back, starting all of this shit over again.

Dropping Edward off at the airport had been a traumatizing event. We didn't speak as I drove. It happened that there was nothing left to say. Everything had already been discussed the night before.

We had both decided it would be best if we didn't have any sort of contact after he left. The decision had been heart-wrenching for both of us, and we shed many tears through the process, but we both ultimately admitted that it would hurt too much to stay in contact, and it would be too difficult to move on. So, instead of having inane conversation on the way to the airport, I breathed only when necessary, in contrast to Edward whose breath came out in short, quick pants. But one thing we had in common was that we held each other's hand in a death grip. Our knuckles were white as we held each other for the last time.

Pulling his luggage from the trunk of my car I avoided his eyes. I set them down and stupidly commented about the airport traffic, but my voice was hoarse and I barely got the broken words out before I was grasped in a ferocious hug.

"Jasper…" he whispered…and then…God, nothing…my name just hung out there.

There were no other words, except the ones that were off limits.

I pondered over the years if I should have told him that I loved him, as we stood in the airport drop-off lane. I know for certain that my declaration wouldn't have mattered any, but I should have put it out there...right? He had the right to know…didn't he? He would have wanted to know…right? Even now, I still don't know the answer to these questions.

I wonder how he feels about seeing me again. Does he even know I still work here?

I oversee five different departments, but it still doesn't leave me privy to the happenings overseas. I don't see the memos, and I don't hear gossip of any sort.

It was extremely difficult the first couple of months after he left not to check up on him. I knew if I wanted to search him out back then I could have found him on Facebook, or looked him up in our global directory, but from a reserve of strength and willpower built solely on a necessary quest for self-preservation I managed to steer clear of anything Edward Cullen. It was a test that I had passed, but not without scars.

I pull the bottom drawer of my desk open and rummage to the back for the crinkled, well-used atlas. When I set the book on the desk's surface, it practically opens to the page I'm looking for, because it had been bent to that one page so many fucking times before. I run my fingers over the page, measuring the distance again between Michigan and New Zealand. I had used this method in the past to steel myself from the never-ending urge to break down and contact him. He was literally on the other side of the world. I had to make myself realize…he couldn't be any further away from me.

The tactic had worked each time, but as I run my fingertips back over the worn page, I take in the stains and warped ink and can't help but wonder how many tears it had cost me to make me see the impracticality of holding on to him.

There is a knock at the door and I quickly close the book and return it to the drawer. "Yeah…" I clear the frog in my throat and try again. "Come on in."

Angela comes in juggling paperwork and a drink in her hands. She looks up quickly and glances around the room with a confused look. Oh yeah, the light is off. Well, shit.

Her expression becomes carefully blank and she closes the door. Without turning on the light, or even asking me about it, she strides over to the desk and puts the Starbucks cup on the desk in front of me. "It's a Quad Iced Venti Latte," she states with a smile on her face.

"A what?" I ask. This gets her to giggle.

"A Quad Iced Venti Latte. Robyn gave it to me. She said it always makes her feel better." The smile disappears from her face when she realizes what she's said.

I chuckle softly, grasping the drink and taking a quick sip. Yum. "Thanks Angela, and I'll have to thank Robyn too." Robyn is the owner of a Starbucks, and a great friend. Even though we have two Starbucks located closer to the office, Angela and I always travel the extra distance to see her.

Angela's gaze is on me, but I stare at the drink in my hand as I fiddle with the lid. "I'm just feeling a little under the weather. I'll be fine." I lie. I won't be fine. I can't imagine going through everything I have been through again, but I am fully aware that it is already too late to stop it from happening.

"Okay," she says nonchalantly, as her eyes wander around the office. She takes a seat in one of the two chairs that sit on the opposite side of my desk. "So, that was some big news that you got today, huh?" she points out quietly.

The office is buzzing with the news of Edward's upcoming visit, and it's no secret to Angela, or anyone else who was here at the time, that Edward and I had some type of a relationship. I'm not sure how much she had known about what I went through afterward, since she wasn't my assistant at the time, and we didn't talk much. Anything she found out must have been through her own observations or through office blather.

I attempt to blow it off, not ready to reveal my insecurities. I shrug. "A lot of time has passed…y'know?" But I struggle to continue that façade, and I feel my lip tremble minutely. Clearly, I'm not ready to talk about Edward openly.

"You don't have to say anything else. Just know that I'm here for you." Okay, so she is aware that I went through Hell. Just how transparent was I back then?

"Thanks Angie," I barely whisper. She just nods her head and glances around the office again, and I realize it's because she's trying not to read me. She's giving me the small privacy, and I love her even more.

And that's why I feel at peace for the first time since 8:46 this morning, as she sits in my office with me for almost forty minutes discussing the rest of the meeting that I had missed…with the light off.

XXXXX

"With every single day - it won't go away. The way I feel about you."

I almost didn't come in today.

He's here. Edward is here. Somewhere.

I'm not sure if he's in the office yet, but I went down the elevator yesterday with Mike Newton who was on his way to pick Edward up at the airport. I wanted to drill him with questions. What is he doing here? How long is he staying? Why is he the one picking him up? But I had kept my lips tightly shut.

The rumor is that there's a major acquisition in progress of one of our main competitors in New Zealand and they are working out the specific details of the contract. I can't imagine he would be here too long for that; a couple of days, at best.

Fuck, that hurts.

I've isolated myself to my office or home the last couple of days as I've tried to prepare myself and attempt to figure out exactly how I am going to act around him. After forty-eight hours of thinking of not much else the only thing I can come up with is to just follow his lead. If he wants to be casual, then I can do the same. If he appears to want nothing to do with me, then I can pretend not to as well. If he wants to jump me, than I'm totally game, and if he wants to act like nothing happened five years ago then fuck him.

Shit, all I know is none of the above will happen if I stay holed up in my office all day.

I straighten the collar of my pale blue shirt and throw on my black suit jacket. I run my hands through my hair and then over my face one final time. I grab the handle to the door, but stand momentarily idle as a wave of fear and concern for my well-being spikes through me. I can't avoid this any longer, so I just have to man up and get it over with.

Angela spots me as soon as I open the door, like she's been watching for me all along. It's impossible not to see her stress, it's as though the word is stamped across her forehead. "Hey, Jasper. I was just about to head over to Jessica's desk to drop off this paperwork…um, are you headed over that way?"

I can't find it in me to make a smart ass comment at her lame attempt at ignorance.

"Uh, yeah. I can take it over there if you want."

"Okay." She slowly hands me the stack of file folders, but when I turn and take a couple of steps I hear her trailing behind me. I stop abruptly, but don't turn around. She almost runs into me, but puts on the brakes just in time.

"Angela?" I question, still without turning.

"Um, I…I can't…I have to…Jasper, what if…" she whispers, and then groans.

I glance over my shoulder to see her face-palming. "Come on," I say, and continue my trek to the other side of the building.

I'm fucking nervous, and doubt and uncertainty is tearing through me. Why didn't Edward call to tell me he'd be back in town? Why didn't he ask me to pick him up at the airport instead of Mike Newton? Wouldn't he have done these things if he wanted to see me again? What am I doing, right now?

By the time we arrive at Jessica's desk I have myself in a fine tizzy, and every instinct is telling me to turn and run, Michael Johnson style. Jessica already has a crap load of executives surrounding her desk making a series of demands, all at once. She's handling it like a seasoned pro, fervently writing on a pad, nodding her head in understanding as she looks from one person to the next. I don't see Edward in the group, but I hadn't expected to have such a public reunion anyway.

I pivot quickly, and the desperation is thick in my voice. "Maybe we should come back. She looks real busy right now." Angela's shaking her head, and I find myself ready to plead, if necessary. "I…I don't even see him," I reason.

Her eyes move in a completely different direction than the throng of needy executives that I'd been eyeing. "He's here," she whispers.

My eyes follow hers and my knees almost buckle when I see Edward leaning casually against a copy machine staring directly at me. Casual it is then. But I don't move, and I don't talk.

Angela quickly takes over the situation when it's apparent that I'm not functioning properly, and Edward makes no move from his comfortable perch. "Edward. It's so good to see you again." She approaches Edward with a steady gait, holding her hand out for him to shake. "You may not have remembered me from the last time you were here. My name is Angela. I was just a clerk when you previously visited, but I'm…uh, Jasper's assistant now." She points over her shoulder to me.

I know it's my cue to say something, but my mouth won't open and my legs won't fucking move. Edward smiles down at Angela. "I'm sorry, to be honest, I had met so many people that week, that I don't remember a lot. I have a terrible memory." His eyes flicker to mine briefly and then back to Angela.

What is that supposed to mean? Is he saying that he doesn't remember anything?

I'm so confused.

His eyes looked resigned and saddened when they fall back on me, and I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. He steps forward, and holds out his hand. "Jasper…it's good to see you again. How have you been?"

His voice is strong and unwavering, and I wonder how the hell he can be so infuriatingly calm - unless he really hadn't cared about me at all. An unjustified anger builds up in me and gives me the strength to pretend indifference, if only momentarily. I plaster a fake ass smile on my face, and shake his hand with more force than I intended to. Fuck him.

I know my pain is my own doing, and I shouldn't hate Edward for not feeling the way I do, but that knowledge doesn't stop me from wanting to punch that fucking half smile off of his face.

"I've been great Edward. How was your flight?" I ask with as much bored enthusiasm as I can muster. The act appears to have drained me because, as casually as I can, I take two steps backward and lean on a cubicle wall for support.

He looks a little taken aback by my careless attitude. "Um…it was good. The meals were atrocious but the movies were entertaining." His voice drifts by the end, barely into a whisper, by the time he finishes.

Now I'm really confused. Did I just screw up?

I'm counting the scuffmarks on my shoes, and I can hear the clock ticking on the wall as we stand in a silence that is actually hurting my ears.

"So, how long are you here for this time?" Angela asks…for me. This makes my head snap up and stare at Edward.

His hand is massaging the back of his neck. "One week," he mutters, as if in relief.

Angela's hand flies to her chest unconsciously, "Oh, just one week then?" Angela says…or asks? I don't know. I can't focus.

One week? Really? I feel sick and ready to collapse. What did I expect? I already knew he wouldn't be here for long. Why is this suddenly surprising me? …killing me?

I guess it wasn't what Angela had expected to hear either, but she clears her throat, and recovers nicely. "Well, hopefully, you brought some warmer clothes. It's not supposed to be much over 10 degrees all week."

"I was hoping for some snow," he says quietly, his eyes only flickering on mine before settling on Angela. He looks extremely uncomfortable, and probably annoyed.

This was a very bad idea.

"Well, they did mention that we might get some by the end of the week, but this is Michigan…so, um you really never know." She quickly glances at me with a silent plea to either say something or get us the hell out of here.

Thankfully, we are interrupted when Jessica tells Edward they are waiting for him in the south conference room.

"Well, it was good to see you again Angela. Maybe I'll see you again Jasper?" I hear the question rather than the statement. Does he want to? 'Cause I haven't gotten that impression so far.

"Yeah, maybe…around…um…" We stare at each other…hard. It's like he's trying to figure out something, just like me.

"Edward, come on buddy," Mike calls from the opening of the conference room.

Edward hitches his thumb behind him, indicating that he has to go without saying so. I watch him retreat until he reaches the door. He hesitates before he breaches the doorway, and I think he's going to turn. My heart feels like it is beating out of my chest in anticipation of what kind of look he's going to give me, because I need some kind of a clue, but he doesn't turn, and after a small pause and a few steps, the door shuts behind him.

I don't know how long I stare at the closed door, but when I turn, I see Angela still staring at the closed door. She finally looks at me. Her eyes are wide…and stunned. She opens her mouth, but nothing comes out. After long moments, and two more attempts her voice finally returns. "What the hell just happened?" Utter shock drips heavily from each of her words.

We both simultaneously turn and start to amble slowly back to our wing of the building. "I don't know." I say in a horror-filled daze. "Did we just talk about the weather?"

Angela groans. "Yeah, that could have gone better."

XXXXX

"Stop haunting my dreams, please set me free."

After my botched attempt at a reconciliation with Edward, I tried to go back to my office and dive into some quarterly P&L issues, but I couldn't focus on any one thing and decided to just give it up and leave for the day.

Plopping down on my living room sofa, I turn on the TV for noise. I don't have any intention of watching anything. Like a broken, annoying, nagging record, there's only one thing that's going to play over and over in my head.

One week.

He's only here for one fucking week. What the hell am I going to do? Am I going to try to talk to him again? I just can't leave it like that, can I?

I just don't think I can go through this again.

I had loved him - pined for him. When he left I cried, begged, pleaded for God to bring him back. When he didn't come back I cried, begged and pleaded for God to help me get over him. And just when I feel like I had finally done just that, that I've made it through - he comes back, upsetting this precarious balance that I have going on. And the real kick in the teeth is that when he does come back, he comes back with absolutely no reaction toward me at all, making me feel like a naïve schoolboy who couldn't get over a common fling.

I feel like such a stupid ass.

Damn, the only chance I have at survival this week is to tamp down my feelings for him, avoid him completely, and when he goes back home I can keep trying to forget him.

At least avoiding him should be simple enough. I guess he made it kind of easy for me, since he didn't look like he wanted to see me again anyway. Jesus Christ, what was that? A freaking nightmare is what that reunion was. Holy shit. How could that have possibly gone any worse? I suppose I could have thrown myself at his feet. I imagine the scenario and then chuckle, and then I laugh. Laugh out-fucking-loud. I wipe the wetness from my eyes, thinking that I'm totally going insane.

But watching his reaction would have been comical…okay, no it wouldn't have – at least not for me.

I try to spin what happened in a different direction, possibly try to find a positive in this fiasco. Just maybe that rude awakening is exactly what I have needed. Maybe this will bring closure, and with that maybe I'll find true peace, and maybe love.

I go to bed riding on high hopes that are based on a bunch of maybes.

These hopes rest in the forefront, but the dreams of my subconscious have other plans and I dream of paleness, green and auburn, slick and hot above me, and the penetration is so intense, so goddamn real that I burst from it...and the very real physical pleasure snared with the very real emotional pain sends me into a tailspin of convulsions and a multitude of "Oh Gods" that I've learned won't be heard, or answered by anybody but me.

XXXXX

"Whoever said this pain would ever go away, didn't know what it meant to be here without you."

I walk to the elevator with a sense of accomplishment…and a sense of failure. I press the button for the parking garage with a sad happiness, if there is such a thing.

I had been successful in my avoidance of Edward today, and it feels really good…but I have a headache, and I feel sick, and if I am willing to admit…depressed like all get out. The countdown of days Edward is here replays itself in my head with different attitudes. Sometimes I relay the countdown with relief and other times in desolation.

Am I doing the right thing? I've asked myself the question all day long.

He was the best thing that ever happened to me. Nothing even close has come along since then. If I can spend even a few days in his presence again, shouldn't I? It's so frustrating. I consider myself an intelligent man, so why can't I figure this out?

I walk out to my car briskly, every stride laced with agitation.

He tried to talk to find me today for whatever reason. I made sure I was busy. I scheduled meetings with all of my different managers at separate times throughout the day, leaving my office door closed for six out of eight hours. Angela had told me that he hung around the office a couple of times in the morning chatting with different people, and right before lunch he gave up his ruse and asked her when I would finally be available, and if I had plans for lunch. When she told him I'd be busy most of the day, he gave up.

I felt elated, and hurt at the same time. He gave up on me. No one has to tell me how crazy I probably sound. I've been contradicting myself since I made the decision to stay away from him last night.

Sighing heavily, and rubbing my hand along my aching forehead, I take the final turn toward my vehicle. I pause when I see a figure leaning against my bumper. A figure I had known intimately…once.

I hang my head, but can't stop the rush of pure adrenaline that flows through me, and I take a second to relish the feeling. I love it, and I chastise myself because I love it.

Four more nights.

Instead of its intended purpose, the result of that thought sends me scurrying to my car to stand in front of Edward. I can't help but stare at him, and I finally allow myself to realize just how much I missed him today.

His beautiful green eyes flash with what appears to be anger. I haven't seen Edward mad before. His eyes shine, his cherry red lips are set in a firm line, the sharpness of his jaw grinds, once and then twice…and I'm fascinated.

'Cause angry Edward is fucking sexy.

"Were you avoiding me today?" He gets straight to the point.

To lie or not to lie.

I can't make a decision whether to be truthful or not, and I hesitate – for too long. Well, anything's going to sound like a lie after this fucking mountain of a pause.

"Would you believe those meetings…"

"No," he interjects.

"…had been scheduled for over a week?" I finish weakly. Damn pause ruined a perfectly believable lie.

I drop my backpack to the ground in defeat. "Yeah, maybe I was avoiding you a bit," I mumble, wiping an invisible smudge off the hood of my car.

"Why?" The sound of pure pain makes my eyes shoot to his, and the proof is there in his eyes. The fact that I had hurt him with my behavior today causes an ache deep in my gut to rage.

"It didn't seem like you wanted anything to do with me…it was uncomfortable Edward, and…and awkward. Fuck…I can't do this." I try to push passed him to open the car door.

He holds my arms in a tentative grip, but they might as well have been iron bands. His touch immobilized me just as effectively. "What can't you do Jasper? Tell me. Don't walk away from me…please," he says with definite desperation, shaking me slightly, and I start to wonder if I had our meeting yesterday all wrong.

"This is too hard. It was too hard…" I plead for him to understand.

He pulls me into a hug, and I hear unshed tears clogging his throat, and all of a sudden I feel like a total douche. "What is too hard? Please, Jas…talk to me."

Hearing him call me Jas again makes me want to run away and kiss him all at once and again I'm so fucking sick of the contradictions.

"Let me just take you to dinner," he begs.

I pull away and stare at him, knowing that there is no way that I could say no to that face. "Get in."

We both aren't real hungry so I decide to take him to a small diner just down the street from my house. Subliminal? I just don't know anymore. But as we pass my home, I point it out. Well that isn't subliminal; it's utter consciousness that ruins any hope of remaining detached for the rest of his visit. Now that he knows where I live, I'll be looking out for him every night, and if he doesn't come I'll be crushed. Nice move.

He lets out a small laugh. I automatically smile at the sound of his happiness. "What's so funny?"

I look over at him to find a sheepish smile, and an adorable blush across his cheekbones. "I was looking for you last night, and I went to your apartment. A very elderly couple lives there now." He chuckles again, and shrugs his shoulders.

"I bought my house two years ago. I love it. It backs right up to a huge park, so it's nice and quiet."

Silence reigns after that, and I'm semi-content. My eyes keep straying to his hand lying on his thigh and I want so badly to reach out and hold out, but we aren't in that same place anymore and it seems an inappropriate gesture now.

When we get to the restaurant I order the meatloaf special, and once I brag about how delicious it is Edward orders the same. I sip on my Diet Coke, as I watch him. His fingers tap on the table, as he appears to have some battle going on in his head.

I put my hand over his, to get him to stop fidgeting, but pull back immediately when I feel that familiar heat of not just a warm body, its Edward's signature heat. The heat that never fails to set me on fire with the simplest contact. Now that I know that particular feeling hasn't ebbed in the slightest, it leads me to wonder what else hasn't dimmed over the last five years.

We manage to get through dinner with basic small talk, but the topics are starting to get deeper and the weight of it all is looming over the table heavily. After a pause Edward clears his throat.

"You must have wondered why I'm here."

"Yeah, it crossed my mind once or twice." I smile widely, showing exactly how much of an understatement that is.

He smiles, but it falters slightly. I start to worry, and then I wonder why I'm worrying.

"I'm here for a job interview," he explains.

"What job?"

"Chief Marketing Officer." Okay, now I'm perplexed. As far as I know, he already has that position. "Of the US." He finishes.

It takes a full minute to completely process that statement. After I've successfully convinced myself that I wasn't just hearing things I practically jump out of my seat. "What? Why?" I ask breathlessly, focusing solely on remaining upright and in a conscious state. He'd have to live here for that…right?

"Well, it would be really good for my career." He looks a little ill, and I realize that the tone of my questions sounded like I don't like the idea of him living here, and well, that just isn't true.

I grab his hand again, but this time I don't let go. I let the fire consume me. "Don't misunderstand Edward. I'd love to have you here." I look at him seriously. "Never have any doubts about that." I say sincerely. Edward ducks his head with a little smirk.

I let the idea settle in, and oh, the possibilities.

"What about your mom?" I knew from his previous visit that Edward had lost his father in a car accident when he was just fourteen-years-old. He'd been taking care of his mom ever since then.

The smile left his face. "She passed away a few years ago."

"Oh God, I'm so sorry Edward."

"After that happened, I just…I've realized that things in my life need to change. There's no meaning to anything I do anymore, no real purpose, except to function."

He doesn't have a boyfriend then? Can I volunteer?

He turns his hand over in mine, and the heat smolders. He pulls our joined hands closer to him, gripping it securely, adding his other hand in the mix for good measure…to make sure I don't run? As if he can get rid of me now.

"Jas?" He whispers over the table. "If I move here…I want to see if we could have something together…do you think…" He doesn't have to finish; my head is bobbing up and down like a madman.

"I'd like that too."

We both lose ourselves in contemplation. My thoughts run rampant.

What a change of events.

My God, this job has to be a sure thing. I mean he already does the job…he knows the company…

"Jas, stop. I know what you're thinking. They are interviewing a couple of very qualified candidates. I can't even be sure what the chances are."

He just doesn't want to get my hopes up. Too bad, they are already in outer space, and there is no sign of them coming down. Fuck, Edward's going to be my boyfriend. I'm fucking giddy, and I want to bounce up and down in my seat.

I realize I have this big ass grin on my face, and Edward is giving me a look of warning, but with traces of some real humor behind it. His face does turn serious though. "Jas…I won't…I can't start anything with you until I know for sure."

"When will you know?"

"As early as tomorrow afternoon, or the latest Thursday."

"But they wanted you to interview for the job, so that has to count for something, right?"

"Jas, they didn't ask me to. I applied for the job when I found out about it. They were shocked to see that I wanted it. They may just be interviewing me as a formality."

I know he's being reasonable, but in my head I'm already planning a celebration that includes the two of us in my big, warm bed.

"Jas," he groans. "Don't get any ideas yet. If I don't get the job, I'll be going home. I'm kinda testing fate right now." He sighs heavily. "There are more things I'd like to say to you, but I'm just not ready yet. I just need you to be my friend…I can't…I can't leave you…goddamn…" He shivers and stops before finishing his thought.

He doesn't want to leave me broken again. I appreciate it.

Too bad he's too late.

XXXXX

"Does it hurt when you breathe too? 'Cause it does when I do."

I stand around nervously. All the management in the HQ building is cramped tightly in the company's main strategy room waiting for the announcements to take place.

Edward has talked very little about what has been going on all week, but from what I understand from him is that he is up against two very qualified candidates.

Riley Biers and Garrett Thompson.

Edward has pointed them out to me, but I haven't been formally introduced. Nor do I want to be. Hopefully, after today I won't have to hear their names again.

I have a lot of confidence in Edward's capabilities. I know he can do this. I know he can get this job.

He has to.

I've tried to live in the present and not focus on the future too much, but being with Edward the last few days has reinforced all the feelings that he left me with five years ago. We've barely been separated since dinner at the diner. He came back to my place that night and we watched a couple of movies, with him at one end of the couch and me at the other, and it was comfortable…and easy.

Yesterday we had lunch together and he made brief treks to my side of the building throughout the day. We used that time to get reacquainted and even though we had both changed somewhat in the last five years it didn't seem like anything had changed between us. We still share a lot of interests. We both never failed to add to the conversation on every topic we discussed and it just felt right to have him there.

Last night, proved to be more difficult. The tension between us was ever-present all night. At least the tension between my legs had been there all night, but I'm assuming by the way his eyes darkened when I laughed, or the way I caught him staring at my ass, or the arm that constantly covered his crotch, or the way his hands clenched after they lifted as if to touch me in some way, that he too had felt the same way…but it's just a guess.

It had been late and I wanted to ask him to stay the night – but I didn't. I didn't ask, because I knew he would say no. So, at midnight I had walked him to the door. When he turned around I could see the naked desire restrained in every taut muscle, but his lust-filled eyes had a resolve that I knew wouldn't waver.

I wanted to tackle him against the door anyway – but I didn't. I didn't tackle him because I knew he wanted to keep this distance. So, he just said bye and I closed the door on his back.

I wanted to open the door when I didn't hear retreating footsteps on my wooden deck like I should have – but I didn't. I didn't open the door back up because I didn't want him to regret what we both knew would happen if I had.

I just hope that I don't regret not doing any of those things.

Even though we haven't taken on any kind of intimate relationship…yet, my adoration, respect, and admiration for him have only intensified. I've tried not to get ahead of myself. Edward and I have studiously avoided such topics as work, sex, and the future, but it definitely doesn't stop my mind from going there, and creating scenarios that just have to happen.

They just have to.

My sanity may depend upon it.

Goddammit, it's hot in here. I'm going to suffocate if I don't find out what's going on soon.

Angela insisted on coming with me, so she is standing next to me biting her nails, and it's bothering me 'cause I don't need any help being nervous. I absently brush her hand away from her gnawing teeth, but her fingers automatically return to her mouth. I'm about to tell her stop, but her breath catches and I forget all about my assistant's bad habits and look toward the door.

Aro enters the room, then Marcus, the CEO and CFO, respectively, trailed by Garrett, Riley…and…and

Where is he?

A few pauses later Edward comes in.

Jesus Christ.

It's so fucking hot in here.

I give my collar one solid yank and look around to see if anyone can tell that I'm in the midst of losing my fucking mind.

The group meanders away from the door and heads to the front of the room, and in no fashion does it escape my notice that Edward hasn't looked for me.

Aro clears his throat and asks for everyone's attention. He's got it, and I mean the rapt version of it, so he can start talking at any time.

"Thank you all for coming. We are pleased to announce that we have just hired a new CMO of our Marketing sector here in the US and we would like you all to meet and give a warm welcome to Garrett Thompson." Then lots of applause ensues…including Edward, who has now found me and is staring at me intently, but I can't decipher the expression on his face. I can't even think straight.

"Garrett came to us…" Aro continues the introduction, but I don't hear anything else. Every nerve in my body is screaming in outrage, paralyzing almost all of my senses. Aro's words turn into a mush of drugged mumbo-jumbo. I can't see Edward anymore. Everything is foggy and distorted.

He didn't get the job.

Edward is going home.

It has always been a possibility, but one I wouldn't even consider, and now I'm going to pay dearly for that mistake.

I think I start to sway, and that feeling is confirmed when I feel Angela's small hands just above my hips. She has moved behind me and is trying to keep me steady. I hear her say a whispered "let's go," and she doesn't have to tell me twice.

I try to look at Edward again, but I can't get passed a blurry Garrett Thompson, smiling and shaking hands with Aro. I'm going to be sick.

Once we leave the over-crowded room I feel like I can breathe a little better, but not much. Angela doesn't say anything on the way back to my office, and she doesn't say anything when I grab my coat to leave. What can she say?

I stumble in a stunned haze to my car. My phone rings almost immediately. I don't even glance at the caller ID before I ignore the call and turn the phone off. There is not one person I want to talk to right now. Not even Edward.

What the fuck am I going to say to Edward?

I'm being selfish, I know. Edward probably needs me. He's probably just as upset as I am, but how can I help him right now?

When you're in an airplane, the attendants always tell people in an emergency situation to put on their own oxygen masks on before they help someone else…even if that other person's life means more to them than their own.

I love Edward more than anyone or anything else, but I can't help him if I don't save myself first.

I'll go back to him, and I promise that I will be there for him in any capacity; I just need a little bit of time. Hopefully, he'll understand and give me some space.

Somehow I make it home. My hand trembles as I try to insert the key in the door, and I think I'm about to crack, but my fingers finally steady enough for me to get the key in the lock, and I spring through the door and fall face first on the sofa.

I don't know how long I lay there. Every time I try to play out the events of the morning, my self-preservation kicks in and tries to block it, and I like it because it makes me feel kind of numb. But the damn movies we had watched last night lay on the coffee table and over and over again, my eyes settle on them. Reminding me.

So, I put the movies away, but I put them high up, on the top shelf… behind other movies.

I study the area, and then fall to my knees to gather up random pieces of popcorn strewn on the carpet. I still see crumbs so I get out the vacuum, and polish the table. When I am satisfied with that, I move into the kitchen. Immediately heading for the sink I pull up the sleeves of my shirt, folding them until they reached my elbow. I clean all the evidence from dinner last night, but when I turn around from the sink I see visions of Edward sitting at my kitchen table, helping me wash dishes, and opening the bottle of wine that he had brought for our meal.

Sinking into one of the kitchen chairs I realize that washing the remains from our meal down the drain did not make what happened this week disappear. I can't make this go away. He had come back in my life and tomorrow morning he would be gone again.

Edward is going home.

Tomorrow.

Fuck, I need to get back to work.

I wash my face without looking in the mirror; already knowing that wouldn't be the best idea. I haven't broken down yet, and I want to try and make it through until I see Edward off. If I catch my reflection in the mirror I may just end up staying here and indulging in a first class pity party. I have a lot of vacation time banked, so I'll have a lot of time to drown in my sorrows after Edward is safe in New Zealand.

I should be happy that we haven't gotten closer…been more intimate, but I'm not. In fact, I'm actually pretty fucking bitter about it.

What was the point of that? Is it going to make the suffering easier now…is the pain not going to last as long because we didn't fuck ourselves into oblivion?

Well, I'm not really sure, but I don't think so. I mean, I can't feel much worse than I already do. So why not?

I stride to my car with purpose, because I have every intention of bringing Edward back to my place – by any means necessary – and having my way, his way and every other fucking way, with him. I will not take no for an answer.

I will not be denied.

When I get back to work I have no idea what direction to go in. I end up in my office, giving myself a pep talk, and coming up with some sort of plan. I know Edward is going to be disappointed about not getting the job, and he may be disappointed with me as well. I hadn't been there for him, as I ought to have, so I'll have some apologizing to do. I'll hold him and I'll try to make it right while I fight to ward off any tears that might want to show up a day early. I'll seduce him, and when we're in bed, temporarily sated, I'm going to tell him that I love him.

I'm so lost in my thoughts that I'm startled when I feel arms circle around me. "Where have you been?" His gravelly voice sends a shiver through me, and then another passes when he kisses my shoulder. Him actually touching me, kissing me sends me into a whirlwind of emotions. I forget all about my plan and having stupid goodbye sex. I'm losing him again.

"Edward." I turn in his arms, bury my head in the crook of his neck and sob. Sob like I haven't done in five years. I can't stop…it won't be controlled. He's whispering words to me, but I can't comprehend anything through my anguish. "Edward…I don't want to lose you again." I cry out.

"Jas, please baby…" His voice finally breaks through my torment, and I can tell he's choking on tears. Wait, did he just call me baby? "Look at me, please."

I pull my face from his neck, but I can't seem to pick up my head. He puts his finger under my chin and lifts my face to his. His lashes are wet and his nose is red. His hands cradle my face, and he wipes away my tears with his thumbs. "Where did you go? I've been looking all over for you," he whispers softly.

"I went home," I say, feeling very ashamed.

"Went home? Why?" He can't hide the hurt in his face, and I'm not even sure he's trying to. "Would you have let me leave without saying goodbye?" This brings on another bout of tears from me.

"No, Edward. I just ran because I didn't know what to do. I couldn't think straight. I just needed to get my shit together before I came back to you." It is my turn to cup his cheeks. "I never, ever would let you leave without talking to you first. I…" I decide to just go for it, here and now…no regrets. "I love you Edward, and I want you to come home with me tonight and stay with me until you have to leave." My voice breaks on the last words.

Edward smiles through his tears. He gives me a hard, quick kiss. "Well, then you better clear some of your drawers because I'm going to be here a while." Huh?

"You're not going home tomorrow?"

"Well, technically, yes. Jas, come sit down. We need to talk." He walks me over to my chair and I plop down, anxiously waiting to see what Edward means by 'technically.' He takes the seat across for me, immediately reaching for both of my hands with his. Without thought, I reach across and let him grab my hands in his, lacing them together. I shut my eyes and feel his heat run through my veins. "I want to tell you what happened after you left the meeting. Garrett spoke to the group, and if you would have stuck around you would have realized he is a great guy."

I snort and roll my eyes…I guess I'm a little partial to another CMO. Edward's eyes light up and he smiles. "He really is Jas. You'll see." The smile leaves his face, and his eyes turn soft. "And so will I. If…if you want me to, that is."

Please. I'm begging for something, and I'm not really sure what for.

"What does that mean? Please spit it out Edward. You're killing me here."

"It means that they didn't offer me the position because I don't have the kind of experience and background that Garrett has, but they were ecstatic that I wanted to be on the US team. They offered me the position of Director of Marketing."

I swallow, not quite ready to believe.

"That's a big step down isn't it?"

"No, it's really not. New Zealand has such a small role in the corporation. Being a part of the States group will be a huge learning experience for me. There are so many facets in the market that I haven't had to deal with back home. Besides they said that Eleazar, the Vice President of Marketing, is already planning his retirement in three years. Aro said by that time I would be more than ready for that position. They offered me the same salary that I'm getting now, they'd pay for my moving expenses, and an apartment for six months, and then well, I'd have to find my own place." His head bows, but he looks at me through his lashes. "I haven't accepted the position yet. I've been waiting to talk to you."

I jump from my chair, and grab him by the arms, pulling him up from his seat. "Stay Edward. Tell me you'll stay. I know you probably have friends and family, but…" He cuts off my sentence with his lips. The kiss is heavy, and demanding. Our mouths open simultaneously, as our tongues are desperate for a reunion that is a long time in the making. My fingers clutch at the fabric on the back of his shirt, as his fingers rake through my hair. Our cocks brush against one another and we both pull away to moan before going back for another searing kiss. Eventually, his lips hover over mine. "I have to go talk to Aro."

I grudgingly let go, but it helps to know that there is going to be a lot more of that in my future. My future with Edward. I could fucking giggle. We separate, but still hold hands, staring at each other with huge grins on our faces.

"I'll still be going home tomorrow to pack, and all that." I know that 'all that' must mean saying goodbye to everyone he knows, and I feel badly. I promise myself that I will make it worth it for him to be here. "I'll be gone for about three weeks."

I pull him into a hug. "I'll miss you, but I'll be here waiting for you." I will definitely miss him, but it's probably a good thing. I have some things to take care of myself, as well as to say goodbye to someone too. Breaking off my ties with Peter will be beyond simple, but it's something that has to be done, as well as inform my family. They all know Edward from the last time, but I haven't told anyone in my personal life about his return yet.

An hour later Edward strolls into my office with a bounce in his step, and he truly looks happy. It's rare, since most of the time we've known each other, we've focused so much time and thought on our separation, that we never truly got to enjoy the time we did have together.

"Everything all set?" I ask somewhat cautiously.

He pulls me into a scorching kiss, and I lean fully into his embrace, trying to meld into him. "All set," he says with that happy smile on his lips.

XXXXX

"When it's said and done, you're the only one. The only one."

I barely have him in the door before I basically attack him against the coat closet. I can't help it. I won't see him for three weeks and I want to get my fill of him.

"Jas…" I just kiss him harder and deeper, and grind my hips into his. He rips his mouth away. "Fuck Jas. Can we talk for a minute?"

"Later," I whine, pressing my need into his thigh. I'm not completely opposed to rubbing one out on his leg if he promises to keep kissing and groping me like this. It'll just make me last about one minute longer by the time I get him into bed for the second go around. He groans, and fists my hair, pulling my mouth back to his. I feel like I'm being burned from the inside out, and my clothes are choking my body, making me feel claustrophobic.

I divest him of his shirt, and then do the same with mine. I cover his chest with open-mouthed kisses, sucking skin in between my teeth on a path down his flat stomach. I get down on my knees and tackle the buckle on his belt while continuing to pepper his stomach with kisses. I hear his head bang against the closet door when I swirl my tongue in his belly button. I undo the button of his pants, take down the zipper, not wanting to wait a second longer to see that beautiful uncut cock of his. But I'm distracted when I see blue skin peeking out of the top of his boxer briefs. Well, that's new.

I pull the corner of his underwear down to see what Edward had tattooed, and it makes me gasp. On his hipbone, it's the shape of Michigan, including the Upper Peninsula, it's filled with turquoise ink, and inside the shape of the state is a small red heart. Underneath, are three words; Can't Forget You.

Oh my God.

If I wasn't already on my knees I would have fallen to them. I look up at Edward who is staring down at me, an unreadable expression on his face.

He never forgot me either.

I straighten up, and grab the hair at his nape, pulling a little roughly, but I'm just so overcome with emotions I can't contain my need. "Say it," I growl.

I can't even count the number of emotions that pass across his face as he gazes at me. "I love you Jas. I loved you five years ago, and I haven't been able to figure out how to stop. I can't forget you."

Our lips bruise each other with the harshness of our kiss. Teeth bite and nip. He kicks off the pants that I had lowered for him. I bend at the knees, and pull his legs up. They immediately wrap around my waist and without pulling away from the kiss, I carry him into the bedroom.

We don't get much sleep that night. The first time we join it's hot and needy, the second time; fun and playful. The third time; sweet and passionate. There is no sorrow, no defeat, no tears because this time Edward is home.


AN: I really wanted to do a lemon, but I was already over 10,000 words, and out of time.

I have a few weeks off from school coming up and I'm probably gonna have some presents for you guys. I sincerely miss all of you. Thanks for everyone's patience.

Happy Birthday Robyn! I would love to hear from you guys, so please review!