Disclaimer: The characters belong to Stephanie Meyer. The words are mine.
Rated M for explicit male/male sex, adult language, and a hint of infidelity.
"Everything in its Right Place"
"I think it's time to move on," Alice said, pouring another glass of wine. She slipped the bottle between her thighs.
Edward huffed in what he hoped was a noncommittal way and stretched out on the threadbare rug. The firelight cast flickering gold shadows on his pale skin.
"What's it been? Eight, nine months?" She traced the rim of the wine glass with her thumb.
Ten months, two weeks, three days... But who was counting?
"Fill me up," he said, ignoring her question.
She leaned over the edge of the couch, watching the stream of crimson liquid as it spilled into his glass. Several drops sloshed over the sides and onto the wood floor. Alice giggled; then she frowned at the nearly-empty bottle. She reached across the arm of the sofa to set it on the end table, before curling back into the cushions, her bare feet tucked beneath her.
Edward sighed and took a drag off his cigarette, blowing a thin stream of smoke in her direction.
"Dramatic as always."
"Maybe. But that's a filthy habit." She paused, taking a slow sip of wine. "And you know he wouldn't approve."
Edward inhaled once more, letting the smoke burn the back of his throat, before breathing out. He flicked the cigarette into the hearth. "Perhaps that's why I do it.
'Edward, I've given it some serious consideration, and I'm afraid I simply can't be your adviser anymore.'
The boy shifted infinitesimally closer. Although they weren't touching, Edward could still feel the other man's body heat against his skin. 'But I'm sorry. You know I am…'
'Stop. It doesn't matter.' The man stepped away, smoothing his palm across the surface of his desk. 'I can't do this.'
'But I want to.'
'I assure you, Ms. Denali is quite capable. I'm certain things will go swimmingly between you two.'
Alice maneuvered her way through the crowd, two martinis held high above her head.
"Extra dry. Extra olives," she announced, setting the glasses down on the tiny, circular cocktail table. She plopped into the chair across from Edward. A silver drop slid down the side of one glass; Alice caught it with a fingertip.
She crossed her legs, skirt sliding up to reveal several inches of pale thigh. He looked down, following the skirt's path with his eye.
Alice snorted into her martini.
"What? I can look, can't I?"
She rolled her eyes. "In any other case, I'd be totally flattered." She tucked a strand of dark hair behind an ear. "But, I can't help but wonder what you're imagining I've got underneath my skirt."
He shrugged and took a sip of his drink, savoring the pleasant burn of alcohol as it warmed his stomach. "I hardly need to imagine."
"Why don't you dance?" Alice suggested, glancing over her shoulder. The dance floor was packed with dozens of young people in varying stages of undress and inebriation. "Surely there's someone here who'd take you home."
Edward kicked at her chair. Alice's martini sloshed over her hand. Vodka dribbled over her knuckles. She glared at him but licked them clean. Her fingernails were painted a rather flamboyant shade of lime green, but somehow Alice managed to pull it off.
"As much as I appreciate your stellar vote of confidence, I can't." He looked down into his drink, swirling the skewer of olives around. "It wouldn't be right. It wouldn't be..."
"I know. I'm sorry," Alice said softly, reaching out to touch the back of his hand. Her fingertips were cold from her martini glass. "It wouldn't be him."
He took her hand in his, extending an arm and twirling her around. Her skirt flared around her hips, and she laughed, painted pink lips parting to reveal straight white teeth.
The music was atrocious. It was so loud he could feel it in his teeth. It pounded in his ears and in his veins; it pulsed at the back of his brain until he couldn't hear himself think. But that, he supposed, was probably the point.
"You know," she yelled over the music, "if you weren't so queer, I'd insist we try to make a go of it."
Edward smiled, circling an arm about her waist and pulling her closer. She shifted with the beat, hips brushing against his. "We've already tried that. Please tell me you haven't forgotten."
She laughed again, a clear sound, even over the throb of music. "Edward, a few fumbled handjobs sophomore year does not a relationship make."
"I suppose you're right," he said, spinning her once more. If anything, their 'fumblings' had only served to cement what they both already knew: Edward preferred boys.
He brought her hand to his mouth, brushed his lips across her knuckles. Her skin was soft and warm. Nice. But then he saw something out of the corner of his eye that made his heart thud and stomach clench. A blonde head, hair gleaming white and gold in the strobing light of the club. Pale skin (bright against the darkness) which never failed to send shivers down his spine. Edward's breath caught. Alice tensed against him and turned around.
"Ed, no. Stop." She clung at his hand. "He's no good for you."
But he was already pulling from her grasp, pushing his way through the crowd.
"It wasn't him." He found Alice in a shadowed corner, leaning up against the wall. She was nursing a fresh martini, both hands cupping the chilled glass.
"It's not healthy, you know. Obsessing like this."
He plucked an olive from her drink and popped it into his mouth. The vodka-drenched flesh was cool and meaty as he bit into it.
"I'm glad it wasn't him," Edward said after a few moments, as if trying to convince himself that he meant it. "I mean, at first I hoped it was," he paused, scuffing the toe of his shoe against the floor. "But I don't want him to be here with someone else."
"Edward," she said, brushing her thumb along his jaw.
He pulled away. "No. It's alright. I'm alright."
She didn't look convinced.
The couch smelled like coffee and worn leather.
That had been his first thought, as he was pushed back into the cushions. His second thought was that no one (no one) had ever kissed him like that. Desperate and hungry and smooth slide of tongue.
'Are you sure?' Edward gasped because he had to know; he couldn't stand being pushed away again.
The older man's hip dug deliciously into Edward's stomach, as he held himself above him. 'Yes.' The man's mouth, a muted pink, was slick and shiny.
He kissed him again, moved down to nip along Edward's jaw.
'But you said…'
The older man shifted his hips, breathed warm against his cheek. 'I know. But I am no longer your professor, and there is nothing that says I cannot sleep with graduate students who are not actually enrolled in any of my courses.'
'Is that what we're doing?' Edward's voice was too low, too rough.
The man arched an eyebrow. 'Kiss me.'
"Stop. I can't do this."
Felix groaned but rolled onto his back. A strand of dark hair stuck to his forehead. It was warm for April.
He took a deep breath. Edward watched the rise and fall of his chest out of the corner of his eye. The boy really was quite beautiful, sprawled against the rumpled cream cotton of Edward's sheets.
He reached across Felix's body, fumbling for his discarded boxers. Edward was still half hard.
Felix sighed but began to fasten his trousers, wincing a bit when the fabric rasped over sensitive skin. Edward couldn't blame him.
"I'm sorry," Edward murmured, staring at the ceiling. And he was.
"It's okay." The other boy brushed a palm across his cheek.
Edward almost believed him.
"Give me a call if you ever get over him."
He waited until he heard the front door shut, before pulling himself out of bed. He didn't bother to dress before padding into the living area.
Alice glanced up from her back copy of Vogue. She was curled on the end of the sofa, wrapped in the blue and green and yellow afghan Edward's mother had made. "You've got to stop doing that," she commented brusquely as he walked past her into the adjoining galley kitchen.
The jug of orange juice was still out on the counter from morning. Edward poured some into a glass. It was warm, but he couldn't bring himself to care.
He felt flat and without substance, as if he'd been hollowed out and left incomplete.
"You know, maybe if you'd just let one of them get his prick into you, you'd be able to get over—"
"Stop. Please." Edward hated the desperate edge to his voice.
He downed the juice quickly and fumbled with the crumpled pack of Parliaments on the counter. The cellophane crinkled as he tapped it against his palm.
"I'm sorry," Alice said. She had the good grace to look contrite.
The smoke burned his throat and left a harsh taste in his mouth, but it helped calm his nerves.
After the third drag, his hands finally stopped shaking.
"Maybe you should try calling him again." Alice was still watching him closely. "He might be ready to listen."
"Didn't you have a date with Jasper or something?" He asked instead of responding.
"No." She shrugged, turning a page in her magazine. "He said something about a proposal."
He tapped the cigarette against the rim of his glass. Gray ash flecked the yellow orange liquid. Maybe Alice was right. Not about the fucking. But, perhaps, it was time to call him again.
"Edward," she was still looking at him, concern clearly etched on her pale face.
He stubbed the cigarette out in the bottom of his cup. "I have to work," he said, heading back to his room.
It was mostly true.
Each graduate student had their own work space. A six by eight foot room in the art department, with a long table, cabinets lining one wall, and a single window. Edward's space was on the fourth floor. He could see the lights of the quad through the stark panes of glass.
They'd fucked there once.
Edward liked thinking that a passing student might see them through the bare window. He would have never admitted it to the other man, but he enjoyed the feeling of being on display. Especially since Carlisle was so private, so secretive about their relationship.
His chest still ached, remembering that night.
His stomach had fluttered madly when he'd seen him standing there in the doorway.
'You said I might stop by,'the older man spoke hesitantly. 'But if now is not a good time, I could come back later—'
'No.' Edward put down his brush, wiped his hands on his apron. 'Now is great.'
He ended up bent over the drafting table, jeans pooled around his ankles, as the older man fucked him - slowly at first, then harder, his movements smooth and forceful. The edge of the table had bruised his hipbones, but Edward hadn't cared. It was perfect.
He sighed, laying out his pencils. His show was in three weeks, and he was still two pieces behind. Thinking about the past wouldn't help anything.
Alice poked at her wilted salad.
The food was not the reason they kept coming back to Café Solstice. They liked the loudish music and the distinctly un-frat house vibe that distinguished the place from other cafes in the University District.
And, every so often, they let Edward display some of his work on the walls.
He'd sold a piece or two to local hipsters, looking to add an artistic touch to their low-rent university apartments.
"Jasper and I are heading to Portland this weekend. Gonna catch that show I've been talking about." Alice turned her water glass around on the table. It left a wet ring on the battered wood. "You should come with us."
He scraped the tines of his fork across the plate, drawing lines in the remnants of vinaigrette. "I can't. Not this time."
"Come on, Eddie." She smiled a bit sadly and pushed a dark curl behind her ear. "Some time away will do you good. Get your mind off things."
He shook his head. "Thanks for the offer, love." Edward blew steam off the top of his tea before taking a slow sip. "But I still need to work on my installation. And I could use the time alone."
Alice sighed but said nothing.
She was just trying to help. Edward knew that, but he couldn't deal with her distractions right now.
She was a good friend; she always had been.
The day Carlisle broke it off, Edward had shown up at Alice's door.
He'd never left.
'I've been meaning to get a roommate,' she said. 'Just haven't wanted to deal with the hassle. This is really the perfect thing for the both of us.'
'Get dinner with me.'
'Take out? That new place on the corner has curry. Or we could eat at the pub. Fish and chips?'
'No. Not take out. A proper date.'
'I… I can't, Edward. Not tonight.'
Every Master of Fine Arts candidate had a final exhibition. It was the equivalent of the thesis paper Carlisle's Art History students wrote, and the idea was fairly simple: a minimum of fifteen pieces with the goal of securing commissions or, perhaps, regular space in one of the local galleries.
Edward's show appeared to be a success. At the very least, it was relatively well attended.
He tried not to think about the fact that his entire future hinged on that night.
Of course, if things didn't work out, he supposed there was always Italy.
He took a deep breath. He needed a glass of wine. Or a cigarette. Or both. He plastered a smile on his face and set off in search of the refreshments table.
Edward knew the moment Carlisle arrived. And he hated himself for the way his skin suddenly felt so hot, the way his chest felt so tight.
He took a large gulp of the cheap white wine they were serving. The plastic cup was cool against the palm of his hand. He stared down at the pale gold liquid. Edward always felt a bit awkward around him, and it annoyed him to no end.
When he looked up again, he noticed Alice staring from across the room. Her expression was thoughtful. She raised her plastic cup in a mock toast. Edward rolled his eyes and downed the rest of his wine in one go. It burned the back of his throat, but he managed not to cough.
Then he was there at Edward's side. Edward forced himself not to turn, not to look at him.
"What are you doing here?" Edward asked. At least his voice didn't shake.
"I wanted to see your exhibit."
"I thought you didn't care."
"I never said that."
They were silent for a long moment, as they stood side-by-side, staring at the large painting in front of them. It was one of Edward's favorites. A rather abstract piece. But the colors reminded him of his mother. He'd been using a lot of blues and grays lately.
"I need another drink."
Carlisle didn't stop him as he walked away.
'I want to study Renaissance architecture and sculpture in Florence. Romanesque painting in Pisa, in Sienna.'
Carlisle shifted closer, his skin warm against Edward's.
'I want to see Lucca and Assisi. Paint where Botticelli, Donatello, and Verrocchio did. I want to go to Rome, stare up at Michelangelo's ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, stay at the Hotel de Russie, and drink Prosecco on the Piazza Navona.'
They were wrapped in Carlisle's white sheets, the air heavy with the lingering scent of sex (raw and sour sweet).
The older man looked down at him, eyes soft in the dim light. He brushed Edward's hair back from his forehead. 'So you think you'll leave after you graduate?'
"I suppose it would be redundant to say that you're still in love with him." Alice stood beside him, her hand warm against the small of his back. "Wouldn't it?"
Edward stared at a series of figure drawings. Satiny black ink on buttery smooth paper.
Carlisle was at the after party.
His white shirt sleeves were rolled up just enough to look deliberately casual. His back was toward Edward, and he couldn't help but take in the broad sweep of his shoulders, the gentle curve of his spine, and those black wool trousers, so perfectly tailored to accentuate his hips, his—
He stopped himself. Christ. That wasn't good. Not good at all.
For a brief moment, he had to remind himself who this was – his ex. His cheating bastard of an ex.
Edward swallowed thickly around the sickly warm lump in his throat. He had promised himself that he would never forget how badly Carlisle had hurt him, how much he still hated the man for what he'd done.
Edward still had dreams about it – nightmares, really. He imagined her legs wrapped around his thighs. His skin, flushed and slick, as he looked down at her in the way he was only supposed to look at him.
Edward stuffed his hands in his pockets. His fingers brushed against his old fountain pen. It had been his father's. It was a pain to refill, but it wrote in clean, smooth lines of slick black ink.
Edward took a deep breath. Carlisle would call him a hypocrite.
And, given his past actions, maybe he was right. But Edward didn't think it was quite the same.
After all, his indiscretion paled in comparison.
Edward had only cheated once. It had been after the fact. And he had regretted it every single day since.
He wasn't sure that Carlisle had ever regretted what he'd done. And that, perhaps, was what hurt the most.
He made his way over to the bar and ordered a glass of wine.
Edward didn't know what Carlisle was doing there. But then he noticed Alice watching and realized that she must have asked the older man to come.
The party was Alice's idea, after all. 'A proper opening needs a proper after party,' she'd said. Then she managed to talk her mother into playing hostess. And that was that.
Mary Brandon had opened her restaurant the moment her divorce from Alice's father was finalized. Now she was the proud proprietor of a tasteful if trendy establishment on Union Lake.
Edward and Alice frequented the adjoining bar, where they would split a bottle of Shiraz and sample her mother's newest culinary creations. So, Edward supposed, it was appropriate that his artistic debut be commemorated in a similar fashion.
He twisted the stem of the wine glass between his fingers and stared at the picture hanging above the rows of glass shelves lined with liquor. The drawing was a gift to Alice two Christmases ago. And, when her mother had recruited her to help with the design and aesthetics of the new restaurant, Alice had insisted that Edward's piece fit the décor perfectly.
It was a nude woman. Young. Angular. Done from a model during a required life drawing class. He'd drawn her in blue pastels and on newsprint, no less. At times he hated himself for rendering such a lovely girl on such shitty paper. But he'd done ten drawings that day, and only one had been worth keeping. So, it was difficult to criticize his choice of materials.
He'd added pink heels. The model hadn't been wearing any. But Edward had thought of Alice, and she'd been delighted. He had it framed, and, truthfully, the blue did complement the cool lighting and clean lines Alice had envisioned for her mother's bar.
He drained his wine and held the glass out for another one. It was refilled almost immediately. The benefits of being the star of the night…
Edward took a slow sip, enjoying the way the wine slid across his tongue. And then Carlisle was there, at his shoulder. Edward's fingers tightened around the stem of the glass, and he stared down into the crimson liquid absolutely refusing to look up at the other man.
"I enjoyed your show."
Edward hated that his stomach clinched at the innocuous complement.
He heard the older man sigh. He could almost feel his breath warm on his skin. Almost. It would smell of whisky and spice.
Edward took another sip of wine.
Carlisle swirled his glass, watching the amber liquid slide up the sides. Ice clinked against the cut crystal.
They stood silently for several moments.
"I always liked that piece," Carlisle said softly, staring at the blue girl above the bar.
Edward looked up, startled that the other man recognized the drawing - that he'd seen it before. Carlisle had never been to Mary Brandon's restaurant with Edward. But then Edward realized that the bar was not where he'd seen it. They were already together then - Christmas of Edward's first year, when he'd given the piece to Alice.
Carlisle signaled the bartender for another drink. As he leaned across the counter, his arm brushed against Edward's. Edward swore he could feel the heat from his touch even through the layers of cloth. Clearly he was losing his mind.
"Well, your show did seem to be a success." Carlisle's voice was stilted. Edward nearly laughed. Talking had never been their strong suit.
Edward ordered another glass of Shiraz.
"I am hopeful," he admitted after a large swallow. And he was. But he hated that he wanted to talk to him about it. That he wanted Carlisle to be excited for him.
Carlisle hmmed his response and set his glass down on the bar. It left a wet ring on the gray marble surface. "I particularly liked your triptych installation. The geometric forms."
Edward ran a hand through his hair. Carlisle recognized the nervous gesture; it only served to make the boy's already hopeless hair stand even more on end.
"I was channeling Tatlin," he said finally. "And Lissitzky."
"Ah, yes. The Prouns." Carlisle took another sip of his drink. It was Scotch. (It was always Scotch). "You always did fancy Russian abstraction."
"You know me," Edward responded, scratching a nail along the edge of the marble countertop. "I'm still intrigued by the idea of collage as sculpture."
The older man set his glass down on the bar again. "What material did you use?"
"Metal, wood, wire, er, plaster and glazes. There's even some cardboard and broken glass in there."
Carlisle nodded. When he picked up his drink, the cold glass left a second wet ring overlapping the first. He slid a finger through the dark circles, smearing the lines.
Edward pulled the fountain pen out of his pocket and, uncapping it, drew a series of concentric rings on his cocktail napkin. Carlisle smiled. The boy was always doodling.
"At first, I wasn't sure I understood how it all fit together," the man said softly, watching the pale fingers, so graceful with the familiar pen nestled between them, move slowly across the napkin. "Your reliefs were delightful in their simplicity, Ed. But they seemed rough and almost primal when compared to the delicate figure drawings. And then there was that abstract piece." He shook his head, but his tone held only approval and…pride.
Edward hid his almost smile by taking another sip of wine. The flutter and twist of his stomach whenever he spoke to him was disconcertingly thrilling in a teenage girl kind of way. He drew another circle on his napkin.
"Each piece was quite lovely on its own," Carlisle continued slowly. "Well conceived, beautifully rendered. But together, they seemed disparate."
Edward started to intervene, to say something in explanation.
"But then I realized what you were doing, and it all came together," the man finished.
Edward looked down. His last ring looked a bit like an elephant. He needed more wine.
"You were working with color." Carlisle's voice was low. Edward realized that he had shifted closer. Their arms were practically touching. The boy suppressed a shudder.
"It was a successful exhibit, Edward." The man's finger just brushed the back of his hand.
Edward exhaled sharply, glancing up; he refused to notice how blue Carlisle's eyes were. "I don't think many people saw the connection. Not that I'd really expected them to." Carlisle, on the other hand, always seemed to understand what he was trying to do, at times even before Edward understood himself. "I had to try, though," he continued after a few moments. "I wanted to see if I could do it. If I could create unity through color alone. Not through material or subject or theme, or even influence."
"I know," the older man said, taking a slow sip of Scotch. His mouth was wet when he brought the glass away. Edward wanted to drag his tongue along that lip. He somehow managed to resist the impulse.
Edward realized that this was the first real conversation they'd had in months. And, while he loathed the fact that he wanted to talk to Carlisle, he couldn't deny the fact that he was enjoying it.
He picked up his wine, listening to the cool scrape of glass on marble as he slid the glass across the bar's surface. He took another sip.
"Still drinking red wine, I see."
Edward shrugged and swirled the glass between his fingers.
Carlisle watched the black red liquid spin up the sides.
The first time he'd been to Carlisle's townhouse, all the man had to drink was Scotch, a bottle of Irish whisky, and more Scotch.
"A true bachelor," Edward had commented, selecting the Jameson.
The older man had nearly choked on his own drink when Edward had downed his in one go.
"Christ, Ed," he'd chided, refilling his glass. "You're supposed to savor the stuff, not inhale it."
"No. Wine is for savoring. This," he held up the tumbler. The crystal gleamed in the firelight. "This is for shooting."
The next time Edward came over, Carlisle had a nice bottle of Pinot Noir opened on the counter to breathe.
"It's Alice's fault," he finally said, taking another sip. "That and the vodka martinis."
The older man smiled. Edward's stomach clenched a bit. He missed those smiles.
Edward set the fountain pen down.
"Carlisle, what are we doing?"
"I don't know."
Fine arts graduate students were required to take a minimum of twelve hours upper division art history. Six hours modern. Six hours pre-1800. Edward selected a course at random: Dr. Carlisle Cullen, Art of the Italian Renaissance.
And he fell in love.
In love with the art. In love with the country. And in love with the professor - with his blonde hair and blue eyes and ratty tweed jackets with the suede patches on the elbows.
It was a good thing Edward had taken a similar class as an undergrad; otherwise, he'd never have eked out an A. He spent far too much time watching him.
Two months into the semester, Edward asked Carlisle to be his advisor, and the man had accepted.
A month after that, they were together (even if only in the privacy of the professor's office).
Maybe it was all the wine. Or maybe it was the fact that Edward hadn't been touched like that in a very long time. But no one kissed like Carlisle. The two men broke apart, breathing roughly, and Carlisle fumbled with his keys.
They were at his townhouse. The small entryway looked the same as Edward remembered it. He followed the older man inside, trailing his fingers along the wall. The paint, a muted blue, looked gray in the stark cool pale of the moon.
Carlisle stood, arms crossed, watching the boy. Edward could see the sharp edge of his collar bone and the sweep of pale gold skin along the column of his neck. He swallowed thickly.
"Is this what you want?" The man's voice was honeyed and low.
Edward nodded, his heart pounding and his mouth dry.
Then Carlisle was there, pushing him against the wall, kissing him desperately. Edward knew it was probably a horribly bad idea, but he simply didn't care.
He rolled his hips, opened his mouth, and couldn't get enough of the soft dryness of the other man's lips.
Carlisle's hands were on his hips, warm and solid. Edward grabbed his wrist, pulled his palm to the fly of his pants, wanting to feel the press of Carlisle's long fingers against his cock. The older man groaned, feeling his arousal. Then his other hand was in the boy's hair, tugging his head back, exposing his neck.
Carlisle's teeth were sharp, but his tongue soothed, sweeping across the boy's pulse point, sliding over the ridge of Edward's Adam's apple.
Edward thudded his head against the wall, as he continued to rock into the older man's hand.
And suddenly, he was there. He shuddered at the spiraling rush of pleasure, coiling down his spine, curling around his hips. "Carlisle… If you don't stop now, I'm going to—" He was so incredibly close, and all they'd done was rut against one another for a few moments.
"Upstairs," the man gasped against his neck.
They stumbled together up the narrow staircase. Edward banged his hip against the doorjamb as Carlisle pushed him into the bedroom; then he was being kissed furiously. Edward moaned against the man's mouth. He wanted this desperately. He'd wanted it for months, really. But he was too busy rocking his hips against Carlisle to care about the implications of that realization; the press of the other man's body against his made him shudder.
It had been nearly a year since he'd touched the man, and he'd wanted him every single day.
Carlisle's mouth was on his throat, and the boy groaned again, loudly, fingers pulling at the buttons of the older man's shirt, tugging each one free. He smoothed his hands over the man's chest, pushing his shirt off his shoulders, feeling Carlisle's skin, warm under his palms. He loved his skin, gold against the white paleness of his fingers.
Edward leaned down, laving his tongue against a tight nipple. Carlisle shivered at the touch, and then his hands were undoing Edward's belt.
When Carlisle tugged his zip, Edward groaned and knew he was lost.
His cock was hard and damp, as Carlisle curled his fingers around it. "Oh…oh God," he choked out, thrusting through the loop of the man's fingers. And Carlisle bit at his throat, eliciting another breathy gasp.
They stumbled backward, still kissing, until Edward's thighs hit the bed. The man pushed him down, and Edward clung, limpet-like, to Carlisle. His hands smoothed across the boy's thin shoulders, down his back. They were chest to chest, hardness against hardness, and Carlisle's hands tugged at the boy's pants, sliding them over narrow hips at the same moment Edward's fingers fumbled with the man's belt buckle.
He mouthed a line along Carlisle's collarbone, as his hands struggled to undress the man – to undress his lover, his ex-lover. Edward's mind tripped over the words. And he hissed (a serpent-like sound), as Carlisle's fingers trailed teasingly along his cock. The need he felt, curling through his stomach then, far surpassed the want he'd felt those weeks, months he'd missed the other man's touch.
He was dizzy with it.
Carlisle gasped and rolled over, pulling the boy on top of him. Edward rocked forward, arching as Carlisle's fingers skated over his chest, along a thigh. His cock bobbed, flushed and red against his stomach.
Carlisle kissed his red lips, cutting off the petition, and Edward lapped at his mouth, tasting Scotch and spice and Carlisle.
The man pulled back a moment, breathing deeply, admiring the just-kissed dampness of Edward's bottom lip. Then he slid his hands up the boy's thighs, urging him up onto his knees, as he reached across to the bedside cabinet.
The jar of lubricant was achingly familiar against Carlisle's palm, and Edward shuddered, as the man undid the cap.
"Here, hold out your hand," he instructed softly.
And Edward complied, trembling, as the man dripped the clear fluid over his fingers.
Carlisle tugged at his wrist then, positioning it between his legs. "Get ready." His usually melodic voice was husky, low. "I want to watch you stretch yourself for me."
"Oh God, Carlisle," the boy whispered. "Keep talking. I'll come."
"No. Not till I'm inside you."
Edward nodded. If he listened closely, he was sure the other man could hear the pounding of his heart. His skin was vibrating, the way two live wires kiss. He shifted, spreading his legs a bit wider, sliding a fingertip against his entrance. He gasped at the cool, slickness, as he slipped the finger in.
Carlisle's breath caught, and he stroked his cock lazily, watching the boy's fingers move.
Edward added another finger, wincing slightly at the sting. It had been so long (so long). Carlisle rubbed a soothing circle on his back, and Edward angled his hips, stroking inside, searching for that perfect spot.
"So beautiful…" the man whispered. And Edward shivered at the words, curving his fingers, undulating his hips.
"I need, I need…" the boy stammered, slipping his fingers out, shifting against the tip of Carlisle's cock.
"Here, slick me," the man breathed, pouring more oil on Edward's fingers.
And Edward smoothed the slickness along the man's shaft, curling his fingers, stroking up and down. Carlisle groaned, took hold of Edward's hips, guided him down.
Edward's breath stuttered as the tip of Carlisle's cock pushed past that tight ring of muscle. He closed his eyes, body tense, wire-taut. Carlisle took his hand in his, lacing their fingers together, steadying him.
Edward lowered himself slowly, sliding down Carlisle's length. He moaned, paused for a moment, then shifted again. His movements were deliberate, erotic in purpose, but breathy and tenuously restrained.
"God," Carlisle breathed. "You're so tight."
"I haven't…" But Edward stopped. He couldn't, wouldn't admit it. That Carlisle had been his last, that Carlisle was the only person to ever do this to him.
The boy rose, fell again, and Carlisle moved his hips, rocking up to meet him. Edward threw his untidy head back, eyes shut tight, chest heaving, lips pursed in concentration.
Carlisle ran a hand down the boy's chest, feeling smooth planes of muscle under pale, sweat-warmed skin. He jerked his hips up, and they both moaned. Edward's movements quickened, becoming erratic, as he arched into the man's touch and slammed his hips down again.
"Yes, Ed, fuck me…" Carlisle murmured, hands gripping the boy's hips once more. And Edward's eyes flew open wide. Carlisle had forgotten how very green they were.
A shudder racked Edward's thin frame, as his cock spurted over his own stomach, Carlisle's chest. He gasped, stunned; the other man hadn't even touched him. But he didn't stop moving, even as his body jerked and trembled with pleasure. Carlisle arched his hips up hard, as Edward sank down again.
Then Carlisle tugged him down, covering his mouth with his own, and rolled them over, pulling the boy underneath him.
And Carlisle was thrusting into him, Edward's thighs spread wide beneath his hips. "Oh…oh, fuck…" the boy breathed. "I've wanted this for months…"
"You're the one who ruined us, Edward," he hissed, snapping his hips against Edward's harder then. He curved a hand around his shoulder, holding him still as he moved faster. His movements were tinged with an urgency, a forcefulness that Edward didn't recognize.
Carlisle caught his mouth with his almost angrily, then dragged his tongue along the boy's throat. "Why did you do it?" His mouth was pressed to Edward's neck, but the boy still heard him clearly, still sensed the fierceness behind the question.
Carlisle thrust again, fingers digging into Edward's skin. Edward moaned.
You. Because of what you did to me. The words were on the tip of his tongue, but Edward couldn't force them out. "I, I…" he stammered, throat tight.
Carlisle's hips slapped against his. "Why, Edward? I need to know." His voice was harsh.
"Because he wanted me," Edward managed weakly, turning his head away. His chest ached.
Carlisle shuddered above him, and Edward felt warmth flood his insides as the man came, but he was cold.
Carlisle pulled out; Edward had never felt so empty. They lay side-by-side for a long moment before Edward spoke again: "but really, I only wanted you."
Carlisle sighed; he sounded tired. Then he sat up and walked to the bathroom for a washcloth. Edward held his breath, as the older man cleaned him off. It was a familiar gesture that only served to highlight how much they'd lost.
"Can I stay," he whispered softly. He sounded desperate even to his own ears. But Carlisle only turned away to stare at the window. Wet moonlight spilled through the bare panes of glass.
Edward took a steadying breath and reached off the bed for his clothes. He pulled them on with shaky fingers, ignoring the cool dampness seeping between his legs. His body ached in ways it hadn't in a very long time.
"I'm sorry, Edward." Carlisle's voice sounded distant, muted, as if Edward was listening from underwater. "I thought I could do this, but I can't."
Edward didn't look back, as he walked out of the bedroom.
Alice was on the sofa when he returned home. She took one look at Edward's face and hopped up to make tea. He watched as she filled the kettle from the tap and set it on the stovetop to heat. She pulled two mismatched mugs from the cupboard. Twenty-three, she insisted, was far too young to worry about proper kitchenware.
"What on earth happened, Edward?" she asked gently, rummaging through the pantry for the box of tea.
"I don't know." He looked down, traced a circle on his palm with his thumb. "I, we…"
She didn't make him say it. She filled the cups. Edward heard the hiss of water, as she drained the kettle back into the sink.
"I asked to stay. He wanted me to leave."
Her eyes were sad, as she handed him a mug. Alice sat down, cradling her own between her hands.
He stared down into the green gold liquid. "I've really gone and cocked this up, haven't I?"
"A little, yes, love." Alice tapped a finger on the rim of her mug. Her nails were a rich royal blue. "But I think the damage was already done. Months ago, really, when you—"
"Stop. I know what I did." He couldn't bear to hear her say it. Not that night. Not again. "And I regret it every day."
"Do you, Ed?" she asked softly. "Or do you just regret getting caught?" She pulled her knees up to her chest. "You were so angry. So hurt."
He took a slow sip of tea and stared blankly at the wall. There was a thin crack in the graying paint. He didn't answer. He didn't know anymore.
"I've looked into Italy," he finally said. "I've got enough saved for six months."
Alice looked at him curiously. "That was always for him."
"Did you ever talk to him about Esme?"
"No." Edward stood up, setting his mug on the coffee table. "But it doesn't matter now."
It had been nearly a year, but he remembered that afternoon clearly. He dreamed about it - it colored all his nightmares.
Maybe Alice was right; perhaps Carlisle never knew. But Edward was there.
He'd come home early; class had been cancelled. Carlisle was already there. Edward heard voices upstairs, but didn't think much of it at. When he reached the top of the landing, though, he stopped cold (ice water sluicing through his veins). He could see into the bedroom. Carlisle was sitting on the bed. His feet were bare, the cuffs of his shirt undone.
Edward heard a woman's laugh from the bathroom. And for one brief, hysterical moment, he was actually relieved - relieved that she, at least, was female. That Carlisle hadn't found some other boy to replace him.
He knew he had to get out of there. He had to turn and run before he broke down, before he sunk to the floor and sobbed like he wanted so desperately to do.
But instead he stood, rooted to the spot. He couldn't move, couldn't turn away. The woman emerged from the bathroom; Edward pressed a fist to his mouth, pushed his back against the wall. He recognized her from an old photo Carlisle kept. Esme Platt Cullen. Carlisle's ex-wife.
They'd been divorced for years. And Carlisle always assured Edward that he was over her.
Edward tasted blood and realized he had bitten down on his knuckle so hard he'd broken the skin. Still, he couldn't move. He just stared from the shadows as she bent down to kiss his lover (a soft brush of lips against his temple). 'Will I see you next week?'
Edward didn't wait to hear Carlisle's response.
He cried himself to sleep that night. Alice hadn't asked any questions. She'd simply taken his hand and led him to her bed. He'd curled up with his head in her lap, and she'd stroked his hair.
He'd stayed there for three days.
'You don't need him, love,' Alice assured. 'Everything will be all right.'
But on the fourth day, he returned to Carlisle's home. To the home they'd shared for the past several months. Carlisle inquired after his absence but didn't question Edward's vague response.
He still wasn't entirely sure why he went back. Perhaps he was weak.
Perhaps he still was. Or, perhaps he just wanted to forget. Pretend it had never happened. Hope it would all just go away.
Edward knew that he should hate him (more now, perhaps, that ever before). He'd been foolish, of course, to put himself in that position. To let him hurt him again.
But even as he remembered the sting of humiliation (standing there in front of him, exposed, rejected, and embarrassed), Edward still couldn't help but imagine him at night. He couldn't help but imagine his hands on his thighs, his breath on his skin, as he gasped with each jerk of his hand.
He supposed it should make sense. After all, he was in love. He closed his eyes, shook his head, trying to call it back. But the word hung heavy, clung to the air.
Carlisle didn't love him. Not then. Not now.
Still, Edward loved to cut himself on him, to taste his own blood on the man's hands. And his stomach still twisted with a want he couldn't stand.
Carlisle called Edward three times the next day.
Edward didn't answer.
'Edward, you shouldn't be here.'
'But students come by during office hours all the time.'
'I know, but—' Carlisle looked around almost nervously, as if half expecting someone to burst through the door or materialize behind a filing cabinet. 'I just don't think it's right for us to be seen together. I wouldn't want to give the impression of impropriety.'
'Of course not.'
He hadn't been to the pub in months.
After all, it was their place.
The first time Carlisle had brought him there, they sat at the bar, drank pints of Stella Artois, and split a plate of fries. Edward watched in horror as Carlisle drenched his half in vinegar. But the British accent (residual from the man's childhood in Newcastle) still turned him on, so Edward could excuse the occasional culinary proclivity.
They hadn't arrived together (Carlisle's nod to discretion). But in the dark paneled booths of the pub, the older man could relax a bit, and the carefully crafted edges of his teaching persona would slip. He'd take off his jacket and roll up his sleeves, and then they were no longer professor and grad student.
Although their relationship was never out in the open, it wasn't a secret either. They were teased by the pub's regular crowd when Carlisle first started bringing Edward around: Edward was too young, too small, too wet behind the ears.
'He's twenty-three,' Carlisle had assured. "And he has more degrees than you lot put together." It wasn't exactly true, but if Carlisle's doctorate was added into the mix, they probably had them beat.
But there was no censure, no whispered remarks, no disapproving stares. No one really cared that Carlisle took a boy to bed – for that's what he was to them. Even the professor's forty-five years seemed like pocket change when compared to the pub's usual clientele. Aro, owner and perpetual bartender, had to be at least seventy-five. But he'd simply raised an eyebrow and muttered that he didn't understand youth nowadays, before filling Edward's glass to the brim with cheap Cabernet and asking 'the professor' if it was Scotch or whisky that night.
And, sometimes, when Aro had refilled his glass more than once, Carlisle would hold Edward's hand under the table or lean close to whisper filthy things in his ear. His cock still swelled at the thought.
Edward didn't know what he was thinking. No. That was a lie. He did. And he knew it was a horrible idea.
"Well, look who's here," the bartender remarked as he made his was up to the bar.
Carlisle turned around. Surprise colored his lovely features for a brief moment; Edward saw the hint of a smile curl his lips.
Aro reached under the bar and pulled out a rather dusty wine glass. He wiped it down with an even grimier rag. Edward looked away; it was best not to notice these things.
They sat side-by-side in silence. Carlisle turned his glass between his palms. Finally, he glanced up at Edward. "I wasn't sure you'd want to see me again."
Edward traced the rim of his glass with his thumb. "I didn't. Not at first."
Carlisle nodded. He took a slow sip of his Scotch. "I shouldn't have asked you to leave."
Edward picked up his wine but did not drink.
Carlisle's eyes fell to the ruby glint of the Cabernet reflected in the curve of the boy's palm. "I'm sorry." The man's voice was soft. "I never intended to upset you."
Edward didn't know what to say. He set the wine glass down again.
"You hurt me so much, Ed. I've told myself that it was better this way." He took a deep breath, flattening his hand against the bar. "But I can't seem to get over you."
Edward looked up. In the dim lighting of the pub, his green eyes were flecked with gold.
Carlisle brushed a thumb along the curve of his cheekbone. "I just can't pick things up again from where we left off."
Edward nodded, not daring to hope. "Then let's start over again. From the beginning."
Carlisle wasn't supposed to be home.
He was speaking at a conference in Chicago. Edward had been on trips with him before; he liked listening to the presentations.
Carlisle hadn't invited him this time.
Edward assumed the worst. That he was off with Esme or had every intention of finding another young woman (or man) to share his bed in the hotel.
The dull ache that had resided in his chest (just behind his ribs) for weeks throbbed to life. And he did something that he'd never done before. Something he'd never do again. He went out to a club and took home the first boy who'd expressed interest.
Edward didn't even know his name. He just wanted to feel wanted.
He sucked him off in their kitchen (his hands on his hips, the other boy leaning against the counter, gasping and shaking).
Edward hadn't even gotten hard.
He didn't know when Carlisle came in. But then the man was there, standing in the doorway. Surprise, confusion, and hurt flashed across his face briefly. Then they were gone, replaced only by a cold, dispassionate stare.
Edward wished he would have screamed.
Carlisle didn't step aside as the other boy slipped past. He didn't take his eyes off Edward.
Edward looked down. There was nothing he could say.
'I'll be back in thirty minutes. I expect you to be gone.'
Edward stared into the hearth, his pale skin warmed by the flicker and glow of flames. Alice was stretched out beside him, propped on one elbow, pale cheek resting against her palm. She slowly turned the pages in one of his sketch books.
"Oh. This one," she said after a few minutes. "Yes, this one is good."
Edward turned his head. She was pointing to a rather spindly little drawing of a wildflower. A moth fluttered in the upper left hand corner. "Yea," he said. "Take it."
She tore the page out carefully, smoothing her finger down the frayed edge. The paper was creamy and thick, worn soft to the touch. "Have you talked to him yet?"
Edward said nothing. He watched the orange black embers waver and spark.
"You're becoming…attached to him again." She turned her face up to his. Her dark hair shone in the firelight. "I can tell."
"I was always attached."
"Then you need to tell him, Eddie." She twisted, sitting up on her knees. "He needs to know."
"Why? It won't change anything."
"It might." Alice blinked, black lashes long against pale cheeks. "Maybe if he understood why you did it…" she trailed off.
He picked up the bottle of wine, tilting it, watching the crimson liquid run up the sides. The green glass glinted. "Do you think it would matter?" he asked finally.
She sighed and ran her finger through a whorl of faded blue in wool rug. "It might to him."
Edward took a swig of wine straight from the bottle. Alice rolled her eyes.
He shrugged. "Yes, incredibly gauche. I know."
She snorted and took the bottle from his hand, upending it over her mouth. A drop ran down her chin. "Talk to him."
"Are you done with Esme?" The words spilled out before he could stop them, but Edward had to know.
"What are you talking about?" Carlisle's shoulders tensed noticeably, but his voice was carefully measured.
"I caught you once." Edward took a large gulp of wine. It burned his throat. "April. Last year. I came home early from class and you, she—" he looked down, bit his lip. He wasn't going to cry. Not there. He took a deep breath.
"Nothing happened, Edward."
He curled his fingers into a fist. "Don't say that." His nails dug into his palm (four crescent-shaped marks). "I saw you."
"What exactly did you see?"
He thought back, remembering. Carlisle sitting on the bed. Esme emerging from the bathroom. It was difficult to separate the imagined from the reality; his mind had twisted that moment into a thousand different scenarios, but the truth was always clear. He'd been with her that afternoon.
"Nothing happened," Carlisle repeated, his voice steady, fingers brushing the back of Edward's hand.
He snatched it away.
"Edward, look at me. I, we never…"
"I saw you."
"I know what you saw, but it's not what you think."
"You didn't sleep with her?"
Edward shook his head, wanting desperately to believe, but it would make sense for the man to lie – to not readily admit his infidelity. His throat was suddenly very dry. "But she was there - in the bedroom, the bathroom." Edward hated that his voice shook
"Edward," Carlisle's fingers were warm as the cupped his chin, angling his face up toward his, "Esme's an interior designer. You know I've wanted to redo the master bath for ages."
Edward took a breath, but his chest felt tight. Realization twisted in his stomach. "But you never said anything..."
"Esme offered to help with the plans. I thought it would be a pleasant surprise. Put in that shower you always talked about."
"No…" Edward felt sick, cold. He'd done what he did out of righteous indignation. He'd been so hurt, after all, that he'd practically justified it to himself. "But that's why I—" Edward trailed off, looking at Carlisle almost pleadingly.
Carlisle paled. Swallowed thickly. "That's why you did it, isn't it?" He spoke softly, but Edward could hear the sadness there. "That's why you brought him home. You thought I was cheating on you."
Edward nodded, jaw tight.
"Why didn't you say something?" The man closed his eyes. Opened them again.
"I was going to." Edward ducked his head, picked at a thread his sweater sleeve. "But then…" He looked up at Carlisle. His eyes were bright. "I don't know. I think I just wanted it to all go away." He sighed. "I just wanted you to want me again."
"I've always wanted you, Ed."
Edward had never considered this sex. Foreplay maybe. Or mutual masturbation. But not sex. When he imagined sex, he had imagined penetration. But this – this frantic press of bodies, Carlisle gasping below him, as his cock slid through the narrow valley of his hips – this was definitely sex.
"God yes, harder Edward..." the man's breath was warm against the boy's cheek. "Like that...like you're fucking me."
The young man gasped, lips mouthing wet against Carlisle's throat. "You'd like that. I know you'd like that." Edward's voice was pitched low, and Carlisle heard the satisfaction there. The boy arched his back then, jerking his hips down, pressing hardness against hardness.
Carlisle couldn't bite back the moan.
"So good," Edward purred, rubbing himself more frantically against the older man. His chest was flushed, a lovely pink against pale skin, and his hair clung damply to his forehead, his temple. "Oh God... Car-oh..." The boy sounded mindless, and Carlisle couldn't help but move with his movements, hips to hips, belly to belly, his cock sliding deliciously against the boy's.
"That's it, love. Right there…"
It was too much. Carlisle hadn't called him that since the month before he'd broken things off. Edward could feel the pleasure building, coiling in his stomach, tightening in his balls. He ground his hips down hard, once, twice, and he was coming hot and wet between them.
Carlisle inhaled deeply, pulling the boy down on top of him. He could feel Edward's heart pounding against his own chest.
"Wow... That was...wow," Edward titled his head back, his hair a messy halo in the dim light of the room. Carlisle resisted the urge to swipe his tongue against the pale column of his neck.
Edward rolled over then, reaching to the bedside table for the bottle of lubricant. But Carlisle stopped him (fingers curled around his wrist). "No, love. Lie back," he murmured. "I want to come on you."
The boy's eyes went wide, but he complied readily, leaning against the pillows. He watched as Carlisle straddled his hips. He smoothed a hand down Edward's chest, feeling the sweat-warmed planes of muscles under his palm.
His low 'Christ, Ed' sent new shivers of want twisting through Edward's limbs. And then Carlisle slipped his fingers around his cock, stroking lightly. Edward watched his fingers, moving slowly.
He licked his lips, parted his mouth. Carlisle was shaking.
Edward watched Carlisle watching him, eyes bright, face open and rapt, as he pushed his cock through thumb and forefinger. Then he was shuddering, thighs trembling, stomach muscles clenching, as he came on Edward's stomach, his chest.
Carlisle took a deep breath, chest rising and falling, and dragged his thumb across Edward's abdomen, reaching up to smear the bitter salty sweet fluid against his lips.
"You're so beautiful." The man breathed. "Always so beautiful."
Suddenly, Edward's anger flared. He rolled out from under him, sliding his legs off the edge of the bed. He knew it was irrational. But it was far easier to be mad at Carlisle than to be mad at himself, and, at times, he desperately wanted to blame the other man for his own actions.
"How can you say that?" he asked bitterly. The sheets were twisted and bunched around his hips, and the wood floor was cold against bare feet.
Edward took several deep breaths, trying to calm the thud of his heart and the rush of heat through his blood. His back was toward the man, but Edward could feel Carlisle watching him. He stared at the squares of pale light puddled on the floor. The sky was clear; the moon shone through the stark panes of glass.
"Edward," the bed dipped as Carlisle shifted closer.
"You were so distant," the boy said finally, still looking at the floor. "I felt like you were pushing me away."
Carlisle sighed, and the mattress shifted again.
Edward could feel his shin against his hip. He fought the conflicting urges to flinch and sink backward into his touch. He managed to stay perfectly still. "You never wanted to be seen with me." He could feel the warmth of Carlisle's skin against his. "I hated how ashamed you felt. How ashamed you made me feel."
"I always wanted you, Edward."
The boy laughed. The sound was harsh, even to his own ears.
Carlisle smoothed his hand down Edward's back. The soft touch raised goose bumps on his skin. Edward shivered.
"I never wanted to love you."
The boy's breath caught. Never. Never had the man said those words to him.
"You and I are not well suited for each other," Carlisle continued, his voice low, even. "And, to some extent, I find it strange that I allowed myself to become so attached to you."
Edward turned, his lovely face reflecting both hurt and confusion.
"Stop," Carlisle chided when Edward opened his mouth to speak. He ran a thumb across the boy's bottom lip. "I do not mean to upset you. But you are not really a good choice for me, Edward. You are too young, too popular, and you still have so much to offer the world."
Edward fidgeted, twisting his fingers in the sheet.
"You are going to be successful one day," the man said. "Highly so." He rested his hand on the boy's hip. "And that thought, frankly, scares me."
"I don't understand," Edward said, brow furrowed.
"It scares me because I know that one day you will realize you can do far better than me."
"That's not true, I—"
"And, I believe," the man cut him off, "I might have seemed…distant because I knew that if I allowed myself to love you, it would only end up hurting more when you left."
"I wasn't going anywhere," the boy said fiercely, eyes flashing in the dim light.
Edward's confusion was clear on his face.
Carlisle smiled a bit sadly, smoothed his fingers over his cheek. "Ed, you've been talking about Italy for as long as I've known you. You were always going to leave." His thumb swept across the boy's lip. "And I don't blame you. You deserve to see the world." The man sighed. "Your art will take you anywhere you want to go." He suddenly sounded very tired. "I knew I was always going to lose you. But I never intended to hurt you."
"I know that now."
"Do you want to know why I chose Italy in the first place?" Edward narrowed his eyes, staring into Carlisle's bright blue ones. "You lived there. You studied art there for years. You loved it there."
The man nodded, unsure of what the boy was getting at.
"And you've always talked about taking a sabbatical." Edward pursed his lip, watched Carlisle swallow.
Suddenly understanding flashed across the older man's face.
"I was never going to leave you," the boy repeated. "I wasn't going without you."
Edward stared out the window. Spindly black branches swayed against a dreary midmorning sky. Rain slid down the stark windowpane. He turned around. The room felt strange, foreign now that it was practically empty. He opened the last cabinet and pulled out the half-empty tub of Gesso; he placed it next to his pastels and primas in the box.
He reached up to the top shelf, feeling around for any spare brushes or pencils. A draft swept over the bare stretch of skin between his tee-shirt and the waistband of his jeans. He shivered, remembering Carlisle licking a line between his hipbones. He'd squirmed, and Carlisle had laughed, the weight of his hands warm on his skin.
The boy jumped, startled by the sound of his voice. "I didn't hear you come in."
Carlisle shrugged. "I was hoping to find you here."
Edward bent down to pick the old drop cloth up off the floor. He folded it into a messy bundle. "I'll miss this place."
The man nodded. "It will be strange, not having you here."
"I'll have to find a new place to work."
Carlisle stepped closer, trailed his thumb along Edward's belt. "You know, there's always Italy."
The boy's breath caught. He looked up, eyes wide, face lovely.
"Can I buy you dinner?" the man asked.
Edward nodded. "Fish and chips at the pub?"
"No. Out. A Proper date."