A thousand thank yous to WendyK and KGQ for their help and support. Thanks to KellanCougar (who just updated Learning to Fly, her wonderful E/C story, just saying ;) ), Loopylou and Dariachenowith for their friendship and support.

Thank YOU so much for reading Roads, for talking about it in such kind words, and for your support.

Disclaimer: Aha! yes, that's the sound of me failing miserably at finding a disclaimer.


"And then his cock-"

"I'm not listening. I'm not listening!"

Emmett finished repairing the ugly bird and put his hands over his ears. "Stop it!"

"But Robin-"

"There's no but. Just stop it or I swear I'll drown you in that pond." He was trying to stare at me with a stern look but truthfully? It wasn't working really well.

"See? You are listening!" He rolled his eyes, and I stepped closer to him, "Okay, fine. I'll stop."


"So his tongue was-"

"I can't believe it!"

I laughed. "I'm kidding, I'm kidding! So you're finished? It's fixed?"

"Yeah." He bent down to slightly shake the bird, making sure it would stick. "All good." Then he looked at me and said, "Vaaaaagina."

I blinked a few times, staring at him and wondering what was up with him. Uh, what?"


"Yeah, I heard you the first time, Robin." He studied me, clearly waiting for something, so I sent him a questioning look.

"I thought that might freak you out."

Huh? "You thought the word vagina would freak me out? I don't get it."

"I need to find something to freak you out."

"That's really… friendly, Robin."

"No, I meant to shut you up." He scratched the side of his face. "So 'vagina' doesn't freak you out?"

"The word, no. Of course I don't really want to listen to women talk about theirs, and I have absolutely no need to see one up close. Other than that, I'm fine."

He looked disappointed, which made me laugh again, then he shrugged. "Oh, okay. But I'll find something. Be afraid. Be very afraid."

"Oh yeah, I'm shaking in my boots, Robin." I glanced over to where Edward was sitting. "Now, if you're done, can we go join the others? Bex is here."

"She is?" He swiftly turned. "What is she doing here?"

"You know Bex." I thought it be better not to tell him I had called her. She had planned to come for lunch anyway; I had only sped up her arrival.

Emmett started telling me how we should proceed to finish scraping the side of the house as we walked back to the table, but I stopped listening pretty fast. First of all, it didn't really interest me. I'd do whatever they needed me to do, but I didn't care to know all the hows and whys; but it was the look on Edward's face which made me lose my focus on everything else. I wasn't sure I liked that look. The closer we got to them, the more it bothered me.

It wasn't that it was really bad, it was more the fact that I didn't understand it. With all the time I'd spent watching him, I'd come to know him pretty well, and if I couldn't always read everything, I at least got most of it. Sometimes, though, sometimes I would be lost as to what could be going on in his head, but those were fleeting moments for the most part, nothing that would make me question it for too long.

This wasn't the same thing, right now. Bex was talking to him, laughing, but it was clear he was barely listening to her, if at all. He looked worried, or stressed, or maybe lost and Edward was none of those things, or never to that extent. That scared me, but most of all, it was the way he was looking at me, as if he didn't really recognize who I was, that scared me more.

I tried not to stare at him, holding on the knowledge that he would talk to me about it at some point. That's what he'd always told me, and his past actions vouched for him. Yes, he would talk to me. I wasn't sure it was something I wanted to hear, though. But we were good, right? So maybe it wasn't something to dread. I took a deep breath to calm myself. I couldn't always expect the worse, and stress and extrapolate on things without knowing what was going on. Okay. We were good, and something was bothering him right now, but he'd tell me about it as soon as he could.

With that certitude I was able to shake those insecure feelings and felt like things were right again. Well, the fact that something was bothering him wasn't good, though, but I wouldn't like knowing something was bothering Bex or Emmett, either.

Emmett sat not far from Bex, and I took a seat next to Edward. He smiled at me for a second, then went back to his thoughts, but put a hand on my neck and stroked it with his thumb. I leaned closer to him, searching for something to say, but Bex as usual spoke first.

"You wouldn't know why Edward has cum in his hair, would you, boy?"

"As it happens Bex, I do know. Is there something in particular about that you'd like to know?"

"I've pictured every possible position where he could end up with your sperm in his hair. I have to say, whichever one it is, I feel proud." Edward was about to speak but Bex cut him off. "Yes, I know Edward, what I just said is 'all kinds of wrong'."

He nodded at her. "But that never keeps you from saying it."

She scoffed. "Of course not. But at least I made you stop brooding for at least five seconds." After sending him a pointed look, she turned to Emmett. "Edward has cum in his hair."


We all looked at Emmett, surprised. This was usually the moment he'd try to leave, or at least say something like 'I don't want to hear about it'. Bex, who was disappointed not to have gotten a reaction out of him, asked, "Why good?"

"Because at least it means that maybe the car seats were spared."

She pondered his words for a moment then asked me, "How many times did you do it?"


Bex whistled appreciatively. "So there still might be some on the car seats."

Edward groaned, shaking his head, and sent a look in Emmett's direction that was close to an eye roll.

"I really didn't need to know all that, you know? And I think Jasper and Edward could have done without you asking about it, too."

Bex slowly looked from Emmett to Edward. She let out a huff then said, "You two are killing all my fun, and-" She watched as Edward pulled me closer to him until my head was on his shoulder. I kissed his neck and put a hand on his chest. I had no idea what was going on with him, but clearly he needed me close to him; I wasn't going to argue with that. Whatever Bex had planned to say she kept to herself. Instead, she smiled softly at me, and after a glance at the garden said, "That's the ugliest garden I have ever seen."

"Thank you." George's voice startled us, making us all turn around at the same time to see him standing in the doorway, right behind Bex.

"You're welcome, George." Bex faced the garden again, not feeling a bit shameful to have been overheard by him. "Do you really like gnomes that much? What about the fake birds?"

He walked up to the first step leading to his garden. "I find them absolutely awful. Always hated them."

"Why do you have them, then?" I think I asked what everyone must have been thinking.

He turned to look at me. "My wife loved them. I fought with her for years to get rid of them," he shrugged, "but when she died I didn't have the heart to throw them away." He pulled up a chair and sat down. "They remind me of her."

We all stayed silent after that, then of course I had to say, "Well, at least you're changing the paint color of your house. That's something."

"You don't like the color of my house?"

"Uh, no offense George, but it's the worst color I have ever seen."

He kept silent for a few seconds. "Jason! Come here."

Jason, who had been in the house until now, joined us on the porch. "What?"

"What color is my house going to be painted?"

"Uh, same color as it is. Why?"

George gave me a pointed look, then stood up to head into the house. When he was at Jason's level he loudly said, "I'm not sure I like your friends."

"Darn. Of course I'd say that." I hid my face in Edward's neck. He was laughing his ass off. I wanted to tell him to stop laughing since I had annoyed George, but it was good to see him lighten up so I let it go. Instead I got out of my chair to find the man and apologize. I felt bad.

He was in the kitchen, serving himself a drink. He looked up when he heard me. "Have more things to say about my house, young man?"

"Uh, no. I'm sorry for what I said. I wanted you to know that."

"So you don't think it's the worst color anymore?"

"Oh no, I still think it's awful." I cringed at my words.

"That's a wonderful apology-Jasper, is it?"

I nodded, then quickly added, "I'm sorry about that, too." I stroked the back of my neck, trying to find something to say that wouldn't end up sounding insulting. "I, err, I'm just sorry for having said that. I understand that you probably keep it in memory of your wife and-"

"My wife hated that color. I'm the one who likes it."

"Ah." I coughed and cleared my throat. "Uhm, that's err… I think I'm going to, ah," I pointed to the door leading on the porch, "go sit down again, then. But you have to know that I, ah-" He squinted his eyes at me. "Okay, I'm going now. Good chat, George."

I slumped down in my chair, resuming my previous position. I stroked Edward's chest, enjoying the feeling of his skin under my hand, and I played with the hairs that were there. His hand found purchase on my neck again and he asked, "That bad?"


Jason chuckled. "Don't worry, Jasper. It wouldn't have mattered what you said, he'd have turned it around on you. "

I looked at him, not missing the eye-fuck he was giving my boyfriend's chest. "Yeah, he's good at making people uncomfortable."

"Oh yes. I think he likes it." He laughed again, and after one last appreciative look went back into the house.

I snorted, saying that "Maybe we should go back to scraping."

"You sound so enthusiastic, boy!"

I made a face at her. "You're not the one doing it, so shush."

"But I'm counting on watching while I do nothing, boy. Should be fun." She gave me an evil smile then added, "Mostly watching Robin paint." She shook the costume she had in her hand in front of Emmett.

Emmett jumped out of his chair. "How did you-When did you-No way!"

"Yes, way!" Bex walked towards him, costume still in hand.

"Nope, I won't." He turned around. "Now, do what you want, but I am going to work."

We followed him and heard Bex shout, "I'm going to find a way, Robin!"

I had no urge to go back to scraping that darn wall. The only perk was watching Edward work shirtless, but that couldn't erase the pain in my arms, or the nasty odor of the product. It couldn't erase the fact that Edward still looked like he was worrying over something, either. If one of us was talking to him, we had to say his name a few times before he would answer. We worked well, though. Okay, Alfred and Robin worked well. I helped but I was in no rush, so they did most of the work.

When it finally was done, it was time to start painting. Robin decided to start on another wall so the paint wouldn't mix with the product we had just used. Since Edward had decided to disappear right then, I helped Emmett move the ladders, then we went to get the paint from the shed. Emmett grabbed a big can and left to start on the job, while I was still trying to understand what paintbrush or roller I was supposed to use. I grabbed the ones closest to me and picked up a can of paint. When I turned around, Edward was standing in front of me.

"Hey do you know what pai-" I let go of everything when he stepped closer to me and gripped my waist. Next his hands were on my ass and he was pulling me to him, trying to lift me as he went so I wrapped my legs around him. I put an arm around his shoulder, and gripped the support just above my head for balance. He didn't talk as he lowered my head to kiss me, but he didn't need to. I knew that look. It wasn't simple lust, it was need, and while I had no idea why he needed this now, I wasn't going to discuss it; I'd just give it to him.

He moved to get a better handle on me, and it threw me off balance, so I snaked my arms around the support, keeping it in the crook of my arms. The motion moved me higher, and he took advantage of that to put on a condom and open my pants, before pushing them down. He slid his arms under my knees, pulling me back down, and in the same movement made me slowly push on his cock until he was in all the way. I was back to holding onto the support with my hands, and I gripped it tightly as he buried his face in my neck, just under my chin. The height difference caused by my position didn't leave him much choice, though, but he seemed intent on staying there, his mouth never leaving the skin under my Adam's apple.

My pants were strained against his upper torso, the underside of my knees resting on his arms. One of his hands cupped my ass and he started moving, excruciatingly slow at first, but he went faster with each stroke. I tried to stay quiet as best as I could which was rather difficult for me; I wasn't one to be silent, and even less so with Edward.

His sounds were muffled by my skin, although I didn't think he was doing it on purpose. I could feel rather than hear his groan through my skin. Maybe it was a good thing, because the noises he made tended to turn me on even more; he had this way of grunting, really low, usually followed by a moan, that I couldn't resist.

He was keeping me so close to him that he could only fuck me with short strokes, but they were so powerful that we swayed with each one, making it difficult for me to keep holding onto the support but the pleasure I felt was too good to even think about letting go. I felt my cock twitch each time that it rubbed against his chest. I didn't want to cum yet, and as I tried to rein in my orgasm, my ass clamped on his cock, making us both moan. He followed that by biting me, and fuck, it almost made me cum. I bit my lip to stop the string of swear words from leaving my mouth, but as I looked up I saw Jason at the door, watching us open-mouthed and sporting a hard-on I couldn't miss. Holding off became a lost cause. I shouted fuck several times, cumming on Edward –and probably myself- and writhing, even though he was holding onto me tightly as he came, too. When I looked again Jason was gone.

Edward let go of my legs to wrap his arms around me, his face still in my neck. He was as out of breath as I was. I put my legs around his waist; the position was awkward with my pants still down, but I needed some leverage. My arms were killing me and I needed to let go of the support. When I did he stumbled back, then regained his balance, and I put my arms around his head, both my hands buried in his hair.

After a few minutes he let go of me and I slid down his body. Once my feet were on the ground I kissed him before saying his name; the question in my tone was obvious. He looked me in the eye and cleared his throat. "Let's keep that conversation for later if you don't mind. I'm already surprised no one stumbled upon us."

I zipped up my pants and, noticing the state of my shirt, groaned. "I can't wear this anymore. Bex will have a field day."

I took it off and Edward chuckled, then said, "Now you'll have to walk around shirtless, too," at the same time as I said, "You're wrong. Jason was here."

He stopped laughing at once. "What?"

"Jason. He was here." I tried to wipe my cum off his stomach with my shirt. "No idea if he was here for long, though. I only saw him for a few seconds."

Edward snorted. "That fucking perv." His eyes shot up to my face. "How did you like that?"

The question wasn't as simple as it seemed. "Not going to lie, on the spot it was quite, ah, stimulating. But truthfully… I'd rather he had stumbled on us another time."

"Another time, uh?"

I swatted his arm. "You know exactly what I mean." This had been just us, us and his need, wherever it came from. The look he sent me conveyed that he knew it very well, too.

"Yeah, I know." He looked around the shed. "So. Paint!"

Darn house that needed to be painted! I wanted to go back to the motel! Edward picked up the can I had been holding earlier and I followed him outside. He leaned close to me and whispered "Thank fuck it wasn't Bex. She'd probably have cheered us on or given us points for technique." I guffawed at his words, knowing he was probably right. "At least Jason enjoyed it silently." Using a teasing tone he added, "He did enjoy it, right?"

"Oh yeah, based on his body's reaction he did."

"Hey! Lunch is served!" Emmett was in the middle of the garden, pointing a finger towards the table set at the side of the house.

"What the fuck is he doing in his Robin costume?"

I shook my head in answer, wondering what Bex had done to make him to relent. "What did she do, Robin?" We walked over to him, and since he hadn't answered, I asked my question again. He only shrugged.

"Nothing, really. I'm Robin after all."

Edward sent me a look full of doubt. I was with him on that one. There was no way Robin would have worn that costume today unless she'd done something to blackmail him.

We joined them at the table. As we sat down I asked Bex, "So, what did you do?"

She mocked-gasped and clutched her chest. "I did nothing, boy. How can you think such a thing?"

I squinted my eyes at her. "Because I know you?"

"Well, you're wrong, boy."

While we were talking, Jason was looking at us, acting like nothing had happened. I sent him a cheeky smile that made him cough, but he quickly got over it.

They had already started lunch, and while neither of them commented on that, Bex spoke up anyway. "We sent Jason to look for you but he didn't find you." He scrutinized us both, then asked, "Where were you?"

Emmett put his fork down. "No! No! What did I say? You don't ask them what they were doing! You don't ask them where they were!"

"What are you talking about? You never said that. And since when can't I ask?"

"Oh, yeah. You weren't there, true." Robin paused and turned to her, "You don't ask where they were and what they were doing or else they might answer!"

"Well, see Robin… Alfred and I were naked and rolling around in-" I didn't finish because Emmett was staring at my hair, eyes wide as saucers, with a panicked look on his face. Oh no-no-no-no- Duck-no-NO! I froze, my heart beating so fast I thought it would stop, like each darn time. The next second I was out of my chair, head down, rubbing my hair with both hands, shouting at Edward to tell me if I had something in it.

I barely registered the shocked look on his face as he jumped out of his seat to tell me that there was nothing in my hair, and to calm down. How could I calm down! Oh dang, I couldn't believe it! I stopped touching my hair and stared at Bex; she kept looking at everything but me. "So that's what you did? I can't believe it! You-you-Benedict Arnold!"

"Aha! I got you! That info was so worth wearing this stupid costume. Excellent!" Emmett smiled brightly at me and started eating again.

I huffed and sat down again, passing a hand through my hair –just in case.

"Ok, will someone tell me what the fuck that was all about?" Edward was still standing, slightly pissed off. "You scared the fuck out of me with your screaming and jumping everywhere!"

"I wasn't jumping everywhere."

"Of course you were!" Then he looked at Bex and pointed a finger at her. "What was that?"

She tried to hold a chuckle in. "Uhm, my boy has this thing, you see." I huffed, closing my eyes at the humiliation that was about to come. "If you stare at his hair like there's something awful in it, he, well, he starts doing that."

I opened my eyes when Edward asked, "Something awful like what? What do you mean?" Then he looked at me. "Bruce?"

My groan was loud enough for everyone to hear, but they were all waiting for me to speak up so no one commented on it. "Like err, live things you know?"

Alfred was watching me, confused. "Live things?"

"Spiders! Like spiders! I can't believe she told him!"

He was still confused. "But if you know he's doing it on purpose it shouldn't really matter."

I threw my arms up. "It does! As much as I know it's not true, I can't fight it! I'll always picture them in my hair and it's disgusting. Argh." I passed a hand through my hair again, in reflex.

Emmett was laughing his ass off. "I won't abuse my power, don't worry." He put another piece of food in his mouth. "I'll only do it if you start giving me details of your sex life just to bug me." He chewed, then added, "So worth wearing this stupid costume!"


The rest of the afternoon was a bore for the most part; at least when it came to me. I hated painting, I really did. And that darn house wasn't close to be finished so I knew we'd have to go back tomorrow. I had traces of paint everywhere on me. I was glad I was wearing Jason's shoes and not my own; it would have ticked me off to ruin them for this.

Like this morning, the only perk was watching Alfred work shirtless; the reason my shoes were covered in ugly pink paint was because I'd often forget to work, too entranced by the way his back muscles rolled each time he extended his arm to paint, and my roller would drip all over Jason's shoes.

I loved watching him overall, because, well, I always loved watching him. The way his face looked when he was working, and his entire casual demeanor -as if he was doing the simplest thing and wasn't balanced on a ladder, sweating like a pig- and how he shook his head or smiled each time our eyes met.

All the while, Robin was trying to ignore Bex's taunting. She was sitting in a lawn chair, sipping on her drink and watching us work. Watching him work to be more precise. The fact that I had to stop teasing him made her do it with even more vigor. I couldn't keep from laughing each time he threw his cape over his back; the gesture was so ridiculous. He ended up with getting more paint on it every time he did it. At one point he looked at his costume and shouted, "I'm warning you, I'm not paying for it if they don't take it back at the shop!" I laughed at that knowing full well that the costume was already paid for. After all, I was the one who had asked Bex to buy it. Thinking about how he came to wear it today, I guessed she thought that if I was ready to see her tease him then I should be ready to have a taste of my own medicine. I couldn't fault her on that.

Jason had left hours ago for work. He stayed a bit after lunch, though, until we started working on the house again. He was clearly not eye-fucking only Alfred this time; I got my fair share of it, too. I ignored it for the most part, but sometimes our eyes would meet and I'd always send him a teasing smile that made him look away in a hurry. Edward chuckled each time it happened, mouthing 'tease' to me and once telling Jason that "he shouldn't watch if he couldn't handle it."

At ducking last we called it a day. I wanted time alone with Alfred; he seemed better than earlier, but he still wasn't himself and I needed to know what was going on with him. Before we left, I asked Bex if she had anything she needed to take back to the hotel.

"I'm not going back to the motel yet, boy."

"You're staying here with George?"

"I think he's hiding, but no, I'm waiting for Jason to come back. We thought we could make a night of it. You don't want to join us?"

It sounded nice, but it wasn't the best timing. I glanced at Edward to be sure he was on the same page as me, which he was, so I shook my head in answer. "We're going back to the motel." I turned to Emmett, who was putting the ladders back in the shed. "What about you, Robin?"

He stopped in his tracks. "No way I'm sitting in that car, right now." Then more seriously he added, "I'll finish cleaning up. You can go. Jason will give me a ride back later."

"You're not going out with us?"

Emmett stared at Bex as if she was crazy. "With you and Jason? Do you think I'm that masochistic? No thanks, Bex. Plus, after today all I want is to chill out and get some rest."

It took only a moment to retrieve our stuff, then Edward and I headed to the car. He handed me his keys. "Do you mind driving?" I took them without a word and drove us to the motel. He stayed quiet the whole ride there, looking out his window; only the hand he kept on the back of my neck, rubbing it slowly, told me that he hadn't forgotten I was there.

Once we were in the room, but before I could say anything, he asked, "I know you're anxious for us to talk but is it okay if I take a shower first?"

We were both sticky with sweat, paint and other fluids. A shower didn't seem like the worst thing right now. "Yeah, dang knows I could use one, too."

Edward nodded. "You've got paint in your hair." He brushed it with his fingers trying to remove it. "Okay, shower first then."

It was a rather quick affair; we took our shower together, but only took care of ourselves. The goal was to be clean, not to get frisky. Obviously, neither of us would have minded that, but I really wanted to hear what he had to say and for once the need to talk was prominent enough in my mind that nothing else could make me forget it, not even Naked Alfred.

I got out of the bathroom first and of course wondered if I should keep the towel around my hips, or put on underwear, or just go naked as I normally would. I decided to keep the towel on since I didn't like underwear that much. If I was lying naked on the bed, waiting for Alfred, the only thing we'd be acknowledging would be the huge hard-on I'd be sporting because my brain and body were in accord when it came to seeing Edward naked and still wet. He came out of the bathroom just as I was thinking that, half-wet and in all his naked glory, as I knew he would be. He wasn't the kind of guy to hide himself, even less when it came to me. I didn't think I'd ever seen him wearing underwear, unless he planned on putting on somepants in the following three seconds.

He slumped on the bed and crawled over to me until his head was on my upper chest, one leg draped over mine. I noticed he had taken almost the same position as he had the day we'd had that "not yet" talk. I played with his hair, waiting for him to talk; that was something he did often for me. Waiting for me to talk, I mean. It stressed me out a bit, though, maybe because I wasn't used to waiting for him to speak up, or maybe because I was dreading that talk more than I realized, I didn't know. He felt it, because his first words were,

"Your heart is beating like crazy, Bruce." He lifted his head to look at me, and after a quick kiss, resumed his position. "I had an interesting conversation with Jason today."

Ah, so that was it. "Did he hit on you?" Well, Jason was hot, and he had eye-fucked my boyfriend most of the day, so it wasn't that far-fetched to wonder about it. I think? Maybe not. That wouldn't have upset or worried Edward that much.

He chuckled, jolting us both slightly. "No, Bruce. He did not hit on me. I don't think he would ever do that. He's rooting for us too much." He paused. "We talked about me, though, and to some extent, about you and me."

"Yeah?" What did Jason have to say about us? Or Edward? Huh?

"Yes. " He turned around, keeping his head on my chest, but now facing the ceiling. "You see, I do this thing –and really I didn't think it mattered much- but after talking with Jason I've been wondering how much it does matter."

Okay. That wasn't clear. Edward was always clear. Actually, I suspected Clear was his middle name. But that right there wasn't making any sense. Dang, he sounded like me; seriously I didn't give him enough credit because I never realized how frustrating it was. "That thing about the thing? Uhm yeah, that thing is err, what?"

He snorted. "That thing is me being all hung up about how everything could have gone wrong. I don't know, it's hard to explain… but Jason seems to think it keeps me from truly enjoying what I have."

Yeah, not getting it. "What thing could have gone wrong?"

Edward rubbed his forehead and passed a hand through his hair. "Like you, for example."

"I could have gone wrong?" I have a strange brain, but that did not, ah, make any ducking sense!

"No." He turned his head so he could see my face. "Remember what I told you about freaking out knowing that if you had talked to another guy in the bar we wouldn't be here today?" I nodded, remembering that conversation well. "Well, that's exactly that."

"What's exactly that?"

"Me maybe not being in it totally because of it? Or fuck, I don't know, maybe not being sure I have you because fuck knows I can see what my life would be like if I hadn't met you, and I can see it every damn day." He scrunched up his face. "Okay, that sounded weird, but do you know what I mean?"

"Yes. After all, anyone can see I'm too good to be true." He guffawed at my words, and I squeezed his shoulder, "No, I don't get it, Alfred!" I didn't want to act as if it was stupid, because if it wasn't stupid to him then it wasn't stupid, period. But I really needed him to explain it to me. "Tell me again about this 'could go wrong' thing?"

"Okay." He thought about it for a few seconds. "You know how you're always freaking out about what could go wrong, and how you imagine all the possible outcomes, good and bad?"

"Yes." For now, I got it. I nodded to emphasize my answer.

"Well, in a way I do the same but for things that have happened already, except it's always bad, and it's always about things that went well or ah, had an okay outcome."

"Like us in the bar," Remembering something I had said before, I added, "and like when I told you it was like escaping a road accident and getting the chills each time you thought about how close you came to getting killed?"

"Yes! Exactly." He shrugged. "I don't know, I never felt like it held me back or anything. But Jason had pointed out some other things that I knew to be true. I couldn't ignore the rest just because I had never thought about it that way before, you know?"

Hmmm. "So you're thinking about everything that could have gone wrong and it might be keeping you stuck on the 'what ifs?' " I thought maybe I was starting to make sense of it. But I wasn't really sure. Who knew Edward had this kind of things going on in his head?

"Yeah. It sounds crazy, right? It sounds mad to me, but what do I know?"

"That's why you seemed somewhere else all morning?"

"Yes. Honestly Jasper, it scared me."

Huh? "Why?"

"Because in a way I've been living on the sidelines all my life, by choice mind you, but I thought that wasn't the case anymore. One conversation with Jason made me wonder if I wasn't still doing it. And if that's the case, it's not by choice anymore. That's frightening in itself."

I could understand that. Although I didn't think it was exactly true. "And the shed?"

"I needed to, ah, really feel you."

I wriggled my eyebrows. "Oooh yeeeaaah, you felt me good." I ran my hands over his chest. I didn't know if it was soothing to him, but it did the trick for me.

After his laughter died down he caught one of my hands in his. "I needed to feel you close. To know you were real." He shrugged again. "Ah shit, I don't know." Well, that was nice. Being needed was always a great feeling, not that I had felt it many times in my life. He interrupted my thoughts by adding, "All I know is that I needed to tell you, to make sense of it. Or to try at least."

"Okay. So, this is the moment I tell you what I think, right?"

Edward turned on his front again, resuming the position he had taken when he first joined me on the bed. "Yes, I believe it is, Bruce."

Nickname. It meant he felt better. Way to go, Jasper! I rubbed his shoulder with one hand, and his hair with the other, waiting for that sigh. It came after a few seconds; how I loved that sigh. He didn't do it often, but each time it rocked my world. In my mind it was like a neon sign spelling out 'getting closer to yet' without him even noticing. I savored it for a moment, then spoke up. "As you told me once, everyone is scared of something. I don't doubt that for you it's this weird version of Leibniz's theory but-"

His head snapped up and he cut me off. "Leibniz's theory?"

"Yeah, you know, everything is related in time? Like me talking to someone else in that bar would have kept us from meeting. But then if you think that way, you have to go back further. For example, if my last appointment had lasted longer maybe you'd have been gone by the time I got there. Or, err, if said appointment had happened elsewhere, then I wouldn't have gone to that bar at all. Oh and what about the fact that if my parents hadn't been such screw-ups, they wouldn't have forced me to study law, then I wouldn't have had to go to all those appointments that day, hence we'd have never met." I paused. Wow. I met Edward because my parents were screw-ups. Maybe I should send them flowers instead of being angry at them. I must have been silent for quite a while because Edward's voice started me out of my thoughts.

"What's up?"

"Nothing. Anyway, that's Leibniz's theory, uhm sort of." Dang. I met Edward because my par-


"Yes! Okay, as I was saying, that's something that bugs you, but I'm not sure the rest is related to it. Keep in mind that I have no idea what I'm talking about, as usual."

He lifted his head and slapped my shoulder. "Stop belittling yourself, Bruce. If I'm talking about it with you, it's not only because you have the right to know what's going on with me, it's also because your opinion is important as well as helpful. Now speak."

"See that right there? You, repeating that I have to speak up, and that my opinion matters?" He nodded. "Well, I think that's what you need. Well, I mean, you need the idea drilled into you that I'm right here and not living in sin with Ugly Sweater Guy." He chuckled but I went on. "You think it's stupid, but I bet you that it's not." As I tried to find a way to make it clear to him, it became clear to me, too. I could be wrong, but it did make sense to me.

"If you think about it, you had a job you felt wasn't really your job because you always thought of it as temporary, and you lived in an empty place because you also felt it was temporary. You never really made friends because all aspects of your life were temporary. There's not one thing in your life that wasn't darn temporary. And it's been like that for years, if not since you were a kid. I mean, you have parents who are loving but absent on too many levels to count. No offense to them, but they were and still are only intermittent parents. I'm not Freud, but I do think it's a lot to ask of yourself not to bring that 'temporary' crap into the life you're living right now and to us by association. So I do think that drilling it into your brain can work." It was my turn to shrug. "It's working for me, Alfred."

He scrutinized me for a few seconds, "Yeah, it does work for you."

"Yes. I'm getting more perfect by the minute."

"You laugh, but I don't think you get how hot you are when you act so sure of yourself."

"Ooh, you mean it turns you on?"

"As if you didn't know that already, Bruce." He tickled me as spoke, making me thrash on the bed, and incapable of answering him since I was laughing too much. He finally stopped and laid his head on my right shoulder, nestling his face in my neck. He ran his hand up my chest, until it reached my left shoulder and wrapped his fingers around it. His other hand found purchase around my right biceps, tightening on it each time I stopped scratching his hair, and one of his legs was still draped over mine.

"Yeah, I know you do, Alfred."

"You know, what you said make sense, about everything in my life being temporary until now."

"I'm amazingly intelligent, as you know." I rubbed his arm and added, "In all truth, I had never thought about it like that. It's when you were explaining things that it came to me. I might still be wrong, but I feel like I'm not. You'll have to work on your weird Leibniz Syndrome, though." I chuckled at my own words, and he bit my neck. Maybe he needed a little romance and attention, too. I was ready to bet it wasn't something he had been drown in until now. Not that he was the sort of guy to love huge romantic gestures; he had been pretty clear about that from the start. The fact that he preferred small, meaningful gestures throughout the year rather than big ones on a few special occasions made sense, too.

His stomach growled, reminding us that we had yet to have dinner. I really have no drive to go out; all I wanted was to stay here with him half on top of me-even if my shoulder was slowly dying- and cuddle him the rest of the night.

Edward held me tighter. "I don't want to move. Is it okay with you if we stay here?"

Seems like we were on the same page, then. I kissed the side of his face, "Completely. We can order something later."

I felt him nod slowly, and nudge my arm so I'd resume scratching his hair. "Mmm, feels good."

And there was that sigh again.

Thank you for reading! Tell me what you think!