For the Love of One Good Man
Rated M for sexual content, Emmett/Charlie Slash
Summary: Emmett McCarty isn't afraid of relationships; he just can't find the right man. When the right man comes along, can he wait for the time to be right, too? Continuation of "Love and Charlie Swan," winning entry for the Strictly Charlie contest.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Twilight series, or any of the characters created by Stephenie Meyer. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.
(the Strictly Charlie contest was last year, and I've had this little continuation/epilogue gathering dust ever since. I hope you enjoy)
I look back on that day, so long ago but still so fresh in my memory, and wonder at my own naiveté. I'd stood there staring at him, no longer recognizing the man that had shared my bed and my heart for nearly a year, desperately struggling to figure out if he meant what I was afraid he meant.
"Don't make me spell it out, Emmett. It's best if we just leave it like this, don't you think? I mean we had a good run. You're a great guy, but we just weren't cut out for the long term."
"You mean you're not cut out for the long term. That's what you really mean here, isn't it?"
He sighed deeply, hands on his hips and looking anywhere but at my face. "Look, Emmett. You're a great guy. A wonderful guy. Hot as fuck, great in the sack…"
"After all this time, that's what I'm reduced to, Cal? A hot fuck and see ya later?"
"Don't Emmett me. Have the balls to call it what it is, Cal, without the sugar coat. It was fun for a while, now it's not, and you want to fuck around without having to worry about your bitch wondering where you are. Right?"
He rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest in a huff. "Fine. Yes. It was fun for a while and now it's not and I'd like to fuck around. There. Are you happy? Feel better now? Why do you always have to push? Why can't you just let this end gracefully, without all this drama? Jesus, you're such a fucking queen sometimes."
"Fuck you, Carlisle. Letting things end gracefully would have been sitting down like two adults and discussing what's gone wrong the last month or so. Drama is you hiding the fact that you've been cheating on me, and then walking out right before a vacation we planned together, a week before our fucking anniversary, with little more than a 'thanks for all the hot sex and a place to crash for the last year. See ya around.' Is that so hard to comprehend that I might be hurt…"
I stopped and took a deep breath, shaking my head. "You know what? My bad. We're obviously done, regardless of what I feel."
"Don't, Carlisle. Just get your things and go."
I'd like to say it was easy to watch him pack up and leave, but that would be a lie. I was sure there had to be a lesson to be learned from my year with Carlisle; it just took me a while to figure it out.
About six months after Carlisle left, I decided it was time to make some changes. I was on a career track I didn't want in a city that felt suffocating, so I hit the want-ads. I found a position in Forks, Washington; a small town out on the Olympic peninsula. Chief Swan offered me the job sight unseen based on my record with the state police, several service commendations, and a two-hour phone interview. He was an easy going, no-bull kind of man, and that appealed to me greatly. He tried to warn me that small town life might be boring for someone like me, used to the hustle and bustle of Seattle, but by the end of our conversation I think I convinced him Forks was a better fit for the kind of cop I wanted to be.
I parked my tiny travel trailer in the campground at Kalaloch and took my time poking around the peninsula for a few days before I was due to start work. I'd hoped to find a small apartment or rental house in Forks, but it turns out there weren't many to be had. Unless I wanted to drive half way to Port Angeles or settled for the local weekly-and-monthly motel, I was going to be screwed. I was able to secure another week's stay at the campground, but living in a thirteen foot camper was not meant to be part of my long-term relocation plan. I was hopeful someone at the station might be able to help me out.
Chief Swan smoothed down his moustache and looked at the floor. "I've got a spare room, if you're interested."
I was stunned, to be honest. "Really?"
"Yeah, really. With some ground rules, of course."
I was in no position to turn him down, even if the thought of being roommates with my boss was a little daunting. "Yeah, hey, no problem."
"Nothing illegal, no smoking, no pets, no revolving door of women."
He looked at me pointedly, and I think I actually blushed. "No worries there, Chief."
His voice hardenend. "My daughter stays with me for a couple of months every summer. She's seventeen this year."
I looked him square in the eye. "Hands off. Got it. Not a problem."
"You can park your camper in the side yard. My mortgage is paid, but you chip in on the utilities, cable tv, whatever. You do a share of the housekeeping and yard work. We can split meals, but if you can cook better than me I'll knock something off the bills."
"Sounds great. When can I…"
"You got any goofy habits I ought to know about? Kickboxing at 5am, persnickety about how the toilet paper ought to hang?"
I laughed and shook my head, and a slow smile crept across his face.
He had a nice face. Rugged but not hard. An honest face. He was average height, medium build - fit, but a little neglected around the middle. Thick dark hair, dark eyes. If I was completely honest with myself, he wasn't really my type. I tended to like runners. Tall, thin… Still, something about him was almost irresistible, touchable. I had a vision of him sweating and grunting beneath me…
"…Listen to that damn bass-thumping hip hop crap they call music? Sleepwalk?"
I shook my head half in answer to his question and half to get rid of the highly inappropriate thoughts about my soon-to-be-boss-slash-possible-roommate "Nope, none of that," I said, as he continued his mock interrogation.
He scratched his chin and looked away, and I felt like a kid asking to borrow the keys to the car. "I don't know," he muttered, stringing me along.
He finally let me off the hook with a laugh and scribbled his address on the back of one of his cards. "I'm off duty at six. Come by, and you can have a look around and decide what you want to do."
"Thanks, Chief. I really appreciate it." I was beginning to think this might not be the best idea in the history of ideas, but at the moment it was all I had. Short term, I told myself. Just a few weeks, until I could find something more appropriate.
"Yep." He patted me on the shoulder and went back to dispatch to pick up something or another, leaving me in the capable hands of his clerk.
I stopped by his house after filling out a metric ton of new-hire paperwork. It was a nice sized, middle-class house on an average street, but it screamed 'bachelor.' The window boxes were empty, the landscaping was a little overgrown, and everything looked like it needed a good scrub. It fit him perfectly. A little rough around the edges, details neglected, but solid, reliable.
He greeted me at the door in a paint-spattered tee shirt and jeans, barefoot.
Shit. What was it about bare feet? I cleared my throat and stuck out my hand. "Hey, Chief. Still want to give me that tour?"
He smiled, and I got the distinct impression he was subtly checking me out. I knew my physical presence tended to make a strong impression on people. I had pretty decent 'gaydar' and could tell the difference between a man admiring all the hard work behind my physique and a man wondering what I'd look like spread eagle on his bed. Seeing him give me the visual up-and-down made me feel a little less guilty for doing basically the same to him earlier. I wondered again if this was such a good idea, living together.
A sexual entanglement with my boss – my in-denial, or at least closeted boss – could make Forks a living hell instead of a fresh start.
"Hey, Emmett. Come on in," he said as he pulled the door wide and motioned me to enter. We stood there awkwardly, exchanging pleasantries just inside his door for a minute or so, until I smelled the distinct aroma of burning food.
"Shit! That's my dinner!" He ran through a doorway to his right, and I followed. I found him yanking open the oven door, fanning away tendrils of smoke with a potholder just as the smoke detector went off. He tossed the blackened carcass of what was apparently a frozen pizza into the sink, pan and all, and turned on the water. I took the potholder from him and waved it in front of the smoke alarm until it turned off, while he dealt with the oven and the charred mess in his sink.
He braced his hands on the countertop and laughed. "Welcome to Casa Swan. I'd like to tell you this doesn't happen often..."
"Well, at least you caught it before the neighbors called the fire department."
He shot me an angry look. "Who told you about that? God damn it, it was Sharon in dispatch, wasn't it?"
Oh shit, he was serious! I held up my hands and laughed. "No one said anything, Chief. I was kidding."
He shook his head. "Call me Charlie."
"So, where is he?" I heard a female voice coming from the kitchen just as I opened my bedroom door.
"He's upstairs, Sue. Probably trying to sleep off his twelve-hour shift, so keep it down." I had to laugh at that. Charlie wasn't used to being quiet in the morning, and I hadn't trained myself to sleep through his routine yet.
"Do I get to meet him? Leah said he's hot." I stifled a laugh as I closed the bathroom door. A couple of minutes later, they were still at it. I felt guilty for standing around like a creeper listening to their conversation, but I was interested in what he'd say to her question. Things between us had been weird, to say the least.
"Jeez, Sue, I don't know. He's pretty good looking, I guess, but wait – Leah said? Shit, I'm getting old."
She laughed. "Aren't we all? Wait – give me that clear one, too. I wondered what happened to that one." I heard someone banging around in the cupboard.
"Any others you're missing?"
"No, that's it." Someone opened the freezer. "There's another one in here. You need to eat that before it gets freezer burn. Chicken and broccoli alfredo, I think."
"If he can cook as good as he says he can, you may be off the hook for feeding me."
"We'll see about that." She had a nice laugh. Genuine. Affectionate.
"Thanks, Mama Clearwater." I heard an exaggerated smack of lips on skin and then a swat and a giggle.
"See ya," she called.
"Yep." He waved and closed the door, and caught me on the stairs.
"Who was that?" I asked, rubbing my eyes.
"Sue Clearwater," he said as I followed him back to the kitchen.
"Girlfriend?" I took long gulps straight from a milk jug marked EMcC, my free hand catching a dribble on my chin. He watched my hand intently then looked away, fiddling with something in the sink.
"Nope. Best friend's wife."
I paused for a second. He'd mentioned a best friend once, but I'd yet to meet him. "That's some best friend, letting his wife fill your freezer with casseroles." I felt bad as soon as I said it. It was snarky and rude of me to be jealous of people who'd been in his life long before me. The feeling caught me by surprise.
He braced himself against the countertop as his facial expression went into Chief mode. "He's dead."
Fuck. "Oh shit, Charlie, I had no - "
"He's been gone four years. I help her around her house and she cooks for me now and then. It's not… romantic, with us. Never will be. We just take care of each other."
I set the milk jug down and put a hand on his shoulder. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean anything – and I certainly didn't mean to disrespect your friend's memory with some asinine insinuation."
He nodded. "Harry. His name was Harry." The pain was still evident, four years after the fact, even beneath Charlie's cop face.
Wearing our badges, we were Officer McCarty and Chief Swan. Here, in the home we shared, we were Charlie and Emmett. Friends. I pulled my friend into a hug, patting his back. Part comfort, part apology. "I'm sorry."
He buried his face in my neck in a far more accepting way than I expected, and I tightened my arms around him. He froze for a minute, panicking, then backed away and headed upstairs to his room where he quietly closed the door.
"Come on, Swan. Give me five at the new weight."
He lay back on the bench and positioned his hands on the bar. Closing his eyes and breathing slowly, he took a minute to focus. Grunting with the exertion, he pushed the bar up and out of its cradle.
"Excellent. One. Two. That's it. Three. Breathe. Yeah! Four. One more."
His elbows shook.
"Come on…" My fingers grazed the underside of bar, providing more mental incentive than physical assistance. "Five! Good job."
He sat up and shook his arms out at his sides as I added weight to the bar for my set. He stood and wiped down the bench, and stayed close when a couple of regulars came around to watch me lift.
After my set, we sat in the sauna for a short while before hitting the showers.
"So, what do you think?" I asked, scrubbing shampoo through my hair.
He stood with the water pounding his neck and shoulders. "I like it. Nice place."
"You should join. We could come together. I'll have you benching your own weight in no time."
He laughed. "I don't know about that."
He turned his back to me and soaped up, commenting that he wished we had water pressure this good at home. I loved the sound of his voice, deeper than usual as it echoed off the tile walls. I tried not to think of him, naked and wet just a few feet away, but my body began to respond in spite of my efforts. After rinsing off, I wrapped my hand around my dick and gave a slow tug, only to discover Charlie watching me, his own hand on his stiffening dick, matching me stroke for lazy stroke.
God, he's got a gorgeous cock. Fat, uncut… fuck.
I heard someone cough behind me, and I jumped. My hand flew away from my groin as if I'd been caught jerking…
My eyes darted to Charlie's just as he turned off the water and walked away.
He was still hard.
"About six months later, the little shit takes the keys to my unit in the middle of the night and manages to get all the way to Olympia! I told her it was over after that. I couldn't take it any more, and she wasn't making any effort to help me straighten him out."
"You're lucky you didn't lose your badge after that, Charlie. Jesus." I stretched out on the lawn chair, legs crossed at the ankles, soaking up the last of the afternoon's warmth.
"It was ugly. I'll tell you that much. You've never seen so many people up in your business until a kid swipes your squad car. I can laugh about it now, but Jesus."
He finished the last of his beer and rolled his shoulders, obviously feeling the day spent cleaning gutters.
"You want another one?" I asked, holding up my empty.
I came back a moment later, placed a beer in his hand, and another on the table beside him.
"You tryin' to get me drunk?"
"Nah. That one's mine."
Before he could object, I put my hands on his shoulders, heavy and firm, slowly pressing into his complaining muscles.
"Damn. That's… wow, you've got great hands."
I muffled a laugh. "Just be quiet and relax."
He closed his eyes, and I felt him slowly give in. I could hear his soft breaths, feel the heat radiating from his body. After a while, my hands stilled, thumbs at the base of his neck, fingertips on his collarbones. I was getting in over my head. I took a deep breath.
"You never ask me about my exes, Charlie. I know all about your wives, your parents, your job. I know about your favorite fishing spot, how Harry met Sue, about what it felt like when Renee took Bella and left. You know damn near everything there is about me, too. But you've never asked about that."
"I just figured if you wanted to talk about that, you would. I don't want to pry into things you might consider private."
I sighed. As close as we'd become, and as much as I sensed he was interested in me for… more, he was still holding back.
"My first major relationship ended after three years. We met at the academy and hit it off right away. Moved in together after a few months. Trouble was, it just ran its course. No drama, no big fight, no cheating. We just didn't feel anything for each other any more. We wanted different things. I wanted to set down some roots, maybe have a family. He was more ambitious, and what I wanted didn't fit his career plan."
I stopped cold then, waiting for him to react.
He turned to look up at me, still standing behind him with my hands on his shoulders. "He?"
I continued, undeterred. "My most recent relationship lasted a year. He cheated on me, wanted an open relationship, got bored, whatever. That was about eight months before I moved here. He was a player. I should have known better when I met him. I was stupid to think it was more than what it was."
Charlie didn't respond.
I picked up my beer and walked back into the house without another word.
He followed me in and found me pacing in my room, fingers combing roughly through my hair. Have I ruined it? Ruined everything?
"You know, Charlie, I've really been hoping this wouldn't be a big deal, that we – that you and I - but I've obviously read things wrong. I'm not ashamed of who I am, and I'm not used to hiding how I feel and what I want. If you can't handle living with a gay man just say so now, and I'll find somewhere else to be."
I looked up, expecting to find fear or disgust on his face. He stepped toward me, not quite toe to toe, and took my face in his hands, wanting me to hear him loud and clear. Wanting to be understood.
"I'm okay with it. I don't want you to leave. Don't – don't leave."
Something in his eyes, the need in his voice - I kissed him, softly at first, and his lips were cold and bitter from the beer. It took him a minute to respond, for his brain to catch up. Once they did, though –
Everything, from his stubbled jaw to his ragged breath, the tilt of his head, the feel of his chest against mine, the demand and surrender, everything about it was perfect.
I broke the kiss after a few moments and put my arms around him, holding him tight and close, breathing hard and barely moving.
"What do you want, Charlie?"
"I don't know, Emmett. This isn't something I've ever… I mean..."
"No. Stop over-thinking. What do you want, Charlie? Deep down."
"I – I want to retire some day, have a boat, maybe travel a little. I want to survive my career and not get shot by some psychotic punk."
He took a deep breath. "I want a relationship with my daughter. A real relationship. Grandkids, maybe."
"I want…" He was obviously struggling. "I don't know how to talk about this shit."
"When you close your eyes at night Charlie, when you're alone and you can't sleep and the house is too quiet… what do you want?"
He closed his eyes, no doubt imagining the picture I'd put in his head. "I want someone to come home to. Someone to miss me when I'm gone all day, someone to need me for more than bail or a hard fuck. Someone who needs me, who can't get enough of me, but doesn't need something from me. Someone to be myself with, so I can take off the badge and the body armor and just be. Someone that helps me fill up all the… empty."
"Me too, Charlie. That's what I want too."
"You get me, Emmett. You get me in a way only Harry ever did. We never, Harry and I…"
"It's okay, you don't have to."
"No. I want you to know. I need to tell you."
"We never – I mean, all those years, nothing. We were best friends but nothing more. There was a guy once, in a club in Seattle, years ago. After Esme left. His name was Carlisle…"
"Carlisle?" What were the odds he'd come on to both of us, years apart?
He nodded. "You know someone named Carlisle?"
"We can talk about it another time. What happened?"
"I'd never done anything with another man, never considered it, never wanted it. He approached me… and I didn't turn him down."
"I never said a word. I chalked it up to being drunk and overly emotional about the end of my marriage and tried to forget it ever happened."
"But you didn't forget."
I could tell there was more to the story than confessing a random gay hookup in a club. If I knew Carlisle, he'd sucked him off good and proper and sent him on his way confused as hell. "What happened?"
He took a deep breath. "We went fishing once, just Harry and I. We shared a tent. In the morning, I woke up and we were wrapped around each other. He was awake and we… we…"
"We didn't have sex. We… we kissed. My Harry – we kissed, and we touched each other, and it was – it was over and that was all there ever was. It never happened again. We never spoke of it, and he was dead within two years. He was dead, and I realized I'd been in love with him my whole life. My whole life, Emmett."
"I haven't been with anyone since. Male or female. No one's made me feel like that since him. I just shut that part of me off."
"Oh, babe." I kissed him once more. It was different this time. It wasn't urgent and gotta-have-it and forbidden. It was almost sweet. Hopeful.
He pulled back, but we stayed almost nose-to-nose. "No one has made me want that again, until you, and it scares the shit out of me."
I smiled. "The only thing that scares me is losing you."
I held him as my words sank in, then urged him to go to bed before we got carried away. The things I wanted to do to him…
"Go get some rest, Charlie."
He kissed me again then nodded and walked away. I have no idea how I made it through the night, in my stupid empty bed, with him twenty feet and two doors away.
We slipped mostly back into our regular routine after that weekend. We crossed paths occasionally while we were both on duty, but as long as the uniforms were on we were still Chief Swan and Officer McCarty. When we were home, though, all pretenses were dropped. The first few days after that Sunday afternoon were awkward. Lingering touches and casual pecking kisses here and there, longer glances and flirty smiles. As much as I wanted more, I knew it had to be at his pace. I needed him to be ready, mentally as well as physically, before we went any further. Of course, I didn't actively discourage the growing sexual tension…
I started leaving the bathroom door ajar when I showered. I did dishes shirtless. I took to wearing the skimpiest briefs I owned, the thinnest t-shirts, the tightest jeans. I deliberately made more noises when we worked out together, was slower to wipe the sweat from my body afterward.
I could tease with the best of them, and I knew it.
I probably went over the line by calling out his name in the shower, knowing he was standing outside the door listening to me rub one out.
The end result was worth it.
I stepped out of the bathroom with a towel tucked low around my hips, and found him standing in my room at the foot of my bed. His arms were crossed over his chest with his back to me. "Did you really think about me?" he whispered.
I made my voice match his. "Yes."
"You never start anything. You never try… anything."
"I don't want to push you. I want it to be your choice."
He spun around. "But you do push. You parade around here half dressed, nearly naked half the time, you grunt and moan at the gym when there's too many people around, but you hardly touch me when it's just us. Do you get off on just playing with me? Because if you do, it's not ok. I need – I want… things, too. I think about you, too, like that. I don't know how to even – I mean, sometimes, Emmett? I just want to throw you down and fuck the grin right off your flirting goddamned face. I don't know hot to fucking do this, Emmett. I've been with women, I know what that is. But this? I have no fucking idea. Tell me. Am I missing something?"
"You want me?"
"Are you kidding me, Emmett?"
I dropped my towel, my hands shaking as I looked him in the eye. I was rock hard. "You want this?" I could feel his eyes as they raked over my body.
His voice cracked. "Fuck, yes."
I stepped toward him, amped on lust and adrenalin, high from hearing him finally say how much he wanted me. I wanted him just the same.
"What do you want Charlie? My hands?" I worked to unbutton his shirt, feeling him tremble beneath my fingertips.
I dragged my fingernails down his chest to his waistband, where I tucked just the tips. "You want my mouth?" He moaned as I licked, kissed, bit and sucked my way from one side of his neck to the other. "Where you do you want my mouth, baby?"
"Everywhere." He put his hands on my hips and roughly pulled us together, angling his head for more from my roaming mouth.
"I want that too, Charlie. So much. From the first time at the gym, remember? Standing in the shower, watching you stroke yourself. Jesus, I wanted to taste you so fucking bad."
He groaned and pulled us closer with his hands on my ass cheeks, squeezing.
"You want that, too, don't you? You want this ass?" He squeezed me again, hard and demanding, grinding us together. "You want my cock, too. I can tell you do. I can feel you against me, Charlie. Are you leaking just thinking about it? Do you have any idea how amazing it feels to be filled like that? You want me to show you, some day?"
I wanted to reassure him the timing was up to him. "Not yet, but maybe. Okay?"
"Yeah. Maybe." He rolled his hips against mine as he agreed.
"But you want to fuck me, don't you? You ever fucked a woman in the ass? Take your time, a little lube, nice and slow, let her get used to it, maybe she pretended to like it enough for you to finish…"
"Good. That's good. Because that's what you're going to do to me, too. Just like that, only it's going to be so much better, Charlie. So much better than any woman could make you feel, and you're gonna make me feel so fucking good. You want that? You wanna make me come like that?"
I'd been slowly turning us toward the bed as I whispered in his ear and slowly undressed him. I finally drew him down on top of me, skin on skin, head to toe, strong hands and everything wonderful about another man's body, with nothing between us.
"I want you to fuck me, Charlie, and then I want you to make love to me. I've just been waiting for you to want it as much as I do."
He hooked his elbows under my knees and doubled me up, feet in the air, grinding torturously slow exactly where I wanted him.
"Like this?" he asked.
"Anyway you want me. I'm yours."
"Love that. Fucking love hearing that," he panted in my ear, biting and licking. He released my knees and began to explore my body, touching everywhere, following with his lips and teeth and tongue until he reached my dick.
A shiny smear decorated my belly, and he dragged his fingers through it before finally wrapping them around me. I hooked my ankles behind his back and thrusted up into his hand. I drank in the sight of him above me, one arm propped beside my shoulder, his eyes riveted on my cockhead as it rapidly disappeared and reappeared in his fist.
"Gonna make me come, Charlie." I could barely get the words out.
He looked me in the eyes. "Good. Do it. I want to watch."
Seconds later, I erupted into his hand, over his fingers and my belly, moaning as he stroked me through it and beyond.
Even though I'd come twice in the span of an hour, I felt like we were just getting started. My body was buzzing with energy, lingering ripples from my orgasm making me twitch. He released me and dragged his fingertips through the cooling drips on my belly, rubbing my own stickiness into my skin. He lifted his hand to his face and closed his eyes, smelling where I coated him.
"Fuck, that's hot," I whispered, not fully expecting him to hear me. He opened his eyes and held my gaze as his tongue snuck out for the tiniest taste. He smiled and raised his eyebrows suggestively, muttered 'not bad' and sucked his entire index finger into his mouth to lick it clean, humming. It was the most erotic thing I'd ever seen.
He smirked. "I can tease, too."
"Well, fuck that!" I flipped us over easily and straddled him. My body was almost ready for another round, and he'd yet to come. I was about to fix that. I reached to the bedside table for a condom and lube, and set them on the bed beside us.
He eyed the supplies and nodded.
I unrolled the condom onto him, and he watched me with wide eyes as I reached behind to prep myself. When I finally began to sink down onto him, he whispered my name. I smiled and touched his face, then braced my hands on this chest and slowly began to rock.
All I could think was finally, finally, finally…
His hands were everywhere – on my knees and thighs, then clasping my own where they rested on his chest, up my arms to my chest then down again… He bent his knees and began to move with me, meeting me, lifting me, hitting me just right.
He faltered, alarmed at the change in my sounds.
"Don't stop, babe. Jesus. Right there. Don't stop."
"Yes, damn it! Please!" I was grinding on top of him, trying to get back to that place, chasing that feeling, when he began to move again. I looked down at him, into his rich, warm eyes, with sweat shining on his skin, looking just like my perverted thoughts when we'd met all those months ago.
I saw only bliss - absolute and utter bliss as we came, breathless, within moments of each other.
We wasted the rest of the day in my bed; only, it wasn't really a waste at all. He wasn't ready to bottom, and I wasn't in any hurry. We talked and touched, learned each other's bodies, and made love. Time like that was never a waste.
A few weeks later, I came barreling down the stairs early one morning, running a few minutes behind schedule to start my shift. He was in the kitchen…
"I gotta go, babe. Call me later?"
He stepped into the hallway just in time to meet my lips for a hot but quick kiss, and just in time for Sue to catch us.
We hadn't told anyone about us yet. I froze.
Sue gasped and clapped her hands over her mouth before turning back toward the kitchen where she had been putting some things in our freezer.
"You're gay?" she asked.
He cocked his head to the side a little, thinking, then slowly nodded and said yes. It was the first time I'd heard him say it out loud.
"Did Harry know?"
"I don't really know." Charlie turned away from her, and I couldn't blame him.
"Does that man make you happy?"
"Yes," he said and smiled at me.
She gripped the countertop with her back to us, gazing out the window. Her voice dropped to just above a whisper. "He makes you smile just by looking at you, and you feel him beside you when you close your eyes, even when he's not there. His face the first thing you want to see when you wake up, and you rush home after work, just to hear his voice when you come through the door…"
I could see that's what she had with Harry, and what she still longed for.
She nodded and turned back to face us both. She wiped wetness from her cheeks and forced an envious smile. "Then never let him go, Charlie. Life's too short, too unpredictable. Harry taught us both that. I thought we still had decades ahead of us."
She straightened her back then and set about finishing her task in the freezer. "You deserve to be happy. Harry would have wanted that, regardless where you found it."
Whether it was true, I knew the sentiment would be a comfort to Charlie. I wanted to believe she was right, that she knew her man that well, and that Harry was the kind who could have been happy for us. Charlie surely was, with Harry married to Sue all those years.
He pulled her into a hug and patted her back, whispering quiet words as I silently slipped out the door.
I know Charlie still wonders about Harry from time to time. No matter how hard you try, sooner or later a little 'what might have been' creeps into your thoughts. We talk it through, and I don't take it for anything more than what it is: remembering a lost love and wondering. I hold no ill will toward Charlie's memories. In a way, I'm grateful that Harry passed. I think Charlie would never have felt able to be with another man as long as Harry was around. Somewhere deep down, I think he would have pined for Harry his whole life and never found peace.
If my year with Carlisle taught me anything it was that I had to find the right man, at the right time for both of us, even if that meant waiting for him to be ready. I needed to find a man that wanted the same things – commitment, family, security, affection. I needed him to want me, as much as I wanted him.
We each just needed to find the love of one good man.
A/N: Endless gratitude to Chele681, EinfachMich and Jessypt for their support, encouragement and red pens when I wrote the original contest entry and this fluffy little finale.
Thanks for reading!