This oneshot placed 3rd in Judges' Scoring of the Truly Anon Contest in the AH category, and was also ysar's Judge's Choice. Details of all the wonderful entries and other winners here:
http : / ficcontest . info/
One of those is my collab with Mostly a Lurker, entitled Fácilis Descensus Averni - 1st Place Winner in the AU category, in both the Judges' Scoring and Public Votes.
Read it here, if you are so inclined:
http :/ www . fanfiction . net/s/7948903/1/Facilis_Descensus_Averni
Congratulations everyone, and thanks to the the contest organizers, judges, readers, writers and voters. What a turn-out it was!
Thank You so damn much to LightStarDust for her Beta reading, as well as to Conversed for her slash radar, Anna Faze and Miss Winkles for their handholding on this story.
Warnings and Disclaimer: Twilight is not mine.
Evening falls early at this time of a new year.
The threat of more snow has hung in the air all afternoon, nature throwing the first punch with a thickening fog and a change in air density. Streets gradually become deserted as the weather turns feral. Everything on legs rushes for shelter, their figures stark and black against the thick mist.
The streetlights have been on since four and grow more ethereal by the moment, like beacons to another world, as twilight descends.
Edward's apartment is on the ground floor overlooking the park, with double-glazed windows facing the street where the world already feels half asleep and only partly real. Edward is the only one of the guys who still lives alone, so it's a convenient place for them to meet now and again, to watch the game or shoot the shit over a couple of beers.
They've been gathering for a half-hour, trickling in one by one, appearing from out of the thick fog like magicians materializing in a swirl of smoke.
Inside, Edward sits on the floor leaning back against his couch, while the usual suspects slink in out of the cold. Emmett's already here and displaying signs of peaking early, his girlfriend's thumb neatly imprinted on his forehead. Sprawling over the couch behind Edward, Jasper, his brother-in-law, nurses a beer- ever the easy ambler, never in any hurry.
Gradually, Edward's quiet little apartment turns into a buzzing well of testosterone, and it's just like last time they got together, it's like nothing has changed. It feels like the world didn't actually cave in around Edward's red, embarrassed ears two Fridays ago right on this very couch.
In the kitchen, sounds of the fridge opening and closing a couple of times mean that Marcus is probably on a food raid. How very Viking of him, Edward thinks vaguely, and then mentally flicks himself with a rubber band for thinking of Vikings.
All the boys are here now, all bar one. Thinking of that one has Edward on edge. He can't seem to turn his mind to anything else. All day he's tried to distract himself with work, tidying the place up for company and stocking the fridge. Apparently, anxiety turns him into a house-proud hen.
Unsurprisingly though, nothing has actually made any difference. The last two weeks have been agonizing, and he's so nervous about tonight, wondering whether that one will show.
Of course, because his life is governed by Murphy's Law, with its ridiculous precision and suspiciously random torments, the moment Edward forces his mind away from Vikings, one storms his way right back into the forefront of his brain like a horde descending on an undefended village.
A familiar knock resounds through the apartment, and Edward coils within himself, so tightly wound that his leg vibrates with the effort. Nobody would know he's been waiting with one ear cocked, hoping for and dreading that knock, but he couldn't have been listening closer had his ear been glued to the door.
Shit. He's here.
The jury's still out on whether Edward would have opened the door if he was here alone. It's all too easy to imagine himself cleaving to it like a mollusk to a ship's hull, hoping that the knocker, whom he knows to be Peter, won't hear him breathing from the other side.
Oh God. I really am an absolute asshole. It's almost a relief to admit it.
Meantime, in the real world outside of Edward's head, the knocking sounds again. It's an unassuming knock, just like the knocker himself. It's a straight forward three-up rap, as normal as they come. The knock is Peter Henriksen personified. The man hasn't got an iota of guile in his whole body.
"You gonna get that?" Jasper says to no one in particular, neatly handballing the task to whoever happens to hear him.
Luckily, saving Edward the dilemma of whether or not to face Peter, Emmett gets up, whining about pins and needles and shaking out his thick-socked foot as he hobbles to the door.
A moment later, a draft sweeps in over the thin carpet and almost in unison, they all shiver, breaking out in a Mexican Wave of goosebumps. Somewhere along the line, Edward's leg began to bounce and has since ascended into a crazy quiver that he has to stop by pressing the length of his forearm against his thigh.
After what happened, Edward almost hoped that Peter wouldn't show. He finds himself resentful that he has actually turned up, forcing Edward to behave like an adult about this whole unfortunate situation when he really just wants to curl up in his bed now and listen to Kid A on repeat some more, maybe for three days straight.
He still came.
Why couldn't he just stay away? That way, Edward could have languished in his self-imposed hell of guilt and embarrassment, never really facing Peter's probable good-natured forgiveness and continued friendship. In truth, and this is something he's only just realized himself in the last few weeks, Edward doesn't want to be Peter's friend. Not at all.
This could end very, very badly.
Actually, there is no 'could'. Edward's face collapses when he realizes that there's probably no way this won't end in complete humiliation. Edward wishes that his lips hadn't memorized the texture of Peter's just as much as his eyes memorized the look of horror on Peter's face afterward, right before he left the building faster than Elvis moving in pursuit of a bacon/peanut butter sandwich.
Edward remembers with painful clarity that Peter left the apartment in such a hurry that he lost a glove on the snow-covered stoop. Edward has carried it around in his coat pocket, letting his fingers close over it now and again, and sometimes, letting them be sheathed inside the wool-lined softness. Is there such a thing as a glove fetish? Edward doesn't know. He's afraid to google it in case he's a raging glovist.
Then there are the text messages, the ones he wishes would *POOF* magically out of existence. He regretted the first one almost immediately.
Edward: I'm sorry, I don't know what I was thinking. Drunk and insane, I guess.
In fact, he'd been anything but. Edward had been lying on the couch just as Jasper is now, and it'd been Peter sitting on the floor with one elbow up alongside Edward's leg, not quite touching.
They'd been chatting about everything and nothing, and somehow, in a moment of perfect symmetry, there had been a leaning in, and an alignment, and then a kiss, the kiss, dry and soft and quite innocent, really.
Just a kiss, or it would have been, had Edward's stomach not tensed involuntarily at the perfect rightness of it, and had Peter not gasped a hot, breathy sigh right there into Edward's mouth, turning them both into generators humming with energy. After that, it was absolutely not innocent any longer.
The moment hung in the air between them like a lingering piano note while their bodies strained, balanced on elbow and knee and a tightrope of choices. Apparently, sadly, Peter's brain weighed in because the kiss was followed immediately by awkward apologies and a hurried leave-taking.
Edward had stood silent and shaking, not sure what had just happened, and why he'd suddenly decided it was a good idea to make a pass at his long-time friend. At the same time, he wished that he could have that moment, that perfect balance on the tightrope, again and again and again.
His confusion had turned to horror, then remorse, then guilt at scaring Peter like that. They'd known each other for over ten years and it had always been understood that Edward was gay and Peter was not, and the boundary had never been confused.
So, the next morning, he sent that first text, though he'd been anything but drunk and insane, and he'd certainly known what he was thinking, which was wow and more.
He sent it in hope of salvaging a friendship, and if truth be told, he wanted to placate Peter and convince him that he wasn't going to pounce on him at every opportunity, so he didn't have to walk around with his ass to the wall or anything.
The moment he fired that message though, his gut sank into dread, and knotted harder with every silent passing second. There had been no response. He'd stewed over it for half a day, and though he knew it was stupid, he'd sent another text after lunch.
Edward: Can we please forget it happened?
And then, after an unsurprising but still hurtful radio silence, he'd resolved not to send any more.
Until later that night, when he still couldn't stop thinking about how hot Peter's breath felt on his mouth as he pulled away. And once he thought of that, he couldn't not text again, though he delayed the inevitable for a good ten minutes. Now he just desperately needed to know if Peter was OK, but of course, it was only a matter of time before Murphy's Law kicked him in the shin.
Edward: Hey, are yogurt
He'd almost roared with frustration as normally nimble fingers betrayed him and autocorrect thought that since he was already fucked, he might as well be double-fucked. Needless to say, that marked the end of text attempts at reconciliation.
Edward has neither seen nor heard from Peter since.
Briefly, he considers hiding out in the kitchen until Peter comes in, then sneaking outside and down to the pub. If anyone notices, Edward could pretend he was just down there to buy more beer, having strangely forgotten that there was a case in the pantry. After all, one can never have too much beer; the boys would understand.
"What's wrong with your leg?" Jasper interrupts Edward's mental diarrhea by looking over his shoulder from his perch on the couch, pointing with his bottle to the bouncing limb in question.
Immediately, Edward grabs his knee and forces it down into stillness, answering with a voice that feels entire octaves too high. "What? Nothing. Nothing's wrong with my leg. I'm just cold."
Thankfully, before the moment has time to grow horns, Jasper's attention is diverted to the demanding and crucial task of choosing between Thor and Death Valley, and since nobody gets between Jasper and zombies, Marcus' battle is lost before it has even begun.
"Dude, cops and zombies! You can't seriously be suggesting we watch Thor over cops AND zombies, come on!"
"I'm starting to worry about your obsession with the undead, Jasper. There are probably doctors specializing in necrophilia. Maybe you should look that up," Marcus states matter-of-factly around a piece of sausage.
Jasper laughs, taking a swig, holding the bottle's neck loosely between his fingers. "Dude, I just wanna see them disposed of in many splatawesome ways and, you know, get some ideas for my own post-apocalyptic survival plan. You're the one who made it about sex."
Normally, Edward would weigh in to the discussion, but his two beers suddenly seem ill-advised, and it's hard to speak with bile rising. There's no way he can watch Thor- he couldn't survive the all-out Nordic assault of yet another Viking in his face. Instead, he concentrates on the disconcerting sensation of every hair on his body standing on end as Peter's deep voice echoes from the hall.
And then Edward tries so hard to look busy and not at all like he's waiting, because here is Peter, stepping into the room where his voice is not an echo but rich and clear, and the frigid air he brought in with him is fresh and sweet instead of just fucking cold.
Edward doesn't look up. He knows what he will see, and he's weak, imagining what Peter looks like right now and the expression he's wearing on his face, wondering if it's anger or scorn or something even worse, like pity.
Then, in a moment of clarity, he realizes he's already on the floor and can't fall any further so it doesn't matter how weak he is. His traitor eyes lead the rest of his face to look up at his friend, the only person whose presence both excites and terrifies Edward more than seeing Poltergeist for the first time as a kid.
Peter's still talking to Emmett and nobody bats an eyelid, but Edward's chest floods with liquid fire, seeing his friend with these new hungry eyes full of lust and resentment and shame.
"How're you guys doing?" Peter says to all four of them, but his eyes stay away from Edward, and the rejection bubbles under the surface like a noxious sulphur spring.
With greetings exchanged and beers clinked, they all start to settle in for cops AND zombies, and it's seemingly all good and right and like always, but having scratched the surface of possibility, Edward isn't sure he can go back to how it was before.
The upside is that Peter still isn't looking at him, so Edward can steal a little sliver to take away, to mull over. And so he does, with those new covetous eyes he has discovered.
Peter could have been a poster boy for the noble elves of Lothlórien. Edward can imagine him standing in a row of perfect specimens with his chin raised proudly, haughty and powerful.
The man's good looks were never lost on Edward, but the flutter low down in his belly when Peter's strong jaw flexes in consternation is definitely new. The sensation-so like having the sun in his eyes-when Peter laughs, also new. The need to spread his hands wide open over Peter's broad, finely muscled back is sometimes so strong that he could choke on it, could literally suffocate with wanting.
They've all appreciated Peter's fitness and sporting prowess when shooting hoops down at the court, or throwing a football around in the park; the man's a natural athlete and built that way: strong, lean and well-muscled. However, it's only recently that Edward has really paid attention, and now that he's noticed Peter's appeal, his presence, he can't go back to being ignorant of it.
One day he just happened to look up at his buddy, and it might have been the sparse lighting, reducing the well-known features into a monochromatic drama but he thought, 'fuck, look at this guy'.
What had been seen, could not be unseen.
The thought was clear and violent, like a punch in the guts, and Edward had been left winded and staring. Peter's classic Scandinavian looks were suddenly hard to ignore, light and beautiful but slightly imperfect and brutal too, smacking of golden torques and faraway eyes.
Tonight, freshly in from winter's grip, ruddy pink sits high up on Peter's cheekbones, cartoonish in precision, like drawn-on little apples. Above, a shock of thick blond hair flops about in perfect dishevelment with that particular Nordic sheen that makes it look as soft as down, and frames eyes as iridescent as dollops of Spectrum Blue dispersing in a jar of spirits.
A car accident from years ago has left Peter with a couple of small scars across his cheekbone and a slightly crooked nose with a little dent in the bridge, and these imperfections are enough to make him formidably masculine instead of pretty.
On the surface, those icy eyes should be as cold as their uncompromising color, when they're anything but. Edward knows they convey compassion and honesty, and sometimes, he used to wish his eyes were like that, so expressive, until he realized that he didn't want to be Peter, he just wanted Peter.
It took a surprisingly long time to figure it out, and even then, he fought against it. Or, in fact, he'd thought he was fighting against it, but there was one time when they were all at Bad Albert's, and in a moment of clarity, Edward realized that he'd been flirting with Peter the whole night, and it was entirely possible that Peter had been flirting back.
Edward had put it down to having broken the 'no mixing your drinks' rule, thinking that maybe the beer followed by Tequila had done it, had made it alright to blur the line of more, which was completely wrong, of course. But, they'd sat close enough for their elbows to touch and for Peter's blond hair to occasionally brush some part of Edward's face or shoulder or neck, leaving Edward exposed and raw like having a close encounter with gravel.
It might well have been the alcohol, except... it clearly wasn't. Edward had felt like an agitated panther pacing the length of its cage that night, fighting confinement, not knowing what to do with himself. He'd wanted nothing more than to allow that tension to build to an undeniable point, maybe catapulting him into doing something stupid, forcing his hand. He'd been almost grateful to be denied, when Peter got a work-related call about some end-of-the-world client crisis and had had to leave.
It happened again that night a couple of weeks ago, and all the tension that had been building between them, and the shared, loaded looks had led to Kissingate. And now, it has lead to this awkwardness which is making Edward's head hurt, and his chest ache like a bastard from all the whiplash his heart's going through.
Apparently oblivious to Edward's internal agony, Peter sits nearby, rugged up in a bulky hoodie, and the room feels suddenly too close, like it's constricting around them. Edward has seen that hoodie countless times, but tonight, it's Peter's broad shoulders under there, and his slightly too-long blond hair brushing over the pulled-down hood in the back. From Edward's place on the floor, Peter looks about eight feet tall and positively Viking-like. He smells like moist snow and strangely, like Christmas, though that's three weeks past now, and he looks painfully, stupidly, more beautiful than a man has any right to look.
By the time Edward realizes he's been staring a little too long, Peter's eyes are finally on his, and they can only be described as wary.
This is going to get weirder than Thom Yorke's solo records.
Cops AND zombies turns out to be cops, zombies AND vampires. It's at once the stupidest and the best show Edward's ever seen, though he's been so busy not looking at Peter and not caving in to that magnetic pull that he only remembers half of it. Happily, it's the brain-splattering, ridiculous half.
He feels Peter wherever he is in the apartment, and is only vaguely surprised when his eyes find him exactly where his gut tells him Peter will be: on the way back from the kitchen, chatting to Jasper on the couch, just moving around the place like he always has.
After the initial strangeness, both Edward and Peter seem to have relaxed a little bit, and it's obvious that none of the others know what happened between them; Peter has kept it to himself. Edward's not sure if this makes him happy or not. Somehow, even though he hoped for this, there is an extra dash of melancholy in it for him, like he's been tried twice for the same crime.
Except for a couple of small smiles and meaningless chat about why zombies don't seem to be interested in animal brains-Peter thinks it's the sub-par size of them and Edward thinks it's the lack of higher intelligence which obviously makes animal brains blander, which should be funny, but somehow neither of them can raise a genuine smile-they manage to stay civil, if a little tense.
Suddenly, it's half past one, and the empty bottles and leftover pizza look like mess instead of signs of a good night in, and faces are beginning to break into yawns instead of raucous laughter.
They're all half tanked by the time Emmett takes a call from Rose, asking if she should leave the light on. He translates this for the guys as meaning come home right now if you know what's good for you, which of course, he does, in a cab. One by one they clean up a bit and disappear with rowdy handshakes and playful punches, claimed back by the fog. It's absolutely frigid outside, but still not as cold as inside Edward's heart when Peter walks out with no more than a raised hand, and a mumbled something-or-other that might have been 'see you later'.
He watches everyone leaving and though his normal face is firmly on, underneath it he smarts like he's been slapped. Jasper claps him on the back, and for a moment, the earnest look in his eyes hints that he knows something's up. Edward's not ready for confessions, so he just nods, acknowledging and deflecting the concern on his brother-in-law's face, and sending him home to Alice.
Inside, the TV is still blaring, making the place seem even emptier somehow. He finds the remote wedged among couch cushions and flicks the stupid thing off. His ears ring with its absence.
Scrubbing his eyes tiredly, he suddenly remembers that single black glove in his jacket pocket, and wonders if he should put it in the trash, but decides that he will eventually man up and give it back to Peter, maybe once the awkwardness dies down. If it dies down.
Edward presses play on his iPod in the bedroom. Taking up from where it left off, Kid A filters out softly through the apartment. It's perfect for the mood he's in, wistfully morose but he's pretty sure he wouldn't be able to follow through with anything actually suicidal. Back in the living room, he sighs at the leftover mess and half-heartedly begins to tidy-up.
A few empties still litter the coffee table, and rather than making several trips to the trash, Edward devises a way to get them all there, fast. As proof that Murphy's Law is fully operational and deadlier than the Death Star, his doorbell rings just as all his fingers have been inserted into the necks of beer bottles, like corks.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Now, unable to quickly yank them off his fingers, Edward just takes the bottles with him to the front door and peeks through the fish-eye. Then, he loudly thunks his head against the door, because to complete his miserable humiliation, Peter waits on the other side.
Perhaps he wants his glove. Which... Edward will have to remove from the pocket of his coat, where he has been harboring it like the weirdo he is.
Goddamnit doesn't seem to cover this level of fail.
Using the fleshy part of his hand between fingers and thumb to awkwardly grip the door handle, he turns it, allowing it to swing open. A snow-spotted Peter stands on the front step, looking like he's not quite sure why he's there at all, instead of in his car and on the way home. Behind him, the street's a nightscape of white desert, flurries of slowly drifting snow flakes lending it a feel straight out of a Hans Christian Andersen story.
"Hey," Peter says, and then looks down, pauses, and returns to Edward's face with a raised eyebrow. Edward shrugs, the beer bottles clinking together as they hang from his fingers like demented wind chimes.
"Edward Bottlehands," Peter says with a completely straight face, "Doesn't quite have the right ring. But, I'd probably still watch it."
"You've always had questionable taste."
"Maybe, but you're the one wearing beer bottle finger puppets."
Edward laughs, unable to keep up the tense force field around himself, and that's it. That's all it takes for all of tonight's tension to dissipate, and it's just Edward and Peter the way they've always been, slightly nutty but generally just... friends. So, he stands back from the door and gestures a welcome with his Bottlehands, hoping at least that they can get over the residual awkwardness. He doesn't want to lose one of his best friends.
Peter takes a deep breath and steps back inside Edward's apartment, taking off his boots and steeling himself.
All night, he's been worried about this, second-guessing himself, but now that he's here, all of that falls away.
He'd been trying pretty hard not to look at Edward or talk to him any differently than normal, but he's pretty sure that in trying so hard to be natural, he actually failed completely. He thinks Jasper knew something was up, too, if the appraising looks he received during the course of the night were any indication.
He could feel Edward's eyes on him several times over the course of the evening- the intensity was like a KGB interrogation. It was almost impossible to keep himself from looking back, though now that he thinks about it, he doesn't really remember why it was so important. All he's achieved is an upset, hurt Edward, and that wasn't the point at all.
Peter follows Edward up the hallway and into the kitchen, and smiles as fingers pop audibly out of beer bottles, one by one. Edward leaves them in the sink and washes his hands, then leans against it with his head slumped forward, a white-knuckled grip on the edge.
Peter takes a moment to group his thoughts, a little distracted by Edward's apparent agitation, his jerky movements and tapping foot.
First things first. "I owe you an apology," he begins, watching Edward's tense body stiffen even further.
"No, you don't." The yes, you do comes through loud and clear in Edward's guarded eyes and slightly aggressive body language, which, strangely, isn't pushing Peter away. If anything, he wants to touch that rippling, snarling aura to see if it burns.
Edward pushes his sleeves up past his elbows, and his forearms are roiling with coiled tension. Tension that Peter knows he put there. He sighs, feeling a bit stupid standing in the kitchen with all his winter garb on. Unwinding his scarf, he tries again.
"Edward, I know how this looks. I needed to do some thinking. Sorry I didn't return your messages. My head was... messed up." While taking off his scarf and coat, Peter's taking advantage of Edward being turned away to really check him out like he hasn't been able to do all night. From the bedroom, Radiohead are telling him The moment's already passed, yeah, it's gone, but he doesn't want to believe it, because he is here. This is happening.
His eyes follow the sinewy lines of Edward's spare body like hands over rope. He notes the veins in his forearms, the tense, slightly hunched set of his spine that's so familiar, and all the hidden power coiled under the pale, lightly freckled skin. Edward is all hard angles and tension, like he's been done up too tight. He always looks restless, like he's never comfortable anywhere, never relaxed. Peter wonders if he ever sleeps properly with all that weight constantly on his shoulders.
He drapes his winter things over a stool and stands in Edward's kitchen just in hoodie and jeans and socked feet, not quite knowing what to do with his limbs. He settles for leaning on the bench next to the sink, next to Edward, with his arms crossed over his chest to hold in his anxiety.
In the meantime, Edward appears to have come to his own conclusions. "I'm sorry too, Pete. I didn't really think it through, it just happened. I'm sorry I freaked you out. You were just..." he trails off vaguely, waving his hand in Peter's direction.
"I was just... what?" Peter prompts, shoulders tight enough to snap, and expectant tension bubbling away in the pit of his gut.
Edward sighs in frustration and braces against the sink again, tipping his head back and looking at the ceiling, as though the answer's right there, etched into the cornice. Peter's suddenly very fascinated with Edward's throat, the Adam's apple a sharp kernel under taut skin.
"Nothing. Never mind. I was imagining things. Had my wires crossed or something.''
Slowly, Peter uncrosses his arms and carefully places his hands on either side of him at the bench.
"What if you didn't?"
A pause. A breath. A step from the precipice into nothingness. "Have your wires crossed."
Something snaps tautly in the space between them, and a whole lot of pretty crucial air seems to have been sucked out of the room. Edward finally looks up, meeting Peter's eyes over the sound of frantic hearts beating.
Peter feels like his limbs are weighed down with iron slabs, but somehow, he manages to extend his pinky finger toward Edward's fist, which lies clenched just a couple of inches away on the bench. When he touches skin, it's not his hand that feels it, it's his stomach, which drops about three stories and bursts into flames on impact.
Edward is a statue, jaw so hard it looks painful and narrowed eyes so intense they're glowing green fire. Peter attempts a smile but only one side of his mouth cooperates, and Edward's eyes drop to that skewed grin, his own mouth falling ever so slightly open.
He opens his tight fist and gently meets Peter's little finger with his own, so that they lie still alongside each other, touching down their whole length.
"Pete," Edward half whispers and half breathes with a raw urgency which makes Peter shiver and suck in a shallow lungful of air. It's a warning and at the same time, a plea, and it unfurls something within him, like new wings.
All of his skin seems to be hot and cold at once and this might be the most still that he has seen Edward be, ever.
Somehow, it makes perfect sense that their pinkies are aligned and snuggled together on the kitchen bench, one facing up and one down, and that their eyes are lowered to each others' lips in a way that's not at all like lip-reading, but more like lip stalking. Peter knows why he's here, but Edward still doesn't, not really, and he looks suddenly so vulnerable, like he's lost his shell and his soft parts are showing.
So, in a journey that seems to be over in an instant but feels like forever's extended version, Peter shows him why he came back.
Not for gloves or apologies, but to lean in and lightly touch his lips to Edward's, the way he's been thinking about for weeks, or if he's honest, for months.
It starts light and dry and quite innocent just like the last time, and Edward thinks, this is the part when he runs away. But Peter doesn't, in fact, he turns his body into their kiss, effectively trapping Edward against the sink, the edge of which he's still clutching to keep himself upright.
Blood hums in Edward's ears alongside music that sounds like being in church, and he can't remember ever thinking that about Treefingers before, but it's enveloping them both like a cloak in its flowing, anamorphic strangeness the same way being in the presence of something sacred does.
Peter's lips are warm and dry against his, and holy shit, this is really happening, he thinks, right before Peter's tentative fingers walk over his own, wrapping around his wrist and holding on tight, setting the skin of his arm on fire.
A hot creeping begins as a small spark somewhere near Edward's diaphragm and explodes through his limbs the moment that Peter steps into him, the solid heat of his chest warming all along Edward's bicep.
He fully turns to Peter to meet that kiss, to chase it down and have it for real, because fuck, if Peter is offering it, then Edward is taking it.
Peter's lips have always looked kind of perfectly shaped to Edward, especially when pulled into imperfect, puckish little grins, but they feel right, too, and soon it's not enough to simply be pressed against them.
Edward opens his mouth against Peter's lips and tastes the nervous tension lurking there. Peter's still holding onto his wrist with an iron grip, anchored to the moment this became more, so Edward raises his other hand to Peter's chin, lightly angling it so that they're aligned just so. He kisses Peter the way he's imagined all those times when there wasn't ever any chance of it being real.
Letting his fingers scratch lightly over the roughness beginning to spring up on Peter's jaw, he presses kiss after kiss into all the places he's wanted to explore: the corner which quirks up when Peter's being a smartass, and into the softness in the middle that always looks slightly pouty when he's wearing his competitive pissed-off-Viking face, and especially into the in-between that he's desperate to fall into.
He lays light but deliberate kisses over Peter's whole lush mouth which feels like Pete personified- beautiful on the surface with the hard edge of teeth underneath. Peter gasps at Edward's deliberate insistence, and it's just like last time; the heat fanning over Edward's mouth is a pilot light, warming his whole body from within like he has swallowed the sun.
Edward doesn't always feel like he's at the front of the pack, and most times, he's a good ten seconds late out of the gate, but tonight is different. Tonight, Peter came back for this, and it's the same solid guy he's known forever, but it's also this new sensual person whose eyes have never been this shade of open before and whose mouth is softer and fuller than it looks, and warmer, too. There is a sweet sense of worth and being wanted that makes Edward's hands bold and his lips even bolder.
He takes Peter's bottom lip between his own and gently licks, graduating their kiss from warm and dry to hot and moist, and that right there is the moment that everything falls away from is this real and straight into oh fuck yes, because Peter doesn't shy away, he just allows his mouth to fall open a little more, letting Edward in like he wants this.
Edward is so stunned by this realization that he pulls away slightly and sends his eyes razing over Peter's flushed face, the stubble rising over his glistening top lip, and the little scars over his cheekbone that look like they'd be soft furrows to touch.
Down below, hesitant fingers rest on the cotton over Edward's stomach, five fingerprint ovals where Peter touches him, like he's not quite sure whether to push Edward away or grasp the fabric and tug.
On impulse, Edward licks the corner of Peter's mouth where that little smirk always resides, wanting to coax it out.
"God, Edward," Peter rasps like he's on the knife edge of pain, his eyes tightly closed and heavy with want. He swallows dryly, and those perfectly imperfect lips ghost in a giddy little smile that sends Edward's stomach falling like a hijacked elevator. He's reduced to existing only in the parts of his body that happen to be touching Peter, and in this moment that has fallen into his lap like an unexpected inheritance.
Their mouths crash together, losing any shyness residual to the fact that this is Edward and this is Peter, and suddenly they're a whole new animal, working each other over with decadent, demanding abandon. Hot, huffing breaths turn them both a bit delirious with need, and Edward's jeans are too tight to be anywhere near the ballpark of comfortable, but his brain is just functioning enough to stop him from driving his hips into Peter's the way his whole body is screaming at him to do. Small steps, he thinks from very far away on the other side of his mind, don't push too far.
Where he gently held Peter's chin in his hand, he now drags his palm down to Peter's throat, clutching a fistful of his hoodie in an iron grip, pulling himself into Peter's chest, claiming that kiss, taking it all. He holds the fabric tightly, almost like he wants to make sure that Peter's staying this time, that he knows how much Edward wants him, how much this means to him. They've touched before, tackled each other to the ground while horsing around, but this is like nothing else.
When Edward's long fingers slip beneath Peter's neckline and against his hot skin, the newness of this kind of touch wrests panting breaths and desperate, raw groans from both their chests.
Peter's kisses turn slick and deep, not at all hesitant or unsure about where he is and what he's doing, even though if this thing building between them falls through, there is no going back; the pieces are likely to be too small and jagged to be put together again, like a badly assembled mosaic- more glue than substance.
Edward doesn't know if this is a momentary lapse of reason on Peter's part, or if this is going to stick, or even if there is anything in it beyond these hot, languid kisses, but he's willing to risk their whole friendship on the back of this explosive possibility. He's known Peter a huge chunk of his life and it's a real fear that their friendship won't survive this, but not crippling enough to stop wanting it with him.
Peter has finally loosened his grip on Edward's wrist, and having his arm back means that Edward can try a tentative embrace. Sneaking his hand gently over Peter's hip, he can't help but press fingers into the denim, trying hard not to be too pushy and to show a little finesse even while his brain is gasping a strangled oh God, and oh please, and fuck yes.
Peter feels it though, and an involuntarily boyish whimper shoots out of his mouth, hitting Edward square in the groin, where it explodes like a heat bomb. His mouth eats up Peter's kisses like chocolates even as he roughly grasps a handful of Peter's waist. He tightens his hold, bringing the length of their bodies together in an exquisitely firm embrace and flattening Peter's fingers low between them, but still not as low as Edward wants them.
And suddenly there are hands everywhere. A flurry of urgent lips and grasping fingers. They manage to make it out of the kitchen and into the doorway of Edward's bedroom, somehow with all their limbs still intact, and only a minor altercation with the edge of the kitchen bench.
Clouded with lust, Edward's mouth gets sloppy and roams over Peter's jaw, his earlobe, his throat, landing blissful wet kisses wherever his lips fall. And then they're falling, onto the bed and half onto each other, all awkward knees and elbows.
"Fuck," Edward grunts, winded, and digs Peter's elbow out from between the bed and his ribs, rubbing quickly at the pointy ache.
Peter starts to laugh, his chest reverberating with the release of all the pent-up tension, and Edward's brain takes this opportunity to come up for air. The only light in the room is coming from Edward's still-playing iPod and the open doorway, and slices of that faint illumination carve Peter's face into sections. A sliver of upper lip cut from perfect black disappears into an upward nick where that smirk resides. With no hurry, Edward lays a light kiss there, followed by a press with his finger like he wants to make sure it's real, and because he's about to ask the questions that might put an end to this incredible, magical moment.
Peter stops laughing and looks at him as though he himself is the infatuated one, swallowing dryly, blue-black eyes glinting in the darkness.
Edward rearranges himself so that he's leaning on his elbow alongside Peter, who is stretched out on his bed, his bed for God's sake, half of his features in near-complete eclipse. He opens his hand over Peter's bicep and maps the muscle up to the powerful shoulder, the clavicle, the pectoral. Pausing over the center of Peter's broad chest, he presses down with his open palm to feel the heart beating wildly within.
Studying his own splayed fingers, he whispers, "What are you doing here, Pete?"
Peter swallows, the knot of his Adam's apple dragging up, then down under the skin. "I didn't think I'd have to explain it to you, of all people," he quips, but it feels leaden.
Edward tuts, frustrated. "You're a few years out of school, technically your experimenting days are over, so..."
"Apparently you're never too old. And anyway, experimenting implies that I don't know what the outcome will be, but I think I do."
"Really," Edward challenges quietly, scrutinizing the outline of his hand over Peter's chest, wishing he could hold him here, just like this, warm and solid and real. Peter has been in this bed many times before, as a dream and a wish, but this time, he's actually aware of it. "Share your conclusions?"
Peter's darkened eyes are serious and his lips part a little as he murmurs, "I think whatever happens, it might be worth it." And it's not much as far as declarations go, but enough to make Edward's heart pounce up into his throat, where it lodges tight. Desperate for some disclosure, he plows ahead even though he really wants nothing more than Peter's intrepid kisses.
"So why did you run off like that? Why didn't you call me?"
"I wanted to, but then your texts started coming through and it sounded like you were having second thoughts, so I just wanted to take a break, you know? Work things out."
Edward cringes, remembering.
I don't know what I was thinking. Can we please forget it happened?
It's easy to see how Peter might construe that as Edward having doubts.
Under his hand, Peter's heartbeat returns to a more natural frequency, a reassuring, steady thumping. "I was never sure how you felt, you know? It wasn't really real until that night. Until it wasn't just me and my imagination anymore."
"You imagined me? Us?" From the corner of this eye, he can see Peter pursing his lips, considering the answer. He wants more than anything to look up and see what feelings are showing there but he's scared that if he does, the moment will splat to the ground like dropped paint.
"Oh, loads?" Edward smirks with a raised brow at Peter's word choice and the impish grin accompanying it. "Sounds like a lot," he says, resuming his quiet study of Peter's chest, fingers playing over the fabric of his hoodie, not quite sure if they want to smooth it over or bunch it, rough it up.
His own heart is anything but regular, it thumps a raucous beat which he feels as a steady thickening in his jeans while he himself imagines, and then imagines Peter imagining, and that leads to more thickening, which seems impossible, but there it is.
Finally, after a pause roughly the size of Nebraska, Peter whispers reverently as into a confessional, "Edward, I think I've done more imagining than John Lennon."
Edward snorts, and it's way too loud in the intimacy of the quiet, dark room at half two in the morning with snowy fairytale halos surrounding the streetlights outside.
"Plus, I've watched a few episodes of Queer As Folk, so naturally I'm wondering which of us would be Brian."
This sends them both into uncontrollable guffaws, the bed shuddering under them until the last chuckling sighs. Edward murmurs, "As if there's any question," under his breath, and they deteriorate into fits of laughter again until they're wiping away tears.
Peter brushes his knuckles over Edward's jaw, rasping along the stubble there, and comes to rest loosely on the back of his neck, gently thumbing the hair at Edward's nape, the laughter all gone and replaced by something much heavier and more potent.
Slowly, Edward lowers his head and kisses where the pulse is strongest, at the crease of Peter's neck where his lips naturally seem to fit, alongside things he never thought he'd get to say.
"God, you're so sexy," he murmurs, loving the broken sigh that elicits, and the goosebumps on Peter's skin. His hand tightens into a fist in Edward's hair, gathering him up close, and Edward's overwhelmed with the scent of faint aftershave and warm skin, clean hair and Pete. Inhaling, he huddles into Peter's side, smiling when the hand in his hair tugs and kneads.
Suddenly it seems that they're touching the whole length of their bodies, Edward's jeans feeling tighter again as he nestles into Peter's hip. He allows himself to rock a little, and it feels so fucking good to show this side of himself, this very physically demanding side that rises like a wolf to the moon, twisting his innards like wound rope.
Angling his body into Edward's, Peter's hand softly, curiously, ghosts over narrow waist and the dip of lower back, fingers tentatively worming in under wool and cotton. "I've had a crush on you since Jas and Allie got married."
Even through the need he feels for now, Edward is intrigued, his heart fluttering at the idea that this man has been watching and really seeing him, all this time. He wants to see himself through Peter's eyes, to see the worth and beauty that the other man sees. His ego and his self-worth cry out for this validation, trivial as it may seem. "The wedding?"
"Yeah. It was the shiner. You always looked so put together before then, but when you gave Allie away with that fucking black eye, it was like the lights had been turned on. Just the idea of proper Edward getting roughed up in a fight, I don't know. Something just clicked. I guess I saw you in a new light." Peter smirks, the glint in his eyes dancing.
Edward remembers that day, and the rowdy night before it. A little hazy on all the other details, he nevertheless has no trouble recalling copping a bony elbow to the face courtesy of Jasper's preposterous dancing escapades. He grins. "You were there- you know what really happened, Pete."
"Don't spoil my barroom brawl fantasy, Edward. You know what they say, never let the truth stand in the way of a good story."
"Fucking hell," Edward sighs, suddenly putting together all the little hints, scraps of conversations, all those suggestive glances. They'd all been dancing around in his head without bumping into each other, but now they're converging into something real, warmth that is as solid as Peter himself. "Why didn't you say something?"
"There didn't really seem to be the right time. You were always... busy."
"What? I was never that busy! What does that even mean?"
"Fine then, let me rephrase. You never seemed lonely," Peter notes, thinking back to all those times that Edward couldn't make it to the pub or left early, with an impish grin and a distinct lack of apology.
A realization hurtles at Edward like a car in the wrong lane, and he cringes inwardly, knowing it's about to hit him in the face. He has been with exactly three people since his sister, Alice, married Jasper, and each of them were tall and blond. It's entirely possible that he'd been looking for this connection with Peter in the wrong places all along. Quietly, he replies, "I wasn't alone. That doesn't mean I wasn't lonely."
"Well, maybe to me, looking in from outside and being your straight friend, you always had company, and I had a crush that I thought I'd get over."
Two years, Edward thinks, we could have been doing this for two fucking years. And then his thoughts disappear into a miasma of sensation and need as Peter edges closer into his arms and his erection announces itself, digging unapologetically into Edward's hard belly.
Oh, Christ almighty.
They both groan at the sensation of grinding against each other, even though it's just denim meeting hard denim and there are layers between them. Edward's mouth finds Peter again, dragging over lightly stubbled neck and jaw and chin.
He's smiling, thinking that the texture of that Scandinavian skin is just as he's imagined so many times, all warm, solid and fuck because Peter's breathing hard now, really hard, right into Edward's mouth as they sink into a proper kiss, done with all the fooling around.
Finding a rhythm together they kiss and rub and grind against each other in a quickening dance, until Peter's all sloppy kisses and open, panting mouth, while Edward's lust takes on a pointy, determined focus. Tucking himself into the perfect enclosure of Peter's arms and thighs, he settles for grasping and bunching after all. He pushes his hand under the hoodie and roughly gropes his way up and down Peter's wonderfully hard body and to his belt, which he unfastens one-handed.
Popping the button and unzipping Peter's fly a little, he allows his hand to settle on the hot skin and coarse hair on Peter's stomach, dragging his fingers through it and swallowing Peter's moan. His own cock is so hard that it's downright uncomfortable and he repeatedly dents Peter's inner thigh with it, grinding in time with the rhythm they've managed to establish, despite the desperation that tinges everything in redhotnow.
Peter's breaths turn erratic and tremors under the skin mark Edward's progress as he lightly brushes his fingers over chest and stomach, following the trail of sparse hair from solar plexus to the waistband of Peter's boxers.
Fluttering, gentle sweeps over the hot, hard bulge against his belly make Peter gasp incoherently and clutch at Edward's already wildly mussed hair; so he hooks his fingers under the waistband to lift the dampened fabric away from swollen, pulsing flesh. He chases Peter's mouth with his own, pushes himself up into it, kissing and licking relentlessly in time with his hand, which deftly frees Peter's hard cock from his boxers.
Peter's surprised "Ah!" sets Edward achingly alight and throbbing and he begins to stroke, nice and easy, while lowering his free hand to his own mercilessly throttling jeans.
Working himself free, Edward sighs at the relief and pulls up even closer to Peter so their bodies align, and there's a moment of distilled clarity when Peter's hot, hard cock brushes against his own, and Edward's thoughts are more animal than man.
When Peter thrusts into his fist, Edward releases a brokenly moaned obscenity into the crease of his neck, and closes his hand over them both together. He eats up Peter's groan, drowning in red, pulsing want.
Tightening his fingers just so, he begins to tug and thrust up into his own hand, stroking them both, licking Peter's mouth which falls open in a silent gasp and a half-formed word.
His hand is full of smooth, hot and hard but his eyes are open to Peter's soft, perfect lips and hooded, glinting eyes, heavy for him for God's sake, for Edward. His brain chokes out a breathy, fuck, look at this guy, and that right there is the end, ladies and gentlemen.
With a gutting stab, Edward realizes that he's in love with his friend, and this isn't something they can put behind them if it all goes south.
Tonight feels like he's won something huge back from life, but he could still be the loser on a major scale. He sucks air into lungs that are already drowning in Peter's scent and heat, wanting only to live in this moment and not to grieve for something that isn't even his yet.
In savage desperation, he works his fisted hands over them both, holding them tightly together and revelling in the raw sounds that fall between them. He lowers his mouth to Peter's neck, whispering everything and nothing, not even making words, just painting his feelings onto Peter's skin with his breath, as he pushes them both closer.
Fingers in his hair begin to wander down and he's silently focused on their descent over his jaw and shoulder, pressing over clothes, muscle and bone down to where Edward's forearm is rhythmically flexing.
Tentative but very willing, they smooth and encourage, and Edward has never been more grateful for a lover's reciprocation in his life, because here is Peter showing him he wants him too, and it's breathtaking and brave and frightening as hell at the same time.
When Peter's hand closes over his, over them both, he doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. Settling for in-between, Edward releases a half-sob that sounds like he's tripped on it. He grips tighter, adjusting his hand so he can feel Peter's deliberate, eager hand on his own throbbing hardness, and it's imprecise and a bit awkward, but goddamn it, that's Peter's hand and Peter's hot mouth on his earlobe and it doesn't matter if it's not perfect.
Pouring all of his frustrated need into it, he curls himself into the nooks of Peter's body and fits his hand even tighter around cock while worming his other arm around Peter's waist to push them closer together with greedy, grasping fingers.
With Peter's hand entwined with his, Edward works his wrist, rasping obscenities and broken pleas, and as his own heart splinters with need and wanting, Peter comes with a wrenching moan, white hot all over Edward's stomach. Moments later, spurred on by the open bliss and freefall painted on Peter's face, Edward does too, hard and fast between both their panting bodies.
Peter's lips are soft against his cheek, and he turns a little to make a kiss, languid and a little sloppy, not quite believing it all yet.
Finding that little nick, Edward presses a kiss there, and then nuzzles over Peter's cheek and jaw, wanting to press this moment too, between sheets of glass to keep forever.
Peter murmurs, "Fucking hell," still a little breathless, and Edward smiles against his mouth, turning light kisses into proper lavish ones, until they too slow down and ease off like a sigh.
Eventually, raising himself up on his elbow, Edward tugs his shirt over his head and his auburn hair follows in a swish of static, standing on end like he's been shocked. He carefully cleans them both up with his shirt, aware of Peter's eyes on him, staring as though he likes the sharp angles and sinewy lankiness, so different from his own well-fleshed musculature.
Edward's heart flip-flops around inside the cage of his ribs like it's not tethered to anything, and he feels the scrutiny so deeply that his stomach clenches with it, so ridiculously hopeful.
Suddenly feeling the cold that seeps through in the small hours, he quickly slips off his jeans and pulls Peter's the rest of the way off, too, since they're in bed and all, so it's only logical. Peter rolls and tugs his way out of the hoodie, too, and Edward thinks, finally, and fights the urge to rub himself all over Peter's naked chest like a cat in heat.
Cataloguing lean muscle and strong bone structure as though he's never seen it before is perfectly natural too, and in a way he hasn't- he's looking at Peter with different, greedy eyes now and he doesn't want to miss anything. Plus, he's definitely 'Brian', and taking charge of this situation before Peter wakes up to the fact that Edward is basically bluff-tucking him into bed for the night.
"Stay," he murmurs as though there is no answer but yes, turning his head into the crook of Peter's neck and pulling the blankets over them both with a flourish, pinning him to the bed with the weight of his own body.
Peter harrumphs something unintelligible into his hair, lightly scuffing Edward's arm and bare shoulder.
"I feel like I should say something profound but my brain... gone on vacation, it has," Peter's voice is thick and Edward grins against his throat.
"Maybe some song lyrics, Yoda."
"I can't even remember any," Peter mumbles with words lost inside a yawn. "I thought this song might help, but it's instrumental."
And damn if Murphy and his godforsaken Law aren't asleep at the helm, because Peter is right.
The iPod has queued up Treefingers again, and everything seems pretty clear, in the way that things usually are at that twilight moment just before sleep switches everything off.
Even without the profound lyrics, his and Peter's individual ribbons make sense spliced and woven together, with a backing track of shared past and friendship that makes up their relationship. Edward knows that every time he watches Aliens, Peter feels compelled to recite all of Ripley's lines. He knows that Peter's favorite fruit are gooseberries because his grandfather grew the little hairy bastards when Peter was a kid.
He knows all these things and more, just as Peter knows all kinds of crappy trivia about Edward's life, too. They're things that bind them together already, things they don't have to learn about each other like some complex composition.
Outside, new snow comes silently in steady drifts, laying a thick blanket over the city. With Peter's warm thigh under his own, and his ear tuned in to the thumping of Peter's metronome heart, Edward realizes their truth.
A/N: Thank you for reading! Will you tell me what you thought?