One-shot written for the 'Remember When This Was Fun' contest.
www . fanfiction . net/u/3826985/RememberWhenThisWasFun
This one-shot was judged Best AH in the contest. w00t :D*throws confetti*
Prompt No. 10: You'd be surprised what you can do with a well-placed thumb.
Banner: bit . ly /Jq3C2H
Thanks to my pre-reader, Discordia81, and beta, SUNFLOWER3759, and to amber2310 for banner advice.
Note that this is a slash story. Boys liking boys, and that kind of thing. Rated M for language and lemon zest.
All Over Again
You'd be surprised what you can do with a well-placed thumb.
That was the slogan printed on Edward's t-shirt when I walked into Masen's. I sat at the bar, loosening my tie, and smiled. Just seeing Edward and the cheeky words on his shirt brightened my mood.
It was Friday night and Masen's was bustling with customers and noise. The bartenders were in constant motion behind the bar, working hard to keep up with the crowd. Matheus was loading glasses into the dishwasher while Jasper filled drinks for a knot of businessmen. And Edward was popping beers for the bikers in the corner under the flat screen.
I listened to the music that was playing while I watched Edward work. Watching Edward was something I never grew tired of, even after three months of coming to the bar once or twice a week. Edward was beautiful.
A smile transformed his face when our eyes met and heat crawled over my cheeks. Edward's face was pink from exertion and his blue t-shirt clung to the planes of his body as he walked toward me, pulling a full bottle of Booker's from behind the bar.
"Hey, Garrett." His eyes crinkled with his smile as he poured two fingers in a glass and set it down.
"Hey," I said and nodded at his shirt with a smile. "Do I want to know where your thumb has been?"
"Nope." Edward grinned before slowly lifting his right thumb and licking it deliberately.
I rolled my eyes at him before we both burst out laughing.
"Wasn't sure I'd see you here tonight," Edward said when we'd recovered.
"You almost didn't," I confessed. "I was all set to go home and watch the game-"
"But somehow you found yourself here." The corner of Edward's mouth turned up.
I chuckled and picked up my glass. "Something like that, yeah."
"I see how it is." Edward's eyes narrowed playfully. "You're here to ogle Matheus, you silly man, just like everyone else. Behave yourself and I'll ask him to take his shirt off and show you his gun."
My face flamed and I laughed at Edward's teasing words. Matheus took his shirt off during every shift, which meant that everyone had seen the beautiful tattooed gun on his side with the muzzle trailing below the waist of his jeans.
Edward frowned as he looked at me. "I'll bet you haven't eaten. Let's get you a sandwich. What is it with you and the fasting?"
"It's not intentional," I protested, "I don't always have time."
We flagged a pretty waitress named Malice, who took my order while Edward went back to work. He drifted back frequently, refilling my glass and chatting with me while I ate and slowly relaxed. When Edward was busy, Jasper tended my drink, waving me off when I tried to tip him. The other waitresses, Bella and Bree, tried to tempt me with lewdly named shots, like the Slippery Bald Beaver and Sex on My Face. And Matheus... ignored me. He gave me a faint smile when he first saw me, but otherwise avoided my end of the bar.
I felt puzzled as I watched the handsome Brazilian. Unlike Edward and his coworkers, Matheus had never shown me any warmth. At best, he was reserved with me, and had been from our first meeting. And lately his dark eyes seemed strangely hostile when they met mine.
My uneasy thoughts fled when the raucous sound of Do The Rump filled the bar. Edward's swearing was audible over a chorus of whoops while Jasper and Matheus pulled him toward the middle of the bar. He gave in, smiling and pink-cheeked as he moved with the music and the bar erupted in cheers.
We egged Edward on, catcalling and roaring when he raised his arms and shook his ass. Bella let out a loud wolf-whistle that made Edward laugh, and the crowd sang along and stomped their feet, pounding the bar and tables with their hands. It was two and one-half minutes of silly, sexy fun, and we couldn't get enough.
Too soon, the song was over, and Edward was waving off requests to dance again. Matheus pulled him into a hug, grabbing his ass and making him laugh. A sharp, familiar feeling of longing spread through my chest when Edward pressed a kiss against his lover's neck, and I looked away.
"I hate that fucking song," Edward said, and I heard the smile in his voice.
"No, you don't," I replied, drawing a shaky breath before looking up. "You'd ban The Black Keys if you really hated it."
Edward refilled my drink with a snort and turned his eyes to mine. His face fell at my expression. "Gar, are you okay? You look really pale."
"Just tired," I blurted, closing my eyes. "I had a shitty week."
It was true. I had been working sixteen-hour days and hardly eating. But I welcomed the punishing schedule as an effective distraction from the clusterfuck of my personal life. I was exhausted and struggling with my composure.
A warm hand covered mine, pulling me back from the edge. I blew out a long breath before looking up to see Edward watching me, his expression soft. He smiled sweetly and waited until I nodded before pulling back.
"Thanks," I said.
"Anytime. Hey, listen; meet me for lunch on Sunday."
"This Sunday?" I asked stupidly. I had never seen any of the Masen's staff outside of the bar and Edward's question took me off guard.
"No, last Sunday," he teased. "Yeah, this Sunday. Jas and I are meeting at Joe's on Long Wharf. The girls'll be there, too."
A warm feeling spread through me, soothing my sadness. "All right. What time?"
"Noonish," Edward said, pulling his phone from his pocket and handing it to me. "Everyone's working Saturday night, so we're flexible with time.
"Give me your number and I'll text you. You're in the North End, right? So you're close."
I saved my number and handed the phone back, giving Edward a dubious look. "Can you get a table? Joe's is crazy on the weekends."
"We have connections," Edward gloated, pocketing his phone. "Bella's brother is the sous-chef at Joe's and he saves a table for us."
We both looked up when Matheus called Edward's name.
Edward turned back to me looking hopeful. "See you tomorrow?"
"I'll be in Hartford all day," I said with a grimace and stood. "And I have to be up early to drive. But I'll see you Sunday."
Edward's smile lit his face. "Get some sleep, Garrett."
Scanning the patio at Joe's two days later, I spotted Edward's hair glinting redly in the sun. He and Jasper were sprawled in their chairs, hiding behind sunglasses, Sunday papers, and a pitcher of Bloody Marys. Jasper raised a hand when he saw me and pushed a chair out with his foot.
"Mornin'," he said, smothering a yawn with one hand.
"Good morning." I smiled and shook my head when I spotted Edward pouring me a drink. "Dude, you're not working, I can do my own pouring."
"You're welcome, sunshine," Edward replied brightly and handed me the glass. He was smiling impishly and wearing a red shirt with I'm a Pepper, Too, Damn It printed across the chest. "Glad you made it."
"Thanks." I sipped my drink and chuckled when a balled up napkin bounced off my forehead.
"Now that you're here, we can order." Jasper sat up and rubbed his hands while Edward signaled to the waiter. "Thank God for that because I'm about to eat my fucking arm."
We chatted over a seafood sampler, sticking to sports and music, and ordering another pitcher of drinks. Malice and Bella showed up holding hands, looking tired and pretty as they took their seats.
The talk turned to the work Masen's employees did outside of the bar. I had already known that Edward was a freelance writer who also penned short stories. That afternoon, I learned that Malice was a dance major and Jasper a painter, and that Bella was considering following her brother, Emmett, into culinary school. My stories about writing briefs and sitting in courtrooms seemed impossibly dry, but they listened and asked questions anyway, and made me feel included.
They were easy people to be with, and I found myself smiling more as the afternoon passed. I shook my head as they stole food from each other, and my eyes popped when Edward grabbed an onion ring from my plate and stuffed it in his mouth. The others cheered when I retaliated, forking avocado from Edward's salad while he threw more napkins. Bella's brother sent out a cheese plate and bottle of wine when the girls ordered dessert, and we all shared cheese, figs, and glasses of sparkling wine.
"Thanks for asking me today," I said to Edward while Jasper and the girls were discussing seeing a movie. "This is the most relaxed I've been in... shit, a while."
"I'm glad you're here," Edward replied, leaning his head back against his hands. "I've been meaning to ask you. I didn't want you to think I was the sleazy bartender-type hitting on customers, though."
"Not likely. You don't really come across as the type, Edward."
"Good to know," he hummed, tilting his face back to catch the sun.
My eyes followed the long curve of Edward's throat. I imagined that his eyes were closed behind his sunglasses, and the way his long lashes would fan across his skin. Jesus. I shook myself mentally, thrown by the sudden intensity of my desire.
"Where's Matheus today?" I asked, catching Bella's glance and the frown on her pretty face before she turned away.
"I'd guess that Matheus is still sleeping," Edward said lightly, though I thought his jaw tightened. "He had a date last night and hasn't turned up yet. Must have been a good time to go on this long."
I froze, taken off-guard by Edward's remark and his casual delivery. He leaned forward, running his fingers along the sides of his glass and gave me an awkward smile before clearing his throat.
"Sorry," he apologized quietly. "I shouldn't have said that. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."
"I'm not. You didn't," I rambled. "Make me uncomfortable, that is. I'm... I'm surprised. I thought you two were together."
Edward nodded and took a long sip from his drink. "Matheus and I aren't exclusive, technically speaking. Matheus dates other people and I don't. I guess you could say that we've each agreed to give the other what they want."
"And this... arrangement... works for you?" I was aware that Jasper and the girls had grown quiet, and were watching Edward and me.
Edward's glasses hid his eyes, but his smile was sad. "It works for now."
Edward turned to me after Jasper and girls headed to the movies.
"I don't suppose you'd want to have coffee with me, would you, Gar? There's a Starbucks on the next block." His expression was adorable and hopeful, and I found myself grinning foolishly.
I raised my eyebrows in challenge. "If you don't mind walking a few more blocks, I'll introduce you to the best cup of coffee in the city."
"Tall fucking order, my friend," Edward said as we fell into step. "You'll owe me Starbucks for a week if you can't pull this off."
Twenty minutes later, Edward was groaning over a cup of strong, piping hot coffee from my favorite cafe. He glared at me over the plastic cup cover when I offered him biscotti, making me laugh loudly.
"Jesus Christ, Garrett, this coffee is amazing," he said at last. "Why the fuck haven't you told me about this place?"
I shrugged and chewed my cookie, smiling at the man on my left as we walked back toward the waterfront. "Coffee's not really bar talk, Edward. Now that I know you're coffee whore, I'll be sure to bring you a cup sometime."
"You're a very nice man," Edward sighed. He accepted the biscotti when I offered it again and hummed appreciatively as he ate.
We found a bench on the boardwalk and sat down in the sun to watch the water. As we sipped and ate in comfortable silence, I realized that I felt happy. My chest ached when I thought how long it had been since I had felt good about something other than work.
"Hey, where'd you go?" Edward asked softly, nudging my elbow with his.
"Sorry," I murmured after a moment. "I haven't had a nice day in a while. It just hit me all at once."
Edward hummed and pushed his sunglasses up onto his head. His nose and cheeks were flushed from the sun, and his eyes looked especially green. He was lovely.
"Want to talk about it? Are you having man trouble?"
I gave a bitter, strangled laugh and clenched my eyes shut as they burned and Edward tensed beside me.
"Oh, fuck," he said, laying a hand on my forearm. "Garrett, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to-"
"No, its okay," I said swiftly. "You're not wrong. I am having relationship problems."
I pulled off my sunglasses and met Edward's eyes as he nibbled his lip worriedly and rubbed my arm. His obvious concern moved me almost to tears.
"Talk to me," he said. "Tell me why we haven't met a Mr. Garrett yet."
I shook my head slowly and licked my lips. "There's no Mr. Garrett because, up until nine months ago there was a Mrs. Garrett. And I'm not talking about The Facts of Life."
My voice was quiet but the words were as shocking as a scream. Edward's mouth dropped slightly and his eyes widened. I waited for him to be angry or hurt, even disgusted that I had kept this secret. I wondered if he'd walk away and leave me there on the bench with my coffee cup.
Edward did none of those things. He blinked and closed his mouth before sitting quietly for a moment. His eyes moved over my face and he nodded slowly before he spoke again. "What happened?"
It all came spilling out, my unholy mess of a life. I had known as a pre-teen that I was attracted to both men and women, but kept my desires from my deeply conservative parents. After high school, I had applied to East Coast schools, intent on getting away from Oregon and my family. I relocated to Connecticut for my undergraduate studies and dated men and women with equal enthusiasm, intent on experiencing all I could. For the first time in years, I felt that I was being true to myself.
"There was no one serious until I was in law school," I said, gazing at the water. "I fell in love... fuck, yeah, I did, and with a guy."
I looked at Edward when he made a soft sound of agreement. "People fall in love, Gar, sometimes when we don't want to."
I nodded, seeing support and understanding in the bartender's eyes. "Eli was a year ahead of me. We were good together... and the sex was fucking amazing. We had a lot in common. I just didn't know how much until I was in too deep to keep from getting hurt.
"Eli liked women too. More than guys... certainly enough to leave me for one." I bowed my head and watched my empty coffee cup slowly crumple.
"I never told Eli how much he hurt me. We stayed friends. He and Carmen even invited me to their wedding."
"Why didn't you say something to him?" Edward's forehead was creased with confusion when I looked up and I could only describe his expression as hurt. Edward felt hurt for me. "What if Eli felt the same way you did? What if-"
"I thought about it," I said reassuringly. "I went to Eli's bachelor party ready to, I don't know, declare myself. I took one look at his eyes when he talked about Carmen... and I couldn't do it. I could see that he loved her.
"And he does. I hear from them a couple of times a year, and they send me photos of their kids."
"Fucking hell, Gar," Edward said
"No shit," I said with a laugh. "Anyway, I took a break from dating after that. I finished school and took the bar, got a job. When I started dating again, I switched to girls, exclusively. And I met Kate."
"It was fast with Kate, and exciting. I wanted it, the love, family, comfort... being with someone in every way. I thought I could have that with her. My Katie." I closed my eyes as a familiar wave of regret crashed over me.
"I fucked up. I didn't tell Kate that I was bi. In my mind, I had made a choice, so what was the point of telling her about something that didn't matter anymore? God, I married her, Edward, and she didn't know who I really was."
A lump filled my throat, choking me into silence as I fought not to break down. Edward's warm touch on my arm brought me back.
"I never considered that my so-called choice wasn't right for me. That I needed something Katie could never give me." I opened my eyes, watching Edward's long fingers resting on my skin. "I thought about men all the time. I started fantasizing about men, more and more. About Eli, or the guys in my office... strangers. I started cruising past the gay bars in the city."
"Did something happen?" Edward's voice was low, and I knew he was asking if I had been unfaithful.
"No. Yes. I didn't cheat," I said with a sigh. "But Kate told me she wanted to have kids. And... I broke. I just couldn't bring a child into the lie I was telling.
"I told Kate I couldn't be married anymore. That I didn't love her. And I regret that lie because I do love her. It's just not enough." I rubbed my eyes in frustration. "I'm attracted to women, and I still want all of the things I tried for with Kate. But when I close my eyes, I see men. When I dream, it's about men."
"You're gay, Garrett," Edward said softly, and I dropped my hands to meet his wide, honest eyes. "Your body might be bi, but it sounds like your brain is gay."
I couldn't help it: I laughed. This beautiful man had listened to me pour my heart out and offered me the kindest words of comfort, and I laughed. An expression like hurt flashed over Edward's face before he smiled, and then he laughed too.
"My brain is gay," I wheezed out. "I can't believe you said that to me."
Edward knocked his shoulder against mine, glaring at me playfully. "Shut up. That shit was brilliant."
"I'm sorry," I said, knocking his shoulder gently in return. "It was brilliant, just really fucking funny. You're right: I am gay. I had to come to terms with it. That's why I moved to Boston, to get a fresh start."
"So you're out?" Edward smiled encouragingly.
"Mostly. I'm out at work. I've been dating a little," I said and gulped nervously. "And I'm going to tell my family when I go home to Oregon for the Fourth of July. That will be almost a year since Kate and I split."
Edward's smile was brilliant and, I realized, proud. "And Kate...?"
"Yeah, Kate." My guilt pressed down on me again like a weight. "That's why I was in Hartford yesterday – more divorce stuff. I'm going to tell her once everything is signed and settled. She deserves to know that it wasn't her fault that everything fell apart."
"It's not all your fault, Gar," Edward argued, frowning when I waved him off.
"It's my fault that she didn't really know her husband. I should have told her the truth before I moved in with her, before I put a ring on her finger. Kate had the right to decide whether she wanted that side of me too. I let her walk into our marriage blind, Edward, and that was a shitty thing to do."
We sat in silence a while longer before he checked his watch and grunted.
"I have to go - working tonight." The concern was back on his face as he looked at me. "Are you okay? I dragged a lot out of you today."
I took stock of my emotions and smiled. "Yeah. I'm okay. Thanks, Edward."
"For what?" He stood and held his hand out for my crumpled cup.
"For listening to my bullshit," I said, and backtracked when he frowned. "For listening. It was good to talk about it with someone. With you."
"Anytime." He gave me a soft smile as he stepped back. "Coming in tonight?"
I grimaced and shook my head. "Nope. Early meetings tomorrow."
"Then I'll see you later in the week," he said, and winked when I nodded. He turned to go, and then called back over his shoulder. "Don't forget to feed yourself, for Christ's sake!"
That was the first night I dreamt of Edward Cullen.
I woke with a gasp, my heart racing, and Edward's face still vivid in my mind. I tried to hold on to the details of the dream, but it broke apart and drifted away like vapor. I groaned when I felt my cock lying hard and heavy against me. My eyes closed and I thought of Edward, the way his mouth would taste, and how his body would feel beneath my hands. My hand moved to wrap around my cock and I pictured Edward above me, settling his long limbs between my legs. I moaned, and my hips bucked hard, thrusting into my hand until my bones burned. I shook and gasped and came, biting my lip to keep from groaning Edward's name.
My friendship with Edward slowly blossomed as the weeks passed. We saw each other at Masen's and had Sunday lunch, but also talked and texted during the week. We met for coffee or lunch when we could, and watched baseball at a dive near his apartment.
I desired Edward, but even more, I liked him. He was smart and funny, and enormously thoughtful and affectionate. I pushed my feelings for him away, knowing he wasn't free to be mine. And though I wanted more, I was happy to have him as a friend.
I was looking for that friend when I walked into the bar in late June. I nodded at Jasper's greeting and felt Matheus's eyes on me as I sat at the bar, realizing only then that Edward was nowhere in sight.
A glass appeared in front of me suddenly, followed by a stream of amber whiskey. I met Matheus's curious eyes as he poured two fingers of bourbon.
"You don't come in here on Tuesdays, Garrett," he said, setting the bottle aside. "Otherwise, you'd know this is Edward's night off."
I sighed and picked up the glass. "I forgot."
Matheus nodded, and looked at me appraisingly before walking away. I loosened my tie and set out to get drunk.
The bar was quiet compared to other nights, mostly regulars watching the game. Malice and Jasper looked at me curiously when they stopped to chat, though neither voiced their questions. I was content to zone out, letting my thoughts drift and soften under the flow of bourbon and the buzz of conversation and music.
I was into my fourth drink when Edward slid onto the stool next to mine. I blinked at him, dazed by his sudden appearance. "When did you get here?"
"Just now," he said, his eyes moving over my face. "You okay, Gar?"
"Thought you'd be here... forgot about your schedule." I smirked at his green Han Solo Is My Homeboy t-shirt and then frowned. "Why are you here?"
Edward smoothed my hair back from my forehead with one hand. "Matheus called. He said you didn't look so good."
I blinked again, unsure what to make of Matheus's unexpected kindness. "I can't be alone in my apartment right now."
My eyes closed as exhaustion rolled over me. Then I felt a warm hand on my arm, gently urging me to my feet.
"Come on," Edward said. "I'll take you home and we'll talk."
The ride across town passed in a haze. Next thing I knew, I was sitting on my sofa while Edward made coffee in the kitchen. I had sense enough to notice that my apartment was reasonably neat, with only a few piles of books and writing pads. Edward walked in with a tray and set it on the table in front of me. He handed me a cup and we sipped coffee, while I tried not to slurp or dribble on my tie.
"Gar, what's going on?" Edward's soft-voiced concern made my chest ache.
"I went to Hartford this morning to sign the divorce papers and see Kate. I told her that I'm gay."
"Jesus. How did it go? Was it-"
I set my mug on the table, shaken by Edward's concern. "Awful? Yes. She feels hurt and betrayed, and I understand that. But... I hardly recognized the person that was screaming at me today."
"She accused me of cheating on her while we were married. She accused me of hitting on her fucking brother last Thanksgiving and told me this will permanently damage her reputation. She asked me if she needed to be tested for HIV because everyone knows how promiscuous 'fags' are."
"Shit," Edward murmured angrily. "Are you okay?"
"No. I'm not okay. It gets worse. My mother called this afternoon while I was at work. Kate told my family about me, Edward." I buried my face in my hands.
I felt Edward slide closer and his warm hands on my shoulder and back. "Fucking hell, I'm so sorry. What did your mom say?"
"That she and my dad raised me better than to cheat on my wife. That if I really loved my family, I would choose differently, because that's what good men do." I sighed and my voice wavered when I spoke again. "That they wished I was a drug addict instead, because then I'd have a chance to be cured."
Edward's hands disappeared, replaced by long arms that wrapped around my shoulders, and squeezed me tightly. My breath hitched and I stiffened before sagging against him, dropping my hands in my lap. Edward gently pulled me up and back, tenderly tucking me against his side. I dropped my head and to bury my face in his neck as my body trembled.
"I'm sorry your Mom said those things," he said in a low voice, his lips moving against my hair. "I know you wanted to tell them next week when you went home. It must have been a shock for them to find out this way. Give them some time, Garrett."
"I know," I said heavily. "My mom hung up on me and then called me right back, crying that she didn't mean any of it, but that she hoped I'd make the right decision and go back to Kate.
"My dad got on the phone. I apologized for not telling them myself and told him I was changing my flight to Oregon for tomorrow, so we can all talk about this." I swallowed against the lump that filled my throat. "I offered to stay in a hotel if that would make them more comfortable... my dad started crying. I hurt his feelings I guess. Again. Fuck."
"Shhh," Edward breathed, rocking me gently back and forth. "It'll be okay, Gar. You'll figure out how to make it work."
"I'm just so fucking tired, Edward," I mumbled, every part of me heavy with fatigue.
"Let's get you to bed." Edward said, urging me up off the couch. "You have to help me find your stuff."
I directed him around the apartment sleepily, my eyes closed as he guided me to the bedroom. I let him help me out of my shoes and work clothes, and watched him empty my pockets on to the nightstand. I climbed under the sheets as he rummaged in the bathroom cabinets and looked up to see him carrying a glass of water and some ibuprofen caplets.
"Are you okay for now?" Edward asked, smoothing my hair back when I lay down.
"Yeah," I murmured. "Thanks for doing this."
"Anytime," he replied gently, his expression soft.
"Edward? Will-" I closed my eyes, my words jumbled inside my head. "Will you stay here? I need... I just-"
"Yes," he interrupted quietly, and my eyes popped open when his fingers brushed against my jaw.
Edward's eyes were burning as he got to his feet. He took my water glass and turned off the lamp before walking around the bed. I closed my eyes, my heart banging in my chest as I listened to him undress. The rasp of the zipper on his jeans and the thump of his sneakers against the floor were loud in the quiet room. I drew an unsteady breath when I felt the sheets pull back and the mattress dip under his weight. And then Edward's warm hand was in mine, anchoring me in the dark.
"Is... will Matheus be okay with this?"
"Yes," he murmured, turning to look at me in the dim light. "Don't worry about that. What time is your flight?"
"Half-past eleven," I said with a yawn, turning to face him.
"I'll make sure you get up," he promised, and I felt his hand on my cheek as I let myself fall into sleep.
A familiar chiming woke me, and I groaned as I reached for the nightstand to grab my phone. Rolling back, I realized with a pang that I was alone in the bed. Edward was gone.
I felt hollow until I checked my phone and saw that it was a text from Edward that had woken me.
Promised I'd wake you. Fly safe, Gar. Text me when you land?
Edward and I messaged back and forth when we could during my ten days in Oregon. I read his encouraging texts and missed him deeply. His face filled my dreams every night.
After flying back to Boston, the mountain of work that had piled up in my absence kept me from going out at all for another week. I messaged with Edward, and we shared a few short phone conversations, but my schedule was grueling. I was too exhausted to do anything but fall into bed after work.
A chorus of whistles and greetings rang through the air when I finally walked into Masen's, more than two weeks after my drunken Tuesday night with Edward. It was crowded, but I found a place at the bar, and loosened my tie as Jasper approached.
"Fuck, Garrett, we about gave up on you," he teased as he poured two fingers into a glass. "I bet the girls that you'd moved back to Oregon for Christ's sake."
"Bullshit," I scoffed. "I talked to Edward Sunday night. He knows where I've been."
Worry flickered across the bartender's face before he nodded. "Yeah, he might have mentioned that. Ed's been in kind of a funk these last couple of weeks."
I frowned, puzzled by Jasper's words but when I opened my mouth to ask, he winked and turned back to the busy bar. "He's in back changing a keg. Should be right out."
I sipped my drink and smiled when the girls descended on me, alternately scolding and hugging me for being gone so long. We were still chatting when Edward walked back into the bar. My smile faded as I got a look at him, and I felt a prickle of concern.
Edward looked tired and wan. His mouth and jaw were tight, and a pair of black framed glasses obscured his eyes. I took in his plain, black t-shirt, and realized I had never seen him not wearing one of his cheeky slogan shirts. His shoulders were stiff and his movements unfocused, as if his mind was miles away. A slight frown came over his face when he neared Matheus, and I realized that the two men were avoiding eye contact. I watched as Matheus leaned forward to speak in Edward's ear and the way Edward's lips pressed in a thin line as he nodded. He picked up two pitchers and moved toward the taps at the center of the bar, keeping his gaze down.
"They broke up, you know," Bella said quietly. Her brown eyes were thoughtful when I turned to her in surprise.
"Before your trip," she replied, nodding when I gaped at her. "I suppose it was a long time coming, but everyone was pretty surprised. Especially Matheus."
My eyebrows climbed up my forehead and Bella answered my unspoken question. "Edward ended it. It's been a little weird here at work, but they'll figure it out."
I turned back just as Edward looked up, his eyes widening behind his lenses when he saw me. I grinned when a small smile crept onto his face, and I felt my heart swelling at the sight. He finished filling the pitchers and delivered them to Matheus, before turning to make his way toward me, his expression brightening.
"And you finally show your face," he said, reaching over the bar to rest his hand on my shoulder. His smile grew when I covered his hand with mine. "It's good to see you, Garrett."
"It's good to be back," I said honestly. "Sorry I've been MIA, I've-"
Edward waved me off with a chuckle. "Stop. I know you've been slammed. And I'm glad you finally escaped for a night."
"No shit," I said, giving his hand a squeeze just as Jasper called his name.
"It never ends," Edward muttered with a wink. He pulled away and turned back to the bar.
"Edward!" I nearly shouted, laughing when he wheeled around in surprise. "It's good to see you, too."
His smile was blinding.
Edward was scheduled to work until closing, so I was surprised when he walked out from behind the bar over an hour early.
"Bella's taking some bartending classes," he explained as he sat beside me. "We're all donating an hour or two from each shift so she can practice."
"Nice," I said, smiling to see Bella's petite form moving alongside Jasper and Matheus.
Edward chewed the corner of his lip, looking suddenly uncertain. "Hey, have coffee with me? I know you told me how it went in Oregon, but-"
"Yes," I said swiftly, laughing at Edward's wide smile. "You brew this time; your place is closer."
I leaned against the island in Edward's kitchen and told him about my trip as he made coffee and a plate of sandwiches. He nodded as I described the surreal conversations I had with my parents and brother, and smiled at their awkward but sincere efforts to begin some process of acceptance.
"It's not like things will be the way they were before I came out," I mused while doctoring my coffee with sugar and steamed milk. "And that's okay. But I think we're all hopeful that we can eventually get somewhere."
Edward's hand brushed my forearm as he reached for the milk. "They love you, Gar. I'm really happy for you."
We were quiet for a moment before I leveled a questioning look at my friend. "Edward, why didn't you tell me about Matheus?"
A flush stained Edward's face and he pushed his cup away with a grimace. "I was going to. But then all that shit went down with Kate and your family, and you went away."
"I've been back for almost a week, Edward. You could have called me."
"I know," he sighed, running his hands through his hair. "It just never seemed like the right time. I wanted to talk to you but... I didn't know how to broach it over the phone."
My chest ached as I watched his obvious distress. When I spoke, I tried not to sound as hurt as I felt.
"Edward, I'm starting to feel like this friendship is all one sided. You let me unload on you all the time, but you hold back when it comes to your own life. How should I feel knowing that everyone else has known about you and Matheus for weeks? Yeah, you work with Jasper and the girls, and I wasn't here, but I still thought..." I trailed off with a frown.
"Thought what?" Edward's brows furrowed as he watched me.
I put my cup down and looked at him. "I thought that you trusted me to be there for you, too. I appreciate you for trying to protect me, but I'm a grown man. I'd like to be there for you when you have problems, too."
"Fuck, I'm sorry, Garrett. I do trust you," Edward protested unhappily. "I've been... struggling, trying to figure things out-"
"I know. Bella told me you've been having a hard time."
I swallowed hard, and plastered a smile on my face. Whatever my feelings were for Edward, he needed a friend. It was time to put up or shut up. "I know it's been hard with Matheus. But you'll be okay, Edward. You guys can be friends again. And who knows, maybe Matheus will decide he wants the same things you do."
"Garrett, stop." A strange expression washed over Edward's face. "You think I've been upset over Matheus?"
"Well, yeah. Haven't you?"
Edward shook his head slowly. "I'm upset that I hurt Matheus by breaking up with him. But I'm not upset that we're not together anymore."
"No. He and I want different things, and I'm… I'm ready to go after what I want. What I need."
Edward took a step closer, his eyes searching my face. "Garrett, I've been upset because I don't know how to tell you that I don't want to be your friend anymore."
My stomach sank into the floor. "You... wait, what?"
"I don't want to be your friend. I want more than that." Edward's lips lifted in a sweet, uneven smile. "I want you, Garrett, and I've been scared to death to tell you."
I stared at him for a long moment before replying. "Why would you be scared to tell me that?"
"So many reasons," Edward said, blowing out a long breath. "I was with Matheus, for starters, and while he doesn't take monogamy seriously, I do.
"Then you were going through some really heavy shit with Kate and your family, and coming out. I didn't want to put more pressure on you."
Edward paused and rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. "I just really didn't want to fuck up our friendship. I like you Garrett, and part of me was afraid to change that. Especially if you... you know, if you didn't feel anything. For me."
"Oh," I said, blinking stupidly at Edward's timid, hopeful expression.
"So... do you think you could?"
"Could I what? Feel something for you?"
"Yeah," Edward nearly whispered.
I couldn't think or organize my thoughts to answer. Instead, I launched myself at him, throwing my arms around his neck. I also caught Edward completely off-guard and off-balance.
"Oof!" he grunted as I knocked him backward, and his arms wrapped around my waist reflexively before we crashed to the kitchen floor in a tangle of arms and legs.
The air was filled with my swearing and Edward's laughter before I scrambled up off him and on to my knees, hauling him upright by his arms.
"Shit, I'm sorry," I babbled, straightening his glasses and looking him over anxiously. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Gar," he said, his eyes shining as he looked up at me. "I'm better than fine, if what just happened means you like me, too."
I crawled over him at once, straddling his waist, and wrapping my arms and legs around him. A little gasp escaped me when Edward pulled me closer, his heels against my ass and his hands on the small of my back.
"Jesus, Edward, yes. I like you, so much," I murmured, pulling his glasses off and laying them on the floor at his side.
"Thank god," he said, and his hands rose to cup my jaw as he leaned in to kiss me.
Edward's lips were warm and incredibly soft, lingering on mine as my eyes closed and I felt myself fall into pleasure. He caught my lower lip between his teeth, drawing a soft moan from me as fire flashed under my skin. When my tongue darted out to slide between Edward's lips, he gave a deep groan and opened his mouth against mine, sliding his hands into my hair to pull me closer.
The kiss deepened, all teeth and tongues and hot, wet mouths moving together. We clutched at each, pressing closer and tighter, and our moans were loud when our cocks brushed together beneath our clothes. Our breaths sped and our hands roamed, drawing sighs and groans of pleasure as we began to learn how to touch each other. We were panting when we finally broke apart, and I pressed my forehead to Edward's and gazed at him in wonder.
"Thank you," he murmured, leaning to press kisses along my cheekbone.
"For what, sweetheart?" I asked, running my fingers through his wild hair.
"For putting up with my macho bullshit." He leaned back to look at me with bright, happy eyes. "For being my friend. For wanting more."
I pulled his face to mine again, and smiled at his little sigh. "Anytime."
Thank you for reading. This is my first time writing slash and I really enjoyed it.
Thanks to the contest organizers, sadtomato and SingleStrnd (MyLifeandHis).
I am beyond happy that this story is receiving some love and affection. I plan to revisit these boys from time to time with new chapters.