Hello, friends, and happy New Year. As I was writing, I took to calling this the ex-boyfriends chapter. Lol ;)

Thank you to my fabulous beta, Discordia81, who makes my docs better. I tinkered after she sent this chapter back; all mistakes are even more mine than usual.

Note: This is a slash story.


Chapter 6

A wall of music met me when I walked into my apartment on Tuesday night. Leaving my coat and satchel by the door, I followed the sound of Willy Moon's Yeah Yeah to the kitchen, where I found Edward cooking and shaking his ass along to the beats. There was a steaming pot on the stove, ingredients spread over the counter, and the warm air was fragrant with the smell of roasting meat.

I leaned against the wall, letting my eyes move over my boyfriend as he worked, and bit my lip at the way his jeans and Nirvana t-shirt hugged his lean body. He turned toward the counter for a pair of oven mitts, and his smile lit his face when he spotted me. He raised his hands, beckoning me closer with his fingers, and danced a little dirtier as I crossed the kitchen.

He wound my tie around one hand, pulling me toward him to lay his other hand on the small of my back. With a grin, I linked my arms around his waist, moving with him as he danced and sang along to the lyrics. Edward's eyes were shining, his cheeks were pink, and he looked so happy my heart seemed to swell.

"How long were you spying on me, you creeper?" he asked when the song had ended, kissing me before he turned away to lower the volume on the iPod dock.

I chuckled, loosening my tie and shrugging out of my suit jacket. "Long enough to get a good look at your ass, Cullen."

"You mean a good look at my moves," he retorted, picking up the oven mitts.

"Same thing."

"Says the man who won't dance in public without the aid of alcohol."

"Hey, not everyone is in touch with their inner Freddie Mercury the way you are, sweetheart."

Edward laughed loudly while bending to open the oven. With quick movements, he transferred a baking dish to a trivet on the counter and let out a hiss. "Hot, hot, fuck!"

"Are you okay?" Frowning, I went to his side as he pulled the mitts off. "Did you burn yourself?"

"Nah; I'm okay, but I think these mitts are officially dead." He turned his right hand over to show me a pink patch on the skin of his index finger before he gave me a smile. "Nothing a glass of wine won't help me get over. Why don't you make yourself useful, handsome, and open a bottle?"

ooOOoo

"Jesus Christ, Edward."

The weather in Boston had been bitterly cold since New Year's, driving the residents indoors to the warmth and light. Edward's response was to make comfort foods, baking pastas and brewing chowders that helped me gain back the weight I had lost before Christmas when I had been sick. That night, we sat at the island in my kitchen, eating beef and carrots braised in honey and Guinness ale with mashed potatoes while I groaned without shame.

"You like it?" Edward smiled smugly as he sipped his wine and watched me.

"This is honestly one of the best things I've ever eaten. In my entire life. But if you ever tell my mother I said that, I will deny it to my last breath."

He laughed then, his cheeks flushing with pleasure. "My mom used to make something like this once in a while when I was kid. I tweaked her recipe a little."

"She doesn't make it anymore?"

"My dad's cholesterol needs managing, so they changed their diets," he explained. "I still make it for him once a year or so, as a treat."

"You need to make this for my parents when we go to Portland," I mumbled around a mouthful.

He winced and nibbled his lip. "Make dinner for your family? I don't know about that, Gar."

He snorted when I gave him the Bambi eyes.

"Don't look at me like that."

"Oh, c'mon, sweetheart. You can't be in my hometown, in my parents' house, and not cook this for them. They need to experience this fucking deliciousness—"

"Okay, okay," he grumbled.

I cocked my head and looked at him closely. "You're not nervous about the trip, are you?"

"No, I'm not." Edward licked his lips and blew out a breath. "Okay, I lied; yes, I am."

"But why? My parents adore you."

"Your parents haven't met me, Garrett."

I pulled him close, pressing kisses against his neck until I felt him relax. "True, but they talk to you all the time. They know you, Edward, and they're going to love you even more after they meet you."

We were loading the dishwasher after dinner when I decided to broach another, slightly more awkward topic. I refilled our glasses while Edward started the cycle, and then stood behind him, slipping my arms around his waist. He crossed his arms over mine, and hummed when I rested my chin against his shoulder.

"Do you remember me telling you that my friend Eli would be coming to town this month?"

Edward was quiet for a beat before answering. "Of course I do. Did he get back to you with days?"

"Mm-hm. He and a coworker are teaching a seminar at Suffolk Law School and they'll be here Thursday and Friday. I got some Bruins tickets through the office and thought we could all go out for dinner on Thursday night and then watch the game. Will you come?"

I felt a pang of disappointment when Edward let out a groan. He turned in my arms, his handsome face pulled down in a frown.

"Fuck. Matheus is in New York on Thursday and Friday, and Bella's covering shifts at Joe's this week as a favor to Emmett; I can't take the night off, Gar. I'm really sorry."

"It's okay."

"No, it's not," he fretted. "I feel like shit."

"Sweetheart, relax." I rubbed circles into his lower back. "I know it's really short notice and you're working—"

"What about getting together earlier?" Edward interrupted, his face brightening. "The night games are usually at seven, right? We could meet up and grab a burger and some drinks before faceoff."

"Hmmm. I like it. Clever man is clever," I said with a slow smile.

His hands rose to cup my jaw as he leaned in to kiss me, and heat spread through my belly as his mouth moved over mine. When he pulled back, we were both breathless.

"I have my moments," he murmured.

ooOOoo

"Who the hell is that sexy beast talking to Edward and Seth?" Bella asked.

I followed her gaze across the room to where Edward, Seth, and Eli were chatting at a table by the window. We had decided to meet at Joe's because it was close to both Eli's hotel and my apartment, and only a short distance from the sports arena. I suspected that Edward took some comfort in knowing that Bella was working that night, too.

"That's, Eli, my ex. We were in law school together."

Bella's dark eyes widened. "Ohhhh. You told me about him. He's married with kids now, right?"

"Yeah," I nodded. "We keep in touch, but it's not like we spend any time together. The last time I saw him, Kate and I were still married."

"Eep," Bella said before giving me a cheeky wink. "I'll make sure to keep the drinks coming."

"Please and thank you. I need three beers, your choice, and a Coke for Ed."

"It'll be Smuttynose Winter Ale for you then, my pretty." She picked up two glasses and then grinned. "I'll say this, Garrett; you've got good taste in men."

I looked across the room to watch the two men with whom I had shared so much at very different times of my life. The physical differences between them were striking. Eli's rich brown skin and eyes made Edward appear even more fair and pink cheeked, and his hair seemed suddenly very ginger. Where Eli was brawny, Edward was rangy; where my ex was vigorous, my boyfriend was insouciant.

Bringing the two men together was like weaving my past together with my present, and my feelings as I watched them interact were not entirely comfortable. They seemed to get on well enough, though it was plain to me that they were not entirely compatible; at best, they would be acquaintances. They were clearly making an effort, though, particularly Edward. I felt a rush of affection when he caught my eye and smiled warmly.

"So Garrett tells me you're a writer," Eli was saying when I returned with the drinks. His expression was curious as he watched Edward, and assessing. "Or a bartender … wait, do I have that wrong?"

"You're not wrong; I'm both, actually. Bartending pays the bills, but writing is what I do." Edward smiled at me when I took his hand under the table.

"Have I read anything you've published?"

"Not unless you've suddenly developed an interest in anything other than law books," I cut in gently.

Eli grimaced. "Good point. The last thing I read that wasn't work-related was an instruction manual for my daughter's new tablet."

"That's what I figured," I teased over Seth and Edward's chuckles. "Once a lawyer, always a lawyer."

Eli cocked an eyebrow at me in challenge. "Wait, did I wake up in an alternate universe or are you also not up to your ass in law briefs, Garrett?"

"Oh, I am, believe me," I replied. "But I make time to read Ed's stuff, too."

"You mean you make time when Edward reminds you to read his stuff," Seth supplied.

Everyone laughed when I gave him the finger. "Fuck you very much, Seth. Yes, I sometimes need to be reminded, but I do read and enjoy his pieces."

"What about you, Edward?" Eli piped up with a grin. "Has Garrett got you poring over corporate law practices and amendments?"

Edward shook his head. "Yeah, no. I've tried to read briefs but I can't get through them"

Eli snorted. "Can't blame you; the crap Garrett works on is boring as hell. Does he still talk about litigation in his sleep?"

"Not that I've noticed, no," Edward said after the briefest of pauses.

I raised an eyebrow at my ex. "I don't talk in my sleep—"

"Yes, you do," he and Edward answered together before they broke up laughing.

"I do?"

"Oh, yeah." Edward gave my hand a squeeze. "Especially when you're stressed out about work. You don't usually make much sense, but you're pretty persistent when you get going. Last Saturday, you woke me up talking about Daniel Craig."

"What?"

"We saw Skyfall earlier in the day, remember?" he asked with a smirk. "I guess Mr. Craig made an impression because you had a lot to say about his … gun."

"Nice," Seth said, while I cringed in embarrassment.

"You didn't know?" Eli asked, his eyes wide with surprise. "How is that possible?"

"No one's mentioned it 'til now. I-I used to have insomnia," I stammered, shaking my head slightly when I felt my face grow hot. "It started after graduation and it got bad enough that I had a prescription for Sonata. When I moved to Boston, it got better so I stopped taking the pills."

Edward rubbed his thumb over my knuckles, and I saw understanding in his eyes when I met his gaze. I knew he had guessed at what I wasn't saying; that my insomnia had become a problem during the years I was married to Kate.

"Maybe the drugs made you sleep too deeply for talking, baby," he said lightly. "It doesn't happen every night. Most of the time it's about something you've seen on TV or just nonsense, like random words or names."

"Does he still say my name in his sleep?" There was something off in Eli's voice, but his gaze was locked on the man at my side when I turned to look at him.

My stomach sank when Edward stiffened, but he was smiling when he replied. "Nope. Sorry."

"Just as well, I suppose," Eli said before movement by the exit caught his eye. Looking past us, he straightened in his seat and waved at his coworker, who had been held up by a conference call with the office in Connecticut. "Here's Marcus, finally."

"I'll grab another round," Seth said, tousling Edward's hair before he got to his feet. "You want, Ed?"

"No, thanks, babe; I'm good. I need to go anyway."

"We were going to order some food first," I said, reaching for the menu and frowning when Edward shook his head.

"You guys go ahead." He kissed me quickly before he let go of my hand and reached for his coat.

"But you haven't had any dinner."

"I can grab a sandwich at the bar, Gar. No worries."

Eli's coworker arrived at the table then, forcing me to hold my tongue through Marcus's introductions and Edward's goodbyes. We walked to the door, chatting while Edward pulled a black watch cap over his hair.

"You should come back here after the game," he said, smiling when I reached to straighten his coat collar. "Bella will hook you up with some crazy drinks and pour you into a cab after last call."

"My place is a five-minute walk from here," I reminded him. "Eli and Marcus were talking about one of the bars on Portland Street, I think … or maybe it was Friend Street. I'd take them across town to Masen's but I'm not so sure Marcus would be down with going to a gay bar."

Edward nodded, his eyes tightening slightly when they flicked from the table and back to me. He seemed about to speak before he shook his head slightly and took my hand in his. "See you tomorrow?"

"I hope so; I'm in Springfield tomorrow, remember? I'm hoping to make it back to Boston if we let out early enough. I'll let you know either way, okay?" I squeezed his fingers, looking into his green eyes for a moment before brushing my lips against his. "Thanks for doing this, Edward."

His smile was soft. "You're welcome, baby. Have fun tonight."

ooOOoo

I had a good evening with my ex and our friends. The four of us ate dinner, talking easily about everything and nothing before we left for the game. Once inside the Garden, Marcus revealed himself as a rabid sports fan. He insisted on buying several rounds of beer and spent time educating an amused Seth on the game of ice hockey. I sent Edward snapshots of the crowd and laughed when he replied with photos of Masen's customers, many of them involving lewd gestures.

I caught Eli watching me throughout the evening. His expression was thoughtful and serious, as though he were trying to puzzle out a problem. I thought of asking what he was thinking, but told myself that the noise of the crowd around us was too distracting. As the game progressed, however, I realized that I wasn't just hesitating; I was avoiding. I suspected that whatever he was thinking would make me unhappy.

We decided to play pool after the game, and walked two blocks to the Beer Works on Canal Street to find a table. Eli waited until Seth and Marcus were racking the balls before he nudged my arm. Nodding to a quieter section of the bar, he walked away without waiting to see if I would follow.

Once we were alone, however, he began to stall. He rested his forearms on the bar top, focusing his attention on the pint glass in his hands. What I could see of his face was drawn down in a frown, and his fidgeting movements told me he was nervous. I ordered another pitcher of beer and watched him uneasily, acutely aware of the five years that had passed since we'd been close. Since I had loved him.

"Eli … what's up?" I finally asked after refilling our glasses. My stomach fluttered uncomfortably when he shook his head.

"I feel like I don't even know how to talk to you anymore, Garrett."

"Just say whatever's on your mind. You've never had a problem doing that in the past."

"Fine." He took a long sip of beer and raised his eyes to mine. "What's going on with you and that guy?"

I frowned. "That guy's name is Edward, and he's my boyfriend."

"Yeah, I gathered that. But … how the hell did that happen? I mean, you told me that you and Kate were having problems, but when you told me you were dating guys again, I thought you were experimenting again or something."

My eyebrows rose in surprise. "You thought my telling you that I was gay and coming out wasn't real?"

Eli ploughed on as if I hadn't spoken. "I was watching the two of you tonight, Garrett, you and that guy. He's really into you."

"I'm really into him."

My ex stared at me for a long moment and I saw the penny drop. "You … you love him, don't you? Things are really that serious?"

"Yeah, they're serious."

"I don't understand."

"What don't you understand, for Christ's sake?"

"I don't even fucking know," he said defensively. "How can you be like, officially gay now and out of the closet after all this time? How is that possible?"

I blinked in surprise. "Are you really asking me this right now, Eli?"

His face darkened. "Yes, I'm asking. Fuck, man, don't mock me."

"I'm not mocking you, but I do not understand why you of all people would ask me that. You are the very last person who should be questioning my sexuality. Or have you forgotten that you and I used to—"

"Of course I haven't forgotten," he snapped. "But that was just sex. Something we enjoyed … it didn't mean anything."

"It did mean something." I bristled slightly at his dismissive tone.

"No, man," he said, shaking his head in exasperation. "We fooled around, it felt good, and it was fun, that's it—"

"And I'm trying to tell you that it was more than just fun for me," I said in a low voice. "There was always more."

"It was never supposed to be serious, Garrett. It was never supposed to be forever—"

"It could have been serious," I pressed. "It could have been everything if we'd wanted the same thing. I had feelings for you, Eli."

Eli gaped at me. His agitation seemed to leave him in one great whoosh and I instantly felt sorry for having spoken so plainly.

"I'm sorry," I murmured. "I shouldn't have said that."

We sipped from our glasses for a few moments before Eli spoke again, his eyes fixed on the bar top again.

"Did you mean it?"

"Yes, of course I did. What we had together was more than fooling around for me. You meant a lot to me."

His head snapped up and he looked almost pleading. "But you knew it wasn't going to go anywhere, Garrett. I still dated girls, for fuck's sake, and so did you."

"I know, and being bi worked for me. Until you. I … fell for you." Eli flinched at my choice of words and I continued hastily. "Believe me; I was surprised when I realized what was happening. Then you broke up with me and everything felt different. I changed, in more ways than one."

"The girls you dated afterward? And Kate?" He rubbed his hand over his close-cropped hair. "The marriage? Was that all for show?"

"No. I wanted love in my life. To have what I thought I felt with you. I was scared, though, to try to have that with another man." I sighed and scrubbed my face with my hands. "So there were girls, and then there was Kate. I thought we could be happy together. Turns out I was wrong."

"So what now?" Eli persisted. "Are you gonna marry that guy and try to settle down again?"

"His name is Edward."

"He's a guy, Garrett. Last year, you had a wife!"

"I fucking know that," I said slowly. "I don't expect you to understand. Hell, I don't even expect you to accept my choice if you can't deal with it. But I've made it."

We stared at each other, the cracking of the pool balls sounding loud in the charged air between us. A range of emotions flashed over Eli's face: anger, confusion, hurt. I watched him, letting my eyes move over his handsome features before he turned away again.

I closed my eyes and my breath caught as a memory swept over me forcefully. Eli and I tumbling onto my bed, laughing as our lips met over and over. His strong arms wrapping around me, while his hands skimmed my skin. My groans and gasps as he teased me; my voice, rough with desire as I begged him to make me come. Eli, moaning my name when my ass pulsed around him, making him tremble and come deep inside me. The love I felt for him, crushing my heart with its enormity; the ache in my throat when he winked and told me he had a date with a dark-haired waitress from our favorite pub.

Blinking slowly, I looked at the man in front of me once more. The love I had known with him felt pale when compared to what I felt now for a green-eyed bartender with a sexy, lopsided smile. My heart faltered a bit when Eli turned and held my gaze with his own.

"Is that why we never see each other? Because of the, uh, feelings you had for me?"

"In the beginning, yeah." I sighed unhappily. "It was easier to not be around you and Carmen when I was still struggling. Next thing I knew, I was married and you had kids. Then I was single again, moved here, and met Edward … my whole life has changed."

Eli shook his head, clearly unconvinced. "Are you sure, Garrett? Is it going to work this time, or are you going to decide five years from now that guys were the wrong choice?"

"I'm not going to change my mind, Eli. Jesus Christ, I didn't go into this lightly. It's not something I'm trying out."

"You tried it out once before. And it's only been a few months since you and Kate divorced. You're jumping into things—"

"You're wrong. Kate and I were separated for almost a year before the divorce was finalized. Edward didn't know I was interested in him until afterward, and I even dated a few guys before then.

"For the record, I wasn't just trying things out with you," I said, working to keep the bitterness out of my tone. "It felt right."

"How can you be sure?"

"Are you sure that you should be with Carmen?"

"Of course," he huffed.

"I feel the same way. I need this, Eli. This is who I am."

"I just don't want to see you get hurt. And your boyfriend seems like a decent guy—"

"Oh, man, you are not telling me you give a shit about what happens to my boyfriend," I scoffed.

"No, I'm not; I hardly know the guy. But if I still know you at all, you give a shit about what happens to him. You've told me how much you struggled when things with Kate started going bad, and how you hated hurting her."

I stared at my ex, pressing my lips together tightly in an effort to keep my temper from rising. "I hated hurting her because I knew what she was going through. I went through almost the same thing when you left me, and for something I had no control over."

Eli's face went slack and I knew that if he could turn pale, the color would have drained from his cheeks.

"You didn't love me," I said quietly, holding my hand up when he opened his mouth to speak. "We both know you didn't and … well, it sucked at the time. It hurt and it was shitty, but you couldn't help the way you felt about Carmen, any more than I could help the way I didn't feel about Kate. I know how badly it hurts to be left for something you can never be, and that's what bothered me so much about leaving Kate."

"I really am sorry. I never meant to hurt you. And for what it's worth, I did love you back then." He shrugged when I raised my brows at him. "You're right; it was never deep love, not like I have with Carm … or you have with him, I guess. I cared about you, though. I never wanted to see you unhappy, Gar."

"Thanks. It's not all your fault," I admitted. "I never told you how I felt. Maybe a part of me knew that if I did tell you, you'd bolt."

Eli shrugged and sipped his beer. "Maybe I wouldn't have." He smiled when I raised an eyebrow at him. "Eh, yeah, I would have. That probably makes me sound like a chickenshit, but I don't really care."

I smiled back. "You sound a lot like the arrogant fuck I used to know a few years ago. The one who traded in his brass balls the first time his wife smiled at him."

Eli grunted before he huffed out a laugh, and touched his glass to mine.

ooOOoo

Seth laid a hand on my forearm after Eli and Marcus's cab pulled away. "Hey, you okay? Looked pretty intense in there with Eli for a little while."

"Yeah, I'm good. Thanks, man."

"You wanna talk? We could go to Chinatown and grab some cold tea and lo mein." Seth's dark eyes were curious and a little concerned, making me smile warmly to reassure him.

"No, I'm just going to go home. You should, too; you must be tired. You okay to go back to Cambridge, or do you want to crash in my spare room?"

"My bed is calling me," he said with a grin, raising an arm to flag down another cab. "Have a good trip tomorrow, and thanks for the game. It was fun hanging with the straight boys … or mostly straight boys." He blinked and then we both burst out laughing. "Whatever the hell they were."

My smile faded as I walked back to the North End. I was both keyed up and exhausted when I let myself into my apartment, and I had to restrain myself from turning back around to head across town to Edward's. Instead, I mindlessly packed a duffel bag of clothes and organized my satchel for my meeting the next day, crawling into bed just before three.

I found myself staring into the dark and unable to sleep, Eli's words turning over and over in my head. Our conversation had been long overdue, and I was glad he finally knew the truth about me and the reasons we had slowly grown apart. Even so, my emotions were all over the place. I wasn't sure if I felt relieved to have been so open, or sad about the possibilities we seemed to have lost.

My phone's chime on the nightstand made me jump, and an anxious feeling filled my chest as I read Edward's text.

Love you. Wish I was there tonight.

I held on to the phone, watching the sky outside my windows slowly turn from black to grey as the dawn broke. When my alarm went off, I forced myself to get up and prepare for work. My body and mind were tired as I showered and dressed, but I couldn't call in sick, and didn't really want to; I looked forward to a full day of meetings to distract me.

After picking up my car downtown, I parked outside of the garage with my phone, reading Edward's text again. I wanted to drive across town and climb the stairs of his apartment, to creep into his bed, and wrap myself around him while he chuckled sleepily and pulled me close. I didn't trust myself to be near him, though; I needed to process the words and feelings still fresh in my head. Instead, I let my fingers type out a reply, hoping Edward could read the earnestness in my message.

Me too, Ed. I miss you.

ooOOoo

The client meeting in Springfield was exactly what I wanted it to be: long and intense, allowing me to get lost in something other than my head. It was nearly six in the evening when we wrapped up, and I was feeling the previous night's sleeplessness. I checked my text messages as I packed up my satchel and found a few from Edward, mostly funny observations about his day, and one sent just an hour before.

Miss your face, G.

Pressing his number, I frowned at the late hour, wondering if I could catch him before he started his shift. Disappointment surged through me when the call went to voicemail, and I realized it had been twenty-four hours since we had spoken to each other.

"Hey, Ed." I could hear the fatigue in my voice as I spoke. "We're just finishing here. I'm really fucking tired, though, so I'm going to find a hotel and crash for a few hours. Um—" I licked my lips, feeling suddenly nervous. "Will you call me if you get this in the next couple of hours? I, ah … it'd be nice to hear your voice. Miss you."

A soft-spoken voice caught my attention as I pressed END.

"Did I hear you say you weren't driving back to Boston tonight, Mr. Carr?"

I blinked tiredly at the young assistant who was gathering the file folders on the table into a pile, and she blushed.

"I didn't mean to eavesdrop," she said quietly. "I'm sorry about that—"

"That's okay, Kim," I interrupted with a smile. "I don't mind that you heard me. And no, I don't think I should drive that far tonight; I'm pretty beat, to tell you the truth."

She straightened her glasses with one hand, her pretty face sympathetic. "We have a corporate account with a nice hotel just a few blocks from here. If you give me a minute, I'll get you the code."

"That would be wonderful," I said gratefully, pulling my aching body out of the chair.

My fatigue increased as I checked in and ordered room service, and the hot shower I took while waiting for the order only made me more sluggish. I ate my club sandwich and watched the evening news, struggling to stay awake in case Edward could find a minute to call. At seven-thirty, when I found myself dozing, I dragged myself to the bathroom to brush my teeth and then fell into bed. My sleep was swift and sound; I buried my face in one of the pillows, wishing groggily for strong arms to hold me, and knew no more.

ooOOoo

The clock read 4:34 A.M. when I woke with a jolt. I blinked at the unfamiliar surroundings until I remembered where I was, and immediately reached for my phone. I frowned when I realized that Edward had not called back, but instead left a text not long before.

Sorry I missed you, baby. Sleep well, love you.

I thought about calling back for a moment before I tossed back the blankets and got up. Forty minutes later, I was checked out and on the Mass Pike, driving back to Boston. The pre-dawn traffic was almost non-existent, shaving significant time off the two-hour trip. A smile crossed my face when I saw the city skyline in the distance, and I gave the car a little more gas.

Edward's apartment was quiet when I let myself in, with just enough light to let me see two pairs of shoes by the door, along with an unfamiliar jacket. I noted that Edward's bed was empty as I passed his room, but my mind went blank with surprise when I walked into the living room. Edward was sitting awake at one end of the sofa, while Liam lay curled up toward the other end, his head in Edward's lap. It was another second before I saw the bruises on Liam's face and his split lip, as well as the sling cradling his left arm. I was across the room in a flash, my eyes darting from Liam to Edward with concern.

"Jesus, what the hell happened?" I asked softly, bending to cup Edward's face with my hands. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine." His eyes closed for a long moment as he covered one my hands with his own. "Lee was jumped on his way home tonight; a couple of guys took his bag and roughed him up. I left the bar after close and met him at the ER. We got here about an hour ago."

Edward's eyes were tired and red-rimmed behind his glasses when he looked at me again, and I moved at once to squeeze in beside him on the sofa. I drew him close with one arm, and held his free hand in mine.

"Is he okay?" My heart twisted a little when I looked down at the other man's bruised face.

"They dislocated his shoulder when they were fighting with him over the bag," Edward replied darkly, running his other hand gently over his friend's hair. "He was carrying his phone in his coat pocket, thank God, so he could call 911.

"His house keys were in the bag, and they have his address from his license. The cops are checking it out, but I didn't want him to stay there alone."

I shook my head at Edward's uncertain expression. "Of course, sweetheart, I feel the same way. Why are you guys out here instead of in one of the bedrooms?"

"Iss my fault," Liam said suddenly, his words slightly garbled. He seemed to try to open his eyes before he gave a low grunt and turned his face toward Edward's belly.

Edward chuckled. "They gave him Vicodin for the pain at the ER and he's not used to it. When he's not sleeping, he's pretty fucking stoned."

"Not stoned. Just … dunno," the other man mumbled.

"The pills make him feel a little sick, so if he's going to barf, I'd rather it happen out here than in one of the beds. Plus, he's pretty much refused to move since we sat down. Fucking dickhead," Edward said quietly.

His smile was shaky when he raised his eyes to mine, and I couldn't help myself; I leaned in and kissed him, squeezing his hand tightly when he sighed against my lips. He seemed calmer when I pulled back, and laid his head on my shoulder.

"I'm really fucking glad to see you, Gar, but what are you doing here so early? Did you leave Springfield in the middle of the night?"

"Almost," I replied.

"Why? I'm not complaining, but you must be tired."

"I got something like eight hours of sleep last night, Edward; don't worry about me. What about you; have you even been to bed yet?"

"Nope. Too busy looking after Mr. Pukey here."

"Should we try to move him?" I asked, frowning down at the other man. "Or what do you want to do?"

"I'm going to call Seth for some help at a more decent hour," Edward said. "Do you mind if we just hang out here until then?"

"Of course not. Why don't you try to get some sleep?"

"Uh-uh; I can sleep later. Talk to me, Gar. Did you guys have fun at the game the other night?"

I smiled at his stubbornness. "Yeah, it was good. I'm sure Seth learned a lot more about hockey than he ever expected to."

We talked quietly for the next hour as the room slowly filled with morning sunlight. Edward's grasp on my hand tightened when I told him about my conversation with Eli, and he raised his head to search my face with concerned eyes.

"I'm glad you told him," he said simply.

"Me, too. He deserved to know."

"You deserved to be heard, Garrett."

I hummed in response, smiling to let him know I agreed.

"Are you still friends?" Edward asked gently.

"I think so," I replied. "If we're not because he can't handle the way I felt five years ago or because I came out ... well, maybe that's for the best."

Edward was quiet for a little while before he spoke again. "You have said Eli's name. In your sleep, I mean."

"Oh, fuck, Edward," I said with a groan of apology.

"It was when you had the flu, though." He squeezed my hand again to reassure me. "You said a lot of weird stuff in your sleep, especially those first couple of nights when your fever was pretty high. Like you told me there was an umbrella in the dishwasher."

I bit my lip to stifle my laughter. "Shit, I'm so sorry."

"Don't worry about it, baby. You said my name, too. A lot." He gave me a shy smile, his cheeks reddening slightly.

At half-past eight, we called Seth, who showed up within an hour with a tray of coffees and bagels. We roused Liam, exhausted and still loopy, and coaxed him to eat a little breakfast before he asked to go back to bed. It seemed to take forever to get him off the couch and down the hall to Edward's guest room, but he was docile and compliant.

"Mighta been wrong about you, Garr," Liam slurred as he lay back on the pillows, his eyes closing despite his efforts to focus them. "Not so bad … maybe."

"I won't hold it against you," I replied, watching Seth ease the other man out of his jeans while Edward counted out another dose of painkillers.

"Make him sleep, Gar," Seth said, jerking his chin toward Edward. "I've got this."

Though I could see the fatigue in Edward's face, he wasn't in the mood to sleep. He pulled me close when the bedroom door closed behind us, his deep kisses instantly warming my whole body.

"Fuck, Ed," I breathed, when we came back up for air, and groaned when he squeezed my ass almost roughly.

"Mmmm," he said nipping at my throat with his lips. "I'm not sure that's such a good idea with our friends in the next room. I want you, though. I missed you the last couple of nights."

"Let me make you feel good," I murmured, leading him to bed. "You have to promise to be quiet. Lee's finally starting to like me; I don't want you traumatizing him with those fuckhot noises you make when you come."

"Jesus."

Edward's eyes were burning as I reached for his belt buckle, and he tore his 3RD Bass t-shirt over his head when I opened his button fly. I undressed him and removed his glasses, then guided him to lie down on the bed before I stripped off my own clothes. Arranging myself over him, I kissed him hard and stroked his skin with my hands, grinding my cock against his until he was moaning quietly.

"Shh. Quiet, sweetheart," I murmured, kissing him again before I rolled away and twisted my body so my head faced his feet. Edward made a hungry sound as I kissed my way down his torso and groin, his hands coming to rest on my hips when I rolled him onto his side. He trembled when I licked his shaft, and thrust his hips forward gently when I tongued his balls.

I took the head of his dick in my mouth, then pulled back again with a grin when he swore. "You have to be quiet, Ed."

"I'll try." Edward's voice was low and rough, his expression almost pained when I raised my head enough to look at him. He bent to kiss my groin, and almost whined when I pulled away from him slightly.

"Relax. Don't worry about me right now, okay? I want to do this for you."

He paused, clearly torn, before nodding slowly. I slid my lips over him again, making him gasp and press his face against my thigh when I began to suck in earnest. He was quiet until I swirled my tongue around his head. He moaned into my skin, curling one arm around my hip, while the other moved between my legs to rest his hand on my ass.

I drove him crazy with my hands and mouth, reducing him to an incoherent, writhing mess within minutes. I pumped him with one hand while rolling his balls with the other, and tongued his perineum until his breaths were ragged.

"God," he whispered against my skin, his thighs trembling around my face. "Gar, please … oh, baby, that feels so fucking good."

I took him deep and swallowed as he panted against me, his cock hardening even more in my hand.

"Just, shit, just like that," he gasped out, his arms like iron around me. "Gonna come."

I wrapped one hand around the base of his cock before swallowing again, and felt his balls drawing up before his dick lurched and he came down my throat. Edward tried to smother his sounds, but the orgasm wracked his body and I couldn't help my own low groan of pleasure as I drank him down. He was still shaking and high when I turned myself around to crawl back up the bed.

"Watch me," I murmured, waiting until he raised his heavy-lidded eyes to mine before straddling his waist. I took myself in hand, hissing as the sensation rushed through me, curling around my hips and down my spine. Edward's hungry, awed expression pushed me quickly over the edge as I pumped myself. My body flexed and I came hard, painting his torso with come. I bit my lip to keep quiet, but gasped when Edward's hands moved over my skin, pulling me down beside him.

"You're unbelievable," he said, holding me tightly as I caught my breath.

"Love you." I kissed his cheek, his forehead, his sleepy eyelids, the bridge of his nose, anywhere I could reach.

He laid his head on my shoulder with a sigh. "Love you, too."

ooOOoo

"Lee likes you fine, by the way," Edward murmured against the back of my neck.

It was three o'clock and we could hear Seth and Liam moving around in the apartment beyond the bedroom door. Edward had woken a little while before to pull my tablet out of my hands with a grunt before pushing me back against the sheets. He made me come twice before letting go himself, and was now kissing his way across my shoulders while I lay on my stomach.

"Since when?" I asked lazily.

"Since you handed him his ass that night at Underbar. He was pissed for a while, but he could tell you were serious about me."

"And he told you this when?" I turned in his arms, watching him smile sweetly.

"Bits and pieces for a while now. We talked while we were waiting in the ER last night, too."

"Well that explains it; it was the Vicodin talking."

Edward laughed. "No, no; this was before they gave him a dose. He was sober, I promise. He apologized for being douche bag."

"That was nice of him," I said thoughtfully, and then smiled when Edward's ears and cheeks flushed with color. "What is it?"

"He gave me some shit when I told him I didn't feel ready to move in together."

Edward chuckled when I blinked in surprise. "He did?"

"He asked what the hell I'm waiting for." He smoothed the hair back from my forehead. "I didn't really have an answer for him, either."

We were quiet for a few moments. My chest tightened as I pulled him on top of me, gazing up at his beautiful, hopeful face.

"Sweetheart, have you changed your mind?"

"Yes," he said, amending nervously when I licked my lips. "If you still want me."

"You silly man. Of course, I still want you. Move in with me?"

He smiled and leaned down to kiss me. "I'd like that."


A/N

Our boys are moving in together - aiiiieeee! Well, once Liam's okay to go back home that is. Poor guy.

Thank you so much for reading and your lovely reviews - they really make my day.

I could play with Ed and Gar forever, but I have just a couple more chapters left in mind. I'll see you soon xxoo

Notes:

The Boston Bruins are a professional ice hockey team based in Boston, Massachusetts.

The TD Garden, a.k.a., the Garden, is a multi-purpose arena in Boston, Massachusetts.

Smuttynose Brewing Company is a brewing company in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Cold tea is the practice of serving alcohol (usually beer) after legal serving hours. Some restaurants in Boston's Chinatown (and several other major cities) serve beer in teapots after the bars and clubs have closed down for the night.

3RD Bass was an American hip-hop group that rose to fame in the late 1980s and early 1990s.