Thank you to my lovely beta, Discordia81; she makes my docs better. I tinkered after she sent this chapter back; all mistakes are mine.
Note: This is a slash story.
The line between Edward's brows unsettled me.
"You okay?" I asked quietly, rubbing his forearm when he turned to look at me. We were sitting at a departure gate in Logan, waiting for our flight to Portland to board. I knew he was tired from working the night before, but Edward seemed unusually pensive.
"Sure, I'm okay. Just a little sleepy." One side of his mouth lifted in a lopsided smile that didn't make it to his eyes, and the line between his brows didn't budge.
"What time did you get home last night?"
"Almost four. We had a meeting after close.' He frowned. "Did I wake you?"
"Not really; I was having trouble sleeping anyway."
"I'm sorry; why didn't you say something when I came to bed?"
"I thought if I kept quiet, you'd fall asleep sooner. You seemed restless ... worried." I nibbled at my lip, remembering the way he'd lain behind me the night before, his body tense. "Like right now. I can see it all over your face, Ed. What's bothering you?"
He seemed to sag in his chair and my heart turned at his sad expression.
"Malice and Bella are thinking about trying for a baby in the next year or so."
I shrugged in confusion. "Is that bad news?"
"No, I think it's great." He ran a thumb over his lip. "They asked Jasper and me to consider being the, er, donors."
Surprise made me quiet for a moment before I spoke again. "That's wonderful. Isn't it? Imagine a little Edward clone running around."
His expression darkened. "That's just it, though, Gar. There would be a kid out there that was mine, but I wouldn't be their parent."
"Well, sure you would," I replied, taking one of his hands in mine, feeling puzzled when he slowly shook his head. "Bella and Mal are two of your best friends; they'd want you involved in their child's life, especially if you were the father."
Edward looked down at our joined hands resting on his thigh. His voice was soft when he spoke again. "I don't see how it would work, Gar. I'd be the baby's biological parent, sure. But the day-to-day stuff ... I wouldn't be there for that, no matter how hard we tried to make it happen, unless I lived with them. That's not going to happen; Mal and Bella want their own lives."
"You don't know that, sweetheart."
"You're right; I don't know that for sure." He sighed. "I can guess, though, that our friends would want to be parenting on their own. In the meantime, there would be a kid out there with my genes and, at best, I'd be some kind of glorified uncle or buddy.
"I don't want that for a kid of mine. I don't want that for me, either. And then there's you ..."
"Me?" I asked quietly.
Edward raised his eyes to meet mine, and the emotions flickering over his face made my throat tighten.
"If I ever have kids of my own," he continued slowly, "I want to be there, all the time, for everything. Not just a once or twice a week and every other weekend. I know what that's like from growing up around Elizabeth. I wouldn't put a kid through that, or you."
Nothing I could think to say seemed adequate. This was the first time Edward had ever mentioned the possibility of wanting children. While I wasn't particularly surprised, I realized I had no idea how I felt about the idea. I settled for squeezing his hand, leaning forward to press a soft kiss to his cheek just as the first boarding call came over the speakers above us.
"Why didn't you tell me?" I asked, as we got to our feet and began moving toward the Jetway with our carry-on bags.
"I thought I'd wait until after the trip. Didn't want to take the focus off of your birthday."
"Idiot." I smiled at him fondly. "Did you give them an answer? Bella and Mal, I mean; did you say no?"
Edward shook his head. "No. I told them I needed some time to think about it. I don't know why ... I just couldn't shoot them down last night. I hate disappointing them."
He sighed and ran a hand over his head. "Jas wasn't ready to answer either, and the girls seemed okay with waiting for a little while. I'll ... I'll tell them when I get back from Portland."
I pulled him toward me with one arm, my heart squeezing at his obvious tension. "It'll work it out, sweetheart; we'll figure it out. Try not to worry too much."
Edward fell asleep shortly after takeoff, the long hours and stress of the night before finally catching up with him. I eased his seat back when the flight attendants began moving around the cabin, and draped his jacket over him to keep him warm.
I tried to read as we flew west, but my attention wandered from my tablet back to the man beside me and his earlier words. My eyes moved over his sweep of long lashes and his pink lips pursed in sleep. Longing curled low in my stomach, tinged with a vague anxiety. Our brief discussion about children unsettled me and made me wonder if either of us was ready for such a huge change when we were still piecing our lives together.
Since agreeing to move in with me, Edward slept in my bed every night, but we hadn't made the move official. He still stopped at his apartment a couple of times a week to get his mail and changes of clothes. He also checked in with Liam, who had moved into Edward's spare room after being mugged the month before. The two men had spoken about transferring Edward's lease, but nothing had happened beyond discussion, and I wondered why.
"The lobsters you shipped were delivered yesterday and they look amazing," my mother said as I steered her car southwest through the city's neighborhoods. "Some of the family is coming for dinner tonight, too. Everyone's really looking forward to finally getting a chance to celebrate your birthday."
"Mom, you know I don't want to make a big deal about it," I said, gentle warning in my voice. "Edward worked last night and we're tired from flying. We just want to chill out with you guys and have a nice evening."
"I slept on the plane, Claire," Edward helpfully pointed out from the backseat, making me curse under my breath. "Don't worry about me; I'll be fine."
"You have to share him with us, Garrett," my mother chided, making my cheeks heat before she turned to flash a smile at the man in the backseat.
"Just don't go too crazy," I insisted. "Edward's only in town for a couple of days, so let's try not to overwhelm him with crazy, happy Carrs before he flies back on Monday morning, okay?"
I felt more than saw my mother frown. "I was sorry to hear that you can't stay the extra few days, Edward. Could you not get the time off?"
"No, ma'am, I'm sorry," Edward replied, "we're making some changes at the bar and I'll be moving to the day shift starting next Tuesday.
I smiled as Edward told my mom about his new schedule. Masen's long-term daytime bartender had given notice only two weeks before, leaving Jasper and Edward with a position that was often difficult to fill. The evening shifts brought more patrons into the bar, which meant more tips, so the bartenders preferred fewer, high-paying evening shifts that left them with more free time. I had been surprised when Edward expressed interest in switching from nights to days but pleased; the schedule would allow him more time for writing and we'd be able to spend a lot more time together
"Will it seem weird to work Monday through Friday again?" My mom turned toward Edward as she spoke.
"Maybe," Edward allowed. "But I'll have a lot more time to write in the evenings and just hang out." I watched him smile in the rear-view mirror. "I'll still work on Sunday nights, too; that's our busiest night and I couldn't pass up the tips."
"You'll be up for the better part of two days straight, Edward. Won't you be tired?" I understood the question in my mother's voice; I had tried unsuccessfully to talk him out of the Sunday shift, too. Edward was looking forward to the schedule change, but had concerns about how it would impact his income.
"Yes, ma'am, I suppose so. I work double-shifts pretty regularly, though, so the Sunday-Monday combo shouldn't be a problem, especially if I get a few hours' sleep in between."
Warmth spread through me Edward caught my eye in the mirror and smiled. His green eyes shone with affection and a hint of mischief that was undeniably sexy.
"You'll be mixing drinks in your sleep," I said. "Maybe Jas will let you wear your pajamas to work."
Edward's huge grin made my mom laugh. "More tips for me!"
Despite my request for a quiet evening, dinner that night was a raucous affair, filled with food, wine, and laughter. In addition to my birthday, the family was celebrating my brother and Charlotte's engagement again, mostly for Edward's and my benefit. Several aunts, uncles, and cousins were in attendance, as well as Charlotte's six-year-old son, Brady.
The vague concerns I'd had that the family might be uncomfortable around Edward and me faded almost immediately. Our agreement to tone down our physical demonstrations seemed unnecessary when Edward charmed everyone with the easygoing candor that I found so appealing. Even Brady, normally shy and soft-spoken during large gatherings, warmed to Edward's open smile and way of listening closely when the little boy spoke.
"Have you been talking to Brady about the possibility of a little brother or sister sometime in the future?" my mother asked, looking from both Peter to Charlotte as they glanced at one another.
"Not very seriously," Charlotte replied. "We're just looking forward to the wedding at this point; we'll cross the bridges beyond that when we get to them."
My father's expression became concerned. "I thought Brady was feeling better about the wedding?"
"He is," Peter replied quickly. "We've talked a lot about what my place is in the family, and he seems much more comfortable. But the wedding's still a big deal; we don't want to overwhelm him with too much at once."
"My dad is coming to the wedding too," Brady piped in, his looking around the table and grinning when he met Edward's eyes last. "My dad is a chef. He makes the best mac and cheese I ever ate."
"We asked Demetri if he wanted to cater the wedding," Peter said with a grin, "but he turned us down; said he'd rather take a night off and get drunk with the rest of us."
The air filled with laughter, but I noticed that Brady looked uncertain. I was not at all surprised when Edward folded his hands on top of the table and turned toward the little boy.
"You know, my dad met the lady who became my mom when I was a little younger than you."
"You did? That must have been a really long time ago." Brady grinned when Edward laughed. "So you kinda had two moms?"
My heart panged as Edward shrugged and smiled. "Yup, kinda. Elizabeth's my mom, and Esme, the lady my dad married, is my mama."
Brady cocked his head. "And she's your friend, too, right? The lady you called Esme?"
"She's one of my very best friends," Edward replied as he speared lobster with his fork. "One of my favorite people in the whole world, too."
"What a sweetie," Charlotte murmured. Her blue eyes were bright when I met them across the table, but it was the sight of my brother's nod of approval as he watched Brady and Edward talking that made me smile.
"Now what about you, Garrett?" my Aunt Sue asked, her voice a little too loud from the wine that had been flowing all night. "Are you planning to have any children? At your age, your friends back in Boston must be starting to settle down and having kids, too."
"Oh, well, not really," I said, narrowing my eyes at Peter when he scoffed quietly behind my aunt's back. "Some of our friends are, uh, talking about kids, but no one's anywhere near getting started."
"How would that work, I wonder?" Sue continued, seemingly more to herself than anyone in particular until she caught Edward's glance. "Would you be the dad, Edward, or would Garrett?
"I guess you'd need to find a ... lady ..." she trailed off when she realized that Brady was looking at her curiously. She had the good grace to blush as my mom took the little boy into the kitchen, whispering something about finding dessert.
"It all depends on the couple, ma'am," Edward offered kindly. "As Garrett said, some of our friends are talking about it and figuring out donors and that kind of thing. Some friends of ours, Bella and Malice, are looking into donors right now."
"Oh, what about you, Gar?" Charlotte piped in.
"Not happening. I'm not exactly the paternal type, Char." I smiled when she rolled her eyes at my snarky tone. "Luckily, our friends have a pretty big circle of friends that might want to help out. Our friends Jasper and Alec, for instance: they're really close to Bella and Mal, so maybe they can work something out."
"Mmm," Edward hummed as he swallowed a sip of wine. "It'd be Jas, though; Alec can't have kids."
I looked at him in question. "Really?"
"Alec had cancer a few years ago, and the radiation and chemo did a number on him. He's fine otherwise, though, and that's all he cares about."
My stomach twisted at the knowledge that our vibrant friend had been sick; hell, that he was in remission. I swallowed hard when I remembered that Alec and Edward were the same age; the idea of something that serious happening to the man I loved was untenable.
In the next second, I was startled out of my dark thoughts when the room suddenly dimmed, only to be brightened again by the glow of low flames as the smiling faces around me burst into song.
"Oh, shit," I mouthed at Edward as my mother and Brady brought out a huge sheet cake blazing with candles.
"Happy Birthday, baby," he mouthed back, smiling as my family sang.
"How long has Alec been in remission?" I asked as Edward pulled me closer to snuggle under the blankets in what had been my room as I grew up.
"Almost five years. He's been clean the whole time; no scares or false positives." Edward's breath was warm against the back of my neck.
"It doesn't bother him that he can't have kids?" I thought again of our handsome, quirky friend who seemed to love life so much.
"I think it does sometimes. But you know Alec; he's a here and now kind of guy. When he went into remission, he decided that living was the important thing, even if he had to do it with only one of his balls."
I said nothing for moment, surprised not only by Edward's words but by his casual tone. "Is that what it was? Testicular cancer?"
"Yeah. They found it early, though, before it got into other parts of his body." He yawned. "That's why we like to say that Old Lefty got lucky."
"Lefty?" I frowned, irritation stirring inside me. "What, as in his left ball?"
"And as in that's the one he's got left," Edward replied.
Feeling his cheek pull up in a smile against the nape of my neck made me stiffen with sudden anger. "That's not funny. Why would you laugh about that? Alec's your friend, and you guys are cracking jokes about his cancer? That's so fucked up."
"Whoa, Garrett, slow down."
Edward's arms slid away and I felt him trying to turn me to face him in the bed before he scrambled up and over my body, settling down on my other side. There was apology in his face, and some concern.
"Gar, Alec came up with that nickname; it wasn't us. He's the kind of guy that laughs about stuff like having cancer instead of feeling sorry for himself."
"And you think it's funny?" I pressed, ignoring the hand he laid on my upper arm. "Would you be laughing if I was the one that was sick?
Edward sighed, the expression in his big eyes becoming serious. "I think the nickname is funny, yes; it makes him sound like an old gangster. I think that Alec wanting to laugh at what happened to him is amazing and brave. It works for him. He and Jas don't like to focus on what could have happened if things went wrong.
"You weren't there, Gar," he said, his brows furrowing. "Alec had a hard time, and so did Jas. If you came out on the other side of something the way they did, you might want to laugh about it too, instead of crying."
"How bad did ..." I trailed off before swallowing the question; unsure that Alec's private business was my business if he didn't want to share it with me.
"The treatments were difficult. He was also anemic and prone to fainting, so he needed help to do a lot of things. Alec hated feeling that he'd lost his independence, and Jasper hated feeling helpless." Edward shook his head slowly, pausing for several moments before he continued.
"When we'd get together, Alec wanted us to make him laugh. He said it made him feel lighter ... more hopeful. We've always teased each other anyway; it's just how we are around each other, and it was what he wanted. Sometimes the best thing on a shit day is a good laugh."
Edward licked his lips, his grip on my arm tightening slightly. "If you were the one that were sick," he said gruffly, "I'd do anything to make you feel better, Gar. Anything you needed, I'd want to find a way to make it happen."
"I'm sorry I got mad." I pulled him toward me, needing to chase away the sadness in his face.
"It's okay." His lips moved against mine as I settled on top of him. "We all joke around too much—"
"No, you're right; it's the way you guys are and what you need from each other a lot of the time. Most of the time, I kind of love the way you guys are always on each other." I picked up my head, my throat and chest choked with love as I looked at the man beneath me.
"I love you, Gar," he whispered.
"I love you, too." I clung to him, burying my face in his neck and pushing down thoughts of this man, ill and unable to care for himself without assistance.
As he often did, Edward read my mood, sensing need for comfort and connection over lovemaking. He pulled me against his side, his big hands stroking my back and shoulders, soothing me with each touch. We talked quietly in the darkened room, stopping often for kisses and caresses, until we drifted off to sleep.
Despite having stayed up late talking, Edward and I woke early and made a huge breakfast to surprise my parents, using every egg in the house. Afterward, we capitalized on the dry, mild weather by touring the Japanese Gardens near my parents' neighborhood for most of the morning. Watching Edward's face as we explored the grounds with my parents filled me with pleasure.
"What do you think?" I asked finally, intrigued by his avid expressions.
He turned to look at me, pink-cheeked and bright-eyed underneath his black watch cap, and smiled brilliantly.
"It's beautiful, Gar, even now in the middle of winter! I can't imagine what this is all like when everything is in full bloom." He reached for my hand and chuckled. "It's so warm here, too, Jesus, between the jetlag and the weather; I feel a little drunk."
"We'll come back when it's warmer," I promised, grinning when Edward's brows shot up with interest. "This summer might not work, but maybe we can squeeze some time in before Thanksgiving."
We had lunch downtown before getting lost in Powell's City of Books, an experience I'd wanted to share with Edward since learning he was a writer. As I expected, he was awed by the store, and slightly overwhelmed by its sheer size. I laughed when he pulled me between the stacks in a quieter section, and had to swallow a groan when he pushed me gently against the shelves, his tongue in my mouth.
"This place is fantastic," he murmured when we surfaced for air, running his nose lightly along my jaw. "Thank you for showing me this, Garrett."
"You're welcome," I managed to get out around another heated kiss, my legs slowly turning to jelly. "I had no idea bookstores had this kind of effect on you."
Edward's voice was low and incredibly sexy. "You have this effect on me, you silly man. If only we were alone, I'd bend you in half." I felt him smile when I moaned softly. "I'd be so deep inside you, Garrett. Fuck, so hot and tight."
"Oh, God," I breathed, fisting his Red Sox t-shirt. I wanted so much to let him continue, to let him make me come in my pants and leave me sweating and dizzy. Edward's eyes widened when I pushed him back and away. "C'mon."
"Where are we going?"
"Home," I said flatly, pulling him out of the stacks by one hand. "To bed. Right now."
"What about your parents?" he asked, laughing loudly.
I shook my head and tugged him forward even harder. "They have the car, Ed; I'll text them from a cab."
"Text who from a cab?"
I stopped short to avoid crashing into my dad, only to have Edward plow into my back. He knocked me forward anyway, and my dad held his hands out to steady me as we all laughed breathlessly and apologized over one another.
"What in God's name are you boys doing?" my mom asked, appearing out of nowhere to stare at us all. "I can hear the racket you're making in the next section."
I opened my mouth to make some kind of excuse, anything to get Edward and myself out of the store and back to the house, but the words died on my tongue when my mother smiled.
"Look who I found!" she said, turning to wave at Charlotte and Brady who were approaching.
"Of course my mother found people in the largest bookstore in the world." I sighed when Edward wound his arms around my waist and laid his chin on my shoulder. "Of course she's going to ask them to join us so we can't get out of here; she wouldn't be Claire Carr if she didn't."
"They're all excited to spend time with you," Edward murmured, pressing a quick kiss against my neck.
I tried not to pout. "It'd be nice if they put their excitement on hold for a couple of hours."
"A couple of hours?"
"We need time for a proper fuck," I replied, "and then extra time for blowjobs." I chuckled when Edward hummed.
As I predicted, any chance of time alone with Edward disappeared in the stacks at Powell's. My parents invited Charlotte and Brady to join us for the afternoon and then to stay for dinner. Charlotte called my brother, who enthusiastically agreed to meet us when he was done working. Brady spent his time monopolizing Edward's attention.
The day was chaotic, filled with endless conversations and interruptions as we shopped. I noticed Edward's lids drooping as we were finishing dinner, and though we were used to staying up late back in Boston, we were both exhausted when we fell into bed at ten o'clock.
"Changing time zones sucks," Edward mumbled as I pulled him back into my chest, pressing slow kisses against his shoulders and neck.
"You were restless last night, and we had a long day. I can tell you're about to pass out."
"You looked completely jealous when Charlotte took Brady home after dinner," I countered, making us both laugh.
"There's truth in that," he agreed.
"Just sleep, sweetheart."
He sighed and snuggled against me. "Tomorrow's my last day here, though. I want to make the most of my time."
"I'm not sure you can make much more of it than you already are; my family is practically ready to adopt you," I said, my voice dry. The words were meant to be joking, but my tone was off, and I could tell by the way Edward's body tensed that he noticed it too.
"It's going well, I think? I know you and I haven't had a lot of time to just chill out ..." Edward's careful tone made me bite my lip.
"It's fine. I'm just a little spoiled because I have you all to myself back home." I kissed his shoulder again to reassure him. "Here, I have to share. My parents love you. Pete and Char do, too. And jeeze, Brady really loves you."
"He's a fun kid." Edward's smile was evident in his voice. He turned to face me, his eyes adorably sleepy. "I don't want to talk about your family right now, though."
My breath caught when Edward's hand moved between my legs. "No?"
"No, baby," he murmured. "Right now, I want to talk about making you feel good."
"You're not too tired?"
"Never too tired for this." He ran his thumb over the head of my cock and swallowed my moan with a kiss.
I woke up alone the next morning, Edward's side of the bed already cool to the touch though it was still very early. Lying still for a few minutes, I thought back to the night before, smiling lazily as I remembered the way he'd stroked us both, holding me tightly while his tongue fucked my mouth. It seemed to take no time at all before I lost it with my face buried in his neck, pulsing hot and wet between us with Edward close behind.
Biting back a groan when my cock twitched, I forced myself to get up and dressed, hoping to find my boyfriend and persuade him back into bed for a little while longer. I sighed when I stepped into the hallway, however; the smell of fresh coffee and the sound of voices told me my parents were up; I knew getting Edward alone would be difficult.
Following my nose to the kitchen, I paused at the doorway in surprise; Edward and my dad were alone at the table with their coffee, a familiar pink box from VooDoo Doughnuts open between them as they talked. Edward was already dressed, though his hair was even more chaotic than usual and his Bad Brains t-shirt was wrinkled. His expression was studious as he listened to whatever my father was saying.
The two men glanced my way when I cleared my throat, and I felt myself grin when they smiled.
"Mornin', Gar." Edward got to his feet and went to the coffeemaker. "You want some coffee?"
"Yes, please," I said, crossing the kitchen to stand at his side while he fixed a cup, glancing back over my shoulder at my father. "Hey, Dad."
"Hey. Edward and I thought we'd take a breakfast shortcut," he said, pushing the pink box toward me. "There's jelly, Portland Cream, Arnold Palmer, some Gay Bars, and a Maple Bacon bar."
"Only one Maple Bacon?" I asked, sipping my coffee as Edward and I sat down.
"There were two, but I ate one. You want the other?" Edward extracted the pastry from the box and placed it on a plate for me.
"Edward wants to make dinner for the family tonight," my dad said, handing me a napkin when I licked my fingers. "We should pick up some more red wine today when we go out. And eggs, since the two of you cooked every fucking one."
I held up my hand, waving my doughnut between us. "Breakfast first, Dad. I need food, a shower, and an assload more coffee before we do anything else today."
"Hear, hear," Edward said as he peered into the pink box again. "Hmm ... I think I'll go for the Gay Bar next." He extracted a doughnut covered with white frosting and a row of rainbow-colored cereal bits.
"That figures," my dad said, chuckling when I choked on my coffee.
"Hey, Fruit Loops are my favorite cereal!" Edward laughed as he dodged a balled up napkin flying in his direction.
"Jim, when you said you had breakfast covered, I didn't know you meant an overdose of yeast and sugar," my mother chided as she walked into the kitchen. She smiled when my dad hopped up to make her coffee, but hardly had time to say good morning when the doorbell rang and my brother's voice called from the front of the house.
"And so it begins," I murmured. "Chaos achieved."
Edward winked at me, twining his sugar-sticky fingers with my own.
The dinner was a success, particularly when Edward and my mother also produced a baking dish of bubbling macaroni and cheese for Brady.
"Is everything he cooks this good?" my brother asked me as Charlotte refilled his wine glass.
"Pretty much." I smiled when Edward squeezed my thigh under the table.
Peter leveled a serious look across the table. "Marry him."
Irritation shot through me when he grinned. "Come on, man, don't screw around—"
"What? It's not like you can't do that in Massachusetts, Garrett," he spoke over me.
"I'm well aware of that—"
"You guys are perfect for each other, anyway, so what are you waiting for?" he continued, as if I hadn't spoken. "You and Edward should get married, buy a big house, adopt a dog, maybe some kids, all that awesome shit."
"Pete, you're not supposed to say words like 'shit' around me," Brady piped up, shaking a finger at my brother.
Peter smiled broadly at the little boy. "You're right, buddy, and I'm sorry. I got a little carried away trying to make Garrett see reason."
"Being unmarried is reasonable, Pete," I said, working hard to keep my tone even. "As is not having children. Not everyone is cut out for the perfect American family template, you know."
"Oh, fine." I bit my tongue when Peter rolled his eyes. "You seemed perfectly okay with all of that back in the day, Gar."
"C'mon, love; give him a break," Charlotte chided, shooting an apologetic glance at me.
My brother raised his hands in mock defeat. "You know it's the truth, babe. I'm just saying—"
"Just saying things that don't really need to be said," I interjected, "especially when the only wedding you should be talking about, dear brother, is your own."
"I know you don't mean anything by it, boys, but I think you're making Edward uncomfortable," my mom said quietly, her eyes on the man at my side.
I turned to face Edward and was startled by his crimson cheeks and unhappy expression; he looked miserable.
"You mustn't take them seriously, dear," my mother was telling him. "You're not used to the way the boys go after each other, but trust me when I say they've been like this pretty much since birth."
Grabbing Edward's hand under the table, I felt my stomach fall when he looked down at his plate and laughed uncomfortably. "Oh, it's fine. I'm an only child, so any arguments I had in my house were settled pretty quickly."
"I wish we could say the same." Everyone's eyes shifted to the head of the table where my father was getting to his feet. "Unfortunately, my sons have always had trouble knowing when to shut up. The only way to really tune them out is to give them an occupation."
He aimed a wink at Edward and gestured over his shoulder with one hand. "Let the boys clear the table while I show you my dad's old photos that I told you about this morning. Maybe by the time the dessert and coffee are ready, Garrett and Pete will be ready to talk about something other than themselves."
I silently thanked my father and his ninja tension-breaking skills as the table broke into laughter. Edward gave me a smile as he stood, squeezing my fingers lightly before he moved away, but I could tell that my argument with Peter weighed on him. There was a hunch to his shoulders that I didn't like, and I was puzzled when my father laid a hand on the back of Edward's neck, almost as if in comfort.
"Shit. I feel bad," my brother said, coming to stand beside my chair. "I didn't offend him, did I?"
"I hope not. You and I really are going to have some words if you did, man."
Peter grimaced, running his hands over his hair. "I'm sorry, Gar, really; I didn't mean anything by it—"
"I know," I replied with a sigh. "Don't worry about it, okay? Let's just get the coffee and pie on the table before the old man comes back and finds us still standing here."
Edward seemed himself again when we all sat back down for dessert, smiling and joking with everyone again. He was quieter, but blamed it on jetlag, which then opened the door for my mother to fuss about his leaving early the next morning. It wasn't until much later, after the flurry of goodbyes and promises of phone calls and emails had been exchanged, that we were finally alone.
Together, we packed his bag, laughing when we realized how much room the books he'd bought at Powell's occupied. The idea of staying behind while Edward flew east saddened me, though, and I found myself growing quieter as we prepared for bed.
"I fucked up, you know," Edward said as he slid under the sheets to lie beside me.
His deadpan expression made me smile, despite his words. "What do you mean?"
"We've been so busy; I forgot to give you your birthday present the other night."
"Jeeze, some boyfriend you are."
"I know, right?" He rolled on top of me, resting much of his weight on his elbows and knees so I had room to move.
"So where is this promised present?"
"Well ... I emailed it to you." He grinned when I raised a brow at him. "Really, I did. I wrote a story for you."
I bit my lip and made him laugh. "Ooo, what kind of story? Something dirty?"
"Maybe a little something dirty. And a little sweet, I hope," he replied, his eyes crinkling. "It's a story about this sexy guy from Portland who moves to Boston. He meets this well-meaning but slightly misunderstood bartender. Sparks fly, they have hot sex, et cetera—"
"You wrote about us?" I pulled him close, tempted to squeeze him until neither of us could breathe. "Really?"
"About how we met," he replied, his smile fading slightly as his expression became serious. "Don't tell anyone, but I've always been a sucker for a good romance."
"Hmmm, I didn't know that about you. How does it end?"
Edward buried his face in my shoulder with a sigh, his long arms wrapping around my neck. "Oh, I don't know. The story's still being written."
"What were you and my dad talking about this morning before I got up? You guys looked kind of serious."
We were curled up together, boneless and sated after sex, and though I knew we should be sleeping, I felt wide awake. That feeling increased when I sensed that Edward was hesitating to answer.
"He wanted to know what it's like to be a gay man in Boston. Whether it's a safe place to be out, how easy it is to get married and adopt kids, that kind of thing."
I tensed with surprise and felt my face flood with heat. "Fucking hell, again with the weddings and the kids. What is wrong with everybody?"
"He's trying to figure out where you live, Gar." Edward's voice was soothing. "You're his son and you live on the other side of the country in a city he doesn't know. He just wants to know you're living someplace where you can be yourself."
"He should have asked me, then, instead of sneaking around, shopping for info." I felt dismay when I realized that I felt hurt that my father had gone to Edward, instead of me.
Edward laid his cheek against my shoulder. "He'll talk to you when he's ready, baby. He probably wants to... I don't know, prepare or something, before he approaches you."
"Still fucking embarrassing," I grumbled.
"My parents had a similar conversation with me, when I came out ... and then when I started dating ... when I went to college ... moved into my first apartment," he pulled me close when I chuckled. "It's a good thing he wants to know, Gar, trust me."
My parents' house was quiet after Edward left. That was due in part to the weekend ending, and people getting back into the groove of work or school. A larger part, however, was the empty space he left.
Those few days were like many others I'd spent during my trips home to Portland. I had lunch with my brother and drinks with old friends from high school. I enjoyed spending some downtime with my parents, too, and was relieved when they finally approached me with their questions and concerns about my life in Boston.
What I looked forward to most, however, were my phone conversations with Edward. The time zones were challenging, especially with Edward spending extra hours at the bar training his replacement, but we spoke when we could. In the evenings, when the house was dark and still, I had the words of the story he'd written to fill my head.
I waited until Edward put my bag down on the doorstep before pulling him into a hug. He froze in surprise for a second before relaxing against me.
"Thanks for picking me up at the airport; best surprise I've had in a while."
"You're welcome," he murmured.
I heard him inhale deeply, and smiled when he gave a low hum of appreciation. "Are you smelling me, you weirdo?"
"Maybe a little bit." He laughed, squeezing me once more before stepping back and looking me over with bright eyes. "I told you already that I missed you."
"I missed you, too," I replied my hands sneaking around on his waist while he opened the apartment door. "Who do I have to thank for covering the last part of your shift so you could drag yourself over to Logan?"
"Ah, that would be the new guy, Riley." Edward bent to pick up my bag, and held the door open for me. "He's good, knows what he's doing. Even better, he wants extra hours. Jas offered to go in early when I told him I wanted to meet you at the airport, but then Ri volunteered – that was all she wrote."
"I like him already," I said, breathing a soft sigh of relief to be in my apartment again.
Edward smiled softly. "Glad to be home?"
"Yeah, I really am." My travel fatigue seemed to fall away as we stood grinning at each other in the entryway, replaced with the pleasure of affection.
"Get settled, Gar, and I'll get something going for dinner." He stepped forward and ran a hand through my hair, kissing me sweetly before he turned toward the kitchen. "I picked up some sushi before meeting you."
I was putting away the contents my bag when I realized something was off about the bedroom. Standing still, I let my eyes wander, trying to pinpoint whatever it was that nagged me. My attention was drawn more than once to the bed, and more specifically to the small pile of garments near the foot. The t-shirt on top, as well as the other clothes were mine; I'd set them aside the week before, deciding at the last minute not to pack them. Slowly, I realized that the pile was in the same place because the bed hadn't been slept in; Edward hadn't moved the clothes because he hadn't needed to.
"I slept on the couch the first night." A quiet voice cut through the hush of the room, and I turned to find Edward watching me from the door. "I crashed at my parents' house for a couple of nights after that."
"Why? What happened?"
Edward licked his lips, his eyes moving to the floor and then back to mine again. "It seemed strange to be here without you. I couldn't sleep."
"I don't understand," I said slowly, frowning as I realized he was saying he was uncomfortable in the space I thought we had been sharing.
Edward opened his mouth to answer before seeming to think better of it. "Come on. We can eat while we talk."
We were quiet as we sat at the kitchen island. There was a variety of my favorite kinds of maki with some very good Japanese beer, and Edward had put on an old Sneaker Pimps album that I favored. I knew the food was good, but it seemed tasteless; I was too tense to enjoy it or the music, or the pleasure of being back home.
"Ed, what's going on?" I asked finally, unable to stand the tension any longer. "Why wouldn't you be comfortable here? This is our place; I want you to feel at home in it."
Edward's mouth twisted in a wry little smile. "I do feel at home here, generally. When you're here, anyway." He was quiet for a long moment and looked unhappy as he gently moved his food around on the plate with his chopsticks. "I guess I don't really consider this our place so much as your place still."
I laid my chopsticks on my plate with a clack. "Edward, what are ... have you been feeling this way since you moved in? Not that you've really done that," I muttered, pressing my lips together when Edward's eyes shot up to meet mine.
"What does that mean?"
"It means that you've been sleeping here every night, but everything you own is still back on Jersey Street." I softened my tone when his expression grew troubled. "You're not really in one place or the other, if you think about it. I've been wondering why, actually."
"I've left a lot of my stuff in my apartment for Liam," he said reasonably. "He needs furniture and stuff until he can get his own stuff sorted out."
"Okay, so what about the rest of it? You could at least move your clothes and personal stuff, make it seem like you want to be here." My heart began thudding as I took in Edward's flat expression. "Unless ... you don't want to be here at all."
"I was thinking ... that it might be a good idea if we go back to the way we were before: you in your place, me in mine." Edward's voice was almost too calm, and I knew he'd been considering his words for some time.
"Fuck." I scrubbed at my face with my hands for a moment. "We talked about this, Ed. You're the one that brought up moving in that last time, sweetheart; you told me you were ready."
"Yeah, I know."
"So what the fuck happened since last week to make you change your mind?"
He blew out a long breath before he got to his feet and went to the fridge for two more beers. Popping the tops off both, he handed one to me as he approached the table to sit down again, fiddling with the hem of his Hot Tamales t-shirt.
"While we were in Portland with your family, you got weird any time marriage or kids were mentioned as something you might want for yourself. Did you know that?"
"They're always butting into my personal business, especially my brother," I scoffed. "I pretty much have to shoot Peter down out of hand, just to get some peace."
"Yeah, well, you were shooting me down, too." He watched me calmly as I stared at him in surprise. "Whether you get married and have a family or not, those things speak of having a future, or at least planning for one. The way you were talking last weekend, it didn't sound like that was something you wanted to do, Garrett, at least not with me."
"Shit. I'm sorry." I took his hand in mine, my heart twisting as Edward's face and neck flushed red. "I didn't mean to hurt you, Ed, or to make you feel dismissed. I definitely didn't mean to make you think that I don't want to plan a future. I do, very much, and definitely with you."
"Then what was that all about?" he asked earnestly. "The way you were reacting with your family was ... confusing."
"I'm not sure I understand it myself." I shook my head slowly. "The thing with Bella and Mal kind of threw me for a loop; the idea of you being a father ... the two of us as parents ... it seems so unreal, but I know that it's something that could happen right now.
"That idea is overwhelming. I feel like we need to decide so many things all at once, and I have no idea what the fuck I'm doing."
Edward frowned, cradling my hand in his. "You put too much pressure on yourself, Garrett. No one says we have to get married or have kids, and there's no rush figuring it out; we have all the time in the world to plan what we want to do."
"But what if we don't have all the time?"
"What do you mean?" he asked, his brow furrowing with concern.
"Things change, Edward. Things happen, all the time." I leaned forward, needing to get closer to him, and he curled one of his arms around my waist. "Look at Alec and Jas; I'm sure they thought they had plenty of time to figure stuff out before Alec got sick."
"I'm sure they did think that. Alec did get sick, though, so he and Jas had to change their thinking, even after he got better." Edward sighed and smoothed the hair back from my forehead. "The point is that they worked it out, Gar. We would too if something like that happened."
"I know. I just hate to think that I'm wasting time, you know? For the first time in a long while, I know what I want. The thought of not being able to really grasp it before ..." I trailed off, my words tangling inside me.
"Before what? Before one of us changes our mind about being together?"
"I'm not changing my mind, sweetheart."
"Neither am I." His voice dropped lower as his breath ghosted across my cheek. "I'm not going anywhere, unless we both decide it's not working. And ... well, I don't want to freak you out, but I hope that never happens."
I laughed and pulled him closer for a kiss, sighing when his mouth opened against mine so I could taste spice and salt and Edward.
"I don't want you to go back to your apartment," I murmured when we pulled apart. "I want you here, with me. If you don't like this apartment we can find another one."
He nodded slowly, one warm hand rubbing circles on my back. "Okay," he said simply. "My lease is up in June. I'll work out something with Lee for a sublet and move some of my stuff here. Let's see what you and I can do between now and June."
I swallowed my disappointment, knowing that Edward needed to take things at his own pace, and kissed him again, lightly. "I read the story you wrote for my birthday."
He pulled back, his eyes moving over my face. "Yeah?"
"I think I know how it ends," I said, with a smile.
Edward's answering smile was slow and sweet. "Then you should help me finish it."
Garrett caught a case of foot-in-mouth syndrome - being around family can do that, I suppose. ;)
See you soon, friends, and thank you for reading. Oh, I've never been to Portland, so I hope my imaginings don't offend any residents. And, yes, I had to go there with the doughnuts because I WANT TO EAT THEM ALLLLLL. :D
Voodoo Doughnut is an independent doughnut shop based in Portland, Oregon.
Powell's Books is a chain of bookstores in Portland, Oregon and its surrounding metropolitan area. Powell's headquarters, dubbed Powell's City of Books, claims to be the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world.
The Portland Japanese Garden is a traditional Japanese garden occupying 5.5 acres (22,000 m²), located within Washington Park in the west hills of Portland, Oregon.
Bad Brains is a hardcore punk band formed in Washington, D.C., in 1977.
Edward lives in a neighborhood of Boston called The Fens.
Hot Tamales are a cinnamon candy manufactured by the Just Born in the USA.