Hi *waves* :) I'm behind on review replies (what else is new) but Imma work on them today.

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.


Chapter 8

The Airstream Diner in Providence served four different kinds of pie: chocolate meringue, banana split, peanut butter cup, and pecan. Choosing one was much harder than I expected.

"You look like your brain is going to explode," Edward said with a smile. "Why are you stressing about pie when we haven't even placed our dinner orders yet?"

"Well, I've never been here before." I frowned at the menu in my hand while Edward's step-sister, Tanya, laughed gently. "You're always going on about how good the pie is here, but they all sound delicious; how the hell am I supposed to choose just one?"

It was early April and the spring semester in Boston had just ended. Edward and I had driven Tanya and her luggage home to Rhode Island, stopping for dinner and to wait for Tanya's sister to pick her up. Now, listening to the siblings' playful banter, I felt a familiar sense of relief to be included.

Things between Edward and I were strained for a time following the trip to Portland. It took a while for us to work through the mess I'd made with my thoughtless words and gestures, and Edward struggled with his instinct to retreat out of fear that he'd make things worse. True to his word, though, he had moved most of his things into the North End apartment or into storage, and set up a sublease with Liam for the apartment on Jersey Street. Slowly, Edward's language changed; now when he talked about home, it was 'our' place rather than 'Garrett's'.

My attention snapped back to the present when I heard Tanya say my name.

"You do have to choose something eventually." Her blue eyes sparkled as she flapped the menu in one hand. "But if you're really having that much trouble, I'm sure Ed will split orders with you."

"No, that's okay," I replied quickly as Edward's expression brightened. I knew that one of the only things he liked about these trips was eating pie at the diner; making him share seemed wrong. "I'll pick one ... I just need a minute."

Edward waved a hand at me. "I'll totally share, but I may kill someone if I don't get a sandwich first. I'm ready to eat my own hand."

"Did you skip lunch again?"

Edward gave me a sheepish look when I narrowed my eyes at him, murmuring something about having forgotten to eat before glancing at Tanya hopefully.

"Irina's meeting us for coffee after dinner," she reminded us, "so why don't we order a slice of each kind of pie and share?"

I couldn't hold back my groan when Edward's eyes lit up. "You do realize we have to drive back to Boston tonight, right, Ed? That may be hard to do if neither of us can fit behind the wheel of the car."

"I can't believe you're complaining about this." Edward squeezed my knee under the table. "I'll eat your piece if you're really concerned—"

"The fuck you will," I grumbled, elbowing him playfully before we turned our attention to the server who had come to take our orders.

We caught up with Tanya while we waited for our dinners, chatting about how her semester had gone and her plans for the summer in Providence. I liked Edward's step-sister, and enjoyed myself when the three of us got together. Though they weren't genetically related, Tanya and Edward were surprisingly compatible. They shared many of the same interests, especially music, and a quirky energy that was contagious. They were even similar physically: tall and lean with fair skin and light eyes, and Tanya's strawberry blonde hair seemed to echo Edward's dark auburn.

"Hey, whatever happened with the manuscript you told me about the last time I saw you?" Tanya asked her brother when our dinner plates had been set on the table. "You said that your agent was shopping it around to some publishing houses ...?"

I grinned when Edward's cheeks flushed with pleasure. Tanya's eyes went wide when a smile spread over his face. She laid her palms flat on the table on either side of her plate, leaning forward with excitement.

"You got an offer, didn't you?" she whispered.

"I did," Edward whispered in return. He glanced from Tanya to me, his eyes shining and his smile growing wider. "I got an offer earlier in the week."

"Oh, my God!" Tanya's squeal startled us and most of the diner's other patrons. "Edward! You're going to be a novelist! That's amazing! Why didn't you say something earlier?"

Edward tried to wave Tanya off. "I was going to tell you over dessert. It's not that big a deal, Tee—"

"Hey, come on now," I cut in with a frown. "You've been busting your ass writing every night for months. We're proud of you. You should be proud of you, sweetheart."

"I am!" he insisted, ducking his head modestly. "I'm still getting used to the idea, that's all."

Tanya looked puzzled. "What do you mean?"

Edward shrugged and reached for my hand. "I hoped it would happen, of course, but I was definitely bracing myself for disappointment. I'd already half-convinced myself that it wouldn't happen by the time I got the phone call."

Tanya sighed as she slid out of the booth. Smiling sweetly, she moved to wind her arms around Edward's neck, winking at me when he chuckled. "What are we going to do with him, Garrett?"

"I don't know ... he's kind of cute," I replied, letting go of Edward's hand so he could hug Tanya back. "He's pretty good in the kitchen and has decent manners, too; I say we keep him."

"Quiet, you," Edward muttered. He made a show of straightening the front of his hoodie when Tanya pulled away before he stole a French fry from my plate.

"That's it. You're on your own when it's time for pie," I warned.

Edward gave me a knowing smile. "Yeah, you say that now. You'll change your tune when you get a look at the peanut butter cup food porn on my plate."

ooOOoo

Irina dashed into the diner just after our coffee and dessert order was set on the table.

"Shit, shit, shit," she chanted, "I'm sorry I'm late."

Like Tanya, Irina had large, beautiful blue eyes. Her personality was more reserved than her sister's, and she had a serious nature that seemed unusual in a high school student. Now, however, she appeared almost nervous as she greeted us, and drew concerned looks from both Edward and Tanya.

"You okay, Ree?" Tanya reached to push her sister's blonde hair back from her face.

Irina flapped her hand, thanking Edward when he pushed a cup of coffee toward her. She sipped from the cup and sighed unhappily. "Mom knows I'm here to pick you up, Tee, and that Ed gave you a ride. I'm pretty sure she's on her way over here."

Edward's face was stony when I glanced at him, though the hand he lifted to rub over the back of his neck spoke to his nerves.

"Shit," Tanya muttered, twirling her fork between her fingers. "You couldn't talk her out of it? Why would she do that, anyway?"

"Because she knows it's the last thing we want." Irina reached to put a hand on Edward's forearm. "I'm sorry, sweetie. She wouldn't listen to me when I—"

Edward shook his head immediately. "Don't apologize, Ree. You're not your mom's keeper." He gave her a small smile, covering her hand with his own. "It's okay, really. Gar and I have to get back to Boston soon anyway; it's getting late."

"Ed needs to be safely asleep before midnight or he turns into a disco ball," I deadpanned, biting my tongue to keep from smiling when the girls giggled.

Edward glared at me as he pulled his dessert plate out of my reach. "No peanut butter food porn for you, funny guy."

With a little pleading, though, and a promise to make him breakfast the next morning, Edward forgave my cheek. The four of us settled back, talking and exchanging dessert over coffee. Irina was excited by Edward's news about his book, as well as to share news about the college admissions she had been collecting.

The pie was every bit as good as Edward had promised. The pastry was flaky and tender, and the fillings were rich without being overwhelmingly sweet. While each piece was delicious, I had trouble restraining myself as I sampled from Edward's plate.

"Holy shit." My words were garbled through the peanut butter and chocolate flavors exploding in my mouth, but I couldn't bring myself to care. "Please tell me you know how to make this. And that you'll make it for me sometime if I am very, very nice to you."

"Oh, I've got a recipe," Edward replied, licking chocolate chiffon from his own fork. "I guess it all depends on how hard you're willing to work to get it."

I opened my mouth to tease him back, but kept silent when his posture stiffened. Turning my head, I followed Edward's gaze to the front of the restaurant where a woman stood, scanning the room. She was slender and graceful in appearance, and when she turned her head, my eyebrows shot up.

With one glance, it was obvious to me from whom Edward had inherited his looks. The resemblance between him and the woman I recognized as his mother was remarkable, from the shape of their faces, to the gleam of red in their hair, to their large, beautiful eyes.

The curiosity in Elizabeth's face vanished when spotted us, and her expression grew cool as she made her way over. The girls slid deeper into their side of the booth to make room for another seat, and I frowned when Edward put his fork down beside his plate.

"Hello, Elizabeth," he said when she stood at the end of the table, looking down at us. Edward's voice was polite but cool, and his face was strangely blank as he pulled the zip on his jacket closed, covering the Grady & Garrett logo on his t-shirt.

Elizabeth's eyes moved over us all, missing nothing. Her glance lingered first on my face, then on her son's, before finally turning to the girls'.

"Hello, Edward. And welcome home, Tanya," she said, her brow furrowing as she looked at the plates and cups crowding the table. "It looks like you've been having a party here."

"Actually, we have, Mama," Tanya responded automatically while Irina simply tipped her head in greeting. "Lots of things to celebrate."

Elizabeth nodded before her gaze returned to mine. "You must be one of Tanya's friends," she said as she slid into the booth beside her daughter.

"I'm a friend of Edward's, actually," I clarified, smiling at her politely.

"This is Garrett Carr, Elizabeth," Edward replied. His face was expressionless when I glanced at him. "Garrett, this is Elizabeth Danielson, Tanya and Irina's mother."

A chill ran through me as Edward's words registered: not his mother, but the girls'. My stomach dropped further when Elizabeth didn't correct him, instead extending her hand across the table to me.

"Always nice to meet a friend of Edward's," she said mildly before glancing again at her son. "Of course, it's not very often that I get to do so. Edward's always been a very private person."

The air around the table was charged with tension. It took effort to continue smiling as I realized that Elizabeth seemed to have no idea who I was to her son. I knew that Edward rarely spoke about himself to his mother, and saw her infrequently and only for a few minutes at a time; his last visit to Rhode Island had been nearly six months before. Now, however, it was clear that Tanya and Irina also kept the details of Edward's personal life quiet.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, ma'am." I glanced at Edward, swallowing hard at the distance in his normally expressive face. His emotions were always mercurial when the topic of Elizabeth came up, but it had been a while since I'd seen him shut down completely. "I'm surprised to hear you describe Edward as reserved."

The corner of Elizabeth's mouth quirked up in a smile that was hauntingly familiar. "I suppose that is unfair, Mr. Carr, is it?"

"Garrett, please, ma'am."

"Then you must call me Elizabeth," she replied smoothly. "At any rate, I'm sure you're right; Edward's not nearly as aloof around other people. He reserves that kind of behavior for a select few. Isn't that right, Edward?"

"Could we not do this, please?" Edward's quiet voice was remote, as if he was speaking to a stranger rather than his own mother, and he was stiff and silent beside me.

Elizabeth regarded me with eyes that were bluer than her son's and not nearly as warm. "I don't know what you mean, Edward. Garrett and I are just talking. There's no need to be overly dramatic."

"Come on, Mama," Tanya murmured. "Ed and Garrett are driving back to Boston shortly. Why don't you have a little coffee and dessert with us until then?"

"Please tell me that you girls have not been eating all of this pie," Elizabeth said, gently nudging Tanya's plate with one finger.

"We've been sharing all of this pie, Mama." A smile crossed Irina's face as she surveyed the plates before her. "You know, Edward's been raving about this place for so long, and I have no idea why I don't come in here more often."

Edward met his step-sister's gaze across the table, the expression in his eyes softening.

"You mentioned that there were things to celebrate," Elizabeth said, accepting a forkful of pecan pie from Tanya. She hummed thoughtfully as she chewed. "Is there something going on besides Irina's college admissions and Tanya coming back for the summer?"

A pregnant pause hovered over the table, stretching uncomfortably until Elizabeth's eyes began flicking among her children curiously. It was a solid minute before Edward licked his lips and looked dispassionately at the woman across the table.

"A manuscript of mine has been accepted for publication," he said, his fingers loose around his coffee mug.

Elizabeth was still for a moment before her eyebrows rose in understanding. "You're publishing a book?"

"Yes, ma'am. A novel, actually," Edward replied.

A smile ghosted across his mother's face, almost warming her eyes. "That's wonderful news, Edward. Something to celebrate, indeed."

Edward offered only a small smile as he murmured his thanks. I ran my fingers lightly against his thigh, letting the pads of my fingers brush against his jeans in support and comfort. The tension around the table lessened as he spoke quietly about the pre-publication schedule and seemed to slowly relax. I couldn't help smiling when his warm hand covered mine under the table.

"Are you allowed to share the plot of the novel, Edward?" Elizabeth asked as she cut another small piece of pie with her fork. "Or is that a secret, too?"

Edward's entire demeanor shifted as his mother spoke, and the wariness that returned to his face made my chest ache. "I can share a summary. It's about a young man living and working in an East Coast city. He's figuring out who he is and where he's going, that kind of thing. "

"Sounds like someone we know, maybe?" Irina giggled when Edward's ears turned pink.

"The protagonist may have a few things in common with me, yes," he allowed, wrinkling his nose when I chuckled softly. "But he's definitely fictional."

"He said it was a novel, Irina, not a memoir," Elizabeth said. "I sincerely doubt that Edward wants people reading about the time he fell down the stairs at the house in Jamaica Plain or his prescription for Xanax."

The almost casual cruelty of Elizabeth's words was still sinking in when Edward squeezed my hand so hard that my knuckles crunched. I managed not to flinch, but my stomach sank when I looked at him and saw the color draining from his face.

"Edward," I murmured.

Anger surged through me when he met my gaze and pain flashed in his eyes. Elizabeth and Irina were blithely discussing books, while only Tanya seemed aware of Edward's turmoil. She looked both sad and helpless as she watched us, and her continued silence pushed me to act.

"We should be getting back," I said, smiling politely when Elizabeth glanced at us in surprise. "It's getting late, and Edward and I have to work tomorrow morning."

Elizabeth's brow wrinkled in confusion. "Since when do you work in the morning Edward? Did you get a new job?"

"I made a switch at Masen's; I work days now." Edward slid out of the booth after me, seeming calmer with a clear exit strategy in place.

"Oh, that's a pity; I was hoping you'd found something more worthwhile than working in that bar." Elizabeth's lips pursed delicately in distaste as she followed us toward the front of the restaurant. "Maybe now that you're having some success with your writing, you'll find someone who will stick with you—"

"I need to get my bags out of the trunk," Tanya cut in, grinning sweetly when her mother looked disapproving.

"Garrett has the car keys," Edward replied, holding up the bill as he turned to me. "I'll just pay the check ...?"

"And we'll meet you outside," I finished when he trailed off. Warmth spread through me when Edward smiled, and he looked almost like himself for the first time since his mother had walked into the diner.

ooOOoo

Edward said little during the ride back to Boston. I watched him from the corner of my eye as I drove, wanting to desperately to ask him about what had happened back in the diner. I couldn't wrap my head around the chill between Elizabeth and him, and the almost clinical way they treated each other. The tired slump of his shoulders and the nervous way he ran his hands through his hair stopped me, though; the last thing I wanted was to compound his stress.

It wasn't until we were back in the apartment that I felt Edward's eyes on me. I turned to find him standing still in the entryway, and my chest ached at the hesitation in his face.

I stepped forward to stand by his side, taking one of his hands when his ears and cheeks flushed red.

"I'm sorry about tonight," he said quietly. "I'd have suggested we leave if I'd known she was coming."

Leaning forward, I pressed a soft kiss to his cheek, noticing then that he seemed shaky with nerves. "Sweetheart, don't apologize for her."

Edward raised his arms to draw me against him, and we held each other tightly for a long moment. He seemed calmer when I pulled back to look at him, though his eyes were tired and sad, as they always were when he spent time around Elizabeth. Leaning forward, I pressed my forehead to his, smiling when he rocked us slowly back and forth in a gentle dance.

"Want to talk about it?" I wasn't surprised when he shook his head no, but I felt some disappointment; I'd hoped he'd open up without my having to pry too hard.

"I'm so fucking tired, Gar; I just want to go to bed," he said, before his brow puckered. "Are you okay with that?"

"Of course I am. If you change your mind, you know where I'll be; trying not to fall off the edge of the bed while you hog the whole goddamned thing."

Edward chuckled tiredly as we walked toward the bedroom. The fatigue showed in his face as we got ready for bed, and by the time I turned out the lights, he had buried himself under the blankets like an overgrown puppy. He wrapped himself around me when I climbed into the bed, murmuring sweetly before he fell asleep with his cheek pressed against my shoulder.

I laid awake a while longer, troubled by the complicated relationship Edward had with his birth mother. More than once, Edward had confessed to me that he wanted to cut ties with Elizabeth for good, but his relationships with Tanya and Irina always held him back. I knew, too, that he didn't want to disappoint his father and Esme, who continued to encourage him to rebuild the relationship. What I had seen earlier that evening, however, made me sympathize with Edward's desire to end things.

ooOOoo

I woke with a jolt, blinking into the darkened room for a moment before the mattress jerked underneath me and I heard a low grunt. Immediately, I reached out, my hands meeting an empty space where Edward should have been. I could hear him, though, his breaths a little too rapid for someone who had just been sleeping.

"Ed?" I murmured, and moved my hands down the bed until I found him, sitting up with the blankets pooled around his waist. "You okay?"

He didn't answer at first and I frowned when I realized his skin was slick with sweat. When he did speak, his voice was hoarse. "I'm okay."

I sat up, scooting closer to him on the bed and reaching out to stroke his hair. My stomach knotted with worry when I realized that his hair was damp with perspiration.

"Jesus, Ed. Are you sick? Hang on; let me get the light." I twisted to reach for the nightstand and jumped with surprise when Edward stopped me with a hand firm on my wrist.

"No, its okay," he said, "I had a weird dream, that's all. I'm sorry I woke you up."

"Don't worry about it." I rolled away, leaning over to grope among the clothes we'd left on the foot of the bed until I found a t-shirt. Sitting back, I fumbled, pressing the shirt into Edward's hands though I could hardly see him.

"Thank you," he said softly.

I felt Edward moving beside me, drying his skin with the shirt while I tried to decide whether to push him to tell me about his dream. He surprised me by speaking first and even more so with what he had to say.

"I was never prescribed Xanax."

I blinked, thrown by his words. "Okay. So when Elizabeth said—"

"She was exaggerating," he said, his voice bitter. "I had some anxiety issues when I was a kid ... they made it hard to sleep and I was always afraid I'd have a meltdown in public. My doctor prescribed the Xanax so that I'd have something in case I had a real panic attack. I never had to take them, though."

I reached out to slide my arm around him, my throat aching when I felt the muscles under his skin coiled with tension. "It wouldn't bother me if you had taken Xanax then, Edward. It wouldn't bother me if you were taking them now." I rubbed warming circles into his skin until he began to relax.

"I know. I wanted you to know the truth, though."

I shifted closer to Edward when he paused, pressing my chin to his shoulder when he leaned into me. "There's more?"

Edward sighed, and I felt him nod against my head. "The anxiety started when I was eleven. After I fell down the stairs at Elizabeth's house in JP."

Turning, I dropped my arm from Edward's shoulders to his waist, and felt around in the dark until I found his right hand, drawing him close as he spoke.

"I ... I had a concussion, so there are big holes in my memory of that day. Tanya and Irina have told me a few things, but it's still foggy in a lot of places.

"There was a big staircase at the front of their house, and Elizabeth's husband was always scolding us for running up and down the steps, or leaving their things underfoot. Elizabeth and Tanya were out shopping, but Irina and I stayed home. We were playing upstairs ... some game, I'm not sure. We were called for lunch ... and the next thing that makes any kind of sense is a memory of sitting on the front porch. My head hurt and I was all banged up."

"You don't know what happened?" I asked.

"Not really. Irina says that I tripped over something on the stairs and went down. She thought I was joking until I had a hard time getting up. She went to find her dad and ... I remember seeing Elizabeth's car pull into the driveway."

For a long moment, I tried to puzzle out Edward's words, reminding myself that his own memories were incomplete. "I'm sorry; I don't understand," I apologized finally, pausing to drop a kiss on his shoulder.

"Harry called Elizabeth to take me to the ER. He put me on the porch until she could come and get me."

I tried to control the soft gasp that left my lips, but knew Edward heard me when he flinched slightly. "He made you wait outside of the house? While you were injured? What the fuck is that?"

"I told you; the guy's never liked me," Edward said, striving to keep his voice light. "I'm just lucky he called Elizabeth at all."

"No, Edward," I said, my voice low and furious. "Don't you dare joke about that. The very least he could have done was keep you company while you waited. You were just a kid!"

"I know, I know. He's just—"

"Just an asshole." I waited, my heart pounding when Edward held very still. I realized after a few seconds that he was holding his breath and wished desperately that I could see his face. All my anger drained away. I squeezed his hand, running my thumb over his knuckles, hoping to soothe him. "He's an asshole, Edward," I said quietly. "Don't ever let anyone tell you differently."

"Yeah," he murmured finally, his voice sad. He leaned against me, tucking his head under my chin while I rubbed his back. "I know."

Carefully, I eased myself back, drawing Edward with me until we were lying together. "What happened after Elizabeth came to get you? She took you to the hospital?"

"Yes. After they admitted me, she must have taken Tanya home. I ... I guess I asked the nurse to call Carlisle and Esme." He paused, and shifted to wind his legs around mine. "The idea of staying in JP made me nervous, you know?"

I nodded, pressing my lips against Edward's hair as he continued speaking. "Esme came to stay with me while Carlisle talked to Elizabeth. I was discharged the next day. Elizabeth and her family moved to Providence six months later and that was that. I never stayed with them again."

We were quiet for a time, curled together under the blankets while Edward's words hung in the air. My stomach churned and my eyes burned as an awful, helpless feeling rolled through me. I forced myself to stay silent, though I wanted to insist that he sever ties with Elizabeth, and even Tanya and Irina. I knew nothing good could come from those words.

"I hate that you're hurting, love," I said at last.

"I'm okay, Gar," Edward replied, sounding much quieter. "It's getting really late. You're going to be a mess at work tomorrow unless you get some sleep."

"A little sleep deprivation isn't going to kill me," I began then laughed when Edward picked up his head to cover my lips with a gentle kiss.

He pulled back far enough to speak. "It's almost three in the morning, Garrett. Be a good boy; shut up and go to sleep."

The warmth I felt in that moment dimmed considerably when I woke up alone in bed a few hours later.

ooOOoo

Though he said nothing, it was obvious to me that Edward had a difficult time over the next few days. He was distracted and out of sorts. He slept poorly, and his dreams woke him every night. Wary of waking me too, he stayed up late writing, stealing a few hours of sleep on the couch only after his body finally crashed.

Edward's struggle affected me, too. I had the bed to myself, but his absence woke me often. I fretted when he drooped with fatigue, and over his bleary eyes and listlessness. It was as if the light in him had grown dim, and I hurt for him as he tried to hide the sadness he was feeling.

A few days after the Providence trip, I let myself into the apartment, calling out for Edward as I carefully laid the packing box and bags I'd been carrying by the door. I found him folding laundry in the bedroom and swallowed hard when his smile didn't meet his eyes.

"Hey, handsome. Got a minute?" I asked, trying to keep my voice light.

Edward shrugged as he continued folding, his long fingers moving without thought. "Sure. What's up?"

"I may have done something ... foolish," I began, walking toward the bed and stopping at his side.

"What happened?" Edward's smile became concern. "Is everything okay?"

"Yes." I took his hand in mine and smiled sheepishly. "At least I think so. I just hope you agree."

Edward's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "What am I agreeing to? What did you do?"

"I might have adopted ... a dog," I said haltingly, my nerves increasing, as Edward's eyes grew larger with each word.

"Um ... did you say a dog?"

"A Corgi, actually. His name is Linus. My co-worker couldn't keep him and I thought that maybe ... we could take him in. Or find him a home if you don't like him."

Edward gaped at me for a long moment before he dropped the shirt he had been folding onto the bed.

"Where is it? Or ... he, rather?"

Before I could reply, a bark echoed through the apartment, making Edward's eyes widen even more.

"Shit, you weren't kidding!" he said, and the smile that slowly dawned on his face made me laugh.

I grabbed his hand, dragging him toward the door excitedly. "Come on, you have to check this out."

Ten minutes later, Edward was sitting on the floor in our kitchen with the black and tan dog at his side. Edward and Linus took to one another instantly, and I found myself grinning when they looked up at me together.

"So that's how it's gonna be, huh, dog?" I asked, squatting down on Edward's other side. "Two against one isn't very fair."

Edward smiled and tugged me down onto the floor beside him. "No fighting, you two," he said. He leaned to run his nose against my cheek, making my stomach warm.

"Fine," I grumbled playfully. The dog clambered onto Edward's lap, head-butting my hand in a bid to be petted, gazing at me with big, brown eyes that were impossible to ignore. "I'll be good if Linus does the same."

Edward chuckled softly as I scratched behind Linus's ears, and his voice was a quiet rumble when he spoke. "Thanks for this, baby."

"It's nice to see you smile." I leaned back to look at him, searching his face for any signs of unease. "You're really okay with this?"

"I'm okay."

"It's all right if you change your mind, you know. Dogs are a lot of work, and they need tons of attention. And walks."

"We'll hire a dog walker." Edward smiled, one hand threading through Linus's fur while the other cupped my cheek. "We'll work it out. I'm good."

ooOOoo

By the end of the week, both Edward and I were overtired and looking forward to a day off. Edward was still having trouble sleeping, but I felt a little better knowing that Linus was keeping him company during his late nights. The dog curled up near Edward's feet while he wrote, and I couldn't help smiling when I found them crashed out together on the couch in the mornings.

On Friday night, I went to Masen's after the shift change. Liam and Seth were already there, chatting with Edward, Jasper, and Matheus over beers. Malice and Bree greeted me warmly, but Bella was more distant, flashing a quick smile and wave before she settled on the other side of the room.

Seth leaned close, catching Edward's eye and nodding toward the far end of the bar. "Is she still pissed at you?"

"She's not pissed," Jasper said with a shrug. "She's disappointed. It's not every day that she asks a guy to be her baby daddy."

Edward's nose wrinkled in distaste. "Gross. I hate that expression."

"I don't understand why she's still angry now, though." I rubbed Edward's knee with my hand. Bella's reluctance to patch up their friendship bothered him far more than he let on to anyone other than me. "You told them no nearly three months ago."

"Besides, they've got me," Jasper said, jerking a thumb at himself. "That means that they won't have to deal with another red-headed geek like Ed. They should be celebrating!"

"You are an almighty asshole." Edward raised his pint glass and toasted Jasper and then us all. "I love you, man."

Liam raised his eyebrows at Jasper. "How many beers has he had?"

"Three, I think," Jasper replied before Edward held out his glass for a refill.

"Oh, Jesus," Liam said, rolling his eyes when Edward smirked at him. "We'll never make it to the theater at this rate; he'll sleep through the whole film! What the fuck is wrong with you, Edward?"

"I have an empty glass, that's what the fuck is wrong with me—"

"Okay, easy does it, Captain Shitfaced," I said, biting my lip when everyone laughed and Edward pouted. "Why don't we skip the theater and just go back to our place for some pizza and a movie?"

"Can we order some porn?" Liam asked, unperturbed when Seth choked on his beer. "Or better yet make some?"

"It's always about nudity with you," Jasper said, handing Seth a napkin to wipe the beer from his face.

Liam assumed a look of disgust that made me snort with laughter. "Of course it's always about nudity. Come on, Jasper! If I have to miss dinner and a movie out, I should be recompensed with as much nakedness as possible."

"You're such a slut," Seth told Liam fondly, tossing the sodden napkin onto the bar before turning his attention back to Edward. "Since when don't you want kids, Ed? You've always struck me as a nuclear-family kind of guy."

Edward shook his head emphatically. "I never said I didn't want to have kids. I said didn't want to have them with Bella and Mal. And why the hell would they want my fucked up genes anyway? Jas is the better choice, we all know it."

"You don't really believe that, do you?" I asked with a frown.

"Ehh. Depends on the day," Edward replied lightly, though his smile was touched by melancholy.

"Jesus, Edward, don't be such a drama queen." Liam arched an eyebrow when Edward looked aggrieved. "You know perfectly well that Seth is way more fucked up. He teaches Philosophy to Classics majors, for fuck's sake."

Even Edward smiled when Seth rolled his eyes and threw a handful of cocktail pretzels at their friend.

ooOOoo

I was surprised when Edward switched his drinks to water after we got home. We spent the evening with Liam and Seth, gorging on pizza and watching The Avengers while we played with Linus.

By the time Liam and Seth left in a cab and I had walked the dog, Edward was sober and looked completely wiped out. My heart jumped when he followed me to the bedroom instead of pulling out his tablet to write.

"You sleeping in here tonight?" I asked as I stood by my side of the bed. The wistful note in my voice made me cringe, but I couldn't seem to stop myself; I'd missed Edward's body against mine too much to play coy.

He came to stand beside me, his hands rising to cup my face. His voice was hoarse when he spoke. "Yes, please."

"Good." I slid my arms around Edward's waist, leaning forward to kiss him softly. His mouth opened against mine and heat rushed through me when his tongue slid between my lips.

"Ed," I said on the tail end of a gasp when he pulled back. It felt like it had been so long since I had really touched him or been touched, and the one kiss made me shaky with desire.

"I missed you," Edward murmured, pressing kisses against my jaw.

"I missed you, too." I tightened my hold around him, feeling giddy as his hands moved over me.

Edward pressed his face to my neck, his breaths warming my skin. "Baby. You smell so good."

The sound of his voice made my cock hard. I closed my eyes, sliding my hands up under his Dumpling Man t-shirt and dipping my head to kiss him when he shivered. There was a mad scramble of arms and legs as we struggled out of our clothes, and I groaned eagerly when Edward fell backwards onto the bed, pulling me down on top of him.

Edward's eyes were glazed and his cheeks flushed red when I broke away to look at him. I slid my hand down his body, letting my fingers drag over the warm skin of his chest and stomach before I reached for his cock. His head pressed back into the pillow when my fingers curled around him, and he locked his arms around me. I froze when his eyes grew bright, and my heart squeezed at the raw expression on his face.

"I'm sorry about this week," he whispered, tension rolling through his body. "I just get so fucking caught up in my head ..."

I kissed him gently when he trailed off. "It's okay."

"It's not okay."

"Baby." Edward's face twisted at the endearment, his hold on me tightening almost to the point of pain. "It's okay. I'm here."

He nodded and let out a long, shaky breath as I started stroking him again, keeping my movements slow and almost teasing. The tension in his face and body slowly drained away as his cock hardened, and he let out a low groan when I moved my fingers to his balls.

"Grab the stuff?" Edward asked breathlessly before pulling me in for a searing kiss. His words and lips scrambled my brain and I ground against his hip thoughtlessly, making him moan into my mouth.

Long moments later, I pulled away with a gasp, pushing myself up to reach for the nightstand drawer. Edward's hands and lips were everywhere, teasing me as I moved and making me grunt and laugh. He lay back when I turned to him with the condom and lube, his expression filled with affection and desire, and I shuddered when his fingers encircled my dick.

"Jesus Christ.". I rolled my eyes when Edward chuckled, thrusting the supplies at him impatiently. "Quit trying to kill me already."

I was puzzled when Edward's eyes flicked to my hand and he licked his lips nervously. Slowly, he took them from me, popping the cap on the lube. His ears and cheeks reddened as he tore open the condom wrapper, and I frowned when I realized he was averting his eyes.

"Edward." The words on my tongue died when he reached for me. Stunned mute, I watched him spread lube over my cock, my gut cramping with longing as he worked on the condom.

My heart was thundering almost painfully when Edward finally looked at me. Neither of us had ever been shy about sex. We enjoyed trying new things and took pleasure in learning each other's desires. Switching was one place we'd never gone, though; we'd never wanted to. We were happy with the way things worked between us, and had never felt any need for a change. Until now.

I held my breath at the emotions flashing in Edward's eyes: desire, love, even trepidation. His hands were steady when he handed me the lube, though, and the smile he gave me was certain. Still, I needed to hear him say it.

"You're sure?"

He nodded, the fear in his eyes fading. "I'm sure. I need you, Garrett."

"You have me," I assured him, gathering him in my arms to kiss him.

We were both breathing hard when I pulled back again, and Edward's hand crept up to smooth the hair away from my forehead as I slicked my hands. I ran teasing fingers along the cleft of his ass, and his knees fell open wider when I slid a finger inside him. My cock twitched when his eyes fluttered shut and he gave a low groan.

"Oh, fuck."

I worked my finger inside him, moving slowly and steadily while stroking his dick with the other hand. He was moaning steadily when I added another finger, and I leaned to kiss him when he hissed at the stretch. Edward's hands rose to rest on either side of my neck, keeping me close. He gasped when I curled my fingers inside him, and there was fire in his eyes when two became three.

"Love you," he murmured when I shifted so that I could crawl over him.

I bent to kiss him, warmth filling my chest when he wound his arms around my neck. Nudging his right hip, I helped roll his knee to the left while we whispered to each other, our lips brushing. I took myself in hand, pushing forward slowly, grunting at the sensation of tight heat wrapping around me. Edward froze for a moment and then let out a long breath, his body relaxing against mine as we spooned.

"Jesus," he muttered. A flush spread across his chest and he rolled to the left and onto his stomach, tucking his arms under the pillow, burying his face as I settled over him.

Bending forward, I wrapped an arm around his shoulders and the other around his waist, pressing our bodies together. I rocked forward, sinking deeper inside him with a groan. Desire rattled down my spine, making my cock ache when Edward called my name, his voice trembling. His right arm moved, coming out from under the pillow, and his fingers stretched wide, seeking mine. Reaching forward, I wound our fingers together tightly and bore down, pressing Edward into the mattress as we rocked together. Edward's other hand snaked down his body, and he moaned when he took himself in hand and bucked back against my thrusts.

"Oh, God," he croaked, his body shuddering. "Garrett."

"I know, baby," I told him.

I murmured in his ear, telling him how much I loved him, how good he felt around me, all the while pushing back the orgasm coiling in my belly while a familiar ache spread in my balls. We moved faster and harder, grunting with each thrust while Edward held my hand and pumped himself.

His body went rigid when he came, and he let out a choked cry. His ass pulsed around me, pulling my orgasm out of my bones as the room whirled around me and I crashed.

It was a while before either of us moved. We lay wrapped together instead, ignoring the sticky sheets, while we caught our breaths, and Edward hummed at the kisses I pressed against his shoulders and neck. He grumbled playfully when I finally pulled away, holding my hand until the very last moment, and rolled onto his back while I went to the bathroom for some towels.

I cleaned the come and lube from his skin, watching him carefully, and smiled when I realized that his face was free of shadows for the first time in almost a week. "How do you feel?"

"Better. Thanks, Gar," he said quietly, and I knew he meant for more than bringing a towel to cover the wet spot on the bed.

"Anytime," I said, blushing when Edward laughed softly before I turned toward the bathroom. "You can take that however you want."

"You know I will."

I tossed the washcloth into the laundry bag and glanced at the dog bed in the corner, scratching my head when I found it empty. A moment later I recognized a little shape curled at the foot of the bed, and laughed, unsurprised that Linus had found a way to be near his favorite human.

"We have company," I said as I slid under the sheets. "He was probably watching us."

The corner of Edward's mouth quirked up sleepily and he burrowed closer against me when I reached to turn off the bedside lamp. "Figures. Leave it to you to adopt a dog as perverted as you are."


A/N

My babies. I'm glad Edward got himself through that with a little help from his friends. Including a furry one! We're coming to the end of this little story; I'm thinking there will be two more chapters.

As you're probably aware, Boston and its people have been through a lot in this last week. To say I'm relieved things should go back to "normal" now is an understatement! Remember to be good to each other friends, and let the people in your lives know that you love them.

I wrote a sweet love story, The Beach House, for the Happily Ever After Twific Contest. Link and info on my profile.

Discordia and I teamed up for an entry in the LDA contest ... hehe. Info on my profile.

Notes: I made up the Airstream Diner in Providence, RI. The pie sure sounds good.

Grady & Garrett is a reference to the Cut & Run book series by Abigail Roux. They are life ruiners. I love them.

Jamaica Plain, or JP, is a neighborhood in southwest Boston.

Dumpling Man is a restaurant in New York City that serves northern Asian style dumplings. They're ridiculously delicious.