AN at the end.
"You know, I'm fairly sure that doesn't count as helping."
Garrett is trying on one of the t-shirts I've put in the pile to donate to charity. He's slightly more well-built than I am, and the shirt pulls across his chest, clinging to his muscles. He looks good.
"Hey," he argues. "If I take this off your hands, it's helping."
"It was going to charity, anyway."
"I didn't mean helping you; I meant helping the female population in general. If I'm wearing a shirt like this, it's bound to lift their spirits." He glances at himself in the mirror, a smug grin on his face. "I'm hot; I'm surprised you can resist me."
"I don't know how I'm managing to stop myself from throwing you down onto that bed and fucking you into next week," I respond dryly.
"It's because you know you'd never be able to go back to Edward after that. Once you've had me, nothing else can compare."
"Sure." I roll my eyes; his confidence knows no bounds. "On that note, what's going on with Kate?"
"Fuck off, C."
"You said it yourself, Gar: you're so damn irresistible."
He shrugs arrogantly. "She didn't know what she had. She'll soon see what she's missing, and come crawling back."
He'd taken their break up a few weeks back pretty badly, but he was finally at a stage where he was happy to take some shit about it. Apparently, even calmed-down Garrett wasn't sedate enough for Kate, and she decided they needed a break. Garrett still doesn't want to settle down though; I think that might end up being a deal-breaker. He doesn't seem too upset anymore, and he's clearly on the prowl for more women, so I'm not too worried about him.
"Can I keep this, then?" He plucks at the t-shirt, obviously reluctant to take it off.
"Yeah, if you want. As long as it's out of here, I don't really care where it goes."
"No worries. Now will you help me sort all this stuff out?" I plead. The frustration of this task is starting to wear on me, added to the fact that Edward will be moving over soon. I'm a bit of a mess, and much as I love my best friend, he's being no fucking help at all.
"Carlisle, you have absolutely no extra shit in your flat anywhere. I don't even know how you're finding stuff to give away."
"I know," I groan. "That's why I need help."
Edward decided that he didn't want to move into somewhere he hasn't seen yet, so he's moving in with me until we find somewhere bigger that we both like. I can't complain about having him here all the time, but this place wasn't really designed for two people to live comfortably. Especially when one of them is me and the other is moving from a place four times the size of mine.
I've spent every spare moment I've had in the last few weeks trying to create some space for Edward's belongings. I even bribed the kids to help out when I was sorting out the guest bedroom. There still isn't much room, though. I'm lucky that Edward can keep a lot of stuff in Chicago. He's roped Alice and Jasper into storing some of the things he will need when we have enough room for them, so they can ship them out for him.
I sigh, glancing over the piles of clothes I've made. I might have managed to cull a boxful of clothes from my wardrobe, but there's still a lot left. I'm just going to have to hope that Edward isn't bringing too much over with him to begin with. Given that there are a couple of boxes of his stuff arriving early next week though, I'm not too hopeful.
"Come on," Garrett grins. "Let's go to drop this stuff off and then get a beer. I'm fed up with you being all stressed out. He's not even going to be here until next weekend."
"Maybe the reason I'm stressed out is that he's not here and I have to put up with you," I laugh, grabbing the box of clothes for donation and following Garrett out of the room.
He stops suddenly and spins to face me, clutching his chest dramatically. "You mean you don't love me? I come here to help you out and you throw it back in my face." I raise my eyebrow at him, and he collapses into laughter. "Beer's on you, C. I help out and all I get is shit."
We traipse out of my flat together, and an hour later Garrett is enjoying the attention that my t-shirt is giving him, nodding smugly at the women who eye him as they walk past. It's a lovely evening, so we're sitting in the beer garden of a nearby pub, and enjoying the feel of the sun on our skin.
"Are you excited for Edward moving in, then?"
I sip my beer and nod at Garrett. "Yeah, I am. I'm nervous, too, though."
"Worried he won't be able to put your DVDs in the right order?" he teases.
"I'm fairly sure he knows his alphabet, Garrett." My best friend merely grins impishly at me. "I think he might have a hard time living with me, though – I'm pretty terrible when I get going."
"No shit," he deadpans.
I ignore him – a useful tactic to employ. "As long as Edward likes his job, I think we'll be okay. It'll take us a while to get into a routine, and I can't see it happening until we find somewhere else to live."
"You should move closer to me," Garrett suggests, his eyes fixed on something over my shoulder – probably someone with a low cut top on. "I bet I'll hardly get to see you now – you'll be too busy blowing Edward's... mind," he laughs. "So at least if you're closer we can catch up more easily."
There's probably more honesty behind his words than he'd care to admit.
"I'm glad you acknowledge my sexual prowess," I grin. "Moving nearer you is a distinct possibility, actually. I'd assume he'd want to be closer to the city centre."
"Either that or you'll move fucking miles away," he grumbles. "Losing my best friend to a rich, older man. Do you think I could use that as a chat-up line? Women like to offer comfort."
"He's only five years older than us, you drama queen. Anyway, I'll build you a granny-flat if that happens, don't worry," I offer. "I'm not very well up on chatting women up, though, so you're on your own with that one."
Garrett nods, satisfied, his eyes still fixed over my shoulder.
"Hey, do you think I've got a chance with her?" I start to turn around to see who he's talking about, and he grabs my arm. "Don't just stare, you dick – you're a shit wingman. Be smooth about it."
I put my sunglasses on and take a sip of beer, trying to make it look like I'm just enjoying the surroundings as I glance around. My eyes land on the woman I'm sure Garrett is talking about; she's just his type, and I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up going home with her, judging by the way she's looking at him.
I turn back to see Garrett frowning at me.
"What?" I ask, bemused by his attitude. "She's nice, you should go for it."
He rolls his eyes. "Jesus, C, you're fucking blind, you know that? Turn around again."
I do as he tells me, not even bothering to be smooth about it this time, and let my eyes drift past his intended conquest. They reach the doors of the pub, and I turn back to Garrett, removing my sunglasses, my eyes wide at what I think I've seen.
"There's a guy at the bar who looks an awful lot like Edward." My best friend grins at me, and I narrow my eyes at him. "Is it Edward?"
"You'll find out in about ten seconds," he laughs.
A hand lands on my shoulder, and I look up to see Edward behind me.
"Hi," he smiles.
"You're here," I say, completely unnecessarily, as he sits down next to me on the bench.
"Yeah, I had an extra week of leave to take, so we decided I might as well take it now, spend some time getting acclimatised." He rests his drink on the table, and squeezes my leg with his hand, his joy barely suppressed.
"Where's all your stuff?"
"I dropped it off at your place; Garrett sent me his spare key –"
"I want that back, by the way," my best friend butts in.
Edward nods, fishing in his pocket for the key to hand over. Garrett takes it from him, draining the rest of his pint before standing up.
"I'm going to leave you two lovebirds to it. C, call me when you come up for air," he grins, and then turns to Edward, offering him his hand. "Welcome home, man."
"Thanks, Garrett," Edward smiles back, shaking Garrett's hand, and my best friend troops off, handing his phone number to the woman he was eyeing up as he goes.
I press a gentle kiss to Edward's lips. "I love you. We're somewhere way too public for what I actually want to do to you right now, by the way."
"Really?" he murmurs, his hand tightening in my hair at the implication. "And what's that?"
"Beat the crap out of you for showing up without any warning," I laugh.
He moves back slightly, trying to judge how much truth is behind my words. "Garrett said you wouldn't mind."
"I don't mind, I'm just teasing you. I'm not sure the flat is ready yet, though."
Edward raises his eyebrow, clearly sceptical.
"Well, I mean, it's clean and tidy. There's just not much room in it yet," I groan.
"Is there room on the bed?" he asks, his hand still playing in my hair.
I nod, everything is back where it belongs now, and the bed is free of the piles of clothes that had covered it.
"Well, right now, that's all I care about," he admits. "If you can feed me, and give me somewhere to sleep and get you naked, I'm good."
"In that order?" I ask. My hand is trailing along his thigh, still fairly innocently, but there is definitely an undercurrent to our words.
"Maybe. Food first, no matter what; you can probably persuade me on the order of the other two."
I try to keep my voice neutral, despite how much Edward's words are tempting me. He's probably exhausted. "Okay, drink up; we can get some food on the way back. Or we can eat here, if you want?"
"I'd rather eat somewhere a bit more private. I'm not sure how long I can last without ripping your clothes off, and I'm not sure that people here would appreciate that as much as I will." He pulls playfully at my t-shirt, and I grin as I drink the rest of my beer.
Edward finally stops teasing me long enough to finish his drink, and I take the opportunity to admire just how good he looks right now. He's clearly jet-lagged, but the good mood radiates from him, and I can appreciate exactly why he wants to be somewhere private right now.
We pick up a pizza on the way home, and some token salad, too. Edward doesn't let go of my hand once, which makes carrying the food awkward, but I can deal with it.
"Garrett stole my line," I say apologetically as I open the door to my flat. "Welcome home."
Edward kisses me gently before following me past his bags which are by the door. I press my lips together to stop myself from saying anything about them – I can't bitch at him for it, it's not like he had another choice.
As always, he knows what I'm thinking, though. "Do you want me to put them somewhere else?"
I smile sheepishly. "You can start unpacking, if you want?"
He shrugs. "I brought everything I'd need urgently in my backpack. Everything else can wait."
It was a sensible plan, even if it makes me cringe. "You can leave them in the spare bedroom. There's not too much extra space in my room."
"And it means you don't have to see unpacked bags," he guesses, with a chuckle.
"Maybe," I admit. "Go on, and I'll sort the food out."
He nods and trails off to do whatever he decided on. I unpack the pizza, pulling out a couple of plates and some napkins, and find some beer in the fridge for us. I don't have much in right now and I hope Edward won't mind being dragged out to do some food shopping tomorrow.
We sit down in front of the TV, Edward's arm flung over my shoulders while we eat. He makes it through about half of the film we're watching before his yawns become too much.
He tugs at the shoulder of my t-shirt. "I need to go to bed. I reckon I have about half an hour before I crash out completely. What do you think we can get done in that time?"
I smile at him and stand up, pulling him by his hands into my bedroom. I can clear up when he's asleep.
"Oh, I think we can get plenty done."
Our hands are immediately all over each other, I'm surprised we lasted this long. Once my top is gone, Edward pushes at my jeans and boxer-briefs, and I kick them off while working at his clothes.
"Jesus," he groans as he falls over me on the bed, his jeans at his ankles as he holds himself over me with one hand. "I've missed this."
"Me too." My voice is muffled as I kiss his shoulder. "You don't have to miss it ever again, though."
Edward pulls back slightly, a smile on his face that warms my heart. "You're right. Jesus. I wasn't sure this day would ever arrive."
"Well, it did – finally," I agree, my hands clutching at him to try to get him closer to me again. It works, and he presses fully against me.
"I don't think I'm going to last half an hour," he laughs wryly, starting to move his hips against mine. The sensations are nearly overwhelming. It's been nearly three months since I left Chicago, and it's ridiculously good to feel him against me.
"Yeah, me neither." I admit. "Don't worry about it; we've got a long time to make up for it."
"That's true." He finds his rhythm, rutting against me hard and fast, and I wrap my legs around his, keeping him pressed against me. A fleeting thought runs through my mind that I should really be the one doing the work, given his exhaustion, but what he's doing feels far too good to stop.
My hands clutch at his back and shoulders as he rocks against me, his breath hot against my neck. His free hand trails up and down my side, while his other is laced through my hair – the sensations making me shiver with pleasure.
He raises his head as his movements become less controlled. I'm glad, because I can feel myself losing it already. If it wasn't with someone who was obviously going the same way, I'd almost be embarrassed at my speed.
"Fuck, I love you, Carlisle," he breathes out, his lips practically touching mine.
I groan, his words sending fire through my veins. My legs tighten around him, pressing us as close together as possible, as I tilt my chin slightly, allowing our lips to meet. I snake one of my hands from his back and into his hair, tightening my grip as I arch up against him as the sensations overwhelm me. Edward isn't far behind, and he collapses on top of me, breathing hard.
"I missed that," he pants against my skin. "I missed you."
I smile into his hair. "I missed you, too."
"I'm not sure I can move," he groans, and I can feel him wiggling his feet to try to get some sensation back.
"Well, if you don't, we might end up welded together," I cringe, wriggling slightly underneath him.
"Good point," he laughs. With a huff he rolls over onto his back, and lies back with his eyes closed. I give him a soft kiss, before darting off to get something to clean us both up with. I'm fairly sure he'll be asleep within minutes, and I don't want to keep him awake any longer than he needs to be, he's obviously tired from his long day.
Once we're both sorted, and Edward is asleep, I put some clothes back on, and head out to tidy up a little. I clear away our plates and glasses, and shut the door to the spare room so I can't see Edward's bags in there.
It's still fairly early, so I put the TV on, unwilling to disturb Edward by shuffling around in bed with him – even if I am desperate to be near him. I pick my phone up from the table, and send a quick text to Garrett to thank him for helping Edward surprise me.
Within minutes I have a reply.
"No worries, I was tired of you moping – you're lame when you're lovesick. Hey - the hot woman from the pub rang me – I'm meeting her soon; I plan to be fully distracted by her breasts for the rest of the night. You're missing out, man."
I laugh. It's such a Garrett response, and I'm not quite sure what to do with it.
"Not really my scene, Gar. Have a good night."
Again, his response is immediate.
"Tell Edward to grow some moobs – best of both worlds! Anyway, stop bothering me and go and fuck your boyfriend; I need to go and rock a random stranger's world. Later!"
I roll my eyes, throwing my phone down next to me, and turn the TV off again, uninterested by anything that's on. It's still too early to go to bed, so I grab my laptop to check my schedule for the next couple of days, hoping it's fairly light – I don't want to miss too much time with Edward. It takes forever to load, and I almost give up, but it's so much easier to see the overview on a proper screen instead of my phone.
I'm in luck, I don't have a full schedule at any time this week, and I have the whole of next week off – which I booked for when Edward was supposed to be coming over. Hopefully we'll have some time to house hunt – I'm not sure how long this arrangement is going to last; my flat wasn't built for two people.
Once the laptop is all shut down, I head into the kitchen and make a list of food we need to buy tomorrow. I suddenly realise that I hardly even know what food Edward eats. Whenever we're together, we're ordering food from somewhere or other; it's rare that we bother to cook.
I crumple up the list I made, trying not to freak out that I've just moved Edward into my flat and I don't even know what his favourite sandwich filling is.
I spot some movement out of the corner of my eye, and turn to see a sleep-rumpled Edward standing in the door of my bedroom.
He scrubs at his eyes a little. "I needed a drink."
Standing up, a go to grab one out of the fridge. "What's your favourite sandwich filling?"
"Oh, I'm not hungry. I just need water, and for you to come back to bed."
I hand the bottle of water over and laugh softly. "I wasn't going to make it, I was just wondering."
"PB&J. It's like a kid's sandwich but I love it. You knew that."
He's right. "I did know that," I grin.
"Am I dreaming? Because this is a really fucking weird conversation." Edward shakes his head slowly, clearly quite confused at my agitation.
"Don't worry about it, I'm just being odd."
"Nothing new, then?" he laughs. "Come back to bed; I miss you. I didn't move thousands of miles for you to sit in the damn kitchen."
I nod. "I'll be through in a minute. Go back to sleep, you're exhausted."
He's gone before I even finish my sentence.
I look at the crumpled list, and unfold it slowly, adding Edward's preferences to it before following him through to our bedroom, excited to have him in my arms and not have to let him go again.
"I like it," I offer.
Edward shakes his head. "No, the sun will beam right through that window and into our faces in the evenings. I spend all day squinting at a computer screen; I'm not doing it when I get home, too."
"I think you need to get your eyes checked," I suggest. "Squinting isn't good for you."
He's unimpressed with my help. "Focus, Carlisle."
"Fine, don't cry to me when you can't see beyond the end of your nose," I warn playfully. "We could rearrange in here, it's not a huge problem. It's such a nice place."
"I don't think it would look right if we did that."
This is the way that looking for a new place has gone for the last three months. One of us – usually Edward – finds something ridiculous that makes the place apparently unlivable, and we have to keep looking. We're not even looking to buy, just rent – it's ridiculous. We're really on top of each other at my place, though, and not always in a fun way. We need to move soon.
Apart from having no room, living together has been going pretty well, though. Edward is working hard, and enjoying settling into a new team. It means we don't always see each other beyond sleeping in the same bed for a few hours, but he tries to match up his schedule with mine, so that we get some quality time together each week. We've even starting to find a balance between spending every spare second we have with only each other, and starting to spend more time with friends.
Garrett is pleased that we're looking for a place closer to the city centre, and despite their rocky start, he and Edward get on well now. Almost too well – they're always joining forces to wind me up.
As well as Garrett, Edward has met our wider group of friends and charmed them all, even sitting through a football match with them and pretending to enjoy it. I think he's slowly being converted to the sporting religion of our country – I have no doubt that soon I will lose him every other Saturday afternoon to a game.
Edward's making friends at work, too. It was difficult for him, coming over from the US and trying to change things here, but everyone seems to have a healthy respect for the way he does things, and it's starting to pay off. I've only met his workmates once, but they were all friendly enough, and didn't bat an eyelid when Edward pressed a kiss to my lips in front of all of them.
It's good, having him in the same country – my nerves about him being here full time weren't warranted, thankfully. In general, we're settling into a decent routine, and Edward is starting to understand – or at least accept – the intricacies of my OCD. He's learnt that when I said I wasn't easy to live with, I wasn't joking. In turn, I have started to accept that sometimes it's going to take him a while to notice things that stand out to me, and that he will sort them eventually.
The only sore point in the move has been the further deterioration of his relationship with his father. While he was in Chicago, he saw his parents fairly regularly, so they were forced to talk. Now that he's in London, there is no need for him to push the relationship, and he hasn't. It's not something I've confronted him about – it's only been three months, and his dad is a bit of a dick. Edward Sr. deserves to stew for a while.
All in all, though, it's going well. If only we could agree on somewhere to live.
We walk down the road to yet another building to visit an apartment there – the last viewing of our day, thank God. The letting agent enthuses about the place we're going to see, but I can't bring myself to get too excited.
Edward squeezes my hand apologetically, and I send him a grin in response. We're both being as awkward as each other, really. It's ridiculous, but hopefully when we finally find a place we agree on, it'll be perfect. I don't intend to move again anytime soon after this, not after all the hassle.
I whistle as we enter the apartment. It's fairly big – three bedrooms – and looks sleek, and easily maintainable. I can't deal with places with loads of unnecessary furniture – it just gives me more to obsess over. We walk around it, the agent pointing out various features, and I cringe as I wait for Edward to come up with a reason we shouldn't live there.
We're left for a minute on the balcony to discuss it, and I turn to Edward tentatively. If this goes badly, I might end up throwing him off.
"I like this place," he grins, wrapping his hands around my waist and pulling me close.
"Oh God, me too. Can we sort out renting it right now? We can't lose the one place in hundreds that we both like."
His hands tighten around me, and I fight back the natural reaction to his touch. "Are you sure you like it?" he asks.
"Yeah. I think we've both learnt we have no issues speaking up if we don't like a place," I laugh. "Anyway, look at it, it's all... clean. It's my kind of heaven."
Edward chuckles, pressing a kiss to the top of my head. "Okay then, let's get some paperwork sorted."
We wander back through the apartment to find the letting agent, who is trying to look busy with some papers in the kitchen.
"We like this place," Edward informs him.
"Excellent. I have some papers here to get the ball rolling if you're both happy?"
Edward turns to me and smiles. "Are you happy?"
I nod. "Yeah, I'm happy. You?"
He throws his arm over my shoulder and squeezes, and I look up to meet his eyes. They're almost shining with emotion, and I can't help but hold his waist, needing some connection to him, too. He smiles gently at me. "Happy doesn't even begin to cover it."
And that's all she wrote.
Thank you all so much for your support through this story. Writing it has been an absolute trip. Extra special thanks to everyone who reviewed, I love hearing from you all.
Huge thanks to my pre-reader Karen EC. She has been nothing short of amazing. Go read her stuff - it's incredible, for real. She writes Carlward, and Garward, and all sorts of delicious boys. She also got me hooked on the Cut and Run series of books. They're available on amazon, and have ruined my life in the best possible way. If you're looking for some new M/M books, I'd start there.
I have some new stuff in the pipeline, but it will be at least a month or so, I'd guess, before posting. We'll see :)