It was hard to sit and listen to the reason he pulled away from me all those years ago. I had never understood why, after the weeks we’d spent together, he suddenly ignored me. I remembered how much it had hurt me back then.
I wondered why Jazz hadn’t come back to training after the call from his family. I couldn’t very well go out and check. So, I was left to endure the rest of the session without him, until it was time for dinner. I rushed to get showered and dressed, hoping he’d be in the cafeteria already. He wasn’t. I began to worry that something was wrong when I saw him enter the room, walk through the line to grab food, and then move to the opposite side of the room from me. What the hell?
He didn’t meet my eyes as I tried in vain to catch his attention. A funny feeling started to settle in my stomach, and it had nothing to do with the food I’d just consumed.
After dinner we were allowed to do what we wanted that night. I tried to seek out Jazz, but I couldn’t find him anywhere. Was he hiding from me? Something was definitely wrong. What had happened during that phone call? Was he alright? Was his family okay? My worry increased when I went to our cabin after calling it a night and found his bed empty. Laurent and Mike were already asleep. Where was he? I changed into my pj’s and slid into bed. I curled on my side, silently wondering if I’d done something wrong, maybe pushed him too far. That funny feeling began to ache a little bit as I drifted off in an uneasy sleep.
The following morning, I awoke to the sound of hushed voices, and I felt groggy and slightly disoriented. I sat up and ran my fingers through my hair, trying to collect my thoughts. Jazz? I looked over to his bed. Empty. I searched the room and noticed him talking to Mike in whispers. He stood with his back to me, tension radiating from him.
I saw his muscles tense when he heard me call his name, but he gave no response other than nodding to Mike and walking out the door.
“Mike? What’s going on with Jazz? Do you know?” I hated having to ask the question. Hated that Jazz wasn’t talking to me. Hated not knowing why he was acting so strangely.
“No clue, man. Sorry.”
He shrugged and followed Jazz out the door. Breakfast was probably calling him. I wasn’t hungry, so I got up and dressed slowly. I made it to breakfast with enough time to grab some coffee. It was all I wanted. Jazz had already left the room. The realization of that made my stomach turn.
Morning training was long and boring. My heart wasn’t in it anymore. Jazz kept avoiding me. It was as if I was a pariah or something. It hurt like hell to see him turn on his heel and head the opposite direction when he saw me.
By the time we were heading for lunch, I was desperate. Jazz still had not spoken to me, and the way he acted whenever he came near me had me convinced I’d done something to push him away. I’d automatically put food on my tray, but only picked at it. I was sick to my stomach by then and at a complete loss on how to fix this – whatever “this” was.
The rest of the afternoon went by without my being very aware of it. I hoped that tonight Jazz would let me talk to him, apologize for whatever I’d done to warrant the sudden change in him. We had planned to have a sing-along by the campfire, and both Jazz and I were supposed to play guitar. He never showed. I ended up playing as planned, but I made so many mistakes that they eventually called it a night. I looked over to his bed before slipping into mine. He was already asleep.
The next day was our last. We had training in the morning, and then lunch and training again in the afternoon. After dinner we were supposed to either go on the bus to the airport or meet our families. I watched Jazz greet his family; he seemed relieved to see them. Had I really screwed up so badly? I started to walk up to him to say goodbye, and he caught my eye for the first time in days. He looked pained, sad, and determinedly shook his head. I stopped dead in my tracks, feeling as if my heart were breaking. I’d never see him again. I simply nodded once, a single tear trickling down my cheek.
It had been months before I started feeling like myself again. My parents had been worried but hadn’t pushed for answers. They knew that I would come to them when I was ready to talk.
We ordered another beer after he was done with his explanation. I waited until after our drinks arrived before looking at him again and telling him about those last moments at camp – how I’d felt like it had been something I’d done, how much it had hurt to lose him then. I told him about the time after camp, explained how I had tried for three years after that to be “normal.” I told him about Bella, and how she’d helped me come out. I even told him how, since then, I’d felt more like myself than I had even when we’d been together those weeks at camp…but that it had always seemed like something was missing.
He listened quietly for the most part, interjecting occasionally with another apology. It was a relief to finally be able to talk to him about what had happened, but I also felt a little scared. I knew what had been missing all these years. Every guy I had been with since coming out – not that there had been many – I had compared to the feeling I’d shared with Jazz. Now that he was back in my life, I was certain of that. I was certain, because now that he was near me again, I could feel it. Deep down and in every fiber of my being, I could feel it. And I didn’t know how to let him know. Not yet, anyway.
Too soon. Too much, too soon. I want to keep you this time, Jazz.
We both switched to water after we finished our beers. We sat and talked for a while more, ordering some more food. It’d been hours since we had gotten here, and it felt good to just be with him after all this time. I glanced at my watch and sighed. I don’t want tonight to end, but I have to work early tomorrow.
“Jazz…” I looked up at him, smiling shyly. I wasn’t sure if he was okay with me using that nickname anymore. He smiled back, though, so I continued.
“Would it be okay if…” I paused to take a deep breath, feeling very anxious all of a sudden.
“Would it be okay if we went out together again this week?” I lowered my voice and continued. “I’d like to see if maybe…” I let the sentence trail off as I gestured between us, hoping that he would understand what I was trying to say.
He leaned on the table then and began fiddling with his fingers nervously, his eyes locked on mine. I wished I could know what he was thinking.
His voice was so low, I had to strain to hear him. “I think I’d like that, too. But Edward…” He tilted his head, sighing softly. “I never told anyone. And I’m not sure I am ready to now. Is that okay?”
I nodded, not needing to think about it as long as it meant there was a next time. “When would be good for you?”
He thought for a moment and then chuckled softly. “Honestly? Whenever works for you. I don’t have anywhere to be other than the swimming hall, and you know when I’m there.” He winked at me then, smirking a little.
I grinned back. “Okay. Well, unfortunately, I have to work tomorrow. Maybe we can go out somewhere afterward? I should be done around five? Maybe we could go to Pike’s Place?”
He agreed that we could meet after work, and I felt so relieved. I gave him my card with my contact information after scribbling my IM-name on the back. He raised an eyebrow at me and chuckled. I got his phone number and IM-name as well. I paid our bill despite his protest, telling him he could pay next time if he really objected. After some grumbling, he consented, and we headed outside. I carefully pulled his bike out of the back of my car, making a mental note to install a bike rack for next time. Next time? I like the idea of that. I smiled at the thought and turned to him. I wanted nothing more than to wrap my arms around him, but I didn’t. I knew it would make him uncomfortable and that we would have to work up to that. We parted ways with a “See you tomorrow.” I sat in my car, watching him peddle away on his bike in my rearview mirror. Once he was out of sight, I headed home.
As soon as I got home, I couldn’t stop myself. I turned on my computer and logged onto my instant messenger, shooting him a request to be added to my friends list. Realizing he probably wouldn’t even be home yet, I went to take a quick shower in an effort to relax my nerves. It took me all of ten minutes before I was back at my computer, my hair damp and my towel wrapped low around my hips. I looked at the flashing message on my screen – still waiting for him to click accept. I sighed and sat back in my chair. It was another fifteen minutes before anything changed. Fifteen minutes spent staring blankly at the screen, trying not to go out of my mind.
Jazzman has accepted your request.
Jazzman would like to add you to his or her Messenger List. Accept or Deny?
I didn’t hesitate and accepted. Of course I accepted! As soon as his name stopped blinking, I clicked on it.
EACullen: Hi. Glad to see you made it home okay 🙂
Jazzman: Hi back. Man, you sure didn’t waste any time, did you? *chuckles* 😉
EACullen: What can I say? 😉
Jazzman: *chuckles* Miss me? 😉
I paused for a moment. More than you’ll ever know…
EACullen: You could say that… *grin*
Jazzman: I know… I didn’t want the evening to end, either. It was… nice, to see you again. To talk to you.
I smiled at his confession. It had been nice to just talk again. The connection between us was still strong. And much more than just physical. We’d spent hours just talking, back at camp.
A few nights after that first encounter, Jazz and I had been playing guitar and singing together. A few others had joined in on the singing as well, and soon we had a merry group belting out song after song. It was great, and we all bonded more that night. I couldn’t stop grinning at him as we tried to one-up each other on the guitar. He knew certain songs I didn’t, and vice versa. We seemed to compliment each other well on those songs we both knew. Our eyes met as we started the opening notes to “Hotel California” by The Eagles, and we grinned. Somehow the connection just felt stronger the more time we spent together.
That song ended up being the last one for the night. Jazz and I both put our guitars safely away before deciding to stay up awhile longer and just talk. We mostly talked about what music we liked. He was into country, rock ‘n roll, and indie, to name but a few. He chuckled when I said one of my favorites was jazz, which in turn earned him a punch on the arm. And a chuckle. I couldn’t help it.
EACullen: Yeah, it really was. :-). Hey, I was just thinking about that night we ended up singing with the guys. Do you remember?
Jazzman: Which one? You mean when we sang “Hotel California”?
I grinned. He was right, of course. There had been a few nights of singing and playing. But that song we only did once.
EACullen: That’s the one.
Jazzman: Yeah, I remember. *grin* I take it you’re still into Jazz? 😉 😉 😉
I chuckled. If you only knew…
EACullen: Yeah, still into Jazz 😉
EACullen: It’s late… I have to get up early tomorrow. Have any plans? 😉
Jazzman: Nah, just hanging out with some guy I just got reaquainted with, at some point ;-).
EACullen: *grumbles* I meant before we go out, smart ass
Jazzman: No, no plans. Well, school work, but aside from that…
EACullen: School work? I thought you said you had nowhere to go tomorrow?
Jazzman: You’re right, I don’t ;-). I take a couple of online classes. Nothing major, just stuff I’m interested in. But I’ll be home. Behind my computer. Alone. 😉
I swallowed and had to tug the towel back into place. Damnable tease…
EACullen: Alone, you say? On the computer? In that case, maybe I’ll see you on IM? Will be in the office all day.
Jazzman: Who knows? 😉
EACullen: I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Anyway… Goodnight, Jasper. See you tomorrow.
Jazzman: Goodnight, Edward. Tomorrow…
I sighed as I logged out and shut the computer down. I leaned forward, putting my elbows on the desk and resting my head in my hands. I’m going to need another shower, a very cold one. I got up and walked back to the bathroom, turned the shower back on, and stepped inside. Fuck! That’s cold!! I gasped as the shock of the water hit me, instantly taking care of my response to Jasper’s teasing. God, if I react this strongly just from that… I shook my head at myself as I turned off the water and quickly grabbed my towel, rubbing my body to dry off and warm up. I went to bed frustrated, relieved, and with the stirrings of happiness. Sleep came surprisingly easily.
I stared at the clock for the umpteenth time that morning. The day seemed to drag on forever. It wasn’t very busy, which didn’t help matters much. I wondered what Jasper was up to. Sighing, I checked my inbox again, to see if anything urgent needed my attention. It didn’t, so I tried to divert my attention to some routine maintenance stuff. I was completely distracted. With a sigh, I picked up the phone and called Emmett. He answered after the third ring.
“Emmett McCarty speaking.”
“Emmett! Hey, man, how’s it going?”
“Edward? Err, good, good. To what do I owe this honor?”
“Actually, I was hoping I could ask you a favor.” I bit my lip nervously. Do I tell him why I need it?
“Shoot, man, what can I do for you?”
“Would you be able to put a bike rack on the back of my car for me?”
“Come again, bro? A bike rack? You want a bike rack on your precious Lexus?” I heard him chuckle on the other end. I sighed.
“Yes, Emmett. A bike rack. Could you, please? I need to have it done soon.”
“Sure. How soon were you thinking? I’m off today, so….”
“Today’s good.” I glanced at the clock again. 10:00 a.m. “Is it okay if I bring the car by your place around noon?”
“Yeah, no problem. I can have it done during your lunch hour, as long as you bring everything I need for it.”
“Thanks, man. I owe you.”
He just chuckled and hung up with a “Later, bro.”
I grinned and turned back to the work I had been trying to do. The instant messenger seemed to be taunting me to turn it on and see if he was online. I knew I shouldn’t but, damn it, I wanted to talk to him. I could be online and still do my work, right? So I turned it on, and there he was.
Jazzman: Hey you. Shouldn’t you be working? 😉
EACullen: Yeah, don’t tell the boss I’m on here instead 😉
Jazzman: The boss? Isn’t your dad your boss?
EACullen: Exactly 😉
Jazzman: tsk tsk, shame on you, Edward ;-). But I’m glad you’re on. 🙂
EACullen: Me too. I can’t seem to get anything done around here. My mind keeps wandering… 😉
Jazzman: *chuckles* What’s got you so distracted then?
EACullen: Oh I don’t know… I keep seeing these blue-green eyes 😉
Jazzman: Oh really? Who might those eyes belong to?
EACullen: Mmm… just a guy I bumped into yesterday. Kinda cute, has an impish smile that’ll melt your heart… 😉
Jazzman: You don’t say…
I chuckled. We went back and forth for a while, and before I knew it, it was time to go to Emmett’s.
EACullen: I have to go, have a lunch appointment. Will you be on later?
Jazzman: Sure. Later.
I logged off and hurried out the door. I still had to swing by the store to pick up a bike rack before going to Emmett’s. I made good time and found what I needed quickly. I made one last stop before Emmett’s, to pick up some beer as a thank you. When I pulled in, I saw him waiting for me with his arms across his chest, his brow raised and a grin from ear to ear.
“A bike rack? Seriously, bro?”
“Can it, McCarty.”
He guffawed and took the beer to the fridge.
“Are you going to tell me why you suddenly want one of those contraptions on your precious vehicle?”
“Alright, man. But I’ll find out eventually.” He winked at me.
“I’m sure you will, Emmett. I’m sure you will.”
He didn’t press any further, though I was sure he would try again the next time he saw me. I watched him work on the car, wondering what Jazz would think of it. Will he get that I did it for him?
“There you go, bro.”
He stood back to check out the bike rack and make sure it was all secured and good to go.
“That should do it, Edward. Though I don’t know what you need one of these for. Do you even own a bike?”
I smirked at him.
“I may be getting one; who knows? Anyway, thanks Emmett. I appreciate your help.”
I clapped him on the shoulder. He just shook his head and shrugged.
“Any time, man. See you tomorrow at training?”
“I’ll be there, as always.”
He nodded and watched as I got in the car and drove off. I was running a little later than I had planned, but that was okay. With it being as slow as it had been, I’d be able to just make it up later today. I’d have to make sure Jasper knew I was running late, but I was sure he wouldn’t mind.
As soon as I was back in the office, I logged back in, and he was still there.
Jazzman: Did you have a nice lunch date?
EACullen: Lunch date? Yeah, I guess you could say that, though I wouldn’t call Emmett a “date” to his face, if I were you. 😉 *chuckles*
He thought I’d been on a date? I frowned, slightly puzzled. Was he jealous?
EACullen: I haven’t had a “date” in a while, Jazz. But speaking of which… I’ll be a little late tonight for ours. My lunch with Emmett ran later than I thought, so I need to make up for it after work. I should only be about half an hour later though.
Jazzman: *blush* Sure, no problem.
EACullen: So what kind of classes are you taking? Getting anything done today? 😉
Jazzman: It’s nothing, really. Mostly for fun. I’m going for my Bachelor’s in History. Ashford U? As for getting anything done, I think I have a similar problem to yours, but the eyes I keep seeing are emerald. 😉
I chuckled at his confession.
EACullen: A BA in history? Cool. If I recall, you always were interested in the subject. Doesn’t surprise me you’re pursuing it.
Jazzman: Yeah. Not sure what I’ll be doing with it once I’ve got it, but then I don’t really need to.
EACullen: Because of the inheritance? I seem to remember you talking about something like that at camp…
“Hey, Son, could you have a look at…?”
Shit! Dad! My head snapped up, and I felt my face go red. Busted. He noticed my reaction and stopped mid-sentence, raising an eyebrow in question.
“Everything alright, Son?”
I cleared my throat and nodded.
“Fine, everything’s fine. You just… caught me off guard. Sorry,” I mumbled.
He gave me a scrutinizing look before coming back to the reason behind his interruption. He held up his laptop.
“I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s acting up. Could you have a look at it?”
I chuckled softly. I loved my dad, but he and computers did not mix very well.
“Sure thing. When do you need it back?”
“No later than tomorrow? I need it for a meeting at nine.”
“OK. I’ll have a look at it now, then. I’ll bring it by when I’m finished.”
He nodded and gave me another questioning look, but left shortly after. He wasn’t going to get any answers right now, and he knew it. I sighed in relief as I turned back to the screen.
Jazzman: Hello? You still there?
EACullen: Yeah, sorry… my dad walked in unannounced. He needs me to look at his laptop, so I’m going to have to go. Sorry.
Jazzman: It’s cool. *chuckles* Your dad walked in, huh? Good thing you were at work then ;-). If you’d been at home, it might have been even more embarrassing. 😉
I groaned. Tease!
EACullen: When did you become such a tease, Jazz?