Title: A Fine Line
Author's Name: Cordi (sparkofmyteens)
Rating: Um, we'll go with a mild R. Nothing graphic as per usual.
Summary: Ed needs something more out of life.
Notes: Based on, with lyrics from, 'There's A Fine Line' from Avenue Q. Link provided. The song is worth a listen. Many thanks to speccygeekgrrl, who I adore, for betaing. <3
Disclaimer: Any similarity between the fictional version of the person portrayed here and the actual person is purely coincidental. This is a work of fiction. This is not an attempt to defame the character of said person on the basis of libel, as the work is FICTIONAL (and NOT an intently false statement created with the express purpose of misleading others about the actual character of said person). Nor do I own Fine, Fine Line -- neither the lyrics nor the tune. I highly recommend the musical Avenue Q to everyone interested. It's got a lovely soundtrack.
-- There's a fine, fine line between a lover and a friend;
There's a fine, fine line between reality and pretend;
And you never know 'til you reach the top if it was worth the uphill climb. --
They're celebrating their anniversary today. Ed finds this unpleasantly ironic.
It isn't so much an anniversary of their relationship as it is an anniversary of the air date of their first kiss -- it was Stephen's idea, though he doesn't know it. He mentioned it at the morning meeting; his memory is absurd, he can call up the most ridiculous details with no effort at all. No one was surprised that it was he who asked of Ed what he and Rob intend on doing for their anniversary; they all just laughed, Rob made suggestive jokes about a hotel room and Chinese take-out, Ed grinned weakly, pleased that his segment was first and he went into make-up early just to be safe, it hid what was probably a remarkably vivid flush. It persisted when Rob approached him afterwards, lingered next to him as everyone filtered out, taunted him with his proximity and scent. He told Ed he'd be there at five -- he never asked anymore, just assumed he was welcome and arrived.
It occurs to Ed now that Rob probably couldn't chance Ed saying no; the man must have planned his outings carefully for the sake of his wife.
Rob had showed up as planned, sporting a grin and carting a bag of fast food, or more specifically a number of orders of cinnamon twists, which Ed loves to eat and Rob loves to clean up after. Ed is touched by the thought; Rob has always been an attentive and caring friend, even before all of this started. As a matter of fact Ed finds it strange how little their relationship has changed -- the sex is the only thing that's different, really, he muses. It's different now too; he's been reliving the events of the day, the week, the month, the months in the brief space of time that Rob has been tenderly licking his fingers clean, and where before Ed would have been able to think of nothing else but Rob pinning him to the bed, he is now plagued by thoughts of regret, second thoughts, third thoughts and finally acceptance tinged with guilt.
-- There's a fine, fine line between love
And a waste of time. --
It's just not enough anymore.
-- There's a fine, fine line between a fairy tale and a lie;
And there's a fine, fine line between "You're wonderful" and "Goodbye."
I guess if someone doesn't love you back it isn't such a crime, --
Ed's responses are the same. His soft smile, his breathless sighs, the shift of his hips against Rob, these are habit -- they are not automated, there is as much affection behind them as ever, as much adoration and appreciation as he has ever felt; it's not the absence of emotion pushing him on now, it's an overabundance he's not entirely sure he can handle anymore.
In the beginning it was nice.
It was really nice. Which, Ed muses, even as Rob straddles his waist, runs his hands through Ed's hair, kisses his way lovingly along Ed's jaw and neck, implies that it isn't nice now. This isn't the case, not in the least, even now Ed is regretting his decision, his willpower fleeing him fast as Rob nips at all the right places, gingerly strips Ed of his shirt, the Red Sox shirt Rob got him and passed off as a gag gift, but these are the sorts of things Ed loves from Rob -- his own self-centered displays of affection, the way Rob showers love on others by sharing with him the things he himself most loves, that sort of adoring narcissism Ed finds inexplicably endearing.
He can't remember how it started -- it was surprisingly long after I'm A Correspondent, despite what the standard Lifetime movie format for this sort of situation would dictate. That kiss was nothing -- comparatively -- a brief touch of lips, a joke between close friends, and as it happened they'd carried on the joke for a couple of weeks afterwards, setting themselves up to be caught in compromising situations, making eyes at each other at meetings, discussing the details of their extravagant faux honeymoon.
Rob had invited him over for dinner. When Sandra had answered the door, Ed had made a show of being horrified, playing the innocent and unwitting 'other woman' with remarkable ease.
And they'd all had a good laugh about it afterwards.
-- But there's a fine, fine line between love
And a waste of your time. --
Their relationship -- platonic and sexual -- had been laced with moments of affection, Rob's arm around Ed's shoulders whenever they were sitting together, a closeness in proximity that wasn't required but welcomed all they same. They'd been close since they met, bonded first by closeness in age and their low positions on the totem pole, later by similar interests and a rare fit in their personalities. No one found it surprising, no one thought it was unusual; Rob always doted on his wife, Ed was affectionate with everyone.
After their first unexpected tryst -- in Rob's car after a baseball game they'd gone to see together -- it became the perfect cover.
Ed is disappointed it wasn't harder to hide. As Rob strips him of the rest of his clothes and Ed lazily slides his fingers along the older man's head, Ed wishes that they'd been enemies at first, that they'd been cold and distant, that they'd had to fight to keep from ravishing each other to keep up appearances. But no one ever questioned them, no one ever suspected.
No one ever noticed that it had become anything more than a friendship.
-- And I don't have the time to waste on you anymore.
I don't think that you even know what you're looking for.
For my own sanity, I've got to close the door
And walk away...
Ed thinks back on the catalyst that put them in their -- no, put him in his -- current situation.
A girl had asked him out on a date.
And he had had no idea how to respond.
She had been a pretty girl, a little shorter than him, with long hair the same color as her brown eyes. He'd run into her before, they worked in the same building though not for the same people, and she was nice. They'd been talking about something, something unimportant, and she had asked if he wanted to go get dinner sometime.
He must've looked incredibly startled and stammered out a rebuttal without thinking, because she apologized, said something about how she hadn't realized he was in a relationship, didn't mean to --
Rob had laughed later, when Ed relayed the story, and had chastised him for not taking a willing girl up on that kind of offer.
Ed had decided it wasn't wise to tell Rob he'd said no because of him.
Ed's train of thought is broken, overcome by warmth and adoration, regret and fear pushed to the side by Rob's warm, wet mouth -- it's a good thing, too, as vocalizations of his previous intentions would be incredibly embarrassing. He welcomes the intrusion, whimpers as Rob's loving ministrations cease but follows eagerly as Rob pulls him back to the bedroom. For a while he's spared the agony of his decision, and whatever deity happens to be grants him a couple of more hours of the bliss he's been riding on for months, but in that crystal clear moment when Rob's insistent thrusts push him over the edge, he discovers it's a bliss identical to the kind he feels when Rob is near, holding his hand or smiling at him, laughing at his jokes or pratfalls, kicking his ass at the helicopter flash game.
Ed is comforted and crushed, delighted and disappointed by the realization that this is nothing more than an extension of a friendship -- an unnecessary, unfair extension.
-- There's a fine, fine line between together and not
And there's a fine, fine line between what you wanted and what you got.
You gotta go after the things you want while you're still in your prime... --
They doze off for a while, content and comfortable in each others' presence, the same as always. It's another one of those lucky breaks, that Sandra is so fond of Ed, so trusting of his ability to keep Rob out of trouble when they spend extended amounts of time together. On occasions Ed is heartbroken by his inability to keep that trust, of his abuse of his tentative friendship with the wife of his best friend and lover, and sometimes Ed seems the same nagging depression in Rob's eyes. But they're too fond of each other, they can't resist the soft kisses and gentle caresses that chase away their foul moods, and they cheer themselves with the very things that bring on the guilt to begin with.
Ed is woken up later by the soft kisses Rob is placing along the back of his neck, his shoulder, even his hair -- Rob loves Ed's hair, and declares on occasions, publicly and privately, that it is why he keeps Ed around; so that Rob can live vicariously through Ed's thick brown coif. Ed shivers, presses himself into the contact as much as he can, and closes his eyes tightly, trying not to think of what he has to do and how near the time to do it draws.
Rob tightens his grip, but there's something in it besides affection ... desperation.
Ed doesn't bother to ask why -- it should have occurred to him before. Rob always tells him he's transparent, he can be read like an open book, but Ed always laughs it off. He has had no idea of how true a statement it is, at least in this case, until now.
They linger in the close confines of Ed's bed as long as they dare, and then they dress in silence, sharing mournful glances and soft, reassuring touches that ensure that it is not the loss of a friendship but only the disappearance of something that should not have been in this time, but could have and would have been if they'd had the benefit of an earlier meeting.
They pause by the door before Rob leaves. Rob smoothes Ed's Red Sox shirt affectionately over his chest, and offers one more sad, soft smile.
Ed invites him over for their usual Fable session the following Wednesday.
Rob promises to bring the junk food.
There's a brief, awkward silence -- and then a firm hug. Between friends, for the first time in months. It feels the same, Ed notes. But this time there's no nagging grief, no fear at being found out, the fleeting happiness of pseudo-domestic life has passed, it's time to take up the mantle of close friends that no one has seen them remove, but that the return of will no doubt be painfully obvious to both of them during brief moments of regret. Rob pats his back once, presses one last, soft kiss to his lips, and moves to leave.
Ed is sure that before the door closes, he hears a regretful but tender suggestion that it's not too late to call a girl for a late movie.
-- There's a fine, fine line between love ... --
And Ed picks up the phone.
-- ... and a waste of time. --
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