A Universe of Beaches

A collection of pure trash from an extended family of alien weirdos.

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Ed
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A Universe of Beaches

Post by Ed » Thu Jun 13, 2019 3:04 pm

Things are going great, and they're only getting better. - Timbuk 3

Wednesday. June 12, 2019

It was Ed’s 21st birthday, and nobody was going to let him get by without celebrating, most especially himself. The morning had started off alarmingly when Abby jumped on the bed and bounced and bounced, holding down the button of an airhorn. As soon as he bolted upright, she tossed a handful of glittery confetti over his head and loudly announced, “Happy birthday, Eddie baby!”

Beside him, Goshen grumbled his discontent, holding a pillow over his head. He didn’t even ask how the woman had gotten into his apartment. Knowing what they were he couldn’t have been terribly surprised. Both of them could hear Polly’s excited squealing in the living room below. There was some small measure of relief that the baby hadn’t been woken up under similarly violent circumstances.

“Eddie’s birthday, Eddie’s birthday,” Jameson chanted between delighted toddler giggles.

Abby, dressed in what looked like only an oversized, overlong grunge t-shirt, started hauling him out of bed. Ed squeaked in protest. “Oh my goodness, Abby, I’m not dressed!” Not decently, at any rate. It wasn’t as if he were completely naked.

“So get dressed,” she cheered, hopping off the bed. “We’ve got lots to do.”

“I’m gonna get your daddy so drunk today,” Jameson cooed to Polly. She giggled and echoed him, chanting, “Da! Da!” The grifter spoke to her in that tone of voice people reserved for babies and puppies, adding, “Yes I am.”

“And put this on,” Abby said, thrusting a brightly packaged box at him. Ed blinked at the gift at first, still dazed from a rude awakening, but slowly he started to smile. The end result was enormous and he squealed a delighted noise as he tore apart the paper.

In the box was a white t-shirt just his size. Printed on the chest in black letters was the word FINALLY and beneath it in blocky rainbow stripes was the number 21. “Aaaaaaaah!” Ed screamed happily, hugging the shirt and box to his chest. “This is great!” He put it on right away and then started rummaging around for other clothes to pair with it.

Image

The first items available to wear were the light denim short-shorts and rainbow striped socks he’d been wearing the night before. Ed had no qualms about rewearing clothes two days in a row, especially when they went so well with his new gift. He tugged on the rainbow star-pattern low top Converse he loved to wear, a gift from Goshen years ago, and tied back his hair.

Goshen complained about the glitter as he rolled more sedately from the bed, and then reminded everyone they hadn’t had breakfast yet. “We’re going for waffles,” Jameson yelled from downstairs. Polly squealed and gurgled, her attempt at repeating the word waffles gone wrong.

“It’s tradition,” Abby added, slinging her legs over the bannister rail so she could perch precariously over the ledge of the loft.

“Tradition?” Goshen repeated. “We didn’t get waffles on his birthday last year.”

“Tradition for turning twenty-one,” Abby explained with a mischievous smile.

“We’ve gotta fill him up with carbs and bread so we can stuff more alcohol into him and prevent a blackout!” Jameson said excitedly.

“Oh my gosh I’m gonna puke,” Ed muttered fearfully.

“That’s the plan,” Jameson sang below. Again, Polly giggled.

Goshen sniffed imperiously. Long, pale limbs snaked around his torso from behind, drawing him against Goshen’s chest into a loose hug. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want,” he reminded him. The prince pressed a kiss on his cheek.

Ed made a gurgly, happy noise and pressed back against him, folding his arms over Goshen’s for an extra squeeze. He turned his head, twisting partway around, to kiss him proper. That ended in a giggle when downstairs he heard Jameson say, “Ew kissing.” Hearing Polly giggle, he looked over the banister to see him covering her eyes with one large hand.

Then he said, “Awwww! Where’d you get that?”

While they had been sleeping, it appeared as if Jameson and Abby had dressed Polly themselves. She was now wearing a white onesie with bubbly, cartoony letters in various colors exclaiming OMG it’s my daddy’s birthday! She also had on a rainbow tutu and rainbow baby bow headband.

“Same place we got this,” Abby said vaguely, tugging on his shirt. With a smile she slid off the rail and dropped lightly on her bare feet to the floor below. “Let’s go before the diner fills up.”

Ed and Goshen took the stairs.

---

Rumors lead them into town later that afternoon.
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Re: A Universe of Beaches

Post by Goshen » Thu Jun 13, 2019 3:42 pm

The house at Old Temple West was settling down after a long day of celebratory activities, including an afternoon frolic through the city for the newly announced Pride Days. Ed had turned twenty-one, and according to their old world’s custom that meant copious amounts of alcohol were imbibed. Most of the building’s inhabitants were blackout drunk by the time Goshen was able to lure the younger man away from his family and steal him for the rest of the night all to himself.

They kissed Polly goodbye at least a hundred times. Fortunately, Pert was sober and willing to babysit for the evening. Starbuck had volunteered herself as backup as well. They were both similarly restricted in just how they were permitted to celebrate, and both needed extra practice in baby care anyway. They promised an evening of family friendly fun for the children who tip-toed around their unconscious elders. A bucket of bubble solution and wands distracted Polly well enough for Ed and Goshen to finally slip away.

The weather was warm enough that they decided to walk the short way to a restaurant in Old Market that Goshen said he had reservations for. They crossed West Bridge holding hands, Ed smiling his doting smile the entire way. Veering left, they took the road further west along the riverbank and by a familiar intersection that constantly made Ed sigh when they passed.

Goshen could feel the exact moment Ed laid eyes on the firehouse as it came into view. With their fingers loosely threaded together, he was able to read the sudden surge of endorphins as they were produced in real time as easily as if he’d been looking directly at Ed’s smile instead of looking out across the river.

“There it is!” The wistful note of longing in Ed’s voice drew Goshen’s gaze away from the water as the younger man tugged on his arm.

“I don’t think you’ll ever get over this house.” Goshen couldn’t blame him. They’d both fallen in love with its beauty.

For a long time, the handsome Italianate, with its unobstructed view of the ocean inlet, had been Old Market’s only fire station. As the city rapidly expanded and gave way to industry, the necessity of the small carriage house was forced to yield to larger, better equipped establishments, until eventually it was shuttered. Following its retirement, the building fell into disrepair through neglect, but that was ultimately what had drawn Ed to it in the first place. The boy had an eccentric affinity for all things antiquated.

Where for Ed it had been love at first sight, it had taken Goshen a little longer to see past the building’s dilapidated exterior to envisage what new life could be breathed into its bones. It seemed a task too monumental to take on, but after listening to Ed, always brimming with outrageous plans and schemes, declare this house as the one, how could he refuse? In most cases, Goshen did not trust Ed’s taste in fashion, but in this he would defer to his other half. Restoration was Ed’s passion, Goshen’s was giving Ed everything he wanted.

The only problem was in the delivery. Wanting its purchase to be a surprise, Goshen decided to do a little scheming of his own. Though it had involved a multitude of white lies to accomplish, including having the realtor tell Ed their bid had not been accepted, he successfully managed to keep the house a secret from his fiance until this day, his birthday.

The months of planning was now coming to a head and though he wore his familiar expression of golden-lashed insouciance, Goshen could hardly stand the anticipation of the big reveal. He was grateful when the boy shook his hand free and darted away to press his face against the glass of the huge, green carriage doors. He exhaled a steadying breath. It wouldn’t do to give it all away before his masterpiece of a plan had a chance to come to fruition.

“Never,” Ed finally said dramatically, letting all the weight of his disappointment fog the glass.

“You’re such a masochist.” Goshen sounded amused, but that’s because he played the part of the sadist.

“You should know,” Ed quipped under his breath. Of course he was blushing, though. Growling in defeat, he pushed away from the carriage doors and backed up several steps, head tipped back to look up and up at the windows.

Goshen’s smile was positively wicked. He drew up alongside Ed, long fingers finding their way up the boy’s spine to settle at the base of his neck. He tipped his head back to follow his line of sight. “It’s a big city. You don’t think we’ll find something similar?”

“Similar,” Ed groused, “isn’t the same.” He lifted his hands to gesture expansively at the building before them. “Should’ve infested it and taken it over before somebody bought it.”

The prince exhaled a laugh. “I will admit, I was looking forward to bending you over that kitchen counter. The acoustics in that room were amazing.”

Ed’s cheeks flushed redder and he dropped his gaze down with a shiver. Goshen could feel the exhilarated thrill course through his skin, knowing the idea enticed him, though he’d never say as much aloud. The younger man kicked a pebble with the toe of his shoe and made it bounce off the carriage doors. “So much lost potential,” he mumbled disconsolately.

Goshen clucked his tongue at him, smoothing his thumb along the slender column of Ed’s throat. “I like it when you pout.” His molten gaze poured slowly down the length of his fiance and back up again. Goshen withdrew his hand, but only to make a show of looking at his watch to check the time. He gnawed briefly on the edge of his lip in the perfect affectation of indecision.

“Did you see anyone in there when you looked inside?” He glanced in the direction they’d been heading, as if in anticipation of their destination, then up at the building looming before them.

“No,” Ed answered, lifting his head, suddenly alert to the scent of mischief afoot.

Breaking away, Goshen started toward the gate that led to the yard. He tugged on the handle, but found it locked. Taking a deep breath, the prince slanted a coy expression at Ed from over his shoulder, gripping the top of the fence with both hands. “Want to be bad with me?”

“Do I ever,” Ed breathed. He was already at Goshen’s side and grinning like a delightedly mad fool. Getting the idea, he reached for the top of the fence as well. Before starting to scale it, however, he pressed a kiss to Goshen’s cheek.

The kiss added a delightful flush of color to the prince’s porcelain complexion. Together, he and Ed hopped the fence and disappeared into the overgrown jungle of a yard, effectively hiding them from any passers-by. Giddy with excitement, Goshen caught Ed by the hand and pulled him toward the back door entrance.

“I don’t see anyone back here, either,” he said after peeking through the doorwall. Goshen paused with his fingers on the glass, meeting Ed’s eyes for a long moment. His expression asked, Are we really doing this? Ed’s smile grew. Goshen took that as a yes and gestured to the door with an elegant roll of his wrist. “I’ll let you do the honors.”

Barely repressing a squeal of delight, Ed jogged excitedly in place and then dove at the door. He tested the handle, expecting it to be locked and fully prepared to bust it down. He had the strength to do it, a fact very few people knew about him. But Goshen knew, and he smiled when the younger man wrenched the knob out and pushed open the door. Ed skittered inside with a devious, stupid sounding laugh.

“Shhh!” The older boy closed the door behind them and quickly slid in behind Ed, wrapping his arms around him like a cage. “For all we know, someone’s upstairs.” Goshen buried his face in the curve of the younger man’s neck, burning a kiss into the skin where he could feel the pulse of blood beating furiously against his lips. He used his own body to propel Ed toward the spiral staircase in the far corner of the great room. “Let’s go find out.”

Trying to suppress his giggle made Ed sound ridiculous, but in only the most adorable of ways. He exaggerated the way he crept toward the stairs, taking long steps, toe to heel, as if imitating the old cartoons he had forced Goshen to watch once or twice. The older boy snickered behind him, which encouraged him to continue acting silly. Once he reached the base of the spiral staircase, however, he got a little more serious about his stealth and cautiously ascended.

They both lingered at the top of the stairs, bodies pressed close, holding their breaths while straining their ears to listen for other occupants. After what felt like an eternity, Goshen exhaled and poked Ed in the ribs. “I think we just might get away with this.”

Being ticklish, Ed giggled and twitched. Even in the dark Goshen could see the blush in his cheeks. The kitchen was directly ahead of them, where he had told Ed mere moments before he wanted to bend him over. Likely that was the outcome he was expecting from this venture.

“We can’t be late,” Goshen whispered directly into Ed’s ear, making him squirm with anticipation. He guided him into the kitchen with his hands on his hips, already his fingers pushing their way up under the hem of his shirt.

Waiting for them on the counter was a tiny rectangular box, matte black, a white silk ribbon tied neatly around it in a bow. Goshen’s fingers flexed, firm pressure on the bare skin of Ed’s hips. They were so close.

“What is that?” he asked, if only to make sure Ed found the present before the moment got away from them.

“Looks like a present,” Ed said stupidly about the obvious. He spoke in a whisper, of course, because since they had broken into the place it felt necessary.

“Talk about perfect,” he teased, somehow managing to keep his voice cool and casual while every fiber of his being was screaming with the desire to unveil the big surprise. “The universe must approve of our bad behavior.” Goshen pressed himself like a second skin to Ed’s back, pinning him against the lower cabinets. “Open it. We can add theft to our list of crimes tonight.”

Along with arousal, Goshen could sense Ed’s villainous delight at the idea. It wasn’t as if this was the first thing they had stolen together. Eager to please, as ever, the younger man pulled the box closer and pulled apart the bow. A little gasp of surprise escaped him when he lifted the lid to find a note written in a familiar neat script.

“How did you…?” Ed started to ask as he lifted the scrap of paper from the box. The words read Happy birthday, Baby. He looked at them for only a second before his dark eyes fell upon the ring of keys that had been nestled beneath the paper. “Goshen,” he breathed with uncertainty, “are these…?” He delicately plucked them from the box and twisted part way to get a look at his fiance’s face.

Goshen looked back at Ed wearing an expression that was nothing short of triumphant. He was so proud of himself for pulling the whole thing off, golden eyes glittering with unbridled glee. Unable to stand it any longer, he blurted, “You don’t know how many times I almost told you about it.”

“These are the keys?” Ed asked, wide-eyed. “The keys? The keys to here keys?”

“The keys to here,” Goshen echoed affirmatively, nodding once.

Ed turned to face him fully, still wide-eyed and still holding the keys by their ring as if they were a delicate thing. “The keys,” he repeated, still awestruck by the reality of the situation. “Are you telling me….” Goshen could feel the jitter underneath the younger man’s skin, an indication he was mere seconds away from erupting from pure joy.

“That we own this house?” Goshen finished the question for him, then answered, “Yes.”

Goshen!” It was one of those rare occasions in which Ed screamed his name in a far less erotic way than he was used to. There was the eruption, though. He flung his arms around his fiance and squeezed him tight while bouncing in place. “We own a house! This is… this is... this is…” Slowly he unwound, hands to Goshen’s shoulders, and leaned back, looking over the open space of the presently unfurnished living room beyond them. “This is our house!?”

And just like that, with an elated squeal, he rocketed away from Goshen and counter and kitchen and took off racing through the room. Up the stairs. Down the stairs. He was compelled to run through every single room and to fill the empty space with gleeful noise. It did not take him long to return, to barrel back into Goshen’s arms, hug him tight and pepper his face with grateful kisses.

The older boy hadn’t moved far from the kitchen at all, just a few steps toward the staircase so he could watch Ed run around like a kid in a candy shop. With Ed back in his arms, Goshen purred a happy noise into one of the more lengthy kisses they shared and pushed his fingers through the younger man’s hair.

Drawing back with a smirk, he asked, “Am I forgiven for tricking you?”

“I’m not even mad,” Ed replied, literally bending over backwards in Goshen’s arms so he could take in the sight of the second level from an upside down perspective. “This is the best.” He pitched himself back upright to press his nose to Goshen’s and say, “You’re the best.” He stole a quick kiss and added, “I love you.” Then kissed him again. “I love this. Goshen, we have a house!”

With a laugh, Goshen linked his hands together at the small of Ed’s back, just in case there were anymore gymnastic feats. “I love you, too. You’re the best,” he argued lightly. “I couldn’t not buy you this house after the way you went on about it. It’s going to be perfect, I know it.” He leaned in for another chaste kiss, this one less frantic and more of a slow burn than the others.

When he pulled back this time, Goshen’s smile was radiant. “One last confession. I don’t actually have fancy dinner reservations for us tonight.” A short pause, a sliver of uncertainty shining through his amber-eyed composure. “I thought maybe you’d better enjoy ordering pizza and watching a movie. It’s your birthday, after all, not mine.” His smile became something more of an impish grin and his eyes darted toward the loft. “There’s a bit more to your present upstairs.”

“You sneak,” Ed chided with amusement He thumped Goshen on the chest lightly with the palm of his hand, barely a push. “That sounds so much better than dinner at a fancy restaurant. I want to see!” Apparently he had not made it all the way up to know that there was more waiting upstairs. He tugged on Goshen’s shirt and started to pull him to their new destination.

The loft was just as barren and dusty as the rest of the house, but that was not Goshen’s final destination. He peered into the dark room just beyond them and started climbing the ladder situated against the wall leading to a roof hatch. “Will that be our room or Polly’s, do you think?”

Laughing, Ed spun a circle and said, “Both. Definitely both. Of course one of those rooms right downstairs’ll be hers, but you know she won’t sleep in it.” As soon as Goshen’s body was clear, he followed him up the ladder and crawled out onto the roof. Another gasp of surprise and delight escaped him at what he saw.

“There won’t be a baby in this bed tonight.” Goshen was downright smug.

Somehow he’d managed to get a mattress onto the roof, along with a projector and screen for their movie, as well as a little bistro table with two folding chairs. Tea light candles flickered in colorful, decorative jars all around them balanced on various nooks and ledges. The bed was made neatly, covered with a riot of throw pillows in every color imaginable. That Goshen had tried to choose a color scheme he thought Ed would enjoy was obvious; this was certainly not a theme he’d pick for himself.

Ed swooned, taking it all in. His steps were unsteady as he crept along, dreamy-eyed, toward the bed. Collapsing onto the edge to sit, he sighed with his hands, clutching the keys still, pressed against his chest.

“Goshen,” he said softly, a whisper containing every ounce of loving feeling he felt for the man. “You’re amazing. This is the best birthday ever.”

The prince settled beside him with a radiant smile and gathered him into his arms. He knew, but he did not tell him that he knew. When next they kissed they melted together into the comforter, two warm and tingling puddles of pure bliss.
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Re: A Universe of Beaches

Post by Ed » Thu Jun 13, 2019 8:46 pm

Thursday. June 13, 2019

“Abby, he bought me a house!”

This was the excited announcement that Ed shrieked into the phone first thing the following morning. Well, the first thing after breakfast in bed consisting of leftover pizza. Goshen hadn’t complained too much about it being cold, for once. Reluctantly, the prince had gone back to the apartment to shower, since they didn’t have any towels in their new house yet, and then gone to work. Ed was walking back toward Old Temple West to do much the same.

He babbled at her every detail of every single empty room, and the whole story of how Goshen had surprised him with the gift last night, leaving out the juicy tidbits at the end. By the time he actually reached the apartment complex she had convinced him to take the day off from work. There was still a great deal of celebrating to be had, plus they needed to start moving things into his house right away. When he called Noodle to tell her, she scoffed and hung up on him. He could imagine the roll of her eyes.

In high spirits, Ed donned a pair of rainbow striped tights and an oversized purple t-shirt that was nearly a dress. Printed on the front of the shirt in black letters were the words LOVE WINS, with the O of the first word being a rainbow striped heart. Along with his ever-present engagement ring and gold choker, he added a few other accessories, and finished the look off with rainbow fade print low top shoes.

Once he was dressed, he scurried upstairs to scoop Polly off the floor and twirl her around. “Hello, Princess! Did you miss me?” he sang. Bringing her back in close he nuzzled his nose to hers and they shared a giggle.

“Da!” she said happily grabbing at his hair.

Tucking the toddler to his hip, he said, “You’ll never believe what Papa did for us.” He paused for dramatic effect. Unimpressed, she stuck some of his hair in her mouth and burbled. Of course he knew she was too young to fully understand him, but he went on anyway and excitedly told her about their new house.

“Well isn’t that just the dream,” Auntie Sizzle said from her rocking chair. “Moving out on us then are you, Eddie baby?”

“I guess I am!” Absently he fiddled with Polly’s toes, stricken by the reality of the matter. “It’s not like I’m moving far,” he said in his defense. “It’s just right across the river. Over the bridge.” He turned aside and made gestures as if he were playing charades one-handed.

“Eddie, you could move all the way across town and you still wouldn’t be far.”

Turning back to Sizzle, he smiled, and found her smiling too. He was grateful for her understanding, and felt a warm surge in his heart. The feeling was interrupted by the tiniest of painful jabs, though. This place had been his home for years. He had watched it grow. Leaving it behind for the undeniably delightful future that awaited him still hurt, just a little.

“Drink this,” said Abby, materializing out of nowhere. He gave a startled blink and took the can of strawberry soda that was thrust in front of his face. “All of it,” she insisted, and he thoughtlessly obeyed. Second breakfast was apparently twelve fluid ounces of Fanta. He guzzled it down, and once the can was empty she swiped it back out of his hand. “First thing you need is a totem,” she explained. “This is for the incense.” Like the generic soda can they’d been using for years downstairs. Ed smiled, feeling that warmth fill his heart again. She padded away, barefoot, presumably to gather the rest of the items she would need to bless his new house.

Polly squirmed to be let down but did not release his hair. He was forced to bend sideways and pry her fingers loose, gritting his teeth to resist expressing that it hurt. She toddled off to knock down a pile of blocks that Warren had been building. He yelled his outrage, still not completely verbal himself. Ed turned with a fond smile to watch them go to war.

After a minute he was aware of other presences drifting into the room. He jumped with a start and turned to find that Pert had settled on the second hand sofa. She was half dressed in a large t-shirt and boxer shorts and looked a little pale. She hugged her arms against her stomach and gave him a sweet, soft smile, which he mirrored.

“You’re leaving?” she asked in a gentle, sad tone.

Ed crossed over to sit beside her with a pout. He leaned his arm against hers and his head to her shoulder. She stiffened her posture to support him.

“Goshen bought us a house for my birthday,” he explained. “Remember the one I told you about months ago? The old firehouse with the huge garage?”

“I remember,” she said quietly. “The realtor rejected your offer.”

“Yeah,” Ed confirmed. “Turns out Goshen’s a sneaky sneak liar.”

Pert’s laughter was the breezy sort that could be more felt than heard. Ed smiled when it jostled him. When he lifted his head from her shoulder to look at her, he saw that she was smiling too. She unfolded her arms and reached across to take one of his hands in both of her own.

“We’re going to miss you,” she said

“You don’t have to miss me,” he replied, closing his other hand over hers too. “I’m only going to be right across the river, and besides… Polly’s still going to need a babysitter.”

Together they looked across the room at the two toddlers playing. Pert’s smile was radiant in a subdued sort of way, and yet he could feel it like the warmth of the sun.

“Good,” she said, and that was all. She gave his hand one last squeeze, and a little bounce on his thigh, and then let him go. She unfolded from the couch and drifted across the room to scoop Warren up off the floor, saving him from being bludgeoned by a long rectangular block wielded by Polly. “You smell,” she told the little boy. “Let’s get you changed.” She carried him from the apartment and to the stairs leading to the next above.

Polly ran back at him, yelling, “Da! Da!” With a giggle, he rose from the sofa and scooped her right back up into his arms. They shared an eskimo kiss before he set her on his hip again. Hearing the rev of an engine below, he turned to Sizzle.

“Sounds like they’re ready to go.”

“Jameson’s helping, eh?”

“Yeah,” he said with a grin. “I think he’s hoping to be the first person to vandalize the place. Joke’s on him, though. I broke the door last night to get in.” With the raise of her brows, he laughed. “I thought we were breaking in! I didn’t know it was ours until after!”

“Come by later,” she told him. “I’ll bake you a pie.”

With a vibrant smile, Ed nodded a single, enthusiastic affirmative. Polly demonstrated the latest word she had learned by yelling, “Bye!” Auntie Sizzle’s smile was something else.

“You take care of your daddy now, sweetheart.”

“My!” Polly threw her arms around his neck and squeezed. He only choked a little.

Out in the hallway, Pert was waiting for him again. She handed him a diaper bag full of necessities and snuck in one more hug before letting him head down the stairs. Polly made raspberry noises at her and then shrieked. Leaning around his other side she snatched a rat off the bannister. Wembley, he presumed. She hugged the animal tight, squishing it between Ed’s chest and hers.

“All right, all right!” Jameson yelled over the rumble of the van’s engine as Ed climbed into the passenger seat. Polly squirmed out of his grasp and crawled into the back to nestle amongst a nest of old, greasy blankets. Abby was seated cross-legged, ready to receive her and the rat Wembley.

Boxes of clothes and accessories were stacked in the back with them. Ed felt that unexpected pinprick of an ache in his heart again. It was really happening. He was really moving out. But at the same time he felt a swell of joy. He was moving out, but into a house with the man he loved and planned to marry. They were starting a new life, a family, together.
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Re: A Universe of Beaches

Post by Goshen » Sat Jun 15, 2019 1:16 pm

Friday. June 14, 2019

“You want to get that old girl into the stanchion for me?”

Goshen nodded mutely as Fox clapped a hand on his shoulder in thanks and stepped around him to fetch the milking supplies. He didn’t mind lending a hand. All he had to do was open the stall door; years and years of habit meant Patience didn’t need to be led. The fat, happy cow waltzed out from the stall and fit herself into place. While he locked her into place, Ginger darted into the stall to collect Patience’s calf.

“Come on, Flossy!” The little girl grunted, tugging on the calf’s halter. Unlike her mother, Flossy was not yet accustomed to doing what anyone wanted her to do and often required considerable persuasion.

“Do you want help?” Goshen asked, sticking his head inside the door.

Ginger shook her head. “No, I’ve got it.” And she did. Goshen watched, amused, as she dragged the reluctant calf out of the stall and hooked her up in front of the stanchion where Patience would be able to keep her in sight. “I like helping Dad,” she told him excitedly.

Goshen added a few scoops of alfalfa to the feeder to keep Patience occupied during the milking session. “I’m sure he likes having you around to help. You’re probably more help to him than I ever was.”

The little girl gave him a shy smile, but was too curious not to ask, “Really? Why?”

“I’ve never liked getting messy.” To make his point, he brushed his hands free of alfalfa particles and then arranged himself beautifully against the corner of the stanchion looking like a piece of modern art. “Farming is notoriously dirty work.”

“So you never mucked out stalls?”

“Nope.”

“Changed bedding for the chicks?”

He shook his head. “We didn’t have a big flock like you do when I was younger. Mom only had six layers and they had free run of the farm. I didn’t have to do anything but give them treats.”

“What are we talking about?” Fox reappeared on the scene with a sterile bucket in tow.

Goshen tipped his head to watch him hunker down beside the cow to prepare her for milking. “How Ginger’s probably much better help around here than I was.”

Fox grinned in a way that told Ginger he was right, but said, “You were plenty help, son.” When Goshen snorted, he amended, saying, “You helped out around here in other ways.”

“I was very good at picking berries,” he mused.

“And eating them,” Fox added.

Ginger ruffled Flossy’s ears. “I’m good at that, too. Especially the eating part.” They all snickered.

Thinking about which farm chores he didn’t mind performing prompted Goshen to find another milking stool. He sat on the other side of Patience and soon joined Fox’s rhythmic tempo as all four quadrants were worked simultaneously.

Fox, in all his wisdom, looked up at Ginger. “Speaking of eating. Mom’s getting breakfast ready. How ‘bout you go feed the chickens and get the eggs for her? See if that one hen is still broody. If she is, let Mom know and we’ll put some of the guinea eggs under her.”

“Okay!” The little girl gave Flossy a loud, lip-smacking kiss on her forehead before skipping off in the direction of the chicken run.

For a long time there was only the steady stream of milk filling the bucket. Goshen’s mind wandered to the events of the last few days, specifically Ed’s birthday. The gift of the house and everything it stood for had triggered a significant mental shift inside him that was all at once uncomfortable and exhilarating.

“I surprised Ed with the house on his birthday.”

On Fox’s side, the milking paused long enough for the man to ask, “Did you?” before resuming. He tipped sideways to peer under the cow at Goshen, wearing a broad smile on his face. “That’s exciting.”

Goshen ducked down briefly to flash a silken smile at him in response. “It scared me a little,” he admitted.

“I think that’s a pretty normal response.”

The words warmed him to hear. Goshen had spent the majority of his youth (what he recalled, anyway) feeling decidedly not normal. He knew his expensive tastes and high maintenance needs had the tendency to set him apart from his peers, but what he wanted most in life, secretly, was to feel like everyone else--not an alien being stuck in a body with complex thoughts and emotions he couldn’t understand. Goshen wanted to be normal.

“It’s not cold feet is it?”

“I can regulate my own temperature,” Goshen reminded him, puzzled.

To his credit, Fox did not laugh. “No. Cold feet is an idiom. It means a loss of nerve or confidence.”

“Oh.”

“It’s used most often when a person has second thoughts about--”

“No.” Goshen cut him off. “It’s not that. It’s just--I’ve been working toward this for so long now, this idea of a future, and now that it’s here...” He pulled in a deep breath, holding it for several seconds before letting it back out with a heavy sigh. “It’s overwhelmingly real now. What do I do next? And what if I mess it up?”

Now he did laugh.“Welcome to adulthood, son.” Fox was done milking first and got up from his stool to give Patience her vitamins while Goshen finished his side. “No one really knows what they’re doing and no one has it all figured out. If it helps, you’re leaps and bounds ahead of where your mom and I were at your age.”

Goshen peered up at him, skeptical.

“It’s true,” Fox insisted. “Hey. Do your thing, will you?” He flashed the syringe at Goshen, who then paused the milking to stroke the cow’s side. Goshen’s gift for connection kept Patience calm and compliant when Fox pried her jaws open to deliver the vitamins. “So much easier when you’re around.” Fox beamed at him.

Taking the compliment in stride, Goshen went back to milking while Fox cleaned up.

“Margot and I got married fresh out of high school. We were lucky enough to not still be living with our parents, but couldn’t afford anything more than a room at a boarding house on the edge of town. I was working as a farmhand, she had a job at a bakery. Felt like we hardly ever saw one another; struggled a lot those first couple years until Margot’s grandmother passed and left us this place.” Fox gestured vaguely at the property around them.

“But you made it work.” Now finished with his half of the task, Goshen brought the full bucket out from under Patience when he stood up.

The older man hummed a thoughtful noise. “Through a lot of trial and error.” Fox passed him the lid to the bucket before backing the cow out of the stanchion. “Building a life with someone often requires hard work and I'll be honest, some parts of it are not always rewarding. You’ll have fights, you’ll fall on hard times, you’ll make bad decisions--both of you. It happens to everyone. No one’s perfect, Goshen.”

It was reassuring to hear that he didn’t need to know what came next and be reminded that mistakes are just a part of life. “You two make it look perfect.”

Fox smiled, smoothing a hand along the cow’s neck. “That’s because at the end of the day, no matter what’s gone wrong, your mom and I have each other’s backs. We support one another, especially when it feels like everything’s falling apart. When you have a partner like that to lean on, you can handle anything, even the unknown. I promise.”

The words sparked a fresh rush of optimism inside Goshen. He’d already experienced Ed being there for him when he needed it most, no questions asked, and though it hadn’t erased his troubles, having Ed by his side made it bearable. In that moment he knew Fox was right. The only thing that mattered was knowing he loved and was loved by a man who would always be there for him. Goshen wanted nothing more than to be there for Ed, too.

Knowing the future wasn’t important. He already had everything he could possibly need to succeed.
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Re: A Universe of Beaches

Post by Ed » Thu Jun 20, 2019 11:46 am

Sunday. June 16, 2019

“Happy Father’s Day!”

The cheerful declaration was accompanied by a rain of colorful confetti. Ed squeaked and laughed in surprise as it fell over him. This was the very last thing he had expected to encounter when stepping onto the porch of the Greene family farmhouse. But there was Ginger, laughing somewhat maniacally, with a bucket full of multicolored biodegradable bits. She helped a giggling Polly toss handfuls at him and Goshen.

They had come to join the family for lunch, as later that day they would be having dinner with the Howards like they usually did on Sundays. Ed had completely forgotten about this American tradition. He had never had the chance to celebrate a father himself, having no idea who he had been. His parentage was as much a mystery to him as it was to Goshen, which was just another one of those little things they had in common.

“Gosh,” said Ed. “I feel stupid. I totally forgot that was today and didn’t think to bring anything for Fox.” He pouted, and the man gave a good-natured laugh from where he sat on the sidelines.

“Just having you all here with us is gift enough,” Fox said. “Although,” he hemmed thoughtfully, “I wouldn’t say no to a helping hand with the tractor. There’s some kind of issue with the hydraulics, the front loader keeps giving me trouble.”

“I’m on it!” Very few things excited Ed as much as tinkering with machinery. He was ready to spring off the porch and dash around to the barn, immediately, but Fox’s laughter and Goshen’s grab of his arm stalled him short.

“Not right now,” said his fiance.

“It’s not urgent,” said Fox, with laughter still in his voice. “Wait until after lunch at least.”

Inside, the dining room table was set up with quite an impressive spread of nearly summer foods. Wembley the rat was slinking amongst platters, investigating with his nose. Were he any other animal in any other household he would have been shooed away, but here he was treated like family, and when Ed saw him he smiled, saying, “Hello, Wembley.”

Polly let out a shriek and nearly lunged from Goshen’s arms. The prince had scooped her up off the porch and carried her inside, intent on placing her in her high chair. The headstrong toddler had other ideas. The direction and strength of her reach was a clear indication that she wanted her friend rat. Laughing, Ed scooped the animal up and placed him in her grasp. She burbled happily, pressing her face to his fur and squishing his body to her chest.

The rat was a guest of honor, allowed to perch precariously on the back of Polly’s highchair and sneak bites of whatever it was she felt like sharing with him. They gathered at the table, passed around platters, and shared stories meant to inform each other of what had been going on in their lives. Ed babbled in particular about the new house and all the work he was doing and planned to do on it in preparation for moving in months from now.

After lunch, Ginger ushered them into the living room. Ed was immediately suspicious because her enthusiasm was through the roof. It was making him nervous and he giggled accordingly.

“What’s going on?” he asked as she shoved him to sit down on the sofa.

Pretending not to hear him, she hauled Goshen in by the arm and pushed him down to sit right next to Ed. She scurried back into the dining room to snatch Polly from Margot and dashed back to plop the baby on both their laps. Margot was laughing like she was in on some inside joke, and that made Ed squirm with anticipation. Something was going on.

“Okay,” said Ginger, sounding breathless as she stood over them on the other side of the coffee table. She spread her hands to frame them and then nodded to herself that she was satisfied with their placement. Polly wriggled around until was comfortably nestled on Goshen’s lap. He tucked his arms protectively around her without thinking and it made Ed smile.

Announcing that she would be right back, Ginger dashed out of the room again. Margot was quietly laughing as she made her way in to sit on the loveseat. Fox went over to his chair and settled in with a grin that Ed was certain was conspiratorial. Before he could ask, though, Ginger ran back into the room and thrust two thin, rectangular, wrapped packages at them. Her smile was outrageously contagious.

“Happy Father’s Day!” she announced again.

Warmth spread from Ed’s toes to his nose. So much happiness just swelled up inside him. He pressed his teeth down on a squeal to keep it from erupting too violently and snatched the package held in front of his face. Goshen took his own a lot more sedately.

“What’s this?” Ed asked rhetorically. He was already ripping into the packaging.

“My! My!” said Polly, slapping the present in Goshen’s hands. Instead of tearing into his gift like Ed, Goshen made a small hole in the paper, then allowed Polly to shred the rest for the reveal.

Unable to contain herself, Ginger giggled and spilled the beans. “Polly and I worked on these and just finished wrapping them this morning.”

It was unclear who had finished unwrapping their present first, Ed or Polly. Colorful bits of paper were flung everywhere. In the end, both Ed and Goshen held picture frames in their hands. They were eight by ten frames that had been messily finger painted in an array of smeared colors. The one in Goshen’s hand had a blank section consisting of the letters P - A - P - A, and the one in Ed’s hands similarly read D - A - D - A.

“Pa! Pa!” said Polly, again slapping the picture frame in Goshen’s hands, which also contained a portrait of him and Ed together with Polly at a playground. The toddler then turned to grab Goshen’s face and pushed herself up high enough to slobber a raspberry onto his cheek.

Ed stared lovingly at the portrait for a good long minute. He remembered this venture. He didn’t remember somebody stealing a snapshot of it, but he supposed he wasn’t too surprised. And only now did he recall the paint stains on Polly’s fingers from the past few days.

“Polly,” he said, looking at her with wonder, “you made this?”

“My!” the toddler replied. She climbed over Goshen’s arms to shove herself into Ed’s. Laughing, he gathered her up and shared an eskimo kiss with her.

“I love this,” he said softly. Tears were starting to well in his eyes. He felt such love and joy that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to contain it. “Thank you, Ginger.” Because of course she had helped.

With her arms tucked behind her back, Ginger rocked on her heels proudly. She hummed a happy, acknowledging sort of noise and nodded her head. In this wordless way she was saying “you’re welcome.”

“I know exactly where I’m going to put this,” Ed said, running his fingers over the swirling smears of color.

“So do I,” said Goshen. He also thanked Ginger for this wonderful surprise.

They looked at each other, shared a smile, and then Ed leaned sideways so they could share a kiss. It was short and chaste but filled to the brim with all the love and bliss they were feeling.

Father’s Day, Ed thought gleefully. What a wonder.
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Re: A Universe of Beaches

Post by Goshen » Mon Jul 15, 2019 11:05 pm

Sunday. July 14th, 2019
Goshen’s Apartment


“I sometimes wonder how that child manages to get comfortable in the crib at Margot’s,” Goshen said as he came down the stairs from the loft. He sounded tired, even if he didn’t look it, still dressed in his fancy dinner clothes, though he’d deigned to roll his sleeves up and unbuttoned his collar. “She flops around like a fish all over the whole mattress before finding the perfect spot, and somehow it’s different every night.”

He paused at the bottom of the stairs to listen for any signs that the toddler might have woken up in the time it took him to leave the room, as was occasionally wont to happen. When none came, he flashed a triumphant smile at Ed, declaring, “Victory!”

Ed giggled as quietly as possible, because heaven forbid he wake the baby! This meant he’d put a hand over his mouth in an effort to stifle it. The intensity of his smile still shined through. By then he had comfortably arranged himself on the little sofa, shoes off and shirt unbuttoned. Even in the summer heat he insisted on wearing a white tank undershirt, though, so that was exposed instead of his chest.

“I think the bed’s too soft for her,” he said quietly, after lowering his hand. “Too many lumps to squish out before she can get comfy.” That was his explanation for al the flopping around. He was capable of getting into the mind of a toddler, perhaps.

Given the shocked expression that flitted across handsome features, that thought had obviously never even crossed Goshen’s mind. He hesitated mid-stride, glancing up at the ceiling as though he could see through it to the slumbering baby taking up space in their bed. After a moment’s consideration, he resumed his path toward the couch where he joined Ed with a look of concern.

Even before Goshen was full settled, Ed began to lean into him. He tilted away from the armrest he had been leaning on in favor of leaning against his fiance instead. He scooted in extra close, pressing thigh to thigh, and tucked his legs up on the couch on the other side. He set his hand on Goshen’s chest and nuzzled his cheek with his nose, as if that alone could erase the concerned look.

“Is it too soft for you, too?”

“Oh goodness no.” Ed had zero complaints about that bed whatsoever. He smooched Goshen’s cheek for extra reassurance, and then leaned his head to rest on his shoulder. “Kids are picky, though. It’s like that story. Goldilocks. Everything’s gotta be just right.”

“What’s a Goldilocks?” Goshen asked. But before Ed could answer, he asked, “Is this a childhood thing?” There were lots of things about childhood that he’d missed out on. Or had just plain forgotten for whatever reason.

“You need to read more bedtime stories to Polly,” Ed said, a giggle underlining his words. He gave Goshen’s chest a light pat and replied, “Yes it’s a childhood thing.”

Goshen made a face. “Reading. I’ll find the audio version.”

“That works too.” Heck. Ed would even help. “But okay. It’s Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and it’s about this family of bears that decides to go out for a walk to let their porridge cool down or something, and while they’re gone this little girl breaks in and tries out all their things.”

“I can see why you like this story,” he interrupted. “You’re all about that crime life.”

Ed giggled again and this time the pat to the chest was more like a swat. Goshen’s smile was sublime. “Hush.” Don’t pick on him! He denied nothing, though. “But yeah so she tries all the things. Including the bears beds. One’s too soft, one’s too hard, but then there’s one that’s just right, and that’s sort of the theme of everything. Too this, too that, but then something just right.”

“So our baby bear needs a bed that’s just right.” It was a close enough guess.

“Maybe. I don’t think she’s really complaining, though. I mean, she’s asleep. She’ll be out the rest of the night.” So long as it wasn’t too quiet. That’s probably why Ed wasn’t trying too hard to whisper. He could relate, after all. He and their baby girl thrived on noise and slept better immersed in at least some of it.

“She might complain when there’s another little person to contend with,” Goshen mused. He was remembering the time Polly met baby Gary, and the near disaster that had been. “Someday.” With a gleeful smile, Goshen leaned to smear a kiss on Ed’s cheek.

“Oh goodness! I hope by then she’ll be more able to share.” Ed’s cheeks were a rosy hue. He had possibly forgotten about Goshen’s desire for a baby Gary of his very own! Or at least put it at the very back of his own thoughts. “Or that she’ll have outgrown our bed and be sleeping in her own.” He had plans for one of those bedrooms, just for her.

The prince snorted, sounding skeptical at best. “I don’t know. She’s pretty territorial. Maybe she’ll be an only child after all.”

“Only if we give her a zillion pets,” Ed reasoned. “Our house is way too big for her to be all by herself.”

“Pets,” Goshen repeated tonelessly.

“At least Wembley. Maybe a baby goat of his own to ride on.” Like that one time. Ed giggled as the scene poured up from his memories.

“Wembley’s not a pet. He’s her friend.” And his presence in their lives and home was a given. Ed smiled at this correction and lifted his head to smooch his cheek. Then Goshen turned his head to claim a proper kiss on the lips. He ended the brief show of affection with a light graze of his teeth over the younger man’s bottom lip and said, “No goats.” He smiled.

“Yessir,” Ed said softly, a blend of words preceded by a shiver. That graze of teeth had sent a delightful shockwave down from his lips and through his spine. It was far too easy to shift his gears. “No goats,” he whispered obediently.

The curl of Goshen’s smile warped into something more devious and sly. Reaching over with a hand, he curled a finger around the slender circlet resting against Ed’s throat, and gave the slightest tug to draw their mouths close again. Ed put up no resistance whatsoever. “The only pet I want in this house is you.”

An enormous smile full of endless love and adoration spread itself on Ed’s face. He liked it when Goshen called him his pet. It sent a little thrill through his nervous system, something Goshen got a kick out of every time it happened. He pressed his front more securely to his fiance’s side, and let his hand slip up across his chest to hook against his shoulder. With his mind full of heart fog and butterflies, he could only nod stupidly in agreement. Even after all this time Goshen was still able to sweep him, in this case figuratively, off his feet.

The younger man’s mouth was so perfect, so full of wanting, and a kiss was just waiting there, overripe and begging to be picked, that Goshen couldn’t have helped himself in that moment if he’d tried. He curled the rest of his fingers around the circlet, pulling Ed the rest of the way to him for a kiss that promised a multitude of unspoken things.

Ed melted against him with a happy hum of sound right away. His dark eyes fluttered closed and one knee slid over Goshen’s thigh, bringing the younger man a quarter of the way onto his lap. Goshen’s grip tightened by degrees, a subtle invitation that quickly became not-so-subtle when he traded the necklace for Ed’s hip, urging him to complete the motion until he was straddling his lap. Only then did Goshen break the kiss, pulling away with a satisfied smile.

This left Ed only slightly breathless and pouty, a soft whine of protest escaping him when the kiss broke. He would have been more than happy to continue, to get carried completely away and end up even more delightfully winded. He squirmed a little in protest, discovering that his arms had thoughtlessly wound themselves around Goshen’s shoulders. His hands were now resting at the back of his neck. Goshen’s had found their way to his bottom, a terrible smile on his face as he gave a light, appreciative squeeze for all that squirming.

“What were we talking about?” Ed’s eyes dipped down to count the buttons on his fiance’s shirt. Then he pulled his hands down over his shoulders to his front to fiddle with them. Starting from the top he took it upon himself to work them undone.

“We were talking about you being my pet. You still like that, don’t you?” It was mostly rhetorical, and besides, the affirmative answer was in Ed’s smile, but there was a purpose to the line of questioning. “Because I was thinking. Or, rather, I had an idea about something, and now I want your opinion.”

Oh, this was serious. Ed’s dark eyes lifted from watching his hands smooth over Goshen’s chest, just as they stopped to rest there, so he could meet the other man’s gaze. His eyebrows lifted, expressing an attentive curiosity.

Goshen unfolded his hands so he could reach up with both to touch the circlet. He spun it around until he found the clasp, slender fingers deftly working the catch so that it came apart. This small act made Ed gasp softly in surprise. “I was thinking we could get rid of this.” A mild panic fluttered inside the younger man, his dark eyes going wide. Sensing this, Goshen’s eyes lifted to meet Ed’s, warm and reassuring, just enough to soothe and keep him paying attention.

Without taking his eyes from Ed, Goshen slipped the circlet free entirely and held it up in the small space between their bodies. Ed lifted a hand from Goshen’s chest to rub at his own throat, feeling suddenly naked and vulnerable without that thin gold band around his neck.

“It’s not that I want anything to change,” Goshen admitted, and here his gaze finally lowered to study the band. With eye contact lost, Ed followed suit. “I like what we have. It’s fun. I enjoy it. But I’m learning more as time goes on, about you, about myself, about us. What it means to love someone. Marriage in general. Growing, I guess you could say.” He looked back up, his expression open and unguarded.

Ed met his gaze again, a soft and adoring smile already in place. He brought his other hand up off Goshen’s chest and tucked it against the back of his fiance’s hand instead, somewhat helping him hold the circlet between them. Without saying anything at all, he was encouraging him to continue. Go on, said his eyes.

“I don’t want this to change,” he said again, and by this he meant them. “But I thought -- I know you’ve been looking for the perfect wedding bands for us, something to match your engagement ring, but I have a proposal. Now, I know plain is not your thing, so just hear me out. Simple matching rings made from this.” Goshen gave the circlet a light shake to draw Ed’s attention to it.

“Oh, Goshen,” Ed said softly. His hand fell away from his neck to settle on the other man’s opposite hand. Good feelings swirled through his skin, filling him with warmth and making him abuzz with love.

“We can melt it down to make them. No one else needs to know--” Before he could finish the statement, Ed lifted his hand from Goshen’s to put his fingers over his lips to hush him. Happy tears were welling at the edges of his dark eyes.

“I think,” said Ed, “that’s an amazing idea.” He took his hand from Goshen’s mouth then, pulling it back to touch the band itself.

“Yeah?” Goshen’s smile was the sun.

“Yeah.” A single word that was nearly breathless. Ed nodded, his smile, too, intensely bright. “I love it. It’s perfect.” He closed his fingers over the circlet, pulling it closer to his chest, and leaned in so that he could press an emotional kiss full on Goshen’s lips. He radiated pure joy, and there was no question of his devotion.

It was perfect.
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