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Sweaters in July

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A/N: So, this was supposed to be my piece for the Fandom for Domestic Violence compilation. But the date of that piece got pushed out, and this got out of hand.

This fic deals with domestic violence, so if you need to ask me, I will answer. Tread carefully. My dear ones.

The rainstorm came out of nowhere. One moment Edward was walking with the flow of foot traffic, his head down, his hoodie up, and his earbuds in; the next he was ducking for cover as rain poured down. It wasn’t a trickle. It was a deluge, and while Edward wasn’t scared of getting wet, he was wearing a cashmere overcoat. He grimaced, cursing his own stupidity. Normally, he was careful with his better clothing. Especially when he was headed for the square, he dressed down. He was dressed down except for the coat—jeans, t-shirt, and a beanie in his pocket. But just before he left the house, he discovered none of his sweaters were in the coat closet. Another bad habit of his, not putting his sweaters where they belonged. He’d grabbed the overcoat because he was in a hurry.

“Shit,” he murmured to himself, looking down at the coat. Freshly soaked, it was hard to tell what the damage would be.

It was then he became aware of how crowded the space under the awning was getting. Discomfort crept down his spine. He turned slightly, facing the storefront to avoid an elbow and the glance of a woman who looked like she wanted to start a conversation. He was in front of a restaurant; one of those semi-swanky joints on the low side of expensive. The inside looked warm and inviting.

Edward considered. He hadn’t had anything for breakfast, and he’d been so careful about spending this month. Surely he could justify a warm meal on a suddenly chilly day. Either way, he couldn’t risk his jacket getting wet again.

He ducked into the restaurant and quickly shouldered out of the coat.

“How many, sir?”

Edward glanced up from the jacket to offer the hostess a warm smile. “Just one today.”

He was seated, but before he could really take a good look at the menu, he got distracted by his coat again. Damn, it was really noticeable. But there was no way it was permanent, right? It was water. It would dry.

Right?

“Hi, there.”

Edward looked up, and his breath caught in his throat. The face that looked down on him was… well... His eyes were blue, and the glint in them matched his smile. His blond hair fell, wavy and wild, almost to his shoulders. His shoulders were wide, and—

The waiter’s lips tugged up at the corner of his mouth—a devilish grin. Edward’s cheeks warmed, and he looked down at his lap, ashamed of himself.

“Can I get you something to drink?” the waiter asked.

“Something warm.”

“Coffee or tea? Oh, or hot chocolate. I make a damn good hot chocolate. Just enough whipped cream.”

Edward’s cheek twitched. Tea always reminded him of his father. “Coffee, please.”

When the waiter was gone, Edward let out a long, slow breath. What was wrong with him today? First, he didn’t take care of his fine clothes. Now, he was eye-fucking waiters. Alec would have been furious, and he’d have been right to be angry. He grimaced, looking at the coat again with disatisfaction.

“Your coffee.”

Steam twisted up from the cup, bringing with it the scent of fresh coffee and the comfort of heat against his cold skin. Edward sighed before he could help it.

Beside him, the waiter chuckled. “Yeah. Our coffee is good. Not as good as my hot chocolate, but still pretty good.”

Edward made the mistake of looking up. The waiter winked at him as he said that last. “I’m married,” Edward blurted. His face flushed, and he looked down. Jesus, he was off his game today. What the hell was wrong with him?

The waiter chuckled again. “Well, that’s a weird name, if you don’t mind me saying so. I’m Jasper.”

Despite himself, Edward smiled. He shook his head the slightest bit and looked up again. “Sorry. My name is Edward. I guess I just thought I’d mention it.”

Jasper shrugged. “Well, that’s a bit much for small talk, man, but it’s interesting information. We waiting on your wife, or are you ready to order?”

“My husband. And no, he’s not here.” He looked at the menu, furrowing his brows. “Uhh. What’s good here?”

“Well.” Jasper leaned up against the seat so his body was distractingly close. He pointed to the front page of the menu. “You can never really go wrong with a grilled cheese. We do a great grilled cheese here. Three kinds of cheese, first of all, and then you choose your add on. Bacon crumbles and tomato is the way I’d go. Extra points if you order the combo, so you get a cup of our tomato bisque. Mm.” He made a kissing noise with his fingers to his lips and then spread his fingers wide. “C’est magnifique.”

Edward grinned wider. “I’ve never seen anyone do that outside of the movies.”

Jasper glanced over his shoulder and then leaned in to whisper conspiratorially. “Boss likes to play like this place has class, right, and I’m not saying it doesn’t, mind you. So I throw a little French out there, because what’s classier than French, am I right? Anyway. Don’t tell him I’m a sham.” He straightened up and cleared his throat, reaching down to turn the page of the menu. “Our chicken cordon bleu sandwich is fantastic, and you can’t go wrong with a burger. Well, unless it’s the blue cheese burger, but that’s only because blue cheese is nasty.”

“How about the peppercorn burger with bacon. And a cup of the tomato bisque?”

“You’re making good life decisions today, my friend,” Jasper said, tapping his pen on the writing pad with a final flourish. “I’ll be back out with your soup in a minute.”

Edward watched him leave.

~0~

By the time Edward was done with lunch, the rain had stopped. He headed toward home in a good mood. The food had been delicious, and he appreciated good service. It hadn’t been a bad way to spend a day that might otherwise have been wasted.

He hummed to himself as he walked back to his neighborhood and shrugged out of his coat. The sun was peeking through the clouds, and the day was turning warm. Or maybe he was warm from the walk on a full stomach.

He picked up the mail and let himself into the house, still humming. He draped his coat over the half-wall that separated the entryway from the living room and began sorting through the letters.

“You’re chipper this afternoon.”

Edward almost dropped the mail. “Alec,” he said, turning around to face his husband. He tried for a smile. “You’re home early.”

Alec got up from his chair and took measured steps toward him. “You don’t look pleased to see me, babe.”

“Of course I am,” Edward said quickly. “You just surprised me. That’s all.”

It was just that Alec had been in a bad mood lately. His work had been particularly stressful, and Edward—try as he might to make things easier for his husband—kept messing up. Little things, but they’d done nothing to improve Alec’s mood. When Alec was in a funk, and he came home early, he did it because he wanted attention, and Edward hadn’t been there.

Edward went to his husband and wrapped his arms around his waist. He kissed his cheek. “I’m glad you’re here. I wish you’d have called or texted. Then I would have known to be home.”

Alec eyed him, his hand on Edward’s hip. “Where were you?”

“I went to the concert in the park—”

“In the pouring rain?”

Edward’s heart began to pound. “I was going to say I didn’t make it there before it started pouring. I decided to get something to eat. I found this great cafe. Maybe we can go sometime.”

Alec studied him, but after a moment, he grunted. He tilted his head and kissed Edward once. “So you’ve already eaten.”

“Yeah. I’m sorry, sweetheart.” He ran his hand soothingly along Alec’s back. “Why don’t I make you something? We still have the French rolls and some of the leftover steak. I’ll make you a sandwich.”

Alec’s lips turned up the slightest bit. “That sounds good,” he said.

Relieved, Edward headed to the kitchen. He started pulling ingredients out, humming to himself again.

“Edward,” Alec called. “Come here a second.”

Edward put down the knife and left the kitchen. “What’s—”

The question died on his lips. He stopped short, frozen like a deer in headlights when he saw that Alec had his cashmere coat in his hands, and a hard look in his dark eyes. “You left the house intending to go to the park today? In your best coat?”

“I...I…”

“You. You, what?” Alec asked, stepping toward him.

Edward’s throat had gone dry. He stepped backward, startled when he met the wall. “I didn’t mean to take it out. I couldn’t find my regular jacket, and I was already running late. I just grabbed it without thinking.”

“No, you never think, do you?” Alec shook the coat in his face. “If you weren’t so careless in the first place, you’d know where your damn jacket was, wouldn’t you?”

“I… It’s not ruined. I looked it up. It’s just a little water damage. Just water. It can be fixed.”

“That’s not the point,” Alec yelled loud enough that Edward flinched. He shook the coat in Edward’s face again. “I buy these things for you, Edward. Because I like to see my husband wearing nice things. So when we go out, everyone can look at you and know I treat you well. Don’t I treat you well?”

“Alec—”

Alec stepped closer, intimidatingly close now. “Don’t I?” he demanded.

“Yes,” Edward said, the sound just a whisper.

Alec threw the coat to the ground and grabbed Edward by the arm hard enough that he gasped. He shook him. “I work my ass off. I like giving you nice things. Expensive things. Is this what you think about them? That you can be so careless?”

“I’m sorry.” Edward tried to twist out of his grasp, but Alec’s grip only tightened. “It was an accident.”

“Do you know how much this coat costs?” Alec shoved him back against the wall hard. “Do you know how much it cost, Edward?”

“I don’t know.” Edward turned away, but Alec turned him right back.

“Over a thousand dollars. It’s the kind of coat you take to a fancy restaurant, not a fucking park. You goddamned idiot. Or is it that you just don’t give a shit, huh? You don’t care about how hard I have to work for you. It’s meaningless to you.”

He threw Edward away from him. Edward hit the side of the bookshelf before he crumpled on the floor. He rolled onto his back as quickly as he could, and skittered backward, but Alec was already there, towering over him, his hand clenched in a fist.

A/N: So many thanks to Packy, Mina, Julie, Betsy, Jessy, and Eleanor for all their help.

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