Monday, January 10, 2011

Slash Brigade: What Matters by Strae


The Slash Brigade Pick is...
Title: What Matters
Author: Strae
Chapters: 7
Words: 40,161
Reviews: 756
Summary: After one horny night alone with a webcam, Edward enters a surprisingly intimate friendship with a stranger online. He someday plans to meet this 'Jazz' girl he's become so oddly enraptured with; too bad Jazz isn't exactly a 'girl'.

Jeanne - Chele has been yelling at me to read this fic forever it seems. I’m nothing if not stubborn, and I’m even more so when it comes to Ed/Jasper fics. They are quickly becoming like Ed/Bella fics to me. That being said, I have to admit that Strae completely won me over with What Matters.

One of the things that I like the most about this story as it doesn’t try to tell you what it’s like to be gay. In fact, through the lens of Edward’s POV we sort through a lot of preconceived notions about gender, sexuality, not to mention friendship and love. We travel along with Edward as he not only learns that there is no clear cut path, even when it comes to figuring out his own sexuality.

Love doesn’t come with instructions. Gay, straight, bi, whatever our sexual orientation we all struggle to find someone who touches our heart in a certain way. More often than not we are surprised by who that one person turns out to be, in Edward’s case that’s for damn sure.

This Edward is young, cocky, but also heartbroken after his girlfriend broke up with him. I kind of love that while this Edward doesn’t lack in self confidence, he still feels a little lost. There is a raw, unguarded feel to his narrative voice that I don’t see a lot in other Edward POVs. His vulnerability is entrancing, and before you realize it you find yourself empathizing with his confusion as he struggles. It’s moving to watching how he inches his way towards the truth of his feelings and how that changes how he sees himself, and his relationship with Jasper. You don’t just feel for him, you feel with him.

We also witness Jasper’s struggle. First, as he sees the consequences of his online escapades, and then the impact of meeting Edward in the flesh. Do not be fooled, this Jasper is gay, but he is JASPER. He is soft spoken, wise, and very masculine. He is also a stand up guy that takes responsibility for his actions, and has the courage to be up front about his feelings, even at the risk of his own heart.

Watching these two men sort through their feelings, and try to define their relationship is enchanting, frightening and compelling. I read the posted chapters in one sitting, and immediately put it on alert. This is the kind of story that leaves you wanting at the end of each chapter. You find yourself thinking about the characters, and rereading the previous chapters. It gets inside you, and makes you think.

I’m bisexual, and at times I was moved to tears as I read parts of this story. It felt like Strae was channeling all the internal struggles that I went through before I came out. This story is a treasure to me in this regard, because to me it doesn’t matter whether if Edward is gay, or bi or just a straight guy that is in love with another man. What Matters is the someone telling his story.

Guest SB Member: Emmy - **waves** Hello slashy loving folks... I know I am not usually here, but I think you can tell from my Lemon Reports that as well as being tragically WussPerv, I do adore some good rampant boy-on-boy loving and learning... When I heard the girls were doing this fic this month, and I was already reading it they graciously asked me to join in.

I think I have said before that one of the kinks I love to read about in fic is watching, filming, performing. So chapter one of this story really ticks all my boxes. Rarrrrrr. Edward ‘bashing the bishop’ to a willing (and drooling audience)? Hell to the ruddy yeah! So that hooked me in to the story. BUT, this story quickly folds out into so much more. Jasper, when we meet him, is hopelessly lost already to Edward, desperately wanting more, but never thinking its going to happen. Ever. Until he starts getting mixed messages from Edward.....

I do love a confused and exploratory Edward. Boy is he ever that in this. He is so trying to find his way. Someone who was always clear in his own mind about what floats his boat. (always fanny - and when I say fanny, I mean FANNY as in the British use of fanny aka pussy). So imagine his surprise when the FANNY he has fallen for online, hook, line and sinker is no fanny! But what hurts him the most? The deception. That tells all of us, including Edward that there must be substance to his attraction to Jazz/Jasper.

Gah. I love reading these two lovely boys try and find their way. Edward doesn’t want to hurt Jasper and yet he keeps doing it. He keeps sending out confused signals and testing their boundaries. He sets the rules and he keeps on breaking them.

Jasper? Jasper is adorable. I really love him. (I DON’T OFTEN SAY THAT!) He is so lost and so in love. It breaks my heart. I can’t wait to read more of what is in store for them, and pray that Edward finds his way soon without breaking more of his own, or Jasper’s heart.

Teal - Where do I even begin with this one? Well, at the beginning, I suppose. When I first read the summary of this story, I was supremely skeptical. Like, “Oh no, not another story where a straight dude suddenly, magically realizes he actually craves cock and wham, bam, he’s fucking another guy. Umm, no thanks. BUT my dearest Chele rec’d this story to me, so I trusted that the previous scenario would not be the case. I believed in her judgement and gave this one a chance.

Thank goodness I did.

The story opens with Edward a little bored, a little heartbroken, a little horny, and with a fun sense of humor. Admitting his attention whorish tendencies to himself (something we should probably all do from time to time *wink*), Edward ends up meeting someone quite captivating online. The friendship that develops isn’t instantaneous, which makes the progression believable. The aspect of being less inhibited with someone who he believes he’ll never meet is quite realistic, and frankly, quite relateable as well.

And so it goes, things change. Edward moves home, which just so happens to be reasonably close to his online “girl.” Things get crazy. Teal may or may not have read some parts with her hands over her eyes, peering nervously through parted fingers. Then everything is confusing, yet also wonderfully exciting. What Edward ends up experiencing is a natural realization of who he is, including parts of himself that were never remotely an issue in his life until he met Jasper. As it goes, despite feeling betrayed, Edward still feels a compulsion and a connection to Jasper, whether that be as a friend or something new and unexpected. For Jasper, his vulnerability is palpable, even when Edward doesn’t clearly recognize it . . . and when Edward does finally see, oh fuck me, it’s a lovely epiphany.

As for the hotness, well, that sure as fuck is there. Trust me when I say that your mind will be scrambled when you read Chapter 5. Let’s take a peek at just one little snippet of all the amazyballsness:

Jasper steps backward a bit until he's leaning against my clothes dresser, opposite of my bed. His hand moves beneath his shorts in slow, even movements, stroking himself to an erection.
"Stop staring at me."
His words catch me off-guard. I hadn't really paid attention to what I was doing. My eyes bolt back up to Jasper's to see him smirking at my panicked expression.
Making a point to ignore him, I shift in bed again so my leg doesn't fall asleep. Jasper pays close attention to my body—his eyes track not just the movement of my leg, but the movement of my dick. My lack of underwear equals free movement of the beast, as I'm sure Jasper has noticed.
"Stop staring at me," I retort, only partially joking.
He must not hear me. His eyes linger on my crotch for several seconds before sliding back up to my chest. It doesn't take me long to realize that he isn't examining my shirt, but rather, my torso's shape beneath the shirt. Jasper exhales shakily and keeps jerking his cock, staring at my body, spaced out.
Is he thinking about me, sexually? My own stomach flips with uneasiness at the sight of Jasper masturbating to me. He's obviously done it before, in the days before we'd met face-to-face, in the days when I believed him to be a woman and I was just a misled fool jerking off on camera for him... but it seems so much more real as he performs in front of me. So undeniably fucking real.
Jasper stops. He pulls his hand out and hooks both thumbs under the elastic in his shorts.

Daaaaaaamn, right? This story is simply delish and utterly fabulous is so many ways. It’s emotional, it’s romantic, it’s a story of discovery, and oh yeah, it’s a story where hottie Edward meets super-fucking-hot-Jasper and slashy noms ensue. Bring it on. And Strae, dear, please to be writing more rightthefucknow =)

I’m simply in love. Enjoy, pervlings!

Chele -
I had such hope and excitement when I read the summary for this story. There was opportunity here to show the level of love and affection possible between two people who learn about each other in an environment independent of gender. I was also a little nervous, because there were many ways in which this could have gone wrong. I’m so glad that I took the chance and dove into this. It’s not what I had expected, possibly not even what I had hoped for, but Strae has made a story which feels possible, real, and is absolutely captivating in it’s sexual discovery.

I’m a tough sell when it comes to stories where adults are surprised when their own gayness flipped on like a lightswitch. By the second chapter, it becomes obvious that this is not going to be the case with What Matters. The love is there from the onset, but the acceptance of self, the surrender to the attraction? That’s going to take some time.

Edward feels very innocent, which is what makes this believable to me. He seems like a guy who has had most things come easily to him, and has, therefore, generally led an unexamined life. One lonely evening in a chat room changes all of that, though, and suddenly Edward is examining and questioning everything he thought he knew about himself. This story beautifully captures that time in one’s early twenties when you finally give yourself permission to question everything you thought you knew about yourself and the world.

The sexual intensity between Jasper and Edward is thick from the moment they begin their online dialog through their first meeting, and every interaction. While reading I would be internally begging them to touch, for Edward to give Jasper just a little. A touch, a little tongue, just the tip, anything. Of course, when he does, it only leaves me wanting more. Most of all? I want him to be able to accept his own attraction, and share the love with Jasper the way they both so desperately deserve. I want him to love beyond categories.

Though there’s plenty of slashy times here, What Matters is so much more than a typical slash story. It’s about the possibility of loving someone beyond pre-conceived notions of gender and sex. I can’t wait to see if Edward is strong enough to be the man who can let this happen. Come sit next to me, and we can read and find out together.

Jen - If you read the description of What Matters by Strae and thought you were going to read a PWP with a cutesy plot device, you’d be very wrong. What Mattersis a smartly written exploration of sexuality, attraction, and gender identity.

When Edward meets “Jazz” in an online chat-room he believes she’s a girl. Though they start connecting through flirty banter and Edward’s exhibitionism, Edward eventually realizes that he and Jazz have formed a friendship that he’d like to pursue outside of his computer.

Jazz doesn’t seem to want to meet Edward in person. Edward feels rejected, even though he tries to tell himself otherwise; after-all, people should exercise caution when meeting strangers from the internet, right? Knowing it might not be such a hot idea, Edward takes the info he knows about Jazz and sets about finding her. When he’s successful, Edward is freaked that he’s been falling for a man.

Strae conveys Edward’s confusion and mixed emotions so well. He doesn’t know if he’s ashamed, angry, or sad that the person he was attracted to doesn’t quite exist. He can’t quite sort out what’s upsetting him. Edward is surprised to realize that he feels nearly the same crushing despair that he did when Bella dumped him.

Edward is not the only one crushed. Although we’re hearing about everything from EPOV, Jasper’s pain and mortification are palpable. Strae’s descriptions of Jasper’s pain through Edward’s eyes are utterly heart-twisty and made me wish I could find him a nice boy to make him happy. Edward remembers how it felt to be rejected by Bella, and part of him wants to comfort Jasper.

For a moment, I don't think of him as just a man; I see Jasper as a person who cares for someone he cannot have. I understand that long-lasting pain, and in the spur of the moment, I decide to try my best to alleviate some of his pining. He is attracted to me, and although I cannot return those feelings, there is something I can leave him with. Impulsive as always, I wish to give him a small something to remember me by.

I’m not going to quote the whole thing--I’d be putting nearly the whole chapter in here--but the kiss Edward and Jasper share is incredibly hot. They stop making out when Edward realizes that he’s gotten hard from kissing Jasper.

Edward spends the next few weeks completely confused and frustrated, thinking about how his feelings toward Jazz haven’t changed much, despite the confusion he feels at his being male. It’s the start of his exploration of the nature of attraction. He’s as over-thinking as canon Edward, but not as broody.

Why do I still think of Jazz the same way as I did months ago? Why don't I hate him when I obviously should? I still get the feeling that I want to... see him. I don't want to date him, of course, but knowing that Jasper is the person I had bonded so deeply with before... My feelings haven't changed all that much, knowing Jasper is still the funny, witty person I grew to adore.

In the middle of all of this heart-wrenching soul-searching going on, there’s comic relief provided by Esme, Carlisle, and Jasper’s friend Alice. I adore them all.

Edward and Jasper get together socially a number of times and due to the situations they end up in, Edward is constantly comparing male and female bodies, and his body’s reaction to Jasper. He wonders about how m/m sex feels for the man who’s the bottom. Is he aroused because he’s still attracted to “Jazz”, because he hasn’t touched himself since he met Jasper, if he’s attracted to this man in particular, or if he could be attracted to all men? Is he gay or bisexual? Edward’s thoughts are by turns funny and heartbreaking.

At times it isn’t easy to watch their growing relationship, and neither of them know if it’s a friendship or something more. Jasper is patient, but is confused and hurt by the way that Edward allows himself to get closer and then pull away. Edward’s serious exploration of his attraction to Jasper, his own sexuality, and the question of whether or not gender should be an issue in matters of the heart are what set this fic apart from other slash fics where the character suddenly says ‘zomg! I’m gay!’ I’m looking forward to hearing Edward’s continually evolving thoughts on these issues, all the while hoping he doesn’t completely crush Jasper. I need MOAR, Strae, and soon!