Part 1: Half cadence
"Darling, you've read my mind."
My playing faltered slightly as my mother came up behind me and rested her hand on my shoulder. I hadn't realized she was there.
"Oh?" I replied, barely paying attention as my fingers tumbled over the keys, attempting to negotiate the difficult passage in the Scherzo of Chopin's second piano sonata.
"I was simply wishing you would play a few minutes ago," she said. "And here you are."
I heard the smile in her soft voice.
"Mmmhmm." I agreed, as I let the music pour forth, aware of every imperfection. One day I'd be able to play it perfectly. If I simply practiced enough.
I gave up and switched into the Lento.
"I wonder though, perhaps a different choice this evening?" my mother asked, pausing to cough lightly mid-question.
Concerned, I peered at her over my shoulder, and she shook her head slightly. "I'm fine," she said, her voice rough. She patted my shoulder as she coughed once again. "I simply need a bit of water."
"I'll get it for you," I offered, noting the thunder that rumbled in the distance.
I sped through the remaining chords in the funeral march so I could finish the movement, craving the resolution enough to hurry the end.
As the final cadence rang through the home, I abandoned the piano, and hurried off to assist my mother.
Rain fell on the concrete sidewalk as I hurried along.
Everything had happened so quickly.
My mother's cough had grown worse, impossibly fast, and spread. First to my father—my proud, invincible father—and maybe even (dare I acknowledge the very possibility?) to me.
I choked back a cough and shook my head to clear the haze that threatened at the periphery of my thoughts, hurrying onward. My mother had needed a few things from our house, and I'd wanted to get there and back to the hospital before she woke up and missed me.
My father was at the hospital as well, but he no longer woke at all.
I wrapped my coat tightly around me to shield myself from the cold drizzle that had settled over the city. Dodging puddles, I ran through the streets of Chicago toward our home.
There wasn't much time.
Light faded to dark before it returned again at daybreak. The change was the only indication time had passed.
The walls of the hospital were gray, as was the deep fog that took residence in my head.
I was vaguely aware that my mother clung to life in the bed next to mine.
Only the occasional presence of a physician stood out in my mind. I never heard him arrive, though time and again, I would wake, and he would be there, silently watching over us, pale and gold and kind.
There was little care he could provide to my mother and myself, or any of those strangled by the influenza. Yet, he spent his time by our bedsides, and though my lungs filled with the disease, I felt strangely lucky for his attentiveness, his presence a comfort to me.
I could tell he was there even before I opened my eyes, a luminescent figure standing guard as I slept.
My mother died the next evening. The physician rested one cool hand on my shoulder, its weight comforting, and pressed his other to my weary, fevered cheek as I wept, half-delirious and ready to follow after her.
I was permitted no such thing.
The stories had been true; every pulpit threat precise.
Fire licked my flesh as I recalled warnings of brimstone, tales of pain and anguish.
What had I done to deserve such an eternity? I understood my deepest hidden desires weren't … appropriate. And as such I'd never acted on them.
Was thought alone enough to grant a pass into agonizing hellfire?
It seemed that was the case.
Blinding pain tore through my body as flame incinerated my mind and consumed my flesh, somehow becoming ever more acute over time.
I screamed, though I'd long since learned it offered no relief.
A descent into madness.
Part 2: The color of cold
White gold, my guardian was, though far more perfect than I'd realized through my weak human eyes.
My angel saved me from eternity in the depths; I understood this the minute my eyes opened.
He saw it differently, believed he'd sentenced me to permanence.
But having been rescued after tasting hell was enough to ensure my gratitude; I'd no desire for more than a three day visit. Eternal death on earth in my new body was hardly punishment in comparison.
That's not to say it was idyllic.
The burn in my throat served as a reminder of the incineration of my humanity; the voices in my head remained as a chronic testament to the madness of burning.
And if I'd wanted in my human form, it was nothing to the rich ache I experienced now. The physical needs of a vampire were potent and unrelenting, far different from any fleeting desire I'd felt before.
Yet crimson sustenance seemed far more attainable than my white one, my light, who proved as ethereal as he was brilliant.
Were it not for his mark on my neck, I'd wonder that Carlisle had ever touched me at all.
"Then anti-scorbutic factor, which is the vitamin found in citrus..." Carlisle looked up with a smile.
"Should be termed vitamin C," I grinned, setting down the reference book.
"Brilliant," he said, taking notes in his journal. Water-soluble C...vitamin found in citrus fruit... anti-scorbutic... consumed daily in adequate dosages... prevent scurvy...
"Just you wait," I laughed. "One day they'll discover vitamins H, and K, and S, and U!"
"Maybe," he said, shaking his head. "There's so much still to learn."
"It's good you don't have to waste time sleeping then," I pointed out.
"Right." He chuckled as he got up from the table. "I'm going to head over to the hospital to show this to Dr. Conway before my shift begins. I'll be curious to get his opinion on this. Perhaps we can borrow the laboratory to do a bit of testing as well."
I smiled as I watched him dash around the house getting ready, a flurry of excitement as he prepared to leave.
As always, just before he left, he made sure to find me.
"You'll be okay?" he asked as his mind sought reassurance that I wouldn't drink anything I shouldn't, or panic from the voices, or otherwise need him in his absence.
"I'll be fine," I confirmed. A few months into my new life, I had gained more than enough control to make it through a few hours without him.
"Okay then, I'll see you tonight," he said. I'll miss you.
"I will. And I'll miss you too," I smiled and listened as he shut the door gently behind him.
He could pretend that he was concerned I'd drink our nearest neighbor, but we both knew that the real reason he checked in before leaving was simply so he could hear those last few words.
"Can you read the minds of the clouds as well?" Carlisle grinned as I returned from my run mere seconds before torrential rain began pelting the windowpanes.
"Of course." I said, shutting the front door behind me. "Oh, and they said you should stop mocking my exceedingly impressive mental ability."
"And why should I do that?" he asked, his eyes twinkling. "Will I be struck by lightning?"
"Worse," I said solemnly, making my way up the stairs to my bedroom. "It'll be so sunny you'll be stuck inside for weeks. You'll get so thirsty you'll have to drink from the old skunk that hides under the porch."
"Is that so?" he chuckled.
"Yep." I called back to him. "I thought it was rather ingenious of the clouds, but the skunk doesn't like his odds, so he's going to go stay beneath the neighbor's barn for a few days."
Carlisle's laughter rang through the house, clear and bright.
"Play for me?"
Carlisle had returned from the hospital earlier that day, and from his thoughts, I could tell it had not been the easiest of shifts. He had looked more exhausted than a vampire should.
Now he was simply quiet as he sat on our loveseat, staring off into space, a neglected book by his side.
"Oh, sure," I agreed, putting down my work to take a seat at the piano bench.
Thinking for a moment, I decided on the Chopin Scherzo that had eluded my fingers as a human. Within a short time; however, I felt Carlisle's hand on my back.
"No," he said. "Play for me."
My fingers stilled. I didn't need to pick through Carlisle's thoughts to understand; he wasn't necessarily impressed by complicated. Gently, I rested my fingers atop the first notes of Satie's Gnossiennes No.1,a piece he loved.
Please? For me?
Closing my eyes, I began to play, pouring out the emotion the piece demanded—slow and haunting, sensual and timeless and absolute, written without measures, without bars, without limitations.
Thank you, he thought as the final notes hung in the air around us.
I nodded, opening my eyes again when I felt his loss of his hand.
"Shall I build us a fire?" he asked.
"Please," I replied, needing the warmth.
Later that night I imagined us dancing together to that same mournful song, his cheek lightly touching mine and his hand once again pressed against my back.
It was well past midnight. We lay sprawled in the long grasses of a forest clearing, sated after hunting, and content to relax and enjoy the splendor of the moonless night.
I thought I'd known stars as a human; I'd identified constellations with my father on the back steps of our Chicago home, wishing like mad on the occasional shooting star. But I'd never forget the first time I experienced the evening sky as a vampire, far from the haze of the Chicago lights and without the limitations of human sight.
Tonight, we stared—up, up, and away at the multitude stars, pricks of white and gold and blue. The planets, and their moons, circled overhead, wrapped around each other, tied to each other in their ordained celestial paths.
"Amazing," I whispered as a meteorite fell to earth.
"Phenomenal," he replied, as he watched Perseus chase Cepheus through the sky.
I looked over to study his profile. He was utterly gorgeous, pale and refined against the darkness. "Beautiful," I breathed.
You have no idea, he thought, turning to hold my gaze.
Carlisle looked away first. I could no sooner escape his pull than a moon could turn from its heavenly path.
I observed Carlisle treat, and care, and heal, fueled by his all-encompassing passion for life.
I listened to his thoughts as he read, greedily feasting on the latest medical advances or losing himself in tales and teachings from distant lands.
I watched him hunt—grace and power, raw and unmatched—envious of the trickle of blood that spilled from his lips, and down, down his pale neck, and down further still.
I was in awe of the angel; I fell in love with the man. And I needed, desperately, the vampire.
One evening at dusk I stood and watched as Carlisle walked along the coast near our small home in the cliffs. Tucked away, this place was far from the bustle of the nearest town, so there was silence even for me, but for the unending song of the ocean swirling and curling through rocks below.
"I know your mind, and I know my heart," I spoke to the sunset and Carlisle. I knew I was not alone in my feelings, though Carlisle pretended I was, burying not only his own emotions, but denying mine as well.
He studiously ignored me, or rather, attempted to.
"We are already connected in ways unbreakable. Why won't you let us join together in every other way as well? Why deny what we both need?"
I paused and waited for him to respond. As usual, nothing was forthcoming.
"Please, Carlisle, I need you. I need to touch you and ... Why won't you let me?" I pleaded. "Why won't you allow yourself to love me?"
His near stumble in the sand was the only indication he had heard me.
"I do love you, Edward." He turned to me, suddenly fierce. "Never doubt that."
"Not the way we both need you to," I contradicted him. "You made me who I am and gave me life. How could I not love you? Admit you feel the same way."
"Exactly," he spit out. "How could you not? And that is why we shall not."
He turned back to the water and began walking again, though he directed his thoughts to me.
It is my venom that ties you to me, nothing more. I won't have you bound with poison.
"It's so much more than that and you know it. It is not only because you changed me—though I love that you saved me and I love seeing your claim on my neck."
He interrupted me with a deep growl before managing to regain his otherwise endless control.
Edward, stop. The answer is no. I won't have you like that. It is wrong and I've already taken too much from you. Please don't ask me again. I will not be your default simply because I'm your lone companion and your...
He couldn't even think the word, he hated to acknowledge what he had done to me, how he had changed me.
"How can you deny who you are and who I am? How can you deny yourself your mate? And how can you deny me mine?" I asked, my anger mounting.
He threw a large rock against a cliff a few hundred feet away, shattering it.
The next stone he plucked from the ground found its new home a quarter of a mile out to sea.
The third I never saw land, as I had turned away, my heart cracking and my eyes burning with dry tears.
We'd had this conversation before, and would again.
Because I refused to give up on him, on us.
He ignored my departure.
We ran across the arctic earth, stretching our legs across the frozen lands of the Yukon, finally reaching the sea at the northern edge of the territory.
Night was unending this time of year. Stars pierced the moonless dark, their light dancing along the crystalline ground as Aurora Borealis spilled across the sky in shimmering reds and greens, similarly echoed by the glacial ice below.
Utterly frozen, but fully alive.
Taking my place at Carlisle's side, I glanced up at him. Every ounce of my being wanted to experience this night with him, not next to him.
Out of ideas, not knowing how else to reach him, I decided he gave me little choice as to my next course of action. Without warning, I pressed my mouth to his.
He instantly reverted to stone.
"For God's sake, Carlisle," I said, exasperated.
He stepped back warily, his mind already working to forgive me, blaming my youth, my naïveté, the recentness of my change. It was always the same.
But as the days had melted into months and years, I'd grown more and more unwilling to let him hide behind his careful facade.
"Why can't you admit what we are? Why must you always refrain from everything our bodies need?" I challenged him.
Looking up at the sky, I strained to keep some control as my insides threatened to shatter, the taste of his unwilling lips lingering on mine.
He stood right next to me but was as distant as the stars and similarly out of reach.
"What are you so afraid of?"
My voice was loud. Louder than I'd intended, and magnified by the silent shimmering world.
He looked me calmly in the eye. "I'm going home. I hope you'll join me."
Devastated yet again by his refusal to fight, to even consider or address the issue, the air in my lungs seemingly evaporated. I bent at the waist, barely holding myself together. His venom ran through my body; he touched me always, everywhere, yet I couldn't reach him.
He watched me until I finally managed to nod in response, whereupon he turned and began making his way back to our home.
Pulling myself together, I silently followed him across the thousands of miles, studiously remaining several paces behind him the entire way.
We hunted one summer afternoon in the dense forests of the Rocky Mountains, the blood coating our throats, warming our bellies, lubricating our hearts.
"You only want me because my poison links you to me." Carlisle watched me as I ran my hands through a cold mountain stream. "I won't let that be the reason."
"You're a fool," I told him. He'd taken to talking, always talking, yet never swaying. He argued with himself half the time now; I'd heard it all before, hadn't even brought it up this time. I knew his next words before he uttered them.
"You deserve a choice," he insisted.
"I've made one. Let me make my choice." My own refrain was similarly unchanged.
"You have options."
"I don't want them."
I'm tired of fighting this.
"Then stop," I sighed.
I can't. It's not right to take advantage of you, he thought as he crouched next to me, inhaling deeply, and I could see him blink slowly, his usual reaction to my scent.
"You aren't," I breathed, half intoxicated by his nearness.
I want you. His golden eyes were unblinking as he tilted his head and leaned in. It was new, how his eyes shifted to my neck, studying his mark on my skin. He never allowed himself this much before.
I felt his breath ghost across my scar.
And then his lips.
And followed closely after by his teeth.
His bite was an echo of his first claim he'd made on my body, and the razor sharp pain coursed again through my desiccated veins, arousing me as it twisted up with the exquisite pleasure of his touch.
I shuddered in his arms as he released me, though it was his gasp that carried through the forest. Dropping me abruptly, he shot off into the deep green.
Though he must have heard my strangled call for his return, he didn't come home again for more than a week, and when he did, he was even more distant than before.
He could barely look at me, and I desperately needed him to open his eyes.
We were at an impasse.
Part 3: Summer's guest
The oppressive July sun had singed the earth and sent the nearby wildlife to rest in the cool shadows. But while nature slept around me, I felt a sharp awareness electrifying my body, alerting me to the presence of a stranger on our land.
My defensive crouch was instinctive as I waited for the unknown to appear.
The vampire who emerged gave a warm smile, obviously comfortable and confident in his skin.
"Garrett," he introduced himself, his red eyes settling on my own with a look of surprise. His mind was open and honest—a sharp contrast to Carlisle's tamped thoughts—and he was a traveler, a wanderer, merely passing through.
"Edward," I responded in kind, noting how the sun kissed his olive skin and threaded through his dark, shoulder-length hair. His clothes were indicative of his nomadic lifestyle, rough and torn and raw.
Recognizing no foul intentions, I held out my hand, welcoming him to our land and, eventually, taking him to our house, offering our bath and a bit of comfort.
Garrett could not understand how two vampires could exist in such close proximity if unmated.
I let Carlisle explain that one.
Day after day, I lazed in the sun, the weather unusually clear and hot.
Garrett was inevitably by my side, a few feet away in the grass—or closer.
Somehow I was always surprised by his casual touches, simple brushes of flesh against flesh. I'd become so accustomed to Carlisle's reservations that Garrett's physicality felt foreign. I welcomed it though—I'd missed being touched—even if the physical connection was merely a hint of what I truly desired. Even if it served to remind me again and again of all that Carlisle refused to be.
It seemed Garrett had the sun at his beck and call, bringing the brightness with him as he walked the earth.
We laughed and talked as the grass grew up around us during the white heat of July, the oppressive warmth of August. My new friend shared fascinating stories and tales of the world far beyond my own experience.
Meanwhile, Carlisle hid behind the ruse of extra shifts and dusty files in the garish fluorescent lighting of the small community hospital.
In time Garrett began to largely dismiss Carlisle, and the one I loved withdrew to his office with increasing frequency. When I mentioned his absences, Carlisle merely explained he was bored by the bravado of Garrett's stories, having already had ample centuries of his own for exploration. Or so he said.
The summer tumbled into fall, and it wasn't until the first insistent breezes of late September arrived that I had the opportunity to be with Carlisle alone for any length of time.
"Were you uninterested in accompanying Garrett into town?" Carlisle's eyes were distant, his mind veiled as he sat at our table, medical journal in hand.
"No," I said honestly. "I miss spending time with you."
He raised an eyebrow in disbelief. "You'd rather remain with me? Did you long to read the newspaper with me in angry silence after yet another of our arguments, perhaps? Or did you want to pace outside of my office while I study the latest vaccine out of Poland as you once did? Or perhaps you'd prefer to stand by the front door for hours simply waiting for me to return from an eighteen hour shift at the hospital? There is nothing for you in this. And what you dream of, what you want with me … It is wrong. You are wasting your time."
"I do have forever, you know," I pointed out determinedly. "I want to be with you. I don't care what we are doing … even if we just read boring articles for the rest of time. Besides, I love you. How can that be so wrong?" I took his journal from him, forcing him to look at me. "In time you'll see..."
He shook his head, and, snatching his journal back, reopened it to the article he'd been reading. After some silence, he spoke, mostly to the journal. "You have blossomed under Garrett's warmth."
I scoffed. "As though you'd notice."
He continued on, ignoring my words. "He told me yesterday that he means to leave soon, and hopes you will accompany him."
"Why on earth would I do that?"
Carlisle's eyes flashed as he recalled how Garrett's dark eyes had burned along the length of my body as we sat in the sun.
"Carlisle, please don't," I begged. I had no interest in Garrett. He only served to remind me how it could be with Carlisle.
Carlisle ignored me to instead replay Garrett's obvious arousal as he hunted beside me the week prior.
"Stop!" I spat out. I'd known of Garrett's plan, of course, as he'd been considering this move for some days. He had begun to feel strangled by our settled existence. And while I'd vaguely noticed his growing attention, it had been nothing more than a bit of saltwater on parched earth. I certainly had no intention of joining him. My place was with Carlisle.
Or, at least I had thought it was.
"I think you should go." His voice was cool, his words measured. "Go with him."
"I can't believe you think I'd leave you."
"Nevertheless, I believe you should."
"You're joking. I live here. Stop being ridiculous."
"I'm not," he replied, the lack of emotion in his voice startling.
I stared at him and he held my gaze.
"You want me to leave?" Disbelief colored my words as I fought to make sense of Carlisle's suggestion. I had known our relationship had been strained, but I'd always held out hope that he'd one day come to accept my true role in his life. But it seemed that instead of choosing me as his mate, he wanted instead to remove me altogether.
"You have someone who is willing to give you everything that I must not. And I should concentrate on my patients. A young woman passed the other day who shouldn't have and I won't allow that to happen again."
"Carlisle," I begged. "I won't leave you."
He paused and looked out the window. "I need to concentrate on my work. Besides, it will be … simpler. There is more for you than me. It's time for you to go."
"Please, don't do this," I pleaded.
But it was no use.
There we were, suddenly and unexpectedly, on the edge of white and cold and goodbye.
Carlisle left the room without another word.
I waited for Garrett just beyond the edge of our lands, past the boundaries of the place I'd called home.
Not knowing where we were headed, I packed lightly, my love too heavy a burden to carry with me. So I left my heart in the hands of a physician.
I wondered if he knew.
Part 4: Fallen
I admired the way the colors of the autumn leaves brought out the rich hues of Garrett's skin.
Perhaps it was this that led us to our place on the forest floor, cushioned by the fallen October reds and yellows that had danced along the ground until they landed in our path.
It wasn't that I particularly desired him. I'd merely been observing, curious how his every movement seemed so absolutely sensual. Perhaps if I'd been more like Garrett, Carlisle wouldn't have been able to turn me down.
So I watched him.
But while Carlisle was a giver, Garrett simply took.
When he caught my eye grazing along the musculature of his chest yet again, he did not hesitate.
And I did not turn him away.
Faster than expected, I found myself in a bed of leaves, their rich wooden scent filling my nostrils and crackling against private flesh that Garrett freed without pretense.
He led me through the motions, taught my hand, guided my mouth, and I came to understand what it was to be surrounded by the weight and musk and taste of another. I learned the feel of fingernails pressed into my skin, of another's palm around my length, and the unexpected rush from a scrape of teeth and soothing tongue.
But when he pressed into me roughly, he taught me even all of that wasn't enough to make me forget. It was pleasurable, the way he manipulated me, but not enough. Even as he filled me, I remained achingly empty.
There, on my knees with my head against the earth and the wind cooling the hot kisses Garrett placed on the curve of my spine, I could think only of the one I truly wanted. Not Garrett's rich reds and burnt oranges and warm browns, but the cool white goodness of my mate.
I shut my eyes against the world and allowed Garrett to take me, abusing my body with his need.
It was when he bit down suddenly over the scar Carlisle had left on my neck that I screamed and came suddenly, my traitorous body clenching and releasing until my muscles felt limp.
Garrett merely increased his rhythm until I felt his teeth again, though this time I simply shuddered as he marked my shoulder.
I'm not sure when he came.
Perhaps it was while I watched the crimson maple leaf with the torn corner fall slowly to the ground.
Garrett was a wanderer.
He felt trapped, he said, and was gone before the same tree had shed the last of her clothing.
It was the coldest winter I'd ever known.
Part 5: Winding road
I was somewhere in the mountains the following spring when he found me. His scent reached me, carried by the wind from a nearby ridge as I was seated at the summit, seeking guidance from the flowered earth. I stopped breathing, having learned from past experience that the joy fluttering in my lungs and threatening to spring free was never worth the subsequent pain.
When I saw the white gold of his hair as he scaled a cliff face, I buried my head in my knees, hiding my face from promises unfilled, desires unmet.
When I heard my name on his lips, I covered my ears and tried not to listen to the emotion coloring his voice, desperation, and relief, and Come home. Come home. I miss you. Come home.
His declarations found a way through, wheedling between the cracks until they weakened my resistance enough that I gave in.
And I looked up.
"Carlisle," I whispered.
He knelt and cupped my cheek. "My Edward," he said softly as he took in my appearance, rough from an unsettled life. "Your eyes."
He brushed his thumb below my eyes, attempting to heal the deep purple grays with his touch.
Come home with me.
I choked back a sob of relief as he hugged me to his chest. I stayed the entire night in his arms and well past the next dawn.
Side by side, Carlisle and I ran until we finally reached the front of our small home along the sea, the salty wind greeting me after my absence.
It was exactly the same as the day I'd left it.
"I missed you so much," he said. "You were right; you belong with me..." Carlisle trailed off, eventually clearing his throat.
"But...?" I prompted. It had been a fairly long journey back to our property from where he'd found me—more than enough time to peek into his mind for hints of what was coming.
His shoulders stiffened. "We should probably talk."
"Probably," I agreed, as we wandered over to the rocky beach, hoping that a discussion would be more fruitful than listening in to his one-sided mental monologues.
Squatting beside me, I watched his throat bob as he swallowed. "Carlisle?" I asked cautiously.
"I missed you so much. And we are family, and we should be together. As brothers, perhaps. But you have to understand that any more than that, I think, would be wrong."
I sighed. I was glad to be home, but that didn't mean I was content with his decision. Carlisle's resistance to change and the fact that his youth was spent in the presence of a heavy-handed religion meant that his moral code was both strict and static.
"Why did you even find me?" I had to ask.
"I didn't have a choice. I couldn't think without you. I didn't know how to live apart from you… "
I shook my head. "Didn't you ever stop to wonder exactly why that was? We could be lovers, Carlisle, the mates we were meant to be."
I gasped as dozens of vignettes of us, together, in life, in work, in bed, together in every way he'd been denying us, so clear, so detailed, passed through his mind. So precise I knew instantly they were not the first time he'd envisioned them, not by a long shot. He took a shuddering breath and abruptly stopped the flow of his thoughts.
"Would you have me go against everything I believe?" he asked, studying me. "Simply because I want something, doesn't make it mine to grasp. Would I encourage you to drink human blood because it would fulfill that craving?"
I interrupted, "That's different—"
"Not to me. Trust me, I know it is hard. But with enough discipline..."
I stared at him as my words failed me. It was happening all over again. His guilt and fear still trumped love. He was so good, so unfailingly good and disciplined and careful that he refused to take even what I was more than willing to give.
"Isn't it enough just to be together again as we used to be?" he asked, his voice rough.
Looking out at the ocean, I found I couldn't answer.
So there we stood, outside our small home on the coast, in the salty wind.
Exactly the same as the day I'd left.
Standing by the kitchen window, I gazed out at the steam rising from the ocean in the predawn hours, the mist swirling higher and higher until it spread so thin it disappeared altogether, only to return and repeat its journey the following morning.
I felt Carlisle's gaze on my back, heard the catch in his breath, and so, waited patiently for him to formulate the thoughts that had circled in his head for days.
"Where exactly did you go while you were gone?" His words carried a forced nonchalance when he finally spoke.
I turned to him, eyebrow raised. "Do you really want to know?"
He studied me for a moment before sighing. "No, I suppose not."
I nodded, and turned back to the window, recalling how my human breath would have left a white cloud of condensation on the glass, perfect for writing hidden truths before the canvas evaporated. As it was, the window pane remained crystal clear; my secrets would remain undocumented.
Gazing past the glass, I watched the sun creep over the horizon.
Carlisle cracked the neck of his prey before tearing at its jugular, greedily swallowing. His eyes glistened and his skin flushed the slightest shade of pink as he drank in deep, audible gulps. Sleeves rolled up, collar loosened, and his hair just slightly mussed, his human facade always slipped a bit as he hunted.
It was unbelievably erotic.
He would have hated my thoughts. Discipline, Edward, he would have reprimanded me, entirely hypocritically, as he'd enjoyed watching me hunt just as often. Nonetheless, discipline, he preached. Control. Restraint.
I couldn't bring myself to care. I stood back, content to watch his unconscious display, as the heady aroma of fresh blood combined with the scent of Carlisle and filled the air around us.
He looked up eventually, and found me staring at him. He bit his reddened lower lip.
There it was, the disappointed sigh of my name.
I wanted him so badly it hurt, and though all I was doing was watching him, it still wasn't good enough for him.
I tensed and turned away, looking up at the crescent moon above. "What?" I replied eventually, my voice strained with my efforts.
"You let your deer go," he replied, confused.
"I guess I wasn't thirsty," I mumbled. "I'm going home. I'll see you there."
I turned and ran back to the house, my thoughts a jumbled mess. I didn't know how much more I could take.
"He didn't hurt you, you said?" Carlisle's words would have been out of the blue had his thoughts not spun consistently around the question for the past several days.
I looked up over my piano score I'd been studying. "Correct. He did not."
But, you didn't look well, when I found you.
I looked at him pointedly. "I never said I wasn't hurt."
"Right," Carlisle looked down at his hands.
I sighed, and stood up, tossing the score on the table. "Look, I didn't care when he left. He meant nothing to me. Okay?"
"Okay," he murmured, chagrined, as I left the room in search of lighter air.
The days fell one against the next, our life increasingly discordant with desire and denial. As the sun heated the spring into summer, the tension simmered between us, eager to erupt and force an end to our truce.
It finally did so the day Carlisle noticed the scar Garrett had left on my shoulder, a permanent reminder I would always wear of the autumn afternoon when I fell to the earth. Whiter still than my pale skin, the mark was visible as I read outside shirtless in the humid afternoon sun.
Carlisle stared at the bitten flesh of my back, recognition flooding his features until they twisted his face into one I barely recognized. The passion I'd known was in him finally broke free and he exploded, tamped emotion bursting forth in a jealous rage, worsened by the knowledge that he had no right to be angry, not after pushing me away.
"What is that?" he growled, reaching for my arm. "Did you let him touch you?"
Without waiting for an answer, he shoved me up against the wall of our house, clasping my wrists above my head, and smashing his mouth against mine.
I pressed back, eager for his taste and fueled by his sudden emotion, my traitorous body always, always needing his, even like this. Even like this.
Suddenly, he spun me around. His thigh between mine, a hand on my wrists, the other, pressing my face to the wall.
Without warning, he growled.
Mine, he thought, just before his teeth cut into my flesh over top of Garrett's mark.
Mine. The pain from his bite ripped through my body and my knees threatened to give out.
Mine. My skin scraped against the wall as I arched in agony from the venom.
I whimpered in response, a pleading sound, his name wrapped in pain and heat and somehow also an offering of myself, always willing to give him everything.
The sound of his name served to bring him back to himself, and I turned from the wall in time to watch him step away as guilt and horror flooded his mind.
I collapsed to the ground, knowing what was coming. I'd seen it before, after all.
Sure enough, he started to run.
This time, I wouldn't let him.
"No, Carlisle. You don't get to run away. You don't get to hide. You don't get to be afraid any longer. And don't you fucking dare apologize!" I yelled after him as I got to my feet.
I always was the faster one.
I caught him within a few seconds.
When I reached him, I wrapped my arms around him from behind until I could pull him to the ground pinning him beneath me. "You don't get to decide anymore. It's not just about you." Fury rolled off of me as I glared at him. "I'm in this too. You changed me. And you made me who I am—your mate. It's time you owned up to what you did and who you are."
He struggled below me, trying to free himself from my grip, but venom coursed through my veins, and anger fueled my muscles, rendering his attempts futile.
"Edward, please. You're better than this," he gasped out.
"Says the man who pressed me up against the wall not three minutes ago," I spat back.
He flinched. "Edward, please, think about—"
"I'm done thinking," I cut him off, pressing my mouth to his.
I kissed him, again, and again, and again, until he gave in and his thoughts began to race with the same desire that swept through my own. Kissed him until his hisses gave way to soft groans, until his struggles turned to writhing limbs that twisted up with mine.
Listening to the soft pleas for everything he'd always denied us, I tasted him, his lips, his tongue, his neck, and then, after tearing free his shirt, the flesh of his chest, the skin below his arms, below his navel, below...
I wasn't sure I could have stopped even if he had told me to.
Touching him, holding him, coaxing from him the want and passion he desperately fought to hide, he responded to me, panting and groaning, my name on his lips as I took him in my mouth.
Edward, what are you doing to me? I can't... My God, Edward, please, more, please... Your mouth, Edward, your lips and your mouth. You're so beautiful. I don't... don't stop. Please, more, please... His thoughts were jumbled, his need trumping his restraint as his hands combed through my hair, and pressed me to him, until crying out, he came.
It was then that I knew that just a taste of him wasn't enough for me anymore. Brothers, friends, they were never going to be enough. All or nothing, no more half way.
I sat back on my heels, releasing him and allowing him to choose.
All or nothing. Everything or alone. Fully together or completely apart.
He got to his feet and straightened his clothes. Leaning against a tree, he buried his face in his arm. I felt the shift in his mind as his control slipped back in place and knew his decision before I voiced the question.
"I can't do this, Edward. I want to, but I can't." He was shaking. "I...can't."
He straightened his shoulders and turned to me, his face a mask of turmoil and pain that I'm sure was mirrored in my own.
"I have to go," he said, his voice shaking. "I have to go."
This time I let him run away.
Meanwhile, I fell to the earth, heaving with dry sobs until I had nothing left.
I heard thunder rumbling off in the distance.
Part 6: The Storm
The world held its breath. Electricity coated the atmosphere. Animals, birds, all were silent. Waiting.
The still air reluctantly gave way to a slight breeze, just enough to turn the leaves on the trees. A glance at the sky confirmed what my body knew: it wouldn't be long now.
I'd returned to our home to wait with the earth, the rocks, the forest. But while the world waited eagerly for life-giving waters, I, dead, was dying. I needed only him. I had since the moment he'd changed me. Probably since before then.
But I'd pushed, and he pushed, and I took and he took, and now, I didn't know who was right or wrong, only that I needed him, and he was gone. I didn't know if he'd be back.
The sky steadily darkened as deep purple mountains of cumulonimbus crept closer.
My eyes flickered to the ocean. Where the water had once been calm, whitecaps now formed atop crests of salty sea.
I couldn't help but turn again to our home, our refuge. Hope defied my attempt at suppression, blooming defiantly within me in the instant it took to turn from the shore to our house.
As quickly, it was dashed. He wasn't there. It remained dark. Empty. Waiting.
I couldn't go inside. I wouldn't. The structure was meaningless without him.
Thunder rumbled in the distance. My mind strained to hear past it, seeking his thoughts in the wind. Nothing.
So I waited. On the verge of... something.
Changing air, hot and cold, carried the storm in my direction as I remained unmoved. Every glance toward the house was merely another rush of hope crushed. Every look left me more broken than the one before. He wasn't here.
I ached. A spring storm meant little in the long breath of immortality. The weather wouldn't harm him. I knew this. He would be fine. He would survive.
But as the first droplet of freshwater landed on my brow, the thunder shook and rolled ever closer, I realized I knew something else.
We might not.
I needed to reach him, to bring him home.
My heart ached at the thought it would end like this.
Standing in the place where the spray of the sea met the first branches of the forest, I faced the woods. Though the sky was dark, I saw clearly. I searched the branches for a glimpse of him, any indication he was near. I breathed deeply, seeking his scent in the wind. Strained to hear his thoughts in the air. I tasted the oxygen-rich air, that smell of life and—if I was lucky—reparation.
There was nothing.
The last of my ego sank away into the dry earth with the first drops. I faced the trees, not with hope, but instead sheer desperation. Cupping my hands to my mouth, I called to him, more loudly than could ever be necessary: "I'm sorry."
My words reverberated through the forest, bouncing from tree to tree until swallowed up by the swirl of the wind and the patter of the rain on the dark upper canopy. My world became darker still as I waited for a response.
I didn't receive one.
For all that I saw, and heard, and smelled, none of it was him. I tried again.
"I'm sorry," I pleaded. I'm sorry I let another have me, when in truth I've always belonged to you. But mostly I'm sorry I took what you were not ready to give. No matter how badly I needed you... The truth felt heavy embedded in my apology.
The drizzle became a downpour.
Flickering light, rolling thunder, winds whipping through the trees, the storm was upon me, the breathing tempest more alive than I. Swirling currents of sea and sky swept aside normal activity as Nature demanded obeisance.
Despite my physical strength, there was a weakness deep within me, a fissure threatening to shatter the place where my heart should have been. A crack of lightning split the atmosphere and I snapped.
"Carlisle!" I cried, wrecked and raw. "Come home."
My hands clasped my throat in a weak attempt to hold myself together. "I'm sorry. Please." I heaved with dry sobs, falling to my knees. "Come home, please, come home."
Until I had nothing left, until my words became whispers lost in tumult, I told him.
Again, and again, and again. I'm sorry. Please come home.
Sheets of rain poured over me, and I rocked slightly in the wind. Gusts bent trees and lifted saltwater high against the rocks. Thunder shook the earth to which I clung. Without my foundation, what else was there to grasp?
"I'm sorry," I called out, for the seventh, eighth, the hundredth time.
Please. Come home.
My eyes were wet with rain as the world cried for me. For us.
A burst of light flashed through my vision. I turned in time to witness another stretch of lightning as it reached down to touch the ocean, illuminating the sky in its efforts, fury unleashed from the skies.
It would have been wise, I knew, even composed of stone as I was, to seek shelter. I couldn't decide if I cared. But somehow I eventually pulled myself to my feet, my physical strength uncompromised by my emotional and mental destruction. As I turned toward the home that had at one time been full of possibility, electricity danced across the sea, raw energy exploding into whitegold heat and light.
But I didn't see the lightning.
I didn't see the ocean. I didn't see the trees. I didn't even see our home.
All I saw was him.
He stood, drenched, in front of the house. The distance between us was irrelevant; his golden eyes found mine.
"You came home," I murmured.
Through rain blowing sideways, Carlisle nodded once.
"I'm sorry," I told him.
Another slight nod. He knew.
I waited for a crash of thunder to move past before speaking again, for these were the most important words of all.
"I love you," I said.
He knew this too. That had never been the problem.
"Come home," he whispered, as I was now the one lost in the storm.
Part 7: Survival
I walked slowly toward him through the driving water and fierce winds, nervous over what was to come.
"Carlisle." His name fell softly from my lips when I reached the doorway where he stood. "I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorr—"
He shook his head, silencing me.
Thunder crashed in the background as lightning split a nearby tree.
Wordlessly, he turned and I followed him in, out of the rain, and up to his bedroom.
By the time I entered, he was standing at the bedroom window, gazing out at the storm.
Please stop, he thought, spinning around to face me.
I froze, unsure.
Carlisle watched my face for a moment before he stepped toward me. Methodically, he began removing my wet clothing, his hands steady, unapologetic, as he worked buttons free and peeled back the layers. Despite his task, however, his fingers rarely brushed my bare skin; there were no caresses or kisses, though my flesh longed for them.
When I was naked before him, my hair dripping down my neck and my skin still damp, he set aside my clothing before turning back to study me. He walked around me, looking over my body, likely searching for additional marks. Bites.
We were both scarred.
He walked over to his bureau and slowly removed his own clothing, the material likewise soaked from the rain.
Undressed, he approached me, and brushed my hair back from my forehead.
I couldn't help myself; I leaned into his touch.
It was a mistake. He immediately released me.
Sit on the bed, he thought, and stood before me, studying me. The storm in his eyes rivaled the tempest outside our windows.
Abruptly, he turned away and went to open the windows. Rain poured in those facing the west but I knew better than to protest.
Things were replaceable.
"Carlisle," I pleaded, as he watched the storm.
He turned and moved to his closet, retrieving a blanket to drape around my shoulders. Taking another, he wrapped it around himself and then leaned against the near wall.
"I'm sorry too," he finally spoke, softly. "I shouldn't have bitten you."
I raised my eyebrow.
He huffed. "Again. I shouldn't have bitten you again. Not like that. That was...reprehensible, and I'm sorry. I lost my mind. I just...couldn't stand the thought that he'd marked you."
I nodded. "He didn't mean anything."
We lapsed into silence as the storm roared around us.
"Carlisle," I said, looking up at him. "I can't go back."
"I don't want to," I continued. "I love you, and I always have, for so many reasons and with my whole self—not just because you saved me."
He took a deep breath. "I know that too."
We paused as the wind whipped through the room, curling through the blanket I held tightly around me.
"I don't know if I can," he admitted, looking up, his forehead creased.
"Will you try? I need you to at least try."
"I want to," he said softly.
I bit my lip. "Come here." I reached out my hand to him.
He studied me. "You want this?"
"Yes," I breathed. Always. Please. Forever. "But do you?"
Holding my gaze, he returned to the foot of my bed and took my face in his hands. The blankets puddled at our sides forgotten as, without pause, he pressed his lips to mine in a kiss that sent my still heart racing. It was everything that should have always been, sweet hunger wrapped in the taste of my Carlisle. His tongue met mine and I grabbed tightly to him, trying to hang on as the storm raged.
Eager hands and mouths tried to be everywhere and feel everything. I fell back to the bed, pulling Carlisle over me. I arched up into him, my body asking for more of his weight, and he responded, pressing against me as our mouths met in unending kisses, at last on the same page.
Passion swept aside pretense, and, always graceful, but even more needy, we grasped and slipped and slid against each other, finally, forever, always, please.
Releasing my lips, Carlisle knelt between my thighs and, motioning for me to lie back on the bed, unapologetically bent my knees open until I was spread before him. His gaze and the brush of the wind that swept through the windows made my skin prickle and my mind race.
I trembled as I watched him use his venom to slick himself, then proved unable to hold back a gasp as he turned his attentions to preparing me. Finally, with only the slimmest margin of control, he entered me, smoothly pressing into my body, watching me as I read in his eyes everything I had always known to be true.
I cried out as he claimed me, pulling me toward him, and began moving exquisitely in my body. Lightning flashed, its brightness highlighting his rolling musculature, and thunder echoed around us as he thrust into me, hard and fast.
It was almost too much, the pleasure of being taken by my mate. Desperately, I clung to his shoulders, begging for more—more of him, and more of his heart.
Straining above me, he had to be as close to the edge as I. Perhaps he saw how badly I needed all of him, or maybe his own need was too great to deny, but he bent down and captured my mouth in a bruising kiss as he slid into me again and again and again.
I came as he kissed me, shuddering between us, holding him tightly to me.
Another few snaps of his hips and he buried himself in me, roaring as he, too, found his release.
After a final kiss, he collapsed beside me. As I peered into his golden eyes, I could still see the storm raging inside of them. There was much to fix, but, curling into his side and buoyed by our lovemaking, I dared to hope that maybe, just maybe, we'd find our way.
Carlisle pried himself from my grasp not long after. He went to the window and stared outside as the storm moved into the distance, the thunder rumbling low from a distance. The rain carried by the wind coated his face and body though, and when he finally turned back to me, I couldn't help but think the droplets were his tears.
"Come here." I patted the bed beside me.
"I can't... not...not yet."
He went to the doorway and looked back, his eyes again cloudy and closed off.
I love you, I just need some time, he thought, before turning and heading down the hall and out through the front door and down to the beach.
I listened to the sound of his footsteps, soft on the dark pebbled sand.
Getting up, I went to the open window and watched him as he walked along the ocean, blinking against the rain that still fell. His hair was messy from the wind and water, his naked figure pale against the rocks.
He looked up and saw me at the window.
I have always loved you, he thought. Always.
The current carried his thoughts to me as he dove into the choppy surf and began to swim out to sea. Then, as wind whipped through the air, all I heard was silence but for the someday, someday, someday as it crashed rhythmically against the rocks.
I turned my face up to the sky and, with the clouds, wept a sea of rainy tears.
For the day when our forever would finally begin.
And for my heart, which, though stilled by his venom, refused to die.