Chapter 2

Carlisle’s vow to stay away from Edward lasted exactly half a day. As soon as he was back the next night, he found himself circling. The men’s ward. The women’s ward. The boy. The men’s ward. The boy. The children’s ward. The boy.

Edward’s condition was worsening. Where two nights ago, he’d been able to speak, he was now locked in a delirium so furious he called every nurse “Mother.” If he recognized Carlisle at all, there was no evidence. Which, if Carlisle admitted it, was probably for the best.

At least he wouldn’t be accused of being a pederast.

But he couldn’t help but stare every time he came to the beside. Edward was the picture of youthful virility—pectoral muscles and an abdomen that were coming into what they would be as he grew into an adult; the smattering of hair across his chest and running down toward his navel…and further, but Carlisle tried not to think about that.

He replayed the kiss, brief as it had been, in his mind, as though he were an unwilling prisoner to it, being forced to undergo a brainwashing. Yet who was brainwashing him, but himself?

Which was how he found himself wandering not in the men’s ward, but in the women’s, wending his way toward Edward’s mother. She’d taken a turn for the worse. Carlisle had been waiting for this; he knew that Death was coming for them both. For Edward, with his thin fingers, for Elizabeth with her bizarre eyes.

They would both leave him, and it was probably for the better that they did.

Yet his stomach still twisted every time he thought about it.

The women’s ward was full of sound; women coughing, nurses murmuring, even one other doctor, checking pulses and listening for breath sounds through his stethoscope. But when Carlisle saw Elizabeth, it was as though the entire ward was just the two of them.

She sat bolt upright in bed when he entered, her hair mussed in the back where it had become tangled from her pillow. It was gathered on top of her head like a nest. Fine, he saw, like her son’s. Her green eyes no longer shone; instead, she stared at him with an odd, flat expression”Save him,” she muttered.

“I’m sorry?”

“Save him!”

This time, her eyes locked with his. She’d found him, even in the dim light of the handful of lamps.

Did she even recognize him?

“Mrs. Masen, I—”

“Save him!” This time she reached for him, and Carlisle found himself moving toward her bed. He grasped both her hands in his and gently urged her to lie back down. As soon as she was horizontal, the fluid reached her lungs again, and she began to cough the raspy, wet cough of one who was drowning in her own body.

“Shh,” he said, pressing her down gently into the sheets. The hospital issue blankets were woolen and gray, scratchy. But he pulled it over Elizabeth’s body anyway, up to her chest, tucking it in.

“Save Edward,” she mumbled.

“I’ll do everything in my power,” he whispered back. And at once, he realized this was true. He would do whatever he could to keep Edward safe.

Even though it meant prolonging his own torture.

“You must…” Elizabeth’s eyes turned back to the unfocused, blank state. The green went flat once more. “You must do everything in your power. What others cannot do, that is what you must do for my Edward.”

Carlisle pulled his hands away from her as though she’d caught fire.

What others cannot do?

She couldn’t know. There was no sunlight here. And with Edward so nearby—he had to hunt almost daily to keep his thirst at bay. She wouldn’t even have seen his eyes in their darkened state, would she? She couldn’t have.

And she was delirious. She could barely tell up from down; there was no way she was able to tell human from immortal. There would be no reason for her to think he was anything other than a physician.

Whatever was in his power. His power as a doctor, of course.

He pressed her shoulder gently into the mattress, shushing her.

But what if she hadn’t meant that?

He was two hundred seventy four, an ungodly age. In that time, he’d never allowed himself companionship. The summer with Childe Hassam had come to an end almost forty years ago.

And since then, Carlisle had not had a friend.

She gasped, and then she let out one, long exhale, and the room was suddenly silent.

“Mrs. Masen?”

Of course she didn’t answer. Her hand was still warm, and he dropped to his knee as he held it and studied her face. Her chest was still, and he could no longer hear her heartbeat. But her face…even in death, her expression still twisted with concern.

For the briefest of seconds, Carlisle found himself wondering if his mother had held the same expression. Whenever he’d imagined it, longed for it, he’d always imagined that death would mean being at peace.

But Mrs. Masen was not at peace, and Edward Masen was alone. Orphaned. To say nothing of half-dead himself.

An awful set of things for he and Carlisle to have in common.

Reaching out, Carlisle gently pressed Mrs. Masen’s eyes closed. Then he found a nurse in the hallway, asked her to bring the winding sheets and call an orderly to take the body. The nurse nodded and a what seemed like an instant later, the bed was clear. As though Mrs. Masen had been of no importance whatsoever.

He shook his head, scolding himself. She needed to be of no importance. He had no business mourning her.

Nevertheless, he didn’t stick around to see which patient would replace her.

A mere twenty minutes passed before he found himself back in the men’s ward, sitting before The Bed. The Bed. The Boy. It all seemed so ominous now; everything said in capital letters.

Edward, he forced himself to think. Edward. Not “the boy.” A boy. Elizabeth Masen’s son. A young man who’d had hopes and dreams, and maybe even a pretty girl who had his eye, who he would go on to marry as he finished Latin school and went to university. Or to the Institute of Musical Arts.

He had all sorts of reasons not to become like Carlisle.

But those options were only open to him if he lived. And he wasn’t going to live, that much was frighteningly clear.

Carlisle put his hand over Edward’s again, and at once the pianist’s long fingers stretched between his own.

Did he imagine that the grip strengthened?

Was he crazy for thinking that Edward knew he was here?

He put a second hand over Edward’s, squeezing the hot palm between both of his, and his mind went racing off with the possibilities. A companion. A friend. Someone to talk with, and laugh with, to play chess with.

He would work out the kissing thing. Besides, once Edward didn’t smell so appealing…

The boy’s breath came in rattling gasps. He didn’t have much longer. The breath always did this, shook on the intake just before death.

“Edward?” he asked quietly. “What do you want?”

Edward’s eyes opened when Carlisle used his name, and they stared up blankly, flat, like his mother’s.

“Do you hear me?” Carlisle whispered. “Edward, what do you want?”

Edward squeezed his eyes closed and shook his head.

“You don’t want to die,” he answered for him, and Edward kept shaking. Which was understandable. Who wanted to lose their life, especially at seventeen? At seventeen, he was supposed to be the very picture of youthful vigor, not lying pallid on a cot, fighting for breath.

It would be a crime to allow this boy to die.

It would also be a crime to turn him.

Edward’s breath came in even shorter gasps now, as his mother’s had, only a short time before. Carlisle didn’t have any choice. It was either make a decision, or have his decision made for him—once the heart stopped beating, was it even possible to transform another?

Everything in his power…

But if Elizabeth knew anything about what actually lay in his nature, was this the life she would want for her child?

He would teach Edward about hunting animals instead of people. He would show him that there was another way. He would prove Aro wrong about their nature.

Edward whimpered, causing Carlisle to look him over again. His lips were parted slightly, and his eyelids fluttered. He had long eyelashes and strong cheekbones, a slender nose. There was a pure innocence in this face. If anyone could retain their humanity, this boy could.

And there would be time for all the things that Edward would otherwise miss. Time for him to attend University, for him to understand the things he would have learned in his last years of Latin school. There would be time for all the things that Carlisle wanted to show him, and all the things that Edward wanted to learn.

But for pretty girls…

Carlisle sighed.

Well, perhaps there would be time for those, too.

If Edward remembered Carlisle’s affections, his doting, the nights of sitting here and stroking his hair, then that would be wonderful. But if he didn’t, there was no reason for Carlisle to bring it up.

He didn’t want a lover.

He wanted a friend.

And Edward could be a friend.

The rattling breaths came with more difficulty, and Edward’s eyes opened halfway, looking out with no direction. Carlisle scooped him into his arms.

The heartbeat fluttered erratically against his chest, but the body remained limp and pallid.

Edward Masen looked dead. And that would be sufficient.

Clutching Edward’s body to his own, Carlisle fled.

~||x||~

His apartment was tiny, one room with a rusted sink in the corner, lit by a bare bulb. He had a single bed, which was for show just in case someone asked him to open the door. He’d never before had occasion to use it.

When he laid Edward atop the covers, he began to shiver with such force that the bed rattled against the floor.

At once, Carlisle jumped onto the bed himself and pulled the boy into his arms, steadying the shaking body. Carlisle ran his hands through the hair again, and he pressed his nose into it, inhaling deeply. He would accustom himself as much as he was able, so that when the time did come to bite, he would be able to resist the kill. It would be the ultimate test. Something even Aro wouldn’t have thought him able to do.

Something he wasn’t sure he could do.

Edward squirmed, still coughing, and Carlisle used his shirtsleeve to wipe the boy’s lips and nose. Dark streaks appeared across his sleeve, along with small splotches of blood.

He liked the way that this felt, if he allowed himself to admit it. The lithe body in his arms, and the heartbeat fluttering against his chest. Everything about Edward was exquisite.

He ran his hand up Edward’s neck, his fingertips grazing the delicate skin there. He could see the artery and the vein running there, just a fraction of an inch below the surface. Waiting for him.

His own throat burned like nothing he’d ever felt before. It was so painful he almost wished to reach down with his hands and rip out the skin which ran down the inside of his digestive tract.

He could stop it. It would be as simple as taking the flesh between his teeth, clamping down, letting the blood flow back down his tongue, into the throat, where it would be so soothing…

He settled instead for burying his nose in Edward’s collarbone.

The boy tilted his head involuntarily, trapping Carlisle’s beneath his head and his shoulder.

It took him a moment to realize that he had tickled Edward. The thought was delightful. He wondered where else he could tickle? What ways could he bring pleasurable sensations to his new friend?

And even though he hadn’t been thinking of that kind of sensation at all, he found that he stiffened.

At once, he scooted back, letting Edward’s body fall into the pillows.

He couldn’t let him feel that. He would be terrified. And Carlisle would be ashamed.

Reluctantly, Carlisle got out of bed. He sat on the floor, Indian-style, with his back to Edward. He listened to the rasping breath, and felt the heat of the boy’s breathing on the back of his neck.

Edward placed his hand on Carlisle’s shoulder as if to beckon him back.

It only had the effect of increasing the arousal.

Sooner, he thought. Sooner, rather than later. And then he could get over this…whatever it was. It was loneliness. He didn’t know how to respond to physical touch, because no one ever touched him—not in centuries. So of course his brain couldn’t distinguish the two. It expected a woman, and it would behave as though there were one.

And the sooner he could deliver himself from this, the better.

He stood, breaking Edward’s grip on his shoulder, and the boy rolled onto his side, pulling his knees to his abdomen and tucking his arms under his chin. The fetal position, they called it, because it was the way a baby tucked itself inside its mother’s womb. Safely, securely, warm. Protected.

“I don’t have that to offer you, Edward,” Carlisle whispered. “I don’t have a mother’s love for you.”

But he had desperation.

He wouldn’t turn this into a mistake.

Leaning over Edward, Carlisle put his lips to Edward’s neck. He let his tongue search there a moment, dipping into the little crevice between his neck and shoulder.

And as he opened his mouth to bite, he allowed his hardness to press against Edward’s thigh.

~||x||~

Three days later, it began with Edward pulling away from Carlisle’s embrace.

Carlisle let out a little surprised yelp when he did so. But Edward recovered quickly, and in an instant, they were back in contact.

The blood had been amazing, even better than Carlisle’s wildest imagination. And when Edward’s body went still, Carlisle had panicked. He threw himself away from the bed with such force that he cracked the lathe on the opposite wall.

You killed him.

All his years of fighting, of staving his own appetite…for nothing.

He fell to his knees, his hands clutching at his hair. But the beginnings of a wail had only barely left his lips when they were met with Edward’s scream.

He’d been rendered temporarily unconscious. That was all.

And so Carlisle returned to the bed, first sitting beside it, and then, as the blood changed and Edward’s scent grew less tempting, lying beside him on the bed. They stayed that way for three days, Carlisle with his arms wrapped around Edward’s torso, and Edward curled into him.

Now, Carlisle found he was making soft, shushing noises. He wrapped his arms more tightly, as though he could restrain a newborn vampire—unlikely, as no doubt Edward’s strength was equal to his probably three or four times over.

But Edward didn’t move right away. If anything, he curled closer.

So Carlisle kept holding, and kept shushing.

“Are you all right?” he asked at last, burying his nose in Edward’s hair.

Instead of the rich spice, he smelled another of his kind.

Carlisle felt an odd pang shoot through him. Joy, of course, that he didn’t have to worry any more, and yet, with it, a deep sense of loss—Edward would no longer smell like Edward. No longer would the boy have the scent that had so captivated him.

It took a long time for Edward to answer.

“I’m all right,” he said at last. “That…hurt.”

Carlisle held him even more tightly. “I know,” he whispered, brushing his lips against Edward’s hair every time he spoke. “I know it hurt, and I’m sorry I did that to you. You’re safe, now. And nothing will ever hurt you again.”

Edward didn’t move.

“What are you?” he asked at last.

The question caught Carlisle off guard. “I’m sorry?”

“What are you?” He turned, and studied Carlisle’s face. For a moment, they stared at each other. Carlisle wondered idly if his eyes had begun to return to their normal color; he hadn’t walked across the room to look at himself in the mirror since he’d laid down after shaving the boy. Was Edward seeing the red eyes of a monster?

Or the golden eyes of a friend?

“They’re gold,” he said. “And what do you mean, a monster?”

Carlisle jerked himself away, breaking his grip on the boy.

Edward could hear him.

His mind raced back to Italy, to the tall vampire with the dark, stringy hair. The way he would bring in all the vampires at once, touch them, hear everything they thought. everything they had ever thought. He recalled the odd sensation of having ones memories hijacked, forcibly taken away so that the other could view them at his leisure. The incredible violation of privacy, of knowing that whatever you felt or thought, even if you held it for days or weeks at a time, at some point in time, you would be asked to touch him, and none of those thoughts would be yours any longer.

And if that was the case, then there was no way for Carlisle to hide.

Edward stared.

“What do you mean, everything they had ever thought?” he asked at last.

“What?” Carlisle spluttered.

“What do you mean, everything they had ever thought?”

Carlisle backed up, only to find the wall still solidly behind him. He was behaving like a frightened cat, he knew. He could almost imagine himself hissing and spitting at Edward from across the room—except that he couldn’t imagine ever treating Edward with anger.

“You can hear me from there,” he whispered. It wasn’t actually a question.

“You’re talking. I can hear you talking.” His brow wrinkled. “I hear a lot of things. There’s a lot of noise here. Why do you live in such a noisy place?”

Carlisle tried to remember back to his own turning. What the world had been like when he first awoke. He remembered the cacophony of sounds; the way he could hear for miles. Things his human ear had glossed over, had sorted as background noise, all at once, all those sounds had assaulted his senses. It took him months to learn to filter them again. But now he could once again hear the flush in the water closet at the end of the hall, and the neighbors arguing in Italian upstairs, and the footsteps in the hallway, and to dismiss them as things which were unimportant. To focus on the only thing that mattered.

Edward.

“I live in a tenement,” Carlisle said. “It’s easier to live in an apartment, for me. And yes, they’re noisy. You can hear between the floors. But you’ll learn to pay attention only to the important parts, I can promise you that.” And as for what else he was hearing—well, how exactly did you explain to a boy that he was suddenly gifted with the ability to hear thoughts?

Edward’s eyes widened. “I can hear what?”

Carlisle actually laughed. “I didn’t mean to think that to explain this to you, but—I suppose it works, just the same.” You’re hearing my thoughts, Edward. See? I’m not speaking. You’re hearing what’s going through my head.

Edward looked confused.

“I’ll show you.”

Carlisle made his way back across the room, and replaced himself behind Edward, pulling him close again. He leaned down and laid his head on Edward’s shoulder.

I want you to be safe, he thought. I’m so glad you’re here.

There were many things he was worried about. That he hadn’t even allowed his mind to begin to process. That he now wanted to keep private, terrified he would scare Edward.

But he had wanted Edward. That much was the truth.

You are wanted.

Edward’s brow furrowed ever so slightly. Then he leaned into Carlisle and seemed to relax.

~||x||~

What ensued was the oddest conversation Carlisle had ever experienced. His mind raced ahead of the words on his tongue, and Edward answered Carlisle’s thoughts every bit as often as he answered his statements.

Carlisle’s story poured out of him in disjointed buckets. What he knew of English history. Being a human with his father. Becoming a doctor, which had happened almost two centuries later. Living with the Volturi, which had happened half a century before that. Becoming a vampire, which had happened first.

When Carlisle uttered the word vampire, he saw Edward’s eyes flicker immediately to his bookshelf. He’d developed the collection habit from Aro, he supposed; the older vampire had a predilection for keeping tabs not only on their actual population, but also on their ongoing interpretations in the human world. And so Carlisle had inherited this curiosity, with one shelf given over to the ongoing collection: Ossenfelder, Burger, The Bride of Corinth, Southey, Byron, Shelley. Polidori next to Grey, and Féval, and of course, the one the boy’s eyes drew to, the one he recognized…Stoker.

He allowed the boy a moment to take it in, then took both of Edward’s hands in his, forcing eye contact.

“Fiction,” he said forcefully. “It’s all fiction.”

Edward blinked. “But then, you don’t…”

He didn’t need to finish the phrase.

“I don’t. I could.” And you very well might, he thought, before he could help himself. Newborns were stronger than their sires, and their bloodthirst was legendary. If Edward fixated on human prey, Carlisle would be helpless to stop him.

At once, cold air brushed Carlisle’s suddenly bare chest as Edward shrank into himself, curling his arms and head over his knees.

He looked terrified.

I don’t want him to be afraid.

Edward snarled.

The bed was bent in two before Carlisle even registered that Edward had moved. Carlisle was across the room in sync with Edward, grabbing him by the shoulders and pinning his arms. An odd noise came from Carlisle’s lips, and it took him a fraction of a second to realize he was shushing the boy, and a fraction of a second longer to realize he’d begun to do so because Edward was trembling.

They were the same height, although Carlisle was of a much hardier build, and it was this which allowed him to hold Edward with force, as though he were swaddling him with his arms. If Edward struggled, he would break free—newborns were strong—but he didn’t struggle. Instead he went almost limp.

If Carlisle leaned forward, he could put his lips at Edward’s ear, the way he had that first night when he’d whispered his name. His mind raced, remembering…and just as quickly, he brought his thoughts back to the present.

There were things Edward didn’t need to see.

He did, however, lean forward and put his nose next to Edward’s ear. His skin no longer smelled as it had four days ago; the burn in Carlisle’s throat was no more pronounced than it customarily was. If anything, Edward’s scent had now taken on a hint of Carlisle’s own.

“We need to get you out of here,” he whispered.

For both their sakes.

~||x||~

“You can’t keep up with me!”

The shriek was gleeful, and ahead of him, Carlisle could see the Edward’s lithe frame as he raced into the darkness. Four miles had been all it took for Edward to be at home in his new body. He was giddy, occasionally rushing away from Carlisle and darting through the woods so quickly Carlisle could barely keep an eye on him. In the moonlight, his skin shone a glorious silver, and Carlisle had to constantly keep his thoughts in check as he gave chase.

There was so much for Edward to take in. The speed. The strength. Carlisle remembered how it had frightened him, the way he could move almost at the speed of his own thoughts. How he had given chase to a man before he’d even been able to think otherwise, how the man’s scream had saved his life as Carlisle stood there, bewildered.

He wondered how much of it Edward understood. The boy had been inquisitive about Carlisle’s long life, amazed at how Carlisle had lived through history about which Edward had merely read.

But as he chased after Edward, Carlisle wondered if the boy grasped the enormity of what had just been thrust on him. After all, what seventeen-year-old didn’t wish to live forever, strong of body and beautiful of face? How many times had Carlisle thought of himself as a monster? How many times had he hidden in the darkness, waiting for an unexpected burst of sunlight to go away before he’d been able to continue on his way? How many times had he repulsed himself drinking from an animal, knowing that it was the unfulfilling substitute for what he actually desired?

And that what he actually desired was so vile?

Edward stopped so abruptly that bits of dirt flew up from around his feet. Already he was running through the soles of the shoes that Carlisle had put on him; they were excellent shoes, but not made for this.

His eyebrows raised.

“Yes?” Carlisle asked.

“I thought my mother was a worrier,” he said, shaking his head. “You put her to shame.” His face broke into a wide grin. “Here we are, running into Wisconsin in the dead of night, faster than an automobile, and you’re worried about my shoes.

Carlisle didn’t answer right away. Edward closed the distance between them.

“I heard the other things, too,” he said.

Carlisle gulped.

“Are we?” Edward crossed his arms over his chest so that he was almost hugging himself, as though it was possible for him to be chilled.

“Are we what?”

“Are we monsters.”

Monsters. He had thought that, hadn’t he? Edward’s gift was going to take getting used to.

“I didn’t mean it that way.”

They didn’t call Chicago the windy city for no reason. Even though they were easily fifty miles north of the city, they were still on the shores of the lake, and the wind coming over the shore whipped the water onto their skin. Carlisle watched as a single droplet of water ran down Edward’s nose, gathering at the tip and glistening, larger and larger, before it fell in a tiny splash onto the ground.

“How did you mean it, then?”

“It’s something I’ve thought about myself. And it’s not something you should think.”

Edward frowned. “I don’t care for you telling me how to think.”

“That’s not what I mean.” Carlisle reached out to him. He laid a hand on Edward’s shoulder with authority, placing his thumb on the soft skin of Edward’s collarbone. He stroked this skin gently, and Edward’s posture relaxed.

The water lapped against the shore in a steady rhythm, slapping against the rocks and then rushing back out. He remembered how it had amazed him, the first time he’d made his way into the Northwest Territory and seen these huge bodies of freshwater. For the ocean to be so vast made sense; even at the time he’d first crossed to the New World, it was well known that the ocean covered nearly the entire Earth. But for a lake to stretch so far that it disappeared at the horizon, well, it was something Carlisle had never experienced. It was breathtaking. It made him feel small.

“I’ve never seen the ocean,” Edward mumbled.

Carlisle raised his eyebrows.

“It was part of why I wanted to go fight.” His eyes closed, and for a long moment, neither of them said anything. When Edward finally spoke again, his voice was wistful. “There’s so much I wanted to see.”

“Oh, Edward.” Carlisle began to put an arm around him, but then thought better of it—that was, until Edward nodded. With his permission, Carlisle pulled Edward’s body into his own.

Human bodies were warm to the touch, particularly when they were feverish. Edward’s body had seared as Carlisle dashed with him from rooftop to rooftop, away from Cook County Hospital. But he touched humans rarely, and in his recollection, he’d never come close to this kind of contact with another of his own kind, unless one counted the excruciatingly invasive moments of holding Aro’s hand so that the older vampire could probe Carlisle’s mind.

Edward’s skin was warm to Carlisle’s touch, but not in a human way. It was exactly like his. Pliable, but not breakable. Even just the tiny bit of resistance under his thumb told him that Edward was no longer the fragile human he had been a few days before.

It felt strange and perfect at once.

He clutched Edward to him. They would need to hunt soon, he knew. The newness of becoming a vampire could only keep the thirst at bay for so long. But just then, standing there felt as though it was the right thing to do. The wind continued to whip them both as they stood on the shore, continuing to spray the frigid water up their bodies. Somewhere, in the distance, Carlisle could make out the pulsing, intermittent beam of a lighthouse as it swept over the dark.

“You are not a monster,” Carlisle said, his voice low.

Edward turned to look at him. His eyes were wide, and even in the moonlight, Carlisle could see the odd crimson color. He looked small, young. Vulnerable. Afraid.

Unbidden, his mother’s memory spun in Carlisle’s mind. Everything in your power. Everything in your power, that is what you must do.

He had promised.

Squeezing Edward’s shoulders once more, Carlisle added, “And one day, Edward, I will show you the ocean, too.”

They stood another twenty minutes, listening to the waves.

~||x||~

Slowly, they ran their way all the way to northern Wisconsin, stopping to hunt every time Edward complained of the burn, hiding for hours and even days when they got too near a human population.

“I’m not a child,” he whined, when Carlisle insisted they hunt yet again, but Carlisle shushed him every time.

“We’ll take no risks,” he said. “One day, you’ll have plenty of control.”

Edward grunted in answer every time, but he always followed. He was a messy hunter, but that was understandable. When he voiced this thought, Carlisle answered, “I was even worse.” He showed Edward the memory, the way he ruined doublets and breeches in an age when clothing wasn’t easily had.

The images made Edward laugh, and little by little, he picked up Carlisle’s technique.

Because the hunting took time, and because Carlisle insisted they go often, it took them a week to reach the northernmost tip of the state, and another was spent camping outdoors before Carlisle bought them a small farmhouse. It stood miles outside the nearest town, a shipping port on the western shores of Lake Superior. The distance was a precaution—Edward was a faster runner than Carlisle was, and there was no way Carlisle could stop him.

He hoped keeping the humans at bay would keep Edward from temptation.

He refused to acknowledge that the distance made it impossible to keep from his.

They settled in. Carlisle bought a sofa, a reading chair, and two utterly unnecessary beds. Wilson signed the armistice, and the boys came back from the war.

“See,” Carlisle joked when they read the news. “You would never have made it to Europe anyway.”

Edward shoved him, but they laughed.

November gave way to December, and the days grew bitterly cold—Edward marveled at how his new body could lie in feet of snow and still be comfortable and warm. An occupational privilege, Carlisle explained.

They took their shirts off and made snow angels.

Edward was content to spend his days in Carlisle’s company. During the days they read together, or played chess, just as he’d imagined. At night, they hunted or play fought. Some nights, they only ran.

Carlisle reveled in having a companion, someone to sit and read with, who would look up on occasion and talk to him about how the story was progressing. Someone he could sit outside with and talk to on a cold night. Someone to play a game of chess, who was equally matched and who would occasionally beat him through nothing but sheer outmaneuvering. Though most of the time Edward cheated, whether accidentally or on purpose, by reaching into Carlisle’s mind and stealing his next moves before Carlisle had the chance to make them.

Carlisle found he didn’t mind.

The scent had gone away completely in The Change. But other things very clearly had not.

He was watching Edward run one night in the woods. The younger vampire ran barefoot, and often bare-chested, so that he could feel the wind whipping past his body and feel exactly how the earth moved beneath his feet. In the moonlight, his skin shone a blue-white, his hair shimmered a blackish red.

No one looked more beautiful.

Carlisle ran behind him by several paces, watching as he moved, darting through trees. They played this game of chase more often than not, to see if Carlisle could either outrun Edward, or if he could outsmart him.

Tonight, he thought it might be just possible. He couldn’t outrun Edward, he knew that. Edward was faster—newborns always were, but Carlisle suspected that Edward’s speed might remain a hallmark of his forever.

But as he ran, Carlisle had an idea.

Springing thirty feet, he launched himself into a tall oak. He would cover more ground in the air than Edward could on the ground. He jumped from tree limb to tree limb, going so far that he nearly overtook the boy on more than one occasion. Finally, as though he were coming to his senses, Edward stopped short and began to look around wildly. Grabbing hold of a branch, Carlisle swung himself down to the ground, landing with such force that he knocked Edward off his feet, and the two of them fell to the ground in a tangle of limbs and laughter.

“How—” Edward breathed, and Carlisle only pointed up.

“You’re inattentive,” he said, and Edward laughed.

“I suppose I am.” He pushed his hands against Carlisle’s chest. They’d landed so that Carlisle was astride, his hips splayed and his arms out wide where he pressed against Edward’s shoulders. Carlisle had fallen forward in the landing, so that his nose was mere inches from Edward’s.

And their lips…

He threw himself backward into one of the huge oaks.

Edward stood up more slowly. He brushed the dirt from his pants, and then advanced.

Carlisle became still.

“I remember,” Edward said quietly.

“I beg your pardon?”

He nodded. “I remember, Carlisle. In the hospital. That thing you keep trying to pretend never happened. That thing you were hoping would just go away, if you didn’t think about it. It didn’t go away. It’s not going to go away. And I remember.”

Edward was so close now that Carlisle could feel his breath on his nosestepped in so close that Carlisle could feel his breath on his own nose. He planted his feet so that they were between Carlisles, and He tipped his head forward so that their foreheads touched. And then he leaned in just a fraction of an inch further.

His lips were as soft as Carlisle remembered, but now they matched his own in temperature. At first, it felt rubbery and odd, but after only a moment, they fell into a rhythm, their mouths opening and closing in perfect sync. Edward let out a little sigh of breath that sent a shiver straight down Carlisle’s spine.

It felt amazing, this kiss. To have Edward’s lips on his own, his body moving against him—

His body.

Abruptly, he realized that the pressure at the front of his trousers was not merely the firmness of his own member. No, Edward’s was there, too, and somehow Carlisle’s hips were moving, pressing himself closer.

As though he recognized this, Edward at once slid his hand down Carlisle’s back to his hip, pulling Carlisle’s pelvis in closer. In an instant, he was writhing in time to their kisses, soft snarls and mewls coming from his lips.

Carlisle put his own hand on Edward’s hips.

“We can’t…” he began to say, but he was cut off by Edward’s lips on his again. A forceful pull, and a shove—Edward was stronger than him, newborns always were—and Carlisle was spilling into his pants, groaning into Edward’s lips.

It was only when he’d reached his completion that he managed to pull away.

Edward’s mouth hung open in a strange, seductive grin.

Carlisle sprang back from him. What had he done? What had they both done? “Edward—I’m sorry…” he stammered, but Edward was already twisting away from him, moonlight glinting off his bare back.

“Catch me again, Carlisle!” he called, and by the time Carlisle regained sense enough to move his own feet, Edward was little more than a bronze-colored flash between the trees.

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