Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Vampire

April 16th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Blue book cover reading "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Vampire A Twilight Short Story giselle-lx"

A series of short jaunts into the minds of those who know him best.

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Notes on “Verities”

January 19th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink


So,, which is one of my sometimes fandom haunts (I try to stay away because I tend to just end up arguing with people, but it tends to suck me in like a tractor beam), continues to host 1,000-word fic challenges. I find them fun, because it’s always very interesting to see what I can do in about 1,000 words. 1,000 words requires precision that is a great workout for my writing muscles. Present tense? Past tense? First person? Multiple scenes? One scene? Every one of those decisions has huge repercussions in short short stories in a way that it doesn’t in a longer piece, where the effect of any one of those is mitigated by all the other writing you do.

This one started because the prompt was “Edward’s Angsty Christmas.” It had to be Edward, it had to be angst (I hate that word, but–let’s say Edward had to be having a not-so-happy Christmas), it had to be 10 years post Eclipse and “canon, with no Renesmee.” Because wolvesnvamps is someone who I can tease publicly a little, I snarkily pointed out that, as obnoxious as she may be to some, Renesmee is canon 10 years post Eclipse.

She replied that I know she ignores BD (true) and would I please write something anyway?

So since I was being silly, I decided to see if there was a way to write the prompt exactly as written, and still with my defense of what is canon…and this little ditty came out. It’s not as polished as I like things to be , so it’s going to be one of these website-only pieces. Enjoy a trip into my twisted mind.

Last year at Christmas, I used the ADF challenge to turn out “Souls in Stillness.” That fic is titled after a contemporary advent hymn called “My Soul in Stillness Waits.” So for this one, I chose another contemporary advent hymn, “Each Winter as The Year Grows Older.” The chorus reads:

Each winter as the year grows older
We each grow older, too
The chill sets in a little colder
The verities we knew
Seem shaken and untrue.

The Verities We Knew

She never believed in Santa, but she did believe in us. And we came through every time. Until the day we couldn’t.


September 5th, 2011 § 6 comments § permalink

Edward calls him “Dad,” now. There was something about how she never used it for Charlie, how he went to the ground never hearing it. Life is too short to call your parents by their first names, she told him. And even though Edward’s father is already in the ground, and Carlisle considers himself a poor substitute, he likes it.

It’s maybe the only good part of this mess.

She was seventeen. Edward thought she was too young to make such a permanent decision. Hadn’t seen enough. Didn’t know what powerful love even was. And when that eighteen-wheel logging truck missed Chief Swan’s emergency flare and jackknifed like it was a stumbling fawn, she got one phone call and decided Edward was right.

She’s way on the other side of the country now. They moved, not her. Esme’s island isn’t the only one he owns, and they set up shop on the one in Bar Harbor. Edward went for a swim the day they got here and came back a year later. His eyes were still golden, though.

Carlisle’s sitting in an Adirondack chair, his bare feet dangling in the water. The waves swell in and out, each time pulling a little sand from beneath his toes and slowly burying his feet. Esme’s in the garden behind the house, humming as she works–she grows vegetables, for reasons unknown. They get destroyed by the birds and this one red fox that got here God-knows-how. She doesn’t care. Gardening is Esme’s distraction, and they all need those.

It’s just the three of them here, in a cottage with two bedrooms. Rosalie went off to work with special needs kids–she loves acting like a mom, and Emmett coaches basketball for a team where the point guard, the center, and one of the forwards all have Down’s. Jasper’s doing another stint as a professor, this time at Boise State. Alice is designing skiwear.

He’s not practicing full-time anymore. Just a few days each week at the clinic on Mt. Desert. He says it’s because he has to stay home; that his son has a terminal illness.

That’s near enough to the truth.

The annulment papers are in Edward’s underwear drawer. Carlisle suspects he takes them out at least once a day, but vampires don’t have skin oil, and it’s impossible to be certain. He’d like to throw them in the shredder, but he doesn’t take choices away from Edward.

A creaky, off-key thrum and a snap tell Carlisle someone has come through the screen door. He can still hear Esme humming, so he knows it’s Edward even before the scent reaches him.

He’s clutching a piece of paper; it’s crinkled in the middle where his fingers clench. Carlisle can just make out the garish primary colors of the Gmail logo. Edward just stands there for a long time, the paper fluttering against his hand.

“It’s a boy,” he says finally, staring out at the water. “Patrick. Nine pounds even. She says he’s going to play football like his dad.”

Bella’s second husband’s name is Bruce. Played linebacker at Wazzu. They met when Bella went down to Pullman to finish the degree in early childhood education that she started at Peninsula Community College. He sells life insurance now, and she teaches Montessori. They live in a split-level in Puyallup, and they’ve been trying for Patrick awhile.

She and Edward email and talk on the phone. They were all invited to the wedding and to the baby shower, but there was no way to withstand that heartbreak. They sent dozens of gifts, and opened a trust fund for Patrick’s education. She emails, Carlisle thinks, because even though every missive about her thoroughly human life is like isopropyl alcohol in an open wound, they all know Edward will hurt even more if she doesn’t.

Carlisle’s chair trembles when Edward falls to his knees, the hand that holds the email relaxing, the paper fluttering away. It lands in the water, and he watches the ink begin to bleed as it sinks.

Edward wanted her to stay human. He’d simply had no idea what that meant.

They had the conversation six years ago. He couldn’t live without her, he’d said. He could live, if she was living, but one day, she wouldn’t be.

Carlisle agreed. When the time came, he would help. If he is not a father, he is a sire, and Edward is his responsibility to the end.

Not to mention he doesn’t want Aro to be the last one to touch his son.

So for the first time in Carlisle’s life, the clock is ticking. For the first time he has to worry about breast cancer, drunk drivers, cardiac disease. And even if nothing interferes, she’s twenty-eight. According to statistics, this gives them another sixty years at best.

He’s a bit stronger than his son, and he’s able to pull Edward to him with one arm. The lanky body comes easily, and there’s almost room on the chair for them both. He puts his arms around Edward , and the head with its mop of unruly hair falls on his shoulder.

“I miss her, Dad,” he says at last, his lips shaking so badly it’s hard to understand him. But the words are said to Carlisle’s collarbone, and he hears them more from inside than out.

“I know,” Carlisle whispers. “I know.”

Even though they live on the easternmost edge of the country, the house faces west. It’s only four o’clock, but the sun is beginning to dip, sending orange rays skittering across the water.

She was seventeen. Too young to make such a life-altering choice, he’d said.

But what Edward had forgotten was that he was seventeen, too.

The waves lap at his ankles. Esme still hums in the garden. Overhead, the shrill cry of the gulls echoes against the trees.

And Carlisle sits on shore, rocking his child and marking time as one more day comes to a close.

For a Season

March 20th, 2011 § 5 comments § permalink

Warnings: A little gay sex. A lot of pro basketball. And some gratuitous housewares shopping for good measure. These aren’t the Carlisle and Edward I usually write…or…are they?

As always, the characters and their world belong to Stephenie Meyer. Any mistakes I’ve made interpreting them are my own. Thanks to sleepyvalentina and twitinafor pre-reading, and to the Chicago Bulls for having a decent 2007 season. All game records are real.


For a season there must be pain-
For a little, little space
I shall lose the sight of her face,
Take back the old life again
While She is at rest in her place.
The Widower”
by Rudyard Kipling


Ironically, I end up in Wisconsin.

There’s a lecturer position at Madison in epidemiology that is open mid-year because their candidate got a tenure-track offer. I take it because it gives me reason to leave right away, and after Edward runs, I can’t bear to be around the rest of them.

I spend two days traipsing around the city with my real estate agent, who is bubblier than I want her to be. We look at houses downtown and near the university, but they’re too claustrophobic. I tell her maybe something by one of the lakes, and she takes me to a little house, eight hundred square feet exactly, a tiny modern thing on the north shores of Mendota that was built by some Chicago DINKs. It was supposed to be their summer home, but they traded up for a more lavish edition in the Dells.

The driveway is long, off a cul-de-sac with several acres of woods around it. My realtor is concerned. Wouldn’t I prefer something closer to town?

No, the seclusion is just what I’m looking for.

What about a dock?

I don’t own a boat. This is a lie—I own six boats, but none are in Wisconsin.

Then something bigger, in case my family ever expands? A suggestive wink.

I remind her I’m a widower. This, at last, shuts her up.

I buy the house as-is, pay cash, and move within a week.


A girl in my history of epidemics seminar reminds me of Alice. Spiky black hair and fashion-plate clothing. Sits in the front row of the classroom cracking gum, which is unprofessional, but interesting. She has a crazy tattoo of twisting vines that snakes its way out of her collar and up behind her ear. I could imagine Alice with a tattoo, I think.

The girl’s name is Deirdre.

Two hours pass quickly with me outlining the syllabus and the readings, and I let them go a half-hour early—in part so that I didn’t have to keep looking at her.


Renesmee’s voice is a little lower in pitch every time I talk to her. Alice and Rose still measure and weigh her twice a day. Her growth is definitely slowing, but she still looks about four. The boy, Nahuel, says the rate will be almost normal as she gets older—that he looked like his age peers throughout much of his teenagerhood. When exactly that will be for Ness, we don’t know.

She wonders if I’ve gotten the pictures she sent. I assure her they arrived in perfect condition and are beautiful. They’re crayon drawings, still child-like, but they look like they were done by a much older child and show a rather sophisticated knowledge of light and shadow. Every week or so I get a new batch, pressed carefully between slices of cardboard and marked DO NOT BEND on the envelope. My fine art stayed in Forks and is now at the new big house in Vancouver; the study in my Wisconsin home has one wall given over to matted and framed crayonings instead.

This last batch was the first to contain a drawing of Bella, her hair colored with a rich mahogany crayon. Her eyes are brown, which is wishful thinking on Renesmee’s part. But I hang it anyway, next to the devastatingly accurate rendering of Edward she sent two weeks ago.

I dread the day she draws Esme.

I listen to my granddaughter’s rapid-fire rehash of the two days since we’ve last spoken. She hates the phone. She’s used to just being able to touch people to catch them up on her life. But she’d rather I know every detail of her world right this minute than have to wait until she sees me again, so like all of us, she makes do with something less than ideal. I tell her a little about teaching college, and she bemoans not being able to go to school. One day she’ll be able to go as much as she likes, I assure her, and this seems to help.

She puts Alice on when she’s satisfied with our conversation. Alice asks how I am, and I tell her everything is fine. My house is keeping me busy—it needs some minor repairs and for the first time in a century I’m decorating it by myself.

My voice shakes a little on the last bit.

Alice asks if she and Jasper should visit.

No. I’ll be fine. It’s all just… new.

She changes the subject. Have I talked to Edward?

Has she?

He calls to talk to Renesmee every day.

But not to anyone else?

Just Renesmee. Does he talk to me?

No. I’m not entirely certain he has my phone number.

There’s a long pause. Then just: We’re so sorry, Carlisle. This is hard for all of us.

Yes, I say. It is.


Toward the end of January, I visit Ashland. It’s five hours from Madison; out route 51 which was here the last time I lived in this state, and up I-39, which was not.

There isn’t much left here. The old shipyards are abandoned because people don’t ship through the Great Lakes anymore, and the old high school is long since torn down. I peer into the windows of the one that replaced it, trying to picture her teaching at the front of the techno-classrooms. But teaching was never her thing, not really. It was just something she had to do because in 1920, there weren’t choices. Nowadays, she would’ve designed the high school—and it would be more attractive than the one that’s here.

Hollerman’s Rise is still here of course, although now it has big, brushed aluminum railings and huge yellow signs warning of the danger of falling. I stand for a long time, thinking about how it was when it was her standing at this edge, the unbearable loss she must have been feeling. I understand it better, now. I have half a mind to check to see if anything has changed since the last time I jumped—it would be nice, I think, to feel the rush of wind on my face as I tumble over the fall, hear the resounding smack of my body hitting the boulders below.

Perhaps this time, the rocks will break me instead of the other way around.

But there are people at the lookout—a young couple necking, a man taking photos of the lake. So I just stand there instead, letting the wind spray lake water onto my face until it becomes a little sticky, like the residue of tears.

I go to the graveyard and apologize to baby John. I start to cry, and I shake so hard I fear I might break the tiny headstone by accident.

So I leave.

It takes me exactly five hours to get home.


Deirdre has a part-time job at Bed Bath and Beyond, and I run into her while I’m shopping for placemats. The store is overwhelming with its white fluorescent lights and merchandise displayed all the way to the ceiling, and I’m standing in an alcove under a big red sign that says SOFT KITCHEN, wishing that I’d just ordered things online, when I start to feel a little sick.

It hasn’t dawned on me until that very moment that I could just not buy dishes and placemats. It’s not as if I eat. Esme always bought them—cream-colored table linens and white plates, and our table was always fully set as though our family might sit to feast at it at any moment. I’m at the store out of habit more than anything. My own table, a little four-seater thing I had delivered from someplace called West Elm, looks bare.

I’m fingering the placemats, wondering why it is that there needs to be off-white, taupe, and khaki, and I’m about to walk out of the store entirely when Deirdre offers help. Neither of us recognizes the other for a split-second, and it’s her vine tattoo that I notice first.

It’s uncomfortable, but Deirdre is a good saleswoman and knows how to break the ice. Am I redecorating? she asks.

No. I moved here suddenly and brought very little.

Then it’s a blank slate. What dishes do I have? What colors in the dining room?

The dining room is all light wood. I haven’t bought dishes yet.

So we go to the china section. My wife always bought white, I explain, fingering the plain dinner plates at the front of the display.

She asks if I want white, and it’s her bothering to ask if I want them that makes me realize that I don’t.

What color plates does she have?

Red. Those ones over there.

She points.

The red ones are bright. Perhaps too much so. But there are some pretty light green ones in the same style. They remind me of Edward’s eyes.

I’ll take those, I say.

She suggests eight place settings; I buy four. Plates and salad plates and mugs and bowls all in one big box. I ask Deirdre what the most popular flatware is and she adds a box of 18/10 stainless steel cutlery to my cart. We go back to SOFT KITCHEN, and she’s right, this time it’s easier. I pick the khaki ones right away, and napkins with a little green thread running through them. Kitchen towels to match.

She walks me back to the front of the store as though I wouldn’t find it on my own. There’s only one customer ahead of me in line. The walkie-talkie clipped to Deirdre’s belt crackles; someone needs assistance in cookware. She gives me an apologetic smile and moves to leave, but then she turns around, frowning.

I’m very sorry about your wife, Dr. Cullen, she says.

Caught off-guard, I blink a few times. Then I tell her that she’s a graduate student and should call me Carlisle.


While I’m sitting at my desk grading papers, a knock comes at the door. It’s a Federal Express driver with an overnight envelope. I sign for it.

Inside is a ticket for tonight’s Bulls game. The return address is the new house in Vancouver.

Alice is watching Edward; Edward is at his home in Chicago. This much I know.

The game is in four hours. I get in the car.


Almost everyone in the stands has food, so I buy nachos. They’re interesting—I remember when cheese became commonplace, and this yellow runny stuff is bizarre. But chips are easy to crumble and appear to have eaten, so it’s a good choice. I order a Miller Lite, too. It smells foul.

As I suspected, Alice has bought me the seat next to his. He has on a Bulls sweatshirt—I wonder when he got it. Hunched over in his seat with the hood pulled up, he doesn’t look a minute over seventeen.

We haven’t seen each other in over a month.

He eyes my beer as I slip it into the cup holder, but other than that doesn’t acknowledge me until halftime. He gets up as though to go to the restroom and returns with a large plastic cup of his own. He picks up my beer and pours a little less than half of it into his cup, so that it looks like we’ve each had some. Then he sits and puts his hood back up.

With a minute left to go in the game, his head finds my shoulder. I put an arm around him and rub his back gently. A few people stare.

After the final buzzer sounds, we’re two of the last in our section to leave. We haven’t said anything yet, and when I speak, it’s to ask if he’d like to go to the box office to get tickets for another game.

He nods.

The next home game is on Wednesday. I give the ticket agent my credit card. The tickets print out right there, and I hand his over. He shoves it into the front pocket of his jeans, and it rumples a little.

Can I take him home?

Nah, the El will be fine.

Okay. I’ll see him on Wednesday, then.

At least he puts his hood down. His hair shimmers under the streetlights as he shuffles away.


Sotheby’s calls. It’s taken two months, but there’s a good offer on the Solimena. I don’t really care how much it is. I will trade the thing for a wooden nickel if it means getting rid of any reminder that I was once friends with the bastards who murdered my wife and daughter-in-law.

It sells for fifteen million. They apologize they didn’t get more for it.


Deirdre’s first paper is almost professional quality, the best in the class. I invite her to my office hours and ask if she’s thinking of pursuing a Ph.D. in public health.

Not really, she says. She wants to work for the CDC, and she doesn’t think she has the stamina to finish a dissertation.

She should consider it. Her writing is phenomenal.

There’s not much money for her to go on, either.

Ph.D. students are often fully funded. She’d get into a funded program writing like this, I’m sure of it.

Stunned silence.

I ask if she’ll at least consider it.

She asks about my placemats instead.

I like them, I say. I’m glad she suggested I try something different.

Different can be important when you’re starting over.

Now the stunned silence is on my end.

Was it cancer? she asks.

Cancer? My insides twist. In my perfect memory, I watch again as my wife and daughter are dismembered, beheaded, and torched because they decided to leap between my granddaughter and two thousand years of pure evil. Cancer? That, at least, would’ve given me time to do more than just stand there and scream.

I realize I’m being stared at.

Yes, I say finally. Breast cancer.

Deirdre nods knowingly, and tells me she came to Madison because her mother died in her senior year of undergrad. That was when she cut her hair.

And got the tattoo? Maybe that’s inappropriate of me to ask, but she nods.

Mom used to always call Deirdre her little weed. The vine is Japanese Kudzu. It’s pretty, but invasive. You can’t stop it from growing.

Stopping her from growing would be impossible, I agree. It’s all the more reason she could consider going on.

She beams.

Anyway. I’ll write her a recommendation letter when this class is over, if she decides to take me up on the idea.

She calls me Dr. Cullen as she thanks me. I remind her that my first name is okay.


By the fourth game, we still aren’t talking, but Edward puts his head on my shoulder at tipoff. He keeps his hood down now, and when I can get away with it, I stroke his hair. It feels good to touch him.

At halftime he whispers that the people around us don’t know what to make of us. I’m too young to be his father, and he’s too old to be so affectionate. They think we’re maybe a gay couple, but it doesn’t look romantic to them either.

I’m someone who misses you, I whisper back. That’s what they see.

Right when the second half starts, he flips his middle finger at someone a few rows behind us before putting his head back on my shoulder.

I wonder what the guy was thinking.


The rest of the family calls to wish me a happy birthday. Renesmee sends a crayoning of me with a cake, onto which she has painstakingly drawn three hundred sixty-four candles. They’re all smooshed together so it looks like there’s just a blue mass on the cake top, but I get the point. I tell her I’ll hang it right over my desk.

Emmett is enjoying the fact that snowmobile season lasts longer in British Columbia. Jasper’s enrolled at UBC and has begun work on yet another master’s degree, this time in French military history. Rosalie is restoring a ’63 Aston Martin in her spare time, but most of the time she’s taking care of Renesmee with Alice. Edward’s daughter is easy to care for, but still a handful. And it’s clear she misses her father a lot more than she ever is willing to talk about.

Alice and Rose are not very happy with Edward.

He’s in a lot of pain, I remind them, and they both lay off at once. Maybe because even from a thousand miles away I’m still the coven leader. Maybe because I’m in the same state as Edward. Maybe because Alice knows about the basketball games.

As though she can read my mind as well as Edward can, Alice asks how the Bulls are doing.

It’s a good season. Mediocre compared to the Jordan/Pippen era, but they’ll make the playoffs, I think.

Alice is pleased to hear this; a long season will be good for me and Edward both.

I ask her what she means by that.

My relationship with Edward is evolving. It will be okay. Promise her I won’t panic.

Panic? What does she mean, evolving?

Hey, Nessie wants to talk to me.

I accept the brush-off and find myself listening to a play-by-play of tea parties and Cinderella. Aunt Alice won’t let her watch PG movies. Uncle Emmett gives good piggyback rides, better than Uncle Jasper’s. She whispers this too loudly. I hear Jasper laughing.

We hang up after I’ve told them all I love them. My birthday present, a new iPhone, arrives via FedEx precisely two minutes later.


I assign a literature review as a midterm project. Deirdre’s is so thorough, it looks like she’s studying for comprehensive exams.


The Bulls are up by six over the Warriors with 3:42 left in the half when my iPhone jingles. Alice’s text says I should offer to drive him home. I haven’t done this since the first game, although I’ve since figured out he doesn’t own a car. When the second half is over, I don’t even ask—he’s seen me thinking about it the whole time. He chucks our food debris into a trash can and follows me to the parking garage.

The old house is in Irving Park. It’s a bungalow on a narrow lot, on a street lined with pin oaks that were already huge when Edward was a child.

He hasn’t bought any furniture, and he’s not paying the electric bill, so it’s dark. He pays for gas because his only extravagance is the piano, which sits in the middle of the bare living room looking out of place. The instrument needs to keep warm, even if Edward doesn’t.

There’s a heap of boxes from Amazon in one corner of the living room, and there are books piled everywhere—classics, contemporary, plays, anthologies, poetry, science fiction, romance novels. I gesture to them.

All of them are boring, he says.

Then he abruptly starts sobbing.

He has no couch or bed, so I put my arms around him and slowly lay us both on the wood floor. He shakes against my body, and my arms remember a time almost a hundred years ago, the first time I held him like this. It wasn’t far from here, I realize, my little tenement apartment off of Michigan where I took Edward when I changed him.

I run my fingers through his hair and put my nose against it, inhaling spice and earth. Like those of all the ones I’ve turned, Edward’s scent carries a little bit of my own. Mine is a sweeter spice, like smoked cinnamon, Esme always said; Edward smelled to both of us a little darker, like nutmeg. The similarity is a biological warning to others of our kind; a marker that I’ve sired almost my entire coven, that they are likely to be loyal.

To me, it’s a reminder that he’s mine. Edward smells perfect to me.

A minute passes.

He tells me to go ahead.

It takes me a second to realize I was considering kissing his neck.

I sweep my lips over his collarbone, and the fine hairs on his neck raise ever so slightly. His skin is grimy from the basketball arena; it tastes salty. He shivers as I kiss him.

I pull him closer. He’s still shaking, but he calms as I hold him. His body touches almost every inch of mine; we’ve always been the same height and build; able to share clothes. The skin feels warm—not quite like a human’s, but I haven’t felt that much lately, either. Our legs lace; mine between his or his between mine, I’m not exactly sure. He keeps his back to me.

We lie entwined for most of the night, and I kiss his neck again from time to time, when I feel like it.

I have to teach, so I get up just after dawn to get home in time. He’s clearly shocked that I’m going. I invite him to come with me, but he mumbles that he has things to do here. Looking at the physical manifestations of his lifestyle, I wonder what those things could possibly be, but I decide that it’s too soon to press. He still hasn’t said more than five words to me at a go. So we hug, and I leave.

I’m on the Kennedy, almost to O’Hare, when I get an erection.


The first week of March, daffodils bloom in my yard, bright and pale yellow and white, taking over half the lawn. I stare at them in disbelief. Esme kissed me for the first time on St. David’s Day in 1921, and for eighty-five years I gave her a bouquet of the flowers to mark that anniversary. Their sudden presence here, in my new life without her, makes me feel violated.

It occurs to me that I own a lawnmower. The flowers don’t have to stay.

But on my way to the garage, I wind up standing in the yard. Little yellow heads kiss my shins as their stems sway in the breeze. I stop, close my eyes and imagine how much she would enjoy the little house, with its view of the lake. How she would tease me about having such a bachelor pad before starting to hang curtains.

How we’d own white dishes.

I’ve gone into the house for scissors and cut a small bouquet before it dawns on me that I don’t own any vases. I improvise with the plastic UW travel mug I was given by the department at the start of the term.

Ugly mug aside, yellow flowers and green dishes look nice together.


There are sixteen gigabytes of space on my iPhone. I load iTunes onto my laptop, put three thousand dollars in the account, and start buying music. Esme never cared much for rock and roll outside of the Beatles, or she never pretended to. Going to concerts was always Edward’s and my thing. It was also how I got him away from Rose long enough to let his fuse recharge.

I start with Bing Crosby. Cleveland, Ohio, in 1946, just after the war. There had been a pretty woman dancing near the stage, her dark hair full as it whipped around her. Edward teased me about watching her for months afterward, and Esme offered to get a wig if I liked dark hair that much.

Nat King Cole, same year, in Chicago, before he became famous. As we were leaving, Edward asked me why anyone would stop that man singing just because he was Negro. I told him that sometimes, humans are a lot crueler than we are.

A lot of Elvis. We saw him as a family on our first return to Tennessee, fifteen years after I turned Emmett. The boys and I spent the concert snickering at how enraptured Esme and Rose were by all the gyrating going on. There was a marked increase in hip-swiveling in our house after that.

In the sixties, we both became fans of Motown. At the Supremes, Edward pronounced my dancing to be seizure-like and tried to pretend he didn’t know me. I spent the whole concert dancing as close to him as I could manage.

He was going through a phase of hating me during the early years of the Stones. I leave them off.

American Pie. We sat in our living room, stunned, just as devastated as everyone else. Maybe more so, because with a longer perspective, we had an even more acute sense of exactly what was lost when that plane went down.

Creedence Clearwater Revival, which was as much war protest as it was concert. We wore bandanas and jeans jackets, and yelled for the president to go fuck himself. When the band played, the intensity with which Edward screamed “I ain’t no fortunate son” made me wonder if it was Vietnam he was singing about at all.

The Jackson Five. Elton John. Three Dog Night. Marvin Gaye. Abba. The Bee Gees. Before long I’m in the eighties: Jackson without the other four, Simon sans Garfunkel. We flew to Johannesburg for a month for the release of Graceland, a fusion of South African choir and rock that was as moving as it was gloriously politically subversive. Edward learned to speak Afrikaans.

When the album plays as it downloads, I’m caught by the title song. It’s so up-tempo that somehow for all these years, I’ve never noticed how sad the chorus is. I listen to it again. Maybe it was written for me.

A quick email cancels my office hours so I can stay home. I lay my head on my desk and put Paul Simon on one-song repeat. Graceland plays until my laptop battery dies.


Edward is waffling about whether to go to the game, the text message says.

I go anyway.

The Bulls lose to the Clippers, 103-89.

He never shows.


I return to Bed Bath and Beyond. Deirdre isn’t there. A man helps me find a vase big enough to hold daffodil stems. He looks at me funny when I buy three.

What? Men are allowed to enjoy fresh flowers.

Flushing red, he gets me a basket for my items and excuses himself.

The woman in line in front of me has a coupon. I decide to join the mailing list.


The Bulls beat Denver, Portland, and Detroit. I watch all three games alone.

I drive to the house in Irving Park after the Detroit game. It’s pouring down rain, and the wind is whipping at the pin oaks, hammering the water against the houses. I sit in the driveway with the engine running, remembering the last time I was here. To my embarrassment, I get hard again. There’s no movement inside the house, so I decide it’s probably safe to take care of things. And better—I’ll be more rational if Edward does show up. I recline the driver’s seat and unbutton my fly.

Out of habit, it’s Esme who springs to mind first. She’s always been the one I pictured, even when she was young and human and picturing her made me feel lecherous and ashamed. I spent a lot of time hating myself between 1911 and 1918, I think. That’s probably why this all feels so familiar.

But as my hand pumps up and down, breasts become smooth chest. A softer stomach becomes one with well-defined abdominal muscles and much coarser hair. The images terrify me, confuse me—and turn me on.

I’m grunting and panting, my hips arching off the seat, when there’s the tiniest rustle outside my window. My eyes fly open.

Edward is staring, slack-jawed, from his kitchen. It was him moving the curtain I heard.

The suddenness of seeing his face is too much. I explode into my hand.

I don’t even bother to wipe the dashboard; I’m out of the car so quickly. The kitchen door is unlocked, and Edward is still standing there. My hands find the sides of his face like they were always supposed to be there, and in the end it’s he who kisses me, the inside of his lips sliding over mine, wetting the soft membrane with his venom.

We kiss like desperate men. It’s hungry and it’s painful, hands tangling in hair, lips caught in teeth. He bites. I yelp. We crush against each other, erection to erection, as though the lip lock hasn’t gotten us close enough. We don’t need air, yet we’re both panting when we pull away.

Get out, Edward says at once.

It’s growled, low, and I’m not sure I’ve heard him correctly. I beg his pardon?

Get. Out!

He shoves me backward with such force that I stumble and fall, cracking the brittle linoleum. What the fuck was I thinking, he screeches. Who the hell do I think I am? His wife is dead. My wife is dead. Don’t I fucking remember?

I scramble to my feet. I want to hug him again, but he’s so angry, he’s trembling. And he’s right; I’ve completely lost my mind. The car is still idling in the driveway. Has it been one minute? Ten? Sixty?

I take out my wallet. The tickets for the next eight games are creased and slightly damp from my brief moment outside. As he stares and shakes, I tear them off one by one, and lay them on his counter in order by date.

Cleveland is on Saturday, I tell him.

I don’t plug in my iPhone or turn on the radio during the drive home.


Renesmee calls and immediately starts sobbing. Unlike the rest of us, she can actually cry, and her breathing and voice are wet with that raspy noise humans make when they’re trying to talk through tears.

Daddy hasn’t called in three days, she wails when I finally get comprehensible words out of her.

I kind of want to punch him. Instead, I assure Ness that everything will be all right. I ask if her aunts and uncles are around. They’re not. She doesn’t want them to know she’s upset.

Like father, like daughter.

I promise her I’ll talk to him. In the meantime, will she draw me a picture? Anything she wants. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten a new one.

I know that she knows I’m trying to take her mind off the situation. She may look four, but she’s no idiot. But she also knows when to trust the adults around her.

She sniffles and lets out a hiccough. Okay. She’ll get started. Something special?

Something extra, extra special.

When we hang up, I put my head in my hands. This is my fault; I’m sure of it. Damnit, Carlisle. You’ve always been the one that could hold it all together. What the hell is going on?

That I can’t answer that question terrifies me.

I go outside and uproot the big beech tree behind the house to vent my frustration.

It lets more sunlight into the living room.


Edward doesn’t come to the Cleveland game. I drive to the house and slide a note under the kitchen door.


He does.

I’m relieved.


I screen And the Band Played On in my seminar. My students are twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, born in the middle of the eighties. AZT has been around as long as they can remember. Gays have always been out. The problem is whether or not they’ll be allowed to marry, now.

Seeing the horrors of the epidemic as it unfolded is shocking to some of them, I can see. Their high school biology textbooks had a section on retroviruses. The idea that this was once so unknown and frightening is strange.

When it’s over, we have twenty minutes left of class for discussion.

At once, one student says he’s surprised they didn’t lock that one fag up. The flight attendant.

I blanch. The kid’s name is Justin, he’s getting an M.S. in physiology, and he isn’t doing well in my class.

I inform him that his word choice is inappropriate for my classroom and diffuse his comment by asking him if what he suggests would have ultimately solved anything.

As it turns out, I don’t need to intervene. His classmates shut him down rather handily, pointing out that the virus had already spread by the time they figured out where it was coming from. The debate evolves from a discussion of the movie to questions about sexual morality more broadly. Does someone have the right to spread a disease like that? What if they don’t know? Can we mandate people get tested? What about the ER practice of testing everyone who comes in because we can’t ask if someone is HIV-positive? It costs us billions of dollars. Is it fair to ban monogamous gay men from giving blood when we don’t ban the most promiscuous straight people?

They go on and on, and I have to cut them off when the next class starts peering into the room to see if we’re done.

A few of them thank me for a fun class on their way out the door. I nod, and remind them absently of the articles we’re reading for next week. The truth is, I’m rattled.

I hear Justin’s voice over and over in my head as I return to my office.


I want to cry.


The Bulls are up by 10 over the Knicks when my beer disappears. When it’s replaced in the cup holder, it’s half-empty.

Edward’s body creates so much force as he drops into his chair that my seat shakes.

I lean forward and cheer as the Bulls crash the boards.

Like the first game, there’s only one minute left of play when he touches me. This time, it’s to take my hand, under the armrest, where it won’t be seen. Our fingers lace together.

The Bulls crush New York, wining by almost thirty points. Edward asks if I’ll drive him home.

We get there and there’s a car already in the driveway, a little Mazda6. He shrugs and says it doesn’t attract too much of the neighbors’ attention but it still has a V6 engine.

Where does he need to go?

His best friend lives all the way up in Madison, he mumbles, looking away.

The front door slamming is my first signal that he’s gotten out of the car.


It’s pouring down rain. FedEx delivers anyway, an envelope. The return address is one Ms. Renesmee Carlie Cullen. It’s written in my granddaughter’s hand.

It makes me laugh that she’s already using Ms.

The first drawing is of Esme, which I realize I expected. My breath catches at the way Ness has managed to capture my wife, the wry smile that she would give us when she thought we were up to something, which was often. She’s caught her half-turned toward the artist, her hair falling down over one shoulder in waves.

I’m grateful that I don’t need to worry about ruining the drawing with my tears. I hold it and cry for the better part of an hour. I miss you, I whisper to it. I’m sorry. You don’t know how sorry I am.

The drawing smiles back at me like she does too know.

The second drawing is of me and Edward. My arm is slung over his shoulder and we’re laughing—me with my head tipped upward and mouth wide, he looking downward shyly and smiling. I don’t even remember this moment; perhaps it’s of Nessie’s imagining. It’s oddly beautiful. Edward’s arm is bent upward and he’s grasping my hand, our fingers interlaced like they were at the basketball game a few days ago.

I’m so busy staring at it, I don’t hear the door open. Footsteps fall in the foyer, squishy and wet. I breathe in. The scent is sweet, spicy, earthy. Perfect.


Edward is drenched. He’s been standing outside since the FedEx guy left, which explains why I didn’t hear his car. He was trying to decide if he was going to come in or drive back to Chicago. His hair is slicked against his head and nearly black with wet, and his clothes hang off him in drapes.

I don’t know if he wants me to hug him.

He nods that he does.

My shirt turns dark from the rainwater as I clutch him to me. Welcome to my home, I say. Well, it’s his home too, of course. Anywhere I am is his home.

I take him on a little tour. The kitchen. The table, set with the green dishes. It’s past the season for daffodils, so I’ve been buying bouquets at the supermarket. Right now, it’s purple tulips. He laughs. He’s never pegged me for someone who would like flowers.

Me, either, I say, but I learn new things about myself every day.

The study is next. He spends a several minutes looking at all the drawings.

He really misses her, he says at last.

I put my arms around his waist. I miss her, too.

He’s silent for a long time. When he finally does speak, he’s looking out the window at the lake. The sun is setting, and the light bounces off the water in crazy patterns: red, orange, purple.

Sometimes… He chokes, and for a second, I think he’s not going to go on. But he does. Sometimes, he wonders if she was worth it. Is that mean of him to say? He’s her father.

I tighten my grip on him, and look over at the new drawing, the one of my wife. She smiles back knowingly from the sheet of computer paper.

Why was it them, Carlisle? Why not Rose? Or Alice? Or one of the others? Why is it the two of us who are left behind?

He’s whining now, his face screwing up like it does when he’s about to cry. He doesn’t do that often. But I’ve known him longest, and I recognize the signs.

I rest my chin on his shoulder blade. It is pronounced beneath his skin—he’d lost a lot of weight from the influenza, and venom only does so much to one’s frame. Edward has always been gangly.

They were the mothers, I answer, and even though I’ve never put it in so many words before, I know it’s exactly right. They were the only two in that whole huge group who had experienced having a child of their own. There was no way they could live and let the child be destroyed. And Nessie is worth it. She’s so very worth it. He talks to her every day. He knows how wonderful she is.

She is wonderful, he says. He loves every bit of her. And he misses her every minute of every day.

He leans back into me so that I’m supporting all of his weight, and his hair tickles my cheek.

Go ahead, he whispers, like he did that first night, except that this time I’m fully aware of what I’m thinking about.

His skin is slick from the rain, and the water wets my lips and tongue as I run them along his neck. He shivers, spinning so fast I don’t have time to react before his lips crush to mine. They search, hungry, and he grinds against me and makes little mewling noises that get me right in my groin.

I reach to his waist and strip his shirt off—it’s absolutely sopping and squelches as I pull it from his body. He makes much quicker work of mine. His chest is clammy and cold; I think maybe I should get him a towel, but he snarls at me.

We don’t stop kissing even as he backwards marches me toward the bedroom. I stumble because he’s moving faster, and we both laugh. Our pants go the same way as the shirts, and all I can think as I pull a naked Edward onto the bed is that this seems like it was inevitable. That maybe it could’ve happened in 1918, or maybe it would happen a thousand years from now, or maybe sometime in between.

Maybe it will happen now, he growls.

Now is good.

It hurts—a lot. He isn’t small, and my own erection fades as I fight to get used to the sensation. But there’s a lot of grunting and this low whine that I realize after a moment is me, and I figure there’s some part of me that thinks it feels nice, on the whole. He shoves a hand between us so that he can stroke me, which feels even better. I’m surprised he knows to do this.

He laughs and taps his temple.

Oh yeah. He’s probably seen a lot of this over the years.

Quickly I forget about wondering where he learned his technique and focus on the fact that he’s demonstrating the knowledge in slow, even thrusts. My breath comes in ragged gasps that sound nothing like me.

I find I like the sound.

Edward reaches orgasm somewhat quickly, arching his back like a cat and half-grunting, half-snarling when he comes. His penis is still a mess of sticky venom as he withdraws and scoots himself so that his groin is resting on my thigh. He reaches for me and starts to slither downward, but I grab his face in my hands and pull his lips to mine. I appreciate his gesture, but I’m overwhelmed. I would rather just lie here with him. His body is heavy on top of mine, and I like it.

He giggles. He always thought Esme was the one who liked to cuddle.

That was always what I thought, too. I run a hand through his hair.

I’ve been wrong about a lot of things.


Edward stays in Wisconsin for three days. We make love seven times. Lubricant turns out to be a great invention.

The rest of the time we sit around and talk. Our conversations range from basketball to the existence of Heaven. We spend a lot of time laughing. We cry a lot, too.

Before he leaves, we get quotes to have his books and piano moved.


Deirdre stalks into my office when she gets her final grade.


I don’t deserve this.

Her final paper is on public health initiatives to curb the spread of cholera in third-world countries, based on case studies in Mumbai, India and Citiboke, Burundi. She’s proposed a number of ideas that I’ve never seen before.

I look at the printout she’s waving in front of me.

No, that’s the grade she earned.

She stares at it for a long time. Then she looks back at me. Do I really think she could get a Ph.D.?

I’m sure of it. Does she have a recommendation letter file with the graduate school career offices?

She doesn’t, yet. I tell her to open one, and to bring me the forms with her sign-off for confidentiality. My contract has been renewed, so I’ll be around in the fall to help her with her applications, too.

A smile breaks across her face. It’s been a really good term, Dr.—

Carlisle, we both say at once.

After thanking me, she’s gone.

I’ve taught on and off for almost a hundred years. It’s the first A+ I’ve ever given.


The Bulls win four straight against Miami and advance to the Central Division finals.

Edward comes to live in Madison. His piano takes up most of the living room.

I spend my afternoons listening to live performances of Chopin.


I get DirecTV so that we can watch the division finals, and we put a flat-screen in the bedroom. One evening, Edward is in my mouth and close to orgasm when he suddenly starts screeching obscenities. I jerk back, afraid I’ve hurt him.

It turns out that the Bulls’ point guard has fouled a Pistons player as he was shooting a three-pointer. The Pistons get three free throws; all sink easily. With only two minutes left in the game, the Bulls don’t come back. It’s their fourth loss to Detroit. The season ends.

When Edward settles down, I make him come. As we lie together after, kissing and listening to the post-game breakdown, he asks if I think Renesmee would like Wisconsin.


Bed Bath and Beyond is a bit of a nightmare to navigate with a kid, even one who for the most part, is inordinately well-behaved. I’ve never noticed that they carry toys as well as housewares, but we end up with several in the cart, next to the shockingly pink bed-in-a-bag set that Renesmee insists she’s not going to grow out of, ever. Her hearing isn’t quite to vampire standard, and Edward and I wager under our breath. He bets six months; I give it two.

As we make our way back to the front of the store, I spot Deirdre in the pots and pans. I wave, and she comes over.

This is Deirdre, I say, gesturing to her. She was my top student this term.

She blushes.

And Deirdre, this is my—I stop. What do I say? I haven’t had to introduce Edward to anyone yet. Boyfriend is too trivial, mate is…well, Esme.

Your partner?

Edward. He extends his hand as he says it. And this little being is his daughter, Ness.

Deirdre looks from me to Edward and back again. She’s smiling. Am I sure I don’t need more place settings?

We’ll make do for now. Maybe we’ll be back later.

Nessie is practically bouncing up and down. I scoop her onto my hip and tickle her, then apologetically say we need to get her home. She can’t wait for her new bed.

Deirdre waves. It was nice meeting you, Edward. And Ness, too.

When I’m the only one of the three of us looking back, she mouths, Congratulations.

I smile.


In the summer, I’m freer. I take the opportunity to do some research. We teach Renesmee how to swim. Edward gives piano lessons.

All three of us do a lot of reading. It turns out the books aren’t boring, after all.

Renesmee nabs the password for the iTunes account, and shortly thereafter I find that I own a lot more Hannah Montana.

I fight back with Nat King Cole.

A week later, I find her standing on Edward’s shoes as they dance to “Unforgettable.”


Alice calls our relationship evolving.

Emmett calls it fucked up.

Rosalie finds it really weird, but is glad that we’re so happy.

Jasper just does a lot of smirking.

The crayon drawings all hang in Renesmee’s room. She’s moved on to colored pencils now, and we’ve outfitted an entire pint-sized studio for her in one corner, beneath the gallery of her complete works. Only three aren’t in there—the one of Esme, which hangs above my side of our bed, the one of Bella above Edward’s, and the one of the two of us in the middle.

They’re good reminders. Where we came from, but also where we are.

Edward has been a lot of things to me over the years. A brother, a best friend, a son, a confidant, a savior. But when I have to introduce him now, I use Deirdre’s term.

Esme and Bella jumped in front of Ness because they were mothers. But fate saw fit to leave Edward and me behind because we can be here for each other.

The truth is that we’ve always been partners. And I realize now we always will be.

For his birthday, I get us season tickets to the Bulls.


Dedicated to malianani,
who asks all the right questions.

A Very Different Gift

January 26th, 2011 § 8 comments § permalink

Warning: this fic contains gay themes and a sexual encounter.


Something we were withholding made us weak.
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.

—Robert Frost, “The Gift Outright”


Edward didn’t fit in.

At least, that was what Marcus kept saying. It had been ten years since the child, as Alec thought of him, stumbled into Demetri in the middle of Philadelphia. He had been feeding on some human scum at the time, which had confused Demetri—the scrawny thing was a vampire with a conscience, apparently. Which really should have surprised no one, since, as it turned out, he had been sired by the infamous Carlisle. Given that relationship, the fact that he was feeding on humans at all was a bit of a shock, but Aro had informed them later that Edward had managed to have some sort of falling out with his sire.

Of course from everything Alec had ever heard, Carlisle was on the crazy side, so he couldn’t blame Edward for leaving him in the first place.

Demetri had realized at once that the vampire had a unique talent when he had anticipated every one of the thug’s moves. He’d brought the child back to Aro at once, and after some sort of bartering that involved an equal number of promises of grandeur as threats on Edward’s life, the young vampire had stayed with them.

Today was perfectly sunny, and so the entire guard was trapped in the castle. The outer guard had freedom to move about, and they flitted in and out of the main chambers. From somewhere in the compound a scratchy radio played a soap opera, and he suspected some of the lesser guard members were clustered around it as though they actually had need of being close to it. His sister was engaged in a game of chess against Chelsea, which was always a bad idea.—Jane would threaten to burn you if she lost, but Chelsea would suggest she could make good on having Aro decide you were worthless.

Edward was not listening to the radio or engaged in any games. Instead, he sat huddled in the corner, his knees pulled to his chest and his chin resting on them. His dark robe spilled around him like a pool of shimmering ink. The image was striking and odd—metallic red hair over the near-black robe.

Aro had made him one of the innermost guard as soon as he’d discovered his gift, and although it annoyed most of the others, Alec could see why. Edward was like having a permanent radio aerial—he utterly eliminated the need for Aro to get anywhere near someone. Aro would simply stand so that he was somehow touching Edward, and he could listen to whatever he wanted to. It had been a disconcerting development. Even though they were all aware that all their secrets would be spilled the next time they were asked to touch Aro’s hand, knowing that Edward could hear in real-time was frustrating, to say the least. What little modicum of privacy they had all managed had been obliterated by the arrival of this moody young telepath.

But, if Alec admitted it, it was Edward who had gotten the rawest deal. Aro’s constant contact with him in order to keep an eye on the rest of them meant that Edward’s thoughts were never unknown to their leader. If most of the guard had next to no privacy, Edward had absolutely none.

It was little wonder the child sat in the corner looking depleted.

A moment later, Alec realized he wasn’t the only one watching the young redhead. In a swirl of black robes, Aro pulled himself upright, causing a stir in the chamber as others around him shot to their feet as well. Their leader waved a hand dismissively and moved toward Edward with caution. Alec’s eyes narrowed. Everyone moved around Edward as though he would break at any second. The child was volatile—he had once hissed at Aro over something the older vampire had been thinking that Edward found unpleasant. Demetri and Felix had jumped on Edward at once, holding his head in preparation of ripping it from his torso until Aro had asked them to back down. Aro favored the temperamental redhead, which hadn’t won Edward any friends.

The young vampire didn’t stir as Aro glided toward him, instead keeping his face buried in his knees. A single pale hand snaked its way out from underneath the ancient’s black robe, coming to rest on the boy’s neck beneath his hair. Edward shuddered, and, watching him, the others winced. The sensation of Aro reading one’s thoughts wasn’t painful per se, but it was disorienting and unpleasant. To be forced to submit to it multiple times a day was not enviable.

Aro stood for a moment as he read the child’s thoughts. A thoughtful expression crossed his face, and then he leaned down and whispered something. The volume wasn’t enough that anyone in the room could hear, but Alec could catch just enough to know it was Italian. Aro’s lips moved so quickly next to Edward’s ear that he appeared to kiss it repeatedly.  The younger vampire nodded solemnly at whatever their master had said to him. Aro’s thumb brushed delicately across the nape of Edward’s neck as he removed his hand, and Alec felt an odd pang shoot through him at the tenderness of the gesture. Their leader wasn’t exactly known for being gentle, and the way he treated the youngest one of their guard—it was almost as though he sympathized with the difficulty he caused Edward.

The inky robe swirled into the air as Edward stood, turned on his heel, and disappeared. Footsteps fell lightly on the stair and the sound of Edward’s chamber door closing echoed across the hallways.

The chess game stopped, and Caius and Marcus looked up from whatever conversation they were having. Many pairs of burgundy eyes alighted on Aro, curious. But their leader simply pursed his lips in the signal that they all knew was intended to stave off commentary—not that he ever answered any, were it to be given.

But then he moved toward Alec.

The ancient one had to bend to speak to him, which Alec found annoying. He had been tall for his age before he and his sister had been captured, but now he was forever trapped in a body that was still more boy than man—feminine, skinny, the angular features that would have defined his maturity having never set into place. Most of all, he still barely came to the grown immortals’ shoulders—even Edward, who was so new to this life he barely knew how to behave, stood a head and then some over him.

There wasn’t much time to worry about his height, however, as Aro’s lips began moving just as quickly near his own ear. The mess of Italian came out rushed. It was still the old dialect, not the one Alec had learned, and it sounded odd. But its meaning was clear. I request you to help the young one. We overwhelm him. I must have him rested.

When Alec’s brow furrowed, the ancient one made his intent more clear. “Your gift will tame his,” he murmured, and Alec understood the instruction at once.

In the thought of an instant, he stood outside the door to Edward’s chamber. This youngest one had one of the smallest rooms, but like all the inner guard, he had space of his own. Despite his infuriating ability to rob others of all their privacy, Aro insisted that they all still be granted it—at least, when they weren’t in physical contact with him.

But there were also no locks, and so Alec slid into the room without knocking.

Edward’s chambers were closer inside the castle, and little light seeped through the slit windows. What light did exist stretched across the room at odd angles, throwing Edward into stark relief where he huddled against the wall.

He looked as he had in the main room, except he had shed his cloak—it lay puddled on the other side of the room, appearing to have been thrown there in some fit of rage. The chain and pendant they all wore as symbols of their joint servitude had been discarded as well, the bright gold glinting where it lay tangled in the dark cloth. Edward’s torso was bare, and the sight of the expanse of his skin, the same smooth alabaster as all of theirs, caused a twinge of discomfort in Alec’s own body, a flutter of strange excitement in his stomach that he couldn’t place.

The redhead’s shoulders were trembling, his head buried in his knees. Alec wondered whether he should even approach, and his thought was answered at once.

“Please, go away,” the voice rose, muffled ever so slightly by Edward’s slacks.

Alec halted at once. Did he proceed further? Aro had commanded him to come—to leave Edward would be to defy their master. But Edward was so pitiful…

“Don’t pity me, either.” This one was barked in English.

He approached anyway. “Master Aro thinks…” he swallowed. His mind raced ahead of him, of course, and he saw the room filling with the mist that was his gift, the choking substance that rendered even the most powerful of their kind senseless.

Edward snorted. “Aro thinks many things.” For a second his eyes flickered up to meet Alec’s. “Most of his thoughts are useless.”

This was a fascinating insight. Aro seemed so wise—two thousand years of vigilance and leadership and power tended to do that, or so Alec had thought. Their leader’s thoughts as mostly useless—Alec had never considered it.

He stepped closer to the younger one. It was odd, really. Alec was so much older, tamer, than Edward in years, yet the planes of Edward’s body were so much more that of a man. His jaw was more angular, the muscles of his chest more defined. He was harder where Alec was softer, larger where Alec was smaller. Huddled and helpless though he sat, somehow the younger vampire caused something to stir in Alec.


The bronze hair caught the light as Edward’s head snapped up. Alec gulped. He hadn’t meant to think that word. In the dim light Edward’s eyes shone, their dark crimson glowing like embers in the shadows. He swallowed twice as he gazed at Alec, and Alec, finding his stare uncomfortable, turned away.

“A longer human life simply means more that I’ve lost.” He stood, turning away from Alec for a moment, and his eyes drifted toward the small window and the tiny bit of daylight that streamed through it. He stepped into the shaft of light and the light shattered into fiery rainbows where the narrow band crossed his skin. “Be careful whom you envy.”

Alec looked away, trying to think of anything besides the vampire who stood before him, lest another embarrassing thought leak from his mind. He was so lost trying to stumble through lists of vampires who’d served Aro, the number of hairs on his sister’s head, that he nearly missed the low voice command, “Do it, then.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Do it,” Edward repeated. “We’ll try it.” An instant later Alec felt Edward’s body against his back, the smooth muscles discernable even through his shirt and his own cloak. Firm hands rested on Alec’s slender hips. An image of Edward’s skin against his own escaped his mind before he could try to distract himself once more.

“Do it,” came the breathy voice again.

It was one of the only things about him that was slow. Two full seconds had passed—Alec could hear the grinding of the gears in the clock in the square—before Edward fell, his body slumping to the stone with a sickening crack. He rolled from side to side, moaning with confusion. Then one of his hands found Alec’s leg, pulling him downward, and instead of keeping his balance, Alec let himself tumble into the flailing arms, which somehow stilled at once, as though they could feel the body between them.

Edward’s hands groped blindly over Alec’s body, and unbidden, shivers rose through whatever it was Alec had in place of nerves. He pressed himself into Edward and the larger vampire stilled again. Edward could feel nothing, but Alec felt it all—the strange warmth of wet breath against his neck, the smooth muscle of the chest, the hardened…

That was impossible.

Edward could not feel. He could not smell. The only possible explanation for this was that he had been in this condition before he had fallen—and what did that mean, exactly? The uncomfortable flutter in Alec’s body intensified, and he, too, became hard. Not something Edward was likely to feel even if he weren’t under the influence of Alec’s gift, he thought bitterly. Like all of him, that part was not fully mature.

Aro should have just let him burn.

The hands continued to search blindly, sometimes hitting air, sometimes his neck, his chest, his groin. Edward had long fingers—he had played the piano as a human, he’d once told them. Edward would feel nothing where he touched Alec, but his every touch seemed to sear Alec’s skin. In answer, Alec’s hands roamed hungrily over Edward’s torso as the mist swirled around them both. Up the breastbone, out the shoulder, across a nipple that was impossibly soft to the touch. Down the stomach, through the wiry hair beneath the navel, toward the waistband of his slacks.

He won’t know.

The thought hit him as though it had not come from him. The other would not feel if Alec’s hands searched further. For a split-second he hesitated, but then Edward’s slacks were gone, the button skittering across the floor until it came to rest against the wall. His gift gave him dominion over nearly all of their kind, but never had Alec felt quite so powerful as when he let his hands come to rest below Edward’s waist.

He’d felt his own, of course, but it was smaller. Edward filled his hand and then some, and Alec grazed it with the backs of his fingernails hesitantly. It was like touching silk. Edward was far smoother than he—Alec had heard that now in the hospitals, even gentile boys often had their foreskins removed. He ran his thumb tentatively up to its tip, to the tiny indentation there, circling it.

Edward jerked his body from under Alec’s hands, and he swore, scrambling after him across the cold floor. The pants had been kicked off in his thrashing, and the other vampire lay naked as Alec sprang onto his body once more. His fist finding that softness again, Alec threw a leg over the peak of Edward’s hip, and their groins met. Edward’s hips bucked upward sharply between Alec’s legs, and he found his young body couldn’t hold. His entire midsection went taut, and he groaned in pleasure, collapsing forward onto his companion’s smooth chest, a thin trail of venom seeping its way down the inside of his pant leg.

The slender hips bucked again. And again. Instinctively Alec tightened his grip, twisting downward, and the larger body surged up toward his as Edward cried out.

Too late, Alec saw the mist thinning. His own pleasure had broken his concentration for two critical seconds, and that was long enough. Edward’s eyes were wide, his mouth slightly ajar. Alec yanked his hand away at once, only to be met with a low moan.

“No, please…Alec.”

The name burned. Alec’s eyes pulled back to his companion, and Edward stared up at him. Plaintive, needy—the same look others always gave him when they wound up on the wrong side of his gift.

Except that Edward was pleading for something else entirely.

His hesitant hand moved back onto Edward, and he was rewarded with another thrust of the hips, another breathy groan.

“Yes,” Edward hissed. “Harder.”

Alec’s fist closed instinctively, and he twisted it once, jerking it backwards and down against the silken skin. Edward let out a sound that was part growl, part scream, and a thick rope of viscous venom landed on his stomach. The second ran down the back of Alec’s hand. He lifted the hand and ran it across Edward’s chest, the fluid sticking between them, and Edward bucked twice more, arching into Alec’s slender body before he went still.

They stayed like that for what seemed like an hour, the smaller body collapsed across the longer, broader chest, although in truth it was only long enough for six words to seep up from the radio soap opera. Then the long-fingered hands landed on either side of Alec’s face, pulling him upward so that two sets of lips met in a searing kiss.

When they parted, smooth muscles expanded and fell beneath him as Edward breathed. A hand worked its way into Alec’s hair.

“They help me,” came the quiet voice at last.

Alec felt dazed. “What?”

“The voices. The thoughts. They help me. It’s a lot to handle, sometimes, but it keeps me from thinking about him.”

Perhaps their coupling had somehow given him new insight, but Alec found he understood Edward at once. “Your sire,” he answered, and Edward nodded.

“I adored him,” he said quietly. “He was beautiful and kind and…” His sighed breath tickled Alec’s earlobe. “He found a mate. And God help me, I tried. I tried for six years to live with them, but I just…couldn’t. Not when I longed for him to do the things to me that he did to her.”

Fingers worked their way behind Alec’s ear and a wide thumb stroked across his cheek a moment. “You remind me of him,” Edward said absently. “You’re darker, of course. In coloring and in demeanor. But there’s something…” he shook his head and trailed off.

Alec’s hands wandered over Edward’s chest, the pads of his index fingers tracing a path through the smattering of dark hair nestled between the nipples. If he admitted it to himself, the thought of someone else doing these things to Edward made him protective. Jealous.

A low laugh escaped Edward, and the fingers found their way back to Alec’s scalp. “I don’t think I’ll ever see Carlisle again,” Edward murmured finally. “He would only be disappointed in me, anyway.” At once, Alec found himself on his feet, having been lifted by the larger vampire in one fluid motion. Edward was already tugging on his pants, and he chuckled when he found they no longer fastened. A single cocked eyebrow caused Alec to point to the little brass button that lay in the crevice between the wall and the floor.

“Next time, just ask. I’ll take them off.”

Next time. If Alec’s cheeks could have been inflamed, they would have been. Was that truly an invitation to do this again?

Edward nodded, and a surge of that same odd feeling flushed through Alec. That was, until Edward cocked his head toward the door and said, “Master approaches.”

Cursing, Alec scrambled back into his robe. Not that Aro wouldn’t know in an instant—or maybe, he had already known—but he would feel more comfortable in his own clothing. Edward, for his part, simply pulled the gold chain over his head. The door opened just as he was swinging his own dark robe back over his shoulders.

“Master Aro,” Edward said, as he unhurriedly arranged the robe’s hood.

“Edward. You’re feeling better?”

“Much.” He nodded toward Alec. “Alec is a great comfort to me. Thank you. I will meet you downstairs?”

The ancient one nodded, a smile playing on his lips. As he turned back to face Alec, a flash of insight alighted, and Alec realized at once how it had been that Edward had found him, how the hands had roamed his body, why Edward’s body had responded to him.

“My gift,” he mumbled as Edward disappeared down the stairs. “It doesn’t work the same on him, Master. He still hears my thoughts. And everyone else’s, I assume.”

A hand waved dismissively, and Aro laughed as he gestured toward the place where Edward had just disappeared.

“My dear Alec,” he said, “I was referring to a very different gift. And that one”—he glanced back at Alec’s robe, which sat ever so slightly askew on his shoulders—“seems to have worked just fine.”

And with a swirl of another black cloak, Alec found himself alone.


Dedicated to mothlights, for Christmas 2010

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