Author's notes are at the end this time. :)
As always, I own none of the characters and stand to make no profit from this story.
Chapter Twelve - The Last Kiss Goodbye
This is the last time
That I'm ever gonna come here tonight
This is the last time - I will fall
Into a place that fails us all - inside
-Dishwalla, 'Angels or Devils'
* * *
The years melded together - blurring into one endless day of light and dark, of truth and deceptions, of right and wrong. Life had become a facade, full of deceptions and lies carefully constructed on top of the other and fragile as a house of cards that could tumble with the slightest breath of air.
The lies always remained the same.
"I've never taken Biology before."
"I don't miss the blood of humans."
"My name is Edward Mas...Cullen. Edward Cullen."
"I don't mind being alone."
"Carlisle is my...father."
But they were all his lies - Edward's life of lies - and he embraced them, accepted them, and had almost talked himself into believing them.
When a finger accidentally grazed across his...when they shared a knowing gaze and a remembered memory...a stray thought of lost passion...a casual brush in the hallway...those were the moments that scattered the deceptions as a brief ray of sun on a rainy day - reminding him that there were more colors in the world than gray...and that there were some truths left buried deep in his heart.
And in those beautiful and brief moments, he would remember who he truly was.
He was not seventeen.
He had taken Biology approximately 22 times.
He missed the taste of human blood every single day.
His name had once been Edward Masen.
He did mind being alone.
Carlisle had been his lover.
And Edward was most certainly not fine.
But then the sun would slide behind those clouds of his half-life and he could almost talk himself into believing the lies once again.
There were no regrets.
This is what he had chosen - to be ensnared in a complicated tangle of desire and honor - this web that held them together and yet kept them apart...unable to stay, unable to leave...unable to have, unable to let go.
The days drifted into years, the years into decades...in and out, light and dark, cold and warm, and his thirst burning... and Edward waited for the clouds to part once again and catch a glimpse of happiness and dreams long buried in the depths of his black heart.
* * *
And on one day just like the rest, a red sun set behind ragged Alaskan mountains, coloring the snow into fire, glinting against pale skin and blond hair.
Edward wondered if Tanya's hair would feel the same as his...if her lips would be as warm as his...if her love could burn away the memories of him...
She was bold and hungry, pressing her body against his and running her fingers deep into his hair. Her breath ghosted across his ear as she whispered, "What is it you want, Edward?"
There were so many things he wanted...to bury his nose in her soft hair, to savor the taste of her skin, to glimpse something other than the past...to shed this weariness and be...free of it all.
But in the multitude of wants, only one came to his lips, whispered in the sacred valleys below building storm clouds. "I want...to forget," he softly murmured, the wind catching his confession. It echoed off their surround of sparkling mountains and continued on the breeze, rising further and further into the stars...destined to lay next to millions of unanswered prayers, rotting in their desperation.
The breeze refused to relent, sending her hair in all directions...and Edward felt his world begin to shudder as her lips brushed across his skin and her fingers trailed down the back of his neck.
He wanted desperately to lose himself in her. Tanya kissed him, her lips eager and urgent and he kissed her back with wild abandon, trying everything to ignore the unsteady foundations of his deceptions, to ignore the memories of his last kiss so long ago, to forget everything...and it almost worked.
Her thoughts trickled into his head - images of the two of them naked in the snow, of naked skin against naked skin, of her own past lovers, of the jealousy she harbored...and the trickle soon became a flood, and the flood became a torrent.
Tanya could never make him forget.
He could never offer what she needed.
Edward reluctantly broke her kiss and pulled away - his weary mind heavy and so tired. Large snowflakes began to fall between them, settling in her hair and eyelashes and glimmering in the silver light of the moon.
"I'm sorry," he said quietly, "I can't do this."
And so Edward left Tanya standing there in the snow-covered plains of Alaska as the stars shined against the blackness of the night. He was jealous of those stars - circling around their tiny fragile world while they stayed safe and content far above the maddening sound of life.
That was when he knew that his love with Carlisle had completely shattered his soul, sending the pieces skittering across the black sky like the stars above. Forever fixed in place - never closer, never farther away - just the same constant distance that no bridge could cross now.
It hurt to remember. It hurt to know.
And so Edward went back to his safe life of lies, still weary and still tired and still remembering everything.
"I don't mind moving back to Forks."
"High school again? Whatever is needed."
"I don't mind being alone."
"Carlisle is my...father."
Edward enrolled himself in high school again for the forty-eighth time, bought another pack of brand new pencils and crisp blank paper - and created another false life. This time around would be no different than the rest - days parading with the mask firmly in place for everyone to see and nights spent finding distraction wherever he could get it.
But there was only so much distraction to be found in the world - only so many languages he could learn, only so many books to read, only so many songs to play before those ghosts of his past came to haunt him once again.
Edward Masen Cullen hung weightless in his darkness, remembering to act human while forgetting to feel human, not thinking about how much he missed human blood, not thinking about blond hair, and no thinking about how much he missed him.
* * *
Out of boredom - and a desire for some much needed privacy from a house full of vampires - Edward began to roam solitary in silent streets in the hours just before dawn - away from the sounds of Rosalie and Emmett's enthusiastic lovemaking, away from Jasper's knowing glances, away from Alice's empathic eyes.
But Edward had never been one to be content, and soon his explorations moved from wandering empty streets to wandering through silent houses.
It had started innocently enough when he noticed a door standing open, forgotten in the bustle of life. He honestly meant to just close it, but somehow...Edward found himself in the middle of a living room with the sound of peaceful breathing upstairs, the errant flashes of a stranger's dreams, surrounded by the detritus of a life not his own.
Edward couldn't say why he didn't just leave. Somewhere his brain knew it was wrong - to creep like a ghost through these living doll houses, staring silently at brief and flickering souls sleeping in blissful oblivion to the monster standing at their feet, watching them sleep and peering into their lives and thirsting after their blood.
After the first house, it became a compulsion.
Now he would routinely wander aimlessly through strange living rooms, running his fingers along bookshelves, reading homework assignments taped to refrigerators, flipping through photo albums filled with endless school photos of freckled kids, wondering where each piece of the puzzle fit in their lives, briefly hoping one house might hold a clue as to what it was truly all about.
Yet it was the same over and over again...the same photos of the same birthday parties at the same location with the same cakes...the same televisions, the same food in the refrigerator, the same paint on the walls, the same shells of life were everywhere.
He couldn't stop.
He didn't want to stop.
Their shells were no different than his own, with the same nameless faces and stack of deceptions that hung around his neck like an albatross. And so like a lonely ghost he wandered through his half-life of well-worn lies and shameful distractions.
* * *
His carefully constructed false life blew away with the gentlest of breezes.
It was a normal day like any other. Shower. Dress. Put fresh pencils in his backpack. Print out yet another report on William Shakespeare. Accidentally brush against Carlisle in the garage. Share a glance as they got in their cars and headed out to another day of deception. Endure the purgatory of high school for the forty-eight time. Try not to think about blond hair.
And as he sat there waiting to suffer yet another lecture on mitosis, the scent of blood unlike any before it suddenly hit his nose and hammered through his brain - shattering his world with each heartbeat.
Edward Masen Cullen's patchwork life was ripped apart with one gentle breeze.
She was the devil himself, come to tempt him back into the darkness - to be offered the heady bliss of feeding on her blood, blood that sang to him, blood that called out to him...and he almost gave in.
Later on he would lie to his family that he had wanted to stay true to their choice to not feed on humans, that he didn't want to be a monster anymore. But what saved Bella's life that day had nothing to do with that.
It was the pain.
The burn, the clench of his throat, the lock of his muscles, the teeth biting against his tongue wiped his brain clean of everything but her. No past, no present, no future...nothing but the delicious tang of her blood wafting through his brain burning all of the old webs away, burning him clean with her fire in this purgatory...
Edward's tempting demon and saving angel came gift-wrapped into one clumsy and delicious package, promising both death and life...and she didn't even know it.
* * *
He had cursed God first.
Then himself and his entire life.
Then his incessant weakness that sent him driving away like a coward into the night, seeking the refuge in the icy winds of Alaska...but over and over her face and smell filled his mind and her fires continued to rage inside of him...burning his old self into dust to be scattered on the wind.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust....
It had been three days since her. Three days of thinking of nothing but Bella Swan and her delicious scent. Edward closed his eyes and clenched his fists. It would be so easy, he thought, to simply walk away from that life...to become the monster that lurked behind his golden eyes and to have the sweet taste of his temptress' blood burning over his lips...
It would be so easy - kill the girl and walk away forever.
A trickle of something...excitement...hope...flowed into his veins. He could simply walk away...
And then he tried to remember the reason he had stopped feeding on humans in the first place.
Carlisle. It had been all for Carlisle.
His eyes opened with a start. It had been three days since he had even thought about Carlisle...three days since he had felt the weariness in his bones...he had spent nearly 80 years living on scraps of attention, of remembered dreams - always knowing he was never enough, living every single day with his weakness for him.
Just the thought of returning to that life made him so tired, made the weariness creep back among the shadows, all the more heavier after knowing a brief moment without it.
He didn't want that life anymore; he could never return to the life he once led - not since her blood had burned away all of his defenses and lies, leaving him naked and defenseless....and finally free.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
* * * * * * * * * *
It was surreal how much life had changed in the span of one simple year, Edward mused. And how quickly something as simple as one little paper cut could destroy it all. But then, paper cuts were never a trivial matter in a house full of vampires.
He might have laughed at the irony of it all - enduring the pain to find himself anew through her, risking their lives to keep her close to him, managing not to accidentally lose control and break her incredibly fragile bones...and yet this tiny, breakable human girl had shattered the lives of unbreakable vampires with one drop of her blood.
She was too good for someone like him. Bella had already given him a rebirth, and he would be forever grateful...but reality always had a way of intruding where it was not wanted. They were vampires, she was human.
Bella would never be safe as long as they remained - as long as Edward was selfish enough to stay in her life.
This time he would be strong, Edward thought. This time he would do the right thing and leave.
* * *
"It will be for the best," Edward murmured, throwing a large suitcase of clothing in the trunk of his silver Volvo.
"Best for whom? Her? It certainly won't be best for you," Carlisle questioned as he leaned against the garage door. "You've become a new person since Bella...and I don't know if I can stand to see the darkness on your face again."
Edward's jaw set and he paused with his hand on the door handle. "I will survive. And so will she. That's all that matters," he said, his fingers running along the keys in his hands, his eyes distant.
Carlisle sighed and stepped towards him, laying his hand on the hood of the car. "Don't go," he murmured.
Edward squeezed his eyes shut and lowered his head. "I can't risk damaging everything we have built here. I'm not worth it." I can't go back, he thought.
"We have started over before, and you are definitely worth it." Carlisle paused. "Where will you go?"
"I...I don't know. South America, maybe. Europe, perhaps." As far away as it takes.
Golden eyes glanced over at Edward trembling in the darkness, and their matching golden eyes met. "For how long?" Carlisle thought, letting out a long sigh.
Edward was silent, refusing to meet his gaze. "I don't know," he lied. Never, he thought.
"Do you remember, Edward? Do you remember what you told me when you found me on the cliff?"
Edward closed his eyes as Carlisle stepped closer - feeling the heat trapped between them. "You told me to remember the truth here," he said, pressing his hand against Edward's chest, silent where a beating heart once was. "I will do whatever it takes for you to come back," he whispered.
Carlisle's hand came up and brushed along Edward's cheek, along his closed eyelids, smoothing out the worried creases in his flawless skin. It felt good...too good. Edward sighed softly and his hands came up to rest on Carlisle's hips while he pressed his nose into his hair.
Those arms that he once missed so much - no, craved - were tight and strong and comforting around his shoulders...and then their lips met...softly at first...a blessing for the journey.
The past rushed up to meet them, to remind them of the passion that once held them together, to remind them of two souls destined to forever alter the path of the other.
I would have done anything for this once, Edward thought.
And then slowly, there was more - and tongues found lips and teeth and fingers wound into hair...and it was just the two of them once again - as it once was, as it should have been all along.
But I can never go back.
One kiss for love remembered.
Loud voices in the hallway echoed off of the tiled floors, breaking their embrace, and like the secret lovers they were, they broke their kiss, each panting and trembling in the aftermath as Edward slid into the front seat of his car.
The engine flared to life and he glanced up, seeing Carlisle standing there watching him with those deep eyes - and wondered if he had ever truly seen him before - solid and silent, keeping all of his emotions buried deep, refusing to cry out - no matter the cost.
Edward could see him, burning in agony of change - biting his tongue, his hand, anything to keep from someone finding his weakness....and this was how he lived his life - no one knew his weakness, he refused to cry out, he refused to let his emotions in the open, and he suffered every day for it.
Edward rolled down the window. "I'll...I'll come back one day, Carlisle," he said.
The anxiety washed away from Carlisle's face, and he leaned into the car, his fingers winding into Edward's hair, his soft lips crushing against his own. "I'll do whatever it takes for you to come back to me," Carlisle thought.
And one kiss for goodbye.
* * *
Red tail lights disappeared into the darkness, and Edward was gone.
Carlisle stood in the garage, staring out into the night as his family opened the door and began packing out their belongings for yet another move.
He already missed him.
One kiss for love remembered, and one kiss for goodbye to their bittersweet love.
A/N: That's it, folks. We have come to the end of this unusual tale, dropping you off right where the known story begins.
I cannot begin to express how much I have loved writing this, and how much I have enjoyed all of your wonderful and thoughtful reviews. Although I am terrible about responding to them, I do read all of them, and they spurred me on. This story has made my writing grow exponentially. You guys have been most receptive and I will confess a secret: Before I posted Chapter One, I was SURE I would get flamed over this pairing, but I can honestly say I never received a negative note regarding these two lovebirds. YOU GUYS ROCK. :)
Massive thanks go out to my betas, ElegantPaws and Imanewme for catching my mistakes both large and small, and for pushing me to go the extra mile and make this story the best it could be. I owe both of them my first-born child. (If they will take the heathen, lol!)
This is pretty much the end of my major doings in fanfic. I will continue with the stories that are underway, and I will write drabbles and oneshots here and there – but that's it. I will now jump on the bandwagon of all aspiring authors and start working on my own original writings. Yes, I know my chances are better of getting struck by lightning than getting published; however I have reconciled the fact that even if it gathers dust in some editor's slush pile, it will be MINE (and will not involve gay vampires).
I will probably post bits and pieces of it as I go along on my journal, which everyone is welcome to come and hang out on. minerva_one[dot]livejournal[dot]com. My friending policy is open, for those who are interested.
This has been a most excellent adventure. Thanks to you all for sharing in it with me. :)