Edward, Teddy and Mary Wells -- and a small chunk of Al Capone's money -- departed Chicago within four hours. A conflagration left bodies burned past recognition in the Southside office building, and if Capone naturally assumed foul play, two months after the incident, he was arrested for contempt of court before he could do much about it. When he was released, he had bigger fish to fry, then was arrested for tax evasion in June, which conviction proved to be his final downfall.
The Volturi never found out about the entire incident.
In San Francisco, Teddy started a modest accounting firm under the name "Masen." It had been Edward's last gift. Carlisle had given him a new life and the name Cullen. Now he gave Teddy a new life (if less eternal) and the name Masen.
It took a few months for Teddy and his mother to find their feet. By that point, spring had come -- a time of new beginnings. Edward had learned his lesson and planned to return to Esme and Carlisle if they'd have him back. His last day in the city, he and Teddy visited the Santa Cruz Boardwalk by the bay. It was perfect weather . . . at least for Edward -- gray thunder heads threatening rain, and the crowds of tourists come for the Giant Dipper Rollercoaster were thinner than they might otherwise have been. Few cast more than a glance at the tall boy so unusually pale in sun-drenched California. He wore sunglasses to hide his eyes, which were still slightly red even if he'd already returned to a non-human diet. It was harder than he remembered, but he had Teddy for inspiration and there was a certain irony in a vampire looking to a former mobster as a role model.
Yet if Teddy had once claimed Edward as his beautiful one, his inspiration to a life of the higher mind, it was Teddy whom Edward had always looked up to -- looked up to still. Edward might have saved Teddy's life, but Teddy had saved Edward's soul if he had still one -- a point he remained doubtful about. Teddy had no doubts. "All men have souls, Eddie," he said now, taking up a debate they'd engaged in off and on for the past four months. "If you lacked a soul, you'd have drained me dry within minutes of our first meeting."
"But I did kill people," Edward said softly, glancing around to be certain nobody was close enough to overhear. "A lot of people. That doesn't make me good. I'm damned."
Teddy didn't answer immediately, but Edward could hear what was running through his head: No less than a man who loves men; at least you tried to kill for the right reasons, even if it was naïve.
Edward debated whether he should respond to the thought. Teddy knew Edward's talents, but Edward wasn't sure how well he understood the full ramifications of them. Nonetheless, Teddy's proclivities were the big pink elephant in the room and had been since their re-meeting. Edward had never told Teddy that he'd read the letter, and Teddy had never confided to Edward about the direction of his affections, nor had either mentioned that long-ago kiss in Teddy's bedroom. They avoided touching.
And Edward was tired of it. So now, he stopped walking to face Teddy, who spun his own wheelchair to look up at Edward. Nobody was anywhere near them. "I know," Edward said simply. "I can read minds, remember. I know what you are -- how you feel about me, and other men. I know." Teddy's face had paled slightly, but he didn't try to deny it. "I don't care, either," Edward told him. "I know who you are, not just what you are. And you're my friend -- a good and brave man."
Teddy didn't seem to know exactly what say to that. He swung his chair away so he could look out at the bay. Gulls cried overhead and somewhere in the distance, thunder pealed. "I suppose it's moot to you now whether I draw the blinds. Neither of us is exactly respectable."
"You think it would matter to me if I were human?" Edward was offended.
Teddy just shot him an amused glance. "Wouldn't it?" The honesty of the question brought Edward up short, and before he could reply, Teddy went on, "It's not just lust, you know. It never was. Everything most men feel for women, I feel for men."
"But I did -- do -- desire you too. You look exactly like you did then. Paler, and I'm not used to the eyes, but you're the same otherwise, and just as beautiful."
"I know you desire me."
"It doesn't bother you?" Teddy still wasn't looking at him. "I'm as queer as a two-dollar bill."
Edward turned his own eyes out to the water and considered carefully before answering. "No," he said finally. "Because you love me. It bothers me less, I think, than what the three young women over by the hotdog stand are thinking right now."
"They probably think you're a movie star on holiday from Hollywood."
"They do, actually. But I find it . . . repulsive, how they speculate about bedding me."
"You always were a bit of a prude, ace." But Teddy's lips had curled to give away his joke.
"As I recall, it was you telling me I was girl crazy for collecting pictures of Mary Pickford."
"You were -- but only for girls at a distance. You wanted to put them on a pedestal and worship them from afar. I was a little less particular. Men like me can't exactly settle down with a mister, a dog, and a house with a white picket fence."
Edward grinned. "Maybe a day will come when you can."
"I doubt I'll live to see it."
"I could make sure you did," Edward blurted suddenly, speaking before his brain caught up with his tongue. "I could change you, make you like me."
"No," Teddy said, but with neither revulsion nor horror. It was simple refusal. "You said a vampire stays in the physical state he is at the time he's changed. I wouldn't go back to the age I was when you were the age you are. I'd be a thirty-one-year-old, overweight, balding amputee."
"But you might grow the leg back; we heal if we're damaged -- "
"Might?" Teddy glanced up at him. "I'd prefer not to gamble and wind up stuck forever in this damn chair." He shrugged. "Death doesn't scare me anymore, not really. I've thought a lot about it since dad died, and even before -- during the war, and when I came back only to find your whole family gone. I'm . . . content. Life isn't perfect, but it never is. And even if the world did change tomorrow and I could settle down with a mister, a dog, and a house with a white picket fence, the man I'd want to marry is undead." He shot Edward a worried glance, as if afraid he'd finally gone too far. "You said it didn't bother you."
"It doesn't," Edward replied on automatic. But Teddy's words did bother him, if not perhaps in the way Teddy feared. They suggested hope, offering what he'd resented Carlisle for -- real love. "I might . . . I might even have taken you up on it, in a different world." And now it was Teddy's turn to struggle to conceal the shock shivering through his mind. "I loved you, you know -- I still do," Edward told him. "And I read your letter."
"What letter?" Teddy was clearly puzzled.
"The one you left me when you went to war." Edward could sense that Teddy was still confused, so he added, "In case you died."
"You read it? I told you not to read it!"
"You said you knew I wouldn't. But Teddy, you should have realized that was just an invitation." He shot his friend a grin. "I was touched, not upset." He didn't say that he'd also wondered at the time if it might be best for Teddy to earn his Beautiful Death. In fact, he'd almost forgotten ever thinking that at all. "The affection wasn't one-sided, not entirely. And if I have a soul, it's you who gave mine wings as much as any wings I gave yours. I loved you -- love you. The problem is just that I'm not sure I desired you." He paused, rubbing his nose. "I wasn't sure what I felt, honestly. I can't . . . it's not in me to desire without love, but that last night in your bed . . . that was more than platonic. Pun intended. Eros kai anteros. Do you remember?"
"I remember. Love and love returned."
They were both silent then for a while. Teddy lit a cigarette, blowing smoke away from Edward. He'd learned that Edward's now-sensitive nose found the smell a bit much. Finally, almost thoughtfully, he asked, "Did we miss our chance, do you think?"
Edward didn't reply immediately. Part of him wanted to say 'no,' part of him wanted to try. Another part feared it. "I might . . . I might break you if we tried more now. You've seen what I can do, Ted. With you, I have to take care -- always. I can't be thoughtless even for a moment. I don't trust myself, and even if I didn't break you, I might lose control in other ways -- especially now, so soon after drinking from humans. Better . . . better not try." He glanced at Teddy. "I'm sorry."
Teddy just nodded, and in his mind, Edward could see that he'd expected nothing else. That was the most tragic of all -- that he couldn't allow himself to hope, or to be angry when those hopes were dashed. As they headed back to the car, Edward laid a companionable hand on Teddy's shoulder. It might be a small thing, a minor gesture, but if he'd had to reject the possibility Teddy had thrown out for pragmatic reasons, he didn't want Teddy to think he was rejecting him.
When they'd reached the car, he bent down to rest his hands on the arms of Teddy's wheelchair where the car bulk concealed them from prying eyes. Then he pressed his lips to Teddy's, just as he had thirteen years ago. The kiss lasted barely a moment, but it was sweet, sweet -- and Teddy smelled exactly the way Edward remembered: of man and tobacco and sun.
For the next fifty years, Edward Cullen (né Masen) stayed away from Theodore Masen (né Wells). They corresponded by letter quite a lot, but never again met in the flesh. A second world war had come and gone, then Korea, the Red Scare, the Civil Rights movement including the Stone Wall Riots, the Vietnam War, and the Summer of Love. The Cold War was in full swing -- Nixon had resigned, Ford had lost to Carter, and Carter had lost to Reagan ushering in a new, more conservative era. But in the liberal atmosphere of San Francisco, Ted Masen had stopped giving a damn what others thought around 1965 when he'd finally retired and quit keeping up appearances. He'd had his fair share of lovers before and one or two after, but none had lasted. There was never a mister and a dog and a house with a white picket fence. He preferred his cats and his third-floor apartment on Market Street overlooking the streetcars that reminded him of old Chicago.
Yet for all he stayed away from Teddy physically, Edward remained well aware of the goings-on in Teddy's life, by letter or by other means. Now and then, he'd debated going to see Teddy again but always decided against it, until Alice warned him he'd better go this time in late September of 1983, only a week before Edward's vampire anniversary. The world had changed a lot since he'd been human, and Teddy had been in a nursing home for two years fighting cancer and a failing body, although his mind still ran sharp. Most of their contemporaries were long dead. "I hang on from sheer cussedness," he'd written to Edward last year. Now, Edward claimed to be a grandson in order to gain admittance.
It took only a moment for Teddy to recognize the figure standing in the doorway, but if not for the name on the door, Edward might not have known him. Until he saw the eyes. Faded from age or not, they were still the no-nonsense gray Edward had loved since boyhood. "Howdy, old man," Teddy rasped. His voice was bad now.
Seating himself on the bedside, Edward took one of Teddy's hands in his. Poor circulation made them almost as cold as Edward's own, but Edward could still hear Teddy's heart. Thump-thump, thump-thump. Stubborn. "How are you?"
"Dying," Teddy replied despite the steady heartbeat.
"Not right now -- "
"Oh, not now, but soon. I told them to stop the chemo treatments. It's useless and just making me sick. There's a point at which it's time to die with a little dignity. That's what the hospice workers call it, you know -- dying with dignity."
Edward tried not to snort. "Then I suppose I can give you the present I brought. It won't matter." He pulled a pack of unfiltered Camels out of his breast pocket, still sealed in their 1918 box.
Astonished, Teddy took it. "Where on earth did you find these?"
"You left them behind by accident, I think, when you shipped out. I found them in your room back behind your desk. Sentimentality, or superstition, but I picked them up to save until you came home. As long as I kept them, I believed you'd come back alive. Later, I didn't have any use for them myself, but I still kept them."
"Maybe your superstition was right," Teddy said, opening the box to pull out one short, fat old cigarette and lift it to his lips. It took him three tries to light it. "Close the door," Teddy said. "Smoking's not allowed in here. The head nurse'll kill me quicker than the cancer."
Edward did as he said, and he took a long drag, eyes closed in pure delight. "It's been too long since I had one of these, stale or not." Teddy had stopped smoking sometime in the early '70s, albeit too late and the cancer had come anyway. "This was the good stuff, none of that filtered-within-an-inch-of-its-life crap they sell now."
"I wouldn't know," Edward said with amusement.
"Do you remember? What it tasted like?"
"A little -- but not really. Too far in the past. I preferred Luckies anyway; that, I do remember."
Teddy finished his smoke and they talked of many things, most inconsequential. It wasn't about what they said as they wrote frequently enough that Edward was up on all Teddy's gossip, and Teddy on his. Teddy teased him about the White Sox clinching the American League West title. "When are you going to give up on those jinxed Cubs, Eddie? The last time they won a Series you were seven years old!"
"I have a soft spot for underdogs. And at least we don't win ugly. Or use the damn DH. We play ball the way it was meant to be played."
Teddy laughed, which turned into a deep cough, and Edward held him until it passed, then he said, "We win scrappy. That's how you survive life -- look at me. Underdogs may be romantic, but if they lose, they're still losers. Don't be afraid to win ugly, Eddie, as long as you win."
After a while, he tired. "Read me Plato," he said, nodding towards the bedside table where an old, worn book lay.
Edward picked it up and opened it to their favorite passage. The pages fell apart to the right spot almost without coaxing. An old cigarette card was placed there -- a leaping salmon. "'Do you know why the salmon leaps?'" he read softly. "I remember."
He set the card aside and turned to the book. Teddy's eyes were closed but he was clearly awake and listening. Edward read until he was certain Teddy was asleep, then set the book aside and studied his friend's face.
Past the shock of age, he was still Teddy. He had the same wide, square face, a bit puffy from the chemo. The hair that had once been light brown had long ago fallen out or turned gray. Age spots dotted his skin but the eyes were the same, the shape of them, crinkled at the corners from laughing. His life hadn't been easy, but Teddy had always displayed a certain doggedness. He hadn't taken his father's escape, instead shouldering the responsibility of living even if it had meant compromises that ate at his conscience. Death hadn't been an option, no more than for Esme, or Jasper or Alice, or Emmett, or even Rosalie for that matter. Sometimes Edward thought everyone in his family had faced greater challenges than he had. Life had coddled him, and perhaps he was bitter and cynical because he'd faced so little true adversity.
He wouldn't have Teddy with him much longer. Edward didn't need Alice to tell him that. His friend's fire was fading, and at his loss, Edward would become even less human. But he would carry Teddy in his heart just as he'd once told Teddy that Teddy carried him. Teddy would become his Ideal, his personal image of the Good, in part because he wasn't a god. He was just a man. Plato had been wrong about that.
This was beauty. Aged, infirm, crippled -- weathered -- and perfect in all its imperfections. This, Edward would never have if he lived ten thousand years. He'd be eternally young, eternally cold, eternally imperfect in his perfection. Plato's Ideal Form, and inhuman with it. Only in living and change did one find the Good, and Edward didn't care about remembering Teddy as he'd been when they were boys. He wanted to remember this -- this old man lying fragile against white sheets. Here was Beauty, shining in company with the Celestial Forms.
Edward took the sleeping Teddy's hand, veined and thick-knuckled with arthritis, and kissed the back of it. "Sleep peacefully, old friend."
He departed shortly after, although he'd be back the next day, and the one after that for as long as Teddy had left. On the way home, he dropped by a hat shop, the sort that carried ballcaps for every team under the sun, pro or college. There, he found a White Sox cap and bought it, returning to his hotel before the sun came out from behind the clouds. He'd surprise Teddy tomorrow.
He got a call from the nursing home a little after ten that evening. Theodore Mitchell Masen had passed away in his sleep at 9:26 p.m. Apparently, he'd never woken after Edward had left. Edward went down to the home to take care of any arrangements, then rode a streetcar to the pier and put on the cap, pulling out a cigarette from the old pack of Camels that had still been on the bedside table. He hadn't smoked in sixty-five years and wasn't sure what the effect would be on his stone body, but the taste was sharp and strong, like love.
Historical Notes: My thanks to Prof H for pointing me towards the Encyclopedia of Chicago, from which comes much of the historical info. Once upon a time, cigarette cards were issued with the fragile packs to stiffen them and prevent breakage. Given the human interest in collecting, they quickly became all the rage during the years leading up to the first world war and after, but their production stopped with World War II and paper rationing. Later bubble-gum and tea cards replaced them as pop media culture. As for smoking itself, nobody much realized then it was unhealthy and there were no age restrictions on purchasing cigarettes, so Edward isn't doing anything illegal or even rebellious by smoking at 17. Although I made the Masens Methodists in "This is My Beloved Son," I needed them here to be a little more tolerant of drinking, so I changed their allegiance to Episcopalian; it's a minor point but I figured I should explain.
Mary Pickford and Thomas Meighan were famous silent film stars, and ironically, Kristen Stewart (who's playing Bella Swan) looks just a little like Mary Pickford in features. I couldn't resist some Cubs humor; the 1918 team was a fantastic team even if the Red Sox had the Babe come Series time. Edward doesn't call Rigley Field that because it wasn't named Rigley Field yet. The DH or designated hitter wasn't instituted until 1973, and only in the American League, which is the league of the White Sox. Jackson Park Highlands is, today, predominantly African-American, but in Edward's time, it was exclusively WASP and securely upper-middle class, if not society-page residential. Flush toilets were found in the homes of the affluent by 1910 or even earlier, but were usually located in the basement. They didn't move "upstairs" till post-war, 1920s new construction.
The poem Teddy quotes is Emily Dickenson's "I Can Wade Grief," and the Plato passages come from The Phaedrus. While the Benjamin Jowett translation might read as old-fashioned to us, it would likely have been the translation used by Edward and Teddy so it's the one I quote. I haven't messed with pronouns, so a bit of explanation. Plato did use the masculine for the beloved, but in Greek, the word for "soul" (psuchê) is automatically feminine, whether a man's or woman's. Plato assumed the traditional erastes/eromenos pairing of an older (male) lover and younger (male) beloved. It is in The Phaedrus that we get the odd usage "anteros," or erotic love for the lover returned on the part of the beloved. Usually the term used for the beloved's affection is "philos," or non-erotic passionate love.