The Epic T-Rated Contest

The rules are simple:

1. No lemons. Must be rated 'T.'

2. Has to have a line or reference to a cannibal.

3. Has to have a line or reference to a fireman.

4. All canon pairings.

5. Has to be a one-shot, but is allowed to be continued once the contest is finished.

6. Must copy/paste these rules to the top of your submission. Two entries per person. Collaborations acceptable.

7. Must PM either Daddy's Little Cannibal or Bronzehairedgirl620 to alert them of your entry so we can add your story to the C2 if it fits the requirements.

Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight.

Creeping Dose

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory --
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the belovèd's bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

-Music, when soft voices die…
---Percy Bysshe Shelley

I twirled my pen around my fingers, waiting in the outer office area of the police department. I had gotten a job there just out of college as a tech intern, mainly because my father was the police chief and no one else was willing to file papers all day. I was good at it, and efficient, and I kept the coffee pots filled.

Sometimes I would go down to the rescue squad and help out there. I didn't run calls with them, though. I cleaned the squad house and made food for the paramedics and occasionally for the firemen. I only ever made food for the firefighters, though if my brother was on duty. The rest of them scared me. Intimidating, buff men. Yeah, I was a wimp.

"Bella," my older brother groaned, waving his big hands in front of my face. He adjusted the suspenders of his yellowy fire-retardant pants.

"What do you want?" I asked, snapping out of my reverie and glaring at him.

"The desk phone's been ringing for about a minute now and you've just been staring out the window like a zombie," Emmett sighed.

"Oh!" I exclaimed and reached for the phone, cradling the receiver between my chin and shoulder. "Forks Police Department," I said in a polite detached tone.

"Bells, it's me," the gruff voice of my father replied, coming through the static in the receiver.

"Oh, Dad," I said.

"Bells, I need you to go down to the hospital to get a statement," he said.

I had been at the station for almost a year and never once had I been asked to do real police work. I was content to be chained to my desk. Thank you very much.

"Dad, I'm not really so sure that's a good idea," I replied. I knew getting a statement really didn't mean much—but really, I couldn't do it.

"Can't Deputy Mark go get it?" I asked with a groan.

"Nope, sorry, Bells," Charlie laughed slightly.

I glared at nothing in particular, "Dad, I can't do it!"

"Sure you can," he replied, "besides it's impossible for Mark or I to go do it, we've got to investigate."

"What happened?" I asked with a resigned sigh.

Charlie laughed a slight hysterical tinge to the sound, "There was an accident down here at Cullen Laboratories."

Cullen Labs was one of the most prominent drug testing facilities in the great state of Washington. Doctor Carlisle Cullen, the founder, had started out as a simple doctor at the hospital in my hometown of Forks and had gone on to build the testing facility.

"What happened?" I asked, thinking of the worst case scenarios possible.

An accident at a laboratory? That had disaster written all over it.

And why were the police involved?

"Some yahoo down here 'accidentally' left some radioactive chemical open and then one of the scientists came in to work and got exposed to it—he got rushed to the hospital, so I need you to go down there and get his statement."

"But I still don't understand why you can't go," I said, in a borderline whiney voice. There was no one I was going to go expose myself to some radioactive scientist.

"Because, me and Mark are down here in some big blue suits that make us look like Telletubbies investigating and asking questions. We think someone left the chemicals out to inflict harm on the poor sap who's in the hospital."

I sighed and rubbed my hands across my face, "Who am I interrogating?"

"You're not interrogating anyone, Bells," he chuckled, "you're getting his statement—and his name is Edward. Edward Cullen."

"Isn't that the son of the man who founded the lab?" I asked, confused. Willing myself not to blush.

"Yeah," Charlie sighed, "that's why we think that there's foul play involved."

"Oh," I said softly, who would want to hurt a prominent scientist? Someone whose work benefited people with life-threatening medical conditions? They must've been a real whack job.

"It's a real shame, too. Bright kid." Charlie said quietly, almost inaudibly with the overpowering cell-phone static coming through the receiver.

"I'll go talk to him, Dad," I replied with a sigh.

"Thanks Bells, I knew we could count on you!"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," I mumbled, and hung the phone up after Charlie told me the hospital room number and told me where to grab the proper identification to go interrogate Mr. Cullen.

"Where you going, Bells?" My big brother asked, following me out to my rusty old truck.

"Got to go down to the hospital to get a statement," I replied, jumping into the front seat.

Emmett shut the door for me and I leaned out my window to kiss his cheek. "I'll call you later, Em."

"Alright Bells, drive safely!"

I smiled at him and turned the key and the engine revved with a deafening roar. I drove with the windows rolled down all the way to the hospital. I flashed my ID at the nurse's station and briefly told the gum-chewing nurse why I was there.

She twirled her hair around her finger and blew a bubble with her gum, "Edward Cullen, I think the Doctor Whitlock is with him right now."

"Alright," I nodded and walked slowly down the slick, linoleum halls.

There was a man nestled into the bed, the curtains drawn and the room dark. I could make out the pale features of the blonde doctor standing by the bed. He had bad scares over his face, but he was really handsome. I felt a blush creep across my cheeks. Firemen, doctors they all intimidated me. In retrospect, I realize that I was such a loser.

I knocked on the door slightly. The tall, blonde doctor turned to me and smiled slightly, "Oh, hello."

"Hello," I said, staring more at the tops of my Converse than at his face, "I'm Bella Swan with the Forks Police Department I'm here to get a statement form Mr. Cullen."

"Alright," Dr. Whitlock replied, "Miss Swan, may I speak to you outside?"

"Yes," I replied, drawing my eyes up to look into his deep, brown eyes. He smiled at me and led me out of the room. I didn't even glance back at the young man in the bed, festooned with tubes and wires.

Once outside, Dr. Whitlock looked directly into my eyes and spoke in a hushed voice, "Edward was exposed to massive amounts of radioactive chemicals and has developed ARS, acute radiation syndrome. He's still only slightly ill—but if while you're talking to him things seem to get worse I'd like you to press the call button right away so we can start another round of intravenous treatment."

I nodded my head numbly, aching for the poor man in the bed just inside the heavy wooden door. There was an observation window looking into his room and I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. He had lost all of his privacy probably when he would want it the most. There was a warning sign on the door that read: "Authorized Personnel Only".

Dr. Whitlock walked slowly away and I turned to the room, taking a deep breath to prepare myself. I knew all of the questions to ask, how to get information about people, but I didn't know if I would be able to face Mr. Cullen. I mean, the man had radiation poisoning, I knew he was still a human being, but I didn't know if I would be able to handle being so stark and detached with him.

He was sitting up slightly in the bed, staring at the darkened window. The room was so dark—the lime green fluorescent light coming from the heart monitor gave his already sallow skin a rather sickly glow.

His hair was dark, maybe red or light brown and lusciously messy; and his eyes, though glazed, were an intense shade of violent green.

He turned to stare at me his eyes flashing with recognition and I blushed. If I had thought Dr. Whitlock was handsome, Edward Cullen was stunningly gorgeous. Firemen, doctors and ARS patients all intimidated me.

I took a deep breath and stepped forward next to his bed, "I'm Bella Swan; would you mind answering a few questions?" I asked, extending my hand.

He gave me a withering glance and looked rather pointedly at the IVs and tubes sticking at odd angles out of his arms.

I blushed, embarrassed, and pulled my hand away. "Alright, well, let's get started."

I sat in the chair at his bedside and pulled my tablet out of my bag and grabbed a pen. "Has there been anything suspicious in the laboratory in the last couple of days?"

Mr. Cullen thought for a moment, pursing his perfect lips, "Not that I can think of."

It was the first time he'd spoken since I entered the room and I thought my heart was going to stop. He had such a smooth voice, and the way he spoke the certain lilt to his words or the way he accented certain parts of his sentence were like something from an old movie.

I shook my head back and forth to clear it and wrote his answer down. "Do you have anyone that you can think of that would want to harm you?"

Again he thought, his lips pouting and my stomach knotting, "There are a lot of people that don't like what our lab is doing—I guess you could say they're jealous, but I really don't think that that is a viable reason to kill someone."

I dropped my pen, "They didn't kill you, though."

"Not yet," replied, still staring at the covered window, "this could kill me, though."

I hadn't thought about that. Not really. I mean, I knew that radiation poisoning was potentially fatal; but to hear it put so plainly made my heart wrench.

"I'm sorry," I whispered, leaning forward to pick my pen up off the floor.

"It's not like you're the one who poisoned me," Mr. Cullen said, shifting so that he was facing away from me.

"No, but I can still—"

"Can still what?" He snapped, turning to glare, "Can still pity me?"

"No, that's not what I was going to say," I responded and then closed my mouth, I shouldn't be arguing with him. He shouldn't be getting stressed out all because of me.

"Mr. Cullen," I started.


"Excuse me?" I asked, so bemused that I could barely even see straight.

"Edward, I feel old when you call me Mr. Cullen," Edward said, rolling his magnificent, green eyes at me.

"Alright, Edward," I said softly, "You can't think of anyone, by name, that would want to harm you or your family in any way?"

He sighed and shook his head absently, "Aro Volturi has been particularly nasty to my father in the past; and he does seem the type to harm someone else just to get to my father."

I wrote down Aro Volturi in thick letters on my tablet and underlined it several times.

"Tell me about the events leading up to your exposure to the chemicals this morning," I said, trying to force my voice from the business tone to a more caring, charming nature.

"I went into the office as normal, talked to the secretaries for a bit…"

"I'll need their names," I interjected.

"Tanya Denali and Angela Cheney," he sighed and continued with his story. "I went and changed into my scrubs and lab coat and talked to one of the other RD people—his name's Mike Newton, by the way," he said with a smirk, "and then I went to my lab.

"I knew something was amiss right away. I always put everything in its proper place before I leave to go home in the evening, and when I saw the container of radon on the counter. I immediately hit the alarm button and activated emergency procedures."

He punctuated the end of his tale with a slight cough, and I resisted the urge to pat his back as he hunched forward, trying to clear his lungs.

"Who else has access to your lab?" I asked after he seemed to have recovered.

"My father, the secretaries know the security codes to enter the lab, but they wouldn't know what chemicals to put out that would be harmful to a human being."

I nodded and wrote down every word he said.

"Can you give me any other information that might be useful to our investigation?"

"None that I can," he stopped and coughed a little more shuddering as he tried to draw in deep breaths. This time I did step forward to him and rubbed gently on his back. He looked gratefully at me.

"None that I can think of," he finished, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He pulled it away from his lips, wet and sticky with blood.

I hit the call button on the wall as fast as I could, praying that Edward would be alright.

Dr. Whitlock rushed into the room, ushering a nurse in behind him. They started a new IV and then cleaned Edward up a little. I felt like they weren't doing enough to help him.

Slowly, as they settled him against his pillows, I started to slip out of the room.

"Bella," Edward called in a guttural voice.

I spun around and stared at him, "If I think of anything else, should I call you?"

"Yes," I replied and grabbed a business card from my wallet, "don't hesitate to call."

"I won't," he replied, suppressing another cough.

I went home in a bit of a daze. I prayed for Edward that night, I wasn't a particularly religious person, but I didn't think it could hurt to pray for him. I had a bit of a crush on him—which I knew was silly, I mean, he was a sick man and he might die and there I was, laying in my bed like a teenage girl who had just found her first love.

I remembered Edward Cullen from school. He was a couple of years older than me and definitely ran in a different social circle. I only vaguely remembered him from when I was in middle school—I think he graduated high school before I even started ninth grade…

"Bella, you are so stupid," Lauren Mallory, and class bully told me quite plainly before I was pushed down on the sidewalk in front of the middle school.

I tried not to cry or call my big brother for help, even though I could see him and his girlfriend loitering by his car.

"Leave me alone," I said, trying to find my glasses from where they had fallen when I was pushed. I felt around for a bit until I heard a sickening crunch—unmistakable as the sound of shattering glass. I felt hot tears pool in my eyes.

Lauren and her bleach-blonde minions walked away, their cackles echoing in my ears as I sat on the sidewalk, tears streaming down my face, muttering swear words.

"You ok, there?" A mirthful voice asked, kneeling down next to me and presumably picking up my books.

I couldn't see a thing, so I just assumed that the Samaritan was trying to help me not make fun of me.

"I'm alright," I said, feeling around for my broken spectacles.

"You're Charlie Swan's daughter, right?" The boy asked. He had a deep voice so I knew he wasn't in my grade—all of the boys in my grade had squeaky voices.

"Yes," I said and then tried not to blush. I was already at the awkward preteen phase and I couldn't see this boy that was helping me—but he just sounded cute. I sighed as I tried to pick up my stuff.

"Can you see anything?" He asked a little skeptically.

"Of course I can," I scoffed, pushing myself to my feet and stumbling forward.

"You can't can you," he accused.

"I told you," I replied stubbornly, "I can!"

"Alright," he said coolly. I could hear him walking behind me, but I took my books from him and marched to where I thought Emmett was.

"Emmett," the boy called from behind me, and I blushed.

"Whoa, you ok there, Bells?" My big brother asked, obnoxiously waving a hand in front of my face.

I grabbed his wrist, "I'm fine. Lauren was being snobby to me again."

"Did you bite her like I told you to?" Emmett asked.

I groaned and buried my face in my hands as the boy who had helped me laughed musically.

"Oh, thanks for helping her, Eddie," Emmett said, over my shoulder as he helped me into his Jeep.

As we drove away I got up the courage to squint at my brother and ask, "Who was that guy that helped me?"

Emmett laughed, "You don't know who he is? Geez, Bells, you really are clueless."

I leaned over the center console and hit him in the back of the head, "I'm not in high school with you guys, so how would I know?!"
"That's Edward Cullen."

I woke up really too early the next morning. It wouldn't be visiting hours at the hospital for quite some time, so I decided to shower. Perhaps the water would wash away the strange feelings I had that tingled all over my skin and made my stomach feel hot.

I didn't exactly know why I was going back to the hospital; maybe it was because I wanted—in some way—to repay the kindness that Edward Cullen had showed me.

Whatever reason it was, I found myself at the nurse's station at 8 o'clock on the dot, asking after Edward.

"He's awake," the nurse drawled, uninterestedly looking through her issue of Vogue.

"Thanks," I replied a little sarcastically and then meandered down the hall.

"Miss Swan!" Doctor Whitlock exclaimed, glancing over the edge of a clipboard, "I didn't expect to see you today."

"I was wondering if it would be alright if I kept Edward company today, I expect he won't get many visitors," I replied sheepishly.

"That's fine; you can go in with him. Maybe you can get him to eat something—we don't like having to replenish his nutrients with the IV."

"I'll see what I can do."

Edward was sitting up in his bed, staring out the window. The blinds had been drawn to allow some light into the room, but Edward still looked awful. His skin was a pale gray colour and his eyes dark. He looked so tired.

There was a tray of hospital food balanced in his lap.

"You should eat that," I said, pointing to what appeared to be mashed potatoes…or banana pudding…or grits…

He scoffed as his eyes met mine, "I don't think it's edible."

"Everything in this room is eatable, even I am eatable; but that, my dear children, is called cannibalism and is in fact frowned upon in most societies," I quoted with a small, amused smile.

He barked out a laugh, "You're so absurd."

"I am not," I replied, sitting in the chair next to his bed.

"You're stubborn, too," Edward sighed, pushing the tan mush around in its little, plastic bowl.

"You really should eat that," I said.

He looked at me and raised his eyebrows, "I already feel awful as it is; do I really have to eat this?"

"Doctor Whitlock asked me to try to get you to eat it," I replied.

"Jasper got his medical degree off the Internet," Edward muttered.

"Edward," I warned.

He smirked and then lifted a bit of the porridge into his mouth. His features were pinched as he sloshed in around with his tongue and he shuddered as he swallowed.

"You're being melodramatic," I accused, "it can't be that bad."

He spooned a little more from the bowl and held it to my lips. I didn't exactly want to eat after him, not knowing if ARS was communicable.

"I'm not contagious," he said, reading my thoughts.

He smiled slightly and pressed the fowl-smelling, tan oatmeal-like stuff to my closed lips.

"Open," he instructed.

I shook my head.

"Now, now, Bella," Edward said a hint of mischief in his voice, "you made me eat this—it's only fair if you take a bite."

"No it's not—" I tried to say just as he shot his hand forward and pushed the spoon through my parted lips. It did taste disgusting. Sort of like a mix between bacon fat and lemon Jell-O.

It was thick and soupy all at the same time. Utterly disgusting, and I gagged.

"That's disgusting!" I exclaimed, a sour look on my face.

Edward chuckled, the humor reaching his brilliant green eyes, "And you made me—a very nearly terminally ill patient—eat it."

I sobered instantly, "Don't say that." I stared at my hands, fisting in the tweed fabric of my skirt.

"Why not?" He mocked, "It's the truth, I probably will die from this. All this pomp—" he gestured to the IV, the little plastic bowl of mush, "—it's just for show; it won't help me now."

"Please," I pleaded, still not looking at him, "don't say that."

"It's the truth," he said bitterly.

I opened and closed my mouth and picked at the lint on my skirt.

"Look at me, Bella," he demanded in a quiet, but commanding voice. My eyes rose to search his face.

He slowly, deliberately reached up to his thick head of red hair and ran his thin fingers through it. He pulled his hand away, large clumps of his gorgeous hair in his palm.

I choked back a sob, "Oh God."

"I'm dying, Bella," he said in a jaded whisper.

"No you're not," I said, "you will not die."

He chuckled darkly, "Bella—someone wants me dead, and they've done a very good job of ensuring that I find myself six-feet-under within the week. Your job is to not worry about me, or to try to make me better. Your job is to make sure that whoever did this to me gets theirs."

"I can't just sit back and do nothing—I don't do police work, I'm a secretary," I said, clenching my jaw and staring at him.

"Then why did you come get my statement yesterday?" He asked, furrowing his perfect eyebrows over tired eyes.

"Because my dad and the deputy were at the laboratory investigating," I answered lamely.

"Oh, that's right—you're Charlie Swan's daughter," he said, staring straight ahead as if he were remembering something from a different time. I wondered why he had remembered that.

"Yeah, I am," I said, remembering, too.

We lapsed into silence, his heart monitor beeping, his steady breathing and my heart thrumming in my ears was all I could hear in the hush.

"Edward?" I whispered.

"Hmm?" He asked, his eyes closed.

"Who could possibly hurt you?"

"A lot of people don't like me," he said in a whisper, and opened his eyes to stare at me. "You have beautiful eyes, you know."

"What?" I asked, taken aback.

"You do, they're like chocolate…I'm going to miss chocolate."

I stood up abruptly, my vacated chair screeched sharply across the smooth, linoleum floor. "You will not die, Edward Cullen!"

He looked startled by the unexpected noise but he moved so quickly from a dark and brooding expression to one of surprise then to guarded angst that I barely caught the expression. His eyes still showed it though—a tinge of something akin to awe and then an underlying fear that I hadn't noticed before. He was afraid.

"What are you afraid of?" I asked without thinking.

"I'm not afraid of anything," he seethed.

"Yes, yes you are. I can see it in your eyes."

More surprise flashed across the bleak expanse of his jade eyes, "I am not afraid, Miss Swan!"

His heart monitor beat erratically and his breathing became more labored, his eyes widened in horror as his head bent forward and the little bit of hospital food be had eaten came back up along with a fountain of blood.

I dove for the call button on the opposite wall but apparently Dr. Whitlock already knew something was amiss and he was in the room within a heartbeat, crouching next to Edward as his body seized with the strength of his dry heaves.

My body felt numb and my vision blurred in an out, my stomach rolling. I was cursed by an aversion to blood and a weak stomach; but I had to be strong. For Edward.

"Miss Swan, leave the room," Dr. Whitlock ordered.

"But—" I protested weakly.

"Leave. Now!" He demanded, trying to hoist Edward back into the bed.

I ran, as fast as I could, through the corridors of the hospital out to the parking lot and into my truck. I started it without thinking and drove home on auto-pilot. The police cruiser was parked where I normally park, so I pulled up to the curb and hopped out of the cab.

"Bells, you look real pale," my father said, coming out onto the porch.

But all I could see was black.

"She looks kind of sick."

"Shh, Emmett, keep your voice down."

"I think she went to the hospital to visit that Cullen kid."

"Is she going to be alright?"

"I don't know!"

"Emmett! Volume!"

I groaned and opened my eyes; I was lying on my back on the sofa in my father's living room, staring into three pairs of eyes. Two brown one icy blue.

"You alright, Bells?" My older brother asked, a little too loudly, but still with the proper amount of worry.

"I'm fine," I replied, pushing myself up into a sitting position.

Emmett hovered closely, trying to steady me.

"Give her some space," Rose, my sister-in-law said, slapping his chest.

"I'm fine," I said, waving them both away.

I stood up, willing my feet to have some sort of grace; I wobbled a little but stood firm.

"Bells," Charlie called to me from the doorway leading into the kitchen.

"We brought in a Tanya Denali for questioning today," he said quietly, "she confessed to entering Edward Cullen's lab and leaving the chemical out for him to find. She's delusional, Bells; she was angry that he refused to be her lover so she lashed out at him.

"She's been detained and is pending a trial…I just thought you'd like to know that."

"Does…does Edward know?" I asked, staring at a place on the wall above my father's head so that I wouldn't have to look into his deep, brown eyes.

"You have beautiful eyes, you know… You do, they're like chocolate…I'm going to miss chocolate."

"I tried to call your cell phone earlier so that you could tell him, but then you got here and passed out. I tried the hospital a little while ago; but they said that he was unavailable to speak to."

"I have to go tell him," I said, running to grab my coat.

"No you will not," Charlie lunged after me and grabbed the back of my pressed, white shirt.

"Why not?" I demanded, struggling away from my father.

"Because you just passed out, Bells! I want you to stay here and rest for the evening."

"I'm not a little girl anymore, Charlie. I can do as I please," I spat.

"Bella." This time it was Emmett who spoke, stepping forward with his big arms crossed over his chest, "Listen to Dad."

"Fine," I said and ran past my father and brother and sister up the stairs and into my room. I threw myself across my bed and screamed into my pillow.

I stomped down the stairs at about midnight, not even trying to be quiet. Rosalie and Emmett were spooning on the couch watching Ninja Warrior on G4 and Charlie was in the kitchen making a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

"Daddy," I said quietly, sitting down at the kitchen table, "do you think he'll die?"

"Maybe," Charlie shrugged.

"Dad!" I whined, fiddling with the salt and pepper shakers.

"What do you want me to tell you, Isabella?" He asked, taking a bite of his sandwich and leaning around the doorframe to watch the next contestant take on the Ninja Warrior obstacle coarse. "Do you want me to tell you that he's going to be fine and that everything is peachy keen?"

"No," I said, pouring salt into a little pile on the tabletop.

"Then what should I tell you?"

"I don't know," I said, leaning my face against my forearms and letting myself cry. "I shouldn't be getting so attached to him."

"I'm not surprised by it."

"Why not?" I sniffled.

"Sweetie, you used to have the biggest crush on him in elementary school!"

"I did?" I asked through the lump in my throat, "I don't remember that."

"Yes you did, and then you had a little case of hero-worship when he rescued you back in middle school," Charlie sighed, "I was worried this would happen, that you'd start to like him again."

"I don't like him," I muttered, drawing patterns in the salt on the table, "I'm not a teenager anymore. I don't have a crush on the man."

"C'mon, Bella," my dad said, smiling, "I can see right through that façade, you can't lie to me."

"Dad, he's dying."

"I know, Bella." Charlie said, putting his plate in the sink and rinsing it off, "But he's still a human being. Just a more fragile human being; and besides he may not die."

"Should I keep going to the hospital?" I asked.

"Do what you want to do, Bella," he said, putting his clean dish back in the cabinet. "But, if I were in his position, I would be very thankful to have a lovely young woman come be with me."

I thought long and hard about what my father told me that evening.

I didn't go visit Edward the next day. Or even the day after that. I scoured Emmett's old yearbooks in search of photographs of Edward. I found out that he was a member of the Science Club and that he had been Valedictorian and had been voted Most Likely to Succeed.

But the titles, the clubs, none of them made Edward who he was. And I found myself craving more of him. Not only craving his presence but also I wanted to know him.

So, that was why I found myself at the nurse's station of the hospital, staring at the same bored nurse, reading the same old Vogue.

"He's in the courtyard," she said without even looking up from her article on avant-garde leggings.

I nodded and followed the arrows and signs to the courtyard.

Edward was there, sitting on a bench under a newly green tree. He was pale, oh so pale and hunched forward. He had a small book balanced in his lap, reading it intently.

"I didn't think you were coming back," he said softly as I approached.

I shrugged.

"Come, sit," he invited moving the edge of his robe away from the bench so that I could sit. I went and sat next to him.

He sighed and kept reading his book.

I rested my hand palm up on his thigh. Out of the corner of my eye I could see him smile; he moved on of his hands away from the spine of his book and laced his fingers with mine.

In honor of Daddy's Little Cannibal.