Tattward & Inkella One-Shot Contest

Title: over the twisting line of his spine

Your pen name: the ladyingrey42

Characters: Edward Cullen, Bella Swan, James

Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight, Edward, Bella or James. Definitely not James.

To see other entries in the Tattward & Inkella Contest, please visit the C2 page:


Our last night together, I did not sleep. Maybe somewhere in the corners of my mind I already knew. His silences and brooding stares, his unfocused emerald eyes gone black - perhaps they were all signs that my heart put together before he had the strength to tell me. Maybe I could sense his silent suffering and his longing to be gone.

The night before he left me, we lay twisted in lavender sheets, his body spread out before me like a map of all the pain and sorrow still to come. For three days he had avoided my bed, his eyes refusing to meet mine in the coldness of my home that would soon no longer be enough to hold him. But that last night - that last night he stayed.

Thunder and lightning crashing all around us, I found him on my doorstep, bronze hair splayed flat across his forehead, dyed black with rain and ruin. He was a shadow of himself, standing still and silent in the cold and the wet, drenched and encased in darkness. As another jagged bolt of lightning lit up the midnight air, I saw his pale marble features thrown into sharp relief, the numbness that had surrounded him those long three days replaced with agony.

We stood, staring at each other, until finally I pulled him bodily into my home and into my mouth and he devoured me. There on the stairwell I found the twisted lips that had eluded me for what at the time seemed like so long - I had no idea then of the subtle variations of pain that could come with absence when that absence spreads itself out over years and years and years of empty longing. My hands in his soaked hair, my fingers desperately searched his scalp for answers as each perfect wet curl slipped through my trembling grasp.

As he softly slipped away from me, I grasped tightly to what I already knew would no longer be mine.

And yet -

And yet as my burning, yearning lips moved over his, his passion nearly overwhelmed my own. I felt his mouth crashing down on me, the hard sweep of his tongue on mine an urgent reminder of our many nights spent like this. Well, not quite like this. His hands moved to my flesh and my own tiny fingers delicately pulled away each button of his shirt, peeling the rain-soaked fabric from his skin to feel the warmth of his smooth, marble chest on mine. Leaving his wet clothes on the stairs, our bodies left a trail behind us, another layer peeled away with each step toward my bed.

By the time we reached those lavender sheets, his body - while still wet - was burning. I stood naked before him, my hands moving over every inch of him, pulling him tighter and closer, twisting his hair and his fingers and his mouth. We crashed down upon that bed we had made love on so many times, a tangle of arms and limbs and skin, frantic with worry and loss and - in my case - love. Feeling his strong arms around me and the weight of him pressed along every contour of my body, I felt him enter and pressed my still-open mouth to his shoulder, gasping with the shock that still accompanied the completeness of his body and mine, joined as one.

As our hips rocked over each other, again and again and again, I drew my fingers down his chest, whispering his name with every thrust, grasping him closer. By the time the shaking in my body reached it fevered peak, I had re-memorized every line of him, and the bundle of nerves at my center burst into millions of points of light and pleasure and pain as I screamed his name.



He fell asleep in my arms that night, his back to my chest as I wrapped myself around him in silent tears. Somehow - somehow I knew. I laid there the whole night long, writing the pain in my heart along the lines of his body. I traced our history on his back, the short, ragged tips of my nails raking over him again and again. Each time, my trembling fingers began at the top of his shoulder, scratching lightly over the hidden contours of his front before swirling back and down, moving across each dip and fold, each muscle and tendon and bone. I wrote his name. I wrote mine. I wrote the words he had said the first time I told him that I loved him - "you are my life now." I cried. Between the sets of letters, I carved swirling patterns, random curls of longing and betrayal and promises that even if his life was no longer mine, I'd given him my own, and his it would stay for all time.

In the slow, shifting light of dawn, my fingers paused their endless circles, resting on a single line on his body that I'd never known before. A wound not three days old, jagged and sharp. It was sure to leave a scar. For the first time that night, my fingers left his skin to trace my own. The same dark mark. The same future scar that was already etched deep into my own flesh. Yet again, we matched.


The night before I left, I did not sleep. I pretended to, my eyes closed against the tears I heard softly rocking the bed as the pleasure of her fingers, raking twisted patterns and letters and love across my skin, broke through and tore my bleeding heart into shreds. I knew what I had to do.

And yet it wasn't until Bella's shaking fingers found the knife wound in my back that I finally made up my mind. I had to go.

The irony had not escaped me that James' knife had entered my skin at the same point where, five months earlier, it had entered hers. When I had found her, broken and bloodied and on the edge of death with his face poised above her, ready to take from her that which she had given to me freely, my entire body had screamed out at once in agony and rage. I had pulled him off of her, but he had run. I would have chased his miserable retreating figure to the ends of the earth except that I could feel the trickle of Bella's blood leaving her body, her life slipping away from me. There was nothing more important than that.

Standing over her hospital bed, watching her tiny chest sag weakly up and down, the welts and cuts already turning to scars and bruises, I'd promised to never stop until I found him. Each night in her bed, tracing my stone hands along her soft flesh I'd vowed, for every mark on her body that he had left her, so would I leave a mark on his until his life slipped away from him, as hers had almost been torn away from mine.

When I found him, he was the same miserable creature that had run. All my years of carefully cultivated civility had evaporated before my need for vengeance. Blood lust threw me at him. Blood lust dulled my nerves against his own blows, against the savage ripping of steel through flesh as my fists rained down upon him, my lips twisting around her name so that he would know the crime for which he was finally being made to pay. It wasn't until the sickening crunch of his neck in my hands that I realized what I had become.

In my bloodthirsty quest to save Bella, I had lost her forever, as a life slipped away in my hands.

Bella could never love a murderer.

Once she knew, Bella could never again love me.

And even if she could, it could only be so long before someone would find me out. I had no choice but to leave; furthermore, I had to run. I hid the evidence as best I could, and still it was only a matter of time. A life on the lam was not a life for the woman who had captured my heart. I would not take her life from her - no matter how much it would kill me to leave.

The horror of what I had done seeping into my brain, I realized quickly what I needed to do. Still, it took three days. Three days of swallowing my pride and my love, of steeling my mind against the torture that would be a life without her. Could I even really call it a life? An existence without her - an endless swath of days of longing and heartache and love, in exile from the one thing I needed to make me whole.

For three days I pulled away. And on the fourth, standing in the rain outside her window, I broke. We made love one last time, my body memorizing every soft pale curve of hers, my hands holding tightly to what they could not live without, my mind giving in to loving her forever even as it steeled itself to let go. When I felt myself fully encased inside of her it felt like home. When I came, my breath falling out in gasps around her beautiful name, it felt like I would never breath again.

When I lay there, pretending to sleep, and felt her fingers creep to the top of my shoulder and begin their graceful descent down and around and around and around my body in swirling waves and caresses and pleas, my heart bled. When she found the scar of James' knife and finally took her fingers from my flesh in revulsion, I wrung my heart dry and prepared it to never beat again. When I had finally stored my heart away forever, I opened my eyes and pretended to wake.


When he opened his eyes, he was a different man. Perhaps all the words I had etched into his skin in the night had seeped like ink beneath the layers of flesh, writing goodbye into his body as I had written it into my soul. His eyes were hard, the living green that I had known throughout our happy love frozen. He pulled away and sat, still naked at the end of the bed, a single length of sheet drawn over the parts of his body that had been mine alone.

"I need to leave, Bella." His eyes looked down.

Part of me wanted to tell him that I knew. Part of me wanted to tell him that I would follow him wherever he chose to go. "I'll come with you."

"You can't. I'm no good for you."

"You're the only good thing that I know."

He finally lifted his eyes. I almost gasped at them, black-green and solid and dead. "I don't want you to come with me."

"You- you don't want me?" My tongue almost tore itself out of my traitor mouth as I formed the impossible words that I knew with every fiber of my being to be true.


More words were said but I didn't hear them. I didn't look up as he moved out of the room, retrieving what little pieces of himself he had left in my home. A CD. A photograph. Some books. His toothbrush. His clothes.

When he came to me, his nakedness covered, I sat there still, a huddled ball of flesh and hurt, my fingers silently carving deep half-moons in my skin wherever they strayed, clutching desperately at my own flesh to keep myself together before I could finally fall apart.

"Goodbye, Bella," he whispered into my hair, his lips a soft, warm presence on my forehead before he was gone.


The first day that I was gone I destroyed my apartment. I ripped it to shreds, smashed every CD I had ever listened to with her, tore up every canvass I had painted of her chocolate brown eyes, burned the clothes that had felt her touch. I stood there in the back yard, trash cans full of flame and my fingers full of ash and watched everything I had ever known turn slowly to dust.

On the second day I drove. I traded my silver Volvo that smelled like her for a black coupe that smelled like death and drove like the wind. I felt the wind in my messy hair and the guilt in my throat and the sob in my heart and I laughed into the howling rain.

On the third day I slept. Spread out on a cheap motel bed just south of the border, I slept and slept and slept and cried and tore at my flesh and dreamed of mahogany hair spread out over soft pillows and ivory skin and blooming blushes and loss.

On the fourth, I drove some more, settling into a rat-infested hole in the ground in a beach town deep in the Baja of Mexico, letting the sun sear my skin until it burned as much as my soul.

On the fifth day, I got my first tattoo. The driving piston of the needle tearing my flesh felt like the curve of her hand on my shoulder. That was the only saving grace. It felt like her.


Time passes. Even when it seems impossible. Even for me.


In the first year after Edward left me, I watched the sun creep across my walls and night fall. 365 times.

I made a living. I ate to live, all food turning to ashes in my mouth. I pinned a sign to my collar saying I was deaf so I would not have to talk.

In the second year, I spoke, my voice thick with disuse, unfamiliar phrases catching in the dusty corpses of my larynx. I unpinned the sign from my shirt.

In the third year I screamed. I heard the echoes of those screams in the nighttime air and in the meadow where we'd sat and reverberating off the cliff walls of La Push.

In the fourth year, I sang.

At the end of the fifth, I walked out my door, determined never to return.


I pretended to be a disembodied spirit, wandering the Earth with my entire life's savings, a leather-bound journal and two dresses on my back. They were dresses that Edward and I had made love in, the full skirts pulled up around my hips and his hot hands pressed desperately around my waist as we'd giggled and sworn and loved. Even now, my feet aching from walking their way around the globe, the seams of the dresses would whisper around my thighs like the ethereal touch of my phantom lover. And I would remember what it was like to feel whole.

I spent weeks in Portland, San Jose and LA, but none of them held any draw. They were cities, named and anonymous and just like any other, with diversions and distractions and drink, and I was tired of them as soon as I arrived. San Diego smelled like elephants and Tijuana was a joke - drunken whores desperate enough that they even propositioned me. I considered it. I'd have given anything to feel anything. But there was nothing left to feel.

There was no draw in anything, natural or manmade, until I hit the Baja coast and watched expanses of lonely ocean and endless sky drift slowly by. Sleeping in the sand I dreamed of a man in black, his windswept bronze hair in silhouette against the rising sun with his long body cradled by the sea and by outcrops of weathered rock. He never looked up.

When I found him, two weeks later, after five years and five weeks of never searching, it was just like that. And just like in my dream, his emerald eyes were hidden from me.


I felt her more than saw her. Where my days and nights had been nothing but darkness, she was a meteor shower behind my eyes, a glistening in my palm and in my pulse. And she was still everything to me.

But I was changed and so was she. And I didn't know where to begin.


I stood on the beach, my only possessions still on my back and my heart in my throat, threatening to break through my shattered ribs.

I stared. It was all I still knew how to do.

Shaking, I stared. Sobbing, I stared. My voice coming in wretched screams of agony and loss I stared. Going to pieces, my vision obscured by tears, I stared.

I stared until everything went black - until finally the sand came up to meet me and my staring eyes drew mercifully still.


I woke in a small dark room, stretched out over a bed with a numbness in my limbs that made it feel like I'd been sleeping for years. Maybe I had been. Maybe that was the only explanation for the long sad nightmare of five years spent lost and longing.

I opened my eyes just long enough to take in his silhouette yet again by the sheer curtains of an open window. The gossamers of those fabric panels danced lazily in the glow of a distant streetlight, sweeping with the breeze across his clothed chest, his turned hips, his long hands. He still could not bring himself to look at me.

So I closed my eyes and did not look at him.


When I woke again, dawn was breaking. There was a warmth and a weight in the bed that felt natural until I remembered the feel of a bed without it.

I turned to look at him once more and prepared myself for the shock of pain that might close my staring eyes again against the beauty of his body and the relief that coursed through my veins instead of blood. My lip bloodied itself in my nervous teeth when I took in the long line of him, twisted in on itself, hovering quietly on the edge of the bed as far away from my longing and furious touch as it could be. His back was turned to me, and it was just like the night before he left - except that everything was changed.

I watched the gentle rise and fall of his ribs and calmed myself on the steady whisper of his breath. As he slept, I could not help myself. I reached my fingertips to his shoulder, keeping my body the full arm's length away, not trusting myself to be so close. My hand fit along the curve of him like home, and I knew why I had decided to roam. Nothing had felt like home since I'd been here.

Even with the light fabric of his shirt between his flesh and mine, my fingertips fit along the every twist of his back. I began at the shoulder, brushing over the unseen space before him, drifting down and around and around and around. Back up to the top. Over and over and over.

Something peaked my curiosity in my fifth arc, a strange twinge of remembrance of when things had begun to change. Carefully, delicately, I lifted just the corner of his shirt to feel the mark I'd found the night before he left, the place where we had come to match without my understanding why or how or even when. It was still there, just above his hip, my fingers running lightly over the raised and hardened skin. I sank my hand back down to my own hip, and that movement was just enough to shift the shadow that my body cast on his, so that the scar stood out in full light.

And there, in black script along the jagged line of his puckered flesh I read the one word which explained nothing and everything all at once.


"Edward," I said, in a full throaty whisper that scarcely even sounded like my voice, it had been so long since I had said that name. He immediately stirred, his head raising in a panic. "What the hell happened to you." The words were so flat and dead that it wasn't even a question.

When he finally looked at me, his eyes were liquid, living green. And they were everything I'd always wanted, right there before me.


It was the first sleep I'd had in five years that didn't feel like dying. Every nerve in my body had told me to lie beside her, even if I could no longer make her mine - just to feel the simpatico of our bodies aligned. To let my breath fall into hers through the vibrations of a rented mattress, as distant as three feet or three thousand miles could possibly be.

I'd had no right to touch her. But I could not leave her on the beach, a huddled mass of sobs and staring, falling apart into pieces no larger than a grain of sand. Before I even saw her sag, I felt it, and my arms cradled her before her body ever hit the ground. She did not stir. She slept.

I fell asleep beside her and it was everything I'd ever wanted, spread out right there beside me.

My dreamless sleep only fell away with the shock of my name, whispered huskily in the quiet dawn, with a rush of air at my side, and I felt the bareness of my flesh before the evidence of my sin.

"What the hell happened to you."

She was sitting stock straight up in the bed, her hair falling in trembling waves around her, her hand on her hip where I knew the scar still pulsed with the flow of poisonous blood.

It was my turn to stare. She was still so beautiful.

I pulled the shirt back down over my scar, leapt from the bed and away, my hands making terrified circles in my too-long hair, all the tension in the air and in my body now threatening to break.

I turned and she was still there, the hand no longer on her hip but in the air, fingers twitching toward me. Or maybe that was just what I wanted to see.

She was there before me before knew it, pale skin and the scent of flowers and her hands, raining down upon me. The first slap to my cheek stung like fire before the next and the next and the next. My bitter tears matched her own. But the pain of her blows was almost nothing. Nothing compared to the pain of five years.

I let her hit me for a while, the blows growing harder and then softer, curses flying everywhere as her lips twisted to fit the hate that was in her eyes. I could not blame her. And then finally, finally, she sank down again to her knees, those tiny hands clinging to and smacking my thighs and then my feet before she grew still, her sobs the only motion of her body on the floor.

Three cool breaths passed through my lips, three beats of my aching heart before I worked up the courage to kneel. My hands moved soft strands of hair from her straining face, working to find the eyes I'd so desperately missed. When they finally stared at me again, warm and brown and alive, I cradled her head in my arms, lifted her wrists, hanging weakly, and settled her into the chair beside the bed.

And then I began to show her my story, beginning at the place where it had been carved into my worthless flesh.


I had no will to stand or to move or to speak. My throat burned from screams and sobs directed at the ghost before me - my hands were weakly fisted at my sides, their palms and knuckles burning with the memory of impact. It was impossible that I could hurt him the way that he had hurt me. And yet everything in my body longed to try.

When he lifted me into the chair I almost split his throat. When he stepped away and turned his back on me I almost lunged, ready to take his chest into my aching hands and dig in deep. When his hands reached for the hem of his shirt I almost cried.

When he finally lifted it, I gasped. And then I was silenced for a long, long time.

The ink was like a wound. It spread out over so much of his body - spiderwebs of pain, twisted curls of blackened loss and tendrils always reaching, ever searching across his skin.

They began at the shoulder. My shoulder. Spilling out onto the hidden contours of his front before dipping back down, swirling around and around and around. They hugged each muscle and each tendon, casting the diagonal from his shoulder to the opposite hip in song. The bones of my fingers curled in on themselves, searing my palms.

I knew these lines. I had memorized them so many times.

The lines of ink were the lines of my hands, were the song of my heart, were the desperate scratchings I had made in his flesh as my final goodbye. And there they were, for all the world to see, writ large in ink as black as my farewell.

He dropped to his knees before me, his back still turned to my gaping eyes. He pointed gently, the long fingers of his hand grasping out over the swath that clothed his shoulder. His trembling voice was velvet and venom.

"The anniversary of my first year without you."

He turned his body slightly so that I could see the random twists and curls of webbing ink that fell down across the front of his shoulder, but only so far as my tiny hand would have been able to reach. His hand covered the lines as he spoke.

"Year two."

The only thing that could have distracted me from following the twisted pattern of the ink on his pale flesh was the sound of his whispering voice. The thick pads of his fingers twisted back over the shoulder I loved and hated with all my heart, drifting lower on his back, and I saw where the tenor of the ink slightly changed and slightly trembled before blooming anew. At the edge of his spine the web again grew, the hue turning softly, subtly blue.

"Year three without you."

Spidery lines caressed each vertebra as my fingers used to do. The way they still achingly longed to.


Over the spine the ink still spilled, and here is turned into a garbled scar, the black still fresh and crisp along the pale white flesh of his lower back.

"Five weeks ago today."

It was my voice I heard in the dark this time. "Five. Five years without you."

He echoed in the same whispering voice. "Five years without you."


The silence was a pool of stagnant ocean, lapping up over my ears and filling my eyes and lungs and mouth. The silence covered my skin the way her body used to, the way the scarring ink of my tattoos had slowly come to. In the silence, I sank to my knees and let my head fall into my hands, wrapping the errant strands of my hair around my fists so hard that they were like to tear.

In the silence, her touch was cool.

I almost didn't believe it at first, that the bright white lines of feeling on my back could really be her. But there was a trembling in those tentative caresses that I knew. Her soft fingers traced again the lines she'd drawn upon me as she memorized my flesh in the night. White on black; cold hands on boiling, flowing ink.

Did she not know that I memorized the lines she drew as well?

I felt myself so lulled by her touch that I allowed my fingers to relax, unclenching the tortured strands within my grasp and slumping forward until my elbows could rest upon my knees. And then I remembered.

Roughly, too rough, my hot fingers grasped her cool ones, pulling their luscious touch from my skin to the other patch of ink and shame and loss. I pressed the fingertips deep into the muscle, willing them inside the ink so they could feel within that scarred and sacred word the depth of my betrayal. So she could know I was a monster.

"Five days after I left. Eight days after I killed him." My words were poison and bitter relief, catharsis through the flame of the truth. Nothing could free me now except her realization of the truth and her rejection. Without it I'd stay still, hunched there in the darkness before her, allowing the sweetness of her touch to melt my bones until the end of days.


Edward told me everything, hunched over on his knees with a tortured kink in his spine that made my bones hurt. The sharp edges of each vertebra stood out through the pale flesh, inscribed with black, each one threatening to run him through. He held my hand desperately to the scar I understood now to be the piercing of a mad man's blade through his skin and through his mind.

A blade that had not only cut his flesh but the connection between us, too.

And yet…

And yet everything was the same. And everything was changed.

His voice was flayed tendons washed with acid, left out in the sun to cure. "I marked myself for you. I marked myself to not forget you. I marked myself to know I could never have you."

His words were impossible. And yet the truth was before my eyes.

"But you left me." There was no hiding the pain in my whispered words.

"I love you too much to take your life from you."

My cool hands were rough along his skin. I pulled them back, broke his hold and twisted him bodily to face me. His eyes were a thinly veiled mask of misery, agony on his mouth and revulsion in his eyes, turned inward. His hand that did not grasp for me, to trace my fingers again along that treacherous word "murderer," grasped still wildly at his hair in frantic pulling within a closed and desperate fist.

I found the hem of my dress within my shaking fingers and pulled the fabric, lifting it from my body so my own pale skin could shine white in the shimmering dawn.

I brought his hand to my breast. To black ink that matched his own.


She'd told me that she loved me upon waking from a dream, when we'd only known each other a handful of days. I'd slept in her bed, my arms wrapped around her, our bodies clothed and yet so intimately curved around each other… It was like we were lovers already.

She'd told me that she loved me, and this was all I'd had to say. "You are my life now."

There in that dark room on a beach in an unnamed town, her body naked before me, the clothing ripped from it by her own small hands, she took my fingers shaking to her breast. And there the tips of my fingers traced the words that were written there again and again and again. "You are my life now."

And so she still was. Even to that day.


I sank out of the chair and onto my knees before him, pulling his hands from the words I had etched permanently into my flesh and held them in my own. His eyes at last met mine and held, simmering pools of green, threatening to overflow.

The first tear on his face, I caught with my lips. "When you chased James away," I whispered into his cheek, before catching the next tear on the side of his nose, "I thought it was an angel." My mouth moved slowly over his skin, quivering with my own tears, brushing just once against the corner of his jaw. "I thought I was dead." I kissed his eyelids one by one as they closed beneath my touch. "You saved me."

His words were a breath, no more than a whisper. "You saved me."

I paused the gentle motion of my mouth against his skin, my forehead resting on his brow. My hand moved of its own, lost in the tumbling softness of his somber, bronze-colored hair. My breath fell across his lips, and I felt them in brushing glances as mine slowly formed around the words, "My life has always been yours."

"I cannot take it."

"Then James has killed me twice." His face was shot with pain. The wrinkling of agony in his forehead pushed mine away. My mouth drew up across his face, smoothing the worried lines that he had drawn there. I pressed it softly to the space between his eyes. "Once when he killed me in that street." I kissed a line across his forehead until I rested at his ear. "And once when he parted me from you."

His lips were kissing my tears now. He held my head between his hands, his eyes closed against the sobs within his chest. I felt warm lips upon my cheeks, held still with the strength of his grasp. Warm lips along my nose. Warm lips at the corners of my eyes.

"Edward," I breathed.

"Bella. Is it really you?" He drew me closer, my naked chest resting on his, our breaths the same, his triceps resting on my shoulders as his forearms wrapped around my hair.

"What's left of me. There are cracks inside my heart"

He drew his hands softly down my face, our noses pressed together, and caught up one of my small hands in his, pressing it to my skin inside the gap between our throats.

"My Bella, left in pieces."

"You shattered me."

"It felt like I'd been ripped apart." His breath was sweet across my lips.

"I can't put myself together again without you." My voice broke on every word.

"I can't exist without you."

The truth was too painful to hear. I'd braced myself against it for so long, so that I could only shake my head, my mouth a hard line against the freely flowing tears. "You'll leave again," I whispered into his pain.

His lips were a warm soft presence on my forehead, and then it was gone. But when I opened my eyes he was still there. Staring soft into my eyes, he spoke the words he had said just once before, "Bella, I don't have the strength to stay away from you."

He pressed our hands against my heart and took my bottom lip between his own. He held it there a moment before letting it go, pressing his mouth along mine firmly. We fell into soft wet kisses, our noses still aligned, my parted lips awash in his. He tasted like blood and loss and love.

Every time that he breathed out, he breathed my name. I breathed his, too.

Our faces slowly turned, the motion of our mouths more desperate, the connections between our opening lips more secure. His tongue along my bottom lip was a revelation and redemption. When mine was inside his mouth he groaned, the length of his body pressing deeply against the entire length of me.

His warm, strong arms wrapped around me and I twisted my fingers in his hair, our kisses ever deeper beneath the slowly rising sun. My breath came in deep gasping bursts as his mouth found the hollow beneath my ear, pushing his soft wet breath into my brain. "My Bella, there's been no me without you."

His lips made a wet trail along my jaw, tracing my neck, his hands cradling my hanging head and then my spine. He kissed the sensitive curl of clavicle to the center of my chest, kissed each rib until he found my breast. I pulled his hair to press him harder to the lines of jet-black script, his tongue awash over every letter. He suckled at my peak like it might yield milk. Like mother's milk could heal us all.

He whispered into my mouth again, "I love you, I love you, I love you." I wrestled with his pants to find a nakedness to match my own. Freed, his hardness pressed against my belly until I moaned. We fell backward. His lips tracing again down the curves of my body, he sought out with hands and mouth my heated core. I felt the pressure of his tongue at the center of it all, desperate through all my tears for this relief.

It had been so many years. And still he knew my every nerve more fully than I knew my own.

The pleasure and the pain, the leaving and the finding, rejection and reaffirmation all rose together in my hips and up my spine until they found my voice in a terrifying howl. Luscious spasms wracked my body as his fingers moved inside me, his lips a million kisses on my quivering, steaming sex. My body would not come down.

Contracting desperately around nothing, I pulled him to my mouth, tasting myself on his kiss, the steel of his shaft beneath silky skin a presence of singing heat between my fingers. I pulled him into me and felt him groan into my lungs as he slid inside. I whispered to him "I was made to love you."

We rested there in intertwined agony, a mess of bodies on a cold stone floor. His elbows perched above me, my breasts pushed against his chest, our mouths still moving as one. We strained together, a staccato rhythm of bodies on bodies, hips on hips, the pleasure of my fullness at last outweighing the pain. I pursed my lips around his arms and shoulders, licking the lines of his distress and of our years spent wasted in the desert of lost longing. I could have sucked the ink right out of his skin.

When I came again around his rigid length I screamed his name and our eyes were one. His features twisted, he pushed again, clutching desperately to me as I spasmed all around him.



His release nearly rocked the world, hot plumes of liquid flowing in my center as our bodies went slack and our mouths fell home.

We did not move for hours except to kiss.

As the room drew dark again at twilight, our love made flesh again and again, we finally rested, our bodies laid long upon the soft and unmade bed. Once more I found his back to me, but he did not pretend to sleep. We laid there long hours intertwined.

And then my cold fingers began to climb.

They found they way over his nakedness as they always had before. I closed my eyes and let them wander, but found them taking the same paths, the ink and them now one as they traced the lines of his body in his flesh. I watched them. White on black. Cold fingers over sweeping ink.

Our story was a part of him now. As it had always been a part of mine. But now it was written into our flesh as it had been written into our souls. Forever.


Resting in the calm beside our passion, I felt her fingers slowly cascading over the places where they had long ago roamed, where a needle had made the trembling paths of her fingers mine. I gave them back to her with every sigh.

I turned at some point in the endless night and pulled her hand in mine to brush our melding fingers to the words she's written on her breast. I knew why she'd chosen them. And I knew why I'd chosen mine.

"There's too much sorrow in these lines." The sadness of her eyes almost ran me through. "Don't be sad." I moved our hands to touch her eyes.

"I'm not." She smiled through a splash of lonely tears. The tears were different now. Less bitter and more sweet along my tongue. She guided our fingers to the lines along my softly rising chest. "But the sadness is a part of us now."

It was written, written on our flesh like scars of the wounds we'd made in our melded souls.

"Then maybe the joy should be, too." I looked at our hands, again, intertwined and kissed her fingers one by one.


The needles hurt less this time. Maybe because the pain inside me was less strong. Maybe because the lines it traced were no longer mine alone.

When we emerged into the Baja sun, we placed our feet together on the road, ready to roam wherever the wind might take us. He stopped us in the shade outside the door. He drew my tingling palm into the air and straightened the fingers so he could press his hand to mine. Two left hands sliding along each other in the sun. Two jet-black rings, still raised and pink and soft with pain. They were worth infinitely more than vows.

Like all the other lines on our bodies, like our lives within our trembling hands, these scarring bands were ours for all time. Our love was written on our bodies like our pain. Neither could be separated from the other. And neither ever would again.

A/N: I've been writing for myself for a while, but this is my first fanfic that I've been brave enough to post. Please do tell me what you think.