Stars Fall Down

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The smell of the ocean was the first thing she noticed. Salty, clean and rich, it coiled something in the pit of her belly and she felt her blood quicken. The moon was bright above, shimmering bursts of silver against the water, and the salt in her veins echoed the sound of the sea. Bella felt at once a goddess and child, or maybe something in between. She felt pulled, and so she followed.

The wooden steps were sandy and slippery beneath the hard leather soles of her shoes. She loosed them, almost without pause, leaving them behind as she continued her descent. Worn smooth, the wood offered no peril, and she enjoyed the slide of it beneath her bare feet. She couldn't wait to lie upon the sand, to feel it mold around her, embrace her as she watched the heavenly show above. One thousand steps later she reached the deserted beach. The sand was still liquid under her toes, and she felt the strain in her calves and thighs as she plodded toward the waterline.

Bella always thought it was a magical place. From the way that exactly one thousand steps had been built into the side of the cliff to the way that they spit you out, into the heart of the cove. There were caves, underwater, that she snorkeled to once, three summers ago. She imagined them rich with treasure, filled with mermaids. She imagined them as passages to hidden lands, and that she could venture to them, if only she didn't have need of breath.

Jasper watched from the bluff as she looked over toward the caves. Her hair lifted in the breeze and he caught the scent of something sweet and wild, a spring meadow. It was the closest he'd ever been to her, and he longed to be closer still, to catch her hair in his fingers, to catch her smile before it could fade away.

She approached the waterline, and hesitated. The water roared, calling out, yet the cool of the hard, wet sand promised cold waves. Before she could make up her mind, a crashed wave, tiny and quick, ran up on the sand and licked at her toes. She yelped, then stepped forward, chasing the timid thing back to the sea. It was like a bear cub, she thought, brave and audacious, knowing that Mother was standing right behind it. It was never in any real danger.

She stood at the water's edge, letting the cold waves wash over her feet and breathed in deep. It was primal, the pound of the ocean on the shore, the way it echoed something inside of her, like a promise from an ancient god. A chill ran across her feet, up her legs, her spine, before finally blooming across her arms and she loosed a shudder. Still, the night felt humid, sticky air against her skin, and as she backed away from the water she found her feet on warm, dry sand again and the chill eased.

She spread the thin blanket and laid herself over it, training her eyes on the sky, waiting for stars to fall. Humming under her breath, keeping time with the beat of the waves, she held wishes thick on her tongue, ready to drop from her lips at the first shining streak across the sky.

He'd watched her in the daylight. A golden god, his eyes looked first with amusement, which soon shifted to adoration, and then bloomed into a covetous desire to touch the fragile, human girl. What mysteries were locked in those velvet brown eyes? What trifling secrets could he learn?

At first he thought it trickery and cast accusations at Eros, but the god-child declared his innocence. And so Jasper continued to watch her, following her throughout her days as she spent her tender care on those she loved. When the spring and then the summer wore on, he found her, time and again, near the sea. Nymphs tried to woo him as he watched her from the water; they swirled about him, until he became tangled in their hair. He paid them no notice, other than to burn them with withering glances that dried the water from their flesh and made them thirsty for home.

So it happened that he was watching her that night, as she chased after the sea, her toes touching the water, squealing and then laughing at herself. Tonight he would reveal himself. Tonight he would try to coax that laugh from her lips, and he would look into her depthless brown eyes. Tonight he would touch a stray lock of her hair, and smell the ocean on her skin and, he hoped, nuzzle and kiss and touch, and perhaps discover why she smelled of flowers.

She didn't hear his footsteps on the sand. She didn't feel him stir the air as he approached. She didn't smell the difference, the warm and clean sunshine scent that clung to his flesh, his clothes. But as the first star streaked the sky, silvery white, hot and burning, she could taste him on her tongue: honey sweet, salty, rich and male.

She turned her head. He stood, ten steps away, his head cocked to the side, watching her. His hair shined gold in the moonlight and everything about him, from his faded blue jeans to his bare feet to the way his skin seemed glow, all of it whispered warmth to her.

He nodded, then gestured toward the sky.

"You're missing it," he said. "Don't you have wishes to make?"

She tilted her head back up and then her senses were flooded with him: the heavy thud of his step on the sand as he approached, the slide of his jeans as he sank to his knees, his scent, so barely there it was like a tease. She felt her desire, unwished, swelling in her heart. Could it be coming true already?

She sighed, taking a breath, a taste of him.

"They're not stars," she said. "It's-"

"I know," he said. "But you can't make wishes on stardust, can you?"

"Maybe. If you wish hard enough."

He stared at her and she stared back, catching the color of his eyes, light brown, almost gold. They brimmed with secrets centuries old and she felt her skin flush under his gaze. She felt the pulling again, like her heart was on a string and he was reeling her in.

He reached out his hand for her and she hesitated. I bet he could tilt the sun in the sky, she thought. What could he do to me?

But the string pulled her and so she put her hand in his. It wasn't hot, like she expected, but it burned. Her wish, fervent, came to mind and she wanted to stop the thought from forming, afraid that he could read her thoughts, but it was there, in her head and in her heart, so full and ripe and heavy that she ached from the want of it: Love. But not just any love. She wanted the perfect, all consuming first love that was thus far denied. She wanted castles and kings, and worlds tipping off of their axis, and spinning instead around her. She wanted to be consumed by love.

"Shhh," he said, and her mind calmed. He stretched out beside her and Bella tipped her head to look at him. His eyes were hidden in the shadows but his smile was there, gentle and playful on his lips, and she found herself biting her own lip in response. She twisted to her side and reached out her other hand to touch his cheek, to feel the scrape of fine stubble beneath her palm.

He mirrored her actions, his fingers breaching the space between them, then lighting upon her face, tracing the arc of her bones before scraping his thumb across her mouth. She opened it to him and he pressed it against her bottom teeth before dragging it across her other cheek. She flicked her tongue over her teeth and then sucked her lower lip into her mouth.

"Like moonlight," he said, his fingers brushing against her skin.

She leaned in closer as his fingers traced up and down her arms. She reached out a finger and he closed his eyes. She ran her finger across his brow, then his lashes, bristle stiff, feather soft. She rolled onto her stomach.

"You're missing it," he said again, eyes glancing at the sky before returning to her.

"This is it," she answered, and his breath caught for a moment before he tugged her closer, fingers laced through her dark hair, rubbing against her scalp.

She drew ever nearer with her eyes steady on his before sensation took her. The electric brush of his nose against hers. Fingers laced together, forming a knot, ten tender strings. Breath coming fast and shaky before it halted altogether at the feel of his lips brushing hers, so soft, the thrill of it running down her spine, through her limbs, turning to liquid in her blood. Fire-hot and burning, she pressed forward, eager to be scorched. She opened her mouth to him again, the taste exploding against her tongue as he gathered her up, into his arms, twisting around her, consuming her with his fingertips, his mouth, himself.

Above them the night fell down.

* * *

Dawn wasn't even a whisper against the sky when he roused her, sleeping, from the crook of his arm.

"I have to go," he said, his mouth dropping kisses against her brow, in her hair, the far corners of her eyes. "Come to me again? I'll wait for you, here, tonight."

She nodded, her smile a small, somnolent thing on her lips before her eyes fluttered open to him. In the waning light of the moon, they were dark, velvet brown. From her doe eyes to her brown hair to her pale, moonlight skin, she could have belonged to Artemis, one of his sister's virginal hunters. He knew already that she did not belong to him.

"After sunset," he whispered and pulled away. She was cold in the not quite light of the morning, but the chill woke her fully from her dreams and she sat up, legs folded beneath her, and watched as the morning sun broke across the waves, dancing across the water. Her heart swelled, bloomed in her chest, and she embraced the sensation, feeling well and whole there on the sand, lighter than air with her new, full heart.

That night, and for eight nights more, Bella slipped off her sandals at the top of the steps and followed her heart down to the sound of the sea. When her toes touched the sand, Jasper embraced her, casting off the evening chill with the warmth of his smile, the warmth in his eyes. Before she could blink, he had built a fire, small on the sand, and she let the smoke draw her in. She sat near it, warmed over by the flames, and by his hand on hers.

They watched each night, flat on their backs, hands entwined, as the Perseids rained down across the August sky. Her wish, the most fervent one, remained unspoken but it keened in her chest each time his fingers stroked the back of her hand. It was so close to coming true, she knew she need only say the words out loud and perhaps in the morning, she would find that it had come true. Perhaps in the morning, he would stay.

She did not say the words. Instead, she danced with him around the fire, music coming from nowhere to please the beat of their minds and feet. They laughed together, at everything and nothing, her heart soaring as she curled onto her side, the sweet pain of too much happiness digging at her muscles as he wrapped around her, his own delight echoing in her ear. They drank cherry wine that tasted sweet and tart on her tongue, and was laced with salted honey when she kissed his mouth. He laid her down in the sand, again and again, and she surrendered herself to his fire, his burn, letting him consume her, needing to become ash for him, so that he could rebuild her with just a sigh.

On the last night of the heavenly showers, Jasper pulled her in close, his embrace fierce, his fingers needy against her pale skin as he pulled her down to the sand and buried his face in her hair. "Stay with me," he said, and she smiled and then laughed and nodded. Where else would she be?

He pulled her onto him then, sliding up her skirt, pushing everything away but just this, just them. The ocean roared in her ears until the pant of his breath took over and she cried out against his shoulder, feeling torn and frantic with his need until it became her own, until it swallowed her and she was reborn, once again, in his sigh.

Jasper claimed her with his body, his breath, recalling the predawn audience he'd had on Olympus. He'd begged for the life of the mortal girl, begged to be allowed to love her, to keep her. The prophesy that promised her to another could be broken, he was sure of it. He begged for Rosalie's intervention, that goddess of love incarnate, and she finally agreed. If the girl's wish remained unspoken, the sun god could claim her as his own.

Jasper pressed his lips to Bella's mouth, a plea for her silence in these crucial, waning hours.

They lay on the sand, watching the last silvery star light an arc across the sky.

"I made a wish," she said. She'd wished for him, and he'd come.

"You didn't say it out loud," he said. "You can take it back."

She shook her head. "Why would I do that?"

He rolled until he was on top of her, suffusing her with warmth and sweetness, melting honey. He pressed his forehead against hers.

"Take it back," he said, his voice low and pleading. "Take it back."

Something in her heart was torn, rent with his expression. His golden eyes were mired in pain as he asked her again to take it back. "We can still make this work if you just take it back."

Her eyes watered, stinging, with his sudden, baffling pain.

"What do you mean?" she asked. "Take it back? But I got what I wished for. I wished for-" and he moved to kiss her, to seal the words in between their lips but he chaffed against invisible chains that would not allow him to interfere with her mortal heart.

"I wished for you. I wished to find the one who would love me and let me love him, who would be my king, and see me as his queen." She looked up and gasped as a star, a real one, lit across the sky in its fall to earth. He shivered under her touch. She couldn't take it back now; the star sealed their separate fates.

He caught her then, into his arms, and pressed his mouth again to hers. He held her there as the moon trailed across the sky and when Aurora was whispering in his ear, he knew he had to let her go.

How heavy is a god's heart, when it's broken?

He clutched at her, mind racing, thinking of a hundred places where they could hide. He could bring her up with him, into the sky, or beg his father to transform her into something more than mortal. In the crushing kiss that followed, he made, and then destroyed, a million plans. The fates could not be denied.

"You won't be back," she said, knowing the truth, tasting it in his kiss, less sweet, more salty, sad somehow. Her heart thudded hard in her chest as she pressed herself closer to him.

"I'll watch over you, every day," he promised. "On the last night of the Perseids, come here again. Your wish will come true." It was a hopeful thing he said. She didn't understand his sadness.

She stepped back from him then and admired him, memorized him. The glow of the fire cast gold onto his skin, and he shined, handsome, with hair like silk and tawny eyes swimming in a sea of pain. Beautiful sorrow, he.

She closed her eyes and felt him glow warm, and when she opened them again, he was gone.

* * *

Each day for the next year, she walked in sunshine. No clouds threatened the fairness of her days. If there was rain, it fell at night, and if she visited snow, it trembled in her wake, the sun's warmth turning crystals to water beneath her feet.

At night she cried into her pillow. She didn't know why he'd left her, but she was bereft now, yearning for his warm love, his salty-sweet kiss. She watched the night skies for stars falling down, but never did see one.

It was late August then when she stood at the top of the wooden steps. She left her sandals atop the smooth wooden rail and put one cautious foot forward, hoping she would find her love at the bottom. Down to the sand her feet flew on the steps, through the hillside carved away for her. Down to the sea, the air filling her lungs, and she felt it again, the pulling, the need to be there; the ocean beat crashing in the shell of her ear.

She hit the bottom step and spun round, but nothing was there. No golden boy, tongue sweet with pretty words. No fire to warm her, and she shivered in the cool of the night air. She looked above and saw again the silvered streaks of light across the sky. She knew then; she could feel him. She turned and looked.

Standing against the banister, one foot resting on the bottom step, was a man she'd never seen before. He wore a suit, of all things, and shoes that held a shine despite the dust of the sand. He was tall and slim, with broad shoulders, and thick, wayward hair that stood in every direction at once. It glinted bronze in the moonlight. He drank her in with his eyes and she could see them burning, bright green. He smiled then, a lazy, crooked grin, cocksure and arrogant, and she gasped.

"I've been waiting for you," he said. "Won't you come with me?" He held out his hand. Her heart didn't flutter. Her mouth did not smile. Still, she felt compelled to be near him. She took an unwilling step forward.

He watched as she appraised him, and he felt lighter than he had in years. When the Oracle promised him a queen, he'd scoffed. No woman would follow him willingly, down into the depthless reaches of the earth, into the netherworld. Still, he'd found the girl, watched the girl, and as he watched, he became entranced. When Jasper, that whelp, heard of the prophesy, he'd rushed to spy on the girl, looking for ever more fodder with which to tease the dark god. Edward felt his hopes turn sour when Jasper instead fell in love with the girl. He didn't have to know her heart to see the new radiance that graced her face – radiance that Jasper had put there.

So when the boy approached Rosalie for her help, calling on her and her powers of love, Edward watched with resignation as the goddess named her conditions. Of course the prophesy would be subverted; gods and mortals were united in their dislike of him, their fear.

Yet when the girl spoke her wish aloud, Edward watched as his brother sent a single star shooting across the night sky. And each day after that, when Jasper cleared the sky of his fiery light, Edward drew near the girl. He watched with cautious affection as she mourned the loss of her love, first with tears and sorrow, then with anger and finally confused resignation. He watched as she strolled the avenues of this modern world, first unseeing in her grief, and then slowly reawakening to the beauty around her.

Edward sent emissaries to Chloris, the goddess of flowers, and she favored him by filling the night air with the heavy fragrance of jasmine, primrose and magnolia. He smiled when Bella inhaled the heady scent, and then plucked blooms from the vine. She tucked a magnolia blossom in her hair, and pressed the scent into her fingertips, which she brought to her nose, again and again, while reading in her bed that evening.

As the days passed on, he found himself entranced by the young, mortal girl. Whether it was her looks or her manner, he couldn't say. He was only certain that there was something that called to him, some ethereal quality that clung to her, like the scent of the flowers that she pressed to her skin. She was his promised. He would not be denied.

Bella took another hesitant step forward. "You're like him," she said, her eyes both accusing and questioning.

"Not very much," he answered, for it was true. His power was so great that it could not be measured against a trifle such as the sun.

"But you're not like me." Again, certain.

The rogue's grin graced his face once more. "No."

"Then what are you?"

He held his hand out to her again. "Come with me. Find out."

Her hand moved of its own volition, hovering just above his. She breathed deep and something pierced her heart, but she pushed it away. She wondered what his name was, this handsome, dark-haired man before her. His eyes grew wide at her thought, and then he smiled at her, full and beautiful, no longer the teasing, taunting half-smile from before. She sucked in a fast breath, her heart pounding.

"Isabella, you may call me Edward," he said. His open hand made a small movement, beckoning her to make up her mind. She was uncertain, but compelled. She placed her hand into his open palm.

It was to be a very long time before she saw the sun shine again.

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AN:

Thanks larger than words can convey belong to FarDareisMai2 and Krismom, who are both alpha and bet, cheerleaders, hand-holders, and generally good friends. At this point, any errors in this fiction are mine, and mine alone.

Zigster is my partner in gchat crime and generally helped me talk through ideas, even though she'll never read the finished product. Zee and Vio also helped, through their relentless encouragement. They are altogether some of the finest women I've ever know, and I thank them, profusely.

I am considering continuing this as my Twilight 25 project. Let me know if that's something you'd like to see?