SLASH BACKSLASH 2.0 ONE-SHOT CONTEST

Story Name: Stay
Pen name: avioleta
Pairing: Edward/Carlisle
Disclaimer: I don't own
Twilight. Rated M.
To see other entries in the "SLASH BACKSLASH" contest, please visit the C2:
http:/www . fanfiction . net/c2/68069/3/0/1/

Edward Masen put down the book he was reading (today, it was Jeffrey Eugenides: Middlesex). He ran a damp cloth over the counter top before shoving the towel into his back pocket again and wiping his hands on the front of his apron (slung low around his hips). He glanced at the large clock on the wall. A quarter to ten. Nearly closing time.

The cafe was practically empty; only one customer remained. A regular. Seated at his regular corner table, sipping his regular cup of black tea (Darjeeling), and slowly flipping pages in a scientific (and rather boring) looking journal (like always).

The man came in practically every evening Edward worked. He ordered his tea and sat in the corner, sipping and reading. On Wednesdays, he would also order a cranberry-orange scone. But he appeared not to like the poppy-seed kind the cafe had on Tuesdays, or the cinnamon raisin ones served on Fridays. Edward hadn't asked.

Tonight was Thursday though. No scone.

"Can I get you anything else?" Edward asked. "I'm about to close up here." He already knew the answer, but it was polite customer service to ask anyway.

"Oh, is it that time already?" the man replied, folding his journal neatly and placing it in his right breast coat pocket. "No. Nothing else for me," he said in answer to Edward's question (of course). "Just the tea tonight."

The man smiled, and Edward nodded vacantly. The customer's eyes were really quite blue. Strikingly so. Edward wondered why he'd never noticed before.

"Was there something else?" The older man's question startled Edward out of his reverie, and he blushed, realizing that he'd been staring.

"Oh, no. I was just thinking..." (stupidly staring, daydreaming absently). Edward spoke quietly, ducking his head.

"About what?" the man pressed. "If you don't mind my inquiring."

Azure, cobalt, sapphire, cerulean, cyan...

"Nothing really. It's just...your eyes..." The boy's own eyes, upon realizing what he'd said, went rather wide at the admission. His blush deepened (coral, rose, fuchsia, magenta), and one pale hand flew to his mouth, as if desperately hoping to recapture the offending words. "Jesus. I'm sorry. I'm not sure what came over me. I'm just gonna finish cleaning up now."

The man raised an eyebrow but said nothing.

Edward turned, hip bumping the small table as he did so, causing most of the customer's remaining tea to slosh over the brim of the chipped porcelain mug. "Shit," Edward cursed under his breath. "Here, let me get that." He quickly mopped up the spilled tea with his rag and apologized again. "Sorry, I'm not usually this clumsy."

The customer nodded. It was true. The boy was typically graceful, moving lithely in the cramped space between tables, balancing trays of steaming beverages deftly above his head. The man would know; he'd certainly noticed.

He frequented the tiny cafe, stopping in nearly every evening he taught a late class or stayed after hours on campus, marking papers or holding extended office hours. The tea was shit, but that was to be expected. No one (aside from himself, of course) ordered it anyhow. The students certainly never did. Not when they could feed their caffeine addictions with mocha, frappe, double espressos (extra cream, add cinnamon, hold the milk) and so forth.

But the young man (Edward, according to the plastic name tag that was crookedly affixed to his faded, gray uni tee-shirt) was nearly always there. He worked the evening shift (four until close) most weekdays, either manning the counter, or waiting on the small section of tables in the seating area. Every so often, he could be found working the cash register or restocking shelves in the adjoining University bookstore. But that was rare. Usually, he was in the cafe serving fancy coffee drinks, pastries, and the occasional cup of black tea.

OoOoO

A few nights later, Edward was sitting behind the register when the older customer came in, shaking rain water off his umbrella. The boy's book was open on the counter in front of him (Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club), but he didn't appear to be reading. Instead, he seemed to be glaring (quite moodily) at the wall across from his perch on the stool.

"Rough day?"

"Hmm...?" Edward's eyes slowly refocused on the man's bright blue ones. "Oh, yea. A bit. I had a paper due this morning, so I didn't get much sleep last night." Edward, realizing that he was rambling, snapped his mouth shut and jumped up to clean off the man's usual table.

"That tends to happen when you procrastinate."

"Oh. Yea, I suppose so. But I usually to do my best work under pressure. Perhaps not the most practical way to go about things, but—" The boy shrugged and blushed prettily. The blush suited him, but it was also a disturbing reminder of just how young he was.

Once Edward was done wiping down the table, he seemed unsure as to what to do with his hands, first twisting the towel between them, then sticking the rag into his back pocket, then hooking his thumbs through his rather worn belt loops.

"So, was it a good paper?"

"What? Oh, yes. I think so. I examined the line between fiction and reality in Atwood's The Blind Assassin." Pause. "Have you read it?"

"No."

"Oh. It's a good book."

It was strange, the man had seen this boy several times a week for the better part of a semester, but they'd never said more than a few words to one another.

(What can I get for you? Your usual? Yes please. Thank you. Some weather we're having. Oh, yes. It's expected to rain all week. Anything else tonight? No, that will be all. Okay. Stay warm...)

Now, the customer couldn't understand the sudden urge he felt to talk to the young man.

Edward returned with his tea, steaming in a faded, yellow mug.

"I take it you're a student at the University?"

"Yes. A Junior. I just declared my major. English lit."

God, a Junior. He seemed younger than that. But, then again, they always did. "You're always reading."

"Occupational hazard." The boy smiled tentatively and ran a hand through hopelessly disheveled hair.

"And what do you intend to do with a major in English literature?"

The boy pursed his lips, but it was clear he'd been asked that question before. "I'm not sure yet. Write maybe. Or teach. I think I'd like to teach."

"I see."

"So you work nearby?" Edward asked, after a long pause. "I see you in here all the time."

"Yes. At the University as well."

"Really? Are you a professor?" the boy inquired, genuinely interested. "I haven't seen you around campus."

"I teach biology."

"Oh. Well, that would explain it. I placed out of sciences with my scores from high school. Frankly, I'm not even sure I know where the Bio. Department is. No offense."

"None taken." The man blew the steam off the top of his mug before taking a slow sip.

"So how long have you taught at Northwestern?"

"This is my first year. I am a visiting professor."

"Ah. Visiting from where?"

"Washington State." Edward frowned slightly.

"Not what you were expecting?"

"No. I mean, well, your accent..."

"Oh yes. My family is originally from London. I moved to the states to go to university. I've been here nearly twenty years, but the accent, I'm afraid, stuck."

"I like it." The boy blushed again, a lovely pink. The professor wondered if he ever felt light headed with all that blood rushing constantly to his cheeks.

He finished his tea in one long sip. "Well, I suppose I must be going. Until next time?"

"Yea. Next time." And Edward suddenly realized how much he would look forward to next time.

OoOoO

The boy was reading a different book on Wednesday (Henry Miller: Tropic of Cancer). Probably not a school book this time. Unless, he was taking a course on aesthetic sexuality in contemporary literature. But that seemed unlikely. Perhaps he didn't have a paper due this week. The professor would have to ask.

Edward brought his tea before he'd even had a chance to look at the board declaring the day's specials (not that he needed assistance in deciding what to order). The professor thanked him for the beverage, and the young man smiled shyly, pushing a strand of unruly hair out of his face only to have it fall right back again.

Edward returned to the counter and resumed his reading without another word, but the man was certain he saw the boy look up once or twice, deliberately glancing in his direction, only to hide his face behind his book again almost immediately. Interesting. Or, perhaps it was only a trick of the light. After all, why would the beautiful young student be looking at him?

Several other customers came in. The professor watched as Edward anticipated their orders with startling accuracy. Half soy that. Extra foam this. Just an orange juice today. It was rather impressive; he never even put his book down.

OoOoO

Edward finished his chapter and marked his place with an old receipt, furtively glancing at the table in the corner. The attractive professor was still there, sipping his tea (as usual) and thumbing through his scientific journal. He seemed to be fully immersed in his reading, and Edward found himself wondering which branches of biology interested the man.

Edward couldn't understand why he was suddenly rather obsessed with this customer. There were plenty of other regulars whom frequented the cafe. Yes, the man was attractive (bordering on gorgeous, really), and he was rather intriguing. But Edward saw other good-looking customers everyday. And the professor was older – late thirties, perhaps early forties. (It was difficult to say). His hair was still thick and blonde. And his eyes, God his eyes... They were incredibly blue, like the ocean or the sky on a clear day.

He was staring rather openly now. The man was absorbed in his article; he wouldn't notice.

Edward took in the gentle curve of his spine as he leaned forward, the man's long fingers drumming on the table, but he kept coming back to his face. There were hardly any lines around his lovely eyes. Just tired shadows. But Edward had those too; his too-pale skin turned nearly translucent after a few sleepless, paper writing nights.

There were faint lines around the man's mouth as well, and they crinkled (just so) when he reached an interesting point in his reading or took a sip of tea. Laugh lines. Edward wondered if he would ever laugh enough in his lifetime to have lines like those. He hoped so.

"Contemplating my eyes again, Edward?"

Fuck. He'd been caught. Again. That was twice in so many days. What the hell was wrong with him? The man had put down his journal and was looking straight at him, holding his gaze firmly. Edward's pale cheeks flamed hot. "Yes... I mean no. I, er, would you like a scone today?" He tried to cover quickly. "It's Wednesday."

The professor smiled softly but checked his watch and sighed. "Unfortunately, it appears I will not be able to indulge in one of those lovely scones tonight. You see, my daughter is performing in a ballet recital, and she is due on stage in approximately thirty-five minutes."

Oh. Of course. He had a daughter. A family. That was to be expected.

Why then, did it bother Edward so much?

The professor continued, but Edward was hardly listening anymore. "My ex-wife will be furious if I am late."

Ex-wife? That caught Edward's attention again.

It was disquieting (to say the least) for Edward to suddenly find himself so enamored with a customer, a customer who had literally said ten sentences to him...ever. And to be jealous of his ex-wife? But, at the same time, he couldn't help but be pleased that it was an ex.

Regardless of prefixes, however – ex or no ex – the operative word was still wife. And Edward was entirely too male to compete with that.

He blushed (again), decided that he definitely needed to get out more, and turned away, wiping down several already clean tables.

OoOoO

Was it just his imagination, or did the boy's expression brighten at the mention of his ex-wife? Surely not. But the man couldn't help the slight flutter in his stomach, as he downed the last swallow of his tea and fished in his pocket for the tip. He left two dollars more than usual, but the boy did look particularly lovely that night – all flushed beauty, bitten lips, and cautious optimism.

Edward was off the next day. The professor refused to admit how disappointed he was.

OoOoO

Two evenings later, the customer left his wallet. Edward found it, propped against his empty teacup. The man had been working more intently than usual that day, papers and journals spread out across his small, corner table. And he'd left quickly, nodding once at Edward before pulling on his coat and hurrying out the door.

Edward couldn't resist. After wiping down the last of the tables, he sat down on his stool behind the counter and opened the wallet. Assorted credit cards, an old movie ticket stub (The Girl who Played with Fire), a library card, a few loose bills, and a Northwestern University Faculty ID: Dr. Carlisle Cullen, Biology Department.

Edward realized then that he'd never even asked the man's name. The customers all knew his name of course, by virtue of the small plastic tag he was required to wear whenever he was in the cafe or book store. But the professor had never introduced himself.

Carlisle. It seemed old fashioned. Probably a family name or something. Then again, 'Edward' wasn't exactly the epitome of popularity either. He'd been named after his father and, come to think of it, had never known another Edward his age.

There was also an Illinois driver's license. Edward wondered absently if the professor had a car. Not many people he knew did; it was too expensive to park. But there was an address, of course. And a birth date. November 22, 1970. Carlisle Cullen was thirty-nine years old. Nineteen years older than Edward and exactly the same age his father would be, were he still alive.

Dr. Cullen lived just a few blocks off campus in a small, rather expensive neighborhood. Although Edward could never afford that area, the professor's home appeared to be just minutes from his considerably cheaper university housing.

Convenient.

Edward caught himself then. Convenient for what?

He took a deep breath, put the wallet on the shelf under the register, and picked up his book. But, fifteen minutes later, when he realized he'd done nothing more than stare at the same page, he shut the book again.

Edward closed early. It was a slow night. And, although he knew he should leave the wallet for his manager in case Dr. Cullen came looking for it in the morning, he took it with him instead. Tomorrow was his day off and, now that he knew the professor's address, he could return the wallet in person.

OoOoO

The next morning, as Edward stood on Dr. Cullen's front porch and rang the bell, he began to seriously regret his decision. He felt foolish, uncomfortable, awkward as hell. It was a miserable day, cold and windy and definitely threatening rain. He'd forgotten his umbrella, and his well-worn jacket provided minimal protection against the crisp, damp air.

Maybe he's not home. I can just take the wallet back to the cafe and leave it with the manager like I should have done in the first place. Edward ran a hand through his hair and wished, for once, that he'd taken a brush to it that morning.

He was just about to turn to leave when the door opened. Dr. Cullen stood there in his shirt sleeves; he was clearly getting ready for work. Against his volition (and better judgment), Edward's eyes flitted down the man's body, taking in the lean muscles under the thin, cotton dress shirt, the worn leather belt cinched around narrow hips, the long legs, bare feet... Shit. He was staring again. That was really becoming a problem.

"Ah. It's Edward, right?" The melodic voice pulled Edward's attention out of the gutter and back to the man's face. "What are you doing here?"

"I, er, your wallet," Edward stammered (quite uncharacteristically) but managed to produce the object in question. "You left it at the cafe last night. Today is my day off. I thought I'd return it."

"Oh, wonderful. Thank you. I was planning to stop by today, even though I knew you wouldn't be there."

Edward decided not to obsess over the fact that the professor evidently knew his work schedule.

"Come in."

"I..." He hadn't expected to be invited in, but there was little he could do at that point; he allowed himself to be ushered through the door, wallet still in hand.

Carlisle Cullen led him through a narrow entryway, past a dark doorway leading to what looked like a formal dining room, and into a warm and brightly lit kitchen. A pot of tea was steeping on the stove top, and a plate of buttered toast sat untouched on the corner of the table.

"How about some tea?" the professor offered, fetching two delicate teacups from a cabinet.

"That's not necessary," Edward responded quickly.

"Nonsense. It's the least I can do after you've come all this way. Let me serve you for once."

"It's not that far, really," Edward countered, taking the cup anyway. "I live in university housing just off Clark and Division."

"Do you like it there?"

"It's all right. Convenient."

"I see. How do you take your tea?"

"I...don't know." Edward hadn't had tea before. No one he knew drank the stuff. Except, of course, for the professor. Dr. Cullen chuckled softly, poured a splash of milk into Edward's cup, and then filled it to the brim with the warm, brown liquid.

The professor took his black, as always.

OoOoO

They talked for over an hour. Edward had nothing else to do, and the professor did not have a class until 11:30. Edward's nervousness melted away with the first cup of tea, and conversation came easier then.

"Where are you from?"

"Here, in Chicago."

"Any family here? Siblings?"

"No. Just my mom. My father died when I was small."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"It's okay. I don't remember him anyway. My mom has a pretty serious boyfriend though. But that's another story altogether."

"You don't like him?"

"No. It's not that. He's good for her I suppose. But I'd rather not talk about it."

Carlisle discovered that Edward liked sushi, read E.M. Forster and Jane Austen when no one was looking, and worked extra hours at the cafe so he could afford to live in university housing. He could live at home to save money, but he wanted to give his mother and her new boyfriend some privacy. And, he liked living alone.

OoOoO

Edward returned to Carlisle's home a few days later. He wasn't expected, but the professor wasn't surprised to see him either.

From that day on, the boy became a regular fixture at Dr. Cullen's kitchen table. They drank a lot of tea (Edward discovered that he liked his strong with a splash of milk), complained about Chicago's dreadful winters, and made fun of some of the more eccentric cafe-goers. Often, they simply sat in silence and read. Edward worked his way through a seemingly endless stream of texts (Faulkner, Roth, Mailer, Fitzgerald, Zusak, Dante, Wharton). Sometimes he had a paper due; often he didn't.

"What are you working on," Edward asked one afternoon, leaning dangerously close to the other man. His shift started in two hours, and he had every intention of hanging out at Carlisle's kitchen table until then.

"An article on molecular degeneration. I hope to have it published in the next Quarterly." The man smiled softly at Edward, his mouth just inches from the boy's. "When I'm finished, perhaps you could read it for me."

Edward's pulse quickened, and he leaned back before he did something foolish like inhale too deeply or lick the man. "Yea. I'd like that."

They sat in silence then. Edward counted heartbeats and attempted to slow his breathing. Although he'd long tried to deny it, Dr. Cullen did strange things to his blood (not to mention other parts of his anatomy).

"Who is your favorite author?" the professor asked a while later.

"J.K. Rowling."

"You're kidding."

"Yes."

After a long pause: "So, why biology?"

"I always wanted to be a doctor." The professor looked up, blue eyes bright. "Well, my father wanted me to at least."

"Why didn't you go to medical school?"

"I did."

"And?"

"Turns out I'm rather squeamish."

"Oh?" Edward smirked, his lovely lips curving crookedly.

"Yes. I can't stomach blood at all. During my first practical, a child came in. He'd fallen off his bicycle and split open his forehead. I passed out cold while watching the nurse stitch him up. It was quite embarrassing really. So I transferred out of med school and into the PhD program."

Edward laughed, a clear, bell-like sound. The professor scowled.

"I can't handle blood either," the boy admitted a few moments later. "Or shots."

Carlisle raised an elegant eyebrow.

"I nearly faint every time I get a flu shot. The nurses at health services know me now. They make me lie down and everything."

"Appallingly pathetic."

Edward laughed again. "Well, at least I knew better than to try to become a doctor."

"Touche."

"Cormac McCarthy."

"Hmm...?"

"My favorite author."

OoOoO

A few nights later, a girl came into the cafe. She was young and pretty, with dark, spiky hair, eyes the color of chocolate, and skin like milk. She kissed Edward on both cheeks and plonked herself down at the counter like she'd been coming there for ages.

The tea seemed to sour in the professor's stomach, and he suddenly felt rather cold and empty.

Of course there was a girl.

He watched as the boy (who actually appeared to be glowing) served the girl an espresso in a tiny shot glass. She downed it readily, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. The two spoke intimately; they knew each other well.

The professor left without a word, silently berating himself for feeling jealous and hurt. Of course Edward had a girlfriend. He was attractive, funny, and smart. Quite certainly everything a girl could want.

The pretty girl came in with increasing regularity after that point, and she and Edward left together, arm and arm, many nights. Carlisle couldn't help but treat the boy a bit coldly now, and he began leaving the cafe earlier and earlier.

Edward was clearly confused by his altered behavior, but the professor didn't care; the boy had other things to occupy his attention. Until, one night, the girl noticeably did not appear.

"Where's your escort?"

"My what? Oh, you mean Alice."

The professor inclined his head.

"Not sure. I imagine she's off with Jasper or something. She didn't say."

"And you don't mind that she is off with another man?"

"What?" Edward looked confused.

Surely the boy wasn't so innocent as to not understand why it was inadvisable for his beautiful (and rather flirtatious) girlfriend to be off on her own.

Slowly, however, realization dawned on the boy. But then he smiled his crooked smile and laughed unexpectedly. "You thought Alice was my girlfriend?" More laughter.

Frankly, Carlisle didn't see what was so funny about the situation, but Edward was practically cackling. "No. No. Alice is just a friend, really. But I'll have to tell her you thought otherwise. She'll get a kick out of that." Edward was still laughing when he went to help the next customer.

OoOoO

"What happened between you and your wife?"

"We grew apart, I suppose." Carlisle put down the journal he was reading, a contemplative look on his face. "We married young. Had Rosalie a year later. I loved her, but I think I was trying too hard to be someone I'm not."

"But they moved to Chicago?"

"Esme is from here originally. I met her at school. They followed me, of course, with each new teaching position. But when it became...apparent that things were no longer working, she took Rose and moved back home."

"Do you regret it?"

Another pause. "I regret hurting them. Both Esme and Rosalie. But otherwise, no. Not at all."

"Why?"

"Because I have my daughter. You should meet her sometime."

OoOoO

"I need a new assistant. Would you be interested?"

"Excuse me?"

"You wouldn't need to do much. Just help me record grades and set up the occasional experiment. Perhaps two mornings a week."

"I know nothing about biology."

"Not necessary. And I'll pay you more than you make at the cafe. We can work around your schedule."

"Okay."

"Okay?"

"Yea. Okay."

Carlisle wasn't entirely sure what came over him. It was absurd really, asking the boy to be his assistant. Several of his biology majors would kill for the position, and he'd just given the coveted spot to a...literature student?

He justified it of course. The position would require a minimal amount of subject-specific knowledge (nothing an intelligent student like Edward couldn't pick up as he went along). And, it would be better to have an assistant whom he could count on to work hard, rather than one of his own students who was primarily concerned with padding his or her grade point average. Besides, the boy could use the money.

Yes. It was better this way. And, it had absolutely nothing to do with wanting to spend more time with Edward. No. Nothing at all.

OoOoO

But somewhere, in between working together in the biology lab, the professor's regular cups of black tea, and Edward's visits to Carlisle's kitchen table, something indefinable shifted in their relationship. Edward still called the professor 'Dr. Cullen' in public, but the man had long since become Carlisle to him.

At the cafe, Edward would stand obscenely close while taking his order – black tea (and a scone on Wednesdays). He'd lean over the table, palms pressed to the smooth surface, his long-sleeved shirt rolled up to the elbows, baring slender forearms.

He was so young, too young. Carlisle knew this. But Edward would lean close enough to tease, while carefully maintaining the facade of casual contact. Contact that (had it be anyone else) would have been dismissed immediately as accident or chance.

Edward's smooth finger would brush against the older man's wrist (accidentally, deliberately), or trail delicately along a shoulder blade. His movements, almost imperceptible, were clearly contrived, suggestive. His his breath would fan warm against the professor's neck, or ghost across his cheek (nonchalantly, but lacking all innocence). And Carlisle could taste the delicious scent of the boy, all sandalwood and honeyed spice.

"You know, I've been thinking about what you told me. But I completely disagree. You're wrong about Evelyn Waugh. He's every bit as much the aesthete as Oscar Wilde. I refuse to believe otherwise."

Such exchanges would last mere seconds. Edward would pull away then, all impish smiles and flashing eyes. To the innocent bystander, the young man could merely be making a coffee recommendation, but their clandestine conversations left Carlisle's pulse racing. His trousers would grow uncomfortably tight, and he would ache in ways he hadn't in quite some time.

Edward had seeped into his skin. He could feel him in his very pores, and it was overwhelming, disconcerting, and exhilarating.

OoOoO

Edward made a good assistant. He was quiet; at times he was distracted (but what undergraduate was not?). He still read every chance he had, but he did everything Carlisle asked of him.

Edward would spend his mornings in the lab wiping down tables, cleaning supplies, and painstakingly arranging test tubes for the afternoon's experiments. Dr. Cullen would work at his desk or stand alongside. They were comfortable together, and (thankfully) Edward didn't feel the need to fill the silence with endless chatter. Occasionally he'd ask: "Where do these go?" or "Any more beakers for me to rinse?" – this question always seemed to imply that he'd rinsed enough beakers for a lifetime. But that was all. Things were working out nicely. And it had nothing to do with how lovely Edward looked in khakis and a pullover.

Their fingers would brush occasionally, sending fizzles of electric energy sliding down Edward's spine, but he'd only smile crookedly and continue on with whatever task he was performing. Sometimes, Edward would lean too close, or their hips would bump accidentally, flooding Carlisle's veins with warmth that tightened his stomach and pooled in his groin.

Edward said nothing.

"I was thinking," Dr. Cullen ventured one afternoon, "that perhaps I should always select assistants with no background in biology."

The boy blinked, long lashes rising and falling, and his lovely mouth quirked, conveying both satisfaction and something else entirely. "Nah. I'm just working out because you like me much better than your other students."

And, really, there was nothing the professor could say to that.

At night, Edward would lie down in bed and palm his cock, imagining what it would be like to taste Carlisle's breath and feel his hands on his skin (sliding down his chest, over his hips, between his legs). He'd picture the man above him, sweat-slick skin sliding against sweat-slick skin, legs wrapped tight around the other man's thighs. He'd moan, eyes shut tight in concentration, hips thrusting into his hand.

And he'd come almost instantly.

But nothing had happened.

OoOoO

"I'm not sure Jasper is good for Alice," Edward began with absolutely no preamble.

Carlisle went to the stove to start the tea. The boy sounded rather vehement, and he wondered if something had happened.

"Why? He sounds like a good guy."

"He is, but— Never mind. It doesn't matter."

"Tell me."

Edward chewed on his lip, considering. Carlisle's eyes absolutely were not drawn to the sight of just bitten, pink flesh caught between perfect white teeth.

"We went out."

Carlisle raised an eyebrow.

"Very briefly. Actually, that's how he and Alice met." Edward narrowed his lovely green eyes. "I liked him. Quite a lot, really." He frowned softly. "But he realized that he preferred women. Well, he preferred Alice, at least. Over me."

They were silent for a long while. Carlisle poured the tea. Edward turned the cup around on its saucer but did not drink.

"I'm gay."

Pause.

"Edward, I know."

"Is it that obvious?"

"Not especially."

"Yea, it is."

Another pause.

"Yes. I suppose it is."

Edward looked up, dark eyes searching Carlisle's face. "You don't mind?"

"Why would I?"

"I'm not sure. Most people mind."

OoOoO

They worked late one night, Edward cataloging glassware, Carlisle marking mid-terms.

"Let's get a drink."

Carlisle was so surprised at the suggestion that he agreed without question. They walked side by side for a few blocks. Edward clearly knew where they were headed, and the professor followed readily.

Carlisle recognized the bar; he'd been there a few times before, but Edward was obviously a regular. He led them to a rather secluded booth (red cushioned seats and dark paneling), and, within moments, a pretty girl with dark wavy hair appeared at their table.

"Edward! So good to see you." She enveloped him in a large hug. "Who's your friend?" The girl eyed the professor critically.

"Bella, this is Dr. Cullen. I'm working as his lab assistant this semester."

Her expression softened. "Oh. Okay. You want your usual?"

"Yes please, love."

"And you?"

"Whatever he's having."

A minute later, Bella set two glasses of Newcastle on the table between them. Edward took a large gulp; Carlisle watched his mouth, his throat as he swallowed.

"Are you even old enough to be here?"

Edward's cheeks flushed a lovely pink, but he tried to hide it behind his glass. "Yes...I mean no. Not exactly." Sheepish smile. "I'm twenty. I'll be twenty-one in June."

"But they serve you?"

"Bella does."

"They've carded me here before," Carlisle added, shaking his head.

"Yea. They do that. And you are gorgeo- ...I, er, mean you're rather young looking." Edward's cheeks were bordering on magenta.

"I could be your father, you know."

"Yea. But it would have been a teenage pregnancy. Nasty things. I don't recommend it."

Afterward, they walked together toward Edward's apartment. Their fingertips brushed, and Carlisle felt Edward's warmth flash hot across his skin. Then, it was the most natural thing for their fingers to intertwine, palm pressed to palm. Edward's thumb stroked back and forth.

They arrived at Edward's door, fingers still laced together.

"Now would be the time when you kiss me goodnight," the boy murmured softly, breath far too sweet and far too close.

Carlisle tensed. Was he serious? Did he want him to be?

But then Edward laughed, a high pitched, nervous sound. "But I suppose that would shatter the facade." He smiled wistfully. "You know, two colleagues grabbing a drink after a long day."

"Yes. I suppose it would."

"Goodnight Carlisle."

"Goodnight Edward."

OoOoO

Carlisle's doorbell rang at a quarter to two in the morning the following Friday. He wasn't asleep; he routinely stayed up well past three, and he didn't teach a class in the morning. Still, he was immediately filled with equal measures of irritation and concern. Who could be bothering him at this hour?

The bell rang again. Carlisle grabbed his dressing gown from the back of the chair and walked to the front door.

Edward stood on the front porch. And he was drunk.

He smiled impishly when Carlisle opened the door, but then swayed forward, nearly toppling into the older man's arms. He smelled like a bar, all whiskey and beer and stale cigarette smoke. But his breath was warm against Carlisle's neck.

"You shouldn't be here."

"Of course I should."

"Not tonight. Not like this."

Edward scowled, pretty pink lips curling into a delicious pout, and he swayed forward again. "Would you like me to leave, sir?" he murmured, mouth against Carlisle's throat.

"You can't call me 'sir' with your mouth there."

"Okay."

And Carlisle's own mouth was suddenly filled with Edward's tongue. The kiss was sloppy and wet (after all, the boy could barely stand up), but what he lacked in finesse (and good sense), Edward made up for in enthusiasm. Carlisle surrendered almost immediately, opening his mouth to the boy's.

Edward moaned and slipped his fingers through the other man's hair; Carlisle allowed himself to be pulled closer. He couldn't think; his head swum with all the delicious noises Edward was making. Their bodies pressed warm together, chest to chest, thigh to thigh. The young man groaned again, and Carlisle felt the firm line of his erection hard against his hip.

Edward rocked against him, searching for that perfect angle. And when Carlisle's hand slipped down over the curve of his waist to pull their hips together, Edward was certain he was going to come in his pants.

"Oh God, Carlisle," he breathed, eyes wide, hips still moving.

But when his fingers moved to the sash at Carlisle's waist that held the dressing gown together, the man caught his wrist, pulling his hand away. "No Edward. Stop."

And Edward's expression darkened, green eyes flashing, but he let go and allowed himself to be led inside.

Within minutes, they were seated at the kitchen table, cradling warm mugs of tea. Edward stared gloomily into the dark brown liquid, but said nothing. (What could he say?)

"How do you feel?" Carlisle finally asked, once the boy had managed a few sips of tea.

"A bit better. Maybe. Still quite drunk. Frustrated as hell." He eyed the professor pointedly.

Carlisle wasn't entirely sure what to say to that. Part of him wanted to send Edward away with absolutely no delusions that this could ever happen again. It was wrong. He was a student (not his student, his mind supplied helpfully), but a student nonetheless. And he was young. Too young. Closer to his daughter's age than his own.

Edward had no idea what he wanted. And, even if he thought he did, he'd change his mind in a few weeks. The boy would realize that there were a lot more appropriate choices out there. He'd meet a young man (or woman), and suddenly regret wasting time, energy, and drunken fumblings on a man who was old enough to be his father.

Edward would thank him some day.

But, judging from the rather mutinous expression on the boy's lovely face, that probably would not happen tonight.

"Why?" Carlisle didn't need to say anything else. Edward understood.

At first he shrugged, said nothing. Then: "my mother and I got into a fight tonight. Well, her boyfriend and I did."

"Do you want to tell me what happened?"

The boy shrugged again and looked down into his mug. "We had dinner. Started out quite nice actually. But then my mom asked if I was seeing anyone." Edward looked up again. "She shouldn't have gone there," he said softly. "It's not her business, really. But I told them that there was someone I really liked, you know. And, of course they wanted to know where I'd met her." He emphasized the word, his voice still soft but laced with fierceness.

"And?" the professor prompted.

"And when I explained that I'd met him at the cafe where I worked, things deteriorated rather rapidly."

They were silent for a while. Edward absorbed in his own thoughts. Carlisle considering the implication of Edward's last statement. He'd suspected it for quite sometime – that the boy fancied him. And, of course, tonight's little performance on the porch had left little to the imagination. Still, it's one thing to suspect something, and quite another to hear it spoken out loud...

His thoughts were interrupted when Edward spoke again.

"I think my mother knew, or suspected at least – that I like men, I mean. And I think she wanted to be supportive. But her boyfriend..." Edward looked at Carlisle, his green eyes, usually so warm, glinted coldly, like chips of jade. "Her boyfriend was furious. He started yelling that he wouldn't tolerate a 'fucking faggot' in his house." Edward spat the words, but he looked as though he might cry. "Carlisle, we were sitting at my mother's table, in her dining room, and this man tells me that I am no longer welcome in his house." He paused, taking a deep breath. Carlisle knew he was struggling to control his emotions. Finally: "they're not even married. That's the house I grew up in."

Carlisle moved around the table to put an arm around the boy. Edward leaned against him readily, resting his head on the older man's shoulder. His hopeless hair smelled of smoke and stale beer, but his warm weight against him felt soothing and...right.

"And what did you do?"

"There wasn't much to do, really. He called me some other choice names after that. Some I hadn't even heard before." He paused, fiddling with a thread on his sweater sleeve. "He is obviously quite set in his opinion. My mother couldn't really intervene; I think she was too shocked to do anything." Another pause. "And, I wouldn't have wanted her to anyway. So, I thanked her for dinner and left. She didn't try to stop me. Funny," he said, tilting his face up to Carlisle's, "I always thought he was a pretty decent guy."

"So this happened over dinner?"

"Yea."

"Edward, that was hours ago."

"Oh, yea. I went to the bar for a while. I needed a drink...or three. Bella was quite worried about me too. She almost wouldn't let me leave on my own. But I told her I had a place to go." He paused again, shifting to get a bit closer to the professor. "She likes you I think."

"Oh?"

"Yes. Said you were cute. Too old for me, but cute all the same."

"And...do you agree with her."

Edward turned, twisting in Carlisle's arms to face him. "No. Not at all." He smiled, a soft, lopsided smile. "You're not too old for me. And 'cute' is a rather grievous understatement."

Carlisle took a sip of now cold tea and tried to come up with an appropriate response.

"I want you, you know."

"Edward, you don't—"

"Don't tell me that I don't know what I want." He stared up at Carlisle, his gaze holding his firmly. "I've known for weeks. When I'm with you, for the first time in my life, everything feels right. We make sense together. You have to see that."

Carlisle was silent for a moment that stretched and stretched. For weeks he'd been ignoring the pleasant, disquieting tendrils of warmth that curled in his stomach and spread through his limbs whenever he thought about, was around Edward.

"You're young. You'll find someone who's better suited for you—"

"I dream about you." Edward cut him off. He was still staring, green eyes intense. "Nearly every night. And I think about you when I jerk off. It never takes long. Seconds really. All I need to think about are your lips, your hands on my body, your skin touching my skin..."

Carlisle's breath caught. If he thought he was aroused before, he was positively aching now.

"Fuck, I'm sorry," the boy said after a few moments when Carlisle hadn't responded. "I shouldn't have told you that." He looked down, eyes shadowed and cheeks pink. "That must be the whiskey talking. I feel like crap." He began to get up, but Carlisle tightened his arm around him.

"It's okay," Edward whispered. "I'll go now. Thanks for the tea."

"Nonsense. You're not going anywhere. It's late, and the weather's dreadful. Sit here for a moment. I'll make up the couch for you."

By the time Carlisle returned to the kitchen, Edward was asleep, head pillowed in his arms.

And, for some reason Carlisle didn't entirely understand, he carried the boy, not to the sofa in the den, but to his own room, where he laid him gently on his bed. Edward mumbled something incomprehensible before rolling over, once again fast asleep.

Carlisle took the bed he'd made up on the couch, but it was a long time before he got any sleep that night.

OoOoO

The next morning, Edward found a new toothbrush by the sink, with a glass of water and two aspirin. Carlisle was in the kitchen; he had a warm mug of tea waiting for Edward beside a plate of plain toast.

"I was in your bed."

"I know."

"Why?"

"I'm not sure."

"You weren't there."

"I know."

"Why?"

"I'm not sure about that either."

But later, when Edward moved across the room to wrap his arms around Carlisle's waist as he stood at the sink, the older man tensed under his touch. And then, when Edward pressed his lips to the man's neck, to trail moist kisses along his throat, Carlisle pushed him away.

"Why? What's wrong?" the boy asked, hurt bleeding into his voice.

"I can't. I don't—"

"But I thought... Last night..."

Carlisle took a deep, steadying breath. "You were wrong. I don't want this." He closed his eyes against the boy's disbelieving, pained stare.. "Go home Edward."

OoOoO

Edward was not at the cafe the next day, or the next. The manager told Carlisle that he had called in sick and, no, he could not give out an employee's telephone number.

That night, as he filled his mug with more brandy than tea, he tried to tell himself that it was for the best.

He wasn't good for the boy. That should have been obvious weeks ago. And though he should never have allowed things to get to this point, it was better that it end now, before anything happened... before either of them were really hurt.

But it was a lie. And even another cup of tea (brandy) couldn't convince him otherwise.

He wanted the boy – wanted Edward more than he'd ever wanted anything before (and more than he'd ever want anything again). He wanted him filling his hands and filling his mouth. Wanted him underneath him, on top of him, all around him – inside his skin, his throat, his body, his mind. He wanted the boy's mouth, his tongue, his impish smiles. He wanted the taste of him on his lips and in his hair. And he wanted to touch him, hold him, consume him, fiercely, intensely, endlessly.

OoOoO

Edward didn't show up at the lab the next morning. Since he'd started as Carlisle's assistant, he'd never missed a day of work. He'd never even been late.

And Carlisle felt his absence acutely. A hollow space in his chest, just behind his ribs, beneath his heart, aching, as though from an old wound.

That night, he went to Edward's apartment and knocked on the door.

There was no answer, but he hadn't really expected there to be.

He walked to the bar then, hoping, perhaps, that the boy might be there. Bella glared at him when he walked in, but then motioned to a booth in the corner. "He's in the back," she said reluctantly. "I don't think he wants to see you."

Carlisle thanked her, but as he moved to walk past her, she put a hand on his arm, stopping him. "Don't you dare hurt him," she whispered fiercely, fingers digging into his bicep.

"I won't," he managed, impressed with the girl's protectiveness.

Edward was alone, nursing what appeared to be his first beer. His book, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Zombies? Carlisle would investigate later), sat untouched beside him. He wasn't even pretending to read.

Edward's eyes brightened momentarily when Carlisle sat down across from him but clouded again almost instantly.

"What are you doing here?"

"Looking for you."

"I'm sorry I didn't come to the lab today. That was unacceptable. I'm not usually so irresponsible."

"I know, Edward. That's not why I'm here."

"I'll be there Monday. I'll work for as long as you need me to – until you find another assistant."

"I don't want another assistant."

The boy seemed slightly confused but said nothing. Carlisle's chest ached at the way Edward looked at him – like something that used to be incredibly valuable but had faded over time.

"You were right."

Edward blinked.

"You were right about everything," Carlisle continued. "We do make sense. I just didn't want to see it before."

The boy took a rather large gulp of his beer.

"I am too old for you."

Edward scowled.

"And you can do better. But if you still want me, I'd like to make it work."

Within an instant, the boy was over the table and in his lap. Carlisle heard a glass spill – Edward's Newcastle, probably. But it didn't matter because he had his arms around the boy's waist and his mouth pressed to Edward's. It was their first real kiss, and it was warm and sweet and perfect, perfect, perfect.

Edward shifted on top of him, as his tongue slid slickly against the other man's. He moaned delightfully when he felt Carlisle's erection harden under his ass, and he rocked experimentally back and forth, causing the other man to shudder and groan into their kiss.

Carlisle pulled back breathlessly after a few long moments. The boy's eyes were dilated, lips red and freshly bitten. His skin was flushed, pretty pink with arousal. He was so beautiful. So perfect. So...young.

He closed his eyes, trying to steady himself, as Edward continued to ghost his lips over his skin.

"We need to leave," the man whispered against the boy's throat. "Now."

Edward inhaled sharply, heart thudding against his ribs, but he made no move to get up. Conversely, he circled his hips again, ass sliding deliciously over Carlisle's erection, his own cock pressed firmly against the man's stomach.

"Edward!" Carlisle hissed again, but the boy only swallowed his protest with a rather languid kiss.

"Relax," he murmured. "No one can see us back here. And I've waited far too long to do this."

Carlisle had to admit that the boy had a point. From the way they were situated in their corner booth, it would be impossible for anyone to see them unless they walked directly by their table. And the bar was practically deserted at this hour.

Carlisle made a split second (and rather reckless) decision. He slid the boy off his lap, bearing him backwards into the corner. Edward's mouth opened in surprise, but he quickly wrapped his arms around his neck, pulling the man on top of him. Carlisle ran his mouth along Edward's jaw, feeling the stubble there, fingers tangling in the hair at the base of his scalp.

The boy moaned loudly, arching up into him, and Carlisle slipped a hand between them, sliding fingers down Edward's sternum, to rest on the bulge of his erection. Edward went still, then gasped against the other man's throat, as Carlisle began to stroke up and down. The young man pushed slender hips up into Carlisle's hand and pressed his mouth to his neck to keep from yelling out.

"So good," Edward purred, hands slipping down to grasp and clutch at Carlisle's shoulders. "Right there...yes more...Car-oh..."

Then Edward let out a long breath, eyes wide, before tensing and shuddering underneath him.

The young man was beautiful when he came, and Carlisle smiled, drinking in the sight, before sitting up again.

Edward leaned back, his head resting against the wall, face flushed and hair in even more disarray than usual. He breathed deeply, a lazy smile on his face, apparently unconcerned with the damp stain, darkening the front of his pants.

"Now can we leave?" Carlisle whispered, still painfully aroused.

"Yes."

OoOoO

Weeks slid by blissfully. Carlisle spent most evenings in Edward's cafe, and Edward spent most nights in Carlisle's bed.

They hadn't had sex though. Edward, much to Carlisle's private pleasure, was rather inexperienced. And, despite the boy's increasingly persuasive attempts to convince him otherwise, Carlisle was reluctant to take his virginity.

One afternoon, however, Edward leaned over Carlisle's shoulder to whisper in his ear. "I think we should fuck. Tonight." Carlisle, who was marking papers at his usual corner table, stopped dead.

"What on earth for?" he managed after several seconds.

Edward rolled his eyes. "Should I draw you a chart? Or, I know. A list. I'll make you a list."

And without another word, the boy returned to his post at the cash register.

Ten minutes later, Edward slipped a scrap of paper on top of the lab report Carlisle was grading. There, scrawled quickly in blue ink, was the list.

You're sexy as hell.

My virginity is rather overrated.

Imagine how good I'll feel.

I'm exceptionally tired of waiting

I think I'm in love with you.

Carlisle took a deep breath and shifted uncomfortably. He was incredibly hard, and suddenly, for the life of him, he couldn't recall a single reason for waiting.

OoOoO

Once Edward closed, they walked to Carlisle's house together. Winter had gradually (and with a degree of stubbornness) faded to spring, and the night air was calm and mild. They didn't speak, but it was all Carlisle could do not to pull the boy into his arms or take him right there on the deserted sidewalk. Edward seemed to be having similar issues; he walked quickly, hands shoved into his front pockets.

The certainty of what they were about to do hung heavily between them, and the air felt charged with anticipation and excitement.

Edward, realizing he'd been holding his breath, exhaled sharply as Carlisle unlocked and opened the door. His hands were trembling.

Carlisle trailed a finger down Edward's spine, and then there was a mouth, peppering kisses along his cheek, his jaw, his neck.

Somehow they made it into the bedroom, arms entangled, lips pressed hotly together. And when Carlisle laid Edward out on the bed, he (once again) was amazed at how beautiful the young man was.

And for now, for tonight, he was his. It was almost enough to force the air out of his lungs.

They kissed slowly, urgently, tongues sliding against tongues, tracing teeth, lips.

"I want you, Edward," the other man breathed.

"I know."

Carlisle's fingers moved slowly, undoing the buttons of Edward's shirt. Then hands were at his waist, sliding the worn leather of his belt through buckle and loop. Edward gasped at the catch and pull, and raised his hips, as his pants were pulled down his thighs.

And then he was naked, and he was beautiful.

Their mouths found each other again, and their bodies, followed suit, as Edward fumbled, first with Carlisle's shirt, then trousers, desperately needing to feel skin on skin.

And when their cocks brushed for the first time, Edward tensed and bit his lip to keep from coming on the spot. But his hips jerked upwards again, then again, seeking contact, pressure, friction. And it was fantastic and maddening and perfect all at once. And Carlisle gasped this time, hips circling harder and harder still, while Edward's tongue licked at his shoulder and collarbone.

He pulled away, and Edward watched, transfixed, as Carlisle removed a small bottle from the bedside table, coated his fingers, warm and slick. "Relax," he breathed, settling between the boy's legs again.

His fingers were intrusive, uncomfortable at first, but patient and slow. And Edward's eyes were wide, and he gasped...couldn't look away, treasuring the images, sensations, emotions completely.

And when Carlisle slid inside him for the first time, face to face, sweat-warmed chest to sweat-warm chest, time seemed to stop...a thread stretched taut, held tight.

Edward tensed, breathed deep, relaxed again. ("Tell me if I hurt you...")

And Carlisle moved, slowly, gently. Perfect, perfect, and real. Edward moaned and twined his legs around the other man, pulling him closer, closer still. ("Oh God...Oh God...")

They wanted (had) everything.

Edward trembled underneath him, eyes squeezed shut tight. ("Carlisle...") And Carlisle's hand was on his cock (thick and hot), fisting it with each slow thrust.

He drew back, pushed forward smoothly again. In and in. And Edward's green eyes snapped open wide (as if surprised). Carlisle gaze held his, forcing the boy to look, as he thrust again.

Edward cried out as he came, spurting warm and slick over his hand.

It was beautiful, wonderful, perfect, as the boy shook beneath him, capturing Carlisle's mouth with his own.

And Carlisle slid his tongue against Edward's, pushed forward again, and came and came and came.

OoOoO

The semester was winding down. Edward had only a few days left of classes when he arrived at Carlisle's lab to find shelves bare and boxes stacked everywhere.

"What's this?"

Carlisle turned from his desk, a stack of journals in his arms. "I'm packing, Edward."

Edward closed his eyes, trying desperately to will away the feeling of dread. The truth was there, hovering between them, and it was terrifying and heart clenching and horridly unfair. It made his eyes burn and his chest ache.

"Edward," Carlisle's voice was soft. "You know I am a visiting professor. My term ends this semester."

"Oh."

This was it. He was leaving. It was over.

Edward took several steps backward, flattening his back against the wall. He felt flat, empty, without substance. The fluorescent light of Carlisle's classroom glared, but Edward felt dimmed. The atmosphere was suffocating, claustrophobic.

He took a deep breath, trying unsuccessfully to clear the pain and spin of the room out of his mind. Nausea rocked his system, and he couldn't remember how to breathe.

"Edward?" Carlisle's voice echoed faintly in his ears. "Tell me what's wrong."

How could he not know?

"I... You're... But I love you," he managed brokenly.

Carlisle looked at him, his expression unreadable.

"Where will you go?" Edward asked after several moments.

"You know, when I first found you, I was certain you were too good to be true," Carlisle spoke softly, carefully. "And then when you wanted me, I thought, certainly, I didn't deserve such happiness." He smiled wistfully. "I couldn't, for the life of me, understand what you saw in me. But there was something there...amazingly, inexplicably. And suddenly you were mine."

Edward held his breath, his world unraveling around him. Was he breaking up with him?

"And everyday," Carlisle continued, "I was sure you would wake up and come to your senses. Realize how incredibly wrong I was for you...and, I'd lose you. But instead—"

"Carlisle," Edward stopped him. "Where will you go?"

"You really do love me," the professor mused.

"You know I do."

"I need to finish my article. Get published if I ever hope to get a tenured position. It's been difficult to continue my research while teaching..."

"What.. What are you saying?"

"I could take some time off. Devote my time entirely to my writing, and—"

"And...?" Edward's heart was fluttering in his chest, but he couldn't...wouldn't get his hopes up.

"And you'll be done with school in a year." He smiled, a warm open smile. "And then we'll see."

Edward exhaled sharply and crossed the room in two long strides. Carlisle enveloped him readily in his strong arms. Edward melted against him, allowing the man's warmth and soothing presence to dissolve around him.

"You'll stay."

"I'll stay."

And he did.

a/n: Thank you for your votes and for your support. I am ecstatic with the reception this story has received.

xo Violet