AN: Many thanks to nowforruin and smexy4smarties for their fab beta skills.

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This is an AU fic with an OOC Edward. You have been warned.

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Triptych: Nosophorus

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This was how the whole mess began.

I was tracking a mountain lion. Alice called it playing with my food, but I needed the challenge. It kept me from metaphorically slitting my wrists out of boredom. At the very least, it was something to do that was mercifully free of that pesky buzz of human that was ever-present when I wasn't deep in the forest.

When everything is effortless, life is boring. Knowing what my family was going to say before they said it, hearing all of the filthy, wretched, depraved thoughts people have. Being too fast, too smooth, too pretty; it was too much. I stopped caring. Why should I? There wasn't anything for me to care about.

My next meal was slinking along the ridge. She was stalking her prey, and I was stalking mine. I had become so engrossed in the lioness that I lost track of where I was. I didn't realize how close I had gotten to the treaty line, or that I was a hair's breadth away from crossing it.

Eyeing the cat, I chanted to her, "So close, just a moment longer and you'll be mine."Suddenly, her ears perked up, her demeanor changed, and she turned to look at figure coming out of the cluster of trees to our left.

As if he was an illusion made from the swirling fog, he appeared from between the tree trunks. I should have caught his presence long before, but my focus had been honed in completely on her.

Yet another reason why hunting was my favorite activity: the world just slipped away while I was preoccupied. I didn't have to hear any nonsense about who loved who, or how their pants fit, or why they were angry, sad, or whatever. It was just her and me-and now him.

I'd never seen him before. He was young—too young—and alone. He crept along the ancient trees, obviously searching for some quarry of his own. His head was held low and his eyes carefully studied the forest floor. I had spent too much time following him, and once I remembered why I was there, she had disappeared into the wet mist that hung in the air like a constant presence.

I could have tried picking up the trail again, but I wasn't really that hungry, and he was much more fascinating. There would always be more blood, but he was new, and that intrigued me.

Without thinking, I stepped forward. A branch broke beneath my feet, and his head snapped up, trying to locate the source. I had already climbed up into the canopy of the fir next to me before I broke his concentration, so he didn't see me. He knew something was nearby though, and I could see the hairs on his tanned forearm standing at attention.

"Who's there?" he called out.

His deep voice echoed throughout the darkened glen. The forest didn't give him an answer and neither did I.

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IiIiIiI

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I didn't follow him home that day. I wanted to, and the wanting of anything surprised me; it had been so long since I had felt the desire to do anything besides feed. Instead, I made my way back to the house. I loped through the forest, running an infinite number of possibilities through my mind. Alice couldn't know about him—no one could.

When I reached my destination, it was blessedly silent. They must have still been out. Before I had left, Jasper had felt my hunger and spread it to all of them. He knew my frustration had been building for weeks and gave me this gift of solitude. He was aware of how precious little of it there was for me. I'd have to repay him the favor.

One kind of hunger often led to another, and I knew that I would have the house to myself for the rest of the evening. They were my chosen family, but I often knew way more about them than anyone should about their parents or siblings, adopted as we were. Despite my own lack of sexual experience, I was, against my will, a fount of knowledge about every conceivable position, possible kink, and secret desire.

Emmett would joke about how when I did find my "special lady" she'd be a very lucky woman indeed. I seriously doubted that. No one knew better than I what a miserable asshole I truly was.

Tanya had tried a few times to get me in her bed, but I could tell that her heart wasn't really into it, and that it was more out of sympathy than anything else. How embarrassing that she thought a pity fuck would be what I wanted. No, thank you. I'd rather just rely upon myself, like I had been for decades. No muss, no fuss.

Out of habit, I immediately went up to my room, and started to turn my stereo on. It helped to cover up the unceasing chatter I heard day in and day out. Before I pressed the button, I realized that there was no need. If I could have felt anything at all, it would have been relief. Instead, I felt nothing.

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IiIiIi

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Another day, another night, endless. When you're young, you think that you're going to live forever. I did. It's not nearly as great as you think it'll be. You assume you'll have time to do and see everything you ever wanted. You think of time as a gift that you've earned just by the mere fact of existing. It's more like an infinite loop of sameness.

At first, everything was an adventure, but after a century of existence, the days bled together and nothing mattered anymore. There were periods of war, periods of peace, the sun rose and it set, and eventually I ceased to pay attention. It was all going to happen again anyway, just like it had all happened before.

I had spent the evening thinking about him, who he might be, how he got to my part of the forest, and why I was so infuriatingly interested in him. For the first time ever, a human held my attention for longer than a brief moment. Most people bored me. They all thought the same things, made the same decisions over and over. For some reason, he was different. It bothered me that I couldn't name why.

Eventually, they all came home. I could hear them on their way back, so I had to stop obsessing about my mysterious stranger, lest Alice or Jasper sense it. To throw them off, I replayed my hunt in my head, trying to not feel anything outside of the normal blood lust.

It was just enough time to turn on whatever was on my iPod, a thoughtful, yet redundant gift from Esme. I'd heard it all before, so I didn't care what was playing. It just had to be something to drown out the noise.

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High school. I hated it. So many voices and all at once. Occasionally, one was vaguely amusing for a short while, but for the most part, they were like small, little yappy dogs—harmless, yet extremely irritating. More than anything, I wished I had stayed home "sick" today, but I knew that it would be one too many absences and just bring unnecessary attention to us, so I didn't bother.

Sometimes, not making decisions at all was the best way to get by. It kept Alice away, so I employed that strategy often. If you didn't want or need anything, it was a wasted effort to choose something. The world lay at my feet, and I didn't want a damned thing in it.

Life was so much simpler when I let things fall as they may. Nothing was my problem, and therefore I wasn't to blame. No responsibility and no complications.

I trudged along to Biology for the umpteenth time. By now, I could teach the class forwards, backwards and in five different languages, one of which was ancient Greek. But why would I? It wasn't like anyone would understand me or care to anyway. Clearly, I've been spending way too much time with teenagers.

For the next fifty-three agonizing minutes, I had to pretend like I didn't know how to identify the stages of cellular growth and be fascinated by whatever misguided lesson plan Banner had for us today. At least I could look forward to not having a lab partner to roll my eyes at.

Goddamnit.

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IiIiIiI

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To clear my head, and avoid all of the unasked questions from my family about the new student the whole school was abuzz about, I slipped into the forest alone instead of returning home with them. Maybe I wouldn't come back this time; I wondered if they'd miss me.

Once again, I ended up toeing the Quileute boundary line. Now that I was alone, my mind drifted back to the man-boy I had seen in the forest. His skin was olive-toned and his hair was sleek, dark, and pulled back into a band. He was obviously familiar with the woods and looked like he came from nearby.

Perhaps, if I waited, I could catch a glimpse of him again. I hoisted myself up into a tree. I could be patient. It was easy when time was all you had.

I didn't know how long I stayed there. I zoned out for a while, thinking about nothing in particular, which was a kind of freedom in and of itself. My thoughts were interrupted by a low oath and the sudden explosion of fluttering birds. My ears perked up and I opened my eyes to make out the figures below me in the dim green of the forest. I heard voices.

"Dude, watch where you're going! You walked right into me."

"Maybe if you hadn't stopped in the middle of the path, that wouldn't have happened."

"I thought I smelled something."

"Are you sure it wasn't you?"

"Shut the fuck up, Jake."

After some carefully choreographed missed punches and feints, they went off in the direction of the water. He had a name now, and I knew who, or rather, what he was.

If I believed in a god, I'd think he was fucking with me.

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IiIiIiI

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Despite myself, I couldn't stay away. Every night, I'd find myself drawn to that same spot, hoping to see Jake again. Some days I did and others I didn't. I stayed hidden up in the trees, silent like a predator waiting to leap onto its unsuspecting prey.

I anxiously waited and dreaded his appearance. Part of the allure was the forbidden nature of my desire, but the other part, a deeper, more terrifying part, was the pull of Jake himself.

My new-found feelings worried me. I didn't care that he was a man-boy, as I was. I had seen enough of human nature to not be surprised by much anymore. Need was need, regardless of gender or social mores.

No, it wasn't that he was who he was, but that he was what he was, a son in a long line of shape-shifters. He hadn't changed yet but would soon. I could smell the unmistakable whiff of his kind's unique scent on him. I didn't know how I missed that before. It frightened me that it almost didn't matter.

I'd never looked at anyone like this, with—I'd named it now— desire. Hearing everyone's thoughts was about as big a turn-off as body odor, and there was plenty of that too. His I didn't mind so much; it was deep and earthy, reminiscent of the forest. In my cradle of tree branches, I would daydream about what it would be like to bury my nose in his skin.

He was special. That's what everyone says—believe me, I've heard it before— but in this case, it was true. His thoughts were clear and focused. Jake was precise and open. From what I knew of him, he said what he thought; few people actually did that. They all worked so hard to keep their true selves hidden, their disgusting thoughts to themselves. He wasn't like them.

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IiIiIiI

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I used to think that I was better than them and the masks that they would wear every day to hide behind. Turns out, I was just the same. I was using her to get to him. I knew that they were reacquainted and that their fathers were lifelong friends. Hell, the beater she drove around smelled like them. The whole situation was only bearable because I couldn't hear her, at all.

Miraculous as that was, I could still only be with her for short bursts of time. I let her think that it was because of the depth of my attraction to her, but the real reason was that I was disgusted with myself and what I'd become.

She was the perfect cover. Her presence explained the lust that was now constantly rolling off me in waves and the fact that my future suddenly became uncertain. When I left the house at night, I let them think that I was at Bella's watching over her while she slept. It wasn't her bedroom where I could be found in the early hours, nor was it her heartbeat that I was listening to.

As each day passed, it became harder and harder for me to step back when his shadow moved too near to mine, to prevent myself from brushing his silken hair out of his face while he slumbered, to keep silent about my secret obsession.

Life was reaching epic levels of complications, and for once, I was the one to blame.

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IiIiIiI

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We spent much of the summer together. She had used most of our time trying to get our clothes off. Hers or mine; she wasn't particular. Although I couldn't read her mind, I knew her tells: the flushed cheeks, the glazed eyes, her refusal to look straight at me. I had managed to slip out of her scarily fragile arms each time so far, but she wasn't stupid.

She knew something was going on. Even without supernatural abilities, she was surprisingly observant for a human, or maybe I was just that transparent. I could have tried more to keep her under my thrall, but it just didn't seem fair. I felt badly enough for her as it was.

Alice had become so entwined in the poor girl's life that I began to worry about making my all-too necessary exit. When Bella and I weren't together, Alice was by her side, whispering in her ear and encouraging her seduction attempts. Everyone thought that she was my singer, and I let them. It was easier that way. How did I become so full of deception? I barely recognized myself.

Every time I closed my eyes, I saw him behind my lids. He wasn't aware of me, but I knew where he went every night, what he dreamt about, and how he moved in his sleep. I was as intimately familiar with his body, voice, and thoughts as he was. I was in way too deep, and I didn't care. I wanted to get even deeper.

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IiIiIiI

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I was out hunting again. I knew that I wouldn't be able to hide this secret from my family much longer. I didn't want to stop my nightly pilgrimages, nor did I want anyone else to find out about them. They were on to me though.

Jasper raised his eyebrow at me questioningly when I said I was going out tonight, the fourth time in as many days. I responded like a bratty teen, "What? I'm hungry." Then I left. It took everything for me not to slam the door off of its hinges on my way out.

I really did mean to find something to take my mind off things. Instead I found myself up in a tree—"my" tree, now that I've spent so much time in it—that edged the line. It was dangerous. I'd been in this exact place so many times that I knew which pine needles were on which side of the boundary.

From up here, I could see the entire forest, but most importantly I could see into his room. It wasn't much, just a sliver of light through the tree branches. If I crooked my head just the right way, I could see his sleeping form moving in his bed, the sheets twisting around him until his bronzed torso was revealed. I could hear his thoughts dancing from subject to subject in his dreaming state.

I had thought that if I fed this infatuation that it would eventually get old and I'd move on to something, or someone, else. Maybe I could make myself feel something for the girl. She had a sweet face. But it wasn't sweetness that I longed for or her soft skin that I wanted to touch. I needed hardness, tautness, strength. Her weak body was but a poor substitute.

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It was inevitable, and if Alice had been paying any sort of attention at all, she would have seen it coming. I wonder if she thought it would cement Bella's status in our family. The idea of having to spend the rest of my undead existence pretending to love her was enough to set me in motion to save us both.

I now had my perfect excuse to disappear. It was too dangerous for us to be around her, for her, myself and my family. We risked exposure, she risked death, and I risked even more damnation.

My life had become a soap opera, and I was ready to shed it like a superfluous layer of skin. I wasn't ready to leave him, though. The very thought of it made my heart hurt. I didn't think that was possible anymore.

So, I made no choice.

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This is the last time, I swore to myself as I swam near his family's property. The water I was treading was dangerous indeed, too close to the edge, just like me.

From my vantage point, I could see straight into the bedroom that barely contained him. How I longed to break him free of his confined space and take him back into the overgrown forest behind his house where he truly fit in. I had imagined doing just that for so long that I had to convince myself that it was just a fantasy and not a memory.

The light was on in his room; it glowed faintly out into the inky night. A faint rustling came from his direction. He was home and awake. I wouldn't have to go searching for him in the woods tonight. I focused my concentration more on him and less on my precarious location in the waves.

His heartbeat came to me from across the salt water. It was progressing faster and faster, and then I recognized the other rhythmic thumping for what it was. I was all too familiar with it myself.

Even in my position, treading water, I felt my dick hardening and pressing against the fly of my pants. I had always denied myself this when "observing" him, as I liked to call it, but having reached the limits of my frustration and desire, I undid the buttons and took my length into my hand.

Images ran through his mind as I stroked myself to the same beat that he created. A flash of anonymous breasts, a glimpse of a creamy thigh, a bare shoulder, the juncture where the neck met her body. I shut my eyes and thought of him, the drop of sweat rolling down his jaw, the curve of his ass, the shell of his ear, the musculature of his chest.

We both began to tense. His quiet moaning became groans that he bit back for fear of being found out. I had no such qualms. I was too far out for anyone to hear me.

Just as he started to pulse in his hand, he thought of her and the name that he whispered was hers.

Unthinkingly I called out, growling, unable to hold back my orgasm. His head snapped to the window, and his eyes locked onto mine. I had floated too close. I had let the waves and my need control me, and I was set adrift without realizing it.

His face widened in understanding and shock. Afraid to move, I watched him as he pulled his clothes on and ran out the door, trying to catch me. I was gone before his feet stepped on the porch. He saw me, he knew who I was, what I had done, and he hated me for it.

The only fucking choice I had made in decades had led me to this.

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Alice found me packing after my last encounters with them both. I was headed to South America for a badly needed fresh start. To keep me from leaving, she showed me a vision of Bella, curled up and alone in the forest. She thought that it would change my mind. She was wrong.

Whatever guilt or blame she was trying to make me feel wasn't mine because I had made no real decision. I didn't have a choice. I was trapped.

It was time for me to go.