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Story Name: A Simple Twist of Fate

Rating: M

Genre: Angst/Hurt/Comfort

Word Count: 5925

Summary: When Esme Evenson is rolled into the morgue in 1921, her heartbeat is faint. Suppose Carlisle doesn't change her, leaving Edward his sole companion. AU.

The curtains flutter and the scent of lilac wafts up and fills the room. Carlisle is motionless on the extraneous bed. He was silent when he came home at dawn from his shift at the hospital, not even greeting Edward the way he did everyday prior.

Edward was playing the piano – Debussy's Deux Arabesque – when Carlisle came in through the front door and trudged rather heavily up the stairs. It is an extravagance to have a grand piano in one's home in 1921, but Carlisle spoils his fledgling as much as possible. Today, though, today the lilt of hopeful melodies is too much. As soon as the thought passes through his mind, Debussy is cut off and Beethoven swirls in the air – Tempest Sonata. Even Edward's cheeky way of communicating provides no salve.

Moments after the last chord rings through the house, Edward is entering the spare bedroom that exists only for show. He is tentative as he approaches the bed with painstaking slowness. Eventually he sits at the foot, folding his legs awkwardly under himself. In many ways he is still 17. He looks at Carlisle expectantly, encouraged enough that Carlisle has not sent him out of the room, but too unsure to know how to proceed.

They sit in silence for a solid ten minutes. The sound of sparse but heavy raindrops hitting the roof provides the only noise. Edward's eyes search from Carlisle's stony face to the painting by Monet – an original – that hangs above the bed, to the window. From Edward's position, he cannot see the short tree teeming with purple flowers that only started blooming yesterday, the first sure sign that spring in the Midwest is finally intent on staying and summer is around the corner. He can, however, see the bright green leaves of the sugar maple getting sprinkled with rain.

He inhales deeply to enjoy the smell of spring, but he takes no pleasure in it. The scent that drifts into his nostrils is a ruse, like the calm before the storm.

Then, Carlisle speaks.

"I let her die." The words that had been running through his mind finally cross his lips in a whisper.

"Tell me," is Edward's gentle response, even though he already knows.

It took awhile before the boy managed to fully utilize and come into his abilities as a vampire. The first two years were very trying for both of them. Reconciling the incontrovertible desire for blood along with the infuriating symphony of voices in his head nearly drove Edward to the brink of insanity. In his weaker moments, Carlisle had considered booking passage on an ocean liner and taking Edward to the Volturi in Italy. They had experience with this type of ability. But then Carlisle's thoughts would turn to Aro and the cruel way his lips twisted when he sank his teeth into the neck of an innocent woman, and he couldn't do it.

"They took her to the morgue. Found her at the bottom of a steep drop-off north of the city."

Edward is silent. Of course, he already heard this information in Carlisle's thoughts. He is intuitive enough to know that his sire is stalling. The emotional burden he is obviously carrying is more than simply losing a patient or seeing a woman die.

"Her baby died of a lung infection two days ago."

"So..." Edward trails off. The question of the fall being accidental doesn't need to be spoken.

"I knew her. Ten years ago when I was in Columbus, a pretty girl of 16 came into the hospital with a broken leg. I set the bone for her in a cast. She was so sweet, innocent. She had ambitions of becoming a teacher. I can only imagine what her life became to do such a thing." His voice is heavy, his old world accent seeps into his speech.

Edward has no words, and so he moves forward on the bed, grasping Carlisle's hand in his in a move that is meant to be comforting. Carlisle's eyes soften almost imperceptibly at Edward's gesture. He had met enough of their kind to know the risk he took in changing Edward, especially at an age just barely an adult, but his fledgling has come into his own. With that thought, he finally feels ready to confess what Edward has already gleaned.

"I could have saved her, Edward. Just like you. I could have saved her." Carlisle removes his hand from Edward's soothing hold to bring it to his face.

"Why didn't you then?"

It is the obvious question, but it is the one Carlisle doesn't have an answer for and Edward knows it. They sit in silence again. The light rain is picking up, and the scent of damp moss mingles with the lilac. Edward's eyes don't stray this time, instead they settle on Carlisle's face still buried in his hands. The train of his thoughts is hard to follow, and Edward tries so hard not to pry. Instead he contents himself with silently reciting every bit of Italian he knows. Carlisle took him down to Chicago to see Rigoletto that winter, and he had been intent on learning the language ever since.

"She wanted to die."

She wanted to die. Edward hears the words repeated in Carlisle's thoughts, as if he is trying to convince himself of it as much as his trying to explain to Edward.

"It just felt wrong to play with her life that way. To force her to grieve the loss of her child for an eternity is more than I could bear. I suppose that was selfish of me." Carlisle's voice cracks as he continues. "Even though I respected her choice, I cannot help but feel I may have made a mistake."

Grief washes over Carlisle as the image of the beautiful woman comes again to the forefront of his mind. Her body was mangled by the fall, her caramel waves of hair were matted with blood and dirt, but her face retained only a small scratch across the cheek. Her eyes were still clear and glassy when Carlisle opened the lids. Her lips were deep pink, accentuated by her alabaster skin, and there was the faintest hint of a smile playing on them. She must have jumped backward off the cliff, looking up at the sky and not seeing the ground as it closed in on her. Eternity would have looked lovely on her. Instead, Carlisle held onto her cold, clammy hand as her heart came to a pitiful stop.

The storm picks up outside as Carlisle reminisces and regrets inside his mind. The howling wind is so strong that the rain falls almost horizontal. It begins to come through the open window, pelting the side of the bed. A few errant drops hit Edward himself, but he makes no move to close the window. The angry rain spurs him on, coinciding with the ire that has been building up since Carlisle last spoke.

A crack of lightning illuminates the darkening room and a roll of thunder replies almost immediately.

"You gave me no choice!" Edward finally shouts as the thunder rumbles to completion. His youthful petulance wins out over his genuine concern for his sire.

Carlisle's eyes widen in shock as he sits up sharply. He had never before heard Edward express such an idea. Even in the early days when Edward was struggling to maintain control, he only ever turned to Carlisle for guidance. He never seemed too concerned with his vampire condition. As soon as his desire for human blood grew bearable, he seemed rather fascinated by his new body and capabilities. Carlisle shakes off his own grief for the woman, realizing that perhaps he doesn't know his chosen companion as well as he thought.

Another clap of thunder rattles the old farm house. The shutters bang against the brick facade, and in spite of the crackling tension between them, Carlisle makes a mental note to see the house be properly repaired.

Edward's stare strips Carlisle of his musing, and he finally returns the boy's hard gaze.

"Do you wish I had not?" he asks the logical question.

"Make me understand," Edward demands in a cold tone that almost contradicts his unearthly youthful features. "Make me understand why it was the right thing to do to let her life pass in peace and to damn mine."

"Damn yours," Carlisle gasps. "You think I condemned you by turning you?"

He is aghast at the accusation, and he wonders how long it has been festering in Edward's thoughts.

"She sinned, Carlisle! It's in First Corinthians!" He recites, "'Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you.' She was damned anyway. She didn't repent."

Carlisle had forgotten that Edward's mother was a devout Catholic. It was no wonder one of the first books Edward read and memorized was the King James Bible. At least Carlisle knew quite a bit of what Edward was trying to reconcile. It had taken him decades, centuries really, of reading religious texts and philosophy and even talking to the old guard of the Volturi, in order to come to terms with the state of his soul. So much of his human life had completely faded from his memory, but the Anglican teachings of his father somehow managed to stick. He thought about the General Confession from his own long-ago destroyed Book of Common Prayer:

But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.

Spare thou them, O God, who confess their faults.

Restore thou those who are penitent.

"Edward," Carlisle's voice is calm and soothing. He reached out his hand to cover Edward's, but the boy yanks it away, springing from the bed and glowering angrily at Carlisle from the doorway. In spite of his umbrage, he still looks to his "creator," in body only six years his senior, for guidance.

"It took me a long time to come to a satisfactory answer to this question, and I have no doubt you will require your own investigation on the matter, but I will tell you what conclusion I have drawn."

Another crack of lightning illuminates the room. The sun should have been fully above the horizon by now, filling the room with brightness, but it remains dark. Edward stands motionless, his chest heaves with panic. Carlisle has always been generous, open and compassionate with him, and distrusting him feels wrong, but is there anything more important than the state of one's soul?

"I believe that both you and I, and all of our kind, are ensouled. I believe that God sees our acts and judges them the way he would any other creature's soul. The history of our origin is murky, but I cannot believe we came from the depths. I do not feel evil inside my heart."

"You have no heart," Edward spits out with vitriol.

Carlisle looks hard at Edward. His golden eyes are frantic, and Carlisle knows that if he doesn't handle this properly, Edward could turn down a dark road. He could end up exposing them, drawing out the Volturi, leaving Edward a prisoner for Aro to study or, worse, dead. Despite only three years together, Carlisle cannot imagine a life without his companion. Nearly three centuries spent alone were erased the moment Edward's agonizing transformation ended. Suffering through it alone was one thing, but having to watch Edward scream and writhe as his body died and his very humanity dissolved in venom were easily the three worst days Carlisle's entire existence.

"A metaphor, Edward, nothing more," Carlisle keeps his voice smooth. "I know sometimes you feel driven by thirst, but that is simply your nature. Is the hawk evil for killing the mouse?"

Edward finally looks calmer. His chest has stopped heaving, but the wind howls outside and it seems to fuel the anger that still courses through him. Still, his voice is steady, "We're not animals. We're not men. We're a miscreation! God doesn't make mistakes!"

"I don't believe that, Edward. Not anymore. If we can simply control our desire, think of the good our abilities can enable us to do. I've devoted my existence to helping save lives, not take them."

Edward is silent for a moment. Carlisle hopes that his words can penetrate the young man's stubborn disposition, but he is starting to lose heart. Change is a rare thing for a vampire. When eternity becomes reality, time loses all meaning. The sudden shift of having Edward in his life was something to which Carlisle had not fully adjusted. His life before was monotonous, spent buried in musty books as he tried to perfect his craft. With Edward, it seemed that everyday there was something new. Carlisle has not yet come close to learning the depths of Edward's mind, and he finds he enjoys the discovery, even as Edward grows difficult. He doesn't want it to end this way.

"You've told me yourself that you are alone in your convictions," Edward says, his voice is now thick like the humid air coming in as the storm outside begins to wane. "You say our kind are not abominations, but how can we be anything else? What if I cannot be like you. I want to murder people, Carlisle."

He knows he should confess to Carlisle that he sneaks out of the house to attend midnight mass. Carlisle doesn't like when Edward ventures among humans alone. It took Carlisle 200 years to get over the temptation of human blood, Edward has less than three to his name.

So he continues, "Every time I sit in the back pew during mass, all I want to do is leap over the row and tear into the necks of the people who sit in front of me. I want to pull the women out of their seats by their hair and bite into their exposed flesh. I want all of them, without discretion. The only thing that stops me is knowing what that makes me. It's torture. I have no other word."

Carlisle is shocked that Edward has been able to keep up this deception. "How long has this been going on?"

Edward has not lost himself so much that he cannot look sheepish. "Only a few months. I wanted to see. Well, I know it's foolish, but at first I wanted to see if I could pass through the doors of the house of God at all and to see if the holy water would burn."

"And does it?" Carlisle prompts gently, trying to capture Edward in a conversation that they can have rationally and calmly.

"No," Edward responds quietly. His eyes are at the floor and he refuses to lift his head to meet Carlisle's.

"Do you think you would be allowed in the house of the Lord if you were an abomination?"

Edward closes his eyes. He has thought about this, but it has provided little comfort to him. He used to feel at peace within the walls of his mother's church. The ritual sacraments strengthened Edward. Even though Carlisle told him over and over that his mother's last wish was to save his life, he could not imagine she would have been happy with the result, even if she could have fathomed that vampires walked unnoticed among men.

Edward doesn't have a good answer to the question, so he responds with his own, "Why did you change me? You were playing God. You were re-writing fate."

A bird – a sparrow – begins to sing in the tree nearest the house and the wind no longer rattles the windows. The smell of lilac is thicker than it was before the storm came through, and Carlisle suddenly finds it stifling.

"Would you care to join me in my study?" Carlisle asks. He feels a change of venue would help him gain his footing, and being close to his books couldn't hurt.

Edward nods and waits for Carlisle to take the lead, down the stairs and into the southeast corner of the house. Carlisle let Edward have the first pick of rooms in the house, knowing that he would want his own space, but he was grateful that Edward chose a different location. This room has three tall windows on each of two walls, and even with the overcast day, the room is bright enough to see without enhanced senses. Carlisle chooses not to sit behind his desk, instead sitting in one of the two mohair armchairs he recently purchased. Edward takes the other one, but he sits warily.

"There are many theories on fate, Edward," Carlisle begins, trying to gauge Edward's interest. This is a topic that Carlisle has read so much on, he could recite tomes of Marcus Aurelius, Spinoza and his countryman Hobbes.

Edward searches Carlisle's thoughts, and he knows his interests are genuine. Though Carlisle wants Edward to agree with him on the matter, he will respect whatever conclusion Edward comes to. It's this unfailing respect and compassion that both confuses him and keeps him from leaving. He nods at Carlisle to continue.

"Not everyone believes in predestination. God is the creator, but consider that He might not decree all our actions in advance. We might have free will to act as we wish. You don't believe I am one of God's creatures, but if he grants free will, then I am not interrupting His plans."

Edward appears to ponder the idea, but his face quickly turns sour. "This sounds almost like blasphemy, as if you are saying God ignores us."

"It's called Deism. God is still deemed the creator, but do you denythat He gave us reason and the ability to choose? How else can He evaluate our actions as sin if He doesn't give us the option?"

A second bird joins the first in the maple tree. Its song is the only noise in the room, and Carlisle hopes the chirping is a sign that the storm has truly passed, bringing with it true calm. The truth of the matter, though, is that Edward is walking the ridgepole and Carlisle fears he will fall. Edward sits stony still, his fingers digging into the armchair, cutting the upholstery with his nails. Carlisle watches his eyes, and the moment they harden, he knows that Edward has lost his balance.

"I don't want this," Edward says with conviction. "It's doesn't matter what you say. I'm still a monster, and nothing can change that!"

He topples from the edge. He is on his feet and rushing out of the room, Carlisle instinctively moves to follow. Edward grabs his overcoat from the rack near the front door before Carlisle can truly comprehend his sudden shift in demeanor. Forever a teenager, even one mature beyond his years, Carlisle has to wonder how complicated it must be inside Edward's head.

"Where are you going?" Carlisle demands, still unsure if and how he can stop the boy.

"To be the monster I am," Edward's voice is an angry hiss.

Then he is out of the house like a bullet from a pistol, and Carlisle sinks to his knees.

He could track Edward with relative ease, but he cannot stop him from doing what he wants. He aches at the thought of Edward self-destructing. He went through the same struggle, and for better or worse, he knows that if there is any hope of Edward returning, he has to let him go now and make his mistakes. He can only hope he does not err beyond the point of repentance.

Edward does not stop running until he reaches the city of his birth. The miles vanish quickly with his inhuman speed. It is midday when he reaches downtown, but the sky is still overcast so he can blend in. He is still surprised and confused and hurt that his sire didn't follow him.

He stalks through the city, keeping his coat wrapped tightly around him and the collar up. He wishes he had thought to bring a hat. He only remembers to slow his pace when he hears a boy mention to his mother how fast he is moving. He has only been away from the city for three years, but already it looks different. The ratification of Prohibition has some people on edge. Edward hears the clandestine meetings being planned, secret shipments being delivered, and policeman thinking about spending their bribes.

Is everyone a sinner?

He walks until the street becomes familiar. He freezes when he sees his old school teacher hurrying down the street. She won't recognize him, he knows, but he ducks into an alleyway regardless. She passes moments later, but Edward remains in the alley. He knows now why Carlisle took him away from the city as soon as he was turned. It wasn't simply to be closer to wildlife to hunt. Eventually everyone in this city who knew Edward Masen will be dead.

Edward will always be the same.

"Carlisle," he whispers to the empty alley.

The wind swirls a newspaper at Edward's feet. The front that had brought the early morning storm to Wisconsin has not finished its trek. Edward squares his shoulders and continues on his planned route. This time he keeps his eyes trained to the ground in front of his feet. Eventually he turns down Orleans St. and he arrives at his destination.

In a city full of bustling, changing life, St. Joseph's still looks the same with its steeple jutting into the sky. Edward enters through the front door that opens into the sanctuary. He feels a compulsion to seek out a priest. It has been three years since he last said the Act of Contrition, but he isn't sure what he could confess.

Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It's been three years since my last confession, and these are my sins. I died and came back as demon. I lust for what I should not want. I have murderous thoughts, and Father, even the scent of your blood tempts me.

Instead, Edward goes to the back row of pews and kneels in prayer. He doesn't know if his voice is still heard, but the ritual provides a temporary comfort. It is only when he hears footsteps nearing the sanctuary that he remembers his condition. He flees the church quickly and heads toward the lake. It is obvious a storm is coming. Having lived near the water his whole life, Edward knows Lake Michigan only looks this angry before bad weather. He walks north along the shore, trying not to think about Carlisle. His fury and frustration with the older vampire are gone. He is furious with himself instead.

He has never had a moment of regret for being turned into Carlisle's eternal companion, quite the opposite, and it was for that alone he wanted to repent.

Instead of running from their home like a child, he should have stayed. He just didn't want to hear Carlisle's words. He wasn't ready to believe them, because they rang so false in his ears. Even so, he shouldn't have left. He should have turned to his piano instead, playing an angry sonata – Schumann's in G minor – that Carlisle would understand. Instead he fled like a coward, and Carlisle let him go, preoccupied with the woman he let die. The sky darkens and Edward's mood goes with it. His footfalls grow heavier, and the angrier he grows, the more he seems to notice the scent of blood.

Back at the farmhouse in Wisconsin, Carlisle is frantic. The whole day he spends pacing around the house, making a loop through the ground floor and then upstairs and back down. Edward's scent lingers in every room, and Carlisle regrets every word that pushed him over the edge. He feels like a failure. The young man he gave eternity to is suffering the same as Carlisle did so long ago in the 17th century.

He remembers what it was like, dropping himself from great heights, drinking poisons that killed monarchs, trying to drown himself in the icy waters of the North Sea. The years of wandering in solitude would have been so much more bearable if he had one of his own kind at his side. Was he condemning Edward to the same loneliness by trying to let him learn from his mistakes? A horrible foreboding washes over him.

Eight hours after Edward flew out the door in a rage, Carlisle finally follows.

As dusk begins to fall in the city, Edward finds himself on Broadway. He knows from the current of thoughts streaming around him that the Green Mill Gardens is a hotspot for untoward activity, and he finds himself drawn to its seedy clientele and the promise of the best jazz in the city. Carlisle has a victrola, but it isn't easy to get phonograph records in Wisconsin.

The password is easy to pluck from a passerby's thoughts, and though he gets a peculiar look at the door, Edward soon finds himself tucked in a back corner of a cocktail lounge. He orders a martini that he doesn't drink and cannot pay for, but he sits with his hand wrapped around it stunned by the ideas and conversations that swirl around him. He forgets to move sometimes, to make the small human movements that Carlisle insists he practice, so as not to draw attention to himself. When the band comes on, though, it is easy to tap his foot along with the beat.

Apparently, the crowd is thinner than usual due to the threat of the incoming storm. Edward tries to focus on the music and enjoy himself. He lowers his face closer to his martini, the scent of alcohol tickles his nostrils enough to slightly dull the scent of blood, but it's the voices that are too much. Speakeasies draw a colorful crowd, and Edward hears all their secrets.

One voice stands out above the rest. The man is sitting three tables down from Edward. His hair is slicked back and his suit is of the latest cut. He is boasting to his compatriots about a hit that is taking place tonight, but when they aren't looking, Edward sees him nervously checking his pocket watch. Except he isn't nervous with guilt, he is trembling with anticipation. At 10 o'clock, he is meeting a man in the alley behind the lounge. The other man thinks a transfer of goods is taking place.

When the man gets up to leave, Edward follows. He goes easily unnoticed, staying in the shadows. The smoke in the bar from men's cigars and women smoking cigarettes through long holders helps to cloak his graceful movements. He steps outside of the lounge, pausing so the man does not notice he is being followed. The rain is already falling heavy. It would probably be cold, if Edward could still feel.

He creeps slowly to the edge of the building. He can hear the gangster pacing in the alley, checking his pocket watch as a force of habit, even though it is too dark to see. He wasn't carrying a Chicago typewriter, the submachine gun would have been too bulky to hide under his coat. Instead he carries a .38 revolver he nicked off a cop. A face appears in his thoughts, and Edward knows it is the target. The sick thoughts that follow are almost too much for Edward to take. The man is relishing in the thought of the bullet piercing flesh.

Soon, Edward can pick out the "voice" of another man dwelling on his apprehension. He is carrying more money on his person than he has ever seen before in his life, and he worries that he is about to fall into a police trap. It happened to a guy his cousin knows, but the deal he's getting on the liquor is worth the risk. It never crosses his mind that his life is what he is risking.

Edward catches up to him two blocks from the Green Mill. He sneaks up behind the man and locks his arm around around his neck.

"Leave now. Go home. It's a sting," he whispers sharply into the man's ear.

The man's warm body trembles, and it's all Edward can do not to bite his neck for a taste. He resists, having already chosen his first real meal.

"Do it!" Edward says more forcefully, releasing the man as he does so. The man doesn't even turn around to look, he flees in the direction from which he came. It isn't his night to die.

Edward walks back toward the speakeasy, making his steps heavy enough to be heard. The man in the alley hears and grips his gun in anticipation. His eyes widened when it is Edward who appears in the alley.

The "go away, kid" dies on his lips as soon as he sees the gleam of Edward's sharp teeth. There is no time for begging or repentance, Edward has had the scent of this man's blood in the forefront of his mind all night. The monster in him takes over, and in a quick move, the man is pinned against the side of the building.

There is no hesitation as Edward sinks his teeth into the man's jugular. The taste of human blood is overwhelming. It is hot and viscous. It invades his senses like a spreading fire. This is what he craves. This is what he needs. All the deer in the world cannot compare to this moment, and Edward finally feeds with his instinct.

The part of him that is still Edward, though, is horrified. Thou shalt not kill. Everything Edward was ever taught as a boy is being erased. All of the compassion that Carlisle, his maker, has tried to teach him is vanishing in the sweet taste of blood. He is ending the life of a man – a bad man, but still a man – one of God's helpless, feeble creations. He gave this man no choice and no chance for absolution.

He wasn't a monster until this moment.

He tosses the body down in the alley in disgust and his body starts to crumble.

"Why?" Edward screeches as the heavy rain rolls off his body.

Suddenly Carlisle's arms wrap around him. He doesn't have Edward's ability, but he sensed that his fledgling needed him and tracked his scent to the alley. He will never forgive himself for arriving too late. As much as Edward needs this lesson, it still hurts Carlisle profoundly. The victim lies in the alley, the blood running between the cobblestones, turning the mortar a deep red. The scent hangs in the air, but Carlisle sits down right in the middle of the alley and pulls Edward into his lap. Even though they are two grown men of roughly the same size, he rocks back and forth as if Edward is a child awoken from a nightmare.

Incapable of tears, Edward still sobs into Carlisle's already soaked chest, trying to lose the scent of blood from his mind and replacing it with the clean scent of starch that lingers in Carlisle's shirt.

"You didn't hear his thoughts, Carlisle," he whispers, needing to justify. It is imperative to him that Carlisle understand.

"You don't have to explain a thing to me," Carlisle replies, unable to keep the sadness from his voice.

"I'm a hypocrite. I did exactly what I accused you of. I chose what only God should decide." A roll of thunder is heard in the distance, and to Edward it almost sounds like a response to his confession.

"Is that why you left?" Carlisle cannot help but ask. "Because you were so angry with me?"

Edward lets out a cry as if he is in pain.

"You feel guilty for creating me! I could hear it in your thoughts."

"No, Edward. No!" Carlisle clutches Edward tighter. "My only guilt is that I couldn't save your human life."

Edward's only response is to press his cheek against his sire's chest. The turn of events this day have changed everything. He almost wishes that Carlisle could hear his thoughts. He thinks all kinds of promises – never again to drink human blood, never again to leave – but he is unable to speak them.

"I don't regret you, Edward." Carlisle murmurs as he brings up a hand to stroke Edward's wet hair. "I could never regret you."

The one question that Edward has been too afraid to ask for months finally crosses his lips with a whisper.

"How could you want such a monster?"

It hits Carlisle with the force of a train. All of Edward's reactions. The way he seemed almost jealous as Carlisle spoke of Esme. The worrying about sin and the state of his soul. Now he understands.

This is the moment that will change them both for eternity.

"I'll always want you." The words roll off Carlisle's tongue with exacting clarity, as if they were meant for him to say.

In 278 years of existence on the earth, Carlisle is positive that Edward's choked exhale is the most beautiful sound he has ever heard. He has a sudden urge to show Edward just how little regret and how much want he has, and so he presses his lips, wet with the rain, to Edward's neck. When Edward shivers in response, Carlisle knows it is not due to the chilly rain. He continues to caress Edward's neck with his mouth, until Edward finally lifts his head. Even in the darkness of the alley, Carlisle can see the red tinting Edward's irises, but he is still perfection.

In the rain their lips press together.

It is frantic and needy and anyone foolish enough to be out in the storm would only see a blur arms and lips as two young men attempt to touch each other everywhere. The rain has soaked their clothes so it clings to their hard skin. Carlisle thinks about the way Edward's body would feel pressed against him, skin on skin, and it is enough to get the younger man reaching for his buttons.

"Edward," Carlisle gasps, coming to his senses enough to keep him from ending nearly three centuries of chastity in an alley next to a dead man during a thunderstorm. "Not here."

Edward returns to the moment and his eyes widen in shock.

"I'll take care of everything. Just give me a moment." Carlisle orders as he and Edward both stand.

Edward nods and turns out of the alley quickly, grateful that Carlisle turned up when he did. He hears a gunshot fired and then Carlisle is beside him.

"Run," Carlisle insists in Edward's ear.

Edward does.

Together they run north toward home, letting the rain pour over them, washing away their guilt and their anger. There are many theories on fate. Some think choices are anything but and others think choices are all we have. As the city streets turn into yet-tamed forests, Edward finally knows he is loved, and that, he thinks, is what counts.