A/N: This story was an entry for the CarlWard contest, sponsored by Capricorn75. I feel honored that my little story should stand among so many fabulous entries.
I also want to send a great big "thank you" to the most amazing WoodLily for being my beta for this story. I am truly fortunate to be on the receiving end of her editorial talents! I urge everyone who reads this to check out her latest in-progress work entitled "Fox Fire". Thanks also to my pre-readers, Marcy and Cindy, for their suggestions and support.
"No," he growled, as he tore through the forest. "That can never happen." He threaded himself through the trees, praying that the speed of his retreat would somehow unweave his thoughts and set them floating away into the night, into nothingness, where they belonged.
The wind rushed past his ears and pummeled his face like waves crashing against stone. He wished the wind could tear at him, break him into pieces, and send him crumbling into the abyss. He deserved such treatment, considering what he had done. But he knew from experience that such a kind release was impossible. The realization caused his feet to falter and, finally, to stop.
He stood still for a moment, listening to the heavy rhythm of his breathing as the air moved in and out of his lungs. Finally, he inhaled deeply and tasted the air. The scent of spring sap and damp earth filtered through his nose and rested against his palate. He breathed again and was ashamed at the relief he felt when he found that the sharp, spicy scent of nutmeg was gone.
He glanced up at the sky as a thin scrim of clouds brushed by the full moon. Silvery light touched the treetops, glittered through the swaying boughs, and cast shadows across the forest floor. Up ahead, a soft light glimmered through a break in the trees and he moved toward it, ghosting through the pines until he found himself standing at the edge of a large pond. He closed his eyes as shallow waves licked at his bare toes and his heels sank into the soft mud.
For the first time in nearly three hundred years, Carlisle wished to God that he could be alone again. He understood solitude. He was familiar with the shape of it; he knew its shadows and could plumb its depths as deftly as any cartographer charting a lakebed. Solitude was safe.
Edward was not.
"I never should have changed him," he confessed.
He felt his knees give out beneath him as those words tumbled through his brain, repeating like a destructive mantra, reminding him of his selfishness.
In his mind's eye, he saw again his simple room on Michigan Avenue. It contained the three pieces of furniture he had carried with him from one town to the next for nearly one hundred years: the overstuffed wing-back chair near the fireplace, the small mahogany secretary desk sitting before the window, and the narrow bed nestled against the far wall. The first two were functional pieces, but the third had only been for show, on display in the rare event a human were to enter his flat. It had gone unused for almost a century before that fateful day.
He exhaled a shaky breath. Once again, he felt the shape of Edward's burning body pressed against his chest as he gently lowered him onto that bed. He felt the slick heat of Edward's sweat as he ran his icy hand across the boy's brow and down along his cheek, unable to stop himself as his fingers traced those perfect lips. Again, he drew his nose along the contours of Edward's neck, nearly overcome by the musky, spicy, slightly sour scent of him. Again, he heard Edward's low, raspy groan as his pulse quickened and stuttered. And, once more, he heard his own voice whisper, "So beautiful," just before his teeth tore into that hot, glorious flesh, and his throat convulsed as he struggled not to swallow the sweet blood that flooded his mouth.
"No more," he whispered firmly, shaking his head free of the memory. He swiped his hand down his face and swallowed. He had to collect himself before Edward found him here, hidden amongst the reeds, knees covered in mud. He grunted out a laugh. This wasn't where he had planned on spending the night.
He glanced down at his hands and could almost feel the rough edges of the wood he'd held in them not ten minutes before. He wondered if the fire had gone out. It had become his custom since Edward's turning to build a fire at twilight. Though neither of them required its heat, the flickering flames chased back the dark shadows in their cabin and created a soothing atmosphere. It was most welcome during Edward's first, volatile, months as a newborn.
Carlisle's body stiffened as his palms curled into fists of stone. It had been a difficult seven months . . . for both of them.
Edward's thirst had been nearly insatiable from the start, and they had spent countless hours racing through the forest in search of blood. Carlisle was staggered by the boy's speed as he flew through the forest during those hunts, his feet barely brushing the ground as he gave himself over to his most primal instincts. He had never seen anything more captivating than the moment Edward finally fell upon his prey, his body quivering as he surged forward, snapping the beast's sweat-drenched neck, and pressing his lips to its pulsing jugular.
On most hunts, Carlisle stood at a respectable distance as Edward feasted, keeping watch in case any human inadvertently wandered too near. He struggled not to stare as Edward's lips trembled against the rush of blood that filled his mouth, or at how his throat pulsated with each deep, satisfying swallow. He tried not to focus on the way the growl that rumbled deep inside Edward's chest transformed into a moan as, finally sated, he released his grip on the animal and shoved it away. He fought to undo the knot that twisted deep inside his belly as Edward rose to face him, licked the glistening blood from his lips, and smiled.
Then there were times like tonight, when Edward's simmering frustration with his new existence boiled over into a fury. Carlisle had just started to place the logs for that night's fire, when he heard the sudden, harsh scratch of a chair against the wooden floor. He turned from his work to find Edward pacing, the copy of The Count of Monte Cristo trembling in his hands. In an instant, the book flew through the air, and he instinctively ducked his head. He heard the sizzling crack of the mirror above the mantle-piece as it broke into a thousand pieces and rained down upon his back.
"You bastard!" Edward screamed, as Carlisle rose to face him. He could almost feel the vibration of Edward's body from across the room, quaking with rage.
"You lied to me," Edward accused. His ruby-flecked eyes flashed like fire. "You said you would save my father—that you would save us all."
Edward surged forward and Carlisle stepped back.
"I trusted you!" Edward cried, wrapping his hands like vices around the wingback chair in front of him. Carlisle flinched as the chair's frame cracked. He prepared himself for another assault, but Edward suddenly released his grip and began to pace again, turning in aggravated circles around the room.
"You played the part of the expert doctor, but you were just a fraud. You couldn't save us. You couldn't save anyone!"
Before Carlisle could submerge the memory, his flat on Michigan Avenue materialized in his mind. He saw the two of them lying face to face on the bed. He felt Edward's body thrash in agony against his own restraining arms and then suddenly grow still. He heard the sharp intake of Edward's breath as his crimson eyes opened and traced the room. He felt the strange, giddy rush of joy flush through him as Edward's gaze finally met his own and he heard Edward whisper, "It's you."
"You didn't save me!" Edward railed, pulling Carlisle back to the present. "You condemned me. I'm trapped in this body, a prisoner to this . . . this thirst." He twisted his fingers through his hair, grasping at it as if the action would somehow ease his mental anguish.
Finally, he came to a halt and rested his head against the front door. "I was supposed to be a soldier," he groaned. "I'd finally have the chance to prove my worth as a man. I'd fight in the trenches. I'd show my father that he was wrong about me."
Edward whirled around suddenly, his eyes boring into Carlisle so hard that he gasped.
"Now, I'll never be a soldier. I'll never be a man. I'm not even human anymore!"
Edward's eyes flashed with frustration and with—did Carlisle imagine it?—something else, too.
"I'm a freak," Edward spat. "Just like you."
As quickly as the storm arose, it subsided, and Edward's rage fell in on itself. He crumpled to the floor, succumbing to the inevitable despair. At first, Carlisle tried to respect his privacy, focusing his full attention on lighting the fire. He watched as the flames licked the charred, stone walls of the fireplace, turning its drab emptiness into a cocoon of warmth and peace. He focused on that peace as Edward's cries of indignation transformed into impotent weeping and then, finally, dissolved into silence.
Carlisle knew that these eruptions were bound to occur as Edward grappled with the sharp edges of his newly heightened senses. His logical mind told him that he shouldn't take them personally. He knew well enough how the venom fire intensified every human emotion. To try and reason with Edward during those moments was futile, to calm him, impossible. It didn't matter anyway.
They both knew that Edward was right.
"Carlisle . . . I . . ." Edward's voice was the shadow of a whisper, but it reverberated through Carlisle as distinctly as the ringing of a bell. In an instant, he found himself sitting cross-legged beside him on the cold floor. He took in the sight of Edward slumped against the wall, his head hanging heavily in his hands, and he fought the urge to hold him close.
I'm here, Carlisle said silently.
"It's okay," Edward replied, lifting his head. The strong scent of musk and spice swirled in the air around them as Edward moved closer. Carlisle wrapped his arm around Edward's waist.
Edward dropped his head against Carlisle's shoulder and sighed.
"I'm sorry," he murmured. "You know that, right?"
He felt the soft, silken strands of Edward's hair brush against his cheek as he curled into him. The sensation vibrated through his skin like a current of electricity, sending strange and pleasant warmth pulsing through his body.
"I know," he answered, swallowing the venom that had suddenly flooded his mouth. "The first year is always the worst."
"It's just that sometimes the emotion is so strong, it takes over completely," Edward began, his words tumbling out in a jumble. "I feel like I've been struck by lightening—like my whole body is throbbing with the energy of it and all I can do is just . . . release it."
He felt Edward's hand snake between them and press gently against the small of his back.
"Was it like that for you?" Edward whispered.
And that was when it hit him.
From out of nowhere, thoughts crashed over Carlisle like water gushing through a cracked dam, drowning him in a rocky sea of human memories. They were disjointed and cracked around the edges, but still sharp enough to make him gasp.
He saw the glimmer of sunlight against flowing chestnut hair. He felt the warm, slightly cracked skin of mortal lips brush against his own. He smelled the pungent combination of ale and hay and horseflesh, as calloused hands drew slowly down his moist, bare back. He heard a chuckle and then a low groan. He felt the hot, wet, roughened surface of a tongue licking up his length, tugging gently. And he heard a word forming on his own lips . . .
Samuel. The name haunted his mind like a resurrected ghost.
He heard a sharp intake of breath and felt the air stir as Edward suddenly pulled away and the warmth against his back disappeared. His own hand fell from Edward's waist and landed with a thump against the floor.
"Carlisle?" Edward breathed.
He glanced at Edward and noticed his slightly parted lips, his furrowed brow. He couldn't be sure if what glinted in Edward's eyes was confusion or disgust.
He shook his head. He struggled to dislodge the memories from his mind—to take them back or shove them away—but he knew well enough from Edward's expression that it was too late to do either.
Although it was impossible, somehow the walls started moving in on him. The grimy floorboards trembled beneath his body, and he suddenly felt the desperate, human, need for fresh air. He glanced at the weak glow emanating from the fireplace. The once bright flames had crumbled into a pile of ash.
"Fire's dying," he mumbled as he rose to his feet. "I'll go get more wood." And before he could think twice about it, he shot out the door.
Carlisle stared out over the pond, watching as the wind chopped at the water, churning up shallow waves that shivered in the moonlight. He'd had every intention of bringing the wood in when he'd first set his mind to the task. But just as he had gathered the logs together, he'd heard Edward stir and rise from the cabin floor. The wood trembled in his arms and fell clattering to the ground as the bottom had dropped out of his resolve. He couldn't face Edward—he couldn't face himself. So, he did the one thing that came to him instinctively. He ran.
He dragged his hand through his hair and sighed. Sometimes, it felt as if he'd spent most of his existence running . . . and hiding. From the moment he'd been able to live peacefully amongst humans, he'd focused on the lonely task of keeping the secret. He became an expert at concealing his vampirism. He was never more than a congenial work colleague and social acquaintance to anyone; he veiled his heightened senses and downplayed his indefatigable stamina; he moved regularly from town to town so no one noticed how he never aged. He hid it all, and he hid it well.
But being a vampire wasn't his only secret. He was astonished that he had managed to hide Samuel from Edward for so long. Of all the memories to follow him through the venom fire, those involving Samuel had been the most tenacious—and the most conflicting. He knew what the world thought of what he and Samuel had shared. Not only were such acts illegal, they were considered vile, loathsome, repugnant, unnatural, ungodly . . . the depressing list of adjectives ran on, ad infinitum. Countless times after his turning, Carlisle had attempted to control his feelings and force his memories of Samuel into some dark corner of his vast mind—to stuff them into a mental box and throw away the key. It was hard enough trying to blend in with humans as a vampire, let alone struggle against the other desire that ran as deep and strong as his bloodlust.
Yet, as much as he wanted to forget Samuel, a stubborn part of him cried out to remember. It spoke to him most strongly on miserable sunny days when he was trapped alone in his lodgings, unable to work. Then, a voice would rise up from somewhere deep inside him, and grasp at his consciousness. Remember, it would whisper, urging him to dig up that mental box and dust it off one more time.
And when, all alone in his silent room, he listened to that voice and lifted the lid, he was reminded of the truth. There was nothing loathsome in the light that shone in Samuel's eyes or vile in the way his hand brushed against Carlisle's cheek. There was nothing repugnant in the tender press of their lips. There was nothing ungodly in the love that they had shared.
But that love, which now only existed in fragmented and dream-like memories, had ended over two hundred and fifty years ago. There had been no one since. How could there be? The solitary life Carlisle was forced by circumstance to lead made such a relationship impossible. It made simple friendship impossible.
Almost as soon as the words had entered his mind, he knew that they were no longer true. He saw Edward's smile as they hammered shingles into place on the roof of their cabin. He saw the two of them sitting silently together before the fire, reading and discussing philosophy and art. He saw them laughing as they sped through the forest together, Edward teasing him for being such a slow, old man.
"A friend," Carlisle whispered. A smile trembled on his lips, then died. Even as he spoke the words, he knew that it wasn't a friend he wanted—it never had been. He swallowed heavily as Edward emerged again in his mind's eye, his russet-colored hair disheveled, his full lips cocked into a half-smile that turned Carlisle's rock-hard knees to jelly. He felt Edward's long, elegant fingers tug at the hair on the nape of his neck and slide down his back, lower and lower . . .
"No," he whispered shakily. "That can never happen." Edward could never be more than a companion.
Then he remembered Edward's face as they sat together on the cabin floor. He saw his lips, parted in shock, and the disapproval glinting in his eyes. Now that Edward knew his secret, he wouldn't even want Carlisle's friendship anymore. He would go off on his own, and Carlisle would be alone again. He felt a black hole rip open inside as the realization rocked him, threatening to suck him into nothingness.
"I'm not leaving you."
Edward's soft voice sounded from behind him, shocking Carlisle to his feet. He had been so wrapped up in his thoughts that he hadn't even noticed Edward's approach. His nose flooded with the familiar scent of nutmeg, and he turned around. His breath caught as he took in the sight of him, standing barefoot beneath the swaying arms of a Hemlock tree. His hair was tousled and windblown. The thin linen shirt he wore was unbuttoned and it billowed slightly in the breeze, revealing the perfect, smooth planes of his chest. In the moonlight, his pale skin seemed almost opalescent, glowing softly against the shadows of the forest trees. Their eyes met, and Carlisle felt a sudden panic race through him. He had no idea how long Edward had been standing there—or how much he might have heard.
"Most of it," Edward murmured in response, staring down at his feet. Then he looked up and their eyes met once more. Carlisle couldn't fight his surprise when he realized that there was no disgust twisting Edward's lips, no disapproval in his gaze.
"I'm not angry with you, Carlisle," Edward said, stepping closer. His scent seemed to churn in the air as Edward stood before him. Carlisle felt his gut twist as his toes dug into the sticky mud.
"I was just a little . . . surprised. That's all." A hint of a smile tugged at one corner of Edward's mouth, and the twisting sensation inside Carlisle unraveled. His pants suddenly felt tight.
Edward's smile disappeared. Tentatively, he reached out and stroked Carlisle's shirtfront, toying with one of the buttons. "I had wondered," he whispered, his eyes on the button he held between his fingers, "but I wasn't sure before . . ."
"About what?" Carlisle mumbled, barely able to form the words. His breath hitched as Edward released his hold on the button, then traced his fingers down Carlisle's shirt, and reached for his hands. Edward's fingers trembled slightly against his own.
"I wondered," Edward began again, looking down at their entwined fingers, "if you wanted me as much as I want you."
What? Carlisle thought dumbly.
Edward swallowed. "I've always been . . . different." He grunted out a laugh. "My mother called me sensitive and artistic. My father thought I played the piano just a bit too well, and that I should spend more time learning how to be a good suitor.
"But I never wanted that." He felt Edward's hands tighten against his own. "I would have rather gone to war and taken my chances in the trenches than do what my father wanted, and find a wife.
"I would have enlisted, but then everything changed." He looked up into Carlisle's eyes. They were so close that Carlisle could feel Edward's breath, soft against his face. In the moonlight, Edward's dark eyes glittered. "I remember that day in the hospital, when we brought my father in. I remember your eyes when you met us in the reception room. So kind, and strong . . . and you smiled at me." The corners of Edward's mouth twitched as a grin ghosted over them. "I remember that."
Carlisle nodded. He remembered, too. He had just started his shift for the day, scanning the crowded room for the worst cases, when he'd caught sight of the small family, huddled together near the hospital entrance. He was about to turn away when Edward lifted his head. Their eyes locked. Something in Edward's gaze bewitched him, and he felt a pull he could neither comprehend nor withstand. He wove through the throng of the sick and the dying, unable to focus on anyone else. Determination pounded through him like a pulse. He would help this boy's family. He would do anything for him.
"And then," Edward continued, "When I woke up in your room and I felt your arms around me, holding me, and our eyes met . . . I knew I wanted you. I've always wanted you, from the first day."
Carlisle's mouth fell open. He blinked twice. Could this really be happening? No, he reasoned. I must be dreaming . . .Wait. I haven't dreamed in two and a half centuries. Can vampires hallucinate?
He heard Edward laugh and then, without warning, their lips crushed together. Carlisle couldn't help the moan that escaped him, and Edward took the opportunity to slip his tongue inside. He felt the tip of Edward's tongue trace the roof of his mouth. His taste was beyond anything Carlisle had imagined—tangy, musky, and sweeter than fresh blood. It filled his mouth and he swallowed eagerly, taking Edward's tongue deeper inside.
"Mmm," Edward groaned against his lips. "You taste like cinnamon . . . and smoke . . ."
He felt Edward's fingers twine through his hair, sending volts of electricity coursing through his body. Suddenly, the half an inch of space between them seemed entirely too much. He thrust his body against Edward's. Their erections pressed together. Edward gasped.
"I want you, too," Carlisle whispered against his throat. "I've always wanted you. From the first day."
Edward's lips were suddenly at his ear. "I want to be naked with you," he breathed.
"Yes," Carlisle growled, and his hands were suddenly filled with the shredded remnants of Edward's shirt. He heard buttons popping and felt the breeze curl against his back as Edward tossed his shirt aside. He shuddered as Edward's palms slid down his bare back, gripped at his waistband, and tore his trousers in two. Carlisle moaned in relief, as his throbbing erection finally broke free.
He reached for Edward's pants, but Edward beat him to it, yanking them off in one swift movement. For the briefest part of a second, Carlisle stood frozen in place as he took in the sight of the strong, solid lines of Edward's body, the smooth curve of his buttocks, and the way his arousal twitched and strained as his gaze fell upon it. He felt a strange trembling begin to build deep inside his chest. Could there be any beauty comparable to this?
"So beautiful," Edward murmured. Carlisle gasped as Edward's fingers gently brushed against his length. Then he felt Edward's fingers run through his hair as he pulled him into a soft kiss.
"I need you," Edward whispered against Carlisle's lips. "I need you to touch me."
The trembling in Carlisle's chest transformed into shaking, as if something inside him was struggling to break free. Edward's lips brushed against his and Carlisle surrendered to the sensation, falling to his knees in the mud and the reeds. He wrapped his hands low around Edward's waist and slowly drew his tongue along the underside of his length. He tasted the sweet, wet trail of venom that leaked from the tip, then sighed and swallowed him whole.
"Oh," Edward groaned as he began to thrust gently into his mouth. Edward's fingers snarled through Carlisle's hair, digging into his scalp. Carlisle ran his hands over Edward's trembling buttocks and squeezed. He felt a shudder roll through his body as Edward's hips moved faster.
"God . . . Carlisle," Edward gasped, as Carlisle sucked and teased, then pulled back to flick his tongue against Edward's tip. It throbbed once against his lips.
"Carlisle," Edward gasped. "I . . . I need . . ."
Edward's voice faltered in his throat, but Carlisle knew instinctively what he needed. Carlisle needed it, too. It had been so long, his soul cried out for it. The thought turned the shaking in his chest into pounding. He pulled away and in one swift movement, pushed Edward backward into the soft earth.
He smiled as he heard Edward's gasp of surprise. Then, he straddled him, his knees squishing into the mud, and leaned over to press a kiss against those perfect lips. "My Edward," he whispered, as he slid back and slowly lowered himself onto Edward's erection.
As they moved together as one, he felt the pounding in his chest stutter to a stop, then suddenly heave and explode with an elation he hadn't experienced in two hundred and fifty years. It was a joy he thought he would never experience again, but for Edward—his love, his life.
"My love," he heard Edward cry as he came, and night gave way to the purple-tinted dawn.
End Note: As usual, I gleaned several of the details in this story from fanon created by Giselle-LX, who is wholly responsible for making me the Carlisle whore that I am. These include the location (and general appearance) of Carlisle's flat in Chicago, the idea that Carlisle held Edward in bed through his transformation, and that Carlisle meets Edward and his family in the intake room at the hospital. I thank her for letting me borrow her ideas. In so many ways, her fanon has become my canon.