To my dear, sweet, amazing vampireisthenewblack,
Yesterday, we were (sort of) talking about the artist that did those vamp-chick pictures I sent, and you mentioned that you had used something of his for your first avi when you came into this fandom. That struck up a memory of a pretty girl with some kind of flower/seashell in her hair and I remember thinking how odd it was that sometimes, the avi people are "wearing" when I "meet" them is sort of like a first-impression-face. Over a year later and I still have to remind myself that you don't have red hair like the girl in your avi did. Strange, that. And like so many other things that fly from my fingers over this keyboard, that was a pointless musing.
I love you, and I'm so glad to have you as my internet bestie. I'm sorry your birthday fic is late, But I'm already starting on next year's, so maybe that'll balance things out. ;)
Happy Birthday. Lovelovelove.
WARNINGS: Bwahaha! Where to start? Um...bloodplay, breathplay, Edward/Carlisle, sort-of-SlutWard. OMG, did v mention Esme? I think she did...what else? Is that not enough warning? There probably should be more, but I'll let you decide from this point whether that's too much for you to continue.
I want to say that this isn't a typical venis-fic, but I'm not sure what typical is for me anymore. I'm always trying out new things. This is definitely not for everyone, though. Please be warned. It was written specifically for my vamp, so she is who I had in mind, not the greater fandom population. Please, proceed with caution.
Thank you and bewbie gropes to my amazing sweetandsaltyff for the pre-read and the "OMG! Stop worrying and SEND IT TO HER ALREADY" that I really needed.
The Other Side of Night
There's a nebulous line I walk down the center of the night. It blends like the softest pencil lead on the rough surface of an artist's board. One side is visual, bright; vivid colors lacing the atmosphere, refracted prisms in every ray of sunshine, every gleam of light—even the dimmest illumination casting an ethereal glow upon everything.
I squeeze my eyes shut, begging the darkness to take me, pull me into a blissful oblivion. It doesn't. Of course it doesn't. Years of sleepless nights and still I hope. They say that people dream in shades of grey, but when I close my eyes, I see nothing but color; a vibrant, blinding maelstrom of hues, some of which are indescribable with mere simple words, for they are nothing that has ever been seen by the human eye.
The other side is more tactile, rough and rigid, soft and sensual, smooth and sharp. It is made for touch alone; the slide of hand, press of body, snap of hips. There's pain; mine, theirs, sometimes even his.
I used to think that it would be only the two of us forever. Now, this is my life; a lonely, dreamless nightmare.
What color is desire?
I slowly circle the boy who sits tied to a wooden chair in the center of the room. His binds aren't necessary, as my strength alone could easily hold him, but it's part of the game.
"What do you want?" I whisper into his ear before moving away again.
His tongue peeks out, moistening his pink, swollen lips. "You know what I want," he replies, his voice thick with desire.
"You're a sick fuck, you know that, Garrett?"
I watch as a slow smile spreads across his face. The blindfold does nothing to deter from his simple beauty.
"Would you want me any other way?"
His sandy blond hair is standing out in every direction and I can't help but grab a fistful and tug his head back roughly. I'm conscious of his fragility, but only just. A big part of me wants him to be someone he isn't, someone else entirely, and perhaps that is why I chose him.
Their similarities aren't great, light hair, pale complexion, height, but that is where it ends. He's younger than Carlisle looks, slighter in build. The similarities are what drew me to him months ago, though. When Carlisle changed Esme and, in turn, changed everything else as well.
I wanted to hurt him, to leave an emotional wound as deep as the one he'd given me. But nothing can damage him that way short of me leaving, and I'm just not sure I'm ready for that.
I found Garret on a cold winter night at a bar in downtown. His thoughts were pure, innocent, but tinged with the backdrop of shameful desires. I laughed when I saw myself in his mind. It was just too easy.
Desire is the shimmering, cobalt blue of his eyes.
Dancing white lights.
I watch his thoughts, monitoring his consciousness as I drive into him hard and fast. My hand is wrapped around his throat, cutting off his oxygen but careful not to crush his bones. When the images in his mind begin to shift and jolt erratically, I know he's close; close to slipping into unconsciousness, close to coming...close to death.
With my free hand, I grip his cock, sliding up and down the smooth, hot skin. My thumb circles the tip, collecting moisture and spreading it around with each gentle pull. His body tenses for a moment, eyes glazing over before he begins to tremble. I move my hand from his throat, unable to take my eyes of the sight of burst capillaries against pale, smooth skin. As he gasps for air, his orgasm bursts forth, warm sticky come coating my hand and his stomach. His murmured pleas are inarticulate even to me, but the meaning is quite clear. His muscles clench around me, drawing out my own release. I continue to thrust as the pleasure wracks through me in waves of sensation. Garrett takes heavy gulps of oxygen, trying to make up for what his body was missing just moments before.
I know he'll be upset that I let go so soon, that I made him come after I'd released my grip on his throat, but I'll take his anger over his death. It's dangerous, and perhaps that's why I'm still here almost every night with him. I know the consequences of this game he likes to play. I know what would happen if it was anyone other than me he allowed to do such things to him.
I don't know why I care, but I do.
Leaning down over him, I drag my nose along the red markings on his neck, breathing in the scent of blood so close to the surface. My lips part and I press my teeth to his throat. I think I could do it, I'm almost certain. But I don't.
The taste of crimson.
It isn't always like that, though. Sometimes, I give Garret complete control. I rest my hands on his thighs, offering no guidance at all beyond very few encouraging words as he rides my cock, slamming his ass down onto me over and over.
Garrett doesn't know what I am, but he does know that the tone of our little game takes on an air of danger whenever he draws blood. Biting down on his lip until his teeth break through the delicate flesh, or sliding his forearms in just the right way against the rough brick wall I have him pinned to. I can smell it the second his skin is broken, taste it on the air.
And, if I'm careful, I can even taste it from his body, as long as I'm sure not to leave any venom behind.
I was able to resist at first, choosing instead to bite into my own arm as it pressed across his shoulder blades, holding him down against the mattress.
By the fourth time I fuck Garrett, he's already learned that his blood does something to me, though he can't be certain why. His lip is bruised from my forceful mouth. He gazes up at me, his pupils blown wide with the darkness of his own desires.
I watch with rapt attention, the blood pooling just under the surface of his skin as his teeth press into his lip. When finally they break through, a thin trickle of blood runs down his chin. I clench my teeth, hold my breath, but continue to watch, inclining my head, inching my way closer without even realizing it until I feel his hot breath against my own lips.
"I know you want it," Garrett whispers. "Do it." His blood-tinged tongue sweeps along my bottom lip.
A feral growl escapes me and I thrust into him harder than I had ever allowed myself to before. His pained cry is swallowed by another forceful kiss as my tongue assaults his lips and plunges into his mouth, devouring the sweet nectar he'd offered me.
I continue to suck on his lip, more gently than before, as I draw out any lingering trace of venom that might be there, willing myself not to drain him, not to sink my teeth into the sinewy muscles of his shoulder and drink his life.
I'm barely able to control my carnal desires as I fuck him all night, long and hard until his arms slide from around me and fall limp on the bed beside him.
Were it not for the thundering beat of his heart and the staccato of thoughts in his mind, I could easily think I'd killed him.
Rough and rigid.
He's standing on the balcony when I find him, his face upturned toward the night sky, fat raindrops splashing against his bare skin, falling in rivulets down his back. I shudder with desire at the very sight of him, the pale moonlight gleaming off his golden hair and fair skin. He knows I'm here, but he doesn't turn to greet me. He grips the rail of the balcony, his head bent forward now as he watches the movement on the street below.
His mind is quiet, a mere whisper of its usual cacophony of thoughts. In the forefront, I see only her. I wonder where she is, but I don't care enough to ask. They've been nearly inseparable since he changed her, but on the rare occasion that she is away, I can pretend things are as they used to be. I can see that he is falling in love with her, their thoughts have even trailed along the path of marriage a time or two, though neither of them spoke of such a thing. Until then, though, he is still mine. It pains me to know that it won't be long now.
I approach him silently and still he says nothing until my fingertips are following the path of the rain flow and tucking into the waistband of his slacks.
"I smell him on you," he says, and I laugh mirthlessly.
I pull him back toward me, wrapping an arm securely around his waist as I press against him. "Which him," I ask derisively before parting my lips against the warm flesh of his shoulder. He shudders slightly in spite of his careful composure. There's no real need for me to ask whom he is referring to. I see the images in his mind and suppress a smile.
"The one you keep going back to. I can smell his blood." I don't respond. I have no desire to discuss my relationship with the human. "Edward," Carlisle whispers as my hand slips down the front of his pants. His thoughts are conflicted, caught between wanting answers and needing to feel. I kiss his rain-dampened skin, taste his neck, caress his abdomen as my fingers wrap around his cock. He moans softly, pressing back into me. "Did you kill him?" His hands grip the rail tighter as he waits for my response. It never comes. I simply continue to drag my tongue along every bit of exposed flesh I can reach as the rain beats violently down upon us.
He isn't concerned about the life of that human like he is others. He only wants to know if I plan to keep him.
He rolls his head to the side when my lips find his neck again, but I can see that his thoughts are keeping him from giving in to me entirely.
I feel his muscles tense as I lick the musky rain from the back of his neck, my fingers dragging slowly up the length of his erection. He doesn't protest despite his now rigid posture and, as usual, I find myself wondering if this will be the last time. Mingled with his desire for me, his love, there is a small amount of disdain for what I have become.
"What's the matter, Carlisle?" I ask between gentle kisses to his shoulder. "Not interested in sharing me? A bit hypocritical, don't you think?"
There's scarcely time to register the thoughts in his head before he's ducking under my arm, twisting around me and reversing our positions. His chest is pressed to my back now, his fingers lacing through mine on the cold steel rail of the balcony and gripping with intense strength. I suppress a smile as I gaze out over the city, enjoying the feel of his warm breath against my skin.
"That isn't fair, Edward, and you know that." I can feel his arousal pressed against me and I push back, eager for more. I feel his breath on my ear as he moves even closer. "I've never been inside her the way I have you."
My eyes narrow in anger but my voice remains calm. "Surely not for lack of wanting. Am I not allowed to have the same fulfilment? I wasn't enough for you, so you found her. Can I not have another to fill the void you'll be leaving in me?"
"I haven't left you, Edward," he says, gently kissing his way up the side of my neck. He nips at my ear and I squeeze my eyes shut tightly, willing away the intense feelings of loss as I see in his mind that this really is the last time.
"Not yet," I say, pulling my hand from under his and unfastening my own pants now. I need to feel him inside me, filling and stretching me, making me feel whole one last time.
"I never will." His hand finds mine, assisting me in my task as I struggle to remove my clothing with one hand. "I love you," he whispers, and I know it's the truth. But somehow, it isn't enough. I'm not enough. I want to ask why, but we've already had that conversation time and again. She is his mate and I cannot control destiny any more than he can.
"But it won't be the same," I tell him. He doesn't try to deny it. We both know that would be a lie.
The rain continues to pour down, cool against my overheated skin. Carlisle wraps an arm around my waist, pulling me closer, holding me as if he'll never let me go, but he already has. The taste of loss is bitter in my throat, but I swallow it down as his hand runs down the length of my now naked back. The rain causes a slickness that Carlisle uses to his advantage as his fingers smooth all the way down the crevice of my ass. He pushes one finger into me as his lips press moistly to the back of my neck.
"Maybe we should change him," he says suddenly, still moving his finger in and out before adding a second. I know he's talking about Garrett. Carlisle knows nothing of our relationship save for the fact that I have someone I haven't killed yet. In his mind, he thinks that must mean that I care for the human.
Maybe I do. But it will never be this; the aching, gut-twisting need that I have for Carlisle.
"I don't want him," I respond, lie. And then I push back against him. "Only you."
Carlisle's lips part against my shoulder and he lets out a soft moan as his fingers are replaced by his cock pushing into me, slow and smooth, filling my emptiness in more ways than one with a temporary euphoria.
There's a throbbing ache inside of me, mimicking the heartbeat that I haven't had in years as emotions tighten within my chest. I grit my teeth, pushing back against him. I don't want any of his slow, tender lovemaking, not this time, our last time. It's too much to take and I'd rather it reflect the desperation I'm feeling inside. I block out his thoughts, not wanting to see what's in his head. I only want to feel.
"Harder," I tell him, tightening my grip on the rail and causing the steel to groan as it bends beneath my hands.
Carlisle places another sweet kiss on the back of my neck, his lips tugging gently on the hair at my nape. I lean forward more, pulling away from his tender kisses and allowing for a better, deeper angle. He complies, sighing quietly before he begins his ruthless thrusting. I use my leverage against the rail to push back with each of his forward movements. His fingers dig into my hips harshly, and I know he's doing that for my benefit. Carlisle is never anything but gentle with me. This is different, rough, exactly how it should be.
His hand moves up to my shoulder, caressing the skin, squeezing the tense muscles before pushing me forward, bending me over more and driving his cock in deeper. His force is almost painful now, but it's just what I want, what I need. When his hand moves from mine on the rail, fingers circling my length, I know it won't take very much more at all, but I want it to last. I grab his wrist, pulling his hand away.
Carlisle slows his rhythm, leaning over me and moulding his body to mine. When his cock is deep inside, he shifts his hips, grinding himself against me before pulling out again. He repeats this motion for a while, each deep penetration seeming to brush new nerves and send ripples of unparalleled pleasure coursing through me. His breath, usually so hot against my skin, isn't coming at all now and I know he's holding it on purpose. He doesn't need to, but that never stops him during sex. He likes to smell and taste as well as feel and right now, he's cutting off senses in an attempt to drag out the moment.
I allow myself to search his thoughts briefly, wanting to know if it's for my benefit or his own this time. It's both. Carlisle drags his palms up my stomach and chest. He grips my shoulders, pushing himself into me while pulling me back at the same time. A low groan escapes me, encouraging Carlisle on. He snaps his hips against me, hard and deep while still pressed to my body.
I see in his thoughts a brief image of her and for a split second I worry that she is who he's wishing to be inside right now, but it quickly becomes clear that he's simply concerned that she'll be home soon. I take his hand, prying it from its tight hold on my shoulder and bringing it to my mouth. I kiss his palm and breathe him in before licking from his wrist to his fingers and then guiding his hand back down to my own aching cock.
I feel him breathing against me again, inhaling sharply as he strokes me almost frantically, matching the pace of his hips.
He bites into the flesh of my shoulder, sending a searing agony through me as his venom penetrates my system. I hiss in pain, but make no move to jerk away. I want whatever he'll give me, even venomous marks of ownership; an eternal reminder of what should have been.
His eager thoughts and forceful hold combined with the sensation of his teeth in my skin and his cock pulsing deep within me send me quickly over the edge. I cry out in pleasure as my own cock jerks in his hand and he pulls my release from me. My body trembles as I continue to slowly thrust into his hand, dragging out the blissful sensation as long as I can until it's too much.
We stay this way for a few moments, our cooling bodies still pressed together before he finally rises and turns me to face him. His eyes are bright and golden. Mine used to be as well. They're amber now, tainted by the slightest hint of indiscretion. His gaze locks on mine, searching as his thoughts open to me purposefully.
You really should consider changing him, he thinks. I don't want to see you unhappy.
I suddenly feel entirely too exposed. I grab my clothes, quickly pulling them on, careful not to look at him. I want to believe that he doesn't want to see me unhappy, but he brought this on us both.
I make for the door, intent on leaving, but he reaches out and grabs my arm, turning me to face him once again. The rain drips from his cornsilk yellow hair, cascading down his beautiful face and body.
"I'm sorry, Edward." His words, his thoughts, everything about him is painfully sincere, making it difficult to hate him. But I want to. I want to be angry, and when he leans in to kiss me, I consider for an instant turning away from him, not allowing him the satisfaction of this closure, but I can't. His lips are soft against mine, his tongue smooth, and it's over just as quickly as it started, much like everything else between us.
Golden sunlight in the palest moonbeams.
He doesn't notice that I never sleep. He isn't bothered by the cool feel of my skin against his. We lie in his bed late into the night talking and he tells me about his past, how he was brought up and the little things that helped to map out his life. I don't lie to him, but there's no reason to tell him everything. I share pieces of what I still remember from my human existence and he accepts them gratefully without prying. We talk about things we've read, places we've been and the possibilities of the existence of Heaven. I laugh at this, but Garrett is dead serious and doesn't find it humorous at all. It's then that I tell him about Carlisle. Not everything, of course, but enough that he understands that there was—is—someone who means something to me.
Carlisle and Esme have been married for several months now, and I've spent most of my time away. They make me promise I'll return, and try as I might, I cannot deny them. They are my family, unconventional as it may be. I spend most of my nights away with Garrett. They think I'm off causing trouble, and when they ask, I simply smile and offer them no contradiction to their gentle accusations. It isn't entirely untrue, after all.
I watch Garrett as he drifts off, exhausted and limp from our activities of the night. It's been seven months since I've found him and, despite what I tell Carlisle, I think I do care about him. His dreams are filled with broken images, none of which make any sense, but I often see myself in them. I know he loves me. He's never told me, but his thoughts scream the words that his lips don't dare to say.
He knows what I am now. He still doesn't voice his suspicion, not that I need him to. He doesn't hear a heartbeat when his head is resting on my chest, yet somehow, it doesn't frighten him. I wonder if Carlisle is right. If I could change Garrett, if I could bear to watch him scorched by the unholy fire as his precious blood sizzles and dissipates in his veins. Would he still love me if his games were no longer the same? If his breath wasn't needed anymore? If his blood was replaced by insidious poison?
Soft, yet unyielding.
I try not to pry into the minds of my family, try not to invade their secrets, but I cannot help but to peek into his mind on the rare occasion. I want to know if he still thinks about me, about us. I never see evidence that he does, though. It's almost as if he's erased the years from his memory altogether, but I know that isn't possible. Not for us. Our flawless minds do not allow for holes in memory from the time we're changed.
I stand in the shadows of the study, leaning against the newly papered wall and gazing out the window. The city is vibrant with the happiness that accompanies spring after so many months dormant under the shroud of a cold, grey winter.
"Edward?" Esme peeks her head into the room and smiles brightly when her eyes fall on me. I return it with a bit more ease now than I had months ago. "I'm glad you're here. We've missed you this week."
"Hello, Esme." I don't bother to move from my place by the wall as she approaches.
"I hope you like what we've done with it." She means the study. Dark panelled walls were replaced with lighter, pinstriped wallpaper and the once heavy window dressings were now pale and sheer, giving the room a lighter spirit and making it seem somehow more welcoming.
"I do," I answer simply.
She stands before me, soft waves of caramel colored hair cascading over her shoulders as she smiles up at me, her eyes filled with concern. Her thumbs trace the shadows under my eyes as she cups my face in her small, soft hands. "You haven't been taking care of yourself, Edward."
I laugh, bringing my hands up to gently grip her wrists. Esme is a good person. She treats Carlisle the way he deserves to be treated, with nothing but love and respect. Her thoughts are always full of good intentions toward both of us. I can't fault her for the coddling she does, despite the fact that I hate it. She sees me as a child, and even though I've got three years on her in this life, she's still my senior.
"I've been busy." I haven't been home all week, nor have I been to see Garrett. I've spend seven solid days at the lake, skipping stones across the glassy surface and turning things over in the vast planes of my mind, and still I've come to no conclusions.
"Busy? What could possibly occupy so much of your time that you forget to feed?"
I hear Carlisle's thoughts before he enters the room. Don't be short with her, Edward. She's done nothing wrong.
There's something small in my chest where my heart once beat that aches each time I see him after having been away for a short while. This time is no exception.
"Esme," he greets his wife with a kiss as he enters the room.
My stomach turns, but I don't look away. Their love for each other is deep and binding, pure and powerful. This is why I left in the first place. Not necessarily because it bothers me to see them so affectionate with one another, but because in their presence, I find it to be something that I do want for myself.
I think I could be happy, if only I could allow myself. What price is my happiness worth? Garrett's life? He has plans for his future. He's discussed them with me. I don't want to take that from him.
I don't stop seeing Garrett over the next year, though it isn't as often as it had been. I want to stay away for his own good, but I can't seem to convince myself that it's best. Not after this long. I love him. Esme asks me to bring him home to meet them, but I continue to refuse.
Garrett does know what I am now, and yet he continues to tempt me in the most divine ways. Those are the nights that I allow myself to believe that maybe, just maybe he would be all right with it. He would welcome an eternity of damnation as long as he is damned with me. When my lips are parted against his broken flesh, his hot, sweet blood coating my tongue as he whispers words of encouragement, wrapping his legs around my waist, it's easy to believe that he could be mine forever.
Carlisle practically begs me to do it, but I tell him I'm too weak. I can't. It isn't entirely true. Garrett's blood does tempt me, but I've tasted him many times and never drained him. I think I'm too weak to choose him over Carlisle, though. Of course, no one else would view it that way. Only inside the darkest caverns of my own fucked up mind do I still hold any hope that he will come back to me.
He tells me that the time for my decision is drawing to a close. I've already endangered Garrett's life by allowing him to live despite the fact that he's figured out my ill-kept secret.
An orange and broken sunset.
"You don't have to be so careful with me, Edward," he whispers against the hollow of my neck as I press his wrist to the wall above his head. "You won't break me."
I can't help but to laugh at this. Of course I can break him. I already have.
"Why do you tempt me?" I ask before dragging my tongue along his jaw. His breath hitches, and he doesn't answer, but his thoughts are clear. He wants it, but he doesn't think of what he'd be giving up for such an existence. No one given the choice ever weighs the good against the bad when immortality is dangled in front of their faces.
Carefully, I scrape my teeth against the pulse point just below his ear. Garrett shudders but makes no attempt to pull away. I want to tell him of the pain, of the crimson fire that will race through his veins before burning his entire existence into the nothing that I now call my life, but I don't think he would listen.
His lips are soft against mine, his breath hot on my tongue as I steal it away from him. His free hand is gripping at my shirt, pulling me closer. I take that hand, too, lacing our fingers together with bruising strength, nearly crushing the fragile bones within. Garrett doesn't flinch and I wonder if I'm actually testing him or myself somehow.
"It won't be the same," I tell him. He doesn't need me to elaborate. He knows exactly what I'm referring to.
"I don't care," he whispers before pressing his lips to mine again. "I just want you. This, forever." Garrett shifts his leg between my thighs, dragging against my erection. I suppress a groan as I rest my forehead against his, breathing in his familiar scent.
Before I allow myself a second thought, my lips are parted against that same delicious, warm pulse point on his neck. I kiss the spot affectionately before dragging my tongue around in a slow circle, hoping futilely that the coolness will help to ease some of the pain of what is to come. And then my teeth cut through his skin. His body stiffens momentarily before he begins to writhe, fingers pressing against my back in a weak attempt at instinctual defence. I can't help but wonder if this is the sort of rapture he'd hoped for.
Bitter, sweet, delicious, his blood pulses into my mouth as I summon ever ounce of control I was never sure I had in an attempt to assail my primal instincts. Bright colors whirl behind my eyelids in a ghostly dance, forming images of a life I know I'm undeserving of. Blond hair, gleaming in the moonlight as golden eyes gaze up at me; a hard body, curved around mine as he breaths me in, holding me tightly; a warm smile, melting the frigid ache in my hollow chest as Carlisle runs his fingers through my hair.
And it's too much. The sensations, the false memories, the feelings of loss from a life I'd never really had. Garrett is not who I am meant to be with, nor could he ever replace the one I love. I feel anger rising within me like a shadow stretching out as it moves away from the setting sun. Anger toward Carlisle, anger toward Garrett, anger toward myself.
Realization washes over me, even in this addled state of mind, and I know that I cannot create a replacement for Carlisle. I continue to drink, taking long pulls of his essence to quell the burning in my throat and soul. I've had a mere four years in this life, and already it has taken so much from me. Why should I not also take? His blood is delicious, tangy and soothing as it continues to pulse slowly into me.
I see Garrett's own thoughts shifting erratically as his body begins to shut down and I wonder what I'll do without him because I know this time, I will not be saving him from his fate. Only when his heart slows to a stop and his body goes limp in my arms am I able to pull away from him, gasping for air that I don't need, but it seems to cool the burn in my throat that is begging me for more.
Gently, I move Garrett's body to his bed, laying him down and drawing the covers up to his chin as if he is only sleeping. I place one last kiss on his rapidly cooling lips before I take my leave, the all consuming guilt twisting its way through me. If an unbeating heart could be split in two and shared throughout time, Garrett would have the other piece of mine.
Cold, harsh prick of a sharp thorn.
I leave, not entirely sure where I'm going or what I'm looking for. Perhaps I'll never find it and I am damned to carry with me this hollow emptiness and guilt for the rest of eternity. I know I'll go back to my family eventually; to him, the only one I was ever truly meant to be with. I will never deny Carlisle the happiness that I know he deserves, neither will I bend to his will and settle for someone else. An eternity at his side, as an equal, a friend, a son—anything he wants me to be—is more than I deserve, but I will take it gratefully. Even if I'm alone while he has her.