Disclaimer: I disclaim any financial-ish relevance.

FF has finally stopped being a bitch, so I can post this.

Author's Note: First off, I want to thank the 'mazing Capricorn75 for hosting the Carlward contest, along with the judges DeeLovely60, WhatsMyNomdePlume, Savannah_Vee, and YogaGal. This crazy story won 1st in Open Voting and Second in Judging... which is also a reason for you to go read "For a Season, There Must be Pain," by Giselle-lx. I think I've asked her for months to please please write some man-porn and she finally went and did it, and it was stunning... with vampires and smelling and hotness. Don't you love the hotness? I sure do... anyway... So, yes, off you go. Finally, the lovely Angstgoddess003 gave me what must have been 30+ comments, encouraging me, while also preventing some very nonsensical kiss scenes, and pretty much beta'd, so *hugs* into cyberspace.

Um, warnings? There are religious themes, sickness, and the most lemonyness I've written since Sin and Incivility. Hope you like it...

-o- -O- -o-

Red Geraniums

-o- -O- -o-

There is a man in Carlisle's bed, and when he bends over, there's a hideous sting in his... anus.

Even though he'd rather not connect the two, the evidence would weigh in favor of their connection.

Not to mention... a) he stinks of fornication. b) there's an unsanitary ruffle of white crusted down his abdomen c) he has the hangover from hell c) or was that d? d) if he concentrates hard enough, he gets flashes. Erotic material. Some biting. A voice similar to his own but deeper and nastier, demanding, "I need you in me. Get your fucking cock in my ass stat. Not yesterday. Not last week. Now." There's the memory of his gripping the window sill, his breaths fogging against the glass as he strained to keep his balance...

Thinking about it makes his brain spasm. How much did he drink last night? He goes in the bathroom, steps into the shower and turns on the water.

Stupid move.

He yelps as the cold water hits him. He manages to squeeze himself into a scarecrow pose along the back wall until the water is no longer capable of turning him into an ice sculpture. He picks up his fragrance-free bar of Dove and begins to scrub.

Ten minutes later, he's clean. He's clean and resolved. He's going to tell this jerk off. There's no other explanation. He was taken advantage of. There may have been roofies involved. What right does this jerk think he has, taking advantage of a perfectly straight man?

Carlisle marches into his bedroom, ready to face his assailant. The man's back is to the door and he's curled up, tight into the pillow. Carlisle has to walk around to the other side of the bed to see him face-to-face.

He sees him. Gasps.

He's... youngish. College-age... or maybe high school. Jail bait. Carlisle sways back and forth on his feet, arms held out to the sides to manage some balance.

Please be over eighteen. Please be over eighteen.

That's how he's standing with his mouth hanging open when the man-boy-guy (yes, he's a guy,Carlisle decides) stirs. He opens his eyes and blinks at Carlisle, a smile easy on his face. He's still smiling when he pushes up on his elbow, and says, "Good morning."

He's... really good-looking. Carlisle's not the type to notice this sort of thing, not about men, but this guy is...

That's when Carlisle realizes he's possibly ogling a seventeen year-old, and sputters, "Coffee?"

"I take two sugars," the guy agrees.

-o- -O- -o-

His name is Edward. He does take two sugars, plus an unhealthy amount of cream. He is twenty-two. (Thank the Lord.) He's just started his new job as an auditing consultant.

Edward has a problem with boundaries.

"Not a morning-after cuddler?" Edward asks after Carlisle jerks away the second time.

Edward had managed to grip Carlisle, despite his robe, scrub pants, and boxer briefs being in the way. Carlisle has no idea how his hand had managed to get there so quickly, but there it had been: your run-of-the-mill morning wood in a balmy non-feminine grip.

Carlisle is certain that the aforementioned erection had zero to do with Edward's guzzling his first sip of coffee with a long, deep groan of pleasure. Or that Carlisle's body seemed to respond to the sound like a hound to a hunting bugle.

"No. Not the cuddly type," Carlisle affirms in a clipped tone. "And, um, not to rush you out the door, but I have to be at the hospital for rounds by nine."

"Esme said you were off today."

Carlisle winces as he remembers it is Tuesday. "How do you know Esme?"

"We chatted a bit at the bar last night. She was very friendly... I don't think she liked it when you started kissing me."

"I started kissing you?"

Edward licks his lips. "Well, I did approach you first. You were hunched over in that booth with your hands rubbing your temples like you could rub out your brain."

That bit of information gives Carlisle pause. "Oh, I do that when—"

"—you've lost a patient. You told me. Last night."

"Nick," Carlisle says, and the shrill cry of the flat line fills his mind, and he leans against the counter. Nick was only seven, and he wanted to be a rocket scientist.

"Anyway," Edward continues in a soft voice, "I saw that you were pretty drunk, but then you were... well, funny."


"Well, you said a great number of things, asked a lot of questions, but the highlight was when you pointed at my rainbow wrist band and asked me why I took it up the ass."

Carlisle chokes on coffee. It comes out his nose.

Edward hands him a towel. "And I told you I didn't—not always. Then you wanted to know if my parents hated me, which they don't. You said your dad would hate you if you wore rainbows and took it up the ass. You said he's a minister."

Carlisle isn't looking at Edward. He is hiding his face in the kitchen towel. His father would... He does not want to think about his father right now.

Edward says, "I told you that I was ready to go home and you grabbed my hand. You said, 'wait,' and you kissed me." Edward shrugs like this was all a very no-biggy.

"Oh." Carlisle doesn't want to remember, but he does. He remembers how his thigh had ended up warm against Edward's under the booth. He remembers crunching peanuts in his hand and giving half of every nut to Edward. "Here's half a testicle," he'd said. Edward had laughed and said, "Very tasty." He remembers that he thought Edward was beautiful. Too beautiful.

It's enough that he needs to sit down. He swings around the counter so that he can find a stool, and he lifts himself into it.

"You're doing it again," Edward says, and he pulls Carlisle's hands off his temples.

Carlisle takes his hands from Edward's as soon as he can. "I'm sorry. I don't normally do this type of thing. It's not like me."

"You told me. Last night."

"Right." Carlisle nods without any conviction, looking down at the counter top, watching the dots blur in and out of focus.

"I guess I should get going," Edward says.

"I'll see you out," Carlisle says, and he makes himself stand and head down the hallway. Politeness, he can do.

They're at the threshold when Edward spins around to face him. "I want to see you again."

"I'm sorry. I know after last night, it might seem... I just... I can't."

Edward is staring at him, watching Carlisle mumble out the rejection. Edward's eyes wilt only the tiniest bit, but then he steps forward and asks softly, "A kiss goodbye?"

Carlisle opens his mouth to say, "No," but Edward's eyes are so green with little speckles of yellow among the blue. Edward looks impossibly sweet. One kiss couldn't hurt.

Edward steps forward. His breath comes out in light, coffee-scented breaths. Their noses touch, but Edward's mouth is still closed. They're just standing there, breathing.

"What are you...?" Carlisle starts to ask, but then Edward takes the opening of his mouth as a free invitation. There's a swipe of tongue across his bottom lip, and the sweet coffee-invasion in his mouth. Carlisle tries to gasp for air, but then there's press of teeth, and a hot tongue touching his own that tingles and tingles, and Edward is kissing him. A man is kissing him and Carlisle is drinking it down, and it feels glorious.

Carlisle is half-disappointed when Edward pulls away, but he doesn't look at Carlisle. He drops to his knees, yanking Carlisle's pants and underwear at the same time so that Carlisle feels like he's been the butt of a pantsing prank, but then Edward has his head angled just so and swallows Carlisle's cock.

Carlisle's initial reaction is one long groan of fireworks, but his second is that this is wrong. He didn't say "yes" to this. In no dictionary on the planet would this count in the "one kiss" category.

Carlisle realizes he needs to act. He can't back away because he's against the wall, so he grabs at Edward's bobbing head.

He grabs Edward's head, and Edward pops off of him and says, "Yeah, guide me. Show me how you want to fuck my mouth." He has fever-red cheeks and slut-pink lips, and it has the effect of making his eyes seem even greener.

Carlisle is at heart a weak man.

He does not say, "No, thank you."

He does not push Edward away.

What he does is grab Edward's far too attractive cheeks and drag them back to his cock, and a voice Carlisle barely recognizes as his own says, "Open."

With a smile on his too-fucking-pretty cocksucking face, Edward opens his mouth and sucks Carlisle in like a fucking hypodermic syringe.

Carlisle fucking loves this, even though he shouldn't. He's gotten one blow job in his life. One from a one night stand on his junior year spring break in Seattle where he was volunteering at a runaway shelter. The girl had been a fellow volunteer. She'd pulled him into a closet, told him what she wanted to do, done it, and then yelled at him when she told him to aim out, aim out as he came, and he wound up spurting on her dress. He'd regretted it for months afterward. A stupid, wasted sin. It was nothing like this.

Because... this.

This is... Edward's eyes aren't boyish and sweet anymore. They're half-evil, flicking open and closed as Carlisle rocks him back and forth. Edward's lips are swollen, wet, and puffy, and he has a days' worth of stubble on his jaw, and looking down, Carlisle can see Edward's free hand rubbing on his jeans at the bulge in his pants. He has this expression on his face that's pure fuck-you rebellion and I'll-take-what-I-want, and Carlisle loves it all the more that he's slamming his cock into it.

Carlisle decides he really fucking hates Edward.

Carlisle hates Edward because five minutes ago Carlisle was perfectly content to live his life in hermetically-sealed dry ice confinement. Now all he wants is to pump hot spunk into a pretty mouth.

He's thrusting and he's whining and making noises that sound more animal than man, until the mounting tension takes over and he pushes Edward back so that he doesn't have to swallow, which results in him coming all over Edward's lips, down his chin, onto his shirt.

Edward laughs and then he licks at the spots of white, swallows, and sucks Carlisle in again, so that Carlisle can feel the last pulses being squeezed out of him and down Edward's throat.

Carlisle slides down to his knees. It puts him and Edward face-to-face. Edward still has some semen on his chin, which Carlisle points to, and Edward wipes away with the back of his hand.

"You look like an angel when you come," Edward says.

Carlisle doesn't know what to say. He is after all probably damned to hell for this.

Edward kisses him, a sweet tender little goodbye on the lips, and then he stands and grabs the handle of the door.

"I'll see you later," he says.

As the stores swings shut, Carlisle realizes that there was an implication there.

He sits there thinking for a long while, until he shivers because the floor tiles are cold and his asshole still stings.

-o- -O- -o-

His blackberry goes off with the scheduling alert two hours in advance. He's supposed to meet his father for their weekly lunch.

He meets his father at Sally's. It's kitschy for a steak house, with porcelain figurines of little Norwegian-looking girls and boys covering every free mantel, but it's owned by one of his father's church members who gives their ticket a 10% discount.

As Carlisle walks in, he's sees his father, looking rather pleased with himself, sitting at their usual table underneath the cross along the back alcove. He's brought Bernie Arndt along, who's another local minster.

"You look like a man possessed," his father greets him as he pulls out his seat.

"Have they got you working late at the hospital?" Bernie asks.

"They've always got him working late! Run those residents into the ground. Slave labor." His father humphs, but he's got an approving look on his face. It's the same face he has when he talks about his times as a chaplain during "Nam."

"I lost a patient yesterday. A little boy," Carlisle says.

"Oh," Bernie's silver head tips in understanding. "A child. Always the worst when they go so young. Well, I'll pray for him. What's his name?"

"Nick. Nick Rosenberg. He had retinoblastoma. He was... seven." Carlisle almost wants to say more, about how Nick went to Disneyland with Make-a-Wish foundation, and came back telling Carlisle he should have gone to Universal instead because they had Harry Potter land. Nick hadn't even had the chance to read Harry Potter, and this is what's swirling in Carlisle's head, but he makes himself stop from saying it all.

Bernie has a pen out and is writing down the name with his careful penmanship.

"Rosenberg? He was Jewish?" his father asks.

"Yes," Carlisle says.

"Too bad..." his father says, shaking his head. "Well, we'll pray for his soul, anyway."

Bernie asks his father a question, and Carlisle's glad for the distraction. There's a familiar burning sensation in his chest that is not acid reflux. It often comes up when he's around his father, but for some reason, probably because of last night, it feels worse than usual. Like he can't breathe.

When it's time to order the food, his father loudly orders what he always orders: the baked potato and daily vegetable side. Simple food for a spiritual shepherd, as he always says. Gluttony is America's easiest sin. Bernie orders a chicken dish, looking somewhat guilty about the excess.

Carlisle closes his menu and orders, "Prime rib, 14 oz. Medium. I'll take the asparagus salad and the baked potato."

Bernie is looking at him like he expects him to get spanked. His father, well, his father's whole face has fallen into characteristic disapproval. The eyebrows, mouth, and nostrils are all upturned, twisted and flared so that there's no mistaking how he feels. When he was younger, Carlisle feared that look more than anything, but today, he's still angry about Nick. Probably about Edward, too, and also, very simply, he wants to eat some bloody meat. They are in asteak house, and the vegetables are typically drowned in butter and the chicken is always dry. He wants some decent animal protein.

"Don't worry. I'll get the check," Carlisle says as an afterthought.

"Are they starving you at the hospital?" his father growls.

"He is looking a bit thin," Bernie adds, looking from Carlisle to his father with a smile plastered on his face. Bernie's even more afraid of his father than Carlisle is.

His father's severity softens, but this is probably because Carlisle truly does look thin and strung out. Or maybe it's because Carlisle is footing the bill. "You should eat more. Can't have sick doctors," he says, but the expression of disapproval doesn't completely leave his face. He turns to talk to Bernie about their softball league.

Carlisle sits in a quiet moment of victory. He has always ordered exactly what his father has ordered.

But the moment passes, the salad arrives, and Carlisle feels sick. Ordering rich food is not a victory. Real victory wouldn't feel like this. Real victory would be telling his father that Nick Rosenberg belongs in heaven as much as any Christian child.

When the steak course comes, Carlisle forces himself to eat every bite. Even his taste buds register the buttery texture and the sweet, mineral flavors, it all amount to nothing more than flat gruel in his mouth.

He pays the bill. When his father reminds him to pray, Carlisle bows his head in acknowledgment and then he leaves.

-o- -O- -o-

Carlisle is doing his rounds the next day. He's on hour three of a twelve-hour shift, and he's already desperate for a cup of coffee. He smiles when he looks down at the new name on his list, though.

Alice Masen, 16 years old, Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Her last CBC with white blood cell differential was bad, so on her last visit, she'd been scheduled for chemo to get her back to a stable range.

He steps through the door to find her with an ear-to-ear smile on her face.

"Dr. Cullen!" Alice exclaims, pushing up to lean forward. Her eyes look even bigger with her baldness, but still, he thinks he's never seen a more adorable face.

"Oh, no, no," Carlisle waves his hands to stop her. "Lean right back. You'll end up inducing nausea."

"She puked like crazy the last time. That's why we were in here this time," Elizabeth says. Alice's mom is in the chair beside her daughter. She looks calmer than she did the last time. Carlisle expects she's adjusting.

"It wasn't that bad." Alice pouts and crosses her forearms. "Or at least not until you tried to make me eat that organic kale stew. It looked like an elephant turd-mated with Campbell's. Anyone would have vomited, especially if they'd been having chemo."

"Your mom's just trying to take care of you," Carlisle says, winking at Elizabeth. He checks her blood pressure, her pulse, and then starts looking through her recent test results.

"So," Alice says as he goes through her results, "am I doomed to a young and tragic death?"

"Alice!" Elizabeth has dropped her magazine.

"What? I have an outfit picked out." Alice shrugs.

"Alice..." her mom says again. Her whole face has fallen.

Alice says, "What? I asked the doctor a serious question."

She has. He's been a resident for a year, and teenagers often seem like the most resilient, especially with the humor, but he's learned they're often the most fragile, the least trusting.

"Alice," he says, and Carlisle grips her hand, because he needs her to look at him. "I am never going to lie to you. My job is to give you the truth, and whether it's good or bad, help you plan for it. Right now, you feel awful because your body's reacting to the treatment, but once you get through the chemo, you're on track to take your regular doses of Gleevac, and then we'll get you prepped for the bone marrow transplant. You're young, and you've got great parents to take care of you, and your own iron will. That doesn't mean any of this is full-proof, and it doesn't mean your leukemia isn't deadly serious, but it does mean that you're doing a great job fighting this."

"You gave me the same speech last time," she says, and her voice is watery, but she's nodding along with him.

"And I'll keep giving it to you."

"You're my favorite doctor, and not just because your super handsome," she says with a bat of her lashes.

Carlisle smiles, but before he can say anything, Alice's whole face lights up, as her eyes look over Carlisle's shoulder. "Edward!" she exclaims, and she's leaning forward again.

Carlisle freezes, because somehow he just knows who he'll see.

He's about to turn around, when Alice's bright-eyed smile vanishes. Her eyes bulge, and Carlisle has the can off the bedside table and underneath her chin before the heaves of her stomach force the vomit out of her mouth.

When she stops gagging, he asks, "All done?"

She grimaces and nods, and then a nurse is at the ready with a towel. It's Rosalie.

"Chin up to the left," she orders, "you still got some drool."

Alice does as told, muttering, "I hate puking."

"Ready for some juice?" Rosalie asks.

Alice nods and Carlisle turns around to grab one off the counter.

Only to see Edward. Yes, his Edward. Or. Not his. Tuesday's morning's Edward, just like his instincts told him, is standing behind him, holding out a box of white grapefruit juice and looking miserable at the sight of his sister being so sick.

Carlisle takes the juice box, fishes the straw out of the plastic, and pops it through the foil-covered hole. "Your mouth doesn't hurt does it?" he asks. Chemo isn't kind to mucus membranes.

"S'fine," Alice says, and Carlisle hands the box to Elizabeth who holds it so that Alice can drink it easily.

"All right," Carlisle says, "take it easy. No more jerking about. I'll check on you before you go."

"He only does that for you," Rosalie says, elbowing Carlisle, and Alice looks immensely pleased by this.

Edward is giving him a look that Carlisle can't interpret. It's sad and grateful, and no small part affectionate. "Thank you," he mouths.

Carlisle nods and follows Rosalie out the door.

And then wishes he hadn't.

Because Tanya, nurse anesthetist, is standing sentinel and when she sees Rosalie, the two of them share a look.

Tanya is pointing at the room. "That is him, ya? From the bar?" Her Slavic accent makes it sound like a mafia interrogation.

"Uh huh. Carlisle's hottie is named Edward," Rosalie growls with a double-bob in her eyebrows. She hip-butts Carlisle.

Carlisle wants to sink into the floor. "Um, this is not really work conversation, Rosalie." His gaze is flicking from right to left, as people pass them up and down the busy hallway. He'd completely forgotten who all had dragged him to the bar that night. Esme had come along, but Rosalie had been the ring leader insisting that he come, so of course they would have seen. Carlisle unclamps his hands from his temples and turns to flee.

Rosalie and Tanya seem to register that they're about to lose him at the same time, so they each grab his an arm and pull him into the next patient room. There is someone asleep in the bed.

"This is someone's room," Carlisle hisses.

Tanya yawns with an eye roll, patting her mouth. "He'z been unconscious for two weeks. If he wake up, last thing he's goin' to give a shit about is your sex life, which—" She turns to Rosalie and grins like a mad woman.

"That kiss," Rosalie says, holding her hand over her forehead likes she's about to swoon.

"Hot d'damn," Tanya agrees.

"And to think we thought you were so cold."

"Who knew Dr. Cullen is secret sex machine? Not me. I lose poll."

"Poll?" Carlisle's voice cracks.

Rosalie nods dismissively. "When you first came, we had a poll going among the single ladies. Most of the residents are all married up by the time they get here—unless they're ugly—but there you were, Mr. Hot Stuff, and we had a few polls about you." Rosalie gives him a light smack on the arm.

"Yes, we want to think you Dr. Cullen is Dr. McCreamy, but no—what we get? Dr. MCullen is Mr.McSullen." Tanya is pouting.

"I..." Carlisle's mouth is hanging open.

"Some think you is in love with Esme, but too scared to act," Tanya says.

Rosalie snorts. "I always knew you were gay."

"I'm not... um gay."

Both Tanya and Rosalie share a glance, before their eyes simultaneously bulge, and they burst into raucous laughter. Tanya laughs sounds like a donkey baying, and Rosalie's fist is smacking a table.

"This really is inappropriate, and I'm not."

Tanya's laughter cuts off, and she says, "But today you walk funny."

"I was drunk."

"At least three very hot ladies from this hospital have crawled into your lap and either kissed you or whispered something filthy in your ear—and you politely declined them," Rosalie says.

"I don't like aggressive women."

"Well, Esme's not aggressive, and she's beautiful, and willing, but you haven't ever laid a paw on her."

Before Carlisle truly decides to kill himself, Rosalie says, "Wait. Wait. Wait. I have…" She pulls out her phone. She's pressing buttons, and the next thing Carlisle knows the small screen is thrust into his face.

There are moving figures. Himself. Edward. In a booth at Old and Yellow. It's late. Really late, but they're not even in the shadowed part of the bar. They're both clearly defined by commercial lighting and... kissing.

Carlisle almost doesn't recognize himself. From the angle of the camera, he has Edward half-pulled into his lap, and even with the shit quality of the camera, he can see there are open-mouthed kisses with tongues curling and lips tugging. Edward is half-grinding against him as they make out.

Carlisle realizes how long he's been watching when Tanya's recorded voice says, "I want to join in the sandwich. You think it be okay? I just tell them that Russian dressing is special sauce, and ..."

Carlisle jerks the phone away, even as he hears Rosalie's breathless recorded laughter coming from the phone.

"Spying... and recording is..." Carlisle searches for the word. "...a really shit thing to do to someone you call a friend."

Rosalie manages to look abashed. Tanya yawns again.

"We just wanted to tell you to go for it. As your friends. It was a nice change to see you happy," Rosalie says.

"Not being McSullen," Tanya adds. She thinks she's being helpful.

"Right, well..." Carlisle is looking anywhere but at their faces. "I have to finish my rounds or Richard's going to have my neck."

They both seem to realize that they've pushed him as far as he'll go. Rosalie and Tanya call soft goodbyes. Carlisle flees out the door and down the hall and picks a random turn. He's pretty sure he's headed toward Radiology, which is fine.

At the first opportunity, he locks himself in a supply closet. He slides down along the wall slumps to the floor and covers his whole face. Tanya and Rosalie meant well, but they have no idea. They have no way of remotely fathoming...

This hasn't been some game for him. He asks himself if he's been hiding his attraction for men. No, he doesn't think so. Well, no, well, yes, probably. There was that awkward thing with Alistair. Fuck. But then he doesn't remember the last time he wanted someone. Anyone. He's kept himself focused. On his dad. On school. On church. On more school. On helping his patients. There may have been a time when the world felt normal. A time ten years ago, when he would have...

Before his mother died, and the world all went to hell.

At some point, he realizes he's rubbing at his temples again. Not because he lost a patient, but because he's lost himself.

Carlisle decides he needs to speak to someone who will listen.

Esme will have to do, even if she's mad at him. She is a resident like Carlisle, enduring her psychiatric residency, and worse comes to worst, she can write him a prescription.

-o- -O- -o-

He sees half-dozen patients before he finds the time to track down Esme. When he sees her, she's going over her charts with Marcus. Carlisle's always found Marcus to be a bizarre choice for psychiatry, given that he never shows any emotion at all, but Esme always claimed he has a rarely seen talent for connecting to patients.

Either way, when Carlisle walks up to them, Marcus looks from Esme to Carlisle like some old prophecy has finally been read. He clicks his pen and steps back.

"You don't have to leave." Esme tugs at the cuff of Marcus's scrubs.

"No, I do." Marcus gives her an impassive look.

"We were working," Esme huffs.

Marcus shakes his head. "And now we aren't. Now, you are going to talk to Carlisle and stop organizing the supply closets. Remember, as Freud said, the ego is not master in its own house." He taps the bridge of his nose before giving a little push on her shoulder toward Carlisle.

Esme turns to look at him, and Carlisle takes in the stiffness in her jaw and the set of her shoulders. Esme always looks so warm and sweet to him, but she doesn't now. She looks angry... and hurt.

It's his fault.

"Esme, I..."

"Let's not do this out here," she says with a graveness to her tone, and she heads for an empty examination room. When they arrive inside, she points at the patient bench and says, "Hop up."

Carlisle does what she says, and then he's sitting there with his fingers interlocked, patting his lap, while Esme looks at him like he just urinated in the holy water.

"Esme, I'm didn't mean for anything that happened on Tuesday night to... well, happen."

"You didn't?" She's not looking at him, but her voice says she thinks he's lying.

"Absolutely not."

"You didn't know you liked men?"

"I still don't. I..." Carlisle closes his eyes. "I don't want to like men."

Esme stares at him for another long second, and then he can tell when her anger breaks. She sighs, looks away, and says, "Of course you don't. Not with your..." Esme sighs again, and she meets his eyes. "Really, on one level I'm not surprised. I mean, I've met your dad."

"Yeah, he'd..." Carlisle doesn't need to finish the sentence. Esme already know all of this.

"So you've never—before?"


"And you never wanted to... before?"

Carlisle shrugs. "I don't know. I've generally tried not to want anything... anyone."

Esme's eyes look sad, but she smiles and he can tell she's trying to get him to smile, too. "The way your dad preaches about sex, it reminds me of those gruesome lectures on tropical parasites. Those slides." She shivers. "And you haven't... well, I know you better than anyone, and I still don't know you, but I also don't think you know yourself."

"Probably not."

"Did you freak out on him, Edward, I mean the next morning?"

"I suppose that's an adequate description."

Esme makes a small smile. "I almost called you. I was worried, but I was still in shock."

"You're my best friend," he says, and he means it. He loves Esme. She's kind, smart, and... beautiful. He realizes this as he makes himself fully take her in. She has a full-mouthed smile, and she's... in good shape. He's never really noticed this before.

She smiles at him. "I know, which is why I know I'm being stupid about being upset. Not that I can help it. I am disappointed, but..."

"But what?"

"But I think you need to pursue this."

"Oh, I mean, you aren't going to lecture me about the nefariousness of homosexuality?"

Her face falls. "Why would I?"

Carlisle stares down at his feet. "You go to services with me."

He looks up because he hears Esme huff. "Because I like you. Not because... well, your dad's wouldn't be my first choice for religious guidance otherwise. Besides, Carlisle, I have lots of gay friends. Not to mention the slew of our co-workers... Ari, Carolyn, Jane—well, Jane is bi, but she mostly dates women, and... Peter. God, Peter had a fit when he heard about Tuesday... you'd have thought someone stole his ice cream."

"Esme. I'm not really ready for all that, to talk about dating men, or having Peter flirt with me."

Esme is frowning at him. "Carlisle, are you planning on seeing Edward again?"

"His sister is one of my patients. I'll have to." He glances down at his watch. In fact, he has fifteen minutes before Alice is scheduled to finish her treatment.

"That's not what I meant."

"Oh, you mean dating... I hadn't planned on it."

"Well, think about it."

"I..." Carlisle takes a long breath. "...it's just a lot at once."

"Maybe it's time you stood up to your father."

"Well, yesterday, I did order steak. Medium."

It's a change of subject but Esme listens. She laughs in all the right places, and she puts both hands on her hips when he tells her about what his father said about Nick. By the time he has to run, he's smiling again. She tells him that he should talk with someone, and he agrees. They part with smiles, and none of it seems quite as bad as it did twenty minutes ago.

It would be so much easier if he loved her... that way.

-o- -O- -o-

When he walks in, Alice's eyes have lost the luster of the morning. She's still smiling though, and her attention is focused on her brother, who is singing... "Your world is my world, and my fight is your fight. Your br..." Edward cuts off when he realizes Carlisle is in the room.

This causes Alice to giggle, if a bit weakly.

"Alice likes Justin Bieber," Elizabeth says, tilting down her magazine, "and Edward is kind enough to oblige her."

"He likes Bieber, too!" Alice rasps-yells, and Edward is shaking his finger at her, although there's no real threat in his demeanor. If anything, he looks pleased to see his sister's smile.

"Well, Rosalie said you're two minutes from the finish, so you'll be able to go home and listen to all the music... you want," Carlisle says. He honestly has no idea who Justin Weaver is, only that Edward looked and sounded... nice, impressively nice as he was singing.

"Thank you for coming to see me again," Alice says.

"You have to come back into the offices in two days for a follow up," Carlisle says, but he's really reminding Elizabeth.

"On my scheduler," Elizabeth says.

"Great," he says, and then Rosalie comes in the room, and Carlisle makes his excuses to leave.

He's all the way down the hall, rounding the corner by the waiting area outside of Recovery and heading into the men's restroom, when Edward catches up with him.

"Um, I just wanted to say thank you. Like really, thank you." The bathroom doors shuts behind them.

Luckily, the rest of the restroom is empty.

"It's..." Carlisle almost says it's my job, but that'd be lying. "Taking care of Alice is my privilege."

Edward smiles at him, and Carlisle wishes that the simple expression didn't affect him, but it does. They're all alone together, and Carlisle can't focus anywhere but on Edward, and he can't look at Edward's mouth and not remember what it's capable of.

"Also, I wanted to see you again. I meant that," Edward says.

"I..." Carlisle is yet again at a loss for words.

"Just a coffee. Nothing crazy."

Carlisle thinks about what Esme has said. His dick is certainly remembering the morning before last, but there's also the part of him that simply likes Edward. He likes that Edward sings stupid pop songs to Alice, and that he smiles all the time for seemingly no reason at all.

"That would be good." Carlisle finds himself saying before he can stop himself.

Edward's smile gets impossibly larger. "Great. When do you get off?"


"I'm a night owl."

"After eleven. The coffee shops won't be open."

"I know a place. Besides, I figured you'd rather hang out some place less close to your work."

"Right." Carlisle nods.

"Great," Edward nods back, and then he leans forward and smacks a quick kiss on Carlisle's mouth. There's a shocked pause, and there's another softer press of lips, before Edward pulls back. "I'd better get going, but remember. Call me. You have my number on your phone," he says, and then he's out the door.

Carlisle looks down. Scrubs are not adept at hiding erections.

-o- -O- -o-

Carlisle's not sure how Edward managed it, but he's taken him to what is undeniably the gayest coffee shop in the whole city. It's along the river in the "artistic" part of town. The interior has double-story bare brick walls covered by an eclectic mix of local modern art and hula hoops. Or maybe the hula hoops are part of the modern art. Carlisle is never sure about such things. Regardless, there are a mathematically significant number of hula hoops.

Carlisle is uncomfortable. He's trying not to show it, but once they're in the booth, Edward pulls out a metal flask, grabs his drink from him, and asks, "You want?"

It's a really bad idea, but this whole evening is the baddest of bad ideas, so he nods.

Coffee returned to him, Carlisle takes a swig. He manages not to spit it out.

Edward is laughing. "It's an Irish coffee now."

"That was whiskey?"

"Eh, not very good whiskey." Edward takes a swig straight from the canister as if to remind himself and grimaces. He starts laughing again. His hair falls forward in the light, and he brushes out his eyes, and the light is shining across his cheekbones...

God, he's beautiful.

Carlisle decides it's time to make an attempt at polite small talk. "So how many hoola hoops do you think—?" when they're interrupted.

"Edward!" a tall, skinny guy in a tight yellow shirt comes bounding up to their table.

Edward looks less than thrilled to see him. "Oh, hey, Mike."

"And who am I meeting?" Mike is beaming at Carlisle. His eyes move up and then down, and Carlisle has never felt quite so like a mutton chop being assessed by a lion before.

Edward says, "This is Carlisle. Maybe we can—"

"Carlisle, what a pleasure to meet you."

"Go away, Mike," Edward commands wearily.

"Oooh, finders-keepers is it, Edward?"

"Don't you have some twink to molest?"

Mike wiggles his hips. "Someone is testy today," and then in a stage-whisper to Carlisle, "Give him a ring-around-the-rosy, he'll perk right up."

Carlisle almost spits out his coffee.

"Mike, seriously, get the fuck out of here." Edward has his frou-frou mint-mocha coffee raised as a threat. "I don't go interrupting your dates."

"Testy, testy," Mike tuts, but he backs up. "Have fun boys," he says, and then he strides off toward a table on the far side of the room where three other men are crowded together on some couches.

"I'm so sorry," Edward groans, when Mike is out of hearing distance. "Just some people I know. Normally by this hour, they're all out at the bars and clubs."

"You two um, used to... date?" Carlisle asks.

"God, no." Edward looks like he has a bad taste in his mouth. "He wanted to, but... no. Shit, I really am sorry. I know you're not used to the scene, and I thought this would be comfortable—instead it's... Would you rather go outside? We can find a bench and hang out and finish our coffees. I know you're probably tired, and the music is loud..."

As usual, Carlisle has an impossible time saying no to Edward, so he says, "Sure."

Thirty minutes later they're on a bench and the alcohol has kicked in, and Carlisle is leaning into Edward.

It's... nice. Edward has been telling him stories. Stories about his job. About college, his family. Carlisle's been telling stories too. Stories about the hospital, mostly. He doesn't want to talk about his family. At some point during the back and forth, Edward's arm has come along the back of the park bench, and has started rubbing circles in Carlisle's back. The occasional firm press of the thumb feels amazing, and Carlisle lets his head fall onto Edward's shoulder.

Edward's hand increases with its intensity, massaging deeper along the back of Carlisle's neck, even as Edward's tone doesn't change at all. Carlisle tells himself he should be balking at the affection, that a man putting his hands on him should make feel ill at-ease. He shouldn't be comfortable with a person so fast.

He is.

Carlisle lifts his head slightly to look at Edward. Edward's eyes are looking down at the ground. His free hand is tapping on his knee. The top button of his shirt is undone, and as Edward talks, Carlisle can see the subtle changes in his throat muscles. It's the slight bob in Edward's Adam's apple that lures Carlisle in. He reaches up and he touches it, just barely.

Edward stops talking. His eyes close.

Carlisle runs his fingers down the long line of Edward's neck. The skin is cooler at the top but warms as his finger edges down to the top button of his Edward's shirt. When Edward takes in a sharp breath, Carlisle brings his hand along Edward's chin. The day's scruff makes the texture prickly, yet he likes dragging his finger through it. At the cleft in Edward's chin, he looks up and sees Edward's eyes are looking into his. Edward's mouth is open, and he looks shaken, a little desperate.

Carlisle pulls Edward's mouth to his own.

It's all so quiet. There are the muted voices and music from inside the coffee bar. There's the buzz of the street lamp on the corner. There's creaking shift of the park bench as their bodies move closer. Until fabric rustles against fabric.

Edward's mouth molds against his, and Carlisle kisses him, and kisses him. He drinks in his lips until all he wants more...

He's rubbing at Edward's hip, and Edward's responds by crossing his leg over Carlisle's bringing them even closer. The kisses get rougher. Carlisle bites at Edward's tongue, his lips, and jaw, and Edward's hand slides under his shirt. They're cold against his skin, and he wants more. More. He's half-pulling Edward onto his lap, when Edward stops him with a, "Wait!"

Carlisle doesn't want to stop. His imagination goes screwy and starts demanding that Edward go back to his place, and that he rip off his clothes and throw him on his bed... that Edward fall to his knees again, and...

There's the sound of loud voices behind them, coming out of the coffee shop, and it's like a bucket of ice water.

"I'm sorry," Carlisle says. "I didn't mean to..."

Edward grabs his chin, and pulls him forward so that he's whispering in Carlisle's ear. "No, I love it. I don't get it, but really, seriously, I love it. You're so shy and withdrawn, and then the next thing I know, you're commanding me in the filthiest way."

"I wish I weren't that way. I shouldn't be that way with you."

"Yes, you should. It's intense, and you've made it so that I can't stop thinking about you. I've thought about you in every spare second since Wednesday morning."


"What?" Edward asks. His eyes are searching Carlisle's.

It takes all of his will, but Carlisle makes himself say it. "I should catch a cab."

Edward looks about to protest, but then he nods. Carlisle wonders what Edward sees when he looks at him.

-o- -O- -o-

On Sunday, he goes to church with Esme. He sends his father a text message to let him know he'll be elsewhere. He gets no reply. He's not sure his father knows how to check his text messages.

On Monday, he sees Alice when she comes in for next appointment. Edward is out of town for work. Alice is wearing a red scarf and red lipstick to match. She's pale and the red reminds Carlisle of his mother's geraniums for some reason. The appointment goes fine. Alice has lost two-lbs since her last weigh-in, and he reminds her to take the corticosteroids when she gets queasy.

On Tuesday, he has lunch with his father again. Just the two of them this time.

"You went to services with Esme on Sunday," his father says.

"Yep." Carlisle takes a bite of his salad. Today it's a steak salad with blue cheese and far too many cranberries. His father turned up his nose, but he didn't say anything. He didn't even give Carlisle "the look."

"Where'd you go?"

"St. Augustine's."


"I believe so."

"I don't know much about the place. Used to be you could find some common ground with the Anglicans, now they're as bad as the Catholics—worse, with that Gene Robinson running around New Hampshire like it's Mardi Gras."

Carlisle doesn't say anything. He focuses his entire attention on cutting a rubbery piece of steak. Gene Robinson was the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopalian Church. The topic is far too close for comfort.

After a moment his father continues, "Well, I suppose it's alright for you to go with Esme now and again, as long as she knows whose church you'll be going to after you're married."

"Dad, we're not getting married. Esme's my friend."

"Son," Carlisle's father sets down his fork, "You better not be messing around with that girl. She's better deserving than that."

"She's my friend, dad. I'd never hurt Esme."

His father looks at him like he doesn't believe him, but then he also looks equally uncomfortable over the topic. He and his father don't discuss women. The only women they both loved is long dead, and now his father is a holier-than-thou minister.

Carlisle gives up on trying to saw the steak and takes another bite of salad. He is almost bored as he contemplates his own damnation.

On Thursday evening as he's crawling into bed, he gets a text message from Edward.

I'll be back in town on Fridaycan I see you? All of you? Oh, wait... any part of you would be fine.

Carlisle lies down to sleep fighting an erection.

Generally, he tries not to masturbate. When he was younger, there was the West Central youth minister who put the fear of God into him. They separated the boys and the girls in Sunday school, and told them that if they spilled their seed, they'd be fornicating with the demons of the air. Or something. Carlisle doesn't remember much except that he was terrified, half-imagining some suckered monster slicing at his genitals.

When he was in college and preparing for medical school, he read studies showing that celibate men had higher rates of prostate cancer than sexually-active men. He had concluded, using only his reason and without consulting any religious authority, that if God wanted men to hold in their seed, he wouldn't have given his strictest adherents a statistically significant biological downside.

But then, on a practical basis, there is the issue that if he does it right before bed, he always manages to get hard again, right away, and sometimes, if he doesn't take care of it, the erection might even wake him up. That has always put him off the act. He needs his sleep. He is always underslept, so in general, he tells himself it isn't worth it. He tries not to do it more than he has to.

He is doing it now. He is under the sheets, prone on the mattress, and he is imaging another body's weight on top of his. In the past, he's always imagined a body under him or hands curling around him. He's never really assigned a face.

He is seeing Edward now.

He has his hands grabbing the bed rails, and he is pushing down with his hips, grinding his knees, and kicking up with toes, rocking the bed, and he is imagining Edward biting into his shoulder as he pushes Carlisle onto the mattress, grabbing his hands so they can't move and rocking him hard and harder until the pressure hurts, until the mattress springs are creaking and the wooded rails are thumping against the wall, until his cheeks are spread, until he is panting and heaving and he is being slammed into...

Carlisle comes all over the sheets.

He wakes up an hour later. He goes pee, and then he does it again.

The next morning, he does it in the shower, improvising and using conditioner as a lubricant.

Before he leaves the house, he messages Edward. Where do you want to meet? He doesn't feel quite so bad about it this time. If anything, sending the message is a relief.

Edward texts back. My place okay? I make excellent curry.

At work, it's obvious. Rosalie slaps him on the back and says, "See, you don't need Vicodin when you're getting laid."

Carlisle frowns at her. He thinks she's been watching too much House. "Er... Thanks for the pharmacological wisdom, Rosalie."

"If you want any tips... of the physiological kind, I can help. Even with the boy-on-boy stuff, I read a lot of diverse books."

"Leave me alone."

"You coming to the bar with us tonight?"


"Because you're going to see Edward?"

"Go away, Rosalie," he says, but there's no heat in his tone. He's rather worried he looks stupid-happy.

Rosalie laughs, and for some reason, her laugh has him smiling too. She smacks his butt with her clipboard, and skirts off down the hall to go stick someone with a large needle.

-o- -O- -o-

Edward's apartment looks like IKEA met the Bachelor and had a bastard child. There are a great number of under-watered tropical plants, a large music collection, and a pile of unfolded laundry in a basket by the hallway.

"Sorry," Edward says, pulling open the closet door and stuffing it in as they go down the hall, "my roommate is a total waste of space."


"Yeah, Emmett. He's not here. He travels almost as much as I do."

Edward shows him the kitchen. It's your typical bland rental kitchen: everything is beige and somewhat industrial. The only color is a bright red stir fry pan on the stove top.

"The curry?" Carlisle asks and he dips his finger in. He tastes the heat, the lemongrass and the coconut milk. It's good. He licks his lips.

"Yep," Edward says, as he pulls on a faded red chef's apron and steps forward to stir the curry. "Do you think it needs more salt?"

Carlisle dips his finger in again, but when he starts to draw it toward his mouth, Edward grabs his hand.

"Let me," he says and he sucks the curry off Carlisle's finger. There's the slip of the tongue going down his finger, wiggling over the ridges, and then sucking all the way back up.

"Fuck," Carlisle says, and then he's grabbing on to the apron straps and Edward is pushing him back to the counter.

There's the first kiss. Edward's mouth covers his own, and Edward's lower body pushes against his, and that's when Carlisle realizes that Edward is hard, even through the apron.

"What? I missed you," Edward says, before biting at Carlisle's bottom lip and sucking on it.

When Carlisle's mouth is free, even as his neck is not, he says "I missed you, too. I tried not to. But I did."

Edward is grinding into Carlisle, his voice is low and thick. "Don't try not to. Call me. I'll come..." and his voice tapers off because he's trying to find the right angle on Carlisle, trying to press his arousal into Carlisle's.

Carlisle, however, is at the wrong angle, if anything, the harder he gets, the more uncomfortable it is. "Wait," he says, and he's reaching down his pants to adjust the angle.

Edward's makes this tense little growl noise, and then he's trying to get Carlisle's jeans button open. Button opened, he pushes down Carlisle's jeans and boxers, and Carlisle's dick springs loose, and Edward's hand feels hot as he grips him.

"Fuck." Carlisle can't stop himself from bucking his hips into Edward's hand. He wants that hand to move. "I actually thought we were going to eat."

"Order is important," Edward says, and his hand beings slow, firm strokes on Carlisle.

"I never used to be this way." Carlisle's trying to relax, but he's already so close. He's been thinking about this all day.

"You told me," Edward says, increasing the pace.

"No, I mean I was a total prude."

Edward doesn't laugh. Instead he just buries his face in Carlisle's neck, his hand pumping fast now. "Your dick is leaking in my hand. You are not a prude."

Carlisle doesn't answer. He can't. His eyes are rolling backwards in his brain and there's that tension in his abdomen that seems to go backward, forward, and everywhere.

He shoots into Edward's hand.

When he opens his eyes, Edward is watching him. He looks smug. There's a fevered look on his face, a shine of sweat at the top of his forehead. When Carlisle smiles at him, Edward leans forward to kiss him. That's when Carlisle feels that Edward is still hard.

He likes that fact. He really likes it. He likes it enough to reach around behind Edward's apron and find the edges of Edward's pants. Edward is wearing loose draw string pants. Carlisle wonders if he did that on purpose.

"You don't have to," Edward says.

Carlisle ignores him. He thought about this yesterday morning while he was in the shower. The only difference is that there hadn't been an apron. Carlisle lowers himself to his knees, and under Edward's apron.

Edward's cock is longer than his but a bit thinner. Carlisle lets his cheek touch it first, before dragging his face back along it and enjoying the softness of the the skin and the sound of Edward hissing above. He licks the clear white pearl on the tip. Then he opens his mouth and takes it in.

Edward is dead silent for a full second, and then there's a hoarse groan.

It's wildly encouraging. Carlisle feels a stir of something like pride in his chest, and he starts to move back and forth. He tries different things. He wraps a hand around Edward's base. Sometimes he sucks, sometimes he presses his tongue more, and other times he takes his mouth off and nibbles up and down the shaft.

He's almost disappointed when he feels Edward tense. His hips press forward, and the bitter salty taste fills his mouth. Carlisle swallows. It's slick and coats the back of his throat enough that he has to swallow a few more times, but he likes it. He likes it even better when he tosses aside the apron from the top of his head and sees Edward, looking down at him. His hair is a mess and his lips are fat and swollen, making him look fucked and spent.

"We burnt the curry," he says.

They eat it anyway.

-o- -O- -o-

Carlisle stays the night. Edward has his arms wrapped around him, and his breath is a pleasant beat in Carlisle's ear.

"I think I'm gay," Carlisle says.

Edward doesn't laugh or even move away. He says, "I think so too," somewhat sleepily.

"I think it's your fault," Carlisle teases.

"You kissed me first."

"You shouldn't have looked so appealing."

"Nope, you shouldn't have been so gay."

Carlisle snuggles closer to Edward.

He goes to sleep feeling happy in a way he's never felt before.

-o- -O- -o-

He spends Saturday night with Edward too.

He goes to the "other church" with Esme on Sunday. He's two minutes late, and they get seated in the back. Afterwards they go to lunch, and Esme tells him once again that she thinks he should talk to someone.

"I don't..." he starts to say, but then he stops and thinks about. He's not being rational. In fact, he likes not being rational. He likes this perfect bubble he's in. He ends up telling her that he'll get back to her.

On Monday, Edward's out of town again.

On Tuesday, Carlisle cancels lunch with his dad. Edward isn't around and he feels sick to his stomach.

On Wednesday, he tells Esme that he'll talk to someone.

She must have pulled some strings because on Friday, he's in a room with Marcus. It's once he's in the room with Marcus that he gets why the man is so effective. He just has this look on his face, like he knows exactly what Carlisle is going through and he knows exactly where he needs to go. Marcus is only going to patiently guide him along until he gets there.

On Friday, Edward is back again. He comes in with Alice for her appointment. Carlisle makes sure to slip in while Rosalie and Tanya are out to lunch.

"You're so dating my brother," Alice accuses as he walks in.

Carlisle's eyes look up to Edward's. "She wrenched it out of me," Edward says. "It's impossible to keep things from her."

"And you promised only to ever tell me the truth." Alice has her arms crossed over her chest, and she's wearing a yellow scarf, balaclava-style, and with big hoop earrings so that she looks like a fortuneteller.

Carlisle smiles. "I did say that, but right now, we need to talk over your recent results."

Her whole face brightens at the obvious smile on his face. "My counts are good?"

"They are."


"So I'm going to sign off on scheduling the stem cell transplant."

"Yay! ...and ugh."

It's an accurate description. The procedure is best described as necessary torture. "Now, the date is tentative, because if you—"

"—get so much as a cold I have to call right away. I know," she says. "Now, how long have you been dating my brother?"

"Uh, Alice, I think Carlisle is pretty busy today," Edward says. "Not a lot of time for small talk."

"You should bring him over for dinner. Mom already loves him. I love him too," she looks over fondly at Carlisle.

Carlisle is embarrassed, but also touched. "We'll see..."

"But he has to go right now," Edward says.

"No—he does not. You're just saying that because—"

Alice is still arguing with her brother as Carlisle makes his final excuses and slips out the door. He feels strangely warm.

-o- -O- -o-

There's no nice build up. There's just a stomach full of acid and a lame attempt at bravery. He sits through his father's mass that Sunday. He eats a piece of fried chicken and a doughnut while his father works the room after the service. He has to ask his dad for a moment alone.

"What for?"

"I need to talk to you."

They go in the study.

"Dad, I'm gay."

His dad doesn't even blink. He says, "No, you're not."

"I am."

"Sodomy is a sin."

Carlisle closes his eyes. He takes a long breath. "I wanted to tell you, so you'd know why I'm not coming to services anymore."

Carlisle expects his dad to argue with him, start dictating a twelve-step course for redemption, but he doesn't. His father is staring at him. His eyes are unfocused and he's gripping the pen in his hand so hard, Carlisle fears that it might snap in two.

When his father speaks, it's one word. "Leave."

Carlisle turns around and walks toward the door. "I love you, dad."

He closes the door to silence.

-o- -O- -o-

He goes to the cemetery where they buried his mother. It's on top of a hill with candy-red crab apples and giant maple trees. A moss path winds through it, and Carlisle skids along the moist stones at least twice before he makes it to where she rests.

He puts a pot of geraniums on her grave, because even though he thinks they're a bit ugly, she always liked them. Then he prays. He imagines her smile, her soft blond hair that he buried his face into when he was a boy and sometimes, even when he was much older. He recalls the way she'd look at him and tell him how proud she was of him, even when his father was so severe. It's the least he can do to pray that she's in heaven and smiling, even if the smile isn't directed toward him.

He doesn't pretend that she would accept him the way he is now. He isn't sure she would have... not if it meant crossing his dad. She would have hated being forced to choose. But he wouldn't have asked her to choose him.

She would never have stopped loving him, though. That would never have been the issue.

At some point, Carlisle realizes that there are tears on his cheeks. The wind picks up and the he feels the lines of cold on his face. They burn, much colder than the rest of his skin.

-o- -O- -o-

Edward comes over to Carlisle's without asking.

He takes one look at him, and says, "No, no, no, my angel," and then he's holding Carlisle. Carlisle is buried in the sweet, now familiar smell of his neck and hair. Edward has caught him in a grip so hard that it hurts, and yet it's exactly what he needs.

Whatever might come, he has this right now.

Edward curls up with Carlisle on the couch. He makes Carlisle lay his head in his lap, and he sings to him. Some of the songs are by Justin Bieber. Michael Jackson. The point is to make Carlisle laugh. Other songs are serious. Edward croons them in a voice so soft that they make Carlisle want to cry again, but this time for someone else. Someone who isn't him, and that's also good.

They get naked, and curl up in Carlisle's bed, but they don't do anything. In the dark with Edward's body warm against him, Carlisle tells Edward about his family. About how his mom was the glue, and how she tempered his father. How his dad went from strong to brittle after she died. How, really, he lost both of his parents.

Carlisle asks Edward if he thinks they're going to hell.

"No, not you."

"What? You think you're going, but I'm not?"

"I don't know about me. I don't really think about it. I try to be a good person, but you..." He squeezes Carlisle's hand. "The way you are with my sister and your patients... You're just... good. I tease you that you look like an angel... but sometimes I feel like I'm second-guessing my own teasing."

"I'm no angel."

"You're mine," Edward says. "And if there's a God, he knows a good soul when he sees it."

Carlisle doesn't think Edward's logic would hold up in most religious circles, but in this small space of time, it's enough to know that Edward believes in him. It's enough that Carlisle can curl into him and steal from his strength... enough to quiet his own worries and find sleep.

-o- -O- -o-

The next Tuesday, Carlisle gets an angry letter from his father. It tells him that even if he is that way, there are steps he can take. There are places that will guide him "to the Lord's safe harbor."

Carlisle puts the letter through a paper shredder in the files room at the hospital.

On Sunday, Esme, Edward, and Carlisle all go to a new church on 22nd street. There's a rainbow square on the bulletin board when you first walk in that says, "All of us are God's children."

Carlisle enjoys the service.

The next Friday night, they're in Carlisle's kitchen. Edward is on his knees and Carlisle's robe is wide open, and he's letting Edward suck him at his own pace. Edward made him promise not to take control. He shouldn't have promised, because Edward is taking it snail-slow, driving Carlisle inside-fucking-out crazy. He's half ready to thump Edward when a finger slides along Carlisle's ass and presses... at his hole.

He seizes up, but Edward sucks even harder, mouth-fucking Carlisle's dick with such relish that Carlisle almost forgets the imposing digit. But then it pushes past the ring of muscle.

It stings, and it makes Carlisle self-conscious... that part of him is normally used for anotherfunction, and what if Edward thinks he's gross, or what if...?

Edward's finger is deeper, much deeper, and there's a new sensation. It's one that goes from his cock, all the way back until it reaches... his prostate. He doesn't think it should be that easy to find, but Edward is clever with his fingers. Carlisle lets loose a long moan, and he looks down to see Edward clearly smiling on Carlisle's cock. He looks filthy and evil and plotting, and holy hell, Carlisle loves him.

Two minutes later, Carlisle fills his mouth.

Edward stands up and holds him. His lips move to Carlisle's ear and he whispers, "That was okay?"

Carlisle makes a feeble sound, one that conveys the meaning: "Are you fucking kidding me?"

Edward lets loose an exhalation of relief, and then his voice goes dark and insistent, like it does when he's really turned on. "Good, because your ass, it's so tight. Fucking unbelievable. The way you clenched around my finger when you came, it was... I want to fuck you. I want to fuck you—but only if you're ready. I want you to be ready."

Edward is half-grinding against Carlisle. Carlisle's face is buried in Edward's neck, and he doesn't even really think about it so much as he raises his head to kiss Edward.

It's a soft kiss that turns into a hard one. "Can I?" Edward asks at the end of it.

Carlisle nods "yes."

They go up to the bedroom. Edward pushes off Carlisle's robe, and Carlisle pulls off Edward's shirt. He can't help it. He runs his hands across Edward's chest, grips his square shoulders, and pulls his arms toward him. He needs touch.

Edward's cock is hard against his stomach. Carlisle already sucked him once today, but when he takes Edward into his palm, he's rock hard all over again.

He pushes Edward back on to the bed. They kiss and roll their bodies and Edward whispers word after word of irreverence until Carlisle is completely recovered from before. He's hard and leaking as Edward pulls their cocks at the same time in his grip. He's whining and telling Edward to "fucking get the lube already," and then Edward's finger, slick from the jar, is sliding up and up, and it feels good, but then the second one stings a bit, but Edward kisses him through every cringe.

When he adds the third finger, Carlisle swears a lot, and Edward tells him, "We don't have to."

Carlisle replies, "Oh, yes, we fucking do," so that Edward thrusts the trio of fingers while kissing Carlisle. He's biting at his lips so hard that they sting instead of his ass, and with each jerk of his fingers he starts grinding their dicks, and then Carlisle doesn't care about the way his ass hole is smarting.

Edward pulls out the fingers. He softly says, "Turn over," and Carlisle does, getting up on his knees. Edward spreads his legs apart, so that his ass is spread, and there's a sound of the condom wrapper being opened. Carlisle feels exposed and nervous, and he's no longer hard. He's shaking a bit, but then Edward is kissing up his back, putting a finger back inside with more lube, and then Edward has his hand around his belly, stroking him.

When Edward lines up his dick and starts to push, it hurts. The stretch stings way more than three fingers ever did, but then there's the noise Edward makes, like he just died and went to heaven. It's enough that Carlisle loses some of his tension. He attunes himself to Edward. The way Edward's nails are digging into his ass cheeks as he pushes himself inside. Edward's furious breathing. The long groan he makes when he's fully in and Carlisle can feel his balls tickling against his ass.

Edward waits. He asks, "Are you okay?"

Carlisle says, "Kiss me," and even though it's awkward, and Carlisle has to turn his head at a weird angle, they kiss, and it's enough. Then Edward is licking and biting at his neck, and when he bites Carlisle's shoulder, rocking their bodies in slow movements, Carlisle lets out a long groan.

Edward tries a small thrust. Then another.

When he's fucking Carlisle in earnest, Carlisle's there with him. There's sweat, slick between them, and Edward's fingers are laced with Carlisle's. Even though he's still sore, Carlisle loves it. He loves feeling Edward come undone in every muscle. He loves knowing that he has Edwardphysically inside of him.

When Edward asks once again, "Are you okay?", Carlisle says, "I told you I wanted you to fuck me."

"Okay, okay." Edward's laughing like he's high as a kite.

Carlisle doesn't want him laughing. He wants him out of his mind. "Go harder," he says.

"If I go harder, I'll..."

Carlisle starts thrusting his hips back to meet Edward's, which causes Edward to seize in air like he's drowning, before giving the fuck up on control. He pounds into Carlisle, hard enough that the sound of their skin slapping is audible and the whole bed is creaking back and forth. Carlisle's bracing his knees so they keep friction, and Edward is pumping into him and whispering a mix of endearments and curses. It feels... good. Each push of Edward's cock hits the spot, and Carlisle wants this to last forever. He wants to be filled again and again and...

He feels it when Edward's whole body goes tense. Edward lets out a long keening whine against Carlisle's neck, his teeth cutting slightly. He gives a final thrust and then he sags, putting his whole weight on Carlisle so that they collapse on the bed, and then they're both just panting and sweaty and spent.

Edward puts his fingers on Carlisle's lips. He traces the edges with careful precision before leaning down to press a kiss. "I love you. I've meant to say that for a while."

Carlisle smiles. "I love you too," he says.

It feels good.

-o- -O- -o-

A month later, Esme starts dating Marcus. Carlisle finds it a bit strange.

Two months later, Alice has her transplant. It's a success.

Four months later, Carlisle's father stops by the hospital to see him. He tells him that he expects him to show up at lunch on Tuesday.

"Can I order steak?" Carlisle asks.

"Your steak is on you," his father says, but he musters a facial expression resembling a smile.

Carlisle goes to the lunch. They do not talk about his sexuality.

However, at the end of the lunch, his father says, "I love you," before he heads out, and there's something in his father's face that reminds him of the father he knew before his mother went away.

Six months later, Alice is given the all clear. There's a party afterwards. Carlisle goes, and ends up getting formally introduced as the "boyfriend."

At the end of one of their therapy sessions, Carlisle says to Marcus, "I'm flawed, but I think I'm okay with that."

Marcus betrays his patience and looks profoundly relieved.

Eight months later, Edward moves in.

A year later, Carlisle wakes up in the morning. He's sore because they did it... four-five times last night? He's not sure.

Edward is curled up into a ball of sheets. The morning sun tends to hit his side of the bed first, and he's rolled away from the slash of light. He's wearing a white t-shirt, and with his dark lashes and perfect skin, he looks... perfect.

Carlisle goes downstairs and makes two cups of coffee. One is black. The other is made with sugar and far too much cream.

He goes upstairs and sets the coffee cup on the nightstand. He'll wake Edward up in a minute. For now, he just wants to enjoy the moment. He moves over to sit on the floor where the sun has warmed the wood boards, and he sprawls back in the light.

His ass is sore, there is a man in his bed, and he is blissfully happy.

-o- -O- -o-