Title: Amid the Lucid Stream
Author: ArcadianMaggie
Genre: AU
Pairing: Edward/Jasper
Rating: M
Word Count: 3,064
Summary: ::VAMPSLASH CONTEST:: The wolves don't bother the solitary vampire who sits on the cliff's edge, night after night, looking at the stars. Edward/Jasper, AU, Slash. Rated M.

Read the other entries on the VampSlash Contest C2: http:/www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/community/The_VampSlash_Contest/90655/

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended.

Thee, silver Swan, who silent, can overpass?
A hundred with seven radiant stars compose.
The graceful form: amid the lucid stream
Of the fair Milky Way.

-from Eudosia: or A Poem of the Universe by Capel Lofft, 1781

Edward's not sure how long he's been sitting at the cliff's edge. From the position of the sun in the sky, it will be twilight soon, but he's uncertain if he exists in today or if it is already tomorrow. He watches the sun sinking slowly toward the horizon, a hazy ball of light cocooned in a swath of clouds. There are streaks of pink, a soft gold, and a pale sky blue, but mostly, there is grey. A gull cries, sharp and loud. Unbidden, a memory from long, long ago, surfaces. He's a boy, not yet seven. His toes curl as the water steals sand from beneath his feet, more with each successive pulse of the ocean. His mother laughs as he grabs for her hand, almost losing his balance when a particularly strong wave scurries over his ankles. Look, she says, pointing out to sea. The sun is bright and large, a glowing ball of fire in the sky, balancing on the edge of the ocean. If you listen closely, you'll hear it hiss as it touches the water.

Here, watching from the top of the cliff, the sun doesn't hiss. The traces of color simply bleed away as the evening creeps in, the light gradually dimming until everything is grey.

One more, he thinks to himself. Just one more.

Bella looks up as he enters the house. She gives him a tentative smile and he tries to respond in kind, but he can tell it comes off more as a grimace when her expression falters. He leans over to kiss her on the cheek and her scent fills his lungs. He remembers when it had the ability to drive him almost mad, when her blood sang to him, and his throat burned with an unbearable thirst. It's still sweet, and pleasant. Edward likes the way she smells.

"Renesmee?" he asks.

"She's asleep."

He nods and heads for the stairs, unwilling to look her in the eyes and see the hurt and confusion and longing there. He can feel her staring at him as he crosses the room. Guilt claws at him and he tamps it down; he can't think of that right now.

Renesmee is beautiful. Perfect. She's on her back with an arm thrown behind her head, her hand balled into a fist. He reaches out and slides his finger in the tiny hollow created by her thumb and smiles when she grips it in her sleep. Her rapid heartbeat and gentle breathing soothe him and he eavesdrops on her dreams, watching the colorful images dancing in her head, familiar faces fading in and out. For a time, she reminds him a stone heart can ache with joy as well as sorrow.

Bella's voice stops him as he reaches the door.

"You're leaving already?"

The urge to escape is overwhelming.

"Yes," he answers.

"Will… when will you be back?" He doesn't have to read her mind to know what she's thinking. She wonders if he'd return at all if Renesmee wasn't here.

"I'm not sure."

He watches her struggle not to ask the question, afraid if she voices it, the possibility will become real.

Taking pity on her, he adds, "It won't be as long."

Her relief is palpable.

The stars are bright against the backdrop of night. The sky is clear, devoid of clouds to obscure his view. He sees Pegasus, Cassiopeia, Ursa Minor, Draco. And east of Lyra, Cygnus, the swan, neck extended in flight. He remembers how he used to smile when he saw the constellation high in the summer sky, a reminder of the girl he loved. Edward closes his eyes and lies back on the stone ledge of the cliff, focusing on the sound of the ocean splashing against the rock, its steady rhythm washing away the tangled threads of thought, loosening them one by one until they drift away and his mind is free to wander.

"I thought I'd find you here," a soft voice whispers in his ear. "No, keep your eyes closed," he's told as he attempts to turn his head. He feels the cool breath against his neck, and then soft lips, a tongue sliding over his skin. He trembles as sure hands part his clothing, fingers trailing down his sides. When lips follow, mouth pausing momentarily to bite gently at his hip, Edward groans and his body arches up. He feels his pants being tugged down his thighs and then his cock is completely engulfed in a wet mouth. Awash in sensation, he is overwhelmed, and he reaches out to tangle his fingers in the hair of the head leaning over him, bobbing in time to the rhythm of the sea. The barriers are down and he hears the voice in his head—so beautiful, so beautiful, it chants almost reverently. Strong hands grip his hips, holding him down as he bucks up. A harsh cry is wrung from his throat as his release rushes through him. His fingers tighten into a fist as he grips the soft curls, vibrations from an appreciative moan against his sensitive cock almost too much to bear.

"Jasper," he gasps out.

The mouth stays closed around him, sucking gently as he comes down from his orgasm. Then his cock is released, his hand carefully disentangled from the silken curls. Edward feels his clothing being refastened, and then soft lips are on his own, tenderly kissing his mouth. I'll always love you, he hears in his head, for as long as there are stars up in the sky.

He keeps his eyes closed, reveling in the feelings—body sated, love surrounding him, embracing him in its warmth. When he opens his eyes, he is alone on the cliff. His heart aches.

Carlisle greets him when he returns home. Edward hears his concern, his constant worry. He doesn't understand Edward's actions, but he can see the extent of his pain. He wants to be there for him, to help him any way he can. He wants his family whole again. He wants Alice to come out of her room, where she's been sequestered for weeks. He's grateful to Renesmee, since she's the only one who can elicit a response from anyone that even closely resembles a smile. He doesn't know what to do.

"If you need to talk, I'm here," Carlisle offers.

"I know. Thank you."

He sees the expectant, hopeful look on Carlisle's face, and he hates to disappoint him, but he just… can't.


"I don't want to talk about him," Edward cuts him off, shoulders going rigid.

Carlisle sighs.

Edward pushes Carlisle's thoughts from his mind and goes upstairs to find Renesmee. He can hear the soft murmur of Esme's voice down the hall, attempting to comfort Alice. He shuts his mind, as well as he can, to Alice's distress. Bella is with Renesmee, curled up on the bed reading a book. She looks up, uncertain, as he enters the room.

"Do you want me to…?" She nods her head toward the door.

"If you don't mind."

"No, I'll… let me finish this story, then I'll leave you two alone."

"All right."

He watches as she reads to their daughter. Bella is beautiful, her voice lovely and musical. He thinks, before, this would have been enough for him. She was everything he ever wanted.

She's so tentative around him now, timid and frightened. Sometimes, he can't even bear to look at her.

Edward spends the afternoon with Renesmee, his heart lightening with each one of her smiles. He lets her fill his head with pretty pictures and tries not to react too strongly when one of the images is a beloved smiling face, creased with dimples, framed by soft golden curls.

Day turns to night and night turns to day, and the cycle repeats until he once again loses track of time. The wolves don't bother him, not since Jacob imprinted on his daughter. The tribe and the Cullens are family now; the old treaty is obsolete. They steer clear of the cliffs while he sits there, day after day, replaying memories in his head.

He thinks of the day Jasper and Alice arrived in New York. Edward had no idea back then how Jasper had reacted to meeting him, years of discipline having taught Jasper how to shield his thoughts, control his emotions. He knows now, though, as he knows every last secret in Jasper's heart. He knows when Jasper first saw him, he was immediately drawn to Edward, taken by his beauty, his youth and innocence, his protective and affectionate feelings toward his family.

He knows that over the years, Edward's draw only grew stronger for Jasper. He thinks of their many long talks, about the war, about their souls, about those years before Edward returned to Carlisle. Of them all, Jasper was the only one who truly understood his rebellion and the toll it had taken. And through their conversations, Edward had learned forgiveness. If only he had realized then what a precious gift was within his grasp.

All those years, wasted…

The water splashes against the cliff and pulls from him another memory—Jasper seeing Edward emerge naked from the water after washing the stench of the hunt from his skin. He can feel Jasper's attraction, his arousal, the fine-tuned attention he gives to the droplets of water sliding over Edward's skin, dripping down his neck, across his shoulders, down the planes of his chest. He feels Jasper's desire as he stares at his sex, resting heavy against the nest of damp curls. He knows now what went through Jasper's head, how he wanted to learn every inch of his skin, lick the droplets from his body and palm his sex beneath his hand until it grew rigid from his touch. He's seen all Jasper's fantasies, bending him over, tonguing him open, thrusting deep inside him. He's felt all of his passion, his unwavering devotion.

He's seen Jasper's decisions—his loyalty to Alice who pulled him from the darkness and granted him a new life and who considers Jasper her mate. He's seen the genuine happiness Jasper felt for Edward as he married the girl of his dreams, even as his heart ached unbearably for things that could never be. He understands love in a way he never did before, generous and unselfish and pure.

If he closes his eyes, he can feel Jasper's hands on his skin, see the ways his eyes go dark, the memories perfectly clear, as if he were here right now, this very second. He can feel the strength of Jasper's love, piercing like a blade. He can feel everything.

When he opens his eyes, it is night and the stars burn. Winter is approaching, and Cygnus will begin to disappear beyond the edge of the sky, its flight taking the bird beyond his reach. He thinks of the stories he's read, how the Arabs see the constellation as a different form, that of a hen. He remembers his mother, so long ago, referring to it as the Northern Cross. Some say it's Zeus himself in the guise he wore to seduce Leda, mother of Helen of Troy. Others say the swan is the pet of Queen Cassiopeia. Yet another tale is that it's Orpheus, placed in the heavens to be forever near his harp, after he was murdered by Thracian women under Bacchus' influence. Most famous, of course, is the tale recounted in Ovid's Metamorphoses, of Phaeton, who rode the chariot of his father—god of the sun—too close to the earth and was struck down by Jupiter with a thunderbolt. His grieving friend, Cyncus, was transformed into a swan while weeping at his grave, his distrust of the heavens and burning flames keeping him close to the rivers and marshes and lakes.

Edward prefers the version of this story where Cygnus and Phaeton were dear friends, competing in a race across the sky. When they both flew too close to the sun and their chariots burned up, they plunged to the earth. Phaeton ended in the Eridanus River, trapped beneath the roots of a tree. Desperate to recover his friend's body for proper burial to ensure his spirit would travel to the afterlife, Cygnus dove into the water repeatedly. His efforts proved fruitless and he tearfully begged Zeus for help. Zeus offered to transform him into a swan, allowing him to dive deep enough, but doing so meant he would give up his immortality. Cygnus willingly made the sacrifice and was ultimately rewarded with a spot in the heavens.

He enters the house through the back again, as he always does these days, giving the drive a wide berth. It's not as though he can forget, however. For as treasured as some of his memories are, such as the ones he takes out on the cliff's edge to re-live again and again, the less pleasant ones reside in his mind with equal clarity.

They were on the front porch, laughing as Bella recounted pictures Renesmee had put in her head. Jasper was leaning against the railing, a bemused smile on his face. The sound of a truck could be heard from the distance, growing louder as it came up the drive. Edward should have been listening, should have been paying attention, but he just assumed it was Jacob. Again.

Charlie's scent reached them at the same time. Impatient with the vague information he had been given, he had come to insist on some answers.

Edward was slow to react, not yet processing the full situation. But not so Jasper, who had spent years among newborns and knew their deadly strength and speed.

It was only fractions of a second, their movements a blur, but when Bella lunged for her father's throat, Jasper used every last ounce of strength he possessed to throw himself between Bella and Charlie.

Edward can still hear the sickening tear, the sound of ripping flesh as razor sharp teeth severed Jasper's head from his neck. It landed with a soft thump on the ground, his body crumpled next to it, the eyes blinking in surprise as they sought out Edward's.

Frozen in shock and horror, Edward was only vaguely aware of Alice's screams and Esme's comforting voice. On the periphery of his vision he could see Emmett and Rosalie struggling to subdue the bloodthirsty Bella while Carlisle attempted to move a stunned Charlie to safety, with hasty explanations and promises of details to follow.

Edward's eyes remained locked on Jasper's and he reeled as thoughts started pouring into his head. He'd never been able to breach Jasper's mental defenses, had never been given access to his mind beyond what Jasper wanted him to see. As many conversations as they had shared and as many secrets they had told one another, Jasper had never fully let him in. But now, the barriers were stripped away; Jasper's mind was completely open to him. Every thought, every feeling, every memory he'd ever had was flooding into Edward's head, faster and faster, picking up speed until they were an incomprehensible blur, like a movie on fast forward motion, a core dump for processing later. The eyelids flickered one last time, then fluttered shut, and the information stream came to an abrupt halt, leaving nothing but silence.

The night is clear again and his eyes seek out Cygnus. He wonders what shapes he'd see if he were looking at the constellation from another spot in the universe. He wonders what stories it would tell. Even from earth, he now sees more than a swan, more than points of light. He sees Deneb—the supergiant, the variable stars and the star clusters. He sees the Cygnus Star Cloud between Sadr and the binary Alberio, and the Fireworks Galaxy at the edge. He sees the North American Nebula where stars are newly forming, and the orangish star Gienah, one at the beginning stages of its death. He sees the Veil Nebula, the remnant of a supernova explosion long ago, the extra solar planets, and the black hole Cygnus X-1. He thinks of objects hurtling through space and how even the shape from earth will little resemble the shape Cygnus bears 100,000 years from now.

Edward is still processing all the thoughts and feelings and memories that now reside beside his own. He was stunned by the strength and purity of Jasper's love for him, humbled by his desire to look on Edward's face in the last seconds of his life. He never knew, never even suspected.

He views everything differently now. Bella's affections seem like a schoolgirl's foolish fantasies. He feels guilty for succumbing to her headstrong determination to be changed, and resents her for her selfishness. At times he hates her for what happened that day. His feelings are complicated by the daughter they brought into this world. His need to keep her safe and happy overrides all else. He tries to be the kind of man Jasper was, to put others' needs above his own, to hide what would only hurt. But he, too, was young when he was changed, younger than even Bella. He, too, is selfish.

For now, this is the only way he can bear his grief, the only way he is able to carry on. The memories sustain him, precious jewels. When he loses himself within them, he doesn't ache with a terrible loss. Instead he feels joy and love. He feels complete. Whole. He's never been more alive than when re-living the memories of a dead man.

He shuts his eyes and pulls out one of his favorites. He's just stepped out of the shower and thrown on a pair of jeans. Renesmee is crying and he picks her up, cradling her against his naked chest, bouncing her gently. His head is bent over, exposing the long expanse of his neck. Jasper is across the room watching them. A surge of love powerful enough to bring him to his knees hits, but he doesn't falter because Jasper's arms are encircling his waist, holding him up, his mouth kissing the back of his neck. She's beautiful, Jasper says, in his mind. You're beautiful.

He opens his eyes and looks up at the stars. For a moment, he can still feel everything, as if it were real.

AN: Thank you for reading, and thank you to the hosts of the vampslash blog for holding this contest. Special thanks, as always, to my fabulous beta, OnTheTurningAway.