SLASH BACKSLASH 3.0 CONTEST

Title: Walking Away
Author: PolkaDotMama
Pairing: Edward/;)
Rating/Disclaimer/Warnings: Mature, All Twilight Characters belong to Stephenie Meyer, AU
Word Count: 9938 (according to MSWord)
Please see all entries at http:/www. fanfiction .net/community/Slash_Backslash_3_0/74941/14/0/1/

Great thanks to ArcadianMaggie for prereading+ and mcsc2008 for betaing. I bow humbly to you ladies.

~E~

There are some fights worth fighting and a select few people worth fighting for. I always thought he was one I would fall on a sword for, but I found myself laying the blade at my feet and walking away.

Walking away from the weapon.

Walking away from the fight.

Walking away from him.

~E~

He was young and jubilant and free when I spotted him on a lush hilltop near my home, running down the steep grade with his arms thrown wide, angling back and forth like a giant bird. His scent crept beneath my nose, and I immediately stopped breathing. I couldn't allow his fragrance to overwhelm me and unlock the evil inside. Watching this boy's pure elation was awakening the dead stone in my chest, and I wasn't about to sacrifice the sensation for an expeditious meal that would only end in vacant eyes staring up at me. No. Instead, I camouflaged myself at the foot of the hill in a dark copse.

He frolicked about, and I found myself smiling, something I hadn't done in years. The pure innocence of his play was that which I had long forgotten. Even during my own playful moments as a child, I never exuded the freedom that he displayed. I had always been uptight and concerned about decorum and what the adults in my life deemed proper. Gazing on his uninhibited romps brought me peace and happiness.

The blood that ran in his veins pulled at me too, though not like other's. This was something different, something unique, and the scent of his blood seemed to hum inside me, making me feel more alive.

It was wrong, yet I returned to watch the lively boy play. The day he flew a cherry-red kite, he nearly found my hideout, but the sound of broken twigs underneath my feet must have been dismissed as an errant animal. He only stood there looking into the darkness for a few moments, but that was all I needed.

Grey eyes seemed to pierce through my chest as his blond locks ruffled from the breeze and his sudden stop. His skin was rich and smooth, the color of honey in the sun—all except his full, strawberry-kissed lips.

I didn't dare breathe. I desperately craved it, but I restrained myself.

Then he was off again, trailing the red fabric behind him on the near-invisible string. It was only then that I allowed the faintest of inhalations. He was perfection, and venom poured into my mouth, much to my horror.

As soon as he was out of earshot, I ran. I ran fast and furious, delving into the darkness of the forest, taking down animal after animal, glutting on their lives. I was a mess when I returned to the place I called home. Empty, as usual.

~E~

In the fall, he piled so many leaves, taller than he was, but he surprised me. Positive he was going to run and jump, I laughed softly when he used the pile as a bed instead. He lay there gazing at the passing clouds, calling out the shapes he discerned between the music he sang softly to himself until his mother called dinnertime. I watched as he brushed himself off and then disappeared over the hilltop to the house I had never allowed myself to glimpse.

Winter came, and the boy's outdoor adventures stopped even after he returned from his studies. I tried to convince myself that he'd be back to toboggan down that lovely hill, coming to a spluttering stop near my grove. I was thankful for his absence, for the reprieve over the guilty feelings that seemed to eat at me for watching this carefree spirit.

Yet, when I returned to the empty hilltop, I could feel a void inside my still chest. I continued to stand in the trees, replaying my perfect memories behind closed lids. He didn't show, so rather than continuing to revisit the memories, I decided to distract myself from his absence in other ways.

~E~

I was gone from that place for several years, traveling around, visiting long lost friends. Vermont was where I found Carlisle, happily playing country doctor. When I told him of my adventures, he listened with a little smile on his face as if he was pleased I was enjoying myself and still sticking to my "vegetarian" diet. It was only when I told him of my home that he saw how I yearned to return. Despite my reservations, I told him of the boy I watched and described my feelings.

"You've found him," he said simply.

"What do you mean? Found whom?"

"Don't you see, Edward? You've found your mate."

I was shocked, and my face most certainly projected it.

"It's okay, Edward. It's a magical thing, indeed."

"Magical? Magical! How can you say such things? He's a mere child! Barely a teen. And a male!" I was indignant.

Carlisle reached for my hand and held it, his thumb trailing across my knuckles as he tried to calm me. "He's a child now, but he won't be forever. He will mature into a lovely man soon. I changed you when you were seventeen, so it will only be a few years before the two of you are the same age. In our lives, that's nothing."

I was silent. Already, I felt guilty enough that I'd spied on this innocent, and now, Carlisle was suggesting I'd found my mate. I was a dirty old man in a seventeen-year-old's body. He must have sensed my train of thought.

"There's nothing wrong with finding your mate. Acting on it now while he is a child, yes, but you would never allow yourself to do such a thing. You're too moral for that. Which is why I'm guessing you are aghast I'm suggesting your mate is male, as well. Am I correct?"

I could only nod.

"I've told you about my time with the Volturi, have I not? Well, I know how virtuous you are, so I left out some of the more … exciting stories. Aro and I were lovers for at least thirty years."

I pulled back to look deep into his amber eyes and felt my lips part.

"I loved him, but he wasn't my mate, nor was I his."

"So … you mean … but…" I had no inkling what to say.

Carlisle placed his fingers behind my ears and pressed his lips to my forehead as he shushed me. "It's nothing to be frightened of. We are beings who crave connections but are forced to lead very solitary lives so we don't reveal our nature. In fact, that is one of the reasons I chose to leave the Volturi. I wanted Aro to be with me, to become vegetarian as well so that we could live together and be free from discovery, but he refused to come." Carlisle continued to press his lips into my skin as he spoke, covering my forehead before moving to my temple and cheek and jaw. "I'm thankful he chose to stay because I was able to come here and find you."

As his mouth covered my own, I allowed myself to experience the new sensations on my skin. His tongue glided against my own, and I moaned into his kiss. Gripping his shirt, I felt the strength of his muscles underneath impervious skin and realized that I wanted to explore more.

"I've wanted you for so long, Edward," Carlisle whispered against my throat. "I simply wanted you to know."

And then, he was gone. I was left sitting on Carlisle's settee with venom pooling in my mouth, his own slowly drying on my neck, and a very tight pair of trousers.

~E~

There were many realizations made that night as I sat on the windowsill Carlisle deemed to be mine in his Vermont home. In spite of the youthful age at my turning and the lustful vampire nature inside of me, never had a woman inspired what Carlisle did with one simple kiss.

He knew I needed time alone to consider my thoughts, but I needed more than a few hours or days. I penned a letter, propping it atop a table, before leaving to travel north.

I ended up in Iceland where I soaked in hot springs and got lost for hours in my thoughts. Carlisle's words stuck with me, and I wondered if there was more to his changing me than he ever revealed before.

Soft splashing interrupted my thoughts. I was in a remote spring, far away from where many people ventured, yet someone was entering the water. It was a man, obscured by the condensation created by the hot steam hitting the chilled air. He stood in the shallows, his shadowy form bending over, scooping water to drizzle over his shoulders. When he angled his body to the side, I saw that he was nude.

With slow steps, the man moved closer to me, his foggy image being unveiled. He was broad and muscled, a man who knew what hard labor was. I averted my gaze, leaning back against a dark rock.

"Halló," he greeted, and when I looked up, I was wrought speechless for a moment. He had golden curls that framed his face and gray eyes, so much like the boy on the hill that my mind went completely blank.

"Uh … hi. How are you?" I clumsily got out, slipping out of my Icelandic and back to English.

"Oh, you are American? I will speak English for you," he said in his heavy accent. "I am Björn."

"Good to meet you, Björn. My name is Edward."

"Velkomin."

"Takk," I said, finally finding my Icelandic.

We spoke in the hot water, occasionally standing to cool our bodies. He teased me about being a shy American, keeping my underwear on when we were in such a remote place, so I took them off and dropped them in a wet heap on a rock. Björn moved closer as we spoke and was soon within arm's reach.

"You are very beautiful. Do you know?" he asked haltingly. Shyly, I looked down into the milky blue water and thanked him. "Will you kiss boys?"

I was shocked at his blunt question but answered him by licking my lips and focusing on his. He smirked and darted his tongue out to catch a droplet of water on his upper lip.

"Will you kiss me?" he asked as his lips hovered over mine. I leaned in the last distance and pressed my mouth to his. He returned the kiss with passion, and I found myself easily relaxing into it, enjoying the rough scratch of his stubble.

Björn was the first of my lovers. I stayed with him until he was called back to his fishing boat. From Iceland, I moved to Norway where I found Lars, and then Sweden where I found Tor. Soon I left Scandinavia and moved south to Germany and France and other lovers. It was there word reached me that Carlisle was worried about me. I posted him a letter, telling him I'd be back in the United States within the year.

When I arrived back on American soil, I traveled to my home and found myself sitting in that copse at the bottom of the hill once again. Just over the crest, I saw blond curls swaying, and I stopped breathing. The boy was no longer a child but nearly a man with scruff on his jaw and muscles pushing past the rolled up sleeves of his shirt, yet the way he moved still held that carefree spirit that had always drawn me in.

He sang songs and picked flowers that bloomed on the hillside. When the raindrops started to fall, he leaned his head back, stretched his arms out, and laughed. The smile on his face was glorious, and I watched as he circled and welcomed the drops from heaven. His bare feet expertly carried him over slick rocks as he sought a group of concealed poppies.

On his way back to the grassy hill, he slipped, cutting his tender foot on a jagged slate-colored rock. I was by his side within seconds, hovering over him, applying pressure to his wound.

The gathered flowers lay in a scattered mess on the green grass, crushed petals releasing their fragrance. It did nothing to mask the tantalizing scent of his blood, so I tore the shirt from my chest and ripped lengths of white cotton to wrap his foot. Even with the cut covered and my breaths halted, I could taste the scent of his blood on my tongue. It was overwhelming me, as were his beautiful gray eyes that attempted to fight back thick tears.

"It's going to be okay," I soothed, but I suddenly heard his mind race with questions of how he wouldn't be able to walk home wounded as he was. How I was able to hear his thoughts, I had no idea. Never before had something like that happened. "I'll help you get home where you can wash your wound and bandage it more expertly. Do you think you can walk if I assist you?"

"Yes." His voice shook. "I think I can. Is it bad?"

"I'm not entirely certain. My purpose was to staunch the bleeding, not to assess the wound, but from the amount of blood," I took a torturous breath to judge whether he was still hemorrhaging. He was. "I would say that it is most likely quite deep into the muscle. We should get you home quickly so you can be cared for by a physician." He nodded in agreement and reached for the flowers, determined to gather them. "Would you like me to support you or carry you?" I asked as I took over collecting the precious blooms.

"I'd like to walk, I think."

He made it nearly to the crest of the hill before his blood loss affected his strength, so I gathered him in my arms, nestling the blooms between our chests, and asked him to show me the way to his home. At the door, I knocked. A woman in a dress and apron answered.

"He injured himself and needs a doctor," I informed her as he held out the flowers for his mother. She flew into action, plunging the stems into the pitcher of water sitting on the table, pulling keys off a hook, and directing me to a vehicle.

"Will you please ride along? I won't be able to get him out of the car."

At the hospital, I hoisted the boy back into my arms, breathing him in once again. I had resisted inhaling since on the hill, and his scent drifted over me like a spirit. It encompassed me, possessed me, and I felt utterly powerless.

"What's your name?" the boy whispered, pulling me from my intoxicated haze.

"I'm Edward."

"Thank you, Edward." I nodded and walked toward the door, leaving a bloody trail behind us. "My name is Jasper."

He was quickly taken away to be examined, and I promised Jasper's mother that I would return to hear the news of her son's repair. The moment I was away from prying eyes, I sped to my home using every ounce of strength I possessed. I had been so close to losing my carefully honed control, and still, I could taste his scent.

After turning the taps on in the shower, I slowly undressed. The area on my trouser leg where his foot had rested in the car was soaked with his precious blood. I would always be able to smell him, even after hundreds of washings, so I burned the pants in a hastily built fire. In the shower I leaned back, allowing the water to cascade down my back, and when I lifted my hands toward my hair, I saw the remains of his blood on my palms.

It was perhaps all I could ever have of him.

Leaning my shoulder against the cool tile, I stared at my hands, following the darkened lines where his life had gathered. His life stained my life line, my heart line, my fate line. A few errant drops of water hit my palm, causing red streaks to trail over my wrist. I watched as "my mate's" blood began to wash away.

My tongue swept over the rivulets, and I finally tasted him. I experienced Jasper in my mouth, not just the scent of his blood on the air. I licked over my palm, crumbling to the shower floor as I tried to ingest every last drop I had of him. It would be my only taste, ever.

~E~

Though I had only been home for days, I knew I needed to leave. Knowing that Jasper was mere miles from me was unbearable now that I'd tasted him. I would end up in that grove of trees at the foot of the hill spying on the beautiful teen, making sure he was healing well, and "protecting" him from a distance. But it was from me that he needed protecting.

I ran to Vermont … to Carlisle. When he answered his door, he drew me in tightly, breathing in deeply as he buried his nose in my neck.

"What's wrong, dear Edward?" he asked when he fully saw me. I read the worry across his brow. "Please, come in and sit."

When I followed him into his living room, I noticed large boxes everywhere. My eyes trailed across the room, taking in only a few, sparse things.

"I'm moving to Wisconsin," he explained. "I'm ready to move on." I could only nod as I took my seat beside him, feeling as if I should be leaving rather than staying. "What's happened? And please be frank. I've been worried sick about you for far too long."

"I traveled," I simply stated. Carlisle just waited, giving me space and silence. "I took several lovers. All men. I spent time coming to terms with that and realized that there was no other way for me. But it all felt disjointed, separate and lonely. They only knew small parts of me, the parts I allowed them to see. None knew I was a vampire. The advantage of staying in northern Europe," I joked as I skimmed my palm over my cool, pale flesh.

Carlisle smiled and reached for my hand. "I'm glad you've come back. I was thankful for your correspondence, and I'm sorry. I'm sorry I laid so much at your feet before I vanished, telling you how much I wanted to be with you when you were so obviously processing other things. I understood why you left, and I'm glad you sorted things out. Yet, you don't look happy."

I rested my head on his lap, my face tucked into the fold near his hip. His fingers skated over my hair before spearing into the locks. I sighed at his touch, at his comfort. At least with Carlisle, I had nothing to hide, nothing to restrain.

"I traveled home and saw the boy. My mate." I fumbled on the word, and Carlisle's fingers massaged my scalp.

"Does his blood still sing to you?"

"Very much so. He was wounded while I was there. There was so much blood I could taste it on the air," I admitted.

"And yet you resisted?" he asked in a voice that told me he knew I had.

"Barely." I paused, hearing the ticking of a clock on the mantle. Tick tock, tick tock. "His name is Jasper. I left before finding out if the doctors could mend his foot properly. I told his mother I'd be back, but I couldn't stay. I must write a letter."

"Come with me to Wisconsin, Edward. If what you said it true, you need to be with your own kind for a while. No secrets."

Two days later, we were unpacking boxes in Carlisle's new farmhouse. I wrote a letter to Jasper and mailed it, using my photographic memory to recall his last name and address from the mailbox at the end of his drive. A few weeks later, I received post in return. His foot was mended and healing well, and he sent on his mother's gratitude for helping get Jasper to the hospital so quickly. I was greatly relieved to hear his news and decided to send a letter telling him so.

Carlisle had been right. Being with my own kind was what I needed. I no longer had to expend excess effort to move slowly … or to move at all. I could sit in stillness for hours or run faster than the wind. Feeding times were so much more enjoyable with a partner, almost playful.

We were on a hunt when I asked Carlisle if he turned me because I was his singer. Was I his mate?

I was sitting in the tall grass in an open field with my legs kicked out and crossed in front of me. Carlisle came to sit behind me, taking the support of my hands away and encouraging me to rest against his chest. When I did, he wrapped his arms around my waist and tucked his mouth and nose under my ear.

"I haven't found my mate yet, Edward, but you are the closest I've ever come to experiencing the things that have been described to me. I changed you because your mother begged me to save you."

We were quiet a long time, listening to the rushing sound of the grasses.

"I could hear his thoughts," I said in a soft voice that could have easily gotten lost to the wind, not entirely sure I wanted him to know.

"Jasper's?"

"Yes. That's never happened before. It was odd. I knew exactly what he was thinking, even hear the fear in his thoughts."

Carlisle kissed my cheek, and I felt his lips curve into a smile. "He's your mate, Edward. That tells me so even more. Do you feel like you are drawn to him, pulled in a way you have no control over? And I don't mean the pull of his blood."

I grasped Carlisle's hand, placing his palm over my still heart and down a few inches. "This is where I feel it. I felt it the entire time I was in Europe, even with an ocean between us. I felt it when I was in the arms of other men. I even feel it now when I'm more content than I have been in years. But I simply cannot be with him, nor do I want to cause you pain. I know you love me Carlisle. I love you, too, but it's not in the same manner."

"We aren't mates, Edward, but we are bonded in another way. I'm your creator, and we are part of each other. My venom in you; your blood in me. We will always be connected, though I will never pull you in the same way."

"But you do pull me, Carlisle," I said as I turned in his arms to face him. "Even though I've called another place home for years, you are always who I return to. I will always love you."

My mouth crashed against his, devouring him as he toppled back in surprise. He rolled me over, climbing on top of me to continue the kiss but then pulled back just as the last button on my shirt was released. My chest was exposed to the sun that broke through the tall grass, alighting my skin like a prism.

"Edward, this isn't what you want. You want Jasper."

"I will never have Jasper. And even if I could..." I sat up so I could be closer to Carlisle, to kiss his chest. "If there is one thing I learned in my journeys, it's that the value I placed on my tightly held chastity was foolish. I love you more than I ever loved any of those men; yet, I have given them parts of me that you have craved. Parts that I want to give you now." Pushing his shirt over his shoulders, I looked him in the eye and said, "We deserve to know each other this way."

I pulled a rosy nipple into my mouth and sucked, watching his eyes drift shut and his lips part. A slow release of contented breath encouraged me to continue, easing him down to the grass as I worked his belt free. Moments later we were naked, and I marveled at the colors that lit upon his skin, tracing the blue tones with my tongue and the reds with my lips.

When I hovered above him, ready to ease down his rigid length, he stopped me with a hand on the spot I always felt Jasper. "Are you sure?" he asked with knowing eyes. I pulled his hand tighter to my chest so I could feel more of Carlisle than my mate and nodded. His soft smile told me he understood.

As Carlisle filled me, I wanted to weep—not because this could never happen with my Jasper, but because the sensations were so much more than with my human lovers. Carlisle knew how sensitive I was. He knew I could find ecstasy in the most tender brushes of his skin on mine, but also knew how rugged I was. He took me to the edge of pain, knowing just where to stop before his bites became something less than pleasurable.

We made love to each other time and time again in the long grasses, stopping only long enough to catch our breath. It was as if ages of pent up sexual energy needed to be released in one day.

As the muted colors of twilight covered the earth, I emptied myself into Carlisle one last time before collapsing on his chest. I was so exhausted; I was sure I could actually sleep for the first time in decades. Yet as the orange tones washed across his skin, I felt myself harden once again.

"You're insatiable," he chuckled into my hair. "You're forever going to have the libido of a teenager. I'm never going to able to keep up with you."

I supported myself on an elbow and brushed his lips with a fingertip. "It's a good thing we have forever then," I said as I leaned in and kissed him once more.

We were passionate lovers, reuniting moments after he returned from the hospital or when I walked in the door from the university. But he was more, finally fulfilling what I always felt was missing with those who became known as "my humans." I was thankful that I returned to Carlisle and opened myself to him, because he was completely worth it, helping me dull the constant, empty ache I carried in my chest and feel the true love of another man, another vampire.

However, Jasper never fully left me in those years, and I was constantly aware of his pull. Carlisle knew. He also knew that I loved him more than I'd ever loved anyone. Every so often, he would pull me back against his chest and press his palm to my ache, easing it to a degree. There was no rhyme or reason to those moments, but I was grateful for them.

We were sailing on smooth waters in Lake Michigan one day, Carlisle holding my ache in his hand, when our lives changed. A loud splash drew our eyes toward the shore. Carlisle insisted he saw a woman plunge into the icy waters. We quickly maneuvered the boat around and turned over the small outboard motor to get there in a hurry. The craft was moving too slowly for Carlisle's liking, so he dove into the water and swam toward shore.

By the time I reached him, his teeth were buried in a redheaded woman's neck. He looked up at me with apology written all over his face and pulled away from her limp body, licking away a trickle of blood at the corner of his mouth.

We brought her home with us to transform in our hidden country home. Carlisle wouldn't leave her side, holding her hand and talking to her as she suffered. I brought him cool, wet towels so he could wipe her brow and traveled to town to buy a new brush. I unknotted the tangles in her rich locks, pulling out bits of debris, watched the worry on Carlisle's face, and attempted to assuage his fear. He avoided eye contact and communicated with minimal words.

After she awoke, Carlisle spoke to her, discovering her name was Esme. They disappeared for a few days to hunt, Carlisle taking her far from civilization so she could feed without the risk of killing humans. I stayed home, reading through elementary university texts and attempting to quell the worry that had settled deep in my gut.

It was obvious Carlisle had talked about me when he and Esme returned. She greeted me with a smile and a demure hand that I grasped, kissing the knuckles. I watched as Carlisle showed her around our house, introducing her to his study and the room that had been our bedroom for the last four years, though he simply called it a "place to rest." Esme stole quick glances at me as she looked around as if she were leery of my presence.

Later, I watched as they headed outside, walking along the fence line around the farm. They were silent until they got to the section farthest from the house, far enough away so that I couldn't make out words, only the murmur of speech. Carlisle pulled her to his chest, looking down into her crimson gaze before he kissed her mouth.

The old human sensation of wanting to sob bit at my throat and sternum as I saw his hands travel down her back and around her ribs so that he caressed her breasts. I should have turned away, but I was unable to. Instead, I watched as he laid her down, carefully unbuttoning her pretty, flowered dress, parting it to reveal her pale, naked flesh.

I watched as my maker, my lover, consummated something greater than what we had ever had together. Carlisle had found his mate.

Before they returned, I had my belongings moved from our "place of rest" so it could become theirs. I took up the room with the long, black leather couch in it.

Carlisle walked toward the room as I was shelving my collection of records. "Edward?" The rest of his words fell away as he opened the door and took in what I'd done.

"She's your mate," I said flatly, keeping all emotion out of my voice.

"I'm sorry, Edward." He paused, as if trying to gain insight from my profile while I put several albums away. "You understand the pull. And she would have died if I hadn't changed her. I couldn't allow that to happen. But I will always love you, my child."

I nodded slightly and continued to line up the records.

~E~

Occasionally, I'd walk into the house to the sounds of their lovemaking and turn right back around to leave. Once, I walked in to see Carlisle pressing Esme into the lush sheepskin rug in front of the fireplace. When I started to retreat, he looked over his shoulder, urging me forward.

I couldn't help it when my hand caressed his naked back, easing into the feel of his smooth skin on my palm. His hips stopped moving as he kissed Esme, but he arched his back, as if inviting me to continue. I allowed my finger to sink between his buttocks, and he moaned into her mouth. Not sure if it was my actions or hers, I wet my finger with the pooled venom in my mouth and circled him again, gently dipping in and out. He groaned and pulled away from her mouth, looking back, imploring me with a whispered, "Please."

Lining myself up, I pressed forward, feeling the tight hug around me before I started to move. I directed his hips, taking charge of how he thrust into Esme. Carlisle leaned back and kissed me over his shoulder, his tongue slipping into my mouth, as Esme and I both caressed his chest. She gazed up at Carlisle, occasionally looking over at me with a soft smile on her face. I couldn't bring myself to return it and eventually pulled away from their touches, concentrating on filling Carlisle, reminding him how good we had things, once.

When the three of us were sated, we fell into a messy heap of folded limbs where they continued to kiss. My eyes opened when I felt Carlisle's mouth, his tongue lapping lazily at my own. But when Esme tried to kiss me, I pulled away, walking away from the house with not a stitch of clothing on. I came back, only after the house was empty. Never again did I engage in such activities, coming to the full realization that my relationship with Carlisle was forever changed.

Over the next several months, I found myself spending less and less time there. I used the excuse of studies or hunger when asked of my whereabouts, and while Carlisle didn't buy it, Esme didn't know me well enough to question. She tried to dote on me as if I was her child, and Carlisle started to as well. It was stifling and humiliating to go from being his lover, his equal, his confidant, to being placated, being told that my sour mood indicated hunger and that I should go hunt. My mood was not created from the need to feed. My solemnity was caused from having the man I loved being taken away from me while I sat by and watched him go moon-eyed over another.

I allowed myself to grieve, which just seemed to rip open that empty place in my chest even wider. I would never have what Esme and Carlisle had. Never. And yet, I craved it so much it was tangible.

They married in a church. I stood up for Carlisle, pulling their wedding rings from my left trouser pocket and placing them in the smooth skin of his palm. As I pulled away, he caught my fingers, squeezing them in a small gesture of gratitude. I was happy for them. Honestly. I was just miserable for myself.

Grateful for the time they were away on their honeymoon, I used it to complete my degree at the university but also to shake off the rest of my mourning over the loss of Carlisle. I felt ready to live in the house with him and Esme even if I had to put up with the doting.

When I heard the motor of Carlisle's car pull up the quarter mile drive, I centered myself, making sure all was placid. As I stepped onto the porch in the cool evening air, I saw their radiant happiness.

"Edward!" Carlisle cried as he ran to me and pulled me into his arms, pressing his lips to each cheekbone. "It's so good to be home. We missed you." Esme smiled, looking between the two of us like a proud wife and mother.

I tried. I honestly tried to live there in harmony, but with Carlisle's haunted looks and Esme's need to look after me, I found I spent most of my time hidden away in my room, listening to my albums, pressing my own palm into my chest.

~E~

"But it could work. If we found a male vampire or maybe a gay man who is ill or dying that we could change, he might find that he can fill the void," I heard Carlisle say as I returned to the farm after feeding.

"Might? It's not that easy. You've said he has a mate. This is foolish, thinking that we can direct this," Esme reasoned, reading the situation correctly.

"He's just so unhappy."

"Yes. Yes, he is, Carlisle. He's unhappy because he feels he'll never have his mate, and now his maker, his lover, has been mated and taken from him."

"But he can find another lover," he said as I opened the door. He turned quickly and started to apologize for his monumental error after seeing the utter shock on my face.

"You think it's that easy, Carlisle? Do you think I hand my heart over so easily?" I accused.

"No. No, Edward. That's not at all what I meant."

"I've had lovers in my past. Yes. But loves? Never. You, Carlisle, are the only one I've ever truly loved. And my heart aches to see you two together," I said as I pressed my fist to my heart, digging my knuckles in hard to displace the pain. "It hurts so much that I need to leave."

There are some fights worth fighting and a select few people worth fighting for. I always thought he was one I would fall on a sword for, but I found myself laying the blade at my feet and walking away.

Walking away from the weapon.

Walking away from the fight.

Walking away from him.

I went to the only place I could think of. Toward the only person that I knew who could truly fill me, even if it was from afar and in a limited sense.

I was home. Home.

The better part of a day was spent cleaning my house, uncovering furniture, opening all the windows, and letting in fresh air. The next day I painted. The day after that, I toiled in the overgrown garden, hacking down volunteer trees and suckers. I even bought annuals and perennials to plant around the yard and in stone containers I would set out on my porch and on the wrought iron table.

Turning the soil to mix compost into the flowerbed, I heard tires on the gravel drive leading up to the house. I was thankful it was overcast but looked up to double check. It had been lightly drizzling for hours and my blanket of protection was still covering the earth.

An old, beat up car pulled up to the house, and I watched as a dark-haired man got out, circling to the passenger side to help someone out. I set the spading fork against the clapboards and moved so I could get a better view. As I reached the front of my house, I saw the man settling someone with blond hair into a wheelchair. A quick breath along with the pooling venom in my mouth told me exactly who it was. My heart broke as I saw Jasper confined to the chair. Nevertheless, I welcomed them with happiness in my voice.

The dark haired man walked over and shook my hand, Jasper pushing himself slowly behind. "Hello, I'm Peter. Jasper here tells me he knows you."

"Most certainly. I'm Edward," I said, walking to the boy turned man. I shook his hand and smiled, avoiding looking down at his legs. "Good to see you again, Jasper."

"I heard you were back when I was in the hardware store. Thought I'd come and see for myself." His voice was low, and I could feel the resonance rumble in my chest, right in the heart of my ache. Instinctively, my hand drifted between my muscles, fingers rubbing the omnipresent space that suddenly felt less empty.

"I'm back for a while. Fixing up the place." I tucked my hand in my pocket and took another quick breath of him, feeling even less empty. With a grin, I looked between Jasper and Peter and invited them in for some iced tea. Peter declined, saying he'd be back to pick Jasper up later. I offered to take Jasper home instead.

Peter lifted Jasper from his chair and carried him into the living room, setting him down on a leather chair. Jasper avoided eye contact the entire time, preferring to look down at his lap. I brought the wheelchair into the house, setting it near him, and then poured a glass of tea from the pitcher that was always at the ready in my home. Peter saw himself out.

"It's so good to see you, Jasper," I said uncomfortably, taking a seat on the sofa, wondering how to continue.

"Thank you for the letters." With a wan smile, he used his strong arms to turn himself in the chair to face me more directly. I had continued to write him. Not often. Only once or twice a year, never expecting anything in return, telling him small things about my life and recalling my travels. It had felt odd at the time to be writing to someone that I knew I'd never be with, yet I craved that connection. So I continued to write.

"It was my pleasure. I thought of you often," I admitted, inspiring long minutes of awkward silence.

"Land mine. I lost my legs in the war. Stepped on one in Korea the day before I was coming home. My left leg is gone." He reached down, my eyes following, and pulled at the loose fabric of his trouser leg. Then he pulled the other up over his knee where I saw gnarled flesh, scars, and gouges where muscle seemed to be missing. "This one they saved, but it doesn't do me much good. The doctors said I was lucky to be alive." He looked into my eyes and shrugged. "A lot different than how you remember me, huh?"

What was really different was the light that had gone out in his eyes. Sure, his body was broken, but his soul was even more so.

"I'm sorry that happened to you." I didn't know what else to say, how to move the conversation onto something else or even if he'd want me to dig deeper.

"My mom died not long after I got home, and since this happened," he gestured toward his legs, "I sold the farm to Peter who lets me stay on. His wife set up a bedroom for me on the main floor in what used to be the parlor." He took a long sip of his tea, and I struggled to find something to say.

"Would you like to help me plant some flowers?" I finally asked, recalling how much he loved to pick them. "I could use an extra hand." It seemed a foolish question, but his eyes suddenly lit up.

Outside, we both reclined on our sides, lazily pushing shiny trowels into the soft earth before planting the small flowers and covering the roots with soil, concentrating more on talking than working. He talked about the blooms, naming them and telling me of some of his favorites. Above all, he made me laugh as he told stories while we slowly labored, stories about happier times before the war. I drove him home hours later, helping him into his chair inside his kitchen and promising him that I'd visit him the following day.

Just as the sun started to sink into the earth the next evening, I picked him up, driving us close to the hill where I first spotted him. I asked if he would prefer to head down the hill in his chair or if I should carry him. I gathered him in my arms and walked down the knoll a ways where I had a blanket laid out waiting. We stretched out and he asked me to take off his one sock and shoe. I couldn't help trace the faint, silvery scar that lined the bottom of his foot.

"I'm pleased to see the doctor was able to mend your cut," I said, suddenly feeling foolish for mentioning such an insignificant injury compared to the rest. Though, the day he slipped on the rocks had been anything but insignificant to me; it had been a turning point in my life, in fact.

"You're so cold," he said. I apologized, blowing on my hands to try to warm them before my thumb returned. As I traced around the arch and ball of his foot, he lay down, sighing as if my touch felt good, so I increased the pressure, massaging his foot as he gazed up at the clouds.

"No one touches me anymore, aside from doctors and nurses," he whispered. "I think I scare them. People don't know how to react to me. They don't know where to look or else try so hard to avoid staring that they ignore me altogether."

I moved back beside him, rolling on my side to face him and resting my hand on the smooth cotton that covered his belly. "I'm not afraid of you," I told him, and he turned and gave me a soft smile. His scent blanketed me in comfortable torture, taking away more of the ache in my chest but burning my throat. It was worth the transfer of pain.

"Look," he said, pointing to the sky. "A phoenix."

I took a look but returned my gaze to his gray eyes that seemed alight once again.

"Cirrus clouds," I said with a smirk. I watched his eyes dart around the sky, settling on another grouping in the distance.

"A swarm of Volkswagen Beetles driving this way." I chuckled, picking out the shapes he spoke of.

As the light bled away and the inky blackness of night covered the sky, we rested quietly, pointing out constellations. He named pictures he thought they formed while I gave him the designated name. Each time, he smiled at me.

We met like that after dark most nights, moving to new spots on the hillside, talking about the stars. I told him some of the lore behind the pictures in the sky, and he listened intently as if it were a newly revealed history, a secret history he wished he'd known before.

Every night, I touched him. I rubbed his foot, even venturing up his pant leg to massage his scarred calf, before I pressed my shoulder to his and our ritual began again. He was sad much of the time, the playfulness of his youth replaced by the realization that he had a very hard life to trudge through. I tried my best to bring that sense of innocence back to him at every turn, talking about new things that fascinated him, facts about the stars and the weather and the plants around us.

A few weeks in, he took my hand and held onto it, commenting on its chill but never letting it go. The ache in my chest was barely noticeable now, unless I was too far away on a hunt, so I never stayed long.

"They change," he said one evening as I easily lifted him in my arms and started walking down the hill.

"What do?"

"Your eyes. They grow darker, and then you are gone for a night. When you come back, they are light amber again." I stayed silent.

I walked farther down the hill this time, closer to the copse than I'd ever taken him. After we ran out of stars to talk about, we lay in silence, and he took my hand, not commenting on the cold for the first time. The leaves were beginning to turn, the smell of autumn in the air, and I noticed that he was becoming more melancholy. I asked why.

"Fall reminds me of what I've lost. Of all of it. My mom. The farm. My legs. My future." He sighed and tucked his body into my side, so I lifted my arm and pulled him closer. His hand rested on my hip, and I threaded his fingers in mine.

"How long have you loved me?" he shyly asked.

I buried my nose in his hair and inhaled, feeling the sting of venom behind my eyes.

"Years," I choked out despite my fear. "From the moment I first saw you, if I'm honest with myself."

His thumb stroked the tender sliver of exposed skin on my belly, and I could hear him swallow several times, as if he were very nervous.

"I … I think I love you." His fingers gripped my skin tightly, and he brushed his lips against my chest. "Have you loved me since the day I flew my red kite and saw you in the trees?" I was dumbstruck, just shy of panicked, so I said nothing. "I know you're different," he whispered.

Venom flooded my mouth. These perfect moments with my mate had come to an end, and I would have to walk away once more.

Jasper rose up on an elbow, leaning across my chest and bringing his face close to mine. His eyes were intense, and I couldn't look away. The determination in them was something I had never seen before, and I was fearful.

"I want you to change me." I looked back and forth between his gray eyes, worry obviously filling my own. "There's nothing left for me in this world with this broken body. Make me a vampire and heal me."

I was confused. How did he know? "I don't understand."

"You do. I need this from you." He clumsily pulled his thin t-shirt over his head with one hand and tilted his head to the side so I could see his life pulsing just below the surface. A rush of desire spilled over me, and I had to turn my head from him so I wouldn't be tempted.

"I don't know if you would heal. What if you wake with your leg still missing?" I honestly had never come across anything of the sort, so I didn't know. "Either way, even if this would work, you have a life here and people who will miss you."

"Peter's wife is pregnant, and they argue about me being there. She wonders why I don't move in with you. I need to leave. I'll get my affairs in order. When I say there is nothing here for me, I honestly mean it. You are the only person to truly care for me, and you have loved me both perfect and broken."

"You're still that same perfect boy inside," I whispered into the skin at the corner of his mouth.

We parted that night with the understanding that I wouldn't see him for a few nights. I left to feed, sating myself so that if I were to change him, I wouldn't kill him because of my bloodlust. Though that was a real possibility simply because of how his blood sang to me.

~E~

"That's the last of it," Peter said, depositing the final box of Jasper's on my porch. "You're sure you can handle this?" he asked in a low whisper as Jasper wheeled inside the house.

"I'm a well-to-do bachelor with no job. I have no wife, no child on the way, and the strength to help him in his everyday tasks. There's no need to worry," I reassured with a smile.

"He can be a cranky bastard at times. Just be ready for it."

I nodded and grinned, swearing I was up to the challenge. "Don't worry about us. We're going to travel. Help him see that there is more to the world than his chair and his broken body. Maybe even settle down in a town where he can go to college. I'll make sure he writes you. Jasper will be fine."

Peter studied me for a moment, Jasper wheeling beside me to say good-bye. On his way to the car, Peter palmed the FOR SALE sign in the yard and choked on his words. "Remember your manners. I'm gonna miss you."

~E~

"May I sleep in your bed?" Jasper asked our first night together, and I smiled at the thought of his body close to mine. I carried him up the flight, and he looked me in the eyes through every step. Watching as he pushed his pants down, exposing his blue boxer shorts, I realized it was the first time I saw both bare legs. When I tried to look away, Jasper brought my attention back to him. "You can look. It's okay."

I rubbed the scarred flesh on his intact leg all the way up to the thigh and moved over to what remained of the other leg. He sighed at the feel of my hands on him, despite the goose bumps I inflicted.

"Help me with my shirt?" he asked, and I helped him pull it over his head, taking a few extra moments to strip down to my underwear as well.

We lay next to each other, hands caressing, reaching out to touch each other.

"Kiss me," he demanded in a soft voice, and my lips met his. He tasted so much better than I expected, sweet and fresh, and when he opened his mouth, I plundered it, losing my carefully crafted control. I dragged in a deep breath and growled, feeling primal needs kick in. "Bite me," he begged.

I retreated against the far wall, panting, which did little to quell the need for his blood.

"Edward. I'm ready. I'm ready for you. Please don't make me live another day with this body."

For the first time, I saw more than just sadness in his eyes. I saw true and utter anguish there. How could I refuse something he so obviously wanted?

I was on him in less than a second, hovering over his body and staring into his gray eyes. Fingers trailed through my hair, and my eyes drifted shut. Deep breaths, I took. Deep and steady, working to make his scent less enticing, yet with each inhalation, he became even more so.

Dropping my head to his chest, I tried to center myself. At the root of each thought he had, I could hear that this was truly his desire. He wanted this gift, this chance from me.

I need you. I need you inside of me, Jasper thought, luring me deeper with graphic imagery. The last shred of my resolve fractured.

My teeth sank into the supple flesh of his neck, his fragrant blood splashing into the back of my throat, and I drank. Pulling more of the sweet liquid into my mouth, I savored it with closed eyes before swallowing. He writhed beneath me but begged me to "Keep going."

With one final draw from his throbbing vein, I held his warm blood on my tongue, scrambling back to keep him safe. I had to pull away so I would stop.

Jasper screamed, and I buckled in agony, hearing his mind swarm with frantic questions. Swallowing down the final taste of his blood, blood that had sung to me for years, even across vast distances, I slowly moved toward him, reaching out my cool hand to soothe him. We were both afraid; his eyes pleaded with me. I hadn't prepared him at all. He didn't know what to expect.

"It will burn. It will hurt. But then it will stop. I promise I won't leave you."

For three days I held him, doing my best to keep him cool, listening to his thoughts. When he was agitated, I sang some of his silly songs or read to him, always sensing him calm. I covered his body with a thin sheet and watched his face transform; his utter beauty revealed to me.

Eventually his body settled. His heart slowed. His breathing became more shallow. And his heart stopped.

He awoke … and stood.

He stood on two long, lean legs and then crouched into a defensive posture. I quickly led him outdoors to hunt. He was a natural, instinctively knowing how to use his body as if he had never been injured. I watched in awe as he ran again, his face smiling with jubilance, his innocent, playful spark firmly back in place.

"This is amazing, Edward. I've never felt so free."

He reached for my hand as we walked back to our house. When he saw his wheelchair, he looked at it curiously, pictures of his human life flashing in his mind, and then took it outside and burned it.

~E~

We filled boxes with my belongings, setting them in a moving truck alongside Jasper's. It was good exercise for him. He learned about his strength with both heavy furniture and delicate items, though he broke most of my dishes in the process of wrapping them in paper. Since the kitchen was for show, it wasn't a big deal, and as I bent over to sweep away the last shards of china, I felt as if I were flooded with lust. I stood and looked over my shoulder only to see Jasper licking his lips, flickers of naked flesh running through his mind.

He held his hand out to me, leading me upstairs to the white bed. Jasper's knees sunk into the plush mattress in front of me, urging me to join him. We kissed, sensing something that felt like magic in that moment. Clothes fell away as we lay with each other, placing kisses on nipples and navels and knees.

I read his desires, and every time I answered them, I felt an intense wash of gratitude only to be intensified by more lust. It was a strange experience, but rather than questioning it, I listened to everything I was feeling and thinking, giving into it and finding myself relaxing even more into his body.

His hot mouth trailed down my chest as he kneaded his fingers into my flesh. He circled around my navel with his nose, placing a loving kiss in the center before gently lifting my knees and pressing them toward my nipples. A soft bite, just enough to tease and make me squirm, was placed on tender flesh on my bottom. He licked and sucked at my skin, forcing my heels to dig into the soft bedding and my lower back to pull away.

When he slid into my waiting body, filling me in a way I never expected, I cried out and pulled him to me.

"I love you, Edward." His words were pressed into the flesh at the center of my chest, and I felt an overwhelming connection, as if we were reading and answering every thrust and desire. I whispered my love into his hair, drawing in his new scent, enhanced and without the burn.

My hands grasped his muscular buttocks, urging his hips to move faster. He bit at my chest, causing me to gasp in pain and pleasure. His fingers trailed over the ticklish skin of my outer thigh, and I whimpered his name.

His pale flesh moved above mine, becoming faster, more intense until we both held on to each other so we wouldn't spin away from the earth.

It was as it should be. As a part of me always knew it would be, even though I fought it.

The empty ache was suddenly, completely gone. Not a trace remained.

~E~

Before walking away from what had been my home for so long, I had one last thing to do. I mailed three words to Carlisle.

I am complete.