Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment own all things Twilight-related. No copyright infringement is intended.

Pairing: Carlisle/Edward/Esme

Author's Notes: This is my entry for the Share The Love polyamory contest. This is meant to be, and will remain, a one-shot that is completely unrelated to my FAE universe. Since I've already taken liberties with canon relationships, doing the same with canon timeline and details seems like a minor infraction. I hope, anyway. I plead ignorance, since I still haven't read the novels…

Many thanks to my awesome betae, Carol and AllTheOtherNamesAreUsed, for their insightful comments and suggestions. Any stupid mistakes in the final draft are mine alone.

(~ * ~ * ~)

1922

Twigs snapped angrily under my feet as I made my way back towards the house. My pace was sluggish even by human standards, but I saw no other option if I wished to respect Carlisle and Esme's privacy. Since their marriage, I'd made a habit of hunting alone for extended periods of time. It was only fair – to all of us. While in their presence, I was not only privy to their every action, but to their every thought, as well. Given my own struggle with the circumstances, I could only imagine how difficult it was for them to try and keep their affections in check. Inevitably, one of them would slip, allowing unrestrained desire to bleed through carefully constructed shields. And that's when I would excuse myself to hunt again, whether I needed to or not. Propriety simply couldn't be ignored.

A loon's mournful song drew me out of my thoughts, and I stopped, searching for him through the trees. The sound of his mate's call filled the air moments later. The lake was a stone's throw away, but I kept to my wooded path, preferring to remain unobtrusive. All around me, twilight was descending, the bright pinks and purples of the autumn sky fading rapidly. I found great comfort in such ephemeral splendor, knowing that it would return eventually. It was predictable. Eternal. Just like me. Like us.

Us.

I closed my eyes against the sudden wash of pain. Carlisle and I had been so content together once the shock of my turning and its initial difficulties had passed. Over time, we'd managed to find a comfortable happiness in each other's company. Of course, in my youthful ignorance, it had never occurred to me that he might need something more to fulfill him completely. Esme's arrival had shattered our balance, and it hadn't taken long for me to realize that Carlisle's reasons for changing her had gone far beyond his usual compassionate proclivities. He'd been in love. And I could hardly blame him, for Esme's beauty rivaled that of any angel, both inside and out.

Drawing a deep, unnecessary breath, I continued on my way as quietly as possible. We owned a large parcel of land, most of which was forest and overgrown fields. I was very close to that boundary now, and soon I would be within range of their thoughts. I always dreaded the moment I crossed that line. Too many times, I'd been bombarded with waves of lust emanating from both of them, their soft sounds of pleasure making it abundantly clear that I'd returned too soon. Once, I'd even become lost in their sensual realm, unable to make myself move. I'd stood there, eyes closed, listening raptly to their passion, my own mind and body awakening in ways I'd never dreamed possible. In that moment, I'd realized how desperately I wanted to be there with them, to touch and be touched…to feel their love and share in their joy.

For that, I knew I was an abomination. The self-loathing I'd come to feel for myself had prevented me from eavesdropping ever again. I loved them too much to further mar the sanctity of their marriage.

Small animals scurried about the underbrush as I emerged from the woods. Just five more paces, and I would truly be home. But, would I be welcome? Setting my jaw, I pressed forward, only to breathe a sigh of relief when I finally sensed…anxiety? I slowed, my eyes widening as a wave of apprehension and sadness jarred me. The source of the unsettling emotions was unmistakable, and after only a moment's hesitation I ran for the house as fast as my vampiric speed would carry me. Questions flooded my mind as the wind caressed my face, but before I had time to register them fully, I was bursting through the door, sliding to a halt just inside the parlor. There was nothing amiss that I could see – no signs of unwelcome nomads, no Volturi intrusions…no humans caught in the fires of transformation…

"Edward!" Esme breathed, her eyes shining with venom. She crossed the room and wrapped her arms around me, burying her face in my chest. Her thoughts were a jumble of anguish and solace, more pure emotion than distinct words.

Confused, I glanced at Carlisle, and my mind was immediately flooded with whispers of gratitude so intense that they almost brought me to my knees. But, the intensity of it was too much to bear, a painful abrasion against my sensitive being, so I pushed it all away, insulating myself from their thoughts as best I could.

Carlisle smiled at me, his face radiant in the firelight. Remnants of doubt and worry still clouded his eyes, though. "We thought you'd left us, Edward," he said.

"I don't understand." My voice sounded rough even to my own ears.

Esme pulled back and gazed up at me. "You were gone for four days."

Four days? I blinked, trying to remember the passage of time, but it was all a dark blur. Had I truly ruminated over my existence for that long, compartmentalizing my flaws and trying to tame my unhealthy desires?

"I just wanted to give you privacy," I explained. "I wouldn't have left without saying good-bye." The last thought instilled such horror deep inside me that I wanted to scream in agony. I couldn't ignore its implications, though. If I were alone, there would be no temptation, no impure thoughts, and I would no longer be a burden to those whose friendship I cherished above all else. I felt a heaviness in my chest at the thought, and when I finally met Esme's gaze again, the utter sadness in her expression was nearly my undoing. I swallowed thickly, knowing that things couldn't go on as they were for much longer. The strain on everyone was simply too great.

Turning, I quietly made my way to the music room where my piano awaited. I needed to think, to prepare myself for the inevitable parting that would tear me to shreds despite its apparent necessity. Chopin spilled from my fingers in furious fits, different melodies merging together in a bizarre medley of pain and confusion. I hadn't felt this lost, this despondent since I was a newborn. Yet, through his patience and understanding, Carlisle had once shown me the strength that lay deep inside. I would persevere. I had to. It seemed a small sacrifice to make so that their love could flourish without intrusion. After all, if I had no beating heart, surely it couldn't be broken…

A gentle hand on my shoulder startled me, my fingers faltering before coming to an unsteady standstill; I hadn't realized I was trembling. The touch upon me was warm and strong. Carlisle.

"Edward," he said, kneeling beside me, "may we speak with you?"

I sensed Esme's approach even before I heard her. She grasped my right hand in both of hers, stroking me with her thumb, and I closed my eyes at the sensation. I should have pulled away for my own sanity's sake, but my body was so entranced, so desperate for any kind of physical connection with both of them, that I just couldn't.

"Edward," Carlisle began again. I knew what he was going to say, the unspoken suggestion already hanging heavily in the air, so I decided to spare him the unpleasantry.

"I will leave." The whisper slid past my lips with little effort, though inside it felt like I was dying all over again. I was wholly unprepared, however, for the panic that suddenly burst into my mind from all sides, obliterating my defenses. My eyes flew open, the sheer magnitude of the emotion causing me to gasp for unneeded air.

Esme settled beside me on the bench, twining our fingers together. "Please don't," she pleaded. "We would be lost without you."

How could I explain that I would be irretrievably lost if I stayed? I chided myself at once for being so selfish. We were a family – on the outside, a happily married couple fostering Carlisle's orphaned nephew; on the inside, three isolated vampires clinging to the last vestiges of their humanity. We'd all made sacrifices. Perhaps this was destined to be mine.

"Esme is right. We would miss you terribly." Carlisle paused a moment before continuing. "We know this has been…difficult for you."

I blinked. Had my unhappiness been that apparent? Guilt washed over me, and I turned to look at Carlisle. There was nothing but genuine concern written in his expression, but his thoughts were murky. A purposeful shield. My God, how much did he suspect? That I would have difficulty dealing with their intimacy was a given considering my gift, but had I somehow revealed my inner desires, those monstrous and appalling aberrations of my tainted soul? I would rather suffer a thousand slow, fiery deaths than thrust such darkness upon them.

Esme's grip on my hand tightened. "We've been keeping something from you." I glanced at her, curiosity momentarily overriding my apprehension. "We both––"

She stopped short, catching her bottom lip between her teeth and averting her gaze. I got the distinct feeling she would have been blushing if it were possible, which only intrigued me further.

"What I mean to say," she continued, "is that…pairing off wasn't our first choice. Marrying, I mean. Carlisle and me." Esme looked away again, shaking her head slightly. She wasn't usually this inarticulate.

Thoroughly confused, I asked, "Pardon?"

A soft smile lit her face as she glanced back at me. "We weren't certain how you would react. Until that point you hadn't shown…" she hesitated before finishing, "any interest."

My brain was still about five sentences behind, trying in vain to make sense of her words, but my stomach was already fluttering, gripped with a wave of overwhelming emotion. I fought to restrain it, though. It just wasn't conceivable. The sickness inside of me was breeding false hope. She couldn't possibly be insinuating…

"What Esme is trying to tell you, Edward," Carlisle spoke up, stealing my attention, "is that both of us discovered we have very big hearts."

I had just enough presence of mind to ask, "Big hearts?" while I tried to get my wayward thoughts under control.

Carlisle grinned, his eyes betraying a shyness I hadn't seen in years. "The three of us…we share this life together now," he explained, moving to rub my back. It was meant as a comforting gesture, I'm sure, but I had to refrain from arching blissfully into his touch. "It feels only natural that the three of us should share this marriage, as well…that is, if…" he trailed off, his hand coming to rest rather intimately on the small of my back, steady and full of promise.

They wanted me to…wanted us…

My mind suddenly caught up with reality, and I found myself entirely overwhelmed. I stood up so fast that the piano bench skittered backwards and tipped over, causing Esme to leap off in order to stay upright. Shaking my head in disbelief, I quickly backed away from them. This couldn't be happening. It was surely a dream – a dark nightmare disguised in the soft colors of bliss. Perhaps this was God's way of tormenting me for all my sins. Would it be an endless chain of such anguish for the rest of eternity? I am already damned. Bring me flames and physical torture – anything but this!

When my legs finally encountered the toppled bench, I didn't even try to stop myself from stumbling backwards. I fell to the floor and kept going, trying to escape, inhaling ragged gulps of air. I closed my eyes too, hiding from their shocked expressions. Seconds later, my back connected with the wall, and I knew I was trapped. It had been a very long time since I'd prayed, but I did, pleading desperately to any higher power that would listen. Please let this be real.

"It is real, Edward."

My eyes snapped open at the sound of her sweet voice, and I found myself utterly lost in the depths of her gaze. She was kneeling beside me, reaching for my arm, the tenderness of her touch numbing the pain of my uncertainty. Behind her, Carlisle righted the piano bench before turning to me. His smile was jubilant.

Still breathing heavily, I whispered to him, "How is this possible?"

Carlisle quirked an eyebrow. "After more than two hundred years of existence, I've learned there is very little that can compare to the resilience of the human heart or its capacity to love." He crouched before me, offering my hand a gentle squeeze.

"But, we're not human." Once again the darkness of my fears encroached.

"No, we're not," he agreed, though his grin never faded. "And yet, everything a vampire experiences seems decidedly greater and more powerful by degrees."

Quiet laughter shook my frame. He was right. Humans ran; we ran faster. Humans could smell the promise of impending rain; we could smell the entire spectrum of the atmosphere. Humans loved… The corresponding thought sang through my mind, wrapping itself around all my doubts like a warm blanket. In the eyes of society, of the churches, yes, I was an abomination, one who hid cleverly among the human masses. But, in the eyes of the two people who meant the most to me in this life, I was simply a young man in love. They were welcoming me into their circle of affection with open arms, and I was powerless to resist. Nor did I want to.

The weeks that followed were some of the best I'd ever had in either of my lives. Much to my surprise and delight, they decided to court me properly. Esme, I discovered, was playful and sprightly in her approach, her zest for life and love outshining even the sun. Carlisle, on the other hand, was far more reserved – bashful, almost – though his thoughts betrayed the depth of emotion that simmered just beneath his exterior. I'd never felt more blessed. The world, as seen through a lover's gaze, was so colorful and luminous, so much more beautiful than I could have possibly imagined.

"Is it so small a thing to have enjoyed the sun?" Carlisle murmured quietly one evening as we sat together on the shore of the lake, watching the last rays of daylight fade. "To have lived light in the spring, to have loved, to have thought, to have done…"**

Esme was highly amused by the quote for some reason. When I glanced in her direction, I found her gazing intently at him, one corner of her mouth quirked upward.

"Of course not, dear," she replied.

Carlisle tilted his head back, a broad smile brightening his features. "No respect for poetry," he said, tsking.

Esme leaned close to him, whispering, "Dare to trust the joys there are."**

The sound of his laughter made my toes curl. The two of them were such a pleasure to behold. Clearly they'd shared many such repartees in my absence, and the love they held for each other was so obvious, even without the benefit of hearing their thoughts. It humbled me to know I was now a part of that.

Carlisle's smile softened as he looked at her, his fingers reaching up to touch her chin. "Parting is such sweet sorrow…"***

It was my turn to laugh when Esme pouted, feigning annoyance. Still grinning, Carlisle looked out across the lake one last time.

"I really must go," he continued. The start of his usual evening shift at the hospital was fast approaching.

That slight heaviness in the air never failed to weigh me down whenever Carlisle announced his imminent departure. We both missed him while he was gone, but we knew how much he loved his work. He stood, offering to help me up as well. After pulling me to my feet, he cradled the back of my head with his hand and rested his forehead against mine. The intimate gesture caused me to tremble with euphoria. He'd become far more physical with me as of late, strong yet gentle touches that complemented adoration's repertoire of fond smiles, sidelong glances, and stray thoughts that made my heart swell. I closed my eyes against the intensity of the moment, trying to keep my breathing steady. It was incredibly difficult. He smelled so wonderful, so masculine…

"Watch over her," he whispered to me then.

The request was entirely unnecessary, of course, since Esme and I – as a united front – could handle any threat or situation that might arise. But, Carlisle was, above all things, a gentleman.

Unable to help myself, I grasped his arm, rubbing my thumb across the coarse hair I found there. "I will," I told him. I was rewarded with a breathtaking smile and fingers that scratched through my hair, adding even more to my blissful sensory overload.

"Thank you, Edward."

Carlisle turned back to Esme, who was already on her feet, grinning madly at the two of us. He bent down and kissed her cheek, tweaking the tip of her nose playfully. Seconds later, he was gone, disappearing into the night without a sound.

After he'd left, Esme's expression held a touch of melancholia, which tugged successfully at my heartstrings. I understood, though, and respectfully stayed quiet. When she finally glanced at me, she brightened considerably. "Will you play for me this evening, Edward?" she asked. I generally spent my nights doing just that, but it was always a treat when she voiced such a wish.

"What would you like to hear?"

She thought a moment. "Something lively, fun."

I offered her my arm, and she graciously accepted. "The walls shall ring with ragtime, methinks."

"Perfect!"

Together we made our way through the woods and into the adjoining field. We walked slowly, enveloped in companionable silence as we listened to nature's moonlit symphony of rustling leaves and night birds. I plucked a late-blooming purple aster from a patch of wildflowers and gave it to Esme. She slid it into her hair, giving me one of those smiles that made my legs turn to noodles. Perhaps she would let me kiss her cheek tonight as well.

Our home was dark and quiet when we arrived, but that didn't last long. The warmth of music and laughter easily brought it back to life. Esme seemed especially kittenish tonight, her touch far more bold and alluring than ever before. In human society, our interaction would have been most improper, especially without a chaperone present, but I didn't let that stop me from thoroughly enjoying the feel of her fingers tracing patterns across my shoulders. At one point, she even whispered sweet words of praise into my ear. It was exciting and exhilarating all at once, and I found myself having to fight to control my body's natural responses.

The tension between all three of us was definitely mounting. We'd been together almost constantly since their admission weeks before. Despite being married, Carlisle and Esme had refrained from intimacy or any immoderate displays of affection while we courted. I'd tried to excuse myself on several occasions to give them some privacy, but they wouldn't allow it. It was extremely humbling to me that they would make such accommodations. The tenor of their thoughts had grown increasingly more suggestive, though, with neither of them trying very hard to temper the charged wisps of emotion. They were making their love and desire very clear, and as much as that thrilled me, I was also rather anxious. They'd already known each other as husband and wife, while I was still pure as the driven snow. There would be much awkwardness and embarrassment on my part when the moment of truth arrived, of that I was certain. I had begun to wonder more and more when this magical, if whirlwind, courtship would finally reach its conclusion.

"Please play the Maple Leaf Rag again?" Esme asked, brushing her cheek against mine.

Laughing, I obliged, my fingers dancing across the keyboard even faster this time around. I was about half-way through the exuberant piece when the telltale sound of pistons hard at work caught my attention. I would have recognized our Studebaker anywhere, her purr a singular voice in the local choir of internal combustion engines. I immediately reached out to Carlisle, trying to gauge his mood and determine the reason for his unexpected return, but he was shielding himself well.

Joplin's song faded away unnoticed as both Esme and I stood and made our way to the foyer. She looked as surprised as I was, but it didn't escape me that she too was deliberately clouding her thoughts. We listened as Carlisle parked the vehicle and walked towards the house, his gait unhurried. He wore a smile when he finally came inside, much to my relief, but my curiosity was definitely piqued.

"Carlisle? Aren't you supposed to be working?"

"Actually, I have the night off," he said. "I went into town to run a few errands, including a very special one." As he finished, his gaze slid to Esme, who, I realized, was smiling brightly.

Esme grasped my hand then, and gently pulled me into the living room; Carlisle followed a few moments later after hanging up his coat. We sat around the antique coffee table Esme had recently restored, and I suddenly found myself the object of two very intense gazes. Excitement bled through whatever defenses they'd erected to keep my gift at bay, causing my breathing to escalate.

"Is there something I should know about?" I finally asked.

Carlisle's grin widened. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a large jewelry case. I saw Esme shift eagerly as he did so. The depth of emotion swirling in Carlisle's eyes was staggering as he handed the case to me.

When I hesitated, my startled gaze still locked with his, he whispered, "Open it."

It was difficult to refocus myself, but I did. Holding the case as though it would break, I lifted the cover with tremulous fingers. What I saw inside made me inhale in surprise. It was a ring. Not just any ring, though – it was an exact replica of the one Carlisle wore, except the band was made of white gold, not yellow. The Cullen crest was boldly emblazoned on top in silver and blue. Carlisle's long fingers edged into view as he took the ring from its display and held it up.

"Oh, it's beautiful," Esme declared softly.

I glanced back at Carlisle, and found him watching me carefully. "Do you like it, Edward?"

Apparently my brain and mouth were somehow disengaged from one another, since the next words I spoke were, "It's for me?" As though Carlisle would have need for two of them.

They both chuckled, and I found myself grinning in embarrassment. Esme reached for my left hand, giving it a good squeeze. Before I could even blink, Carlisle slid the gift onto my ring finger. I swallowed thickly, suddenly realizing the significance of what had just happened.

"To the outside world, it's just a family crest," Carlisle murmured, gathering our hands in his own. "But to us, it's a symbol of our commitment – to you, to each other."

Esme cupped my cheek, drawing my attention. "Carlisle and I promise to love, honor, and cherish you…for the rest of eternity." Her smile was radiant.

If I'd had a functional heart, surely it would have stopped at that very moment. They were both gazing at me with such adoration. I'd never thought it possible to love so deeply, so thoroughly. The emotion was almost painful in its intensity. I felt my eyes misting with venom, but I didn't try to hide it. "I promise the same," I told them, my voice cracking slightly, "forever." It was probably a ridiculously informal way to convey my vow to them, but neither seemed to mind at all.

Esme ran her fingers through my hair, her touch slow and affectionate. "Kiss me, Edward."

I didn't hesitate, leaning in towards her cheek, but she turned her head at the last moment, bringing our lips into alignment. I shouldn't have been surprised, given that they'd just taken me as a common-law spouse for all intents and purposes, but it made me pause. This was real – all my hopes and dreams resting in a sweet pair of lips that waited patiently for my loving touch. After one last moment of amazed reflection, I closed the distance, and immediately marveled at the softness I encountered. She was exquisite, warm and yielding…eager, too, moving gently against me. I shivered, my eyes sliding closed. Such a simple connection between two people, and yet the magnitude of it was astonishing, the expression of pure love in a tender give and take. Predictably, given my lack of experience, the sensations served to rouse me, and I was at once grateful that we were no longer susceptible to the human trait of blushing. I knew it wouldn't take long for my growing physical state to become apparent, so I reluctantly pulled back from the kiss, extricating my hands from theirs so I could shield that part of my body – as inconspicuously as possible, of course. Judging by their knowing smiles, though, I wasn't fooling anybody.

"If you'll excuse me," Esme said, acknowledging both of us, "I think I'd like to take a bath."

I blinked in surprise, watching as she stood and made her way into the hallway. I listened to the sound of her footfalls on the steps for a few moments before finally looking at Carlisle. "Was it something I did?" She hadn't seemed upset, but I couldn't tell for sure since her thoughts were carefully hidden behind a thick pearlescent veil.

He laughed, giving my knee a friendly pat. "Not at all. She's just getting ready for bed."

Getting ready for…? "But we don't sleep?"

As soon as the words left my mouth, it dawned on me. The cat-that-ate-the-canary grin on Carlisle's face only solidified the implication that had so absurdly escaped me. I only hoped I wouldn't always be this obtuse where romantic matters were concerned.

"Oh…" I trailed off, swallowing back the apprehension that was slowly beginning to churn in my stomach.

Carlisle got up and moved around the edge of the coffee table, taking a seat beside me. Moments later, I felt him begin to rub my back. "Have you ever been with a woman, Edward?" he asked quietly.

There was no misinterpreting that particular question, direct as it was. His voice was kindly, though – there was no criticism implied. "One must be married in order to engage in marital relations," I replied, too embarrassed to meet his gaze.

His hand slowed, then moved to cradle the back of my neck. When he didn't speak right away, I sneaked a glance at him. He was smiling gently. "It's okay to be nervous."

I averted my gaze again, studying the carpeting. "What if I make a mistake? What if I accidentally hurt her?"

"Hey," Carlisle murmured, pulling me closer until our faces were inches apart. His hand massaged through my hair soothingly. "There is no right or wrong when it comes to making love, so long as the act is consensual – and nobody will be judging you. As for hurting her, I seriously doubt that's even possible. Unless you plan to pull her arms off."

I laughed softly, my attention drawn to the sound of Esme turning off the taps upstairs and stepping into the tub. The water swished invitingly, and I could almost imagine her sinking into its warmth. Almost. Since I'd never seen a woman unclothed, my mental image left much to be desired.

"What does it feel like?" I whispered, keenly aware that Esme was privy to this entire conversation, as well.

Carlisle's fingers slowed to a stop. "Wondrous," he whispered back. "The act of love is nothing less than a miracle."

He spoke with such reverence that I couldn't stop from inhaling deeply, raggedly. I was painfully aroused, more so than ever before, but Carlisle gave no indication that he'd noticed. Of course, he was a doctor, and given the circumstances, my reaction was perfectly normal.

We sat in comfortable silence for some time, both of us preoccupied by the sounds emanating from the upstairs bathroom. I could hear the wet lather of soap being spread across her arms, the splash of the water when she rinsed, the slide of skin against porcelain whenever she shifted. She was humming, too, a pretty yet unfamiliar melody. I was mesmerized. I'd never realized how calming a bathing ritual could be. Then again, I'd never purposely eavesdropped on someone's bathroom activities, either. She did seem to be taking her time, though.

"Does she always take this long?" I finally asked.

Carlisle's frame shook with silent laughter. "No. Only once before that I know of."

"When was that?"

He looked at me, his eyes shining with mirth. "Our wedding night."

A bark of laughter escaped my lips. Given how quickly vampires could accomplish any task, the fact that she was drawing this out could only mean one thing. "She's teasing us, right?"

Carlisle clapped my shoulder. "Absolutely. It's called anticipation."

The rustle of a towel caused us both to still. The tub was draining, and moments later, we heard the sound of Esme releasing her hair from its confines and dropping the bobby pins into the sink. That moment of truth I'd been thinking about earlier in the evening? It was definitely close at hand.

The feel of Carlisle's hand rubbing my neck again forced my attention back to the moment. "Is there anything else you'd like to ask me, Edward? Anything you're curious about or don't understand?"

I glanced at him, shaking my head. "I know…the basic mechanics."

"You've nothing to worry about," he reassured, getting to his feet. "We both love you very much; physical intimacy is simply a celebration of that love."

"I love you too, both of you," I said, standing up as well. "More than anything in this world."

Carlisle grinned, his eyes alight with happiness. He held his arms out to me, and without a second thought, I slipped into his embrace. I tried to keep my lower body apart, to spare him the feel of my excitement, but he wrapped his arm around my lower back and pulled me close. That's when I realized he was just as aroused as I was. I shuddered against him, dropping my head to rest on his shoulder.

"Do you have any idea how long I've waited to hold you like this?" he whispered into my ear. I shook my head mutely, completely overwhelmed. "Since the moment you first opened your eyes in this life…"

I gasped. He'd fancied me for that long? "I never knew," I breathed, a wave of guilt engulfing me. "I was oblivious, lost in my own little world, I guess."

Carlisle pulled back, caressing the side of my face. "If you had known, and things had progressed between us, it's entirely possible that beautiful woman wouldn't be upstairs waiting for us right now."

His words rang true. The three of us together – we were meant to be. I was still astonished by the turn of events, still amazed that two such wonderful people could accept me into their arms and love me as deeply as they did. Even more amazing still was the depth of my own feelings. Let loose from their self-imposed exile, my affections had blossomed, grown to new heights. Despondency had been banished altogether, replaced by an incredible sense of warmth and belonging. My journey so far in this life had been a remarkable experience; I could only hope the rest of forever would be the same with my loved ones by my side.

Carlisle winked at me, stepping aside and gesturing for me to lead the way. I was ready for this. I kept chanting that like a mantra in my head as I took one step, then two… Strong, steady hands at my back bolstered my confidence. He was right there with me, guiding me, grounding me. I'd never noticed how some of the steps creaked before. A soft click echoed; Carlisle had turned off the lights in the upstairs hallway. Suddenly, I was standing before their bedroom door, which had been left open just a crack. Warm lamplight illuminated the inside of the room. Definitely inviting. Very romantic, as well. I stopped, inhaling deeply. This was it.

I swallowed reflexively as Carlisle pushed the door open, staying completely rooted in place when my gaze finally trained on Esme. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, dressed in a modest nightgown with long sleeves and a scalloped neckline. Her feet were bare; for some reason that did wonders for my already over-stimulated senses. The radiance of the lamp gave her an almost human-like glow. She smiled at me, tilting her head and smoothing all of her hair over one shoulder. The movement exposed her neck to my heated gaze, and suddenly my long-dead lungs couldn't get enough air.

"She doesn't bite." The tinge of amusement in those whispered words was unmistakable.

Carlisle's hands slid down to my waist, and he gave me a gentle nudge. Slowly, so slowly that I could have probably counted the stitches in their beautifully embroidered quilt, I stepped inside. Esme held out her hand, which I accepted, still stunned that I was here in their private sanctuary…now our private sanctuary. I sank down onto the bed, still watching her carefully. She was so exquisite – incomparably so. The way she smiled, the way her eyes shone…and her thoughts…

Esme wanted me to touch her. I gulped, unsure what to do. She leaned in, pulling my head down until our lips met once more, only this time the gentle sweetness was replaced with a passion unlike anything I could have imagined. She wrapped her arms around my neck, our mouths slanting against each other. I followed her lead, took my cues from her thoughts, and soon we were both panting breathlessly, our tongues twining. I was drowning in her, and I never wanted to come up for air.

Still kissing, she took me with her as she lay backwards, and I had no choice but to reach out with one hand to steady myself. The sound of shuffling bed sheets startled me from the hazy cocoon of sensation in which I was wrapped. Releasing Esme's lips, I looked up, only to have my breath stolen from me once more. Carlisle had undressed while we were otherwise engaged, and he was now folding back the sheets on the other side of the bed, preparing to join us. I stared without shame at his magnificent body, sculpted to perfection by his transformation. He'd been changed at the peak of his adult maturity, a far cry from the lean lines of my own form, forever caught on the cusp of manhood. My gaze fell on his member, thick, uncut, and swollen with need. Venom filled my mouth. I wanted to taste him, an urge so powerful that it made me tremble with desire.

Beneath me, Esme had continued to kiss the skin of my neck and jaw. What I didn't realize until I looked back down was that she'd also been unbuttoning her gown at the same time. Pushing me gently until I was lying beside her, she sat up. Carlisle was behind her in an instant, sliding the top of the garment off her shoulders…down…down… My breathing escalated, ragged and loud, as her bosom was finally revealed. My God, the beauty before me – the words of the most celebrated poets would be unworthy should they try to describe it. She grinned, running the fingers of one hand through my hair before laying back down again. Now completely bare on top, she reached for me.

"Touch me, Edward…please."

I glanced at Carlisle, who was kneeling on the other side of her. "It's all right," he murmured.

Suddenly, I was paralyzed with doubt. Did I have a right to touch such splendor, to mar its perfection? Would she find me inadequate? What if I embarrassed myself – or her in some unthinkable way? I opened my mouth to say something, but no sound emerged.

"Edward," Carlisle chuckled, "you'll be fine. Follow your heart."

I looked at Esme, who was waiting patiently. Her smile broadened as she reached for one of my suspenders, tugging it off my shoulder until it hung limply against my arm. I laughed quietly at her boldness. I should have known she would prove just as spry here as in any other situation. Slowly, with just a hint of hesitation, I reached for her, the backs of my fingers trailing along the swell of her breast. It was breathtaking to see her shiver at my touch, her back arching, trying hard not to lose contact. Her nipples hardened, and she moaned, a soft, needy sound that slid along my nerve endings and pooled in my groin. All at once, I found myself panting, gasping for air. She was pulling me closer. So close…

My nose nudged the softness of her stomach. I was immersed in her scent, and without conscious thought, I tasted her with my tongue. Sweet, feminine…jasmine and violets. I buried my face in her softness, kissing and licking while she squirmed beneath me. My name was whispered, then moaned. Hands in my hair, kneading, stroking, guiding…pulling me upward until I was cradled in her bosom. My lips caressed the flesh of her breast, exploring. She squealed when my mouth enveloped a rosy nub. I listened carefully to her silent stream of near-unintelligible wishes, licking and nipping just as she wanted me to. I fought to keep from laughing when she groaned, grabbing desperately at the bed sheets when she finally remembered I could hear her thoughts and make every lustful wish come true.

It filled me with such joy, loving her like this. I could have done this for hours, but eventually she gently pushed my mouth away – whereupon, my hand took its place, continuing to caress and fondle in all the right places. Esme laughed, rolling away from my ticklish touch.

"You have me at a disadvantage," Carlisle whispered into my ear. He was behind me now, urging me into a sitting position. "You can read her mind."

His fingers were deft and sure as they reached around and undid the buttons of my shirt. The feel of his lips on my neck acted like a bolt of electricity surging through my system. His hands, those remarkable instruments of compassion that had saved thousands of lives, roamed my bare chest confidently. I closed my eyes against the delightful onslaught, powerless to help as he divested me of the rest of my clothing. When my own member was finally released from its confines, I was sure I would spend myself just from his close proximity. Indeed, his fingers seemed to be on a determined journey southward, but I covered them with my own in a silent request, which he heeded without argument. I could hear his breath, edgy and loud. Aroused. He wanted me as much as I wanted him.

"Would you like to see something truly extraordinary, Edward?" he asked, still embracing me from behind. He was trying to calm us both with a distraction, to temper the heated atmosphere that hovered around us. It was so different with him, the intensity somehow magnified. Primal.

I leaned into him, turning my head so I could kiss his cheek. "Always."

"Open your eyes."

I did as he asked, all my breath leaving me at the sight I beheld. Esme was lying across the bed, arms tangled in the sheets, her hair fanned in seductive waves…wearing not a stitch of clothing. Her legs were long and shapely, her hips enticingly round. The dark curls at her apex made my member twitch. She was a goddess!

"Mother of God…" I whispered, dumbstruck. Esme smiled brightly, thoroughly enjoying my praise.

Carlisle chuckled. "She is unbearably beautiful, yes, but I was actually referring to a different wonder." We both laughed when Esme pretended to pout. "Come here, sweetheart," he continued, holding out a hand to her.

She complied, allowing him to reposition her once she was closer to us. She lay beside me, and it was all I could do not to respond to all the lurid thoughts she was conveying – on purpose, if I was reading the gleam in her eye correctly. Carlisle nudged her legs apart and gestured for me to bend closer. I nearly choked on my own venom when I first gazed at the most intimate part of her, glistening with moisture. This was the entrance to her womb – a man's nirvana. The fount of life, if one were human. And it was every bit as beautiful as the rest of her.

Carlisle's fingers tickled through her curls, causing her to squirm, before finally spreading her uppermost nether lips apart. "Do you see this little blossom?" he asked, his thumb pulling back a tiny hood, which in turn revealed an equally tiny bud of flesh. "This is the source of a woman's pleasure."

I was beyond surprised at this revelation. "Pleasure?" I was instantly contrite, averting my gaze. "I didn't mean it like that…" Esme's hand found mine, giving it a squeeze. She wasn't upset.

"It's all right, Edward," Carlisle continued. "Many men have no idea that a woman can feel sexual pleasure. And the information isn't exactly widely known among feminine circles, either. It's a shame, really. Every woman deserves to be satisfied this way."

With that, he bent down, kissing and licking the little nub until Esme was positively writhing in ecstasy. I watched in wonder as she shifted her hips against his mouth, seeking more contact, all sorts of heady sounds escaping her throat. With one last lick along the length of her womanly parts, Carlisle drew back and looked at me, grinning.

"Would you like to taste her?"

I nodded, glancing at Esme to make sure that was okay. She just smiled back, spreading her legs a little wider. Shifting to a more comfortable position, I did exactly as I'd seen Carlisle do, my lips engulfing the tiny bud. She tasted heavenly, like the sweetest of mannas. Her inner voice once more took on an urgent tone as she responded to my ministrations. I listened carefully, adjusting my touch, lapping and kissing and sucking until I'd worked her into a frenzy. She strained against me, moaning and gasping my name while she silently chanted for me not to stop what I was doing. Suddenly, she stiffened, and for a single second I thought I'd done something wrong. But, then she began to quiver, her voice rising to a wail while an explosion of color from her mind hit me like a shock wave.

Carlisle pressed his lips to my neck, chuckling. "Stay with her," he whispered. "Oh, isn't she beautiful like this?"

I couldn't have agreed more. She was still shuddering when she finally urged me away from her tender flesh. I just stared at her, amazed by what I'd just witnessed. Carlisle crawled up to Esme, brushing her hair back and kissing her sweetly. I sat up and watched them, touched by the depth of their connection. Their love for each other was so pure, so unwavering.

Esme smiled at me. "You have a very talented tongue."

I couldn't help but laugh. "Thanks to your guidance."

"You made me feel very good, Edward," she murmured, propping herself up on her elbows. "I'd like to do the same for you."

When I blinked at her, wondering what exactly she had in mind, she held one of her hands out to me. Swallowing back the lump in my throat, I slowly made my way over her body, fumbling several times when I wasn't sure where to place my hands or legs. Both Carlisle and Esme took my awkwardness in stride, offering reassuring words and touches. The world around me seemed a blur as all my senses focused inward. I was beyond nervous, every gentle touch of her hands making me wonder if I'd made a misstep. But, then she pulled me down, the softness of her curves cushioning me, and it suddenly felt so right. Her fingers, stroking down my sides, grasping my member so gingerly…

Once again, she guided me, only this time the explosion of color happened in my own mind as I sank home, finally enveloped in the warmth of her body. Sounds I'd never heard before escaped my lips, instinct compelling me to thrust again and again, chasing after that incredible feeling of pleasure that grew with each passing moment. Esme hugged me to her, cooing into my ear, telling me how wonderful I felt and how much she loved me. Carlisle's fingertips skimmed along my spine, sending tingles of added stimulation straight to my loins, but he didn't stop there. For many long minutes, his hands rubbed and squeezed at my bottom as I moved, causing my entire body to tremble uncontrollably. I groaned and whimpered at the sensation. When his fingers snaked between my legs and began to stroke the underside of my sac, it was all I could take.

I jolted, crying out as I released inside of her, the enormity of the pleasure beyond all comprehension. It was magnificent…it was sublime! I shuddered and sobbed and rent the sheets beneath us as I grasped for purchase, barely conscious of the four loving hands that moved to soothe me. When my body finally calmed, I buried my face in Esme's neck, whispering my gratitude over and over.

I was unaware of how long I lay in Esme's arms before the feel of strong hands on my shoulders eased me back to reality. I smiled as lips joined the exploration, paving a trail up my neck. Despite being blissfully spent, I still felt a weak spasm of excitement in my groin. Carlisle's touch intensified as he urged me to roll into his embrace. I did so eagerly, though the loss of Esme's warmth left me feeling unusually saddened. The smile upon her face as she watched Carlisle pull me close was breathtaking, though. I stretched against him, enjoying the feel of his chest against my back. The hard length of him pressed into my lower back, and when I shifted, grinding my hips, his grip on me tightened, something surprisingly close to a growl spilling from his throat. The sound re-ignited my passion tenfold, a wash of venom filling my mouth. With a burst of speed and strength, I twisted around and pushed him back onto the sheets. He resisted, trying to regain his hold on me, but I kept his hands at bay. His eyes were wild, a mixture of lust and amusement swirling in the honeyed depths. I gazed intently at him, a wry grin curling my lips. I was in control. For the moment, anyway. I sensed it wouldn't last long, though, so I moved to do the one thing I'd been dreaming about since I'd first admired his glorious unclothed body.

Carlisle's impassioned roar was music to my ears as I took his weeping member into my mouth. The hands that only moments before had been fighting against my hold now cradled my head gently, offering small, encouraging caresses. Somewhere in the background I heard Esme's charming laughter, but it only registered as a vague, unimportant detail compared to the magnitude of what I was experiencing. He tasted divine, like the ocean and sky mixed with subtle hints of spice. My innocence didn't appear to bother Carlisle at all; he seemed highly pleased with my ministrations, writhing and groaning as I loved him. I lost myself entirely in the moment, hypnotized by the silky hardness of his flesh and the sound of his inner voice. I felt my own body responding, twitching and lengthening as I listened, and without conscious thought, I began to grind myself into the mattress. A sudden interruption in Carlisle's thoughts was the only warning I had before I found myself lying flat on my back, covered and held down by him. His breathing was deep and ragged…or perhaps that was me. Or both of us. He stared at me triumphantly, a wicked gleam in his eye. That was the only motivation I needed.

I thrashed beneath him, pushing against his hold, but he held firm, his greater strength not failing him this time. He grabbed my arms, stretching them above my head, but that only served to increase my determination. I bucked, using what leverage I had to try and throw him off balance. Somewhere in the midst of my struggles, though, my member brushed solidly against his, and in that instant I realized what he'd been patiently waiting for me to discover. I gaped at him, panting as the pleasure of our touch sizzled along my nerve endings.

"Don't stop," he whispered.

Thrusting my hips, I was rewarded with another surge of exquisite sensation. "Oh, God…"

Carlisle chuckled, his own body joining mine, seeking the perfect rhythm that would lead us to that moment of transcendent joy. He let go of my hands, and I immediately wrapped them around his back, pulling him ever closer. His lips crushed against mine; another battle ensued. The kiss was passionate yet fierce, filled with teeth and tongue and all sorts of guttural sounds that somehow seemed natural despite their peculiarity. The urge to dominate was as strong as the need for more sensation, something I hadn't felt at all with Esme. Yet, underlying it all was the same love and respect I'd always felt for Carlisle.

We rocked against one another, our movements becoming frenzied. I sat on that glorious precipice for what seemed an eternity, instinctively holding myself there while I waited for Carlisle to join me. When it finally happened, when the two of us both fell, succumbing at last to the rapture, the power of it was mind blowing. Two voices rang through the night, gaining amplitude as we spilled our essences between us. The pleasure was unearthly, and I couldn't help but wonder if things would only get better with time. Thoroughly spent, our bodies went limp. The only sound left was that of our breathing…and small clicking noise I quickly identified as Esme trying to swallow. Her throat was dry. When we looked at her, her expression clearly conveyed her astonishment.

"Well!" she said, bursting into a fit of laughter. I joined her, basking in her amused thoughts. Carlisle, however, just blinked at me in surprise. I couldn't even stop long enough to explain. He joined us a few moments later, though, ignorant of the reasons for our mirth, but more than happy to share in the emotion.

Carlisle held his hand out to her, and she crossed the bed immediately, bending down to kiss us both. When it was his turn, though, Carlisle's lips didn't let hers go. He deepened the kiss and crawled over her, settling between her legs. I experienced a brief moment of uncertainty while watching them, as though I were somehow intruding just as I had that day long ago when I'd listened to their intimacy. But, the feeling passed quickly, replaced with a deep sense of awe – for the love they shared and for their trust in me.

I watched as Carlisle stoked her passion steadily, nibbling, kissing, and whispering sweetly. His hand slid between them, and I knew at once he was touching that special place that made her back arch in delight. Before long, I had a striking visual to accompany the sounds I'd once heard. Carlisle was gentle and attentive, undulating slowly while he slid in and out of her warmth. Their minds were ablaze with joy, matched only by the expressions of bliss they wore as they gazed into each other's eyes. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. And when they finally reached their crescendos, trembling and crying out their pleasure, they both reached for me, pulling me close.

"Thank you…" I whispered once they'd calmed, the three of us lying together in a tangle of limbs and sheets. None of the words I could think of seemed adequate enough to convey my heartfelt feelings, but I simply couldn't let this moment pass in silence. "For the wonderful ring…for your love and understanding. I will cherish these precious gifts – and both of you – forever."

Esme smiled. "As we cherish you." She squeezed my hand, and I felt Carlisle's strong grasp join ours moments later.

Wrapped in their warmth, I closed my eyes, gently blocking my lovers' thoughts until they were just a warm palette of colors in my mind. I was beyond wondering how this miracle had happened; the pursuit of such knowledge would be meaningless. If this wondrous journey was indeed the result of my being damned for the rest of eternity, then I would gladly accept my fate.

(~ * ~finis~ * ~)

** From the Hymn of Empedocles by Matthew Arnold

*** Does anyone not know this is from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?