Many thanks to Ms Ambrosia and AnnetteInOz for their help with this ficlet.
If you don't like it, blame them- they encouraged me to post this silliness. It has been only between us for months, and then I had to go and ruin a perfectly good threesome.
Olympic Peninsula Rainforest, 1880
The first time he saw her was also the last time he rode into town solely for his business.
Since that incredible, fateful day many months ago, he'd made every trip bolstered by the hope of seeing her.
He'd risked his own freedom, perhaps even his life, but he had to come.
He was painfully aware that the intervals between visits were becoming shorter, and foreboding inched up his spine like a giant centipede.
It used to be that he came to trade at the Forks General Store every few months.
This time, he had barely lasted a week.
At first, he didn't think about the logistics. He'd wake well before dawn, saddle up old Henry and set off for Forks town with Jim, the stray mutt, following along at their feet until the woodland's edge.
Pulled toward the town, almost against his will and certainly against his better judgment, he would imagine her in his mind, drawing her features with determination, if not skill.
With each visit, he'd add detail to his study, fleshing out the vision.
A lesser man might have given up; it took several wasted trips-with no sighting of her-to convince him to plan his reconnaissance with much more care.
He'd become a schemer.
For the first time in years, he'd started taking note of days of the week.
It took months to work it out during sporadic forays into Forks, but he'd eventually realized that his best chance to see her was on a Sunday.
Some might have called it obsessive.
He didn't call it anything at all; he just gave in to an urge that was as unfamiliar and disconcerting as much as it was undeniable, the urge to skim the edges of her radiance like a moth, singeing his wings on every pass.
And so, on Sundays, whether or not he rode into town, he found himself unable to think of anything but her. Her face, her bearing, everything about her fascinated him.
He'd think of her when washing in the frigid mountain stream, wondering at how warm her lovely skin would be when heated by sunlight, so rare here in the west.
He'd think of her when chopping wood for his fire, imagining her fine white hands gathering up the kindling to light it.
He'd think of her when lying on his narrow cot, imagining the tickling of furs on his skin to be her gentle caresses.
Sometimes, at night, he'd walk in his meadow and look to the sky, hoping she was seeing the same full moon, the same brilliant stars.
Mostly, he'd just remember her.
She had stolen into his cold soul and convinced it that it could warm.
Visualising the way she was when he first laid eyes on her, he'd wonder if he could ever lessen the distance between them, though he knew in his heart it could never happen.
He'd fight with himself and appease himself in equal measures, counting time from one Sunday to the next, even those that he spent in his modest cabin instead of venturing out.
On those days, he'd embrace the ache deep in his belly and delay his gratification, even that of food and water, while willing himself to be still.
He'd martyr himself, staying on the mountain instead of venturing to town to search her out and throwing himself, finally, at her mercy.
He knew now without a doubt that he loved her, but she would never want a man such as him. Still, he dared to dream of her, to torture himself with what might have been.
He'd been trading in Forks for a number of years, ever since the Homesteading had begun in earnest and he'd been able to claim his little piece of newly minted Washington.
It was easy to snare or trap enough to feed himself, and put aside a little bit extra, too.
The furs and deer skins he traded at John Banner's General Store made it possible to get other necessities like flour, and even luxuries, like coffee, tobacco or even a new Colt.
That fateful day, he rode into Forks with several bundles of deer and beaver pelts, wanting nothing more than to have his horse re-shod and supplies replenished.
With the goods secured to the cantle at the back of his saddle, he rode easy through the obscure forest paths until they started to clear and become well-worn tracks.
He rode accompanied by the robins and the jays, their songs an ambient staccato over sounds of the breeze falling on damp moss.
As the light of the morning brightened the dim forest, he pulled his hat down lower onto his face and rode on, letting out the slack of Henry's bridle and allowing the horse's sure steps to take them into Forks at a leisurely pace.
Prosperity had begun to change the look of the little township, and he had started to notice signs of expansion.
He knew that the Quileute tribe had been approached. He also knew that while they'd accepted a treaty with Governor Stevens, nobody had yet bothered to make the difficult trek into the densely wooded cliff-side lands of La Push.
Nobody had enforced their move to the reservation in Taholah, which had been earmarked for them.
The Indians were counting on their land being worthless to the white men; too hard to approach and not rich enough in natural resources to plunder. He only hoped they were right.
Henry's unhurried gait took them past familiar landmarks and into the cool, breezy mid-morning light brightening the township.
It was normally such an overcast place that a day of sunlight was remarkable.
He rode through the outskirts of town noticing the new buildings that had sprung up since the previous winter, like mushrooms following big rains.
There was even a small and simple church, its little wooden spire rising modestly toward the perpetually overcast sky.
He did not know this one Sunday would change everything.