The Sad Story of Woof

CAUTION: You might want to get your Kleenex before you read. js...

An o/t from 'The Dove in the Eye of the Storm' and 'I Hunger for Your Touch' to benefit The Fandom Against Juvenile Diabetes.

Readers: this is the earliest story I have posted in my canon to date. It's a good place to start my series.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is merely coincidental.

Please note: this story is AU, and does not follow the SM canon timeline.

A huge amount of thanks is due to Raum, for the beautiful banner, and to Room340C, my wonderful Beta (and dog person).

For more, please visit Raum at myreadinglounge blogspot

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'Cocksparrow': Old English; Young Boy

Music: My Last Goodbye, by Trading Yesterday

I will not begin
The fight that we could never end
So I am letting go

My passion, my poison
The life and death of me
I can't take you taking everything
From a love never meant to be

This is my last goodbye
Leaving all the memories of you behind
I will not wait here
And waste my whole life

This is my last goodbye
This will be my final tear for love to die
I will not wait here
And waste my whole life
With my last goodbye

April 3rd, 1921:

Near Ashland, Wisconsin

Edward's pov:

I crouched in the rafters, enraptured by the sight below. The barn was dark and mouldering, infused with decades of dust and straw, old and new. The humans didn't notice me. They hadn't noticed me in weeks. I'd been indulging my curiosity while giving Carlisle and Esme space. The mother dog was used to me now, and didn't so much as growl.

"Oh, Daddy, aren't they sweet?" the child, Betsy, cooed.

John Hart was a happy man. "They're fine animals; that's for certain. We're going to make this breed popular, you can count on it."

The child looked concerned. "You're going to let me keep one, though, right Daddy?"

"Of course, Betsy. Daddy promised you," the girl's mother, Val, said.

A sharp tang of blood enriched the air as another silky little bundle came into the world. The mother Dobermann* licked it clean, and the tiny newborn whimpered.

"I think that's all of them," John Hart said, and sure enough, a few minutes later, the dam expelled the afterbirth and devoured it. The mass of tiny puppies writhed, and I watched them with longing. Although I remembered quite a bit about my human life, I couldn't remember ever having a dog.

"Nine puppies this time," Betsy enthused.

"You just remember you're not to touch them," John said sternly. "Let their mama take care of them for the first while. She's a good dam, our Gert. This is the best litter yet."

"The runt isn't latched on," Betsy noted.

"Here," Val said, picking it up in a soft towel and adding the smallest newborn to the wriggling mass of puppies.

"That's better," Betsy declared happily. Then, she yawned hugely.

"Time for little girls to be in bed," Val declared, putting her hand out for Betsy.

"But Mother," Betsy protested, turning her big blue eyes up-to-mother.

"No 'buts'. There's school in the morning. You've seen Gertie have her puppies, and now it's time to go to bed."

"You heard your mother, off you go," John said.

"Yes, Sir," Betsy said, wilting. She stood, hanging her head, and left, not without looking back at the cozy domestic scene captured in the yellow light of the lantern, her shiny black Mary Jane shoes scuffing against the hard-packed earth of the floor. Her parents watched each other in silence.

"Betsy's gone," Val said, looking solemn. "The runt's not going to live, is it?"

I frowned. Was it dying? I couldn't hear anything wrong with its heart. It beat steady and strong for such a wee thing. And its breathing was fine.

John shook his head. "The others have already displaced it. Look how Gertie's neglecting it. She's not even looking at it. There's no way it can compete with this big strong bunch if she's not inclined to help it nurse." He picked up the puppy. "Well, it doesn't have a cleft palate or any visible defects. But it's so much smaller than the others. It's probably just… not fit enough."

"Are you going to drown it?" Val murmured sadly. "Betsy might-"

I sucked in my breath. Would these humans really drown a helpless puppy?" I watched it, a crease forming between my eyes. Sure enough, the puppy couldn't find a place to nurse. Its larger siblings wouldn't let it get anywhere close to its mother. It let out a pathetic whimper that went straight to my still heart.

John's lips thinned. He looked grieved. "I don't have to kill it. We'll just… put it in a little box, and leave it outside. Without warmth and food, it will just go to sleep. Pups this small need to feed, at least once, every hour. It's nature's way."

"Poor little thing," Val said, picking up the doomed puppy and giving it a cuddle. "What will we tell Betsy?"

"We'll just tell her it passed," John shrugged. He stood, and took a small orange crate out of a pile by the door. "Come on, Val. Don't get attached. It's cruel to love that puppy up, and then abandon it, and neither one of us can spare the time to look after it."

"Yes, Dear," she murmured sadly, placing the puppy gently in the box. It snuffled around, searching for its mother. I felt my face pinch up. Poor little thing.

John carried the box outside the barn, and set it in the cold air. The puppy didn't protest; it just kept on searching for its mother. Then John and Val took their lantern, and went back to the house, leaving the dogs to get through the rest of the night without disruption.

I watched Gertie take care of her babies for a while. She was a good mother. She lay quietly, licking the ones she could reach while they nursed. In no time at all, they would be cuddly round balls of fun for somebody's kids.

Against my will, my eyes went to the box, just visible to me outside the barn door. I hated the thought that the puppy was all alone, suffering, just because it was small. Its heart was pattering faster now. It was afraid. I felt sorry for the poor thing. Perhaps if I were very careful, I could snap its neck without leaving too much evidence.

Silently, I padded to the window in the loft, and jumped to earth. I crept around the side of the barn, wary of being caught. The puppy crate sat crookedly, just outside the doorway, immune to the shelter enjoyed by those inside. I approached the box at vampire speed, and peeked in.

It was so small. There was nothing wrong with it, except that nobody wanted it. Like me, it was a third wheel. Unlike me, that fact would end its existence. There was no hope for this pup. Its humans had decided. I couldn't save it. Animals were afraid of my kind. It would probably die if I touched it.

Perhaps that would be the most humane thing. If I touched it, and its heart failed, there would be no evidence for the humans to question, and it would be a quick death.

Why did it have to be so cute, though? Well, except for the intense dog scent. To vampires, dogs smell atrocious.

Steeling myself, I reached out with my index finger, and put it in front of the puppy's nose. It snuffled at me, and I waited to be the cause of its demise.

It licked me.

"Big, scary vampire," I sighed, while it tried to get closer to my cold hand. I couldn't resist running my finger down its back. It was so warm and soft. I couldn't recall feeling anything so soft, since my new life began. What a shame that the humans chose to waste a life that belonged to God.

"If I were human," I whispered, "I'd steal you, and take you home to my mother. She would figure out some way to feed you. She was very kind, my mother. She wouldn't throw you out like garbage." Without thinking, I scooped the puppy up between my hands and brought it to my chest. Rather than dying, it relaxed and searched for nourishment.

"Hah, you're not going to find anything helpful from me," I told it sadly, stroking its back. "I have no life in me to sustain you." Heat radiated off it onto my hands and chest, and its loose hide rippled under my touch. It sniffed at my chin, its warm puppy breath tickling me. I was growing accustomed to the odour, but would the puppy put up with me? "It's not like you'd want to stay with me anyhow," I said mournfully. "It wouldn't matter, even if you did. I don't know how to care for you, and Carlisle… Carlisle wouldn't let me keep you anyway."

If it was going to leave this world, perhaps I could keep it company on its way out. Without milk, it was going to die. At least I could give it affection while it passed. I stroked the puppy gently, enjoying its small life.

"I never had a puppy as far as I can recall," I told it, rubbing the tiny ears. "I wonder why I didn't. My family was well-off, and if I like dogs now, I must have liked them then." Whatever the reason, it was probably lost in the murky past forever. "No use fussing about it."

I sat on the hard ground, legs crossed, and tickled the puppy's head. Its eyes were shut tight, but it seemed to search for me anyway. "I understand what it is to be alone. Are you glad of my companionship, little guy?" There was something wonderful about having the opportunity to love something that was thoroughly reliant on me. Something that needed me. Carlisle didn't need me anymore. He had Esme.

I missed his friendship so much.

And now, I was going to break my heart over the runt of the litter. How stupid. I had to be some kind of sappy date.

I counted the passing seconds, and the poor little animal's tummy rumbled. It was suffering. I ought to free it. According to the Bible, its little spirit would go back into the earth. Perhaps it would be born again, under more auspicious stars. I massaged its fragile neck gently. One quick snap of my fingers, and it would be at peace.

One quick snap. Just one. Come on, Edward. One snap.

I can't.

"I'm sorry," I husked, putting it back in the barren crate. The puppy would have to leave the world on its own. I couldn't bear the thought of watching it become still and cold. Quickly, I stood to run. It was better this way.

The puppy squeaked and squealed and cried and cried. I turned back, torn, to find it scrambling to find purchase on the bottom of the crate. It looked for all the world like a turtle.

"Oh, you silly little woof!" I lamented, hurrying back over to it. The second it recognized my proximity, it started to really squeak. "Ssh!" I told it, picking it up and holding it against my chest. "You're going to bring the humans running!"

I stood there, considering a theft. Nobody would care if the puppy disappeared from its box. The humans would just think that a predator made off with it. Hah. The humans would be correct!

I put the puppy in the pocket of my jacket, and carefully covered it with my fingers so it couldn't fall out. Then, I ran all the way home, where I found Carlisle sitting in his office, reading the evening paper as usual. He'd taken off his white coat, and was relaxing in shirtsleeves. I noticed that he had a new pair of striped suspenders, probably bought with the intent of amusing Esme. For some unfathomable reason, she seemed to enjoy giving his suspenders a snap when he least expected it.

"Edward," Carlisle greeted me, and then his friendly smile metamorphosed into a look of horror. My sire covered his nose with his fingers, and turned an extra shade of pale. "What in Perdition have you got in your pocket?"

I backed up a step. "Nothing. I'll just… be going."

In an instant, Carlisle was standing before me, frowning in confusion. I backed up another step. It was a mistake to come back here. I ought to have just… left.

"Edward. What is that vile odour?" he demanded, advancing.

"Um, nothing," I mumbled, turning to go. Carlisle put a hand on my shoulder, not insistently enough to hold me back, just enough to stop me.

"Boy."

My eyes shut. Life was over for my pet. Carlisle would tell me I had no right to have it, and he would … he would kill it. A lone tear traced down my cheek. I pushed my emotions back. Carlisle said we could only cry once, and a puppy… wasn't worth crying over.

"Hey… Boy," Carlisle said, at a total loss. "I'm sorry I upset you. Won't you show me? Please?"

"John Hart was going to kill it, just because it's the littlest. Just tell me how to feed it, Carlisle, and then… and then I'll be gone."

Gone! Carlisle thought, panicking. "Gone? Are you leaving me, Cocksparrow?" You can't go. What would I do without my Boy?

"It's not even out of my pocket, and you can't stand the smell," I said, biting my lips so they wouldn't tremble. "And I'm not going to kill it, just because the humans don't know what a good thing-"

"Show me," Carlisle said gently. So I took the puppy out of my pocket, and held it out in both hands. It lay quiet, its little pink nose and crumpled ears quivering.

"What is it?" my sire asked, nose wrinkling. Smells dreadful.

"It's a dog!" I said, giving him a look that was doubtless disrespectful. What did he think it was, a cat?

Carlisle sighed and did his best not to roll his eyes. "I know that. What kind is it, a hound?"

I cradled the puppy against my chest. "It's a Dobermann Pinscher."

"But it's blue," Carlisle frowned.

"Yes. It's a Blue Dobermann. John Hart had the mother imported from Germany," I said. "I've been watching the dam for weeks. She had nine puppies tonight, and it was really interesting. But her other puppies are a lot bigger and stronger, so they put Woof outside in a box to die."

Carlisle's thoughts were troubled. He didn't know what to do for a puppy that needed sustenance. First time the boy's shown an interest in anything living since I turned him. Fancy him falling in love with a dog. Well, it will do him good to have something to nurture. What a name, though. "Woof?"

At some point I had become the surrogate mother of a half-pound of bluish-brown fur with the audacious name of Woof. "Woof," I repeated firmly.

Carlisle sighed. I don't know, Boy. I can make it Infant Formula, but it mightn't agree with dogs.

"You're letting me keep him?" I asked, hope kindling in my chest.

"I might do him harm, feeding him something that's not natural for him," Carlisle warned me. He'll probably die.

"I know, but at least we could say that we tried," I encouraged my sire, and saw him marvel at the keen expression on my face.

He looks like a kid for once, and all it took was a bloody dog. I'd put up with ten dogs if only he'd smile again. "Alright, Boy, we'll try." He slapped my shoulder companionably. "Go get me a bottle of milk out of the box."

"Yes, Sir!" I said happily, hurrying to the little door on the back landing where the milkman put the milk every morning. Boy, this was the best day I'd had in a long time! I peered into the cabinet. Yes, three little bottles were there. For once, we wouldn't be wasting the normally useless food.

With a rush of air, Esme stood beside me. "What's this?" she asked curiously.

I held the puppy away from her. "You're not going to eat him, are you?"

"Oh!" Esme scoffed. "He's barely a mouthful. Of course I'm not going to eat him!"

"It's my dog, Woof," I told her proudly. I held out the puppy so she could see him.

"He's… cute," she said, pinching her nose shut. Ugliest puppy I've ever seen. Reminds me of a bald pink hippopotamus. Only palm-sized. The bit of fur he has is such a weird colour. Makes him look like a bruise. "You need to bathe him in oatmeal to cut down the odour."

"I need to feed him first," I told her, taking the milk bottle to Carlisle in the kitchen. There was always a fire in the woodstove in case he needed to boil water, and at the moment there was a large pot of it simmering on the back burner.

Carlisle shook his head. "You can't immerse him in water yet, Edward. If you don't keep the umbilicus dry, it will fester. In fact, we ought to put some rubbing alcohol on it. Did you tie it off?"

"No, Sir," I said. Carlisle brought over a piece of gut, a bottle of alcohol, and a piece of cotton. I held Woof wrong-side-up so my sire could swab the umbilicus and thread the gut around it. Woof wasn't impressed. He squirmed a lot.

"He is endearingly cute, Edward," Carlisle murmured, "excepting the scent. You can give him a sponge bath after he's been fed."

"Okay," I agreed, coddling my pet.

"Shame we can't appreciate puppy-scent," Carlisle mused. "My studies indicate that newborn animals emit pheromones that appeal to their mothers. It's why humans who like dogs find the smell of puppies attractive."

"Really?" I asked, fascinated.

"Shame the canine scent repulses us," he said.

"Is he cold?" Esme asked, frowning. Woof was quivering again.

"He feels warm to me," I said. "He probably didn't appreciate being held on his back."

"Because if he's cold, the first thing that will happen is that his digestive tract will shut down. You need to warm him before you feed him, or else he'll die," Esme warned me. Well, that was worrisome. I frowned at my puppy, wondering how I was going to tell if he was warm enough.

"How do you know that?" I asked.

"I grew up on a farm, Dear. We had lots of puppies." Esme went to the linen cupboard and fetched a small terry towel. She held it up in her hands and I placed Woof in it. Then, she started to rub him with the towel quite energetically. My puppy seemed to like it.

"Oh," I said. "That must have been fun. I don't think I ever had a pet."

"Dogs and cats are indispensable on farms," Esme told me. "They are more than companions. They work hard."

I knew that, so I just nodded.

Carlisle put a pan on the stovetop, took the crimped paper cover off the milk bottle, and tipped it into the pan. "One part cream… two parts milk… two parts water. And… a tablespoon of honey," he said, sniffing it while he stirred the concoction. "That approximates human milk. What do you think?" He held out the wooden spoon for my inspection.

I sniffed the formula. It smelled awful to me. "Are you sure that milk's good, Carlisle?" I didn't want to have to taste it to find out.

Carlisle wrinkled his nose at the formula. "I have no idea how the humans can bear to drink it. But it smells like what the mothers give their babies."

I sniffed it again. "I think it smells a little too sweet compared to the mother dog's milk."

"Okay," Carlisle said, pouring a little more pre-boiled hot water into the concoction. Then he opened a cupboard and searched through the contents. Pulling out a small medicine bottle, he tipped its revolting brownish liquid into a spoon. "Cod liver oil keeps babies from getting rickets and scurvy."

I wrinkled my nose. It smelled incredibly bad. "Okay."

Carlisle hunted through his little medicine bottles and found an empty one. He ladled a little of the formula into it. Then, he frowned. "I was going to give him a bottle, but Burnaby's nipples are never going to fit in that wee mouth."

I watched in concern. Woof's tummy was growling so loudly that he sounded like a little bitty vampire. Would he starve because we couldn't administer the food? Esme handed him back to me, wrapped in his towel, and I sat down at the table.

I know! Carlisle thought triumphantly. "Esme, will you hand me an eye dropper, please?

"Certainly." Esme hurried to the surgery drawer, and hunted through the delicate instruments. "Here you are," she said, handing it to my sire. He dipped it in the pan of milk and drew up a dropper full.

"Mind that you don't stick that too far down its throat," Carlisle warned me, handing me the dropper. "Hopefully, it doesn't have teeth strong enough to break the glass. Little Cassie White bit down on one yesterday. I had the devil of a time getting the bits out of her mouth."

"Thanks." I took it gingerly. "He doesn't have any teeth yet." The dropper was merely a slender glass tube with a rubber end on it. I didn't think it was too hot for the puppy. I put the tip gingerly in Woof's mouth, and released the milk. He swallowed every drop. The formula oozed out of his lips, and the tiny pink tongue darted out to chase it. Then, he figured out that food was a good thing, and demanded more. I stuck the dropper in the pan of formula and pinched the end, and more milk was drawn up into the tube.

"Turn him this way," Esme advised, moving my hand so that the dropper was more accessible to the puppy's mouth.

"That's it," I encouraged Woof, putting more milk down his throat. He happily sucked it down. I fed him dropper after dropper, and watched his belly fill. It was very satisfying. I was nurturing a living thing. How great was that!

"Don't over-feed him, Edward," my sire cautioned. "He'll get sick if he's uncomfortable. It will be better if you feed him more often, in small amounts."

"Yes, Sir," I said, setting down the dropper and gathering Woof close. He let out a stinky doggy burp, and all of us chuckled.

"You'll have to keep him with you at all times," Carlisle advised.

"Yes, Sir."

"You'll have to housebreak him thoroughly," he warned.

"I know. How do I do that, exactly?"

Esme snorted in a most unladylike fashion. "You'll find out once he's big enough. He's far too little to be worrying about housebreaking."

"Well… I have to put him in a box and keep it clean, right?" I asked, not too certain of how I felt about cleaning up possible messes.

Esme bit back a grin. "You definitely have to do that. Once you've taught him to eliminate."

"Okay," I said, and then her words sank in. My horror was evident in her thoughts. She looked highly entertained. "What…?"

"Mother dogs teach their puppies how to, um, go," Esme grinned.

I was utterly lost. "Um, how?"

"They lick their puppies' genitals," Esme said with glee, picturing ghastly things. I recoiled in horror.

"Forget the whole thing," I yelped, backing up a few feet and leaving Woof unguarded on the table. I held my hands up in denial. "No way am I doing that!"

Esme scooped Woof up and cradled him to her chest. "Gotcha!"

My breath whooshed out in relief. "Esme, you shouldn't josh like that. Poor Woof! It wouldn't have been funny if he had fallen off the table." I crossed the room and held out my hands to take my pet back. Esme wouldn't let me have him.

"I wasn't joshing," she said, still grinning at me. I crossed my arms and gave her the stink-eye. Esme feigned surprise. "Nobody expects you to do that, silly." Like a sane person would ever agree to do that. And a mysophobe like Edward? Heavens!

"I should hope not," I said haughtily. "Would you care to explain yourself?"

"Certainly," she said, handing my puppy back to me. I patted his back consolingly. Really, she might have made me drop him!

"Oh, stop looking at me like that!" Esme smiled. "I wouldn't have let you hurt the little fellow."

"I might have squeezed him," I pouted. "Or dropped him." I patted Woof again.

"I'm sorry, Edward. I couldn't resist," Esme said. I never thought of that. I just wanted to see the look on his face. Your face. I wonder if I'll ever get used to your mind reading.

Her sincerity mollified me. "All right. Are you going to tell me what to do, or do I have to guess?"

"It's quite easy, really," she told me, taking her little terry cloth towel and pouring a ladle of the hot water onto it. Steam rose from the fibres. Esme waved the cloth in the air to cool it. "Always make sure it's nice and warm, but not too hot," she said, holding it against her cheek. She brought the cloth to me and pressed it to my cheek. "Like this."

I tried not to flinch. The heat was pleasant, but I didn't like to be touched. I took the towel from Esme's hand and wadded it up in mine. "Okay."

Esme went over to the corner and took one of Carlisle's newspapers out of the kindling basket. She brushed it off and set it on the table in front of me. Carlisle came over and sat across from me, curiosity lighting his features. I, however, was a little apprehensive.

"Okay, Edward, set the baby down on the paper and give him a bath," Esme said encouragingly.

"How do I do that, exactly?" I asked for the second time that night.

Carlisle shifted in his seat. "We'll copy the humans. Start with the eyes, then the face, and ears, and then move down."

"Okay," I said. I used the warm cloth to gently wipe Woof's eyes, then his mouth, nose, and ears; and then I washed his front legs, paying particular attention to the skin between his toes. I decided to do the back legs and feet next. Then, I rubbed his back with it, and he burped again, which made us all laugh. Finally, I washed his chest and belly, and set the towel down. "That's better," I told my little guy.

"Much better," Carlisle agreed.

"Edward, you missed a spot," Esme told me. You have to clean his backside.

I gave the indicated area a quick swipe with the now-cooling cloth.

"No, that's not good enough," Esme told me, picturing me giving the dog's private parts a really good scrub.

"I don't want to hurt him, Esme," I protested.

"You won't hurt him," Esme said, becoming amused again.

Watching her mistrustfully, I gave Woof's masculine bits a proper wash with the cloth. The most god-awful scent filled the air, and then a little blackish pile of sh- you know- landed on the newspaper.

"Oh, God!" I yelped, slapping the back of my right hand over my nose as a pale yellow puddle spread under his belly. Carlisle was copying me, but Esme was laughing her rotten pa-toot off, clapping in delight. And poor Woof was attempting to crawl out of the mess he had made. I snatched him out of the wet before he could get any more covered in it, and Carlisle folded up the newspaper at vampire speed and whisked it out the back door.

"You …" I accused, eyes narrowing, while Woof's formerly clean paws dripped urine on the formerly-clean table. Esme widened her eyes at me, practically daring me to swear at her. As if I would ever do such a thing! "…Brat."

Carlisle came back inside, waving a hand in front of his nose. Take it outside to piss from now on. "Esme, that was horrid. God stone the crows! For such a little thing, he's-"

"Oh, but the looks on your faces," she howled, running to fetch a clean towel. She wet it and handed it to me. With a wary look, I washed Woof again.

"That's not going to happen again now, is it?" Carlisle fretted.

"No, he's just a baby with a wee tummy," Esme said. "He won't have to go until he's fed again."

"Maybe you could hold him over the commode when you want him to…" shite, Carlisle suggested.

"What if I should drop him?" I fretted.

"Don't flush," Carlisle shrugged.

"Well, okay," I agreed.

A half hour later, Woof's belly rumbled. I fed him again, and Esme presented me with another warm washcloth. I took my pet to the lavatory and dangled him over the commode, and washed him up, taking care to remove the cloth from his backside before he could mess on it. Woof did his business. The operation went surprisingly smoothly, and I was able to flush the mess away, cutting down on the smell greatly. "What a good dog," I told him.

For the next week, I fed Woof every half hour, even though it was more often than John Hart had said. Soon, the puppy was bigger, and roly-poly, and he took more formula when feeding, and ate less often. And I got the elimination training down to a science. In his second week of life, Woof only ate about every two hours. He was much easier to look after, and whenever I needed a short break, Esme would take over for me. The pair of us got awfully attached to Woof, and Esme would tell me about life on the farm or as a school teacher while we cared for him.

Carlisle didn't adjust to the smell. But he never said a word. He just took happiness in my contentment. And when I laughed, it warmed the cockles of that old English heart.

"I'm glad you brought it home," he must have told me a million times. Although, once, he said, "Build it a house outside."

"Oh, Carlisle! He's too little to be outside by himself," Esme scolded. She looked at Woof thoughtfully. I'll have to make him a coat. My sister-mother walked over to the cupboards, and pulled down a quilted brown tea cosy. "Carry him around in this, Edward. It will keep the chill of your hands off of him."

"That's a good idea," I said, taking it and putting Woof inside. With a big sigh, he went to sleep. "I'm going to take him up to my room for a bit," I announced, heading for the stairs.

"Wait," Carlisle ordered me.

"Yes, Sir?"

He took an expensive silver Thermos Flask out of the cupboard and ladled formula into it. "If you're going to take him out, you should keep this with you at all times."

"Yes, Sir."

"But mind that you scour out any leftovers and change the milk every couple of hours. We don't need the animal to get sick."

"No Sir, I'll take care of it," I promised. And I did.

A couple of days later, I was busy telling Woof what a royal pain in the wazoo it was to live with mushy, doe-eyed newly-weds, when he opened his right eye for the first time and looked at me. The left was still sealed shut. Hah. It felt like he was winking at me in agreement. Yeah, the newly-mated really were a pain! Hah. Woof was twelve days old. His ears weren't shut anymore either, and he had bluish-brown hair all over his body. He actually looked like a dog.

It was two more days before he opened the left eye. "Well, well," I said like a sap. "Hiya, Woof." The Baskin family was waiting in the sitting area. I hurried downstairs to show Woof off to Cordie. I knew she'd like him.

"Hello, Mr Masen," Cordelia said, sitting up straighter on the hardback chair. I frowned at her in confusion, my step faltering. Since when did she start calling me Mr Masen?

"Cordie," I said, inclining my head warily. She had recently stopped wearing her dark hair in pigtails, and had it cut like a flapper to curl upon her neck. The girls these days all seemed to insist on cutting off their crowning glory, in a misguided attempt to appear attractive and grown-up. I turned to her parents. "Mr Baskin, Mrs Baskin. How do you do, today?"

"Hmph! Grandmother is unwell. Your brother-in-law is seeing to her," Baskin groused. Stay away from my daughter.

"I'm sorry to hear she's ill," I sympathized, feeling rather lost. Why did he suddenly want me to stay away from Cordie? She'd been hanging around the surgery since she was fourteen, and had promising signs of a talent for nursing. Nice kid.

"Ooh, what's that you have there?" Cordie wanted to know, bounding over in a most girlish fashion to examine my infant dog. What a darling baby!

"My puppy, Woof," I told her. "I'm hand-rearing him. I found him in the road. He must have been carried away from his family by some dastardly predator. He opened his eyes today."

"Oh, how sweet!" she cooed. So handsome, and he's a kind young man, too. I don't know why Father doesn't approve of him. "What kind is he?" she asked, chucking my pet under the chin. Woof wagged his tail at her.

I knew the only Dobermanns nearby belonged to John Hart and the owner of Woof's sire, Barnabas Smith. There would be questions if I said what Woof was. "I don't know. I think he's some kind of hound dog."

"Well, he's no poodle," Cordie grinned. "Mrs Lewis' poodle had puppies, and they were all furry in no time."

"I expect so," I agreed.

"Cute as buttons, like little white lambs. An athletic young man like you wouldn't have a fluffy little lapdog, though," Cordie teased, giving me a little pat on the arm. Her father's gimlet eyes poked daggers at me.

I knew I shouldn't let her come over here, he thought, disconcerting me. What on earth had I done to make him dislike me?

Why was Cordie behaving so oddly? I decided it was necessary to retreat to a formal distance. "Oh… um… I don't know … Miss Cordelia. I adopted this dog because he needed me, not for his looks," I said, avoiding her eyes.

I'm right to like Edward! She thought triumphantly. And he's just implied that he doesn't court superficial girls. He's flirting with me!

Jeez Louise. Not another one.

Carlisle chose that moment to escort Old Lady Hargrove out of his office. She was laughing and giggling like a schoolgirl as usual, hanging off his arm.

If I were sixty years younger…

Yuck.

Carlisle was continuing to give his orders. "Now, you just mind what I say, young lady, and wrap that hand in a hot towel saturated in castor oil three times a day. In no time at all it shall be much improved, and as an added bonus, you will have the softest hands on the shores of Lake Superior. All the beaus shall be lining up to hold them."

"Oh, Doctor Cullen, you do flatter me," she said, batting her iron-grey eyelashes at him. I repressed an eye roll with difficulty, unlike her son-in-law, who indulged himself whole-heartedly in one. It couldn't be fun to live with one's mother-in-law, especially if one had no patience for the elderly. Thanks to mind-reading, I happened to know that she was eighty-one. And very apt to live to ninety. Poor Baskin. It must be awful to have a wealthy mother-in-law. The old lady turned beady eyes upon him in time to see his sour face.

"Horace? Take me to the car," she said imperiously, snapping her fingers.

"Yes, Mother," he said, offering her an arm. Offering us an apologetic smile, Mrs Baskin trailed after them, leaving me with Cordie. I attempted not to squirm.

"May I come to visit your dog, Mr Masen? I'm interested to see how he turns out," Cordelia said, batting her lashes at me. It made her look like something foreign was caught in her eye. Behind us, I could See Carlisle perk up eagerly. Not this again!

"I'm sure he's merely a mutt, Miss," I shrugged. "Nothing special." Please take the hint. I don't want to have to rebuff you, Cordie.

"I'm sure you're wrong, Mr Masen."

"Cordelia!" Baskin boomed from the yard, making her jump. I thanked all that was holy for territorial fathers.

"Another time, Mr Masen," she said, inclining her head at me.

"Miss Baskin," I returned. Before going out, she took a compact from her purse and dabbed powder on her nose, peeking at me in its mirror. Then, she skipped down the steps to her father's ugly Ferris Sedan and blew me a kiss.

Her father shut her in, and glared at me. I waved haphazardly and retreated inside the house, trying to assimilate this strange turn of events.

"Egad," I said to Carlisle, peering out the window to make sure they were gone. Whatever had come over the girl?

"Someone has an admirer," he said smugly.

I gave him a disgusted sneer. "Well, that will happen if you insist upon flirting with hoary old ladies."

Carlisle's eyes shone, and he laughed. "What a thing to say, Sirrah! And I was speaking of thee, not me."

I ran a hand through my hair. "Horrors."

"Oh, come now! Cordelia Baskin is a fetching girl of marriageable age. You've gotten along well with her in the past. It would do you no harm to take her on a walk in the p-"

"No harm?" I asked, gobsmacked. "Did you see the family dynamics, there, Carlisle? Ugh!" I shuddered. "I'm not going to encourage her. I don't want her. She's a nice girl and all, but she doesn't attract me. Not as a human or a vampire. Even if she did, living in that household would be the end of me. At any rate, it's moot. She is not my mate. Thank all that's holy for that. Did you see? She's painting her face now. Dreadful."

Carlisle's lips turned up in amusement. "All the young ladies wear powder and lip varnish, now Edward. It's Coco Chanel's fault, for getting a tan. And if you're looking for long hair and skirts that cover the ankle, you're looking in the wrong generation of females."

"I don't care about the skirts, Sir. My mother wore those skirts, which is hardly a recommendation. The current fashion is much more sensible and pleasing." My sire's hopes soared. I had to put a stop to that pretty quickly or the parade of damsels to my door would be ne'er ending. "And I am not looking at all, thank you," I snapped. "Cordelia Baskin was a perfectly pleasant girl until she cut off her pigtails and started making eyes at me."

"Are you not interested at all in finding your mate?" Carlisle asked a bit sadly. "Don't you… feel anything… for them? Any attraction?"

I put my head down and counted to two hundred thousand. "Carlisle."

"Yes, dear boy?"

"I have one word for you."

"Yes?" he asked, wincing a little.

"Jane."

"Oh, Jane!" Carlisle lamented, throwing out his hands. "Just because she didn't suit you –and praise be to God she didn't- is no reason to swear off romance for the rest of your-"

"I may never get over Valentine's Day of 1919," I asserted. What Carlisle didn't know about that day wouldn't humiliate me. I suppressed a shudder.

Carlisle kept pleading. "Edward, you're nineteen years old now. Nearly twenty. Esme and I only want you to be-"

"No," I said firmly, stroking my puppy in order to keep calm. "No more matchmaking. I don't like the girls you throw at me. Stop trying to marry me off, Carlisle. I just… I just want to be a kid for a bit longer, all right?"

Carlisle looked grieved. "I just don't want you to be lonely, Boy." Centuries alone: I never want that for you.

I stepped a bit closer to him and gave him a pat on the arm. "I'm okay, Sir." I backed off a step and rubbed Woof's ear. "I just… want to have a nice, lazy summer, lying in the grass, swimming in Whittlesey Creek, and playing with my dog. Is that too much to ask? We're moving to New York soon, and I haven't had… enough fun. I feel like… I got old too fast."

"You feel old, Cocksparrow?" Carlisle asked softly.

"Sometimes," I whispered, thinking back to the loss of my parents. To the loss of all my friends, through my death and some of theirs.

Did I do something to make you feel that way? My sire wanted to know.

"No," I told him, trying to focus on the muddy past. "My father, and my grandfather, had high expectations of me. I always felt like… my future was pinned down."

Carlisle nodded curtly. "Go play with your dog."

Three weeks into Woof's life, he started standing on his own four feet. Soon after, he was piddling and pooping without any assistance from me. I couldn't deny that it was a great relief. "Take him out every fifteen minutes or so," Esme told me, "and tell him to do his business. Praise him when he does as he's told." Within two weeks, he was housebroken. Carlisle attributed Woof's lack of accidents to my good care, but I just thought he was a smart dog.

As he grew, I started taking my pet for walks. And he really enjoyed it when I picked him up and ran with him, or we took him out in the car. His brown eyes would shine and his long pink tongue would loll out of his mouth, which was now full of strong white teeth. Carlisle said he was a proper speed demon, like me.

It was a tremendous summer. Yes, I spent some time with Carlisle and Esme, but most of the time, I found ways to be out in the good weather with my dog. The Whittlesey Creek wetlands teemed with life, and I spent many happy hours with Woof, who grew long-legged and powerful. He walked by my side, eyes focused on my face –ever trusting- and let me take him through all the wilds. I kept him with me constantly, except when I went hunting. I caught deer and brought home the meat to him.

At night, Woof slept on my bed while I read modern stories about aliens and fantastic monsters. My opinions never bored him, nor did my obsession with the stars, aeroplanes, and natural wonders of the universe. I watched Woof change, and by day, he listened raptly as I nattered on about persistent predatory females, annoying townsfolk, even more annoying sires and dams (of the lovesick vampire variety), my past, my future, and how the world was changing. And everything was just about perfect.

I took Woof to the Bay at night, and to the wetlands in the day. He loved to chase the ducks, but sometimes the ones with ducklings chased him back, making me laugh. He got indignant one time when a goose nipped his tail, running around in a circle in an attempt to catch up with himself and see why it was hurting. Gosh, it was funny.

"Woof's six months old, now, Cocksparrow," Carlisle said one day at the beginning of September. He was scrubbing plaster off the kitchen table after setting a broken hand, and Esme was washing medical paraphernalia in the sink, and boiling scalpels and such on the stove.

"Yes, Sir," I said, scratching Woof's large, silky ears.

"Are you planning to have him neutered?" Carlisle wondered.

"Why on earth would I do such an awful thing to him?" I gasped.

"You don't want him to run off in search of a mate," Carlisle suggested gently.

I felt my forehead crease. "He won't. Even if he does, I'll be able to find him," I asserted a little fretfully.

"He doesn't look a proper Pinscher, with that long tail," Carlisle mused, giving Woof a pat. Carlisle had become quite fond of him, although he refused to let the dog sit on his lap. But he didn't object to having him live in the house since I bathed him with oatmeal and soap every day.

"That's just as well," Esme said, drying her hands on her apron. "If Mr Dart ever sees him, he'll think Woof's just a mutt. It's better if he keeps his ears and tail."

" 'Course it is. Barbarians," Carlisle muttered. In Britain, Dobermanns' ears were not cropped.

I patted Woof's shoulders, and he grinned his doggy grin at me. "He wouldn't be happy without his long ears and tail, would you Woof?"

"Woof," he told me.

"See?" I asked, making Carlisle and Esme chuckle.

"It's a shame we can't let the Volturi find out about you," Carlisle mused, putting away his glass vials and beakers. "Marcus was fond of animals. When I lived in Volterra, he kept horses."

"Really?" I asked with interest. And so another interesting discussion began.

September marched on, and then October, and it became too cold for Woof to go to the wetlands. I walked him closer to home, happy to have my steps slowed, and more of my infinitely available time put to pleasant use. Game moved south, away from the chill and the lake-effect snow, and Carlisle, Esme and I caught meals less often. It made it harder to cope when the injured humans came to our house, and I would take Esme out with me, away from temptation, leaving Woof on a rug, in front of the kitchen stove, to keep Carlisle company.

On nice days, I would throw large sticks for Woof in the yard, or walk him to town and buy him a coffee with heavy cream, which I served to him on a saucer on the floor of the tavern. Prohibition was in full swing, and the local bar served coffee and tea instead of liquor, at least until the wee hours of the morning, when the proprietors risked all to give the human men positively evil bathtub gin and homemade beer.

Having once tried the gin with my pal Laurie, back in the day when the manufacture of liquor was not regulated, I could vouch for its toxicity. As far as I could recall, one sneaky outing at the age of fourteen had landed me in bed –with my dear mother shouting at me about the sins of the flesh- for a solid two days. Yes, the gin was lethal. And the fine gentlemen of Ashland generally reeked of it. Some of the ladies, too. I had a good snicker or three over their sore heads, even though Carlisle said it wasn't funny, because the humans were harming their bodies long-term with it.

"The humans are silly anyway," I whispered to Woof. He always agreed with me. How great was that!

By November, Woof was finally beginning to grow into his paws. It was bitterly cold for him outside, and he wore around a green plaid coat that Esme had made for him, that had sheepskin on the inside. When his paws got too cold for walking, I carried him. Occasionally, on a mild day, I threw the red ball that Carlisle had bought for him into the snow, and he would root around for it, entertaining us all. It was on one such day that I kept him out until his dinner time, and then we bounded up the steps to the house. I didn't pay enough attention to my surroundings.

I had opened the door to the house and let him in before I smelled it: vampire. A male. A large, dirty, corrupted-smelling male. Its thoughts were mundane, concerning Carlisle's daily activities and my existence. And Esme's. Warily, I eased into the house, and sniffed to see if my family was safe. They seemed to be all right, although Esme was highly nervous.

Carlisle realized I was home, and his thoughts immediately turned panicky and assaulted me. Do not challenge him! The Volturi sent him to check up on me. They do that every few decades. Don't by any means let him know you can read minds, or Aro will want you for his collection! Tell this scout as little as possible. Be polite, and for God's sake keep your eyes down!

Swallowing hard, I stepped through the doorway into the kitchen. Carlisle was standing with his back to the counter, one of his experiments with cleansers on display. Esme sat in one of the kitchen chairs, pale as a ghost. And Woof was already curled up on his rug, wagging his tail and enjoying the heat from the stove.

Our guest stood at the opposite side of the room from me, leering out of eyes that looked like rotten raw beef. I was very taken aback, but lowered my eyes as my sire had ordered.

"Roman? This is my first born," Carlisle said quietly.

"Buon giorno, figlio del Principe Carlisle," he said in a broad Italian accent, stepping right up to me so that his rancid breath polluted my space.

I kept my eyes down. "Buon giorno, signore."

"Edward Masen is your name?" he checked, putting his hands on his hips and closing in on my space.

"Sì," I confirmed softly.

"You speak Italian," he smiled.

"A little," I said. "Carlisle is teaching me the great languages of the world." I took a chance and peeked up at Roman. He was very tall. Probably 6'5".

"And he starts with Italian. Good. Bene. Principe Carlisle, Aro will be pleased to hear you are doing so well. It is a nice coven you have here," he said, then turned a disapproving eye on Woof. "Except for the dog. Why do you keep such a horrible stinking animal in your home, eh?"

"It's not ours," Carlisle said smoothly. "We're looking after it for a human who's gone into hospital. Part of the charade." Don't trust him, Edward.

"It ought to be lashing out at us," the Volturi frowned. "Who looks after it?"

He knew the answer. He was staring at me, because he knew I had let Woof into the house. So why did he ask? What was his game?

Let us see if they lie, Roman thought.

"Edward does," Carlisle said, lips thin.

"Show me how you look after it," the vampire directed me. Carlisle moved, and Esme stood up, and the scout repulsed them with a look. "I would like to speak with young Edward alone."

Carlisle and Esme both sank down onto their chairs. My sire took his mate's hand and held it in his lap. Her face was almost translucent, she was so frightened.

No matter what he does, Boy, do not respond. He may be looking for a fight, and he will be a seasoned warrior. You won't stand a chance against him. I wonder what he's thinking? Please, God, let Edward have forewarning! Please, God, don't take my Boy from me.

But the male was only thinking about his home in Volterra. His mind yielded nothing useful to me. "Come on, Woof," I said woodenly, slapping my thigh. "Let's go outside." My dog leaped up and danced to the front door, his joyful eyes seeking my approval. "Good dog," I said in a monotone. I let him out, and he bee-lined over to his ball, retrieving it for me. "Good Woof." His tail wagged and he wriggled all over.

"Show me how you play with it," the Traditional smiled, waving a hand at me.

I threw the ball half-heartedly, and my dog brought it back enthusiastically. I threw it again, and he rooted around in the fluffy snow to find it. The vampire laughed and clapped. Then, he eyed me appraisingly.

"Oh, come now, Edward! Show some appreciation for the animal's effort. It must be fun to have it serve you so willingly."

"Would you… care to try?" I offered, holding out the ball.

"Sì," he beamed. "That would be very nice." He took the ball and threw it into the snow, and Woof gamboled after it, sneezing and snorting at the cold of the snow on his nose. Roman threw it again and Woof brought it back, grinning. "I know Dom Carlisle lied, thinking to protect you, but there is no need to fear me. So how long have you owned this dog?" His eyes held mine, but they were not unfriendly. They are an odd coven, but I get the attraction in keeping the dog now. What a charming animal!

Could I trust him? There was nothing underhanded in his thoughts. Perhaps Carlisle was over-reacting. "I've had him since he was born," I revealed.

No, Carlisle thought from inside the house, dismayed. Edward, I told you not to trust him. What have you done?

"Meraviglioso," the vampire said. How fascinating. "And you love this nice pet."

I swallowed hard. It was too late to say otherwise. "Yes."

"And it loves you back. It is very loyal," he said admiringly.

"Yes," I confirmed, feeling relieved that he understood. Woof jumped up against my thighs, trying to give me his ball. I chuckled, and sank to sit cross-legged in the snow. Woof jumped on my lap and licked me, and I tickled his ears, laughing.

The vampire laughed too, and reached out to tickle Woof's neck. And it was then that I heard the snap.

I stopped breathing.

Time stood still. My smile slid off my face like it had been cut off with a knife.

Woof's body collapsed, boneless, to the ground as I looked to the vampire above me. I stared him in the eyes, stunned.

Esme ran out of the house screaming, and Carlisle captured her and forcefully carried her inside, shouting at her to control herself. Esme is going to get us all killed! God help Edward. God don't let him attack! The boy is going to be heartbroken. Dammit all to Hell! Bloody bastard, Roman! I just knew it!

My eyes remained locked upon those of the Volturi scout like a mouse in front of a snake. His rough hand came down to cup my cheek, and I waited for him to obliterate me. Part of me wished for it.

"You are a vampire, Edward," he told me kindly, patting my face. "You should not try to be a human." Ruffling my hair, he turned his back and walked away, just as Carlisle came stomping back out of the house.

"Roman di Volturi! Your masters shall hear of this offence!" Carlisle declared.

"As you wish, Dom Cullen," the Volturi said, bowing.

I fingered Woof's warm scruff, and tried to understand how it was that he came to be dead. There was … no purpose to it. Was there?

"Edward!" Esme sobbed, tears running down her face. "Edward! Sweetheart! Please!" She took my face in her hands, and through her eyes, I Saw how white and dead I looked. I realized that I had been dead a long time. I just hadn't known it.

"Edward!" Carlisle yelled, falling to one knee and grasping my shoulders. His eyes looked bleak. Yes, I was dead. Dead on the inside. "Boy! I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry!"

I turned my face away, and pushed away their comfort, gathering Woof into my arms. "Let me be," I said numbly, absorbing what was left of his warmth.

"Boy," Carlisle moaned, reaching for me. I scooted back a foot. Esme watched helplessly.

"Let me be, Carlisle. I want… to be alone," I insisted, pressing my face into my dog's neck. Carlisle let his hands fall.

"Are you sure you want to be alone, Boy?" he asked softly.

"Yes," I told him.

Carlisle and Esme rose slowly and went in the house without another word, and I sat on the cold ground and relived every moment I had spent with my dog. He was six months and twenty-five days old, and just growing into his paws. And he had died because of me.

When Woof's body began to freeze, I rose from my spot on the cold ground and carried him into the woods. There was a spot by the Bay where I liked to take him when the weather permitted. I took him there, tipped up a tree, and buried him. And I asked God not to punish him for loving a vampire, because really, he just didn't know any better.

I came up blank for anything else to say to God, Who had not answered Carlisle's prayer to keep our family safe from Roman, even though Carlisle believed in Him, because God really didn't love us. So, I simply thanked Woof for spending his brief time on Earth brightening my days.

I went home. I let Esme kiss me, and Carlisle hug me and apologize over and over. But I didn't hug or kiss them back. Loving people… and dogs… was a good way to get your heart broken. Better not to feel anything at all.

The winter grew increasingly bleak. It seemed like all the game animals had disappeared forever. I found myself craving the taste of the man I had killed as a Newborn. He had been an innocent farmer, on his way home from his fields. He was dead before I realized I had killed him, his blood quenching the miserable burn in my throat.

My throat was on fire all the time now. I tried to ignore it.

The grey days dragged on. Carlisle and Esme neglected their marriage to focus on me. They were with me all the time. I was nothing but a worry to them. I was a burden. A useless object. A third wheel.

Eventually, I took to spending all my time in my room, just sitting, doing nothing. A week before Christmas, I told Carlisle and Esme that I was going for a walk. I walked around aimlessly for three days, and then, I went home.

"Oh, my Boy!" Carlisle gasped as I came up the front steps, and drew me into his arms. "I was afraid you weren't coming back!"

"Welcome home, Edward!" Esme said, joining the hug. I did not hug them back. They let me go, looking apprehensive.

"I'm leaving," I said, my voice rough as rust from disuse.

"No," Carlisle said, his eyes turning black.

"I need to find my own path," I told him. "I need to find a purpose."

"Oh," he said, evaluating.

"Maybe I'll find my mate," I suggested.

"Are you going to be a Traditional?" he asked apprehensively.

"I don't know," I lied. I knew I was going to try it at least once. Anything to fill the void inside me. Anything to dull the pain.

"It's unchristian," Carlisle reminded me. Same old argument.

"God doesn't love me, Carlisle," I shrugged. If God loved me, he would have made my life matter. I wasn't necessary to anyone's existence. Carlisle and Esme would go on without me, and they would be fine.

"You're wrong," my sire insisted.

"I guess we'll see," I said dismissively. I held out my hand, and Carlisle gripped it hard.

"Don't leave me, Cocksparrow." You're my oldest and dearest friend.

"You don't need me, Carlisle. You have Esme," I said, feeling empty. I turned away, without direction.

"I do need you, Boy!" he insisted. What have I done? Why does he not know that- "I love you!"

I turned back to look at my family, watching me so desperately. "I… love you, too. Both of you. But… I need … an adventure."

"An adventure?" Carlisle asked, hope dawning. A young boy should have an adventure.

"A… quest," I suggested, feigning positive feelings for one.

"A quest," Carlisle repeated, his hopes growing. "Will you write to me, Cocksparrow?"

"Yes, Sir," I lied.

"Good journey, my Boy," my sire said, taking my hand between both of his. "Come home to me someday."

"I will," I lied.

Esme stood beside us, wringing her hands. "Are you leaving because of me?"

"No," I said. "I'm leaving because of me."

"I wish you wouldn't go," she said, biting her lips. She had no tears to shed. She had spent them all on me when Roman killed Woof. It grieved me to be the cause of all that distress.

"I must," I said, pressing my lips together firmly. I turned my back on them, and loped away, feeling like I was running away from life and light. But I knew there was neither genuine light nor life for our kind. It was all artificial, without substance.

Saturday, August 19th, 2005, 11 pm:

Esme's Island, Brazil

Bella's pov:

I lay beside Edward on the cushions we had thrown all over the floor, processing his sad tale. I was sure that he had given me the abridged version, but it wasn't difficult to connect the dots. I drew his head down onto my chest, and he listened to my heartbeat mingle with that of our unborn baby. I was certain it was a boy, and he was certain it was a girl.

My mate was learning not to keep things bottled up, but he still got embarrassed about showing his emotions. For that reason, I had listened to him tell me about Woof without making any big, emo displays. Although he had been cut to pieces by Roman, he wouldn't want to cry over it. He hadn't spent his last human tears on Woof, so why would he want to cry now? Still, if he ever met Roman in a dark alley, my bet would be that Aro would be short one guard. Edward might not be one to hold grudges, but still…

My husband was waiting for me to say something. "You've had one shitload of trauma in your life over the past century, Edward."

"I'm hoping to get a shitload of joy out of the next hundred years, okay?" he smiled, eyes sad and voice cracking.

"You'll get more than that, if I have anything to say about it," I promised.

Perhaps someday, we'd get a dog…

o~o~0~o~o

*Dobermann Pinschers were brought to the US in 1908, and began to be registered in the AKC in 1921. 'Dobermann' was spelled with two n's until the 1940s.