The Summer It All Began Contest
Title: Again and Again
Word Count: 3686
Summary: After a lifetime of love, Emmett has to find a way to live on without Edward. With the help of their daughter, he discovers that it is possible to recapture that love...again and again.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement is intended by borrowing the characters originally created by Stephenie Meyer.
Again and Again
I was sat at the vanity, studying the reflection that stared back at me. The dimple was still there, though several wrinkles radiated out from it now. My hair, what was left of it, was still curly, the coloring having shifted into a distinguished silver. My muscle tone had faded though I was still large and broad.
None of that bothered me. What bothered me were my eyes. Until a week ago they'd still been a vibrant, playful blue and now... now they were a flat, lifeless grey.
Because he was gone.
My Edward was gone. The Grim Reaper had come calling, taking my love, thereby my life, away.
We had buried him just this morning, in our hometown of Chicago. Family and friends had gathered from far and wide to attend his service and say their final farewells. They were now gathered on the first floor of our home.
Edward was... had been, an amazing man... lover, friend, confidante, debate partner, co-parent... all around amazing person. And he'd picked me. All these years later and that one fact still left me breathless and giddy.
The wrinkly face in the mirror twitched as the lines contorted with a half smile as I remembered.
I needed to get downstairs to the wake, but I just couldn't bring myself to face them. The people that blamed me for his death.
For "luring" him to a lifestyle of sin.
People that had supported us and shown us nothing but love love for the last 50 years, that had sent us well wishes after we'd traveled to Massachusetts in 2004 to legally become husband and husband, now hated me and blamed me.
All because Edward had died of AIDS.
What they didn't know, and wouldn't let me explain, was that he'd been living with it for the last 20 years, after a mishap in the ER where a positive patient seized as he was drawing a blood sample and he ended up with the needle stuck deeply in his own hand. As he was 55 at the time, he'd decided it was best to quietly retire. The hospital had agreed with him and paid him a generous severance.
It had been Edward's decision to not tell anyone. He hadn't wanted to live his life with his loved ones looking at him with sympathy, or worse, in fear. So, we'd kept his secret, until he wasn't here any longer to keep it and the family demanded to know what had happened.
They didn't let me get past saying AIDS before the walls of hatred went up, showing the real colors of how they'd viewed our relationship all this time.
The whispered, and sometimes yelled, accusations from "friends" more abhorrent than any of the harassment and discrimination we'd dealt with from strangers. Especially when we'd first stepped out as a couple, shocking 1962's social structure.
The grey eyes ahead of me became shiny and wet.
They could hate me all they wanted, nothing they could do would hurt me as bad as the fact that my Edward was not coming back.
A choked sob bubbled from my throat just as the door creaked open behind me.
"Paw Paw? You in here?" came her soft melodic voice.
I took a quick cleansing breath. "Come on in, Miss Piggy," I called to Alice. Ever since she was a baby, she'd snorted when she laughed and she had her surrogate mother's cute, upturned nose. Edward's nose actually, since her mother was none other than his twin sister, Elizabeth.
I wished suddenly that Elizabeth was still alive, she wouldn't have blamed me. She had truly accepted me into Edward's life. Proven time and again as she allowed her body to be inseminated not once, but twice, with my sperm so that Edward and I could have children that really continued both of our blood lines. Alice came along five years after we were together, looking more like me with traces of Edward, and her brother, Robert, arrived three years later, the spitting image of Edward.
Sadly, Robert never came to terms with his parents being two gay men and he disowned us as soon as he turned eighteen. We'd kept tabs on him over the years, continuing to send him birthday and holiday cards every year. They were always returned unopened. The latest birthday card had been mailed just a few days before Edward's passing.
I heard the door latch and the hollow clack of her heels on the hardwood as she crossed over to me. When her arms came round my neck and her chin settled into my shoulder, I looked up to meet her bright blue eyes, my old eyes, in the mirror.
"Why are you hiding up here?" I shrugged and dropped my eyes to my lap, concentrating on the stretched out, liver spot marked skin of my hands.
"Paw Paw, come on, what's wrong?" Her concern was clear by her tone.
I met her eyes again and she held mine as she nodded, silently encouraging me to talk.
"He's gone..." Her hands began slowly, soothingly running along the upper part of my arm between my elbows and shoulders.
"It's only been a week, Alice, but it's felt like an eternity already. I don't know how I can exist like this." The reflection in the mirror blurred as the tears threatened to spill over.
She cocked her head, giving me not a sympathetic look, but an appraising one.
"By living and reliving. Again and again." Her mouth, so similar to Edward's, broke into his familiar smirk. Though I wasn't sure what she was getting at, I couldn't help but return the smile as my brows gathered in confusion.
She tugged on my hand until I turned my body, so that I was facing the room and away from the mirror. Next, she stepped out of her heels and grabbed a couple of the decorative pillows, that Edward had always insisted we had to have, from the bed and settled onto the floor with them.
Once she was settled, she looked up at me expectantly, the years fading away as I waited to hear her say the magic words.
"Please, Paw Paw, tell me again. Tell me about the summer it all began."
As soon as the words were out, I was sucked back in time, to 50 years earlier.
I met Edward in the summer of 1962, during our first year of residency at Illinois Masonic Hospital. We were 25 and we hit it off immediately, quickly becoming best friends. It was bound to happen as we kept getting the same rotation schedule, leaving us living on opposite time tables from others our age in the city.
We both had girlfriends, Rose and Bella, but if we had downtime, we insisted on double dating. At first I didn't think anything of the fact that we always sat in the middle, putting the girls on the ends at the movies or in restaurant booths. Rose, on my right, always made me feel crowded and cold, while on my left, where my hip pressed into his, was nothing but comfort and warmth.
I still didn't think anything a couple of weeks later when the girls decided to stop doing double dates. As Rose put it, they didn't "particularly care for each other." Edward and I shrugged it off and kept meeting up without them. Actually enjoying ourselves more without them around.
A week later we both showed up at work with news of our respective breakups. We'd gone to the diner to drown our sorrows in a couple of chocolate malts, which, as we talked and laughed, we realized weren't all that great... our sorrows that is. The malts were fantastic. After the malts we headed over to the cinema to take in Lolita, agreeing afterwards that Kubrick was a genius.
I did think something of it, when another two weeks later, after walking him back to his apartment after seeing Mutiny on the Bounty at the cinemas, he suddenly leaned in and kissed me at his door.
And I kissed him back, feeling more in that first kiss with him than I had in months of intimacy with Rose.
I grunted at the realization and Edward pulled back, suddenly apologizing profusely. I had to kiss him again to get him to shut up.
I pushed my whole body against his, trapping him between the door and my erection, which I was grinding into his thigh with gentle rolls of my hips.
His hands snaked up the back of my shirt, amazing me with how long and smooth, but powerful, they were as he kneaded my skin.
Sucking his bottom lip into my mouth, I drew away, until his lip fell from mine with an audible pop. "Keys?" I quipped before my mouth was on his again. His hand found mine and he guided it to his front pocket. Intentionally, I think, making sure I felt the impressive bulge in his pants.
I obliged and patted him down thoroughly as I searched for his keys, not taking them from his pocket until I had him rocking against my palm.
We stumbled into his apartment, our lips only leaving the other's as necessary, to peel our shirts off. It wasn't until his long fingers started to undo my trousers that my head cleared and I realized what we were doing.
To my shame, I pulled back in abject horror, not believing that I'd just been in a heated make out session with my best friend.
"Edward, we... we can't do this," I whispered. My heart was racing and my mind was going a million miles an hour as I tried to come up with why this was wrong when it had felt so very right.
We were stood in his living room, shirtless, chests rising and falling and our lips not the only thing swollen on our bodies.
"Why not, Emmett?" he challenged me, as he always did. He was always making me think things through, not settling until I could give him a definite answer with no room for loopholes.
"It's not right, it's," I lowered my voice, already knowing the next words were going to sound bad, "not acceptable."
He crossed his arms over his bare chest, ire creeping over his features, causing me to think that Marlon Brando had nothing on the man standing before me.
"Says who?" he growled.
I moved to his couch and sat down with a heavy sigh. "People."
He laughed sharply, then cut it off. "And who are these people that you care so much if they approve of who you are attracted to?" His face softened, the fire in his eyes dying slightly, "Unless, I totally misread what just happened and you aren't attracted to me?"
For the first time in all the months that I had worked beside, and played with, Edward, he looked truly hurt and upset. This was what was wrong. Edward always had a smile and a kind word for everyone. Edward should never experience hurt, least of all, from me.
Seeing his palpable pain at the possibility that I was going to turn my back on him, it all became clear. The proverbial "they" were wrong, we, Edward and I, were right. At least right enough at the moment to explore what potential we had.
I took a deep breath, feeling better already. Alice no longer looked like the 45 year old woman she was, but the small exuberant child I had such fond memories of. She'd always loved to hear how her Lion and Paw Paw, as she'd dubbed us, had met. Given that she always called Elizabeth, Lambeth, it really didn't surprise us when she'd gone into veterinary medicine. The girl was all about the animals.
There was a knock just before the bedroom door swung open and Jasper, Alice's husband, poked his head in. "There ya'll are, the natives are gettin' a bit restless down there, just thought I'd let ya know," he said politely. Ever the gentleman, Edward and I couldn't have been happier when Alice brought Jasper home to meet us. It'd been easy for us to see that they were head over heels for each other and we'd given them our blessing. In turn, they'd blessed us with four rambunctious grandsons. Who were in different stages of getting their college degrees right now. It was a good thing Jasper's horse ranch out in Texas was doing so well, even if it meant we didn't see them as often as we would've liked.
"Hey honey, come on over here, Paw Paw's telling me the story of when he and Lion fell in love. Well, most of it anyways, I think he's keeping some special parts to himself, safely in his head." She winked at me as her eyes sparkled and he couldn't resist her, as I chuckled. Once he was snuggled on the floor, holding her in his arms, I sank back into the moment, traveling back once again.
I'd moved amazingly fast for someone my size. Suddenly he was in my arms and we were sharing our passion for each other through our touches. Fingers, skin, lips and tongues. As we gave over to the heat threatening to consume us whole, Edward walked us back to his bedroom and our trousers fell to the floor.
Though we'd both been with women, neither one of us had experienced the love of another man up to this point.
We managed to slow down and appreciate what we were giving each other. We explored with painstaking care, learning every dip and curve of each other. Nothing was left undiscovered by our hands and mouths, by our eyes.
In the course of that first physical night with him, I fell...hard. His soft lips closing over my turgid length as my large hand stroked his, took me deeper. He pulled away just as my release escaped me, my hand feverishly pumping him to bring him with me while we both watched our passion flow out of us and onto our hands.
After a shower and a brief nap, we'd woken to do it all again, switching places and going farther, exploring virgin puckered holes with soft prods and loving kisses. He came first, leaving me swollen and yearning, but willing to just curl back up and return to sleep with him in my arms.
He wouldn't hear anything of it though.
He'd pushed me onto my back and with a wicked, loving gleam in his eye had kissed my lips tenderly. Then he traveled down my body, suckling my nipples, taking small nibbles of the flesh over my ribs, sucking the skin in the hollow where my hip met my upper thigh, curving forward until he was taking me in his mouth. Slowly. Erotically.
"I'll be right back, baby, don't go anywhere," he said to me before climbing off the bed and disappearing into his bathroom. He returned a moment later with a tub of vaseline and a thin packet, clearly labeled Olla. I recognized it from the hospital.
"Did you lift that from work or do you get yours at the chemist?" He grinned sheepishly. "Well, before Bella and I broke it off, I would normally stop by the chemist when she had indicated we might be intimate, but yes, this is one of the free samples they were handing out at work last week."
"A regular boy scout aren't you, love?"
He tucked his lower lip into his teeth as his eyes darkened while he nodded at me, then almost whispered in a seductive voice, "It's good to always be prepared," before lowering his mouth to me yet again. At the same time, he pushed the vaseline my direction and turned his body to give me access to his backside.
Silently giving me permission to prepare him.
He swirled his tongue up and down my length leisurely, keeping me hard but in no threat of making me come, as I greased up my fingers and slowly worked them into him, starting with one and building up to three over the next hour.
By the time he rolled the condom down on me, he was more than ready to take me in, and I was certainly ready to feel him take me in, desperate for it, in fact.
He straddled my waist, bending forward to catch my lips with his, as he backed down onto me. He stilled as the pressure around my engorged head became unfathomable. It was but a moment, in which even time seemed to hold its breath, before he bore down on me and I penetrated that outer ring, both of us crying out in pleasure as he sank all the way down.
He was now mine and I knew I'd never let him go.
And I didn't. Not until I'd filled that condom and he'd painted my chest white, and then it was just long enough to clean up and get him back in my arms.
Work became more tolerable as we shared secret smiles, glances and touches, such as brushing our fingertips together when we'd pass a patient chart off. We'd find any excuse to go to the supply closet for a hunger filled kiss that would have to hold us over until the next time we could get away.
Every Friday and Saturday found us at the cinemas. To Kill a Mockingbird, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, The Miracle Worker, The Longest Day, Dr. No and The Birdman of Alcatraz were but a few of the films we went to, though I couldn't tell you what happened in them because as we sat there in the dark, I only had eyes for him. Watching him react as his mouth would purse or widen in surprise, his easy laughter as something humored him, he was beautiful and real.
August was rolling to a close when he asked me to move in with him. I agreed under one condition, he had to go public with me. I knew I loved him by then and I refused to keep our love hidden like some dirty secret.
Our lovemaking that night was extra special.
"Paw Paw?" Alice's voice yanked me back into the present and I found that the tears that I'd been so diligently holding at bay since Dr. Gerandy had called 'time of death', were now flowing freely over my wrinkled cheeks.
"It's okay Miss Piggy, these are happy tears," I laughed as I wiped my knobby fingers across my eyes.
The doorbell rang and Jasper pulled himself up off the floor, coming over, he gave me a hug and let me know to 'sit tight' and he'd get the door. He squatted down to give Alice a quick kiss before he exited, his boots clomping on the floor.
Alice got up and retrieved a couple of tissues for me to wipe the mess on my face with. As she cleaned me up, she smiled wide. "There you are, Paw Paw."
"What do you mean?" I asked, confused. She lifted her chin towards the mirror, telling me to 'look.'
When I turned around, vibrant blue eyes blinked back at me once again.
"See, Paw Paw, Lion will always be with you, in your heart and your memories. He's not gone, he's right here with you as long as you keep on living, by reliving, again and again."
Another knock sounded at the door and Alice kissed my cheek before crossing the room to open it, leaving me to let her words sink in. My reflection was interrupted by her letting out a loud squeal that actually ended with a snort.
I rose from my chair, grabbing my cane that was leaning against the vanity, before beginning the trek across the room, my slippers shuffling with my progression.
Jasper came in, followed by a striking young man. Well, young to me. I happened to know that he had just turned 42 a few days ago.
"Robert?" My god, he looked even more like Edward now than when I'd last seen him, twenty-four years ago.
"Dad? Where's Pop? Why are all these people here?" he said. He'd picked up a British accent apparently, having lived in London for the last twenty years. At least, that's where we'd been mailing the cards to.
Alice placed a caring hand on his arm. "It's a wake, Robert. Lion, Pop, died last week," she broke the news softly.
"But, I just got my birthday card and I came. I know it was wrong of me to have walked out the way I did, but when you never came looking for me, I assumed..."
"What do you mean, never came looking? Son, we've kept track all these years, sent you a card every birthday, every holiday..."
Alice was looking back and forth, like she was watching a tennis match.
"You...you did?" he choked out as I shuffled forward, opening my arm to him that wasn't balancing my weight on the cane.
"Of course, your Pop and me, we never stopped loving you son."
He fell on me, hugging me tightly as gentle sobs racked his body. "Oh dad, all this time, I thought you didn't care anymore." Abruptly he pulled back, anger contorting his features. "Kristen, that damn woman! She must have been throwing out your post all this time!"
"Kristen?" Alice and I asked together.
"She's... she was... my wife. She's brought me nothing but misery since the day I met her," he glanced down and then raised his tear stained green eyes to me, "before I left. It was because of her that I turned my back on you and Pop. And now, dammit, now I've missed saying goodbye."
The anguish in my son was palpable. I glanced at Alice and she nodded, once again encouraging me. I reached out for his hand and led him to the settee that sat by the window. "Son, I'm going to tell you a story... about the summer it all began."