This story is dedicated to malianani, and to all those lovers of Carlisle and Edward.

This story was betaed by NixHaw, who always provides endless support and encouragement. She's wonderful, and I want to be like her when I grow up.

And of course, thanks to Stephenie Meyer, who doesn't get her panties all in a twist when we steal her puppets and make them dance for us.


July 1930

The dilapidated club was dark and smoky, and crowded enough that almost no one noticed Carlisle's entrance. An enthusiastic jazz band played on stage and inebriated patrons danced on the hardwood floor. Women in stylishly short dresses roamed the room, with lips painted bright red and feathers adorning their bobbed hair. In one corner, dimly illuminated by red-shaded lamps, a poker game was being played by grim-faced men. Carlisle's gaze was drawn there, lingering on the shadowy form of the bronze-haired youth hunched over the table.

It was pure chance that had brought Carlisle here tonight. He had volunteered on a whim to come to New York to retrieve a new ventilation machine that had been purchased by his hospital, and it was happenstance that he had stumbled upon Edward's scent, faint but unmistakable, wafting out of a dank alley.

All thoughts of the coveted iron lung had fled the moment Carlisle inhaled that scent. His son had been here. His beautiful, absent boy. It had been three years since Edward had stormed out of their home in a rage, but always, in some part of Carlisle's mind, the memory of their last fight played on a continuous loop.

It was that part that had taken over, that had shunted aside all other desires and barely left Carlisle with the mental faculties to maintain his human facade as he turned and entered the alley.

The scent was tainted with blood — not very much, but a little. Some had spilled on the ground near where Edward had stood, and had been rinsed away. Two days ago? Three? It didn't matter. There was a trail leading away, and Carlisle had little difficulty following it. It had led him to a squalid tenement in Manhattan, a haven of poverty and disease, crowded with world-weary immigrants and their unwashed children.

It was nearly dark when Carlisle approached the building and encountered the fresh trail. The sun had dipped below the cloudy horizon roughly thirty-eight minutes prior, and the new scent was probably just about that old. He stood in front of the building, struggling briefly with indecision. He wanted to follow the trail, to find his son and bring him home, but he also wanted information. He wanted to know what Edward had been doing, how he had been living. A tenement in Manhattan? Was he visiting here, or was this where he lived? What could have brought him to such a place?

His presence caught the attention of several of the building's inhabitants, who were loitering around the outside of the building, seeking relief from the heat of the day in the evening breeze. A redheaded girl of perhaps seven or eight pushed herself to her feet, abandoning the small pile of pebbles she had been playing with, and approached him with a curious gaze.

"You're lost," she declared.

Carlisle doffed his hat and gave her an exaggerated bow. "Good evening, young lady. What makes you think I'm lost?"

"You look it," she said, startling him with her simplicity and her insight. Were he being honest with himself, Carlisle would have to admit that he had been lost for the last three years.

"Besides, your clothes are too fine. No one with fine clothes comes here."

"Oh, I don't know about that. That's a rather fetching scarf you're wearing."

The little girl smiled as she patted the worn kerchief that was doing a poor job of keeping her tangled hair under control.

"As a matter of fact, I'm looking for someone," Carlisle said. "He's a tall boy with skin even fairer than yours and copper hair that refuses to be anything but messy. Have you seen anyone who looks like that?"

"You mean Mr. Masen!" she said, her face lighting up. "I like him very much. He wears darkened spectacles and brings us things from the market. Once, he brought a whole chicken!"

Carlisle crouched down, his curiosity getting the better of him. "He brings you food, you say?"

"Other things, too. He brought me mam a silk ascot and a watch that she could barter, and he gave Mr. Brennan a new hat and coat. He's always bringing things back for us." Her voice dropped to a loud, dramatic whisper. "Mam says she thinks he's a pickpocket, but that we mustn't tell him that she suspects."

Carlisle chuckled, but his head was spinning. What in the world could Edward be up to? "He sounds like a regular Robin Hood."

"Robin Hood!" she said delightedly, and began skipping around in a circle, singing a made-up song to herself.

Carlisle straightened and eyed the building once more. He still craved information, but the pull to find his son was much greater. He needed to see him, to know for himself that the boy was all right. He slipped a coin from his pocket and held it out to the girl, who stopped her dancing and stared at it with round eyes.

"For your trouble," he said with a smile. "I'm much obliged."

The girl snatched the coin from his hand and darted back to the side of the building, presenting it to a tired-looking woman who was sitting with several other women, knitting needles flashing in the waning light.

Carlisle tipped his hat to the woman and turned away, following Edward's trail away from the building before she could protest his generosity.

The scent had led him here, to a speakeasy in Harlem, and now it was all he could smell. Rationally, he knew the room was full of various odors: sweat, and liquor, and chemical perfumes. But there was only one of which he cared to take note, and it crowded out all the rest.

Edward would have heard him coming, of course. It was nearly impossible to surprise him. Yet Carlisle had still seen the slight stiffening of his shoulders when his gaze had fallen upon the boy's back. The suit coat made him look broader than the lean teenager Carlisle remembered, but even under his hat, his distinctive hair was unmistakable.

And that scent . . . it filled a hole that had been carved out of Carlisle's soul.

He made his way to the bar and ordered a drink, keeping an eye trained on the gaming table, on the young man who had turned his life upside down, who had broken his heart and rebuilt it countless times, and who had ultimately shattered it and walked away. He took off his hat and set it on the bar in front of him, smoothing his slicked-back hair with one hand. He watched the poker game, and he waited.

He didn't have to wait long. The hand ended and Edward stood as one of the men gleefully collected his winnings. He dismissed himself from the game and weaved through the crowd, taking a stool next to the one Carlisle had claimed.

"Gin for my friend," Carlisle said, turning to the bartender. He wasn't sure he could look Edward in the eye just yet. He wasn't sure he had the strength.

The gin was poured into a coffee cup and placed in front of Edward. There was a silent moment, and then a silver tin appeared in Carlisle's line of vision. He accepted the proffered cigarette and leaned closer to allow Edward to light it for him, breathing in his concentrated essence mingled with the tobacco.

Seconds ticked by. Marked seconds. Seconds eloquent in their silence. Carlisle felt Edward shift beside him, and he ached to lean closer, to touch him.

"How'd you know I was here?" Edward finally asked.

"Luck? Fate?" Carlisle took a drag from his cigarette. "The will of God?"

Edward snorted. It was clear that the last few years hadn't changed his opinion of the divine.

"What are you doing in Harlem?" Edward asked.

"What are you doing in Harlem?"

He gestured dismissively to the poker game he had just left. "Helping a few people make rent."

Carlisle finally turned to look at him, losing his breath at the simple familiarity of the boy's profile. He had his fedora pulled down low over his forehead, casting a shadow over his eyes. In the dim room, the humans probably couldn't see the distinctive color of his irises, but Carlisle could.

"Are you giving them the money from your parents' estate?"

Edward stiffened, his jaw clenching, and once again the familiarity of it rattled Carlisle.

"No."

"Have you procured employment?"

He snorted again. "Not in the traditional sense."

Carlisle swallowed hard. He didn't really care what Edward was doing — or rather, he cared, but he wouldn't hold it against him. He just wanted him to come home.

Edward puffed on his cigarette, blatantly ignoring the turn of Carlisle's thoughts. "I play poker with the businessmen in the all-white juice joints. I clean them out and bring the money here."

"That's very egalitarian of you."

His gaze flicked to Carlisle's, then darted away again. "I'm doing good things. Maybe they're not the things you would do, but I help people."

Carlisle discreetly swapped his mug with an empty one belonging to the inebriated patron to his left. He poured half of Edward's drink into his and took another draw from his cigarette.

"Are you happy here?"

Edward ran his finger around the rim of his cup, staring down at the bootlegged liquor.

"Edward, come home."

"Home," he scoffed. "To Connecticut? To play house with you and Esme?" He shook his head and flicked the ashes from the end of his cigarette.

A sharp pang shot through Carlisle's chest, and he turned away, trying not to think of the events that had followed Edward's defection. He brought his hand up to rub his forehead, the smoke from the cigarette tracing a path through the air. "Esme left."

He felt Edward tense beside him, sensed the shift in his posture even though they weren't touching.

"Oh." A few awkward seconds passed in silence before he added, "I'm sorry."

Carlisle stared at the bar, feeling like a failure. There was a time that he'd thought he had everything — a wife, a son . . . the family he had always dreamed of. But he hadn't been enough to keep them. They had slipped away from him and left him desolate.

"What happened?" Edward asked softly.

He sighed. "She didn't want me. She wanted you, a son. Not a husband."

Edward picked up his mug and swirled the gin in the bottom of it. "I'm sorry," he said again.

Carlisle watched him toy with his cup. Those hands were like old friends, and the memories of countless hours spent watching them dance over the keys of the piano flooded his senses. "I haven't been the same since you left," he said, his voice sounding as empty as he felt. "Nothing feels whole anymore. Nothing feels right."

"Since I left or since she left?"

Carlisle laughed bitterly. "There wasn't anything for her to leave. With you gone . . . I was nothing. She thought she cared about me, but it was you, the man you make me."

"Don't say that," Edward said, glowering at him. "It's baloney."

An involuntary smile tugged at Carlisle's lips. "Baloney. You've been spending too much time in speakeasies."

"No doubt about that," he muttered. He stubbed out his cigarette in an ash tray and pushed it away.

"Come home."

"I can't."

"Of course you can, you—"

"I can't," he said again, his voice sharper this time. "I can't be what you want me to be."

Carlisle lowered his head, his hollow chest filling with regret. "I should never have tried to change you. I shouldn't have forced you to deny your nature, to give up blood —"

"It's not about the blood!" His voice was loud enough to be heard by some of the closer patrons, and they turned to stare at the two pale men at the bar. Edward cut his eyes at them and hunched his shoulders, leaning over his half-empty mug of gin.

They fell silent again, Carlisle at a loss for what to say.

Edward glanced around the room and let out a disgusted laugh. "This place is the berries, ain't it? Bimbos pretending to be hoods, hoods pretending to be swells, hooch pretending to be joe, and you and me . . . pretending to be anything but what we are."

Carlisle stared at him for a moment before he started to laugh. He plucked the hat off of Edward's head and shoved it playfully over his face, drawing laughter from the boy as well.

"Let's get out of here," he said, nodding toward the door. "If I have to hear you talk like that again, I may never recover."

Edward scooped up Carlisle's hat and plopped it onto his friend's head, and the two of them headed for the door.

"I don't like your hair like that," Edward said as they passed the man guarding the door and exited onto the narrow street.

"What's wrong with my hair?"

"Nothing's wrong with it, I just don't like it."

"It's how it's being worn these days."

"I know." Edward pushed his hat back onto the back of his head. "You remember when we used to go out hunting and end up in the river?"

"In Illinois." Carlisle smiled. "We did have a hard time staying out of the water, didn't we?"

"And then we'd get out and lie on the bank, and just let the sun and the wind dry us off?"

Carlisle met his gaze, the warmth of the memory filling him. "I remember."

"I liked it like that," Edward said. "Your hair. I like it the way it used to look when the wind blew it dry. Free and sort of wild . . . maybe a little muddy in the back."

Carlisle laughed and smacked Edward's arm. His fingers burned at the contact, and he dropped his hand, moving away a little, though what he really wanted was to step closer.

They walked along in silence for a moment before Carlisle took a deep breath. "What are you doing, Edward? Gambling to pass the time? Living in a tenement?"

"Been to my place, have you?"

"I met a precocious little neighbor of yours who seems to think you're a pickpocket."

Edward shrugged. "In a way, she's right. I do pick their pockets . . . after they're dead."

Carlisle winced and Edward shot him a quick glance before turning forward again. "These streets are teeming with predators, Carlisle. They may not have red eyes, but their appetite for blood is just as strong."

Carlisle wanted to argue. His very nature rebelled against the intentional destruction of life, regardless of the reason. But he had already lost his son to this disagreement once, and he couldn't lose him again. If this was the way Edward wanted to live, Carlisle would have to learn to accept it.

Edward huffed in frustration. "I told you, it's not about the blood."

"Then what is it?"

Edward opened his mouth to answer, but snapped it shut again and tugged his hat back down over his eyes. A moment later a couple rounded a corner a few yards ahead of them, giggling and teasing one another. They sobered quickly when they spotted the two men heading their direction. Carlisle tried not to gape at the two of them, at the way the black man's eyes darted furtively around as though looking for an escape, at the way the white woman ducked her head and tried to make herself as unnoticeable as possible.

"Evening," Edward said amiably, tipping his hat and stepping to the side of the narrow walk to let them pass.

The man mumbled a return greeting, but the woman stayed silent as they hurried past. Carlisle and Edward started walking again, but Carlisle couldn't help but look back at the couple as they rushed away.

"Do you see a lot of that here?" he asked curiously.

Edward gave a dry laugh. "This is Minetta Street, Carlisle. The place is famous for it."

"It's very unusual."

Edward growled in the back of his throat. "Did you ever think maybe the usual is overrated?" he snapped.

Carlisle blinked in surprise at his hostility. "I . . . I suppose that may be true. I hadn't given it much thought."

Edward stalked forward, picking up his pace, and Carlisle trotted after him.

"Edward, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to sound critical. Come back to my hotel with me, and you can tell me more about your Minetta Street and your black and tan clubs."

He set his jaw stubbornly. "Come out with me tonight. Hunt with me."

Carlisle stopped, frozen in indecision. Hunting humans went against everything he stood for, everything he had ever wanted for himself. But the notion of being separated from Edward for even a moment was too much to bear. He took a deep breath, trying to steady himself before he spoke. "If I hunt with you tonight . . . will you come home?"

Edward's eyes widened. "You want it that badly?"

"I'll do anything, Edward. I just want you back."

He shook his head, turning his eyes to the sky. "Where's your hotel?"

Carlisle looked at Edward in confusion.

"You don't honestly think I'm going to make you hunt humans, do you? Let's go back to your hotel and talk awhile. Where are you staying?"

Carlisle glanced around sheepishly. "Not anywhere near here, I'm afraid. We'll have to take the train."

There wasn't much significant conversation as they made their way downtown. Edward pointed out a few landmarks and told Carlisle some generic history of the city, but they fell into an awkward silence as Carlisle led him into the hotel. He kept his eyes covered as they rode the elevator to the proper floor, and then the two of them headed down the hall and into Carlisle's room.

Edward kicked the door closed behind him and tossed his hat onto the plush bed. He ran his hands through his riotous hair, dragging it into some semblance of order, while Carlisle watched. He drank in every detail, memorizing them, clinging to them, despairing of the time when Edward would leave him again, robbing him of the solace he found in the boy's company.

"Come home," he said again, softly, pleadingly.

"I can't."

"I could come here."

"No."

"Edward —"

"No."

He stared at the boy for a long time, the only person who had ever filled the emptiness in his life. "I miss you."

"I miss you, too. Every day . . . every minute."

"Then why?"

Edward shook his head and turned away. "I can't be what you want me to be."

"I'm not asking you to be anything other than what you are."

"Yes, you are."

"I'm not, Edward. I don't care what you do, I don't care how you hunt. I just want my son back —"

"I'm not your son!" Edward yelled, whirling on him.

Carlisle stumbled back a step, staring at Edward. He swiped his hat off of his head and held it to his chest. "I'm sorry. I don't mean any disrespect to your parents."

"It's not about my parents! When are you going to get it? I'm not your son, I'm not your brother, I'm not your nephew. You keep trying to fit me into this picture of the perfect family that you have in your head, but I don't want to be your family!"

The pain in Carlisle's chest left him breathless, and his hand balled into a fist over his heart, crushing his hat. He struggled for something to say, something that would negate Edward's harsh words.

"I was right there, Carlisle!" Edward shouted. "I was right in front of you, but all you could see was her!"

Carlisle stared at him, bewildered. "I'm sorry. I . . . I didn't mean to overlook you."

"Well, you did! I don't understand why you can't see it! Damn it, Carlisle, you love me!"

"Of course I do—"

"No! Not like that. Not like your son, not like your brother, and not like your goddamn nephew! You love me!"

Carlisle gaped at him in utter shock, not knowing how to respond, or how to sort out the tangle of confusion in his head.

"This isn't easy for you, I get that, and I was willing to be patient. I'd have waited forever for you to figure out what you wanted. But then you brought her home, and suddenly she was all you ever thought about."

Carlisle swallowed hard, dropping his gaze to the floor. "This isn't Esme's fault."

"No, it's not. She's a doll. But I couldn't stand it, watching you holding her, loving her, when it should have been me."

He shook his head, reeling. "Edward, this isn't . . . we're not . . . it isn't done."

"It isn't done?" he asked incredulously. "A vampire feeding on animals and practicing medicine — that isn't done."

"I don't know how I'm supposed to feel."

"Forget about how you're supposed to feel!" Edward tugged at his hair in frustration. "You're still trying to explain away your feelings for me. You're trying to make everything fit this image of the perfect life, but that's not who you are. You're not normal, you're not human, you're not like them!" He looked at Carlisle, his pleading eyes wet with venom. "You're like me."

Carlisle was in agony. His chest ached, his breath came in shallow gasps, and his head was a muddled mess. But Edward's words resonated inside of him like nothing ever had before.

You're like me.

"We fit," Edward said softly. "You and me."

Carlisle lowered himself to the bed, overwhelmed by Edward's words, by the conflict waging inside of him. That he loved the boy more than he had ever cared for anyone was undisputed. But he had always told himself that it was a father's love, or at least a mentor's. He twisted the destroyed hat in his hands, staring at the frayed edges of the cloth, feeling as though his reality were tearing and unraveling with it.

You're like me.

You love me.

"I always wanted a son," he whispered.

Edward nodded. "I know. Before you knew me, you had already decided I could be that for you. But we were always more than that."

We fit.

Carlisle couldn't remember a time in his life when he had felt like he fit. His memories of his father were strained and uncomfortable. He had tried to find a place with other vampires, with the Volturi, with humans . . . but he had never felt like he belonged.

Until Chicago. Until Edward. For a few short years, he'd had a home. But then Edward had left him, and he'd found himself more lost than ever before.

Edward moved to the bed and sat down next to him. He took the ruined hat from him and set it aside, then reached up and brushed his fingertips tentatively over Carlisle's cheek.

"My Edward. . . ." The words slipped out before he even realized he was speaking, and he turned his face instinctively into the boy's palm.

A small smile tugged at the corners of Edward's mouth, and he leaned forward, pressing his forehead against Carlisle's.

"I love you," Carlisle whispered, marveling at the words.

"Yes."

"You love me."

"Yes."

"You'll come home."

Edward hesitated a moment before he nodded. "Yes."

Carlisle raised his hands to Edward's hair, tangling his fingers in the wild copper locks, holding him close. He felt Edward's hands slide down the lapels of his jacket to the button at his waist, and he tensed.

Edward gave him a crooked smile. "I want to wash the Brylcreem out of your hair."

Carlisle relaxed and let him remove the coat. He wasn't sure why it seemed so significant. This certainly wouldn't be the first time that the two of them had sat together in their shirtsleeves. This felt different though, more intimate somehow.

Edward didn't stop at the jacket. He stripped off Carlisle's tie, and then deftly unbuttoned his vest, easing it off of him. The suspenders came next, though he only pushed them down over Carlisle's shoulders and let them fall loose at his waist. His hands raised again and started slowly opening the buttons of his shirt as he watched Carlisle's face with a wary expression.

Carlisle didn't resist. He couldn't shake the feeling that he was getting into something he wouldn't be able to come back from, but he wasn't sure he wanted to come back anymore.

Edward removed the shirt, and though his fingers gently touched the buttons at the front of Carlisle's union suit, though his eyes traced the contours of his bared arms, he stopped there. He took Carlisle's hand and pulled him to his feet, then unbuttoned the cuffs of his own shirt. He turned and headed to the bathroom, rolling his sleeves to his elbows, and Carlisle trailed after him.

Edward stopped at the sink, picking up the glass bottle of hair tonic and turning toward Carlisle. "Kneel down," he said quietly.

Carlisle lowered himself wordlessly to his knees, and after a moment's hesitation, placed a hand on Edward's hip under the guise of steadying himself.

Edward smiled and shook out some of the tonic onto Carlisle's hair. He set the bottle aside and started running his fingers through the thick blond locks, loosening the hold of the Brylcreem and massaging the liquid into Carlisle's scalp.

A soft moan escaped Carlisle's lips. He felt like he was waking up, every nerve coming alive under the careful manipulations of Edward's fingers. He leaned into Edward's touch, welcoming it, relishing it, loving the electricity that was coursing through his body.

Edward wet his hands under the faucet and drew them back to Carlisle's hair, repeating the process until he had added enough moisture to coax the tonic into a lather. He worked it carefully and thoroughly, his fingers steady and sensuous, and Carlisle found himself feeling simultaneously weak and energized.

"Stand up," Edward murmured.

Carlisle rose, leaning into the sink and letting the warm water cascade over his head. He gripped the sides of the porcelain basin for support as Edward's skillful fingers stroked through his hair, rinsing away the suds.

Edward stepped away for a moment, and Carlisle immediately tensed, feeling the loss of contact acutely. But then the boy was back, draping a soft towel over Carlisle's shoulders. He urged him to stand and rubbed the towel gently over his hair, wiping away the excess water.

Edward turned him so the two of them were facing each other, and he took a comb from the sink. He used it to smooth the tangles and then set it aside, running his fingers through the soft locks, mussing and fluffing them.

He smiled at Carlisle. "That's better."

Carlisle turned his head toward the mirror, catching sight of the two of them framed in the glass, standing close together. His ochre eyes met Edward's crimson ones, and he knew there was no way in the world he could go back to living alone. This was right, the two of them together, and he would do whatever it took to make it permanent this time.

"We'll make it work," he said. "Maybe we can move closer to a city so you can . . . continue hunting."

Edward let out a bitter laugh and shook his head. "You think I want this?" He raised his hands to Carlisle's shoulders, kneading the muscles beneath the towel. "I've been trying so hard to get free of you."

"You're doing this because. . . ."

"Because I couldn't be your Edward when you were with her."

Carlisle took Edward's face between his hands, gazing solemnly at him. "I want you to be mine again." He leaned tentatively toward him and brushed his nose against Edward's.

Edward's breath hitched and his eyes fluttered closed.

Carlisle stared at him, his eyes tracing the heavy eyebrows, the straight nose, the sharp line of his jaw. Edward's tongue swept out, wetting his lips, and Carlisle groaned softly. Everything about the boy in front of him was so familiar, so right. He slid his hands back, threading them through Edward's chaotic hair, then leaned forward and pressed their lips together.

Edward's knees buckled, and he clung to Carlisle to hold himself up. He deepened the kiss, pushing his tongue into Carlisle's mouth, taking what they had both been denying themselves for too long. Their bodies pressed together, chests heaving, hands grasping, both of them desperate to touch, to take, to surrender.

Carlisle stumbled backward toward the door, dragging Edward with him, refusing to break the searing kiss that sent fire coursing through his body. They staggered awkwardly into the bedroom to the bed, and Carlisle started tugging at Edward's clothes, peeling back layer after layer, exposing the lean body beneath the cloth. They fumbled with belts, shoes, trousers, garters, socks, until both of them tumbled onto the bed dressed only in thin cotton undergarments, unable to suppress the need for one another. Carlisle rolled on top of Edward, kissing and touching, then yanked open the front of his union suit, sending buttons scattering over the floor. Edward grunted and bucked against him, the hard evidence of his desire pushing against Carlisle's hip.

"Edward!" he gasped. "My Edward. . . ." He dragged Edward's union suit off, his own disappearing in a flurry of torn cloth, a casualty of Edward's impatience.

They collapsed onto the bed again, naked bodies wrapped together, kissing and touching, reveling in the fulfillment of their long-suppressed desires. Edward worked a hand between them, sliding down to cup Carlisle's erection, and Carlisle thrust against his palm with a longing moan. Edward wrapped his fingers around the thick shaft and started pumping, falling into exactly the right rhythm to make his lover crazy with desire.

But Carlisle wasn't in a hurry to be done and he pushed away from Edward, splaying a hand on his chest and pressing him down into the mattress as he crawled backward. He leaned down and took Edward's swollen member in his mouth, making the boy gasp and cry out in pleasure.

"Ungh, Carlisle . . ." His hand fisted in Carlisle's hair as the older man sucked him eagerly, exploring him with his lips and tongue, making him writhe with need. Edward pushed into his mouth again and again, surrendering himself to the bliss, each thrust going deeper and harder until his body tensed and he exploded into Carlisle's mouth with a loud cry.

Carlisle swallowed his venom, drinking in his essence, his tongue tasting and caressing, until he had consumed every trace of the pleasure he had brought about.

Edward sagged back onto the bed, limp and sated, but Carlisle's need still burned hot. He kissed his way up the solid abdominal muscles to the smooth, contoured chest, smiling to himself when he felt Edward start to stir again. He explored the lean body beneath him with his hands and his mouth, learning him, memorizing him, taking note of every shiver, every expression of pleasure. He licked his way up the marble column of Edward's neck, then gripped his jaw and pushed his head back into the pillow as he kissed him hard.

"Stay here," he whispered hoarsely, then darted to the medical bag he had left in the corner and withdrew a small jar of petroleum jelly. He carried it back to the bed and settled between Edward's legs, pulling the stopper out of the jar.

Edward pushed himself up on his elbows, his eyes widening when he saw what Carlisle had retrieved. "Is that — are you — oh. . . ."

Carlisle faltered. "Would you rather I didn't?"

"No. I want . . ." He squeezed his eyes shut and let his head fall back, his teeth grinding together. "I want everything."

The longing in his voice set Carlisle's body humming, and he dipped his finger inside the jar, collecting the jelly and slathering it onto his throbbing shaft. He scooped out some more, then pushed Edward's knees up, spreading the boy open, and gently massaged the slick gel into his tight, puckered opening. He pushed one finger inside and Edward gasped his whole body going rigid.

Carlisle stilled, watching him, waiting for him to protest. "Should I stop?" he asked, his voice husky.

"No." Edward shook his head, his eyes still squeezed shut, but he let his body relax back onto the bed again. "It's strange . . . but so good."

Carlisle slipped a second finger inside, spreading him open, coaxing the muscle into flexibility. He marveled at the texture, so hard and yet so pliant, sturdier and more resilient than the fragile human tissue that he spent his days repairing.

"More," Edward panted, his hands fisting in the blankets beneath him. "I need more . . . please. . . ."

Carlisle withdrew his fingers and positioned himself, taking a deep breath and pushing slowly inside.

Edward cried out and tensed around him, but grabbed his forearm when he tried to pull back. "Carlisle," he panted, opening glassy eyes and staring at him. "Carlisle." He couldn't seem to manage any other words, but when Carlisle shifted, pushing himself in deeper, Edward's eyes rolled back and he moaned in pleasure.

Encouraged, Carlisle started pumping in and out of him, letting out his own needful groans, consumed by the way Edward's body gripped and held him. He leaned over him, bracing himself up with one hand while the other settled on Edward's hip, holding him, guiding him. He kissed him deeply, and his hand slid from Edward's hip to his solid erection. He grasped it firmly, stroking in time with his thrusts, and Edward let out a long, low moan. His hips rocked faster, encouraging Carlisle's own growing need, until his body tensed and he cried out loudly, thick venom spurting onto his stomach and spilling over Carlisle's hand. The ecstasy on his face pushed Carlisle over his own precipice and he came hard, his hips jerking roughly into Edward's body. He gasped as he thrust into him, hard and deep, succumbing to waves of pleasure more intense than anything he had ever felt.

He finally collapsed on top of Edward, spent and breathless, and buried his head in the boy's neck. He could smell his scent, thick and heady, the scent that was always meant to be paired with his own. "Edward," he whispered, his chest heaving. "My Edward . . . you belong with me."

"I do," he murmured back.

They stayed like that for a few moments more before Edward shifted and rolled Carlisle onto his side. He snatched a piece of torn cloth from the floor and quickly cleaned them up before dropping it back on the floor again. They wrapped their arms around one another and held each other close, neither one of them ready to emerge from the post-coital glow.

"So, what's next for us?" Edward asked, his fingers tracing lazy patterns on Carlisle's arm. "Back to Connecticut? To the hospital?"

"Perhaps for a bit. Just long enough to get things in order and find somewhere new. Is there anyplace you'd like to go?"

He shrugged. "I hear Rochester is nice."

"We could do that," Carlisle said, a contented smile on his lips.

"What about you? Where would you like to go?"

Carlisle shifted onto his stomach, pulling a pillow beneath his head and looking at Edward. "Lately I've been thinking about going west."

Edward raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Why? What's west?"

"California. Hollywood." He smiled. "Something new and different."

"I hear California is pretty sunny. It might be hard for you to work."

"Farther north, then. I'm told parts of Washington and Oregon can be downright dreary. Perhaps we should try there."

"We could leave the country and head up to Alaska. They say that in the winter there are days, even weeks at a time when you barely see the sun."

"And in the summer there are weeks when the sun hardly sets," Carlisle laughed. "We'd be trapped inside."

Edward grinned mischievously. "I think we could come up with ways to fill the time."

Carlisle's smile fell as he looked at the boy lying beside him. "Two men living alone together . . . people will talk. There will be suspicion, disapproval. I don't relish the idea of you having to hear the things they say."

"So keep telling everyone I'm your nephew. I don't care what your story is, as long as that's not what I am to you."

Carlisle smiled sadly. "I'm sorry, Edward. I truly am."

He leaned over and kissed his way down the length of Carlisle's spine, finishing by dipping his tongue into the small of his back. "You're forgiven."

Carlisle shivered and smiled.

Edward picked up the jar of petroleum jelly that had been tossed to the side, forgotten, and swiped his finger through the contents. "Handy stuff to keep around, this." He rolled over Carlisle and slipped his finger into the crevice of his backside, rubbing the jelly into Carlisle's own tight bud.

The sensation had Carlisle hardening again instantly, and he let out a soft moan. "Quite convenient, yes," he mumbled distractedly.

"I may just have to try it out."

Carlisle angled his hips to allow Edward better access. "By all means," he said, anticipation tightening in his belly, "try anything you'd like."