Submitted for the The Summer It All Began Contest
Title: Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire
Word Count: 6,296
Summary: How many mistakes can one man make and still win his heart's desire? This was a love that was destined from the start. Written from Edward's POV.
Disclaimer: I do not own and do not profit in any way from S. Meyer's Twilight series. The characters belong to SM, but their debauchery is all mine.
I should be used to this heat since I've lived in Chicago my whole life. But this summer is really hot. The weather report says it is one of the hottest summers on record. I am sitting on the porch of the renovated brownstone we purchased fifteen years ago, when I am jolted out of my thoughts by the slamming of the front door. My man, my Jasper, knows just what I need, as he offers me a tall iced tea followed by a kiss. He is dressed, or barely dressed, in his normal summer attire, a pair of short cut-offs and nothing more. As he sits beside me he asks, "Do you remember the summer we met?" I groan as I recall another 'hottest summer on record.'
What was I thinking? Oh, right…I wasn't thinking. I was rebelling. I was reacting to Dad's order to 'do something useful with my internship' between my third and fourth years of med school. Of course by 'useful' he really meant something respectable that he and mom could brag about to all their country club society friends. I can't help thinking maybe he was right after all. This place is not exactly what I am used to or even what I was expecting for my summer of independence.
It has to be a hundred degrees outside, with one hundred percent humidity, and in here, in my small walk-up with the shared bathroom and two windows, maybe twenty degrees hotter. Okay, yeah maybe I'm exaggerating a little but this is the hottest summer in Chicago history and I am stuck right smack in the middle of one of the worse neighborhoods in Chicago. Luckily I am not the only white face around. I'm not prejudiced by any means, but I'm feeling a little out numbered and more than a little unsure of myself for the first time in my life. I've seen a few other Caucasians but I doubt they will become friends any time soon. By the looks of many of the people I've run across so far, I figure most of them will probably be my patients when I start my job tomorrow. They look the part. My job…I start work at noon tomorrow at the local HIV/Aids free clinic doing counseling, running tests, administering meds and passing out condoms, and I was informed that most of my clients will be prostitutes, streetwalkers, men-for-hire. No matter what I call them, they are mostly going to be kids with no homes or families, living on drugs and sex and barely getting by. There seem to be groups of them on most of the corners. I think some of the better-off ones even live in my building. At least I will try to keep them healthy this summer.
Home sweet home for the summer is just this side of not-quite-disgusting. The free clinic set me up with this place when I told them I had never been in the area before and I took it sight unseen, so I have only myself to blame. My iron bed, well, I don't really want to think about who slept in it before me, or what they might have done in it. It looks clean enough and I brought my own sheets and mattress pad but, ugh. I've got a dresser that I scrubbed out with alcohol just to be safe, a ratty arm chair missing a spring or three and a broken oscillating fan that sits next to a hot plate on a small wooden desk across from my bed. It moves some air but doesn't oscillate. There is a pedestal sink in the corner with an antique mirror above it and a towel rack bolted to the side of the porcelain. A mini fridge hums rather loudly between a small closet and the sink. The ceiling is cracked and yellowed and the walls are a faded blue with some kind of non-descript wallpaper that speaks of better times in the past…the distant past. The floor is scuffed hardwood that could use a good refinishing and the shade on one of the two windows has a hole where the previous tenant poked a finger though the edge when they were pulling it closed. But someone put down a nice if slightly threadbare area rug and there are no bugs or dirt that I can see. It is just old. Of course, maybe I should reserve judgment until I see the bathroom.
It appears there are four rooms on each floor and one bathroom per floor for us to share. The main level has a staircase up one side, with a kitchenette and old wooden table and chairs and a sitting room and small TV on the side closest to the main door, while the manager lives in the room or rooms on the opposite side. I am on the second floor of a three story building so, counting the basement, there are probably twelve rooms and three bathrooms. Should be interesting, but definitely worst than any summer camp I ever attended. If dad could see me now he would certainly have the last laugh.
My t-shirt and shorts are soaked though by the time I get unpacked and get my room put together the way I want it, and my eyes are watering from the sweat dripping off my hair. Maybe when the sun goes down it will get cooler. I wonder if the free clinic has air conditioning. Probably not, I doubt my summer could possibly be that good. Man, now I'm channeling my dad. I have to keep telling myself that this is going to be a great learning experience. I even plan on having a good time on my days off as I explore the area and meet people. After all, it will be the first time I haven't lived at the manor with my parents. They insisted I stay with them all through school, even med school. I guess I am finally becoming an adult. Damn it's hot! A shower might help, so it's time to check out the bathroom. I can't put it off any longer.
I am amazed and more than a little happy to discover that the bathroom looks pretty good. Some of the floor and wall tiles are cracked, but the place is spotless and the fixtures are definitely adequate. There are two sinks, two stalls with toilets, a claw foot tub behind one door and a shower room behind another. The rooms with the tub and shower have a hook-and-eye lock on the inside of the door for privacy. Okay, a shower it is!
After my first shower in my first grown-up place, and my first meal which consisted of a sandwich, big bag of chips and a can of soda out of my mini fridge, I decide to check out the public spaces. I haven't run into anyone else on my floor yet, but I have pretty much confined myself to my own room since I got here this afternoon. The landlady told me when I first arrived that people like to sit out on the steps in the evening to catch the breeze, so I grab my book and another soda and wander down the steps to the front door.
I have always loved the look of the old brownstones in Chicago and my dream is to purchase and renovate one when I am ready to settle down some day. They have wide thick steps with walls that you can sit on or lounge against and many even have covered porches. I've seen some that are just beautiful, but the ones on this block don't come anywhere close to qualifying for that distinction. The shop down on the corner has bars on the windows and a gate over the door, and most of the other buildings look like they have been through a war. The bus stop bench is upside down, there is graffiti on many of the walls, and weeds have sprung up in between the sidewalk pavers and along the narrow street. My home away from home is no worse, but certainly no better then anything else around it, but it has taken me far outside my comfort zone. Some of the steps are chipped and the roof over the porch looks like it might leak. And have I mentioned the noise? Kids are screaming and cars are honking, the neighbors to the left are having a knock-down drag-out fight. There are countless radios and TV's competing to out do each other amid the heavy, sluggish air. Sure hope it gets cooler and quieter at night. I can tell by the architecture that this used to be one of those old, stately neighborhoods, but those days are long gone. My boss at the free clinic says the place is safe, but by whose standards I wonder? I am feeling totally out of my element.
My landlady and a few other people are sitting on the steps chatting, but I'm hesitant to join them. I've never been shy, but suddenly I just don't feel very confident that I fit in here. I doubt I have anything in common with any of them. What do I talk to these people about? I decide to just sit back and listen, while pretending to be absorbed in my novel. Maybe I can figure out what I am doing here if I just give myself some time. At least I left all my preppy clothes at home, much to my mother's dismay, opting instead for worn jeans, shorts, sandals, T-shirts and tank tops. The only thing that will stand out is my white lab coat, but I'll keep it at the clinic. I may not fit in, but at least my clothes do.
Besides my landlady, a woman of probably around 50 or so, there are four other people below me on the steps. There are two young guys, somewhere in their early 20s, a Goth chick, or maybe she is a guy it is hard to tell, and a kid that I think probably belongs with my landlady. The kid, a girl of around 13 is arguing about going out with her friends, while my landlady (I wish I could remember her name) is insisting that isn't going to happen. The two guys are going on about some club they want to hit, and the Goth girl/guy is smoking some weed. I guess it is just a normal day in the neighborhood. The androgynous Goth reaches back to pass me the joint, but I wave her/him off and try to interest myself in my book. When it gets too dark to read, I quietly say good night and retreat back into my room. I'm not sure anyone hears me, but mom taught me to be polite.
I leave both my windows wide open and turn the fan on high, directing it toward the bed, shed my clothes down to my boxers and stretch out, trying to cool off. It is so muggy that I feel wet, with the temperature still hovering around 80, I think. The noise has finally slacked off a bit, maybe because my room is at the back of the building or maybe I am just getting used to it, but it is quiet enough that I start to doze off.
I had just hit that in between place where you are kinda awake but kinda asleep, when the bed in the room above me starts banging loudly into the wall. Then I hear the moaning begin and figure my night is shot. I tough it out for about an hour, it gets quiet, and I hear a door slam. I doze off, only to have them start up again. I could have sworn I heard them go out! Eventually it gets quiet for a second time and I hear the door shut again. I must have finally fallen asleep when I am once more awakened with the same banging and moaning. I don't know how many times it happens that night, but I know I didn't get more than an hour or two of sleep all night. Fortunately, the noise stops completely about five am so I am able to sleep a few more hours before I have to get ready for my first day at work. This is not the 'first night away from home' that I envisioned. I swear if I ever figure out who is living in the room above me, I am going to be giving them some hell.
Bleary eyed, I force myself to eat some cereal while I fix myself a cup of instant coffee on the hot plate in my room. After showering and dressing, I grab my white coat and head out the door, hoping but failing to see my landlady (what IS her name?) to ask her about the ruckus last night. Oh well, maybe when I get home I can corner her. I don't want to be a bitchy renter, but I did pay for a bed, so sleep would be nice.
The clinic is a two block walk from my place. I soon find myself, already sweaty, in front of a very dilapidated building, with peeling paint and graffiti on the walls. I can see where the gate is pushed into the wall on one side, and the windows all have strong bars attached. I check and recheck the address, thinking "What have I gotten myself into?" After a deep breath or two, I force myself through the door and am met by a room full of young people, mostly guys, and a much harried looking receptionist. I catch her eye and lift my white coat up so she knows why I am there. She waves me through a waist high swinging door as she calls for Mac.
Mac, my new boss, introduces himself quickly and then shows me around. The place is old and worn, but spotless, and I feel myself relax. I can do this. As I get the lay of the land, Mac introduces me to the other intern who will be working with us. Sheila is small, feisty, and has way too much makeup on, but she seems to know what she is doing. I found out later that this was her second summer interning with Mac, and he was grooming her to take over when he retired in a few years. She is originally from the neighborhood and is intensely smart, working her way through school on grants and scholarships. I guess you can't always judge the package by its wrapping.
My patients are affected by the heat just as much as I am, and I usually feel like the walking wounded as I trudge from my hot room to the equally hot clinic every day. Fights break out and tempers are short as people wait their turn, but fortunately I never see any weapons. I have never spent time some place where I didn't feel entirely safe and it took its toll on my psyche that first day. I find that I am really good at the behind-the-scenes work of running the lab tests, and can do a fair job of counseling one-on-one. I take turns seeing patients, but Mac lets me off easy when it comes to group talks or front desk work, both of which make me very uncomfortable. Sheila excels at everything though, and I try not to feel inadequate. It is the first time in my life that I realize maybe I'm not quite the golden boy my parents think I am. I do have limits after all. It is a sobering experience. By the time 8 pm rolls around my first day is over and I am exhausted. I hope that I will develop more stamina soon, or this is going to be a very long two months!
In celebration of my first day, Mac and Sheila take me out to the local bar and treat me to pizza and soda. Mac offers me a beer but I explain that I don't drink, so he doesn't push. Sheila gets pretty tipsy and makes a few passes before I finally have to admit quietly to her that I just don't swing her way. After several eye rolls and heavy sighs, she claims that she had already figured that out and is just teasing. To this day, I don't know if she was telling the truth, but I let her slide. It is close to ten when we finally break for the night, calling our good-byes as we each go our separate ways.
When I get back to my building, taking a wrong turn or two in the process, I offer a quiet good night to the people on the stairs and slowly make my way up to my room. Falling fully clothed into bed, I have barely closed my eyes when the moaning and thumping from the night before starts up. I think it went on all night, but after 2:30 or so I am too exhausted to care and fall into a restless sleep. Awaking the following morning still tired from my busy day and even busier night of aural voyeurism, I knew I would have to speak to my landlady. There is no way I am going to make it for two months if this continues. I have only worked one day but am already looking forward to my day off so I can do nothing but sleep!
I miss my landlady every morning for the next week before I have to go into work, so I am not able to tell her about the problem. The noise continues each night, but by the time work is over at 8 pm, I am too tired to speak to her. Besides, I don't think it is polite to say anything in front of my house mates, one or two of whom are probably the noise makers. Part of me is so pissed off I can barely form coherent sentences, and part of me is longing for someone to keep me that busy at night. I learn to sleep though the distraction and finally decide to just keep quiet about it. By the fifth night I figure out that I probably have a working man above me. I just hope he is one of my patients at the clinic. Otherwise he could be passing around any number of diseases. In my heart I wish him well, knowing that his can not be an easy life. And I am certain of something else: I am very lonely.
A month goes by and then another week. My time here is counting down and I still have not made any friends other then my coworkers at the clinic, or put myself out there to get to know my housemates. The heat wave continues unabated so tempers run short and I even hear gun shots a few times at night. I did go to a local club once but I felt like everyone was looking at me. It didn't feel safe so I quickly made my way home. This is certainly becoming a summer of eye-opening experiences.
Then a man walks into the clinic and changes my life forever.
I stroll into my office, lift my face from the file I am reading and freeze. There in front of me is the most beautiful man I have ever seen. He is blonde and built, with a huge smile and dimples and the face of an angel. I don't know how long I stand at my door drooling over his barely covered chest and his perfect arms before I realize he is looking right at me and laughing. Flushed, I avert my eyes and try to remember my professional mien, when he stands and sticks his hand out to introduce himself. Jay is the epitome of all that is best in a man. He is taller than me, maybe 6 foot 4 or 5, with a lean but sculpted swimmer's body and muscled legs that go on forever past his rather minimal shorts. I hold on to his hand much longer than is polite and feel myself flush from the top of my head to my toes. When his silver blue eyes meet my green ones, I forget how to talk…I'm not sure I even get my name out before I panic and flee the room.
What in the hell just happened? I have never had that reaction to someone in my life. I cringe as I think about my total lack of social and professional graces. How am I ever going to face him again? Sheila must have realized what happened, or she caught the show when she was coming out of her office. In any case she is almost rolling on the floor she is laughing so hard. I beg her to go in and take care of him, but she just shakes her head and continues to laugh as she goes into her next appointment.
I almost jump out of my white coat when Mac throws his arm around my shoulders. Did he see what happened also? Good God, my boss must think I'm a moron. He chuckles a bit and pushes me back toward the office door, never saying a word. I stand there for a moment, take a deep breath to steady myself, square my shoulders, lift my head, and march back into the lion's den. Yep, still the most beautiful man I have ever seen. Shit!
This time, somewhat prepared for the sight before me, I am able to stutter out my name and ask him to have a seat. His eyes twinkle as he tells me he wants to get tests done to make sure he is clean. He uses the name Jaybird for confidentiality reasons, but confides in me that his name is really Jasper. I take the blood samples I need and tell him when to return for the results. I show him out and then hide in the men's room hoping I can one day think coherently again. It may have been ten or fifteen minutes before Sheila starts pounding on the door and ordering me to 'grow some balls' and 'take it like a man'.
How can this have happened? I think I just fell in love at first sight with a prostitute. Oh God. What am I going to do? Yep, definitely a man whore. Couldn't be anything else by the way he was dressed. And he did come in for the tests. Definitely a hooker. Somehow I have to get him out of my head. Soooo not someone I can take home to Mommy and Daddy!
I drift through the rest of my day lost in all the visions of him taking me from behind or kneeling in front of me or joining me in the shower, taking hits from Sheila's snide remarks and Mac's eye rolls every time they cross my path. By eight I am exhausted. I thought I had built up a bit of stamina, but falling in love or maybe it was just lust, yeah I'm sure it was just lust, really takes it out of a man. I blindly stumble home only to see my angel sitting on the steps outside of my building. No, no, no, no, no…this could NOT be happening! Is he the one who lives above me? Why haven't I seen him before?
I groan and try to slip past him, but he catches my arm and pulls me down beside him. Calling me Doc, he asks what I am up to tonight, and when I tell him nothing he asks if I would like some company? No, no, no, no, no…he did NOT just proposition me! I have just been approached by a whore! I stammer my way through a lame excuse, not even sure what I am saying and flee to my room, slamming the door behind me. I can't sit still so I pace and castigate myself over my inappropriate thoughts. I finally settle down around ten, minutes before the noise above me starts up again. Only this time I can picture my blonde-haired, sexy nemesis. As the moans increase in volume, I take myself in hand for the first time this summer and join the party. Stroking myself to release all I can see are the beautiful silver-blue eyes of my angel flying high above me. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit…I am in SOOOOOO much trouble.
From that evening on, I either hide in my room, darting quickly to the bathroom when absolutely necessary, or work longer hours at the clinic. And every night I silently join in the festivities. But I swear I feel eyes on me where ever I go. I can't evade him forever though, because he is due to come in for his test results. Maybe I can get Mac to take care of him? Nope, Mac tells me to deal and declines to help me. When Jay comes in for his results, I am at least relieved to tell him that he tested negative and offer him some free condoms. He grins at me, tells me he hopes I will help him use them, and saunters out the door like he owns the world. Well maybe he doesn't really own the whole world, but he certainly owns my world. Yep, still in trouble. And yep, still evading capture!
I am off work the next day and decide to man up and come out of my room. It is so hot that I swear the streets are sweating and I am going to pass out unless I can get a breath or two of air. It actually hurts to inhale, as though a heavy weight sits on my chest! The noon sun is behind the building so the steps should be shaded, which suits me just fine. I figure I can sit out there for a while reading my book and sipping a soda and I will be safe because Jay is sure to be sleeping. It was a particularly long and noisy night and I doubt he will be awake any time soon. I am wrong.
When I exit the front door, there he is just lounging against the wall in next to no clothing. Before I can retreat and regroup, he sees me and calls me over. I hang my head, wishing I could decline but knowing I am caught. Besides, I am tired of running. I only have two weeks left here and then I will never see him again, so why should I keep avoiding him. I sit down next to him, but don't say a word. We stare at each other for a while and I can see something in his eyes that I'm not sure I understand. Is that sadness? The few times I have allowed myself to see him, he always has a beautiful smile on his face, complete with dimples. But now, now he just looks tired. Well, it did sound like he had a 'hard' night. (Snicker!)
Jasper breaks our silence first. He is quiet, almost withdrawn, as he asks if I have been avoiding him. I am sure he knows the answer when I just shrug and can't look him in the eye. He asks me if he has done something wrong and again I have no answer. I can see that he is starting to get irritated but his sadness is also wrapping around us both. We sit in silence for a little longer when he finally sighs and starts to rise to his feet, mumbling that killing time was killing him.
I don't know what got into me, but I couldn't let him walk away. Even as I think about how stupid it is to fall in love with a whore, I know that I have. Instinct takes over and I throw my arms around his neck and kiss him. There are fireworks. It sounds clichéd, but there really are fireworks. As he kisses me back, my mind goes blank and I just feel. His strong arms wrap around me, he pulls me closer, and deepens the kiss. It could have been minutes, it could have been hours or days…I lose all track of time as we mold ourselves around each other. We don't break apart until we hear a throat clear behind us. Our landlady grins and walks down the steps as we turn back to look at each other. He takes my hand and leads me into our building. When he asks, your room or mine, I cringe internally as I say mine because I just can not be with him where he has all those other men.
I lead him up one flight of stairs and to the end of the hall, inviting him to come in. I turn and shut the door, knowing there is no going back now, pushing him down to the bed as we near it. I am jumping into a fire of my own making knowing I am going to get burned badly, but offering him the matches anyway. Whore or no, for today at least he is all mine.
I stare at him as I slowly pull my shirt over my head and slide my shorts and boxers down my legs, kicking them off to the side. I've never been shy about my body, but today is different. I try to stand proudly before him and not show him I am intimidated but hoping I am at least as good as his other men. His eyes widen and his dimples come out to play as his grin splits his face. Okay, I'll take that as approval. Bolder now in my new found confidence, I pull him up and help him take his shirt off. I open the button on his shorts and pull down the zipper. He lifts his ass so I can tug them off and I throw them next to mine. He is commando, as I expected, and he is beautiful. His skin is tanned and flawless. How can a man who is so used still be so beautiful?
Shaking my head to rid myself of those thoughts, I slowly run my hands up his arms, across his shoulders and down his chest, marveling in the perfection that is Jasper. He must be charging a lot of money to be in such great shape. Only gym workouts and personal trainers could bring a man to this level of perfection. He is toned, without an ounce of fat on his body and his muscles are cut. His eight-pack is incredible and the V from his hips to his groin is magnificent. And his cock, oh my God! I have never before described a cock as beautiful, but Michelangelo's David could have learned something from Jasper's cock.
As I appreciate his body with my hands and my eyes, Jasper is doing the same to mine. His touches are light, delicate, worshiping me as no one else ever has. He leans in and kisses me, first softly and then more forcefully his as hands and mouth treasure every inch of me. He pulls me to him, lying on his side facing me. Again we take the time to feast our eyes before the urges become too great and his mouth goes to my most sensitive spots. As he wraps his lips around my dick and his tongue and teeth get to work, his hand goes to my balls and I see stars. My god he is good! How many people has he screwed to get this good? I guess it pays to be with a whore. I have to beg him to stop or this will be over before it properly begins.
As he releases me and crawls up my body, I wrap him in my arms and kiss him again, tongues dancing together in joy. Whispering in my ear he asks if I am a top or a bottom. I tell him I switch, but want to feel him inside me today if that is okay with him. When he nods, I reach under the corner of the mattress and pull out a small bottle of lube and a strip of condoms. Taking the bottle, he squeezes a generous amount on his fingers, rubbing them together to warm the gel. Our lips connect again and I groan as I feel his fingers where I want them the most. Lovingly he prepares me, taking the time to be sure I am fully ready for him, and then he asks me to put the condom on him. Pinching the top, I roll it carefully down his shaft, stroking him a few times in the process. He uses more lube and then he is finally where I want him to be. As he pushes slowly inside me tapping my prostate in the process, I cry out in ecstasy. It isn't long before we are rocking together, moaning and thudding the bed against the wall. I briefly think of all the times I have heard him with others as he works in the room above me, but push the thought from my mind as I realize that it doesn't matter. His profession doesn't matter to me any more because he is mine, all mine, at least for right now.
Our breathing picks up and his thrusts become more wild and irregular. We are both close, holding out for the other until the very last minute possible. I come first without ever touching myself, and pull him over the edge as I tighten with my release. It seems to take forever for the normal sounds and colors to reassert themselves in my brain, but finally we are laying gently in each others arms, whispering words of love between us. By the time I realize what I have said to him, he has said it back to me. Never have I felt so out of control, yet so controlled as I do at this very minute. I had just told him he had my heart, and he reciprocated by offering me his. I almost ask him at that moment if he would give up his profession to be with me but then reality comes rushing back. I cringe as I realized that this is probably something he says to everyone in the midst of passion.
It is then that I hardened my poor sad bleeding heart and pulled back from his kisses. He looks confused for a moment at the abrupt change in my demeanor, but I use the excuse that I am leaving in less than two weeks and don't know how we can possibly continue this. He is hurt, I can see it in his eyes, but again I figure it is just what he does to keep his clients coming back time after time. No, I am not going to let him in any longer. I am already tearing myself apart and can not fathom being away from him, yet I have to be strong and push him away. How cruel are the gods when they allow you to fall for someone like him? He is beautiful and sweet and everything I could ever want in a partner, but he isn't available. He isn't mine.
I pull myself up from the bed, searching for my clothes. I throw his pants at him as I pull mine on and stride through the door and into the bathroom. Sobbing quietly, I clean myself off and then look in the mirror, again vowing to harden my heart so this wouldn't hurt so badly. Yeah, right. When I finally return to my room, he is dressed and sitting on my bed, confusion evident in every line of his body. Deciding to finish this quickly, I pull my wallet from my shorts and draw fifty dollars out, tossing it on the bed next to him while asking if that is enough for his services.
He stares at me for a moment, then gets up and walks to the door without taking my money. Tears are running down his face as he turns back to me. "What are you doing to me? Why did you throw money at me? I tell you I love you and you treat me like a whore. What is wrong with you?"
He grabs the door knob, ready to storm out when I stop him with a hand to his shoulder. "What do you mean, why am I treating you like a whore? That's what you are, isn't it? It's you I hear every night above me, isn't it?"
His answer stuns me. "No. My room is right at the top of the stairs at the other end of the hall from you. I'm a fireman with the local fire department and I usually work nights."
For the next two weeks, he makes me grovel. I know I deserve it and feel properly chastised. Why did I jump to conclusions? What made me judge him so harshly and unkindly? What IS wrong with me? It is fortunate that his confidence in himself is so strong…I can't even imagine what damage I might have caused otherwise.
That summer, I like to think I learned not to pass judgment or rely on my first impressions of someone, or at the very least I learned a bit of tolerance, humility and compassion. I certainly learned that I am not infallible. And my reward? That is the beautiful man sitting next to me on the porch of our brownstone, who chose to overlook my faults and love me anyway, pledging his life to mine for eternity despite our less than stellar beginning.