Are you there, twislash readers? It's me, sadtomato.

I know this isn't a happening scene anymore... but I'm hoping this little story still has an audience, because I think I left it all on the court, here.

Thanks to all the friends who helped me with this story, in its various incarnations. I think, in the end, this is what it was meant to be.


A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.

-William G.T. Shedd

"I want to fix you up with someone," Esme says, moving the croutons and cucumber slices from the top of her salad to her bread plate.

"No, thanks." Carlisle shuts her down immediately. He reaches for the little plate and dumps the croutons and cucumbers onto his own salad, then passes it back to Esme loaded with his unwanted cherry tomatoes.

"He's really cute, Carlisle, and so nice. Super nice. You would have a lot to talk about, and-"

"I said no, Ez," he interrupts, gesturing pointedly with his fork. "I'm not ready."

Esme nods sadly and looks down at her plate, shifting the lettuce around. She's silent for a minute, listening to Carlisle crunch quietly. Every time she's offered, he's said no. Every time he says no, she drops the subject. But she's starting to worry, and he's her very best friend.

"I think you should try," she tells him. He starts to object, and she raises a hand to stop him. "I know it's hard, and I know you miss Peter, but you're a wonderful person and you deserve someone. And there's someone out there deserving you, waiting for you, but you're either working all the time or hanging out with me."

"And Peter would want me to be happy, right?" Carlisle finishes, rolling his eyes.

"You know he would. He did. He told me not to let you turn into a lonely, bitter old man." Esme smiles, her eyes crinkling. "He also said not to let you revert to your terrible nineties fashion choices."

"Everyone looked terrible in the nineties," Carlisle grumbles.

"Well, you look handsome and distinguished in the twenty-tens, and you should try going on a date sometime. You might even get laid, who knows?"

"It's too soon," he says, shaking his head.

"It's been two years."

"No, it's been one year, nine months, and twelve days," he snaps, tears suddenly welling up in his eyes. "And every morning when I wake up I still-I still reach for him, and he's not there, and every morning I remember it all over again. All of it: the diagnosis, the treatment, the giving up. Holding him while he-while he..."

Esme drops her fork and walks over to where Carlisle's sitting across the table and drops into his lap. She wraps her arms around his neck and shushes him quietly, gently scratching at the short blonde hairs at his nape.

He pulls himself together quickly and pats her back. "We're making a scene," he whispers, before kissing her cheek.

"Kay," she says, kissing his forehead before retreating to her own seat.

The server interrupts them with their entrees, and Carlisle uses the opportunity to change the subject.

They don't talk about it again, but later, when he drops Esme off at her condo, she hugs him extra tight.

{[(-)]}

Six months later, Esme begs to throw him a birthday party. He talks her down from her original idea-a huge party at her gallery, complete with a live band and hired caterers-but agrees to a small dinner at her place.

Carlisle's sister, Kate, brings her husband, Garrett; his colleague Eli brings his wife, Carmen; and Peter's sister Charlotte surprises him by showing up at the last minute. Their relationship has been strained since Peter died; not because of any conflict, but simply because they both grieve so deeply that the sadness is compounded when they're together.

Tonight, though, they keep it light. Carmen has everyone in stitches with a story about her fifth-grade class; Esme keeps the wine flowing and serves simple, delicious food.

"Shall we pull out a board game, or open presents?" she asks, after Charlotte's helped her clear the dinner dishes and serve coffee.

"Presents!" Carlisle declares, a little giddy from the wine.

"Just like when he was a kid," Kate teases.

"You were worse," Carlisle shoots back, watching Esme gather up the small boxes the guests had deposited on her coffee table. He counts as she lays him out in front of him on the dining room table; six boxes in all, much more than he expected. "What's all this?"

"Presents." Esme shrugs and returns to her seat, but the glimmer in her eye tells him something's up.

"Open mine first," Kate says, pushing a red-wrapped box towards him.

Carlisle tugs off the ribbon and rips at the paper gleefully, nudging his sister playfully as he leaves it in shreds.

He lifts the lid on a small, flat box and blinks at the contents.

"It's... water?" he asks, picking up a cardboard puzzle piece. He turns it over in his palm and looks at Kate, eyebrow raised.

"Mmhmm," she says, slurping her coffee.

"Mine next," Garrett says, pointing to a box wrapped in the same paper.

It's another puzzle piece; at this point Carlisle is pretty sure he won't be getting the basketball tickets he asked for, or the new scarf he pointed out to Esme. He's not sure what the puzzle represents, though, so he plays along and opens all of the packages, laying the pieces out flat in front of him.

The six pieces form a beach scene; sparkling blue water, white sand, and a few palm trees in the distance.

"Thanks for the puzzle?" Carlisle says, looking around the table at the grinning faces of his friends.

"It's not a puzzle, silly, it's a trip!" Esme says, jumping out of her seat and clapping her hands. "It's four nights at an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta. It's five stars, highly recommended, gay friendly..."

"It's too much," Carlisle protests, shocked. He looks to Kate and asks, "This is a joke, right?"

"No, it's not a joke, and no, it's not too much," she says. "We all chipped in, Mom and Dad, too."

"I can't accept this..." Carlisle shakes his head, his index finger tracing the lines where the puzzle pieces knit together.

"You have to," Garrett chimes in, smirking. "It's nonrefundable. You leave tomorrow."

"What? No, I have patients. There's no way I can-"

"You can. I talked to Marcus, it's all settled. Your schedule is clear," Eli says. Esme reaches over to give him a high five, ignoring Carlisle's continued protests.

"I don't have any-"

"You have everything you need, I checked when I was at your place last week. Swimsuit, couple of t-shirts, sandals. You don't need anything else, Carlisle. It's all taken care of."

Carlisle narrows his eyes at Esme. He's not ungrateful, but he's uncomfortable being forced into the situation like this. He's a born planner; the kind of guy who has a spreadsheet to keep track of his spreadsheets. A normal vacation involves months of planning, and now they're telling him he has to leave tomorrow-without putting a hold on his mail, or choosing the best flights, or making a sufficient packing list.

"I think my passport's expired," he says, challenging her.

"Please," she shoots back. "You renewed it last year when you went to that medical conference in Vancouver."

He opens his mouth to object again, but he's at a loss.

"Just stop, Car," Charlotte says, reaching for his hand. She stares him down with sky-blue eyes just like Peter's, her soft smile and faint southern accent echoing the man that had been his everything. It's easy to hear Peter's voice in his head when Charlotte says, "You need this."

He tries to remember the last time he had a tan. He tries to remember the last time he had an entire day with nothing to do but read a book and drink icy cold beers. He tries to remember the last time he felt sleepy, sun-warmed, and relaxed.

He can't.

"Okay. Okay, thanks. Thank you all, very much," he says, looking each of his friends in the eye. Esme's smile is genuine, if a tiny bit self-satisfied.

{[(-)]}

In Puerto Vallarta, Carlisle flops down on the fluffy king-sized bed in his suite and pulls out his cell phone.

"Hey! Did you make it?" Esme answers.

"You said 'gay-friendly,'" he growls. "Not 'sleazy sex hostel for gay youth.'"

"Oh, it is not sleazy," she chides. "And it's hardly a hostel."

"Everyone here is under twenty-five. And they're all intoxicated."

"Why aren't you intoxicated? It's all-inclusive, Carlisle. That means get drunk. Eat good food-no grape nuts, no wheatgrass. And for God's sake, just ogle the pretty twenty-somethings."

"I could be their father," Carlisle argues.

"So let them call you Daddy." Esme giggles, pleased with herself. "By the way, this call is probably costing you three dollars a minute."

"Fine, I'm hanging up. I'm going to go be a grumpy old man and read my book by the pool."

"Don't wear socks with your sandals! Love you!" Esme smacks her lips, blowing him kisses through the phone.

"Love you too," he sighs, before ending the call.

He unpacks, stows his suitcase in the closet, and changes into his navy blue swim trunks and a white t-shirt. He grabs his Kindle and one of the fluffy blue towels provided by the resort, and heads out in search of a quiet place to read.

All of the lounge chairs on the beach are taken, but he finds a free chaise by the pool, far away from the group of college kids playing chicken next to the swim-up bar. He makes himself comfortable and dives into the mystery novel Garrett recommended.

He's only on chapter three when someone flops down on the empty chair next to him.

"Hey," the guy says.

Carlisle nods, not bothering to lift his eyes from his book.

"So my friend Jake over there thinks you're cute," the guy says, and Carlisle looks up at him skeptically. The guy is young, in his early twenties, with reddish brown hair and pale, smooth skin. He nods toward a guy sitting on other side of the pool, a dark-skinned boy who somehow seems impossibly younger than the one sitting next to him.

"I think your friend Jake is a fetus," Carlisle says, looking back to his Kindle.

The young guy next to him chuckles, then admits, "Yeah, he just turned twenty-one. He likes older guys though."

Carlisle bristles at being called "older," even though he knows he's twice that boy's age. "Well, I hope he finds one," he murmurs.

His new friend laughs again and Carlisle's peripheral vision catches him sticking out his right hand. "I'm Edward," he offers. The boy is adorable, but Carlisle's had his defenses up against male attention for so long that he's not sure how to react.

Carlisle ignores Edward's handshake and raises an eyebrow. "What, do you like old guys, too?"

Edward's face falls and he drops his hand down to his lap.

"No, just nice guys. Guess I'm barking up the wrong tree." He hops to his feet and strides to the edge of the pool. Carlisle looks up at him just in time to watch him dive in, the muscles of his back rippling and glistening in the sun.

As soon as he's gone, Carlisle is kicking himself. He feels guilty all night, wishes he could go back and redo that conversation.

Even during dinner, where he takes Esme's advice and orders rich, decadent, food-even dessert-he's replaying the conversation with Edward in his head. Carlisle is a nice person, a really nice person, who makes small talk with friends, co-workers, and patients all the time. There's no reason he couldn't have smiled and laughed, shook hands with Edward, and maybe made a friend.

He heads back to his hotel room, collapses into the hammock stretched across his balcony and listens to the waves crashing on the ocean.

"Miss you," he says, looking up at the stars.

{[(-)]}

Carlisle runs along the beach in the morning, working off the dulce de leche he'd eaten the night before. He eats some fresh fruit for breakfast, then goes for a massage in an open cabana next to the ocean. It's the best morning he's had since before Peter got sick. He even takes a nap after lunch, a luxury he hasn't been afforded in a long, long time.

In the afternoon he camps out by the pool again, ordering a silly frozen drink with an umbrella just for the hell of it. He reads for a while, pausing to tuck his Kindle under the chaise and go for a swim when it gets too warm.

Edward and his friends show up at some point, moving chairs around so they can all lounge in a line. Carlisle is too intimidated to approach the group, so he waits for Edward to go for a swim.

Carlisle follows him into the pool, pretending to swim laps and hoping to bump into Edward casually.

The boy heads for the swim-up bar, and Carlisle follows him-even though he has a full daiquiri sitting back on the pool deck.

"Hi," Carlisle says, smiling shyly at Edward as they wait for the bartender.

"Hey." Edward smiles back encouragingly.

"I'm sorry about yesterday," Carlisle offers. "I'd offer to buy you a drink, but..." he shrugs, gesturing to the bartender serving free drinks.

Edward chuckles. "Did I catch you at a bad time or something?"

"I suppose so," Carlisle admits. "I'm not very good at... well, relaxing. I just got here yesterday."

"You might be in the wrong place, then," Edward teases. "We just got in yesterday, too. Spring break."

Carlisle smiles, biting back a response about his last spring break... in 1992.

"Where do you go to school?"

"Northwestern. Engineering," Edward says. "But I'm graduating this year. Going to law school in the fall."

"Really? How will you combine engineering with law?"

"Intellectual property. Patents, that sort of thing," Edward explains.

Carlisle is impressed.

"Where are you going to law school?"

"Not sure yet. NYU, probably, but I got accepted to a few-"

"Hey Ed! Bring me another rum and Coke!" Edward nods at a burly guy with dark curls yelling at him from the side of the pool. Edward orders a few drinks and chats with Carlisle while the bartender mixes them.

"Where are you from? What do you do?" he asks, squinting as the clouds shift and the sun blinds him.

"I was born in Seattle, but I live in San Francisco now. I'm a cardiologist."

"So you fix broken hearts?" Edward winks and Carlisle's own long-broken heart skips a beat.

"I suppose I do," he answers.

Edward's ordered more drinks than he can carry, so Carlisle offers to help. They wade through the shallow water and up the steps, then make their way through the maze of lounge chairs to Edward's group.

"Guys, this is Carlisle," he says simply. Carlisle nods politely to the chorus of "Hey, man," and "Sup."

Carlisle's not sure what to do-Edward's sitting down with his friends now, passing out the drinks, and Carlisle feels awkward. He decides he's been friendly enough for one afternoon-certainly friendly enough to make up for his rudeness the day before-and he mutters a hasty goodbye before retreating to the other side of the pool.

He buries himself in his book for a while and doesn't even notice when the bright mid-afternoon sun mellows into the golden light of early evening.

Edward stops over as his group is leaving, towel slung casually over his shoulder. He has little freckles starting to form on the bridge of his nose and across his rosy cheeks; Carlisle wonders if he could get close enough to count them.

"You coming to the party tonight?"

Carlisle blinks, watching Edward's mouth form the words again.

"Um, what party?"

"There's a big party with a DJ-the cafe where they serve breakfast turns into a club at night. You should come," Edward says. Carlisle doesn't miss the way Edward's eyes travel up and down his body as he says it; Carlisle has to fight off a shiver.

"Maybe," he says, forcing himself to keep his eyes locked on Edward's face.

{[(-)]}

Carlisle is sitting on his bed at eleven o'clock, muttering to himself.

"Ridiculous. Ridiculous. I'll just go to bed." He pulls off the too-tight black t-shirt Esme had tucked into his suitcase and stands up to kick off his sandals.

He's distracted by a familiar laugh, though, just as he's unbuttoning his jeans, and moves to the balcony to look down at the illuminated path below.

Edward's walking by with a group of friends, a fitted white t-shirt emphasizing his toned chest. He looks good-happy, maybe a little tipsy, but confident. His hair is wild in a carefully arranged sort of way, and Carlisle feels an overwhelming urge to run his fingers through it, to tug Edward close and kiss him and...

Oh, God. He hasn't kissed anyone since Peter. He brings his hand up, touches his own lips with a tentative finger as the boys walk past his building.

"What do you think, Pete? Should I go kiss that boy?" Carlisle whispers.

One hundred feet away, Edward stops, turns around and looks back. He searches the path behind him, and then he looks up, catches Carlisle's eye, and grins. He waves, then points in the direction his friends are heading.

Carlisle lets out a shaky breath and nods.

He doesn't want to follow immediately, so he heads back into the room and pours himself a drink from the minibar to calm his nerves. Twenty minutes later, still nervous but a little loose from the double vodka tonic, he tugs the tight black t-shirt back on and heads out.

The makeshift nightclub is spartan, but seems popular enough-it's nearly full, with groups of people clustered around the bars and plenty of guys on the dance floor. Carlisle's first order of business is more vodka, so he heads for the less crowded bar in the back.

He's halfway there when a hand grabs his wrist and tugs him towards the dance floor. He recognizes its owner as one of Edward's friends-the brawny one with curly hair-and allows himself to be led.

"Look what I found!" the brawny guy yells, his voice barely audible over the music. Edward is dancing with Jake, twirling around and laughing, when he sees Carlisle.

"Hey!" he shouts, nudging his brawny friend out of the way. Edward's eyes are bright, his cheeks already flushed from dancing. He reaches out to punch at Carlisle's stomach playfully, but lets his hand linger, stroking Carlisle's abs with his thumb. "I'm glad you're here."

Carlisle swallows hard. "Me too," he shouts.

Edward grins and moves a little closer just as the song changes. He's dancing close without grinding up against Carlisle, swaying his hips from left to right. Carlisle is self conscious at first, but Edward's easy smile and obvious enthusiasm help him relax.

They dance like that for a few songs, then fight through the crowd to get drinks at the bar. It's too loud to talk, but Carlisle doesn't mind; when Edward wants to talk, he lays his palm flat against Carlisle's chest and leans in close. Carlisle does the same, bowing his head and bringing his lips close to Edward's ear. The boy smells like sweat, chlorine, and coconut, and Carlisle can't get enough.

As the night progresses the atmosphere shifts; the bodies on the dance floor press closer, and Carlisle sees more and more couples grinding obscenely, kissing, groping. Edward still moves slowly, even as he's wrapping his arms around Carlisle's neck and slotting their legs together.

Carlisle's eyes are closed, his fingers tucked into the back pockets of Edward's shorts, lost in the music and the movement. He feels Edward's wild hair tickle his chin and looks down, opens his eyes just in time to see Edward leaning in for a kiss.

Carlisle stiffens, fighting the urge to pull away. This is normal. You deserve this, he tells himself.

Edward must mistake his panic for shyness, because he glances around at the crowd and just presses a chaste kiss to Carlisle's cheek.

"Wanna get out of here?" he shouts.

Carlisle nods gratefully and lets himself be led off the dance floor, past the grinding bodies and the long lines for booze, out into the fresh air.

"The breeze is nice," Carlisle rasps, throat hoarse from shouting over the music all night.

"Yeah, it is. Wanna walk on the beach?" Edward asks, nodding towards the path to the ocean.

"That sounds..." romantic, too romantic. What am I doing? "...nice. It sounds good," Carlisle says, following Edward's lead once again.

They walk quietly for a while, carrying their shoes and letting the sand squish through their toes. When they get far enough away that the music is just a low pulse, Edward clears his throat.

"So, is it someone back home that you're hung up on? Or an ex?"

Carlisle winces, embarrassed at being so transparently bad at this. Now he'll have to tell the story; Edward will be sad for him and start seeing him as a lonely old widower and not a sexy, experienced older man.

He considers lying, telling Edward he's getting over a bad break-up or something, but Carlisle's never been a very good liar.

"Peter," Carlisle says, shivering as he breathes the name. "My partner."

"Why isn't he on vacation with you?" Edward asks, frowning.

"We were together for eighteen years," Carlisle says, swallowing past the lump in his throat. "He died two years ago. Cancer."

"Jesus, man. I'm sorry," Edward says, reaching out to lay a hand on Carlisle's arm. They stop walking and Edward pulls him into a hug. "I'm so sorry."

"Thanks," Carlisle chokes out, hugging back tightly.

He braces himself for the onslaught of questions that always follow someone finding out; about Peter, about their relationship, and most painfully, about Peter's passing.

Edward is silent, though, just takes Carlisle's hand and pulls him further down the beach.

"So you haven't, uhh, danced with anyone? Since Peter?" Edward asks eventually, the small smile on his face illuminated only by the moonlight.

"No," Carlisle admits. "No 'dancing.' Not much fun at all, really."

"Well, I think you came to the right place. For fun," Edward says, squeezing Carlisle's hand. "And maybe some more dancing," he adds with a grin.

There's no more dancing that night, of the literal or metaphorical kind, but Carlisle walks Edward back to his room, holding his hand the whole time. When they kiss goodnight it isn't awkward or sad like Carlisle feared; it's a spark, a thrill, and he walks away from Edward's room with a spring in his step.

{[(-)]}

The next day, over too-sweet strawberry daiquiris by the pool, Carlisle invites Edward to dinner.

"You gonna make a reservation?" Edward asks.

"Do I need to?" Carlisle asks, frowning. "I don't know the rules when it's all inclusive."

Edward laughs. "It's a resort, Carlisle. I don't think there are rules."

"Right, right," Carlisle says, blushing as one of Edward's friends approaches.

"Eddie, we're going to do that hang-gliding thing. You coming?" the guy asks, pushing dirty blonde curls out of his face.

"Yeah," he replies, draining the last of his daiquiri. He leans in and kisses Carlisle's cheek before jumping up from his lounge chair. "Guess what, Jasper? Carlisle's taking me out to dinner tonight."

Jasper eyes Carlisle, looking him up and down lewdly before breaking into a grin. "Lucky Eddie." He winks at Carlisle and Edward huffs, shoving his friend out of the way.

"I'll come by your room and pick you up around seven, okay?" Edward says, laughing as Jasper slaps at him playfully.

"See you then," Carlisle says, wishing he could look at his watch right this second without being obvious about how anxious he is.

"Don't freak out!" Edward calls out, turning back to blow Carlisle a kiss as Jasper drags him away.

{[(-)]}

"I'm freaking out," Carlisle hisses into his cell phone. He frowns at his reflection in the mirror, wishing he could swap out his pale blue polo shirt for something more formal; he feels like a slob.

Esme just laughs, which frustrates him even more.

"It's not funny, Ez. This is your fault. I was happy in my little celibate bubble..."

"You weren't happy, babe," Esme says softly, the laughter gone.

"Yeah," Carlisle admits, sitting back against the headboard of his too-big hotel bed. "But I wasn't freaking out, either."

"Well sometimes you have to push through the freaking out stage to get to the happy stage," she argues. "It's like when I wanted bangs, and I hemmed and hawed about it for months until you drove me to the salon and made me get my hair cut."

The line is silent for a minute.

"Are you comparing me getting over the death of my partner to you cutting your bangs?"

"Yes, exactly! This vacation was me driving you to the salon!" she shouts.

"I hate you," Carlisle says fondly.

"Love you too. Have fun on your date. I put condoms in the side pocket of your suitcase!"

Carlisle laughs as he disconnects the phone, grateful for Esme's pushy, overbearing kind of love.

He pulls his suitcase out of the closet and unzips the side pocket-sure enough he finds two long strips of condoms and a dozen small packets of lube.

He's texting Esme, "I can't believe you bought lube" when a knock at the door startles him; it's just past six-thirty, and he isn't expecting Edward until seven. Hastily, he tucks the supplies back into his suitcase and shoves it back into the closet before moving to open the door.

"Hey," Edward says, looking rumpled, fresh, and just a little bit flushed from the sun.

"Early," Carlisle stammers. "You're early."

"It's vacation," is Edward's only explanation. He pushes past Carlisle and circles the room, looking at the accommodations. "Nice room. Looks a lot like mine, only we've got four guys sleeping in ours."

"It's just me. In this room, I mean. No, err, roommates," Carlisle says, shuffling nervously from one foot to the other. Edward looks at him with soft eyes, a small smile on his face.

"I told you not to freak out," he teases lightly, stepping in towards Carlisle. He presses close until Carlisle's back is against the wall and his heart is beating out of his chest. "I had a great idea, while I was hang-gliding."

"Oh?" Carlisle asks, closing his eyes as Edward's hands skate up and down his sides.

"Mmhmm." Edward leans in and kisses Carlisle's jaw, then drops a line of kisses up to the corner of his mouth. "Was thinking that you'd be freaking out all night, so maybe we should... break the tension now, before we go anywhere."

Carlisle's mind goes fuzzy with Edward's lips too close to his own; he leans in and presses them together, earning a happy moan from Edward. It's different from the sweet kiss they shared the night before; this is kissing with intent, and Carlisle feels a rush of adrenaline. He's still nervous, but his body remembers how to do this; he cups Edward's chin with one hand and lets the other comb through the boy's hair.

Edward slips his hands under Carlisle's shirt, smooths his palms over the man's flat stomach and up to his chest. Carlisle has to break the kiss to gasp when Edward catches his nipple between two fingers. Edward grins when he realizes just how sensitive Carlisle is; within seconds his polo is pushed up and Edward's mouth is descending on the same nipple, licking and nibbling.

Carlisle is so lost in Edward that he doesn't have space in his mind to feel guilty; he doesn't even think of Peter until Edward curls his fingers and brushes the fly of Carlisle's khakis with the back of his hand. That was Peter's signature move, his favorite way to tease. Carlisle's eyes squeeze shut and he sees Peter the way he likes to remember him, bright eyes and mischievous grin.

But then Edward is unbuttoning his pants, kissing down his stomach and over the trail of coarse blonde hair, and Carlisle wants him. He hasn't wanted anyone like this in a long time, and it feels good, it feels human to want like this. He opens his eyes and blinks away the memory, gives himself permission to enjoy whatever this is-to enjoy Edward, because Edward is here, and he's sweet, and he wants this, too. Carlisle can tell by the eager way he drops to his knees, the way he tugs at Carlisle's clothes with no patience at all. Carlisle throws his head back and laughs, earning a teasing slap from Edward on the inside of his thigh.

"No laughing," Edward says, nuzzling against the erection straining against Carlisle's navy briefs.

"No laughing," Carlisle promises, shuddering as Edward blows hot air over the tiny wet spot at the front of his underwear. Edward sucks at the length of him through the fabric, leaving a damp trail as he works his way up to the waistband. He pulls the briefs down with one hand and wraps the other around the base of Carlisle's cock, pulling it free and pumping it firmly, quickly coaxing him to full hardness.

"I should warn you," Edward says, nuzzling Carlisle's thigh and looking up at him, "I'm pretty good at this."

Carlisle gasps as Edward's thumb flicks over the tip of his dick, then laughs breathlessly. "Yeah?"

Edward responds by licking a hot stripe up the underside of Carlisle's length and then pulling him into his mouth. Carlisle barely has time to adjust to the wet, hot sensation before Edward is pulling off, following his lips with his hand, and starting a relentless, bobbing rhythm.

Carlisle hasn't worried about coming too fast since he was in his twenties, but he remembers the feeling-the sudden flush to his chest, his stomach muscles tightening and his knees shaking. He wants to make it last, wants to remember every second, so he forces himself to keep his eyes open and locked on the boy kneeling in front of him.

He curls his hand around the back of Edward's neck, tucking his fingers into the collar of his white button-down shirt. "Feels amazing. You weren't-oh, God. You weren't kidding."

Edward hums around him, then pulls off to catch his breath. He never stops moving his hand though, stroking Carlisle firmly and doing delicious things with his thumb.

"Do you want to come in my mouth? That costs extra," he asks, tilting his head inquisitively.

Carlisle is horrified, the image of Esme interviewing frat boy prostitutes briefly crossing his mind. Edward just laughs, though, and brings Carlisle back to the moment with a kiss to his hip. "Kidding. That's my favorite part," he says, ducking down to pull Carlisle's cock into his mouth again.

It doesn't last long after that, because Edward brings his free hand up to cup Carlisle's balls. He has just the right touch, rolling them between his fingers in turn without squeezing too hard. Carlisle can hardly stand, his toes twitching and curling while his knees threaten to buckle, and he barely has time to murmur a warning before he's groaning through his orgasm.

True to his word, Edward hums happily and sucks until Carlisle's spent, until he feels every square millimeter of pressure on his softening dick and it becomes too much.

Edward sits back on his heels and looks up, a smug and satisfied expression on his face. Carlisle slumps against the wall and slides slowly down to the floor. He's not sure what to say, how to express the gratitude and rush of affection he feels for this boy he just met.

"Good, yeah?" Edward says softly, cupping Carlisle's cheek.

"You could say that." Carlisle smiles, turns his head, and kisses Edward's palm. He wants to pull him close, maybe drag him into the big fluffy bed to cuddle, but he's mindful of the fact that-despite recent events-they still barely know each other. Carlisle was never very good at casual sex, even when he was single.

He's so out of practice that the thought of returning the favor doesn't occur to him until they're straightening their clothes, ready to leave for dinner. He stops Edward as he's reaching for the doorknob, wraps his fingers around Edward's wrist and looks down.

"Are you-I mean, did you want to..." Carlisle says, glancing down at the front of Edward's shorts.

"I'm okay, I jerked off in the shower before I came over," Edward says. He leans in and kisses Carlisle softly, then adds, "Thanks, though. And for the record-if I wanted to, you would be naked and spread out on that bed right now."

Carlisle's cheeks flush bright red.

"Dinner?" Edward asks casually.

"Um. Yes. Dinner. Dinner's good," Carlisle says. He shakes off his nerves and reaches for Edward's hand, lacing their fingers together. "Let's go."

{[(-)]}

They flirt shamelessly all through dinner, and Carlisle feels lighter than he has in years.

"I think there's another party tonight," he says, scraping the last of his mango ice cream from a tiny bowl made of spun sugar. "Do you want to go? Or... oh, or do you need to meet up with your friends?"

"I see those idiots every day," Edward says, grinning. He reaches over and snaps off a swirl of sugar, then lifts it to Carlisle's mouth. Carlisle lets Edward drop the treat on on his tongue, then bites playfully at his finger. "We can go to the party if you want to," Edward continues, "but I'd be happy just heading back to your room."

"Thank God," Carlisle breathes.

Edward laughs and stands up, pushing his chair away from the table. He grabs the half-empty bottle of champagne chilling in a bucket next to their table and gestures for Carlisle to lead the way.

They take the long way back to Carlisle's room, walking along the beach and drinking champagne from the bottle. Carlisle tells Edward all about Esme, how many times her boldness has gotten him into trouble-and how often it's been his saving grace.

"She sounds like a good friend," Edward says, dropping the now-empty champagne bottle in a trash bin outside of Carlisle's building. "Did you tell her about me?"

Carlisle nods, taking the lead now and pulling Edward up the stairs.

"What did she say?" Edward asks.

Carlisle stops at the top of the stairs, pushes Edward tentatively against the wall, and kisses him.

"She told me not to freak out," Carlisle says fondly, his cheek brushing Edward's.

Edward laughs and kisses Carlisle's neck. "Sounds like my kinda girl."

They stumble into Carlisle's room, kissing and pulling at each other's clothes, laughing and bumping into unfamiliar furniture as they make their way to the bed.

Carlisle is grateful that he's had enough champagne to give him courage, but not enough to keep him from getting off. Edward has managed to get both of their shirts off, somehow, and he pulls his shorts and boxer-briefs down in one swift move. Carlisle sits on the tall bed, his knees spread wide and feet barely touching the ground, and Edward steps in closer.

"Do you mind if we turn the light on?" Carlisle asks, his hand curling around Edward's waist. It's been so long since he's been with anyone, and Edward is so beautiful that he wants to be able to see every inch of him.

"Sure," Edward says, leaning over to turn on the bedside lamp. It's dim, but it's just enough light that Carlisle can see everything he wants to touch.

He reaches up, first, to lay his shaking hands on Edward's broad shoulders, then drags them down over his chest. Carlisle brushes his thumbs over Edward's nipples, but finds that Edward is much more sensitive just below his pecs. The boy shivers when Carlisle's fingers tease him there before moving down to his abs, raking over them quickly and then slowly, carefully outlining each muscle.

"You're killing me," Edward whispers, reaching between them to stroke his own cock.

"Lie down?" Carlisle asks, scooting backwards on the bed to make room. Edward climbs up and immediately crawls on top of the older man, pushing him back against the pillows and kissing him deeply.

But Carlisle isn't finished exploring; he rolls Edward over and breaks the kiss, murmuring, "Stay still." His lips follow the path his fingers had taken, trailing kisses down Edward's torso, mapping each bump and valley with his tongue.

"Jesus, you're a tease," Edward moans, squeezing Carlisle's shoulder. Carlisle wraps a hand around Edward's cock, taking in the shape and weight of it in his hand; he strokes the boy slowly, watching his muscles tense and his hips strain.

"I haven't done this in a long time," Carlisle reminds him, leaning in to lick off the drop of moisture at Edward's tip.

"Fuck," Edward moans, lifting up on his elbows to get a better view. "Bet it's like riding a bike," he adds, a small smile on his face.

Carlisle closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and angles Edward's cock with his hand. He takes just the tip into his mouth, swirling around it with his tongue, before daring to pull in just a little bit more.

He remembers how much he loves this; the way it feels to make a man tremble and shiver and curse. His own cock is hard and leaking against Edward's leg, but he ignores his needs in favor of Edward's. He feels his confidence surging with the power he's holding over the boy; his eyes blink open long enough to glimpse Edward's long fingers gripping the sheets, twisting them as he tries to maintain control.

It makes Carlisle feel invincible; it also makes him want Edward to lose it, to come for him, because of him.

He drops his hand flat against Edward's belly and sucks the entire length of Edward's cock into his mouth; it's a maneuver he mastered a long time ago, but he's out of practice. As soon as the tip nudges the back of his throat, he starts to choke. He pulls off, flustered, and sits up as he coughs and works to catch his breath.

"You okay?" Edward asks, sitting up to face him.

"Yeah. I'm sorry," Carlisle says, grimacing.

Edward rubs his shoulder as Carlisle's cough dies out. Just as Carlisle is panicking about killing the mood, Edward straddles his lap and pushes him flat against the bed.

"You're amazing, that was perfect," he says, falling forward to lie on top of Carlisle. "God, you're sexy," he murmurs, kissing down Carlisle's neck to his collarbone.

"No, you-" Carlisle starts to protest, but Edward cuts him off with a searing kiss. He wiggles until their cocks are lined up between them, then thrusts slowly against Carlisle, spit and sweat slicking their movements.

"Do you want me to get a condom?" Edward asks, his breath tickling Carlisle's ear.

Carlisle is afraid to answer, not wanting to give up this opportunity but not certain if he's ready to be quite so vulnerable with Edward yet. Edward picks up on the hesitation and rocks harder against Carlisle, crashing their mouths together in another kiss.

"Plenty of time for that later," he says, biting Carlisle's bottom lip playfully. "God, I'm so close. Gonna come like this, Carlisle. Gonna come all over you."

Carlisle cants his hips up, meeting Edward's thrusts, and wraps his arms around Edward at the waist. He squeeze the globes of his ass, encouraging him, desperate to see him fall apart.

"Yes, yes, Carlisle, oh fuck... I'm coming, oh fuck," he cries, bucking hard and spilling between them, their bodies suddenly slippery with his come. Edward keeps rocking until his body is twitching with aftershocks, and then he slides down to the bed, curling into Carlisle's side.

"Jesus," Carlisle moans, gripping the back of Edward's neck. He pulls him in for a rough kiss and groans with pleasure when Edward wraps a hand around his dick. He doesn't last long, pulling away from the kiss after a few seconds to watch his own come spurt out over Edward's hand.

They fall apart, lying side by side until their heartbeats slow and their overheated skin starts to cool.

"You're pretty good at that, for a kid," Carlisle says, after he catches his breath.

Edward laughs, then leans over to kiss Carlisle's shoulder. "You're pretty good at it, for an old man."

"Do you-I mean, if you want to go back to your friends... then that's fine, obviously, totally fine, but if you wanted to stay here-sleep here-with me, that's fine too," Carlisle rambles.

"I want to stay here with you," Edward says decisively, a small smile on his face. "C'mon, let's take a shower."

{[(-)]}

After they're clean, Edward pokes around Carlisle's room, full of nervous energy. Carlisle is pulling on a soft pair of sleep pants when Edward notices the hammock on his balcony.

"We don't have a hammock! That's bullshit," he says, pushing the sliding door open. He climbs into the hammock and rests his foot on the railing, rocking himself and humming in pleasure. Carlisle leans against the door jamb and looks out at the ocean, but he can't see much further than the breaking waves on the beach.

"Get in with me," Edward says, patting the small space next to him.

"I don't think we'll fit," Carlisle says, plucking at the netting.

"Pretty sure we will." Edward opens his arms and Carlisle tries to carefully climb in next to him. He just barely manages to fit, and has to throw his leg over Edward's and wrap an arm around his waist to maintain their balance. Edward doesn't seem to mind.

"When I was a kid," he says, his fingers ghosting over Carlisle's back, "my parents had this shitty cabin on Lake Michigan-like basically a one-room shack. We would drive up for the day to swim and take our boat out and stuff, and we really only used the cabin to change clothes or duck out of the rain. A few times, though, we'd end up staying really late-or my dad would get drunk with the neighbor and wouldn't be able to drive home-and we'd have to sleep up there."

Carlisle closes his eyes and listens to the rumble of Edward's voice, the crash of the waves, and the faint pulse of music from across the resort. Edward keeps rocking them, pushing off of the railing with his foot.

"Anyway, because it was so small and so crappy, my parents would let my sister Liz and I sleep on the boat. It was a lot nicer than the cabin, and we got to sleep on little bunks instead of on the floor, so we didn't mind. I think Liz was always a little scared, but I loved sleeping on that boat. Just being rocked like that, from the way the water moved-I've never slept better than I did on that boat."

"I have a boat," Carlisle says, murmuring sleepily against Edward's shoulder. "It was Peter's, really. A sailboat. I'm pretty hopeless at steering the damn thing, but he was great. He loved it."

"When was the last time you took it out on the water?" Edward asks.

Carlisle hesitates. "A long time. Before... before Peter got really sick."

Edward traces a figure eight on Carlisle's arm, humming quietly as Carlisle remembers.

"It's getting chilly," Edward says, dropping his foot to the balcony floor to stop the hammock from swaying. "Bed?"

"Mmm," Carlisle agrees. He tries to extricate himself from the hammock gracefully, but ends up tripping and hobbling back into the hotel room. Edward rolls out like a pro and closes the sliding glass door behind them, taking care to pull the curtains closed.

Getting comfortable in bed is awkward, each man politely deferring to the other, until Edward chuckles and pulls Carlisle close, spooning him.

"G'night," he whispers, kissing the back of Carlisle's shoulder.

{[(-)]}

Carlisle's on his back when he wakes up, one arm resting on his stomach. He stretches, yawns, and rolls toward the center of the bed.

Edward is still there, facing the other direction, curled up on his side with both hands tucked under his pillow. They've both kicked the sheets off during the night, and Edward's boxers are riding low on his hips. Carlisle smiles and reaches out to touch the inch of pale skin beneath his tan line. Memories from the night before flood his mind-Edward on his knees, then later, lying still as Carlisle kissed every inch of him.

He wraps a hand around Edward's waist and scoots closer, molding his chest to Edward's back. He snakes an arm around Edward's waist and nuzzles into his shoulder.

"Mmm," Edward moans, pushing back against Carlisle. "Too early. More sleep."

"Okay," Carlisle whispers. He kisses the curve of Edward's neck and then closes his eyes, willing himself to go back to sleep.

Except Edward keeps shifting in his arms, trying to get comfortable. Carlisle lifts his arm from the boy's waist and Edward protests, grabbing his hand and holding him fast. Finally he murmurs, "I can feel you getting hard," and pushes his hips back against Carlisle's.

"Cause you're wiggling around," Carlisle says, smiling against Edward's warm shoulder.

"Oh," Edward says. "Then why am I hard?" He pushes Carlisle's hand down past his waist, lets him feel the erection straining against the front of his boxers.

"Hmm... because you're twenty-two?"

Edward laughs and turns around in Carlisle's arms so they're face-to-face. "Good morning," he murmurs, kissing up Carlisle's jaw. Their lips meet in a slow, sweet kiss, relaxed and tender.

The urgency from the night before is gone; they take their time kissing, touching softly, whispering encouragements and learning each other's bodies.

"God, I really want to fuck you," Edward admits, his lips attached to Carlisle's collarbone while he gropes the older man's ass.

"Yeah?" Carlisle asks, angling Edward's head up for another kiss. "I want that, too. God, it's been so long."

"I know," Edward says. He nudges Carlisle until he's flat on his back, and Edward moves to kiss down his chest. "It's going to be good, I promise. Really good."

Edward shimmies down Carlisle's body, tugging his underwear down as he goes.

"You have lube?" he asks, crawling off the end of the bed.

"In my suitcase, in the closet," Carlisle says. "Check the side pocket. There are condoms, too."

Edward pulls the suitcase out and opens the zippered side pocket, then laughs. "Whoa, Carlisle. Planning on having a busy week?" He pulls out the contents and comes back to bed, his cupped hands full of condoms and single-use packets of lube.

"It was Esme," Carlisle says, blushing. "She came over after I'd packed and vetoed half of my clothes, then she must have put those in while she was re-packing."

"Tell her I said 'Thanks." Edward grins and drops the supplies on the nightstand, then crawls back into bed with some lube and a condom clutched in his fist.

He slicks his fingers and uses them to open Carlisle up slowly, carefully. He kneels between Carlisle's legs at first, just watching the older man move and buck against his hand, but then he leans down to suck Carlisle off while he preps him.

Carlisle is panting, gasping, moaning Edward's name. He imagined his first time after Peter would be in the context of a relationship-if it happened at all-but this feels right. He feels happy, lighthearted, grateful to be in a beautiful place with a beautiful boy. There's no hesitation in his voice when he tugs at Edward's hair and tells him, "I'm ready."

Edward grins, pulls open the condom packet and smooths it down over his dick. He slicks himself up and kisses each of Carlisle's spread knees.

"Like this? Or do you want to turn over?"

"This," Carlisle says, hooking one leg around Edward's waist to bring him closer.

Carlisle eyelids flutter closed as Edward pushes inside him, one hand guiding his cock while the other squeezes Carlisle's hip. His lips stretch into a smile at the familiar burn, the fullness, the slick slide of Edward inside him.

"Feels perfect," he says, curling up to kiss Edward.

"You feel perfect," Edward replies, hooking his elbow under Carlisle's knee. "Fuck, I'm sorry. This isn't going to last long."

Carlisle chokes out a laugh, tilting his hips to help Edward hit just the right angle, and wraps a hand around his cock.

"That's it, right there," Carlisle gasps. "Harder. Fuck, Edward, harder."

Edward is relentless, his hips snapping tirelessly into Carlisle. It doesn't take long before Carlisle's spilling over his hand, eyes wide open and locked with Edward's.

Edward doesn't last much longer, dropping down to kiss Carlisle messily as he thrusts a few more times and moans through his release.

They lie there, intertwined, for a minute or two before Edward pulls out gently and rolls off to the side. He kisses Carlisle's cheek and whispers, "Be right back."

Carlisle flexes his toes and stretches his legs while Edward uses the bathroom; he feels loose-limbed and sore in a way that he sort of missed. He's happy and satisfied, knowing intrinsically that this isn't a choice he'll regret, but he still feels tears pooling in the corners of his eyes.

He's wiping them away when Edward comes back, and he crawls into bed, concerned.

"You okay?"

"Yes," Carlisle says definitively, leaning over to kiss Edward. "Definitely okay. Just... overwhelmed." And a little bit sad that this is just a fling, he thinks.

"Awww, come here," Edward says, pulling Carlisle close. "I know, I'm a pretty overwhelming kind of guy," he teases.

Carlisle laughs. "What do you want to do today, Mr. Overwhelming? Our last day in Mexico..."

"Hmm. I vote we eat a huge breakfast, then lie on the beach and do nothing."

"That sounds excellent."

{[(-)]}

They spend a blissful day lying in the sun, feeding each other tropical fruit, and running back to the hotel room for quickies.

By the time night falls they're too exhausted to fool around again, but they fall asleep tangled together in Carlisle's bed.

They arrange for an early wakeup call, which comes at six o'clock, long before the sun rises. Carlisle's heart twists in his chest as he answers the call and then hangs up the phone.

Edward has to leave-he's left barely enough time to go back to his own room, pack up, and catch the shuttle that will take him and his friends back to the airport, back to Chicago.

"Edward, wake up," Carlisle whispers, shaking the boy's shoulder gently.

"Nope," Edward mumbles, pressing in close.

"You don't want to miss your flight."

"It's fine. I'll live in Mexico. I can work here, be a towel boy or something," Edward suggests, his voice muffled against Carlisle's skin. "Fuck law school."

"They might miss you at NYU," Carlisle says, kissing Edward's forehead.

Edward lifts his head then, and blinks. He sits up, rubs the sleep from his eyes, and stretches his arms.

"About that..." he finally says, searching for Carlisle's hand under the covers. He takes it in both of his hands and pulls it into his lap. "I didn't bring this up before, because... well, because I didn't know how this would turn out." He pulls one hand free and gestures between the two of them.

"I sort of settled on NYU because I didn't have a reason to go anywhere else, you know? But I was accepted to a few other schools."

"Yeah?" Carlisle asks, wide awake now.

"Mmhmm. Georgetown, and Columbia, and... Stanford."

"Stanford University?" Carlisle asks, his heart pounding.

"Yup."

Carlisle blinks. "The Stanford University that's half an hour from my house?"

Edward laughs. "I think we're thinking of the same school, yeah. Look, I know this is a shitty time to have this conversation, because I have to leave like... now, but I really like you, Carlisle. I know we could be friends, and I really think we could be something special, too. I don't want to put any pressure on you, or make you feel like-"

"Please come," Carlisle says, sitting up. "Come to San Francisco. I would love to be able to see you again. I would love that."

Edward laughs and pulls the older man in for a hug.

"I really have to go," he whispers, kissing Carlisle's cheek.

Carlisle watches as he gathers his things, then stands up to pull him in for one last hug.

"You have my number," Edward says.

"I'm going to use it," Carlisle promises, dropping his forehead to Edward's. They kiss one last time, and then Edward is gone, jogging down the dim hallway.

Carlisle tries to go back to bed, but it feels too empty now. Instead he pulls a blanket off the bed, pads out to the balcony and curls up in the hammock, looking out at the ocean as the sky starts to lighten.

"I think you'd like Edward," he says to the stars. "He's sweet, like you, and a little bit bossy, like Esme. I hope... I hope you're happy for me. Happy that I'm happy." He pulls the blanket tight around his shoulders and smiles as the first bright rays of sunlight warm up the sky.


Thanks for reading. I hope you liked this-please leave a comment or tweet me at sadtomatoff if you did.