Legal BS: The original characters and plot of this story are the property of the author. No infringement of pre-existing copyright is intended. This story is copyright (c) 2013 CallMePagliacci. All rights reserved.

All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc., are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author of this story. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any previously copyrighted material. No copyright infringement is intended.


Old English stocc "stump, post, stake, tree trunk, log," also "pillory" (usually plural, stocks), from Proto-Germanic *stukkaz "tree trunk" (cf. Old Norse stokkr "block of wood, trunk of a tree," Old Saxon, Old Frisian stok, Middle Dutch stoc "tree trunk, stump," Dutch stok "stick, cane," Old High German stoc "tree trunk, stick," German Stock "stick, cane;" also Dutch stuk, German Stück "piece"), from Proto Indo-European *(s)teu- (see steep (adj.)).

Meaning "broth made by boiling meat or vegetables" is from 1764.

Every diner is offered a choice of clear or thick soup.

Chicken Broth

4 lb. chicken carcasses, cleaned, including the necks

1 large onion, quartered

4 carrots, scrubbed clean, cut into large chunks

4 celery stalks, cut into large chunks

1 leek, white part only, cut in half lengthwise (leeks are notoriously difficult to clean, so soak well beforehand)

10 sprigs each fresh thyme and parsley

2 bay leaves

2 whole cloves garlic, peeled

Small handful whole black peppercorns

Appx. 2 gallons cold water

Place all ingredients in a large stock pot, at least 12 quarts. Place a metal steamer basket upside-down on top of the ingredients. Pour water over. Cook on high until bubbles start to break the surface of the liquid. Turn the head down to medium low so the liquid gently simmers. Skim the broth frequently, as needed. Simmer uncovered for 6-8 hours, adding water as needed to keep the meat and vegetables submerged. Strain the broth before serving or storing.

To make chicken soup: add 3/4 cup diced onion, 3/4 cup sliced celery, and 1 carrot, sliced into rounds to 4 cups of boiling chicken stock. Simmer for 2 minutes. Pour over cooked noodles, add chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley and tarragon, to taste.


"I'm dying."

"You're not dying, Edward."

"Well, then, I wanna be."

"Men are such babies when they're sick, I swear. Charlie was the same way. Can I make you something to eat, some broth maybe?"

A groan was my only answer. Edward was lying on his back in his huge bed, an arm thrown over his eyes and a white sheet tangled around his leg. His position stretched him out, making his lean frame look even longer. His bicep was flexed, up by his ear; his chest rose and fell as he breathed. His sleep pants sat tauntingly low on his hips and I had to look away. It was rare that I saw him so undressed. A memory—Edward, white sand stuck to his shoulder, leaning toward me in the firelight—bubbled to the surface. I shoved it back down.

I sighed. He still may have looked like the Vitruvian man to me, but Edward was clearly suffering. His nose was red, and those full lips were chapped. Sweat shone on his upper chest.

"How about a shower, then?"

"I don't think I can stand that long," he said, moving his arm behind his head. His eyes were still closed.

"You'll feel better if you get cleaned up." Edward shook his head.

I stood up from my place next to him, and made to go to the kitchen. Grabbing my hand, his reaction was quick, but his grip, weak.

"Stay with me?"

"Sure," I said, smiling at the little boy looking at me through a man's eyes. "Just lemme run to the kitchen, grab a few things."

He nodded, closed his eyes, and released my hand. I watched him for a second, and a beam of sunlight peeked through the parted curtains, falling across his forehead and left eye. He scrunched up his forehead, squinting, and made a disgruntled noise. It was kind of adorable. After I pulled the curtains all the way shut, I hurried down to the kitchen. I made a quick note to pick up the ingredients for chicken soup to make tomorrow, but for now some Saltines seemed like the best idea. I knew I had some basic stock in the freezer, maybe I could tempt him with it around dinnertime. I filled up the electric kettle and put a half-dozen hibiscus-citrus teabags in a pitcher. Waiting, tapping my foot, for the water to boil, I added more honey to the pitcher than was probably healthy.

My mind drifted as the water heated. Memories of my time with Edward floated through my mind, the flakes of an almost-settled snow globe. I thought of the first moment I knew my crush on Edward was something more. He'd been complaining that he missed his family in Chicago. He missed playing in the snow with his brothers and heavy, hot food to chase away the cold. I called his mother and got her recipe for cottage fried potatoes. I'd been soaking the potatoes; I needed more counter space; I dropped the heavy container, and water and potatoes went everywhere. Edward ran in when he heard the noise and my swearing. He averted his eyes and handed me a dishtowel.

Such an inconsequential moment. No heartfelt confessions, no grand gestures, no trumpeting fanfare like in the type of movie Edward starred in at the time. Just a simple thing. It was then that I knew that my feelings for Edward were more than just attraction, that I loved him.

No. Just, no. I refused to think about it anymore. I saw the kind of women he dated. I saw the way he looked—and didn't look—at me. He'd never want me the way I wanted him. Not sober, not meaning it.

The water boiled and I made myself focus. I'd buried my feelings for so long that hiding them again came easily. As I poured the hot water over the teabags, my eyes kept flicking up, in the direction where I knew Edward was resting. I didn't wait for the tea to steep, I just threw the crackers and a mug into a large bowl and grabbed the pitcher and headed back upstairs.

When I entered the unapologetically masculine bedroom again, Edward had the comforter wrapped around him; he was curled up in a tight ball, shaking.

"I'm cold now," he said in a small voice. I rushed in, putting the pitcher on his nightstand and the bowl on the floor by my feet. With one hand on his arm, I tugged on the little paper tags until I judged the steeping liquid was dark enough: a brilliant fuchsia. It was a meditative action.

"That smells good," Edward said, his voice sounding croaky.

"Mmhmm," I said, pouring a mug full. "Lots of vitamin C. Come on, sit up, drink." He struggled, so I wrapped my arm around his shoulders to help him up. God, he was weak, and much too warm. I handed him the mug, but quickly moved my hand back to help him support it. I slid my hand across his shoulders, his neck, and into the short hair at the back of his head. Damp with sweat, the color was more brunet than his usual color—like long-unused copper cookware—but it was still soft between my fingers. Edward was staring at me so intently; I looked down and watched his throat move, wavelike, as he swallowed.

"Good?" I asked. He nodded. Not meeting his eyes, I set the mug on the nightstand and bent over to pick up the bowl. As I handed him the crackers, I said, "Try to eat a few, okay? I'll be right back."

I paced into the attached bathroom, passing the TV playing a war documentary at low volume. I eyeballed the sink, realizing I'd never be able to fit the bowl in there to fill it up. The bath had a showerhead-thing on a hose, though. I tested the water temperature on the inside of my wrist and tried to calm my breathing, tried to make my expression reflect anything other than hopeless, desperate adoration of the man in the next room.

This was okay. I mean, it certainly wasn't my job to care for Edward, but he needed help. I could call a nurse—I'm sure his manager knew of a discreet service. Someone who wouldn't ogle, or freak out, or ask for his autograph. But how long would it take? He needed someone now. Besides, a nurse wouldn't be able to make the soup right. It had to be me.

Resolved, I lifted the bowl out of the tub and set it on the counter. I searched around until I found a clean washcloth and tossed it in my makeshift washbasin. I walked back into Edward's bedroom, measuring each step against the slosh of the water in the bowl.

Sitting exactly as I left him, the covers bunched under his arms, Edward watched me set the basin down on the floor. I wrung the washcloth out.

"I'm gonna get you cleaned up. You're all sweaty." Edward inhaled sharply. I bit my lip. Why was he acting like this? Because he's sick?

Hoping to kill the intense mood—afraid I'd said too much—I added, "My, um, mom did this for me when I was sick as a kid."

It didn't work. I glanced up, double-checking that this was okay, and he still had that look on his face. I've seen that look once before, and I didn't think I could take the ramifications of seeing it again. I only let myself think about my task, about caring for him—not what it meant.

I took his hand—so large in mine—and stretched his right arm out. After I'd squeezed the washcloth hard, getting out as much of the excess water as I could, I brought it against his skin. His entire arm broke out in goosebumps.

"Too cold?"

His fingers flexed. "No. Just right."

I nodded. I gently washed his forearm in slow, up-and-down strokes. I rinsed and wrung out the cloth, and washed his upper arm. Edward shifted a little, and the comforter slid down his stomach. Gently as I could, I passed the washcloth under his arm, but he still winced.

"Your glands… Edward, I'm going to call the doctor."

"No!" He gripped my hand again, but his strength waned right away. "No, not yet. Tomorrow, if I'm not feeling better."

"Okay, okay." Rinse, wring out. I felt the ridges of his collarbone under my fingers, the damp cloth rough in between our skins. It seemed like I could feel every last fiber against the pads of my fingers. Over his chest; the subtle definition to his wiry muscles which twitched at my touch. My hand on his abdomen rose and fell with his breath. I edged the comforter down, revealing more of his smooth, pale skin. When the V of Edward's abs was visible—and the dark brown lick of coarse hair peeking out from the waistband of his sleep pants—I pulled my hand away. His breath caught.

I took my time re-wetting and wringing out the washcloth again. I needed to get ahold of myself. Edward was acting like he was aroused by this, but was it me or the act itself? No, it had to be the latter. He'd been very clear.

I returned to washing his chest, sweeping the rag up his left side. A momentary boldness, or maybe my own innate curiosity, inspired me to brush over his hard nipple. He gasped. Sneaking a peek at him through my lashes, I saw his gaze was fixed on my hand. Rinsed, wrung out.

I worked my way down his left arm, enjoying the heavy feeling of his bicep under my palm. The crook of his elbow was ticklish, and Edward squirmed slightly. I smiled at him.

"Here, lemme get your back, and then all done, 'kay? Lean forward."

"Give me a hand?" I wrapped my arms around him as I had before, wondering if maybe he was milking it a little. And then he rested his hot cheek on my shoulder, his nose nuzzled into my neck, and I didn't care anymore. Warm and soft, I could feel his breath against my throat. His arms were around my waist, not loose but not tight either. Edward breathed in deeply, and so did I.

I washed his back, tracing each long muscle and every protrusion of his curved-over spine. I grazed one of the indentations between his hipbones and felt him shiver. His skin was so warm.

There was a tug on the end of my long braid—Edward was pulling the elastic out. He ran his fingers through the plait, loosening my hair.


"You never wear your hair down," he said, and I felt him bring a lock up to his nose and inhale. "Last time I saw it down…"

Yeah. I tossed the rag into the bowl of cooling water and awkwardly patted his back.

"All done." He leaned back, but didn't let go of my waist. His grip tightened. His palms burned on my lower back.

Meeting his eyes was a mistake. His expression was intense: desirous and focused. He licked his lips, and I knew he was going to kiss me.

His eyes reflecting wickedly in the bonfire's flickering light. Licking his lips. Leaning forward, pressing his lips to mine. Kissing me. Slipping his tongue in my mouth. His hands gripping my hair. Pulling me onto his lap. Making out like teenagers. Telling me he didn't mean it. Telling me he was drunk. Telling me he doesn't want me like that. Him turning his back.

"Don't do that to me again," I whispered as he leaned in. Edward froze for a second, then pulled away. He looked unsure; resigned and hurt. Realization of what I'd said, how he could've taken it, hit me hard, and I kicked myself mentally. So stupid. Even if he threw me away again, another kiss like the first might be worth it. He was leaning back, and I started to stammer.

"No, no, that's not what I meant—"

"Shh, Bella, it's all right. I know," he said, reclining again. I thought he was pushing me away, and my eyes pricked—but his arms remained tight around my waist. He pulled me down and across his body, then rolled over, taking me with him. I shifted around until my back was comfortably pressed against his chest.

Making sense of this turn of events was a struggle.

"Stay with me. Please, Bella. I'll—I'll be better soon. Please stay with me."

"Of course, Edward."

I watched the History Channel all afternoon with Edward sleeping, wrapped around me, his hand on my stomach.

AN: This update is dedicated to my beta, Sara (abadkitty on Twitter) for her birthday today. Everyone please wish her a good one.