TLS Angst Contest Entry

Word Count: 11,641

Pairing: Edward

Title of Story: Little Stars

Story Summary: The gift she hurts me with is the hurt that she gives to me. Pain is the only cure for pain. New Moon sort of AU. M for reasons. Warning: Don't read this story.

Outside my window, the sun is setting.

Light blue. Dark pink. Bright orange.

It's just me here, alone on my floor.

This is what's left, just me and time.

It's inexhaustible for us, and impossible to lose track of. The clouds move, day and night, but it's all one inescapable second. It doesn't matter that my eyes can still see colors or that the sun still rises every morning. Time will never end, and I will never be out from under it.

Blood courses through my limbs, giving me the illusion of a pulse. It just makes everything worse. I want to bring my hands up and cover my eyes. I don't know who I am. I'm lost and I can smell death, and my hands are so heavy.

I close my eyes to think of love.

Before Bella, eternity was a burden between my shoulders, miserable pressure in between every vertebrae, but with her, time moved within me. There could never be enough of it. All the wonder and hunger that made up every second, I felt it in my arms. In my hands. My lips.

Bella was the closest thing to God. The choice to keep her heart beating was as natural as it was an honor. Of course I sacrificed myself. It was so effortless that the first ten years passed with almost no weariness. Even in the dark, memories were warm within me.

The slope of her collarbone.

Her smile from across a room.

Her fingers, joyously alive, combing through dark brown waves. Rubbing the back of her neck. Touching her lips. Slipping into my hands...

Remembering kept my head straight and made separation not only endurable, but worth it.

The next decade was almost as manageable, even as memories turned to ghosts.

Her tears. Her desperation. Having to uncurl her fingers from my cloak. Then from my hair.

Then from my own fingers.

But I wasn't afraid of ghosts. I knelt for suffering to come and cover me like a swarm of insects. So long as she was safe, there was nothing I wouldn't endure.

Thirty years in the dark, I still wasn't sorry.

Bella came here to give her life for mine. I could do no less than give it back.

Forty years passed.


Separation became agony. Pain screamed, loud and shameless in its thirst for months to years sometimes. Remembering became excruciating, followed by excruciating. I lost myself in memories.

The warmth of her cheek in my hand. The sounds her lungs made. The taste of her blood.

Any blood.

I was starving; they were literally starving me, but I couldn't regret knowing that somewhere in the world, love was alive.

Time grew surreal as sixty years passed, simultaneously slowing down and moving all too fast. It wasn't just remembering that tore at me anymore; it what I was waiting for. It was realizing the warmth of her cheek that day was the last warmth I would ever feel. It was knowing a second was coming where there would suddenly be no heat left in the world. No light.


I blink my eyes open.

The sky above me is darker blue now. Pink clouds are pushing purple and orange streaks across it. I close my eyes again.

I don't want to see this sky I think Bella would love.

This is not manageable.

Missing like this is not effortless.

And regret is not an honor.

Bella was everything to me, and even though I'd left her, when I thought she was gone from the world, it was like I was cut out of it. Reality broke when I thought she'd jumped. I sought the end of my own time like a reflex. My longing for death when I came here swallowed everything else. It was stronger than thirst and guilt and love all put together.

When Alice showed Aro her vision, and swore that my heart and soul would be one of us, just for a second, I thought maybe...

Just maybe...

They could let us go in peace.

Bella wasn't gone from the world then like I'd thought she was. She was warm in my arms, singing to me with every heartbeat, and I remember swearing to myself that if they let us go free, I'd never let go of her.


But Aro finally had the opportunity he'd been waiting for.

I didn't know I'd be banished to a pitch dark cell and starved in solitary confinement for a hundred years, but I knew when he looked from Alice's eyes to mine, that everything was over. My love for my singer's soul was nothing more than insurance to him. Collateral.

Separating from her that day was rivaled only by what I'd thought was her death, the day before.

Fear grew exponentially louder than pain as seventy years passed. I remember wondering what would happen to me when her heart stopped, dreading how much worse I could hurt. My yearning for death returned, and with it the cold wish that wherever Bella was, whatever had come between us, my time would end when hers did.

It didn't.

And her actual death -

I open my eyes to the place my decisions have brought me:


My room.

This floor.

The sky outside is dark, and the red illusion of life coursing through my veins wants me to believe there is a natural pulse to all things.

The universe.



But it only reminds me that this one endless, arduous second is all that's left.

It's everything now, and I'm alone here on my floor. Just me and time, and death, heavy in my hands.

Nighttime clouds drift. I want away from the smell of decay, but the sky is sinking me.

Losing yourself isn't like breaking. It's not sudden or loud. It's quiet and it's slow and unpunctuated. My days have no end, and my suffering no respite. The darkness that fell over me when her heart stopped beating just keeps falling.

I wish this life-inside-death would take away my discernment. I wish it would fill my ears with deafness and my eyes with heavy black, but my senses are as acute as ever.

Night passes.

I watch the sun emerge briefly from behind clouds, heralding a new day that dawns on everyone but me, and I'm sorry. And I hate that I am. And I do not want this.

I only want to see starless nights now.

I only want to hear broken sounds.

With the blood in my system nearly gone, my limbs give off only the faintest warmth, borrowed from the recently deceased. I can feel my body rejecting what's left of her heat, my own coldness pushing it out.

I'm not lost.

It's so far beyond that.

Struggling in these waves only wastes time. It doesn't matter. I'll drift in this frozen sea until the end of it.

But it's endless.

I will never find a shore.

I close my eyes again, but through the screaming numbness, I hear thoughts that are just as dry as the footsteps carrying them.

Sour and itching to give hurt, she's looking for me, and she's just the one I want to see.

She enters my room without knocking, and I hear her tsk-tsk internally as she sees the body.

I open my eyes, but I don't look at either of them.

Outside my window, morning is breaking.

"Even newborns clean up better than this," Jane admonishes. I can feel her trying to get my attention, the greedy little fingers of her voice seeking to rouse me from my reverie.

I close my eyes again, but I hear tiny heels clack-scratching the marble floor until she's standing between my bed and where I lie. I can smell the fabric of her dress, the black button-up pinafore over cream-white cantu lace.

I hate that I know it. I hate that I know what's underneath it.

She touches the dead girl's arm, and I hear the slide of skin along skin, soft as a lover's sigh.

"Honestly, Edward, what would Carlisle say? He'd be so disappointed."

His name stings.

He didn't come for me.

No one did.

Or maybe they all did.

I'll never know.

Behind closed eyes, I hear Jane brush dark brown hair away from the corpse's face. I imagine her peering in appraisal, and I remember the girl's open, so-eager-to-plead brown eyes.

This one is a dead ringer, Jane thinks. But, something is different.

She inhales a long, deliberate breath.

"Christ, she's rancid with cheap perfume and desperation, and – wait..."

No way, she thinks.

"You didn't," she coos quietly.

Sitting on my bed, she drops her Volturi cape as if I've invited her to stay. I hear the slip of her immodest hand under the girl's simple brown tweed skirt and I roll through the vague impulse to vomit.

I can't move.

I'm paralyzed, buried to the floor as though it was the limit of pain, the lowest place I could fall.

It isn't.

I open my eyes to soft, slick sounds, and look toward my bed to find Jane's delicate silhouette. Lack-of-light black illuminates fine gestures in a cruel face. Her shadow's movements are gentle, but cold hands perform colder deeds. She gasps, and the bitterness behind her eyes is steel inside a shell-pale jaw.

"Jesus," she sneers. "You're even more psychotic than I thought."

Unmoved and unmoving, I just blink.

"Aro might afford you this peculiar little habit of yours, Edward, but everyone knows it's unnatural," she continues, standing. "Disgusting," she spits, wiping her fingers on the girl's skirt. "You get her all hot and then kill her? Honestly, what kind of a beast fucks his food?"

"I didn't," I speak for the first time in days without knowing why I'm bothering to. I can't remember the last time I did, or how many days it's been.

Jane scoffs, rolling her eyes as she trails her index fingertip over the girl's knees. They're scuffed and scratched from where she fell over her own two feet on our way up here, too clumsy for her own good. Her taste was all wrong, but that didn't stop me from indulging in confused little cries and the aching thirst that never leaves me. I took from both her knees. And her left wrist.

Pitseleh, I remember now.

That was her name.

"Like the Elliott Smith song," she'd said with a shy smile.

"No," Jane says, tugging me back to the endless present. "You didn't, but you thought about it."

Behind closed lips, I close my teeth.

I don't want what she said to be true, but it is. I thought about it. I could have done it. I wanted Pitseleh because she reminded me so much of the closest thing to God, but she knew what this place was. Her pleas were too familiar for comfort. She wanted to be like this, and I just wanted to feel anything but lost, just for a moment.

Just to spite the little doll girl mocking me now.

This is what eternity holds for me. This is what I've become. I traded a soul that sang just for me, for girls named after songs I don't even know.

"How could you not, though?" Jane walks from the side of my bed to the head of it, studying what's left of Pitseleh with disdain. "Same dark hair, same insipid, naïve eyes - I bet she blushed when you looked at her, didn't she?"

She did.

It was unbearably endearing.

"I bet she blushed..." Jane pauses, pretending to be pensive as she stares at the dead thing on my bed. "All the way down," she finishes softly, a simper playing on perpetually petal-pink lips.

I close my eyes, drifting in the freezing waves of forever without love.

"But," the clipped little word and the crumpled thunk of the body of a girl who looked like Bella hitting my floor startles my lids up. "You'll never know now, will you?" Placing a black mary jane on the corpse's shoulder, she kicks it across my room. It hits my door with another crumpled sound, and she follows it over.

When she leaves my line of vision, my consciousness swims. For a moment, I can't remember why I wanted to see her. I'm cold. And I just want everything to be over.

Opening my door, she pushes the body out into the hall like litter and closes us back inside, alone.

The waves I'm permanently lost in seem to warm around me, and I know it's an illusion. I know it isn't real, but it's familiar, and I think maybe this is why I wanted to see Jane.

Her laugh, sardonic and shallow and sickeningly sweet turns my head in her direction as she steps toward me.

"Lucky for her though, I suppose," she says, her stride casual. "You probably don't even remember how to move."

I look from her to my ceiling.

It's been weeks, maybe longer, but she knows better.

She knows better than anyone.

My stomach knots. The blood that's left in my limbs screeches, and time stretches mercilessly out around me. Purposeful footsteps cross my floor, and Jane bends to bring smooth lips the barest inch from mine.

"I'm growing tired of you and these stupid lookalikes," she seethes, her lilting voice corrosive as bleach while her pupils contract and expand almost coquettishly wider within blood red irises.

My teeth tighten with anticipation while I wait for her anger to turn into a screaming arrow of pain in my chest. I want it. There's no place I can go to get out from under the too patient weight of eternity. The gouge of my longing will never heal. The only thing that even begins to help is going into it.

She wants to, too.

I know she does.

I'm the only one who isn't afraid of her.

Jane's too happy to oblige, sadistic pleasure making venom pool under her tongue at just the thought of hurting me. It's what we do. Pain is the only cure for pain. It's temporary, nothing more than a fleeting distraction, but the perfect, vicious suffering she carries provides a threadbare sort of respite from lightless, smothering eternity.

I'm lost inside and out.

I'm broken, just like Aro wanted me to be.

I'm bound, soulless and without even death to look forward to – but – her pain, the rhythm of finding something else to feel and not feel, is the closest thing to relief I'll ever have.

When they first pulled me from the dark, even starved, I was near catatonic. Free of imprisonment, I was entombed in malaise that nothing could shake.

Except her.

Disdainfully vexed with the habits I developed around feeding and tired of the unlimited lament that followed each time, Jane had enough of my silent indifference after the first year. She entered my room without invitation, just as she would come to many times after, and the fire she started at the bottom of my backbone flayed clean through me. Just like a blade.

Her hurt is the only thing that cuts through my otherwise permanent mourning.

I need it.

And so does she.

But, she stands instead of giving it to me. She shakes her head, and not a single strand of flaxen blonde falls loose from her perfect chignon. I turn my neck to follow her steps as she returns to my door, dainty looking fingers closing around the handle.

She's going to leave without giving me my medicine.

"Wait." My voice sounds in my ears the same way it feels in my throat, like shreds stretched over splinters.

The perennially little girl with brimstone in her belly and the face of a cherub turns to look upon me, and her right eyebrow is arched in expectation. While she stares me down, I rise. Ageless joints protest against the most I've moved in days. They don't sting from lack of use, but from craving.

My sense of balance is blurry, but my steps are steady, and my sight is as clear as my need.

"Do it," I tell her, watching fingers that only look frail linger on the doorknob behind her.

"Do what?" She inquires, crimson eyes shining with feigned innocence. She tries to contain herself, but jealousy spills poison into her thoughts. Even if I couldn't hear them, I could sense her covetousness as clearly as I sense my own compulsion.

I'm broken, but I'm not going to beg, not when I know she needs this as deeply as I do.

Maybe more even.

For longer at least.

Jane was lost in this sea centuries before I was.

"Don't play coy," I say lowly. "Not here. Not with me."

Letting go of the doorknob, she turns to face me with her whole self. She settles featherlight weight evenly between gracefully shaped hips, trying to appear steadfast, but I can hear the flames climbing under her dress, spreading out from the pit of her little belly.

"Do it," I urge.

"Why?" She asks plainly. "Why should I?"

I swallow bitterness. I don't want to answer. I wish I could reach down inside her and get it myself.

Biting back something between a groan and a growl, I take the first slow step in her direction.

"You want to," I answer just as plainly. "Isn't that enough?"

She squints, contemplating my question while I take another step, followed by another.

I don't want to talk.

I don't want to play.

I just want the pain.

I'll kill her before I beg, but I need her to hurt me. She has oceans of sharpened suffering in her palms, and I want to drown in them.

Jane licks her lips, and I know she can taste how badly I need this. She's just savoring my urgency. She likes to bait and grate my anger almost as much as she likes to watch me lose myself in her gift.

"Get it from your new girlfriend," she snips with a snide smile, nodding back toward the mess she just cleaned up.

My vertebrae tighten and snap. I think fleetingly of violin strings.

Crossing the room in stealthy strides, I lift death-heavy hands and pin Jane by her pretty shoulders to the back of my door, cracking it with my force. She's so short I have to bend my neck just to look down at her. I'd have to bend my knees to be eye-level.

I don't.

Baby-delicate and intentionally difficult, she dips under my arm, brocade and lace rustling as she bends and walks away. I let her go, and her steps are slow, unafraid as she runs a snow-white finger along my desk. I stay facing my door, but I hear keenly enough to see her without having to look.

She sighs, exploring the open pages of Marlowe with condescension.

"You were meant for so much more than this, Edward."

I'm the one rolling my eyes now. She turns a page, and her eyes move over words I can't forget.

Hell hath no limits, nor is circumsrib'd in one self place; but where we are, is hell.

I want to scream until everything around me catches fire.

And where hell is, she continues reading, there must we ever be.

I close my eyes, swallowed up in how all-consumingly I want tiny fingers like blades away from Mephistopheles and all over me.

"With your gifts," Jane says so quietly, brushing her touch from the book's spine to its corner. "Your abilities. Your strength..."

She trails off, and behind lids I don't ever want to open, I hear her shaking her head. My own drops between my shoulders, and I will her to shut up.

Shut up.

Just shut up and fucking do it.

She only uses the tips of her fingers to close the book, and it's not a reckless movement as she pushes it from my desk. The sound of it hitting the floor lifts my eyelids, and I turn to find her standing calmly still, almost angel-faced save for simmering crimson.

"We're immortal, Cullen," she insists, as if there was any way in all of hell I could have forgotten.

When I make no reply, she turns to walk around my room, trailing her eyes and her touch across things I own instead of what I'm made of -





A cruel fucking craving.

I look away.

"Forever is ours," she continues, bored, running her left hand across the edge of my dresser as she passes it. "We can do anything and all you want is to wring your hands and sob over worm's meat."

My chest feels like the city of Pompeii, buried and burning under ancient fury that spills and destroys with sickening slowness. The wrath in me feels barbaric in its purity. I can't deny it and I can't do anything with it.

No amount of vengeance or destruction is going to bring God back.

I can taste Jane's delight in the air.

She wants me angry.

She loves being the sliver under my skin.

I move forward, matching her footfall for footfall.

"That's all she is now, you know." Taunts as soft as the morning breeze drifting through my window float from her lips to my ears as she approaches the antique Steinway across from my bed. "If there's anything left of her at all," she says, looking over her shoulder at me. "It's for the maggots."

The length and weight and pressure of perpetual death punctures my lungs and stretches out so violently between my ribs and up behind my eyes that it's stifling.

"There probably isn't, though," Jane says inconsequentially. "Anything left of her, I mean." She grins as she brushes her touch over black and white keys, hopeful she's getting to me. She is, but I try to hide it, my madness. I don't want to give it to her.

Not until she gives to me.

Impatient with my forced patience, the Botticellian baby doll that holds pain's only painkillers in the palms of her hands places her little middle fingertip just under an a key and stares up into my eyes. When I still make no reply, she pops ivory free of the piano, and when one key doesn't move me, she pops another. And another, as if it matters.

It doesn't.

Except that, with each one, the fire in her little Venus de Milo shaped belly is growing so high it's warming my already too-warm room. This warmth, though, is not an illusion. It's the edges of the anguish she's so easily capable of. It's precious tinder, and it's a mean tease of what I'm dying for.

Pretty pink mouth turned up at the corners and soot-black shadowed eyes locked on mine, Jane pops another key.

"Even her bones are probably just dust now," she pushes all too gently. "But it's not your fault," she mocks, staring up at me. "You can't blame yourself. That's just what old people do."

The wound that is my heart is a struggling, gasping place inside me, made of nightmares and consuming everything.

"They wither and stoop, and start to fade away," she explains.

Like I don't know

"And then they die."

Like I need to be told.

"And then they fade completely away."

Like I didn't feel every ruthlessly relentless second of it.

"They decompose," she says, revulsion slick in her tone. "The most one of a kind gift in existence, and la tua cantante is nothing but dust in the dirt now, just like the rest of her pitiful kind. All because you thought there was some grand point to all this."

Memories fill the pit of my chest with aching my body will never be free of. I'm lost. Imprisoned. Catatonic in panic. I'm locked in the dark, screaming, knowing I've lost love forever. I'm stricken. Starving. Sunk down and stuck on the cold ground of hell of on earth. Paralytic. Hysterical. Senseless and schizophrenic in my total loneness. I want to scream, here and now, but I can't even breathe. I'm crippled and nerveless, embedded in my own mind, delirious and disabled in the night terror inside me that remembers real warmth, real heat -

Jane pops another key. I hear the snap of hammers and dampers giving way, and then her voice before ivory hits hard marble.

"Poor, poor Isa-"

I move faster than she can speak, snatching her stony hand away from the keyboard and gripping her wrist so tightly I feel it start to give under pressure. With love's name unfinished on her lips, she turns her milk-white face up to mine, and the burning in her eyes is ice cold defiance, impudent and juvenile.

"She might be dust in the ground now," I whisper through the urge to rip and tear. "But I'd trade a million years with you for just the chance to die next to that dust."

There's a familiar flash in scarlet irises, and I feel the spark of her fire twine up around the arm that's holding her. It's instinctive and involuntary, a warning from a cornered animal. Like baring teeth or showing claws, this pain is meant to show me she's dangerous, but it's inviting. It's precious kindling that thins what's left of the blood in me and murmurs promises of more.

Arching an eyebrow, amused as she shoots me a flinty look, I twist her closer by her wrist, bearing her between my height and the antique grand. She purses her lips, full and small, smooth and hard, and I bend my knees to lean directly over her.

"Tease," I burn, low and spiteful into her delicately curved ear. "Such a fucking tease."

Jane pushes and pulls, trying to wrench her wrist free, but even barely-fed, I'm stronger, and I'm not letting go.

Not until she's given me every last flame.

Not until she's flickering out and pleading for mercy.

She gives me the softest little lick of fire, and I laugh over her ear, gripping tighter, greedy for more. Scorching pain climbs up my arm, enough for me to push against, but only a hint of the abundance she's capable of.

"Is that supposed to frighten me, baby Jane?" I chide, snatching her other other wrist up and pinning it behind her back, too. "Is that what you want? To scare me off?" I sneer, purposely breathing the scent of Pitseleh's blood across her skin. "For me to go back to my mourning?"

She answers by pushing the stinging in my arm up to my chest and further out. Electric fire courses through my veins, and I welcome it with parted lips. A hard little ache begins in the base of my spine, bringing with it the impulse to fold in on myself to escape the hurt.

I don't.

Lifting from her ear, I find Jane's smile, darkest heart of pink lips revealing smugness and poisonous pleasure.

I smile right back, not letting go, not easing even slightly.

This isn't even half of what she can do.

And I want everything.

She leans forward onto tiptoes held by little black shoes and lacy white socks. Her nose touches my cheek and her teeth are clenched with effort as she sends blades of pain into hands that bind hers.

More, I almost moan. Give me more.

She wasn't right for you, Edward, Jane thinks, high tones floating sickeningly sweetly into my mind. And do you want to know why?

The torture crawling up my spine threatens to buckle it, and my stomach tenses to hold me upright.

She thought you had a soul, her thoughts whisper sinisterly in a place only we can hear. Her smile parts for a breath she doesn't need, but takes because she loves the taste of my misery.

And I know you don't, she whispers coldly, cutting flames up both my arms and wrapping my shoulders in writhing, resplendent fucking fire.

Intuition kicks in, but I don't let go. I shift her under and against me as I bend in on myself for a second, simultaneously racked and ravenous, and I must hurt her, because baby Jane struggles. She's no match, though. The most effective part of her fight is her size. It's curious to tussle and strive with someone so small, but I'm not everyone else. Her childlike features don't put me off. Jane's more than a thousand years old, and she's the only one who can give me anything any kind of worthwhile. Not only am I not afraid of this little darling of a devil, but I need her.

And she needs me.

I'm the only one in all eternity she can't intimidate or unhinge. I alone make little hellfire feel vulnerable, and underneath it all, inside, Jane loves that. She craves vulnerability just like I crave pain.

Pure, white hot flames stretch from her to me so caustically, so fully and forcefully I groan. The inferno in her belly roars. She wants to give me all of it. I know she does.

I want her to.

"Deeper," I coax hatefully, shifting against her, my throat raw and my mind blind to everything but delicious stings and pangs and aches. "Like you mean it, little girl."

Jane sears me from the inside, so effectively the gasping darkness in me claws and caterwauls for compassion.

In my momentary over-indulgence, she frees herself and pushes me away. I almost scream at the loss alone, watching her turn and look over her shoulder at me again like a kitten flickwhipping her fluffed up tail back and forth. She'll give in, but she isn't dug in deep enough yet.

She knows I won't beg, not for what I know she's eager to give me, and I'd never actually kill my only source of assuagement, twisted and deplorable as it may be.

Who would be my quarter then?

How would I ever get off my floor?

But I remind her I could. It's easy to make her remember that I'm the only one anywhere she can't bring to his knees as we push and pull, and twist and tear at each other, breaking the piano bench and the edge of the Steinway itself in the process. Ebony, ivory and antique rosewood crack apart onto cool marble, but we're feet away in an instant, bent so close and seething resentment that burns, but not nearly enough. The need in me for her hurt, her gift, is so harrowingly hurtful in itself that I don't hesitate to inflict it as a means.

Locked in the same position from seconds before, in the corner of my room now, I lean over little Jane with my face in her neck, and grip tiny wrists unflinchingly, bending her pitilessly sharper against me.

I want her to whimper.

I want her to cry.

I want her to beg me, because that's when the fire in her burns strongest – when she's lost to it. Nothing in all of dying deathlessness compares to the pain she gives when she's surrendered, swallowed in sensation, completely susceptible.

She giggles, though.

And it's not the sound I want.

I can't help it; I cut my teeth just under her ear half in an instinctual display of dominance and half just to keep from ripping little arms from their sockets.

With just a taste of borrowed life on my tongue, Jane twists against me, lifting her little knee and pushing it into my stomach. I growl against her skin and bend her violently tighter to myself, squeezing her right wrist enough that she pushes back with flames and blades. The hurt goes so deep and is so welcome, I can't contain the sound that resonates between my mouth and her neck.

Tanked and impetuous in suffering, I bite down harder and curve my fingers tighter to cling to the pain, to keep it wrapped around the brutal little ache in the base of my backbone, but I can't. She's pulling precious fire away from me before I've even begun to have my fill, and it's not to further goad my anger. It's to replace flames with horribly soft, abhorrently open lips on the same spot on my neck. Not biting. But kissing. Stomach-turningly slow and luridly sweet.

It's worse than the fire.

It's so much fucking worse.

Her kiss is an anchor, iron-cold and dragging me down.

I know what it means, what she needs, and I need it, too.

Opening her lips further, she kisses my skin with her tongue and teeth, and wrenching pain wracks my chest. Every muscle contracts to the point of snapping. It rolls down both my arms, and I open my mouth to hers, and I'm lost, underwater. Everything is muted but the feel cool lips and the lush virulence of her kiss, and the ripping hurt stretching through my body, out from where my heart once was. With her hands freed in my bitter revelry, she wraps my hair around her greedy fingers, pulling me eagerly down, and I bend lower, pulling her to the floor with me.

I need to be on the ground for this.

I need to be as low as I can get.

Finely woven brocade gives way to salient need, permanently baby pink knees breaking seams and stitches in a rush to open for me, to allow me between.

Please, I hear her unconscious beg. Please.

Don't stop.

How could I?

I'm falling, weightless through unending, undiluted misery. I'm not mortal, not susceptible to death - I live inside it. There's no salvation from suffering here, but there is the perverse, empty comfort of falling deeper into it.

Jane, and the gift she hurts me with, are the deepest, purest kind of complacency I will ever know.

Love me, the unthinking, all visceral generative force inside her whispers, the voice of her mind so small in her futile request. Love me. Love me.

She knows I can't.

Love is God, and God's been dead for years.

But, I can find deferment of that agony in this interminable girl's agonizing pain, and she can find unrivaled pleasure in the arms of the only man, dead or alive, who isn't afraid of it.

"More," I breathe, lips over hers, and no sooner has the word left mine than a searing spinal headache begins. The crushing sensation in my skull is so sudden and so intense I have to close my eyes tightly to keep from screaming. Even so, a rumble from my chest betrays me. I'm nearly incapacitated by the hundredfold migraine, and if feels so good. It's so vastly beyond good that I grind myself against her, hardness straining to make contact. Jane gasps, and her little hips buck under mine while short, high whimpers echo in the hollow space between us.

Don't stop, please. Don't ever stop, the tiniest little roots of who she is murmur, again and again, shameless want leaking from her mind as she pleads for more.

She closes her eyes, and I can feel her, trying to hide, knowing she can't. Knowing I can hear every thought. Feel every wish.

I push again, slower this time, the entire length of me soaking in her, even through the wool of my pants and the thin cotton left covering her most vulnerable place.

"I can't stop anymore than you can," I snarl, spiteful and breathless with pain. "Give me more."

The littlest immortal moans, and my headache is replaced with innumerable needles of piercing pain, hot and slow moving, and seemingly measureless as they bite at my eyes, my neck, my torso. I howl, lifting one arm instinctively to my chest as though I could shield myself.

As if I want to.

The pain is disorienting, and before I can regain my bearings, the needles feel like they've been electrified. Sizzling numbness races through every nerve, and I grit my teeth against it, but doing so doesn't contain the long curse that escapes my lips as delicate fingers untuck the front of my shirt.

"Fuck," feels like it's torn from chest. It burns in my mouth as the same little fingers unbuckle my belt, and my balance falters. Marble crumbles under the heels of my hands as I fall forward, chasing what I want most.

"Don't stop," I warn, drunk on pain and so overwrought. "Don't fucking stop."

The fire she assures me with burns like violently sharp edges. Like spinning in razors. My voice breaks, and my eyes are wide in pain, but I can't see. Basic intuition is blinding as I push and push against her gift.

Not even dying compares to this. The excruciating change from living to immortal is nothing next to the purity of this hurt.I'm deranged in it for moment, manic and blind and bereft of everything, even time.

And it feels




When I blink, I realize I'm breathing, panting hard and pushing harder against little flames and small palms. Lips parted, I'm burning alive while scarlet eyes watch me so closely, loving my struggle.

In itself, hurting me does nothing for Jane. She revels in seeing me love to feel it, love to fight it. It's my insatiability for her pain that she loves. My simultaneous weakness for and strength over it.

Fire consumes me from the pit of my stomach, between my hips, all the way out.

Marlowe was wrong.

Hell is circumscribed one place, and it's right here, in hands that burn but never warm.

Lifting up, I shift back onto my knees, and it takes my body from her touch. Uncoordinated, instinctual thoughts instantly surround me, echoing and overlapping, flagrant in her desperation.

Come back, she pleads. Come back. Touch me. Feel me. Fuck me. Love me.

Love me.

"Shut up," comes from my throat to my lips like a scratch as I reach between her legs without looking away from her eyes. Unconscious thoughts melt into wordless notes as I take lace-edged white cotton away from her. Lashes flutter and her pout parts, and her legs, their growth frozen too early, don't open wide enough for me to fit without pressing them back for her.

I can hear the fabric of her dress give way as I do. It tears as her little cry of protest resonates both inside and outside my mind. She's so small. It hurts her to be this open, to fit just my hips, but, I know that just because she's hurting, doesn't mean she wants me to stop.

Not even close.

Her mouth opens as I press against her there, hard to so-soft, so-slick skin, graphically bare and barely open, nowhere near enough to accept all of me. I can feel her hardly suppressing the instinct to close her eyes and move closer, to arch into me as I slide along her, and I don't want to find something so like beauty in this, but it's there. I can't deny it. It's so close to elegant, the way she can give and feel pain and pleasure at the same time.

I slide along her again, harder this time, and her slickness kisses the head of me with needy distress.

Fuck me, she thinks.

Do it.

Please, do it.

Her body is without heat, but I can feel little stars of pleasure glowing brighter inside her, concentrated around where I'm sliding. They make the burning echo of need between us is an illusion I can no longer tell from reality.

None of this is real.

But it all is.

Free hands lift to my sides, and her caress is nauseating for the second it lasts before little fingernails dig hard into my skin, the pain ringing through me. But she doesn't get to touch me like that. She never will.

Resting my weight on my knees between hers, I steal both of her hands and pin them down beside her shoulders.

The first little crackle of fear flickers inside her thoughts, and I wish I could fucking devour it.

She's never been vulnerable before me.

Pain Jane, despite her size, has always been feared.

Never loved.

She's falling underneath me, off-balance with the knowledge that I'm not afraid of her, that I'm not her toy to play with, and this is when I push inside, all the way, ungentle as the lightning that she's pulsing down my spine.

She screams, a broken wail like a bird shot out of the sky. Her legs tremble against my hips, and her wrists press desperately up into my hands, struggling, but she doesn't know what she'd do if I freed them.

Dropping my weight onto her, our silent hearts press near but are deaf and dumb. Jane digs her heels into my floor, little shards breaking loose under her shoes as she brings her hips up to me, pulling me deeper, keeping me inside.

I open my eyes.

I want hurt in every possible way.

Jane's eyes are closed tightly, dark pink lips pressing and sliding between sharp teeth in an attempt to contain the sounds of excruciating pleasure. The wrists under my hands twist and push helplessly, and her feet scramble for purchase against broken bits of floor and the ruins of her pinafore. She's seeking leverage to open more for me, to take all and leave nothing. Pulseless, needful, her whole little body shakes with her effort to keep still and hold on.

It won't.

She can't.

But, she's not going anywhere either.

She needs this.

Dropping my right hip, changing the angle and pushing deeper, I'm rewarded with a long, high pitched keen. Her back arches as she strains for more, and I push harder, leaving no space between pain and pleasure.

She won't ever have my love, but my sex is hers.

I don't make it easy, but I give it to her.

As her high wail fades into a low hum, her eyelids flutter open and closed, and she sends a wave of crushing pressure over me. It's like a typhoon tearing my skin from my limbs. It floods and scrapes and digs at my spine while she coos, lifting herself, pressing her soft-black, intricately beribboned bodice into me.

Its smooth velvet texture is not what I want.

Lowering my mouth to her the dip of her neck, I breathe in the scent of her quivering, so-exposed fear until it's coursing straight through me, mixing suffering and desire and the burning need to consume. I close my teeth around the dainty collar of her blouse and tear painstakingly handcrafted lace with irreverent haste. Venom glistens on torn threads as the fabric splits and falls away, revealing small, pale breasts. Tiny pink tips plead for touch, and a burst of flame kisses my chest like a torch burning just below my sternum. My shirt keeps my skin from hers, but I can't help the want to press the flames I feel against her, to share the rough agony that's so much like delicious relief.

I know the pain is an illusion.

I know I can't hurt her that way.

I know, but I'm insensible in it, submerged and burning, and I want to share it with her. I want to pull her into the fire with me. I want all of her pain, and I want to give her all of mine.

Unbound hands have made their way to her mouth. Tightly curved fingers cover lips she can't close, trying to contain the dulcet little notes that coat every too-shallow breath. I let her try to hide for a moment while I shift, still inside, and reach for her ankles one at a time, recklessly pulling shoes and socks from her.

I want her as bare as she feels inside herself.

I want her defenseless on every level, all that she is, naked and accessible.

From the pleading voice of her most basic needs to so-tightly curled little toes, I want every eternally tender part of her as helpless to me as helpless can be.

And so does she.

Through her fear and through the heavy sting of accommodating all of me, all at once, the little stars inside her shine. They're so incandescent I see them around the edges of my vision just as clearly as I feel them, kissing my body, worshipping me the only way stars can – by burning brighter. Hotter. Stronger.

"More," I groan, pushing impatiently deeper. "Give me more."

She turns her head reflexively, like she wants away even as little stars tingle and burn, and the innermost parts of her thank me and praise me, and beg me to keep going. My movement forces the start of a scream from her chest, and she presses her hands tightly over her mouth to contain it.

I push them away.

That's my scream.

And I want it just as exposed to me as every other part of her.

Pinning her wrists beside her shoulders once more, I come down on top of her again and fill her so roughly she can't help crying out. It cuts through my eardrums the same time precious flames as sharp as shards surround me on all sides.

I scream with her.

I push all the way into pain's only cure and dig through ultraviolent levels of radiation to get deeper. The oceans I'm after are buried so much deeper than this.

Her eyes open, and she lifts her whole self reflexively when I let go of her wrists. She holds onto my neck, my shoulders, my shirt, anywhere her fingers can while I keep my eyes on hers and move her how I need her. Pressing my hands into the backs of her knees, I push shaking legs up until her chin shivers and her lids squeeze shut. I want to bring them to my shoulders, but she shakes her head as I move to do so.

Not ready.

Not yet.

Groaning in the obvious, all-encompassing pleasure of pain and the gluttonous ache for more, I drop her knees to the crooks of my elbows instead, flexing the meager bit of mercy and patience I can still reach.

It makes her melt, like a fucking snowflake on my tongue.

Not bothering to pull her hands from me, enduring her touch like another layer of flames to get to what I need, I press closer, covering her completely. The tips of her breasts brush against my chest through my shirt, and I can feel her renaissance reminiscent belly trembling under my own with inability to catch a single breath. Staggeringly tight starlight cradles and clings smolderingly-slick to me with every push, and I press my forehead to hers.

Not to endear.

Not because I love her.

But because I know what she needs and how.

Because total, inescapable vulnerability is the key to the floodgates of her gift.

I let her hold onto me and I make myself fit all the way inside and against her sex because rending little Jane so wholly and so undeniably open is what she needs to come.

With my nose against her cheek and my parted lips right over her cupid's bow, I move in deep, unforgiving strokes that I know are just as irresistible as they are overwhelming.

I know, because I feel it, too.

There, her conscious and unconscious thoughts cry in bitterly blissful harmony. There, please. Fuck me. Fuck me. Love me. Fuck me. Please. Please...

"I told you," I growl, low and burning. "To shut. The fuck. Up."

She cries out loud, fervently afraid and twice as desperate, and I want to swim in the sounds she makes.

Closing my eyes, I push harder against delicate hips and give little stars no choice but to swell into little supernovas for me.

If she had a heart, it would fly.

If I had blood, it would boil.

Tremendously euphoric burning starts where we're deepest connected and washes over me in infinite simmering waves as it spreads all throughout her little limbs, surrendering the only thing that matters at all anymore, completely to my control.

She comes, and as she does her gift flows freely from her, and covered in it, I feel free, too.

This -

This is as low as I can get.

This is as far as I can fall.

And in this moment, in this place, I'm without want to ever get up again.

But I do, because this is only the start.

Rocking her through pleasure that keeps me basking in widespread heat waves, I'm closer to alive than I can remember ever feeling. I feel more than alive with her underneath me like this, taking and giving and glowing, and I want more, so much more.

Leaning up through the depths and throes of abandon, I take my gift giver's fingers from my hair and shift her as she blinks her eyes open.

"Don't," I warn lowly, my lips right against the shell of her ear as she struggles in the new position, bare belly and breasts pressed flush against my floor. "Don't get shy on me now, little girl."

With a quiet whimper of surprise, she's compliant underneath me, and I push her knees apart with my own, belt and black wool open and twisted around my legs.

She's unsteady like this, uneasy with the sensation of being so exposed and the knowledge that she's wholly helpless, trapped between the weight of me and cold marble. Before her thoughts can settle, I enter her again without tenderness, burying myself until she shakes.

Jane's open mouth gulps a breath just to cry out in pleasure, and I rock my hips harder against her. I drop my weight to one elbow so that I can press her completely to the floor, forcing all the unnecessary air from her lungs in an inarticulate moan.

Lowering my mouth to her ear again, I whisper just as scorching waves of pain lap down my back and around my abdomen.

"I know your secret, little harmer."

Slicing pain crawls up my back, and when it reaches my neck, I groan lowly and roll slowly out of her, just to drive back in harder. I push with all my strength just to make sure she feels everything.

She strains to keep her mind blank as I slide back out again and pound into her once more, but I feel her whole body tighten reflexively with each digging thrust. She tilts her hips up, craving more of me, delirious for me to keep moving, keep fucking. She wants to just feel my cock.

I don't think she's listening.

Abruptly, I pull myself out and change my hold on her. She gasps like she can't breathe, as if she needs to.

Maybe she does.

With one hand pinning undulating little hips down, I wrap my other around the perfectly tight little chignon bun that's keeping honey-blonde softness piled up. I press her abalone-white cheek into my floor, and she gasps again, deeper.

I clench my fingers into a fist.

"Are you listening, pain baby?"

I'm listening, she thinks, her thoughts as small and low as her coal black lashes. I'm listening, please.

Pushing slowly forward, I make her ache with every inch. She moans as slowly as I move, and my spine feels like an open wound. Like a blade. Like a fucking staff of flame, and I can't help but stiffen straighter. Relying on the hand holding her hip, I use it to drag her back against me, guiding her all the way to myself until I'm fully enclosed in her eager, tremor-wracked little body.

I grin.

It's all air, all breath, but I laugh.

I love this, her trembling surrender, her splayed open truth. I love it the same way she loves flirting with my anger and watching me struggle.

I push forward aggressively, overfilling her, making her take and hold more than she's able, making her hurt.

She keens in turn, feebly endeavoring to open wider, arch higher, take more, and gives me thousands of little needles to push against.

Pressing her face harder into marble, I don't lower myself to whisper this time.

"You don't like hurting me nearly as much as you like me hurting you, do you, little agony?"

Doe-wide red eyes fly open and dart to focus on me, but she can't. I keep her head steady as I fill her in the most raw, most basic, most ancient way, and she fights to draw a breath deeper through pushed open lips.

She can't.

She wants to speak. I can hear her trying to gather thoughts into speakable words, but all that comes out is a shaky, uneven sound, broken somewhere between a scream and a moan.

She's close again.

She's so close.

I can feel it in the warmth that's spreading out from the pit of my stomach, the stringently tense torture shrieking through my veins like disease.

Yes, she thinks. Yes, please. Hurt me. Please, don't stop hurting me, please.

Underneath me, helpless and bare, and more than full, she blooms. Forceful pleasure surges through her, and her muscles submit. She relaxes and floats, resupine and resplendent as glowing stars grow into blinding brightness. Biting pain and suffusing pleasure illuminate every sensation, licking at me in little ripples that swell and swim and sing through every part of me.

I sink all the way forward, spreading her knees further with my own, pushing myself deeper while she's still coming, still flooding me with lush convulsions.

Above her like this, I'm out from under time, and it's far from the best thing in the world, but it is the greatest thing that's left for me. And when she comes, when she free-falls around me, the flimsy, barely determinate line between euphoria and anguish disintegrates.

I want to keep her just like this, forever.

I want to keep her falling and keep falling deeper into her until the sun burns out and the stars all fall.

Just like this, she's the all-encompassing night that I long for.

She's the broken sounds that are all I want to hear.

Pulling blonde hastily loose from her bun only to bind it in my fist, I twist her head back tightly, steeply and sharply so that her chin, baby-softly shaped as it is, digs into marble.

She pants. She shakes. She digs her fingers into my floor to hold on, and she tries so beautifully fucking hard to writhe for more.


More, more.

Give me more.

She can't get enough anymore than I can.

Rocking back, taunting her with shallowly slow strokes, I drop my mouth to her defenseless ear again.

"Prim, untouchable little Pain Jane," I dig, feeling the fire inside her spread and stretch. "Pretty little crown jewel of the Volturi Guard, dreaded and reviled the world over." I laugh as my voice boils low down into the forced open core of her. "Likes to be spread open and fucked facedown like an animal."

Flames spark wide inside her and she jerks, scrambling for something, anything.


"Ah, ah," I admonish, holding her easily down. "You don't have to fight for it, little one. I know what you need. I see you."

Clenching her lids shut, she pulls under my hands, trying to curl up. I pull her to myself in turn, spreading her inescapably wide. Smiling over her face, I trace the corner of her closed eye with my nose and twist my grip on soft blonde until she winces in blinding, frightening ecstasy.

"I still see you," I whisper. "I feel you, little one, and you know what?"

Tightly closed lids don't lift, but her breathing evens a little.

She's listening.

I grin higher.

"You can try to hide and you can try to be discrete, but everyone knows," I tell her, pushing my strokes deeper, making her eyes open. "Everyone knows exactly how cold, cutthroat little Jane likes to be fucked."

Little stars sparkle burning hot, and little knees strain to spread wider. Her whole body's made of quaking, quavering pleading, but I want her to really beg. I want the princess of perdition to remember who's behind her, and mind her manners.

"Like some wild thing in heat," I whisper, pressing all the way inside and holding still, letting her feel how much she can take.

"Like a fiend," I push, reeling inside while grateful little shudders struggle to hold onto my cock, to not ever let me ease back.

"Like a helpless," I burn against her cheek. "Heartless," I seethe, meeting her pain for wonderful, throbbing fucking pain. "Desperate little whore."

I pour the last three words into her ear like feverish blood, burning and sordid, and I feel them spread throughout her before they concentrate right where all her little stars are. I push so hard, so resistlessly completely into her that she screams again, and soft black lashes clench tighter closed.

She's right where she needs to be, exactly where I want her.

"Open," I whisper, my voice broken and empty. "Open all the way up for me, little heartless."

Red irises are swimming with black when she does as I ask. She's cornered again, cowering inside herself, but fully aware she can't hide. She's vibrating with fear and yearning, made of adrenaline so cogent I can taste it. Involuntary little flames flow from every part of her, but they're too soft to even hurt. Too lush. Too sweet. They feel so much more like tingling warm adoration than pain, and it's so disorienting.

Just as helplessly needy to fuck as she is to be fucked, just as sore to come as she is desperate for me to make her, I drive into her sex with equal instinct to feed both our fires.

I make her fall, and I chase her all the way down.

I turn my gift giver into her gift, and keep us drowned and burning just like this for hours.

And hours.

Somewhere in my mind, I know the sun outside my window sets and rises again, but time doesn't touch me here. There's no room for it inside or anywhere around me. Eternity's only consolation covers me in torrents of pain, and I cover her with crushing strokes. Leaving no room for air or thought, I rock tirelessly, pushing her body to its absolute limit and pounding harder, further.

I want her sore from taking hurt and worn out from giving it to me.

I want her exhausted from it.

Because only when she is, will I be.

As the sun starts to set again, little hips shake with weakness as she strains to keep lifting them. Wildfire that's consumed all that it can is a low glow now, and the littlest, deepest voice inside her is swallowing, trying so hard to make words.

Please, it murmurs as Jane pants, languidly drunk and undone as a ribbon under me. Please, Edward. Please.

I hear her.

But, this place, this feeling, these depths are my only solace. My only assuagement from the burden of everlasting lovelessness. My only comfort in the gasping, struggling place I can never escape.

So when she can take no more on her belly, instead of stopping, I shift us again.

Loosing soft hair from my fist, I let it come down. The remains of her bun are twisted, crushed waves of blonde around her shoulders now. She wavers in my ease, and I let go of her just long enough to pull my shirt quickly away, giving her my skin for hers. Taking hold of her laid slack left arm, I wrap my right around her naked, quavering belly and move her to my lap as I sit up. When I fit myself inside her once more, even slowly, her heavy lids lift wider at new depths.

Her red is all gone. She shows me empty, opaque black.

Little lashes can't stay lifted, though.

She's weak.

Our kind doesn't tire from physical overexertion, but Jane is spent in a different way. Even her thoughts are frail now, delicately small whimpers like a sleeping child mumbling through bad dreams. She leans her weight against me, and I wrap my right arm close around her waist.

Hold me, she hums soundlessly, and I pull her closer. Don't let go yet.

"Shh," I murmur. "Quiet now," and I lift her slowly from my lap. Sliding her back down easily, I let her rest all of her weight, all of her burden against me as I rock.

Don't stop, she pleads so quietly.

I shake my head, even though she can't see me.

"I'm not," I whisper against her shoulder, brushing blonde away to touch my lips to her skin, to talk right to her deepest fears.

A tiny cry falls from her mouth to my chest as I lift her once more and bring her back down to where I'm still so hard, slower. So slowly.

Don't let me go, she prays, breathless.

"I've got you," I assure her, shaking my head again. Closing my eyes, I bring her more near with my right arm, tracing and caressing every tender dip and trembling curve of her with open hands.

I still feel her shiver around me as I push and slide inside so-soft sex, finding an easy, shallow rhythm that makes her legs tremble around me while I drink the last dregs of immaculate hurt from the deepest marrow of her being.

Morning sunlight warms my bare shoulders, a sweet kiss of heat compared to the still-sore, still-stinging pain that digs through me with every slow push. It's hollowing me out. I've burned precious little stars down to their quicks, and this is what's left.

Blades and flames and torrents of pain are all gone.

All that's here now is dulled down, bone deep aching.

I shift and move slowly within her, fragments of the purposeful motions that brought us here. It's a hazy, lingering reflection of the frenzied, malicious way I touched her before, a faded echo of taking and giving and reveling in the fullness of being completely and irrevocably lost.

That's all we are.

Lost and hopeless, floating the frozen sea of time with no destination.

No design.

Nothing we do matters, because we don't have souls to save.

All we have is this, clinging to each other, listening for echoes of our pain inside soundless chests.

It hurts, and while we rock in slowly shallow strokes, I bend my neck, bringing my face to the only one anywhere who means anything to me now.

Her kiss isn't an anchor this time, it's a dovetail, and it splits what's left of my ruins into total wreckage.

Wrapping both arms all the way around her, bending my knees to make her as open and as close as her body can be without breaking her completely, I kiss her. Deep and deeper, I let hurt take the brutally hard ache at the base of my spine all the way apart.

Soft little vulnerability rocks helplessly against me as my body pulses and shakes with cherished relief. I cling to her as I fall against the closest thing I'll ever find to a shore, and fill her with physical sentiment I've never given anyone else.

I want to fall for hours, to come for days like she did, but it's over all too soon. And they days that we have spent are nothing but a drop in this frozen ocean.

We can find moments of respite, when we dig deep enough, but eternity is implacable, endless, and infinitely more insatiable than either of us could ever be. No momentary gift of physical pain or pleasure can change that.

Weakened and worn as I know she is, Jane doesn't cling as I let the tension out of my arms. She falls away easily, and a wholly different kind of hurt takes her place with me.

It's cold, and I know she's still near, still in my room, but the second she's away from me, I'm all alone again. I'm back on my back on my broken floor, staring at my ceiling while time resumes bearing down on the gasping, struggling place inside me.

I'm dazed as I refasten my pants and belt. I'm a kind of satisfied, but more guilty. More numb.

I'm not lost.

I know who I am.

And I hate myself.

The ache at the base of my backbone is gone, but the soreness in my chest could care less. It stretches and rips its way back open, and I close my eyes.

I intend to think of love as I do so, but in the dark behind my lids countless voices inundate my concentration.

There's a tour group on the main floor, crowding my mind with prosaic ignorance and irritating drivel, while thoughts from my own kind drift in and out, too, equally as inane.

Sulpicia's annoyance at Aro's taste.

Demetri's impatience with the charade.

Heidi's shameless lust for hot blooded hands and hard-beating hearts.

My stomach rolls.

Closing my eyes tighter, I try to ignore them all and seek the depths of my regret.

But a closer thought comes through before I can.

Not from within my own room, but outside my door, down the hall.


What a waste, his thoughts sneer. Sick fucking whore -

And even though the same word left my own lips, about the same little immortal just a short time, the sight of her in his mind, his imagined likeness of her spread wide and crying out for him lifts my lids and burns my nerves.

I realize as I turn my head that Jane's keeping her thoughts silent. She's covered herself in her cape, and her back is turned to me as she bends it to collect little socks and shoes, and the pieces of her dress. Whether it's out of fear or shame or just the simple want to be alone, she's hiding from me. And I know she's not, but something about all of it makes me remember her vulnerability.

She could break Felix like a flower stem.

She'd never bend to him.

There's a tightness in my chest, and it doesn't feel like protectiveness, and I know it isn't love. I let my body be fooled and she lets hers be filled, but I know it isn't love that brings us together or makes me sit up here and now.

It isn't love that makes me stand and step, and reach for her wrist, and turn her to face me.

Waves of blonde frame her cherub face under her black velvet hood while blacker eyes meet mine, confused, defensive, and soft around the edges with a shyness she'll never, ever admit to.

Glancing to my door behind her, then around my room, I take her things from her hands and let them fall. I undo her cape then, and bend my knees to find her eyes and wrap my arm around her waist again. I slide my right hand along her neck at the same time, palming my mark on her skin and curving my fingers back into her hair as I pick her up.

Eye-level, pressed naked skin to skin again, her thoughts are no longer silent, and the aching in my chest writhes.

Mine, her unthinking, all visceral instincts whisper as I carry her to the same spot I was lying in when she arrived, just under my window.

I make no reply to the voice inside her, but the same single syllable little word throbs where my heart should beat.

Lying on my back once more, I turn her in my arms and bring her down on top of me.

Not to fuck with.

Not to dote on.

But to brace and bear her against all my aching self instead of time.

No part of her, conscious or unconscious asks me to love her as she settles down on me, curling her whole small self on my stomach and chest to stare out the same window, at the same sun that will continue to rise and fall, and the same colors that still don't matter.

Wrapped around her, I don't close my eyes even when darkness falls.

I don't love Jane.

She isn't love to me.

But she is mine.

Her little stars belong in my endless night.