to sin, and salvation
He is sixteen, and war is in the air. The newspapers are full of ads for Liberty Loans and food conservation tips, pictures of men and women all cheerfully doing their part. Gone are the days of hesitancy and isolation – the American war machine is at full power, sending soldiers into the brink, and he is sixteen and anxious to do his part.
There are also those pages dedicated solely to motion pictures, which are new and extraordinary. They tell stories of heroes, brave men and women in the Wild West, revolutionary France, and even the present day, saving the world from the Huns. The stories of bravery excite him, make him wish he was older and better able to fight the war to end all wars.
But is not only the stories in the moving pictures which make his blood race, but the women: the movie stars with their long necks and heavy eyes and the way they stare at their leading men like they are sin and salvation all at once.
He goes once a week with his friends from school, and they crouch down in their seats during the matinee, captivated by Mary Pickford's smile. There are chorus girls in short skirts and dresses that skim their décolletage and he feels his heart speed up when he thinks of the places on a woman's body that have been covered for so long and which are now, slowly, being revealed.
One day, there is a photo of a woman in the newspaper, proclaiming her to have the most beautiful back in the world and, eyes wide, he traces the curve of her neck down her spine and thinks that – for once – the papers aren't lying. That death and destruction are not common day occurrences, that there is nothing more than the curve of a woman's waist, the planes of her skin, the way she smiles.
He is sixteen and wishes he were so much older.
He is seventeen and dying.
He can feel it in the rasping breathes he draws, the cough that shakes his body, the constant chill even though the nurses say he is so so hot. He can feel it when the doctor's hand burns him, chills him, confuses him.
His parents, they say, are dead.
He will die here, he knows. He will die here alone, never having kisses a woman and never having tasted her skin and never having done i anything /i worth doing in this world except perfecting his scales on the piano.
There is pain, and there is burning, and a voice whispering I'm sorry I'm so very sorry like they did this, whatever this is.
He has never done anything worth doing in this world and he feels every wasted minute at its end.
He is seventeen and will be seventeen forever.
The harsh realities of this existence strike him as an even exchange for what everyone always dreams of – immortality. The chance to do it over again, to make up for every wasted minute.
Of course, that only occurs to him after the burning, the violent transformation, the bloodlust which is only sated by his first kill (a stray dog, how sad). After Carlisle – his new father, his new teacher – tells him about what he is, what he will be, how he should live. He does not find much objectionable with this, but Carlisle tells him he is too young to understand.
"She wanted me to save you," he says, "but I'm not sure I did." His English accent is so foreign that his mother's dying words bring little comfort.
They leave the city and head to Montana, because Carlisle says it will be better. It is November and bitter cold, the wind whipping across the plains but he can feel nothing except the power of nature. He is strong enough to not be bowed down and this new strength, like everything else, is as frightening as it is awe-inspiring.
They are as far from civilization as possible, heading further north, but news still reaches them in the form of a broadsheet abandoned and blown across the plains. The war is over, an Armistice has been signed. There is no sense of triumph or happiness for either of them.
"I've seen many wars," Carlisle says, "and I expect I'll see many more."
He does not ask, but wonders. There will be time for stories later – they have forever, after all.
Her hands travel along Carlisle's back, fingers playing with the collar of his shirt, and the older man smiles.
Edward has never seen intimacy like this, the way that Esme presses closer to Carlisle, the way they are always touching, always smiling, always communicating in ways that go beyond mere words (he's long since learned to block out any of their thoughts, and they have gotten careful about hiding them when he's around). His parents never touched like that, never looked at each other with such passion as his two surrogate parents, and it's new and intriguing to him.
He's never felt intimacy, either - too young to experience much when he was human, too uncertain now that he's not – and it's a dull ache, a rare pain where his heart should beat when he sees them together.
It's more than lost experiences that unsettles him these days. There are gnawing feelings that are pushed back, fears and anxieties and anger and rage that come out only in the cold dark hours of the night. It's everything at once, the ability to feel so much but not feel enough.
In the distance, Esme whispers something in Carlisle's ear. The man smiles again.
He takes another breath of the air he does not need, and prepares to spend yet another twilight alone.
Pressed inbetween the pages of his Holy Bible is a newspaper clipping of some random actress with a pretty face wearing a dress that slips off her shoulders and falls low on her back. He is intoxicated by the curve of her neck and the angles of her lips and his fingers itch to trace the contours of her spine. Instead, they curl into a fist against his leg.
Far from the others for the time being, it is the closest he comes to company, but in the morning light is he always so very cold.
He's come to realize being alone is not so bad when Carlisle brings them Rosalie.
She is stubborn and haughty and threatens his sanity with each minute they spend together. She is beautiful, far more beautiful than anyone woman he's ever met, but that beauty is tempered by her dark moods and even darker thoughts. She's unhappy at her lot, further unhappy by whatever notion (misconstrued, of course) that she is meant to be for Edward. She blames him for her transformation and holds him accountable for everything, even though he did not want this and does not want her.
The loneliness that plagued him throughout his brief rebellion has not returned since his reunion with Carlisle and Esme, and Rosalie's indignant presence makes him grateful to be solitary.
"It will get better," Carlisle tells him one evening, when the two women are out hunting.
"It doesn't matter," Edward responds with a small smile. "I prefer brunettes."
When Emmett joins them, it is almost a relief. By then, there is no pain where his heart should be at all.
Sometimes, he watches lovers. He is not ashamed of this voyeuristic tendency, and considers it the natural extension of his gift, the byproduct of this bitter curse.
It takes all of his strength to listen to the whispered words, to hear their thoughts, to watch bodies moving in time towards their own crescendo. Hearts pound, blood rushes through veins, pupils dilate, and he can hear every euphoric note more clearly with each envious second.
He knows he should feel something like embarrassment at witnessing this very private moment, but he cannot. There are far too many black marks on his soulless flesh for this to do him any more harm.
And so, he watches. And listens. And feels something other than the cold.
He's long accepted this soulless existence, but there are some things he wishes he could accept, things he's sure he never will.
It is amazing to him, the way Bella shudders when he touches her. Her heart speeds up and slows down, and her breath comes in shallow pants at the slightly brush of his hand on her face, his lips against her collarbone. It is amazing that she comes apart so easily at his fingertips.
For all the passionate glances and the heated thoughts, he knows he has no experience, which decreases his ability to satisfy but Bella unravels at the slightest glance, blushes scarlet and moans when he finally kisses her, unravels him with her shaky hands and warm lips. He never though he'd be good at any of this but she strokes his confidence, presses her hips against his and while he won't indulge her whims, the feeling of being needed like this is enough.
Author's Note: None of this is mine, all belongs to Stephanie Meyer - I just sorta wanted to play with it for a bit. Written purely because mixing my own historical interests with Edward Cullen was too good to be true - and the perfect way to relax :)