a/n: As I was trying to write my Smut Monday contribution over Christmas break, and decided on Esme/Carlisle smut, Esme settled down in my brain and wouldn't leave. So I wrote a short one-shot, thinking I'd exorcise her that way. I was mistaken. It has taken four one-shots; snapshots of Esme's life before Twilight.

All four parts are already written, so there won't be much wait between. Yes, I'm still working on My Love Shall Ever Live Young, no worries.

THANK YOU to Pogurl for the beta-work and suggestions and to edwardzukorocks/angel for the input and encouragement. You two are awesome.

As ever, if it's copyrighted by someone already then it does not belong to me. Twilight and the Twilight characters belong to Stephanie Meyer and Little, Brown.

And so, I present to you part one of Snapshots.

Sister, Mother

It is one of the few clear memories of my life as a human. Most memories are fuzzy at the edges and dim in content. Reflections and shadows rather than clear recollections. My parents are faces in silhouette, voices with no anchor. I only know what they looked like because of a family photograph Carlisle brought me from my parent's home after he changed me. My husband is unfortunately clear; it pains me that the strong memories of his abuse stay while the face of my mother faded with the fire of transformation.

Mary, though, I remember with crystal clarity. It's strange what your brain latches on to and holds.

At thirteen, I watched my neighbor, Mary, take care of her little brother, who was three years younger than I. Mary was my role model, one of the friends I had that my father approved of whole-heartedly. She was an honest, genuine girl who grew too old to play in the dirt with me and the boys and then too old to play dolls and house with me (though in truth, those games were always her idea; my preference was to be outside with the boys). Seventeen, Mary had been spending more and more time with her mother and aunts, embroidering linens, piecing quilts, and trimming aprons to fill her hope chest.

Mary was a proper young woman.

Mother said that Mary was so proper because she had to help her mother raise her five younger brothers. This made no sense to me, as I was regularly used by my aunts and uncles to care for my younger cousins, all who lived fairly close by. I was definitely not proper. Father made note of that regularly.

I watched Mary console her brother Peter, wiping the angry tears from his cheeks, patting his head in a comforting manner, and I had a flash of insight: Mary was as much Peter's mother as their actual mother. Moreso, perhaps. It was Mary that Peter ran to when their brothers ganged up on him, Mary that Peter sought out for advice on what to give the little girl he had a crush on, Mary who mediated the many fights her brothers had.

I watched Mary and Peter, uncomfortable with such tenderness. My impulse was to run off and shove their brother, Matthew, the reason Peter was crying, into the mud pit that'd formed under the pines after yesterday's rain.

No, definitely not proper.

I shifted my weight from foot to foot. "Peter, if you want, I'll go push Matthew-"

"Esme," Mary interrupted, "come sit with us. Let Will and Wes take care of Matthew. What Peter needs now is sisters. He has plenty of brothers."

It sounded like the kind of thing my mother would say.

Grudgingly, I sat down with the eldest and youngest of the Smythe clan and put my head on Peter's lap and my arms around his small frame. I felt his still small hands petting my hair and then felt his breathing begin to calm.

"You see, Esme, this is what sisters can do. Women. Calm and soothe and make right. Vengeance is for men."

And an idea flickered in my thirteen year-old mind. I understood that I didn't have to actually be a mother to offer the comfort and safety a mother should offer.

After that, my role with my younger cousins changed. I still romped in the woods and fields with them, but it was me, not our mothers and aunts, that they ran to for comfort and hugs and love. I dispensed advice. I dressed scraped knees and mediated fights (though I still occasionally took retribution into my own hands).

And so when I woke up from the torturous fire and met Carlisle and Edward as a vampire, there was no part of me that balked at calling Edward "brother." He was younger than I in absolute and in physical years. Adopting him as the sibling I'd never had was easy. I had learned many years before that all little brothers needed sisters to understand them as perhaps mothers cannot, that there is a good deal of mothering involved in being a good older sister.

Because of Mary, I know this. And she is among the clearest of my human memories.

When Edward returned to us, eyes red and full of remorse, I thought of Mary, how she sat with Peter and soothed his hurt. The image flashed into my my mind and Edward frowned at me.

"This isn't a skinned knee or wounded feelings, Esme. I'm not your son, and I'm not a small child to coddle. I killed people. Many people. I thought I was God."

His face was stony and smooth and I could see the rage and regret and guilt clawing at his soul. His words said "stay away," his posture said "I hate myself," and his face said "I am not worthy of your love, your compassion, your open arms."

I knew the look on his face better than I knew almost anything; it was the same expression I wore for the years I was married as a human, the expression I wore for some time after Carlisle changed me.

I knew that look, and I grew past it. Edward could, too, if he would allow it.

"I'm always here for you Edward." My brother, the man I wish my son could've grown into. I am not your mother, I am not Elizabeth. This is true. But I am your sister. Fate and love and Carlisle made us siblings. My arms are always open, should you need them. You are worthy. We both are.

His stone face rippled and he turned on his heel, walking into another room. But I knew he heard me, and he knew I was there.

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