-:- The Darkest Hour is Just Before the Dawn -:-
2016 -:- Present Day
Edward Cullen!" Angela Weber said in complete surprise.
I was snapped back to the present by the sound of her voice, and I watched the kids swivel their heads back and forth between the two of us in awe. Their thoughts came rushing in, and I tried to focus and single them out, some had heard of the 'infamous Cullens,' whatever that meant.
"Class, I think it's time for an early lunch, what do you say?"
"Yes!" they all screamed in unison jumping up from their seats, the odd exchange between their teacher and the strange man at the back of the room easily forgotten. They ran out of the room with muttered greetings of "Hey, Chief," to Charlie, who in turn warned them to stay out of trouble.
"Hello, Mrs. Cheney. How are you feeling today?" Charlie addressed her.
"I may be married, but I'm not old! I told you to stop calling me that, Chief." She laughed, placing a hand on top of her protruding belly, rubbing it unconsciously. "I'm about to burst here, can't wait for this to be over."
"I'll stop calling you ol' lady Cheney when you start calling me Charlie, deal?"
I listened to the baby's heartbeat, as did Carlisle, while Charlie and Angela continued to banter. It was strong and healthy, and Carlisle debated how far along she was, and guessed about eight months. I was a little surprised to hear of Angela's marriage, but only a little, she and Ben had always been so compatible and always so kind to Bella. She was positively glowing, and I was glad I had played a part in their relationship all those years ago.
"You remember Doctor Cullen and Edward, then?" Charlie prompted.
"Yes, of course. This whole place has been buzzing with the news of your return, myself included. Thanks for helping me out back there. I have that poem memorized, but this baby seems to muddle my brain sometimes." She blushed, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear.
"So, Ben…." I prompted her, hoping to hear a little more about the two of them.
"Yeah." She rolled her eyes, patting her belly.
"Speaking of that husband of yours, I haven't seen him since early yesterday."
"Ugh, yes," she said, sighing. "He went with Tyler early this morning to the North lot. Something about the solar panels. The boys want to make sure everything's all perfect, you know?" She raised her eyebrows and tilted her heard in our direction and Charlie nodded in understanding, but the gesture was lost on me and Carlisle. She picked up on our confusion and explained for our benefit.
"When they heard you were coming to visit, they became a little paranoid. They really wanted to impress you with what they've done. You, 'Cullens,' are a bit of a legend around here to some. You gave us the tools, the foundations, and this," she waved her hands in the air, "all started because of you. We're alive, because of you, well and the Chief too." She smiled warmly at Charlie and he in turn blushed again and looked a little uncomfortable with the attention and praise.
"You remember Tyler, Edward?" he said trying to deflect any further talk of his successes. "Oh, of course you would, he was the one who almost killed you and Bella with his van…" The sentence hung in the air awkwardly.
Carlisle, ever the diplomat, turned to Angela trying to relieve the tension. "How far along are you, Mrs. Cheney?"
"Oh, it's Angela, please, Dr. Cullen." She laughed. "I'm eight months and want it out now. It's getting hard to reach the chalkboard!"
"Well the Doc, here, has promised to help over at the clinic. Not that I don't think Leah's doing a fine job, I just think she gets a little overwhelmed at times, and may need a few pointers in bedside manner." Charlie rolled his eyes and took a deep breath. I saw a flash of a scalpel and an angry young Quileute woman screaming at a large giant of a man who towered over her by a foot.
"I think everyone's heard about the incident with Embry and threatening him with a scalpel." Angela laughed.
"She sounds 'spirited,'" Carlisle said, a little afraid of what he was getting himself into.
"You have no idea," Charlie mumbled. "How about we get this over with then, and I take you to see the clinic. I promise no scalpels involved."
"Sounds good," Carlisle agreed. This 'Leah' might do better with just one of us present. Perhaps you should stay and catch up with Angela?
I nodded discreetly to Carlisle. If Leah was a Quileute, it probably was a good idea for only one of us to be introduced to her at first. "I think I'll stay here and catch up with Angela, if that's alright?" I raised my eyebrows in question. "If she doesn't mind, of course. I'd like to hear more about the school."
"I'd like that," she said.
Charlie and Carlisle departed and Angela gestured to two desks for us to sit. "Sorry, I need to sit for a little bit."
"Yes, of course. Can I get you anything?" But she shook her head, and her thoughts indicated as much. She was extremely hesitant to be with me. We had never spoken alone before, and she didn't know where to start the conversation.
"Heart of Darkness," I pointed to the tattered and weathered book in front of me, "that's some pretty heavy stuff," I said, trying to stay clear of the giant elephant in the room. I noticed there were only about six copies in the room, shared between twenty or more desks.
"It is, but I think it resonates a little more today than when we were studying it. Plus, we're pretty limited in the books we have. We grabbed what we could from the school, but even that wasn't much." She looked up at the chalkboard, lost in her memories. "In the early days, people were burning books to stay warm in the winters, it was too cold to get wood, and the snow was too deep. It was hard those first two years." Her eyes started to water a little and she sniffed back the tears. "Ugh. These hormones!" No wonder Ben stays out with Tyler all the time lately! she mocked herself.
I stood up reaching into my pocket for the handkerchief Alice had insisted I take with me. Hmm, Alice was getting better.
She collected herself and continued speaking. "I don't have much to choose from. Most people didn't exactly have works of literature in their personal libraries, and somehow I think Danielle Steel doesn't count as school curriculum."
"No," I chuckled, "I don't think it is. You know, Esme, my mother, has a stock pile of books and I know she would be so pleased if you would take them, and I promise, no Danielle Steel."
Her thoughts went immediately to Shakespeare and other books she had been desperately missing.
"She has so much Shakespeare and pushes it on all of us, so we'd be grateful if you took it off her hands," I craftily lied. "I'm a little sick of Romeo & Juliet."
"Really? Are you serious? I'm not sure how my students will like it, but that would be lovely. Please thank your mother for me." The tears started to swell in her eyes again. I knew he was nice, Bella never would have fallen in love with him if he wasn't. Her eyes held mine for a brief moment, sadness sweeping over them. "I'm really sorry, Edward. Sue told me what happened to Bella. All of us still held out hope that she was alive somewhere. We desperately wanted that for the Chief. But … at least we know now." She leaned forward and rested her hand on mine and I let her, flipping it over and lightly squeezing back.
"Oh! You're freezing! I'm sorry, is it cold in here? I wouldn't know, I get these hot flashes, I'm always too warm. I can start a fire—" she started to stand up, and I gently caught her hand.
"I'm fine. I just have poor circulation in my hands." I gave her a half smile. "Bella really liked you, Angela, and considered you one of her good friends. You were always so nice to her … to both of us. Thank you." We sat for a moment in silence, and I listened to her thoughts of Bella and her regret that she never got to know her better. I couldn't believe how much she had changed. She was still Angela, but she had this air of maturity and confidence she never had before. She had always been so timid, but I could see that she had grown past that. She must have if she was able to stand at the front of a classroom and teach.
"These kids aren't going to know what hit them," she joked. "Oh and Mr. Berty's going to be ecstatic!"
"Mr. Berty? He's here?"
"Yup, he runs the school with Mr. Banner. There are only four of us, Mike Newton is the other teacher. Remember him?"
Did I remember him! I scoffed, not realizing I had done so out loud. She laughed at me, knowing exactly why I had done so.
"I guess you would! He did always have a thing for Bella, like he was any competition though," she teased. "Even when you left…" her voice lowered, "…he still didn't stand a chance." I saw Bella in her head, empty and despondent, walking through the halls of the school. "She just wasn't the same. She loved you, I knew it wasn't just some high school crush, I knew that. I think we all did." She reached for my hand again, and spoke softly. "And you loved her."
"I did," I agreed. "Very much so." I was staring at our hands, afraid to look at her. I didn't want to ruin the moment with my pain, or my burdens, Angela deserved more than that, and I definitely didn't want her pity. Despite my efforts, her thoughts were of sympathy for both me and Charlie.
"Ouch!" She flinched, placing her hand on the left side of her belly. Alarmed, I asked her if she was alright. "Yeah, this little sucker always gets a little restless around this time of the day. He's getting hungry."
"Oh, forgive me, I've been keeping you from your lunch hour," I apologized.
"Nonsense, but I am getting a little hungry. Why don't I walk you down to the clinic. I have to see Sue about something and I'm pretty sure she'll have something for me to munch on," she said, standing up and pulling me up with her.
We made small talk along the way, and I was still astonished by how much she had changed. I made mention of her parents, but she responded quietly that they had passed on, and her thoughts saddened as she remembered them. It seems there were two schools of thought when Charlie started to muster the people of Forks and La Push—some believed him, and some didn't. Many assumed he was lonely from his daughter's departure from Forks and slowly going mad, Angela's parents were among the skeptics. Whereas Angela's family refused to entertain the crazy notions of the Chief of Police, Ben's chose to listen. They trusted Charlie despite everyone's protests, and moved their family to the bunker, taking Angela with them. Such was the case with the people of Forks, families were split in two and Angela's parents were of the many to die in the first few years from the effects of the radiation.
I couldn't tell her I knew, she hadn't offered that up to me, but I felt the desire to comfort her anyway, and reached out, gently putting my arm around her as we walked. It was an odd gesture that never would have come from me ten years ago, and I doubt she would have allowed it, but at this particular moment, it just seemed right, comfortable. We had all suffered, each of us with our own story.
"It's really good to see you, Angela," I said with as much conviction as I possibly could.
She didn't flinch from my closeness like I had expected, instead, she looked up, seeking out my eyes. "You too, Edward," she said in return as her eyes started to tear again.
I had parted company with Angela, leaving her with some anxious children at the doorstep of what she explained was a communal kitchen. The children were devouring some sort of cake-like pastry with white cream filling. It looked like a crude homemade version of something I had seen Bella eat a few times, and sure enough, I heard the children asking for another Twinkie. I continued to walk toward the hangar, amused with how life had continued here. It truly was remarkable. I was almost to the hangar when my senses became alarmed as a horrific, foul smell invaded my mouth. It was thick and ripe almost as if I could taste it, and I recognized that stench from a long time ago. I spun around in all directions searching for the origin, but there was nothing I could see, I was alone. A low growl emitted from my chest sensing the present danger, and I waited, but nothing came except I could hear it.
Leech…Bloodsucker…you're all dead… The voice came to me filled with menace and hatred.
"Edward!" I turned at the sound of my name being called. "There you are! I've been looking for you. Charlie said you were at the school," Seth yelled at me from across the expanse of the lush green garden between us.
He was making his way over to me, hailing me to wait up for him. The other voice in my head was gone, along with the putrid smell that was surely associated with it. I never discovered where it was coming from, but my growling continued as I spun in a slow circle searching carefully in the shadows for the perpetrator. There was only one beast that could smell that pungent and it was forever ingrained in my memories, the Quileute wolves were back.
I had to find Carlisle, and let him know of this revelation. We had both thought the wolves had died out, but they were very much alive and living in this compound, and no doubt going to cause trouble for us. The compound didn't fall on the Quileute land, so technically we weren't breaking the treaty, but I definitely had a few days ago.
"What are you doing?" Seth asked, curiously. "Lose something?" He had finally caught up to me carrying some kind of electrical circuit board that looked like it had seen better days.
I greeted Seth, shaking his hand happily disguising my sudden alarm. "No, someone. Do you know where my father is?"
"He's in the clinic, just through there." He gestured with the circuit board in his left hand. "They're waiting for you. Charlie sent me to come find you."
"What's that?" I pointed to the object in his hands.
"Ah, nothing really, just a burnt out circuit board from one of the solar panels. I'm going to try and fix it, but I'm kind of flying by the seat of my pants, you know?" He shrugged his shoulders before starting to walk toward the hangar.
I nodded my head, following behind him. "Emmett knows a thing or two about electronics. If you need some help, I'm sure he'd be happy to help," I offered. "He went with Rosalie to visit some friends of ours, but he should be back in a couple of days."
"Good to know, I might need it. This one panel keeps blowing and we can't figure out why," he smiled at me, "besides, I need a rematch on the PlayStation. I think he cheats." He let out deep bellow.
"Oh, I know he cheats. That's why we won't play with him anymore, we've had enough. He's all yours now."
We continued with the small talk for a little bit, talking about the other video games Emmett had in his library, when Seth suddenly stopped and turned to face me. From his thoughts I could tell he was closely examining me, looking for something. I don't care what Jacob says… He scrutinized over the details of my face, not really sure what he was looking for. He was thinking of the conversation between Charlie and myself, back at the house.
"Listen, Edward, I don't know what kind of history you had with some of the people from La Push, I'm not going to lie, but a few are not happy about your return. And I know there is something more to everything, things have always been, well, different with them, just like you and your family. Like this whole 'reading minds' thing, can you really do that?" he asked me, his eyebrows raised waiting for me to answer.
I was just about to open my mouth, and try to explain, when he cut me off.
"Wait! I don't want to know. I don't know if I can handle the idea of you knowing what's in my head, so I'm going to stay in the dark if that's okay. I don't want things to change between us, I like you, but I won't be myself if I think you are judging me." It's nice to have new faces around here. I'm tired of all the bull. They're not so scary.
"I can live with that, Seth. And for what it's worth, our family is very happy to have met you, and you've been more than welcoming to all of us … including Rosalie," I said, trying not to reveal that I could indeed read what was in his head.
"Oh, she scares me!"
"Join the club." I laughed along with him.
"But the rest of you, not so much." He smiled in return, narrowing his eyes as he continued. "I haven't forgotten about our agreement, though. I want to hear about the other stuff, and I'll keep bugging you until I get it out of you. Your brother, Jasper, seems to know a lot about it."
I wasn't sure if I should let him know that Jasper had gone. I suppose it was only a matter of time, before he noticed his absence. Jasper could be gone for a long time.
I nodded my head. "You may not have a choice about it," I said a little more seriously. "If things continue to get worse down there, it may end up on your doorstep eventually. Everyone needs to be prepared."
His face fell for just a second, but he recovered quickly before responding. "You think that's going to happen," he stated as a matter of fact, with a deadpan expression.
"Yes," I answered truthfully, "we do. My brother, Jasper, has gone down to do some scouting around, to see how serious it is."
"Alone?" he asked, completely shocked that we would let Jasper go on his own. For a brief moment the idea of him going with Jasper crossed his mind.
"If you haven't already guessed, you know my family is … different. Jasper will be fine," I said, trying to convince myself just as much as Seth. He in turn, raised his eyebrows questioningly.
"This is another one of those things, where you're going to tell me 'when I'm ready' isn't it?" he questioned me, and I held his stare not giving anything else away to him. "Alright, but if this is going to affect this compound and all the lives in it, I have a right to know and a right to get involved." He clenched his jaw and stuck his chin out defiantly waiting for me to disagree. I'm sick of being treated like a child, first Jacob, now this. I'll be damned if I'm going to let them leave me out of this.
"Fair enough. When the time comes when we're 'ready to share' more, you'll be involved. You have my word." I felt a little sorry for Seth, and I wasn't going to deny him his chance, especially if it had the potential to put Jacob Black's nose out of joint. That scrawny little runt had been a bit of a pain in my ass all those years ago.
Just as we were turning to head into the hangar, we were stopped by a large deafening crack, which I deduced was the sound of a shotgun. It echoed across the air, and I could hear the panicked voices of the people around us. Another shot rang out and Seth cursed under his breath, turning, he ran into the hangar at full speed, and stopped in front of a large locked cupboard.
"Where's Charlie?" he yelled at the people standing around with shocked looks on their faces as he tugged on the doors of the cupboard. No sooner than he spoke, Charlie and Carlisle rushed up from a stairwell coming out of the ground in the corner of the hangar. They were running toward the cupboard, Charlie with his keys in hand. He tossed them to Seth, who made quick work of the padlock, opening the doors to reveal a locker full of various types of guns. They grabbed the two shotguns and the shells on the top shelf, and in no time had them loaded and the cupboard locked up again.
Charlie turned to Carlisle and me, and with a dogged look on his face he said, "Stay here," running out after Seth who had already left the hangar in the direction of the gunshots.
I went to protest, but Carlisle quickly grabbed my arm with a slight shake of his head. This isn't our fight, not this time, Edward. We can't get involved.
I didn't exactly agree with him. There was a time when I didn't trust Carlisle's words, but we had come so far since then that I simply nodded my head and agreed. Besides, I needed to tell him about the wolves which was something that couldn't wait. He was the steady rock of the family, staying calm and objective in every situation, making the decisions because he always knew what needed to be done. Well, at least these days he did, even if it hadn't always been the case…
2006 -:- Past Memories
I had to find Carlisle. That was the only thing that consumed my thoughts as I closed the door to the bunker waiting for the sound that indicated Esme had locked it behind me. Running up the stairs back to the surface, back to the ash and bitter stench and the blackened sky and smoldering fires, I knew this wasn't going to be easy, but without Esme I would be able to cover the ground a little quicker. I had a direction this time, and wouldn't have to wander aimlessly staring in horror at what was left of this beloved city of mine, the place where I was born, both as a human and a vampire.
I didn't want to think what could possibly be keeping Carlisle from Esme. He would never leave her alone willingly, especially not like this. There was a part of me that was hurting as well, the part that realized he had left me too. It had been four weeks, and he had left us to our own devices. Surely Emmett had told him about my condition, and about Jasper. Carlisle wouldn't abandon the family like that. He was the glue that held us all together, and because of him we lived as he lived. We respected him, trusted him, and would follow him anywhere, no questions asked. Our family didn't work without him, and more importantly, I didn't work without him. It was a little poignant for me that I was here in Chicago, the same place where Carlisle found me, and now I was searching him out nearly eighty-eight years later in a world that no one could have foreseen, not even Alice.
It was still slow going and I hadn't covered that much distance as the sky began to lighten at the breaking of dawn. The night sky had sufficiently kept me hidden, but it would have kept others hidden as well. The dawn would bring people out of hiding, and possibly with it, sunlight. I didn't want to take that chance, but more importantly I didn't want anything distracting me from my purpose. I had already experienced what Rosalie had experienced, even if it was through her memories, I couldn't afford to feel that kind of desperation again. My grief would have to wait. I had an objective and I needed to focus. If I let myself succumb to the sorrow again, I wouldn't be able to help my family. They were all I had left, all I cared about in this bleak world lacking of any kind of color. It was a sea of dreary, and we would quickly drown if we couldn't find a way to stay afloat. Carlisle was our lifeline. He would know what to do, at least that was what I kept telling myself as I continued to maneuver through the fallen down structures and abandoned cars.
This area of town, the area Rosalie had told me where the hospital was located, was definitely one of the least affected I had come across. The sun was safely hidden behind the world of gray, but it didn't stop people from staring at me. The dawn did bring the people out, and their skin suffered from burns and lesions, but for the most part they seemed sound. Their blood called out to me, but it was tainted. I could smell it. They had been affected by the radiation, but were yet to suffer from the full effects, and the smell of disease suppressed any urges I may have had.
It was quiet. No one spoke, not even in their minds. Just empty shells, hollow, like their eyes. They were defeated, and I understood why Rosalie had not come back to the bunker. My first instincts were to help them, save them or bring them back to the bunker for fresh water and food. My second thought was to kill them all, end their suffering because one meal, one drink, was not going to help them navigate their way in this messed up world. I chose to put my head down, like the coward I knew I was and kept walking, ignoring their hollow eyes.
We were all walking in the same direction, which I quickly realized was the way to the hospital. I could see it in the distance. Hundreds of people were camped outside in make-shift shelters, and as I got closer the residual city smell intensified. Death was definitely all around me as I made my way toward the entrance, trying to keep my head clear and my eyes down.
It had been a huge challenge getting inside, but eventually, hours later, I found someone who was willing to answer my questions. A woman had confirmed there was a doctor who fit the description of Carlisle, but there were so many people that came in and out of here she wasn't sure if he was still here. I asked her if I could go and take a look, but she was too busy to even notice and waved her hand at me impatiently.
The light from the outside was unable to filter its way into the interior hallways. It was dark and crowded with beds filled with the sick or dying, and the floor was covered with bodies that coughed vigorously in their sleep. I walked toward the only light coming from the end of the hallway, and there wasn't an inch of space to be had, apart from a narrow pathway to get up and down the hall. The smell of decay and death hung heavily in the air, turning my stomach. I could hear the whimpering thoughts of everyone in this hospital, and it was taking all of my efforts to block the misery and hopelessness from my mind. No wonder Jasper had to leave.
I stilled for a moment in the middle of the hallway, closing my eyes, trying to focus on my breathing and trying to prevent the thoughts of the others from invading my mind. I had spent so many years trying to master this, and this was definitely a true test of my strength. It was like the buzz of static noise from a radio, and I was trying to tune into one station … my own. I flipped from channel to channel, and then I heard it, a familiar voice amongst the unknown. Carlisle was here.
The doors at the end of the hallway, where the only light was emanating from, swung open and for a brief second I glimpsed a shade of blond hair I easily recognized. I wasn't prepared for this. At best, I had been hoping someone would be able to tell me they had seen him, or remembered him. I didn't expect to find him here, because that would mean he had left us by choice. Nothing was keeping him from coming back, and I wasn't sure how to process that.
I stood in front of the doors, my face peering through the glass window. He was there, just a few feet beyond the door with his back to me. I couldn't decide if I was relieved or angry, perhaps a little of both. His thoughts were strictly all business. Mentally tabulating the blood supplies, potassium iodide levels, sterile bandages imperative for the burn victims, the amount of functioning staff he had left, and how many patients were worth treating and worth the precious supplies they were desperately running out of.
I took a deep breath and pushed open the door, saying his name under my breath so only he could hear me. He snapped around, taking one look at me from head to toe, sighing in relief.
He was shocked to see me standing in front of him, but his thoughts revealed that he was more surprised by my attire than my appearance. When I entered the hospital, I was ordered to remove my clothing to avoid the risk of spreading residual radiation left from the fallout and contaminating anyone further. I knew that this was highly unlikely, the strength of the radioactivity had long worn off, and anyone who was going to be exposed already would have been. But who was I to argue, so I gave up my clothing in exchange for some freshly laundered hospital scrubs.
You've come to help. Good, we can use you. You've had more medical training than half the staff, he said silently, without even really looking at me. Turning his back to me, he started walking down the hall, and I had no other choice but to follow him. I needed answers from him, but it was as if he wasn't really seeing me. It had been four weeks and he hadn't even thought to check in with anyone. I had never seen him like this, so relentless in his work, so uncaring, this wasn't the Carlisle I knew. I was floundering for any sense of familiarity, any sense that he truly comprehended what this meant—for me to be standing in front of him here at the hospital—but there was nothing.
"Carlisle, wait!" was about all I could manage to say. I felt like a child being scolded by a father for interrupting his busy day.
Without even realizing it, his family had fallen apart. Esme's heart was broken and she needed the comfort of her husband, but that Carlisle wasn't here, he too had checked out. That was becoming very apparent and somewhat common with the lot of us, each of us coping as best we knew how.
"We need to talk," I said in a low voice. I had reached his side, grabbing hold of his elbow, and pulled him into a small supply closet that was only stocked with discarded, soiled bed sheets. It was dark, and smelled horrific, but nothing in this foul world smelled like it used to, so I pushed past it. I needed to see his face; I needed him to see mine so he would know what his absence had done to all of us. Turning on the flashlight I was carrying with me, I searched out his eyes. They were a light shade of amber—he was feeding at least—but they held a trace of annoyance, which was an emotion I had never experienced with Carlisle.
"What is it, Edward?" Carlisle answered. "Can't you see I've got my hands full here?"
"What? Is that all you have to say to me?" I asked completely astonished. It wasn't like I was expecting a joyful reunion of sorts, but I thought he would be happy to see me at least and maybe even relieved a little bit.
"What is it you were hoping me to say? Because I'll say it and then we can get back to where we're needed."
Carlisle had never hidden his thoughts from me, and this was no different, clearly he was irritated by my interruption. It was as if he had completely wiped the family from his thoughts, not even one single thought of their well-being crossed his mind, not even Esme.
"Carlisle, what has happened to you? The family needs you, it's been four weeks!" I was astounded by his lack of caring. This was not the man I had come to call 'father.'
Carlisle's head snapped up, the flashlight making his eyes glow a brighter shade of topaz, full of pain and confusion and anger.
"The family needs me? The family is fine. We, our kind, will be fine. But these people, these humans, will never be fine again. Do you have any idea what I have been dealing with?" He ran his hands through his hair, sighing, and he shared with me the horrors of the past few weeks, only snippets but it was enough for me to understand him a little better. "This is just the beginning, Edward. I can't leave them, it's going to get worse, much worse," he finished quietly, before adding silently, I'm glad you've decided to help, we need all able bodies here.
"Carlisle…" I shook my head at him, furrowing my brow in confusion. "I didn't come to help. I–I can't stay. I came to find you. We haven't heard from you in weeks…" It was my turn to run my hands through my hair in frustration. I didn't know where to even begin to explain to him what had happened. It didn't matter, I knew my efforts were going to be futile. He had already made up his mind not to come with me. Instead, in desperation, I tried pleading with him. "Esme needs you," I said, looking into his eyes, "I need you. We all do. You're the only one who can put the family back together."
"Son, listen to me, there aren't enough doctors or nurses, they need me here. This is where I can make a difference, you can too." He desperately tried to explain, but I cut him off before he could go any further.
"Do you have any idea what has happened? We found Rosalie digging countless graves with her hands for dead children. She's a mess, Carlisle! And Esme … Esme's heart's so broken, her thoughts are filled with so much despair, and I'm worried what she'll do. She's not stable. You need to go to her, Carlisle," I said, my voice raised in frustration and anger at him for leaving them, for leaving me, but this wasn't about me anymore. "And Jasper, well…" I closed my eyes, letting out a huge sigh knowing I wasn't making a difference.
Carlisle's face showed his inner turmoil. Jasper? And Esme? Why are you doing this to me? They'll heal…like you did, and Alice did. I can't help them, Edward. There's nothing for me to do, but here...I'm needed.
I put my hand on his shoulder and forced him to look into my eyes. "Carlisle, you are the only father I've known, and the strongest, most sensible and compassionate man I have ever known."
I'm failing everyone…
"You're not failing anyone, we just need you. We still don't know where Alice and Emmett are, they haven't checked in since they went after Jasper, and—"
"I can't, Edward. I can't leave these people. You and the others will get through this. Our kind will survive through all this," he said firmly. It makes no sense...monsters surviving. "Things make sense in this hospital, this is where I'm needed. It just makes sense here."
He lowered his head and looked down at the ground. He was ashamed. Ashamed of what we were. This revelation shook me to the core. I was about to protest, but a sharp knock rapped on the door, Carlisle winced at the interruption. "Dr. Cullen? Are you in there? We need you in Trauma 2," said a deep voice from the other side of the door.
"I have to go, Son. I know you can get them through this. They just need time to heal … you of all people know that. I can't do anything more for them, not when my skills are needed here so desperately. Surely you can understand that."
"We need you. For God's sake! Can't you—"
"Do not speak to me of God!" he seethed, moving closer to me, pointing his finger in front of my face. "There is no God." He was breathing heavily, his jaw clenched tightly as he continued to stare at me with frantic eyes. For the first time in three hundred and fifty years, I have seen evidence that God does not exist. He was inches away from my face, and I couldn't do anything but zero in on his finger which happened to be shaking ever so slightly. "This is my fault, I caused this," he said so low that I wasn't sure if I heard him correctly. I had stopped breathing, trying to register everything he had just said. There was so much pain in him, and I was completely at a loss for words. Eventually he broke our connection by turning from me and walking out of the closest, letting the door slam behind him.
I was truly lost as to what to do. To hear Carlisle speak those words, to hear his thoughts … it was not something I imagined I would ever hear in the course of our lives. Carlisle, it seemed, had given up. For the first time in a long time, the guilt of what we were was forcing its way back into his head, and he was ashamed. These feelings were usually reserved for me and it disturbed me greatly. Carlisle's faith was resolute, that was always undeniable. We had spent countless nights discussing the idea of faith and God, even though it was something I could never comprehend. He believed in God unquestioningly, and felt there was indeed a purpose to our lives in this world. That was why he became a doctor. His purpose was to help people—'a divine gift from God' he called it. He would argue with me that we still carried our souls into the afterlife and we were entitled to be judged and hopefully received like any human would be. I disagreed with him … it was what we did. I was the one who thought we were damned, soulless monsters in this world, and these past weeks and all I had seen had done nothing to change my view of God, but perhaps we, our kind, were no longer the only monsters in this world.
My ruminations were interrupted by the sound of static as it echoed inside the tiny closet.
"Edward, are you there? You didn't check in on the hour," Esme's voice rang through the tiny speaker of the radio.
What was I going to tell Esme? I had been gone for almost twelve hours, checking in every hour, but I had been wise not to tell her I had found him at the last check-in. Now, I couldn't possibly tell her the truth, it would break her heart knowing he didn't want to come back, not even for her. Hopefully, I could work on him, come back daily even help here in the hospital if that's what it was going to take. I could continue the façade of searching for him and she would never have to know.
"Sorry, Esme. I'm here, I got tied up." I hated lying to her, and hopefully she wouldn't be able to tell in my voice, in person it was going to be a lot more difficult to master. She could usually read me like a book.
"Where are you? Did you find him?" she asked, her voice filled with hope.
I took a deep breath, looking up to the buckling, water-stained ceiling. "No. I'm sorry, Esme." The room was deafeningly quiet as I waited for her to respond.
The static broke through, followed by her voice. "Is that you banging on the door, Edward?" She sounded relieved, but I was alarmed and quickly responded.
"No. Esme! That's not me at the door. Find out who it is and tell me before opening that door." Picking up my pack, I rushed out the door silently thinking, Carlisle be damned, and ran toward the stairs to the exit. I wasn't sure how I was going to explain the hospital scrubs to Rosalie and Esme but I would think of something. There was no time to waste, Carlisle knew where we were, hopefully he would come to his senses, but right now I needed to get back to the bunker.
I heard the crackle of the radio and stopped so I could hear. "Oh thank, God! It's Emmett." She sounded excited and I smiled a little relieved myself.
"Edward, can you come back … now? We're going to need you." The tone in her voice had changed from relief to panic in mere seconds, and I let her know I was already on my way.