Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
I posted this on Twilighted in January, but I've decided it's time to branch out. Thanks to the Twilight Lexicon for invaluable time line information. Enjoy!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
-O Holy Night
Christmas, 1917: Chicago
Edward is confused as he gazes at the heart-shaped diamond charm in his hand. It's far too big for a sensible man to wear, and to be perfectly honest, he was expecting cuff links when he opened the velvet box.
"Did I open the wrong one? This must be your present from father."
Elizabeth Masen chuckles under her breath as she watches her son turn the heart over and over again, as though he could find an answer in its sparkling light.
"Silly Edward, this is for you."
He pauses, searching for an explanation in her eyes, and finds only her knowing gleam. He hesitates before speaking again.
"Thank you, mother. It's beautiful."
This time her laugh is not so hidden, and she must cover her mouth with her hand to regain her composure. Of course her son would say thank you for a seemingly ridiculous gift rather than embarrass his poor mother on Christmas morning.
Such a gentleman.
His father leaves the room murmuring something about needing more coffee, and she rises, too. Edward is about to do the same when she sits next to him instead.
"I didn't mean to confuse you, Edward. When I say this is for you, I mean that this is for you to give."
His eyebrows knit together again. He never did like being in the dark.
"This belonged to my grandmother. Her husband gave it to her on their wedding night, Grandmother gave it to my mother on her wedding day, and my mother gave it to me when I married your father. I hoped that you would continue the tradition and give it to the woman you marry."
He looks at his mother's face and smiles, though he is sure she has ulterior motives for this particular gift.
"Mother, I hope you do not intend for me to remain here to find a wife. I will be a soldier when I turn 18."
Ever since Edward made his intentions clear last summer, she has been trying to keep him up from signing up for the army—and though there was a time when he believed he would do anything for her, he knows he must do this for himself.
She holds her son's face in his hands and shakes her head.
"My stubborn boy."
"Mother I—," and his voice is a sharp and defiant hint of the man he is becoming.
"I know, Edward, " and her voice is a strong and caring reminder of the woman she has always been.
He is surprised she interrupted him. She usually allows him to say his peace before responding with her own quietly reasoned rebuttal.
"I have raised you to be a good and decent man, and as much as I want you here and safe, I know the good and decent thing is for you to fight for your country. I would expect nothing less from you."
His head falls to his chest, forcing her hands to leave his face. He was never good at accepting compliments. But she was never one to stop giving them.
"A good and decent man is also a loyal one. And you, Edward, are the most loyal man I know. When you choose do something, you do it with your whole heart. I am certain that when you choose someone to spend your life with, you will settle for nothing less than your soul mate, just as I did."
Her hands drop from his face and his eyes return to the charm. He is about to say thank you again—and mean it this time—when he remembers something.
"You said Nana received this from her mother. Wouldn't you rather do the honors if…when...I am betrothed?"
Her smile falters only for a moment, but he sees it. He has always been good at reading people, especially her.
"Something tells me that perhaps it would be best to give it to you now."
Her voice is cheerful, but he can't help getting the feeling that she doesn't think she'll be there when the day does come.
The following September, she lies nearly still in the hospital bed next to him. He listens to her breathing slow, and feels her hand press something cold into his. Her eyes are wet and tired, and it takes all of her strength to speak.
"Your whole heart, Edward."
He refuses to let go of her hand, and he can barely make out the feeling of metal and glass burning cold against their fevered skin. He looks down and sees her wedding ring is no longer on her finger. A strangled laugh comes out of his mouth as he looks into the eyes that still seem to know more than he ever will.
Only she could be thinking of the future when it looks so dark.
He desperately wants to know how she could still be so sure, but he doesn't ask, because the only woman that matters is the one lying next to him now.
And he can't believe anything good is possible in a world that would take her away.
Christmas, 1921: Ashland
Edward is curious as Carlisle hands him the small, wooden box. It looks strangely familiar to him, like so many objects do now that the thirst no longer consumes him. When he saw a piano again, a record player, a sketchbook, he felt a strange pull in his stomach, a tiny connection to the boy he used to be. He loves this feeling, and he is terrified by it.
"Merry Christmas, Edward."
Shame falls over his face as he looks into Carlisle's eyes.
He had no idea.
He's still getting used to keeping track of time now that the thirst is manageable. Days and nights that used to be spent hunting or awaiting the next hunt are now spent in front of the piano, his fingers re-learning how to play the instrument without destroying it; or behind his sketch book, now full of hundreds of faces he doesn't recognize even as the black and grey lines pour from his hand; or sitting in the chair next to the Victrola, hearing music like it's the first time all over again. Endless sunrises give way to twilights then evenings that seem to blend together in a mass of grey and black and snow, and though he is glad no longer needs to measures time by meals, he wishes he could figure out a way to measure it at all. Because if you had asked him ten minutes ago what month it is, he would have sworn to you it was still November.
He pushes the gift away.
"I can't accept this, Carlisle. I forgot to get you a gift."
"Please, Edward. This isn't really a new gift, I assure you. And more importantly, it belongs to you."
Carlisle points to a gold plate located just above the lock, and Edward gasps when he sees the name engraved upon it.
"This was mine?"
He grabs the box from Carlisle's hands and holds it to his chest, daring Carlisle to take it away, knowing that he never would.
"Why didn't you give me this sooner?" He growls, his voice holding the whisper of the monster he can easily become. He doesn't want to be angry, but he can't help feeling Carlisle has been holding out on him. He doesn't like it.
Carlisle's hands immediately go up in defense.
"I'm sorry Edward, but I needed to wait until I was sure you could stay in control."
Edwards holds the box tighter. Not good enough.
"Your mother told me about this box just before she died. She wanted to ensure that you kept it with you. Before I changed you, I went to your house to retrieve it. It's not much Edward, just some of her jewelry, but I wanted you to have a clear head when I returned it to you."
Edward looks down at the box and notices the wood is starting to bow and splinter from the pressure of his trembling hands. He takes a breath and loosens his grip, turning his back on Carlisle, his legs pulling the rest of his body toward the bed until he finds himself sitting upon it.
Carlisle bows his head.
"I'll leave you alone."
Edward doesn't look up.
His hand glides smoothly across the surface of the box. He tells himself he's trying to savor the moment, but he's really stalling for time, not quite sure if he's ready to see what's inside, and feel that knowing and not knowing he is certain will follow.
The lock is already open, and the lid creaks as what lies beneath catches the light.
Strands of silver intertwine with gold baubles and colored jewels. He can't remember all of their names, but he makes a mental note to explore Carlisle's library for a book that will remind him.
He is scared of breaking them, but he wants to feel that pull again so his fingers are feathers as they run over threads and gems, finally stopping on something cold and hard and strong.
A heart shaped charm dangles from between his fingers. The pull in his stomach is stronger than it has ever been, and he hates it because he doesn't know why. He stares as the heart, the cuts of glass throwing rainbows onto his face, as he searches it for secrets, for clues.
And then he stops.
Because this time, it's too familiar.
He grabs his sketchbook from beneath his pillow, and frantically turns page after page, ripping some out completely and not caring as they fall onto the floor.
There she is.
A girl with long, dark hair wrapping around her unseen face, and on her wrist the very object he now holds in his hands.
He searches the sketch for more, for something, for anything that will make the connection complete: her eyes, her face, her smile, but there is only her hair and the heart and he pounds his fist against the bed in frustration.
He lies there for hours—possibly days—before speaking again.
"Carlisle?" he whispers.
Carlisle answers immediately, as Edward knew he would.
"Will it get easier?"
"Will what get easier, son?"
He expects Carlisle to do what Carlisle normally does: shake his head, assure him that they are not alone, and remind him that they have each other.
But this time, Edward hears only a long silence before Carlisle finally answers,
Christmas, 1930: New York
Edward is thirsty. His last meal tasted as filthy as the thoughts running through the old man's head, and he had to force himself to finish drinking.
That's been happening a lot lately.
He follows the smell of blood pulsing from two beating hearts and it leads him to a frozen lake where a young couple skates awkwardly on the ice. He remains in the shadows of the nearby trees, watching the two innocents play out an utterly predictable scene.
The boy falls and the girl laughs, her hand over her mouth so as not to embarrass him completely. He beckons her to him and reaches out is hand; she takes it and feebly attempts to help him up as the boy does exactly what Edward knew he would.
He pulls her down on top of him. The girl shrieks and starts to cry because she's laughing so hard. She tries to feign anger and get up to leave, but is far too in love to do either.
Edward wants to laugh at them, but he can't. He wants to hate them, but he can't. He wants to kill them both—and he could.
But he won't.
Because an even bigger part of him wants to be that boy; picking ice out of her soft, brown hair; taking his gloves off to touch her red cheeks; feeling her tears, crystallizing from the cold, on his fingers; and kissing her skin to take them away.
But he can't.
They nuzzle each other's noses, and Edward doesn't need to hear their thoughts to know that they are deeply in love.
And it makes him want to vomit.
It also makes him think of Carlisle and Esme—and he realizes that that's been happening a lot lately, too. It wouldn't be difficult to find them, and he wonders if they would even allow him to return.
One heartbeat quickens.
"Someone is in the trees. Get Charlotte out of here."
Edward smirks. Smart boy.
There are whispers and the screeching of metal on ice, but he doesn't bother looking behind him as he stalks off deeper into the forest. He pulls his coat tighter around his body, seeking comfort rather than warmth, and disappears into the darkness.
Still searching for the woman he will never find.
For the man he will never be.
Christmas, 1931: Rochester
Edward is scowling as he stares at the ridiculously large Douglas fir standing in front of him. It is a frivolous display—and he has said so on more than one occasion—but Carlisle reminds him that it is a small, but essential part of the pageant they perform everyday.
Carlisle is his father, and Esme is his sister. Edward would be happy to point out to Carlisle the repercussions of being caught kissing his "daughter," but must bite his tongue.
They did take him back after all.
"Come Edward, it's your turn to put the star on top of the tree."
He wants to refuse her, but whenever he looks into Esme's warm, topaz eyes, he remembers the thoughts she unwillingly shared on the night of his return, and the reminder of the son she will never have pushes Edward to appease her. He doesn't pity her—any more than he pities himself—but he feels a sense of obligation to both of them, a need to pay penance for those years he was absent. So he smiles when she hands him the box of ornaments, and tries not to roll his eyes at the irony when he sees that the one bearing his name is in the shape of a heart.
"Your whole heart."
"What did you say, Esme?" He needs to ask, though he's certain it sounded nothing like her.
"I didn't say anything, dear. Now, let's finish decorating so we can exchange gifts."
She gestures to the ladder next to him, and this time he can't stop his eyes from rolling before he effortlessly jumps the six feet from the ground to the top of the tree. He places the star perfectly, Esme claps her hands, and as he returns to the ground, Carlisle joins them, putting an arm around each of their shoulders.
And as much as he wants to deny it, Edward can't help but feel a little less empty.
He receives a new piano bench from Esme, though she is quick to assure him that his playing is more of a gift for her than anyone else.
The new leather band with the Cullen crest from Carlisle (to replace the one Edward threw in his face on the night of his departure) forces him to take pause, and though he knows his softly spoken "thank you" will never make up for the years he was away, he hopes that it is enough for tonight.
Esme unwraps Edward's gift and gasps as the silver necklace emerges from the box.
"It was my mother's. I think it's fitting that you have it."
She knows how much this means, and she wants to hug him and cry and cradle him in her arms, but she knows those things would make him horribly uncomfortable, so all she says is "thank you" and he nods—and it is more than enough for both of them, because she understands her son.
Christmas, 1933: Rochester
Edward is angry as he stomps up the stairs, leaving splinters in his wake. Carlisle refuses to give up, however, and his thoughts follow Edward to his room.
"Edward, this is not an unreasonable request."
He laughs despite his anger as he remembers their earlier exchange.
"You should get a Christmas present for Rosalie"
"Of course, Carlisle. Perhaps a fresh deer, or one of those mountain elk she's recently taken such a liking to."
"Please Edward. It's her first Christmas…as one of us."
"Yes. Pity they don't make decorative tree ornaments for such occasions."
His door slams open against the wall and the doorknob leaves a hole that he knows Esme will frown upon later. He breaks three records before successfully placing one on the Victrola and the iron legs of his couch grown as he throws his body onto it.
What in the hell could he possibly get for a woman who detests him almost as much as he detests her? A woman who was to be his intended, no less?
He stands up and wants to throw the couch across the room, but settles for kicking one of the iron legs instead, and in the process, dislodges a small wooden chest he hasn't seen in years.
Edward is certain Rosalie is entirely undeserving of one of his mother's pieces, but he refuses to go out and buy her something on Christmas Eve, and the sentiment might just get Carlisle off his back for awhile—which, he now realizes, is a gift in and of itself.
The first thing his fingers touch is a pair of tiny aquamarine earrings that are far too—cute—for Rosalie. The promise that she'd never wear them almost makes him grab the nearest wrapping paper and ribbon, until he reconsiders: the more Rosalie likes her gift, the more Carlisle will leave him the hell alone.
The earrings return to their velvet compartment, and his fingers alight on something familiar. He pulls and from the silver and gold threads emerges the sparkling heart shaped charm.
No! Not for Rosalie.
He has no idea why this thought is the very first one that comes to mind, but he gingerly places the charm in a tiny velvet pouch, and continues his search.
He finally spots a pair of ruby earrings, dangling—dripping, really—with fringes of tiny diamonds. A soft and distant voice returns, only this time it is accompanied by a blurry image of a red-haired woman sitting at a vanity.
"I don't know what to do with these, Edward. They're just too flashy."
Christmas, 1950: Hoquiam
Edward is smiling—really smiling—as Alice immediately puts the tiny aquamarine earrings in her ear.
"Thanks Edward. They're perfect!"
He knows they are. He chose these earrings for her months before, the blue tinkling jewels reminding him of her infectious laugh.
"You're welcome, Alice."
And even she doesn't realize how much he means it. He feels more of a kinship toward Alice and Jasper than anyone else in this makeshift family: Jasper because of their shared impurity; Alice because she just makes him feel like less of a freak.
And because she's the only one who can make him laugh in the way he's sure he used to.
She hugs Edward, who hugs her back, but she immediately returns to Jasper's lap, her feet kicking with that unabashed laugh. Jasper looks at her and tells her she's beautiful, and Edward has to agree.
This is not the first time Edward has felt jealous of Jasper, or wondered if his feelings for Alice are more than brotherly, but when he listens to their thoughts he knows he couldn't possibly love her. Their thoughts are so far beyond anything he is capable of feeling, so much more than a tiny pull in the pit of his stomach or a blurry drawing of a girl wearing a heart shaped charm.
And he kind of hates them for it. All of them.
Alice's voice invades his musings (she always knows when he's thinking too much) and she's looking right at him when her mind speaks.
"It's not always going to be like this, Edward."
He tries to smile for her, but he knows she doesn't buy it, and while he appreciates her optimism, he has never understood it. He whispers because he knows she's the only one listening.
"I wouldn't bet on it, Alice."
Christmas 1972: Denali
Edward is suspicious as Emmett hands him the shabbily wrapped gift. Emmett's been reciting the Declaration of Independence for the past week, and while Edward expects as much from Alice and Esme (who always insist that even mind-readers deserve to be surprised on Christmas morning), Emmett is not usually so protective of silly holiday traditions.
"I picked it out myself, Ed-o."
Edward holds the gift between them and his eyes narrow as they stare into Emmett's, while Jefferson's words get slightly louder and more frantic.
"Come on Edward; open Emmett's gift."
"Of course, Esme," Edward says, his smile warm but his eyes still coldly focused on Emmett's face.
He begins to undo the poorly tied bow, and the knowledge that Emmett wrapped this himself does nothing to ease his suspicion. As the paper falls away it reveals a flat, rectangular, object that looks like—
"A book?" Edward asks as he looks at the blank, beige cover. "Umm…thanks?"
"That's the back, man. Flip it over."
He hears Alice whisper an apology, but it's too late.
The Joy of Sex.
And now all Edward can hear is Emmett's booming laughter despite Esme's attempts to shush him.
In less than a second, he is on his feet and ready to pounce. Emmett opens his eyes and throws his hands up in defense.
"Hey man, come on, it's a joke."
"Hilarious." Edward doesn't move.
"Edward please, lighten up."
"Shut up, Rose."
And now Emmett is ready to fight, too.
"Hey, don't talk to her like that," he warns, all signs of humor evaporated.
Edward growls and crouches lower. Emmett shakes his head and sighs.
"I just wanted you to lighten up a bit, man…have some fun. You're missing out."
Edward's shoulders fall as the rest of his body rises to face Emmett. When he speaks, his voice is quiet and tired and sad.
"Thank you for bringing that to my attention, Emmett. Merry Christmas, everyone."
With all the stoicism he can muster—which is quite a bit, actually—Edward walks to his room and silently closes the door behind him. His family doesn't know what to think, and he's grateful for that.
He wants to scream, but he punches a hole in the wall instead.
He lies on his couch and grabs his sketchbook, opening it to the last page, to the sketch he drew last night. Her hair is still long and dark, her eyes are still covered, and her wrist still wears the diamond heart, but now her body bears breasts and a flat, supple stomach—both recent additions to his body of work.
At first he felt shameful drawing such things, but once he saw her more fully realized, he couldn't stop and the shame was eventually replaced by excitement which quickly gave way to what he currently feels most of the time…frustration.
Frustration that grows exponentially as Emmett's words reverberate through his head.
"You're missing out."
It's not that he doesn't want to. He is still—and will always be—a seventeen-year-old boy. It's not that he hasn't had the opportunity. He has been propositioned by more women—mortal and immortal—than he can count.
It is simply this: he wants her. And he doesn't even know who she is.
He stares at her beautiful naked body on the page and sighs. Then growls. Then sighs again in—what else—frustration.
He considers pleasuring himself—for the fourth time that week—but closes the sketchbook before unbuttoning his pants. He can never look at her when he does it. It feels wrong. She's better than that.
But he does need inspiration, and his eyes are weary when they spot the beige book that lies unopened on the floor.
It's worth a shot.
The first page has nothing but words, and he keeps flipping until he finally finds a drawing of a couple in the throes of—
Oh dear God.
The pictures are disgusting. The couple looks dirty and hairy and seems to have just returned from some sort of protest rally.
Edward hates hippies.
He almost gags as he throws the book across the room. But before he can punch another hole in the wall, he stops.
He feels fine. Utterly unfrustrated and completely turned off—for the first time in months.
And he laughs.
He would have to thank Emmett after all.
Christmas 2004: Forks
Edward is concentrating on placing wrapping paper and sheet music into their respective piles when he hears it.
"I told you so."
He looks up to see Alice looking directly at him.
"Told me what Alice?"
Edward searches her mind, but she starts singing Oh Holy Night before he can get an a better answer. She smiles at him, he gives her a warning glare, she smiles even more.
As per usual.
He gets up in frustration and tells everyone he's going to put his things away, but he really just wants to get as far away from Alice as he possibly can, because as much as he hates Christmas carols (a lot), he hates being in the dark even more.
He is at his piano playing Claire de Lune (he meant to play Beethoven, but his hands started playing Debussy—odd) when Alice finds him.
He doesn't mean for his eyes to be so cold when he looks at her, but he doesn't like it when she keeps secrets.
"What did you see, Alice?"
"Soon, Edward. I promise."
She is apologetic.
He doesn't care, and he returns to the piano, silently asking her to leave.
And she does, but not before turning back to him.
This time her voice is pleading.
For the next three weeks, Alice continues to sing Christmas carols in her head. Sitting at their lunch table, Edward is about to throw his milk carton in her general direction when she stops suddenly during the third verse of Little Drummer Boy. Before he can thank her, he sees her staring and follows her eyes until they rest upon the girl with long, brown hair sitting just across the aisle.
He feels that familiar pull again as her hair wraps around her face, and her chocolate eyes stare back.
Holding a promise of…
Christmas 2005: Rio de Janeiro
Edward is crying, wishing tears could form so venom would burn his face, making him look as awful as he feels.
No such luck.
Blood pulses from across the street, and he moves to the window, crawling on his hands and knees, ripping grooves into the dirty wooden floor with his fingernails.
The thirst is killing him, but he welcomes it, revels in it. He deserves to be in pain.
From the window, he sees the stained glass windows of a small Catholic church. A priest stands just outside the door, shaking the hands of people as they exit into the rainy street.
He hears their thoughts of prayer, of faith, of hope, but he doesn't hear the sob that wracks his body.
The priest stops shaking hands and eyes his window curiously.
"It sounds like someone is dying."
Edward's laugh is bitter.
If only, Father.
He knows the priest can't see him through the dirty glass, but Edward meets his gaze for a second before turning away, his eyes resting on the stained glass window directly above the church doors.
The sacred heart.
In that moment the sun breaks through the clouds and hits the stained glass, and the heart lights up like it's made of diamonds, casting rainbows on the window that dance across Edward's face.
"Your whole heart."
He closes his eyes, allows the warmth to hold him, lets himself remember, pretends the sun is her hands, begins to see her eyes behind his own, smells freesia in the rain.
When he opens his eyes he is screaming again and his fist is pulsing with venom and broken glass and the window is shattered.
Before he can flee from the sun's accusation, he hears the priest.
"Peace be with you, my son."
But he has no peace.
And he is nobody's son.
He wants to curse God's name.
But he curses his own instead.
Christmas, 2006: Forks
Edward is smirking as their blades slice through the ice, etching perfect figure eights into the frozen lake.
There is something he has wanted to try for a very long time.
She doesn't notice his mischievous gleam, too busy looking ahead to the sun setting over the mountains.
He falls down and she turns to him, the shock from his display of impossible clumsiness giving way to a smile that erupts with laughter. He holds his hand up to her and she skates over, still chuckling, but glad she can (finally) be of some assistance to him. Her hand disappears into his and before she can use her newfound strength to pull him up, he pulls her down on top of him.
Bella shrieks and starts to cry because she's laughing so hard. She tries to feign anger and get up to leave, but is far too in love to do either.
So she lies on top of him, resting her chin on her hands and gazing into his topaz eyes still dotted with crimson from her blood.
He picks ice out of her soft, brown hair; touches her cheeks and pretends they are blushing; and even though no tears have formed from her laughter, he still kisses her skin to take them away.
She reaches up to touch his face, and his fingers find the sparkling heart that dangles from her wrist.
The last rays of the sun break over the mountains, drowning her in pinks and reds and oranges, and he swears if he lives forever (and he will, of course) he will never forget how beautiful she is right now.
And he can't believe anything bad is possible in a world that would give her back to him.
He stares at her and whispers,
"Thank you for my gift."
And even though she knows they haven't exchanged gifts yet, she smiles and whispers back,
She lays her head under his chin and closes her eyes as his arms wrap around her.
She slows her breathing.
Pretends to fall asleep.
And for a second, his heart beats.
His whole heart.