For anyone who's missing someone -- this is for you.

Merry Christmas, you're not alone.


1931

35,040 hours. 2,102,400 minutes. 126,144,000 seconds.

She could continue to deconstruct the numbers into oblivion if she wanted to; it still wouldn't matter how small or large they became.

They would always equate to four years.

Granted, four years was merely the blink of an eye to someone in her condition. To someone that wasn't, though...to a human, four years was a very long time and the crux of it all was that a life could change in the blink of an eye or four years. All it took was one moment, a decision, a first step out of a door.

He was quick and light-footed, he always had been. Yet, the sound of him leaving them in the wake of emptiness was more final than that of the front door shutting behind him.

Her husband entered the darkness of her office without so much as a breeze, bringing her out of thought for the second time. She didn't need to look away from where her tawny eyes stared out the window to recognize his presence. He had softly spoken her name from his study upstairs with the knowledge that she would hear him but she'd chosen not to answer. So he appeared at her side like a ghost, sighing as he wrapped his arms around her waist from behind.

All he'd needed to say was breathed in that single deep exhalation he didn't even need to expel.

"You worry too much, Carlisle," she said, touching his forearms affectionately.

"It's one of the few innately human instincts I still have left, thanks to you," he replied.

The corners of her lips turned up faintly. "There's no need to thank me for anything."

They remained quiet for a long while, both of them keeping watch of the path leading up to the house and both of them waiting for something that didn't appear to be coming.

Esme was aware of his tension everywhere, it filled the room and embraced her. She could almost hear the unasked questions and finally, she spoke dazedly.

"I remember the first time I was left alone after the baby died. I sat on the rocking chair in his nursery with his little blue cap in my hands. I cried for hours in a cold room he'd never use or warm, holding onto a hat he'd never wear and all I could think was that there would be nothing that could hurt me more than having never known my child." She paused for only a moment. "This hurts more. Because I know Edward -- I've held him and laughed with him and felt for him as if he was the boy I gave birth to. And I know that he loves us in his own way...I just wish that I could cry for him, too." She sighed, empty. "I can ache for my son yet I can't mourn him being gone. I didn't even tell him that I believe in him just as much as I love him."

Carlisle's fingers lightly brushed her hair back and his caress along her jaw was a small comfort, much needed.

"He knows, darling," he whispered into her temple.

"Then, why hasn't he come back?"

Suddenly, he was just as sad as she was. "Because Edward needs the time alone. He's lost a mother, a father, his chance to be a soldier...a life he'll never know and he has the right to mourn his own losses while he still can. All we can do is be patient. Not seeking him out will say more to him than words possibly could right now. Just have faith, Esme."

She nodded, still refusing to take her eyes away from the window.

Another spacious silence settled over them. Hours passed.

The night was at its darkest when he rubbed her upper arms soothingly and placed a soft kiss to the back of her head. "I'll be in the study if you need me."

Esme squeezed his hand gently before her husband, her strength exited.

The absence shouldn't have hurt so much. After all, there was no physical pain anymore and their hearts had been stone in their chests for quite some time. But the emotions never went away and she herself didn't need a dull pulse echoing throughout her body to feel them.

Esme tried to tell him that so many times but Edward was always so stubborn and headstrong. He was so sure of his own damnation that he refused to see past it, never willing to realize just how wrong he was. If anything, the agony of it was proof of his conscience and one could not bear a conscience without a soul. He didn't need his heart reawakened in order to feel that either. But her beautiful, troubled boy just would not listen.

So, she did the only thing she could do for him now. She waited the way she had every night for the last four of his birthdays, four Christmases and four years he'd missed -- waited by the window, holding on to hope that she was beginning to lose her grip on.

**

An hour later, Edward walked at a human's pace to the front porch where she'd raced to meet him. He was all apologies, "I love you's" and a subtle shimmer in the dawn.

Esme let the hope fall out of her hands and opened her arms, ready to hold on to the one thing she'd never let go of again.