Da Capo al Fine
Edward watched from the corner as Carlisle scooped Esme into his arms and carried her across the threshold. She giggled, kissing him on the nose and patting his cheek gently, and he bent over her as he held her, brushing his lips first to her forehead and then to her neck. He held her far longer than was necessary—well of course, it really wasn't necessary at all—and then finally set her on her feet.
My wife, came Carlisle's still-incredulous thought as he nuzzled the spot between Esme's jawbone and her ear. She let out a squeal of a giggle, and Edward averted his eyes.
"I'll find my bedroom," he said quietly. Gathering a few boxes, he began to trudge up the stairs.
The two of them had come up several weeks earlier to find the small farmhouse. Esme had been absolutely enchanted by the house's features, and Carlisle had drawn a large cheque on his new bank account at once. Edward could feel the joy rushing off her as she looked around the home, and saw the imaginings of the new furnishings she would buy. These new things would replace the old, the vestiges of a life that belonged to Carlisle and Edward alone, that had been carefully placed into a moving truck and which Edward had met here earlier that morning.
It had been past time for them to leave, he knew this. Carlisle had drilled into him the importance of keeping cover, complete with the gruesome images of the vampires that his former Italian colleagues had torn to pieces. Yet they had lingered in Ashland, and Edward knew why. Carlisle had replaced the tiny wooden cross that marked the infant-sized grave at St. Alban's church cemetery, changing it to a fine, but simple marble slab which bore the name JOHN DAVID PLATT in carefully-tooled lettering. Esme had visited first with Carlisle and then later by herself as she gained control. She told Carlisle that the visits helped her, but Edward felt the increased heaviness of her spirit each time she came home.
But she let Carlisle think otherwise, and truthfully, whatever pain they caused her, Edward knew she didn't want to leave. So they had remained in Ashland longer than had been safe. Now they moved across seven states and a time zone, to a new life that was the same as the old, except now Edward carried secrets for two instead of only for one.
The hinges on the door to his bedroom groaned in protest as he pushed the door open with his hips and dropped the boxes in his arms, which were mostly books and sheet music. His room was furnished sparsely—three bookshelves, a desk, and a simple chair. He had no need for a bed or and no desire for the comfortable reading chairs that Carlisle preferred.
Edward unpacked the boxes at vampire speed, and a few minutes later found himself standing amidst full bookshelves, a few pieces of sheet music scattered across the immense desk. For a moment he thumbed them, his oil-less fingers leaving no smudge on the pages. It was an apt metaphor. His body left no more marks than did his existence. He was easily—and perfectly— erased.
Quietly, he slunk back down the stairs. Carlisle and Esme were sitting on the back porch in dining chairs they'd carried outside. Their hands were clasped together; their fingers intertwined, and the tiny diamond on Esme's left hand threw broken rainbows across Carlisle's cheek. Instinctively, Edward turned the other way.
The day was overcast; it was a good day to explore. But he didn't head toward the tiny downtown strip. He found himself instead moving toward the edges of the tiny town, drawing himself away from the invasive thoughts of the people around him. He walked nearly at a human's pace, perhaps a little faster, as he was tall and could get away with strides that were a little longer and a little quicker than an average human could keep up with.
The Barre train station was small, just a single stone building where the ticketer sat, and one platform of worn, rickety wood, and at first it surprised Edward when he came across it a few miles outside of town. A single locomotive chugged quietly at the platform, and the handful of minds he could hear all seemed intent on listening for its whistle. It was leaving soon, he realized.
Cuing in more closely to the minds around him, Edward ferreted out some of their destinations. Rochester. Pittsburgh. Cleveland. Chicago.
His feet carried him across the grass and the path of packed dirt to the tiny ticketing building, and before he knew it, he was holding out a five-dollar bill.
"May I purchase a ticket to Chicago, please?"
The ticketer, a man in his forties with a stout mustache, stared at him a moment. "Aren't you a little young to be traveling that far on a whim, son?" He looked behind Edward and made note of his utter lack of luggage.
"I'm going to visit my brother-in-law," Edward answered, the lie sliding coolly. "He is studying at the medical college there." It was easiest, he found, to always build any additional lies off the main one; in this case that he was Carlisle's wife's brother. This had been their cover all along. But now there really was a wife, and Carlisle was now a devoted young husband instead of masquerading as a bereft widower.
The man still looked at him skeptically, and so Edward plunked down an additional twenty dollars. "I'd like to go to Chicago," he repeated, pushing the twenty toward the man.
As the ticket seller's eyes grew wide, he wondered silently if Edward were a bootlegger, or even perhaps one of Capone's men. At that moment, however, the whistle blasted, and a sharp look from Edward was all it took for the man to pull the bill toward himself. He folded it neatly and pushed it into his breast pocket, then began to make change with the other bill Edward had given. "You'll want a Pullman car, I assume?"
Minutes later found Edward standing before the now-chugging locomotive as the conductor leaned out of a doorway down the platform and called, "All aboard!" Family members who had walked or driven to the train station stood on the platform, waving at those whom they'd dropped off. He watched them a moment, and imagined Carlisle and Esme, back at the new house, sitting quietly on the back porch, completely oblivious to his whereabouts. The train whistle sounded once more, and Edward swung one foot into the doorway near the front of the train.
The train lurched suddenly, and his foot slipped.
It was only a fraction of a second, and he of course recovered at once. He suspected no human watching had even seen it. Yet it was enough. He had just long enough to think of how happy Carlisle and Esme had looked as Carlisle carried her across the threshold earlier that morning. He imagined the looks on their faces when he didn't return. He saw clearly the frantic looks passing between them, the way Carlisle would run after his scent until it disappeared at this very spot. He could see Carlisle standing here in the dark, staring at the empty tracks.
"You coming, son?"
It was a gentleman perhaps in his thirties. He came to the door and offered Edward his hand, his too-large suit crinkling a bit at the elbow as he stretched out his arm. Unthinkingly, Edward put his own hand forward, but then pulled it back.
"No," he said quietly. "I think I'm going to stay."
He hopped off the stair and back onto the platform as the train whistle blew once more. The engine poured steam into the air, and he took a step backwards. He knew the ticket man was staring at him, wondering why he was retreating, but he turned away. The train's wheels screeched into motion. People on the platform began waving more frantically.
Edward turned away.
He would stay, he thought, beginning to walk slowly down the platform as the train gathered speed at his back. He would become Edward Platt, or Edward Masen—he didn't know, and he didn't care. He would go back to his sparse room with its books, and play at the new piano when it was delivered, and try to be happy for Carlisle and Esme in their newfound love. He would forget about having once been the important one.
But, he thought, as his feet left the train platform and landed on the packed dirt of the road, perhaps he would come back to the train station tomorrow.
The burn was gone.
Not slaked, not merely postponed, not held at the edges of his consciousness only to gradually creep more and more to the forefront of his mind, but absolutely gone. Edward had lived this falsification of a life for nine years, and not once in that time had he felt the peace and strength that he had known as a human. Vampirism to him had always reminded him that he was weaker; the call of the human blood, even when resisted, served as a constant reminder that he was inadequate, beastly—a demon among men. But now the call was gone, and there was an uncomfortable spring in his step as he raced back toward the farmhouse.
Frankly, it felt a little odd.
Esme was preoccupied with plans for turning their dilapidated barn into an adequate garage for Carlisle's car, and this allowed Edward to slip into the house unnoticed. He went immediately up to his room, seating himself on the hard, wooden desk chair and putting his head into his hands. The man's blood seemed to thrum in his veins. It had been beyond delicious, and the thought of how good it had tasted simultaneously made his throat ache and his head hurt.
Eleanor knew nothing. His bite had been straight through the man's Adam's apple, silencing him forever. Edward had been forced to live her happy thoughts in the bath as the images of terror flashed in the mind of the dying man. The body had been carried on his back into the wood behind Eleanor's home and dumped into the creek—he'd gone to the trouble to shove a large branch through the wound his teeth had created and to break the man's neck. The creek was high from the spring rains; if the body was even found, they would assume he'd had a horrific, drunken fall.
And so he'd left the woman splashing languidly in the bath, returning to his home under the cover of night, like the beast he now knew himself unequivocally to be. He didn't want to come home, and yet he knew no other place. He sat huddled over his desk, his hands shaking as they cradled his forehead.
He sat silently for a long time before his breath shook as he gave a sudden, involuntary gasp. The sensation was foreign, and were it not for Esme having already made the sound so familiar to his ears, he wouldn't have recognized his own crying.
For a moment he sat upright in shock, feeling the deep shame and sadness begin to rock him. But then, leaning forward, he laid his head on the desk and pressed his cheek to the cool wood as his shoulders heaved uncontrollably. The entire desk shook with his body, and its legs rattled against the wooden floor.
The sound drew Carlisle upstairs when he arrived home a short while later, and Edward burrowed his head more deeply into his arms as the scent grew nearer and nearer. Finally the scent enveloped him, but he didn't look up and instead sat in silence.
What's wrong with him? came the panicked thought. Memories of the terse words exchanged earlier in the day raced through Carlisle's mind.
"Please, just go away, Carlisle," Edward managed.
The heavy hand came to lie on the back of his neck, the thumb moving its way up the vertebrae at the top of his spine. Edward flinched, but he was unable to move. If he pulled himself away, Carlisle would see his face. So he contented himself merely to listen as the older vampire stood behind him, breathing steadily, perfunctorily, and unnecessarily.
Strange thoughts began to pour forth. Edward saw himself, flinching from Carlisle's hand repeatedly. He saw his face, a smile plastered across it as he stood at the altar in the tiny side chapel beside his mentor and guide, and he realized now as he saw into Carlisle's mind that Carlisle had recognized his acquiescence to the marriage for the charade that it was. He saw Carlisle lying next to Esme in their luxurious bed, and heard Carlisle's smooth voice breaking as he spoke.
"I'm terrified," the memory-Carlisle said. "He's so changed, Esme. I wish you had known him before. This is not my Edward." Then more memories, each assaulting Edward's mind as it assaulted Carlisle's—Ashland, Barre, on hunts, in their home, in private moments and in public. The same thought pulled forth again and again, sometimes spoken aloud, sometimes thought silently but always in Edward's absence: I don't know what to do.
And it was only then, only when the realization of the grave misunderstanding that had lasted almost six years reared its head, that Edward finally allowed himself to look up and meet his father's eyes in shame.
The hand was gone from his neck at once as Carlisle staggered backwards, the horror registering simultaneously on his face and in his mind.
"Edward…" he breathed. "Oh please, no." Tell me it was an accident, Carlisle's mind began to beg. Please, tell me it was a mistake. You slipped, Edward. He slipped. He only slipped. Tell me you slipped.
He could, he realized. He could say the words, and he would be welcomed into Carlisle's embrace as surely as Esme had been when Carlisle had discovered her mistake six years before. A tiny lie, easily forgivable by his kind. And especially forgivable by Carlisle, whose compassion knew no bounds.
Please say it was only a mistake.
Except that was the problem. There had been no mistake. The mistake would have been those greasy fingers where they didn't belong. The mistake would have been the damage to the woman, to her unborn child. The mistake would have been not to interfere, to stand idly by as Carlisle did, merely doing his best but not doing what he could do to save those around him from their suffering.
His father's eyes followed him warily as he rose to his full height. He and Carlisle were just a fraction of an inch different, although Carlisle's body was that of a man's and Edward's was still the gangly, half-finished form of a teenager. He stared into Carlisle's eyes, red upon gold, and told the truth.
"I made no mistake."
A pain shot through Carlisle at his words, so deep it nearly knocked Edward to his knees. But the man recovered himself at once, turning a sorrowful expression on Edward.
You are forgiven.
"I don't want your forgiveness, Carlisle."
The expression softened. "You don't get to choose that, son," he began, but Edward brought him up short.
"I don't want forgiveness!"
The older vampire moved to embrace him, and at once, Edward knew he'd had enough. There was no way to make Carlisle see. He would forgive, endlessly, and the thought made Edward tired. The last thing he wanted was this piteous gaze, these open arms. He needed the anger—he needed Carlisle, for once, to fight. Fight for him, fight against him; he didn't care, but anything was better than pity.
Edward swiftly closed the gap as Carlisle advanced with his arms ready to embrace, diving for the same place on Carlisle's body where his own scars were. A sickening metallic scrape rang out as Edward's teeth clamped down on Carlisle's neck, and the sound of bone breaking echoed in the sparsely-furnished room. Blood spurted from the wound—not the fragrant human blood, but the stomach-turning blood of some animal that had been the blond vampire's most recent kill.
Floorboards groaned and cracked beneath them as the two crashed to the floor, and a terrible roar of pain ripped from Carlisle's lips. His left arm went limp against his side, the tendons severed and the collarbone that had once supported it shattered. But his right arm recovered instinctively, and Edward saw only the split-second of thought in Carlisle's mind before the hand swung around to make contact with his face. A second sickening crack rang out, and blood began to gush from Edward's now-broken nose.
He, too, howled in pain, shooting to his feet at once and dragging the back of his wrist across his upper lip. It came away crimson.
Before he thought, his tongue darted out and licked the blood from his hand. Carlisle's mind registered his horror at Edward's action, but he remained writhing in pain on the floor, unable to put pressure on the one arm to stand himself back up.
In seconds, Edward's hand was clean. He gulped down the last mouthful of blood and venom, and shamefully met his sire's eyes once more.
"Don't call me 'son!'" His feet took him backwards so quickly he might have fallen, had he been human.
In that moment, Carlisle managed to get his right palm beneath him and sprang to his feet, his left arm still dangling limp at his side. Edward looked away, sickened by what he'd done.
"Edward, please," he said quietly, but it was no use. Edward met his father's shining golden eyes for what would prove to be the last time, and he looked away at once.
'I'm not who you thought I was," he mumbled. "I don't belong here."
Carlisle had always told him his speed would slow as his body finally churned the last of his human blood into venom. But it had never happened, and as Edward ducked Carlisle's second attempt to embrace him, he was grateful. Perhaps it was the injury, or perhaps it was just the shock of being turned down twice, but Carlisle stayed still as Edward shot through his arms once more—this time not in the direction of his body, but in the direction of the stairs.
She was on the stairwell, trembling, her hands thrown over her face. Fear for her husband's safety was written in every plane of her face. When she saw his eyes, her own squeezed shut, but this didn't stop her thought: Like a demon.
A demon, indeed. Reaching the front door, he yanked it open, only to be greeted with the torrential downpour he had registered only faintly in the furthest reaches of his mind. For a brief second, this gave him pause, but then he was over the threshold and hurtling into the darkness and the pelting water. He pumped his legs hard, surprised at how fast they would move fueled by the blood of the monster he had disposed, and he was away from the tiny house in seconds, far enough that the thoughts faded, the concern waned, the terrible image of his own visage replayed in the other minds left behind. But as a loud clap of thunder sounded, his super-human ears still picked up in the distance the sound of his father's desperate scream.
Esme was at the back of the house, gardening by moonlight. It was a favorite hobby of hers. Faded bits of her human memories had revealed to Edward a perpetual love of playing in the dirt, which she had learned to channel to more domestic pursuits as she grew into womanhood. She had begun gardening once more not long after their move to Vermont, and now in Rochester their house was surrounded by beds. Most were filled with flowers, but there was also a healthy vegetable garden whose bounty Esme took to the aid society. She found her peace in the gardens, and both the men had learned over the years not to disturb her there.
But as Edward's lanky form cast a long shadow from the doorway of the house, she beckoned him.
Spring had given way to a hot and sticky summer, and the air was thick tonight as Edward moved silently to Esme's side. She was on her knees in the dirt, her hands repeatedly moving forward as she spied something, yanked it, and tossed it aside.
When he was close enough that his body towered over hers, Esme looked up and tossed her hair out of her face. For a moment she only gazed at him, then gestured to the patch of earth beside her.
"You were just standing there," she told him quietly when he dropped to his knees beside her. "I thought you might want something to do." She gestured to the growing pile of discarded green plants at her left side and then back to the garden. "You can help weed."
Edward looked from her dirt-streaked hands to the plants at her side, and recalled the plodding way she had mechanically uprooted them—pull, twist, toss. Her speed, or lack thereof, confused him.
"Couldn't you already have this finished? Why are you working so slowly?"
She laughed, and the sound gave him pause as he tried to remember the last time he'd heard it. None of them laughed much anymore, it seemed.
Still young, she thought, and Edward winced a little. Esme was older than him in all ways but one, and her general good humor about her new life seemed to give her an edge even in the arena where Edward technically had three years on her.
"What do you mean, 'Still young'?" he asked, and she gave him a sympathetic smile in answer.
"Sometimes it's not about being fast. I know that's probably a tough concept for you."
He began to protest at once, but then realized that her intention was to tease him. She reached forward, grabbed another shoot, and gave it the methodical twist-pull. "It gives me time to think."
He frowned. "But we think quickly, too."
Another laugh. "It can just be good to slow down sometimes, Edward." She gestured to the garden. In the dark and in the moonlight, the plants looked an odd shade of purple. He reached forward, grabbed one, and yanked.
The feeling of the release and the tiny zipping sound as the roots gave way their hold on the earth was strangely satisfying. He reached forward and pulled another. Esme watched him work for a moment, admonishing him once when he reached for a carrot plant by mistake, then quietly went back to her own patch.
He had pulled forty-seven weeds and had a small pile growing when it happened. He didn't know the plant by sight, although Esme told him later it was a dandelion. But its root was stronger than the others, and pulling it required just enough of an increase in force that it brought back to his fingers the memory of human tendons snapping, the crush of a windpipe between his thumb and forefinger. The plant came free, spraying bits of dirt onto his slacks, but he didn't throw it into the pile, and instead stared at it, his hand shaking.
Esme cocked her head toward him as her own hands came to a stop. Her puzzled concern hit him at once. Carlisle and she had talked, he knew. He'd told her everything he knew about Edward's absence. But she didn't probe, just simply pushed herself up so that she was sitting on her heels. In the moonlight, her hair looked almost the same shade as his. They passed well as brother and sister, if they were a bit too close in age to pass for mother and son.
"She reminded me of my mother," he said quietly, looking back down at the churned dirt. "The woman in Barre. That was why I followed her at first. And then there was someone else. Following her, I mean. And he"—he gulped—"he was going to force himself on her that night. So…I did something about it."
He looked over to find that Esme's eyes were trained on him. Her lips were slightly parted, as though she were about to answer, but she instead nodded for him to go on.
"I never meant to leave. I thought I was just going to go for a day or two—actually, I was going to stay until Carlisle and I fought. But then I thought I should get away, and then by the time I made it to Montpelier, I found another. His mind was so dark, and it was so…easy."
The memory caused him to shudder. He'd fled from Barre that afternoon feeling rejected and hurt, but not with intention to stay away for long. But he'd barely reached Montpelier before he'd allowed the thoughts of another to infiltrate his mind once more—a man planning to off his cousin over a bad bootlegging deal.
The man had never made it to the speakeasy.
And so Edward Masen Cullen, the once-beloved son of the doctor had become the dark avenging angel. Each victim took him further, made it harder to turn back. If he couldn't accept Carlisle's forgiveness for one, how could he accept it for ten? Fifty? Two hundred? And so his shame and guilt had kept him going until they nearly crushed him.
There was a swishing sound as Esme moved across the grass, closing the space between them so that she could lay a hand on his shoulder. She said nothing. It wasn't the backrub or the overt comforting that was more typical of Carlisle's style, but just a simple reminder that she was present. They sat that way, silent and in the darkness, for several minutes before Edward continued.
"It got fun," he said at last. "One day, I was…hunting. And I chased a man. Chased him, at human speed. He was just as vile as the rest, but when I caught him, I realized that I'd gone after him for fun. I wasn't thirsty, and there were hundreds I could've chosen, but I didn't. And I could've just gone at full speed and he never would have even seen me. I chased him because he was a good runner, and it was fun."
He scooped up a handful of topsoil and then tipped his hand sideways, letting it trickle off his palm into a little pile as he remembered that day. He had crossed a line, but he hadn't realized that he'd crossed it until that moment. The feel of the ground beneath his knees reminded him of how he had fallen there in the dank alley, the blood still dribbling down his chin and his howl of shame echoing off the brick walls.
This ground was softer, though, and that fact did not escape him.
Her voice startled him. "And that was when you stopped?"
He hadn't been able to stop, not right away. But it had gotten better then. He started to pay more attention to who he was killing again, going longer between kills, until he was going weeks at a stretch.
"I just…I started being smarter about it again. I didn't feed as often. And then one day I was out, and it had been weeks since I'd fed, and I just…started running."
His image flashed in her mind—dark-eyed, sopping wet, and standing on their lawn. For a fraction of a second, the hand on his shoulder squeezed, and then the memory shifted. He dissolved, to be replaced with the woman whose flowing hair reminded him so much of Elizabeth Masen's. Except now she sat outside, in the town's small park, holding a bundle. As he watched in Esme's memory, the bundle reached out a tiny hand and pulled down its blanket.
"Did you know she was pregnant?" Esme whispered.
He nodded, looking away.
"Carlisle delivered the baby. He insisted on it. There was a scandal when they found the body of…that man." She didn't say "that man you killed" and for this, Edward was grateful.
"They found a photograph of her in his home," she went on. " Carlisle thought that maybe she'd had something to do with what you did, and so we watched her. We hoped maybe you would come back to see her and we could talk to you. But you never did."Eleanor reappeared in Esme's mind, the baby clutched to her chest. The child kicked and giggled in her arms. He was a fat baby, and cheerful. Above him, his mother smiled widely, looking every bit as beautiful as she had when Edward had last seen her.
"She named him Thomas," Esme said quietly.
Edward swallowed, looking back at the garden. Of course Esme had fixated on the baby; the loss of her own child was still that which most pained her about this life. She would see the existence of that child as a reason to justify everything that Edward had done. He couldn't have it that way.
"I'm still a murderer."
She caught him off-guard when she nodded.
"Of course you are," she said thoughtfully. "And those people you killed are a part of you now. But so is that baby, and so is every bit of good that came from what you did. You carry them both, Edward. That's how it works. I didn't leave Charles soon enough, but that gave me John. I took my own life, but that brought me to Carlisle." She gestured to the garden. "We don't get to live without our weeds."
Edward looked askance at the tiny pile of shriveling greenery that lay beside his knee. He could almost see them wilting. It happened so quickly once their roots were severed from the ground. They were like the bodies of the men he'd killed, one after another, lying in the dirt, slowly withering away to nothing. He ran his hand over the pile absently.
"There were so many," he whispered.
Oh, Edward. She moved at full speed now, and her arms came around him protectively. He stilled himself, letting her hold him. Her arms were more slender than Carlisle's, her wrists more delicate where they crossed over his shoulder. In the moonlight, her bare arms shone faintly. She laid her head on his shoulder a moment, and her hair tickled his ear. They sat for several minutes. Edward could hear the thrum of the summer locusts around them, and the gentle whooshing of the stream in the distance.
Esme's chest expanded and contracted against his own ribcage as she heaved a sigh, and Edward felt a strange emotion from her.
His lip curled in disgust. "How can you be proud of me?"
She shifted her body again, so that they were looking at each other directly, although one arm stayed draped over his shoulder, her wrist bending a little at his clavicle. "Edward," she said, "that you feel remorse at all is what makes you human."
Carlisle surfaced in her mind then, kneeling over the parts of the smashed piano. Edward had never seen the thing; so quick his father had been to remove the evidence. The living room had been empty by the time he wandered back down from his bedroom an hour later. But in Esme's memory he saw his father, the pain evident on the man's face as he began to gather the pieces of the instrument. He recalled his own terrible words, "Why didn't you just let me die?" and winced. The apology to his father for these words still had not been made. He had gone for the jugular—figuratively, this time, which on the one hand was an improvement, but on the other, the words would hurt Carlisle more permanently than any bite he could inflict. He had lashed out at the doctor, but Edward knew himself to be the one who deserved the harsh rebuke.
He hung his head. "I've failed him." To his surprise, Esme laughed.
"He's said the same thing, you know," she answered when Edward raised his eyebrows. "He's afraid he's let you down. Afraid he did something to cause you to leave. I've told him he's wrong, but he doesn't listen."
"He didn't do anything."
"I know that. But he wants to be perfect for you. And while Carlisle is many, many wonderful things, perfect is just not one of them." She gave Edward a conspiratorial smile as she removed her hand from his shoulder. "He loves you more than anyone, Edward. And I say that as his wife. That you came back will always mean more to him than any number of deaths ever could."
She stood then, brushing away some of the dirt that clung to her skirt. Bending over to pick up the shriveling weeds, she threw them into the woods with such speed they made little zinging noises as they hit passing trees. She brushed her palms clean against each other, then turned back to Edward.
"Thank you for helping me weed."
He nodded and got to his feet behind her. They both jerked upright when they recognized the rumble of an engine in the distance. Carlisle insisted on driving as the humans drove—it took almost twenty minutes from the time they heard him until he arrived on the doorstep.
"That will be your Carlisle," Esme said, as though Edward hadn't heard the engine himself. She started for the back door, but paused when she saw Edward hadn't followed. Her eyebrows raised, and for a moment she worried for his hesitation.
"It will take time," she said when he didn't move forward. "But time, Edward, is certainly something you have." She beckoned him. "Come. Help me greet your father."
She turned, her hair swirling over her shoulders as she did. And as the quiet purr of the slow engine wound its way ever closer, he followed her inside, this woman whose hair was the same shade as his, the same shade as Eleanor's—the shade of his mother's.
He smelled them long before he saw the house. After three years of solitude, the cloy of vampire perfume was almost foreign to him now. He recognized them both—Esme's sweeter scent, Carlisle's earthier one. At once, he was flooded with both relief and trepidation.
Their thoughts broke through to him before their voices did. They were confused, worried. Angry, even. Carlisle's mind was filled with the idea of a hospital, somewhere else, and this caused him to pause.
They were thinking of leaving.
He came to a halt on the lawn, two hundred yards from the house, unwilling to get close enough to hear their conversation. It had turned from a gentle spring shower to an outright storm, and every now and again the whole sky lit up in purples and blues as he watched an upstroke shoot from the ground toward the dark clouds. Weighed down by the soaking rain, his clothing, hung off his body, pulling his own weight toward the ground as he stood, dripping, watching as the shadows moved inside the house.
Edward felt the upstroke begin in the ground beneath his feet—the electricity, the anticipation, the magnetic pull toward the sky destined to destroy anything in its path. Unconsciously, his feet spread themselves a little wider. He had chosen this path, and he would stand his ground.
The electricity shot from the ground to the sky a few yards behind him, and the pressure of the hot air expanding outward behind him seemed to singe his skin. The sky lit up in purple, blue, and fiery white over his head, throwing the whole house and yard into stark relief.
At the window, Esme turned.
For a fraction of a second, he almost ran. He could beat them, if he needed to. His whole being filled with shame—for running from this simple house and the people who occupied it, for the lives he had taken in his absence, for the baleful nature of his return. His shoulders sagged as he looked downward, away from the gaze of the woman at the window, and yet, his feet did not move.
The hesitation was just long enough. There was a resounding crack as the front door of the tiny house was wrenched from its hinges, and a second slam as it landed on the wood floor behind.
He had forgotten what it looked like to watch one of his kind move. The speed so fast it was almost stillness, the graceful way their bodies moved even as they both made a beeline for him at a flat-out run. He was still standing there, feeling the remaining heat from the lightning, listening to the rumbling thunder echoing from the trees and the house, when they both slammed into him.
Had they not come at him from different sides, he might have been knocked over, but as it was, they mashed him between them as their arms came around him. One of Carlisle's hands twined itself in Edward's hair, and he found himself nearly crushed against the strong chest even as Esme's more delicate arms grabbed him from behind.
"I'm sorry," a voice said, and it was shaking. Crying. "I'm sorry; I'm sorry; I'm so sorry…"
It wasn't until the third or fourth iteration that he recognized the quavering voice was his own. Around him, Esme and Carlisle were laughing and crying at once, the rain dripping down their faces as they all became drenched together and water whipped in through the front door of the house beyond. The wind howled, driving the rain against their backs, and more lightning struck in the distance. Yet Edward stayed trapped securely between his parents, mumbling his litany of apology as they responded with a silent one of their own:
We missed you.
We love you.
Dedicated to AnjieNet, with all my gratitude for both your generosity and the wonderful prompt.
"Da Capo" is available in PDF on my website: www(dot)gisellelx(dot)com/da-capo
As always, thank you for reading.