Note: This is my Haiti compilation oneshot, which is going up today as part of MrsTheKing's Reader Appreciation Day - thanks to her, many authors across the fandom are honouring all our readers by updating today, on 28/2/2010 - wherever possible.
See the blog The Fic Bridge for more details: http://theficbridge(dot)blogspot(dot)com/ .
So hopefully if you're reading lots of fics, your box should be stuffed with alerts today. I'd just like to say THANKYOU to all my readers - to those who alert/favourite/review, and even to those who don't. I write for myself, but it's lovely to know that others enjoy it too. I appreciate your support so much.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of Stephenie Meyer. 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 hope you like this – it's an EsmePOV, something a little different for me but I wanted to try it. This is a one-shot describing Edward's return to Carlisle and Esme after his rebellious period, 1927-1931. Inspired by the famous poem 'Invictus'. EsmePOV. Carlisle & Esme would have been living in Ashland, Wisconsin at this time.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Invictus – William Ernest Henley
I step out on to the porch, my feet making no sound. It is cold outside, though I barely feel it. The wind whistles through the trees, caressing their boughs. The trees are several hundred yards from our house, but if I close my eyes and concentrate, I hear them as if they were right beside me. The soft sound of the branches as they click against each other soothes me.
I am lonely tonight. Carlisle is at the hospital, working the night shift. My breath makes clouds in the still, crisp air. I wish it to be spring soon. Not because the cold bothers me, because I am far from human, and extremes of temperature do not affect me, but because it gives me hope. It is a truly amazing thing to watch a frozen dead world suddenly burst with life again.
Gardening is one of my favourite things, and when the cold Ashland winter subsides, I will plant window boxes, and flowers in the beds at the back of the house. Our home sits in a clearing, near the outskirts of the city and the shores of Chequamegon Bay. We can never allow ourselves to live too close to humans. Not that my self-control is lacking, and Carlisle's certainly is not, but we cannot allow them to notice that we are too different, that we never sleep.
I am happy enough here, of course, far happier than I was back in 1921, when my son died six days after his birth. Benjamin. I have never fully been able to discuss the circumstances in which Carlisle found me when he saved me. After the death of my baby, I thought I had nothing, but Carlisle showed me that there was another way. Once I was accustomed to my strange new body, and learned to control the thirst, my strong eyes were able to truly see this wonderful man. He loves me in ways I could have never thought possible, and I love him more than immortality itself.
We often discuss the fact that we will have to move away from here soon, as Carlisle thinks that his youthful appearance is beginning to raise questions at the hospital. I know that we must, and yet I cannot think of leaving here. A stray tree branch lies on the ground, blown there by the icy wind. I pick it up, turning it over in my palm absently.
How would he find us if we moved? My fingertips grasp, there is a crunching sound and bark turns to powder. Why am I standing here, alone in the deepest black of night, watching the trees? Because I hope.
I hope my son will come back to me. Even though it has been four years, and the possibility of that grows ever slimmer. Things have changed even since he left. The crash of 1929 has plunged America into economic depression. Our varied sources of income and assets meant that it has affected us little, but I do feel shame when I see poor children wearing naught but rags on their feet in this deep snow. Carlisle and I do our part, he by his work at the hospital, and I by donating to charity projects, but our luxurious life seems in bad taste sometimes.
When I awoke as a vampire, this silent brooding boy who saw Carlisle as his father had at first unnerved me. That quickly gave way to pity for a young boy who had lost his parents so young. I know Edward was unsure about me at first, but in a matter of weeks I grew to love him like my own son, and I became a mother to him.
He was fiercely protective of me in return, as a son is to a mother, helping me with the trials and tribulations of the first years of an immortal life. I miss everything about him. I miss rumpling his unruly bronze hair affectionately while he ducks away in mock embarrassment: I miss hearing his fingers form notes on the piano keys while I listen: I miss him reading aloud by candlelight as I sew and Carlisle listens.
"My son," I hear myself say, my voice choking as my lips form those words. I know that my heart will always cry out for Edward, wherever he is. His presence, along with Carlisle's love, had been my saving grace. Though in body, I was but five years older than he, I felt motherly towards him from the very beginning. A mother's love was what he needed, for he had been but a boy of seventeen when his own mother was so cruelly taken from him.
I had seen Edward grow in so many ways in the time we had spent together. The mother and son bond forged between us had helped to heal the gaping wounds that the death of my own son had inflicted on my heart. Now, his absence picks at the barely healed scars, unearthing fresh sorrow.
When will it be spring for me?
The moment my adoptive son left, my whole world seemed frozen and dead. The bleak landscape of trees, and the city beyond now echoes my loss. The life Carlisle and I share is full of many joys, but they are tinged with sadness as Edward is not there to share them. Carlisle is terribly patient with me, but I know how he suffers too. He wonders if he did the right thing in changing Edward when he so young and had experienced so much loss. He seems to think that Edward's rejection of our lifestyle was inevitable, but that brings him little comfort.
It has been a long time, by human standards but time means something different to us than it does to mortals. For me, it is still as if Edward left yesterday.
I am unchanging, bound by my grief as I stand, looking in the darkness before me. Of course, I can see in the dark better than any human, but this brings me no comfort. Edward is not my biological son, but I am his mother, nonetheless. And a mother's heart weeps forever if her child is lost.
A sob splutters from my chest unexpectedly, and I grip one of the patio roof supports for balance. I have sobbed many times but it brings no relief, as I am unable to cry. One of the disadvantages of what I am. Vampires have the capacity to experience emotions far more deeply than humans, and yet our physical state denies us the most basic form of emotional release.
I breathe deeply, trying to reign in the tide of feeling that threatens to consume me. Though I have no need of air, my sense of smell is precious to me. I can smell the evergreens, and the clear, fresh scent coming off the blanket of snow on the ground. Somehow, when it snows, the world seems quieter. I check my watch. Carlisle will not return for five hours, and the night seems endless.
My fist opens, and the crushed, powdered bark hits the porch floor. I turn to go back inside the little house, hoping to find some distraction to occupy me until my husband returns.
That is when I see him, a tall lithe figure standing before the door, dressed in a tattered, grey morning suit . Edward. My wonderful, beautiful son, looking just as he did the day he left us.
"Is it you?" I say, trembling, wanting to go to him but unsure how he will react. I know he hears everything I am thinking right now, however.
"Esme," he says, and his eyes meet mine. My heart exults at the sound of my son's pure, clear voice. I except to see deep crimson, but his irises are a muddy brown. He sees the surprise register on my face, and steps forward.
"I hunted wolves on my way back here. I – I couldn't do it any more, I..."
I watch my son's angelic features dissolve into anguish as his voice trails off, and his face falls into his hands.
"I'm so sorry, Mom," he gasps, and a strangled cry wrenches itself from deep inside him. "I'm so sorry for what I've done to you and Carlisle. I could hear what you were thinking before I made my presence known to you." He steps back, unsure if he is welcome. Closing the distance between us, I draw my son into my arms and breathe in his sweet, familiar scent. He pauses, surprised, but clings to me like a small child allowing his mother to comfort him as he sobs, anguished against my shoulder, his hands gripping the back of my blouse.
"Shhh," I murmur. "Shhh, you're home."
The colour of his eyes is indicative of a diet of human blood recently mixed with animal blood. I know what my son has done, and yet I love him just the same. A mother's love is complex. Whatever your child has done, the chances are that you will still love them regardless. Even if he or she is a murderer. Edward tenses as that particular thought reaches him, and I try to make my mind blank so as not to upset him further.
I hold him for the next few minutes, and we say nothing. I just let him cry tearless, remorseful sobs against my shoulder. Eventually, he stops, and raises his head. He looks a bit embarrassed, but I reach out and stroke his arm, a simple motherly gesture, and it soothes him. The touch seems foreign to him, and I realise he must have been alone all the time, with no contact with others of his kind. He frowns and I again attempt to get a handle on my thoughts so he won't have to hear every musing in my head.
I gesture towards the door, and I step inside. He follows me into our living room, and I flick the light switch on. Electricity for the whole house is a luxury we've only recently had access to. I sit down on the antique French sofa, crossing my ankles awkwardly. "That's new," he comments quietly as he stands, unsure what to do.
"Edward, please come and sit by me," I ask beseechingly. His face changes and his eyes become softer, as he follows my advice and sits down beside me.
I take his hand in mine, and he seems shocked, just like he has been by all affection I have given him this evening. I worry about how many people he has killed - mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters. Did he kill children? He winces as he reads that thought in my mind, and shakes his head. I feel immeasurable relief. But I have to say this - I have to let him know that he is still my son. He knows what I am about to tell him, but I want to say it out loud.
"Sweetheart," I start to say, and his expression softens upon hearing that endearment. "I missed you. Whatever you've done, the fact that you came back shows that you are a good person underneath it all."
He looks pained at this, and pulls his hand out of my grasp. What did I say? "I'm not, Mom," he cries. "I'm a monster. I've taken hundreds of human lives, living only for the gratification of the thirst. I am the worst kind of monster."
It hurts me to see my son in so much pain, but I say: "You're not a monster, Edward. You're my son, and I love you just the same."
"I love you too, Mom. But I've done...the most terrible things. When I tell you, you might not want me to be your son any more, I -"
That was enough. I held up a hand, and he fell silent. "Edward, darling. Tell me nothing until Carlisle gets home from the hospital, and then we'll all discuss this as a family. But let me tell you this – you not being our son any more is not an option."
And I truly mean this. My heart bursts with love for my son at this moment, whatever sins he has committed. I gaze upon him, and to me, light, warmth and goodness shines out of his handsome face, though it is etched with agony.
If he feels such guilt over the atrocities he has committed, I know him to still be a good person. And that is enough for me.
Edward looks up at me from beneath his lashes, his eyes questioning. "I hope that's true for Carlisle."
"I know it is," I tell my son with true conviction. "He loves you as his own son, and he'll be thrilled to see you."
And now we wait. The room becomes silent, as still as the snow-covered land outside. The silence is not uncomfortable, however: it is calming. Edward and I sit companionably for the next few hours as we wait for Carlisle's return. I try to keep my thoughts blank, though they inevitably stray towards my husband from time to time.
At last, the door handle turns and my husband enters. I cannot help but smile at the expression of shock and pleasure on his face as he takes in the sight of Edward and me sitting together on the sofa.
"Edward!" He smiles, and moves to sit on the chair opposite the sofa. Edward's eye colour does not escape him, as I see his forehead wrinkle briefly, but Carlisle's face remains open and warm as he appraises his son. Taking in his dishevelled appearance, he teasingly scolds: "Well, we'll have to get you something new to wear. Look at that suit, it's a mess!"
I playfully shove my son, trying to lighten the mood, and he smiles back weakly. I can see that he still believes he is on trial, but he is not. We only need to hear the full story so that we can find a way to deal with it as a family, and move on.
"Carlisle, I've been hunting humans for the past four years," Edward says suddenly, his gaze locked on his father's face.
Carlisle shows no surprise, and why would he? He knows that Edward left to reject our lifestyle, out of resentment for Carlisle curbing his appetite.
"I know, son," he says gravely, casting his eyes down. I feel Edward tremble beside me, and I realise that he fears Carlisle's reaction most of all, as he is the creator of our unusual lifestyle. He knows his reaction already, and yet it all depends on what his father will say out loud.
When Carlisle speaks again he does not sound angry, only reproachful. "I am sure that you feel immense guilt for your killing of innocents, my son, so I will not torture you with it further. I cannot deny that I am disappointed in you, but I had known that this was coming for a long time before you left us. You have always resented what you are."
Edward bites his granite lip in shame, in complete acceptance of what his father is telling him. I shoot Carlisle a look, and he knows its meaning. He knows that our son has already suffered so much from the guilt of what he has done, and we need not make him suffer further.
"I know this does not absolve me -" Edward begins to say "- but I did not kill innocents, as I saw them. I drank the blood of the dregs of society -- rapists, murderers. I used my ability to read minds to read the thoughts of my prey as they stalked their victims. I let the victims be. Never once did I murder an innocent being."
I suddenly see a vision of my son, stalking an evil man down a dark alley while a young girl cowers. He is stunning, powerful and terrible all at the same time, and I shiver. Yes, I can imagine it all too well. Edward lets out a tiny gasp as he sees this for himself, and I know that I must not be far from the truth. I reach out for his hand and squeeze it tightly, letting him know that I accept him, and he relaxes slightly.
Carlisle's face looks guarded. I can see that this revelation pleases him, but that he is trying to veil his thoughts so Edward does not feel the seriousness of his transgressions are lessened. His face smooths into sternness.
"I appreciate you telling us this, Edward, but all human life is worth the same, regardless if the human himself is evil. The commitment we have made to this life does not allow exceptions."
My son's shoulders sag, and I shoot a warning look at Carlisle. His lip turns up at the corner, and I see that he is ready to forgive Edward. Edward, of course, knows this too, as his eyes are shining with hope as he sits beside me, on tenterhooks to hear the verdict from his father.
"However, the fact that you refrained from killing the truly innocent does show me that how reluctant you must have been to defy our way of life," Carlisle says quietly. "You will always be welcome here, Edward, and you'll always be my son." He smiles kindly at his son.
"I do not deserve forgiveness, but I welcome it," Edward replies, smiling back at his father and creator. I open my mouth to protest, but my son raises an eyebrow at me and I fall silent. Of course you deserve to be forgiven, Edward. I can't imagine how hard this must have been for you, to turn away from human blood and return to us. He nods, showing that he hears me, and I am glad.
Edward looks at Carlisle, presumably reading his thoughts, and he visibly relaxes.
"As to why I'm back here – I came to realise I was no better than the prey I stalked. The faces of the people I've killed haunted me, no matter how evil or depraved they were," Edward admits, pain creasing at the corners of his eyes. "I saw both your faces in my head, judging me. My conscience haunted me for too long, and I became terribly depressed. I missed you both. I am so sorry I defied you, Carlisle, and I'm sorry for the pain I have caused the both of you by leaving." He breaks off from his speech with a small sigh, his face etched with horror and pain.
My son. I know he is in agony over the choices he has made, but the one that brought him back to us is the one that will stand. I know this, and so does Carlisle. I turn my gaze to my husband, and we exchange a brief look that speaks of concern for Edward.
Carlisle stands and moves closer to the sofa. Edward straightens, and Carlisle pulls him into an embrace.
"Edward, I forgive you," he says, pulling back to grasp Edward's shoulders. "How could I not? I changed you knowing you to be a truly good person. My opinion of you has not altered. You will always be my son. Esme and I are so glad that you have decided to return to us, and to this life."
"We are, Edward, and we both forgive you" I agree. I give my husband a quick kiss on the cheek and Edward grins approvingly. In turn I kiss my son on the cheek and he laughs.
I place a hand on Edward's shoulder and encourage him to walk into the drawing room. The grand piano is still there in the corner, all sleek black wood. I have kept it tuned for him all the time that he was gone, for I never could allow myself to lose hope that my son would come to his senses and return. His eyes light up as he hears my thoughts and sees this instrument at the same time, and he sits down at the bench.
Carlisle has followed us, and places a fond hand on my shoulder. I beam at him, and he looks stunned, but delighted to see me so happy. Edward caresses the dark wood of the lid almost reverently, and carefully lifts it. He experimentally taps a few of the keys, and satisfied that the piano is in perfect working order, begins to play. His long, pale fingers stroke the keys and my ears are instantly filled with the most exquisitely delightfully piece of music. It is my favourite piece, Chopin's Nocturne in E Flat Major, Op.9, No.2 and I am utterly touched that my son is playing it for me. Edward's passion for his music is palpable, and I listen, transfixed, as the piece rises to a trilling crescendo, his digits forming the notes effortlessly.
As the music finishes, Edward turns to us, his face lighter, more open.
"That was beautiful, Edward," I say, my voice quavering, and if I could cry, I know tears would be pouring down my face right now.
My son. I cross the room to his side and he kisses my cheek and murmurs "Thank you."
Carlisle is behind me now, and his arms encircle my waist as he places a hand on Edward's shoulder. It will not be easy for Edward in the weeks to come, to grow used to the bitter, tangy flavour of animal blood again, but I know he will manage. My son hides a smile as he reads that particular thought.
"Edward," Carlisle says softly, echoing my thoughts, "I know it will not be easy for you to adopt this lifestyle again, but you are strong, and I know if anyone can do it, you can. Remember, it is not always the easy choice that brings us the most satisfaction in the long run. The path we have chosen for ourselves is not an easy one, but I think it all the more rewarding for that. All the better for our souls."
Edward laughs darkly at that last statement. "Carlisle, you know I don't believe there is any sort of afterlife for our kind."
"Maybe not," Carlisle concedes with a wry smile, "But I cannot build my hopes on the basis that we are awaiting eternal damnation. Instead, I hope. And it is what has always sustained me, what sustained me in the long years I lived alone before I turned you. Hope is all you have, when you are destined to life forever."
As ever, the eloquence of my husband astounds me. Carlisle's arm is wound round my waist, and both our hands rest on Edward's shoulders. We are a family again, more than I could ever have dreamed of only a few short hours ago. My heart swells with affection for my son and husband.
As for Edward, he will have to be the master of his own fate, and, ultimately, the captain of his soul. I agree with Carlisle's view that even vampires still retain their souls. I can only hope that we are afforded credence for our efforts to deny the monsters within us.
However, I do not know how much hope my son has. Perhaps one day he will find a companion, someone to be to him as I am to Carlisle. I wish that for Edward greatly, even though he does not know to wish for it himself. At this moment, though, I try not to think of that, not wanting my son to know these things.
The blackness is dissipating outside as daybreak comes, and it lifts my spirits. Though the flowers in my garden have yet to bloom, spring has already arrived in my heart.
A little cheesy, a little heart-wrenching - but that's how Esme rolls. I hope you liked how I characterised her. I always wondered about what it was like for her when Edward was gone- especially considering the tragedy she'd already suffered with being married to Charles, her abusive husband, and the death of her baby which drove her to attempt suicide.
You can find the Chopin piece that Edward plays for Esme here: http://www(dot)youtube(dot)com/watch?v=YGRO05WcNDk&feature=fvw .
This oneshot was originally written for MsKathy's TwiFansForHaiti compilation – she is awesome, and I think the amount of money we raised was fantastic! Thankyou to everyone that donated, and to all the authors who contributed their oneshots! I feel truly humbled and grateful to be a part of this amazing fandom, it's staggering what we can do when we band together. My prayers are with the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, and for those elsewhere in the world who are missing relatives and friends there. I am so proud to have been a part of this - it just goes to show that Twifans ROCK!
Thankyou for reading and please leave me a review if you enjoyed. I love my readers and am glad to post today as part of Reader Appreciation Day. xxx