Martyr for Midnight
by Mackenzie L.
This story started as a one-shot, but I've chosen to expand it into a series of different dreams Esme had about Doctor Cullen through her youth.
This story is dedicated to Milene Lira. Thank you for being such a wonderful friend, Milene!
*Twilight Saga and characters are the property of Stephenie Meyer
The room began as an unfilled sketch, lines and scratches slowly smoothed by beams of bright colors before her eyes. The weight of slumber lay upon her eyelids, but the need to see the room around her was irresistible. She fought to keep her eyes open, to watch as a vast floor stretched out in front of her, the shimmering marble pooling at her feet. From the floor, long marble columns grew like tall trees, surrounding her in a wide semi-circle. Behind them, a long, curved wall covered in lengthy glass windows overlooked a stunning sea of mighty, midnight colored waves, crashing peacefully on a beach of silver sand. Above the waters, a majestic night crystallized in rapid strokes, like thick ultramarine paint choked by the glitter of a thousand stars.
This dream was too detailed, too striking, too real to be all in her mind. Her eyes were nearly blinded by the overload of colors and shapes. The depth and spatial perfection of the room itself begged her feet to step further inside, and she knew that walking forward would take her someplace new. This was not one of those dreams she would be forced to watch as if from a faraway balcony on high. No, this dream was different. This dream was inviting her to become a part of it... to become lost inside of it.
Esme took her first step into the breathtaking scene, and as she did, her eyes dropped to look down at her feet. She wore a foreign pair of slippers, too fancy to have ever belonged to her in real life. They were deep gold in color, accented with silky mauve bows and fancily-beaded Eisdraht swirls. Esme paused to admire the lovely dancing slippers, tilting her ankles up on either side to watch the bejeweled decor sparkle in the fluorescent moonlight.
She smiled mirthfully to herself, pleased that her dream had indulged her with such a lovely gift. Though she still wore her simple white nightshift, Esme felt like a princess in those enchanting slippers.
She took several more steps forward, marveling at the natural slide of her soles against the hard marble floor. It felt so incredibly real, she wondered for a moment if she were really walking in her sleep.
The moonbeams beckoned her further towards the great glass windows, but as soon as she stepped into the silvery light, she stopped in her tracks.
Like everything else, he appeared from the dust of nothing – a vision so vivid, she grasped at her heart with her hand. His form was all too familiar as he stood before the windows on the far end of the spacious room, silhouetted by the moonlit night.
When the dream introduced Doctor Cullen, he did not come alone. He brought with him the company of at least a dozen candles which burned low in the background of the shadowy ballroom. All Esme knew was that there had been no light before she had seen him... and when he appeared, those candles materialized just as swiftly as he did.
He did not see her watching him from behind as he stood by the window. His fingers were laced together, resting behind his back, his feet firm on the ground and head held high. He was dressed in clothing that must have come from decades before she had been born, like an 18th century prince with everything but his crown. His jacket was made of iris blue velvet, lined with a trim of white gold, and his pants were pale, half covered by a pair of dark leather boots that reached his knees. He seemed perfectly content to watch the stars twinkle in stillness, and it baffled her that a man like him could find wonder in something so mundane, so unimpressive in comparison to his own beauty.
Esme's heart gave a jolt as her doctor turned his head ever so slightly in her direction, as if he had sensed her presence behind him. With the moon's blessing, the achingly familiar contour of his smooth profile seemed to glow. His skin was as pale as she remembered it being, even more so in the starkness of the night. But when he turned and faced her fully, she saw that his eyes were deep – so much deeper than she recalled. She remembered the golden gleam of his gaze as if she had seen it every day of her life, but she had never imagined his eyes this way before. Here, they were dark – so deep and dark – they reminded her of a coal-fed fire at the end of its life. They were still burning, still full of heat... but they were calm and kind and gentle.
He must have recognized her as his patient, for once his eyes rested on her face, he sent her a small, clandestine smile. Once Esme had seen the utter kindness in his face, she had no fear of approaching him. Every step she took across the marble tundra made her feel safer, knowing she would soon be at his side. She came closer to the place he stood, and her skin felt tingly, her cheeks blossomed with soft pink fire. He was so much taller than she had remembered, so handsome that her memory could have never done his godly appearance justice.
He turned his body to face her as a gentleman should, and he extended his hand for hers without a word. Esme did not hesitate before she placed her palm in his, delighted by the unexpected warmth of his skin.
His hands were not chilled as they had been on the night he healed her. They were now every bit as warm as hers...maybe warmer. His eyes said all the words his lips would not as he slowly lifted her hand and placed upon her knuckles a delicate kiss.
"Thank you," he murmured.
She looked at him questioningly, failing to see any reason why he should offer thanks to her.
"I've been standing here alone for so long," he explained in his soft voice, "praying for company."
Esme lowered her eyes, blushing. "I've been lonely as well."
"We're together now," he assured. With two fingers he tucked an errant lock of hair behind her ear.
She looked shyly back up at him from beneath her heavy eyelids. "Promise you won't leave me?"
He took both her hands in his and held them against the middle of his chest, his touch cherishing. "Dance with me," he whispered.
A tiny quiver of delight raced through her as she looked around the empty ballroom, considering his tempting suggestion. "We have no music."
"Oh, but we do, Esme. You must listen for it," he murmured, touching her earlobe with a gentle finger. "Listen to the stars."
Esme closed her eyes and listened to a silent waltz as he slowly twirled her into his arms. His right hand grasped hers while his left hand settled securely around her waist, drawing her near.
"Do you hear them playing for us?" he asked her.
"I think so..." She smiled.
His voice was closer when he next spoke. "Is not their melody the sweetest sound you have ever heard?"
"Yes," she agreed, holding more tightly to his shoulder. "Spellbinding."
"May I hold you closer?" he whispered over her head.
A sensation like delicate fire spread from her fingers to her toes. "Please..." Her voice was barely audible, but she knew he would always hear her. His fingers on her waist gripped tighter and slid carefully around her back, pressing her closer until her chest brushed against his.
"We could dance this way forever, you know," he whispered, his deep voice so terribly tempting.
She shook her head against his shoulder, her hands clinging to the back of his neck. "But eventually I will wake up from this dream, and you will be gone."
His eyes furrowed sadly as he pulled back to look down at her. "I promised I would never leave you."
"Promises made by dreams are not to be trusted," she countered softly.
"You must trust me, Esme."
"I wish I could, Doctor."
"You can trust me..." He bowed his blond head to whisper into her ear.
"You will abandon me when the night is through. There is no way to escape it," she told him, her eyes dim with regret.
"Then we must savor this time we have been given together," he said, slowing their romantic waltz as they passed by the windows. His eyes glinted in the moonlight, staring at her intently as his fingers weaved through her long caramel tresses. He was memorizing her every feature, she guessed, just as she would have to do with his handsome face every night.
"Oh, I am so terrible... Just awful," Esme whimpered, burying her face shamefully against his shoulder.
"Why do you say such things?"
"Because I want so much more than this," she whispered, trailing her fingers down his velvet and brocade covered arm.
"What is it you want, sweet Esme?"
"I want to...touch you," she confessed, raising her head to stare bravely into his eyes. "Every part of you... I want to see that you are real."
His gaze was glowing as he slowed to stand still beside the window. "Then touch me, my angel," he whispered, taking her hand in his and holding it against his cheek. "Feel me... I could not be more real."
"Oh..." Her fingers tingled as they touched his smooth skin, unwilling to let her believe he was real. Her heart pounding, she tried to pull her hand away, but he only trapped her closer, forcing her to feel him until tears formed in the corners of her eyes.
"You want something else, Esme," he observed in a husky voice. "I can see it in your eyes."
There was no room for shame in the moonlight, she decided. No one but the man before her would ever have to hear her whisper her desires.
"Yes, I do want something else," she revealed slowly.
"Tell me," he insisted, his hushed drawl making her knees weak. "What is it you need?"
"I need to..." Her voice dropped, so soft it was like the coo of a dying bird – shy and weak and small. "...to kiss you."
His feet stopped moving entirely then, coming to a pause in the middle of their painfully slow dance to take her face and cradle it between his strong, healing hands. "We share the same need, my love."
In that very instant, Esme sprung awake in her bed, her pale skin glistening with a layer of cold perspiration. Her pillow was hot, her face flushed with a fever of unfinished desires. A throbbing ache lingered in her belly, and her heartbeat raced like a wild horse inside her chest. She could still taste the anticipation of him on her lips, could still feel the spirit of his breath heat her cheek, and the tender grip of his hands on her waist. The echo of his silken voice was still ringing in her ears, slowly tapering like a distant song through a cave.
Her eyes burned with hot tears, her lip quivering as she fought not to sob at this most tragic, inevitable loss. She longed to have his lips hold hers again, steadfast and gentle, to keep her from crying. His fingers would have swept the tears straight away from her cheeks; he would have tilted his head down and looked deeply into her eyes and hushed her with reassuring words through the rest of the night. He would have waited with her until dawn, holding her against his chest and murmuring angelic ambiance through his blessed lips.
But when another night passes, she will visit him again through her dreams. The days are bright and cruel, but the nights are dark and welcoming. She can escape from the rest of the world when the sun goes down, as she makes herself a martyr for midnight. When her head rests against the pillow and her eyes close at last, she knows that he will be there, waiting to dance with her in her starlit world of fantasy. And each time she hears his impossible promises, they give her just enough hope to make it through another day.