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Summary: Slash/AU "An infinitesimal change in a complex system can have a large effect."-The Chaos Theory. Edward wants to take back the evil he has done, one way or another.
Author's Note: This was originally posted under the "Carlward Contest" pen name for an anon contest, in which it received third place in the judge's choice category. Thanks so much to ms-ambrosia for the beta work. As always, she was a tremendous help.
Although he knows physical pain is, for the most part, a thing of his past, Edward cannot deny the anguish that burgeons throughout his body. He concentrates on putting one foot in front of the other, watching his feet and planning where each step will take him. Focusing on that—and not the reason for his agony—makes the task of walking possible.
Why is he not running? To run will take him swiftly from the thing that he has done, deliver him from the weighty scent of blood that still permeates the air. But Edward knows that even if he runs, his clothes will still be splattered with deep burgundy, his eyes will still be scarlet, and his hands...
Edward stops walking, realizing the foreign sensation in his body is not pain, but a dark pleasure. Of course, he remembers what it is like to have the strength of human blood pumping through his veins. The sensation is so bolstering, so pleasurable, it hurts. Edward loves it and hates himself more because of it. He thinks of what he has done, and he moans: a tiny sound so pitiful, even the creatures that normally flee from him glance in his direction with curiosity. Thinking about it does not change anything, and Edward's bloodied hands find their way to his hair, pulling the strands with a ferocity that would peel a normal man's scalp from his skull. But despite the Herculean effort he makes to harm himself, Edward is left—physically—uninjured.
Alice will find me soon, he realizes, the haze of bloodlust lifting. How funny, being drunk off human life has made him forget how traceable he is. Edward does not want to be found, comforted, for Alice will surely do both. Carlisle will follow soon after. Now, when all Edward wants is to die, Carlisle is the last person he should see. Not when Carlisle is the one person still existing that could convince him to continue walking the earth in this half-life. The memory of Carlisle's hands, touches featherlight and tentative, doubles Edward's feeling of loss, and finally, he runs.
"I was wishing I could know what you were thinking..." Bella hesitated.
"And?" Edward urged, craving the thoughts that were beyond his reach.
"I was wishing that I could believe that you were real. And I was wishing that I wasn't afraid."
"I don't want you to be afraid."
Edward loathed that Bella feared him, although it was, most assuredly, justified. He could kill her at any moment, but despite the fact that he wanted to drain her dry, he knew he loved her, the girl, almost as much as he loved her blood. That would have to be enough; he hoped it would be enough.
Eyes shifting around the meadow, Edward thought of how Bella had let no one know she would be with him today. The monster that he was rejoiced that it could steal her precious life, affecting no one that he loved. Well, no one except for the girl that would be dead.
Edward gazed at Bella, her brown eyes so limitless and contemplative, finding he could not hold her gaze. Edward felt guilty and happy, joyous and sorrowful: emotions most intense and conflicting. The tug of war taking place in his psyche proved to be maddening. Edward wanted to laugh at the ridiculousness of it. The idea that he, a creature of night, a soulless wraith that had found such joy in the jugular vein of countless humans, would be sitting in a sunlit meadow full of delicate flowers, and an equally delicate girl, was ludicrous. In Bella's case, it was practically suicidal.
Her scent continued to be intoxicating. Edward wanted to hold his breath, but could not if he wanted to speak with her. Speaking was doubly difficult because not only did he have to force her scent in and out of his lungs, he had to keep the excess venom from dribbling down his chin. Constantly swallowing simply was not doing the job. Why were things so difficult? All he wanted to do was love her.
And greedily gulp down her blood.
"Well, that's not exactly the fear I meant, though that's certainly something to think about," Bella said. What could she possibly fear besides a painful death at the hands of a vampire with whom she obviously had affection?
Edward, wanting to get a reaction of fear from her—maybe to prove she was not insane—came within inches of her face. To Edward's dissatisfaction, she did not flinch, and he was so close he could feel the heat radiating off her; he heard the rush of blood circulating throughout her body, listened to each warm, wet beat of her pumping heart. Edward swallowed. "What are you afraid of then?" he whispered quietly, unable to afford the air that being louder would require.
Instead of answering, Bella's eyes went wide. Edward saw her pupils dilate as she leaned forward. Her lids closed and she inhaled. In that second, she was closer to Edward than she had ever been, and he swore her neck elongated, the precious blue veins stretching against her fragile skin. The lines he beheld were their own beings, separate from the girl he loved. They sang to him, beckoning him to drink and be lost, to follow where they led like a sailor helpless to the song of a siren. The promise of vitality and rest and rapture and immortality flowed through them—so much more than the simple components of cells and plasma that humans saw in blood.
There was no way he could not drink, not when it was that easy. In that second, Edward convinced himself that what he would do was fated, justified.
Bella was too surprised to scream when Edward penetrated her pale throat with his lethal teeth, the skin melting away as the blood joyously filled his mouth.
Before he can come to the climax of his horrifyingly fresh memory, Edward finds himself in an Italian airport, keys to a rental already in his hand. The wind hisses in his ears, wicked murmurs of what has happened, the name set on repeat: Bella, Bella, Bella.
Edward is hollow, his last chance for some form of contentment used up, drained, decomposing. Alice had showed him it could go either way. He thinks of the other paths he could have taken, now, when they are impossibilities. Merely a few days ago, he had not allowed himself to ponder the intangibility of a happy future with Bella. But since the worst has happened, they make for good ways of torturing himself, torture he deserves. Bella the immortal; Human Bella, smiling at a forever youthful Edward; Middle-aged Bella with a human husband, Edward watching from the sidelines. True, the last vision had not been wholly happy for him, but Edward learned long ago to be satisfied when someone he cherishes finds love with someone else.
Horror flows through his veins along with her blood, the visions strengthening him more than the life force he has stolen. Visions continue to appear as though they are viewed across an expanse of desert, blurry and distorted, but instead of becoming more solid the closer he examines them, they dissipate like the mirages they are. Edward could have held her hand, touched her face, been embosomed by her warmth; Alice had seen it. Bella had already freely given her love, innocent and ignorant. Knowing how love destroys, Edward should have remained bitter and unmoved, but he could no more stop himself from hope than he could have stopped himself from what he had done. Again, he remembers how fated it had been that he should meet Bella, love her, killher. How, when he was such a selfish monster, had even the slimmest possibility of Bella's survival sneaked into Alice's head as a possible future? Not only onevision, but many fleeting snapshots: a graduation, a wedding day, a home nestled in the woods, his hands on her body, gentle and sure.
I loved her and it killed her. She loved me. She's dead. She loved me. She's dead. I killed her.
How foolish that Edward had felt owed love. No one is owed affection and affection is not earned. No measure of suffering merits a measure of romantic love. Edward sacrificed, suffered, wallowed in misery for years.
Edward had given him up long ago—the original sin that he could only purge himself by baptizing himself in the blood of other sinners. So why could he not have her? Have Bella as his own, to love, openly and fully? Edward chuckles, although the scowl does not leave his face, when it dawns on him how thoroughly he didhave Bella.
Sliding into the smooth leather seats of his rental, Edward notices a spot of blood near the crook of his elbow. Without thinking he licks it off, rubbing it across his teeth and gums with his tongue like a drug addict.
Not that anything matters anymore, because he will set things right. Soon, he will reach Volterra and undo a wrong that was done almost a hundred years ago.
The sun shone in a cloudless sky, glinting off the freshly packed snow. When he was human, Edward only saw white in the snow-clean, smooth and crisp-but since the change he saw colors he did not even have a name for. He wore a heavy coat but did not feel cold, so he shrugged it off, adding his own spectrum of hues as his bare arms threw rainbows in the light.
Despite the unlikeness he exuded, Edward did not fear exposure. He had been hunting a short distance from the home he shared with Carlisle, miles from anyone. Carlisle, having refused the offer to join Edward, would most likely be in his study. Edward could not hide his vexation that Carlisle had been surreptitiously avoiding him. He knew that, for Carlisle, being in his presence was difficult. Carlisle's mind was constantly working, radiating thoughts that Edward could not help but pick up. Still, Edward was alone throughout Carlisle's shifts at the hospital in Ashland and craved company after hours of solitude. What could Carlisle possibly have to hide?
Edward smelled it before he saw it. The tangy scent of fresh blood and fear burned Edward's nostrils; he was led towards the scent, although he knew instantly it was not human. Growing closer, he could see something flailing, hear a low whining. When Edward was within a few hundred feet, he saw it was a dog, no more than a puppy really, its back legs mangled. The dog looked at Edward with wild eyes and frothing mouth. Despite the obvious pain the dog was in, it still bared its teeth and growled.
The first instinct Edward had was to kill the dog, not only to put it out of its misery, but also as a source of fresh blood. As soon as he entertained the thought, Edward dismissed it, because feeding on something so helpless just seemed wrong. But he could not leave the dog there, injured and obviously lost. Looking at the tiny animal, short, dark-brown fur and brown eyes, Edward recognized that the dog had been cared for, and he loathed the idea of leaving it to suffer.
Carlisle, he thought. Carlisle can help him, if any one can.
The task of carrying the injured pup to Carlisle was more difficult than he had anticipated. Edward did not want to injure the dog further, but it continued to try and escape, snapping and growling at Edward in between moans of anguish. While it struggled, Edward promised it he would not injure it, that he would make sure it would be well again. Edward whispered words to the dog the way a child might, telling it how much he had always wanted a dog, how he would care for it how the dog would grow used to him and love him one day. Suddenly, the most important thing Edward felt he would ever do would be to make that dog well and ensure its trust. Finally, as though in a daze, the dog ceased struggling. Edward hoped it was merely because he had succeeded in gaining a measure of trust, although he could hear the animal's heart struggling.
Bursting through the front door, Edward ran to Carlisle's study, kicking open the door. Carlisle looked up at Edward from his journal, a quizzical expression upon his face.
"Carlisle!" Edward shouted, holding out the offering of the injured dog. Carlisle gave Edward a quick nod and swept the contents of his desk to the floor, gesturing for Edward to place the animal on its surface.
Carlisle's hands were a blur of motion, and after a quick examination, Carlisle turned towards Edward with a wary expression.
"Edward, I think we should put the dog out of his misery. There is not much I can do." Carlisle reached out to put a hand on Edward's shoulder in comfort, but Edward moved before Carlisle could do so.
"But you're a doctor," Edward replied, eyes narrowed in petulance.
"I heal people. Not animals. I'm so sorry." Carlisle looked away and shook his head, his brow furrowing the longer the dog continued to whine. "He is in great pain. I can give him some medicine, make him sleep without waking."
"Just like that? You saved me, did you not? Please, save him," Edward begged, guilt beginning to overwhelm him. Whether the dog had understood or not, Edward had promised it health.
"Edward, we cannot turn a dog into a vampire. It simply does not work that way."
"I...I knowthat," Edward stuttered. "I'm not stupid, or a child. Give him some medicine to ease the pain, Carlisle. Do what you can. Please."
"You must realize, even if I can heal him, he will most likely run as soon as he comes to his senses. Animals fear us-"
"No, he will not," Edward disagreed. "Can you not see he needs me? I mean, needs us?"
Edwardneedshim, Carlisle thought, moved by Edward's vulnerability.
"Just help him!" Edward seethed, Carlisle's errant observation making him angry, because it was true. Edward desperately needed love. His mother, only two years dead, had told Edward she loved him everyday.
Carlisle nodded as though reading Edward's thoughts. From his medical bag, Carlisle pulled a syringe and began filling it with a clear liquid. "I'm going to sedate him and then I think you should leave the room. This will be difficult."
Even though Carlisle dismissed him, Edward insisted on staying, continuing to murmur love and hope to the unconscious pup, who continued to make restless noises, even in sleep. Edward assisted Carlisle, until the blood became too much, and he left to go hunt.
Some time later, Edward returned to find Carlisle cleaned up, the dog moved to the sofa in Carlisle's study, breathing steadily in and out, swaddled in bandages.
"How is he?"
"He seemed to have been attacked by some kind of animal. It might have been your presence that chased whatever had started hurting him away. He will need much care, when he wakes up, Edward, but I think he will live." Carlisle tilted his head, before adding, "Thanks to you."
Relief, unlike he had ever known, flooded Edward, and he was filled with gratitude. In two quick strides he approached Carlisle and embraced him, the first time he had voluntarily touched the man. Carlisle held ramrod straight while Edward squeezed him, finally relaxing a bit and returning the hug.
"What will you name him?" Carlisle asked, the embrace they shared going on long moments.
Edward took a shaky breath before answering, "Lucky."
Carlisle let out a breathy laugh, his thumb absently stroking Edward's back. "Surely, you are a bit more creative than that, Edward." Edward joined Carlisle in a quiet chuckle.
"So, you name him 'lucky' in another language?" Carlisle paused. Edward swore Carlisle nuzzled closer to his throat and inhaled. "I like it. It suits."
"It does," Edward replied, squeezing Carlisle tighter.
He smells like fresh snow and sun. Cold and warm. This feels good, Edward heard Carlisle think, so briefly he was not certain he had not imagined it.
Aro rips Edward from the memory with a simple separation of their hands—such a simple, easy gesture to produce a reaction so violent. Edward gasps, needing the air, needing to smell the dank, cloying scent of underground Volterra to know where and when he resides. The memory seems so new; the only thing dating it as 1920 are the clothes they wore, the different cadence in which they spoke. Never imagining he would be so ravaged by the long-buried memories of Carlisle, Edward struggles against buckling knees, his heart breaking all over again. Knowing the torment Edward is experiencing, Aro grasps Edward again to keep him upright but laughs to himself.
"It appears my dear friend Carlisle kept much hidden from me," Aro breathes, exhaling another raspy chuckle that sounds like crumpling newspaper. "I always suspected he had a dark side." He pauses while Edward regains composure, meets his stare. "Everyone does."
"Carlisle isn't the reason I'm here," Edward seethes, his voice giving away the ache that he buried along with the memories.
"Is he not? You mentioned a girl, a human, but how can she compare? From that memory alone, I cannot fathom how you've managed to get along as well as you have. I feel as though Iwant to die, and I've merely witnessed this secondhand. I must see more." Aro's glazed over, red eyes vibrate with curiosity, his brittle lips on the verge of cracking with the malevolent grin that splits his face.
"See Bella," Edward replies. "She is why I'm here. It's because of what I did to her that I deserve to no longer exist."
"I cannot say I entirely believe that Bella is the only reason you are here. Do you deserve to die or only want it?"
"You know I will see whatever I want. You haven't a way of stopping me, and you claim to need what I can give you." Aro says this without the smile leaving his face, his tone nonthreatening and friendly.
"I can go about this another way," Edward returns, the threat he offers made clear. He could make a spectacle, show himself. The idea becomes more and more appealing as Aro's curiosity grows. Edward finds Aro's want to know more disgusting, the way he peels through Edward's memories, graceful and slow, more like watching home movies than the personal, cherished memories of a practical stranger.
"Oh, who knows how long that might take? I have yet to make an offer, regardless. What I have to give would be more beneficial than simply ending you." Edward glares at him, prying open Aro's mind, unsatisfied when he can make no sense of what the old vampire means. "Are you not the least bit curious?" Aro asks, the question pointless because he knows well that Edward's interest has been piqued.
"Fine," Edward concedes. "But would you dismiss some of your guard?"
"Are you embarrassed of what you have done, Edward? You know, we can have entire conversations in our minds."
"I'm not embarrassed," he answers, squaring his shoulders but breaking eye contact with Aro. "I wish for discretion, but not for my benefit, and I know you could not resist the urge to speak aloud."
Aro softens somewhat; he considers Carlisle a close acquaintance. For him, he could afford to be a bit discreet. "Fine. But I must insist on keeping Renata with me as my shield. Not that I don't trust you young man, but I'm old, and it would be foolish to be left on my own." His eyes speak differently. "Let us go to my chambers."
Caius made a noise in protest, but was silenced with a wave of the hand from Aro.
As they exit the room, Aro leans into Edward and places a hand next to his lips, hiding his mouth from the others. "If it makes you feel better, you can show me Bella first." Then, he giggles, a high-pitched, tinny sound like teenage girl.
Edward ran away, as usual. He was angry at himself for it. Once he was far away from the girl's scent, he had trouble recalling why he ran in the first place. She was nothing but a singular human girl whose mind he could not read, whose aroma appealed to him. Knowing he had gone without so much more than blood in the past, Edward went home.
Then, not fully understanding why, he saved her life. The van skidding towards her, crushing her, would be an easy out. The fear he felt in her presence would be gone, the deep ache in his throat would cease, and things would be normal. Well, things would go back to the way they were before.
But something about her eyes widening in panic, something about the cessation of the steady, beautiful and perfect rhythm of her heart caused Edward to move. After he saved her, Alice showed him the visions. From horror to perfection, completeness to loss. There was a chance, Alice had said, a very good one, that Edward could fall in love and be loved in return. There was a chance, but it could also end horribly. The girl was no longer just a girl, but Bella, a girl that could, maybe, might be his wife, someday.
Carlisle took him aside.
Once they were far from home, away from their tidy family, Carlisle whispered "I missed you while you were away" as though he missed him in a way other than a father would miss a son on sabbatical, as though it was shameful to say.
Edward did not want to say it. "I missed you, too." A flicker of a smile curled Carlisle's lips before he became serious.
"Alice says she sees a future with this girl."
"With Bella," Edward corrected. Carlisle looked abashed.
"With Bella," Carlisle said, right hand rubbing the back of his neck in agitation. "Edward, you deserve some peace. Even if there is a chance things could end...badly. I see differences in you already. You look forward when you walk, look people in the eye." He stopped. The silence fell over them, suffocating in its clarity. They both knew why Edward could not look anyone in the eyes before. A crow cawed, sharp but despairing.
"What if I can't? If I kill her?" Edward asked, thinking that Carlisle did not care what happened, as long as his conscience would be cleared, as long as he knew that Edward was not eternally broken because of him.
"You won't," he replied, confident.
Edward's defiant expression crumbled, changing to one that reflected an old agony. "I'm tired of being alone."
Gently, Carlisle placed a hand on Edward's forearm where they were crossed. Edward felt the familiar push and pull that seemed older than time. Carlisle rarely touched him—in comfort or in any other way. If he did, someone might see.
"You're stronger than I ever was, Edward." A squeeze where they were joined. A rush of warmth to the spot Carlisle's flesh met his. Edward broke away.
"Is it just my imagination, or are you taking an extremely long time? Are you always this slow?" Edward asks, face warm from the memory of Carlisle. He has removed his hand from Aro's without permission, growing increasingly uncomfortable at what the Ancient views.
Aro throws up his hands and shrugs. "I like to be thorough. I feel that I must fully understand your situation before making a decision, especially since you have stripped me the counsel of Caius and Marcus."
Edward suppresses the urge to roll his eyes, rise from the cushy chair and leave Aro with his hands in the air. Instead, he scans the walls, lined with books, words waiting to be read as Aro reads his mind. He is already so tired, emotionally drained and ready to be done.
But there is more. Edward knows Aro wants to see all, make Edward relive each miserable memory as leisurely as he chooses. Would he have come to Volterra had he known it would be this difficult? Yes, he decides, his other choices being limited. He could have found another of his kind, picked a fight, but meetings with others are few and far between. That would have given Carlisle the opportunity to find him, make him see reason.
Edward loathes Carlisle's reasoning.
Instead of thinking of him any longer, Edward begins counting the books in their shelves, one at a time. The study is not huge, but Aro has found room for five hundred and sixty-seven volumes. All of them read multiple times, no doubt. Subjects as varied as the vampires he collects.
"Edward?" Aro asks, demanding attention after several moments of silence. Edward looks at him as though just realizing he still remains in the room. "Tell me more about Bella."
Opening his mouth, Edward feels his chest tightening. What is there to say, really? She loved him, and he killed her. He loved her, and now she is dead. Gone. The whirlwind of emotions gone with her. Bella had breezed through Edward's life, softly and sweetly like a zephyr, and he had taken her out with the force of a hurricane. She proved what Edward has always suspected; no one was allowed to love him, for long. Edward closes his mouth and holds out his hand.
Bella's skin was so hot on his mouth. He swallowed and swallowed and swallowed. Her heart was beating ardently, like the last grains of sand rushing through an hour glass before they were finished. Already feeling his strength bolstered, Edward wanted to cry out with joy. Never had he felt so warm, full and alive. Not even when he had a beating heart of his own.
Hot, hot skin on his mouth. What would it have been like to kiss her? To open her mouth with his tongue? The thought of breathing her in, feeling her submit to him made Edward moan with delight.
He could have made love to her in another life. Edward could imagine the way she would have opened for him, inviting him to share in her body as he slid inside and surrounded himself in her warmth. Bella loved him. She would have let him.
Edward stopped drinking and looked at her face, eyes fluttering, alertness long gone. He pressed his bloodied lips to hers, but they were already cooling.
"Why now, Carlisle? Why have you brought this woman here, now?"
"Edward, I wish for a companion. I have become lonely-"
"What am I here for, if not for your companionship?" Edward asked, speaking loudly to drown out the screaming of the woman in the next room—the woman Carlisle decided was fit to change, to join them, to make them a family.
"You know the type of companionship I crave, Edward. I met Esme years ago and even then I could not doubt the goodness in her. I have thought of her often. She needs me, like I need her. Do you not wish to find companionship as well?" Carlisle answered, his voice remaining low, calm, despite the noise reverberating through the house. He knew Edward would hear him.
"We can have what it is you are looking for. Can we not?" Carlisle did not answer but put his elbows on his desk, rested his face in his hands, a maniacal laugh escaping between his fingers. "What about me is not enough? Why will you not tell me out loud what I long to hear? I've heard it in your thoughts. What about speaking it aloud would make it any more right or wrong?"
The other man removed his hands, shook his head, anger beginning to narrow his eyes. Edward felt satisfied that he was cracking the ever present calm Carlisle exuded.
"What would it change, Edward? Would it make it easier for you?" Carlisle leapt to his feet, the chair in which he had been sitting flung to the floor. He angrily swatted the lamp that sat on the corner of his desk; it shattered against the wall, tiny pieces of glass tinkling to the floor—a stark contrast to the fury building in Carlisle's mind like a tempest.
"Nothing could make this-"
"I want you, Edward," he interrupted, grabbing Edward and shaking him. "Of course, you knew that already. I want you in ways I should not. I want you in the way a man should want a woman. I want you. Edward, I feel like I need to have you, like if I cannot have you the way I want you I'll go mad. More than I have ever wanted blood, I want you."
Edward was speechless. Carlisle had told him that he wanted him, but the words had not been spoken in the gentle, quiet way Edward had envisioned. The words were shouted, so unlike Carlisle. He was angry, eyes flashing, full of pain and ire.
"Goddamn it, Edward," he seethed, his fury only fueled by Edward's floundering. "I adore you so much, I cannot think, because you will know it. I cannot move, because you will be watching me, cataloging each of my movements." Edward shook his head—a flimsy denial. "You think I have not noticed? That I cannot feel your eyes on me, watching my hands, noticing my mouth? I know, Edward. I know and I relish it. Each time you look at me like that, it takes all of my control not to have you, and that is an abundance of control, I assure you. I know I could take you, that it would be as easy as saying the words-"
"I want what you want!" Edward interrupted, his volume rising to match Carlisle's.
"Edward," Carlisle sighed, releasing him and looking away. "We mustn't. This thing, this feeling we have is like our lust for blood. The creatures that we are, dark and wicked, want us to sin, want us to do what is wrong. We cannot listen, or else all we work for is in vain."
"You are saying that the love I feel for you is wicked and dark? That it is wrong?"
"No, Edward. Love is not wrong; it is the lust, the want for something we should not have, that is wrong."
"But, Carlisle...it is because I love you that I want you. I want to show you, with my body, that I love you. Are you saying you do not love me? That the vile monster wants to defile me and that is all?"
Carlisle turned toward Edward again, the expression on his face so full of desolation that Edward could not continue to look him in the face, so full of sorrow and hopelessness. As soon as Edward glanced at his feet, Carlisle answered, everything about him sounding defeated. "I love you, Edward. I will not deny you that anymore. I am hopelessly besotted. I blame myself for this. I have failed you. We cannot be. I misled you, Edward. You are young, confused-"
"-easily swayed down the path of unrighteousness. I was meant to be your mentor, a pillar of light, an example of how to be, how to live a life of purity-"
"Stop," Edward said, the anger that had ebbed from Carlisle rising in him.
"-a life that would be rewarded by eternal salvation-"
Without caring how quickly he was sure to be pushed away, Edward grabbed the lapels of Carlisle's coat, pressing his lips against the other man's to silence him.
For a moment, Carlisle was unresponsive, lips immobile and firm as though he simply endured what Edward was doing. Edward thought of backing away, until Carlisle abruptly wrapped his arms around Edward, fists clenching the back of his shirt, mouth melting and lips following where they were led.
Edward did not want Heaven, eternal salvation, and damned purity if it meant kissing Carlisle was wrong. The way Carlisle's lips sought out his, desperate and wanting, warm and pliant, was the highest reward he could ever hope to garner. Carlisle groaned as his hands relaxed, splaying on Edward's back and pulling him closer, matching the two against one another, chest to chest, hip to hip, thigh to thigh.
Taking several quick breaths to pull in Carlisle's earthy scent, Edward reveled in the attention he was receiving. Each second that ticked by in which Carlisle did not reject him was another second that he could say he truly lived, truly felt the elation and love and contentment he had always imagined. Even though it would end, it was enough; it would have to be.
The kiss was hello and goodbye and everything in between. The confusion, the lust, the hunger—the forever sense of wanting, needing—all wrapped up in the beginning and end of the the meeting of their lips. Carlisle felt it as well, whether he would admit it or not; it was in his thoughts, nothing discernable but the words more and too much.
Carlisle brought him back to reality; Edward could feel the rapturous moments he had experienced coming to a close. Carlisle separated their lips, punctuating the goodbye with several soft kisses that got shorter and shorter, until a soft sigh of resignation unfurled from Carlisle's mouth, and he was feet away.
"We cannot be," Carlisle stated again, exiting the room and leaving Edward where he stood.
"Carlisle," Edward whispered, the name expelled easily from his mouth but branding him everywhere else.
"Edward! Come back here, Edward," Aro shouts, Edward making his way to the door. He cannot relive another thing. Not one more. The madness that has been simmering threatens to catch him ablaze, and he does not wish to be lost to madness. That would be too kind.
"No, Aro. I'll find my own way. I'm done," Edward replies, his hand on the brass doorknob; it breaks off in his hand and Aro gasps.
"That is an antique, young man." Aro rushes over and snatches the chunk of metal from Edward, holding it to his chest like a long-lost child. Renata follows.
"So are you," Edward answers. The corner of his mouth curves the slightest bit. "You would prefer I crushed your hand or your doorknob?" Aro's eyebrow peaks and he surprises Edward by laughing.
"You have me there," he concedes.
Edward turns away. "Ciao," he says.
"What of your soul, Edward?" Aro calls once Edward is outside the door. He stops.
"What of it?"
"Are you so eager to burn in Hell? That might very well be worse, you know," Aro states, raising a finger to his lips. Edwards turns around.
"Why do you care?" he asks, closing the distance again. Renata puts a hand on Aro and Edward backs away.
"Edward," Aro chides, "of course I care." He clicks his tongue twice, smiling. "What if I told you that you can go back? That you can die human? Do you not wish to be judged fairly and go to Heavenalong with mummy and daddy? I know someone who can help you. He can get you to the place and time Carlisle changed you and make it like it never happened."
The words Aro spoke stopped making sense after he mentioned the words "go back." How many times had Edward prayed that he was living a nightmare, and that he would blink, realizing his years of vampirism were simply fever dreams? How many times did he wish he could rest so he could awake to his mother cooing words of comfort? Even if he awoke to die, it would be better than his head full of sorrows and heart full of regret. Above all, Bella would live.
"Wh-What do you mean? You're making no sense. How...How can you...?" Edward wonders if vampires can physically suffer from vertigo.
"The fellow is quite talented, I assure you. Why, only last week I ate an Irish tourist and then encountered a pretty American hours later, but I was simply too full. If I had known, I would have waited, naturally. He fixed it!" Aro states with obvious glee. A genuine smile blossoms on his face, lips bright like flower petals.
"Who? Where is he? Can he...? Would he...?" Edward stammers, his mouth hanging open like a wooden puppet.
"Yes, Edward, he can and I am certain he would," Aro replies. "Come sit back down. Show me the rest."
Edward nods dumbly, shuffles his feet to the seat Aro gestures to.
Aro surely knows everything already; he could have read every thought Edward had ever had in a matter of minutes. Yes, he has garnered all the information he would need, but it is Edward's reaction he craves now, a sick experiment on the nature of a suicidal vampire. Aro does not come across them often.
Edward will endure it, this bawdy version of This Is Your Life! He will continue to let the curtains be pulled back as voices long buried remind him of things better left in the past. As though he needs reminding that this is his life; he has been graced with a perfect memory and can never forget.
To be human again, even if it is to die, would be such a blessing. But Edward knows what is next, the thing that Aro has been working his way towards. The climax, not one, but two. The two most passionate memories that Edward contains, equally horrifying and thrilling. They combine seamlessly in Edward's thoughts, his addled head no longer able to differentiate.
Holding out his hand, Edward whispers, "I'm not doing this for myself." Because once Aro is satisfied, it will be like Edward never existed.
"Chance?" Edward called, scenting the air for his small friend. The breeze shifted and he caught the slightest tinge of his dog in the air, but it was different. Following the smell, Edward found him, but he realized it would be of no point to fetch Carlisle. Chance was already dead.
The loss made Edward feel ill as he reverently picked up Chance's body, his arms and legs already stiff. He had been Edward's best friend for seven years, and with him gone, Edward felt completely alone. How swiftly it can occur, Edward thought, that one day someone loves you and the next they take it back, either by death or their own decision. It does not matter because loss is loss either way.
Esme and Carlisle had been a happy couple for years. Oh, how Edward tried to hate her. She was a thief, a liar, a manipulator, appealing to Carlisle's sympathies, tricking him into being with her. But only a few weeks after her change, Edward knew she was none of those things. She deserved Carlisle more than he ever would. Edward had to make due with the attentions of his dog.
Thankfully, Chance had loved him without question, with loyalty and a healthy dose of fear. The dog followed him around as a puppy should, never made an attempt to run the way Carlisle thought he would. If Edward ever left him on his own, Chance always greeted him upon his return with a quick bark and a wagging tale. He never held back with Edward, freely offering affection and displaying gratitude that he was loved in return. However, Edward had known that he would live forever, and Chance would not.
Edward counted Chance's loss as devastating as that of his parents. He knew it might sound ridiculous to say out loud, but what did he have anymore? Edward bit back a sob until venom flooded his mouth, flowing freely from his bottom lip.
Carrying Chance back to his house, Edward put him down on the porch swing, dashing indoors to find a blanket in which to wrap him. Edward grew annoyed when he had difficulty finding one. Carlisle emerged from his study and asked Edward what was wrong, but Edward did not want to leave Chance outside, cold and alone, for long, so he ignored the other man. Eventually, he found something suitable and hurried outside. Carlisle followed.
Swaddling the dog like a newborn, Edward resented Carlisle's piteous stare and thoughts. Edward shrugged off any form of comfort Carlisle offered years ago. Chance was there for comfort when Carlisle and Esme got married, as they stared deeply into each other's eyes and smiled like they had a secret.
Edward could not help but hear them sometimes when they made love, but he always made a point of leaving, after the first few times, when things seemed to be heading in that direction. The first few times he had tortured himself, and sometimes—only sometimes—Edward saw himself in Carlisle's thoughts, those moments he should have been focused on Esme. Edward wanted to hate him, too. He thought he hated him, but he could not go out on his own, not when Carlisle begged him not to.
"Edward," Carlisle started. "I am so sorry."
"Why must people always apologize for what is not their fault?" Edward asked, tucking the edges of the blanket securely under Chance and picking him up. Carlisle said nothing in reply, the unwanted apology still echoing in his thoughts.
Esme must have heard their voices from inside the house, because she came out onto the porch, immediately going to Edward and wrapping her arms around him. From her, Edward would take comfort, and he leaned into her and let her stroke his hair. Carlisle's jealously could not be hidden, and Edward was unsure who it was towards.
"Let me help you bury him, Edward," Carlisle stated, leaving no room for argument.
"Sure," Edward replied. "You can carry the shovel." Carlisle seemed surprised that Edward did not argue, but what he did not know was that Edward felt it the best opportunity to tell Carlisle he was leaving. No amount of pleading would make him stay.
Silently, Edward stood and carried Chance down the porch steps. Carlisle followed.
"I think I should head into town for a bit," Esme said. In her mind, Edward saw that Esme thought the two men needed time together, so that Edward could fully mourn. He had always appreciated the guilt that crept into Esme's thoughts from time to time when Edward would reach out to Carlisle and then stop. She knew. She had to.
The walk was quiet, uncomfortable. Not the first and not the last awkward silence the two would endure. Edward remembered a time when he could sit for hours, enjoying the silence, save the ebb and flow from Carlisle's mind. The something that had sprouted between them was always there, connecting the two by an invisible wire that was no less alive from being invisible. Sprouted but never blossomed, alive but still hidden. Edward would no longer endure it; he could not.
Edward found the spot he wanted to lay Chance to rest with ease. "Here," Edward said, noticing the tree branches above him made a lopsided "X." Not that it mattered. Edward would remember the place.
Carlisle began digging and Edward let him do it all. He sat with his back against a tree, holding Chance and stroking his muzzle where it was exposed, wanting to cry at how cold his dog had become. How he wanted to wrap himself in a shroud and lie down in a hole with Chance, to be dead, to rest.
The rhythm of Carlisle's digging remained perfectly steady, almost lulling Edward into a state of rest. He watched Carlisle through eyes that were open but just barely. Always adoring Carlisle's steady hands and arms, Edward set to memorizing each flex and stretch of the sinewy muscles as Carlisle worked. He had felt those hands, those arms, wrapped around him in a firm embrace, the kind that made him feel safe and cherished. But Edward had never hated himself until Carlisle told him what he wanted was wrong, so the very arms that gave him sanctuary were the vessels that taught him what it was to feel shame. A paradox contained within one man.
"I have to go," Edward said, a sudden scurrying in the surrounding woods adding percussion to Edward's statement. Carlisle paused, the rhythm of the shovel faltering, but only just.
Slowly, Carlisle nodded, his eyes never leaving the hole in the ground. "I realize how selfish I've been," he said. "Keeping you close the way I have."
"And why have you?" Edward asked, needing to hear it again, if it was even still true. Carlisle stopped, gently leaning the shovel against a tree. Turning, he met Edward's eyes.
"You have always known the answer to that question, Edward," Carlisle replied. "I need to know that you are safe. I've put my need to know above your contentment. My entire existence, I have striven to be good, to be worth something, to give back, but, with you, I am completely selfish. Having you close, even knowing it is at arm's length, is better than wondering if you are still out there. I cannot promise I will keep from begging you to stay again."
"I just can't do it anymore, Carlisle. What is easier for you is more difficult for me. Seeing you with Esme, being with her in every way possible... I will not suffer it anymore."
The silence settled over them again, making Edward squirm. He stood and carried Chance to the hole and placed him in gingerly. Carlisle began shoveling dirt over him and Edward promised that he would start a new life beginning that very day. A life away from Esme and Carlisle, regret and want. From then on, he would take what he wanted.
Once the makeshift grave had been covered, Edward turned to walk back to the house, gather his few belongings. With each step he took, the weight of what he was doing began overwhelming him, until his movements became sluggish, finally ceasing. Covering his face with his hands, Edward grieved for what he would leave behind. One last moment of weakness before he would make himself strong.
Carlisle was there, his hand on the back of Edward's neck, Edward taking the comfort as a luxury. Sighing, Carlisle moved his body closer to Edward.
As though it hurt him to do but he could not stop himself, Carlisle's hand traveled into Edward's hair, his thumb lightly placed under Edward's ear. Edward removed his hands from his face, not daring to make any movements more abrupt. Again, Carlisle sighed, moving himself even closer until his nose tickled Edward's cheek, his breath coming in warm drifts across Edward's face. Lips took the place of Carlisle's thumb, so tentative and questioning that Edward could have mistook them for a breeze, but he knew better. Carlisle's thoughts centered around the flavor of Edward's skin, broadcasting clearly. They moaned in tandem, the gesture so simple yet pleasurable, the realization of a wanting that had been shut away.
The hand that was not in Edward's hair clutched his shirt, just over his still heart. Edward, impatient but not wanting to startle Carlisle, turned his head so that he could look into the other man's face. He would go no further with Carlisle if Carlisle could not look at him, acknowledge what they both knew would inevitably happen. They both held each other's eyes unfailingly, Carlisle's lips parted and beautiful and red. He brought both hands to Edward's face, fingertips brushing across his nose, his cheek bones, his lips, touches so light but heavy in their consequences.
Kissme? Carlisle thought the words he feared to say out loud, but Edward still complied.
The urge to crush his mouth to Carlisle's was great, but following Carlisle's lead, he placed his lips against the other man's, the kiss featherlight. Edward's lips ached and throbbed, wanting more pressure, more warmth, more of the man he had craved for almost a decade.
Stay, Carlisle thought.
"Will you be with me?" Edward asked, knowing the answer already, knowing he could never take Carlisle from Esme.
"I am now. I am with you, now, Edward," Carlisle whispered, pressing his lips against Edward's again.
Edward removed his lips from Bella's, her eyes opening, something in her awakened by the kiss. Once the seal of their mouths was broken, she screamed. Edward swiftly understood that it was his venom—not his lips against hers—that caused her reaction.
Bella was burning.
The cry that rent the air was chilling in it melodic quality, as though it harmonized in and amongst itself. The scream told of pain, physical, emotional, psychological. It told of broken trust, broken body, a broken spirit.
Eyes open, Bella bored through Edward with her gaze. She looked up at him, straight in the eye as though she wanted to transfer her agony into him. In this venture, she found success.
The wind picked up, urging them to cling closer to one another, offering a sense of privacy as it drowned out the noises around them, inside them.
Carlisle's hands continued to touch Edward in an uncertain way, a stark contrast to the manner in which he kissed Edward. Carlisle's mouth, needy and warm, sought Edward's lips, his throat, his neck with an undeniable hunger. Edward guided him, hands lost in his honey-blond hair. Edward could not think about what was happening; he refused to, because he knew it was as delicate as spun sugar or a the wings of a moth.
Guiding Carlisle's fingers from his face to his shirt, Edward urged Carlisle to begin undressing him. Carlisle tried in earnest, his fingers trembling so that he tore off Edward's second button. He laughed in a way that betrayed his nerves, and his guilt. Carlisle wanted what was happening to happen—he wanted Edward—but he did not wish to want him.
Edward gathered Carlisle's twitching fingers between both his hands, kissing them one by one, holding them steady. "I do not care for this shirt, anyway," Edward said, smiling for Carlisle, avoiding bringing up the things that made Carlisle frightened. That time when Carlisle laughed, it was genuine.
Their lips found each other again, Edward beginning to feel heat in places he had never noticed. The tops of his thighs. The skin between his fingers. The column of his spine. All of him was alive and sensitive and receptive. Without remembering how it happened, Edward noticed Carlisle's top was gone, his pale, strong chest exposed. Removing his already damaged shirt, Edward moaned in satisfaction when he pressed his naked chest against Carlisle's, the heat that already inflamed his body bursting into a conflagration. Edward wanted to burn, and he wanted to take Carlisle with him.
The moan seemed to cure Carlisle of his hesitance, that or the feeling of flesh on flesh, and he boldly placed his hand over the bulge in Edward's trousers and squeezed. Oh, how Edward had dreamt of Carlisle touching him in that way, wanting him, needinghim as the fervor for one another could no longer be contained. Edward pushed his hips into Carlisle's welcoming hand, and the other man returned the pressure with equal force.
Edward had to have him; he had to get him out of his clothes, desired to be matched against the man he loved. It was Edward's turn to tremble as he unbuttoned Carlisle's trousers, too swift to be human yet too slow in comparison to the wildfire that incinerated him.
Edward could not handle it, the shame of what he had done, the accusation in Bella's eyes, so he went back to siphoning her blood. There was nothing else todo, she was too far gone to save and Edward could not let her make the transformation. Not when her blood had been pulsating out of her ripped throat with each scream, each beat of her heart. He would not allow a bit to be wasted, not a drop would be sullied by touching the earth. Edward licked and sucked and nipped at the skin surrounding the tear he had made in Bella's flesh.
Finally, her screams dwindled to moans, eventually dying down to a series of clicks and grunts. The relief Edward felt was despicable.
Her blood was in his nose, all over his face, running down his throat. But he would not waste a drop, so he breathed in deeply through his nose, sucking the drops up his nasal cavity until they traveled down his throat. After running his hand across his face, his throat, Edward licked his fingertips, determined for all of Bella's sweet ambrosia to be ingested by him. Edward had seen men do that before, lick chicken grease or some other animal fat from their fingers. He was aware it was disgusting and vile, but there was no hope of stopping.
The feral animal was in charge of Edward, his eyes vibrating and glowing red, his teeth bared, a snarl expelling from his mouth as he dug back into Bella's throat, searching for the last dregs of her life.
Naked and wild, Carlisle was on top of Edward, each man groaning and cursing as they absorbed the pleasure that only denial can bring. But no longer were they denying themselves or each other. It was their moment, the only one they would have, and no outside forces would touch them. In that moment, they were complete in each other, without guilt or shame or fear of sin.
Carlisle's mind was blissfully blank; Edward only seeing images of himself, unclothed, writhing, begging to be touched, to be loved.
Lips traversing over Edward's sternum, Carlisle ventured lower, quickly engulfing Edward's stiffness in his mouth. Edward bucked his hips, unable to stop his body from moving, unable to stop the nonsensical words that began tumbling out of his mouth. Carlisle's lips were so hot and his tongue so wet and fast, Edward feared he would melt, that his frozen body would heat to boiling and he would evaporate. The thought was welcomed.
"Stop," Edward mumbled, feeling his toes curl and his abdomen tingle. Carlisle looked up at him but did not stop what he was doing. The mischief in his eyes was beyond sinful. "If you do not stop I-I-"
Do you want to come inside me? Carlisle asked.
"Y-Yes," Edward said. "But I had always thought...well, I had assumed that you would..."
A few quick images flashed through Carlisle's head, a few errant thoughts, and Edward understood. Carlisle felt the less in control he was, the less he was to blame. It was ridiculous; Edward and Carlisle both knew it, but Edward would not argue, not when the idea of burying himself in Carlisle's prone body made him throb with need.
Carlisle moved away from Edward, getting on his hands and his knees. His breathing was labored, excited, as he spread his legs. Edward's chest fluttered. Carlisle had never looked so primal, so wanton, or so beautiful.
Crawling across the bracken, Edward knelt behind Carlisle, his hands taking their fill of Carlisle's rounded flesh before gently touching Carlisle's entrance. The soft sound Carlisle made encouraged Edward as he coated his fingers in venom, sliding a single digit inside.
"Oh, God,"Carlisle said, an exclamation of pleasure and a prayer of forgiveness, spoken with the same breath. "Please," he groaned, bearing himself back onto Edward's finger. Edward withdrew, bringing his venom slickened erection to Carlisle's opening. Without any further prelude, he began pushing steadily, each inch bringing him closer to Carlisle.
Edward wanted to laugh and cry at the joy of it. Carlisle's scent surrounded him, all autumn leaves and rich earth, and he felt his control slipping, the desire to hurriedly fill Carlisle nearly undoing him. He found he did not have to wait, because Carlisle pushed back against him, and Edward abruptly found himself surrounded by Carlisle's snug heat.
Holding himself motionless, Edward waited on Carlisle to move, say something, think something. He waiting on some indication that he was welcome to move, to pump himself in and out, gaining that friction he so desperately craved.
Instead, Carlisle lowered his arms to the ground, buried his face in them. Sodomy, he thought, the word repeating and echoing in Carlisle's mind, the guilt that—in a frenzy, a moment of insanity—had been forgotten. This is adultery. This is sodomy, he thought further.
Edward blanketed himself across Carlisle's back, hips thrusting once, then a second time. He nuzzled Carlisle's ear, his hair, his throat, peppering kisses across each expanse of skin with which he met.
"No," Edward murmured. "This is you letting me love you."
Bella's heart had beat its last tattoo several moments before, but Edward continued chewing on her ragged flesh, her head nearly severed from her body. Each time he thought she was completely drained, Edward would persist and find a droplet or two, giving him the incentive to continue mutilating the cooling corpse of the girl he loved.
Why waste her though? What had been done could not be undone, so why not enjoy it? Truly, he had never tasted anything as enlivening and savory as the blood that had belonged to Bella. A swell of pride arose in Edward when he thought that the blood was now his. The blood that had been hers, that had pumped through her veins, circulated through her heart, was now strengthening him. How could they have ever been as close as they are now, with the very thing that had made her live now inside him?
In fact, Edward thought, Bella should be pleased, since she loved me so, that I took-
The complete evil and selfishness of his line of thinking snapped Edward back to reality. He dropped Bella quickly and backed away, her head flapping to the side like a macabre Pez dispenser.
What have I done? Edward thought, holding his hands in front of his face before trying to wipe them off on his blood soiled clothing. Going back to where Bella lay, he scooped her up, holding her together where he had moments before ripped her apart.
Moving together, Edward and Carlisle began to come apart.
Carlisle's pleasure was mirrored back to Edward, and he desperately thrust his hips. However, the constant push and pull from Carlisle was enough to keep Edward from coming within seconds. Carlisle took, he had regret; he moaned with gratification, he cried with guilt. It was everything he craved and nothing he felt he should have.
Edward could not bear it, having Carlisle in body, but his mind only half with him. He wanted to shout in frustration, but instead, he thrust into Carlisle harder, deeper, attempting to clear the other man's mind of anything that was not Edward.
Beginning to writhe as Edward brushed that spot inside him, Carlisle begged for more, wanting to forget his guilt as much as Edward needed him to. As each thrust brought him more and more pleasure, Carlisle began to imagine what a life with Edward would be like. What joy could he have if he simply let go of the rules he felt God had set for him? Being joined with Edward in the most carnal of ways, it became easy to envision. Something as simple as holding his hand, touching his hair, holding him close without fear. Carlisle thought of opening his mouth and telling Edward that he loved him, had always loved him, and would always love him. Allowing Edward to love him back.
The freedom in his imagination brought Carlisle such elation, Edward feeling and reading every piece of it. They enjoyed the indulgence together.
Edward moved his hand on top of Carlisle's and whispered, "We can kiss each other before you go to work, everday. And kiss again when you come home." They both knew it was a lie, but for the moment, it was their truth. Carlisle laughed and sobbed. The words were beautiful and agonizing.
"When we go hunt," Carlisle paused, every sense overwrought as Edward continued to make love to him, squeeze his fingers, "we can walk back home, my arm around your waist." Edward groaned. Carlisle was his, finally, for a moment.
"We can be happy," Edward said. "I love you, Carlisle." With the words he had been longing to say completely out, Edward moved his hips a final time, spilling all of his wildest wishes and imaginings into Carlisle. Letting them go. Carlisle let out a strangled noise-elation, despair-as he followed Edward in his release.
"I have to go," Edward said, dressing while Carlisle laid face down on the forest floor. They did not look at each other again.
"I love you, as well, Edward," Carlisle replied, but Edward was too far to hear it with his ears.
"I have to go," Edward said, no one to hear but Bella's empty shell. He held her close, rocking as though lulling her to sleep before placing the lightest of kisses into her hair. Breathing her in, Edward moaned at the absence of her flowery scent, her skin smelling nothing but lifeless.
Even after he washed her essence from his skin, discarded his clothing, the smell of freesia trailed after him. Edward felt sick when he realized it was he that smelled so appetizing; he felt even sicker when the scent was gone.
Edward sits with his face in his hands, Aro's hand on his shoulder. He does not breakdown in front of the old vampire, but Aro still fusses over him with phrases like "there, there" or "let it out." Edward wants to swat his hand away but cannot deny the comfort seems almost genuine. As though Aro was not the one that forced Edward to relive it all.
"Is it enough, Aro? Will you help me now?" Edward chokes, not beyond begging.
"Renata?" Aro says, turning towards the hovering female. "Find Demetri and have him fetch Aeon, will you?" Edward lifts his face from his hands, giving Aro a loaded look. "It's merely a nickname." Aro waves his hand in dismissal.
Aeon is tall and Edward wonders when and where he is from, but does not ask. His shoulders seem as broad as he is long. Edward feels like a child standing next to him, waiting for direction from a grown up. To Aeon, Edward is a child; the difference in their ages is great.
There are so many questions Edward wants to ask, but as soon as he decides to voice them, he understands how unimportant they are. Because soon, he will be dead. With a single act, he will save no less than three people. Rosalie. Emmett. Bella. Not to mention those he murdered after he left Carlisle, but those he did not count, those people were dead long before he got to them. If Edward believed like Carlisle, he would be saving Carlisle's soul, as well, leaving him unsullied and pure as the driven snow. It is Edward that made Carlisle selfish, made him covet, made him sin. Thank God, Edward can make it right.
Tonight, Edward is righteous, and he hopes it will afford him a place in Heaven.
"Where are we?" Edward asks, trying to gain his bearings while surrounded by nothingness. Thinking his voice should echo, Edward asks again, but louder. "Where are we?" Again, his words are absorbed into the abyss.
"In between," Aeon answers, voice exuding authority and finality.
"What are you?" Edward asks, unable to help himself. He paces around, walking on air.
"You know that it matters not," he answers, seeming annoyed at Edward's unnecessary movement. "You wish to be human again?"
"My only wish is to undo the horrible things I have done. Maybe, in that, I can go to Heaven." Edward leaps into the air, surprised when whatever it is he stands on leaps with him. Abruptly, he finds himself in a squatting position, knees nearly knocking him in the chin. He stops trying to figure out how this is possible.
"I know the things you have done, Edward." The timbre of Aeon's voice lowers. Edward goes still. "There are others who commit much worse atrocities and feel less guilt over it."
"I've known nothing but guilt for decades."
"Do you not enjoy life?" Aeon asks, moving closer to Edward, placing his massive hands on Edward's shoulders.
"I used to."
"If you had to choose. Between him or her. Wh-"
"The choice was never mine," Edward interrupts, giving a sidelong glance to the hands on his person. Aeon removes them.
"What if it were?" Aeon's eyes narrow, and Edward feels his mind invaded. The sensation is unsettling. His mind has been pillaged too many times today.
"It doesn't matter. Does it?"
"It might. The smallest details can sometimes have the greatest effect," he says, not needing to explain himself further.
The nothingness surrounding them begins to lighten, and slowly, Edward begins to recognize his surroundings. A hospital in Chicago. 1918. Edward is standing next to his mother's deathbed. He sees her and without thinking tries to grab her, hold onto her, make her real. His hands are met with nothing.
"You will not be able to touch her," Aeon says, as though Edward has not already realized this.
"Why do you work for Aro?" Edward asks suddenly, needing to know how someone so powerful would bend to the will of another. Aeon laughs and Edward notices that that sound doesecho. He shivers although he cannot feel cold.
"Aro amuses me, but I work for no one. He knows only what I want him to know."
Carlisle walks in and Edward holds his breath. Going over to Edward's mother, Carlisle kneels as she begins frantically trying to tell him something. Edward cannot hear them.
Never having had the chance to watch Carlisle without his knowledge, Edward takes that chance, now, to study the man he had loved so passionately. Carlisle is painfully perfect in his fretful concern for Edward's mother, his brow pinched, his teeth clenched. He looks sad and angelic and strong and vulnerable and unattainable. This Carlisle has never known Edward. And never will.
"You'll not have another redo, Edward," Aeon says, observing Edward observing Carlisle. "This is the only chance I'll grant you." Edward knows he speaks the truth, although he cannot crack into Aeon's mind. It does not surprise him.
Edward thinks of a world in which he would never know Bella, never darken her life with his shadow. Edward thinks of a world in which Carlisle is his and he is Carlisle's. "Carlisle," Edward mutters. "I would choose Carlisle."
Aeon nods, because, of course, he knew the answer all along. "I make no guarantees on my services. Once you're back in, it's up to you," he says, pointing to the other hospital bed that Edward had not even noticed. Walking over to it, he gasps at his frail human body, emaciated and dying, so ugly and small.
"What do I...?"
"When you're ready, you'll be there," Aeon answers, once again placing both hands on Edward's shoulders, forcing him to maintain eye contact. "Once you're human again, you'll feel like shit." He stops talking to laugh. Edward joins him. "It will take every ounce of will power you have to be alert enough to keep Carlisle from biting you. You must make it clear to him what you want. Understand?"
Edward nods. "What if I can't?"
"Then it all happens again."
"What if I make it different?" Aeon shakes his head, shrugs his shoulders.
"You might not even remember past a few minutes, a few hours. Maybe a few days, maybe forever. Like I said, no guarantees."
Edward nods again, closing his eyes.
When he tries to open them, he cannot; they weigh a ton and his whole body hurts. Everything is dulled. He can barely hear and he cannot smell anything. Edward feels dizzy and he notices the most foreign sensation, as though his chest were a ticking bomb ready to explode. He gasps, realizing he needs to breath but finding it immensely difficult. That fluttering in his chest, he comprehends, with a start, is the pumping of his heart. Edward would laugh were he not about to die.
Hearing Carlisle still speaking with his mother, Edward tries to move. His arms and legs are heavier than his eyelids and they do not obey him. What is he doing? Edward panics for a moment, trying to remember what has happened, why he suddenly feels like an alien in a foreign land, a foreign body. It all rushes back to him and he whimpers, bringing Carlisle to his side.
Carlisle takes his hand, the temperature freezing, but it is definitely welcome against Edward's overheated flesh. Edward wants to die, he remembers now. But Carlisle is next to him, touching him, whispering to him. He might not be able to smell or look at him but he knows Carlisle's touch better than he knows himself. Edward has no hope of finding the strength to stop what Carlisle will do.
I'll make things different, Edward thinks. When he changes me, I'll tell him everything. I'll tell him that in the future there are plenty of people, men, women, even pastors and churchgoers, who would think it's okay for us to be together. I'll tell him it's accepted by many. Sure, there is prejudice, but there are places we can be together in public. I can tell him I love him in front of other people. I'll tell him there are even some states in which was can be married. We can promise, before God and everyone, to love each other forever. I'll make things different.
Edward wants to sigh with gratitude when Carlisle nuzzles his neck. He can almost imagine that Carlisle does it out of affection as opposed to necessity, until he feels Carlisle's sink into his human throat. Even that is pleasurable to some extent.
I'll make things different, this time, Edward thinks, over and over, a mantra that he strives to hold onto. But, as with so many human memories, it is forgotten when Edward starts to burn.
Somewhere-in his head, he thinks-Edward hears a familiar laugh that sparks some rapidly departing memory. Then, it is gone.
Edward wakes up after three days of agony. A man he does not know is there.
"Who are you?" he asks.
"I am Carlisle Cullen. I was your doctor."
Bella and Edward sit in a colorful meadow, a slight breeze making the flowers dance. Edward loves the way the wind picks up Bella's hair with phantom fingers, swirling it around her head. She wears his mother's ring on her finger; it reflects the light across the green grass.
They have shared many kisses and soon they will marry.
Edward smiles at her, knowing he could never bring her harm.