Summary: Esme has been doing some thinking about why Edward left and how her husband was during his absence, and here's another AU of what could have happened in 1931.

Notes: For Stephanie, once again, who wanted to know if it possible for an OT3 of Esme/Edward/Carlisle to exist. This was the first piece that came out of our discussions and ponderings.


she walks the thin white line between the body and the soul


She's standing in front of him by the time he looks up from his newest hardcover, holding out her left hand, trying not to focus, not to think. Which she hopes is why he gives her the odd expression while letting the book settle one of his thighs.


She emphasized her left hand being held out with a shift to the extended fingers. "Could you-"

And, of course, he's standing up, pushing the book aside from her thoughts before she can even get the words to figure themselves out correctly. The look of confused, concern blossoming in his eyes and along his cheekbones as result of the tension in his jaw.

"Nothing's happened," she says almost too quickly. Earning her a look of disconcerted confusion that turned his face slowly, searchingly. She wonders how much of what she's thinking at that second is being dissected across his mind, and then flushes, flustering apologetically, a little for the thought.

She swallowed, unnecessarily, and reached out to take his right hand with her left since he still hasn't understood. There was uncertain resistance, before his hand simply went as she directed it. His expression would be puzzled she knew, but she had to keep going.

Esme unbuttoned the cuff of his shirt, half pulling, half pushing it back until she could see the bracer hidden under. There was a millisecond of hesitation, before her first two fingers traced the outer circle of the well known emblem. The one he let no one see, no less touch. The one he'd kept even when he hadn't kept them.

Then she looked up at him. "You love him."

And whatever lazy, relaxed bit that was left from before she walked into the room evaporated into the look that told her very clearly he would have suddenly rather been anywhere but in front of her now.

Edward's lips pressed, and his hand tightened reflexively in hers, but he didn't speak. She watched things she could not name or recognize war in the eyes she knew second best of her world. Eyes that were more crimson than butterscotch still. And she knew that thought registered when they suddenly dropped away from her face.

She knew that, knew this part of him that Carlisle could not. The waiting. The endless reminders in the face before them while the days wouldn't leave. The weight of the mistake that branded apparent deformity even beyond remorse; tastelessly and excessively staining. She thought about reaching out to stroke the disarray of hair across his forehead.

As soft breath announced that maybe even when she didn't the thought had mattered. At least until he tried to move, tried to take a step back and she refused to let go of his hand. One under it and one still holding over his bracered wrist. When he looked up it was removed, but she swore she almost saw something that was darkly pleading.

He said, quietly, a well worn dense. "He loves you."

Esme nodded, her chest loosening with that endless undoubted truth. The truth that had set her free from her past and given her a future more than even having a new life had. "He does, and I love him. More than this entire life we've made or any tomorrow I have."

Edward wasn't cringing. She wasn't sure what he was doing. For all that he was not looking directly at her face, it was almost impossible to hide his expression when she was shorter than he was and so close. He was looking downward, with his lashes near his cheek. When his gaze back shifted to her she wondered how anyone who passed him could not see the depth of the pain in him. No beauty or lie seemed enough it could disguise that truth.

"I would nev-" His lips had formed the words slowly, specifically, enough, that when she raised her right hand from the bracer to right before his mouth, it was with an unbidden agony of relief that she had. She stared at her fingers and his silenced mouth.

"But he needs you." She said it with the air of something so commonplace she could have been addressing a chair, her thoughts hoping he wouldn't make her point out that no one living in this house was either blind or stupid.

Before he could disagree, she went on, with more emphasis. "We need you."

Esme saw it register with a weight of guilt from abandonment and the houses wounds therein rather than anything she'd meant by it. Her right hand found the front of his shirt and she tugged him to her level, and Edward moved, wary with exhaustion, at not understanding how or why or what. As though expecting only to be given something even worse to hear.

His mouth formed her name, between them, a frustrated suit that didn't sound as if it knew whether it begged to be hurt more or to be left alone entirely. That was stopped entirely when she pressed her lips against his.

Try as she might in those first few seconds, Edward did not budge even a millimeter. The hand above hers, and the face, turned remote, as though cast in a Roman style of blankness somewhere far beyond or far within. She pressed onward, against defense and sanity, the absence of anything as second ticked louder and louder down her spine.

But when he didn't move, didn't even react, foolishness, flush with hot shame and embarrassment, for even thinking it might, flooded through her body. She went to step back, trying to think of any words that could salvage the damage she'd done, when just as suddenly hands at her sides fisted, crushing her sweater and skirt and skin, denied her the ability to leave.