Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and its characters. The Requiem Mass in D Minor is a series of fourteen musical movements composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It was left unfinished at his death and was completed by Franz Xaver Süssmayr.
Scooterstale, who is both my beta and more importantly, my wonderful friend, graciously edited this fic. It's amazing what she puts up with when it comes to me. Thank you, lady, for always making me look a lot better than I am. :)
I. Requiem aeternam
"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned," he rasps.
Edward lifts his head.
"It's been three months since my last confession…"
It's really been five.
"What are your sins, my child?" Edward responds, though the moment he asks, he already knows.
The small space is dark, but as if in broad daylight, he sees the boy's pale gray eyes close through the tiny squares of the screen. The air here is stale and stifling. He reeks of sex and sweat, and the bitter taint of amphetamines is impossible to miss
An addict. A street urchin. Yet another lost child. He's so very young.
"I… I–" he stutters, tripping over the thickness of his tongue. Shame is a black river, deep and dark.
Time wears on and the boy fumbles through his transgressions, talking past them, around them, incapable of admitting them all and their depths. His fingers tear into the paper thin cotton of his shirt, twisting and tugging and pulling in shaking agitation. He is ashamed to ask for absolution, believing himself low and unworthy because even as he kneels in confession, he dreams of needles and the rush of fire in his veins. His thoughts are like jagged barbs, murky and painful and warped by the poison he consumes.
Edward sighs quietly. "It's alright. Have no fear inside these walls, or of me. Tell me what you've done. No sin is unforgiveable."
A low whine answers him, followed by the wet patter of droplets on wood. And then more words come tumbling out, flowing like the salted water that pours from his eyes – drugs and drunkeness, lies and deceit, theft and violence and sex. Vivid images, ugly and debauched, spin the boy's thoughts, so fast and so furious. Sex for money, for pleasure, for punishment, so many sins of the body. Of using and of being used. Guilt and so much shame. It's almost unbearable.
"For these… and all the sins of my past life, Father, I'm sorry. So sorry," he chokes. "Please, help me."
Compassion wells within him. Softly, so softly, his voice liquid comfort, Edward grants him his penance and his pardon, offering him his absolution, even as he knows that the boy is too far gone, that he will be back again months from now if he does not kill himself. His poison is too strong.
They walk through the garden, two long shadows against splashes of late summer roses and violets.
"How are you liking it here?"
Behind his back, Edward's fingers clasp and he stares beyond the greenery to the stands of marble and granite by the water's edge. The oldest ones, stones carved by hand and chisel, are crumbling from the elements and age – long forgotten remnants. Beneath the low, sweeping bough of the distant beech, his own is faded now, a dull, lifeless gray, and the letters bearing his name are smooth to the touch. He saw it when he visited his mother.
"It's good to be home, Father Carlisle," is all he says. A northerly breeze whips past his ears, scattering already reckless strands of autumn.
The older man smiles politely. "That's right. Father Michael said you were originally from this area. How long has it been?"
It's been many, many years since Edward has been home.
It's been even longer since he heard a mind like the man's beside him. Unlike most, the priest's mind is almost a pleasant place to be. There is contentment there and soft-spoken joy and the strength of faith. It's a rare find, even here amongst the faithful. When they lock hands in greeting, he doesn't ponder the deathly chill of Edward's touch, nor does he question his late night hours of solitary study or his reticence to accept the camaraderie of others. Instead, selflessly, he wonders if Edward is truly at peace. He sees before him someone who is not a whole man, a spirit that has been broken and only partly mended, and at night, when his knees creak against worn floorboards, he prays that this new young one might one day be fulfilled.
Edward turns and one corner of his mouth pulls up into a strange half-smile. His eyes are alight with what Carlisle mistakenly assumes is amusement. Odd, here or anywhere, instead of brown or blue or even green, his irises are pale, honeyed amber with golden flecks that seem to dance. Depthless and ancient, they hide so many more years than his youthful countenance suggests. They hint at something nameless. Something other.
"I see," Carlisle answers back, acknowledging but never addressing the secrets that Edward chooses to keep.
Bright, baby blue eyes with crinkles at the corners stare up at him. "A while."
Edward smiles in full then because he knows that the older priest has been here for more than forty years. The aging priest knows the ins and outs of this city. He knows its people and its moods. He's been here long enough that, more often than not, his smooth tenor bears that of a Chicagoan cadence rather than the Leeds of his childhood. These stone walls are home.
Minutes tick by and both are silent. Carlisle's thoughts turn elsewhere and so do Edward's. Like a worrisome provider, Carlisle's are filled with balancing dollar signs against falling attendance, the slowly withering staff in the shelter and soup kitchen, and he's calculating how many hungering souls will be turned away this winter.
"How were the numbers yesterday?" Edward finally asks.
Carlisle frowns and fingers the edge of one dark sleeve. "Low, but it's almost time for school to start, so people take their vacations, I suppose. I'll need to move some things around to cover the shelter this month." He shakes his head and smiles again, though the deep valley between his brows remains. "We'll manage it fine. St. Mark's always scrapes by. And Shelley told me that she had a new shelter volunteer call. That's always a blessing." A spotted hand reaches up and brushes through blond-white cornsilk. "But they do seem to be getting fewer and fewer as the years go by."
Edward grimaces, nods, and then looks away. He knows this more than anyone.
A figure races through the trees, a dark wraith floating over the moonlit forest floor. Leaves rustle in his wake and a fine plume of dust kicks off his heels. His speed is incomprehensible, his black form nothing more than a whispering blur of darkness and light.
It's silent here in these woods; all life seems to halt at his passage. The creatures here know him for what he truly is, and they quiver in their nests and burrows until danger has departed.
Edward is hunting.
It's been too long now, more than three weeks since he last fed, and his throat is coated with ash and smoldering coals. In the mirror of an altar boy's eyes, his own were as black as soot. So as much as he is loathe to do so, he gives himself over to the demon within, knowing that if he does not, he risks too much.
Wild and tangy, a scent drifts on the breeze, and a low burn ignites in his chest, pulling and drawing him west. It's moving, its instincts driving it away from certain death, and the rhythmic thump of the animal's racing heart sounds like thunder in Edward's ears. It's all that he can hear and his mouth swamps.
Lithely, more animal than man, he springs across a murmuring brook, his steps no more than light kisses to the ground. Near a clearing filled with swaying wildflowers, Edward darts upward, climbing to an overhead branch where he can survey the land. Where the wind masks the cloying scent of the high predator. The highest.
A minute passes in utter silence but for the clap of heart valves opening and closing and the luscious rush-rush of gushing blood through veins. Then far ahead, a tawny hide appears in the dark. Lean and muscular, with a maze of almond-colored bone between his quivering ears, the creature ventures closer and closer. Until Edward looks down and he can count the lashes that frame its wide, nervous eyes.
Forgive me, Father, he whispers by rote, for all the sins of my past life.
Wind whips across his cheeks and his heels sink into soft ground.
The animal starts, huffing and kicking out, but Edward's arms form crushing steel bands that never falter. Wetly ripping, teeth part hide and flesh, and then muscle and sinew. Fat, viscous droplets scatter across his face and arms, and the raw scent of leaves and field grass assault his nostrils and tongue.
Edward closes his eyes as the veins snap. Rich, decadent warmth floods his mouth.
After all these years, Edward's tongue still does not expect the sourness, however, and the burn in his throat cools only so much. His demons clamor for something more, something better. Like a dying man in the desert, he sucks on the wound quickly and mindlessly, forcing down the lesser drink.
But as those last drops pass his lips, unbidden, images begin to flash across the backs of his closed lids. His teeth instinctively dig deeper and he moans in both ecstasy and despair.
Dark eyed with olive skin and hair the color of roasted chestnuts, a woman cowers. Her face is a mask of terror and shock, surprised by the sudden intrusion of a man in her private quarters.
A crooked finger extends and, 'Czerwone oczy!' spills from her rosebud lips.
Red, he thinks – some vague memory he cannot place – but the rest is lost to him because the high neckline of her riding dress is torn away and there is a spider web of blue that he somehow now sees.
Her pulse jumps. He can see it there under her skin and it's mesmerizing. The scent of her is excruciating, somehow sharper than it was in the park.
Three days have passed since he stumbled from the alley, confused and in blinding agony, and Edward still doesn't know what he is. He only knows that he is a monster and that what he wants hides beneath her flesh.
Spreading plum-black stains appear where his fingers rest on her arm, and blood curdling screams ring in his ears, so loud that he can't stand it so he snaps her neck without realizing it.
And then it's all his; velvet and smooth, so succulent and warm, her blood is the most exquisite thing he's ever tasted. There's nothing he wants more.
Bones crackle inside the cage of his arms, and Edward's eyes open abruptly. Cool night air sucks into his lungs, and he slings the deer carcass away. He stands and the weight that never lifts seems heavier.
Edward bows his head and his hand dives into his pocket, automatically fingering the smooth edge of the collar he has worn for nearly seven decades. Seven decades of atonement.
Yet after all these years, no matter his penance, he still smells her, just as he still smells them all. Shaken, Edward stares down at the wreckage of the beast's broken body. It's now hollow and lifeless, eternally silent and at rest.
He is envious.
Important notes (please read now because they are relevant for the entire story):
- I'll say this one time to avoid any confusion in future chapters: I've taken certain liberties and have made a few simplifications regarding the details of some aspects of Catholic dogma and protocol, as well as the roles and lives of its clergy.
- If you are thinking this will be lemony or in some way be a deviant sexual play on the priesthood, I'll go ahead and say, "Nope, no way, no how." There may or may not be sexual situations at some point. If there are, they will not be explicit or porny.
- This story is rather AU; meaning: please don't automatically assume canon anything.
Fair warning: as per my usual, I promise nothing. Those who know me know that I'm not really a rainbows and kitties kind of girl.
I always, always love hearing from you. It'd be great if you dropped me a line or two to let me know what you think.