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A Litany at Dusk

Summary:
Thanks to hellacullen for the awesome banner! Edward’s rebellious period wasn't just a few years; it lasted seventy. Having spent his years hunting on the edges of society, he rejoins his family in Forks ready to abstain when he runs acorss a young woman praying. Can a choice be made between one's desires, one's heart and one's soul? Will Edward be willing to fight for her instead of fighting against her? A/U a bit OOC, rated for lemons and adult content, some violence


Notes:
Thanks to PTB for their assistance and to hellacullen, who is the wind beneath my wings! Her consistent and intelligent commentary, suggestions and cheerleading were incredible and I wish everyone a beta like hellacullen. I own nothing of Twilight. Let's see who could be the owner? Possibly SM?


1. Chapter 1 The Prodigal Son Returns

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4678   Review this Chapter

Edward

Christopher Sloane

Chester Smith

Duvall Smith

Levoyne Sorkin

Frank Sterrit

Carl Stubbs

Frederick Surdyka

Alan Swett

Roger Swiderski

Alfred Sylvia

Laurence Symmons

It was a litany of names, a list I knew by heart. I ran through it each day at twilight, sometimes alphabetically, sometimes chronologically, sometimes by another seemingly random factor. It stopped the list from becoming a slur of meaningless sounds.

The single headlamp of the motorcycle illuminated the dark road, and I kept the recitation going in time with the passing of the broken white lines of the highway. The incessant roar from the bike was a constant ringing in my ears. The dark foliage on either side of the highway was deepened from the onslaught of night. This road ran through some sparsely settled areas, and I hadn't seen any cars for miles.

Peter Tesscini

David Troutman

Martha Troutman

Saul Turetzky

Sanford Tyler

Hiko Umezawa

Victor Uroz

So many names. So many lives. The wind whipped my hair, and I was grateful for the sunglasses that kept the gnats from my eyes as they populated the dusk. The thrumming of the powerful motorcycle between my legs pounded an insistent counter rhythm to the listing. It was a Harley Davidson Night Rod, and I had been on it for days.

I'd found it was easiest to go through the list if I was traveling as I was now. Somehow, dropping the names as the miles passed by made it easier to bear. Like I was leaving them behind like stepping stones back to my beginning, back to the person I had once been.

I was nearing the end of the litany as I pulled into the well-hidden, unpaved turn-off. It was just as Emmett had described it. I was going home, to a house I'd never seen before. I was tortured by the fact that I didn't know if this would be a home for me, or if it was just my family's home.

Creeping down the long driveway, I saw the golden welcoming light shining out of the windows. It was another spectacular house, contemporary and modern, lots of glass walls, and set in a clearing overlooked by six huge pines. The shadows beneath the trees were darkening quickly as dusk slid into evening, the trees as sinister as the house was beckoning.

The bike rumbled to a stop. I turned it off and set the kickstand. Bowing my head and clenching my gloved fist against my leather-clad leg, I opened my mind. I caught the tenor of six different voices; they were all home. Each voice had its own distinct flavor and the mix of them together was like hearing a favorite song from years past. I surveyed their thoughts and heard my name in all of them. However, only Esme and Carlisle were coming to greet me. That must have been Alice's doing and I felt a gush of gratitude toward her. The last thing I wanted was the pretense of a big, happy homecoming.

Pulling off the sunglasses, I placed them in the travel bag strapped to the back of the bike. I peeled off the leather gloves finger by finger and shook them out. I'd been riding for 48 hours straight. I wasn't tired—I never had the luxury of being tired, but I was exhausted. Exhausted with my life and where it had led me. Now it led me here. The black sheep had come back to the fold. The prodigal son had returned.

Esme and Carlisle were at the door as I trudged up the steps. Esme immediately pulled me into her arms, her pale loveliness radiating comfort and welcome. "So glad you're here," she whispered. I wrapped my arms around her and bent my head to feel her hair on my face. She was cool and unyielding under my hands, so unlike my victims. I closed my eyes as I remembered that the last time I had been touched in affection was over fourteen years ago. Esme put into words what I had been thinking. "It's been too long."

It had been too long since I had had any kind of connection to anyone. I had drifted back and forth across the North America so many times that I'd lost count. Always traveling but never headed anywhere, I'd been the quintessential nomad. I had roamed as freely and as purposelessly as a leaf pushed downstream as it rides the river's current. I fed when the thirst became too much, and I was careful in selecting my victims. That was, until last month, and now I questioned my existence and purpose with a vengeance.

Esme drew back and placed a hand on my face, no doubt noticing the blackness of my eyes and the shadows under them. "You haven't been feeding." It wasn't a question.

I placed my hand on hers and smiled at her maternal concern. Years ago, I would have shaken off any of her concerns as an unneeded intrusion into my life, but now I took it for the sign of affection that it was.

"No." I would not show up on Carlisle's doorstep with crimson eyes. I respected him too much to flaunt my choices in his face.

Looking over Esme's shoulder, I met Carlisle's golden eyes. He was my maker and my father in all the ways that counted. Esme stepped back as Carlisle stepped forward. I felt like I was on the brink of some deep hole, and when he gathered me in his arms, it was as if he had pulled me away from the edge of the cliff. I started to tremble with the strength of the unexpressed emotion in me, despair, sadness, shame, relief at his welcome, love for his clear, calming mind, and an overwhelming sense of loss. I closed my eyes and rested my head on his shoulder, brought nearly to tears with the sense of haven I felt in his arms. I owed this man my life and so much more, and I had repaid him deplorably. Yet each time I asked something of him, he gave whatever I needed, freely and with both hands open. I didn't deserve Carlisle in my life, and I was miserably aware of the fact. "May I stay here for a while?" I whispered, not raising my head.

His arms tightened around me, and I felt his hand stroke my head. "Of course, we're your family."

Esme's hand touched my back. "You belong with us."

I swallowed hard, trying to control my feelings. I didn't know if that was true or not. A broken sound escaped me, before I regained control. The only thing I knew for sure was that I could no longer live my life the way I had been for the greater part of seventy years.

"You don't know what it means to hear you say that." I choked out. I was sick of death and violence. Before I had always justified my existence with rationales about only selecting the evildoers, I was ready to admit that I was not good at playing God; ready to admit that the world does not exist in black and white. I was ready to surrender.

"Oh, my son," Carlisle whispered, his arms holding me tightly. His thoughts were running back to when he had made me and our first years together, the times we had spent traveling and living together, learning each others' ways. I had come back and lived as he did several times within the past seventy years, but each time, after months or years had passed, I would leave again to deal with the injustices of the world, as if they were mine to solve. I no longer held onto that pretense.

"Thank you," I said softly, still holding Carlisle. My chest felt like it was expanding with gratitude and relief. I was at a crossroads in my life, and I craved Carlisle's patient wisdom to help me make some sense of the mess I had made of my reality. If he had turned me down, I would have nowhere to go, and that thought terrified me.

Carlisle released me, and I reluctantly stepped away from his arms. Esme took me by the hand and smiling, led me into the house. "We have a room for you. No matter where we've lived, there's always been a room for you."

I hesitated, but Carlisle placed a hand on my shoulder. His thoughts were clear and compassionate, as always. Go. We'll talk later.

"Thank you," I whispered again, letting Esme lead me.

Esme turned to me as we started up the steps of a sleek chrome and wood staircase. "Your brothers and sisters wanted to greet you, but Alice saw that you needed some time."

I nodded as we turned down a hall. "Please tell them thank you, but …" I couldn't even finish my sentence. I was in no shape to try to cope with their lightness and acceptance. I loved them; I just felt unworthy of their love and to see it in their eyes would only make me feel more alienated. I desperately needed a slice of silence and peace.

The room at the end of the hall was wide and had huge glass windows that looked out over a meadow with a stream that was rapidly fading into blackness as night fell. The furnishings were minimal: a black leather sofa, a desk, a stereo with a small collection of CDs, and a flatscreen. "I hope you like it." Her eyes were shadowed with concern; she saw something broken in me that she had never seen before, and it was worrying her.

"It's more than I could have wished." I would have been content with a hole in the basement.

"There is a piano downstairs. Perhaps you'll come play...?" She smiled hopefully. Esme always felt most complete with all her family gathered around her. She was the heart of the Cullen family and her joy was in seeing us together.

"Esme, I don't know if I can. Perhaps later," I said, feeling my throat close. I hated to disappoint her, but right now I couldn't face any more of my family. I swayed with the sudden depth of my exhaustion. I was just weary down to my bones with it all, and the thought of being alone in this still, quiet room was calling to me irresistibly.

"Of course," she said, kissing my cheek. "Take whatever time you need." Pausing at the door, she looked me in the eyes, trying to convey her sincerity. "Welcome home, Edward. Really, welcome home." The door clicked softly behind her as she left me.

I ran my fingers through my hair and looked around the room. There was a closet and a bathroom off the right wall. Stepping up to the french doors that overlooked a dark meadow below, I pushed them open to smell the clean, damp aroma of the surrounding forests. A new moon was rising over the eastern horizon. Below me on the ground, Rosalie had left the house, pounding across the meadow in ferocious strides like an Amazon. Emmett came trotting behind her and whispered in her ear while his hand slid along her ass. "Perhaps Edward's not the only one who wants to be alone. Maybe we could be alone together," he whispered suggestively. She gave a playful shove at his chest and took off running.

He looked back at the house and his eyes found me unerringly. "Brother," he whispered, knowing I would hear him. With a fist, he pounded his chest where his heart would be and then pointed at me in a gesture of filial affection. I smiled and made the same gesture.

"Emmett," Rosalie called, some yards ahead, her hands on her hips.

He grinned and said, "Catch ya later." He caught up with Rosalie and grabbed her, spinning her around once before setting her on her feet. Together they sped off into the distance, leaping the river in a single bound and disappearing into the forests beyond. I heard their laughter as it trailed behind them.

Their closeness and easy familiarity tugged at me. I had felt like an outsider for so long and so unrelentingly. I didn't know if I could ever be a part of the heart of the Cullen family. I had tried before and failed on more than one occasion. It was me; it was always me. But the thought that was making my soul cringe in anguish was whether I deserved to be a part of this family. The loneliness, despair and shame that I had been fighting for years swallowed me up. I lay back on the sofa and threw my arm across my eyes. I closed my mind and stopped breathing, stopped listening, stopped thinking.

***

I lay like that for three days, coming to awareness only at twilight. I would take the time then to compose myself and murmur my litany of names, before falling back into the black hole that had claimed me. I was minimally roused on several occasions when Esme peeked into my room, but I kept still, and she would soon tiptoe out. Her concern for me was warming, but I wasn't ready. I was sick— heartsick to the core, and I didn't know if there was a cure for what ailed me.

I had spent the majority of my existence feeding on the worst dregs of humanity, the unrepentant rapists, murderers, drug-pushers and child exploiters. With each life I took, I knew some other human out there was safer for my actions. I could hear the thoughts of the evil and felt like I was cleansing the world. I thought I was bringing justice; now I recognized I had only been bringing vengeance and that there was a world of difference.

It was if a veil had been lifted from my eyes and I could see myself as the selfish, self-deluding monster that I was.

I heard Alice's thoughts pointed at me even before she climbed the stairs. She was on a mission from Esme and determination pervaded her thoughts. It was clever of Esme to send the one person who could see what words would persuade me.

Edward, Edward. The door to my room opened. Come out, come out wherever you are.

I sighed. Her thoughts said she wasn't going to go away anytime soon. Reluctantly, I sat up.

She was leaning in the doorway, dressed casually in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. "About time you joined the world."

I rubbed my eyes and jaw. "Hello."

She walked across the room to come sit beside me on the sofa. "I've been recruited to take you hunting. Esme's orders."

She saw me jerk at the word hunting. "In the forest," she amended softly.

I nodded. The thirst was becoming fierce, and it would only be harder to ignore if I didn't take some kind of remedial action.

Alice put her arm around my shoulders and leaned her head into mine. "I'm glad you're home." I heard her thought. I've missed you most of all, Tin Man. She was paraphrasing the Wizard of Oz.

"I feel like a Tin Man, all hard on the outside and hollow on the inside."

She smiled sympathetically, her hand sliding down my back. "Someday you will be whole and happy."

Shaking my head, I tapped my chest. "No heart."

She looked intently into my eyes and placed her hand on my chest. "It's there," she whispered. "You just haven't been using it. But you will, Edward, you will."

I looked askance at her. "Is that something you've seen?"

She moved back and shook her head. "It's something I know." She stood up and held out her hand. "Come on."

Downstairs, Jasper was waiting for us. "Mind if I tag along?"

He was guarding his thoughts, but I got the distinct impression that he wanted to be there for Alice if I should become a problem.

"Sure, the more the merrier." I said sarcastically. Great, it's wonderful to be trusted. Jasper caught the edge to my mood but said nothing as the three of us headed out doors.

"Which way?" I asked, surveying the forests surrounding us.

"East," Alice decided. "Let's head out toward the reservoir."

Jasper looked sideways at me, obviously appraising me. "I'm thinking you've slowed a bit since we last ran together."

I smirked at him. "You wish."

"Uh, oh." A lazy smile crossed his face. "That sounds like a challenge."

"A challenge? Are you suggesting a wager?"

"Well, I'd love a few days to see what that bike can do."

"And if I win?"

"If you should win," he said, emphasizing the if, "free rein in my CD collection."

I cocked an eyebrow. "Has your taste in music improved?"

"You may never find out."

"Then try to keep up," I said, exploding into a full run.

I heard Alice's petulant thoughts behind me as I raced forward. I'm still going to want a ride on that motorcycle.

I threw my head back and laughed. She'd already seen that I would win. However, Jasper wasn't going to hand me a win so easily. He was pacing me stride for stride as we sped through the forest. The trees passed by, blurring with my speed.

A half hour later, I stopped at the banks of the Hoh River. Soon, I heard Jasper come crashing through the brush. He stopped some ways away from me and slowly walked up to me, grinning.

"Why are you smiling?" It was pretty clear he'd lost.

"I hope you like Keith Urban," he drawled.

"Great." I rolled my eyes.

Alice passed us, running at full speed as she leapt the river in a graceful arc. "Follow me!" she cried, not slowing down.

Jasper and I took off after her. It was a joy to watch her run. Her petite feet barely seemed to touch the ground. She skimmed the forest floor with the grace of a running deer. We flew through the forest, and I felt my heart lighten. I had forgotten how much I had missed these people, and the loneliness I felt began to thaw.

A bit later, we were at the headwaters of the Grey Wolf River. Jasper lifted his head and sniffed the wind. "Bear or moose?" he asked.

Jasper and I looked at each other and then both said, "Bear" together. Jasper raised his fist in the air for a quick round of Rock, Paper, Scissors to settle the dispute, a habit he'd picked up from Emmett.

Alice plucked his shirt. "You're forgetting," she said, tapping her finger to her temple. "He'll know. Come on, I was in the mood for an herbivore, anyway."

It had been a long time since I had hunted bear. I'd forgotten the trick of getting to the jugular vein without getting a mouthful of fur. I pulled the last of the thick, smoky blood from the bear and rolled to my back, propping my head against the rapidly cooling body, pulling a few strands of fur from my mouth. It wasn't the same as feeding on humans. It would never be the same. It dulled the burning, but it would never make it go away. Still, this bear had given its life for my sustenance. I rolled so I could stroke the bear's shoulder. "Thank you," I whispered as I always did to my victims, any of the creatures who died at my hands so I might live.

Would it be enough? Would I finally be ready and willing to resist the lure of human blood indefinitely and live as my family did? I didn't have an answer for that, and it scared me.

Some scent in the air was tickling my nose. I rose to my feet as a gust of wind pushed the aroma toward me.

Humans. Two of them. Hiking, perhaps a mile upwind. I closed my eyes to identify the scent. They were Asians.

I opened my eyes, and Jasper and Alice stood in front of me, wary expressions on their faces.

"What?" I asked before I caught the directions of their thoughts. They'd both come running as soon as they realized there were humans in the area and were anxious about my ability to control myself.

I shook my head, disappointed that they had so little faith in me. The connection I had been feeling with them suddenly snapped shut. I pushed past them toward the direction of home. I didn't want them to see the expression on my face that said how little faith I had in myself.

The sun was setting as we approached the western edge of the park. I stopped at the edge of the meadow, lit up in a golden light as the edges of the trees' shadows inched their way across it. "I think I'll stop here for a while before returning to the house."

Jasper and Alice turned to me, concern on their face. Are you sure?

I almost laughed; this was getting ludicrous. "Please, I'll be fine. I don't have to kill every human I come across."

Jasper raised his hand. "Hey, man, I didn't mean--"

"Come on." Alice pulled Jasper's hand. "He'll be fine."

"Thank you for the vote of confidence." I watched them skim across the meadow.

Carlisle will be along soon, Alice informed me as they disappeared into the trees.

I walked to the center of the meadow and sat down. Sitting in the classic meditative pose of legs crossed and upturned hands resting on my knees, I took a deep breath, trying to clear my mind.

I couldn't pray, but I could remember. I murmured their names with my eyes closed, seeing each face before me.

Patrick O'Malley

Chester Wainwright

Gordon Hatfield

Michael Donovan

Peter Schoonover

James Keller

Frank DeMaso

Roderic Bergen

Susan Morgan

Yolanda Jimenez

Carlos Corrida

I felt Carlisle's presence somewhere near the middle of the list. He watched me passively from underneath the surrounding trees as I recited my way to the end. Once I had finished and bowed my head, he walked over to me and sat down, echoing my position. The names—those you've killed?

"It's the only way I have to keep some part of them alive. I killed them. Shouldn't I bear that responsibility?"

The church believes that penance without a change in behavior is empty.

"That's why I'm here," I whispered. "I don't want to be the avenging angel anymore. I'm not the person for that job."

Angels are lonely creatures.

I laughed hollowly. "Tell me about it."

You always bore that burden willingly.

"I thought that I was doing it for the greater good."

So, what has changed?

"I have." I balled my fists over my eyes. The shame threatened to overwhelm me. "I realized my own motives were less than pure."

"How so?"

"I've killed in anger," I hissed. A feeling reminiscent of nausea washed over me. I had had so much pride in my so-called objectivity. It would be laughable if it wasn't so tragic. I had pictured myself a bringer of justice and now I knew I was no better than the killers I hunted. That it had stopped being about justice and started being about my personal sense of outrage.

"Tell me what happened."

I had gone over this again and again in my mind.

"It was Detroit, last month. I heard three of them. They were raping and stabbing a young girl. Their minds were pitiless, evil, filled with lust and murder. I broke in the room through the window and snapped two of their necks immediately. I brought the third one to my lips to drink and..." I bolted from where I sat and paced a few steps forward, unable to sit still with the self-loathing running through me. I stood facing the last of the dying rays of the sun. The wisps of clouds above our heads were tinted rose and mauve, the colors of endings.

He waited.

"He was just a boy," I whispered. "Not even twelve years old. They all were."

My hands were shaking with the strength of the emotions coursing through me. I turned to face Carlisle, who sat unmoving, his hands around his knees. His dark golden eyes were watching me.

"He looked up at me with a child's face and I stopped. His eyes were wide with fear, and I let him slip from my hands. He edged away from me and picked up his knife. The girl moaned as he walked by her. So casually, like he was picking up a piece of trash, he bent down and slit her throat." I turned away again. I couldn't bear to see Carlisle's judgment of me on his face. "He didn't make it to the door."

He was a killer.

"He was a child, Carlisle, a child!" I roared, as I turned to face him. "I killed him and drank his blood because I was angry at him! He offended my personal sense of rightness, and I killed him for it."

How is this different from the others?

"I did it in anger. I have been living with this picture of myself as some great impartial judge, protecting the masses. Who is going to protect the masses from me?"

Carlisle's mind was torn. He abhorred violence in any form, and yet he loved me. How many lives have been saved because of your actions? How many mothers and fathers, sons and daughters are alive now because you killed their would-be murderer? Shall we ask Alice?

I returned to my seat by Carlisle, dropping my head to rest on my arms, which I had wrapped around my knees. "I am more than a murderer. What I realized as I let his body drop from my hands was that I am the worst kind of thief.

"I'd stolen any chance of redemption from him. That's what I've been doing. I haven't been saving victims; I have been punishing the perps. I catch them at their worst and kill them, taking away any chance they have at rescuing themselves."

Rescue?

"People can change. Sinners can be saved. Redemption is always a possibility, even if the chances are against it." I glanced at Carlisle as he watched the darkness surround us. "I thought that because I knew their thoughts, I knew their hearts and could judge them."

A fine distinction.

"I can't play judge and jury and executioner anymore."

No one ever asked you to.

"I know." I had to whisper the next part. It was what scared me most. "Was it always just an excuse to indulge the bloodlust? Have I been that weak?"

There was no answer he could give me. I was being eaten alive by my own guilt and shame. "There are things that even God cannot forgive," I quoted softly.

He rose from his place on the grass, and I felt his hand on my shoulder. "If it's forgiveness you're after, Edward, you must start with your own."