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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?


10. Chapter 10 Choices

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4084   Review this Chapter

Edward

The ride from Seattle back to Forks was an emotional roller coaster for me. Isabella had asked if I would come back. She wanted to see me again. With a single word, she had broken into my dark world like the dawn that shattered the somber night. I tried to hold onto the hope and elation in that thought, trying to shut out the doubts that nipped at my heels like wolves. Did she have any idea of my true nature? What was it she saw when she looked at me?

She wanted to see me again. No matter how fiercely the doubts attacked, that thought would crop up again and I’d feel the thrill in the pit of my stomach. It was wonderful, and I was literally full of wonder that this could have happened. She wanted to see me again.

But first, I had to know if I was still welcome in the Cullen household. I wouldn’t have lied to them anyway, but my red eyes would certainly tell the story for me. The bike surged forward as I inadvertently hit the throttle, my anger flaring at the image of those killers crouched over Isabella’s body. Never had I been so enraged at a kill, and never had it been so satisfying. All the times I had killed in the name of justice paled beside the kills I had made in defense of someone I already considered mine: Isabella Swan. I tried to find some remorse in me, but for the life of me, I couldn’t. They were filth and deserved to die.

What gnawed at me was the depressing realization that I had let Carlisle down, and for that I was truly ashamed. It seemed no matter how I tried, I couldn’t live up to his standards or expectations. While he and the rest of the family had found a way to hold onto their humanity and to find lives filled with love, I was constantly tripped up by my own nature. I was the monster, the black sheep, the poor trailer park relation that no one wanted to admit to having. As I flew through the curves of Route 101, watching the night lighten into day, I knew my heart was as black as any of those who’d died at my hands. I’d enjoyed killing tonight, and that was the first time I admitted that to myself.

But all the regret and remorse I felt about the actions of the last few hours paled in comparison to one simple fact: Isabella wanted to see me again.

Suddenly, doubt laid its icy fingers on me. What would I say to her? My memories of human courting rituals had almost completely faded, and I had the distinct impression that male/female relationship dynamics had changed radically in the last fifty years or so. How could I impress her? Make her like me?

My body reacted intensely to the memory of how her arms had felt around me, how she had looked at me while in my arms, and the image of the pale tender flesh underneath her towel. I wanted to examine, caress and worship every inch of flesh, every crevasse, every bend or curve. I wanted that almost as much as I wanted to crawl inside her head and exhume and inspect every thought she’d ever had. She was a mystery to me.

On a more primordial level, I was aware that my mouth and throat tingled with the memory of the taste of her blood. It was indeed the rapture that her scent had promised; it was only the satiation from the previous feeding that had allowed me to walk away from it. I couldn’t decide which desire was stronger, but I knew I had to have this woman, that I would have this woman. She was destined for me; of that I had no doubt. I no longer had a choice; I was being driven by needs and desires I couldn’t even understand.

Oh, how I hated this. I hated feeling not in control, most especially not in control of myself. I thought I had inured myself to emotion, and now I found myself running riot with it. Shame and guilt I knew, they had been my constant companions for some time now. But hope, wonder and passion were all awakening in me and the process was almost painful. I felt full with crazy impulses and unnamed desires; I was losing my ability to think straight. And it was because a single, insignificant, human girl had asked if she would see me again.

Something darker was also rising in me. Fear. I hadn’t felt fear in a long, long while and I was unpracticed at dealing with it. I had never had much to lose, but tonight something extremely precious had almost slipped through my hands. When I saw Isabella’s terrified face through the eyes of her attacker, I realized I now had a soft vulnerable underbelly. Losing Isabella would destroy me more surely, more fundamentally than any funeral pyre ever could. Fear for her would drive me in a way no other emotion could. It was fear of losing her that would drive me to extremes.

The garage door was open when I arrived home, and I pulled my bike into the dark space. I had set the kickstand and was standing in place, listening for Carlisle, when Alice stepped through the door. “Hello, Edward.”

“Hello,” I greeted her solemnly. I was glad to see her, and my request took shape in my mind as I saw her. “Alice, I have occasion to ask a favor from you.”

She nodded sympathetically. “I know. I’ll keep watch on her, Edward, but sometimes things change too rapidly to make accurate forecasts. I can’t just spin a dial and watch the future. It works in ways I can’t predict.”

Alice often downplayed her own abilities. I imagined that expectations of her were often demanding. I knew the separateness that came from having an ability, including its limitations, that others didn’t understand. “I know. Just do what you can, please?”

“You need to start carrying one of these so I can let you know of rapid developments.” She pressed something small and silver into my hand.

I turned the small metal rectangle over. “You’re giving me a cell phone?”

“It has all our numbers in it,” she said, pointing at the screen. “I didn’t think you had one.”

“Well, no,” I admitted. I looked into her eyes and shrugged. “There was never someone to call.”

“Oh, Edward,” she whispered, and she stepped up to me, wrapping her arms around my torso. Her head didn’t rise above my chest. “Please promise me you won’t ever leave us like that again. You don’t know how we have missed you.”

I let her hug me without returning it. “Look at me, Alice. Look at my eyes.”

She pulled away enough to see my face.

I held her shoulders. “Is this really what you want in your midst? Violence, brutality? Death follows me like a shadow. I am doomed to live with it.”

“You’re wrong, you know.” She raised her chin obstinately. “Things will change for you.”

“Oh, sweet Alice.” I relented and pulled her into my arms, wrapping them around her. “How can you be such an optimist?”

She hugged me back. “Because I can see the good that’s coming.”

She stepped back from me with an odd expression on her face, so I checked her thoughts. The salty, dirty smell from my walk in the water and the thick odor of blood clung to my skin. It wasn’t very thoughtful of me to bring the scent of human blood into a houseful of abstainers. “Perhaps I should shower,” I said.

“A very good idea,” Alice agreed. “I’ve laid some clothes out for you. They’ll be perfect.” I followed her as she headed out of the garage into the main house.” And take a blanket with you tonight,” she added over her shoulder.

I checked her mind, curious as to her suggestion, but she knew I was coming and had switched to her mind tricks designed to keep me out. This time it was a recitation of the 23rd Psalm in French. I did swiftly catch an image of a dark sky filled with stars.

We walked into the house, and at the foot of the staircase, she turned back to me. “Carlisle will be home after four tonight.”

“Thank you.”

Jasper appeared beside her, wondering where the scent of blood had come from. He saw my red eyes, but said nothing. Conflict tore through him, and he struggled with memories of feeding.

“I apologize,” I said, gesturing to myself. “I don’t mean to make your own struggle harder.”

He shook his head. “Don’t worry. It’s a battle we each wage alone.”

I headed upstairs while behind me I heard Alice lead Jasper away. Whew, it’s like a slaughterhouse at low tide.

Jasper’s thoughts were more nostalgic. I have indeed missed that.

I took great care in the shower to remove any traces of the night’s activities from my skin. My leathers would have to be cleaned. Perhaps it was just as well. What was it Tanya had said? Biker-boy-bound-for-hell. Perhaps an image upgrade was in order.

Alice had laid out jeans and a tan pullover on the sofa. I pulled them on, marveling at the softness of the sweater; the fabrics available these days were so different from the scratchy cottons and wools of my youth.

I checked the mirror and was surprised by what I saw. If you could avoid the red eyes, I looked surprisingly human. Contacts would help with that. The feeding had heightened my color, and the clothes Alice had gotten for me fit well. My hair was its usual untamable mess; however, it seemed to be fashionable now to have hair that looked as if it had never met a comb.

I passed down the hall and saw the door to Esme’s workroom was open. She sat over her drawing board, her caramel-colored hair drawn up behind her, her face peaceful and intent as she moved her pencil around the board.

She sat back and glanced at me. “Hello,” she said with a smile.

“Esme,” I said, nodding in greeting. I took a step into the room. “What are you working on?”

“Some preliminary sketches for a house in New Hampshire. It’s a lovely spot overlooking the White Mountains. I thought I would go Prairie style with this one.”

I stepped up to the board and looked at the drawings. The house had low hip roofs and long horizontal windows, with a wide pergola off to one side. It sat nestled among tall pines on a mountainside.

“It looks terrific. What is this here?” I asked, pointing to a structure separate from the main building.

“That is going to be an outdoor hot tub. See this retractable roof? You can roll it back and see the stars while you soak.” She looked up at me and smiled. She noticed the color of my eyes but said nothing. “How was Tanya?”

“Good; the same. I think Alaska suits her.”

She picked up her pencil and sketched in another tree.

“Don’t you want to ask me about this?” I said, indicating my eyes with my hand.

Without moving her eyes from her work, she said, “Only if you want to tell me.”

I walked over to the windows that overlooked the front lawn of the house. “I let my anger get the best of me. There were some thugs in full attack mode, and well…I couldn’t stop myself.”

I turned around to her. “That’s not true. I didn’t want to stop,” I clarified.

She watched me, her face solemn. I felt her work hard trying not to recoil from the thought of such violence.

“They were threatening something very precious to me.”

She tilted her head, assessing me. “That’s unlike you to let your emotions rule your head.”

“I know. I don’t know what is happening to me.” I had walked through my life the past forty years, feeling more detached and numb with each year. The killing had become less and less abhorrent to me while the crimes of my victims seemed more routine. Another murder, another rape, another kidnapping, another death.

But what had happened in Detroit with the children had been the start of some subtle yet seismic change in me. It had awakened me to the horror I had immersed myself in, and I didn’t want to go back there. Yet I had killed again, swiftly and without remorse, and in full murderous passion.

Feelings were rising in me, and the anger was just a part of it. Was being out of control and at the mercy of my emotions the price I had to pay for having them? Could I lose the rage and fury and keep the good parts of these newfound feelings? Like the way I felt when Isabella said my name.

Esme brought me back from my introspection. “Alice says that you’ve found your singer.”

The view out the window was lovely from this vantage point. The sun was peeking in and out of clouds, creating shadows that raced across the lawn like invisible giants. Across the field, a hawk collided with a pigeon in mid-air before grasping it in its talons, sending a shower of feathers to the ground. Prey and predator; it was all around us.

I shook my head. “I don’t really know what that means. If it means that I can’t stop thinking about her, that she haunts me, that it feels like wasted time when I’m not with her, then yes.”

She rose from her stool and came up behind me. “Edward, it sounds like you’re falling in love,” she said softly.

“Then why is it so painful?”

“Well, I think you are thawing out. You’ve lived a life where being cold and impartial was important to the work you were doing. But maybe there’s a new direction for you now. Perhaps that’s why she has come into your life now, to help you find that new way.”

I turned around to look into Esme’s eyes. Their golden lights suited her, and affection and kindness shone from them. Esme was a woman of extraordinary grace; Carlisle had certainly chosen well, with her at least. “But what if I kill her? Do you have any idea how incredible she smells?”

“The only way to stop wanting to kill her is to want her alive even more. Let yourself love her, Edward.” She placed a hand on my chest. “Open up your heart.”

I put my hand on top of hers and leaned forward to kiss her on the cheek. “It is no wonder Carlisle chose you.”

She smiled, a strange light in her eyes. “He chose you as well, don’t forget that." She climbed back onto her stool at the drawing board as I drifted from the room.

I wandered downstairs and over to the grand piano. It was set by a bank of windows that overlooked the fields in the back of the house. The windows had been cranked open, and the breeze gently ruffled the pages of the book set in the music stand. I plunked a few keys; it was in tune, and the timbre was full and rich.

I sat down and let my hands rest on the ivories. It’d been a long time since I had been in front of a piano. I started with Beethoven’s sonatas, letting the sad, extraordinary music flow from me, then traveled through the lyricism of Schubert and into the cerebral atmospheres of Mozart. I trotted through some ragtime as I heard the other family members around me, pursuing their own interests, and I had started tinkering with something original when I heard Carlisle’s car pull into the garage.

He came up behind me. “That’s quite beautiful. Who is it?”

“It’s just something I’ve started to play with,” I said, bringing the stanza to a close and letting the final dissonant chord ring out and fade.

“You don’t know how wonderful it is to see you at the piano.”

I turned to face him so he could see my eyes. “I need to talk with you.”

He was unsurprised by my appearance. Esme had phoned him earlier, I heard in his thoughts. “Will you walk with me?” he asked.

“Of course,” I nodded, rising from the piano bench and following him outdoors. I was glad to have some privacy with him, and together we started down the forest’s southern paths.

We’d been walking for a while when I spoke. “I would like to tell you what happened.”

“If you wish to, Edward. I’m not your judge.”

I told him of the attack on Isabella and my satisfaction at ending the vermin who had dared touch her. We came to a rocky stream bank and took seats on a large granite slab overlooking a small waterfall that dropped into a pool a few feet below.

The trees across the stream rustled in the breeze, dappling the river. “I’m sorry, Carlisle, I know you had hoped for better from me.”

“I know you’re trying to change, which is never easy. I still have hopes that you can escape the savagery that is our baser nature. But it won’t come easily.”

“I didn’t know I was capable of such ferocity,” I said, shaking my head. “Not that there hadn’t been violence like that before, but this time was different. I enjoyed it, Carlisle. I enjoyed it, and if it happened again, I would do the same.”

Carlisle nodded, trying to understand. “Well, you were protecting something dear to you.” Underneath his calm, however, I felt his very real concern that I was skirting a dangerous line between civility and animalism. However, I could not be his only concern.

I waited, knowing there was more he needed to say.

“But Edward, we have become a part of this community here in Forks. I’ve treated their sick, helped their babies be born, eased the passage of their dying. If I felt there was a danger to anyone in Forks, I would have to act.”

“I know that.”

“Should there be another slip, no matter how justified, or whomever the persons involved, I would have to ask you to leave us for a while.”

I nodded, swearing determinedly to myself that I would never give him cause to. I knew how deeply it would cut him to have to ask me such a thing, and I vowed never to give him a reason.

“I understand, Carlisle. I would never want to endanger your position in the community.”

He sighed. “It’s not just my position in the community or even our position in the community. I’ve gained the trust of these people, and I can’t betray the trust I’ve been given by bringing death in their midst.”

He reached out and put an arm around my shoulders. “You’ve been a son to me, Edward. I love you, more than you realize. It would only be until we were all more assured of your control.”

“Yes, of course.” I felt almost sick to my stomach. Control was absolutely what was giving me more problems now than any time in my life. “I have something else to ask you.”

He looked curiously at me.

“If I brought Isabella to you, would you turn her? I wouldn’t ask, but I would never be able to do it myself.”

His eyes opened in alarm. “Oh, Edward, that is so much to ask.” His thoughts fell back to Rosalie. Out of all of us he had made, he knew Rosalie bore the vampire life with the least grace. Her regret at having her human life snatched from her weighed on him every day. Of course, it was her human death that had been taken from her, but trust Rosalie not to focus on that.

He rose and stood, staring at the water as it rushed by us. “Edward, if she meant that much to you, yes, I would do it. But she would have to know our exact nature and understand it fully. I will never again turn someone without their full knowledge and consent beforehand.” He shook his head. “It’s been a hard lesson, but one I’ve learned.” In his mind, he still felt the weight of having turned the four of us. He considered it the most selfish thing he’d ever done.

I stared at the ground, wondering how I would be able to tell the truth to Isabella. Granted, she’d felt the supernatural in me, but she thought I was an angel. How I dreaded disabusing her of that notion, letting her know just how wrong she had been. Would she be able to forgive me for not being the creature of her dreams?

Carlisle turned to me. “You have a very fine line to walk, Edward. How will she ever get to know you unless she knows all about you? But, if you tell her what you are, be sure she’ll accept you because the knowledge is death to humans. The Volturi hold this edict highest above all others.”

He crouched in front of me, intently studying my face. “Once she knows of our existence, she either becomes one of us or dies. Be sure of her choice when you reveal our secret.”

“I will,” I promised, sounding more confident than I felt.

He sat beside me again. “We’d have to move from Forks for such a thing to happen. It’s clearly against our treaty with the Quileute.”

“Well, she lives in Seattle. That is outside of the treaty area, correct?”

“Yes, but she’s from Forks, so that complicates things.”

I was stunned. “She’s from Forks?”

“She’s the police chief’s daughter. She went to school with Alice and Jasper until medical complications kept her out of school.”

“She knows our family?”

“Well, I treated her a few times in the emergency room. In fact, I thought she was dating one of the Quileutes for a while.”

I didn’t like the thought of her dating someone else at all. I felt my face pull into a scowl, and I fought the urge to growl.

“What I do think you must consider is the girl’s safety.”

My head snapped up. “What do you mean?”

“Last night you showed remarkable control but you were also fully satiated. What will you do when your eyes are no longer red?”

I sat stunned, realizing the truth of what he said.

Carlisle was studying my face, his brows furrowed in concern. “She’s your singer, Edward. Do you have any idea of the lure that will hold for you when you are truly thirsty?”

I dug my hands into the rock I sat on, remembering how exquisitely she smelled and tasted.

“I’ve always wanted love for you, for you to find someone to walk the world with. But I am worried because she’s human, and you have so little practice abstaining.”

“Esme said that the only way to stop wanting to kill her is to want her alive even more.”

“Well, that certainly sounds like Esme,” he said, smiling.

I raised my eyes to his face. “I can’t stop thinking about Isabella. She’s haunting me. It’s not very…comfortable.”

“Ha!” Carlisle barked a laugh. “Now that sounds like love.”

We returned to the house after a while, and I headed for the motorcycle to begin the trip back to Seattle. Again, I found myself torn with conflicting emotions. What would I tell Isabella? How would she react? I wished I had the luxury of time in finding a way into Isabella’s heart before the thirst overtook me again. There was a clock ticking and it could be measured by the color of my eyes.

I spun the motorcycle in a semi-circle and started down the driveway. The sun was dropping behind the trees, and as I turned onto the highway, I cleared my mind. I pushed aside the thoughts and hopes of the future and began the recitation of my litany and the remembrances of all the lives that were mine to carry.

Roland Deschain

Jesus Perron

Darryl Hunnings

Robert Neville

Michael King

Jeffrey Fischer

Louis de Pointe du lac

Nicole Gray

Andrew Bellefleur

Erica Gillespie

Aubrey Ruthven

Robert O'Rourke

And the litany went on.