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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?


15. Chapter 15 Lazarus Rising

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4021   Review this Chapter

Bella

“Flowers? You brought me flowers?”

Edward was standing at the door to my apartment with a bouquet of flowers in his hands. It was exactly three-thirty p.m.

“You don’t like flowers?” he asked, drawing that ethereal face of his into a frown.

“No, I like them. I’m just… surprised.” I took the bouquet from his outstretched hands. There were lilies, daisies and white roses. I dipped my head over them; their smell was enchanting. “Why, they’re beautiful…”

His grin seemed to radiate throughout the room. “You like them,” he said with the same kind of pride you’d see in a first grader when his mother hangs his drawing on the refrigerator.

“Yes, I really do.” I swung the door open wider, holding on to the flowers with one hand and the doorknob with the other, and stepped aside. “Please come in.”

He took one step in and stopped in front of me. The difference in our heights meant he had to bow his head to look at me with his wise, sad eyes. The humming of power rolled off him, like the subsonic rumbling of a huge turbine buried in the earth. “It’s good to see you,” he said softly before stepping into the living room.

There was that scent again. As good as the flowers smelled, they had nothing on him. His breath was cool against my face, and it tingled as I closed the door and followed him into the living room.

The flowers, the courtly attitude, and the conscious, polite diffidence were making me feel like I was being wooed, in the old-fashioned sense of the word. I was nearly bowled over with the sudden certainty that he was indeed romancing me. Although I had been flirting with that idea, it was now real to me, as mind-boggling as it was. Why me? Didn’t they have female counterparts of whatever he is at wherever he came from?

Each new look from him, every touch seemed to turn the tension higher. It was if a giant key were in my back and each new gesture from him wound it another half-turn until I was becoming stretched tighter and tighter with anticipation. The dream-like state his presence gave me was deep enough to quiet my doubts and my natural skepticism. I wanted to just let whatever was happening between us unfold. It was so thrilling and mysterious, and my life had been sorely without any relief from day to day worries. My heart began thumping wildly at the course my thoughts had taken.

Edward turned toward me, his curious eyes dropping to my chest briefly, then returning to my face. I ignored the heat in my cheeks and headed towards the kitchen. “I’ll get these into some water,” I said over my shoulder.

I laid the flowers gently on the counter and opened my cabinets. The closest thing I had to a vase was a tall ice tea glass, so I added some water and dropped the flowers in.

I turned to the doorway; he was leaning against the jamb watching me. Almost too handsome for even an actor or a model, his dark rust hair almost artfully disarrayed, he was a poster boy for the khakis and cotton knit shirt he wore. The light blue, short-sleeved shirt was stretched across his chest, hinting at the spectacular definition there, as he leaned against the jamb, his hands in his pockets. The only thing that kept him from being magazine-ready was his eyes. They were an odd shade of brown, and there always seemed to be pain in them. Perhaps it was the pain that kept his perfect looks from being seeming merely shallow or vain.

“Would you like something to drink?” I offered. “I’ve got water and…” I stepped over to the refrigerator and opened the door. “Orange juice?”

He shook his head, smiling. “No, thank you.”

“Well, let me put these in the living room,” I said, grabbing the flowers again and brushing past him to the living room. I could almost feel a magnetic pull coming from him as I walked by.

“How long have you lived here?” he asked, pacing the edges of the living room, looking at the small bookcase I had and the few photographs on top of the TV.

“Oh, not long at all,” I said, watching him prowl around the room. “Since June.” After I had gotten out of the hospital, I hadn’t wanted to live in Forks, where I’d be sure to run into Jacob, and I was too proud to have to deal with the pitying looks or the gossip treadmill. Charlie hadn’t taken my decision well, but I had set my mind and he’d recognized my determination.

“And you live here by yourself,” he confirmed.

“Well, yeah, except for Darcy.”

He glanced at me. “Darcy?”

“My cat, she’s around here somewhere.” I checked through the open door to the bedroom, but she wasn’t in her usual place, sleeping on top of my bed. I hadn’t had a lot of people over, and it was quite possible she was shy of strangers. “She’ll probably wander out later.”

“So there’s no boyfriend?” he asked intently.

“No.” That was rather abrupt, I thought. Let me turn the tables. “How about you?”

“Me?” he asked, his eyebrows rising in surprise. He started chuckling and shaking his head. “No, no girlfriend. Not for …years.”

I looked at him while my mind started wondering again. Insanely beautiful man? No girlfriend? Unusual abilities, traveled all over. I was almost back to the angel theory again, and it was making my head hurt.

From the top of the TV set, he picked up a photograph of Charlie and examined it, turning it over once in his hand.

“That’s my father. And there’s me and my mother in Phoenix,” I said, pointing to the larger picture on top.

“She’s in Phoenix?” he asked.

I adjusted the flowers a bit. “She was.” I separated the baby’s breath a bit more, focusing on the arrangement. “She died in March.” It still hurt to say that.

“You miss her,” he said softly with enough compassionate understanding that it raised a lump in my throat.

“More than I can say,” I whispered. There was that familiar ache again, and I tried to swallow it down. If I let it go, I knew it would overwhelm me. I missed her crazy enthusiasm and her irrepressible sense of fun. Although there’d been times when I felt like the parent in the relationship, her death had severed the last ties to my childhood. The warmth and sun of my childhood and of Phoenix were closed to me now; they seemed gone forever, a thing of the past.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s still…” Waving a hand, I headed toward the bathroom for a tissue.

“Don’t apologize, Isabella,” he said softly as I passed him. “Tears are not wasted. Hold onto your memories.”

I grabbed a tissue from the vanity and turned back to him at the bathroom door. His eyes were immensely sad, as if the weight of death had fallen on him. I realized the pain I was holding onto in my chest was the same kind of pain I saw on his face. For a long breathless second, we stared into each other’s eyes. I fought back the urge to rush to him, to wrap my arms around him and let him comfort me while I cried for a week.

I didn’t know what he was or what he could do, what hidden powers he had, or if he could jump into the air and take off like a rocket. It didn’t matter. The same ache and loneliness that had been haunting me was echoed in his face, and I felt a connection to him that reached out and enveloped me like a parent’s hand around the fist of their newborn. I couldn’t doubt that he’d been sent to me; we were clicking together like magnets.

I gasped softly and my heart started to race with the realization that there was something so fundamental and undeniable between us. In his eyes, I saw that he felt the connection, too, and the tension in the room grew thick as I wrestled with the desire to step forward and touch him.

I had to break it, he was entirely too still. I dropped my eyes and turned, dabbing at my eyes once more. “Church,” I said to myself, inhaling deeply before turning back to him. “Should we get started?” I asked.

“Sure.”

“The church is really just up the street a bit and around the corner. Why don’t we walk?” I was a bit more prepared for our later trip to Forks this time; I’d worn jeans, foreseeing another motorcycle ride.

“Alright,” he said.

I grabbed my key, rosary and wallet, and we stepped to the foyer. “I wonder if I should bring my raincoat,” I said, peering out the window.

“Alice says it won’t rain again until after dark,” he said absentmindedly, looking out the window with me.

I turned to him, curious. His face was mere inches away. Even if I’d had my eyes closed, I would have known he was standing next to me. The sheer energy of his presence was like a force field that I could feel on my skin. “Alice. Your sister. She’s a meteorologist now?” His skin was so flawless and smooth, just a hint of shadow where his beard would come in. His lips were full and sensual, slightly parted and so incredibly kissable. Was it so wrong of me to want to reach forward with my hand to trace those lips with a finger?

He chuckled, shaking his head and pulling me out my reverie. “No, she’s just very good at predicting those kinds of things.”

“Okay,” I said, puzzled but I left my jacket hanging on the hook as we headed out the door. To my surprise there was a red Camaro in the driveway. “Is that yours?”

“No, Jasper let me borrow it.”

I eyed it as we walked past. “Nice ride.” I was almost disappointed the motorcycle wasn’t there.

“Well, the bike isn’t as much fun when it rains,” he said, smiling. I was really getting to know that smile. It thrilled me every time I saw it.

We walked for a while and I noticed he seemed much looser and relaxed today, so I edged into some of the questions that were haunting me. “So, where do you usually go to church?” I asked as we set out walking along the sidewalk.

“I usually don’t go anywhere.” He shrugged his shoulders, his long legs taking one step for every two of mine. “I haven’t been in a church for over forty years now,” he admitted offhandedly. He leaned over and whispered to me. "I'm really only going because you'll be there."

I ignored the indirect compliment; the math I was doing in my head refused to add up. “You haven’t been in a church in forty years?”

He turned to where I was halted. That guarded look returned to his eyes. “Did I say forty? I must have meant four.”

I shook my head. “No, you said forty.”

He turned and put his hands in his pockets, frowning a bit. He looked down at the ground and then back at me, like he was assessing what to tell me.

There were a lot of things I could deal with, but being lied to wasn’t one of them. “Edward, you don’t have to tell me everything, but don’t tell me lies,” I pleaded. At least let there be truth between us.

He looked at me from under his eyebrows. “I want to tell you, but I don’t want to scare you.”

“Is there stuff that will scare me?” I asked softly, my pulse beginning to race.

He nodded solemnly while I concentrated on not suddenly jerking with the rush of adrenaline that flooded through me.

He briefly glanced at my chest again as my heart set to racing. Sweet Mary, he can hear my heart beat.

“Please don’t be afraid of me,” he pleaded. “I would never want to hurt you.”

That was the second time he had used that phrasing. “You don’t want to hurt me,” I said slowly, pulling my thoughts together out loud. “But you’re afraid you might?”

“I am dangerous to you, Isabella, in many different ways,” he said, so softly I had to strain to hear him. His eyes were slicing right through me.

I’d known it; I had felt it. There was something inherently dangerous about him, and my breath caught in my throat as I realized the subconscious feelings I’d had were indeed founded. Still, I believed him wholeheartedly when he said he didn’t want to hurt me, and it was that part that I clung to. “You’ve saved me. You have healed me. There may be less danger than you realize.”

His face betrayed a hint of surprise. “What I want is so outlandishly selfish…”

“Perhaps you can tell me what it is you want and let me be the judge of that.” I said this so calmly, I even surprised myself.

But he was shaking his head as the Davidson kids came rushing up the sidewalk, Crystal on her Big Wheels and her older brother, Trevor, on his scooter. “Hey, Bella,” Trevor yelled as we stepped out of their way.

“Hi Crystal, Trevor,” I called back but they were already past us.

I glanced up at Edward, hoping that we could continue this line of conversation but the moment for raw honesty had passed, and he had already started walking down the sidewalk, his pace smooth but slow, as if he had to concentrate deliberately on holding back. I trotted the few steps to catch up with him.

“So, how long have you been going to this church?” he asked, obviously through with me asking the questions. He took long, slow strides, like he was gliding down the sidewalk. His hands were thrust in his pockets, and he carried his shoulders slightly hunched, as though he was trying to make himself look less tall, less imposing than he was.

“Since June, but I’ve known Father Brian a bit longer than that.” I took a deep breath. If I demanded honesty from him, I should be willing to give it myself. “I really only joined the Church in May.”

He raised his elegant eyebrows at me, encouraging me to go on.

“I’d never been a part of the church before. Any church. My parents hadn’t even had me baptized.” Renee was too much of a New Age kind of mother to do something so tragically suburban as a baptism. I had gone to Hindu ashrams and Navajo sweat lodges, but never a real church. I’d finally been baptized by Father Brian in the hospital.

I stopped automatically at the curb to check for traffic, but he stepped off without hesitation, so I followed his lead. “What changed for you?” he asked.

“I had a lot of bad things kind of happen to me all at once,” I said, frowning at the street passing beneath our feet. “But it was more than that, really, so much more. It probably sounds corny, but it was a search for some meaning, some structure.” I glanced over at him, wondering if, like most of my peers, he couldn’t understand the depth of my new beliefs, or if he was here in some way to validate them. We stepped back onto the sidewalk. “Life has got to be about more than just getting by from day to day. Does that make any sense?”

He nodded, glancing at me. “Perfectly. A search for meaning is the sign of a sophisticated soul.”

“Sophisticated?” I chuckled. “Not me. I’m just trying to connect with something...larger.”

I took a deep breath. For some reason, I wanted to share this with him, something I had never told anyone. I glanced up at his face, reassured by the acceptance I saw there. “There’s a feeling I get when I’m in church, it’s almost addicting.”

“And that is?”

I took a deep breath. “Like I’m dissolving. Losing myself in God. Letting my soul flow ‘into the mystic.’”

He nodded. “An Apollonian ecstasy.”

“Pardon?” I asked, uncomprehending his reference.

“Apollonian versus Dionysian.” He glanced at me, but I still didn’t recognize what he was talking about. “It was a popular anthropology concept some years ago. That the mystic who lays unmoving, prostrate before the altar, communing with Christ, is in as deep a frenzied celebration as the exuberant, intoxicated reveler at a Bacchanalia festival.”

I nodded. “Yes, I see. The commonality of both reaching for their God.”

His face was somber and lined with pain again. “Reaching for God, yes.”

The bells of the church, which was now just across the corner, began to chime. “It’s four o’clock. We should hurry,” I said as we trotted across the street and up the stone steps of the church.

He pulled open the large wooden door and we entered the hushed vestibule. The organ had started, and I dipped a finger in the bowl of holy water and blessed myself. He watched, but didn’t follow my example and lightly touched my waist as we started up the aisle. The afternoon sun was streaming through the western stained glass windows, raining droplets of color across the nave. The lingering smell of incense, the deep, full chords of the hall organ and the wide soaring arches of the church were home to me, and I could feel myself relax as we approached the altar. I glanced back at him, and he smiled encouragingly at me. This was the first time I had brought anyone I knew to my church, and I was wondering at his reaction. This Mass was sparsely attended, and as we conspicuously walked towards my usual pew, a few of the neighborhood ladies craned their necks to see whom I had brought.

I genuflected before entering ‘my’ pew and then scooted across, Edward following behind me and copying my actions. The entrance processional began, and I was happy to see Father Brian. He stepped to the altar and began the litany I had etched on my heart: In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. I exhaled deeply and let the familiar sounds and recitations calm me and center me.

I stole glances at Edward throughout the service, his face calm, but focused, like he was listening to a conversation beyond my hearing. He looked like he belonged in church, but up there on the windows or in the Saint’s niches rather than down here in the pews. I noticed how he sat forward when Father Brian began his homily on the nature of forgiveness. He didn’t approach the altar with me as I went for communion, but I peeked at his face as I settled back into the pew afterwards, and he was watching me intently, a half smile on his face.

We sat for a minute after the service had ended, and the celebrants had departed down the aisle to greet the congregants at the door.

“So, what did you think?” I asked, putting the hymnal back in its spot.

He turned to me, his eyes soft and glowing. “I thought you were beautiful before,” he said, running the back of his cool finger along my cheek, “but I hadn’t seen you praying.”

He had the perverse ability to take my breath away with his words, his touch, his looks. It effectively ended my ability to converse, so I bent my head and looked around the pew to see if there was anything I needed to bring with me. Around us, the small congregation was filing out of the pews.

He leaned over and whispered to me. “When you blush like that, it becomes the only thing I can see.”

I glanced at him from behind my hair, before clasping my hands between my knees. “You know you only make it worse when you comment on it,” I said, trying to sound lighthearted.

“I know. It’s too marvelous to resist, though,” he said softly with an intensity that made my heart stutter

They’re going to have to give me a pacemaker. “I’m glad I can keep you amused,” I said wryly.

“Oh, you do much more that that.” His face was smiling, his eyes were soft, and unless I moved, I was going to melt under the force of that gaze like an ice cube in the sun.

“Well, we should go,” I said, standing.

He nodded and stood, turning toward the end of the pew. I expected him to lead us out, but instead he was staring at stained glass window that had been behind where we sat. “That window. That’s…?”

In it, Jesus was portrayed extending a hand down to a man half-lying on the ground. “That’s when Christ brought Lazarus back from the dead,” I explained.

He shook his head in seeming disbelief. “It was a miracle, of course,” he murmured, before sliding out the aisle and waiting for me so we could leave together. He glanced back once more at the window as we went down the aisle to where the slanted rays of the late afternoon sun flooded the vestibule doors with a golden glow.

Father Brian was at the door as we exited the church. “Hello, Bella,” he greeted me, shaking my hand. “I see you brought a friend,” he said, eying Edward curiously.

“Father Brian, this is Edward Cullen,” I said as Edward stepped forward to shake his hand, murmuring, “Hello, sir.” Behind us, the last of the church goers headed down the steps.

He shook Edward’s hand, while smiling at me. “Edward, hmm?” He raised his eyebrow at me in bemused speculation and I recalled that I had told him I’d seen an angel named Edward. I guess I had to admit he wasn’t an angel, after all.

“Same guy, different affiliation,” I tried to explain while Edward stepped back and put an arm around my waist, a move that surprised me.

“Well, we always enjoy new faces. Glad you could accompany Bella.” Father Brian smiled paternally at us as the Monsignor joined the group of us standing on the steps. “Are you from the area?” Father Brian asked Edward.

“My family lives in Forks, like Isabella’s,” he said respectfully. “That was an interesting homily.”

“Did you like that? We must find some time to chat, if you’d like. Forgiveness is at the core of our faith.” Father Brian turned to the Monsignor, who looked ancient and petite between the two younger and taller men. “Sergio, you must meet Bella’s friend, Edward. This is Monsignor Corvi.”

“Edward Cullen,” Edward said as he extended his hand to the Monsignor.

The two of them shook hands, Edward and the Monsignor, and suddenly froze, as they looked into each other’s eyes. The world seemed stopped in that moment; even the sounds of the birds and city traffic hung suspended. Father Brian and I exchanged an uneasy glance while the two of them seemed locked into motionlessness, for what reason I couldn’t possibly have said. There came an impossibly low, almost subsonic rumbling from Edward’s chest, and the Monsignor blanched palely. The Monsignor awoke first, quickly dropped his hand and took a step backwards. “I must go,” he said inexplicably, and turning, almost fled from where we stood. “I’ll need to speak with you later, Brian,” he called over his shoulder.

Father Brian called to him, “I’ll be here.” He turned back to us, as puzzled by the Monsignor’s behavior as I was. Edward’s face, always pale, was even paler, and his eyes had turned flat and fierce. The tiger was pacing his cage again.

I felt the slightest pressure from Edward’s hand on my shoulders. “Thank you, Father. Have a good afternoon.”

“Go in peace,” Father Brian said, smiling as he turned back to the church.