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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?


16. Chapter 16 Raven's Reflection

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3707   Review this Chapter

Edward

Vampires don’t suffer from hallucinations. Psychopaths and sociopaths are fairly common personality types among vampires. Living murderously on the fringes of society will do that to a creature. But perceptual delusions are never heard of among my kind.

I had no reason or explanation for the very real visual perception of movement that I had seen the in Lazarus window. In it Christ had been frozen, extending his hand to the body of Lazarus who lay supported on the knees of his sister, their robes done in the brilliant hues of obsidian, ruby and emerald green. There was no explanation at all for the way I had seen Lazarus sit up, look at me with blazing red eyes and start to shake his head in an unmistakable gesture of denial.

It was impossible. I didn’t accept the impossible. If you had told me that it would be impossible for me to escort my singer—the woman whose blood called to me like a mother’s breast to a baby—to church, then I might have agreed with you. But having done just that, I was so grateful that I’d been able to see Isabella in devotion, I’d been tempted to offer a prayer of thanksgiving. The sight of her kneeling, her face transfixed in prayer took my breath away. With her head bowed, on her knees, hands clasped in the classic posture, she had seemed almost translucent. So clear, so pure, it was as if I could see right through her to the beating crystalline heart within her and the light that seemed to flow outwards from her soul like a wave of pure joy.

It left me with the question, though—what was Lazarus in the window? A warning? A prank by God? A bubble from my subconscious? I didn’t know, and even if I had, I would have continued on the same pre-destined course, as determined as a ball sliding along in a groove. What was I, but just a dark creature unloved by heaven, cast aside because I had no immortal soul. Immortal life, perhaps—until some other, stronger vampire decided I offended his existence—but immortal soul, no. If Heaven wanted to fight me for Isabella, then game on. I would wrestle Christ himself for her.

I had sat in the church, watching Isabella with the same kind of adoration I had seen in her face as she worshipped. And as I sat there, listening to the minds around me, I realized how little people had changed for all their technological advances. Yes, they could talk to each other across the globe and go to the moon, but old women still worried about their sons and daughters, old men still tried to find a warm place to sit and the young lived lives of oblivion. I could imagine Carlisle here; it was a place that welcomed contemplative introspection, and I knew he still felt a connection with God.

I was actually impressed and moved by Father Brian. Passion had always been an attraction for me, whether it was the painter who stayed in the studio all night consumed by a line of color or the rock guitarist looking for the perfect riff, playing until his fingers bled. Father Brian had that kind of passion; he actually loved Christ and the idea of Christ in a way that was exceedingly rare even in organized religion. He also felt protective of Isabella. I understood that; she certainly seemed too vulnerable to live in this world, but I would be her protector now.

Monsignor Corvi, on the other hand, was a raven of darkness as he was so aptly named. He’d recognized my name, from where I hadn’t been able to tell, and when he shook my hand, it had brought back memories to him of another cold, hard hand. A hand in Italy, a long black robe, a countenance of fear about which he still had nightmares. He knew a secret, dark and terrifying to him, which he tried to thrust away from himself in denial. I would have liked to have learned more, but he had dashed away too rapidly before my attention was called elsewhere. Humans were predictably fond of denial—our existence wouldn’t have been possible otherwise—but it was a situation I would have to monitor closely.

It was harder today—definitely harder to ignore the scent that rose from Isabella like a call to action. It was so incredibly heady that I had to guard myself constantly; otherwise I would find myself leaning over towards her, staring at her pulse point, listening to the blood racing through her veins. The animal blood I'd forced myself to drink earlier hadn't helped at all. The compelling bloodlust scared me because I didn't know how much longer I would have before being in Isabella's presence was too much for me. If I couldn't resist the bloodlust longer than a few weeks out among thugs and murderers, how long could I ignore the siren’s song of Isabella's blood? What was I going to do then? Would I give up seeing Isabella or take the chance that I had some kind of freakish control simply because I cared for the girl? I had no false pretensions about my control; if ever I should taste her blood, the frenzy that would follow meant only one outcome. Her broken, drained body lying in my hands.

She was more relaxed today after church. Perhaps it had been the meditative pace of the Mass, or she had started to come to terms with the mystery of my existence, but she seemed looser and more ready to smile and laugh. We headed back to the Camaro parked at her house and started for Forks. I would have just enough time to drop her off at her home in Forks before dusk would call me to my litany. That was the real litany of my life, not some call to prayer inside a brick building.

We’d gotten out of the city and were on 101 toward Forks when I asked if she’d like some music.

“Sure, what do you have?”

“Not much, I’m afraid. This isn’t my car. Perhaps the radio?”

“Sure.”

I turned it on and tuned it to a station that I knew played some interesting alternative selections. I asked her what kind of music she liked, and we discussed favorites for a while. We both had wide, eclectic tastes; like myself, genre wasn't as important as excellence. Her penchant for punk rock did set me back.

"But punk rock? Really?" I asked because I could not find any redeeming qualities in music where tuning, musicianship or melody were irrelevant.

"You have to listen to the Clash or the Ramones, really listen. There is passion and wit, real emotion, raw, uncensored." She smiled at me mischievously. “I know it's not what you were expecting."

"You are really very little of what I was expecting." I leaned over and smiled at her. Her eyes were glowing and her skin was radiant.

"You've been like nothing I expected at all," she said, shaking her head unbelievingly. She took a deep breath. "So you liked the homily?" she asked, referring to the Father Brian's sermon on forgiveness.

"Yes, it was interesting."

"It’s part of what drew me to this church. I think it’s so true what Father Brian had to say about forgiveness. It's important to forgive people, not for their sakes, but for yours."

"But what if they don't deserve forgiveness?"

Her face grew somber quickly. "None of us deserve it. But that's where the miracle is. Because it's offered to all of us."

All of us? No, not all of us. “Redemption is possible, for even the worst offenders? But how can we know who will take it and who will continue to murder or worse?” This here was the crux of my own burgeoning conscience.

“You’re right, we can’t. That’s God’s job. He knows their hearts, their thoughts.”

I shook my head. “Well, it must be in their hearts because I know it’s not in their thoughts.”

She looked at me oddly. “You know it’s not in their thoughts?”

Not for the first time I realized that I had spoken more than I had intended. It was just so hard to stay guarded around Isabella; I wanted to tell her everything and anything. I wanted to make her coo with delight and sigh with amazement. I wanted the intimacy of lovers, all the various kinds of intimacy. A very real part of me wanted to make her moan with pleasure. That part and the bloodlust were eager to be let loose. But she was looking at me, waiting for an answer.

I took a deep breath and dove in. “There are things that make me different.”

“Different how? And from who?”

She said this calmly and matter-of-factly, but I could hear her heart speed up. I wrestled with how to tell her more of what I was without scaring her. “Different from other people.” I looked over at her. I smiled, deciding to keep this light. “I can hear people.”

“So can I,” she said, her eyes twinkling.

I chuckled. I never knew what to expect from her. “No, I can hear their thoughts.”

She looked at me in obvious disbelief. “Okay, so what am I thinking?”

“I don’t know. You’re the one person I can’t hear,” I admitted. “You have no idea how frustrating that is.”

“Well, I’m sorry, but that sounds just a little bit conve-e-e-nient,” she said, stretching out the middle syllable, still smiling.

“Okay.” I thought back to the church service. “Anne Geary was sitting behind us in church. She remembers you from when you first came to the church. She was on the welcoming committee that visited you. She’s worried about her daughter who’s in Afghanistan. It’s been six days since she’s heard from her.”

She was looking at me with her mouth open.

“Joseph Keller was in front of us to the right. He thinks you look like his deceased sister. He prays for his wife, whom he visits regularly in the nursing home, but she has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t recognize him. He prays for her death, that she be released from her pain, and hates himself for doing so.”

“What are you?” she whispered. I worried I had really scared her.

“I think the word is telepath.” Not the answer she was probably looking for, but an answer nonetheless. I glanced over at her. She was leaning away from me, her eyes wide. I couldn’t tell whether she was surprised or scared. I waited impatiently for her reaction, fascinated and frustrated by my inability to predict what she would say next.

She cocked her head to one side. “Are the others like you?” Again, an unexpected reaction.

“Others?” I asked, unsure of what she meant.

“Your family,” she answered.

“Oh, no,” I smiled my most non-fearsome, friendliest smile or so I hoped. “No, I am rather unique in that regard.”

“I bet you are,” she said, her eyes still wide. She looked down at her feet. “I bet you clean up at poker.”

That did it. I started laughing and she glanced nervously at me before starting to laugh too.

“Remind me never to play poker with you,” I said teasingly. “You’d probably clean me out.”

“You should be worried. I’m pretty good at it,” she admitted.

“A fine church-going person like yourself? I’m surprised.” Keep it light, she seems to be dealing well.

“I used to play all the time with the Quileutes back on the rez in Forks. We had a regular game going.”

Her boyfriend—her ex boyfriend, I reminded myself—was a Quileute. I tamped down the jealousy that rose like a black cloud and threatened to choke me, determined to keep our conversation easy and upbeat. “But you moved to the big city? Small town life too dull?”

“That and the gossiping.” She shook her head at some bad memory. “I needed to make a clean break.”

“So community college is next for you?” I asked, remembering the answer, but trying to draw her out as I could see she had lapsed into introspection.

She was quiet for a moment, but then her brows drew together. “So you can hear what people think?”

“Yes,” I admitted. “It’s not what you might think, though. I try to block most of it out.” I looked over at her to smile. “Too much information, if you know what I mean.”

That brought a ghost of a smile to her lips. “Too much information, right.” She turned in her seat toward me. “This is another one of those superpowers, right? Like the speed and strength?”

Uh oh. I think I could see where her mind was headed. First angel, now superhero? “Well, I don’t know if superpower is the right word.”

“Why not? Extraordinary abilities—you said you were in crime prevention. Do you have a special name?”

“Special name?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said animatedly, latching onto the idea. “You know, like Superguy or Captain Speed?”

I started laughing, shaking my head. “No.”

“Oh, come on. You can tell me. I won’t say anything,” she promised as I continued chuckling. “How about Blitzkrieg or Motorcycle Man or…”

“No, no,” I protested, laughing. “I am most definitely not a superhero. Really.”

She sat back against the seat, stymied. “Well, it was a good theory.”

“A wonderful theory, but wrong,” I told her. I had really told her way too much too soon. I hadn’t recognized that she would be quite so insistent on figuring things out, and I could see her mind working on the problem.

I asked her about superheroes to lead her away from thoughts of me. That led us to discussing television shows and the conversation moved easily enough that it was all too soon before I came to her father’s house in Forks.

I turned into the driveway and put the car into neutral. "What time shall I pick you up?"

"Ten o'clock? That won't be too late for you?"

"No," I smiled. "That won't be too late."

"Have fun with your family," she said, smiling.

I leaned over and across her to open the door for her. Her heart had been beating steadily until I had done so. But as I extended my arm so close to her, I could feel the heat radiating from her like a sun lamp, and her heart suddenly skipped a beat. I looked into her eyes, and her smile widened. It made me smile as well; she looked beautiful in the reflected glow of the setting sun on the horizon, as it peeked through the rain clouds in the west. It was a smile full or promise, of hope, of a relationship ready to blossom, and I could have dropped to my knees to worship her for the way she was making me feel.

"You have fun, too."

"See you later, then," she said and hopped lightly out of the car. Gently, she closed the car door and turned to enter the house.

I watched until she entered the house and then drove quickly back towards home. Parking the car, I listened for a moment before heading out to the meadow. Emmett was home working on something that had his mind full of processor speeds and v-chips, but the others were gone.

I was out to the meadow just as the sun was disappearing behind the tree line, sending the bottoms of the heavy clouds above into paroxysms of gold and orange. I composed myself and started through the litany of my sins.

William Bubier

LenDale White

Charles Peetes

Lauren Proskow

Hector Belendez

Trevayne Windsor

Qi Shu

Shelby Castor

Genly Ai

Corbin Dallas

Maudette Perkins

For once, I had trouble focusing on the litany. Usually they rolled across my mind as clear and as vivid as the solemn tolling of a church bell, but today, I kept finding myself revisiting the time I had spent with Isabella and the various bits of our conversations.

Redemption. Had any of those in my litany been redeemable? How much had I taken from them? In taking the chance of redemption away from them, had I just stolen it away from myself?

Each one of those names had a crime associated with it and I knew each one. Would heaven have extended the hand of forgiveness to them? I’d forced an early Judgment on their souls, but they at least had a judgment.

I returned to the house, my earlier upbeat mood had now turned pensive. I found Emmett sitting on the floor in the media room, several Wii consoles and computer bits scattered around him.

"Hey, Edward." He looked up from working on the motherboard in his lap. His huge hands held the tiny screwdriver with the same delicacy of a seamstress with a sewing needle.

"Hello," I said cautiously, looking around. "Video games?"

He grinned. "Trying to ramp these babies up to vampire speed. Make it a challenge."

I watched him work for a moment, when I heard it coming.

He cocked an eyebrow at me, half grinning. "I heard you and Rose went at it."

I relaxed infinitesimally; he was being good-natured about the fight. "She started it."

"Heard that, too. My Rose, she's a pistol, all right."

"Pistol, that's her." I had several other terms in mind, but discretion seemed like a good idea.

He climbed from the floor and started pulling out wires from the tool box he had on the floor. Looking back at me, he added, "Of course, if she were ever to get injured by you, I would have to lay a real good hurting on you." He smiled at me to soften the words, but there was a certain amount of steeliness in his eyes.

"Well, tell your cat to keep her claws in," I said, rubbing at my face and the memory of the scratches she'd given me.

"Ha! I'll do that.” He laid the wires next to him and pointed to a small box behind me. “Hand me that, will you?”

I handed it to him and he opened the box to a small chip inside. Crouching next to him, I watched him concentrate on his work, a small soldering iron in his hand sending up wisps of smoke.

He looked up. “So, things have been working out for you and Bella?”

“So far. I went with her to church,” I admitted.

“You? In church?” He barked a laugh. “You’re not starting to believe that angel theory, are you?” he teased.

I rolled my eyes, but then got serious. I tried to use my telepathy to keep a look out for the family when I could. “The monsignor there recognized my name.”

“Hmmm,” Emmett murmured, bent over his work.

“I couldn’t say for sure, but he may have known what I was,” I said, worrying at the problem.

“Monsignor, huh? Catholic church, right?” he asked, not looking up.

“Yes,” I conceded.

He turned the board over in his hands. “Carlisle pretty much has us stay away from the Catholic Church. Says it’s riddled with Volturi spies.”

“You’re kidding me,” I said in disbelief.

“Believe it.” He glanced at me. “Makes sense, though. The Vatican is right around the corner from Volterra. They flow in and out of there like air. It’s got a great ready-made organization that they can just piggy-back on. The Volturi like to keep tabs on the competition, any competition.” He looked meaningfully at me. “Be careful going around there.”

I nodded in agreement. “I will.” Was that the secret the Monsignor was trying to forget? I was certain now that he’d seen vampires before, there had been a flare of recognition in his mind beyond that of my name. What he would gain from information on me, I couldn’t imagine. The Volturi certainly knew where to find Carlisle and the Cullens, if they wanted us.

He cocked his head to one side. “I must admit you’ve got me confused. Last I saw you, you were on your way to kill Bella.”

I got up and walked over to the window. “I know. You have no idea how confused I am myself.”

He put the soldering gun down and picked up another screwdriver. “How have you been able to resist her?” he said, trying to avoid the intimation of violence.

“Well, just being fed has been helping.” I turned to him. “That’s not going to last for long.”

“And then what?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I whispered, turning back to the window. “I know this, though. I want her. I want her with me, on whatever terms she’ll take. Red-eyed, gold-eyed, it won’t matter as long as she’s there.”

“Red-eyed, gold eyed, it will matter, you know.”

“Not as much as not having her.”

“So, you’re definitely are going to turn her? I’m surprised.”

“Well, I couldn’t do it myself, but that’s the general intent.”

Emmett shook his head. “You’re the last one I’d thought to be interested in making new vampires.”

“I have hated myself for so long and I’ve wasted years running around this earth looking for…I don’t even know what. But the answer is there, in her eyes. With her, all things are possible. Without her, nothing is.”

I didn’t have to turn to see myself in Emmett’s eyes. He was thinking how haunted I looked, and he felt for me. But he couldn’t know the depths that I had seen. He’d had Rosalie from the beginning; he’d never spent years alone wandering like a nomad.

“So, what’s your plan?” he asked.

I grimaced. “Try to make her like me, I guess.”

He looked appraisingly at me. “Not an impossible task, I suppose. Course, it would help if you were as good looking as me.”

I snorted. “In your dreams.”

“Well, you can help me try this out,” he said, standing up. “Grab a controller.”

I had to admit, he’d finally made a challenge out of a video game. The play was fast and furious. But the clock on the wall seemed to circle torturously slow as I bided my time until I would see Isabella again.