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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?


32. Chapter 32 Gethsemane

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Edward

"It's been four days, Carlisle. Why isn't she awake?"

"I don't know, son." Carlisle sat in the chair by my desk. On the black day bed in my room, Bella lay motionless under a blanket. There was no discernible motion of her chest, and only the very occasional thud of a heartbeat gave any indication that she might still be alive. "I think the wolf venom is inhibiting the change, but that's just a theory."

"What else could it be?" I demanded in frustration. "Did I do something wrong?"

"No, Edward, it was nothing you did or didn't do. There's nothing we can do now, except wait."

"This is the worst kind of torture." I ran my hand through my hair before yanking it painfully. Beyond the windows, the stream burbled, like it was any other day. Some perverse part of me wanted it to shut the hell up. "She should be awake by now."

"Well, that is mostly true, but−"

"It's been three days, it's always been three days. Three days and then they wake."

I'd counted on only having to endure the torment of watching her suffer for three days and that's what I had steeled myself for. The first forty-eight hours she had unconsciously moaned and whimpered in her sleep. I'd sat by her bed while every noise that had escaped her lips had hit me like a dagger through the heart. I'd destroyed chairs, lamps, books, anything that had been in my hands when she cried out, unable to stop myself from feeling like I was burning alongside her. But I would have gladly traded the uneven torture of her occasional cries for the cold, barren wasteland of her complete silence. The lack of any sign from her was creeping toward my heart like a poison, making me cold and desperate for any kind of change.

Esme poked her head in through the door. "The movers will be here in another two hours. Is there anything that you want us to take to Dartmouth?"

"No," I answered, staring at Bella's unmoving form. Somehow I had found the strength and the presence of mind to stop myself in the field from draining Bella, but it had been so close. I turned to look at Esme, remembering what she had told me. The only way to stop wanting to kill her is to want her alive even more. Through the haze of delirious and ecstatic blood lust that I had finally surrendered to on that field, I had cried in agony as I pushed her unconscious body away from my lips before her heart came to a final stop. Standing guard over Bella's prone body, I had growled and snarled at my entire family before Carlisle's calm words, repeated over and over, got through to me. "Edward, you did it. Now let us help her."

Aro and Carlisle had exchanged words of goodbye and the Volturi had disappeared as quickly and as soundlessly as they'd arrived. I'd carried Bella on my lap in Emmett's jeep on the way home, physically unable to let her out of my arms. Carlisle had offered to take her for me, concerned the smell of the blood was further torment, but the nature of that smell had changed for me, and while it had once called to me to take her life, now it was proof that she still lived, and I'd held on to it and her with all my strength and hope.

No change? Esme asked, compassion shining out of her face.

"No," I said bitterly, turning back to the window. Esme pursed her lips and withdrew.

"I'll sit by her," Carlisle said. "Why don't you go out for a run? You're wearing holes in the carpet."

"I want to be here if she wakes up."

"Her condition hasn't changed in thirty-nine hours. Nothing will happen immediately."

I crossed my arms. "You may go if you like. I'm not leaving."

"As you wish."

That afternoon I heard Carlisle and Esme downstairs. "What do you think it is?" Esme asked.

"It's as if she's gotten stuck mid-change. It's got to be the wolf venom."

"The poor girl. It's so dreadfully painful. I can't imagine even an extra hour under it."

"M-m-m. I hope her mind's intact when she comes out of it."

I looked at Bella, still immobile, her pale face enhanced by the richness of her hair. "Bella," I begged her in a whisper, "don't leave me. I couldn't stand it." There was no answer, no movement.

"Five days, Carlisle!" I cried, crushing the back of the chair into splinters with my hand. "Five days, there must be something wrong."

"I know how tough this is for you, but there's nothing we can do. It must run its course."

I wrapped my arms around myself and rocked back on my heels. "This is slowly driving me out of mind."

"I know it is. Jasper has barely been able to step inside the door. You need to get out of the house for a bit. Emmett?"

My brother came around the corner. "Come on, Edward. Let's take a ride."

"No, I'm staying."

"Edward, why don't you go?" Carlisle urged. "I'll stay by her."

Emmett sighed. "Her cat is going to starve if someone doesn't feed it, and I've got painting to do at her apartment."

Darcy-her cat Darcy. That poor cat had survived through some pretty incredible fights. I turned to Carlisle. "You'll call me at once if there's any change."

"Of course. Now go."

Emmett tossed some paint cans into the back of the jeep and we took off down route 101.

I sat slumped in the passenger seat, watching the trees rush past. Emmett was humming along with the radio, some blues station. "That's a great line," he said, turning the radio up a notch.

I pulled myself out of my thoughts and checked his. It was a song lyric. I'd rather be hated for who I am than loved for what I'm not.

"Yes..." I said, wondering where he was headed with this.

He glanced over at me. "You did the right thing, you know," he said.

"How can you say that?" I demanded. "An innocent girl lies in my room, potentially dying."

"Life is uncertain. You can't always control the consequences of your actions. But what you've done was done out of love. That has to count for something."

"Who's doing the "counting?" I asked. "God? You think He really cares about us?"

Emmett looked askance at me. "I don't know if He cares about anyone."

I rubbed my hand across my eyes. "And I thought I was cynical," I muttered.

"I don't know if I can say this right, but I don't think God is some old man on a throne, sitting back and judging us. Maybe we, meaning everybody that thinks and loves, are a piece of God and this life here, what we make of it, is our heaven and hell."

Now it was my turn to look askance at him. Emmett smiled enigmatically and started whistling along with the song. He turned up the volume once more as I turned back to the window.

We arrived at Bella's, and her scent lingered in the apartment like a ghost. Much of the destroyed furniture had been cleaned out, and even the top mattress of her bed was gone. I stood in the middle of the room, eyes closed, trying desperately to push the memories of her aside, but all I could see was the way she sang along with the Clash, how she had shivered when I had kissed her the first time, her wicked smile when she tickled me.

Emmett came in the room, paint cans clanging. "You okay?"

No, I wasn't okay. I wasn't even remotely okay. It was a mistake to come here because all I wanted was to go back and see her wake. I said nothing and began to look for Darcy. I found her in a corner under the bed, where she hissed bravely at me. Rather than traumatize the cat further by pulling it out and trying to make friends with it, I contented myself with making sure it had food and water. Emmett pointed out the litter box, which much to my dismay, needed cleaning. I couldn't see what the attraction was in having a feline as a pet, but it was something that Bella loved so I would do what I could to take care of it for her. That done, I offered to help Emmett with the repairs and painting he was finishing on her apartment, but he declined my offer, so I was left to wander around uselessly.

I headed out the door, ambling down the steps. From across the street, a female neighbor shot me a glance as she picked up the newspaper in the driveway. Her petty suspicions angered me, and I fought the urge to say something to her, but instead thrust my hands in my pockets and started walking. I was halfway up the steps of the church before I realized where my feet had led me. I pulled open the heavy wooden door and entered the vestibule, letting my fingers trail across the surface of the basin of holy water in the center.

Standing at the archway of the nave, I pictured Bella praying as she had been that day I'd accompanied her here. The peace and the serenity that had shone out of her face like a beacon had drawn me to her. What if I had taken that from her? Would she ever forgive me? I glanced warily at the Lazarus window, but the figures were motionless, trapped in their jewel-toned glass.

Behind me, I heard someone come up the stairs from the basement. Father Brian, dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt, was humming a Beatles song to himself and carrying a long narrow piece of wood in his hand.

"Hey, Edward," he greeted me as he crossed behind me. He had a carpenter's apron with tools hanging from it slung around his hips.

"Hello, Father. How are you?"

"Busy. Doing double duty these days." He stopped by the confessionals, where one of them had a splintered sill. That, I assumed regrettably, was my handiwork from my confrontation with the Monsignor days ago.

"Oh?"

He set the wood down and started to pry at the damaged sill with a chisel. "Monsignor Corvi left for Italy unexpectedly. Woke up Thursday morning and there was a note saying he'd been called to Rome. He'd already packed and left."

I had my suspicions about the author of the note and the Monsignor's arrival in Italy, but I kept silent.

"So," he said, ripping the wood from the sill, "I've been doing the Mass and trying to keep ahead of my other duties. I'm even doing repairs." He set the damaged wood aside. "Give me a hand here?"

"Sure," I said, stepping up.

"Just hold this in place," he said positioning the wood. "Yeah, right there. Actually, I like this kind of stuff." He smiled at me before turning to pick up hammer and nails. "Carpentry, you know. Long line of carpenters in the church."

There were questions I needed to ask him, answers that I wanted. I cast about for a way to start.

He glanced at me before starting on the nails. "So, how is Bella?"

"She's been ill," I said, at least somewhat truthfully. "But when she gets better, we're thinking of doing some traveling together."

"I'm sorry to hear that. Perhaps I could come visit her?" he asked solicitously.

"Thank you, but not right now. My family is taking care of her."

"Well, let her know she'll be in my prayers. I'm glad to see that she's got some people who care about her. Thanks," he said, indicating I should let go.

I stepped back. "Do you think that everybody, no matter what they've done, can become reconciled to God?" I asked, just blurting out what had been on my mind.

His face got very serious as he looked at me, his eyes searching my face. "Yes, yes I do," he said finally. "That's why we Catholics believe He sent His Son." He picked up the wood pieces on the floor and gathered his tools. "There has to be sincere contrition, confession which acknowledges those sins and satisfaction towards redeeming them."

He waited to see what my response was. I didn't know if he wanted me to confess to him there, or even if I wanted to do such a thing, but he watched me for a moment longer, still kneeling on the floor. "I think we as humans have a natural desire to get as close to God as we can. Our sins affect us and get in the way of our ability to do that."

It must be nice to have that kind of certainty. "You're sure of that, aren't you?" I asked. 'I suppose that's why you're a priest."

His eyebrows rose and he sighed. "We all have moments of doubt. But the act of having faith is a transformative act. To believe strongly in something, without any proof−because you have no proof, it changes a person." He shrugged. "Sure, there's been times I've questioned all of this," he said, gesturing at the church around us, "but I come back because I like what having faith does to me, here." He tapped his chest, and then rose off his knees.

He was a few inches shorter than myself, brawny where I was slender. His eyes crinkled as he smiled at me. "I've got to go get some paint, but why don't you take a minute and maybe get re-acquainted?" He gestured with his head toward the altar before heading back downstairs with his hands full, humming that Beatles song again. I recognized it−Let It Be. I watched his back as he disappeared, struck mute by his somewhat accurate perception that my relationship with God had become distant.

I looked back over my shoulder at the nave and down to the altar where, in typical Catholic fashion, a life-sized, bowed and bloody Christ was hanging on a large cross hung suspended by chains over the altar. I found it hard to believe that one crucified person could make that much difference in the world. I walked slowly down the aisle, thinking of all the cruelty and horror I had seen perpetrated on humans, most often by themselves. Surely, many people had died a worse death than Christ's, in pain and alone, abandoned and unloved.

I stared up at the icon's painted face, which I imagined looking down at the world. The frustration and anger I was feeling bubbled up inside me. "Ha!" I taunted. "What do you know of the world's troubles? Thirty-three years, bah! That's just getting started. Try a hundred and nine."

The artist that had done this crucifix had done a crude job with the painting, yet somehow had captured an air of martyrdom and eternal patience on the face of the icon. For some reason, it just made me angrier. "You hang up there pretending to be all merciful, while the rest of us here are just trying to pick ourselves up out of the muck? This is mercy? This is how You show Your love? Ha! What a travesty."

What am I doing talking to a block of painted wood? I shook my head and started walking away. I'd only made it a few strep when I whirled around, another spasm of anger burning like a white hot poker in my chest. "I can take whatever You dish out, but why are You doing this to Bella?" I demanded."She has done nothing but love You." I glared at the icon.

"If You take her away from me," I promised, my hands clenched into fists, " I swear that I will wage a war on humanity the likes that You have not seen. It will make Lucifer look like an altar boy." I was shaking with rage. "I will lay a path of carnage and destruction among the innocent that even You cannot ignore."

I eyed the crucifix and took a step closer. "But You're not going to answer, are You?" I said disdainfully. "That is the only trait consistently Yours these days, isn't it? Silence. Complete and utter silence." I crossed my arms, regarding the whole altar. "When did that start to seem like a good idea?" I stood waiting, the only sound was far off in the distance-Father Brian was using a skill saw on something.

"Damn it!" I cried. "For ninety years, I have endured the torment of this thirst, horrified by my own actions. Yet I have tried again and again to make the existence given me worthwhile. You owe me this!" Enraged, I sprang from my stance on the floor leaping onto the crucifix, causing it to slowly swing back and forth over the altar on its supporting chains. Together, Christ and I swayed slowly, the wooden beams above and chains creaking, complaining under the extra load. I was clinging to the cross, face to face with the immobile painted face. "You owe me this!" I roared.

Gradually, inertia slowed us, and the creaking of the chains and swaying grew less and less. "No answer, of course," I whispered, suddenly deflated. I slid down the crucifix and slumped on the floor beneath it.

The anger had gone, leaving behind only the terrible pain of loneliness and abandonment. "Please, please, please," I pleaded like a crying child. "Please let Bella be alright, please let her wake. Whatever You want, my life for hers, whatever, anything, just please…" They say that vampires can't cry, but the sounds that escaped me were so full of pain and grief, it was the only word that applied. This was my Gethsemane, and I could taste the ashes of bitterness.

My cries of grief were slowly lessening when I heard a whisper of a sound−just the tiniest little plink next to my foot. Curious, I opened my eyes to see a bead of moisture on the carpet. I raised my hand to my face, wondering if I had suddenly developed the ability to cry but I was as dry and hard as usual. I dipped my finger delicately into the tiny bead of clear moisture and brought it to my nose. Venom. There was its distinctive acidic tang.

Confused by the source of the drop, I looked up. Dumbfounded, I saw the faint glimmer of moisture trail down the cheek from the eyes of the motionless Christ. On my knees below the bottom of the cross, I held a trace of glittering moisture on my finger that could only have come from the inexpressibly sad and grieved icon above me.

"Edward!" A voice rang through the nave. I looked behind me. Emmett stood at the archway to the nave, his cell phone in his hand. "Carlisle says to come quick. She's waking, Bella's waking!"