Adagio

Ashland, WI
1921

“Humans are evil, Carlisle.”

A long silence followed this statement, and Edward could feel Carlisle’s eyes boring into him. Even though he didn’t turn around, he could nevertheless see the sad and confused expression that he knew had appeared on his creator’s face.

She had insisted they hunt together, just the two of them. Her control was getting better with every passing day, and she’d been pressing Carlisle to go alone with Edward for some time. Even Carlisle knew she felt as though she was coming between them, but he was reluctant to leave her alone even if only for a few hours’ hunt.

And that, Edward knew, had very little to do with the fact that she was a newborn.

He’d said “humans,” as though the statement were meant to exclude his present company, but the truth was Edward was privy to the way Carlisle’s mind was darkening with lust more by the day. There was a base, animalistic side to even this most gentle man. He and Esme had held a chaste relationship thus far, but in Edward’s estimation, it wouldn’t last much longer. In their minds Edward had seen the vulgar ways they considered each other—he knew the physical responses they each had and were careful to hide from the other. He knew them better than they knew themselves, and it made him feel dirtied and ashamed.

He was coming to hate himself.

“Why do you say that?” the other voice asked.

A single, strong hand came to lie on the back of Edward’s neck. He wrenched away at once and came to face Carlisle, whose expression registered the same pained shock as his mind. Edward flinched away more slowly, opening a gap between them.

Sunlight filtered through the canopy of the forest overhead, making Carlisle’s skin shine in odd patches. The older vampire was starting to panic. It upset him when Edward didn’t return his affection, or at least, didn’t yield to it, and at first Edward had been only too happy to have changed Carlisle’s lonely existence so thoroughly. But after three years, it was becoming uncomfortable.

That, and Edward knew that Carlisle’s hands longed to be somewhere else entirely.

“I hear them,” he continued, not turning to face his sire. “I hear everything. The ones you would think are upstanding—they have the darkest minds. And I’m the only one who knows.”

Without conscious thought, his hand shot forward and suddenly a deep gouge appeared in the stalwart oak tree at his side. Carlisle’s eyes shot upward at once, and he forcefully nudged Edward sideways with his hip as the tree crashed down just inches to their right. Several smaller trees fell with it, their branches snapping with loud cracks and the ground shuddering under their weight.

“I would have been fine,” Edward growled when the forest had stilled once again.

It isn’t your physical pain I am worried about.

Edward frowned, but thankfully, Carlisle changed the subject, gesturing to the black bear they had taken down minutes before. She grows cold. Dropping to the bear, they drank side-by-side in a tense silence.

But as he drank with Carlisle, suddenly the world seemed to spin, and Edward remembered for a brief moment the taste of steak, the comforting texture of milk, the astringency of black tea. The blood gagged him at once. It was too thick, too salty, too much like blood and not the refreshing drink he’d known. Carlisle’s thoughts at once became a terrified worry as Edward staggered away from the corpse of the bear, one hand over his mouth. It was a futile action. He doubled over and vomited, a mess of blood and venom splashing the ground and staining the patch of grass at his feet a dark, sticky crimson. At once there came strong hands on his back, supporting him as his body heaved and at last coaxing him upright.

Carlisle’s concern washed over him in waves, and a snarl that was really more embarrassment than anger tore from his lips. The hands abruptly pulled away and for a moment the two men stood facing each other. One of the bear’s hind legs twitched as the last vestiges of life left its body.

Frowning, Carlisle stepped back to regard Edward. This isn’t just about the humans, is it?

Edward stared down at the dark mess at his feet, and did not return Carlisle’s gaze.

“I hear your mind, too.”

Barre, VT
1927

Her name was Eleanor. It had taken Edward over a week to discover this; he’d had to wait for her mother to arrive to keep her company in her husband’s absence. The woman—Eleanor—had no telephone, and no acquaintances who came to call, and so as Edward skulked his way around her home, he had heard nothing to tell him this critical detail of the woman’s life.

Esme and Carlisle didn’t know where precisely he was spending his time, just as they had never questioned him about his days on the train platform. He told them nothing. Their questioning was suffocating enough without adding the issue that he was spending his days circling the house of a young married woman. Although on second thought, given the number of times concern for Edward’s lack of interest in women had crossed Esme’s mind, perhaps news of his exploits would not be entirely unwelcome.

Nevertheless, he kept them to himself. At times he disappeared in the night, leaving Esme alone in the secluded farmhouse while Carlisle worked another midnight shift. Other times he left in the mornings as Carlisle arrived home. Every day he started out in the direction of some other place, but his feet unfailingly found their way to the small home on the edge of town.

The woman had a grace about her as she moved through the silent house, and as Edward watched her through the slightly dusty window, he marveled at this. He had followed her from the platform that day because she was sad, and because something about the way her reddish hair trickled its way down her cheek to her neck reminded him of his mother. But he returned each day for a reason he couldn’t quite understand.

It seemed to Edward that she cleaned more than necessary; in fact, he found it difficult to imagine her without the wide feather duster that was always in her hands. He didn’t need to wonder why, for Esme was the same way. Not that a woman who took such pride in the spaces she created would ever allow them to fall into disarray, but it never failed that their small home reached new heights of cleanliness whenever Carlisle was away.

Her husband’s name was Thomas. She thought of him often, especially when she cleaned the spare bedroom. Edward recognized the hollow ache she exuded when in that room—it was the same ache that Esme felt whenever she looked at Edward. The longing for a child seemed to permeate both women equally, except that in Esme’s case, Edward was all she could long for.

Carlisle had urged him, in the beginning, to be gentle about Esme’s loss. The baby’s death was what had driven her to the edge of the cliff to begin with; a longer story which included a monster of a husband left in Columbus had unfolded itself over the years. She hadn’t wanted to tell Carlisle at first, and for a long time, Edward had been forced to bear the terrible secret with her. But Carlisle had eventually wheedled the truth out of them both, and things had become even more uncomfortable. Because when everything was out in the open, Esme had declared them her family—Carlisle her loving husband, and Edward the son she’d yearned for.

It was irritating.

But the woman, Eleanor, longed for a son who didn’t yet live, and this was more acceptable somehow. Edward sat now in the bushes outside her window, watching as she lovingly ran hands over the chair rail, gently straightened the bed covers, and dreamed of the day this spare room would be the nursery for her child. When a small body would lie against her in the rocking chair and tiny fingers would caress her breast as their owner suckled there. Edward saw the scene in her mind—an infant’s hand dwarfed by the swell of her pale breast, her pink nipple exposed and waiting.

The image caused a familiar heat to build in his groin, and, disgusted, he threw himself back with such force that there was an audible crash as he landed in the Boxwood. He sprang away at once, too quickly for her eye, and watched as her shadow appeared behind the curtains, seeking the source of the sound.

She gazed out over the lawn but of course saw nothing, and it took only twenty seconds for her to return to her task. Edward heard her footfall and her distracted thoughts as she moved to the bedroom she shared with her husband. In what seemed a single step, he was at that windowsill, too—then stopped short.

A slickness met his fingers, one that would be imperceptible to the skin of a human, but which felt to his hands as though the windowsill had been greased. It carried with it the fresh scent of another.

A second set of fingertips, leaving their oils on his windowsill. Watching this woman.

Watching his woman.

Enraged, Edward flung himself from the window and tore off in the direction of town.

Rochester, NY
1931

“I can’t practice medicine.”

His father’s blond head cocked to the side. You could. Your self-control is just fine.

Edward snorted, kicking the ground with such force that a large divot formed and his toe sent a small patch of grass airborne. They both watched it fly a good twenty feet before it tumbled to rest among the bracken.

Carlisle said nothing.

“Have you forgotten already that I killed three hundred seventy men?”

Surprise registered on Carlisle’s face, and Edward realized at once that he had not yet told this number. He had been careful, especially around Esme, to underplay the horror of the time he’d spent away. He cringed as Carlisle considered this new information.

One every three days, came the amazed thought.

“It wasn’t quite that patterned.”

But it could have been. His father circled him a moment, peering at him curiously as though he were examining a specimen in a zoo. “You managed, even while tasting human blood that often, to control your thirst to the point that you made rational decisions about each of your victims.”

The words sounded odd coming from Carlisle, who’d only twice spilled human blood and who had then felt it necessary to chaperone both the people he’d bitten. Unconsciously, Edward’s hand drifted toward his neck to the set of perfect teeth marks there, and he watched in Carlisle’s mind as his father’s eyes followed the gesture.

Carlisle wanted to believe the best of him, he knew. The man would insist, even in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that Edward had somehow retained a semblance of the purity for which Carlisle had chosen him in the first place, that Edward was capable of being as noble as his sire even after three years of feeding off humans. Only he could possibly take Edward’s disciplined methods of murder as a sign that Edward had control.

It felt strange to hunt with another after the years alone, and most of the time, Edward refused company when he left to feed. He knew his standoffishness hurt both Esme and Carlisle, yet his discomfort in their presence was so acute that he ignored them anyway. Finally, a few days ago, Carlisle had cornered him. The man was older, larger, and stronger, so when he’d made it clear that he was accompanying Edward on a long hunt, Edward had chosen not to refuse.

His immortal parents had thrown themselves into the task of distracting him. They offered him outings, books, music. A new phonograph was acquired, a first for their family, but the records which accompanied it sat untouched. Esme kept offering to take him into town—for new clothes, to see a moving picture, or whatever else she dreamed at the moment—and it hurt them both each time he declined and slunk back to his piano.

Now Carlisle’s latest tactic was to convince him to mingle further with the humans who until so recently had been his meals rather than his companions. He wanted to see Edward go off to university, and to follow with attendance at a medical college. Edward refused of course, insisting that Carlisle’s faith in him was misplaced. And so the older vampire had brought him hunting to corner him.

What if I went with you? The field is changing so quickly these days, it wouldn’t hurt…

“No.”

His reply was sharper than he intended, and Carlisle’s face clouded with hurt once again. Edward drew a deep breath and made eye contact. It was just after sundown, and Carlisle’s eyes shone in the waning daylight. They had been blue, Carlisle had told him once, and for a moment Edward busied himself trying to imagine them that way, instead of the saffron or obsidian that he was used to. He tried to imagine his father’s gaze on him with eyes looking like heaven itself—because that made sense for Carlisle—and he instantly felt ashamed.

“I’m sorry,” he muttered, looking downward again. “It’s not you. I just—I’m not ready.”

Carlisle stared at him again, his expression softening. You will heal, Edward. I know you will. Give it time. His hand floated unconsciously to his own left shoulder, and Edward winced.  Carlisle didn’t miss his expression.

This healed, too. He patted his shoulder. Quickly, in fact. But the heart takes longer. As does the soul.

The soul. Edward let out a frustrated growl. They weren’t supposed to have them. Vampires were damned creatures, or so the legends said. Not that very much was true about the legends, but Edward clung to this. And even if he hadn’t been damned when he’d set out running from the little house in Barre, wasn’t he undoubtedly damned now? How could one take nearly four hundred lives and still expect eternal forgiveness?

He had no soul.

Still, he dared not say this to his father, whose faith in such things had brought him through almost three centuries now. Even if Edward thought him foolish, Carlisle had welcomed him back as though he were the lost sheep, and he owed the man his allegiance. So he simply repeated, “I’m not ready.”

Carlisle’s expression became pensive, and Edward could tell he was contemplating probing the issue further. But he changed his mind, and a moment later, simply shook his head as though to clear his thoughts.

Come, then. I won’t push you. But we should feed.

And in a flash of gold, Carlisle was gone.

Barre, VT
1927

Whiskey was among the foulest human inventions for internal consumption, Edward thought. His own father had been a bourbon man, and as a human, Edward had always preferred the sweeter alcohol to the hardness of whiskey. Of course, now he found it all repulsive, but his mind clung to the handful of moments he could remember when he had finally been old enough to remain in the sitting room with the men after dinner, pretending to like the burn of his Pall Malls and downing juleps, malt whiskey, and Scotch.

The memory whirled back to him as he lay on his belly and stared through the sweaty basement window. It came the way his human memories often did—after nine years they were slipping away like crumbling chalk. He could no longer summon them. When they came, they came unbidden, and while he tried to cling to them with his new, infallible memory, more often than not they shrugged his mind’s feeble grasp and hurried away back into the ether.

Strictly speaking, he wasn’t supposed to know about this place, but a vampire could smell the liquor running for miles. Through the window fogged from cold, Edward’s sharp eyes made out the individual silhouettes of the men in the basement inside. There were a smattering of women, too—flappers, to be sure, and he couldn’t manage to avert his eyes as he saw one raise her skirt up to her thigh to retrieve the flask hidden in her garter. This sickened him.

The foul scents of booze and sweat assaulted Edward’s nostrils, making it nearly impossible to separate the individual scents of the men in the speakeasy. In truth, he didn’t even know for certain that the owner of the oily fingers was here; as evening had fallen the previous day, Edward had been obligated to return home to the stifling confines of his “parents.” By the time he was able to make it back to the small house where the woman lived, a thick rain had fallen and the unknown man’s trail had been erased.

However, the man’s scent was burned in his memory by way of anger and indignation, and the reek of bad whiskey that had permeated the stranger’s pores had suggested this place as a starting point. So Edward had traced his way to this small building, in hopes that one form of debauchery might be predicated upon another, but so far, he had little evidence. He squeezed his eyes closed for a moment, helping him to filter the steady hum of thoughts flying from the throngs of men at the tables.

Hazy images assaulted his mind, blurred by the drunken eyes through which their owners looked at the world. Through the eyes of one patron, Edward watched as the floor spun lazily, rocking from side to side as the man tried to balance on unsteady feet. In the mind of another, he traveled further up the stocking of the young woman he had seen earlier, until he found himself looking at an imagined version of the female anatomy which was so grossly distorted that it made him wonder if the man had ever actually seen the organ on a live woman.

Edward looked away and spat venom into the grass, ignoring the uncomfortable tightness at the front of his pants. He had almost given up when from the thoughts of the drunken imbeciles he finally snatched the image of a pale arm. He recognized it at once, the way it moved from elbow to wrist delicately, the skin so translucent that thin blue veins were visible just beneath the surface. He saw a hand running lovingly over a quilt in a spare bedroom, humming the quiet lullaby Edward had heard again and again.

It was the woman. His woman.

The growl that ripped from his throat caused the window to rattle ever so slightly, and at least one head whipped toward it as Edward ducked out of sight. He found he was breathing heavily, a leftover habit from having lived nearly twice as long a human as an immortal. Forcing his breath to slow, he peered back into the smoky drinking parlor towards the source of the image.

The man was tall, but not imposingly so—perhaps only an inch or so taller than Edward himself. His tweed coat and Balmorals showed him to be reasonably well-off. But then even gentlemen were up to nefarious things now, Edward thought, wincing as he recalled the awful imagined visage of the flapper’s pudendum. He focused in again on the seemingly innocuous man who stood at the bar, snifter in hand, swaying unsteadily as he laughed with the man next to him. The amber liquid in his snifter sloshed precariously; a few droplets splashed onto the already-stained tablecloth.

Edward’s breath, which was the same temperature as the air in which he stood, did not fog the window, and so he sat, frozen, as the man downed two more snifters. People began to trickle out of the front door, but still the man remained. His thoughts drifted hazily, drunkenly, but every now and then came back to rest on the beauty of the ivory arm that held Edward’s own attentions so firmly.

At last only a few were left. The position of the moon told Edward it was already the wee hours of the morning, and he wondered briefly if he ought to leave. But Carlisle and Esme would not ask where he had been. Finally, the tweed-coated man put down his snifter, slapped a large quantity of bills down on the table—too large, in Edward’s estimation, but probably a direct result of the man’s inebriation—and began to stagger toward the door.

Pushing himself from his stomach, Edward made it to the door faster than a human eye could see him. It was only a second later that the man tripped his way through the door frame, falling face-first into the churned mud at the entrance. For a heartbeat, Edward considered the possibility of breaking the man’s fall but he did not, and instead stepped aside as he listened to the soft thud of a heavy body landing in the dirt.

It would be better that he remained unseen.

And so as the man pulled himself to unsteady feet and then ambled his way down the dusty road, Edward slunk back into the shadows to hide.

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§ 3 Responses to Adagio"

  • Tennyo says:

    SO enjoyable, your writing.

    Would I be far off in thinking that, in the woods, Carlisle may be starting to get a flicker of a thought like, “We’re gonna need to find this boy a woman to cheer him up”? (Although I don’t truly don’t think he was so calculating about changing Rosalie. It’s just that this has got to be worrying something fierce.)

    I like how Edward’s depression seems very teenager-y. I don’t mean that to belittle his feelings, because I have often felt that people can be cruel about teenage moodieness, as if pain that is probably transient isn’t actual pain. And of course Edward clearly has some actual serious depression. But his turning away from any help and sort of looking down on his parents seems to ring very true. This story really gives me a feeling of Edward’s “teenager period”.

    Oh, plus his serious issues with sexuality. That’s always fun to explore. ;)

    (I have to say, I have never read the word “pudendum” before. I have a strong idea of what it means of course, but it’s nice to learn new words. Hee.)

    Can’t wait to see what happens!

  • Essay33 says:

    I want to quote my favorite part, but it won’t let me. *sigh*

    The bit where Edward thinks of “the vulgar ways” Carlisle and Esme think of each other is so evocative of an Edwardian (no pun intended) repressed young man, forced to witness in far too much intimate depth the dawning sexuality of his only companion…the pain and confusion it would cause him…you are capturing this terrible transitional phase of their relationship so wonderfully.

    It’s everything and so much more I could ever ask for in a fanfic.

    Side note: The parameters of your site design that don’t permit right clicking and copying of text also seem to prevent cutting and pasting in the reply box. I want to change “that don’t” and I’d have to backspace over the past three lines to do so. That’s a tad annoying. Do you know a way around it?

  • twitina says:

    Simply amazing. The struggles that Edward deals with throughout Twilight are present here and forming deeper roots. He really does see himself as a monster. He knows exactly how many lives he has taken, and he doesn’t forgive himself as easily as Carlisle forgives him.

    I loved how you tied in Esme’s desire for a child – and how Edward resents being called her son. His urge to watch the woman who resembles his mother is heartbreaking in so many ways.

    I know I’ll have to read this chapter again to catch everything I’ve missed the first time.

    Looking forward to the next chapter.

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