Alla Breve

Rochester, NY
1931

Anything cheerful would be welcome.

Edward’s fingers hitched for a fraction of a beat when he heard Esme’s uncharacteristic sarcasm. It was long on four o’clock in the morning, and she was doing an excellent job of pretending that she didn’t mind the dark arpeggios of Bach’s “Little Prelude.” Nevertheless, the thought slipped from her as she passed the piano on her way to the kitchen. She had paused, contemplating whether to put down Carlisle’s newspaper and sit with Edward near the piano, but instead listened to the discordant minor key, sighed, and made her mental remark before continuing on.

He pounded the keys more furiously in answer

The three of them circled one another uncomfortably now. It didn’t help that Carlisle and Esme had grown closer in his absence. Before he’d left, they had both gone out of their way to block their romantic thoughts, or to steal time together where Edward couldn’t hear them. Carlisle in particular had been cautious, even after six years, to make certain that Edward felt at ease around the both of them.

Three years was but a blink of an eye for someone as old as Carlisle, and yet it had been enough time for his whole relationship with his wife to change. They touched openly now, standing beside each other in the kitchen with their hips brushing in a comfortable familiarity, and often Edward walked into a room to find them in each other’s arms, laughing. They were bonded to each other now, having not had to worry about Edward for almost thirty-six months, and it showed in their every movement. What had once been a perfect triangle had become a perfect pair. He didn’t belong here anymore, but he had nowhere else to go.

The low D sounded a little too loudly from his left hand, and Edward let out a frustrated growl before stopping abruptly and standing up from the piano. Esme noticed at once, and reentered the living room, a concerned expression on her face.

I apologize, Edward. Please keep playing, whatever you’d like.

“I’m finished,” he growled, and Esme took a step backwards. He knew he had hurt her with his sharp reply, and a part of his mind nagged him to fix it. Esme was the most gentle woman he had ever known. Even the women whose lives he had saved over the last three years, going back all the way to beautiful Eleanor in Vermont—none of them could match his father’s mate for purity of heart. He felt sick. Sick for leaving, sick for coming back, sick for disturbing Esme by playing the melancholy music that seemed to be his only comfort. His hands found their way to his head, and soon clumps of his hair were gripped in his fists. He yanked on it, but it was as unyielding as the rest of his body.

Esme approached him cautiously, speaking aloud, as she and Carlisle often did when they wanted to make sure they had his attention. “What’s wrong?” The calmness in her voice was betrayed by her anxious thought, When is Carlisle coming home?

He took a breath to steady himself and placed one hand on the edge of the piano as for a moment Esme’s mind flicked over that awful evening three years ago. Her heart swelled with concern for her husband, even now.

“I won’t fight him again,” he said evenly when the scene stopped playing in her mind, and she nodded her understanding.

Is there anything we can do?

He was unable to stop the growl. “They’re all still dead, aren’t they?”

Esme’s face fell, and he was at once crushed by her concern for him. “Edward,” she whispered. “It’s all right. You’re forgiven.” She moved to close the gap between them, one hand outstretched.

The snarl ripped from his throat before he could stop it, and he saw Esme flinch backwards. She hovered there a moment, her eyes nervously searching Edward’s face.

I’ve killed, too, you know.

His eyes narrowed as he remembered that day. Carlisle had asked him to keep an eye on Esme, but he’d allowed himself to become absorbed in his reading, thinking they were safe alone in the house. The saleslady who’d arrived at their door met her end so swiftly she’d probably never noticed that it was a woman who attacked. Esme had been inconsolable afterward, causing Carlisle to stay home from work for days.

“One,” Edward spat. “One is nothing.

“Edward—”

“One is NOTHING!

He didn’t actually see himself do it. It was through Esme’s eyes that he saw the deep break in the middle of the instrument and through her ears that he heard the dissonant sounds of the strings as they reached the limits of their tensile strength and snapped. It took mere seconds for the entire instrument to be reduced to a pile of rubble in the middle of the floor.

The front door crashed open, and for a fraction of a second, the whole room was perfectly still as the blond vampire surveyed the scene. His breath was coming quickly, like a human’s, and Edward could feel the fear rolling off him in waves as the man assured himself that first Esme, then Edward, were both safe. The snarl formed on his lips as he listened to Carlisle’s heaving breaths and his disjointed, worried thoughts. He hated the way Carlisle could pass for human even at his most stressed. He hated way the strings of the piano sagged freakishly toward the floor. He hated the hurt looks on their faces. He hated Esme with her single accident, and Carlisle with his centuries of temperance. He hated their concern, and their furtive, nervous looks.

And above all, he hated himself.

It took Carlisle but a moment to step into the room. His thoughts were confused but nevertheless he began trying to soothe Edward at once. “Son, what—” he began, but Edward cut him off with a strangled yowl.

Why didn’t you just let me die?”

He fled before Carlisle had a chance to answer.

Barre, VT
1927

His name was Phillip MacIntyre, and he worked for the Vermont National Bank Corporation in Barre’s tiny downtown strip. He dressed finely, albeit simply, in a suit and tie, a straight hat, a long coat. At times, he reminded Edward of Carlisle with his simple, pleasant demeanor when he greeted clients in his workplace. He was married, with a young son of maybe four or so, and he owned a home and a new Chevrolet. The little family went to church every Sunday at the Methodist chapel, and the little boy went to a nursery school that the church provided three days a week. His wife kept a little garden and made her own sauce from the tomatoes she grew and canned. They were a simple family—wholesome, in a way.

Except that the man spent his time skulking around another woman’s home.

Edward had been following MacIntyre for over a week, sitting unseen in the shadows near the bank, and scrambling away to the library anytime the thoughts in his vicinity told him people were getting too suspicious. In the evenings he alternated between the hedge around the charming farmhouse with its female occupant and her mother, and the craftsman bungalow where the banker’s family lived. He preferred the woman’s house; there was something pleasant and soothing about her demeanor that he couldn’t quite place his finger on. Her hair and her smile reminded him of his mother. Yet his reactions to her were not son-like, and this made him uncomfortable.

He was no better than MacInytre, really. If anything he was worse. He was a predator by design, not by choice, and if the right moment presented itself he was powerless to the demon within.

Today the sun blazed high in the western sky, and all three vampires were trapped in the small house waiting for dusk to fall. Carlisle would be an hour or so late to his shift by the time it became dark enough for him to venture out, but such were the consequences of his charade. But the inevitable lateness made him agitated, and so when he came across Edward’s frantic pacing before the picture window in the front room, he felt the need to talk.

Carlisle’s worry betrayed his presence before he said anything. Edward’s gift made him next to impossible to sneak up on, a side effect he valued greatly. The other vampire was still several feet away when Edward answered him without turning.

“Yes, I’m planning on going out this evening.”

The concern flowed from his father in waves. For all that Edward could read minds, it was Carlisle who was truly the perceptive one. It had taken him weeks, but he had noticed the increasing amounts of time Edward spent out of the house, and although Edward assured himself that Carlisle wouldn’t prod—he never did—each day the man’s need for explanation was growing.

I don’t know what he’s up to. Edward listened as Carlisle’s thoughts waged war with themselves for a moment, debating whether it would display too little confidence in Edward to demand that he account for himself, or if his position as guide necessitated that he keep close tabs on the other two at all costs. Carlisle didn’t want to meddle, and yet—Edward frowned as he recognized the emotion which laced Carlisle’s worry.

Fear.

His lip curled involuntarily. “I’m not out killing people, if that’s what you’re wondering.”

Carlisle sighed, which frustrated Edward even further. Carlisle had perfected so many human mannerisms over his nearly three centuries of life. To Edward, each sigh and fidget raised the bar for his own behavior. He had become quite good at not standing unnaturally still, changing the pace of his breathing, occasionally allowing an item to smash to the floor (Esme hadn’t appreciated when he’d practiced this particular skill with her heirloom china). But Carlisle—Carlisle was practically human. The man’s sighing made Edward angry and disappointed in himself at once.

I would know if you were killing people, came the exasperated thought.

“Then why do you worry?”

Carlisle caught his lower lip between his teeth, and for a moment Edward stared as the blood rushed away from the pressure and turned that tiny portion of skin from pink to pale, and back to pink. His father hunted often to keep his thirst fully at bay, and this resulted in his veins flowing with borrowed blood such that his skin responded almost as a human’s might. As Edward looked away, he heard the thought, Distant…

“I’m sorry?”

“You’ve been distant, Edward.” And I’m unsure what it is that bothers you so.

Edward grunted, but did not answer. Besides, what did he say? “I’m sorry, but I’ve grown tired of being here with you and Esme, and oh by the way, I’ve been tracking a woman and the man who is tracking her”? There was no way to explain this to Carlisle.

“I’m fine.”

Carlisle frowned, but he didn’t press. It was one of the good things about Carlisle—it was rare for him to force a conversation. Instead his mind filled with images from years past, when he and Edward had hunted together, laughing, or had shared time together playing chess, driving, or even simply sitting by a warm fire and reading. Edward felt his father’s ache at remembering those times, and he looked away in shame.

The image of Edward lying casually on the couch, nose buried in an original Dostoyevsky, gave way to a simple thought: Whatever happened?

And as though the mere thought had summoned her, the French doors swung open and Esme entered.

Edward turned back to the window and resumed his wait for dusk.

Ashland, WI
1921

“You’re what?”

It was a leftover idiom from years as a human, Edward supposed. There was no physically possible way that he could not hear someone speaking in a normal human voice, even if he were across the house and upstairs. He had absolutely no need to clarify what Carlisle had just said, and yet he’d stupidly asked anyway.

“We’re going to marry,” Carlisle repeated, more slowly, and unnecessarily aloud. His hand ran its way down Esme’s pale forearm until their palms met and their fingers intertwined. A smile spread across Esme’s face, and Edward looked away quickly.

Carlisle’s other hand reached for Edward’s shoulder. Before he could make contact, Edward spun out from beneath it. His father’s breathing hitched a moment, and Edward felt the hurt pouring off him in waves. This part, too, had changed as the years progressed. When he’d first awoken, Edward had felt a strange sort of privilege in helping the older vampire shoulder his burden. Carlisle had been childlike in his wonder at finally having a companion and sometimes his excitement at finally breaking free of his solitude had made Edward feel like the older one. He had been the lynchpin; the one who held Carlisle’s happiness in his hands. It had taken him a long time to realize this gave him power over the other man; that Carlisle would do anything to ensure that his “son” was happy and that Edward could manipulate that if he wanted.

But he’d never seen need to, before.

The rage was building in him even as he tried to suppress it, and he didn’t really know why. This moment had obviously been coming. Every month the three of them lived in these same small quarters he saw how their feelings toward each other were rapidly evolving. Carlisle thought of Esme first, then Edward, always.

The thought caused a low growl to rumble in Edward’s chest.

Edward could hear Carlisle’s thoughts churning, tumbling over themselves as he worried about Edward’s reaction. I know this isn’t what you want, he thought fervently. But I love her, son.

“Don’t call me that,” he spat, and Esme frowned as she wondered what Carlisle had said.

His father’s face fell. “Edward—”

Edward sucked a deep breath through his teeth, making a dull hissing noise that cut Carlisle off midsentence. They stared at each other a moment before his father continued.

She is my mate.

“Don’t you think I know?” he shot back at once. “You certainly haven’t made any effort to hide that.” And this was the truth—he could hear their sounds as well as their thoughts. Most days he tried to run away during the day, but sometimes he would come back to the staccato breathing and muffled groans of their ardor. He would run out again at once, but lately had taken to slamming the door behind himself so as to make sure they knew he’d heard.

It was Esme who looked away this time, and it was likely her embarrassment that caused Carlisle’s expression to harden. If there was one thing that could be said of the woman, it was that her presence made it abundantly clear that Carlisle was part beast. Edward had thought him eternally patient and compassionate, but Esme had changed all of that, making it exactly clear where Carlisle’s edges were. He wondered if Carlisle would have been this protective of him.

He doubted it.

Drawing a deep breath, he turned his back on them both, putting his hand on the doorknob. “Marry if you want. I won’t be there.”

Through Carlisle’s eyes, he saw Esme’s pained expression. A low growl rumbled through his father’s chest. This behavior is unacceptable, son.

He knew that, of course. A part of him, a part that refused to own up to its sadness, missed the day when everything he did caused Carlisle immeasurable joy. Edward remembered just as well as Carlisle the days of the two of them simply being men together, forming what had first been a tenuous friendship, then a brotherhood, then the relationship that had become a father and his gift of a son. There had been a time when Edward would have let Carlisle comfort him, when the man’s hand would have found its way from Edward’s shoulder to the nape of his neck. The phantom weight of the fingers was there as soon as he thought about it, the ghost of a hand at the bottom of his hair. Edward lifted his own hand to touch the spot, to wipe away even the memory of his mentor’s touch, and for a moment his hand lingered there and Carlisle stared at it.

Edward, please. The image of Edward, standing next to the two of them at the front of a church before a priest swirled in Carlisle’s mind. But it was accompanied not with the fluttered-heart joy of a wedding day, but instead by a deep pain.

Once, he had held the power to heal that pain. There had been a time when making Carlisle happy had been his goal. He hadn’t felt the need to throw daggers.

But now he threw them and twisted them as well.

“You know what, Carlisle? You can go to hell.”

The door rattled off its hinges when he slammed it behind him.

Barre, VT
1927

The scent permeated the entire grounds by the time Edward made it to the tiny farmhouse. The husband, Thomas, was due back tomorrow; he had heard this discussion the previous day as Eleanor’s mother had left for the train. It gave him some relief—surely MacIntyre would keep his distance with the woman’s husband at home. He would continue to watch, of course, but it would be less necessary.

The sun had taken eons to sink tonight. After the confrontation with Carlisle earlier in the day, the house had become uncomfortable, and Edward had shot out the door as soon as it was safe to do so. Under the cover of dusk, he closed the distance between the Cullen family home and Eleanor’s in mere minutes.

Edward loved to run. It had been one of the few things that had pleased him about his new existence those strange first few months in the northern woods of Illinois. Carlisle had explained to him that his strength and his speed, although both remaining inhuman, would wane over time. But his speed, the thing he loved most, had not fallen away from him at all. He loved its effortlessness, the way a few strides would set him off faster than any automobile. He loved the way he could see the grain of the bark of every branch he passed, even when at speeds that should have rendered the world around him an amorphous blur. He loved the wind battering his face and whipping through his hair.

And he loved how quickly his running got him away from thoughts he didn’t care to hear.

So what if Carlisle was worried? Edward was watching; that was all. And yes, Carlisle might tell him that his behavior was abnormal, and that their position was to interfere as little as possible. Yet Carlisle had made rash decisions of his own—Edward himself was proof of that—and so he had little authority to tell Edward what to do.

Edward wondered sometimes if Esme felt as he did. She never seemed to harbor ill-will toward her husband, and counted the past six years as the best of her life. He wondered if perhaps it was because they’d met before, because Carlisle had been in her thoughts and dreams for ten years before he interfered with her death. Perhaps, he thought on occasion, if he’d had ten years to admire the man, he might feel differently as well.

His thoughts of Carlisle vanished at once, however, when his feet made purchase on the soft soil of Eleanor’s expansive lawn. She and her husband were moderately wealthy, although it surprised Edward that they had no household help. A second woman in the house might be of comfort and help to Eleanor while Thomas was away. It would eliminate the need for her mother, who had gotten on the train out from Barre the day before. But instead there was no one, save the man whose scent seemed to surround Edward as he slunk his way around the house.

The indignant anger was instantaneous, a fire licking at his insides as he sprang into position at the windows. He cast his own mind wide, trying to pick up on anything. The man’s scent was everywhere—had he been haunting this woman all afternoon?

Edward moved swiftly, looking in first the kitchen, then the living room, then the back window. Nothing, nothing, and nothing—nothing, that was, except the greasy fingers, the strong scent of eau de cologne and bootlegged whiskey. He gagged, but kept going, following the trail the greasy pervert had left behind. It circled the entire first floor of the house—the voyeur had peered in every window, it seemed. But when he reached the front door, he stopped cold.

The noisome odor was stronger on the other side.

He didn’t think. The door handle was in his hand in a moment, and although he was ready to give the door a single tap with his forefinger that would bring it crashing down, it turned out that the door was unlocked and opened easily.

Air choked its way into his lungs as he drew frantic breaths through his nose. Usually there was the faintest sense of the burn when he was this close to humans; he had learned to ignore it, to treat it as a mere inconvenience, but it was always there to taunt him, reminding him that, no matter what Carlisle told him, he was created to be a monster. Tonight, however, he could barely feel the burn for his concentration.

Thoughts came to him at once from both directions. MacIntyre’s thoughts were absolutely choked with lust. He focused only on the image of Eleanor—naked—and Edward quickly averted his own mind from the imagined porcelain skin, the taut stomach, the nest of hair at the join of her legs. His body, however, betrayed his modesty, and the reaction made him sick.

And even more determined.

Thomas will be so delighted, came the thought, and its sudden interruption nearly knocked Edward off his feet. He watched through Eleanor’s eyes as a hand ran its way down the opposite bicep, elbow, and finally to the wrist, a cake of soap in its palm. As the image slipped from him, he heard the quiet slosh of bathwater.

MacIntyre heard it, too. An imagined body appeared in Edward’s mind as it surfaced in MacIntyre’s. The bath, came the man’s thought.

Swiftly, the image shifted. Instead of a naked body standing before a dressing table—a memory, Edward realized with a sickening horror, not the man’s imagination—the body was now in the bathwater, glistening sensually. And then he saw flashes—insistent lips against jawbone, a hand grasping a pale breast, the strong thighs parted by an even stronger hand, and a hot tightness around his…

He barely managed to choke off the roar of anger before he charged up the stairs. If the man could hear the slight movement of the water, he was near the bathroom. Edward cursed that his frantic ingress of breath caused noise and tried to breathe as quietly as he could. The man’s foul scent was everywhere.

Where was he?

Eleanor let out a happy hum, and for a moment, Edward paused, remembering the earlier statement. Thomas will be so delighted, she’d thought, and he took his mind off MacIntyre long enough to focus on her thoughts. He saw only disjoined images; the spare room, a quilt, the tiny hand against the breast. Her calendar.

Her calendar?

A manicured hand swept its way across the wet stomach to rest underwater just above her navel. Edward recognized the gesture at once—it brought back Esme, not long after Carlisle had turned her, standing before the mirror in her bedroom. She, too, had run her hand over her stomach, resting it in the same place as she mourned not her life, but the life of the child who had once kicked there. He understood at once.

Thomas will be so delighted.

A door creaking open behind him caused him to spin, and he flew instinctually in the direction of the noise. It wouldn’t happen. He wouldn’t let it. Not to this woman, not to his Eleanor, whose smile reminded him so much of his mortal mother, whose yearning for the child now in her womb reminded him so much of his immortal one.

It wouldn’t happen.

MacIntyre nearly shouted out when he came face-to-face with Edward in the darkened hallway. As it was, his feet froze in the doorway to the spare room, the room that would become the nursery, where Eleanor had spent so much time under Edward’s watchful gaze. And it was this that finally took him over. To see this monster, innocently slack-jawed and surprised, standing in the doorway to the room that belonged to the woman’s child…

When Carlisle had turned Edward, he had replicated the bites he himself had received, which had been the result of a fast scuffle and an immortal so weak his aim had suffered. By the time Esme had come into their lives, Carlisle had thought more about how to merge the medical and the mythical. The jugular vein and the carotid artery shared the same space beneath a delicately thin layer of dermis—when pierced together, the venom spread incredibly fast.

Transformation—or death—would be expedient.

A decade of practice had perfected Edward’s movements so that they matched the frustrating sluggishness of the humans around him. But he now closed the gap faster than MacIntyre could see, moving behind him in an instant, and placing a firm hand on either shoulder as he cocked his head to the left.

Before the man had fully registered the presence of the strong being at his back, Edward parted his lips and gave a simple whisper of warning:

“Don’t scream.”

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§ 10 Responses to Alla Breve"

  • Sleepyval says:

    I have tears in my eyes from the beauty of your language. Granted, I’m half-drunk, but I don’t think that has anything to do with it.

    Lovely, lovely work.

  • twitina says:

    I love the idea that noble Edward started his rebellious phase because he was protecting someone that he cared about. It is so true to his character.

    The relationship with Carlisle is amazingly written.

    As always, stunning!

    • giselle says:

      You know, I never thought for an instant that Edward would leave for any other reason than that he ended up killing someone out of his somewhat strange sense of nobility. But it was still fun to get it written here.

      Thank you, as always. :)

  • Essay33 says:

    Your story is building just like a piece of music, each measure perfectly connected to the ones prior and following, each stanza creating a growing sense of both anticipation and dread.

    What makes this a stand-out piece is Edward, and the way you’ve delved so deeply into the behavior of a typical 17 year old trapped in an immortal body. He’s so familiar even while he’s so otherworldly; the anger, the confusion, the lashing out at the ones he loves and who love him are so authentic.

    And then there’s his eerie fascination with a woman who intrigues him on levels he can’t begin to understand, both maternal and sexual, even while a far worse predator than Edward stalks her (I daresay most women would prefer the treatment Edward might deal out than the alternative Eleanor’s stalker has in mind).

    I can’t give this story enough praise for the superb quality of writing, the rich, unique character explorations, and the freshness of the plot. Simply outstanding.

  • train_lindz says:

    I just got caught up on Da Capo and I’m loving every second of it.

    I really like how the story doesn’t run chronologically but that it does run in sequence that makes the most sense into reasons and consequences behind Edward’s (and Carlisle and Esme’s) actions.

    Also, I am enjoying the connection between the chapter titles and what is going on through the story by ways of musical terminology. It is beactiful and a wonderful reflection.

    Lastly, it is great that this can be read as a stand alone, simply about Edward’s dilemma and reasoning behind is rogue period, but it also ties in nicely to Ithaca.

    Love it so far – even though I knew that part 4 wasn’t posted yet, I still tried to hit forwad and was a little sad that it wasn’t there ;)

    • giselle says:

      I’m glad you’re enjoying it, especially the structure. I really thought hard about how to make all these pieces fall together, and even though I was going to throw something unorthodox at the fandom, I did it anyway because I felt it would give the piece more power. So I’m tickled that you enjoy this.

      And the ties to Ithaca are more than deliberate. As I mentioned to sandra (below), I’m always working as though this is one solid story. In my original fiction I do that somewhat, too, and I suppose that’s one advantage of fanfic–the whole idea is to stay in the same world with the same characters over and over. What has surprised me was how much the stories ended up being necessary to each other–the more I write, the more I realize I need certain explorations of these characters in order to write more. But yes–one of my betas read Ch. 4. and mentioned how it doesn’t tie up perfectly, in part because the real resolution for Carlisle and Edward happens seventy years later in IiG.

  • sandraj60 says:

    I can’t get enough of your writings. Definitely Kindle worthy. I do have a question though. Are these the same Carlisle and Edward we see in Ithaca is Gorges?

    • giselle says:

      Aww, thank you. And yes–I’m always shooting for canon interpretations of the characters, so I never have “a Carlisle” or “an Edward.” They’re just Carlisle and Edward. Even if I pluck them and put them in an AU like “Sensitivity,” I want their circumstances to change, but not the characters themselves. “Da Capo” in many ways sets up Ithaca, laying the groundwork for the reasons Carlisle is so sensitive to Edward (and also why he makes some of the mistakes he does there). When I think of character arcs, I think of them as spanning from that character’s birth all the way to the end of Breaking Dawn, so things don’t always get perfectly resolved at the end of one of my fics. The characters, IMO, still have a lot of growth to go.

  • Ouiser B. says:

    Dear Ms. Giselle,

    I am so very pleased to have found my way to your lovely story at some point yesterday by way of a recommendation from Ms. SleepyVal. Here it is the next morning and I have yet to leave your site. I read a little bit here and there when I can.

    The first thing that struck me about your story is just how beautifully written and constructed it is. I read a lot so I appreciate a lot of different writing styles. However, when I come across something that both has an exciting plot and is beautifully crafted, well then it’s just such a pleasure and joy to read.

    I love how raw, confused and for lack of a better word “new” your Edward is. It makes such perfect sense that he would struggle as he has with his compulsion to “save” his mother’s memory (and by extension his human memories) made incarnate through this woman and her unborn baby.

    I can’t help but feel sympathy for Edward as he tries to steer himself with no sense of purpose or direction while also dealing with an abundance of emotion. His wrath at Carlisle and by extension Esme for the love he believes he’ll never be worthy to have. And most intense, his self-loathing.

    Off to play mommy for a while but will return later for another installment. Thank you for this wonderful pre-story. Oh and before I forget, I love the jumps in time and location. It has only added to my enjoyment of your story.

    Cheers,
    Ouiser B.

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