Title: Ten random facts about Edward Cullen
Pairing: Edward/Bella, all other canon Cullen pairings implied
Summary: Ten things about Edward.
A/N: Again, this goes beyond the format, but I see no way of cutting it down, so it's staying as is *g*
1) Edward’s first thought, upon awakening from death, is that he’s gone to hell, deep down into the fiery pit where pain is everlasting and the damned quench their thirst in rivers that overflow with blood. He’s felt its eternal fires burning him from the inside out, flaring in his ruby eyes even after the pain has faded and left him feeling empty, cold and dead, and the feeling prevails, persistent, no matter what Dr. Cullen will say.
This is not hell, Carlisle explains, over and over, patiently first and then with a note of desperation to his voice that makes Edward nod his head at last. Not hell, merely a new world, a world unheard of and impossible, and it is at his fingertips, to do with as he pleases without the limitations of sickness and age and death. He is beautiful and bright, ageless and graceful even as he learns to take the first, tentative steps, unsure like a baby but an angel to human eyes, perfection descended from the heavens.
But to him, it still feels like a fall from grace, and he will struggle with the unfairness of it for years to come.
2) Edward’s bout of teenage rebelliousness hits late, but hit it does. It is not fair that he begrudges Carlisle his companion, and Esme is sweet and loving, reminiscent of his mother in her gentle gestures and warm smile. They never let him feel how utterly unneeded he is, but he can see, clearer than he should, how the universe of Carlisle’s thoughts rearranges itself, quietly revolving around one bright, newly-risen star, and disappointment eats at him.
The first, second, third nights are a test – will they even notice he is gone? – but on the fourth, a man stumbles across his path, still clutching the jewels he lifted from a shop down the street in one hand and the bloody knife in the other, and the overpowering smell, the quick, excited thrum of his blood are enough to make Edward snap, sullen and resentful as he is.
After, he cannot go back, though he wants to, soon. Instead, he adopts a nightly pattern: waiting, lurking in dark corners, vengeance personified, listening to nothing but silent whispers of destruction and evil. He descends on the impure like heaven’s own punishment, saving lives and ending others until he feels sullied and dirty, inside and out, with what he’s heard, done, become.
He can’t forever rationalize this – can’t be jury, judge and executioner in one. To pretend so would be worse, perhaps, than mindlessly picking at random, letting fate choose his next victim. He crawls back home, head bowed with shame, and if admitting his defeat did not humble him sufficiently, Esme’s gentle embrace does.
As does Carlisle’s calm non-reaction to his sins, the quiet equilibrium of his mind, not one thought out of place, as if he long expected this conversation: “Perhaps this is your calling. To pick the sinners from the righteous and bring them to justice.”
Edward snorts. “To assume such a thing would be outrageous vanity. One of the deadly sins, you know.”
“Oh, I know. Superbia.” Carlisle almost smiles. “But perhaps it’s not a sin if what you assume is simple fact?”
“I am no avenging angel,” Edward protests in a rush, embarrassed by the clarity of Carlisle’s vision. He does not deserve such faith. Abruptly, he comes to a stop in front of the desk, at the edge of the carpet. “I expected you to scold me.” Without punishment, absolution does not feel complete.
“Are you disappointed?” Carlisle asks wryly. “It is not my forgiveness you must seek. There is nothing for me to forgive.”
It is the end of blissful ignorance, of following in reverence, obedient to Carlisle’s word as to the command of a god: his father is just a man, if a great one; but it is Edward’s own choices that rule his life. Like Adam did upon his loss, he mourns paradise for a while and then sets out to learn the world anew.
3) He is often ashamed of how he skulks through the shadows of people’s unconscious minds (however involuntarily), leeching on their dreams and experiences. He would not feel so guilty if his insight fostered compassion, sympathy, but his unique view does not help him understand; in fact, it makes him angry, resentful, the secrets and lies that remain unsaid, the petty, base preoccupations of others’ minds. It is supremely frustrating, to know so much and influence so little, but when he vents his anger to Carlisle, the other man just smiles, and thinks, You’ll learn. In time.
But he can’t, Edward thinks as he picks through thoughts, rifles through whole lives like a thief, using what he can, discarding the rest. He will never learn like this, his contempt of humanity growing daily, his own mind weary and indecisive, torn by the multitude of ideas and impressions that assault him without the tempering knowledge of firsthand experience. He does not live, except vicariously: love, devotion, desire are merely images to him, faded smiles, frozen in someone’s memory, and senseless touches that he can see, but not feel. They can be exciting, pictures that he takes out in the dark and examines before his mind’s eye, breath quickening unnecessarily with the thrill of the forbidden, but what he feels is but a shadow and a pale, half-forgotten dream, and deep down, he fears that he will never have the true thing, see for himself.
4) Rosalie is beautiful, but the darkness of her mind revolts him. She daydreams of bloodshed and revenge, revels in it like some ancient goddess, her human lover’s/sinner’s fate laid out before her mind’s eye long before she implements his punishment. Edward tries once, but she will not hear what he has to say on the matter, and he hears all too well what she thinks. It is no good.
There is nothing in him he could give her that would make a difference to her, and nothing of hers that he would like to receive in turn. If there is virtue left in her shattered heart and soul, love and contentment, it will take a calmer, happier man, less conflicted than he, to gather the pieces, put them back together.
5) Emmett is artless, utterly so. It is one of the reasons why he is Edward’s favorite brother: there is very little distinction between thought and reality; his thoughts are his words are his actions, and so Edward can relax his careful hold on his sanity and simply be. For a few years, it is a good, companionable life.
The first stirrings of unrest, of turmoil, shock Edward all the more because of it.
“What is it that she has that others don’t?” he demands of Emmett, irritated, as his brother paces in front of him, restless and conflicted with the sudden rush of need for this random human’s blood. This hasn’t happened in decades – not ever, really, not like this – and the images that flit through Emmett’s mind are unsettling. “Don’t be stupid, Emmett, we only just got here. There mustn’t be any accidents.”
“I can’t fight it,” Emmett says, helplessly, and for the first time, Edward sees his perpetual grin fade and give way to fierce exasperation. “I can’t!”
Above them, a door slams shut, and Edward feels the darkness of Rosalie’s furious thoughts crash down on him like a storm-tossed wave, deadly and cold after a season of summer sunshine and calm, painful in its sudden intensity.
“I don’t understand,” he says coldly, and turns his back on his brother.
When the human girl ends up dead within the week, it is not only Emmett’s failure – it is Edward’s, too, he feels, and the thought will haunt him, decades later, when he is the one pleading for his brother’s sympathy, understanding at last.
6) Alice gives him headaches, at first. Jasper too, in his own way, if only for the inestimable threat he poses to their way of life, volatile as he is – other than that, Edward tells Carlisle privately, he seems affable enough; a quiet, studious mind. It is an odd combination of temper, but easily enough explained.
Alice, though, is something else entirely: no memories to speak of, the present just a passing fancy, her mental eye firmly on tomorrow. It seems a strange way for a vampire to exist, carrying a vision of the future, still. None of them can dream, but Alice comes close, and Edward envies her that gift sometimes.
He has no great life’s ambition (what is the point? He can’t help but think that he is damned, regardless), but sometimes, he wishes that he did.
7) Tanya makes a pass at him on their third night in Denali, her intentions so obvious that no mind-reading is necessary. From across the room, Emmett smirks and gives Edward a thumbs up. She is beautiful and willing, and yet her painted smile and strawberry hair fail to cause the flurry of excitement he has observed in others.
“You are an idiot,” Emmett tells him after Edward has dismissed her politely and she has sashayed off, her mouth set tightly and her mind hurling the insults at him she won’t permit herself to speak. “No man can go without forever.”
“That’s you, Emmett,” Edward says primly, and resumes his music where he left off when he was interrupted.
Emmett groans. “What’s wrong with Tanya? She’s nice enough.”
Perhaps something is wrong with him, as Esme fears. Or perhaps not. “She is…” He sighs. “Not right.”
Emmett looks doubtful. Edward can’t blame him. She’s all there is, bro.
Perhaps. Or perhaps not. He’ll take his chances.
8) The very first stray thought Edward ever picks up with his impossible mind is Please prove me right, son, and even when it becomes apparent in the following weeks and months that the words weren’t a figment of his imagination, weak and half-mad with pain as he was, he never tells Carlisle that he caught that particular sentiment.
He rages against the unfair expectations at first, oh yes – prove what, prove him right how? - but as years turn into decades and the span of his existence nears a century, the heavy burden becomes a challenge. A privilege, which he exerts in long, animated discussions with his father-friend, striving always to live up to the silent plea even though the more he learns, the less he believes that he ever can.
Then, Bella enters his life, all sweet, fragile humanity, a temptation, from heaven or hell, he is not sure. She is an enigma to him, luring him with her blushes, her touch, the hints of whatever delightful secrets she keeps locked away in her impenetrable mind. He trembles before her in fear and exultation like Pandora before the box; the thought of breaking her (the ultimate evil) terrifies him utterly, and no matter how much he adores her, being with her, loving her, is a leap of faith. And yet, he can’t not make it: what is between them is good and true. He believes in that, if nothing else, and when he finally reaches out to accept what she so readily offers, he receives a great gift: hope.
9) His talent is useful, no doubt about it, but most of the time, no matter what Carlisle thinks, it feels like a curse, not a blessing. Edward moves through the world to the sound of a constant hum of muffled, indistinct voices, like the static from a radio he can’t ever seem to tune right. Never is there silence; his music drowns the noise, and when he is hunting alone in the dark depths of the woods, far removed from civilization, it sometimes fades to a barely-there murmur, but both are lonely pastimes, a few hours’ escape.
Only when Bella’s plight takes them away from society, up into the lonely, icy tundra does his mind go still and quiet, empty and blank like the pure white canvas of snow all around them, and in the unfamiliar silence, his own thoughts ring out, loud and clear, for the first time in ninety years. It is not the only way in which Bella has saved him, but it is one of the most profound.
10) Edward lives in his mind, much more so than others, and so preoccupied is he with thought and rationale that he barely notices how much he has neglected his body’s cues until it is almost too late: Bella’s touch is like a jolt of electricity on his skin, awakening senses that war with his sensible mind, challenge his resistance and demand attention now, now now now, and it is all he can do to not kill her, the first time they kiss, sink his teeth into her neck and be done with it.
When he conquers his violent thirst for her blood, he feels victorious: surely, the greatest challenge must be behind him now. Little does he know that his trials are only about to start. It is not that Bella tempts him cruelly; there is no artifice in her, no smug coyness. But she eludes him – he cannot grasp her mind’s puzzles and patterns, delve in and dissect as he might otherwise do, despoiling her alluring, female mystery. For the first time in what feels like forever, he has to feel his way around in the dark, relying on sound and scent and touch alone, and it drives him crazy with the need to know her, inside and out, mentally and physically.
Eventually, he does: her warm, sweaty body presses against his, heart to heart, her gasps are hot in his mouth, breathing life into him, and every long-dead cell seems to sing with newfound bliss. It is then that he realizes that some things cannot be seen with the eyes – only with the heart.