Epilogue

Carlisle's POV

So many of my days had been spent like this. As an immortal being, I was often surprised by how much of my eternity I spent waiting. I was a patient man, but even I had my limits. If I totaled the number of hours, I had probably spent decades simply standing in place, staring out of a window, gazing at the way the sun lit the world around me. For much of it, I had been alone. But I was alone no longer! I was a husband and a father, and my son had returned home at last.

Careful not to break the glass, I placed my hand against the windowpane. My son. How I had missed him! Even knowing that he could read my mind, I wondered if he would ever understand how glad I was to have him back, how I had grieved while he was gone. But no, I shouldn't think such things. I had hurt only because I loved him so. Now that he had returned, I was filled with happiness and needn't suffer any longer. Yet, even so, I grieved because he was suffering.

Would he ever forgive himself? I already had. Indeed, I had forgiven him before I even created him. I knew Esme had forgiven him already, as well. Yet Edward had not. Day after day he sat as he was now, his arms wrapped loosely around his knees, his back rigid and straight, and his face toward the ocean. I had no doubt that if I could see them, his eyes would be closed and his face lined like no teenager's should ever be. They weren't wrinkles; the lines would smooth away if he would ever relax. They were lines of pain, and just knowing they were there caused my silent heart to ache.

Turning my head slightly, I listened to a sound I had not heard in years: the angelic lilting of my wife singing. A smile spread across my face. My sweet Esme was singing again! Ah, music. Truly a gift from God for His children to make in our efforts to be closer to Him.

There had been a time when I had been surrounded by music on a daily basis. Once he had rediscovered the piano, Edward had taken to humming, singing, whistling, or even drumming his fingers against any surface as though it were an instrument he could play. It had been all I could do to hide my idea from him when it had occurred to me that he should have a piano of his own. What had made matters worse was that we had still been on the island at the time. The climate here was not a good one for a piano. Soon after I made Esme my wife, we had returned to the States as a true family, and I had immediately begun to search for the perfect piano to give to him.

Every day after that, our house had been filled with music. Psalms had been his passion at first, and I knew that had stemmed from his human mother, Elizabeth. I wished I could see the woman again. I would thank her for giving Edward such a musical background, but even more so, I wished that I might thank her for the gift of her son. She had placed him in my care, and I had done my best to be a good father. Despite the past four years, I didn't think I had failed. Even in doing wrong, he had tried to do good.

And now he was home.

Though he had seemed to accept my suggestions for his potential future with enthusiasm, every time I brought up the subject of us leaving, of him starting that future, he'd requested a few more days - days which were turning into weeks with no sign that he would relent any time soon.

"Perhaps when my eyes are no longer orange," he would argue. "I don't exactly look human like this."

And I had to agree that if he were to go among the humans, they would notice his unnatural eye color.

"The new semesters aren't ready to start yet," he would say. "The island is as good a place to wait as any. Can't we stay just a few more days?"

And I would nod and allow him those days.

"I like it here. Cities and towns are noisy. The beach is... peaceful."

Of course I recognized them for the excuses they were, but it was hard to argue with the draw the ocean seemed to have for him. Though he would join us in the house or accept our invitations to hunt the peccary, he kept returning to beach, claiming the sound of the waves were soothing, almost like music.

His voice alone was music to my ears, but he had yet to really embrace music again. I couldn't wait to hear him play when we got home. If we could ever convince him to leave the island! It was ironic how I longed to hear him play now, when the last times I had heard him play, the sounds had filled me with dread. I hadn't understood why at the time, but I did now, only too well.

His music had always been an expression of his soul. How he could doubt that he had one, I would never understand. He had one of the most vibrant souls of any creature I had ever met. That vibrancy had come shining through in his music.

The Psalms had quickly been followed by Beethoven, Rachmaninov, and Tchaikovsky. From there, he had branched out to the newer sounds of America's musical wellspring. Blues and jazz had flowed from his talented fingers while I had watched in amazement. With every new song he had learned, I had rejoiced. My son took such little pleasure in the life which I had given him. Though I never regretted my decision to change him, I did regret his feelings on the matter. I had been acutely aware when that discontent began to make its way into his music.

Though he played every song he could get his hands on, it was the music from his own brilliant mind that I loved to hear the most. At first joyful and playful, he had composed songs for Esme, for our family, for the happiness he said he felt watching us together. The years had passed for us, just as they did for the humans, but though my teenage son never truly changed, his music had. The songs began to sound sad, and then they had turned angry. I couldn't understand his anger, and the stubborn young man refused to admit that anything was wrong.

"I'm fine," he had said whenever I tried to talk to him.

I had watched with dread in my heart as his golden eyes darkened. I had known that he fed. Surely the numbers of animals which he had killed that year exceeded what I could even guess at. Eventually, his eyes had stopped lightening at all. For months, they were only black. I feared that he planned on leaving us, but when I finally gathered my courage to ask him, he'd seemed genuinely surprised, and had denied the possibility.

And then he had disappeared for two weeks.

Ah, my troubled son. If only I had really understood what he had been going through. I had seen his passion, but had not understood the fire that fed it. If only he had talked to me! Angrily shaking my head, I chided myself. That was not true. He had tried! I simply had not heard. Yet at every turn, he had insisted that he was fine. The closer I tried to hold him to me, the farther away he pushed himself, until that final awful day when he had left. I had stood then, as I was doing now, staring out of the window, waiting on my son to return.

My hand clenched into a fist. Now, he had returned at last, but though his body was there, only meters away from me, he was as distant and unreachable as ever. No longer burning with anger, now he was consumed with guilt, and I had no idea how to help him. Esme had tried, too, but I could see that talking to our son about the people she had killed did nothing to ease the guilt over his own murders.

Knowing he could hear my thoughts, I tried not to think of the men, but I couldn't help myself. Numbers ran through my mind constantly. When I'd asked him how many people he had killed, he would only say, "Many." Many sons and brothers and fathers who were dead because of my own son. Because of me. Because of my choice to turn the dying young man into a vampire, like myself. Many men who had done evil things and had paid the ultimate price for their sins. Many men who had killed, who had raped, who had abused those who trusted them.

For four years he had been gone. For four years he had killed the worst sort of men, men like my own wife's ex-husband. Indeed, he had killed the very man who had made my sweet Esme's life hell. I had felt a horrible fire within me whenever I had thought of the man over the years. Strangely, that fire was gone now. In its place was only sorrow. Edward had killed that man, and then had gone on to kill many more. I found myself obsessing over the number. A hundred men in the first two months alone, he'd admitted to me. If he had continued with that amount, then my son had killed well over two thousand men.

Two thousand!

No. I shook my head. He said he had limited the number later. As the bloodlust had become manageable, he had stopped killing as many. But no matter how I wrapped the numbers about in my head, I couldn't deny that he had killed upwards of a thousand men.

I understood now, of course. Now that it was too late. Now that I could do nothing about it. But just because I could understand it, that did not mean I could help him to heal. I was a doctor! And yet I could not even heal my own son.

Warm hands wrapped around my waist and my senses were abruptly filled with caramel. I turned in my wife's arms, smiling into her golden eyes. Barely touching her, I brushed my fingers against the cheek which her ex-husband had so often struck. How could any man ever hit such a gentle creature? Knowing that it had happened had been bad enough, but imagining such things could be nothing compared with seeing it, as Edward's gift had allowed - or forced - him to do. Oh yes, I fully understood why he had killed the man.

How many men had he killed?

There was an opposing side to that question. One which I tried not to consider, but the thought refused to be denied.

How many people had he saved?

How many women, like my Esme, would never have to feel pain or fear again because my son had taken those men away? How many women and children, in alleys and in the safety of their homes had been saved from a terrible fate? How many innocents, going about their lives, still had lives to live because my son had stopped the ones who would have harmed them? Yes, I knew why my son had killed them. I could not condone it, but I did understand it.

"He still hasn't moved?" Esme glanced over my shoulder to where our son sat on the beach.

"No," I murmured. "He is not getting better."

"How often did he tell me that vampires don't change?" she asked herself. "You are waiting for something that will not happen, Carlisle."

I sighed and gazed out the window again. I knew that she was right. Change would not come on its own, and as his father, it was up to me to do something about it. Firmly concentrating on the feeling of holding my wife in my arms, I repressed the thought that wanted to surface. Before I could let myself think of the solution to Edward's problem, I had to get to where he could not hear it.

"I'm thirsty."

"The peccary are gone."

My eyes widened. "Gone?"

She nodded. "I'm quite certain he killed the last one a week ago. I've been scouring the island, but I haven't found a single scent trail."

"Well, that settles it. We will just have to go to the mainland. I could use a good panther, anyway." Coming to a decision, I strode out of the house and confronted my son.

"Edward," I began.

"Don't worry about me, Carlisle," he said before I could offer. "I'll be here when you get back."

"You need to hunt, too," I insisted.

His eyes remained closed as he shook his head, just slightly.

So stubborn, I thought, knowing he could hear me.

I was pleased to see one corner of his mouth twitch in acknowledgement.

"We do not need to go anywhere near the humans."

"Next time, maybe. Or, you could bring something back for me."

"No," I said, firmly. Once we go down that path, there may be no returning from the precedent that would set.

He shrugged, unconcerned.

"Fine," I agreed, trying to hide my pleasure at his refusal. "But next time, I will insist on it."

He lifted a shoulder again.

Only once Esme and I were miles away from the island did I allow the idea that had been pestering me to come forth. Edward needed to heal, and I was not just his father and a doctor, I was the son of a priest. It was my job to see to it that he recovered from his sins, and I could only think of one way to do it. I had to speak to Edward's soul. I had to touch him in the only place where I knew that he could be reached. I had to give him a gift, the same gift which God had given to His children to bring us closer to Himself.

Meeting my wife's eyes, I grinned at her, aware that it was the first time in years that the expression had truly crossed my face. Unable to help herself, she laughed in response.

"What is it, Carlisle?"

I shook my head, enjoying having a surprise to share. "You will see."

Esme turned from me to grip the rail on the small watercraft which I was steering toward the city. I took pleasure in watching my mate's hair blowing away from her face, and was pleased that the sun was shining, so that I might see her skin glistening. I loved how her beauty shone from within her. The sun, like me, seemed to worship her, and would gather itself about her, turning her into an otherworldly beauty. It didn't matter to me that the light came from an external source; her rainbow radiance came directly from her gentle soul. When she stood in the sunlight, I could feel each place where the sun's rays reflected off of her skin and onto mine.

Lifting my face to the sky, I sent a silent prayer of thanks for being granted, not only such an amazing creature as my wife and mate, but for being given my son, once again. I added a plea that he be forgiven, and that he be allowed to forgive himself.

It was just past twilight when I steered the dinghy into place against the dock. Leaping lightly from the small craft after I secured the sails, Esme took my hand firmly in hers as we made our way toward the jungle that surrounded the city. We hunted quickly, finding the panther which I had been craving and taking the tapir it had been hunting for myself, as well. Watching in amusement, I saw my gentle wife take the life of a huge marsh deer, just as it was settling itself down for the night.

Stated, we returned to the city and I strode straight into the market district, hoping that the store owners had not decided to close early. It had been far too sunny lately for us to venture into the city during the day. To my relief, the lights were still on and the door was propped open to invite in the cooling breeze. I could not hold back my smug grin at the sound of Esme's gasp when she realized where I was headed.

Once my purchases were made, I could hardly restrain myself to human speed as we returned to our boat.

"Do you really think it will work, Carlisle?" Esme turned her worried eyes upon me as the boat cut through the light waves.

"I can only hope."

She gnawed on her lip, looking back in the direction of the island where we had left our son.

"Do not let him see," I cautioned her.

"I won't," she assured me, and I saw a line form between her eyes. The crease showed how hard she was concentrating on not thinking of what was on both of our minds.

I laughed aloud, enjoying the challenge my talented son brought to our lives.

"What?" She cocked her head at me, curiously.

"Do not think of the elephant's left knee."

She giggled. "Hmm, but elephants have such lovely knees. Especially their left ones."

Pulling the dinghy back up to our dock, I grabbed the packages, concentrating firmly on the image of new clothes, and sprinted back to the beach house. Only once inside, did I call for him.

Edward!

I saw his head tilt slightly in my direction, but he didn't leave the beach.

Edward Cullen. Please, come here.

His shoulders rose and fell in what I was sure was a sigh of resignation, but he dutifully stood and strode up the beach and into the home we had built. Trying to control my excitement, I was pleased to see a look of confused curiosity on his face when he joined Esme and me in the living room. The low coffee table was covered with a thick blanket. He eyed it, but I was firmly keeping my mind on the recent hunt.

"What is it, Carlisle?"

"I brought you something."

He automatically licked his lips, confirming that he was more thirsty than he would admit to. "I thought you said you wouldn't." His nostrils flared, sniffing for an animal under the blanket. Not finding one, he tilted his head, curious again. That was a very good sign.

Not bothering to hide my smile, I whipped off the cover that hid his surprise, and was rewarded with a gasp from him. I watched his face carefully, noting the slight upward turn of his lips, the way the lines of sadness and pain eased from his youthful face, and, especially, the way his orange tinted eyes lit with interest.

Edward reached a hand out to caress the case, but he didn't open it. I saw his eyes take in the stack of books that lay to one side. Unable to speak, or to tear my eyes away from him, I watched my son's fingers begin to tremble as he reached for the clasp which held the case closed.

He opened it, and the room was filled with the scent of polished wood, velvet, horse hair, and rosin.

His eyes were shining with delight when they met mine. "A violin?"

"We can not have a piano here," I explained, "but there is no reason why our house should not be filled with music once again."

"I don't know..." A dark look crossed his features.

"Please, Edward?" Esme pressed him. "For me? I've missed your music."

He didn't touch the instrument, but picked up the first book on the stack, seated himself on the couch, and began to read through it. My silent heart swelled with pleasure at the upward curve to his lips. Though I wanted to stay and bask in the fact that my son was smiling again, I took Esme's hand in mine and gave him the privacy to read without being stared at.

We retreated to the beach near where he had so recently been seated. I took my lovely wife in my arms. Her eyes caught the moonlight, and I knew that she was as overjoyed as I was to know that our son was showing signs of life once again. Knowing he was engrossed in his books, I pulled her into the jungle toward a clearing we had discovered long ago.

The bed of grass and flowers was fragrant on the sultry night air. The palm trees swayed with the light wind, and Esme's caramel scent filled the clearing as the breeze blew through her hair. I could smell my own spicy scent mingling with hers and inhaled deeply, loving the way we complimented each other perfectly.

Far from the house we had built, far from where our son sat, I laid beside Esme under the stars and took her hand in mine. I knew the humans found our touch hard and cold, but to me, she was soft and warm, her temperature perfectly matching mine. Although we had, of course, made love many times over the years since Edward left, and in the weeks since his return, on this night, I felt a joy in her body that I had not experienced in a long time.

Near dawn, we made our way back to the house, and I was rewarded with the plaintive sounds of a violin, singing one long note after another. He was back on the beach, but not seated with his arms around his knees. Now, Edward stood, facing the island, learning the feel of the new instrument. His eyes were closed, his chin was cradled lightly on the rest, the bow held gently between his long fingers, his other hand wrapped around the neck with his fingers spread across the strings.

Glancing through the window of our house, I saw that he had read through every book we had bought. Now, having studied the theory, he was putting what he had learned into practice. I had always been amazed at how he could bring music to life, but he had known how to play the piano as a human, too. This was new, and I rejoiced in the fact that he was embracing the new instrument so fully.

Esme and I watched, enraptured, as Edward learned the feeling of playing each note the violin was capable of making, teaching his fingers the way the chords felt, the way the strings responded, how the bow could be angled and drawn to make different sounds. Though I heard his fingers falter many times, and several of the notes were sour enough to make my teeth ache, he learned from those mistakes, and never stopped his attempts.

Eventually, I heard a sound that made me want to weep with joy. No longer practicing the notes and chords, my son was playing a song - a Psalm that I recognized as the first one he had played on his piano, one he had once told me had been Elizabeth's favorite. Although the song was slow and halting, I watched my son making music again and saw the lines of pain on his face fade away. His lips spread into a true smile that I knew my own mirrored.

Raising my face toward the sky once more, I sent another prayer to God, this time in fervent thanks.

I had no doubt that it would be a long road, but I felt that I might finally have helped him take the first steps toward recovery. Clasping my wife's hand in mine, I looked forward to a happy future for our little family. As God had surely intended, music would heal Edward's soul.

~The End~