I actually really really like Edward as a character, and was kind of inspired by the quote below to write this. I was excited to write for him for this fic, and really really liked this chapter, so I couldn't go without posting it at some point!
I hope people still like it, even though it's been so long...
I'd deeply appreciate it if you could leave a comment to let me know!
"Young Master, Edward. If something you held most dear suddenly shattered one day...What would you do?"
"Dear, God. What a terrible ordeal you've tasked my sister with..."
Edward never could win against her.
Father would laugh and say that the Midford women had always been strong, and it was no cause for shame.
Still, there's something particularly humiliating about getting your ass kicked by a cute little girl….Especially when she's your younger sister.
The world would coo over her: her pretty shoes, her curly blonde hair, her frilly dresses, and sigh in awe that someone so cute could be so skilled with the sword.
And, if he was perfectly honest, she was incredible. He would never deny that, never say the praise was undeserved. Often he was her biggest fan, her loudest cheerleader, and if anyone dare lay a finger on her, or say a single syllable of slander, they'd certainly have a sword to answer to.
And, he supposed, her proficiency was good for him too, in a way, because it pushed him to work harder.
But no matter how many days he spent waking up early to wave his sword at empty air, no matter how much mastery he had compared to his classmates, he could never catch up to her. Sometimes it felt like the race was rigged, and he wasn't moving at all.
He applauded her, admired her.
But sometimes he would throw his sword into the wall and demand that it listen to him. That he, a thirteen-year-old boy could and should be better at swordplay, than a ten-year-old girl who decorated her world in pink plushies and bonnets.
When the other nobles chatted with Lizzie, and about Lizzie, and then turned to him to ask what he'd been doing, sure he had a story to top hers…
Sometimes he would hold his head high and boast of his accomplishments, and Lizzie would have only the loftiest of compliments to add.
But other times that question would ring through his head, and his tongue would fall limp in his mouth.
Because no matter how much he'd done, if he was the top of his class, he could never triumph Lizzie.
What have I done lately? Not much compared to Lizzie.
Mother was not the kind of person who would answer for you; unlike most mothers she wouldn't boast of her children smallest accomplishments. In fact, in even their greatest endeavors she could find "room for improvement." He wasn't complaining: this too was a good thing; he would never be where he was now without that.
But sometimes he just wished she would just wrap her arms around him and say that she was proud of him.
There was Father at least, who was the softie of the family. Who would clap him on the back and tell Francis not to be so hard on him, that he'd done more than well. His eyes would shine as he promised he was a champion in his own right, as well as his eyes. And that helped. Still…
Still, he didn't feel like much.
It wasn't that he was bad at things, or dumb. He was quite smart, good at school, but he didn't…excel.
The thing about Lizzie is that there were only a few things she practiced, but she excelled at them.
Jack of all trades, master of none, so they say.
And no one notices you unless you're very good at something, or very bad at it.
So he faded into the background. Lizzie's cheerleader. His parents' son. And he told himself he was alright with that.
Beneath all those intermingling feelings of pride and jealousy was a question:
How could such a small girl hold so much fight inside her? How could those gentle eyes hold so much fire?
It didn't make sense. She was supposed to be sweet, and gentle, and soft. So what was it that drove her to get the gold when he could only ever snag second place?
He got his answer when he met Ciel.
The twin boys, one of whom she was destined to marry—some day, after they had learned how to be gentlemen in a world of men who weren't gentle.
Well he couldn't approve of that without meeting him first.
The twins were…so small. Smaller even than Lizzie. Big blue eyes like stormy days.
One marched up to him and demanded who he was, and what he was doing there, and that his name was Ciel, and he was to be the Earl some day. The other, hid behind his father's pant leg, and muttered his greeting from afar. And when Mother scolded Mr. Phantomhive to keep them in line, and comb their hair properly, even the bolder one shirked into the shadows.
He finally understood what Lizzie had that he didn't:
Something to protect.
When he took up the sword, it was for the sake of the sword itself, and a name.
When she took it up, she did so for something more than the trade, the passed-down-name, the skill. The sword was a means, not an end. There was something—someone—she loved, or was learning to at least, and if that person were ever threatened, she didn't want to stand on the sidelines and cry. She wanted to stand between him and danger and do everything in her power to keep the hurt at bay.
She didn't care about being well-versed in the sword: she just cared about protecting him. The sword was simply how she'd do that. And, well, the irony of being something is that you'll only be good at it when you're looking beyond it.
And it was that, that passion, that idea that there was something beyond, that this was all in preparation for a war against anything that stood to harm him, that was why she excelled. Because he didn't have anything calling him to it, besides the fact that the Midford's had always been good at it. As long as he didn't have a reason for it within himself, he would never excel.
So, from then on, he never complained, silently or aloud. From then on he was nothing more than her firmest supporter, and when people asked what he had done lately, expecting his story to top hers, he could be okay that he would never be better than her at some things.
And then, one snowy December, when they were putting their finishing touches on their Christmas tree, and competing to make the best cookies, someone arrived at their door to tell them they found Mr. and Mrs. Phantomhive in a pool of their own blood…and the twins…they didn't find.
She didn't cry. She didn't immediately burst into a thousand shards of glass like he would have expected.
He would have liked it better that way. Because he could deal with that. Because he could do something, he could run up to her, hug her, kiss her, comfort her. Be the big brother.
No, the Midford women had always been strong, and she was no exception. She didn't fall to pieces. She went into her room, put on a black dress and bonnet—(as was proper). And she went to the funeral, as all good little noblegirls should.
And all throughout the service, as they lay Rachel and Vincent to rest, beside two little graves they all knew were empty, as the vicar read from a Bible a passage about sheep, and finding your way home, he kept glancing at her, kept waiting to see the tears to stream down her face, for her to fall to her knees.
Her eyes were big, and blank, and full of almost-to-the-surface tears, yet she was sugar and spice and everything nice; the picture of an English noblewoman.
She went about her day, whole, composed, proper. And no one could have guessed that grief wasn't another thing she excelled at.
But he'd never quite forget that night. The sound he heard, even through the passing years.
That night, after the funeral, after mother sent her off to bed with a few proud words, and father kissed her one to many times, after Edward grabbed her hand and asked "Are you sure you're okay?" After she said "Yes, I'll be fine."—
He woke up to the sound of screaming.
He shot up in bed, wondering if he'd dreamed it, heart yammering, breath burning. He didn't bother to light a candle, just stumbled out of bed, and ran down the halls, calling her name.
When he reached her room, she was sitting on the floor beside her bed in her little white nightdress, and tear tracks staining her face; in pieces. A perfect gold stain on the world.
She reached her hands weakly out to him as he knelt down before her, and wrapped her arms so tight around him that he thought she might break him too…and she cried into his nightshirt until she stained it. But he didn't care.
Many little girls run to their parents in this situation. But he knew, if she had gone to their parents, mother would have told her there was no use crying, they weren't coming back, and father would have doted on her, and she wanted neither…or rather, something in between. So she came to him.
This wasn't the last time.
During the day she would go about her life as normal.
But every night she woke up. It was always somewhere between 14:00 and 16:00 he heard her screaming, calling the name of the sky. Either that, or he would hear a faint knock on his door, and see the face of a broken little girl in need of her big brother.
It became muscle memory for Edward to comfort her. To throw off his covers and run to his sister's room, or he would pat the blankets beside him to say come here, and either way he'd wrap his arms around her tight, as if trying to wring the tears out of her, and she would sob until they burned rivers in his skin. He would brush his hands through her golden hair, whispering things in her ear like shh, and it'll be okay, and singing old lullabies, all the while knowing knowing the quiet would come. And he would pray. Pray that things would be okay. Pray that the one who created the universe would grant some solace to this sweet little sheep.
He would pray, and the next day, with tears barely barred from his own cheeks, he would kick the wall, and demand why and how a merciful God could do this to someone like her. Why he would take good people from the world.
—(He would pray, and he thought one day he heard Him say They aren't yours to keep.)—
Sometimes she asked if they could go to the cemetery in the morning. They would dress in their finest blacks, looking like ink blots on the world, onyx with gold filigree in the cracks. She would carry bouquets of flowers, the petals sifting off in the wind, and add them to those there, left by the miscellaneous others who cared for them…And she wouldn't cry then, no. She wouldn't cry until it was past the witching hour.
She didn't give up. Didn't stop living. For all intents and purposes she was the same as she'd always been…but something was missing when they crossed blades.
She woke up less and less as time went by. Eventually her visits to his room were stray nights in the grand scheme of things, and she didn't cry so hard. Sometimes she'd just sit with him, or ask to play chess, or chat with him till the morning came.
And then one day, after the grief didn't burn so badly in her chest—
Her fiancé came back without an eye, and with a pitch black butler.
He didn't talk about what he'd gone through, or how he'd come back. He didn't speak of that day his parents died. He didn't mention how his brother died—he didn't mention much of his brother at all.
He wasn't that brazen, bold, grinning child they knew before. He was dark, and serious…and he never smiled.
And Edward was glad to have him back…yet from the start he couldn't help but feel…uneasy. Like something was wrong. Something he couldn't quite put his finger on. There were too many questions, too many gaps in information, and the darkness that seemed to flock to this boy now didn't help.
And Edward, though Lizzie's fire was only stronger since he came back, her skill even more unmatchable, was at last able to get a few good hits in sometimes.
He couldn't believe he never saw it before, his reason beyond the sword, the task of carrying on a name... it was there from the beginning.
He knew who it was he had to protect.