A/N: In honor of TwiCharmed’s birthday, I present the following past-take from “And withThee Fade Away.” Happy birthday, my dear; it’s definitely something to celebrate.
Oxford, England, 1991
Every Tuesday, at exactly three o’clock, Edward Cullen enjoyed a cup of tea. He used the term ‘enjoy’ rather loosely, however, because to him tea tasted like something along the lines of the juices that ooze from rotten potatoes. Still, he looked forward to this part of his routine. It was a little reminder that one needn’t be human to be English.
Edward always took his tea in the solitude of the café on Woodstock Road. Normally, this establishment was far from empty, especially in the mid-afternoon rush, during which nearly every Oxford student was in need of caffeine. But as it happened, every time Edward Cullen walked into the café on Woodstock Road, anyone who was inside immediately rushed out the door.
It was a phenomenon Edward had learned to expect over the years. Despite having grown more comfortable around humans, he knew they would never return the sentiment. Thankfully, this particular café was run by a stern-faced Scotsman who sported a piratic scar on one cheek and whose diet might have included barbed wire. For the most part, he seemed wary of Edward, which was easier to cope with than flailing arms and screaming.
In any case, Edward did not expect any sort of conversation. Instead, on this particular Tuesday afternoon, he endlessly stirred his cup of Darjeeling and read Tristram Shandy for the eighth time in his life. This time, however, he was reading it for class.
It was quite unexpected when the door of the café swung open and someone walked inside, entirely unperturbed by the unkempt ginger in the corner. He passed a sly glance to Edward from beneath his floppy blond hair, and then proceeded to browse the selection of tea on the wall. This man was young, crisply dressed, and carried a mildly optimistic expression on his boyish face. The main thing Edward noticed, however, was that this man was undead.
On Tuesdays, this café was his, and he was not keen on sharing it with some impertinent baby vampire.
“Oi! Blondie!” called Edward. “Not to be a bother, but I’m curious as to why you’re shopping for tea. S’not really a dietary standard for our kind.”
The man turned to Edward, blinked a few times, and then motioned to Edward’s teacup. “You’re one to talk.”
Edward shrugged. “I’m English. I have an excuse. You… you reek of American.”
“If you really want to know,” said the blond vampire, “I’m buying it for my wife.”
Edward laughed. “Your wife? So you’re a family vampire! Is she English, then?”
The man glanced nervously at the shopkeeper, and his voice became a harsh, reluctant whisper. “No. She’s human.”
“How vile!” exclaimed Edward loudly. “Now that’s just wrong, mate.”
This produced quite a scowl. “Could you keep it down, maybe?” hissed the blond vampire. “The shopkeeper is listening.”
“So what? What does a human do if you walk up and tell him you’re a creature of thenight? If he doesn’t run away, he laughs nervously and calls you crazy. That’s humans for you— they never blame their problems on ignorance. Nope, it’s always that some bloke is out of his mind.” Edward paused long enough to let his smirk float through the room. “And you married one, apparently. Disgusting.”
This remark seemed to throw the blond vampire into a minor rage, for he stomped across the room and practically slammed himself into the seat opposite Edward.
Edward downed half of his now-cold Darjeeling. “Now, don’t have a tantrum.”
“Who the hell are you, anyway?”
“Edward Cullen.” He offered his hand. “Until now, the only bad guy on campus.”
“Carlisle.” The blond vampire did not shake his hand. “And you can keep the title, because I’m not a ‘bad guy’.”
Edward snickered. “Oh really? And what do you drink, then? Holy water?”
“I’m a doctor,” he replied in a monotone.
“Impressive, given all the blood involved, but not really the answer to my question.Unless you eat helpless sick people… lazy bastard.”
“No, I cure people. Help them.”
“But you kill some of them, don’t you?”
“Only the ones who would die anyway,” he muttered. “It’s just a form of euthanasia.”
Edward shook his head. “You’ve got this all figured out, don’t you, Carlie? Do you mind if I call you Carlie?” As Carlisle angrily began to object, Edward went on. “I hate to break it to you, but you still murder people.”
“And I suppose you don’t?”
“Of course I do. But at least I admit it.” Edward downed the rest of his tea.
“Do you think you’re some kind of morality police?” snapped Carlisle. “I don’t even know you.”
“When were you changed?” said Edward, ignoring Carlisle’s temper. Of course, Edward already knew a passable answer to his question; Carlisle couldn’t be much more than fifty if he still had a temper about these things.
“During the Korean War.”
“Well, then. I’ve got a century on you, boyo. At this point, I really couldn’t care less about your morality, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find you silly.”
“You’re the one drinking tea and wearing a singed sweater.” He pointed at the conspicuous burn mark on Edward’s shoulder. “Don’t tell me you smoke too.”
“This is not a cigarette burn,” said Edward, failing to mask some of his indignation. “It’s what happens when you wear your favorite sweater in the middle of an explosion.”
“An explosion? What—”
“May I ask,” interrupted Edward, “how you manage to practice medicine as toddler? You should be biting necks left and right.”
“My wife helped me learn control.”
“There’s the wife again,” sighed Edward. “She must be great, that wife. Do you keep her as a pet? Chain her to the wall in your basement?”
“We love each other,” growled Carlisle.
“You’re a bizarre man, Carlie. I try to keep an open mind about the future, but one thing I can say with certainty is that I will never fall in love with a human.”
“Are you always this insolent?”
“I prefer to be called witty,” drawled Edward. “Wit is educated insolence, after all.” He wagged his copy of Tristram Shandy in front of Carlisle’s face.
“So, now that you’ve insulted me,” he replied, obstinately glaring at Edward, “why don’t you tell me how it is you eat?”
“It’s sort of a long story.” The truth was Edward had never told anyone about his past, and he was certainly not going to tell Carlisle.
“Then give the abridged version.”
“Very well,” said Edward, rolling the ‘r’ for flourish. “To save time, I’ll start my story three days ago…”
Three Days Ago
It was not a good year for the Soviets, which meant it was a very lively year for Edward. When the going gets tough, the Russians get killing, as it were, and Edward was a very useful tool when it came to killing.
In all his years of experience, Edward had observed that as much as vampires claimed they were above the flaws of human nature, they were, for the most part, driven by the same petty disputes. The most petty of all disputes, in Edward’s mind, were those about women. And battles about women usually ended up being battles about money, since courtship in the higher circles of politics had very little to do with affection.
It was also a well-acknowledged truth that when a man hits rough times, he may seek to blame the villainous, money-wasting ways of his wife. Or, in the case of Alexei Nikolayev, his wives. For a high-ranking KGB official, who also happens to be a vampire, one wife is certainly too restrictive. Three, it turns out, might be too many.
Irina, Katrina, and Tanya were, in general, very much in the vein of Dracula’s brides. They spent most of their time gliding around in heaps of diaphanous fabric, feigning interest in their husband’s political endeavors, and using vapid voices. For the first two wives, this behavior did not lie far from the truth of their personalities.
But Tanya was different.
In Edward’s experience, Tatiana Nikolayeva was not a great thinker. But what she lacked in intellect, she made up for in seduction. Though she may not have understood the finer points of Russian politics, she knew exactly how men’s minds worked, and like an expert clockmaker, she could turn the screws whichever way she wanted.
Edward had heard men call her “Medusa,” a designation he assumed had something to do with her ability to make a man hard as rock with nothing more than a glance.
In other words, she was notoriously difficult to catch, and even harder to control. Alexei Nikolayev found this out the difficult way when, on the brink of his nation’s collapse, she high-tailed it to Turkey with her sisters and half his fortune. Unfortunately, every man he had sent to exact his sweet revenge ended up dead.
The human (and vampire) tendency toward petty disputes provided Edward a great degree of job security. When petty disputes became dangerous, as they often did for the fanged community, he was a very busy man.
Thus, he found himself in Turkey, standing on the doorstep of the Nikolayevas’ dwelling.
Edward might have used the word “dwelling” to describe the turncoat wives’ living conditions, but only if he was trying to be diplomatic. If given the opportunity to speak honestly, he would have overused the word “sleazy.” Indeed, of all the possible aesthetics for anenvironment, the Russians were generally best at portraying either extravagance or sleaziness. The former required copious wealth. The latter occurred when extravagance took place without much wealth at all.
Unfortunately for Tanya and her sisters, her establishment had slid into the less desirable category.
The minute Edward walked through the door, his ears were assaulted by the sluggish brass of a lounge band and the breathy crooning of a vampiric prima donna. He remembered the colors and fashion of the 1970s too well, and it appeared that the patrons of this nightclub had never quite left the decade.
Edward walked deeper into the building, passing seas of fat ties and polyester. A woman spiraled down a pole in the corner of his eye. But not much attention was given to provocative dancing. Rather, most of Tanya’s guests were busy feeding on half-dead humans.
Still, Edward’s presence set off plenty of alarms—particularly the whispering-in-ears type, but this did not surprise him. He had practically set himself up to be a Redcoat among Minutemen. He had dressed himself as usual, in slim black, a leather jacket the only adornment to his outfit. In back alleys and shady pubs, this style cloaked him from attention, but in Tanya’s kingdom, it did just the opposite.
Edward watched bystanders whisper to one another as he passed, his strides long and languid, his copper hair falling nonchalantly over his forehead. He could practically see the news of his presence dance through the crowd, traveling all the way to the queen herself. He let his lips curl into a smirk.
Edward knew he would be noticed. And he wanted to be.
Just like that, with a wisp of breeze that rustled his hair very slightly, Tanya appeared at his side. “Zdravstvuy, Edward,” she said in her smooth, husky voice.
“Good evening, Tatiana.”
Her full lips pursed in their false smile. “You’ve come to kill me, haven’t you?”
Edward laughed in a low tone that seemed to cancel out the harsh brass of the music, but he did not answer her.
“You’re not the first to try,” she said. “And you should know I never lose games.”
Edward winked at her. “Neither do I.”
“Hmmm…” She slid a long-fingered hand between the open sides of his jacket and ran her lacquered nails down the black fabric covering his chest. “I have a feeling our fight will be interesting.”
“I have no doubt.”
“How do you English settle things?” She grabbed a fistful of his shirt and pulled him toward her. “Have you challenged me to a duel, Edward?”
He smiled, but did not lay a hand on her. “Of sorts.”
“Then allow me to choose the conditions.” Her laugh issued from between her lips like a cackle.
With the speed of a thought, they had arrived at her chosen battlefield—her private room, the room that most prominently featured a bed. Edward wondered how many men—vampire and human—had experienced their undoing here.
“Creative choice,” he murmured, while Tanya’s hands began a slow exploration of his hair.
“You have such soft bronze hair,” she breathed.
Edward laughed under his breath and caught her wrists. “Don’t use euphemisms forginger.” With little effort, he pried her hands from his hair and held her shackled beforehim. “Now, what shall I do with you, Tanya?”
“Kill me,” she gasped while he walked her to the bed. “Make me die, Edward.”
“With pleasure.” When they had reached the foot of the bed, he let her drop to the mattress. She instantaneously displayed her limbs as invitingly as possible while Edward prowled around the bed.
As he paced, he took the time to get his bearings. Tanya had shut the door when they had entered, and he knew it locked from the outside. He already heard the faint scuttle of vampires moving down the hallway behind the door. If he had guessed correctly, Irina and Katrina were listening carefully, waiting for Tanya’s signal—a certain word, or scream, or moan, or whatever sort of noise she usually made when seducing men to death.
Edward hadn’t walked into Tanya’s nightclub with much in the way of a plan. He preferred impulse to blueprints—not for the practicality, but for the excitement. He had been locked in a bedroom and was awaiting the arrival of Dracula’s remaining brides. This night had certainly lived up to its excitement value.
Nevertheless, he wasn’t in the mood to die, so he hoped that something useful occurred to him before Tanya’s sisters barged into the room and stabbed him to death with salicin. He figured Tanya’s usual tactic was to distract her would-be assassin long enough for Irina and Katrina to arrive and finish him off. Edward’s plan for the night had extended about this far— get Tanya, Irina, and Katrina all in one place, and avoid falling prey to Tanya’s rather sizeable… charms.
Fortunately, Tanya wasn’t really his type. He hadn’t quite figured out his taste in women, and maybe he never would, but it certainly wasn’t Tanya. It didn’t help that she was overdoing the sexy act a little. She seemed to lack the ability to deal with a genuinely disinterested man. Perhaps if he ignored her for a few more minutes, she would spiral out of control and
When Edward reached the headboard in one of his predatory circles, his eye caught sight of something, and his plan was instantly formed. There, hanging on the bedpost, was a pair of handcuffs. Edward assumed that Tanya usually wielded these, but by the way she was making a show of panting, he figured she wouldn’t mind some experimentation.
“Hmmm.” He reached for the cuffs and then positioned himself at the foot of the bed. “This perplexes me, Tatiana.” He spun the cuffs on one finger. “Handcuffs won’t hold a vampire.” With superhuman speed, he pounced onto the bed and held himself over her. Keeping his face only inches from hers, he whispered, “What’s the point, Tanyeshka? How am I to kill you thoroughly, and all night long…” He almost laughed, but managed to contain himself. “…if you can just get away?” For added effect, he brushed his lips along the side of her face when he spoke, but gave her nothing more than that.
“They’re special,” she gasped as he pulled her arms above her head and held them there. “UV light…” Edward had already guessed this, and by the time Tanya had finished speaking, her hands were fastened to the iron headboard and glowing purple from the light within the cuffs.
“Convenient,” drawled Edward. He glanced quickly to the only window in the room and then removed his jacket. He heard the floorboards outside the door creak. He was running out of time. “Now, Tanya. Tell me. What did you do with your husband’s fortune? You obviously haven’t used any of it on this place.”
“Why does that matter to you?” she breathed as his body sank closer to hers.
“What can I say? I’m a gold-digger. I might just keep you alive if you can make it worth my while. Where is it, Tanyeshka?” He tasted the sickly sweetness of her ear, and he felt her body buckle beneath him. It appeared as if Tanya wasn’t used to playing on the bottom.
“B…B…Bank Vontobel… in Zurich.”
He walked his fingers down her chest, between her breasts and further down, but stopped just before the promised land. “Account number?”
Edward heard nervous shifting behind the door, but no one entered. He dragged his index finger in a small circle on Tanya’s skin. In one long, unsteady breath, she spouted off a string of digits.
He couldn’t stifle his satisfied smile. Tanya, of course, thought he was seeking another type of satisfaction, so she abruptly bucked her hips into his and wrapped her long legs around him.
“Oh!” she purred wickedly. “Such a hard bulge in your pants, Edward.”
“You feel that, do you?” he replied, lifting an eyebrow. “Want to see it?”
She nodded enthusiastically.
Edward coolly reached down to his pocket and withdrew the ‘hard bulge,’ which happened to be a hand grenade. “Well, look at that, Tanya! Sexy, eh?”
It took Tanya a moment to register what was happening. During this moment, Edward had yanked the pin out of the grenade and slipped the metal ring onto her thumb. “Oops,” he said, shrugging.
“Moiy sestry!” shrieked Tanya, and the door finally flew open, revealing the frazzled Irina and Katrina, just in time for the massive explosion.
Barely ahead of the blast, Edward dove through the glass pane of the window. He landed at the edge of the fireball, somersaulting to his feet in a pile of glass and rubble. It took him a few seconds to discover that his shoulder was on fire, at which point he angrily patted the flame away. “Bollocks!” he hissed, while inspecting the damage to the expensive sweater.
“So then I inspected the damage to my expensive sweater—”
Carlisle released a grumble-like noise. “Okay. This explains why you have a burn mark on your sweater. But how did this ‘mission’ feed you?”
“Hold your horses, Carlie. I’m getting there. I see you don’t care about the joys of a smooth narrative.” Edward eyed him skeptically. “You’re into postmodernism, aren’t you?”
Carlisle lowered his face to his palm. “Fine, whatever. Continue.”
Edward was having a good night. He had taken care of Tanya and her sisters, destroyed a vampire nightclub that served humans like fast food, and obtained an account number that possibly contained Nikolayev’s missing cash. The last bit was good luck indeed, for that had not been a detail of his mission. For this piece of extra credit, he knew he would be rewarded handsomely.
Still, no matter how successful his night had been, there remained one thing that Edward had not gained—blood. And, as the rush of victory wore off, his hunger caught up with him.
Edward’s sensitive ears caught a faint whimper of pain from beneath the rubble. Steelinghimself, he followed the noise until he found its source—a severely wounded human caught beneath the weight of crumbled drywall. Edward’s grenade had been packed full of salicin— enough to eliminate all the vampires in the club, but apparently not enough explosive force to kill this man.
“Please…” choked the man when Edward delicately lifted the rubble from him. “Help me…”
Edward did not pause to allow the man any more words. With one hand, he pulled him out of the wreckage, held him off the ground, and sank his teeth into his neck. He drank deeply, ignoring the quiet bitterness of the traces of salicin left by the explosion. In a matter of minutes, Edward had been fed and he let the last corpse of the night drop to the cold earth.
As always, his first sensation after feeding was a strange iciness in the depths of his body. It was a feeling he had experienced since the first time he had taken a human life, in a damp Manchester basement. He walked away from the burning rubble with one hand in his pocket, his other calmly wiping the blood from his mouth with a single stroke, and his eyes turned toward the ground. This was how all of Edward’s stories ended.
“So that’s it?” exclaimed Carlisle. “You just killed some random victim?”
“But he might have been innocent!”
Edward yanked on the cuff of the shirt beneath his sweater in an effort to straighten it. “Maybe. Or maybe he was a serial killer. You never know.”
“You could have waited… you could have found someone who actually deserved it.” Edward laughed. “You’re funny.”
“You’re a psychopath.”
“Also a possibility.”
Carlisle seemed to study Edward’s expression for a few moments. “It bothers you, doesn’t it? You pretend you don’t care, but you actually hate killing people.”
“Oh boy,” sighed Edward. “Don’t start with this ‘there’s good in you’ bullshit. I’m not Darth Vader.”
“You know, Edward,” said Carlisle with some resignation. “Come to think of it, I could use another vampire to talk to.”
“I’m glad you’ve come to this conclusion. Great. Go home and change your wife.”
Carlisle shuddered. “That’s not what I mean.”
“Well sorry, Carlie, but I don’t do the bonding thing.” He glanced pointedly at Tristram Shandy. “And if you don’t mind, I have a book to read for class.”
Carlisle shook his head very slowly. “Fine.” He paused. “But, if you change your mind, give me a call.” With vampiric quickness, he scribbled a telephone number on the corner of Edward’s book and disappeared.
Later that evening, Edward sat at the desk in his apartment, contemplating the paper he was writing for his early English novel class. Academics always made a mess of his hair, and he must have been quite a sight to behold with a pencil in his mouth and papers scattered in every direction.
Of course, Edward knew that no one would be beholding the sight of him that evening. He lived alone, studied alone, and murdered alone. It had been like this when he was human, sans the murdering, so he never expected an improvement as a vampire. Indeed, the fact that every human was repulsed by him, including his Oxford tutors, seemed like a parody of his early life in Manchester.
Feeling a dark mood come over him, he went to his piano and played a little. He thought about the idea of having friends but didn’t get very far, since he really had no idea what it was like to have a friend.
In any case, Carlisle could never be a friend to him. It would be like a 30-year-old befriending a preschooler. Nevertheless, Edward debated giving the blond kid a call after all. He wasn’t sure why, but it seemed like an entertaining addition to his routine. He wondered if that was why humans chose to have children.
Edward chuckled to himself when he recalled Carlisle’s human wife. After playing a fair amount of sleazy Russian lounge tunes, he stood and walked to his telephone.