Chapter 4

Edward’s belongings arrived in a truckload of large trunks just before their second Christmas. Never one to take a gift graciously, Edward made several quips about the lack of reindeer, but the delight in his eyes showed nevertheless.

To his amusement, Carlisle learned that Edward was a collector: from his bedroom in Chicago came a whole slew of knick-knacks. Some prompted involved stories about afternoons playing stick ball, or being drenched to the bone sledding in the park. Some of them prompted less involved stories—”This was given to me by my father, I think”—and others, no story at all.

Those were the times that Edward simply got up and walked away. Carlisle would find him a few hours later, curled up on his bed and staring blankly at the wall. Then he would simply slide in behind him so that Edward’s back was against his chest, and run his hands up and down Edward’s torso in between a firm, comforting hold. Sometimes this happened with both of them naked, and those times, Carlisle found his hands made their way to Edward’s groin and his beautiful, silken flesh.

It was on one of these nights that Carlisle discovered Edward’s thighs. The boy was wiry and pubescent in many areas, but his thighs had already become those of a man; strong and supple with coarser hair that Carlisle found intoxicating. So it was that one night, in the midst of holding Edward, Carlisle found himself nudging his member between them. Seeming to know by instinct what to do, Edward clamped his legs as Carlisle began to thrust.

The friction caused him to explode on Edward’s leg in under a minute, and he helplessly pawed at Edward’s hair as he groaned.

“This is what Plutarch meant,” he whispered happily when he’d finally gone still.

Edward grinned.

They celebrated Christmas by swimming nude in the freezing waters of Lake Superior. The water froze at once when they got out, and they spent an hour caressing each other’s faces as they broke icicles out of each other’s hair. Finally, laughing, Edward threw Carlisle into the snow and buried him in icy kisses before straddling his face.

Carlisle bought Edward a piano. Edward, still an overzealous and strong newborn vampire, broke it. So Carlisle bought another. Edward played it gingerly at first, but gradually learned to control his fingers again. He was amazed at his own skill, and the way he could play pieces he’d never been able to master as a human.

It didn’t take very long for Carlisle to discover that it was even more wonderful to thrust between Edward’s thighs when he was bent over the instrument.

They bought a Chevrolet, and it turned out that Edward’s interest in cars almost paralleled his interest in the piano. They both spent time driving and enjoying the feel of the wind in their hair.

Work again became a joy for Carlisle. Edward read and studied and practiced during the nights, and in the mornings, Carlisle returned to cuddle him in their vast bed. Edward still had his own bedroom, but they closed the door on it in mid-February and never looked back.

The following Christmas they took a boat to Canada and spent the night in a cabin, lying next to a fire so intense it would’ve burned a human. They took turns kissing and fondling, and Carlisle fellated Edward so many times that Edward’s penis grew sensitive and he needed to push Carlisle away.

Ashland had a New Year’s tradition of putting on a small fireworks display, with the shells being set off from the end of the immense ore dock. They scaled one of the sheer drops into the lake to see the show from a vantage point that humans couldn’t reach. Halfway through their climb, Edward playfully unhooked Carlisle’s fingers from the rock, sending him careening into the water a hundred feet below. Dripping and with his clothes freezing to his skin, Carlisle wasted no time scrambling after Edward to turn the tables, and Edward responded with another retaliation of his own. It was only after their fourth attempt that they made it to an outcropping where they could watch the show.

They lay in each other’s arms, their legs entwined as they watched the sky light up. Somehow, even though they were the same size, Edward fit so comfortably under Carlisle’s arm, and his head felt so right on Carlisle’s shoulder.

Neither of them said anything during the show. The sky exploded into purples and blues and reds, and the lake twinkled with rainbows beneath it as the humans oohed and ahhed.

It was perfect. Edward was perfect.

Carlisle thought he saw the tiniest smile appear on his companion’s face.

At the stroke of midnight, Carlisle rolled on top of Edward and kissed him for several minutes—long, sensuous kisses that made both of them woodenly erect.

“Happy New Year,” Carlisle whispered. “You are everything to me.”

Edward gave him a coy, lopsided grin. “Everything you ever imagined?”

“Nothing I could ever have imagined.” Carlisle kissed his nose. “But everything I wanted.”

They took a discreet path home and held hands the entire way.

~||x||~

January hit hard, and a snowstorm of several feet froze the shallower parts of the lake. Carlisle walked to the hospital anyway, in a coat buttoned tightly to his collar and with a warm scarf and hat.

“You could go down to the morgue,” one of the nurses suggested when Carlisle was making his fourth utterly unnecessary round of visits to the hospital’s three patients. “No one has been down there since the storm began. I don’t know if anyone has made sure that the bodies are taken care of.”

They had ice boxes in the morgue, but the storm had delayed their delivery of ice, and so the stench of decomposing human flesh met Carlisle when he entered. There were only two bodies; one belonging to a freighter deckhand, killed in a fall from the big ore dock onto his ship, another a young woman who’d come in with mumps the previous week. Both of them were properly identified and lying in winding sheets.

They had maybe enough ice to keep the bodies from completely rotting for another day or so. Perhaps it was possible to sneak out to the lake and drag in a large chunk from the water—he’d have to rig a sled or some such device to make the carry believable.

Carlisle was just standing to execute this plan when the door swung open and an ambulance man entered, carrying a bloodied body in his arms instead of on a stretcher. The face was wrapped in a sheet, but he could see a long skirt and bare legs beneath.

A young woman. His heart sank.

“It’s a cold night to go up on Hollerman’s,” the ambulance man said, shaking his head as he stretched the body out on the examining table. “The winter gets to some folks, I guess. Well, she certainly done what she set out to.”

Carlisle swallowed. Hollerman’s Rise was a scenic viewpoint near the lake, where no doubt some giant rock fall had occurred perhaps tens of thousands of years ago. The result was a sheer drop onto jagged shore that stretched almost a hundred yards before it hit the water.

The hospital always listed the cause of death as “accidental fall.” But everyone knew exactly what that meant.

“Thank you,” he said to the ambulance man.

A shrug. “Sorry to give you more work. We’ll see if we can’t get the body identified.”

More work? It would relieve him from boredom. He began his examination of the body, thankful that rigor mortise had not set in and that he could straighten the limbs.

It was evident from the odd angle the body laid on the table that at least some part of the back was broken. Both forearms were snapped—a common injury in these falls, for it was human instinct to brace oneself. The right leg had broken in a compound fracture—the tibia, he could see. It was a bit of an odd injury for a freefall, unless the woman had somehow managed to land on her feet.

Or unless the bone had already been weak…

Vampires were gifted—or cursed, depending on the day and how Carlisle felt about it—with perfect memory. While at times it took Carlisle a moment to sift through almost three centuries of thoughts, when he did recall, it was as clear as though he were seeing the same thing again.

Esme Platt had been a tomboyish sixteen-year-old girl from London, Ohio who’d taken an unladylike fall from the top of a crabapple tree. Her tibia had broken straight through her shin, and her father had rushed her to the Columbus hospital where Carlisle had worked at the time.

She wasn’t anything like other female patients he’d had. Where most women and girls sobbed and held hands and refused to so much as glance at any sort of injury, Esme Platt peppered Carlisle with questions: exactly why her leg had done what it did, why it bled so much, which leg bone it was sticking out, exactly what were the sutures made of, and why did the laudanum make her giggle?

He answered all of the questions, and each answer only drew another, sharper one. They bantered for the better part of a half an hour.

It was as he was wrapping her leg in plaster that she asked his name.

“Dr. Cullen,” he said, keeping his eyes on the plaster work.

“No,” she said, “I mean your actual name.”

“Oh.” He continued to work. “It’s Carlisle.”

“That’s an odd name.”

He looked up, then, to find her brown eyes twinkling with laughter. He smiled.

“It was a surname, I believe. Perhaps my mother’s.”

“Perhaps?” the girl replied. “You don’t know?”

He looked away then, pretending to be very interested in the plaster. “She died giving birth to me,” he replied. “I didn’t know her, and my father never spoke of her.”

“Oh.”

There was a long silence.

“Esme is not exactly a common name either,” he commented. “One wonders why you are not a Mary, or a Margaret.”

The girl giggled. “I don’t like common names.”

“So then you like mine.”

“I like yours. I’ve never met a Carlisle before.”

“Nor I an Esme.”

She beamed.

He did, too.

The whole encounter had taken less than three quarters of an hour—it had been a slow day at the hospital, much like this one—but he’d found himself unnerved. Why had he told a patient, a stranger to him, about his mother’s death? Why had he even revealed his first name to begin with?

What was it about her that had caused him to reveal himself? And what if she returned, and coaxed even more from him?

He’d fled from Columbus before Esme Platt came in for another appointment.

Carlisle unwound her bloodied sheet.

She was older of course, the girlish roundness of her face replaced by the more severely beautiful structure that marked her as a woman. The hair, which had been shorter, now reached almost to her elbows, even matted as it was with her blood. The teasing smile which had once graced her lips would be gone forever—a crushing force to her nose and jaw had made sure of that.

Esme Platt had jumped.

The words sounded strange to him in that order. He’d known her for less than an hour, but the girl he knew would never have jumped off a cliff.

Perhaps she had been murdered?

His body seemed to grow hot and tense. He would hunt down whoever had done this and…

…and then do what?

A memory flashed in his mind. The day he’d turned Edward, when for a fraction of a day, his eyes had glowed an odd reddish amber, the bit of his singer’s blood that he’d ingested altering his own countenance, reminding him of the demon he was.

No. He wouldn’t kill. He could never look into his own eyes again.

The hair at the crown of Esme Platt’s head was still pristine, and Carlisle found himself running his fingers over it, feeling how smooth and silken it was. He had never had the chance to do that. He’d never run his hand through a woman’s hair at all.

Only Edward’s.

His stomach knotted. Standing here, thinking these thoughts, was that a betrayal of the young man who more than likely, this moment, was waiting anxiously for Carlisle to come home, so that they could lie together and read and laugh and explore each other?

No. Edward could be made to understand. He would be able to see Carlisle’s memory of the effervescent girl, at the way her cheer lit his entire day. He would understand. He would mourn her loss, too.

And if she hadn’t been murdered, then what atrocity had happened in the last decade to turn that joyful teen into a woman who could do this to herself?

He leaned in. “Esme Platt, what happened to you?”

Perhaps there would be some mark, some sign of an assailant grabbing her that would not be obscured by her other injuries. It might give her family some peace of mind, if he could prove that her life had not been forfeit voluntarily. He leaned over her, exploring more closely. And then he heard it.

Like the wings of a butterfly. Impossible for a human to hear. Nearly impossible for him to hear.

Swish.

The valve opening and closing. The flow of blood from one chamber to the next. Slow. Stuttering. But still, a heartbeat.

The girl who fell from a tree was still alive. He could still save her. He could carry her upstairs, lay her on one of the surgical tables, and he would set the bones, and repair the face, and stitch together the gaping wounds…

…he was being an idiot. She was far beyond his medical ability to help.

Edward had taken days of agonizing. Pacing in his office, listening to the pleas of the boy’s mother. Talking to his painting as though his only human friend was there in the room.

He didn’t have that luxury. Esme Platt would die within the hour. He had just enough time to wrestle with the what-ifs: What if she had meant to throw herself off the cliff? What if she hated him? What if Edward hated her? What if she was an unruly newborn and ran?

What would happen to him and Edward?

But then the memory swirled in his mind again.

I’ve never met a Carlisle before.

The morgue had a door directly into the alley, where the undertaker could come with his hearse. Sweeping the body into his arms, Carlisle ducked through it and disappeared into the frigid night.

~||x||~

He was still three hundred yards from the front door when the piano music stopped mid-phrase, the chords ringing mangled and atonal as the pianist leapt from his seat. The bench slammed to the floor, and the front door swung open so quickly that it nearly ripped from its hinges.

It was early morning and still pitch black, the light from the house the only illumination for miles. Edward had made a fire, as they often did, in anticipation of a dawn spent lying entwined on the rug. The firelight flickered behind him, silhouetting his body and casting ominous shadows across the sharp planes of his face.

He looked like a demon guarding the gate to Hell.

“What have you done?”

Carlisle shook his head. He’d had to. He couldn’t let the funny girl with the insightful questions disappear. Not when she was brought to him and he was the only person who knew that she still lived. It had been a sign, hadn’t it? That his decision had been preordained?

Edward took a step back, his eyes wide.

“What did you do?”

Pushing his way into the house, Carlisle made a beeline for the staircase. His bed would suffice as a place for her to lie. He was on the second floor almost in the same instant he’d thought to go there.

Was it his imagination that he heard Edward whisper, “Our bed”?

Edward materialized in the doorway, his face twisted in an agonized horror as he watched Carlisle spread out Esme Platt’s limbs on the bed sheets.

“Take her back,” he said quietly.

Carlisle blinked. It was impossible for him to have not heard correctly, but he still stammered, “I’m sorry?”

“Take her back!”

This time it was an unmistakable shriek.

“I can’t…it’s already begun,” Carlisle answered. “You can see that. You can hear that.”

He had done it hastily, and he would finish the job now that she was home, but he’d nipped just enough, right at the jugular vein. After Edward, Carlisle had his suspicions about how to merge the medical and the mythical, and if he was right, his poison would be quickly whisked back toward her heart and be pumped back out to the rest of her body. It would be expedient, and he would add more, now…

Though if he were to be completely honest with himself, he was worried that it hadn’t been done properly—Esme Platt showed no signs of being in pain. Was it that he hadn’t introduced his venom correctly, or was it that her injuries were so severe that she couldn’t feel the pain?

His arms, which began to warm as soon as he laid Esme on the bed, answered his question. Of course. Esme Platt’s body was nearly entirely frozen, having sat at the base of the cliff for the better part of the day. Now that he thought on it, it had likely been the frigid weather which saved her. The cold caused her blood to flow slowly, and it had kept her alive.

But now she was warming up, and Edward was still a very young, very unpracticed vampire.

“You need to leave,” Carlisle said quietly. “Go hunt. Come back in six or eight hours or so.”

“No! You get her out of our home! She shouldn’t be here!”

Carlisle drew himself to his full height, leaning over Esme’s body, and pointing to the door.

“Edward. Out.”

He was surprised by the authority in his own voice. He’d never given Edward an order. And Edward had never been asked to obey one.

The anger flashed over Edward’s face like the backdraft of a fire. Even across the room, Carlisle caught the tiny flickers of motion that were the muscles in Edward’s arms and legs going taut. For a fraction of a second, Carlisle thought Edward was going to attack; the younger vampire leaned in with his teeth bared. It was only when Carlisle himself stepped back and placed his hands in front of him that Edward’s expression softened even a little.

“It’s already begun, Edward,” Carlisle repeated quietly.

“Then kill her,” came the dark reply.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Then kill her!” Edward repeated, his voice shrill. “Drain her of her blood, or rip her limbs off, I don’t care. You’re a vampire. Kill her!”

They collided in the middle of the room as Edward dove—for him, not for Esme, Carlisle realized, but not before he slammed into Edward with such force that they went crashing into the dresser, shattering the mirror and sending shards spraying into the air. Carlisle threw his arms around the struggling body. Can I hold him?

But Edward was no longer a newborn, and Carlisle was the stronger of the two. Edward’s arms remained pinned as he flailed his hands ineffectually.

“Let me go!” he screamed. “If you can’t do it, I will. She shouldn’t be here! She can’t be here!”

Carlisle tightened his hold and began to pull Edward from the room, with his feet kicking the air like a toddler’s.

If this was Edward’s attitude, then he would simply have to keep the two apart.

“Kill her,” Edward snarled as Carlisle dragged him down the stairs. “Finish what you started, you coward!”

His hands balled into fists and pounded on Carlisle’s chest, making a hollow thumping sound. It hurt, but not as much as it had months ago.

“Finish what you started,” Edward repeated, more weakly, as Carlisle tightened his grip. Like he might have with a tantruming child, he locked one arm around Edward’s head and hair and kissed his cheek. He started to rock him back and forth and shush him.

The pounding began to lessen.

“Finish what you started,” came the feebler reply.

Carlisle shushed again, pulling Edward even more tightly. The fists relaxed, and the palms pressed flat against Carlisle’s chest. This time when Edward spoke, it was in a whisper.

“Finish…what…you…started…”

It was only when Edward could no longer manage to scream that Carlisle even recognized that he had begun to cry.

~||x||~

Edward played melancholy music when he was upset, and the three days Carlisle spent locked in his room with Esme Platt were given a soundtrack of some of the most mournful tunes he’d ever heard. At times, an angry outburst would manifest itself in a pounding, modern piece, but most of the time, they were slow ballads in minor keys.

But the piano never went silent. Its player never moved. And for that, Carlisle found he was strangely grateful.

Edward hadn’t been injured, only ill, and the process of Turning had done little to his body aside from filling him out a tiny bit. Muscles had strengthened, his jaw had squared slightly, his freckles disappeared. Mostly, however, the body of the boy Carlisle carried out of the hospital was exactly the body of the boy who’d become his companion.

This was not the case with Esme Platt. Watching her changing was nothing short of miraculous—limbs askew straightened, bone knitted back together and placed itself back into the proper body cavities, wounds closed as though they’d been sutured weeks before. Even the tiniest details of her body became more beautiful as her fingernails and hair strengthened.

The second day was when Carlisle realized they had no clothes in the house that would be appropriate for a grown woman. Perhaps a younger woman might have found amusement in donning a man’s shirt and trousers for a spell, but Carlisle suspected that such dress would be beyond the pale for his patient.

Edward was playing when he arrived downstairs, and for a moment, Carlisle simply allowed himself to stand and listen. But the music only went on a few more bars before it stopped.

“What do you want?” came the snarl.

They were the first words Edward had spoken In three days.

“I need a favor of you.” Carlisle’s mind raced forward and backward at once, to the idea he’d had to send Edward to wherever it had been that Esme Platt had been living. Again, he wrestled with the soundness of this choice—was it a good idea to send Edward into temptation’s way, especially after exposing him to human blood in their home? Then he thought of the alternative, to send Edward to the town clothier’s, with enough money in his pockets to buy a whole wardrobe.

Edward said nothing, just cocked his head.

“I hope she won’t be needing a whole wardrobe before she leaves,” he said finally. But when Carlisle offered him a fistful of money, he disappeared.

~||x||~

Edward remained gone through the overcast afternoon and on into darkness. At five p.m., Carlisle left Esme’s room. By eight, he was pacing the downstairs with such fervor he wondered that he didn’t manage to wear a line in the floor.

It was three o’clock in the morning when Carlisle finally put on his overcoat. As soon as he put his hand on the knob, however, he found resistance on the other side of the door.

He wrenched it open.

Edward’s hair was matted with snow, two boxes tied with string at his feet. He was standing completely still, staring at the knocker. The wind had kicked up after dark, and little gusts of snow swirled behind him, shimmering in the light from the living room windows.

“How long have you been standing out here?” Carlisle asked.

Edward shrugged. “I wanted to see how long it would take you to come find me.” His voice dropped so low that Carlisle almost had difficulty catching the second part of his sentence: “And if you would at all.”

“Oh, Edward.” Carlisle reached out to him, pulling the slender body in toward him, but as soon as his hands made contact with Edward’s skin, Edward pulled away, grabbing the packages and spinning into the living room. He set them on the floor and continued to stare at Carlisle from a safe distance, his eyes wide.

Behind him, their hulking fireplace was empty—when had Edward shoveled out the coals? Over the past year and a half, scarcely a single winter night went by that they didn’t build a fire and bask in heat that would’ve singed a human.

“Yesterday.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I shoveled the coals out yesterday. While you were…upstairs.”

With Esme.

Carlisle gulped. “I was worried I’d lost you,” he managed.

Edward shrugged, and swung himself around onto the piano bench. He began to play with only one hand, a slow, sad melody that Carlisle couldn’t quite place. For a long time, he simply picked out the notes on the keyboard, keeping his other hand still in his lap.

“I thought about it,” he said at last. “But she does need dresses. And you wouldn’t know what you were doing.” The grin he shot Carlisle was almost playful.

He was right about that. Carlisle didn’t think he had ever noticed what a woman happened to be wearing that day, unless perhaps it was extremely out of the ordinary. But he would’ve been completely lost purchasing the dresses that Esme Platt was likely used to wearing.

Edward shrugged. “I bought ones like the styles my mother liked to wear,” he said. “I don’t have that much experience in that department. Just slightly more than you.”

The teasing felt good. Natural. Carlisle walked toward the piano, put his arms around Edward’s shoulders.

“Thank you,” he whispered, letting his lips brush the top of Edward’s ear.

Instead of leaning into him, however, Edward only twisted away.

“I hope she likes the dresses,” was all he said.

~||x||~

Carlisle didn’t need a stethoscope to hear Esme Platt’s heart. So when it began to speed in the middle of the third day, he parked himself beside her bed.

He’d been keeping the room dark, but as the sun began to sink late in the afternoon, he suddenly wondered if he should perhaps light a lamp. At once he wondered if even the lamp would be enough. Esme Platt had grown up on a farm, certainly, but one near enough to Columbus. And now she’d lived in Ashland for who knew how long.

He should’ve had the house wired.

“That’s excessive, and you know it.”

Carlisle’s head snapped up. Somehow, Edward had managed to go from his bedroom to Carlisle’s and stand in the doorway without Carlisle hearing so much as a footstep.

“Because your mind is”—a frustrated glance toward the bed—”occupied.” Edward entered the room, shaking his head, and stood at Carlisle’s side as they both gazed down at the bed. Esme Platt’s entire body was healed now; her skin unbroken and beautiful, her hair like gossamer against her pillow.

Edward rolled his eyes.

“You’ve never compared my hair to gossamer. Though, truly, don’t start.”

Carlisle pushed him, but grinned. “You never heard anything I thought about you when you were human.”

From the slack-jawed look Edward gave him, it was apparent he’d never considered that.

Carlisle nodded toward the door. “You should probably leave,” he said.

“Why? She’s no longer bleeding. And I couldn’t hurt her now if I wanted to.” His eyes narrowed, and Carlisle had a brief twinge of panic that perhaps his two charges would get into a fight. If they did, Esme would hurt Edward; newborn vampires were always the strongest.

He felt an odd twinge in his stomach at the thought. Had he made a mistake, doing this?

Edward snorted. “It’s certainly taken you a long time to realize that.

There were two chairs in the room, and a half-second later, Carlisle found that the other chair had been pulled up beside him. Edward sat so close their thighs touched, and he scooted so that half his buttocks were on Carlisle’s seat. The two of them watched as sunlight gave way to twilight which gave way to dark.

Edward’s hand made its way onto Carlisle’s thigh. He didn’t remove it.

It was deep into the dead of night that Esme Platt’s heart finally worked its way into a frenzy, beating a frantic tattoo that he thought he would remember forever.

He reached out and gripped her hand.

Edward squeezed his thigh.

When her heart finally stopped, the room was completely still. She didn’t open her eyes, or pull away as Edward had.

An icy fear shot through Carlisle. Had he done it incorrectly?

“Esme?” he called.

When she did open her eyes, they were the startling crimson, and Carlisle and Edward both winced. With Edward, Carlisle had simply forgotten because it had been so very many centuries since he’d encountered a newborn vampire; with Esme, his only excuse for not expecting her eyes was possibly that he spent so much time staring into Edward’s.

The grip on his thigh became more intense.

Esme looked around the room for a moment, no doubt taking in how sharp the view was, how she could see even in darkness. She barely moved, except to shift her head a tiny bit to change her field of view.

He squeezed her hand.

Edward’s fingers dug.

Would she remember him, he wondered? Unlikely, of course. She did not have vampire memory, and any myriad of things had happened to her in the ten years since they’d met. And it had been forty-five minutes, and she had been intoxicated on laudanum the entire time.

“Esme?” he called again.

She turned her head. At once, her brow knitted into a frown. Then, just quickly, it resolved into an awed shock.

“It’s you,” she whispered.

Edward’s door slammed before Carlisle was even able to register that he’d left the room.

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§ 2 Responses to Chapter 4"

  • Sisterglitch says:

    As resistant as I am to everything Esme, YOUR Esme (both in this and in other fics) is irresistible. Damn.

    Carlisle should be with Edward, but emotions are not black and white… and when we are privy to the unspoken as well as the spoken, complexity is exponential.

    The mundane next to the miraculous. How like real life, hmmmm?
    Beautifully done.

    • giselle says:

      Thank you! I adore Esme, but not the Esme that most fic writers write. I adore the woman Carlisle married, and he married her because she was strong and fascinating, not because she was a mousy, overly-agreeable matron.

      “The mundane next to the miraculous.” I don’t think I could say it better.

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