23. Savior

Chicago, Illinois
October 17, 1918
Black Thursday”

The morning of October the seventeenth dawned bright and warm, as though somehow God Himself had decided to chase away the chill of the oncoming Chicago winter. That the influenza had occurred in the fall seemed so appropriate; the worsening weather mirrored the death and destruction taking place among the people. So it wasn’t until the sunlight flooded into Carlisle’s room that morning that he realized how long it had been since he’d seen it.

His apartment had a large, east-facing window. Usually, he kept its curtains tightly drawn, in case another should somehow happen to see into his home. But he threw them open this morning, allowing the sun to bathe him so that every inch of his exposed skin shimmered in the light. He stood and turned around in it.

The mark of his kind. The sign of immortality, this bit that made him so unlike humans. He remembered seeing it first, in the forests of his homeland. Now the lore was that the sun should destroy him, but at the time of his turning, his kind hadn’t even been so much as legend. He had no reason to believe the sun would harm him, and when he’d stepped into its rays, he’d been amazed by his own appearance.

But this was what kept him here, he thought at once. Locked in the apartment on a beautiful fall day, unable to go out, and unable to go to work.

He wondered if the weather would be good for his patients. Certainly there would be mothers and fathers who tried to smuggle their children into the sunlight—either for the benefits of the fresh air, or simply to give their child one last glimpse of sunbeams before their eyes closed forever.

Desperation. He saw it again and again. Husbands and wives, mothers and children, even some children with their parents. One last touch. One last hope.

Would the Masen woman push her son closer to the window today? She continued to ignore Carlisle’s admonitions to stay in bed, instead getting up to care for Edward. From Carlisle’s standpoint as a physician, her behavior was ludicrous: the boy had been all but dead from the moment he’d arrived in the armory; the influenza having ravaged his body like a wildfire over dry underbrush. But Elizabeth had been well, and no doubt her own illness was directly due to her inability to take herself away from her son.

And through all this, Carlisle passed almost unnoticed. He was no more than another physician, there to diagnose, to predict the hour of death, and to confirm death when it came.

He couldn’t die. But if he were human, who would be there to see that he got to see one final sunbeam?

He knew the answer to that question.

Backing away from the window, Carlisle went to sit on his bed. It was new, replaced from the one he’d destroyed only a week ago in his anguish. He’d covered it again with his aging quilt, given to him by the Ladies’ Aid association at the hospital where he’d worked some thirty years before. Like the sun, it was bright; yellows and blues and whites, as though someone expected his home to be cheerful.

They knew nothing.

Were he to trade places with any of his patients, there would be no one. No one who would risk their own health for him. And had there ever been? Certainly not the brothers in Italy. If anything, they would be willing to kill him for risking theirs, not the other way around. Or his friends—Garrett, the feisty American whom Carlisle saw only once or twice a decade. Eleazar, who’d proved to Carlisle that one could escape the Italian Brothers without unending fear of pursuit.

They were his friends, yes. But they would not stand for him the way Elizabeth Masen stood for her husband and son. No one loved Carlisle like that.

His jaw clenched.

But you did have someone, his mind spoke up. At the very beginning, when you first came into this world. Then you had someone who was willing to lay down her life for yours and did so.

It had been three hundred years since he had experienced a love like Elizabeth Masen’s. Perhaps that was why she so fascinated him. To have a mother…someone who would gladly sacrifice her own health for yours, someone who would not leave your bedside…it would be unlike anything Carlisle had ever known.

Women would make him quilts, defer to him as the doctor, love him for who he was as a man with power and knowledge. But no one would look to him as a son, or as a husband. There would be no Elizabeth Masen in his life.

Because there couldn’t be.

His fingertip made its way around the pattern of the quilt. To be loved, he realized, was to be known. And to be known was something he could not allow.

One of his only possessions, save his books and his art, was an old grandmother clock, which sat on his shelf, keeping the time. Its ticking was at once comforting and frightening—the steady beat, like the heartbeat he no longer had, but at the same time the reminder that while Carlisle lay here, the world and its time marched on without him. Humans would continue to die. He would continue to become at once older and yet stay ever the same, tick after tick.

He flopped down onto the bed, staring up at his ceiling, listening to the clock. It was seven-fourteen in the morning. Sunset was usually around six-thirty.

There would be no armory today. And perhaps more frightening, he had not said goodbye to Mrs. Masen and her fiery son.

Would he lose the chance?

Would the Masens have made it one more evening?

“Please,” he said quietly, to the empty room. “Mrs. Masen, please make it.”

Staring at the ceiling, Carlisle lay still and listened to the tick of the clock.

~||x||~

So this was what it felt like to drown, Elizabeth thought as she lay. Every breath she drew seemed wet, difficult to pull. Her lungs felt full, as though instead of light air, there was instead water, sloshing from side to side. She could only draw the shallowest of breaths, and when she did, her breath rattled.

It was the same sound she’d been hearing from Junior’s bed for at least a day now.

Coughing, she swung her legs over the edge of the bed, leaning in toward Edward. He was curled up on his side like a baby—hadn’t she heard somewhere that this was what humans did when they died? Went back to that same position in which they had spent such a long time curled up in the womb?

Her child’s knees were tucked up nearly to his chest, his hands clasped together and pulled tightly to his abdomen. He shivered constantly now; the extra blanket she laid on his body in the night did him no good. She wasn’t even sure if he was awake or asleep—Edward didn’t seem to know his own surroundings any longer.

As though to test this, she laid a trembling hand on his shoulder. “Edward? Edward, it’s Mama.”

There was no response.

She wasn’t sure if the hacking sound that came from her was a cough or a sob.

This was what it would come to. This dingy room in Cook County Hospital; her child succumbing to his own death mere floors from where he’d been born. All her worry about Wilson’s war, and what had really been waiting to take her child away from her was influenza! The same illness he’d suffered so many times as a child to no lasting detriment; for a day or two she’d have a quiet child, only to see him become well and begin tearing up the house again within the week.

The thought almost made her laugh.

“Do you remember, sweetheart?” she whispered. “Do you remember how you used to whoop and holler? We bought you that horse—the head on a stick. How old were you then? Were you four? And you pretended to be a cowboy, galloping around the house so that you destroyed everything in sight.”

A floral-patterned china platter had been the casualty of the stick horse. She scolded Junior so loudly he’d cried, and Senior took away the horse for a week.

She wanted that boy back. The one with too much energy; the rambunctious boy. The one who couldn’t be contained. She wanted this boy, the one curled up here and shaking with his rattly breath to turn back into that one. The pale skin would color again; the sunken eyes would brighten.

And even without a little stick horse, perhaps she could see to it that he went galloping off somewhere…

A chair sat at the end of her bed, and she stumbled to it, barely managing to drag it so that she could sit at Edward’s bedside. His hands were away from her, his back exposed. She could count the knobs on his spine. How was it that the back of the tiny, red-faced baby that she had swaddled only seventeen years ago had become this broad strong back; that the child she’d nursed had grown into this man? And how could it be fair that he would lose his life before he even reached twenty?

“I am so sorry,” she whispered, and was met with a yawn. The hands flexed; the back stretched, and for a moment, his eyes fluttered open. He stared at her, causing her heart to pound.

“Edward? Teddy?”

But his eyes were blurred, unfocused. No longer the sea glass green that gave her child such depth—they were cold, flat, lifeless.

Her mother’s voice came back to her, as clearly as though she sat in the room also. “Your eyes make you look bewitched, Libby. Your eyes look like they belong to the Devil himself.”

Like they belong to the Devil himself…

Her mind swirled. First she was in the waiting room, here—yesterday? Three weeks ago? With Senior…

“This is your Husband?”

Edward. His name is Edward. Edward Masen. Senior.”

At once, seconds later in the room outside the men’s ward, as he’d pressed the items into her hand.

Your husband’s effects.”We don’t usually”—the cough— “I simply thought your son might want to carry his father’s things.”

Then, just as quickly, in the armory, the rows upon rows of ill people lying in their cots. Her child, in the doctor’s arms…

I’ll do my best. That’s what I can offer. My best.”

The hospital again, the nurse who knew him so well.

“He knows things…he’s wise.”

Wise.

Striking eyes. She had them. Her son had them. And so did this doctor.

Was this why? Why he’d shown up everywhere they were; why he’d come down to take care of Senior? Why was it, exactly, that the blond doctor with the strange yellow eyes kept showing up? Why was it that he sat with her when her husband died; carried her son when he was too weak to walk; given them a room to stay together?

Was it fate?

Her mother didn’t believe in fate.

Elizabeth shook her head so furiously her chair rattled. It was the influenza. It was her own mind closing in on itself, deciding that it was near its own end. The doctor was only a doctor; one with a great deal of skill for his age, yes, and compassion…but he was only a doctor…

Edward shivered, and at once Elizabeth reached for him. She would hold him; she thought, as she had seventeen years ago. His skin was hot, and even though he lay here, starving, he was heavier than she.

Caring for him will be the death of her, she heard the nurse’s voice swim in her mind.

But she’d held him in his first moments of life, and if these were to be his last…

As she reached out, she lost her own balance and fell, her head striking the edge of his bed.

Blood gushed down her forehead and her cheek, dripping down to her chin and pooling on the floor.

The room spun.

Because of the fever?

Because of her head?

She closed her eyes.

~||x||~

Carlisle was frantic by the time he arrived at the hospital. The sun was late going down for October; perhaps that was the curse of the beautiful day.

A day he’d been unable to enjoy.

After the influenza passed, he thought, he would move to the country—buy a home somewhere near completely open pastures, where he could run and hunt freely and where others wouldn’t see him on a sunny day. He liked cities for their density; it was easy to be anonymous in a city. Blend in with the humans, and none of them batted an eye when you didn’t want to get too close. That was what cities were for. No one bothered to get to know you. Cold, perhaps, but in its own way, comforting.

But limiting, too.

His throat felt oddly tight as he pushed his way through the huge double doors. How would he find the Masens? He’d been thinking of them all day. Elizabeth, with her incredibly motherly nature; Edward Junior with his fiery temper.

Please, some part of him said as he pressed his way into the corridor, please let them have survived the day.

The room which he’d fought so hard to give them wasn’t far from the door—this was on purpose. It made it easy for him to check on the two of them the moment he arrived. The other doctors and nurses had taken notice, some had even asked if perhaps the boy was his nephew. He insisted he did not know them, but talked about the way Elizabeth’s presence seemed to calm her son.

“If they’re both to have the best outcome,” he explained to his supervisor, “then keeping them close for as long as possible is the best idea.” He promised to write it up as research when he was done; to make it scientific.

But how did one quantify the effects of a mother’s love?

The room was oddly dark when he arrived, even the electric lamp was turned off. It was of little consequence to him; Carlisle saw as well in pitch darkness as he did at noon. The boy’s state was virtually unchanged. His shivering seemed to have stilled to a point, and all that issued from his side of the room were the raspy, rattling breaths of imminent death.

Elizabeth lay on her bed, seemingly unconscious, a fresh bandage on her temple. He frowned. When had this happened, he wondered, making his way to her bed and running a finger over her brow. The blood there was fresh, no more than a few hours old.

“Elizabeth,” he muttered, “what did you do?”

She didn’t so much as stir.

The boy’s lips had turned purple the day before yesterday, but now Carlisle could see the splotches on his arms. If he focused, he could hear the capillaries breaking, one by one. Edward’s breathing was shallow and labored—but for the first time in several days, so was his mother’s.

It was the first time Carlisle had encountered Elizabeth Masen unconscious. Each time he came into the room, she was caring for her boy—giving him extra blankets, rubbing his back, holding his hands.

“You’ll weaken,” he warned her, but she only rolled her eyes.

“Edward is more important,” she repeated every time.

But tonight, she did not lean over Edward’s bed, and her own blanket remained fixed firmly around her torso. Someone had given her an extra pillow—a nurse? Which one?—but its effect on her coughing was minuscule. Her lungs couldn’t drain, and no amount of propping would solve that.

A chair sat between the two beds. She must have moved this here, he guessed, and at once he could imagine the scene; the mother leaning over her son as he lay. In fact—

He looked more closely. Yes, there it was. The tiniest amount of blood on the bed frame. Someone had cleaned it with a rag—amazing, seeing how short the hospital was on nurses now, but it of course hadn’t been cleaned nearly to the point that Carlisle couldn’t sense it.

Of course. Elizabeth had fallen trying to care for her son.

“Oh, Elizabeth,” Carlisle whispered. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry this has happened.” Now it was he who sat in the chair between the beds. He took Elizabeth’s hand in his. At once her fingers interlaced with his, no doubt sensing the coolness of his body.

Carlisle bowed his head in shame.

He’d hoped.

He’d prayed.

He had promised.

And he would fail.

Edward’s breathing was even, with shallow breaths that rattled on their way in and out. How many times had Carlisle heard that sound? The breaths growing close to never drawing again. The erratic tattoo of a heart on its way to giving up.

And before he knew what was happening, he was crying again.

He meant to whisper to Elizabeth that he was sorry, that he had done his best. He meant to apologize, to let her know that for a brief moment, he’d felt a part of them; that he’d remembered what it was to have a family, and that he would mourn them.

He meant to admit defeat.

But what came out was a prayer.

Carlisle didn’t pray often—ironic, he felt, given that he’d grown up the child of clergy. But when one lived eternally in the flesh, it seemed somehow less important to square oneself daily, or even weekly, with the Lord. And with who he was, he was hardly worthy to pray on behalf of another.

He was a killer by nature, even he never killed.

Praying was futile, he told himself long ago.

But this night it was all he had to cling to.

“God,” he began. “Lord, I am sorry. I am sorry I haven’t been able to keep this family together. I regret the mortal foolishness in promising them that I would. I know my own limits. I confess that I am not humble before them, but I will be humble before you.”

He thought back to the destroyed bed; the junk heap, the ashes. Standing despondent outside the window where the small family played board games. The Masens would have played games in front of their fire, enjoyed popcorn, sang and laughed. They were a family.

And he had failed them all.

Carlisle had lived for almost three hundred years. He’d practiced medicine for nearly two centuries of that. How many scores of patients had died?

How many scores of patients had he lost?

And why was it that these two made him feel as though he was losing his own life with them?

For them to live would be a miracle. But miracles were exactly why one prayed.

“Please, Lord, save them,” he said, squeezing Elizabeth’s hand in his. “Save them.”

“Save him.”

The words were so quiet at first Carlisle wasn’t even sure they’d come from Elizabeth. But then, as though his prayer had somehow awoken her from a deep sleep, she sat bolt upright. The green eyes she shared with her son—those striking eyes—stared blankly into nothingness.

Did he even know he was here?

“Save him,” she repeated. And then the eyes did fix on him, sharp and unyielding, as hard as emeralds.

“Save him!”

Carlisle swallowed. The promises had all but done him in. The promises had brought him here in the first place, terrified of the death of these two who, by their own tenacity had somehow brightened him; had made him at once finally feel as though he belonged to them.

And when they died, he would be alone once more.

No more promises.

He gulped. “I’ll do everything in my power,” he said.

The green eyes widened. “You must. You must.” Through some reserve of power, Carlisle wasn’t sure, she shook his arm, her eyes piercing him once again.

“You must” —a cough— “do everything in your power.”

His breath caught.

Had he imagined the emphasis? In his power, as though his power was not the same as hers? It was a cough. It had to be a cough—an extra expulsion of air, and because he was paranoid, he was imagining things…

But then Elizabeth squeezed his arm again, the emerald eyes bored into him.

“What others—cannot—do”—she drew a deep breath, and the effort of it seemed to nearly knock her backward— “You—must do. For my Edward.” For a moment, the eyes closed, and Carlisle thought that certainly, that must be the end. But they flew open once more, and she croaked one last word:

Please.”

Then the eyes closed and she fell back to the pillows.

Carlisle dropped her hand as though it had burned him.

He backed away from the bed, his hands shaking. Elizabeth lay there, unconscious again, it seemed. The frightening eyes were closed now, but an expression of discontent was still etched into the lines of her face.

What others could not do.

Was it possible she knew?

It was not until something solid met his back that he realized he’d backed himself all the way to the wall like some sort of frightened tomcat. It wasn’t such a stretch to imagine standing here, hissing in fear.

Never had anyone discovered his secret, or even come close. And yes, he’d spent more time with Mrs. Masen and her son—exactly the sort of thing he usually avoided for his own safety—but he’d done nothing unusual. His inability to showcase his true abilities infuriated him, held him back, but he kept it all safely tucked inside lest anyone even begin to suspect…

Elizabeth had done considerably more than begin to suspect.

Did he run? Certainly, no one would fault him for running away. Dozens of doctors had, and nurses, too…just came in one morning and disappeared the next. What did he need? Some of his artwork, his books—these things could be in trunks within the hour.

But Elizabeth Masen would die within the hour.

Then why did she want to scare him so? There was nothing for her to exploit.

Except…

Carlisle let himself take a step away from the wall. In the other bed, the boy slept fitfully; though whether it was sleep or simply delirium from the influenza, Carlisle couldn’t tell. He made little mewling noises as he shivered, and with each breath he seemed to fold more completely on himself, keeping himself warm like an animal or a baby.

Save him.

His stomach wrenched so violently that he was sick, right there in the hospital room, with such suddenness and speed that he had no time to even gather a bowl. It splattered onto the floor, a sticky, pinkish mixture of blood and the odd substance that had replaced blood in his veins.

Carlisle wiped the back of his wrist across his shaking lips. He was still trembling.

He couldn’t do that.

If Elizabeth Masen truly knew what he was, she would never ask for her son to join him. If she knew how alone he was—the crushing weight of centuries coming to bear on a single man. The way his choices set him apart from others of his kind; the way he walked such a delicate line, neither fully human nor fully beast, finding home and solace in neither world.

She couldn’t have meant that.

Her breath came shorter now.

A woman burst into the room, wide-eyed. She regarded the vomit on the floor—he panicked: did it look human enough?—but then spoke to him directly.

“Doctor Cullen you need to come. To the women’s ward. You have to come.”

He frowned. It was odd, that this other nurse would come to fetch him.

“Where is Dorothy?” he asked.

The other nurse blinked. “I beg your pardon, Doctor?”

“Where is Dorothy?” he repeated. “Dorothy has been caring for these patients. Where is she?”

The nurse’s name was Lucille, he remembered, and she was young, maybe nineteen or twenty. But she looked as young and as frightened as any other right now, as she began to back her way out of the room.

“Where is Dorothy?”

She shook her head. “Did no one tell you? She’s gone, Doctor.”

The blow of the word was physical, as though the young nurse had struck out at him with a bat instead of a statement. He felt suddenly winded.

“Gone?” he mumbled feebly.

The woman nodded, still in an odd posture as she tried to avoid his eyes.

“When?” His voice squeaked at an oddly high-pitch, as if his voice box had suddenly decided to have a second go-round with puberty.

“This afternoon, before your shift began. It hit her in the morning, and she went delirious. Never came to. It was only six or seven hours; there wasn’t anything anyone could do.”

Nothing anyone could do.

Carlisle let out a strangled yowl, causing Lucille to jump.

“I’m sorry, Doctor,” she mumbled, slowly stepping backward. “I didn’t know you hadn’t heard.”

He stalked to the other side of the tiny room, placing a hand against the wall and dropping his forehead against the wallpaper. Lucille seemed to freeze in place.

“I’m sorry,” she repeated.

“Leave me.”

The words were low and dark, half-growled. A timbre he fought to keep out of his voice; to his ears it made him sound more animal than man.

“Doctor, they need you—”

Leave me!” He slammed his palm against the wall so hard the room shook. Lucille jumped. At once, she began nodding furiously.

“Yes,” she squeaked. “Take your time. The women’s ward; whenever you are ready.”

Then she disappeared, leaving him again alone in the tiny room.

He wanted to cry. He needed to punch something. The sick feeling in his gut persisted, making him even more angry: why was it that God would rob him of human interaction and yet give him these horrid human responses?

Another strangled yowl clawed its way out of him, and then he slumped against the wall.

Dorothy. Gone.

Her gentle voice came back to him. “I’m not your mama, Doctor.”

But she had been, he thought. She had taken that role, however briefly—wiping his hands free of ink, chiding him for foolish behavior, urging him to continue in the path which was best for him and his patients.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he told himself, the words calming him like a meditative chant.

Twice. He’d fallen twice in the midst of this disease. To the Masens, who he knew he couldn’t save, and to Dorothy, who he hadn’t realized he’d needed to.

He let himself have hope. Like an idiot child, he had pretended for a moment that these people cared for him, and it was intoxicating, their love…

The word startled him.

Love?

Had this been love?

These people barely knew him. How could they love him?

Maybe it wasn’t that they’d loved him, he thought, as his gut seemed to twinge once more, and his chest actually ached.

Perhaps it was that for some reason, something about this moment, something about Dorothy, and Mrs. Masen, and her husband and her firebrand of a son—some constellation of things had formed a key and had unlocked something Carlisle had locked down centuries before.

Perhaps it was he who loved them.

Elizabeth’s breath hitched. Her heart beat frantically, as though it would tear from her chest. He could hear it from across the room, where he still stood, plastered to the wall by his own anger and fear.

She’d made her plea. She’d protected her child. And now she could go.

“Stay with me, Elizabeth,” he whispered.

But like so many, she didn’t listen to him. Her breath came in short, rattling gasps, slowing, slowing…

The last exhale might as well have knocked down the building next door. It seemed to echo in the room: long, low, final. He was certain the whole hospital could hear; and he waited for someone to break down the door, to come in with a clean winding sheet, to begin carrying her to the morgue.

Certainly, everyone around him knew what happened here.

But he only stood in the darkness, and no one came.

It was a full three minutes before he tiptoed over to Elizabeth’s bed and laid two cold fingers on her neck. Her body still scalded him, but that would change shortly, he thought. There was no heartbeat. No comforting gentle thud; no reminder of the bit of humanity which separated her from him.

She was as dead as he was, now.

But Edward…

The boy was having difficulty also; it was as though he could sense his own mother’s passing. His breathing had suddenly grown more labored, his chills more intense. The cot rattled against the floor.

Carlisle laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder. It was bony from his time in the hospital; Edward had lost at least a half-dozen pounds since Carlisle had picked him up at the armory so many weeks ago. Yet even ravaged by influenza, his body was strong. For a moment, Carlisle imagined the boy running, jumping, twisting in midair. Faster, stronger, more lithe than he had ever been before…

He shook his head. No fantasizing, he chastised himself.

The boy was human. And humans died.

He sat alone in the darkened room. Elizabeth’s face remained pulled into a frown; even in death, it seemed, she was not at peace.

But what if she had really understood?

In one swift motion, he snatched Elizabeth’s body into his arms, where it hung limply. He would carry her down to the morgue. The morgue was three floors down, in the basement. That would allow him enough time to drop this insane idea.

Under normal circumstances, they would lay bodies out on tables, allowing for autopsy if necessary, or preparing them to go to the undertaker otherwise. But in the midst of this, the morgue was packed and reeked—the uptick in the weather outside had made it warmer inside, too. Bodies lay everywhere: two abreast on the tables, on the long shelves which lined the walls, in nearly every inch of the floor. If it were possible, the bodies were wound carefully in sheets and tagged with their names—yet many had been dumped here in haste; with no sheet, and no name.

So many would go to a steam-shovel grave, dumped in with hundreds of others, without anyone ever knowing who they were. No one would mourn Elizabeth, who’d lost her husband and bravely fought for her son; no one would tell her story. No one would talk about how her son wanted to go to war, how he’d lost his life here in Chicago instead. No one would feel badly for him that he’d watched both his parents die as a young man.

No one would even know who Edward Masen was.

He found a corner where her body would fit. The startling green eyes were flat now, utterly devoid of life. He pressed them closed, and then, by some strange impulse, leaned in and kissed her cooling forehead.

“Thank you,” he whispered.

He wound her carefully, as though even in death, she might feel discomfort. Then he gently laid her among the others.

The walk back to the tiny room took seconds—he wasn’t even certain he’d walked at a human’s pace, and the thought frightened him.

He was losing his mind.

Edward Masen still lay on his cot. He still breathed, a steady, raspy in and out. His chest rose only slightly, and every breath was punctuated with a wet cough.

No one had come in. There weren’t enough nurses. There weren’t enough doctors. Not enough hands, eyes, not enough space in the morgue.

He lifted the boy into his arms. The body seared him, the fever seeming to brand Carlisle everywhere his skin made contact with Edward’s.

Out of the room, Carlisle headed for the stairs.

There was a back door in the morgue; it led to the alleyway behind the hospital where the hearses could come to collect a body to the undertaker. If anyone saw him go in, they would assume the boy had died.

And no one would see him leave.

The boy whimpered.

“Shhhhh,” Carlisle hushed, as though he were trying to calm a baby. “Hush, now, Edward.”

Pushing open the morgue door with one hand, he picked his way carefully through the bodies; tiptoeing between the rows of bound humans. Elizabeth lay near the back. He stopped before her body, and knelt with Edward in his arms.

So many failed promises. But now, he would make one he could keep.

“Thank you, Elizabeth,” he whispered, holding the boy with one arm while he laid a hand on the mother’s cheek. “I will take care of him. I will never leave him. You showed me how to love him, and I will love him as you love him. For all of forever.”

Nothing stirred, including the boy. The morgue was entirely silent.

“Save him,” Elizabeth’s words echoed in his mind.

He gulped, and this time, it was to the boy’s still-burning forehead that he pressed his lips.

“No, Edward,” he whispered, “save me.”

Then he pressed open the door and raced into the cold, unforgiving night.

Chapter Notes

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§ 3 Responses to 23. Savior"

  • soonermom says:

    Achingly good. You’ve given Carlisle such depth. You’ve made it so that he’s not a selfish, lonely monster who longs for companionship, but who, because of the *exact* right circumstances is able to fulfill a promise and do what he has never been willing to do for another human in 300 years. Even though we all know the outcome of this particular instance, I truly felt his unwillingness to do it up to the part where he is told of Dorthy’s death. That was what tipped the scales, at least in my mind. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to the next update!

  • jfly says:

    dear writer, finding a quiet string of moments when i could read this undisturbed took me too long, but the end result was deliciously worth the wait. you write Truth and Beauty. the image you put into my mind of Carlisle’s hand slamming the undecorated wall of the small, dark hospital room when the hapless young nurse delivered the news to him of Dorothy’s demise is a picture striking in both it’s stark simplicity and its raw humanity. you’ve stuck to the theme that this has been the story of Carlisle’s rediscovery of his own humanity. what’s astonishing is to think that a man of such intelligence and compassion took 300 years to connect with it, and yet the “children” he created, who in turn had him as a teacher to guide them on the same discovery, were able to achieve pretty good results in less than a quarter of that time. that, too, is an area in which i think this character is oft underestimated.
    thank you for writing.

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