26. Sire

Chicago, Illinois
October 18-22, 1918

He’d gone insane.

There was no other explanation for this.

The influenza, the utter devastation, the quiet Chicago streets, losing Dorothy—it had all caused him to take temporary leave of his faculties. Yes, he’d considered this before, creating the companion he wanted. But he’d imagined perhaps a mate, if he were ever capable of falling for one, or at the least a man his age.

Not a seventeen-year-old boy.

This was crazy.

No one had seen him racing through the cold night; for once, the influenza and its utter evacuation of Chicago’s streets had played in his favor. And he’d traveled the rooftops, at his full strength and speed, the wind whipping his hair as he clutched the feverish body to his chest. When he reached home, slowing to climb the stairs like a human was agonizing.

He laid the boy on his bed gently, as though the body with its spindly limbs might break if it landed too hard. At once, the boy coughed, blood spattering the quilt and dripping down his chin. Carlisle immediately began searching for a rag. There were none, of course. He didn’t have use for such things.

He was so utterly unprepared.

Stripping off his shirt, Carlisle used it to wipe the boy’s face, earning another incoherent moan. His shirt became a gooey red mess, so much like the rags at the hospital. The ones Carlisle had learned to ignore with such ease.

But the boy wouldn’t, not right away.

All the bloodstained clothing. The blankets. The mattress. He would need to burn it all, before the boy awoke.

And if that wasn’t enough?

Carlisle’s stomach wrenched. What if he didn’t want to stay? What if he ran? Newborn vampires were impossible to control at times. And always, always stronger than their sires. If Edward ran, Carlisle would be helpless to stop him.

He had to take the boy back to the hospital.

Carlisle’s was already reaching for the slim body when Edward uttered a long, gurgling wheeze.

He didn’t have the lung volume to cough any longer.

Which meant he would die before Carlisle could return him anywhere.

“Oh, God,” he moaned.

If he waited, the boy would die in his apartment. If he tried to take him back to the hospital, could he ensure he was able to steal his way in as easily as he’d gotten out? If he turned him, how could he ensure he would create a man and not a monster?

He’d gone insane.

Carlisle had been to the asylums not so long ago. Rooms not too much unlike his own, in fact, if one removed his chair and his artwork and the cheery quilt. A single, creaking bed, perhaps a sink, the same mice and cockroaches fighting to make their way inside. The same bare bulb hanging from the same cracked ceiling.

And the same, single occupant. Solitary confinement. In the asylums, they used it for the most severe punishment. To drive the worst of the worst to their very brink. The patients went mad in as little as a few days.

Of course, he wasn’t human, he corrected at once. But the differences between humans and him were not absolute. They were always an order of magnitude. He was stronger, faster. It simply took more force to kill him; but he could be killed.

Perhaps it was simply that for him, madness had taken centuries instead of days.

He backed away from the bed and its shivering occupant.

He didn’t even know how this was done. His own attack had been so furious and fast—he remembered falling onto his back, remembered the pain ripping into his shoulder and racing down his arm. And of course, he had the wounds: two ragged crescents where his neck met his collarbone.

It had hurt. A lot.

It would be reckless to inflict that pain on Edward.

Shaking his head, he moved again to the bed. He would take the boy back. That would be best. Edward would no doubt die in his arms, but he would simply carry the boy into the hospital as though he’d come from another staircase, take him down to the morgue, and lay him next to his mother.

His arms were reaching for the boy when the green eyes snapped open. They were still hazy with fever, unable to focus. But his grip on Carlisle’s arm was surprisingly strong.

“Please,” he croaked. “Please.”

Please.

His mother’s final word.

Please save him. Do everything in Carlisle’s power. Save the boy, don’t let him die. Don’t let Edward Masen die.

Edward Cullen.

The name flashed in his mind, unbidden, and startled him.

Edward Cullen.

It was a name of arrival. A name that implied a companionship, a name that made a family where now there was only a boy on a bed and a terrified vampire.

It was a name of hope.

Edward’s plea threw his body into convulsions. He shook on the bed with such force the legs rattled against the floor. His breathing came in tiny, choking gasps, like a doomed swimmer barely keeping his head above water.

He was drowning in his own lungs

Kneeling beside the bed, Carlisle ran his palm down Edward’s face. As always, he turned into the coolness, and at once, Carlisle took both sides of Edward’s face in his hands. He leaned over, putting his face so close to Edward’s that he could feel the wet heat of the boy’s breath.

The green eyes opened again.

“Edward?” Carlisle asked.

A blink.

“Edward, do you want me to save you?”

And there it was. Almost imperceptible, but still there. A nod.

And then unexpectedly, the parched body did what it wasn’t supposed to do. Every fraction of an ounce of water should have been conserved, every fluid retained.

But instead the green eyes went glassy, and out of the corner of Edward’s eye a single tear formed. Carlisle watched as it rolled slowly across the pale cheek, down to the bedsheet beneath, where it disappeared into a tiny dark splotch.

Laying a hand on Edward’s cheek, Carlisle wiped where the tear had fallen with his thumb.

“You’re certain?”

Another nod.

This time, Carlisle nodded back. Gripping Edward’s chin in one hand to expose his neck, he leaned forward once more.

Edward Cullen.

The name of his brother?

The name of his son?

“I am sorry,” Carlisle whispered. “Please, please forgive me, Edward. I am so alone.”

And then, for the first time in his entire existence, Carlisle’s teeth pierced human flesh.

~||x||~

It was the screaming which made him stop. Not the hands clawing at his face, for he couldn’t feel those, and not the body twisting its way out of his grip. And even with the screaming, it took several moments for him to even truly hear it, to register it as a sound of distress, and to recognize that he was the cause…

Carlisle flung himself against the wall with such force the plaster chipped around his body and little white flecks rained to the floor.

He was drinking from a human. He was killing a human.

But Edward isn’t dead, his mind told him just as quickly. He’s still screaming.

And there was still the soft whisper of blood through the valves of the heart.

Swish-thump. Swish-thump.

Edward kept right on screaming.

Lifting a trembling hand to his face, Carlisle wiped his lips. His hand came away sticky and red, making his stomach roil.

I could have killed him, he thought.

He very nearly had.

Aro had been right. To smell human blood was one thing; to taste it, however, was beyond incredible. Sweet, filling, rich. Unconsciously, a hand drifted to his throat. It burned, but not simply with the usual discomfort of having gone too long without feeding. It burned as it had when he’d first been created. Please, it seemed to call him. Please finish him off.

And he wanted to.

It wouldn’t be the end of the world. His kind had killed humans for millennia. He had abstained for almost three hundred years.

One wouldn’t matter, would it?

It was only when the iron sink broke from the wall and crashed to the floor that he realized he’d even grabbed it. Water spurted from the wall, and at once, he began scrabbling for the pipe valve. Even though he found it in inhuman time, his pants still became soaked.

The water, however, cleared his head just enough. At once, he moved to the lone window, flinging open the sash so that the frigid night air rushed in. The scent of the blood lessened at once. Not to the point that it dulled his thirst, but at least enough so that he could think…

Edward let out a guttural yell, making Carlisle wince. He remembered this; the way the venom worked its way through the body, taking it over section by section. That every now and then it would make a jump that seemed monumental, that intensified the pain seemingly a hundredfold. Two hundred fifty years ago, he hadn’t known why, but now he could imagine—the venom flowing through the bloodstream, through the capillaries to the veins and then—whoosh—into an artery, where it would behave like a car sent out onto a speedway.

It was this thought which brought him back. Simply cataloging the direction that the venom would travel, from the neck to the heart to the torso, to the legs…

He again became the doctor. At once, he glanced at the clock. How long had it been? How much blood had the boy lost?

How much blood did you drink from him was what you meant to ask. His stomach twisted with guilt.

The bed creaked as Edward writhed, and slowly, Carlisle crept back across the room. One step at a time, taking a deep breath with each step, stopping, making himself accustomed, just as he once had in France and Italy.

It took him nearly five minutes to cross the room.

It took him another five to take Edward’s hand.

He remembered a small bit of this; that he’d been able to discern place, smells, the utter lack of people. The way, even in his pain he’d found the pile of rotten turnips, with their nauseatingly sweet smell, and crawled between them to hide. That even while he contemplated his own demise, he’d been able to think—to question if he were in Hell, or if anyone would come to find him, or what his father might do were he found. He remembered the darkness that slowly became light. Not because the larder in which he lay became lit, but because his eyes became able to see.

And he had heard everything.

“Edward,” he whispered. “Edward, it’s all right. I know it’s painful.”

Edward only gasped in answer. The grip on Carlisle’s hand became stronger.

Was it his imagination that the boy’s strength was already beginning to match his own?

Already Edward’s blood was changing; Carlisle could smell it. The change was ever so subtle, but it was there—the edge of his thirst taken off. Dulled, not as painful as before.

Gently he released Edward’s hand. At once, the boy’s hand groped, the fingers opening and closing ineffectually in the air.

He was reaching for Carlisle.

Carlisle grabbed his hand again and squeezed it. “I’ll stay with you,” he said. “I promise.”

Letting go of the boy’s hand, Carlisle crossed the room. The sink sat on the floor, the pipe broken in half. Above it was the mirror, and even through the dust, Carlisle could see an image which made him sick—his eyes, sunken and haggard-looking as always, but now an odd reddish-gold. Not the color of his compatriots’ in Volterra, but not his own, either.

He looked like a monster.

Would it go away by the time Edward awoke? How much human blood did one need to ingest in order for the red color to stay? And how much, exactly, had he ingested, anyway?

The sink basin screeched in protest as Carlisle pushed it across the floor. Edward grunted and cried out. At once, Carlisle flew back to his side, grasping the pale hand once again.

The boy’s next groan came through clenched teeth, which amazed Carlisle. Even in the midst of this, the boy was trying to remain strong. But then, he, too, had clenched his jaw, kept himself from crying out, for fear of being found.

It seemed Edward had more in common with him than he thought.

Carlisle ran a hand through the sweaty hair, and Edward curled toward him slightly. As though he recognized him, as though he wanted to be near him.

But why would he want that?

“I—I’m an awful man, Edward,” he whispered. “You didn’t deserve this, and I’m sorry.”

Because truly, how could he explain this?

He could tell the boy what he’d been through, he thought. It would be a series of pitiful excuses, no doubt, for at what point did one justify murder?

And even if he could justify this, where did one even begin? When had it been, exactly, that his life had drifted so far as to lead him here, in an apartment with a boy he’d just bitten.

Carlisle leaned against the bed, the cold metal digging into his bare back.

Swish-thump. Swish-thump.

The blood still flowed. Faintly, quietly, the heart still beat.

He leaned his head next to the body on the bed, so that his hair touched Edward’s skin. “I’m sorry,” he said again, because that seemed as good a start as any. And then he decided to begin at the only place that made sense.

“Edward, I was born in England,” he began, and his voice cracked. “Centuries ago—I know that’s hard to believe. It was during Cromwell’s rule. And my mother died giving birth to me…”

And as Carlisle sat listening to the boy’s beating heart, he began to talk.

~||x||~

On the second day, just before sunrise, Carlisle stopped talking. He stood, threw the bedclothes and his shirt in the sink basin and carefully set them on fire.

His eyes looked less red, he thought, but perhaps that was just a trick of the firelight.

When the blood was nothing more than a pile of ash in the broken sink, he returned to the bed. There was enough room for him, he thought, between Edward’s body and the wall. So he lay down on the bed, too, and started talking again.

In the evening, he stopped talking long enough to examine Edward’s body. The bite had already closed itself, becoming two thin crescent-shaped scars. The pale skin was becoming less pliant, the once-weakened muscles more defined.

He laid two fingers just below Edward’s jaw and felt the gentle throb of the pulse.

The morning of the third day, Carlisle stopped abruptly in the middle of the explanation about Jean-Jaques, and how he’d wound up in Volterra.

Edward had been in the hospital for the better part of a week, and in the infirmary several days before that. His body was yet immature enough that the resultant beard was patchy and almost nonexistent, but it was there. And it would be more easily removed while Edward was still at least partially human.

Carlisle opened his center desk drawer. He’d bought one of the new Gillette razors from the druggist some years ago. He did this, sometimes—bought an item simply out of intrigue for the invention.

He’d never thought he would have occasion to use it.

He had no water or shave cream, but it wouldn’t matter in the long run. Edward thrashed as Carlisle shaved him. Carlisle cut his face several times

The skin healed at once.

In the evening, Carlisle lifted Edward with one arm, and put fresh sheets on the bare mattress.

He burned the old ones.

When he returned to the freshly-made bed, he put his arms around the thin body and continued to talk.

It was the fourth day that Carlisle reached Cook County Hospital in his story, with the woman with the green eyes.

“She intrigued me,” he said to the boy in his arms. “And I don’t know why. You’ll think I’m crazy.”

Was it his imagination that the heart beat faster?

“She reminded me…”

He stopped. Because that was it. He couldn’t say what Elizabeth reminded him of; or whom, just that something about her felt familiar. Just that something had drawn him to her, caused him to change his very nature—to do the unthinkable…

No, he wasn’t imagining it. The boy—Edward, Carlisle had to start using his name—lay gasping in slow, rattling breaths, his heart speeding.

Was that right? Was there something wrong?

“Edward?”

The heart thrummed faster, and Edward began to tremble.

“Edward?”

There came an odd choking noise, and Edward drew one breath—a long high-pitched gasp that hung on the air. Then came the low, long whoosh of the diaphragm going slack, of the lungs emptying completely.

Swish.

Thump.

And then the heart was still.

Carlisle froze. It was their nature, this stillness. Over the years, he’d taught himself to fidget; to shake his leg, to shift his weight from foot to foot. But the reality was, his kind had no need to move, unless they intended to.

So they both were still.

The clock on the bookshelf ticked off several seconds.

It wasn’t until now, with the boy as silent as his own, that Carlisle even realized how full of sound Edward’s body had been; the pumping heart, the breathing, the rasping of mucous in the back of his throat. He’d vomited about twelve hours after Carlisle brought him home, and that, too, had been noisy.

But now there was nothing.

The human boy was gone.

Carlisle didn’t even realize Edward had opened his eyes until he pulled away and sat up. His hair was tousled, standing straight up in the back. He blinked.

At once, Carlisle pulled his arms back to himself, but an imprint remained; the ghost of the body that had been in his arms still exerting a strange pressure on his muscles even as the boy himself made as though to stand.

Then Edward turned, and Carlisle gasped.

He’d forgotten about the eyes. Even as he’d worried about his own countenance, he’d forgotten to consider Edward’s. The last time he’d seen someone new to the life had been at least a century before, and it had been decades since he’d seen another besides himself.

As foolish as it was, a part of him had expected the boy to turn to him with the same bottle-green eyes that had so captured his attention a month before.

Instead, they burned red, the crimson of the new to this life, the remains of the human blood still very much in this no-longer functioning body.

Edward blinked. For a moment, his lips moved, but no sound came out. A moment later, however, he found his voice, and spoke.

“You are so sad,” he said, frowning. “Why are you so sad?”

“Sad?” If anything, Carlisle was panicking. Was Edward all right? What made him think he was sad?

“Because you said so. I felt it—how did you do that?”

How had he done what, exactly?

Carlisle’s mind began to race. No, he wasn’t sad, certainly. He was terrified. He reached out and took Edward’s arm. It was muscled, strong—no longer the weak arm of the dying boy he’d known. Edward would be stronger than him for the better part of a year. What if he wasn’t able to control him? What if Edward ran away? What if the Brothers stepped in to destroy him?

But the boy was scared.

Carlisle pulled himself upright, and planned to affect his most soothing bedside manner possible.

“I didn’t do anything, Edward. What is it, exactly, that you are hearing?”

Edward pulled himself away slightly, his knees curling toward his chest.

“I don’t want to run away,” he said quietly.

He didn’t want to run away?

Had Carlisle said that aloud?

Aro’s face swam in his mind. The smug look of their leader in Volterra, as he read the thoughts of another unsuspecting vampire.

Carlisle dropped Edward’s arm as though it was on fire.

How appropriate, he thought. In such an unbelievably eerie way. Of course, he, who had begged for a companion, who longed to be known, would be sent a young man from whom he could hide nothing. He, who had fled from the constant assault on his privacy that Aro’s gift presented, now found himself a continent and nearly a century and a half away, only to find someone with the exact same gift.

His mind went a million directions at once. It meant he would need to be careful with what he said in his mind, censor his thoughts so as not to overwhelm Edward.

He let his voice take on the most soothing tone he could muster. “I’m glad you don’t want to run away,” he said quietly. “You will be safer here, with me.”

The young man curled himself away from Carlisle again, staring up at him warily. “Who did you leave? And what gift? Where am I?”

Carlisle frowned. Edward was now entirely curled up on himself, his knees locked to his chest, his bony elbows sticking out as he clasped his arms around his legs.

He looked terrified.

Did he notice how fast his body moved? Carlisle wondered. Did he feel that somehow this posture in which he sat was easier to achieve than it had been before?

Did he notice that he was still hearing?

“You’re still talking; of course I’m still hearing you,” Edward snapped. “Dr. Cullen, what happened to me?”

For over two hundred years, Carlisle had been alone, trapped with his own thoughts. But there would be no way to hide himself from Edward. He’d prayed for a companion, and had instead been sent a telepath…

“Sent a what?” Edward said, his eyes wide.

Carlisle took a step back. How jumbled it must sound, the way his mind reeled out of control. All his fears and his hopes, and his desire to take care of this boy, all crashing like a weight—

His loneliness.

His stomach wrenched.

He had for four days been telling Edward his story; pitiful excuse as it was for what he had done to the boy. And through that ran the undercurrent of his very existence; his inability to find another who could share his way of life, the way he’d meandered from country to country, seeking out others like himself, only to be thwarted at every turn.

It was crushing to live with, and now he’d begun his companion’s existence by thrusting all that pain onto him.

I felt it, Edward’s voice said in his mind. Why are you so sad?

Carlisle’s hand found Edward’s shoulder. He could see there the pale crescent of his own teeth on the boy’s neck above his thumb. He stroked this area gently, closing his eyes as he remembered, letting his mind flood with the concern he already felt. He knew, now, that Edward would see it with him, and so he allowed his mind to wander, from the bite, to Carlisle’s recoiling from Edward’s writhing body, to the four days spent caring for him while he underwent his transformation.

To the room at Cook County Hospital; to his discovery of how Edward’s mother cared for him even to the point that she’d fallen against his bed. Edward winced, but at once Carlisle showed him the memory of the night he came to find Elizabeth singing to him.

Edward’s eyes widened, and then squeezed closed, as though he was trying to stem the tide of tears. Tears which, Carlisle knew, would never come.

Carlisle took him back even further, from the hospital to the armory. He felt again the sinking feeling, the terror that he would not be able to help the unconscious boy. And so Edward felt it, too.

And then the concern which had ripped through Carlisle the moment he took the lanky body into his own arms; as he had clutched the boy to his chest, and felt himself flood with feelings he barely had names for.

Tracing the scar on Edward’s neck, he repeated these feelings, allowing himself to attempt to understand it, even as he allowed Edward to peer in at the mess of thoughts. Joy at having found a companion? Fear for what the future held for them both? The sadness and shame, crashing over him, for what he had done? The deep, guttural happiness that Edward had said he didn’t want to leave?

Edward’s posture relaxed ever so slightly, and his eyes fluttered closed again.

Dr. Cullen. Edward had called him Dr. Cullen. Which meant, that for whatever else might be falling to pieces in his mind, he remembered being treated. Perhaps he remembered that Carlisle had been a benevolent force, someone who cared about him and cared for him.

Did he dare hope for that?

Carlisle let his mind continue on. From the armory to the morgue, four nights ago, as he wrapped Elizabeth. As he made his promise to her.

I will take care of him. I will never leave him.”

Edward shivered, and Carlisle squeezed his shoulder.

He couldn’t take the place of Elizabeth. There was no way for him to do that. But he could be whatever it was that Edward found he needed. He could be a friend.

And a friend was what he’d waited almost three hundred years to have.

He moved closer. “Edward,” he said, “there’s much I need to tell you. But to begin, you should probably start calling me Carlisle…”

Then, both aloud and through his mind, Carlisle opened up to his friend.

Chapter Notes

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§ One Response to 26. Sire

  • soonermom says:

    “It was a name of arrival…..It was a name of hope.”

    It’s words like this that make this fic so extra special. I’ve certainly never read a Carlisle with so many layers and such depth, but I can honestly say I’ve rarely read any twific period who had any character as complex as your Carlisle. This chapter was stunning. Absolutely stunning. Thank you so much for sharing it!

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