|My Lost Youth
Author: Edward A. Masen PM
The beginnings of a most unusual family, as told by Edward Masen.Rated: Fiction M - English - Edward & Carlisle - Chapters: 23 - Words: 154,953 - Reviews: 508 - Favs: 282 - Follows: 279 - Updated: 01-17-12 - Published: 02-11-09 - id: 4855866
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Chapter 22 - A Fine Invention
Faith is a fine invention
When gentlemen can see-
But microscopes are prudent
In an emergency
- Faith is a Fine Invention by Emily Dickinson
October 7th, 1919
"So it's settled."
Carlisle nodded, hanging the telephone's earpiece into its cradle, having just accepted a position at Ashland's tiny, still-gestating hospital. They'd apparently already mailed the paperwork.
"It sounds like they're disorganized."
"That's not unusual for new hospitals," he replied. The construction's on schedule, though, so the January opening will be on time. I should pay a visit to the Grafton post office tomorrow to see if the paperwork's arrived.
It would be the first mail addressed to Dr. Carl Williamson, recent graduate of Marquette University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. He didn't use an alias often, but thought it prudent this time. It would be one thing if we were leaving the region, like he usually did after spending a few years someplace, but Ashland wasn't really that far. And, as he explained it, this was a new age of automobiles and telephones, with professional organizations that were coalescing, especially in the medical field with all its recent advancements; the world was smaller than it used to be. He'd just finished a several-year stint at one of the best hospitals in Chicago, and enough area physicians had met or heard of a Dr. Carlisle Cullen on staff at St. Luke's that there might be raised eyebrows at mention of a fledgling M.D. of the same name just hired at a new facility in the region; the one they knew of had supposedly gone to San Francisco. Nobody would think twice about a green graduate named Williamson, though, and Ashland was just far enough and small enough to make running into a former colleague highly unlikely.
"Have you come to a decision about Northland?" he asked.
I nodded. "Not this year. Maybe next fall."
I'm sorry. It's not much of a college, is it? We could go somewhere else, perhaps the east coast...
"Ashland's good for now, really," I reassured him.
Northland College was a tiny, fledgling affair; attended by a small number of youth from Ashland and the surrounding area, the available degrees were few. Its size was of concern - being part of classes that averaged five students would make it hard to blend in. Then again, that would make things easier as far as my thirst and my "gift" were concerned, but it wasn't much to get excited about, either.
College wasn't a priority so much as a goal - one of the few things I could still accomplish in the human world, as I would have had I lived. I would always look too young to masquerade in most professions as anything but an apprentice, but a college student? That would be easy enough, even if I couldn't join a fraternity or clubs or sports teams, or go through rites of manhood that many human boys my age looked forward to during their college years. So it was, perhaps, fortunate that my interest in college was... well, academic.
"You can change your mind anytime, no objections," Carlisle said. So many options... "You don't have to limit yourself. You had such outstanding marks from The Latin School. Seems a pity not to take advantage of them."
I shrugged. "There's no rush to do it right now. It's not like I don't have time," I said. "You still like Ashland, right?"
It's as good a place as any... better cloud cover than inland, he thought to me consciously. Meanwhile, a second layer of thought underneath... odd to settle for such a sedate life, staying so close to Chicago... someone his age - in either world - usually can't wait to explore...
His gaze settled on me inquisitively.
"You hardly recognized London when you finally went back."
The expression on his face melted into somber understanding, along with his thoughts.
Yes... you have time.
And some years of it would pass in a little shipping town on the edge of Lake Superior, with a tiny college I may or may not attend, and a much smaller hospital that didn't officially exist yet. Out of the way, quiet. But close enough...
"I wonder why they named it Ashland," I said a little while later.
October 16th, 1919
"How about this one, then?"
Carlisle took one glance at the ad for the Paige Speedster in my hand and winced.
"That's just the illustrator's choice. You can order a different color."
"It's too small."
"Oh, come on, there's plenty of room. And it's fast. The prototype topped 100 miles an hour at Daytona Beach this year."
"Which means it's not even in production yet," he said, taking the magazine out of my hand and letting it slap into the pile of discarded options. "Let's at least limit ourselves to what's available. Besides, all that speed is unnecessary. Flashy vehicles are attention-getters. We need to blend in."
"Is that what you're hoping to do in this?" I asked, picking up a torn-out newspaper photo of Pierce-Arrow's Series 51 limousine from the "possible" pile. He'd been mentally doting over the thing ever since seeing it.
"I thought you liked Pierce-Arrows," he said.
"Some, sure," I replied, recalling my father's own Pierce-Arrow sedan. "But this thing... it's not even an automobile. It's an ostentatious carriage with a motor on it."
A little ornamentation doesn't make it ostentatious. It's stately. Besides, the touring edition isn't quite so large as that one, and overall, I think it-
"-sticks out like a sore thumb," I interrupted. "A big, black, six-cylinder thumb with lanterns stuck to the sides. It actually looks like something Dracula would drive. If you buy this behemoth, I'll get a pipe organ and play Gothic funeral dirges whenever you drive it away. "
His mouth twitched. I wasn't actually going to buy one. I was just admiring it.
I really should've been taking it easier on him; this was, after all, his car we were choosing. But he'd insisted on my input, and boy, did he need it. If he wasn't careful, he'd end up with something like that Pierce-Arrow.
Without even realizing it, poor Carlisle tended to favor vehicles that were throwbacks to luxuriously-appointed, large Victorian carriages he'd admired for a hundred or so years (he'd actually been wistful when he read that Studebaker stopped making carriages), but couldn't use because of the horses needed to pull the things.
He was mindful to keep up with the times and was glad to embrace automobiles, but his tastes desperately needed to be nudged along. The only reason he'd had the Peerless, as it turned out, was because a fellow doctor at St. Luke's had needed to sell it after his wife had thrown a fit of disapproval about the purchase.
We'd been through seventy-three different magazines and papers, and our stack of torn-out ads and photos for the "possible" pile was still thin. I'd suggested a ReVere roadster; he'd shot it down. He'd offered up a Kenworthy 4-80 with a glint in his eye; it went into the discard pile.
"I still think you should order a Meisenhelder," I said, but he shook his head again. "What's wrong with it? It's a touring car."
"I like it, but it's too unique." Maybe I should just get another Peerless. Or maybe one of Ford's Model T's. That's a sufficiently homogeneous choice.
My jaw clenched. "I won't let you get a flivver, Carlisle."
"Let me?" That's pushing it.
"You wanted my opinion, didn't you? Don't get a Model T," I grumbled, mindful not to tear the paper as I flipped through the next magazine."You should at least have-"
My fingers stopped along with my words as I scanned the details of the automobile on page twelve. Now this had potential. The body was close to the type he preferred, but sleeker. It was luxurious in an understated way, and looked like something a young, ambitious doctor might drive around if he had a little money (and if he was ready to have a family; Carlisle was inexplicably fond of excess seating capacity). The maker was well-known and, so far, had staying power. It wasn't meant for speed but had some nonetheless, and was powerful. Westinghouse electric in all the right places.
I held it up. "What about this?"
Not another speedster, he thought, lifting a defeated gaze to the page. But then his head tilted slightly. Say, I like that.
"Not bad, is it?"
"Not bad at all." He reached out and took the magazine to examine the Cadillac sedan shown, imagining it in blue.
It went on top of the possible pile, and stayed there.
November 1, 1919
"I'm not going to be able to keep Aunt Sophie at bay," I told him, folding up her most recent letter. "My uncle's going overseas on business next summer, and she's starting to make plans to bring my cousins and stay at the Magnolia house. If I'm anywhere in the region, there'll be no excuse not to visit at least once."
It was probably why she was coming to begin with, instead of going to Europe with my uncle. I'd turned down all of her invitations to go to Boston.
"Do you want to see them?"
"I don't know."
Part of me wanted to, even if the emotional ties were only vaguely felt. She, Uncle Gerard and their children were my only living relatives.
"Do you think it's possible?" I asked. "How would I explain how different I look?"
"When was the last time she saw you?"
"I was fourteen, I think."
"It's possible. Those are crucial years in terms of physical development... and some who recover from the flu come out a little worse for wear. That could explain your pallor." You don't look sickly in the same way some humans do after surviving, but there's no helping that. They'll think it strange no matter what. And the eyes... "You could avoid feeding for a while before seeing them, so your eyes are a more natural color, but that means your thirst would be on edge."
"What about dark glasses? You could say the fever your affected your eyesight." Sensitivity to light, perhaps? It's not impossible.
"Maybe." They might buy it. I hadn't mentioned anything as drastic as post-flu eyesight deficiency to them before, though, and it would probably seem odd that I hadn't.
Everything they knew about my situation was probably odd to them. As far as they knew, Dr. Cullen had relocated to San Francisco, and I'd spent the summer hiking and camping in the northern reaches of the Great Lakes wilderness. I'd written letters and postcards sometimes, and after my aunt delivered a baby girl in August I sent some gifts and made a telephone call. She'd sounded concerned about my situation and lack of plans for the future, and my news of renting a cabin for the fall hadn't soothed away the worry.
Visiting while they were in Chicago would be my best opportunity to put as many curiosities and worries to rest as possible, but I'd have to stay at the house with them for a couple days to make it look good, and so much could go wrong. How many excuses would I need not to go on outings if it was sunny? What if one of my cousins skinned a knee while I had my guard down? How much of their food would I have to ingest?
I contemplated the whole scenario for a moment, unsure if all the trouble would be worth it. I wasn't sure what kind of feelings it would stir up. What good would it do if I got nostalgic, and wanted to see more of them? I was going to have to play the role of their strangely reclusive relative until my death anyways - I was thinking about "dying" of a sudden heart attack in my mid-thirties - dragging my phony human life on longer than that seemed pointless. Wouldn't it be better for everyone involved if I kept my distance until then?
If he's going to see them, sooner would be better than later. "You only have so much time before they notice you aren't aging."
My Dear Friend,
My brothers join me in offering an apology for the incidents beset upon you as a result of our guards' ill judgment. It is beyond my power to express how dismayed I was upon learning of what transpired during their time with you. The unpleasantness was, as you observed, their responsibility. They should not have taken the changeling to your abode, but sent him to Volterra directly. Rest assured, they have been thoroughly chastened for their actions.
I confess to spending many hours examining their recollections of him, anxious to understand how such a thing could be possible. Among the most puzzling things is how such a singular talent had manifested itself in what appears to have been an otherwise unremarkable being. I would be very interested to know your thoughts on what you observed of him, and any theories you may have developed. How I miss our discussions!
Alas, even the witness Demetri and Santiago bore to his transformations fails to illuminate. What a tragic waste, and so disappointing that observations of his incredible gift must be limited to what is in their memories. Perhaps it is for the best, however. His ability may have created as much discord here as it did in your home.
We are fortunate that you are such a tolerant creature, and so able to place things in the proper perspective. And if I may say so, you are fortunate, indeed, in your fledgling. Your Edward has exceeded every expectation, and we offer congratulations on your triumph. He has adapted to your ways with remarkably little trouble, and I must concede now that my predictions about the impossibility of it were wrong. We look forward to meeting him someday.
As I make my admissions, I know your good nature will permit your own, and that you will not overlook the contributions to peace and stability we have provided. As a result of thorough examination of our returning guard, I am confident that the skirmishes plaguing the southern regions of your home continent have been put to an end. My brothers and I are quite pleased with the results. I must say, it is a pity you did not make Jane's acquaintance, and that her mercurial temperament kept her from visiting. Her talents, which I'm certain you are aware of, were instrumental in the success of our efforts.
I would be remiss if I did not mention another event that took place during our guard's visit- one that troubles me. It seems that, due to a misunderstanding, a valuable possession of yours was destroyed. My brothers and I have yet to use automobiles, but I've recently acquired several for the coven. Heidi, especially, has taken to them. They make her work so much more expedient. I hope you find this one a suitable replacement, and will accept it as a token of our apology for the trouble you've endured.
I am greatly pleased that you admire the painting. Naturally, I could not help thinking of you when I saw it.
While we are sincerely appreciative of your gesture as well, I must beg you not to send any more sports equipment to our covenmates. There have been incidents.
Yours in Friendship,
November 3rd, 1919
I stood in the shade of the cabin porch with Carlisle, listening to him silently read the letter he'd just opened. Letters from Volterra were evidently always sent out double-enclosed and triple-sealed, and it was known among many of our kind that, should a human deliver such a letter with any of the seals broken, the recipient was to deal with the human accordingly- that is, make a meal of them after finding out if anyone else had read it.
Fortunately we didn't have that dilemma. It had been delivered intact, along with an already-paid invoice and release form, all of which were handed to us by a chubby youth while his father unlatched the back of a large freight container to unload cargo they'd been hired to truck here from the port at Milwaukee.
The boy was thirteen or fourteen probably, and vaguely disappointed about the cabin- they'd gotten lost for nearly an hour trying to find the place, and given what kind of car they were delivering, he'd expected it would be the address of some grand mansion.
The elder Harvey of Harvey & Son Freight, however, was a little nervous. They'd hauled a number of vehicles from the docks before, but nothing as fancy as this. He'd reinforced the shell of his freight container just to make sure the thing stayed pristine, and had braced it to the floor with felt-wrapped chains. He was afraid to breathe on it, let alone drive it, as he did now, inching a Pierce-Arrow Series 51 limousine down the ramp.
"She's sure a beauty," the kid said, his gaze locked on the gleaming, black automobile while I examined the paperwork.
Evidently Pierce-Arrow's factory in Buffalo had received a purchase order from an organization in Italy called La Società degli Archivisti Etrusca. Everything had been paid for in advance, including delivery of the vehicle to this address, the arrangement of which was left to Pierce-Arrow.
"Yes, she is," Carlisle said, unable to completely squelch his amusement. I wonder where Aro even saw this...
"Probably the same place most people did," I answered too quietly for the the kid to hear. It was the same model of automobile, after all, that had been specially ordered to greet President Wilson on his triumphant return from the conference at Versailles. The photographs had been in countless rags here, and probably overseas, too.
I guess it shouldn't have been a surprise that Aro had chosen one of the most opulent automobiles in the U.S. to send as a "replacement" gift. The Volturi had sumptuous tastes, after all.
"You want to inspect it?" Harvey asked Carlisle.
"No need. It looks fine, and you've obviously taken great care of it. As a matter of fact, I've got a wrecked Peerless that needs to go to a scrapyard. Are you available?"
"Sure. Does it roll?"
"Not up front, but the rear is fine."
It wasn't long before Harvey and his son were rattling their freight vehicle down the long driveway, taking their deliciously appetizing scent, and the remains of the Peerless, with them.
We stood staring at the shiny behemoth I'd once declared looked "like something Dracula would drive" for a solid minute before Carlisle couldn't stand it anymore.
So, what kind of pipe organ are you thinking about getting?
November 12, 1919
"Oh God, oh God..."
Emanating from, of all places, a warehouse, the drooly cries filtered through the night air as we drove through the outskirts of Duluth, having spent a day getting familiar with the city we'd soon be living nearby.
It was hardly the first time we'd overheard humans engaged in intimate activity. It was part and parcel of the human world, and as with most background noise of populated areas, we'd let it pass out of hearing range without comment. But something about it was bothering Carlisle tonight. His face pinched in annoyance as he glanced in the direction of the offending noise.
I'll never understand why they always say that.
"What?" I asked.
"Oh God, Oh God," he repeated, complete with the breathless feminine affectation we'd heard it in, and I snorted out a laugh. He smirked self-consciously before continuing, unused to mocking anyone. "People say all sorts of odd things when they're mating, but that one oath is the most prevalent by far. I don't understand- why that phrase?" He glanced at me. It's not a religious experience, is it?
"How should I know?"
I just supposed you might have picked up something from their thoughts... "I didn't mean to imply that you know from personal experience," he added. Unless... it's hardly unheard of for young men his age to have had an encounter or two...
"I think I'd remember if I had," I muttered, looking out the passenger window as he shifted into the next gear. A light snow was starting to fall.
I hadn't any experience. I didn't even remember embracing a girl unless it was during a dance. And if my scant memories were any indication, I'd spent more time examining volumes of battle strategy than the pornographic deck of cards that got passed around at school.
Of the fairer sex, I'd apparently known little. My only memory concerning courtship was of my mother encouraging me to pay special attention to a girl named Molly, no doubt a last-ditch effort to distract me from going to war. I only remembered one conversation about the issue, in which I'd plainly stated to my mother that there was no point in developing any attachments since I was going to be in the Army within the year. It sparked a heated argument.
None of it happened, of course, thanks to the flu. My human life had been short enough that, in my most detached moments, it seemed no more than a study in unfulfilled potentials. Romance was just one of them, and hardly the most important. I didn't even remember anything specific except knowing that I'd had a few fantasies, only one of which I recalled with any clarity.
I'd daydreamed about the war constantly, the background usually a rolling French countryside, smoky and scarred by artillery fire. But in one of those imaginings springtime growth was taking over abandoned trenches and blast craters, beginning to restore orchards and vineyards. On a long march from a hard-fought but victorious battle, my fellow soldiers and I would wearily approach a provincial town to seek shelter for the night. The people would greet us as liberators, with cheers, flowers, and food and wine they'd saved for a special day. Pretty girls would blow us kisses. One of them, blushing and glancing shyly at me, would mesmerize me. We would find ourselves alone in the night, with the sweet, healing scents of spring around us. She would be impressed by my perfect French. She would have a heartbreaking story of loss because of the war, and I would comfort her, and we'd get carried away and make love. Of course the union would be honorable, because I'd sweep her off to America as my bride.
It must have been a very good fantasy to have survived in my memory, but it was a foreign thing now, as foreign as the sound of squeaking bedsprings and panting, sweaty humans uttering curses and crying to God, like Carlisle and I had just overheard.
"I try not to pay attention to them," I told him. "Besides, I wouldn't call what they're doing in those moments thinking. They're just... caught up in sensation, I guess. But I can safely say they're not communing with the Almighty.""
"Hmph." Odd, then, that they so frequently utter it.
"You're more likely to understand it than I am," I suggested, turning the tables. "After all, you were almost seven years older than I was when you were turned."
"That was a very different time and place."
"But people had the same urges. You never-?"
"I was a member of the clergy," he said patiently.
"Oh, come on," I laughed. "Since when has 'the clergy' been completely untainted? Besides, it's not as if you had to take a vow of chastity. Anglican clergymen could marry."
"You know I never married."
"What about since then?"
He shrugged a bit, his jaw flexing. This is humiliating.
"You know, I have to admit you're right about this automobile," he said. "It was drawing attention, and it's far too big."
I was already chuckling before he spoke. "I know I was right, but that was still the worst attempt at changing a subject I've ever heard."
"What? You can be curious about my knowledge of women, but I can't be about yours?"
"I'm sure you've seen enough of my patients in my memories to realize that I have plenty of knowledge about women," he said dryly.
"That's funny. I didn't realize we were talking about anatomy."
For heaven's sake, he's never going to let it go.
"You started it," I snickered.
I was curious. I really hadn't thought about it before, but now that I was, I was wondering what to expect in this life when it came to the fairer sex. Carlisle had told me about the mate bond, and I'd observed it in Afton and Chelsea's minds, and there were, of course, the more "hedonistic" sexual indulgences of our kind. I hadn't felt a single urge yet, though, and now I was curious... when would the switch flip on?
Carlisle had been around a while; knew dozens of our kind. His was studiously keeping his mind off anything specific, but there had to be some interesting experiences he'd had. All that time with the Volturi, and then the Alaskan coven he'd spoken of occasionally - there just had to be a story or two about those beauties-
"I've never had a sexual encounter," he said plainly. Is that clear enough for you?
The smooth sound of the engine filled empty space as I went still and my thoughts spurred.
It was incongruous to think of Carlisle being hedonistic, but over the course of centuries he'd not once been with a female? If he'd never... and here I was, similarly devoid of any desires... were we different from the rest of our kind on yet another level?
After several moments Carlisle glanced over, instantly amused by my frozen shock.
"How can you be surprised?" he laughed. "Wasn't I just asking you what people are thinking in those moments? Have you ever seen anything in my thoughts to suggest-"
"No!" I blurted. "But it's... it's like finding out someone's never been swimming before. They might not actually think of swimming, or linger over memories of it, but that doesn't mean they never did it. But then you find out that they never did... and in this case, that someone has been around for hundreds of years!"
"Then what's to worry about? As you know I've done plenty of swimming," he replied.
"But the desire... it's not supposed to be lost when we change," I said, ignoring his facetiousness. It must have been the edge in my tone sobered his thoughts.
"Then shouldn't we feel it? In all that time, didn't you ever want to?"
The last remnants of Carlisle's amusement dissipated as he maneuvered the Pierce-Arrow through thickening snowfall, his eyebrows crowding together.
"Edward, you shouldn't be worrying yourself about this. One minute ago, you were completely unconcerned-"
"Yes, but that was before you sa-"
"-and there's no reason to be concerned now. You shouldn't use my experience as an indication of what to expect for yourself. It's different for all of us."
"Different for the rest of our kind, you mean. At least they have libidos," I muttered, letting my suspicion surface. "It's because we don't drink human blood, isn't it?"
His reaction began with a disconcerted start-
- that turned into a snort-
That's what he's so worried about?
- and then a burst of laughter.
Oh, Edward, no, no-
"What else did you expect me to think?" I barked.
I'd never seen Carlisle laugh so hard before, and if it hadn't been at my expense it might've been infectious.
I'm sorry, Edward, I really am. I suppose it's not an illogical conclusion under the circumstances, but the look on your face-
And with that his laughter doubled, my now-seemingly paranoid words replaying in his mind... "It's because we don't drink human blood, isn't it?"
...that gift of his... sometimes easy to forget how young he is... sorry, sorry...
"Just forget it," I grumbled, folding myself in and glaring out the passenger window.
Vortexes of clumpy snowflakes spun madly in the diluted, amber-hued illumination of the side-lantern as we sped through the storm, and I kept my gaze fixed on them as Carlisle's laughter sputtered out.
Eventually his thoughts turned contemplative as memories came to the surface... presumably memories of females he'd found attractive, since there was a series of images to that effect. But, as usual when thinking of something that called for discretion, Carlisle reined it in and the images vanished.
"Our diet has nothing to do with it," he said in ensuing lull, his voice seeming to roll softly with the engine. "At least, almost nothing. Most newborns are too consumed with bloodlust to think about much else, as you were in your first months. After that, there's room for other appetites, but unlike other newborns you never slaked your thirst. You've had to focus on denying it." But you've been able to focus on other things for a while now... there should be room for other physical cravings, should someone inspire them in you... "And if it will make you feel any better to hear this, then I confess lust is no stranger to me, and there have been... opportunities. I just chose not to indulge."
It did make me feel better, actually, and I gave him a quick, self-conscious smirk of gratitude as I glanced at him, wondering if he was going to elaborate on his choices. But his tone and thoughts, while generally benign, made it clear I shouldn't expect that.
I wondered if, like me, he simply adhered to the doctrines he grew up with as a human, but that didn't quite seem right. Carlisle was clearly a gentleman (as much as any vampire could be), and had a deeply-rooted sense of propriety, but his thoughts were unfettered by the dogmatic prejudices one might expect from a 17th century priest. So many times in our long conversations, some little bit of literary analysis would come up that wandered to the supposedly taboo - homosexuality, premarital relations and the like. There was never any disdain in his thoughts regarding such subjects. As with all other things, he regarded them in whatever context they presented themselves and as part of the whole of humanity - the scientist and humanist in him clearly dominant. And it wasn't as if there were moral and cultural norms among our kind; that might have something to do with it, perhaps. He'd encountered numerous vampires, the succubi Alaskan coven among them, with what would be considered scandalous habits, and he was entirely without contempt.
I remembered Chelsea's words: "You can take the priest out of the church, but you can't take the church out of the priest - at least, not in Stregone's case."
Maybe. For Carlisle, it seemed that only our preternatural state of existence and role as the murderers of our "mother race" that he found truly damning.
When it came to the rules of intimacy... as deliberately diverted as his thoughts were as we drove that night, I knew there was more to his abstinence than that.
November 27, 1919
My shirt is off as I stand in the bare front room of the cabin, now devoid of nearly all furnishings. It's all been moved and awaits us in Ashland.
There is only the table in the corner with some books and instruments on it, a fire in the fireplace, and Carlisle standing close, reaching for me with nervous hesitation. He draws back suddenly, shaking his head and holding up his hands.
I can't do this, Edward. No... "I thought I could, but I can't."
"Yes, you can."
He shakes his head again.
"You said that it was my choice," I protest, closing the distance again. "This is what I want."
It will hurt you, and I can't do that.
I laugh. "A year ago tonight you sank your teeth into me and put me through the worst torment imaginable for three days, but you can't do this? This pain will be nothing compared to the transformation, and it'll only last a few minutes."
"Edward," he sighs, his mind running through the same argument we've had several times now.
Knowing he'll just arrive at the same inarguable conclusion, I hold my hand out.
He stares at the offering for few moments, lips pursed, and then makes up his mind in a whirlwind. Even though I hear his intention, it's still a shock as grabs my arm with one hand and takes hold of my forefinger with another, and cranks it hard. Even the resounding crack is jarring.
Perhaps foolishly, I'd expected the pain to be localized, but instead it screams through my hand, radiates shrilly up my arm and then into my whole being, every cell suddenly a riot of distress signals. I freeze in hissing rage and watch Carlisle take my twitching finger to the instruments in the corner, feeling what he once spoke of... the recognition my body has of part of its whole away from itself...
As I'd hoped, rational thought, while hard to hold onto, is possible.
But rational thought turns out to be a beast of duality. It's entirely rational to want to attack the being that just ripped my finger off and get it from him. Kill him, in fact, is what the rage demands.
But also rational, of course, is the reason for this. Carlisle had done this to himself twice; once out of curiosity and once to show me, a curious newborn, how our bodies behave when parts are severed. Neither time would he have been capable of studying; it's an understatement, I'm discovering, to say that the pain is too much of a distraction.
This was my idea, I try to remind myself. I was so sure I could control myself through the pain long enough for him to get some samples...
He grips my severed forefinger to hold it still while it drools venom into a petrie dish and I turn away, holding my injured hand in the other, grunting through the pain and the urge to attack.
As the next moments elapse, I don't have to pay attention to sounds or thoughts to know that Carlisle is using his own sterile thumbnail (he already knows microorganisms can't survive either on the surface of our bodies or within them, just as man-made instruments can't even make a dent) to hurriedly scrape a minuscule amount of inner flesh and bone away from the appendage onto a slide for examination.
Whether I pay attention or not, though, his thoughts are there. As usual, nothing seems able to mute my gift, not even this.
...just skip the next part... he's in too much pain as it is...
"No," I grind out, at the same time falling to my knees to keep from launching at him. I hold out my injured hand behind me in offering again, and this time my body screams in protest. "Do it."
There's no hesitation. For once he acts without resolving the conflict in his head first. I feel the rush of air on my back as he sweeps in, my hand suddenly in his grip. I grimace in a stilted scream as the razor edge of his thumbnail carves out a sample from my wound, and then he's gone and, thank all the powers that be... my severed finger is in my hand.
It's amazing how quickly the pain dissipates. Just as I saw Carlisle's finger do nearly a year ago, mine knits seamlessly back into place. I can feel every nerve reaching, re-attaching, and when the skin itself joins, it's as if layers of sealant are wrapping into place. Completion.
My first truly rational thought is that one of our questions is answered (and there have been so many lately, as our conversations have wandered time and again to what the nature of our anatomy is really like); my body doesn't require the tiny amount of removed matter in order to knit back into place and feel complete.
Carlisle is by the microscope, watching me cautiously as I rise and turn around again.
"I'm fine," I tell him, holding up my hand. "It feels fine. There's no draw to whatever you scraped away."
His chest, swollen with held breath, collapses as he sighs and nods in relief.
"Well, they're certainly drawn to each other here. Look at this," he says, indicating the pair of slides he has set up.
I approach the table and can see immediately what he means. The two slides are next to each other, one with a scraping from my finger, the other with a sample taken from where the finger was broken off... the iridescent bits of matter on each slide are progressing across the glass as if to join, not quickly but with unmistakeable purpose.
I mutter an oath.
Before the matter on either slide reaches the edge to join, Carlisle places ceiling slides on top of each sample and hands me one set. He braces the other under the lens of a microscope.
"Bad idea," I say a moment later.
Even between the two tightly compressed pieces of glass I'm holding, the matter seems to recognize who's holding it and starts spreading out in a journey to escape and be one with me. I set the slide down on the table well away from the microscope and watch as the matter within retracts back to the center, regrouping as if confused now that I'm not holding it.
Even though part of me is disturbed, the greater part is fascinated.
"See that?" I ask Carlisle.
He draws his gaze from the microscope long enough to look at the slide.
Interesting. No draw to it at all?
"Do you see this?" he asks, going back to what he sees under the microscope.
I harness his vision.
"Yes," I breathe a moment later, examining the obviously crystalline structure along with him.
"The bone shard... look at it!" ...all structure has dimension but this is the first time I've seen microscopic samples with visible multiple dimensionality... so fluid... nothing like it...
He sketched out all he sees and makes copious notes.
He'd examined our surface skin microscopically before, as well as venom. But tonight is a first in a few ways.
He uses an eyedropper to drop a bit of my venom onto a slide of divided samples from my finger and watches how it accelerates the reuniting of the cells (if they could be called that - our cellular structure seems to break a few rules)... how seamlessly they join, developing receptors as they approach one another.
He takes an oral swab of his own venom and compares it to a sample from my own mouth, then compares both to what came from my hand. The oral swabs both varied a bit, and even my oral venom is slightly different from what came from my hand, but all three have an identical core structure, possibly confirming the long-held theory that lineage can be determined by venom.
He holds a lit match to one sample of reunited flesh and watches the aftermath... how utterly and completely the breakdown occurs, each cell disintegrating into onyx dust.
A year after Carlisle transformed me, I insisted we spend the day seeking answers. And although it leads to more questions, the findings in general feel like progress. I don't tell him, but I decide after that to spend every anniversary of my change in a quest for scientific answers to the what, how and why of what we are.
We have one week left in the cabin. In that week, whenever we check what's left in the slides, the matter within them is still active and shows no sign of deterioration.
Neither of us likes to think about what that might imply.
The day we leave, we throw them in the lit fireplace, pile extra wood in, and share quiet, often humorous conversation until the fire burns out.
The ridiculous Pierce-Arrow is stowed in a garage at the new place in Ashland. We drive away from the cabin in a Cadillac.
A/N: Tomorrow I'll be posting tidbits and pictures (including the cars) on the Twilighted thread for this story.
I wish to thank the swami of canon Carlisle, giselle-lx, for planting the seeds of Carlisle's alias in my head. In her ficdom, particularly the wonderful "Stregoni Benefici" (which you must read), Carlisle's father is named William.
Also a shout-out to trainlindz, whose brilliant one-shot "Brick" is partly responsible for Carlisle and Edward discussing sexual intimacy while on the road.
And thank you, much more than usual, for reading.