Chapter 1 - Holding on

When I was first changed, I never imagined that I could possibly feel content in my life as a vampire. After all, it had been my job to track down and kill these demons who were bound for Hell, and when I was bitten, it seemed my life had ended in more than one sense. But things had been going so right in my life lately. I thought of my son, Edward. A good man, though an eternal teenager, with a kind face and thirst for knowledge rather than human blood. When I had changed him, I felt a twinge of guilt for putting him through such pain, but I never regretted the decision. He was my son, our son.

I pulled my wife, Esme, closer to me, my arms wrapping around her. She smiled up at me, that brilliant grin which made me feel like we were the only people in the world. She loved our children just the same as I did. We were staying near Appalachia at the time, Esme and I, and Edward and Rosalie.

Rosalie, my daughter even if not biologically, was the third human I had bitten and changed into a vampire to live this eternal life with us. I had changed her in the hopes that she and Edward would have the kind of companionship that Esme and I had found in each other. I didn't want my son to be lonely. I wanted him to have someone to confide in and love. My plan had worked out wonderfully. Edward and Rosalie were drawn to each other. Initially, Edward had to get used to her, to warm up to Rosalie's personality. She was quite independent and definitely sure of herself, and her looks. The ability to read the minds of others could be either a gift or a curse at times for Edward. In this case, however, it had all worked out. There's beauty in every person, even if they are a vampire. Edward had found in Rosalie's mind a quality to which he was drawn. They were meant for each other after all. Underneath the obvious good looks, Edward and Rosalie were soul mates. I felt proud that I had brought them together.

Rosalie was still, at times, sorrowful, mourning over her lost human life, but Edward, being as amazing as he was, always seemed able to make her grateful that at least one good thing had come out of her "life of darkness" as she called it - the love between the two of these young vampires. Rosalie was vain but compassionate. Edward was intelligent and polite, and he knew the motives behind her actions, and just what to say to cheer her up.

Edward and Rosalie were now officially husband and wife. Their wedding had been beautiful. I think that had it been possible, Esme would have been crying at their wedding. They had brought out a new intensity to her maternal instincts. Esme, like myself, was overjoyed to see Edward happy, especially in love. He deserved to be happy.

Edward had never had trouble abstaining from human blood, other than a certain rebellious period some years ago when he had preyed upon humans whose thoughts were full of evil. It had been a disappointing and also frightening time. He left his mother and I with no idea where he could be. But he came back to us, and since that day, his diet had been strictly "vegetarian." Edward was the model of a wonderful, obedient son.

"What are you thinking about, dear?" Esme asked, pulling my thoughts out of the past. I looked into her eyes. They were nearly black, as I was sure mine were, too.

"Just our children," I told her honestly. Esme smiled. "I'm beginning to feel thirsty and I have night shift at the hospital in a few days. How do you feel about a hunting trip, just you and me, up in the mountains? Edward and Rosalie fed recently, and I'm sure they will be happy for some quality time together."

Esme considered it and finally grinned and agreed. "I'm feeling a bit thirsty myself. I'll just go tell Edward and Rosalie, Carlisle."

No doubt Edward had already heard the whole idea and was just waiting for Esme to enter his and Rosalie's room to tell them we were going out hunting.

I smiled as I watched her flash up the stairs to find the two of them. How lucky I was. I finally had a family, four people content with each other and living in harmony. Well, four vampires. But four vampires as we were, we all had respect for humanity, a rarity in our kind, that came in for different reasons. Edward could know what humans were thinking. He knew their thoughts, actions, and motives. He couldn't take the life of any innocent human. I had been a doctor for most of my time on this earth. I would not live to take the lives of others. Rather, I would help give them back with my profession. Esme was quite motherly. Children were a miracle in her eyes, although she could no longer have any. Such a good, beautiful creature. And Rosalie. Rosalie, longing for her normal life again. Jealous of humanity, if anything. She wanted mortality. She knew she could never have it, but why let her fate intervene with anyones life if not needed?

Esme was back at my side in a matter of seconds. She giggled, saying, "They said they would rather be alone. I don't even want to think about it, to be truthful." She laughed again. I rolled my eyes playfully and pulled her to my side. "Well, darling, we should go if we want to have time to hunt and be back for you to go to work."

"Yes," I agreed. "Esme?" I asked.

"Hm?" She looked up at me curiously with her fair angel face.

"Have I ever told you how immensely lucky I am to have you?" I caressed her cheek with my cold hand.

She smiled lightly, a twinkle in her dark eyes. Then she laughed. "Something like that I suppose." She reached up to kiss my cheek.

I sighed, content with Esme in my arms as we walked very slowly to the door. She made my existence mean something, simply by being here with me.

Once outside, our skin glimmered in the sunlight and we ran. Ran towards the oncoming forest. Speed. A trademark of our kind. I must admit, I have become quite fond of the speed. It took us just minutes and we were a hundred miles away. In the large forest of Tennessee, Esme and I hunted what we found. Plenty of bears, deer galore. Later that night, I sensed something near the center of the forest and called to Esme, wondering if she was smelling what I was.

She immediately covered her nose with her small hand. Esme was wonderful, but the temptation was certainly strong. "Go back to the house." I ordered her. "I don't want for you to go through this." I was referring to her need to overcome the thirst. The smell of human blood was difficult for all vampires. Had we been human blood-drinkers, the instinct would have taken over right away. But we were vampires of logic, and able to keep our own heads, even when confronted with human blood. Mostly. I was practically immune to the thirst, having been surrounded by it for so long. But I didn't want Esme to have to struggle with it.

"I can stay with you," she insisted. "I'll just...hold my breath. But Carlisle, I think you should go check on whatever it is." She stopped breathing as soon as the last word was spoken. I nodded. I wanted to be with her as much as she did. I just didn't want any accidents to happen. Kissing her cheek, I ran into the encroaching darkness.

From the smell of it, there was plenty of blood, and more was flowing every second. The human had lost plenty of blood, but the heart still beat optimistically, trying to hold on to life.

I heard it far before I saw it. The loud, infuriated roar of a grizzly. When I came upon the scene, there was nothing to do but take care of the bear first. Letting my enhanced strength take over, I pounced on the giant bear, biting into it's neck but not bothering to drink from it. I wasn't as thirsty any more, and now my focus had shifted to the unconscious man lying in a pool of his own blood. He was large, quite tall and muscular. A gun lay a few feet away and I could only assume that it hadn't been much help in self-defense. His nearly black, curly hair was matted to his face. There was blood everywhere.

It looked as if he was nearly dead. I wished I could know how to help him. I was a doctor, but out here with no supplies and after he'd suffered such blood loss, this man was on the edge of life and death. He was going to die. I didn't know him, I didn't know how he had gotten in this situation, so why was I feeling so guilty leaving him in the forest to die? He was young, and despite his white face, twisted in agony at the moment, and gashed body, he was handsome. I knew why I felt guilty. An innocent human was bleeding to death right in front of my eyes. I am a doctor, a man who saves lives. He needed my help.

There was only one way I could think to save his life, and unfortunately, that was to take it from him. But I couldn't do that. Even if he was dying. His life was important, but so was my family's happiness. How could I know how they would feel about this? How this man himself would feel? Would he be relieved, or horrified? My family felt so complete already, was there a point in condemning another to our life?

I was torn. Indecision. Pain. Compassion. What to do?

I ran.

I ran to the only person who could aid in my decision. The only beacon of light in the entire forest. Esme. Explaining to her the situation as quickly as I could, I asked what Esme's input was. Whatever she chose was important.

When I finished, Esme's face was filled with horror, fear, and sympathy. "Oh, poor man!" she exclaimed. She couldn't stand to think of anyone in pain.

"Esme, I can't make this decision by myself. Please tell me what I should do."

She looked absolutely shocked. Of course, this wouldn't be an easy call on her part either. But after a moment of her silent, confused contemplation she took a breath and stated, "Go, Carlisle. I think you should change him. Save a life where you can." She smiled and gave me a gentle push.

I beamed at her in thanks and was back to the man in under a minute. He was still alive, unconscious, his breathing ragged and irregular. He was still bleeding horribly. Letting the venom fill my mouth, I bit him. I didn't even want to think what my other children's reactions were going to be at the moment. I lifted the large man into my arms before the screaming started.