(Carlisle's POV)

Many thanks to Stephenie Meyer for letting me play with her toys for a little while. I, of course, own nothing. They are all hers.

Author's Note: I'm very grateful to Schizophrenic-Twilight-Lover, who is an awesome beta. Thanks STL, you really are the best!

With a frustrated sigh, I closed the curtain behind me as I exited the examination room.

"Maggie," I called softly to one of the nurses on duty. When she stepped next to me, I instructed her, "Please explain again to Mrs. MacDermitt that she needs to give Kyle the antibiotics I prescribed three times a day – always after a meal. And if his fever returns, she's to treat it with Tylenol. I've explained it to her four times already, but I'm not certain if she's heard me. She seems somewhat distracted."

Maggie's eyes lit up with humour. "Yes, Dr. Cullen. Of course." She understood.

She smirked as she pushed the curtain aside to enter the examination room. "Oh, Dr. Cullen," she said turning back to me. "I almost forgot . . . Bella's waiting for you in your office."

"Bella?" Oh no what had happened now?

"Not to worry," Maggie assured me as she read my expression. "It didn't look too serious."

I'll be right there, Edward. I reassured my son who was undoubtedly waiting with Bella. Surely, Maggie was right. If it had been serious, they would have come in through the ER triage.

Nevertheless, I made my way as swiftly as humanly possible back to my office. I knocked gently before entering, so as not to startle Bella.

As I closed my office door behind me, I noticed a few odd things. One of which was that Bella was alone; Edward was not with her, which surprised me greatly. My youngest daughter was sitting in one the guest chairs in front of my desk. And she was holding an ice pack to the side of her head.

Looking up at me, she smiled sheepishly. "Hey Carlisle. Fancy meeting you here."

I chuckled. "Come here often?" I quipped back.

"Often enough," she smiled shyly and blushed.

Sighing, she dropped her hand holding the ice pack into her lap and stared down at the floor.

"What happened?" I asked her gently as I sat in the other guest chair. I assessed her condition as I waited for her answer. There was no smell of blood, not even the trace amounts that came from small scrapes. Her heart rate was elevated and her breathing was more rapid than normal. I would have put it down to embarrassment if not for the faint smell of adrenaline. Nerves? About what?

She was blushing wildly now, as her eyes darted up to mine for a moment before dropping back to the floor. OK maybe it was only embarrassment. She didn't answer me and it seemed as if she didn't know where to start.

"Why don't you begin with what hit your head?" I suggested quietly as I reached out to feel her scalp. There wasn't even a bump.

"Well . . . actually . . . nothing. I didn't hit my head."

"Oh." Confusion replaced most of my concern.

"I wanted . . . needed . . . to talk with you alone and I thought the hospital was the best place to talk without anyone overhearing. And I would prefer that Edward didn't find out and it's so hard to keep secrets from him. Or from the rest of the family, for that matter." She rushed on, her words beginning to spill over each other. "You see, Edward went out for a quick hunt with Emmett. And Alice was distracted by Jasper." She blushed deeper as she said this. "So I thought that if I made a spontaneous decision to come here now that Alice wouldn't see and I had a window of opportunity to talk with you."

I frowned at her. "But why the ice pack?"

She paused for a moment, biting her lip as she considered her next words. "Because, Carlisle, Edward can't read my mind but he can read yours." She smiled apologetically before continuing. "I realize that you're quite good at hiding things from him, but I also thought that if anything did flash through your mind, it would be better if he saw me with an ice pack. He might think we were hiding another klutz incident from him."

I chuckled at that. "A red herring? To throw him off? Emmett's right. You do have a devious mind." I smiled at her so she'd know I was teasing. She smiled in return.

"All right. You've peaked my curiosity. What's so important, Bella? And why don't you want Edward to know we spoke?"

My question caused her to blush again and she dropped her eyes uncertainly. When she looked up again, it took me a moment to recognize the look in Bella's eyes as I had seldom seen it in her. She was afraid.

"What is it, Bella?" I asked her softly.

She sighed in an effort to calm herself and to collect her thoughts. "Well . . . I was wondering . . . worrying . . . about changing over . . ." Her voice trailed away into a whisper.

Understanding flooded me. "And you didn't want to give Edward any more reasons to avoid changing you?" I nodded to myself. He had certainly been fighting this from the very beginning. "Bella, I won't lie to you. Changing is a painful process. But painkillers have come a long way in the last 70 years. I think if we give you enough medication, it may dull the pain."

"Well, yes, the pain is certainly something to consider. But actually, I was more worried about something else . . . Edward said that when a person changes over that they bring some of their strongest traits over and that they're strengthened."

I nodded. "Yes, that's true. Like Edward's mind reading . . . I believe he must have been sensitive to the thoughts of others while he was human. Alice probably had visions even before she was turned. The fact that she was in an asylum corroborates that theory." I paused to examine her face, trying to read her emotions. This was it – the real cause of her fear. "Are you worried about what trait you will bring over, Bella?"

She nodded and tried to speak but no sound escaped her. She cleared her throat and began again. "How do you know what that will be? Which one will come through?"

She hesitated to meet my eyes, her own eyes darting around the room nervously.

"Is that what you're worried about?" Of all the things to be afraid of! "Bella, you are an extraordinary young woman. I am delighted and honoured to have you join our family regardless of whether there are any "improvements". I . . . we . . . love you very much – as is – as you are now. Don't worry."

"But what if it's not something good, Carlisle? I'm such a klutz! What if it gets worse? We'll be lucky if I leave the house standing!"

I started to interrupt but she continued, giving full vent to her fears now that she had released them. "What if it's even worse, Carlisle? You know me! I'm a danger magnet! What if that gets stronger? I could kill everyone! I'm scared, Carlisle. I don't want anyone to get hurt. I'm scared to lose Edward. And becoming a vampire means I get to keep him. But I feel so selfish! What if I bring disaster down on us? I couldn't go on, knowing I was responsible for . . ."

I chuckled lightly. She stared at me in surprise.

"Bella, Bella. You're too focused on negatives you perceive - like your coordination - and you are overlooking the many amazing qualities you have, that could also be strengthened. Like your intelligence, your courage, your selflessness, your kindness, and your loyalty. Bella, why is it that you can only see the bad things?" I chuckled. "Edward is right. You don't see yourself very well. And frankly, if I were a betting man, I'd wager that your talent will be related to your invulnerability to other talents – like Edward's and Jane's. But whatever happens, it will all work out fine, Bella. I promise you."

I leaned forward and hugged my daughter. She rested her head on my shoulder, as she returned my hug.

"Everything will be fine, Bella. Stop worrying. You don't give yourself enough credit."

She gave a shaky sigh as she straightened up. "Are you sure? You still want me in your family, even knowing that I might turn out . . . less than perfect?"

"Absolutely. And between you and me, I can't wait to see how you'll turn out. I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised."

She smiled shyly at me.

"Better?" I asked.

She nodded without speaking.

I realized again how different Bella was from my other daughters. My older daughters so rarely needed reassurance. Rosalie's fears always centered on other people's perception of her and her need to be the most beautiful, the best. Alice was so self-assured and independent, always living in a time that hadn't happened yet and free to explore all options herself before committing to a course of action.

Bella's need for protection, her fragility, was new to me. Somehow I sensed that, even after her change, she would always need protection, someone to care for her and to watch over her. I certainly hoped so. Edward lived to protect her. He needed her to need him – perhaps even more than he needed blood.

Selfishly, I wanted her to continue to need sheltering too, a daughter who needed me.

"Now, listen," I told her. "Edward has taken care of his own dinner. It's only fair that he take you out for yours as well. Why don't you ask him to take you out for some Italian food once he gets back?"

She laughed.

"Fine then. You have your truck outside?" At her nod, I continued. "I have another ½ hour here till my shift is over. Why don't you go back to the house and wait for Edward? I'll see you there."

She grinned and impulsively hugged me once more before leaving.

When I returned to the house, Esme met me at the door as usual. I smiled at her and embraced her. She was the sunlight in my world. I kissed her softly before greeting our children in the living room.

Emmett and Jasper were debating the benefits of a socialist government in a post-recession economy. Ah, the benefits of an ivy-league education!

Edward stood with his arms around Bella, watching his brothers debate with an amused look on his face.

It looked like Jasper was winning, but it was always hard to tell. Jasper tended to use his talent to make his own arguments seem more reasonable.

Whether or not this was cheating was the debate that always followed every other debate.

Someday I'd have to ask Edward if Jasper did it on purpose or if it was unintentional as he claimed - when he wasn't outright denying using his talent at all, that is.

It looked like this would go on for some time. I was just glad it wasn't the "Who's hotter - Jessica Alba or Jessica Biel?" debate again. I was very sick of that one.

"Me too," Edward laughed as he caught my eye. "And in regards to your earlier question, it's absolutely on purpose!"

I laughed.

Edward stepped away from Bella and, taking her by the hand, began to pull her to the door. "I'm taking Bella to Port Angeles for dinner. We'll be back in an hour or so."

Bella rolled her eyes and muttered something about crazy vampire drivers.

Suddenly an image of Bella sitting in my office holding her ice pack to her head flashed involuntarily through my mind.

Edward turned sharply to Bella. "How's your head?"

She turned to me, mild accusation mixed with understanding in her soft brown eyes.

"Sorry, Bella," I murmured to her. She was right, of course. It was next to impossible to keep secrets from Edward.

"My head's fine, Edward," she said, moving to stand in his arms. "I don't really want to talk about it. I thought you were taking me to dinner," she hinted.

I welcomed the change of topic, but Edward's eyes met mine over Bella's head. I could read the question and the concern clearly.

"She'll be just fine." I smiled at both of them.

She's an amazing young woman, I thought to my son. Now go take her to dinner.

Author's Note: This is my first try at writing from Carlisle's perspective. I hope I did him justice. Please let me know if I did!