For Kim, because she asked so nicely.
Special thanks to Niamh929 for helping to cobble the last line. Mood music: Heather Duby - Love You More
I own nothing. But I will gladly take Carlisle any time he wants to stop by.
I'll never forget the first time I saw him.
Before that day, I never thought it was possible for a man to be beautiful. And after that day I never looked at a man the same way again.
I was 16 years old, and my parents had to take me into town because I'd fallen from a tree and broken my leg. Old Doc Pruitt was out of town visiting his latest grandchild, so instead of taking me to his small surgery they took me to the hospital in town. I remember riding in the back of that borrowed automobile, my leg stabbing pain at every bump, thinking that we would never get there. I was mentally cursing Josiah Murphy for not taking no for an answer and forcing me to hide up a tree in the first place.
I was sweaty, dirty, and tired, and all of it ceased to matter as soon as he stepped into the room.
I noticed his hands right away, his long cool fingers that touched my poor leg so gently that it didn't hurt at all. They were the hands of an artist, a true artist whose medium was flesh and bone instead of some paltry substitute like oils or clay.
His eyes were a strange golden color, contrasting remarkably with his pale skin and fringed with dark lashes. He was so caring, stopping to wet a cloth to wipe the dirt and sweat from my face, stroking my hair back from my brow while he told me that it would hurt while he set my leg, but that after that it would feel much better.
I couldn't reply. I was struck dumb by his every movement, by the gentle lilt to his accent, by everything that was Dr. Cullen.
He had me stay in the hospital for a few days to make sure everything was healing well, and checked on me every night several times. By the end of my stay, I didn't want to go. I wanted to stay with him forever.
I didn't get to tell him.
I did go back. Once I was fully healed and able to run off from the farm for the day I snuck back to the hospital to ask after him and tell him thank you. But he was gone. They said that he'd left for a new job only days before.
I had missed him. I tried to tell myself that it didn't matter. That he was too old and that I was too young, but I couldn't forget him. The few minutes that I'd spent with him had changed my life, had carved him indelibly into my heart, and I could never forget him.
I never told a soul.
Time passed, as it always does, and my friends began to marry and start up their own homes. They didn't understand why I wasn't with them in swooning over the local boys or the latest film star. They didn't know that none of them could measure up. Eventually they quit trying and I quit trying to explain.
I thought to go west, to earn a living for myself as a school teacher, but my father would have none of that. A local man had offered to marry me, and while I did not love him I had nothing against him either. I knew in my heart that I would never love anyone but Dr. Cullen, and as that was an impossibility, it seemed a marriage of convenience was better than spending my life alone, a burden to my parents.
I was wrong about that.
I'm thankful that I don't have clear memories of my time with Charles. I only know that it was rough and brutal, and when he left for the war I cried tears of relief instead of tears for missing him. When he returned from the war, it was worse than before and I became pregnant. I had to run away, to save myself and my child from a lifetime of pain.
When he was born, my poor little son, I fell in love for the second time in my life. It didn't matter who had fathered him, he was my perfect little baby. And when he lived for only a few days, my heart shattered once again. Everything that was meaningful had been ripped away.
I don't know how I came to be standing on the edge of that cliff. I only know that from where I was standing, my problems seemed too large to overcome. My life seemed to be a series of sorrows from which there was no escape. I sought peace through the only door that I could find, and I jumped.
At first I thought that the pain burning through my body was the fires of hell. I assumed that it was my punishment for suicide, for leaving my husband, for letting my innocent child die. I could hear a voice telling me impossible things, and recognized it as Dr. Cullen. It was only fitting for me, I supposed, to spend an eternity on fire while I listened to the only voice to ever bring me complete peace.
But the fire began to fade, and the voice remained. I awoke to Dr. Cullen, unchanged and stroking my brow, and wondered if maybe I had managed to make it to heaven after all.
He was as gentle as ever, explaining to me what he had done and apologizing to me. I wouldn't have believed him but for the burning in my throat and the fact that he had not aged. It was the most horrific nightmare and the most fantastic dream at the same time. I had been turned into a vampire, but at the same time I had finally found the only man who had ever meant anything to me. The impossible had come true.
He taught me to hunt, and all of the things I needed to know to survive in my new life. He was patient, trying to shield me from the worst of myself as I worked through the raw emotions that my metamorphosis had brought about. He and his new son Edward seemed to understand just what I needed before I was aware of it myself. They were tireless in their efforts to make the transition as easy as possible for me.
I was afraid that perhaps he saw me as a daughter, like he saw Edward as a son. Or worse, that he meant me as a companion for Edward. I had never been able to let go of my love for him, but did not know how to make my feelings known. And as time passed I began to have the hope that he returned the feelings that I had carried in my heart for the past ten years.
I will always remember our first kiss. We were living in Vermont, and he had taken time off of work to help me through that first difficult year. We had been hunting in the Green Mountains, and I stopped in a clearing to admire the sun as it set. I knew he wasn't far away, in those days I was never more than a stone's throw from either Edward or Carlisle when we were out hunting, but I was still surprised to turn and find him standing there.
He was leaning against a tree, his shirt sleeves rolled up and his collar unbuttoned. The wind was blowing in his blonde locks, and I remarked to myself that even the glory of the sunset behind me could not compare to this man. Slowly, more slowly than I'd ever seen him move, he straightened and walked toward me. His eyes were alight with an expression I'd never seen before, and I was staggered to see admiration there.
We stood there together, gazing into each others' eyes for some amount of time, and then he reached out and gently brushed my hair behind my ear. I closed my eyes and leaned into his hand, and then felt his fingers trailing lightly over my face. He traced my eyelids and the shadows under my eyes, grazing along my cheekbones and down to my chin. His touch was so light, so smooth, but it sent my emotions soaring. I opened my eyes to find his face inches from my own. His lips were trembling as his eyes searched my face, wordlessly asking my permission for something I wanted more than life itself.
Then his lips were on mine, at first soft and hesitant, gaining more confidence as I responded to him. The hand that had been on my cheek moved around to the back of my neck and came to rest in my hair. His other hand slid down from my shoulder to the small of my back to pull me closer. My own hands moved of their own volition to grasp at his collar and twist in his hair. I had been kissed before, but it had never caused such a stirring in my soul. Never before had my heart tried to jump from my chest. Never before had I felt like some essential part of me was rushing out of myself and across the connection into someone else. We didn't need to breathe, but we did anyway, trading breaths with each other and I took his scent far into my lungs to try and hold it there forever.
He finally broke away to trail small kisses along my jaw and then he buried his face in my neck with a sigh.
"I have wanted to do that for so long," he said, his breath puffing onto my neck.
"I have wanted you to," I answered him. I felt his lips curve into a smile against my neck and he chuckled quietly.
It was everything.
We both fell headlong into that rush of love. He never left my side, and I was grateful that neither sleep nor work could steal the hours away from us. He told me everything of his life, from his childhood in early London to his change and beyond. I told him everything I could remember of mine, snippets of memories that he told me would fade with time.
I told him of how I had carried my memory of him long after he had treated me for my broken leg. He laughed gently at that and told me that he had never forgotten me either.
"I couldn't explain it, but I cared for you. You were such a bright spark in that hospital ward. I kept you there longer than I normally would have, just to see you and enjoy you," he admitted shyly.
His shyness was endearing. He would tilt his head to the side and look at me through his lashes. It was a hint of a little boy inside the man, and made me want to draw him to me and cover him with kisses. It was surprising that a man who was perfect in every way could feel nervous around me.
He confessed his inexperience one evening as we were sitting in the grove behind our house watching the stars come out. I was leaning back against him, and he was running his lips gently over my face as he spoke, so I could feel the words from his lips as I was hearing them. His breath was cool and sweet as he told me that our first kiss had been his first in his very, very long life.
"I hadn't time for such dalliances," he said wryly. "I had my father's work to take up, and then once I started this life I never found anyone with whom I felt such a connection. I did meet females during my time in Italy, but they considered me an oddity for my dietary practices, and I never held an interest in any of them."
My heart soared at this, but at the same time plummeted to my feet. I wished that it had been my first kiss, that no man had ever touched me before Carlisle. No man had ever made me feel the way he did, and I wished that he had been my first in everything. He was absolute perfection, and I felt unworthy of him. I felt sullied, as if I should have been saving myself for him all that time. It had only been 10 years, and he had waited centuries.
He didn't seem to be bothered by it, but I couldn't help the ache that came over me every time I thought of it after that. It embarrassed me farther when I knew that Edward could hear the thoughts in my head. He tried to give me my privacy, but finally took me aside one day to speak to me.
"He doesn't see you that way," he said carefully.
"What do you mean?" I asked him, just as careful.
Edward sighed, looking at his hands. He was clearly uncomfortable at what he was trying to say, but seemed determined to say it anyway. "You need to tell him," he said gently. "He would never have told you if he knew it would cause you distress." He looked at me with his piercing eyes and I felt a weight shift inside me. He nodded in approval and left silently.
Edward began to excuse himself from our presence more and more after that, and I would have felt guilty but for the fact that he was probably seeking peace from our thoughts as much as he was giving us space.
I couldn't bring myself to bring up the subject with Carlisle, but he knew something had changed between us. Ever compassionate, he thought it was something that he had done to cause me to be upset. I finally had to confess my fears to him, and tell him my regrets that he was not my first kiss or my first anything. I told him of how I felt dirty and unworthy of his affection.
He listened to me quietly, letting me spill out all of my thoughts until my voice went dry.
"Esme," he said, gently lifting my face with his hand under my chin so I would look at him. "My Only, I wish you had told me of this sooner. I cannot bear to think of the sorrow you have been feeling." He kissed my cheeks, lingering over my closed eyes before he spoke again.
"I would like you to consider this from another point of view." He leaned back to make sure I was giving him my full attention. His perfect lips were curved in a smile and he kissed me quickly before continuing.
"You told me of your marriage to Charles, and of how he treated you." A shadow fell over his face as he remembered my story. He raised my hands to his face and inhaled deeply before kissing them again. "All of those things, all of those experiences you had were not done out of love but out of obligation. Everything that we are experiencing together is a first, because it is the first time you are giving of yourself freely, for love and honesty and desire. It doesn't matter to me that I am not the first man you ever kissed. I am the first one you ever wanted to kiss. Everything else is inconsequential."
He was kneeling before me in the grass, my hands held on his lap. I tugged them slightly and he leaned forward to kiss me deeply. He had lightened my heart with everything he said, and my lips crashed against his with an intensity that I had been holding back. He gasped into my mouth, and took the opportunity to kiss me even more deeply. My teeth grazed his lower lip and I wound my arms around him, trying to pull him even closer than he already was.
He broke the kiss, pulling away reluctantly and sinking back to his knees. His eyes were glazed with passion as he pulled my hands to his chest, holding them over his silent heart.
"Esme," his voice was husky with emotion. "I meant to do this properly, but I can't wait any longer." He scrabbled in his pocket, still holding my hands to his heart in his other hand, and took out a ring. My breath caught in my throat, and I sat back on my heels weakly. "Esme, my only love, I have been searching for you for more than a lifetime. Even before I knew that I was searching for you, I felt an ache that I could not define. When I found you, your love was shining out of your spirit and I thought everyone around me flawed for they could not see it. You have become the center of my world and my reason for living. You are my first and you are my last. Esme, be my wife."
I sat there, my heart swelling larger and larger, my hands clutched in his while his words washed over me. I was quivering, thankful that I could no longer cry so tears couldn't blur my vision of this man, this perfection, who was asking me to be his wife forever. I moved my lips to tell him yes, but no sound escaped. He understood, and pulled me to him, crushing my body against his. I clung to him, sobbing soundlessly. He pulled back, staring into my eyes while he ran his thumb over my cheeks, wiping away my invisible tears. "It's a first," I whispered to him.
"What's a first?" his smile crept over his face.
"This," I said, squeezing him slightly. "When I was married before, it was just a business agreement with my father. For you to ask me, to want me like this... it's a first."
One of his hands slid down my back while the other traveled up my neck into my hair and he kissed me again. I gave myself over to the feeling of his lips and tongue against mine, and felt whole for the first time in a long time.
Edward gave me away. Our ceremony was simple and quiet, just the three of us and the minister of the small country church. The church was picture perfect, white clapboard with a steeple, set in a grove of trees at the edge of the small town. I wore ivory silk, and carried lilies. Carlisle was resplendent, his porcelain skin in sharp contrast with the black of his suit.
I had been afraid that the scent of the human minister might be overwhelming, but I barely noticed him when I was so focused on Carlisle. His eyes held me as we repeated our vows: for better and for worse, to love and cherish above all others, until the end of time.
Carlisle kissed my fingers as he placed the ring on my hand, looking at me through his lashes as his lips grazed my skin. There was something so sensual in that simple gesture, my breath grew short and shallow in my chest. I had never wanted any man the way I wanted him. He smiled impishly at my reaction, enjoying the effect he was having on me.
When the minister finally pronounced us man and wife, I reached up to touch his cheek with my fingers before kissing him. He did the same in return, gazing deeply into my eyes before kissing me so tenderly I nearly felt my heart crack in two.
Who was I to deserve the love of such a man? I had surely pleased God in some way during my human lifetime that he would give me such a reward as this for all of eternity.
Edward insisted on driving us home. He helped me from the car as Carlisle stood watching, smiling crookedly and saying "Congratulations, Mom," before he took off into the surrounding forest. I laughed gaily at this, finally beginning to come to terms with my luck at finding such wonderful men to be my family.
Then I was in Carlisle's arms as he picked me up to carry me over the threshold into our new lives together.
He carried me up to our room, only stopping to kick off his shoes as he crossed our room to the bed. I felt a surge of apprehension. My experiences in this area of my life had all been rough and painful, leaving me feeling bruised and battered. I knew in my heart that Carlisle would not treat me so, but I had no experience otherwise.
He felt my fears, and clasped me gently to his chest without saying a word. I lay there in his arms, marveling at everything about the man I now could call my husband. He, who would never hurt me, who would always love me, who would never take what I would not freely give to him. I felt a surge of heat rush through my body. I wanted to give myself to him, desperately.
I twisted in his arms so I could look into his eyes. There I saw my own desire reflected back to me. Aching need washed over me again at his restraining himself in the face of my fear. I pressed my lips to his urgently, and he responded immediately, his tongue slipping alongside mine as I drank him in.
His fingers trembled slightly as he moved with exquisite slowness to undo the buttons of my dress, stopping after every few to press kisses along my neck and back. "Carlisle," I struggled to get the word out. While I had never experienced it myself, I had heard of people calling the name of their lover while in the throes of passion, but I couldn't manage any more than that. I was rapidly losing coherency and could barely manage breathing.
"Esme," he said tenderly, stopping to stroke my cheek, "I have waited 281 years for this moment. I do not want to rush through it now."
My head fell back under the weight of all that time, and Carlisle took the opportunity to rain kisses upon my neck. He kissed and nibbled his way from my collarbone to my ear while I swam in the swirling passion of his eyes.
I began to work on the buttons of his shirt, following his lead and stopping to kiss him as each one parted to reveal more of his body to me. I grazed my fingernails slowly over the muscles of his chest, following the lines and ripples of his abdomen to the short fine hairs that disappeared into the waistband of his trousers. He tilted his head back and closed his eyes, his blonde hair brushing his shoulders as he sighed in contentment.
His enjoyment emboldened me, and I began to run my lips over him, hoping to get a reaction from him similar to the ones he was causing in me. His sharp intake of breath as my teeth gently passed over his nipple made me smile in triumph. Suddenly I was on my back, my head nestled in the pillows, as he knelt over me. He captured my lips with his, pressing against me urgently while I grasped his shoulders and tried to pull him even closer.
We tugged the rest of our clothing from our bodies, heedless of buttons and clasps as the seams gave way. I needed to feel his body against mine without the barrier of fabric between us. He gasped as I wrapped my legs around his waist, arching my back to press my breasts against him.
Time seemed to slow down again; all of our movements were achingly slow and sweet as we explored each other. He cupped my breasts gently in his hands, running his lips over every inch of my chest. His skilled fingers seemed to find the center of any tension, releasing it immediately with a single stroke.
I marveled at the smoothness of his skin, the muscles of his broad back rippling under my fingers. The curves of his shoulders melted into his neck, which I followed to his hair and ears. The hollows behind his ears were especially sensitive, and I nibbled his lobes gently just to hear him catch his breath.
Our movements echoed each other, our hands sliding over flesh followed by our lips and tongues. I lost track of the world outside of Carlisle. He became the first and the last of everything.
I came to peace with my past as he entered me, crashing his lips against mine in fevered need as I rocked to pull him in deeper. There was no pain, no emptiness, only fulfillment as the heat began to build between us in the delicious friction of our coupling. Every nerve ending of my body was alive and alight as we moved together. Our breathing was coming in sharp gasps as I met his every thrust.
He slowed his movements slightly, nibbling my neck once again and whispering his love in my ears. My fingers dug into his backside as I pulled him deeper, and I locked my limbs around him trying to hold on to him for forever.
His every action transcended the simple lust that I had always thought lay at the root of sexual encounters. I had never felt such exquisite pleasure in my life, and knew that even if my body had been touched before, no man had ever laid his hands on my soul the way Carlisle did. In this, he was truly my first.
I was transported higher and higher with every thrust, and could no longer contain myself against it. I heard him moaning low in his throat, and answered him with my own, seeking to release some of the energy in some way. Our moans only fueled the fire, and he pushed me higher and higher until I thought I might shatter with the intensity of it. I kissed him fiercely, trying to give some of it back to him before I broke in two. The taste of his lips sent me spiraling over the edge. Wave after wave of all-consuming bliss washed over my shuddering form, and I lost myself in him.
"Esme?" Carlisle's voice snapped me out of my reverie and I looked up from the fire to see him smiling at me with a twinkle in his eye. It amazed me that he could still look at me with that same love in his eyes after so many years. Even after a lifetime together, he could always make me feel like I was the only woman in the world with just a glance.
He walked over to my chair, perching on the arm and running his thumb slowly over my answering smile. "A penny for your thoughts, my only?"
I took his hand in mine and began running my fingers over his palm, tracing the lines etched there. "Watching Edward with Bella just reminds me of our own beginning together." I kissed his palm and smiled up at him. "It reminds me of all of our firsts together."
"That it does," he agreed, pulling me to my feet so he could kiss me deeply. His hand cupped my cheek and slid down my neck, coming to rest on my breast over my heart. I smiled into his kiss, and he picked me up to carry me to our room.
Even after 86 years of marriage, with Carlisle, it was always the very first time.