A/N: Yeah, yeah. I know it took me a year to finish that last chapter. Sorry. I got all caught up in school and whatnot... But I'm watching the trailers for Eclipse, and it's getting me all twi-cited again, so yeah. Here I am! I really am sorry it took me so long :(
Oh, and another thing, I know it's really interesting to hear Edward's thoughts and all, but I'm going to do a little experimenting with this chapter, because everything's all 'he said she said he said she said Edward thinks this, etc. etc.' so yeah... I figured this chapter would work to take a break from that format because it's a lot of Carlisle's history.
Carefully I led Bella backwards toward the place we had just come from. Carlisle was close enough that he should have heard us. We paused outside the door. It was more a sign of respect than wondering whether or not we were welcome. I knew he was waiting for us, but just because I was omniscient didn't mean all sense of common courtesy had to leave the house. Carlisle welcomed me first, then spoke out loud for Bella's sake.
I opened the door softly, leading Bella into the room. She observed her surroundings, looking in awe at the massive collection that stacked up Carlisle's book shelves. They were enormous and covered up the walls, containing thousands of books. He sat at his desk reading an enormous volume that contained hundreds of accounts of demons in seventeenth century England. I suspected that he was looking for information about his family, but I had no idea and didn't feel like asking. He place the bookmark to hold his spot and closed the book, standing up and smiling at Bella.
It was that smile that put his patients at ease so quickly. Part of it was the vampire's ability to charm, I suspected, but most of it was all Carlisle. He was the kind of person who was innately good, innately altruistic, and it showed. It was the kind of personality trait that beamed out of every pore in his stone hard body, the kind of air he carried himself with that could light up a room by simply walking into it. He was my role model, and my father in every way that counted. Often I felt extreme guilt at not being able to exhibit the kind of self-control Carlisle had, though I knew it had taken him centuries to perfect it. He was a doctor, now. He could work with humans, with open bleeding, and he could save them. Without flinching. Without hunger. Without pain.
It was an ability I envied greatly. He had found himself in an impossible decision and made the only acceptable choice. He learned to take this curse that was our existence, and turn it into something positive. He was built to be a predator. He was built to hunt people. He was built to destroy, to kill. And yet he chose not to. He chose to dedicate his life - more time than the mortal life would ever have - to saving them. He chose to do what no vampire before him had ever chosen to do.
He chose to be good.
"What can I do for you?"
"I wanted to show Bella some of our history. Well, some of your history, actually."
We are a family. Our history is the same.
"We didn't mean to disturb you." Bella blurted out, slightly embarrassed.
"Not at all. Where are you going to start?"
"The Waggoner," I said as I pointed Bella towards the other wall - the one we had just come in. Every time I touched her, I heard her heart speed up. She must have realized this time that Carlisle could hear it, too, because I felt the warming sensation of the blood rising to her cheeks.
You two are close.
I dragged her over to the picture I was looking for, giving a slight nod that only Carlisle would have noticed.
"London in the sixteen-fifties."
"the London of my youth." I heard Carlisle approach, but the surprise made Bella flinch. I smiled, squeezing her hand. Carlisle thought a silent apology for startling her.
"Will you tell the story?" I asked him.
"I would." I don't know what you would want me to edit out. This is for you to decide. "But I'm actually running a bit late. Dr. Snow is taking a sick day. Besides, you know the stories as well as I do." I know that you don't want her to know everything about us. I know you worry about frightening her. It is better that you explain our history.
Carlisle smiled at Bella again before leaving the room. She looked up to me, curious.
"What happened then, when he realized what had happened to him?"
I decided that I would tell the story as Carlisle had told it to me, making the necessary edits for her sake...
I was both terrified and repulsed. I had been raised to believe that vampires were demons, that they were monsters, that they had no souls. I was raised to believe that there was no shred of humanity in them. To wake up and find myself as one of them... it was the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced. I didn't want to exist. I didn't want to be alive, because I had thought that my life was not really a life so much as a cursed existence. I believed that I was a demon.
I made the decision relatively quickly. I am surprised, now, to think of it. I didn't want to be alive. So I tried not to be. The first time I climbed up the rock face of a cliff. I stood at the top, with the sea air blowing, and the scents were so intense. I could see everything so much more clearly as a vampire. I could hear things I didn't hear before, I could see things I couldn't see before. But the hunger, the thirst... it was so intense that it burned. My throat burned, and it was almost as bad as the transformation. I was worried, at first, that I was still transforming. But I knew the moment I smelled blood... the pain intensified. I realized that the pain was hunger, but I also learned that I didn't need to breathe, so I held my breath and did not smell the blood anymore. The pain subsided just enough for me to get away from civilization.
I contemplated everything that I was, standing on that cliff, and then I jumped. I had hoped the fall would kill me, but of course - our skin is so much more durable than mortal skin. And I had hoped that if that failed, then I would drown. Needless to say, I had forgotten that I didn't need to breathe. I washed up on shore, irritated at my failure, and very wet. I wasn't cold, obviously. But I was determined to do it right. I made a few more attempts, jumping from various heights, always with the same results. Every attempt made me more desperate to succeed, but I never did. I strayed from the human population, pushing myself deeper into the wilderness, trying to avoid what I believed would be inevitable if I did not kill myself.
I'll never forget that day... I was literally starving to death, and I think it was sort of my final act of defiance. I couldn't kill myself before killing a human, so I would kill myself by not killing humans. I was deep in the forest, and it had been over a year since my transformation. I was very weak, and very close to death. It was merely by chance that the herd of deer passed by me then. They were close enough to me that the smell of blood was overwhelming, and of course I was literally dying. I didn't realize what had happened until I was done. The entire herd was slaughtered. But I was strong. I was full.
It was miraculous. I had the epiphany then. I could live off of animal blood. I was scared at first, unsure how the animal blood would sustain me. But slowly, I started inching my way back toward civilization. And it took me very little time to realize that I could live entirely off of animal blood, and I never had to kill a human. Self control was hard to learn at first, but once it did I could pass as a human. I could live among them. It was a startling revelation, but one that gave me so much hope for my new life. I decided to go to Europe, so I swam the channel to France.
I had always been a scholar of sorts, so it was only natural for me to educate myself as I assimilated into the humans' world once again. I had to travel a lot in my younger years, because communities were tight and superstition still held strong. But eventually that dissipated, and I was free to go where I pleased. I learned everything that I could about any topic I could find along the way. I dabbled in philosophy, theology, music, science. While in Italy I spent some time with the Volturi. A few decades was enough time for me to realize that though they were civilized, they would never understand my nature. It was not in me to kill humans in life, nor would it be in death. So I came to the new world.
I found my calling in medicine. I was able to help people, able to save lives. I made a vow that though I would never kill a human, I would save as many as I could throughout my lifetime to make up for the lives lost to creatures that did not make that choice. I atoned for the sins of my species by saving as many as I could. Medicine was a tricky field for me, however. It took me nearly two centuries of excruciating discipline, and as you know I am now almost completely immune to the scent of human blood. Once I was able to pass that test, I got right in the middle. I saved lives in every medical disaster since the end of the romantic period - plagues, epidemics, wars. All the while trying to atone for my species.
I continued to practice medicine. It was an odd thing for me, however, to be so far away from the Volturi. The solitude was starting to get to me. I wanted a companion terribly, but I did not want to do to another what had been done to me. I was terribly naive and was not exactly sure about how to transform another, even if I could, mentally. Then, during the Influenza Epidemic, I found a startling young man with no family, dying of the disease. I made a promise to his mother to save his life at all costs.
So I did.
"Have you always stayed with Carlisle then?" She asked, curious as ever.
"Almost always." I led her out of the room and down the hall.
"Almost?" I hated how she always caught on when I didn't want to tell her something, and yet when there was something blatantly obvious sitting right in front of her - that I had an insatiable thirst for her blood, for example - she had no idea. I didn't want her to know about my period away from Carlisle. I didn't want her her to know what I had done, what I was capable of. I wanted her to know that I was dangerous, and that she was better off without me. But I didn't want her to actually know that I had killed humans before. I was torn between hiding yet another thing from her, and telling her exactly what she wanted to know. I opted for the latter.
"Well... I had a typical bout of rebellious adolescence, about ten years after I was born-" Was that the right word? "-created, whatever you want to call it. I wasn't sold on his life of abstinence, and I resented him for curbing my appetite. So I went off on my own for a time."
"Really?" There was no hint of fear in her voice. Only the desire to know more about me.
"That doesn't repulse you?"
"I guess... it sounds reasonable." She never ceased to amaze me.
"From the time of my new birth I had the advantage of knowing what everyone around me was thinking, both human and non-human alike. That's why it took me ten years to defy Carlisle - I could read his perfect sincerity, understand exactly why he lived the way he took me only a few years to return to Carlisle and recommit to his vision. I thought I would be exempt from the... depression... that comes with a conscience."
I was too young. I was a fool. I did not realize that the guilt of killing would build up inside of me until I couldn't take it anymore. I reached my breaking point far sooner than I had thought I would.
"Because I knew the thoughts of my prey, I could pass over the innocent and pursue only the evil. If I followed a murderer down a dark alley where he stalked a young girl - if I saved her, then surely I wasn't so terrible." An angel of death. The epitome of retribution. Justice. Blinded. Bella shuddered.
"But as time went on, I began to see the monster in my eyes. I couldn't escape the debt of so much human life taken, no matter how justified. And I went back to Carlisle and Esme. They welcomed me back like the prodigal. It was more than I deserved... My room." I opened the door, giving her room to look around. She liked to observe her surroundings.
The subject was immediately dropped as we walked into my room. i watched her closely as she examined my sound system and decorating, smiling.
"Good acoustics?" I smiled and nodded.
She turned on the radio and jazz filled the room as she examined my CD collection. It was unusual for me to speak so openly with anyone. It was difficult to keep secrets from my family, but every other person I came into contact with - all we were was secrets. We always had to hide things, cover them up. It was never that way with Bella. I could tell her everything, and though it frightened me, anticipating her reaction virtually deaf, unable to tell what she was thinking, and though it frightened her, she was determined to work past everything that stood in our way, just as I was. She was truly my angel. I almost didn't catch her asking me how my collection was arranged. I explained as she turned to look at me. Her face changed when she saw my expression, and the faintest hint of a line appeared between her eyebrows.
"I was prepared to feel relieved... having you know everything, not needing to keep secrets from you. But I didn't expect to feel more than that. I like it. It makes me happy."
Something in her facial expression was wrong. My face changed enough for her to notice.
"You're still waiting for the running and screaming, aren't you?" Of course I was.
"I hate to burst your bubble, but you're not as scary as you think you are. I don't find you scary at all, actually."
I knew she was lying. I knew she was faking it to make me feel better, because even though she was scared of me sometimes, she wasn't about to run.
"You really shouldn't have said that."
I lowered myself into a crouch, all the while reminding myself to be very, very gentle. She was breakable. Oh so very breakable. She glared at me, backing away slowly.
As it turns out, I would. And I did. Every so slightly, I pounced. She didn't see me coming. I was careful to wrap my arms around her to protect her, and she was barely moved.
"You were saying?" It was a playful growl, not enough to actual do anything. Bella smirked, though her sarcasm was diluted by he breathlessness. Beneath her skin, just inches beneath me, her fragile, fragile heart pounded as her blood raced through her body...
"That you are a very, very terrifying monster."
"Um..." She placed her hands on my shoulders and pushed lightly. I hoped it was more about body language, because there was no chance in hell she could ever push me around. I laughed as she asked, "Can I get up now?"
Stop terrorizing my best friend. It came from the hallway. Seriously. You'll scare her away.
"Can we come in?" Bella struggled to get up but I merely readjusted her before calling out my acquiescence. Alice and Jasper stepped through the doorway. Jasper stayed on the other side of the room, but Alice went to the middle of the floor and sat. Jasper stared at me for a moment, surprised.
A bit of fear, a bit of amusement, and more than a dash of sexuality, Edward... you can't possibly be thinking of... she's so fragile...
I slid my head quickly to the left, and then to the right, as Alice was talking.
"It sounded like you were having Bella for lunch, and we came to see if you would share." As a courtesy for her sake, Edward, you know you have to share her with me.
Bella froze, which made me grin. I made the decision to tell Alice, "Who's scaring her now?" in a few minutes, but of course as soon as I did she saw it coming.
"Sorry, I don't believe I have enough to share."
Edward, I swear to God, if you continue to be more difficult than is actually necessary- Just because we were vampires didn't mean the sibling rivalry didn't flare up every once in a while. Though Alice and I usually picked the same side - freaks among freaks - it was nice to have a playful banter going with her.
"Actually," Jasper stepped in, sensing the raised levels of competition and probably worrying about Bella's safety, "Alice says there's going to be a real storm tonight and Emmett wants to play ball. Are you game?"
I hesitated. We had visitors coming soon, and I didn't want Bella to be left alone during that time. But vampire baseball was also not really the safest place for Bella to be.
"Of course you should bring Bella!" Alice smiled from the floor. Jasper stared at her, thinking immediately of her vision of strangers.
Because if you do then you have to share. Hah. I win.
Bella was part of our family now. This was one of our family's favorite things to do. I was suddenly excited. This could be fun, and I could still protect her.
"Do you want to go?"
"Sure." She looked confused. "Um... where are we going?"
"We have to wait for thunder to play ball - you'll see why." I sort of explained it to her.
"Will I need an umbrella?" We all laughed. It was something none of us ever worried about.
"Will she?" Jasper turned to Alice.
"No, the storm will hit over town," She said as she searched. Weather was more easy to predict, because it didn't really ever change its mind.
"Good, then." Jasper sent a wave of light amusement over the room, as much for my sake as for Bella's.
Relax. It's just baseball.
"Let's go see if Carlisle will come." Alice got up and turned toward Jasper.
"Like you don't know." He teased playfully as he led her from the room.
Don't for get. We can still hear you. Jasper closed the door behind him as he went.
"What will we be playing?" Bella asked. I smiled. There wasn't a single human who could ever keep up with us.
"You will be watching. We will be playing baseball."
"Vampires play baseball?"
Silly Bella, I thought to myself. She was always so... incredulous. She needed confirmation that we played baseball, that we drove cars, that we were educated, that we did all the things that humans do. But I went out of my way to tell her how dangerous we were and she ignored me. Typical.
I thought about the phrase best used to describe our love of baseball.
"It's the American pastime."