Esme was hovering. Carlisle wasn't sure what she wanted, but he knew as soon as he looked over at her, he was a doomed man. Even as he buttoned his coat, he could picture the worried line on her brow. He couldn't quite explain why he felt the need to keep doing up his buttons, to reach for his scarf, when it was obvious he wasn't going to leave the house tonight. Not that Esme would stop him. Just that as soon as he looked over at her, he would no longer be capable of opening the front door.
One night during Esme's second year, Carlisle had come home from work to discover she'd bought four different sets of curtains and had layered them over one another on various windows. When he opened the door, she was walking from window to window, pausing, contemplating, and then moving on. Before he could ask, Edward had shrugged at him from where he was leaning against the railing, watching her. "She couldn't make up her mind in the store," he said. "So…" he gestured broadly to the windows. So curtains.
It was fine. She could have bought everything in the store and he wouldn't have minded.
It terrified him.
As she paused in the front of the window in the living room, head tilted to one side, hand curled beneath her chin, eyes narrowed, a hollow, aching swell started in his chest. When she turned her head to look at him, soft, sweet mouth curving into a smile on one side, he thought she could have told him, "I think we should keep all the curtains, just like this," or "We should only drink the blood of reptiles from now on," or "You should get something tattooed across your forehead," and he would have said, "Yes. Wonderful idea. And by the way, I love you to distraction, and if you don't marry me, I may die." Which frankly wouldn't have been much of a proposal. He feared for his ability to keep the words in his mouth.
Thankfully, all she'd said was, "I think the blue, don't you?" and all he'd had to do was nod.
And she had married him. Later that year, in fact. So he'd been saved.
He'd been less lucky on other occasions. One stormy day in January, decades later, he'd found her watching the rain from a window in the kitchen. "I miss the sun sometimes," she'd said, a touch of guilt in her voice. He'd stopped cold beside her, staring, marveling as he felt all restraint flee. Then she'd looked over at him, and laughed. Which didn't at all seem to fit with the horror he suddenly felt. She touched his cheek. "Don't look so concerned," she'd said. "It hardly matters." And that was that. All his control was gone.
He bought her an island three days later. An island. And as he'd been signing the papers, he'd thought, "Good word, this isn't healthy, is it?"
Because sometimes, Carlisle couldn't believe how much he loved Esme. He hadn't really thought it possible. All his dreams and fears had changed when she'd opened her eyes for the first time, a new vampire, and said, "Dr. Cullen?"
The day that Jasper and Alice had found them all was a bit fuzzy in his otherwise perfect memory for the same reason. He remembered meeting them, talking to them, and finding them both fascinating. He remembered having lots of questions. He remembered finding Alice endearing in her enthusiasm, and Jasper intriguing with his relative silence and his scars. He'd left them to discuss things between themselves, and was pondering Jasper's quiet nature and the intensity with which he focused on Alice when he'd opened the door to his bedroom that night. He had been wondering if they'd fit into their unique dynamic, if Jasper would be happy, if Alice's enthusiasm would last. But then he saw Esme was standing near their bed, hands clasped together, waiting for him, and his mind deserted him. All he could think was, "I'm going to find her here, in a bedroom we share, over and over, until the end of time."
"I think we should keep them," Esme had said.
"All right," he'd said.
He and Jasper had understood each other fairly well ever since.
It had been the same as they'd waited in the airport for Edward, Alice, and Bella to get off their plane from Italy. The plane had just touched down when Esme grabbed onto his sleeve. He turned to look at her, his hand coming up to cover hers. There was a rare and stubborn ferocity in the set of her features and the fire in her eyes. His mind went blank when competing with his desire to make her happy.
"I won't lose another son," she'd said. "And I won't lose a daughter. If Edward won't do it, I want you to. Turn her. When the time comes."
Then their children has walked into the terminal, and everything about Esme had melted. Her eyes went soft as she dashed to them.
He wondered how Edward would take the news.
It happened again when Bella had come home from her honeymoon. He'd talked to her about terminating the pregnancy.
"No," Bella had said, hands coming to cover her newly protruding stomach.
And he'd thought, maybe if Esme talked to her, maybe if she had another mother to discuss these things with, she'd see reason. "No," Esme had said.
"But--" he'd managed, concern for his daughter's safety and his son's sanity giving new force to the facts and science he was ready to lay before her.
"No!" she'd said, hands balled into fists, and looking as though she might defy all science and burst into tears just to prove how useless his facts were to her.
"Of course not," he'd said, no other thought in his mind but taking her in his arms and comforting her.
So whatever it was Esme wanted tonight, she had gotten it before she'd asked. Well, he had all his clothes on now. He might as well find out in what new way his control would fail him tonight so he could take them back off. He turned around, and froze. The worried line was just where he'd pictured it between her brows. She was biting very gently down on her lower lip.
"What?" he'd asked. Not that it mattered.
"Don't work tonight," she said quietly.
He blinked at her. That was all? That was easy. He never took sick days. Someone could cover for him. He had several favors he could call in. He could do this without any of the chagrin he'd felt when he'd had to actually tell Esme he'd bought her an island.
"Because…because I said I missed the sun?" she asked when he told her to pack her bags. She stared at him like he'd truly lost his mind, and she couldn't love him more.
"Um," he said, wondering if she'd ever tell him anything again now that she'd seen just what a pitiful lack of control he truly had with her. "Yes."
Then she'd kissed him and he didn't wonder anything else for a while.
Tonight she shifted her weight onto one leg and shrugged. "I want you here with me." She sighed. "It's selfish, isn't it? Your patients--"
"Okay." He took off his scarf. Unbuttoned his coat.
Her expression cleared and brightened. His knees almost gave out.
"Yes. Let's go back to bed."
"Won't the hospital--"
"I don't care." He toed out of his shoes. She smiled. Oh no. "The night is yours. Whatever you want to do, wherever you want to go." She positively grinned now. Hell. "I'm yours to command."
"What was that idea of yours?" she asked, moving toward him, the hem of her dress shifting around her knees. "Back to bed?" Her fingers went to his tie, loosening it.
He swallowed. "That—what—yes. That was my idea."
He remembered, for a fleeting moment, when Edward had first met Bella, the conversation he and Esme had had with him. "I don't have your will power, Carlisle," he's said, miserable. Esme touched Carlisle's shoulder, then moved to wrap her arms around her son, looking at her husband with pleading eyes. And for a crazed moment, he'd thought, "I have will power?"
Clearly he didn't.
"Let's do that," Esme said, and she brushed her lips against the corner of his mouth.
He couldn't believe how much he loved her. It defied everything he thought he'd known before he'd had her.
She tugged on his hand, pulling him toward the stairs.
It really wasn't healthy.
How had he gotten so lucky?