Written for wm_law2003's birthday on Livejournal

He heard the erratic soft thump of her heart before the fishermen had brought her into the room.

It wasn't the first time that it had happened. In such a small town it was far too common for the dying to be delivered directly to the morgue, instead of the hospital, freeing up the few doctors for those patients who had a chance of survival, to see another day. Those people who wanted to live. Not those who lay broken at the bottom of cliffs.

That was exactly what this sheet covered woman was, broken and awaiting death, and there was nothing Carlisle could do but wait until she was fully gone and listen as her shallow breaths grew ragged. Something about her scent was familiar, but was clouded by the smells of mud, water and impending death, making him doubt himself. His memory was flawless, but this scent; it was impossible. Ten years past and across the country; could it really be her?

He approached the side of the gurney, and moved to pick up a deathly cold hand in his own, in hopes that this woman would know that someone was with her, that she wasn't suffering alone as she past out of the world. Someone cared about her and she mattered. As he encased her hand in his, there was a hitch in her breathing and he dropped her hand in surprise.

The woman was unbelievably still conscious.

Slowly he made his way to where her head rested, and he lifted the sheet, his eyes confirming what the rest of him already knew. Esme Platt lay underneath the linen, eyes wide open and staring upwards, terrified. She didn't seem to see him, just continued to stare at the ceiling, waiting for her death to finally come and rescue her from her ruined form.

This wasn't the same girl he had known. 16 year old Esme had been carefree, laughing and eluding a joy and love so pure that one couldn't help but like her. This woman lying before him was a shadow of his memory of her. Something, possibly many somethings, had broken the spirit of the young woman. Her body looked soft, signs that she had recently given birth stood out to him, and he wondered if the child had perished, steering her to her present situation. He was saddened by the loss of the spark within her, and silently prayed that death would take her quickly, finally to relieve her from such a life of obvious hardship that had led her back to him.

Still, something drew him to stay at her bedside, an invisible cord between them that seemed to pull him closer to her with each of her last wavering breaths. Watching her struggle and being able to do nothing was aching. Such a spirit, if it were to be regained within her, needed to survive, to be spread to the world. All she needed was another chance.

The answer was right beneath his nose, dripping with venom. What would Edward think of another joining their family? Carlisle loved him as a brother and a son, and his companionship was incomparable, but what would the young man think of this young woman joining them? Edward had remarked on a several occasions that despite his presence, Carlisle's thoughts remained lonely, still wanting of something that Edward was unable to provide, the love of a partner. Could Esme give this to him? Would she be able to fill the void that he was so desperately craving? Would this soft gentle feminine soul complete him?

Realisation slowly dawned on him and he couldn't help but darkly laugh at himself. If he was even contemplating the idea at all, it meant that his decision had already been made. He could only hope that she would accept it, that she wouldn't scream and curse his name because of what he hoped would be the best thing that had ever happened to him. Would she feel drawn to him as he felt to her?

Leaning over her body her scent washed over him, calling him closer to her failing heartbeat. He brushed his nose against the weakening pulse in her neck, closed his eyes and quickly sank his teeth into the tender flesh as she gasped out in pain. Her blood pooled quickly into his mouth and was more potent then what Edward's had been, delicious and wonderfully enticing. The aroma of it clouded his senses and all he could think of was the incredible taste rushing over his tongue and filling his body. He couldn't get enough of this flavour and he gathered her into his arms, pulling himself closer to the warmth escaping her body, not able to get enough of the precious fluid, swallowing it down quickly only to have more flood his mouth in replacement.

He was unsure how long this was repeated, as he took his time savouring the liquid, knowing nothing but the thrill of the taste until she moaned quietly and went lax in his embrace, awakening him from his crazed vampiric state. He pulled away, horrified with the scene before him. Had he taken too much while lost in the madness of the predator? Had he accidently killed his gift, Esme? His Esme. The thundering of blood in his ears pounded, making him unable to hear anything, unable to tell if she was still alive. Minutes passed as he watched, other senses blinded, until she suddenly took a strangled breath and a pounding heartbeat broke through the silence and filled the room, and he too released a wavering lungful of air. The transformation had started. He hadn't taken too much. She was still with him.

Once again, he leant over her form, relieved. The bite on her neck was already healing, skin stitching itself back together. He kissed the wound lightly, rested his head against her cheek and whispered to both his victim and himself,

"Please forgive me."