"I love you. It's a miserable excuse for what we're doing, but it's true," I murmured. "But we belong together," she whispered. "No, there isn't a more foolproof way of getting the Volturi here, but you're worth it." AU. CxB. REVISED.
Oooh, turning point chapter. And a long chapter, you're welcome, so now review it!
Also: to my old hands, if you have been following this story for a while, you should go back and reread the chapters. See, I wasn't satisfied with where this story was going so I sort of made some major changes to the background, setting, etc. so you should go back and quickly reread otherwise things won't make sense in the future. E.g. the Cullens are not in high school, they all attend University of Washington - Forks, Carlisle works at the UWash hospital.
Also, since this story is CxB, obvi Esme and Carlisle are not together, so I had to change the perceived family dynamic as well, which is why Edward, Alice, and Emmett are Carlisle's siblings and Rose, Jasper, and Esme are Emmett's, Alice, and Edward's respective wives/husbands.
Anyone catch the House MD reference? :D
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Chapter 7: Out of Order
She had said it to be friendly, but apparently simply saying it had made it come into fruition. I was now seeing Bella everywhere.
She was coming into the hospital more than ever and besides that I continually ran into her on campus despite the alarming fact that I was not even a student. At home, it was all Emmett and Alice talked about, albeit in entirely different veins.
"So, what did Bella ask you to read to day?" Emmett would tease Jasper.
"You know, for a human, Bella is awfully intelligent," Alice would be saying. "I had a completely mature conversation with her on the misogyny of Dante is his tragic portrayals of divine heroes."
And as I'd anticipated, her scent's potency grew easier to managed until, day after day, it became simple the prettiest posy in the bunch. I only wish I could have said the same about Jessica "never going to give you up" Stanley.
The doctor gave persistence a bad name.
"You can't honestly tell me you've never dated a coworker, Carlisle." She was badgering me today. "I mean, sure there's all that legal garbage, but really? Really?"
Could you be more obvious? "Yes," I said curtly, wondering what excuse I could use today.
"Carlisle!" Mike called. "I'm heading to the gym. Will you join me?"
Thrilled, I accepted and then when we had almost reached, claimed I hadn't brought a towel and doubled back, congratulating myself on escaping the two of them.
As I walked back towards the Hospital, I caught a waft of a familiar fragrance. Okay, Carlisle. You're prepared for this. I steeled myself. As I came around the corner, I saw her. She was hurrying up the street toward with the same russet-haired man from the coffee shop in tow.
"No, Jacob! I cannot go on a date with you. I'm your TA!" She was hissing, sounding like an angry cat.
"But, I won't tell anyone and you can still grade me however you want." He whinged. "Besides…you're so hot."
I rolled my eyes.
She stopped short and glowered at him. "I can not date you because I am your superior and you're barely of age. It's wrong! I am uninterested, Jacob. So unless you have any more questions about James Joyce, I suggest you leave!"
As she started walking again, she caught sight of me and her entire face went brilliantly crimson. Wow, pasty to vermillion in three seconds. That's better than Rose's Porsche.
"Carlisle," she said nervously. "Hi."
The boy called Jacob surveyed me inquisitively.
"Hello, Bella. Is this a bad time to go over your lab results?" I asked helpfully.
Her smile soured and she said jerkily, "No, Jacob and I were done talking."
He looked surly and ready to argue some more, but as she shot him another dirty look, he slouched away. She waited until he was quite a distance away before turning back to me with a smile of gratitude.
"How have you been?" I asked her politely.
"Better. I bounce back fairly quickly."
"On to newer and sharper things?" I teased. Okay, doing well so far. I only want to kill her a little now.
She stuck her tongue out at me. "Well, thank you for rescuing from him. I suppose we're even now? Has Jessica stopped bothering you?"
"I've only just escaped her and Mike Newton – I believe you know him, too?"
She laughed openly. "Oh, God. Mike. I remember him in high school, too. There never was a bigger tool in the toolbox." I laughed, too. "A lot of your family has ended up in my class. Odd, because I think only Jasper was in it at the beginning of the semester. I didn't know Modern Theatre was such a point of interest in your family."
My smile froze.
Of course, Edward and Emmett had joined to ensure they never missing a moment of tormenting Jasper. And Alice, Esme, and Rosalie, of course, had persuaded to join in on the fun.
"Neither did I," I muttered. "But college is a time for experimentation, but if it's literature they want to try, well, I'm simply exulted it's not gonorrhea." I said lightly.
"Are they all your brothers and sisters? How exactly is it with Rosalie, Esme and Jasper? I didn't quite catch the family dynamic."
"Well, I am the acting guardian though I'm only twenty-seven. Edward, Emmett, and Alice are my brothers and sister by blood-" I smiled at the joke. "-And Rose is married to Emmett, Esme to Edward, and Jasper to Alice. Rose and Alice have insisted on keeping their maiden names."
"And your parents?"
"They passed when Edward was in high school. I took the family in, having paid off my loans."
"Oh my...that's so kind of you, Doctor."
"I thought that these youths needed a safe and welcome place for a second, new life. And with my medical debts paid off…They're almost like my own kids." I shrugged. "I'm essentially a single father."
I regretted the words as soon as they came from my mouth. At first, it had worked like a charm, the baggage of looking after six family member, but now it only made me a prime candidate for The Bachelor, apparently. Here it comes. The sympathetic head tilts, pity hugs, and sly initiations for an adult playdate.
"That's so hot."
That I have not heard before…
She clapped her hand to her mouth, paralyzed with horror. "I've got to go," she whispered. And she bolted.
"To be fair, that was new." I said at her receding form.
After fielding a phone call from Emmett who reported that he and Rosalie had come up with a new sexual game for industrial-strength titanium handcuffs (the object was for the bound vampire to not break the cuffs), I sat down and gave my encounter with Isabella my full attention.
She was clearly mortified that what she'd been thinking came out so plainly and transparently. But she was human and, in a way, no different than Jessica or Mike –
Which was too bad. She had seemed different.
Talking to her had come as easily as talking to my family. The banter flowed lightly, the teasing gentle, and sincerity, or as much as I could show, had been evident.
Angela interrupted my musings. "Dr. Cullen, we've got Isabella back again. Hand wound. There's glass involved."
I held back laughter with some difficulty. "Please send her into room number three. I'll be with her shortly," I relayed.
This was the time my strength would finally be tested and this wasn't exactly going to do wonders for her esteem. I washed my hands in the basin, taking my time and indeed when I entered she was staring intently at the poster about syphilis with altogether too much interest to be plausible.
"The woman of the hour, Isabella." I said pleasantly as I removed a bag from the cabinet and placed it within easy reach on the table. I pulled up a chair as I gestured for her to take the operative one and went to work.
The gash in her hand was almost a centimeter deep, requiring stitches and dripping blood like a leaky…delicious faucet. I cleared my throat and my mind and went to work.
Mind over matter.
"I tripped and knocked over some lab ware in the biochemistry department," she said sheepishly. "I'm sure you're wondering how I managed to knock over a whole wall of glassware."
"I was wondering what you were doing in a lab." I teased.
"It could happen to anyone," I said, trying to comfort her.
"Could," she agreed. "But it usually just happens to me."
She flushed and then winced as I dabbed the area with numbing lineament. After a minute, I went back gingerly back in with a pair of tweezers. The only sound besides our quiet breathing was the soft plink, plink as the tiny fragments of glass dropped one by one to the table. I sensed her staring at me, but when my eyes flickered to her, she refused to meet them.
"Nauseous?" I asked, remembering her odd comment earlier.
"I'm not breathing through my nose," she answered, sounding slightly nasal.
Plink, plink, plink. I was surprised at how much glass there seemed to be in her arm. "I'm sorry, did you previously ingest your china cabinet?"
She frowned but didn't rise to my goading. Instead, "Thank you."
"Don't worry about. This is a fairly simple procedure; any doctor could have performed it." I rummaged in my bag for new tools and pulled out a needle and suture thread.
"No, I mean thank you for not alluding to…earlier."
Ah, the gorilla in the room. Shaking my head, I chastised myself. Thinking of gorilla was not likely to help with her blood around my person.
I tied the last stitch and closed the wound. I smiled at her as I patted down the closure with iodine - the smell provided a nice relief as it stained her skin brown.
"I hardly think it's a big deal and I didn't think going on about it would help anyone."
"I'm quite embarrassed," she said quietly. "Your siblings, have they mentioned anything about what I said?"
Now, I made the connection.
"That's what you spoke to Edward about after your accident, was it?"
"Oh no!" She buried her face in her hands. "You must know everything. I only agreed to those lunch dates with Mike because I'd hoped to run into you here."
A smug grin crept across my face before I shook it off, wondering for the millionth time what thoughts were running though her head. I hadn't known that, but I felt she'd embarrassed herself enough for one day; if those blushes got any redder we were going to have a problem.
"Bella, I think you're overreacting. You're a very sweet young woman and I'm…a single parent, it's only natural that you would seek me out. You know, female psychology is quite simple when it comes to biological needs. Women seek out the men they think are the best caregivers and when you heard that I had raised my children so remarkably, it was only natural –"
I was babbling.
And she, she was staring intently at me.
My polite smile slid off my face. Some sort of inner turbulence seemed to be occurring, because she continued to watch me with her enigmatic eyes.
Where had all the air gone? Look away, Bella. Look away.
She stared at me hungrily, drinking me in.
And even as I thought this, I couldn't look away. Locked in like a deer staring into the brilliant headlights of an oncoming disaster. I should have known then that this was the beginning of the end.
How long had we been like this? A moment? Several? An hour? Why didn't Angela come in and put me to task?
Finally, her eyes flickered, down to my lips and back to my eyes. Unconsciously, she bit her own lip as she tried to hold her ground. And then, inexplicably, our lips came together.
One moment, we were watching each other, daring the other to make a move and then, all I aware of was the way her lips were moving against mine.
She jumped slightly as my frigid hands touched her arms. She slid a hand up into my hair and the other snaked into my doctor's coat and pressed against my skin. Everywhere she touched me seared like I was basking in the sunlight.
"Oh, my, god." She ripped her lips from mine to drag a breath through her lungs, but it was enough to bring me to my senses.
"I have to go." I said hurriedly and sprinted from the room.
"Cured." I told the room at large. "She came in today bleeding everywhere and I didn't bat an eyelash."
"Why is your hair in disarray?" Alice asked keenly.
But my family gathered around to congratulate me and Alice's telling remark was forgotten. And so, things seemed to go back to normal, at least as normal as they could be.
Jessica Stanley's attentions were abating; and Bella no longer went out of her way to seek me out. In fact, one week later, I caught Bella having lunch with the russet-haired student – Jacob, was it? – she had previously seemed to detest so much. She seemed to not see me, but I noted from the way her mouth tightened that she was determinedly ignoring me.
It was for the best I decided. My little indiscretion could have cost me my job, and the very comfortable situation my family had created for themselves, at best. At worst...I was loathe to even think about it.
And though I would never admit it to anyone, when I was alone, away from Edward's prying, I recalled it to mind.
The sheer animal ferocity of it – I had never responded that way to anyone. Even my infatuation with Esme had been a very proper and respectful adoration. But Bella – she had reduced me to the all the self-control and humility of a teenage boy in the throes of hormones. No one had ever elicited such a base response from me.
If Esme had been off limits, Bella was entirely verboten. So I decided to shun her entirely from my mind. I would not put my family at risk and as for Bella – while I used to think of the transformation as a beautiful invitation to an exclusive and privileged world, I no longer had such a glorious opinion of it.
After all, who had it helped really?
Edward was constantly battling himself, loathing himself all because he didn't believe he, or his mate, would be privy to a better eternity. As for Rosalie and Esme, while they were both grateful for my interference, neither would likely forget that children were forever beyond their reach and eternal youth had not been any consolation. And all of us certainly had to fight to keep our instincts from taking over and keep all of our humanity from being lost.
I loved what I did – the sheer joy I got from my daily work no matter how difficult thrilled me. But what if it didn't matter? Or worse, what if, because common blood no longer troubled me, my penance was meaningless.
If I wasn't working toward salvation, what was I doing?
Simply drifting along in my existence. At least the others had mates that gave their lives some semblance of meaning. I was alone, untethered.
I threw myself into my work. I was at the University from dawn until dusk, moving from patient to patient, picking up slack where others had dropped it. Eventually, Jessica dismissed me – a benefit I hadn't seen coming – because I was "boring."
And so, here I was, working after hours, when everyone had gone home. I had told Angela to "please, go" rather than suffer watching her eyeing the clock.
I was sitting in my office pouring over a patient's file.
Symptoms: dysphasia, seizures…hm. Why wouldn't the on-call treat her with steroids, it sounds like cerebral vasculitis. Then again if that were true, the steroids wouldn't have caused a reaction – is it a brain tumor? Although that wouldn't explain the reaction to the prednisone.
I heard the familiar click of heels that meant the janitor was making his last round before heading home. Time to go. I replaced all the files and left.
But there in the hallway, peering into one of the examination rooms was Bella.
"Bella?" I called softly.
She spun around, looking relieved. "Carlisle, there you are!"
"What are you doing here?"
"I heard you were staying late...we need to talk."
"...We need to talk."
The words sounded so ominous.
"Alright, is this a walk-and-talk conversation, or should I be sitting for this?" I asked, smiling.
"Let's walk and talk, I need to catch the bus home—"
"Allow me to drop you off. It's quite late."
"Oh," she bit her lip uncertainly. "Sure, I suppose that's fine. Thank you."
I led her to my Mercedes. She looked extremely nervous, like she was about to reveal a treasonous state secret or confess to a murder. Her eyes were darting about, to and fro, her breath came fast and shallow. But she didn't start to speak again until I was quietly stalling in front of her apartment nearly a mile from campus.
"Okay, where to start. I suppose you know that I was dating my student Jacob Black."
"This is the young man you needed saving from?" I asked.
She flushed. "Yes, that is him. And, and, just to assure you—our relationship is very clear-cut about academia and personal, er, things. We've actually known each other since we were children, our parents are close friends...but you don't need to worry for a moment that I would in any way or form try to take advantage of a student—I mean, you family...I'm not a predator."
"Bella," I interjected, shutting her up. "What you do on your own time is really no business of mine. And I really don't think I'm one to lecture on keeping business and pleasure distinct." She blushed. "As for my children, I'm not worried. They are adults and they'll make their own decisions. I trust them, and I trust you."
She frowned. "That makes this so much harder, Carlisle. You have no idea how long I've been struggling with this." She seemed to on the edge of exploding from holding back some great secret. I wondered if she were pregnant.
"Alright, allow me to help you. Is this of a medical nature?" She shook her head. "Is this about your teaching? Your Ph. D?" No, and no. "Is this about my kids? About you? The hospital? The school?" No, no, no, and no. "Is this about Jacob? Me?"
Slowly she nodded.
"Which one, me or Jacob?"
"Technically...both." She sighed. "When I agreed to date him, he invited to spend the weekend at the Rez where he lives. There was a bonfire party of sorts going that night. We were all sitting around the fire, listening to stories. Scary stories, because apparently sitting around in a dark forest isn't terrifying enough," she added bitterly.
"Where is this reservation?" I asked curiously, a hunch forming.
"It's down in the city, by the edge of the river. It's Quileute land." She said it meaningfully watching my face for a reaction.
I kept it poker-blank.
"Anyway, these stories, well, there are lots of legends, some of them claiming to date back to the Flood. One legend claims that they descended from wolves and that the wolves are their brothers. It's still against tribal law to kill them. And then, there were stories about the cold ones."
My face had turned stony.
She swallowed nervously. "Honestly, I don't think that story was supposed to be told because one of the elders yelled at Paul—he's one of Jacob's friends—for repeating it. These stories are very old, but Jacob said some of them were recent, too. Jacob's grandfather arranged a treaty to keep these cold ones off the tribal land."
Jacob Black? He could not have been a transforming member of the pack because I had not met him when we formed the treaty with the wolves. If he was, he would hardly be spilling these treasured legends to Bella like they were common urban myths.
"Jacob's friend Quil—"
"Quil Atera?" This Quil Atera must have been named after his grandfather. I had met Quil Atera Sr. so Quil Jr., too, must have been a non-transforming member of the rez.
"Yes...how did you...?" Her voice faded and we eyed each other.
I wondered if she realized what a huge clue I had just let slip.
"Well, yes. Quil did tell me. You see, the cold ones are the natural enemies of the wolf—well, not the wolf, really, but the tribe's ancestor, werewolves. But this pack of them that came to their territory, apparently they were different. They didn't hunt the same way. So the elders made a truce with them: if they would promise to stay off the tribal lands and not attack humans, the wolves wouldn't hunt them."
I wasn't even breathing now.
"I didn't understand what exactly was so terrible about these 'cold ones', but that was because I didn't know them by their common name, vampires."
"And you thought of me?"
"No. In fact, that would have been the end of that, only someone mentioned something, someone really. Your name came up in passing. He was talking about how odd it was that you were working at a hospital. I told Jacob that you and your family would really enjoy coming out here—Alice mentioned to me that you loved to hike in the wilderness—but one of older men said you and your family weren't allowed here, on tribal lands, just like the colds ones weren't."
I couldn't imagine the expression my face contained, but it seemed to frighten her.
"I know, I'm way out of order saying this to you. And at first all of it seemed so absurd, but then things, small things came back to me. About you, and your family. Things I'd never thought about, but noticed and disregarded."
She seemed relieved that I was at least speaking.
"Your eyes, they change colors. When I met you, they were pitch black, but today they're gold. Small things, like that...and..."
"The day I had an accident, when Edward saved me, I thought I saw something, but it was crazy so I didn't say anything in case someone would think I'd hit my head too hard. When I was lying there on the pavement, it seemed Edward stopped the truck with his hands! And I remember, he punched the front end, and it dented."
So she had seen it.
"And I thought about what Paul had said. If all this were true, was that why you were you working in a hospital? It would be the perfect setting for you - blood everywhere, dying patients. And with your good looks and charm, who would ever suspect you?"
She was confident now, and gaining momentum.
"But that didn't make sense either. It didn't fit in with what I knew about you, what you were like. After all, the first time I met you, you could have had me for breakfast. But you had this expression on your face like you hated being there, with me. You ran for it when Mike took over. You resisted, didn't you? You didn't—you don't want to kill people and drink their blood."
She waited for me to interject and, when I didn't, went on resolutely.
"Like you said, human psychology is fairly simple to understand. And men are even easier to analyze than women. It must be awful for you, to be around this, but you do it anyway. You could have done something else, anything else. Edward, Jasper, the others—they don't torture themselves. But you do. It's like you're trying to make a point that maybe you're not a terrible person just because of what your nature is."
She reached out and touched my hand, frozen on the stick shift.
"The vampire who wanted to be good — who ran around saving people's lives so he wouldn't be a monster…I couldn't believe it, that you were even better on the inside than the outside. I mean, look at you!"
But she cut right over me, "And that's not all I realized. You told me Esme was Edward's wife and then I noticed how Jasper and Alice, and Emmett and Rosalie acted with each other before you told me they were married. And you and Alice, and Emmett, and Edward? Besides unquestionably gorgeous, you don't look remotely alike."
"So why weren't you with someone? When you told me you were single, I thought it was because you couldn't find someone that would accept your odd family situation, but that can't be it. Jessica Stanley can't wait to be Missus Doctor Carlisle Cullen no matter how much baggage you're carrying. It's because you don't think you deserve someone. You're so lost in trying to atone for something that was beyond your control that you can't see yourself for who you are, Carlisle."
She finds out I'm a bloodsucking fiend and all she can do is give me relationship advice?
She waited for me to speak and then quickly added. "At least, that's my conjecture. I really haven't thought about it that much."