Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight.

1

Strangers in the Night

The night shift was always my favorite. As a vampire trapped forever in a seventeen year old body my chosen lifestyle could at times be troublesome. – An existence of contradictions in many ways. But at night everything was easier; I never had to be careful around windows with streaming sunlight or coming up with excuses as to why I did not once in a while feel like a breath of fresh air in my break. At night when the hospital was less busy I could get away with a lot more inhuman things, like running silently down the hallways or carrying patients – drugged up of course – instead of waiting for the sleepy orderlies. Sometimes it actually felt natural being who I was – where I was. I cherished those moments.

The hospital in New York was like most other hospitals I had worked at. I had worked at many hospitals because I was forced to move around a lot. With my seventeen year old body I could not pass for someone a lot older than twenty-three. It was frustrating having to pack up and leave every few years, but compared to the love I had for my job, the sacrifice was not big. Helping people instead of killing them was so rewarding.

"Nurse Swan," called the head nurse, Nurse Collins, a tall and busty woman in her forties who always had a look of slight panic on her face. I had never figured out exactly what kept Nurse Collins as busy as she claimed to be. "Would you show Doctor Cullen around, please. I don't have the time to do it myself."

I nodded before the scent reached my nose. I didn't know why I reacted so late, probably because I had never encountered another vampire in a hospital before. But there was no doubt. Doctor Cullen was definitely a vampire – and from the way he had frozen in the doorway, he knew that I was one too. I looked up and gasped out loud when my gaze met a pair of golden eyes instead of the horribly red ones I usually met in my own kind. Thankfully Nurse Collins had hurried off somewhere and was not a witness to the strange meeting.

"Your eyes," I whispered, not able to help myself. "They are like mine. I have never…"

Doctor Cullen visibly relaxed and offered a small but breathtaking smile, though his surprise was as obvious as mine. He was stunning, even for a vampire. He was young and blond and had the kindest look in his eyes. "Indeed, they are," he said softly. "I believe we have a lot to talk about. I take it you have never met anyone who shared your own particular…diet before either?"

I shook her head. Before we could say anything further, we heard two nurses coming our way.

"We will talk later," I whispered before raising my voice to a normal human level.

"I'll show you around the hospital, Doctor Cullen. Please follow me."

Doctor Cullen winked and nodded. "Thank you, Nurse Swan," he replied.

When I left the hospital just before sunrise I was aware that I was being followed. I also knew that it was Doctor Cullen whom I had not seen much off since our meeting last night. All shift I had been preoccupied with thoughts of the amazing miracle it was to run into someone like herself. I had met my fair share of my own kind over the years, but although there was always the feeling of kinship, I had not formed any lasting relationship with anyone. Their choices in diet had been too much of a barrier to break down.

I was an anomaly. I knew it and was greatly satisfied with the fact that I had never tasted human blood. On many levels I was a monster, but whenever I had a choice, I always took the most human way. So I only drank blood from animals, rationalizing that if I had been human I would have eaten meat anyway. And now I had met another anomaly. Doctor Cullen. It was nothing short of a miracle.

Instead of going to the small room I rented, I turned towards the woods outside the city. With impeccable timing I reached the first trees just as the sun rose. Doctor Cullen caught up with me easily when I took off running knowing that a conversations like the one we were about to have could not take place anywhere near human ears.

I stopped in a small clearing where small beams of sunlight shone through the tree crowns, sparkling occasionally on my skin.

"Nurse Swan," Doctor Cullen greeted me with a smile.

"Call me Bella," I said and sat down on a boulder, looking at him expectantly. I couldn't get enough of the feeling in my long-dead heart when I looked into his golden eyes. I had only dreamed of this day, never expecting it to happen.

"I'm Carlisle." He sat down across from me on a fallen tree covered in moss. "So Bella, I must say that I have never been more delighted to meet someone. In all my years I have never as much as heard about anyone with the same diet as myself."

"I know what you mean," I breathed heartfelt. "The moment I saw your eyes…" I trailed of and laughed as the happiness bubbled over within me. I was elated but felt a little silly. I didn't know Carlisle Cullen, but it felt like I did. Carlisle laughed too, fortunately.

"May I ask about your story?" He asked when the sudden laughter had died out, leaving only wide smiles in it's wake. "I will of course share my own in return."

I nodded. "I was born in Pasadena in Houston, Texas in 1853. My memory of my human years is a bit hazy, but I do remember that I had two brothers and a sister who were all older than me. I was changed in 1870 when I was seventeen. It was all very confusing when I woke up after the transformation. The vampire who had changed me told me that I had been changed to be part of an army, but he sent me on my way after telling me that he felt that I didn't belong there. I still don't know what he meant exactly, but I did learn afterwards that he saved me from a no doubt cruel fate in the territorial wars in the south." I paused, shaking off my first memories as a vampire.

"I have been on my own the whole time," I continued. "Obviously I have met a lot of our kind over the years but since none of them shared my dislike of hurting humans I never really bothered with them. I practiced my restraint and finally managed to use the nursing training I had before I was changed. I have been working in different hospitals the last twenty years. I have never tasted human blood."

"Our stories are a lot alike," said Carlisle. "I was born before you though, in London in the 1640s. But like you I was alone after my change and decided that I was not going to feed on humans. Ironically I was hunting the vampire who changed me – my father was a priest and had me lead chases after all kinds of evil," he gave a short laugh. "I wanted to make up for being a monster, so I studied medicine and like you I practiced my restraint. It took a long time, but I finally accomplished it and have been working as a doctor ever since."

"We really are alike," I mused.

Carlisle nodded. "It's been a dream of mine for so long – to actually look into a pair of golden eyes and know that I wasn't alone in the world. The loneliness wears on one after a while."

We sat in the clearing and talked most of the day. It wasn't as if we needed any sleep before having to go back to work anyway. We shared experiences from the hospital we had worked at, as well as encounters with others of their kind.

I felt as if the loneliness I had been battling with my entire existence as a vampire was slowly fading. I knew most vampires had mates or lived in small covens, and although I knew Carlisle would never be my mate, I couldn't help but hope that we would stay together. I was by no means ready to let go of the only one truly like myself I had ever met.

***

The days passed much faster than before. I had lived only for my work for a long time, after meeting Carlisle my free time was much more pleasant. The gossiping nurses at the hospital had quickly picked up on the fact that the handsome new doctor was spending his time with the young Nurse Swan, so we had come up with a story claiming that he was my long lost uncle. It was obvious that not all believed our story, though.

"Do you have a power?" I asked one day during a hunting trip in the woods. We had taken to hunting together and the hunting trips always included much conversation, something we both enjoyed after many years of loneliness.

"No," Carlisle answered. "I would probably not have been allowed to leave Volterra if I did." At my questioning look, he elaborated. "I spent time there years ago. Italy had the best medical schools back when I had left England behind. I learned a lot about our kind there."

"I've heard about the Volturi," I said carefully.

"You need not worry, Bella," Carlisle said, stopping and looking seriously at me. "If my loyalty lies anywhere, it's with you. I know we have only known each other for a short time, but I believe we were meant to meet. Two pairs of golden eyes in a world of red eyed vampires should stand together, don't you think?"

I nodded and relaxed, eager to trust him. "I have two powers," I confessed.

"Two? That is extraordinary," Carlisle said. "I have never heard of a vampire with two powers before. Be careful, Bella. The Volturi would be most interested in having you join them if they knew."

I nodded, already knowing as much and then proceeded to explain my powers to prove that I trusted him. "I can shield other vampires' powers as well as accelerate them. Like for instance, I met a telepath once whom I could block so his power didn't work on me. I could also accelerate it though, making it much stronger. So I don't really have an active power that I can use without others around."

Carlisle looked fascinated, but turned serious. "Stay far away from the Volturi, Bella. – And never flaunt your powers. Sometimes they don't ask nicely when they are recruiting for the Guard."

I would keep that in mind.