West Side Hospital, Chicago, Illinois
Carlisle stumbles back from the bed in shock. There was something in this woman's eyes as she was dying; a knowledge far beyond her years. For all that, she doesn't know the truth of what she asked of him. She can't know what he really is.
He leans over the young man lying on the bed, Edward. His face is ashen, his breathing shallow; it's glaringly obvious that he doesn't have much time left. As a doctor, there is nothing Carlisle can do to save him. Yet, he had promised the mother that he will do everything in his power. Not just anyone's. His.
He wheels both bodies down to the morgue; no one spares him a second glance, too focused on their own spheres amongst the death and decay that permeate the hospital. He takes his time with Elizabeth Masen's body, feeling that she needs someone to say goodbye to her – by the time her son is aware of himself again, the two of them will be far away from this place.
When he's done, Carlisle moves closer to Edward, who is dozing fitfully. He brushes the boy's bronze hair back, and sighs. He's not sure he has the self-control for this; even though he promised, can he go through with it?
And yet, Carlisle is lonely. Not the sort of loneliness that stems from long hours and little socialising, but something deeper – a sense of how truly isolated he is, not having the company of others of his kind. This is a chance for him to not only save this young boy's life, but also to create the companion he hadn't realised he craved.
Subconsciously, he's already made his decision. It just took him a while to realise it.
It's easier than it should be, smuggling a semi-conscious 6'2" body out of a hospital – even with his superhuman speed, he expects someone to notice him. But no one spares him a thought, and he takes Edward back to his current home on the outskirts of the city.
After laying the boy out on the bed, he gazes down at him. Even in his deathbed fever, there is something about Edward Masen that draws everyone around him in. Perhaps it's his compassion – the pain of others in the hospital seemed to affect him far more than his own – or perhaps it's no more than his fragile attractiveness. Carlisle is resolute; this is a boy worth saving.
He's not sure how, but he manages to find the restraint necessary to stop in time; he begins the change without killing the boy. Then, all he has to do is wait until Edward is himself again – or at least, as much of his past self as he is able to keep – and explain what he has become.
It's possible, Carlisle thinks, that the explanation will be harder than the transformation.
Three days, two hours, forty-two minutes and seventeen seconds later, Edward opens his eyes.
Carlisle leans forward carefully. "Edward?" he says. The boy jumps, and locks his eyes on the man in front of him.
"Where... what's... mother?" the boy calls, looking frantic. Carlisle moves to his side, faster than any human could, and Edward's eyes open wider.
"How did you...?" his voice trails off. "What's going on? I was in the hospital... my mother..."
Carlisle takes both Edward's hands in his own; it's telling that the boy doesn't flinch at the temperature. "Your mother is dead, Edward. You were dying. There was no hope..."
He isn't sure how to continue. How do you say Oh by the way, I stripped you of your humanity, and turned you into a freak? There's no etiquette for this sort of thing. He takes an unnecessary breath, more for a pause than anything, and starts to explain, as the battle between fear and curiosity rages in Edward's eyes.
"You are no longer human, Edward," he begins. As the boy looks at him in horror, he hastens to add, "You were dying, do you see? It was the only way to save you. I changed you, made you another like myself."
"And what is that?" Edward demands. His new voice is astonishingly beautiful, even as the pain breaks it. Carlisle has a sudden insight – this is how others perceive him. It explains a lot.
Say it, Carlisle.
Say it. Tell him what he must be now. Say it. FAIRY.
He imagines that the shock on Edward's face is mirrored on his own; he never intended to lie to his new charge. He only meant... well, let's face it, the word 'fairy' doesn't exactly ring with positive affirmation, especially to a seventeen year old boy. And after all, does the label really matter? They're not human, that much is the truth. The rest he can figure out along the way.
A deception, yes, but a merited one. In the grand scheme of things, who could it possibly hurt?