Title: A Stronger Man
Rating: Give it a PG-13
Word Count: 1162
Spoilers: Takes place in Twilight, during the hospital scene.
Summary: Three hundred and forty two years and his body had felt nothing. An empty shell to carry only the beast that he had become. Until Bella. Carlisle's POV. For the fic-a-thon.
For three hundred and forty two years, I had felt nothing in the empty vessel that was my body. Four thousand one hundred and four months, give or take a month or two, I had stood before civilisation as a spectator. A man in image alone, for the body that moved with pronounced fluidity and astounding grace was but an avatar for a bloodthirsty beast who, by design, felt nothing.
I concede that it isn't strictly true to say I have felt nothing. I demonstrate compassion – a very human emotion – every day of my existence. It offers me a sliver of solace in the torturous hell that is my immortality. But physically, emotions bear no effect on the body that the beast inhibits. Breathing is not a necessity to me, nor is blinking, clearing my throat or even moistening my lips. Although I am capable of it, I have precise control over each physical choice my body makes. Nothing besides killing is instinctual for me. For three hundred and forty two years. Like Sleeping Beauty caught in the choking weave of a powerful spell, I am caught in this life for all eternity and I have practiced for so long that I almost don't have to consciously take a breath, anymore. Or consciously blink. Almost.
It is possible to become so familiarised with personal hell, accepting of it even, that when a change happens to break the circle of laborious monotony, you almost don't notice it at all. Time, measurable in a heartbeat or two, can pass by before that last shred of humanity within you bolts awake and yells for you to take notice – to snatch this once-in-an-eternity moment with every ounce of optimism and hope that you have.
But with new possibilities comes fear of the unknown and a weaker man might shy away from the challenge, too afraid to hope. Too afraid to believe that the cycle of never-ending nothingness might finally be coming to an end. Terrified perhaps, to hope that a miniscule fibre of their once human soul might still exist in the shell they had deemed to be empty centuries earlier.
It took the equivalent of three heartbeats for me. I know, because I have replayed the scene over and over in my head for long, arduous hours, hoping to made sense of it. Rationalise it. Three heartbeats. Tha-dunk, tha-dunk, tha-dunk.. Just three. Before I felt it. Or rather, before I became aware that I was feeling it. That I wasn't controlling it. Not like blinking or breathing or coughing.
A painful sensation in my chest. An ache. Coinciding with the exact instance in which my eyes – which, until that moment I believed had seen everything – glimpsed her. Sitting on the hospital bed, swinging her legs with the jerky impatience of a girl who had something to say. A bee in her bonnet. Her dark eyes shifted around the room as though she were in a daydream. Then she glimpsed me and I wondered if my three centuries of torture had been for this one rapturous moment. A weaker man would have shied away.
The ache in my chest expanded to my belly, to my legs, filling me with the weightiness of lead.
"I heard the chief's daughter was here." My lips spoke of their own accord, for as I dismissed the attending nurse and took Isabella (Bella, thank you very much!) Swan's chart, my mind was solely focused on my own physical response. "How are you feeling?" I asked her – and myself. I hadn't associated the word 'feeling' with myself in so long that it almost didn't sit, somehow. Or at all, in fact.
Ache. It was a physical pain that I could not describe. Fourteen languages, I spoke, and not one possessed a word that could properly describe it. Bella eyed me, intrigued by me as so many before her had been, but it was different. Ancient and modern philosophy states that the opinion we have of ourselves will change the opinion of those around us. Bella Swan saw me differently because in that moment, so did I.
A crystallising moment where, for the first time since I had ceased to be a twenty-three year-old Pastor's son, my thoughts voiced the words she is the one. The one for what, I didn't know. I knew only that I wanted to throw myself into the ache I felt at seeing her – for even pain can be euphoric to the body that had felt nothing for so long.
"I think you'll be just fine." Now, I wasn't talking to myself. I wouldn't be 'just' anything. I am a master of words and 'just' implies restriction. You will just be a vampire. No longer a human.
You can just feed on blood.
Or, if I wanted to throw my memory to the farthest reaches of my past: If you don't endeavour to rid our world of evil, boy, you will be just as wicked as they.
No, I absolutely would not restrain my physical reaction. I would let it soar with my imagination, let it become whatever it was bound to be. Perhaps a fleeting moment in time, never to occur again. Perhaps a reawakening for a long dead soul. Perhaps the implications behind this sudden sensation within my body were limitless, infinite.
A weaker man would have been too afraid to discover what it meant.
Charlie Swan excused himself to take a call. Bella was moving off the bed, watching me with piercing curiosity as she tried to work me out. Good luck, I thought with a tentative and secretive smile. If you do unlock the secrets to Carlisle Cullen, be sure to fill me in. I sensed that she wanted to say something, but her lips remained tight while her penetrating gaze spoke volumes.
"Thank you, Dr Cullen," she reached out to shake my hand. Her touch was like hot coals against my icy skin and it sparked renewed interest in her eyes while the dull aching in my body intensified. How had an ordinary girl in my hospital brought such havoc in the simplistic emptiness of my existence?
How long we held hands for, I have never cared to remember. Too long for a handshake, I believed.
Two steps back.
The further she moved back, the further the sensation inside me began to flitter away, like a burning ember fizzling to nothingness. It would cease to exist when she disappeared from sight. It would probably never return again. A weaker man might have been grateful for the return to normality. I was not a weak man. I had resisted human blood for centuries when every fibre in the fabric of my being urged me to kill. I understood my strength of character. As a vampire and as a man who was finally – finally – free of the void.
"Bella!" She turned. The ache fired in my belly. "Can I have a word, please?"
Well, thank you for reading. This short drabble was for the fic-a-thon 'Ache' prompt. What did you think of Carlisle's thoughts? Please let me know if you enjoyed reading this, and maybe in between chapters for my other story, I will write another few of these one-shots.