Title: Prelude to a Journey
Pairing: Carlisle/Edward (pre-slash friendship)
Warning(s): Non-canon, vampire AU.
Disclaimer: Twilight is the creation of Stephenie Meyer.
Author's Note: This ficlet is an expansion on some of the events mentioned in "Celestial Convergence" and is also a prelude to an upcoming Edward/Carlisle novella set in 1920s Egypt. Special thanks to Tex_chan for the supportive comments and pre-reading. Any mistakes are my own.
Prelude to a Journey: December, 1922
Edward had been home for days now, long enough for the reality to sink in, and yet somehow it didn't seem quite real. The house had not changed, almost as if it had frozen in time as surely as if it were a vampire itself. Carlisle had not changed, though there was a tension between them - a different tension than that which had driven Edward to run, but undeniable even as he shied away from examining it too closely, afraid of what he might find. (He knew that Carlisle wanted him here, but if the true extent of his transgressions were revealed, would he still be welcomed?) Perhaps it was simply that, even though he was no longer alone, his days were still spent in solitude while Carlisle toiled within the shadowy halls of the local hospital.
A faint sigh escaped Edward's lips. Had he expected it to be different? No, of course not. He knew that Carlisle was too set in his ways to ever change and his work meant everything to him. It made him feel useful, needed. A part of society. Perhaps that was the true source of Edward's current discontent: he was bored, unhappy to be at loose ends with little to occupy his thoughts but the memories of his misguided vigilantism and the burden it had left on his conscience.
Sometimes, he wondered how Carlisle could still bear to look at him.
In all honesty, Edward hadn't been sure what to expect when he finally gathered the courage to return and beg for his maker's forgiveness. He certainly had not expected to be welcomed back with open arms, but Carlisle had been genuinely happy to see him. The sheer relief and joy that had radiated from the other - his thoughts an endless loop of 'you're home, Edward, my Edward, you're home!' - had left Edward speechless and incapable of doing more than returning Carlisle's tight embrace.
Hours later, after Edward had confessed his shameful actions during their time apart, Carlisle squeezed his shoulder and assured him he would always be welcome. In that moment, seeing the forgiveness in the older vampire's eyes, Edward made a silent vow that he would never let Carlisle down again.
In the days that followed, things fell back into their former routine so swiftly it was almost as if Edward had never left. If not for the undercurrent of that strange new tension flowing beneath the surface of their every interaction, Edward might have thought the last six months nothing more than some nightmarish fancy or twisted daydream. Rather than allow himself to brood too deeply on such things, for he knew all too well down which path that led, he turned his attention to the escapism of books.
One of the things Edward had missed during his long absence (for those months gone from Carlisle's side now seemed like an eternity to him) was the extensive library that he and Carlisle shared. Now, Edward quickly fell into his old habit of losing himself in the pages of a book while he waited for Carlisle to return home.
Over the course of the week, he had devoured an entire shelf of travel-related literature, from Mark Twain's A Tramp Abroad to Theodore Roosevelt's more recent Through the Brazilian Wilderness. His latest distraction, the choice inspired by newspaper stories heralding the discovery by Howard Carter of a pharaoh's tomb in the Valley of the Kings, was a thick tome entitled A Thousand Miles Up the Nile, which recounted Amelia Edwards' travels in Egypt during the winter of 1873-74. The writing was vibrant enough to make him feel as if he were traveling through that exotic land himself. Setting the book in his lap, he closed his eyes and let his mind wander to dusty streets and ancient monuments. For a moment, he could almost smell the overwhelming odors of the crowded Cairo markets or hear the lapping of the Nile against the wooden sides of a native felucca as its broad sail luffed in the hot, sluggish breeze. They were images of a life far removed from anything he had yet to experience, and they had held his attention for most of the day.
Now, however, he found his thoughts drifting closer to home. His most vivid memory of his own human life was of leaving it. It was a memory shrouded in pain and delirium, of trading a fever-ridden death by influenza for one wrought by a vampire's venom. Either way, dying hurt and was not something he preferred to dwell upon.
Opening his eyes, he tilted his face toward the cheerful fire burning in the grate and wished he could feel more than a superficial heat that barely seemed to graze the surface of his skin. A hazier memory arose, unbidden, of a woman's arms surrounding a far smaller version of himself in an embrace that seemed to warm him to his core, her hand stroking his hair with tender affection as she whispered... something, the words now lost to the vagaries of time.
Startled from his reverie, Edward snapped his head around to find himself alone in the sitting room. He frowned. A glance at the clock sitting on the mantle assured him it was still too early for Carlisle to be returning from the hospital, but he was certain he had heard-
... my Edward.
Edward's next in-drawn breath caught a familiar scent and he flitted into the foyer just as the door swung open to admit Carlisle. "I wasn't expecting you home for hours yet. Is everything all right?"
"What?" Edward resisted the urge to stick a finger in his ear and wiggle it around to correct whatever blockage was obviously affecting his hearing. He couldn't have just heard Carlisle say-
"I quit my job at the hospital."
Edward's lips slid open on empty air. Questions crowded his mind, so many that he couldn't sort them out enough to give voice to any single one. Working as a physician meant everything to Carlisle. That he would give it up, even for a short time, without being driven by dire necessity (such as a newborn vampire to educate and civilize) seemed unthinkable to Edward. It was several seconds before he managed to blurt, "-Why?"
The corners of Carlisle's mouth twitched and he shrugged, slipping off his coat and hat before moving to put them neatly away. "I decided that, for the next few months at least, I need to devote my attention to something more important."
Unable to fathom what such a pastime might be, Edward simply stared at the older vampire until Carlisle's mental voice chided, Edward! You truly cannot guess?
Perplexed, Edward shook his head.
You, Edward. The smile Carlisle had been suppressing broke free, lighting up his entire face as he regarded Edward with shining eyes. "I've missed you. And, now that you've returned to me, I want to spend my time with you. That is-" He glanced away and pretended to pick at some invisible lint on his cuff. "-if you've no objections?"
"Of course not! I-" To say that Edward had merely "missed" Carlisle during his time away was an understatement that did not bear vocalizing. He swallowed past the sudden lump in his throat, an unexpected but welcome warmth rising within him at the notion that his companionship was as dear to Carlisle as Carlisle's was to him. Afflicted by an inexplicable shyness even as a pleased smile curved his lips, Edward peered at his maker through the veil of his lowered lashes. "I would like that very much."
"Good! I thought perhaps we could take a page from those books you've been reading and travel for a bit. Shall we give them a look and decide where we'd like to go?"
A gentle clap on the shoulder ushered Edward back into the sitting room at Carlisle's side. And that, Edward knew beyond doubt, was where he always wanted to be - at Carlisle's side, no matter where else their journeys might take them.