A/N: Stephenie Meyer created and owns all things Twilight. This story is a variation of her original work, written by me with no hope of profit beyond enjoyment.
A huge thank you to Kandis, without whom I may have never gotten the inspiration I needed. And to BamaBabe, the best beta and friend I could ever wish for, thanks is just not enough.
This story is dedicated to Sharon, who showed immense patience in waiting for mood and inspiration to finally strike me with this oneshot turned short story. I hope you enjoy it, dear.
Lead Me Not Into Temptation
The day started like most of those that I had lived through in the last few decades. The evening before, I sated myself on the blood of a wild cat and two deer, then spent the night in the woods, in a small clearing that I had come across while hunting one day, staring up at the stars and contemplating my place in the universe. Three hundred and sixty years I had been upon the earth, and three hundred and sixty years I had been alone.
Well, alone but for the company of my family. Edward was the first companion I created, and had been followed by Rosalie and Emmett. We were joined later by Alice and Jasper. We all lived together, currently in Seattle, though Edward lived with us only off and on the past half century, splitting his time between wherever we were and the home of his mate, Tanya, in Denali.
Surrounded as I was by happily mated couples, I was often lonely. My thoughts returned almost every day to Esme Platt, the beautiful young girl whose broken leg I had tended to so long ago. I preferred to remember her that way, rather than recall how dreadful she looked when I saw her in the morgue, hours after she had taken her own life by jumping from a cliff. My memories of her were always tinged with the bittersweet flavor of longing and the sour taste of the hundreds of "if only"s I had come up with over the years. I was sure that Esme had been my chance to share the sweetness of this everlasting existence, but I had hesitated, and then was too late, and thus I would forever be alone.
Sighing, I entered the hospital doors, pushing back the unpleasant feelings and forcing a smile to show on my face. I was in the place where I belonged, and was determined to have a good day.
Once I visited my locker and donned my lab coat and stethoscope, I ran a hand through my well-ordered blond hair, mussing it a bit, and walked out to the nurses' station. I smiled at the ladies who helped me care for my patients as they greeted me.
The nurses here at Seattle Children's Hospital were much more professional than many that I had worked with in the past. They were quite devoted to the patients, and did not waste their time trying to attract my attention. I appreciated this immensely. It was certainly preferable to not have the constant temptation that had been my company at most of my previous workplaces. I knew that I could not fall for one of them – I did not want to experience that heartbreak for a second time in my existence, and I certainly could not have a sexual encounter with a human woman either, not without giving away my secret and, at the very least, seriously endangering her life. So I maintained my professional decorum, as did they, and we worked each day, side by side, healing the children of Seattle.
"Good morning, ladies," I said, taking the stack of charts from Lydia, the charge nurse. "Is there anything I need to know before I start my rounds?"
I was informed quickly of the nighttime happenings, and then took my leave from them, walking in the direction of my first patient's room.
About two hours later, I was approaching the room of my final patient, reading her chart as I walked. The little girl in the room I was preparing to enter was Cassy, an eight year old from whose brain I had removed a tumor a few days prior to this one. Cassy was a very sweet child, whose smile had never wavered in the face of all that was before her, and I greatly enjoyed treating her.
I smiled as I looked over the night's lab results on my way into the room. All of her chemistries indicated that she was recovering nicely from surgery, and the cancerous cells appeared to have been completely removed. I was very pleased.
Stepping over the threshold of her room, however, my smile immediately faltered, and my entire body stiffened.
Blood. I could smell it. You might think that was to be suspected here in the hospital, in a surgical wing no less. But I was no ordinary vampire. I worked day in and day out in the hospital, performing surgery on humans, their blood constantly available to me. I had become immune to it well over a century ago. And while I could detect it's presence still, I never noticed it.
Until this moment.
Blood. Freesia-perfumed, decadent, thick, healthy blood. Whooshing through the veins as a strong heart pumped it steadily,beat by beat. Mouth-watering. Blood.
I looked up in shock at the two humans in the room: one the child in her hospital bed, the other a young woman with long mahogany hair and warm brown eyes who sat beside her, book in hand, looking up at me with a smile. I forced myself to return the smile, but my teeth were clenched behind my lips. I swallowed hard, forcing the venom that pooled in my mouth back down my throat.
What in the name of the good Lord was happening to me?
My mind searched frantically for an explanation, but I could find none. I was freshly fed, had never once in all of my years felt the urge to feed from a human, yet here I was, standing before these two, licking my lips.
I immediately recognized my actions, and clenched my fists in an effort to focus, but to no avail.
"Excuse me, ladies," I said, spitting out the words without unlocking my jaw and walking briskly from the room, all the way back to the locker room, running to the sink and dousing my face with cold water.
The venom was searing my throat, demanding that I go back and drink my fill of that glorious freesia-scented nectar. Hearing a crack, I looked down and saw that I had gripped the sink so tightly that I had managed to break the porcelain.
"Shit," I muttered aloud, shaking my head hard. I felt like a newborn, but I couldn't understand why. Three hundred and sixty years of abstaining from human blood, and I suddenly was unable to control myself in it's presence?
I walked out of the washroom, slamming the door on my way out, and proceeded to the nurse's station. Lydia was making notes in a chart when I approached, and set her pen down to look up at me.
"Can I do something for you, Dr. Cullen?" she asked politely.
"Yes, Lydia. Please call Dr. Andrews and ask him to cover my shift. I'm suddenly not feeling well."
I was gone from her sight only seconds after the words left my mouth, not leaving time for her to ask what ailed me. I walked down the corridor, not bothering to stop in the locker room, discarded my lab coat in a laundry hamper and jogged out of the hospital and directly into the woods behind it, increasing my pace to a run as soon as I was out of sight.
Seventeen minutes later, I sat, full-bellied, beside the lifeless, and now blood-less, body of a large bear. I took a few minutes to enjoy the feeling of warmth that the fresh feeding provided to my cold form, and the cooling of my throat that had occurred as soon as the first few drops passed my lips.
I finally rose, took a moment to clean up after myself, buried the carcass in a shallow grave near a tree that was sure to be found by other animals, though not by humans, and then began to walk toward home. I didn't worry about my car, which I had left in the hospital parking garage, instead sending a text message to Jasper, requesting that he retrieve it for me.
I walked slowly, contemplating what had happened at the hospital as I passed the distance. It was nothing I had experienced before. As a newborn, I had secluded myself from humans, and by the time I re-entered society, I was well in control. I could not remember a single time in my three hundred sixty years that I had felt such a strong desire for blood, other than the night of my very first feeding when I attacked the herd of deer. It was unsettling, to say the least, and I wanted an explanation.
I spent the entire day sitting in my usual clearing, not wishing to go home and answer the questions that were sure to come from the others. No doubt Alice had seen me walk out on my shift, but I did not feel ready to answer for my actions. Truly, I had no answer to give.
The next morning, I reported to Seattle Children's in time for my regularly scheduled shift. I greeted the nurses as usual, and replied in the affirmative when Lydia inquired as to whether I was feeling better. According to the board in the hallway, I had an hour before my first surgery, so I decided to go and check on Cassy, since I had neglected to properly do so the morning before.
I paused for a few moments before the closed door of her room, extremely nervous about entering the room and encountering the scent of blood that had plagued my thoughts the past twenty-four hours. Taking a deep breath, I centered myself and let my inner monologue remind me that I was Carlisle Cullen, and that I could handle whatever was on the other side of the door, and then turned the handle.
I stepped into the room, and my muscles immediately relaxed. There was no mind-altering, venom-producing, irresistible scent in this room, only a little girl lying in a hospital bed watching Thumbelina on the television hanging from her ceiling with a smile upon her face.
"Hello, Cassy," I said softly, not wanting to frighten her since I had entered the room so quietly.
Her eyes left the screen and she turned her face toward me, the smile not waning. "Hi Dr. Cullen," she replied in a voice that did not betray the seriousness of the condition of her body in the least. "You came back."
I smiled. "Of course I came back, Cassy. I'm sorry I left so quickly yesterday. You know the way your belly suddenly begins to hurt sometimes? It was just like that for me yesterday. Now, why don't you tell me how you're feeling?"
I took the seat beside her bed and listened to her as she described the last two days for me in vivid detail. I sat comfortably, satisfied with the knowledge that whatever it was that had happened to me the day before had most likely been a figment of my imagination.
I walked into the hospital on Wednesday of that week, poised and ready for a full day of surgeries. I was once again full of my usual confidence in myself and my abilities, and had no fear of finding difficulties in my job, at least none related to my being a vampire.
Those good feelings ended the moment I walked into Cassy's room at the end of my rounds.
Blood. The scent hit me like a freight train, and the word repeated in my mind with the rhythm of her pulse. I, in an incredibly uncharacteristic display of coordination, stumbled backwards a few steps until my back hit the wall.
Blood. Thick, luscious, heady, freesia-perfumed blood. The venom was seeping from the corners of my mouth as I struggled to remain standing where I was instead of moving towards the origin of the aroma to which my body was so drawn.
Blood. I listened to the sloshing sound it made as it followed it's path through the veins, music to my ears.
I shook my head, desperate to clear it of the fog that the scent of the blood was creating. I didn't understand what was so happening, what was causing me to react this way, why it wasn't happening every time I walked into Cassy's room.
In a last stand effort to regain my composure, I reached my hand into the pocket of my pants, easily breaking through the fabric, and pinching my own thigh as firmly as I could. The pain that I caused myself was quite excruciating, and I was able to take my focus off of the fragrance in the air and concentrate on the pain instead.
"Hello, Cassy," I said, as gently as I could through gritted teeth. "How are you feeling this morning?"
"Dr. Cullen?" she asked, her brow furrowed. "Are you feeling sick again?"
"No, sweetheart, I'm just fine today. Can you tell me how you are?"
The little girl scowled slightly as she gave me her reply, quite obviously not satisfied with the answer I had given. "My head feels okay, and I can see the tv much better than even yesterday."
"Well that's wonderful news," I said with a strained smile. "All the reports that the nurses gave me say that you are recovering very well. Your temperature has been right where it should be too. That's important. It means that you aren't getting an infection. Are you eating your fruits and vegetables like you promised?"
Cassy made a face of disgust, and, had I not been causing myself such severe pain, I probably would have laughed. "Yes, Dr. Cullen," she groaned.
"That's good. Thank you for being such a good patient."
I was quickly running out of oxygen, as I was trying my best to hold my breath since the moment I had entered the room. I knew that taking a deep breath while inside, pain or no pain, was a bad idea. I needed to get out, and soon. I took one last look at the chart, signed my name by the notes I had just made, and set it at the end of her bed.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Cassy. I have to go now, good-bye."
I didn't even wait for a reply, instead walking backwards as fast as I could until I was in the hallway, and then making my way down the hall with long strides, reaching the door at the end of the hall and stepping into the stairwell. I leaned up against the wall and let myself fall down to the floor, my head in my hands.
What was happening to me?
I sat on the floor a few more minutes, trying desperately to understand why the scent in Cassy's room affected me so, and why it was doing so only on certain days, but I was at a loss.
Suddenly, the door to the stairwell opened, and I tensed, that same fragrance once again hitting me full force. I looked up, my eyes wide with shock, and saw the young woman who had been sitting by Cassy's bedside two days before. My shock turned to panic as the door closed behind her, and the stairwell's oxygen was rapidly saturated with the scent of freesias.
I tried to stop breathing, but it had been too late for that the moment that she opened the door. I sat there, arms wrapping around my knees tightly, holding myself in that position so that I could not advance toward her.
Through gritted teeth, I asked the young woman who was, I now understood, the cause of my distress, "Who are you?"
"My name is Bella," she replied softly. "I'm a student at UW, I come here twice a week to read to the cancer patients. I'm not sure what I've done, but I think I've offended you in some way, Dr. Cullen. I just wanted to apologize."
I immediately felt guilty for making this young woman feel badly, but was unable to offer a comforting smile with my jaw locked in place as it was. As much as the gentleman in me wanted to emerge, my vampiric nature was attempting to stage a coup inside my body, desperately attempting to force me forward, close enough to this woman to sink my teeth into her neck.
I squeezed my eyes shut tightly, trying to imagine myself somewhere else, somewhere calm and soothing. I needed to escape from this stairwell, which had now become my own personal gas chamber, poisoning my willpower with the most deliciously scented blood with which I had ever come into contact, as soon as possible, and the only way out was for Bella to let me out. I had to speak to her.
I wiped my hands across my lips, removing the venom that was beginning to seep from the corners of my mouth so that she didn't think that I was rabid, and looked up at her, finally.
Bella. How appropriately she was named.
"No, Bella, there is no reason for apologizing," I said, rather unconvincingly, I'm sure, since my teeth were still grinding together as I held desperately to my control. "I think that this morning's breakfast is not agreeing with me. I'm simply having a bit of stomach discomfort. I hope you'll forgive my impolite behavior. I assure you, you've not offended me in the least."
The effort to speak those words to her had eliminated the last of the oxygen held by my lungs. My impending exit from this room had become more imperative than ever. So I did the only thing I could do without further injuring her feelings: I stood, smiled at her warmly, and then reached for the door handle, opening the door and stepping into the threshold, taking in a breath of the less-tainted air in the hallway, and then turning back to her.
"I think I'd better see the nurses for a bit of medicine. I'll see you next week, then, Bella."
She offered a quiet goodbye, the look on her face still reflecting her confusion, and I let the door close behind me, keeping her scent locked as much as possible away from me. I made my way down the hall to the locker room as quickly as I could without drawing attention to myself, and, once inside, made my way to the window and jumped from it, running into the woods for a quick snack before I had to begin my first surgery, not trusting myself around fresh blood after having been so roused only moments before.