A/N: Thank you to my seriously incredible beta, Bethaboo. She turned this around like lightning. For serious.
I'm sorry I've been review reply fail. I read every single one, and smile. These last couple chapters have taken a bit longer for me to write, so I've been focusing on getting them up as fast as I can. I'm in the home stretch for my other story, In the Shadow of Ursa Major, so my focus will be on AUL once that is complete. A special thank you to the AUL readers who have checked ItSoUM out, and reviewed over there. It's like getting a huge hug.
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight or its characters, but I adore transplanting them.
Chapter 9: Honesty and Privacy
"Did you stay like that all night?" she asks me; I nod in reply. "Weren't you bored sitting like this?"
"Actually, I found watching you sleep to be rather soothing. You looked so peaceful." In watching her sleep, I am able to rest as if I were doing so myself. "It has been a very long time since I have been able to sleep at all, and I found watching you sleep to be quite relaxing."
Perhaps it is the calm she brings me. For over a century, I have wandered this world in vain, trying to find some semblance of peace. This slip of a girl accosts me in a public ball, laden with the knowledge of my darkest secrets, and I find myself unable to view her as a threat. I know her not, yet her familiarity with my own history belays my suspicions.
"How old do people think you are right now?" she asks, and my incredulity is apparent. Her speech is so direct, and manners uncouth, and I fear she would be unable to blend into society. "I'm sorry. It's just, when I met you in 2010, you were pretending to be in your mid-thirties, and I thought I should know more about your cover if I am going to interact with people who know you."
Surely, she cannot mean to enter society at present. She has no family, and her manners are crude at best. She would expose herself –and me- within minutes. I cannot allow her to converse with others at present.
"Well, I have actually been claiming to be my human age of 23; I had no reason to age myself more than that. I would like to discuss with you what your intentions are for the future, however."
She studies my face, her large brown eyes searching my own for answers. I sense her confusion, and find it endearing. "I don't understand."
"Precisely. I was considering our situation while you were sleeping. As a brief return to that topic, I would eventually desire to know what an email is, and why you need to send one to a cat, but there are more pressing topics to discuss," I inform her, remembering her strange mumbles spoken whilst she dreamt. "I don't know how broach this subject delicately, but I do not believe that you should be allowed to present yourself to society at the moment."
"You want me to hide from people?" She knows not how long I contemplated her predicament whilst she slept.
"I can appreciate why you would not enjoy doing so, but your manners and speech are not consistent with those of a reputable lady of this society should be. I have been known to travel for business from time to time in order to avoid social engagements. It is my recommendation that we claim that you are to accompany me on such a trip.
"During that time, I can tutor you in speech, carriage, and manners. You need to learn how a lady takes tea, table manners, and posture. You need instruction on dance; you will be expected to dance at any ball. In addition, a lady of breeding would be expected to be accomplished in the arts, such as drawing and music. Your posture is fairly atrocious, and the way you sat on my chair last night was vulgar.
"We also need to ameliorate your speech. Your accent clearly defines you as someone not of our country or time. Your grammar and syntax are difficult for me to understand. I believe this could become a problem if left uncorrected.
"Would you accept my instructions? If you are to continue living in this time, I think it would be best to give you a proper education on society, and you can enjoy yourself and interact with others. In the meantime, you can stay here with me."
She confirms my accusations as she sits still with her eyes wide and mouth gaping. Her silence has lasted so long—is she insulted by my offer?
"You would really do all that for me? I don't know if there's any way I could ever repay your kindness."
"Would you permit me to be frank for a moment?" She nods in assent. "I have been alone for well over a century, and have never met anyone who could accept me as an individual. The Volturi saw me as a curiosity, and though they were kind and offered me friendship, they believed that my choice not to kill humans was flawed and an aberration. I cannot permit myself to keep company with humans, because it would mean death if they were to discover my secret."
She searches my face, as if she will find some hidden secrets and truths upon it. I cannot help but wonder if she can. "You already know that I am a vampire, and yet you treat me as a friend, and have so eagerly placed your trust in me. You offer me seemingly unconditional companionship. I would prevail upon your generosity of spirit; it is only proper that I should provide some manner of passing time together that could be beneficial to both of us."
She wakes herself with her screams once again, and I wonder how she can feel such terrible pain in her sleep. Every night for two months, the dreams persist, and I cannot help but believe I am, in part, to blame for her anguish. I stroke her hair to ease her tension, feeling impotent despite my inhuman strength. Surely there must be some way to ease her suffering.
She pulls on my collar, seeking physical closeness. Does she not realize how much danger I present to her? She tests the boundaries of my control with alarming frequency. I catch her eye, and note the profound need. I wrap my arm around her, relishing the feel of her warmth against me. She feels perfect, pressed against my side. I refuse to take the liberty of such intimacy without her initiation. I can deny it not that I desperately want to do so.
I run my fingers through her silken hair, and quietly purr in satisfaction. If she is aware, she acknowledges it not. The action seems to soothe her, and her tears slow to a stop. I would give anything to prevent its necessity.
"Were you left in the woods again in your dream, Bella?" The question escapes me before I can contain it.
"I'm sorry. I know you must be so tired of this. You really don't have to stay here with me every night. I'm sure you must have other things you want to do."
I smile at her, and wonder how she can believe I would desire to be anywhere else. "I don't know how to explain this, but it is as comforting to me as it seems to be for you. I know you've said that I will have the restraint necessary to practice medicine in the future, and I cannot begin to express my satisfaction pertaining to this news. I confess to be rather impatient, though. I want to help people, to heal people. I can't do that yet, but staying here with you makes me feel like I am making a difference."
She strokes my cheek with the back of her fingers, leaving trails of warmth in their midst. Somehow, I know her touch would be warm even if her skin were as cold as my own. Slowly and carefully, she moves her face closer to mine, and I stop breathing at her proximity. She presses her lips against my cheek, and my body feels alive for the first time since my death. She pulls away from me, and her smile is breathtaking and contagious.
"What was that for?" I ask.
"To thank you. You're the best man I've ever known, and I am so grateful that I have you in my life."
She has seen my darkness, and still believes this of me? I feel my own smile widen at her words. "That means more to me than you can know. Your good opinion is one I value above all others."
She smiles at me as she begins to cry. I brush a tear away gently, and feel her lean slightly into my touch. I doubt she knows she has done so.
"I wish I could remove your sorrow. I wish there was a way to heal it, like I could heal your body."
"You do. I'm a poor friend to you if you don't know how much your presence has meant to me over the last few months. You've taught me so much, and done so much for me. I don't just mean teaching me piano and dancing, either. You've cared for me, and been there for me. You've been wonderful, and you can't really see it, but I'm getting better."
Her eyes shine with sincerity, yet I cannot allay my own fears. A question has tugged at the corners of my mind, and I must know the truth. "Bella? May I presume to ask you a question?"
"You can ask anything you want of me, Carlisle. As long as it's not about your future coven, you can ask me anything you want."
In a way, it is, but I must know, regardless. "Was it me who left you in the woods? Was I the one that caused these dreams?"
"Have I said anything that would give you that impression? I'm so sorry if I did…"
Can she really be so oblivious? "No. You've given me no reason to believe as much, but I have considered it a possibility regardless."
"I guess I don't know why you would think that,"
I thought it possible because I love you, Bella. I cannot envision a world or time in which I would know you and not be captivated by you in every possible way.
"You've mentioned before that my coven had been close to you, and treated you as family, and left you. You've also implied that I was the head of this coven, and I can't imagine that I would agree to leave you alone, unless I was protecting you from myself." I stroke her cheek, and admit my deepest truth. "I also cannot imagine knowing you, and not wanting to always be close to you."
"We were friends, Carlisle, and yes, you and your entire family did leave, but while you may have broken my heart, you were not the one to shatter it completely."
She speaks the words as if it does not shatter my own heart to hear them. She calls me a friend, and casually informs me that she has loved another so deeply. I would rather die than hurt her, yet know that leaving her was likely the most difficult thing I will ever do. Being apart from her would be the most acute torture; I would sooner live without feeding.
"I am both relieved and regretful simultaneously."
She cocks an eyebrow, and I know I just admitted more than intended. "I regret causing you pain, but I am glad that I was not the one who caused these nightmares."
She searches my face once more, and I wonder if she can read my thoughts by doing so. Does she know that this is only part of the truth? Can she know how deeply I love her? She smiles and snuggles deeper into me as if she could mould her body around mine completely, and I think she must really know. Her eyes slip closed, and she must be exhausted.
"I don't think you could ever hurt me like he did. His features seem to be fading away in my dreams, though. I don't feel the same way I once did for him. The dreams will stop."
"You say that you don't feel the same way you had, but I haven't seen your nightmares ease at all," I point out.
"I think it's less about him leaving, and more about the fact that I was left at all."
"What do you mean?"
"I just… I think I'll always be afraid of being left alone like that again. That I'm not good enough to stay with…"
"Sweet dreams, Bella. You are beautiful and wonderful. I do not think I could ever leave you," I murmur honestly. I wait until her breathing is almost even before adding, "I doubt I could, even if you asked it of me."
That is the nineteenth time she has sighed within the last half hour.
"You seem somewhat melancholy and wistful today. Is there anything you want to talk about?" I ask her.
"Yes… and no. I miss Charlie and Renee," she replies.
"It has taken me months to become accustomed to the manner in which you address me by my given name. I fear that I may never properly adjust to you doing the same with your parents."
She giggles as if my words were spoken in jest. "You should see Charlie's face when I slip and do it to his face. I've accepted the fact that I'm not going home, and I've been very happy here with you, –I hope you know that- but I am terrified that I am going to forget my old life. I don't want to forget my family."
I need to hold her, and found that I have drawn her into my arms. The need to comfort her is deeper than any instinct I possess. I bury my face into her hair and breathe her in before pressing my lips against her head. I have never truly thought about how greatly she must miss her family. Some of my own memories of my father are blurred and vague, and I wish I had thought to record them in some way before they were lost.
"You could write down everything you can remember about your life. Start with your earliest memories as a little girl, and try not to leave anything out. You can talk about different events, as well as how they made you feel. Describe your parents, and what you love most about them—as well as what frustrates you about them."
"That is perfect, Carlisle. Then, even if they do fade from my memory, I'll have something to refer back to."
"Precisely," I say. "I seem to be lucky in that I remember a good deal from my human life, but I still wish I had thought to keep a journal as a human. Even if I had written down my memories when I was first changed, I could have retained more of them. I find myself frequently lamenting the fact that I cannot clearly remember my father."
"You know, you haven't ever really told me much about your human life. Will you do so now?" Bella asks.
I tell her about my family, as she listens with a smile.
"Thank you for telling me about your family. It means so much to me. I wish I could tell you more about my own, but I'm so afraid of influencing the future," she says with a small frown.
"I understand why you cannot. I promise you that I will not read your journals unless you offer them to me."
She seems surprised that I accept her request so easily. Someone must have disrespected her greatly for her to elicit such a response.
She leaves to write, and I try to ignore my curiosity. I read a medical text to busy my mind. I hear a knock at my door, but she enters before I respond.
"Bella…" I begin.
She interrupts me quickly. "I hope you know that you are my best friend, Carlisle. You have completely altered my life, and shown me the potential that it could have. I don't think I could live my life without you in it, and I know I don't want to try. The proof of all this is in the pages of my journal."
Her words are everything I've wanted to hear. "I feel I must admit the same as you, Miss Swan. Bella, I'd been miserable, lost, and profoundly lonely until you approached me at the ball. Since that moment, you have changed the course of my life irrevocably, and have come to be the one person in my life whom I feel I can truly be myself around. You understand me in ways that no one else ever has, and I thank God every day that he saw fit to bring you into my life. My life would not be the same without you in it, either."
I wipe away a stray tear, and kiss her forehead, choosing to trust myself.
"Does this mean you'd consider changing me some day?" Bella asks, and my heart feels complete. Perhaps this means she my feel the same as I.
"If you chose to be my companion for this eternity, I would be honored to change you. I couldn't wait almost 200 years to see you again, only to lose you once again. I value our relationship far too much to do so."
"You love me?"
"You know about vampires, Bella. I'm not certain that you're well educated in what happens when a vampire falls in love, though. A vampire is frozen in time, and we are not susceptible to alterations of character. The only force strong enough to coerce any sort of change is love. The love I hold for you has changed me so completely. I had been alone and withdrawn from everyone. I was unhappy all of the time, and the way the Volturi treated me filled me with uncertainty.
"When I met you, I gained confidence in myself, and was able to see not only what I could offer the world, but also what the world can offer me. You have filled me with such passion for life, and make me believe that I am capable of anything. You make me a better man than I had ever hoped to be, and I will love you as long as I walk the Earth.
"A vampire's love is unbreakable, unalterable, and permanent. I will never love another, and I could not bear it if I had to face an eternity without you by my side. Marry me, Isabella Swan, and let me change you as my mate, so that we may be together forever."
Tears stream down her face, yet her smile is brilliant.
"Yes, Carlisle. I love you with everything that I am, and everything that I will be, and desire nothing more in this world than to be your wife!"
I must kiss her. She is everything to me, and to know that she loves me is…everything. The feeling of her lips against mine is Heaven, and I lose myself in the touch of her skin. The taste of her mouth is intoxicating, and I want to feel her body around my own. I want to feel her heat. I need to taste every part of her.
She parts her mouth, and the taste is more intense. Her tongue slips inside of my mouth; she invades my body just as she has invaded my soul. Her fire consumes me, and I am nothing more than tinder. I feel drunk and alert, as if no sensation could escape my attention. I feel a rush of warmth, and I swallow the excess liquid in my mouth. It is the most intoxicating flavor.
She is bleeding into my mouth. I try and fail to tear myself from her. Between the sweetness of her kiss and taste of her blood, I am overwhelmed with desire, and feel myself orgasm. I groan in pleasure, and can finally tear myself from her lips. I step back and look at her in panic. She must have cut her tongue on my teeth. How could I be so careless? My venom will change her.
"Carlisle. Don't panic. We both want for me to become a vampire. Let the change happen. I am happy about this, as long as I will still have you when I wake up. We can stay here in Roysten until I am ready to be around people."
She is right. I kiss her lips, and savor the blood that still hangs upon them. She is right; we both want this. "I love you, Bella, and will forever."
"I love you, too, Carlisle."
I bring my lips to her throat, and bite her once more, licking the skin. As I bite several more places along her body and taste the sweetness of her blood, I am lost in my own pleasure. She will know nothing but pain for a long while, yet I can feel nothing apart from my own ecstasy. Pleasure crashes through me as I find release over and over again. This is Bella's blood within me now; she is inside of me as much as my venom is now inside of her.
I carry her inside, and though she is surprisingly silent and still, I speak to her gently. As if my words could ease her pain, I pause only for breath. Perhaps the coolness of my body will ease her pain?
Three days pass far too slowly, and I wait until she is finally awake. Her beauty has been enhanced. So beautiful…Bella has always been beautiful. Now, though, her features are ethereal. She will forever be exquisite. She will forever be mine.
Her eyes open, and my world is complete. The only thought in my mind is, "Bella, I love you, and am glad you are happy and mine."
The air in the room tightens and releases, as if it lives within our own passion. When I kiss her, she melts into me. Her warmth overwhelms me, as if her love were a tangible entity. She asks me to make love to her, and I can do nothing but consent. I love her; I need her. She is my sanity and my tether to this world.
I explore her body with my fingers and mouth. I taste the sweetness of her skin—like candied violets and roses. I ache for her. She is touching me, and I am overwhelmed. She is so good, so pure, and I want her so completely. I need to feel her skin against mine. I need to be inside of her.
I enter her slowly, and the world stills around us. She is the Earth, the moon, the Heavens, and I am hers.
I move inside of her as she moves against me, and I can only feel. She is hot and tight around me. I feel her love like a blanket. She wraps her soul around me like she does her limbs. Pleasure releases from me far greater than that from her blood.
I am perfect and whole, and consummately hers for eternity.
"I think I have Aro's power," she states.
"What do you mean, you have Aro's power?"
"When he touched me, I saw every memory he's ever had, and those of anyone he's ever touched. I saw your memories from when you were here before. I see everything from everyone. It's like a giant maze appeared in my head, and now I have to figure out what turns I want to make."
"I don't understand how this could happen," I say.
"I think I take the powers of those around me. I'm not a shield-well, I wasn't before, but I'm pretty sure I took Sulpicia's shield. When we first walked into the throne room, we shook Caius and Marcus's hands, and then I saw the bonds between everyone in the room. It was like everyone had a shimmering rope of light connecting to each other, and the thickness and color showed the nature and strength of the bond. When I touched Aro's hand, he may not have been able to read my mind, but I certainly was able to read his. Every thought he has ever had, even in passing. It's so much to take in!"
I move to wrap my arm around her shoulders, and she once more moves away from my embrace. I know no reason why she should have quarrel with my touch, and I feel impotent when she evades my touch. "Why won't you let me comfort you, Bella?"
"If you touch me, I will hear every thought you have ever had. I may have taken your previous thoughts from Aro's mind before, but I will not invade your privacy willingly!"
"Do you mean to imply that you won't touch me because you're afraid of invading my memories?"
"I'm not implying anything, Carlisle. I clearly said exactly that," Bella yells. I understand her frustration, yet I am only trying to provide comfort to my mate. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to be rude, but I don't know what to do! I don't want this!"
"I know you didn't ask for this, Bella, but I can't live my life not being able to touch my mate. It goes against every instinct I have. I need to feel you, touch you, love you. I don't think I can be complete if I cannot have physical contact with you."
She seems to visibly calm herself. "How can you want to touch me, knowing that I will violate your mind? You will have no privacy from me as soon as I brush my skin against yours, and it only takes a moment for it to happen. How can you want to put yourself in that position."
"Bella, I love you, and have trusted you completely from the moment you stood in front of me, telling me details of my life that no one else knew. You already know me better than anyone, and there's no secret I need to protect from you, and certainly not one that would be worth more to me than being able to hold you in my arms. Though, I suppose it will never again be possible to surprise you."
Her smile, though sad, comforts me. "I just wish that I didn't need to worry about this. I won't be able to kiss you without knowing every thought that passes through your mind."
I smile at her concern. "Then I must make certain to think about how incredible you are every moment of every day."
"You really don't hate me for this?"
"I could never hate you, Bella, and this wasn't your fault. You didn't ask for this. I'm not entirely sure how this happened, but we'll figure it out. Together."
"I love you, Carlisle."
"I love you, too, Bella," I reassure her whilst smiling. "Now, may I please kiss you?"
I kiss her, and feel whole once more. I cannot live without her touch, and I hope she would feel the same. She does not return the kiss instantly, and I wonder if she is truly reading my thoughts. She nods her head, moving my head up and down as she doesn't move away from our kiss. I'm glad she knows how much I need to be close to her right now.
If I could, I would never let my skin leave hers.
She smiles against my skin in response, and once more I feel reality slipping behind her presence. She has seen the depth of my loneliness, and the pain of my past. She therefore must also have seen how brilliant is the joy that she brings me. The only pain I can feel is when she is pained.
In Volterra, there are many gifted vampires. Aro enjoys those with particular talents. Will he want Bella to remain here? I have lived happily within the city's walls, yet I left to pursue more lofty ambitions. I will stay if she so chooses, but only if it is her choice.
When she ends or kiss, I am reminded that my thoughts are not my own. Her fingers are still on my face, and she appears worried, as if anything could threaten my love and need for her. Perhaps now that she can read my thoughts, she knows how foolish a belief that truly is. I smile at her, and for the first time since leaving Aro's presence, her smile is genuine and happy.
I would prefer that she not possess Aro's ability to read thoughts, but only because I wish to spare her such a heavy burden. If denying me her touch will save her from discomfort, I will spare her the experience. "I only wanted to provide you with some privacy, Carlisle," she says, interrupting my thoughts. "Your mind is as beautiful as your soul, and looking in to it could never cause me pain."
I am grateful that I don't have to respond. I don't know how I've deserved her love, yet I will treasure it always. "I hope you never decide otherwise, but will abide by your wishes if you do," I tell her.
Every errant thought will be exposed to her, and I am intimidated by the prospect. Perhaps, had I not known Aro, this would be difficult to conceive, and I am grateful for our particular circumstances. I wish she could control the gift, if only to spare her from the constant intrusion of my thoughts. She is my mate, and while Aro could touch my hand if he was so inclined, I hope to touch Bella as constantly as she would allow. From her smile, I believe this to be as frequently as I desire.
"I wish I knew how my ability worked."
"Eleazar could inform us," I say, relieved to provide some assistance in this matter. "He can read a person's ability—what it is, and how it functions. If we knew how your ability worked, perhaps we can help control it."
"Aro has never touched a person without hearing their thoughts."
"Aro's is not the only ability you possess," I counter. "Nor are the only talented vampires living in Volterra. There are those with gifts who do not care for the lifestyle of the Volturi."
"I hadn't considered that."
"Eleazar's gift may be beneficial to possess, as well. You would be able to know the gifts of those who we come in contact with, and how to utilize those talents."
"You see, Carlisle? Your mind will always fascinate me."
"I'm glad of that. Shall we go seek out my friend?"
"Please," she says, and threads her arm through my own. I lead her back to the castle, and hope to find answers with the help of Eleazar.
A/N: Next chapter will be back in BPOV. I'll get it up as soon as possible. I'm shooting for next weekend, but it depends on ItSoUM.