Written for Bells. Just Bells., duskwatcher, katmom and valelf - the winning bidders on my Fandom Gives Back, Eclipse Edition auction offering.
Thank you for contributing to the fight against pediatric cancers! You ladies rock!
This is a work of derivative fiction. All things TWILIGHT are the intellectual property of Stephenie Meyer and/or her assignees. I write merely to entertain myself and others and receive no compensation.
My gratitude is lushly extended to u2shay, who beta'd for me. Without her, this would not be remotely worth reading. Also to anndeveria for her Italian translations. Thank you for not letting me embarrass myself, ladies!
Chapter One: Portrait of the Doctor as a Young Man
This is...different, I thought at my reflection as I prepared to go to work this misty Washington January morning. Alice had given me a makeover before I relocated. A rather drastic makeover.
My "sometime-daughter" had playfully clucked her tongue at me as dawn slipped in through a pristine window in Tennessee. "Carlisle, since you asked, I have to tell you that you look like a Ken doll."
Puzzled, I had craned my head up to look at her as she stood behind me. "A what?"
"A Ken doll. Barbie and Ken by Mattel? Dolls for little girls?" She turned my head so that we were both gazing into the mirror. "We all know you're gorgeous, but you're looking almost pre-fab. I suggest you go brunette for a while. I think – No, I know you'll like it." Her face beamed with satisfaction and I tried to smile for her.
"You're the psychic."
"And the stylist!"
"And the stylist. Style away."
By the end of that day, I looked like a new man. Not something the average vampire can say at this point in their existence.
"No more Ken Doll?" I inquired with half a smile as I stood in front of the antique mirror in my bedroom.
Alice eyed me critically in our shared reflection. "I like the dark, mussed hair. You're a young, genius doc and you look it. You apparently stepped off the pages of the Jos. A. Bank catalog. You look sharp, stylish, but not," and here she lowered her voice to an ominous whisper, "three hundred and seventy years old."
From somewhere – some lost, forgotten corner of my psyche – I found a chuckle. "Well, praise the holies for that, Alice. My patients would think I'd be treating them with leeches."
Three months prior:
Rosalie took me aside, her hand firm around my arm, her eyes dark with thirst. "Carlisle, we need to move on. I miss Esme, too. But it's been three years and we're getting – we're getting old, Dad." Regret laced her voice. "You don't look anywhere near thirty-five, you know." With a nod, she indicated the mirror in the first floor hallway. It was a decorative piece, purchased from Tiffany's in the 1930's, after Esme and I...
"I know," I murmured at last, taking in our reflection, Rose's and mine. "I know." Rose was forever frozen at eighteen, as I was at twenty-three. Clothing, eye-wear and temporary hair color could age us to an extent, but she was completely correct. I could not pass for a man in my mid-thirties. Not really. She did better in her role as a graduate student.
"Edward and I will finish our studies this year," Rose said, assuming – again – the role of family matriarch. She was good at it though, and it was easy to let her manage us. Alice planned events and kept an eye on our finances; Rose managed the bigger picture as well as the domestic routines. And Emmett managed Rose.
Edward... Being the only single person in our family for most of its history, Edward managed our days. He kept abreast of the minds about us. Made sure all was as it should be. And even he had suggested two years ago that we needed to move on. Botox injections could only explain so much. I had been unable to move on, however. My heart could not seem to leave the place where my mate had last been with me. But it was time, I knew. More than time.
"All right, everyone in the living room," I requested, not raising my voice. Everyone was listening – the expectant attitude was vibrating all over our house.
Jasper arrived first, his laptop in tow. Jasper had grown so much since Esme's...accident. I felt – sad as it was – that our family did not truly appreciate him until after Esme was lost to us. His gift of interactive empathy not only assured that he was aware of everyone's emotional state – something my wife had kept tabs on for us before – but he also was able to best minister to our emotional needs. And Alice ministered to his.
It had been a freak thing, Esme's death. One of those rare unfathomables of our lives. Instant decapitation and incineration was not a common form of accident for one of our kind, outside of Volterra. If I could sleep, nightmares would yet be plaguing me, I was certain.
It had been three years and Rose and the others were right. It was time to move on. I had lost my mate, the pain would never be gone entirely, but I still had much to live for with my family.
"I propose we move back to the Olympic Peninsula," I said, settling myself in my usual leather chair. In front of me my family sat in different postures, leaning forward in attention. "It's so cloudy we can be out more than three hundred days a year."
"Almost like being normal!" Rose sighed happily, leaning into Emmett as they reclined on the white leather sofa. Esme had chosen a pale palette for this room...
I shook off the too-clear memories. "I'll go scout us out a place and find a good, small hospital or clinic for myself. Someplace near a school."
"High school again, Carlisle?" Edward wondered, sounding resigned.
"Only if you want, son." I smiled lopsidedly. "We could set you up as my intern or something, if you'd rather. Or you could go to college. Seattle is a good hub for transportation and education."
Edward nodded. "I'd like that."
Alice raised her hand. "I like high school."
Jasper groaned. "Sweetheart, I can't sit through that routine again. How about a liberal arts college?"
Alice threw up her hands. "Fine! I can major in fashion merchandising. Again."
"It's changed since the seventies, thank the Lord," Jasper muttered. An instant debate flared over which decade had the worst fashion sense, the seventies or the eighties. I could have told them that the 1690's were even more outlandish, but none of them had that reference point.
I shook my head. "Any particular reason I even have to be a father figure?" I mused aloud. It wasn't as if any of "my children" needed a dad. We were family, yes, but the youngest of us was Emmett, and he had been immortal for more than seventy years.
Edward eyed me sharply from his spot on the floor near Alice's feet. "You're our creator, though, for most of us. And you've always stood in that role, you know."
I know. But... It doesn't feel right without Esme.
Edward nodded, grimacing. "Then be our brother, Carlisle." He grinned a little at me. "Or Rose's brother, maybe?"
Jasper's smile was easy. "Now that'd be a switch. I was the same age when I was turned as you were, right?" Wouldn't I make a hell of a father figure? The laughing question was in his gaze as he turned to his wife.
Alice slapped him on the shoulder. "Oh no. I'm not turning into a maternal person. No way. Nuh-uh."
I laughed. "No, I can't really see that either, Alice."
"Well that's a relief!" She threw herself on Jasper's lap. "I'd rather make googly eyes at him than waggle my finger at the rest of you."
Rose exhaled loudly. "We could just go the easy way. Carlisle and Jasper and I are Cullens – since Carlisle's the oldest and it is his last name. We should use it because his medical paperwork will be harder to forge than anyone else's documents. Then Alice and Emmett and Edward can be –"
"McCartys!" Emmett laughed at the idea.
"Masens!" Alice giggled. "I haven't been Alice Masen ever!"
Edward angled a brow at me. "Are you sure?"
What, you're 109 and think you need a father, now? I asked him silently.
He snorted quietly. "No, but you know we all value your wisdom."
It's still here, such as it is. With the rest of me, such as I am.
After some more discussion, we decided upon a good working back story and some of the practical immediate actions. I upped my age by a few years – that was my custom as a practicing physician and I'd been doing it for at least a century and a half – and we started our preliminary research.
We decided to go to either Forks or Port Angeles. Forks was smaller, but Port Angeles was home to a junior college as well as a port and more business opportunities. We could probably find a property in between the two, to keep us flexible.
Then, it was all a matter of applying for a job. Fortunately, it was a process with which I was greatly familiar.
"Thank you," I told the real estate agent. "I think this'll be fine for us." I manufactured a smile as Mrs. Crowley took me through the old-fashioned home in the woods. There was a three-mile private drive to reach the white, clapboard structure. Lush greenery and wildlife and even a river accented the property. "My brother and sister and their spouses will all be very comfortable here." And Edward. Of course. He had never quite fit the usual patterns.
The paperwork for the house was done. I slid comfortably into my role as a physician at the local hospital and spent a great deal of time in thought. Because after all was said and done, without the others, I was lonely. Lonely in a way I hadn't experienced since before Edward joined me almost a century before.
January passed in a wet blur, followed by a frigid February. The persistent dismal weather of the Olympic Peninsula was punctuated by car accidents and the occasional knife fight. The latest such altercation was how I met the local Police Chief, Charlie Swan.
"I'm sorry, Dr. Cullen," the taciturn gentleman said to me over the bleeding body of a Quileute man who refused – with a grim determination that concerned me – treatment. A young man by the name of Quil Ateara had been assaulted by a couple of the local toughs for no apparent cause. The tribal elders had phoned and said one of their own would be picking Quil up. The Chief of Police grimaced. "Some of them out there are kinda superstitious," he murmured.
I caught Quil's eye, evaluating his scent with memories I would never be able to shed. He only knew the stories; there was no taint of wolf in his blood. Yet. Would that change, I wondered, now that we had met?
"Don't worry about it, Chief Swan. I wouldn't wish to interfere in the local customs."
"Call me Charlie."
"I'm Carlisle." I nodded instead of shaking hands; latex gloves were nicely off-putting in these circumstances. Chief Swan was undoubtedly a no-nonsense sort of man; explaining skin as hard as marble and as cold as the roof of a car in mid-February would have been awkward, at best. "Good to meet you, Charlie."
"Wish the circumstances were better, Carlisle."
Quil Ateara coughed jaggedly. "Sorry, doc. Sometimes, the elders..."
I brushed my hand lightly over his tousled hair. He was so young. Perhaps eighteen or nineteen, all gangly limbs and soft features. "I do understand, Mr. Ateara. Completely." I remember your great-grandfather. He was a wise man. Does he yet live? Will you survive our meeting unscathed?
More questions that would likely go without answers.
\ \ \ \ \/ / / / /
An odd thing happened during the months leading up to early April. Well, it wasn't a thing so much as a state of being. Without the presence of my darling Esme, without even the façade of "the children" being around me, I was reminded that I was, in physical age, a man in his twenties. Only twenty-three, as Jasper had pointed out in his amusing way. Posing as twenty-eight, but still, a young man as such things are reckoned. No wedding ring on my finger, no parental obligations to fulfill. Only the conversations about my brother and sister, and how it was certainly unusual, yes, for a sister and a brother of mine to have fallen in love with another set of siblings. Not unheard of, certainly, but unusual.
"And you, Dr. Cullen?" Sally, one of the nurses, asked coyly. "Was there a third sister for you?"
And here, I could be genuine. "Not for me. My wife passed away a few years ago."
Flirtatious flutterings flew out the window. "Oh, Dr. Cullen. I'm so sorry. You're so young to be a widower." Nurses encountered that state of being often, and Sally was appropriately sensitive, I felt.
Still, I was regarded as a young man... Because I looked like one. I dressed like one. I adapted myself to the current manners of one.
Could I help it if I became lonely like one, too?
Such was my state of mind one icy day in early April. A sudden freeze had laid down black ice on the roads, causing not a few accidents. I was brought in even though I wasn't on call. Forks General was a small place and I was needed. Fortunately, fatigue was not an issue for me. It was later in the evening, at seven minutes past ten, when two different ambulances brought in two different cases from the same accident scene.
"Impaled on his stick shift, Dr. Gerandy!" The senior physician blew out a breath as he triaged the patient. I could smell some kind of cheap scotch on the patient's breath from across the emergency room. Dr. Gerandy nodded. "Clear Number One Surgery for me. I'll scrub up and be right there."
More EMTs rolled in another accident victim. "Same scene, Dr. Cullen," Thom, one of the heavy-coated EMTs told me. "The other guy hit her. She was still in front of his fuh – of his truck when we got there."
"Status?" I requested, crossing to the gurney.
"Isabella Swan, the Police Chief's daughter. Small town. We know her. She's twenty. Was walking to her car from the diner, you know? The driver must've lost it and he nailed her with his truck. Respiration normal for the situation. Heart rate rather elevated. Looks like her shoulder and hip are broken though, doc."
They had cut away her heavy winter clothing to make sure no further trauma was present. I could see bruises already forming in the shape of a hood ornament and a bumper and I froze in sheer fury.
And then I finally noticed it. The scent of her blood.
Oh, God, help me. My prayer was sincere. I never noticed the blood anymore. Why now? Why here? Why?
When was the last time I had smelled someone so alluring in all the centuries of my existence? This young woman's blood didn't sing to me – the memory of il mio cantante in New York City two hundred years ago, would never leave me – but it came close.
The young woman blinked, tried to move. Groaned. Swore – mildly, softly – under her breath, and began to struggle against the bars of the wheeled gurney. All my best instincts rose up in me and I restrained her gently. "Isabella Swan, I'm Dr. Cullen. Let's see what we can do for you, shall we?"
"British?" she mumbled, blinked owlishly. "Y'sound like Branagh."
I exchanged a glance with Thom, who lingered to see if he would be needed. "Kenneth Branagh?" I had, oddly enough, heard that before. "Observant girl, isn't she?"
"Very," the young man said with a smile. "She coulda gone Ivy League, but stayed at U Dub to be near Charlie."
Ah, a loving daughter, then. With thick, dark hair, alabaster skin, brown eyes and a sharp ear. "All right, we're going to need to make sure she's stable enough for surgery, so, I'll need to examine her. Thanks Thom. Tell Sarah she did a great job."
"Will do, Dr. Cullen. Give Bella our best."
Bella. Beautiful Swan. I had to smile.
Tempting, yes... But not more than I could bear. "I will."
It didn't happen often over the past few years, but I found myself remembering the scene of Esme's accident as I paused ever-so-briefly before focusing on my patient. I was normally entirely focused in such a circumstance, but something about Isabella Swan reminded me of my lost mate and I felt the pang of that loss still. I always would, I knew. It was the nature of our kind to find one mate in our existence. We were not granted a human's ability to blur memories and feelings over the years, so this loss would always be sharp. But, due to the nature of my mind, I knew that though that pain would be there, it was not the dominant feeling by any means.
I shook off the memory of the charred and twisted metal and the still-fragrant ashes that had found shelter for themselves behind a tire. There was work to do. I pulled the patterned privacy curtain around us and sorted out the extent of my patient's injuries.
\ \ \ \ \/ / / / /
"So, Miss Swan –"
"Bella, Dr. Cullen. Please," she whispered, the morphine's effects evident in her pupils and breathy voice.
"Bella. Your father is on his way. I need to get you into surgery immediately, however, to make sure that we don't lose any bone fragments."
She winced. Grimaced. Nodded. "All right. Need me to sign something?" She smiled crookedly up at me and my dead heart wrenched within my chest. I swear it did. "I'm right-handed, so it should be interesting." Her lips went white for a moment and I gauged that her pain was overcoming the emergency medications that had been administered earlier.
"Of course. I'll have the nurse take care of that immediately – Sally is right here – and then the anesthesiologist will be with you."
A sardonic amusement appeared in her face, despite the pain I knew she had to be feeling. "And I'll try counting to twenty and reach five and pass out and then I'll see you in post-op. I know the drill, Dr. Cullen."
I had seen her hefty file here at the hospital and smiled warmly into her eyes. Her wry humor in these circumstances touched me. "Yes, I imagine you do, Bella. All right. Until post-op." My gloved hand brushed lightly over her uninjured forehead, feathering stray dark strands of hair.
"Bring chocolate?" she asked as I turned.
Surprised – who knew I could be surprised after all these centuries? – I shot a look back to her. "Is that your usual post-op ritual? It's not always advised, you know. You might be on liquids for twenty-four hours."
One defined brow arched high. "Dr. Cullen," she breathed. "A girl always likes chocolate in bed."
Sally laughed out loud, as did I. "I'll, um, take a memo, Miss Swan," I said around my gusts of laughter. "You should come with a warning label."
"Dangerous When Medicated."
I kept the sound of Bella Swan's silly, opium-extracted laughter with me all the way into surgery.
The x-rays gave me some reason to smile as well. "The hip isn't going to be nearly as complex as I feared," I murmured to the lead nurse. "See there, the pelvis isn't even fractured. She took the brunt of the collision on her shoulder."
"She's ready when you are, Dr. Cullen."
I nodded and swept by her to scrub again. "One can't be too careful," I called over my shoulder to the nurses. My skin was virtually sterile, but they certainly didn't know that.
After I closed the final incision and knotted the last suture on her hip, I took a deep and unnecessary breath behind my surgical mask. "Thank you," I told my team as I pulled the mask down and smiled warmly at them all. "We might make it out in time for cafeteria pancakes."
Jenna laughed softly. "Can't wait." She wiggled her eyebrows playfully as she did a final count on the surgical tools of the trade, making very sure everything down to the last clamp was present and accounted for. Of course, I knew I had not left anything behind that should not have been – an advantage of a preternaturally perfect memory – but I could not tell Jenna that.
"All right, let's move her out," I prompted, peeling off my gloves and blood-sprinkled scrubs. "I'll go talk to her family."
"There's only Chief Swan," Jenna said, shaking her short, damp hair out. "So it shouldn't be too hard. He's a tough ol' guy."
"Thanks. And Jenna?"
"Yes, Dr. Cullen?"
I grinned. "Would you or maybe Sally pick up a piece of chocolate – something... I don't know something small but not too sweet – for our patient?"
Jenna's eyes widened with sheer surprise and I had to chuckle. If I could have blushed, I would have as I tried to explain. "Bella Swan and I had a conversation when she was medicated, and it involved chocolate. I just thought if she could see a piece of it when she woke up, it might improve her disposition."
Shaking her head, my chief nurse laughed quietly to herself and turned away with a nod. Under her breath – but of course I could hear her – she murmured, "Well, that betting pool is going down in flames..."
Pushing through the doors on Surgery Two, I crossed the corridor to the waiting room, hiding my own amusement instinctively. I could dwell upon the implications of her remark and my reaction to it later.
The acrid tang of fear in the waiting room never seemed to be completely done away with by awful pine-scented cleansers. The scent served to assist in sobering my demeanor as I went to tell Charlie Swan how things had gone with Bella. It was not going to be an easy conversation.
"Chief Swan, Charlie, we've met before," I began as he rose to greet me with a worried crease in his forehead.
He nodded, a jerky movement of his head. "Yes, we have. Were you working on my daughter?"
I opted to continue in a formal vein to help the man keep his composure. "I was her surgeon, yes. She was hit by a truck, Chief." The man winced. "Her shoulder took the brunt of the impact but we were able to reconstruct it with some permanent pins and screws. Two ribs cracked and serious contusions – bruises – on her legs, but no head trauma. And her blood loss was low, considering. She should do fine. She's in post-op now."
Charlie Swan nodded slowly, his lips thin, eyes narrow. "And the driver of the other vehicle?"
"In with Dr. Gerandy, Chief. He was impaled on his gear shift."
I heard the very soft grunt Bella's father issued. It sounded like the word, "Good." I ignored that.
"I anticipate," I went on, "Isabella being able to go home in a few days. We'll take good care of her here, Charlie," I assured him.
His answering smile almost surprised me. "I know, Dr. Cullen. She should just have this as her alternate address for school, you know." His brown eyes – so like his daughter's – widened in alarm and I stilled instinctively. "School. Damn! Right! What's she going to do about that, Doctor? She's going to be out for a while, isn't she?"
I sighed and threaded one hand through my hair. "She's going to be unable to get around much for a while, Chief. I can, of course, get her a medical release. Perhaps she can take courses online? My sister did that for some of her classes when –" When my Esme died, when our family was crumpling up into a black hole – "things were a bit confused in our lives." I offered the man a small, reassuring smile. "Charlie? Isabella will be fine. That's the main thing. The coursework I'm sure she can make up. What's she studying?"
He gave a short, wry laugh. "Would you believe pre-med? She said she felt that she's taken so much from the medical community that she oughta give something back."
I grinned. "I've seen her records and can completely understand that. Maybe I can be of some help, then." It had been a decade or so since my last formal experience of medical education, but I knew enough to help a pre-med major.
Relief apparently added volubility to his personality. "You know, when she was a kid, she hated blood. She'd turn a little green if she skinned her knee or when I pricked my finger with a lure. But not anymore. Good thing too, eh?"
"A good thing indeed! All right, Chief. I'm going to go check her vitals. Someone will let you know when she's awake."
"Thanks, Doctor," the Chief of Police said, the traces of humor erased from his voice as he looked past my shoulder into some indeterminate place. "She's my world. I don't know what I'd do without her."
Esme's face ghosted through my infallible memory and I sighed inwardly at the wrench it gave me. "I know exactly what you mean."