Never Wish to be Alone
"Curiosity is the lust of the mind." —Thomas Hobbes
The days are predictable.
The mornings are crisp, full with a pang of dull blue sunrays that slip like slender swords through the window. The doctor lays in his bed, and the first ray spears his dead heart, a light bouncing gently off the bare spot on his chest, and it burns him. His skin responds to the gift with fine little shimmers, but his eyes are still tired, though they long not for sleep.
He will linger here for a while longer, his body cooling the sheets beneath him. A thin veil of frost on the floor length windows reminds him that he must shiver right about now. So he does. His soul shivers as well. The sheets around him, though cold, are the closest to warmth he will ever feel; so he feels the need to remain here, arms outstretched on the fine, thin cotton, head cradled by the loving lap of a satin pillow.
Some mornings the cold silence gets the better of him. If he dares, he will imagine the presence of another on the bed beside him. She is faceless, a simple spirit of the female essence, impossibly nameless. Here she is his alone, in this half-darkened room, by the silver shards of seductive, frostbitten sunlight. His outstretched arm will reach out even further, fingers twitching invitingly for the slender hand he knows must be there...
If she chooses to return the grasp, he will barely feel it. Her fingers whisper over his, touch him indecently in the center of his open palm, tease the underside of his forefinger, draw elaborate, foreign, sometimes suggestive shapes on his skin. She paints an invisible bracelet a lewd narrative around his sensitive wrist. He pulls back his hand possessively, with a gasp of outrage, his hand hitting hard against his dead heart. He will not be anyone's artwork.
His breath is rough and fast after this frightening encounter, the stirrings of that irrepressible urge tingling like the filigree of an unfed fire on his belly. Other men should suffer castration anxiety in the presence of such a woman, but a vampire should feel no threat to his power. And perhaps it is not a threat he feels as he lies limp in this bed; perhaps it is just that familiar sting of vulnerability, of lusting after something he can never have. That slap in the stomach that comes with knowing his needs will remain unsatisfied, forever fermenting in the pit of his heart. Like wine, they richen over the years. Their bouquet is scandalous in its fragrant perfection. He could make use of these desires, but he never even lifts them from the cellar.
If he is not clear in his decision to abstain, her fingers will return, snaking up his bare arm, sliding down his chest, and circling about his navel, all the while knowing how her touch shall affect him. His imaginary counterpart believes it is time to drink the wine he has cultivated.
This nameless woman of dreaded dawn is strongest in the early hours in the very hours when he is weakest. But he had asked for her hand, and she had done nothing wrong by returning the hold. He had asked for her because he wanted her. He desired her.
That desire hurt him. It stabbed him in every piece of his body, and plunged into the most fragile spots of his soul. He could toss and turn all he wanted in those cold, cold sheets, but he feared the power even the gentlest friction might have against his body. Saddening, that such simple movement could destroy him if he gave in to it. He had no choice left but to remain still, like the solemn, sexless statue that he was. Forever an untouched slab of marble, less than half the man his sculptor had intended him to be when He had started carving. As a man, Carlisle was... unfinished in every way. Incomplete in every way.
Lying dormant on the bed sheets in winter seems to bring this misfortune to light.
Eventually the weary doctor will rise from the bed, untampered sheets still smooth and straight. He has never tucked himself in; he always lays on the surface a theme that carries from the bed to the rest of the world.
So very much of his life is just skimming the surface. Once he leaves that door, he is only a doctor. Another face to speak of hope and medical remedies to men who worry for the health they have. To own something as fragile and burdensome as health seems so daunting. He wonders how they can do it, how he once did it himself...
His days are much the same rather like slightly tweaked variations of the same familiar song. He doesn't mind it… not really. Carlisle was content with minimal variety, so long as he was pleased with what he was doing. Pleasure, for Carlisle, came from feeling useful, from a sense of duty and accomplishment from being constructive for the sake of construction. If this was the tempo he was meant to follow, he would keep up well with the timing.
The variety in his life comes after the workday is done and gone. The calm or the chaos from the hospital that day will flitter through his mind, all the way up the front walk until his hand touches the doorknob. He welcomes himself inside.
His home. His life. His son.
They cocoon themselves in their favorite room the study the intellectual chapel of books, and crackling fire, and dancing candles, and philosophical smirks. Their conversation becomes richer as the hours grow later. There is a thrill to this procedure, a knowing secret passed between them, two vampires who have set themselves apart from the rest of the world. It gives them a sense of belonging to something else this strange, wise, mysterious little cult they've seemed to establish in this library of mostly silence.
Edward loves to ask questions. Carlisle loves to think of answers. The pattern reverses itself some nights; sometimes it is a full-blown interrogation from one for the other. They know each other well, it seems. Many secrets are entrusted, many feelings are foiled. But one night was all it took for the pattern to be thrown off-kilter.
It was too silent in the room silent enough that the lack of sound was something sacrilegious. It had only been a matter of time before one of them fed their need to fill it.
"Who is she?" Edward softly demanded, his voice weaving between the candle flames to his sire's ear. The clock on the mantel ticked by expectantly, the answer lingering on the very back of the doctor's tongue.
Carlisle's breath hitched. A vision of pale yellow lace and bleary hazel eyes tucked itself hastily into the helm of his subconscious.
He would be a fool to play coy, to ask "Who is who?" Edward knew better, and Carlisle never pretended to forget the boy's advantages. But there was a moment where he wanted to don a hood of innocence, to settle into his chair and turn the next page in his book and shrug it off.
It was too significant to simply shrug off. Edward could see this.
It was time to tell him. What harm would it do?
"She was my patient not long before I treated you," Carlisle spoke in muted, elegant tones. "Her name was Esme Platt. She fell from a tree and broke her leg. I sometimes revisit the memory without precedent," he almost finished there, but then... "It happens with many of my patients."
He tried to protect his lips from the inevitable wince that would seize them. Such a spill! Why couldn't he have kept his mouth closed for once?
Damn it all. That was the equivalent of a vocal shrug.
Edward's deep eyes narrowed in a surprisingly gentle way his gaze was quite a sight to witness like this his intellect and his awareness all pulled into one dark, burning intensity. He was a predator and more information was his prey.
"I've yet to see another patient of yours turn up without precedent."
Carlisle leaned back in his chair, sighing heavily. "The mind is a mystery, is it not?" he pretended to be baffled himself. "This thought is how shall I put it? a resident anomaly, Edward. You of all people should recognize that."
"A resident anomaly does not reoccur once every other month, only to be forced away at the first hint of its appearance." Edward's annunciation was dark, calculated. He set his book aside, ready to continue speaking.
"There is nothing significant about her Carlisle interrupted gently. "She's a peculiarity, I suppose. She was one of my youngest patients. One of the few female patients I've had..."
Of all the reasons for why she should be turning up uninvited in his head all these years later, none were very convincing... But they were all legitimate despite their being chosen in a flurry of desperation.
"You don't say," Edward smiled.
"It isn't something I've struggled to keep private." Carlisle's lips formed a firm line.
"Really?" Edward's eyebrows rose. "You seem reluctant to dwell on it for more than a few seconds at a time. Honestly, had you allowed the thought to sink in like any other, I might not feel such suspicion surrounding it."
This baffled the doctor.
"Do I really try to hide it?" he asked lightly, in awe.
"I don't know kind of," Edward muttered, calmer. "There's an... aversion there. Almost like you're afraid of thinking about her."
Carlisle chuckled softly, doing his best to ignore the tiny chip in his control. "Why would I fear a sixteen-year-old girl?"
In his mind, the word 'woman' was a silky echo behind the spoken words.
Edward's teeth scraped against each other uncomfortably. "I haven't the slightest."
The chip in Carlisle's control became a crack. Swiftly, he set down his book, pulled his notes together and rushed into a final speech. "Well, then it's settled. There is no reason for me to think of her, and so I shan't. From this day forward I shall no longer plague you with my unprecedented thoughts of Esme Platt." His voice unintentionally rose in volume as he drew out the words, a forced edge of politeness polluting his tone.
Edward slid back a bit in his chair, looking more surprised than offended. "I didn't mean for-"
"It's fine, Edward."
"I'll leave for a while."
"No." The word was desperate, fast, sharp, warming. Carlisle's eyes were wide, glassy and golden, pleading.
I do not wish to be left alone.
It hurt Edward, in a disturbingly profound way, to see the doctor looking so vulnerable. Just the thought of being left behind made his chest tighten and his stomach churn a familiar sensation that Edward only recalled feeling as a very young boy when he would lose sight of his parents in a crowded place. The pity he felt for Carlisle was unbearable. Carlisle was such a powerful man, but he did not even recognize the power he had. Were the tick of the clock and the hum of the wind and the crackle of the fire not enough company for a man to feel safe?
Apparently they were not. Not for Carlisle Cullen, at the very least.
So Edward seated himself back down by the fire, conditioned to learn this for every familiar situation thereafter.
Carlisle would never wish to be left alone.
A/N: This is one small little piece I've had sitting around since before I even posted Behind Stained Glass, so if the style sounds slightly different from my current writing, that's why. I wanted to envision how Carlisle would go about sharing his memories of Esme with Edward. Anyway, I thought I might as well add it here since I have not updated this story in a while. But I do have more chapters planned, so don't give up on me yet!