Welcome to one of my Fandom Gives Back offerings, won by Horizon77. She got to choose whatever she wanted, so she gave me a prompt requesting a healthy dose of Carlisle (I'll post the prompt in a couple of chapters time, when it's less spoilery).
It resulted in this, what was meant to be a one shot except it, er, mutated. But I got to right a few wrongs from the original story.
This diverges from the end of chapter 14 in New Moon – just after Bella has found out that Jacob is a wolf, met the pack and they have decided to kill Victoria. At this point, Bella hasn't really seen the wolves in action and although she knows that they killed Laurent, she's not convinced they are safe if they go up against Victoria. You might want to re-read the section immediately before to refresh your memory.
All canon pairings. So, no, Bella and Carlisle won't be hooking up.
Thanks to my betas Octoberland and Solar Eclipses for making this less of a hot mess, and le_rameau for talking me through it when it was in the plot bunny stages.
All copyright belongs to Stephenie Meyer. I have no legal rights, own no copyright and play in her universe only because she's good enough to let us.
That night, my dreams shifted again. The wolves were up against a vampire — a very specific vampire: red-haired and red-eyed, teeth bared as she lunged for Jacob's throat, the carcasses of the other wolves strewn around her. I watched my sun burn out.
I woke up screaming again. The final image followed me into consciousness: Emily's grief-stricken face as she beheld Sam's fallen body.
It didn't matter what Jacob said about the wolves being able to fight vampires. It didn't matter that they'd gotten lucky with Laurent. Victoria was different. She could only be stopped by her own kind: other vampires. The problem was that the only vampires I knew no longer wanted to know me.
Sleep didn't come again easy, but I did eventually succumb, and with my dreams came a solution. I dreamed of the sterile, white walls of a hospital — not the clinic in Forks, one I didn't recognize at all, a generic representation of one. I was all alone, free to roam the bleached hallways. Down one of those corridors, I came face to face with a brass name plate on an office door.
Dr. Carlisle Cullen
I was awake once more, the beginnings of a plan stirring. There was one Cullen who would be easier to trace than all the others, because wherever he was, he'd be practicing his calling. If he knew that Victoria was placing the people of Forks in danger, he'd do what he could to help, no matter what Ed — his feelings towards me were.
I gave up on sleep. The sooner I started my search, the sooner I'd be able to find Carlisle, and the safer the wolves would be. I paced as I waited for the computer to boot up. This could be an exercise in futility, but I had to try.
I took to the chair when Google was ready, foot tapping on the floor as I tried to find an outlet for the nervous energy coursing through me. First things first...
Type Dr. Carlisle Cullen. Click Search. Wait the interminable milliseconds for the results page to load.
There were plenty of entries about him, from Forks and Alaska — nothing the outside world couldn't afford to know and, interestingly, no photographs. Unfortunately, there was nothing about a new location. The most recent mention was dated last August, just before the Cullens left Forks.
I didn't wait for disappointment to take hold. I'd expected this. Even if they didn't need to change their names with this move, surely he would have insisted that they did it anyway.
Dr. Carlisle Platt was a paleontologist in Brazil.
Dr. Carlisle Whitlock was a pensioner in Lancashire and not a doctor of any kind.
Dr. Carlisle Hale
It looked like Rosalie had won the fight to use her name this time. The butterflies in my stomach erupted in flight as soon as I saw the results. There he was, listed on the 'News' page of a clinic in Ithaca, the story dating from October.
We welcome the newest member of staff to Creek View Medical Practice. Dr. Hale is a graduate of Cornell University Medical School and joins us after spending several years working with Doctors Without Borders.
There was nothing conclusive to prove that it really was Carlisle, but I knew. It seemed almost too easy, yet I'd done it. I'd found him.
Now I just had to make contact.
I doubted the Cullens' phone number would be listed, so calling him wasn't an option. Spring Break started in a couple of days, so I could go to Ithaca myself, but I didn't have the money for a flight, and my truck probably wouldn't make a trans-American journey intact.
The best I could hope for was to email him. The clinic's website didn't give individual email addresses for the staff, but there was a 'Contact Us' page with a form to fill in.
Victoria is back in Forks and eager to see you.
I hoped it would be enough for Carlisle to grasp the situation.
The sun was up by this point, and I had enough time to shower before heading to school. My anxiety must have been flowing over, because Angela kept asking if I was okay, and after I spent the whole of English tapping my pen on the desk, Mike told me I should drink less caffeine.
At lunch, I made my way to the library, going as fast as I dared without skidding on the shiny corridor floors so I could snag a PC and check my emails. I held my breath waiting for the program to load, letting it out only when I could see the senders of my unread messages: Renee, and three companies I was on the mailing lists for. Not what I was looking for.
Well, maybe Carlisle hadn't seen it yet.
Maybe he'll ignore it.
I hushed the mental voice. I didn't believe that. He knew what kind of danger Victoria posed to everyone in the town. He wouldn't be able to bear the weight of any deaths she caused.
The pasta I was cooking for dinner that evening nearly burned when I heard the 'ping' from my room that announced a new message — I'd turned the speakers up full volume so I'd be able to hear the sound as I cooked. The email just turned out to be from Mike, suggesting another movie night. I deleted it and scribbled down the phone number of the clinic instead. If I hadn't gotten a response by lunchtime tomorrow, I was calling them.
I performed the same routine at lunch the next day, taking ten minutes in the library before heading to the cafeteria and begging Jessica to borrow her cell phone.
"I'll pay you back, but I really need to make this call."
"Well, sure," she said, curiosity lighting up her features. "Who are you calling?"
"It's this thing, for my dad — he can't see it on the phone bill."
It was easy to see that she didn't believe my pathetic attempt at a lie. "Are you okay? You've been weird the past few days."
"I'm fine, really. Thanks." I took the phone from her outstretched hand and headed out to the back of the school, away from any eager ears.
"Good afternoon, Creek View." The woman who answered sounded blandly professional and more than a little bored.
"Hi, I'm calling to talk to Dr. Hale."
"He's not here right now. Can I take a message?"
"I already sent one by email. Do you know if it's been passed on to him?"
"I'm afraid that I'm not able to tell you that."
"Well, do you have a number I can call him on directly? Or an email address? It's really important that I get hold of him."
"I'm sorry, honey, but I'm just not allowed to give that sort of information." She did sound sorry, too. Maybe it was because I was pleading. "Are you sure you don't want to leave that message?"
"No. Thanks." I didn't trust myself to say something that wouldn't, somehow, imply that Carlisle was anything more than a suburban doctor.
I hung up and deleted the number from the call history so Jessica couldn't look at it when I gave her the phone back.
"So, how did it go?" she asked when I re-entered the cafeteria.
"Fine. Thanks. Let me know when you get the bill, and I'll give you the money. See you in Spanish." I couldn't wait around for the Inquisition, and I wanted to make the most of the last of my lunch break. The PCs in the library were all taken by that point, so I headed for the maps instead.
It looked like I was going to Ithaca to find Carlisle in person.
I came home to an empty house, and a note from Charlie. It was perfect, since I had time to get my laundry done and pack for the trip. I'd go to the bank in the morning and empty out what was left of my saving account, then set off, taking the map I'd checked out of the library and praying the truck would make it.
When the dryer beeped to let me know the first load was done, I took my duffle bag to the utility room with me, ready to shove everything straight into it.
"Bella? Are you going somewhere?"
I screamed and dropped the bag, backing up against the wall.
Carlisle raised his hands and stood perfectly still. Inhumanly still.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," he said softly.
It took me a moment to collect my senses, to take in everything about him. These past few months, spending time with human friends and the wolves, I'd come to get used to the small, subtle constant changes in people — haircuts, tans, weight changes and other perpetual, minor evolutions. Carlisle looked exactly the same.
"No, it's okay," I replied, my voice hoarse. "I wasn't expecting…anyone."
I wanted to reach out and touch him, to make sure that he was real, but dropped my arms back to my sides. That would only make me want to hug him, and he wasn't here for me. He was here to stop Victoria. I had to focus on breathing, the ache in my lungs fresh and raw, like the wound should have been visible on the outside. Why wasn't I bleeding? Why couldn't you see the cavity where my heart had been ripped away? Because it felt like I'd just been torn open again.
It took a lot of strength to speak. "I guess you got my message."
He nodded gravely, and my last memory of him popped into my head — sewing stitches in my arm after my ill-fated birthday party. I closed my eyes against the memory, almost reaching up to touch the scars that were like Braille in my skin.
"I left as soon the message was passed to me. The family is somewhat scattered at the moment, so Esme is trying to collect everyone together, and they'll join us as soon as they can. It shouldn't be more than a few days. Then we'll decide what we need to do about the situation."
"Everyone?" I whispered. That, I hadn't anticipated. Surely he wouldn't return, no matter what was going on.
Carlisle gave me a sad smile. "She'll try."
I nodded, fighting back the tears. It wouldn't do me any good to cry.
"Perhaps there's somewhere more comfortable we can talk?" he suggested, and I nodded, retrieving the bag from the floor and leaving it on the counter. "Why were you packing?"
"I was coming to find you." The plan became foolish as soon as the words left my mouth, but surely he would understand my motivation.
"As determined as you ever were, I see." There was something a little sad in the smile he offered me.
I led him to the living room, ready to offer something to drink, when I realized how dumb that was. Strange how soon I'd become unused to being around vampires. He'd offered the comfortable setting for my benefit, not his.
"You could have called to warn me," I said, trying not to sound churlish.
"I considered it, but decided against it. When we last saw you, you didn't have a cell phone, and if I called the house, it would likely have been Charlie who answered. No matter how cordial our relationship has been in the past, I doubted he would have been happy to hear from me."
"Huh." I curled up on the couch, but that nervous energy was still there, forcing my foot to bounce against the carpet.
"I'm surprised it took you so long to find me, actually, although I regret the circumstances that apparently forced you to look."
"Yeah, I thought it would be harder," I mumbled. "It was almost too easy."
"Bella, did it not occur to you that we might want to be found?"
I stared at him, the pieces not connecting in my brain. Of course they hadn't wanted me to find them. What a strange thing to suggest.
"We…were requested to choose a completely new name in case you did try to look for us. I declined on the basis that it was too short notice to construct an entirely new identity, but that wasn't the real reason we chose something so obvious. I never agreed with the decision to leave you the way we did — none of us did — and I knew there'd come a time when you'd want to look for us."
"But why would you want me to find you?" I pushed the tears away from my cheeks with my fingers, my throat tight as I tried to swallow them back. "When he decided he didn't…well, of course you'd go—"
"Bella," he said gently, "he lied to you."
"I know." I couldn't hold the tears back anymore. "He said he'd never leave and that he'd love me forever, but—"
"Shhh." He was on the couch beside me, one hand awkwardly patting my shoulder and the other holding out a pristine handkerchief. "That's not want I meant. I mean he lied to you when he left."
I held up my hands, shrugging him away. "You don't have to say things like that. I'm not looking for p-p-pity. I just want to make sure everyone is out of danger, and then you can leave. I won't come looking for any of you again."
He stared at me, unblinking, for a long minute.
"He never did understand why you believed him so easily when he told you he was leaving," he said eventually. "We all argued against his decision. We knew what it would do to you — to both of you — but he was stubborn in his belief that it was in your best interests. In the end, we could only agree to his demands, mainly because we thought you would see through his words and call his bluff, or you would seek us out as soon as we left. However, it seems you took his lies to heart."
"How could I not?" I whispered. "It never made sense that he was with me. It was inevitable that you all left."
"His love for you made every sense, Bella. You were his only light in many, many years of shadows."
"I'm sure he's doing fine without me." My words were more small than they were bitter.
Carlisle shook his head. "Truth be told, I haven't seen him in months, but I know that's not true. You, at least, have made an effort to get on with your life, it seems. He was practically catatonic by the time we'd left the state. Edward—" I winced at the sound of the name "—has been returned to the empty twilight he lived in before, only it's worse for him now. He knows what it's like to live in the light."
"Then why go?"
"Because he's stubborn, too stubborn to listen to the advice of those of us who know what it is to be parted from our mates. For all his years of life, in the end he's only a seventeen-year-old boy, and sometimes fear takes him back to the emotional maturity and clarity any human boy has. He feared for you. He feared what could happen to you, at his hand, at ours, and although he never voiced it aloud, I think he feared that eventually you would wear his arguments down and convince him to change you."
I curled up, arms round my legs and head on my knees, twisting the handkerchief in my hands. It sounded so rational in Carlisle's calm voice.
"Even if you don't believe me about Edward's true feelings, believe me when I say that we've all missed you. As a sister, as a daughter. You always will be a welcome part of the family."
His words triggered a rush of images of the family I'd lost, and I gave up fighting the tears. He let me cry myself out, and I was aware of his hand stroking my arm, his touch the most comfort I'd had in months.
When I'd calmed, he spoke again.
"I presume that Victoria has returned for revenge after what happened to James?"
I nodded. "Laurent told me." He looked at me sharply but didn't interrupt. "Apparently she wants a mate for a mate, even if I don't qualify anymore."
"Victoria knows as well as anyone how deep the bond goes. She knows that even if Edward has left, it would still destroy him to lose you."
"Well, I haven't seen her, which is why I'm even still alive. She's killed a bunch of people in the woods, and now Charlie is out there searching for the animal they think did it. I'm scared she's going to kill more people, and it'll be my fault."
"We won't let that happen," he said firmly. "When everyone else is here, we can devise a plan to capture her."
"You have willing bait if you need it."
He gave me a reproachful look, and I ducked my head.
"Actually, it's occurred to me that there may be a way I can convince you of Edward's true feelings — something he told me when we first got to Ithaca."
I shook my head, hugging my legs tighter. Hope was like a soap bubble fluttering in my belly. I wanted to reach out and grasp it, but it was too delicate. Even too heavy a breath would burst it.
"Please, Bella. It's important that you know this." I sighed but crawled off the sofa and followed him out of the living room, up the stairs. "Are you okay with me being in your bedroom?" he asked when we reached my door and I shoved it open, gesturing him in.
"It's nice that you ask. Some people never did."
He smiled. "Sadly, I was never responsible for instilling manners in any of my children. That was down to their human parents."
I led him inside, wincing at the chaos I'd left as I packed. He headed for the closet, getting on his knees to tap at the floorboards under the assorted junk I'd thrown in there. With this back to me, I couldn't properly see what he was going, but a moment later, he was back before me, holding out a handful of items to me.
"Dust bunnies. Thanks." Apparently now I'd got the crying out of the way, sarcasm had taken over. Somewhere there was a psychology textbook explaining this as a way of me keeping disappointment at arm's length.
Carlisle shot me another look and blew to get rid of the dust, then held out a CD case to me.
"This is—" I began, flipping it over like it would make more sense if I turned it around enough. One more 360-degree rotation, and it would be a normal CD: Muse or Linkin Park or something I'd thrown into the closet because it reminded me of him. But the case stayed blank, pristine, except for the film of dust and the too-familiar cursive in black pen on the disc itself.
Carlisle passed me something else — a photograph, creased down the middle. Me and him in those last few days.
"I don't understand," I mumbled. Because I didn't.
"Edward told me he hid these things here as a way to remain close to you. He said it was like leaving a piece of himself behind with you."
I stared at the photo, unconsciously moving my finger to touch his face. It was the first time I'd seen it in months, and while it was like a kick to the stomach, the hope bubble seemed to be doing well, swelling rather than popping back into bitter disappointment.
Carlisle was telling the truth. Of course he was telling the truth. This was the man I trusted, in a way, more than any other member of the Cullen family. He held the strongest moral compass of anyone I'd ever met, vampire or human. He'd never lied to me.
Edward had lied before.
"It's true," I whispered, discovering the truth in the words as I said them. "He didn't mean what he said when he left."
Carlisle rested his hand on my shoulder as the photo trembled in my hands. The world shifted around me, struggling to right itself, my understanding of everything that had happened in the last few months quaking and creaking.
He loved me.
But he still left.
Every time I repeated the revelation in my head, the latter thought snapped on its heels, prodding at the bubble of hope until it shrank. Yes, he loved me. But right now, it didn't mean anything. He wasn't here. He'd still thought it was better that we were apart.
I jolted at a sudden buzzing, and Carlisle flipped his cell phone open with an apologetic glance my way.
"Yes, I'm here, I've — what have you seen?"
"Really? How soon?" He listened, and I could hear the tinny, staccato words through the speaker, even if they were too fast for me to follow. She was done in less than a minute, and Carlisle's face had been still throughout, too perfect a mask to show any emotions. He hung up and his entire demeanor had changed, from comforting and gentle to tense and anxious.
"Alice?" I prompted.
"Yes. Victoria is going to come to the house tonight after catching my scent — she'll know it's one of us and that will intrigue her enough to follow it. I won't be able to protect you on my own. I'll be too distracted trying to protect you and your father."
"The best way to protect him is to not be here. While Alice was talking, I had the idea to take you to the closest property we own outside of Forks, and as far as she can see, it's a good idea. We need to leave a false trail between here and our house. Victoria will try to track us and leave Charlie in peace. Hopefully by the time she finds us, we'll have reinforcements."
"Then we need to go. Now. Charlie could be home any minute."
"I'll get your bag. Do you have a passport?"
"Yes, it's up here somewhere, why—"
"We're crossing the Canadian border."
"Okay. I'll find it."
"Meet me downstairs." He disappeared — literally vanished in that way only vampires were capable of — and I rummaged through my drawers, shoving my passport in my pocket when I had it. I stumbled down the stairs as fast as I dared without risking a fall. Carlisle was waiting with the bag in his hand, his usually smoothed-back hair ruffled up.
"I need to leave Charlie a note." I found a pen and a scrap of paper and scribbled something about going to a friend's house for Spring Break, leaving it on the kitchen table. It wasn't a plausible excuse by a long shot, and Charlie would freak when he read it, but I'd face that when I had to.
"I'm going to need to carry you," he said, handing me the bag, which I slung over my shoulder. We exited through the back door and he stood on the bottom step so I could loop my arms around his neck, before he lifted me and I wrapped my legs around his waist.
"I always hated travelling this way," I mumbled.
"Closing your eyes should help," he replied, and I did, tucking my head into his neck, trying not to breathe in that familiar, sweet smell. It wasn't the same as Edward's, but it was so close. I kept my eyes firmly shut through the whirlwind of movement, the ground rocking beneath me and cool wind whipping at my hair. When he stopped, he gave me a few moments to allow the world to stop spinning before releasing his grip so I could sink to the ground.
I kept my eyes shut. I didn't want to see the house; I didn't trust my reaction.
"It's okay, Bella," he said softly. "We're going straight into the garage then we'll be out of here."
He took my hand and led me through a door we must have been right next to. I relaxed my eyelids, squinting through my lashes. The garage was fine. I'd hardly spent any time in here. There was little chance of me having an emotional breakdown.
Inside, it was dark; the lights out and the space around us full of black, looming shapes. The cars.
"You left them all here?" I whispered. I wasn't sure why I was whispering, but the room had that quiet, still sense to it, like an empty church.
"We had no choice," he replied, his own voice hushed. "We left so quickly that we took very little with us."
I followed him to the farthest shape, which was taller and bulkier than the others, and my eyes adjusted enough to recognize it as Emmett's jeep. I ignored the gleam of silver from the corner of my eye. They really had left everything.
Carlisle helped me into the passenger seat, and I fumbled with the elaborate harness while he slid the bag onto the backseat. The inside of the car was sweetly fragrant, and I inhaled without thinking. Just one more thing I'd missed. He climbed in the driver's side and let the engine rumble to life. The lights blinked on and I recoiled at the sudden brightness. He clicked something on the key ring, and the garage doors began sliding open.
And Victoria was stood between them.
The flash of red was the first thing I saw, but Carlisle was already reacting, his foot on the accelerator. The jeep lurched forward fast enough that if it weren't for the safety harness, I would have been thrown out of my seat. She dived out of the way as he drove at her, and he flipped a switch, locking the doors to the jeep.
I thought we were free as the car barreled out of the garage out onto the driveway. Gravel whipped up and spat out by the tires, ricocheting angrily from the bodywork. Then I heard the creak of metal and the heavy thud overhead.
I looked up to see black eyes glaring down through the sunroof, sharp nails slicing into the glass like it was butter.
He didn't take his eyes off the road, elegant profile turned to me, fingers gripping the steering wheel. The screech of steel on glass came again, and I glanced back up to see the sunroof being peeled away.
The jeep swerved into the tree line.
With her reflexes and strength she should have been able to hold on, but as Victoria twisted away to avoid a sturdy, low-lying branch, hanging on by one hand from the roll bar, Carlisle yanked the steering wheel so we revolved a half-circle. I saw a streak of red and white spinning away behind us onto the lawn, the momentum rolling her fifty yards. Carlisle didn't wait for her to rise to her feet and give chase; the jeep was already back on the pavement, driving impossibly fast and handling the curves of the narrow road with ease.
His phone rang again, and he handed it to me without looking, his attention still split between the road ahead and the red-haired demon leaping through the trees behind us.
We turned onto the main road, and he was able to press the accelerator down flat, as I answered the phone with trembling hands.
"Bella, Charlie's future just disappeared," Alice said, her voice high with panic.
My heart flew into my throat.
"Do you see—"
"I don't mean that I see him die. He's just in the house, and then his future goes blank."
"What about Victoria's? Can you see hers?"
"Yes, she doesn't go anywhere near Charlie." She spoke so fast it was hard to follow. "I don't understand it. She chases you through the forest and then her future goes blank too. You get away, but I don't know how."
"I'll call you back." I hung up and dialed Jake's number from memory, ignoring Alice's attempt to call again.
Billy answered. "Where are they?" I asked, and the note of terror in my voice made him answer without questions.
"The pack's out searching for the redhead. They caught her scent not too long ago."
"You need to get hold of them and tell them to watch Charlie."
"What do you mean? Bella, where are you?"
"I'm going away to make sure she doesn't hurt anyone. Call them off; tell them it's more important that they protect Charlie right now. Please, Billy. I've got my own protection."
"Bella," Billy's voice went cold as he realized what I meant by protection. "What am I supposed to tell Charlie? Why can't you trust us to protect you?"
"I'm sorry, Billy. You all mean too much to me. Can you make sure Jake knows that? I did this for him. Tell Charlie — well, maybe it's best if you pretend you don't know anything."
"Bye, Billy." I hung up.
Because I'd realized something as I spoke to him. I wasn't just saying goodbye for a little while. I was saying goodbye forever. I wouldn't be coming back to Forks.
Thank you for reading :).