"All right Davidson, let's check those gunshot wounds, shall we?"

"Yes, ma'am."

I gave a smile as I unwrapped the bandages from around his leg - he was lucky he hadn't lost it, really. With as many men that did, clearly he had been saying his prayers right. It was almost healed, and he'd be shipped home within the week because of his injury - I'd be sad to see him go. I loved each of my patients, and took care of them as if they were family.

"Looks good." I told him, running my fingers gently across the wound that was mostly healed now. "Should be gone by the time you get home."

"Glad to hear it." He grinned. "Although none of the ladies at home are as pretty as you."

"Oh, don't you even start that." I playfully slapped his chest as I changed his bandages, re-wrapping the wound carefully to keep it from getting infected. I knew how to do it quickly and carefully - I had been a nurse for nearly eight years now. I had gone into medical training at eighteen, and started working at a hospital at nineteen, and they had sent me to a Northern war hospital in Ohio sometime last year when the war had first started. I was head nurse of the fourth floor ward as of a few months ago.

"I'll come back and check on you later. Get some sleep." I told him and he nodded, falling back in his pillows with a half grin.

"Yes, ma'am."

I shook my head at him and pulled the curtains back, stepping out of the area. Other patients lay in rows, some of them shrouded by the curtains - mostly those were the ones injured terribly. Others I could see sitting up in bed flipping through a book or newspaper. I was familiar with most of the patients on my ward, even more so with the ones that had been here for several months.

"I've got to run and pick up something from the post office, Mary." I told one of the other nurses along my ward. "Something for Dr. Robinson. I'll be right back. Keep an eye on things for me."

"Of course."

I gave a smile to the young girl before I headed for the stairs that led down to the lobby, stepping out into the mid-afternoon sun. It felt warm against my skin, soaking through the white of my uniform as well. I smile and stood there for a moment with my face toward the sky, eyes closed, soaking it in. It was one of the last few warm days before fall hit, and the cold of winter would overtake us and mark the end of the third year of war.

I prayed every day that the war would soon end, but for two years since the war had started, my prayers had gone unheard. We still had several injured patients in the hospital from the battles at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg. Not to mention it was over slavery. I didn't approve of slavery of course, but to start a war over it seemed a bit ridiculous in my opinion. Innocent people were being killed and hurt, and families were being torn apart. It broke my heart to know the numbers of people that died.

The post office wasn't far from the hospital, so I walked, passing other members of the town - well, small city - of Ashland, who gave a smile in my direction or a simple nod of the head - I was a familiar face. Humming quietly to myself, I hurried down the sidewalk, avoiding running into others with practiced grace until I reached the post office.

"Good afternoon. I'm here to pick up a package for Dr. Robinson?"

I was handed a wrapped package and with a smile and a 'thank you' I was out the door. I began to work my way back toward the hospital, my nursing duties calling my name.

However, something caught my attention.

I didn't know what it was, but something made me look down one of the alleyways between two of the buildings. I saw a man there - he didn't appear to be the homeless sort that usually frequented the alleys, but he appeared to be in pain. I had an internal debate for a moment - could it perhaps be a trick? To lure someone there so he could attack them and take their money?

My other instincts overrode those thoughts, however, and I turned down the alleyway with a sigh.

He looked up as I approached and attempted to scramble away, but flinched in pain.

"Don't. I'm not going to hurt you." I said gently, placing the package on the ground a few feet away and moving closer toward him, slowly and cautiously. I kept my hands up so he saw I held no weapons or anything to hurt him with. "I'm a nurse. I just want to help you."

"I'm fine." He ground out between clenched teeth.

"You're not." I continued, insistent. I had patients who insisted they were fine all the time. "Please, let me help you."

He didn't say anything as I knelt. He was clutching his arm tightly - I gently peeled away his hand and straightened his arm. It wasn't broken, at least. I glanced at his face, which was contorted in pain, before I began to roll up the sleeve of his shirt. I bit back a sharp gasp.

His arm appeared to be scratched all over, but on closer inspection I noticed it was in fact bite marks that marred his pale skin. It was odd because of that, and because he wasn't bleeding. I blinked, hesitating a moment before I looked back up at his face.

"We need to get you to the hospital." Was all I could say.

"No. No doctors. No hospitals." He muttered. "It'll heal soon. Just hurts."

I dug into my pocket, trying to find the painkillers I had been intending to give to another patient. I held them out to him.

"It'll help." I said quietly. He stared at me with the oddest colored eyes - an amber color, almost like liquid gold. They were a bit dark though, and made me nervous.

"Thank you." He took the pills from my hand and as he did, I felt a wave of calm wash over me. I gave a gentle smile, shifting my position on the ground as he dry-swallowed them. Trying not to think about his arm or why he wasn't bleeding, I tried to distract him until the pain killers kicked in.

"So you're from the south." I said and he nodded. I had recognized his accent. "Are you a soldier for them?"

"I was until a few weeks ago. They think I'm dead." He replied, resting his head back against the brick wall of the building he was leaning against. Even though I was technically supposed to be against him, he seemed nice. Besides, I was a nurse and we weren't supposed to care who was north and who was south. So I didn't. He could have been foreign for all I cared.

"What's your name, soldier?"

"Jasper Whitlock Cullen, ma'am."

"Well, it's a pleasure to meet you Mr. Cullen. I'm Esme Platt."

I saw something spark behind his eyes, as if he recognized the name. I said nothing about it, however, my focus more on getting him to feeling better than anything.

"I thank you for taking care of me, ma'am."

"It's what I do."

We sat in silence together for a long moment - I would be late getting back to the hospital, but I was sure they could handle it without me. The man, Jasper, had his eyes closed now, trying to hide the winces on his face every time he moved his arm.

Before my eyes, I watched as the bites slowly began to heal.

They grew smaller the longer we sat there, until some of them started to turned into raised scars, crisscrossing all up and down his arm. It had to hurt - but my mind was trying to figure out what had happened to him, and how the hell he could heal like that. I'd never seen anything like it.

"Weird, isn't it?"

I looked up at his face and nodded.

"You get used to it after a while."

I glanced back down at his arm, then back up to his face.

"What are you, Mr. Cullen?"

He chuckled.

"Now that, Ms. Platt, is my secret."

I gave a wary smile that he returned.

"Do you plan on returning to the war?" I inquired, anything to keep him talking. I found it was easier to keep my patients talking and such to help with the pain.

"I may. I may not. I've got a wife down in Louisiana waiting for me, so I might go back home to her. Plus my father and brothers and their wives are there as well. They didn't like me going off to war."

"I'd imagine I wouldn't like it too much either if you were my son." I gave a shrug. I couldn't imagine anyone liking their sons, brothers, uncles, fathers, nephews, or grandfather going off to war. My own father had gone off at the beginning of the war - last I had heard in a letter from home was that he had died. My husband, Charles Evenson, had been killed last year. To me, it wasn't a big loss. I'd hated him - he'd abused me, beaten me within an inch of my life several times. In a way, I was glad he had died.

"You're a kind lady, ma'am." He gave a half smile again and made moves to get up. I got to my feet and grabbed his uninjured arm, helping pull him to his feet. I returned his smile once he was up on his own two feet.

"You okay?"

He nodded, gingerly taking a step forward. His weight held, it appeared, so he took a few more steps, then turned back to me.

"Thank you for the help, Ms. Platt."

"Not a problem, Mr. Cullen. Is there anything else you need?"

"Not at all. I'm leaving first thing in the morning for Louisiana." He replied, stretching his arm, testing it apparently as he cracked it, then rolled his head along his shoulders.

"Do you have somewhere to stay tonight?"

He looked at me with a troubled expression.

"No, I was just going to -."

"I don't want to hear it. You can stay with me for the night. That way I can keep an eye on your arm, and I can escort you to the train station on my way to work tomorrow morning." I replied, stern. I wasn't about to let him not have somewhere to stay for the night - nights in the north got awfully cold. The other nurses could cover my shift, and I would cover theirs tomorrow night. He seemed a bit uncomfortable at the thought the more I studied him. "But, if you'd rather stay out in the cold, you're more than welcome. Although, I do believe it might rain soon." I continued.

"Oh, I won't turn down your hospitality, ma'am. I thank you." He said, and offered me his arm. "If you'll lead the way."

So led the way I did, to the small home Charles and I had once shared. I stayed alone in it now - it would be nice to have some company for the night. It had started to rain on our way, so as we stumbled in the door we were both soaking wet.

"Hang on, I'll get you some new clothes. You look like my husband's size." I said, pulling my hair out of the bun I had it pinned back in, letting them tumble over my shoulders so they would dry.

"Are you sure your husband will be okay with me staying the night?"

"He died in the war last year. I'm the only one here." I replied.

"Oh. I'm sorry, Ms. Platt."

"Don't be. I'm not." I took his coat and moved into the parlor, laying it across the grating of the fireplace so it would dry. "Help yourself to anything, make yourself at home. I'll have you some new clothes in a moment."

He nodded and I headed upstairs, into my bedroom. In the back of the closet I pulled out the clothes of Charles' that I had packed away, intending to burn them. At least someone could get some use of them better than I could.

I couldn't get the strangeness of my new guest out of my mind. His arm had healed in front of my eyes, and he didn't bleed. There was something wrong there, and I probably should have questioned it more, but he hadn't wanted to tell me. Something in my mind was keeping me relaxed about it, and I couldn't figure out why either. Something told me to trust him, so I was.

I change quickly as well, into one of my more comfortable dresses as I carried the clothes downstairs. He was standing near the fire, flipping through the pieces of paper I had left sitting on the mantle.

"Those aren't finished." I said and he glanced up, shuffling them back together and replacing them on the mantle.

"You like to design building then?" He asked. He had been looking at the blueprints and design plans I had been making of a home I had always desired.

"I do. It's a hobby of mine. When I'm not busy at the hospital, I work on them."

"They're very good."

"Thank you." I held out the clothes to him. "These are for you. There's a bathroom down here if you'd like to change there."

"Thank you."

I nodded and he left to change. I hung my nurse's uniform along the same grating his coat was so that it would dry as well. I went into the kitchen, preparing to make tea.

My evening with Mr. Whitlock was uneventful - I left him to the guest room after we spent the evening in the parlor. He didn't eat, but had looked exhausted because of the dark circles under his eyes, so I had retired early myself so he could perhaps get some sleep.

In the morning he declined my offers of breakfast, so after I had changed into my uniform for work, we headed down the street toward the train station.

He seemed uneasy the entire walk there, and it in turn made me feel uneasy. I stood by as he bought himself a ticket on the next train to Louisiana. We moved to wait on the platform with a few others, including a businessman, a young mother and son, and three girls who seemed far too beautiful to be standing there and waiting for a train. Enchanting really, they were. I tried to ignore their slightly odd presence.

"Be careful traveling down there." I said to Jasper, who nodded. "Dangerous place."

"You're telling me." He mused. "But I believe the creatures that lurk in the swamps should be more afraid of me than I am of them."

I didn't want to know what he meant by that.

The train whistle echoed in the distance, signaling it would soon arrive.

"Mr. Jasper Whitlock Cullen."

We both looked up – the three girls from before were now in front of us. Something instinctively made me take a step back, afraid. They didn't look threatening, but the odd color of their eyes made me nervous. Jasper stiffened beside me.

"Can I help you young ladies?"

"You wouldn't be going back down to Louisiana now, would you? We have a deal." The dark haired one said smoothly in a gentle tone. She barely gave me a glance.

"I'm afraid I have other business to attend to. If you'll excuse me, I have a train to catch."

The train had rolled into the platform and others were starting to board, some getting off the train. Jasper took a step toward it, but the girls blocked him. Now their focus was on me.

"I see you found a new pet. Care to share?"

"Go away." He snarled in a voice I had yet to hear come from him. The snarl sounded unnatural, like it shouldn't have been coming from someone like him.

"Hand your new pet over, and we'll consider letting you off for a bit of a vacation before you come back to work for us." One of the others said. The way they were looking now looked . . . as if they were hungry. Like I was a meal. I tried to shrink back, but Jasper caught my wrist.

"Get on the train, Ms. Platt." His southern voice said deeply in my ear. "Now. I'll catch up."

I didn't dare disobey, and instead broke off at a run toward the train, climbing up onto it. Someone screamed behind me and I whirled – but Jasper was already shoving me onto the train and down a corridor, flashing two tickets to the conductor – I didn't know where he had gotten the other ticket. Down a hall, he tugged me into a compartment, shut the door, and drew the blinds as the train lurched to life beneath us with a small jerk.

I began to panic.

"No! I have to get to work! Tell them to stop the train!"

A wave of calm crashed into me like a tidal wave.

"It's safer you're on this train, believe me." He said slowly and I realized them he was clutching his arm again. "You can take another train back up when we get to Louisiana.

Irritated now, I gently shoved him down in the seat and tugged his shirt sleeve up, this time a little less gentle. A few more bite marks were now visible – open and gaping, but not bleeding, just like before.

"What in the name of God just happened?" I inquired, sitting down across from him. He gave a chuckle.

"Just some ladies who aren't too pleased with me." He said. "They're like me too. And they would have killed you just for being around me."

"I noticed."

Had I realized helping this man would have gotten me killed, I probably would have just continued walking toward the hospital yesterday afternoon. Now I was stuck on a train with some freak of a man who wouldn't tell me what in the name of God was up with him, and three girls just like him now hated me because I had been escorting him to his train.

What a great day.

I had only been on a train once before, when traveling to meet some relatives. Seeing as I was stuck on this one for a while, I shuffled over to sit by the window, watching the landscape pass me by.

I didn't realize I had fallen asleep until I felt a cold hand on my shoulder. I looked up, blinking, to see Jasper pulling his jacket back on. The train had stopped and it was dark outside – how long had I slept?

He said nothing as he escorted me off the train and onto a platform. It was warm, and I could hear some sort of music playing in the distance. We were in Louisiana now, evidently.

"So when can I get my train back home?" I inquired as we shuffled across the platform. I felt out of place in a Southern place – I was a Northern girl.

"Tomorrow. You can stay with me tonight – it will at least give me a chance to repay your hospitality."

"I thought you lived with your father and brothers."

"I do. They won't mind. They already know you're coming."

"And how's that?"

He didn't reply as we left the train station. We weren't in New Orleans – that had been taken over and literally trashed by the Union army.

"Wait here." He said, leaving me standing outside of the train station. I nodded, feeling a bit awkward the more I looked around and took in the small town sights around me. Most of the men and women were walking or traveling by horse down the streets, passing me by without a second glance.

Something nudged my shoulder and I turned - Jasper sat atop a dark colored horse, hat drawn down over his eyes. He looked like he belonged up there. I could almost imagine him in a confederate uniform, marching with the army across the land atop a gorgeous horse.

"We'll be traveling by horse the rest of the way."

He extended a hand down and I hesitated - it would be a bit difficult to ride a horse in my nurse's uniform. Nevertheless, I grabbed his hand and helped swing me up into the saddle behind him. I heard some of the stitches rip in my skirt, but I managed to settle into the saddle, my hands awkwardly at his waist.

"So how far out of town do you live?"

"A few hours by horse. We like our privacy." He replied.

It grew darker, but at least it wasn't as cold in the night here in the south as it was in the north. We passed under tall willow trees as we took a winding road to the west. We passed no one, leaving us to ride in silence, at least until he broke it again.

"Those ladies shouldn't bother you anymore, Ms. Platt."

"I hope so."

"I took care of it for now. But there are others that roam that are just like them. It's those you have to watch out for."

"I'll be sure to keep my eye out for them, then." I replied quietly, staring at his back as I shifted in the saddle awkwardly.

Wrought iron gates caught my attention only an hour later. They were open, invitingly, and Jasper guided the horse onto the small path. It was straight and narrow, made of bricks, and large willow trees rising up on either side of it in perfect symmetry.

It was a moment before I finally caught site of the house. Even in the dark, I could see it by the pale light of the moon.

It was beautiful in every way. Three stories, it was a solid white in color with columns reaching toward the sky all the way across the front and wrapping around the sides. Balcony railings wrapped around most of the second floor outside. The windows were large with black shutters on either side of it. It was just like I had imagined some of the houses in the south to look like. Part of me wished I was a good ol' southern girl just so I could live in a place like this.

Jasper pulled the horse to a stop and slid off, reaching up a hand to pull me off as well. I touched down on the ground and straightened, looking up at the house.

"It's lovely."

"My father picked it out."

I hummed in response as he took my arm and escorted me up onto the porch. I wondered if his family was just as odd as him, and my heart rate increased. Another wave of calm washed over me and I frowned, wondering what kept causing that. Pushing that from my mind as he opened the front door, I held my breath for a moment.

Inside was just as beautiful as the outside. Hard wood floors and darkly colored furniture decorated the room, all the way to the staircase that wound up and around the room. Piano music played softly from somewhere - which stopped abruptly when I took a step forward next to Jasper.

Then sudden, we were no longer alone.

The first that appeared was a small young girl who flung herself into Jasper's arms. I stepped back as Jasper pulled her into a tight hug.

She wasn't the first to appear. She was followed by a bronze haired boy and a young brunette beside him, as well as a pretty blonde and a large muscular male who held her protectively. They were all looking at me now with the same amber eyes. Their looks were different than the ones the three girls had been given me - this look was one of curiosity.

"Ms. Platt, this is my family. My wife Alice, brothers Emmett and Edward, and their wives Rosalie and Bella." He introduced. "Everyone, this is Esme Platt. You already know why she's here, if I know Alice." He glanced down at his wife, who gave a sheepish smile, entwining her pale fingers with his. They all appeared to have the same marble colored skin as well.

Yes, something was definitely off about this family. I didn't want to be rude, though. Jasper was repaying my kindness to him - even if it was unneeded - and I wasn't going to insult him by refusing it. Besides, he had saved me from those ladies that had wanted to kill me.

"It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm sorry if my presence disturbs you."

"Nonsense." The bronze haired one, Edward, said, giving me an almost forced smile. I frowned slightly, my gaze drifting to stare at a spot on the ground.

"You helped Jasper, therefore you are welcome here." Alice said with a smile, taking both my hands in hers - her skin was just as cold as Jasper's had been. "Carlisle should like to meet you."

"Who's Carlisle?"

"I am."

I looked up - on the stairs stood a fair haired man around my own age, amber eyes and pale skin reflecting that of his family. He held a faint smile on his sculpted face, coming down the rest of the way to stand in front of me. He extended a pale hand toward me and I wrapped my hand around his - he brought my hand to his lips and kissed my hand. It'd been a long while since a man had greeted me like that.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Platt. Welcome to our home."

As I gave a smile, I decided it might not be so bad to stay at least one night.

Hey there! I'm debating if I should continue this or not. If you like it, please review because I will decide if I continue or not based on your reviews!