Stephenie Meyer owns any Twilight characters that may appear in this story. No copyright infringement is intended. The remainder is my original work. ©2010 by magan bagan. No copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without my express written authorization.


You Are My Home

Esme POV

"In all honesty, Rose, I think that I am perfectly capable of carrying a few boxes and suitcases on my own," I grumbled into my cell phone, pulling to a stop along the curb. My younger sister had been insisting that I wait for her and her husband to arrive before I began unpacking my car. "You guys still have, what, twenty minutes before you get here?"

Rosalie sighed on the other end, admitting defeat. "Fine, but if you end up hurting your back, don't come crying to me." And with a huff she ended the call.

Chuckling to myself, I set the phone down in my purse and looked out the driver's side window. Within walking distance from where I was parked sat my first step toward freedom. Sure it would still require some work and a fresh coat of paint, but it was all mine.

Stepping out of the car, I went around to the trunk to start unloading the overstuffed suitcases that my brother-in-law had managed to shove in. Once I finally wrestled the suitcases to the ground, I turned toward the house in front of me with a sense of pride. I was really doing this.

After everything I had been through over the past few years, it felt good to be doing something for myself. It was no surprise that Rose worried about me, our most recent reunion had not been such a pleasant one.

Charles Evenson had been a cruel man, one that I was more than grateful to leave behind in name and in life. The scars that couldn't be seen would be the most difficult to heal.

Letting out a slow, deep breath, I lifted the handles on both bags and began dragging them up the sidewalk. It wasn't an easy feat since both were stuffed to the brim and wider than the walk way. One of the suitcase wheels got stuck in the grass as I continued to maneuver the bags toward the house and I lost my grip on it, watching it tumble to the ground.

I stood there for a moment, contemplating how best to proceed, when a figure stepped into my line of sight. Before I had a chance to set the bag right-side up, the figure stood up straight, pushing the handle in and lifting the bag in his hand.

My first instinct had been that it was my brother-in-law, Emmett, but I hadn't heard his jeep coming down the street. As I took in his appearance, a gasp escaped my lips.

He had pale blond hair, a few stray strands falling into his eyes that were a deeper blue than I had ever seen before. His skin looked smooth with a slight tan, and a warm smile played over his lips. For a second he reminded me of a 1920s movie star, beautiful and ethereal. "Would you like some help?" he offered, voice calm and lilting, an accent adding to his beautiful features.

Unable to find my voice, I gave a quick nod of my head. Then I turned back toward the house and made my way up the sidewalk.

Without a word he helped lift the bag when I reached the porch steps so that I could get it to the top. He waited for me to unlock the front door and brought both of the bags inside, setting them down in the entryway. His muscles strained and bulged as he carried the suitcases, but I saw no signs of stress on his face or in his breathing.

I stood in the doorway, shocked at the kind gesture. It had been quite some time since a man had shown any form of chivalry toward me, and the fact that a virtual stranger was doing so was rather disconcerting. Who was this guy? I certainly wasn't a damsel in distress in need of a white knight, having proved that by moving across the country to start my life over.

Eventually he began shifting from one foot to the other in an uncomfortable movement and I realized how long we had been standing there. "Sorry, umm… I'm Esme Eve- Esme Platt." Holding my hand out to him, I silently scolded myself for that little slip up. When the divorce was finalized, I went back to my maiden name.

That was no longer my life; he was no longer a part of me. I wasn't that woman anymore and this man certainly wasn't Charles, at least that's what I kept telling myself. Some things were easier said than done.

"Carlisle Cullen, your neighbor from across the street. It's a pleasure to meet you, Esme." He reached out and took my hand in his, applying a gentle pressure as he slowly shook them. A warm, tingly sensation worked its way down my body the moment our skin made contact.

Our eyes met for the briefest of moments, but what I saw nearly brought me to my knees. So much pain lingered beneath the surface, so well hidden that I nearly missed it. How was it possible that I could know so much about a man that I had only just met?

"Will you be requiring anymore assistance?" Carlisle released his hold on my hand, his gentle smile returning. The more he spoke, the clearer it became that he had an Irish accent. It wasn't nearly as thick and rich as some, but still beautiful and clear.

"Oh, um, that's alright. My sister and brother-in-law should be here soon," I finally managed to say. "Thank you though."

He ran a hand through his hair, nodding his head slightly. "Well, then I won't take up anymore of your time. It was wonderful to have met you."

I followed him back outside and watched as he walked down the porch. Just as I was about to thank him again, a loud blaring of music came down the street. I glanced up to see a moving truck pulling into the driveway of my house, and Emmett's off key voice singing along.

Carlisle waved his hand slightly to Emmett and Rosalie, making his way across the street and to his home.

Rosalie let out a low whistle as she climbed out of their car that she had pulled in behind the truck and made her way over to me, a knowing swagger to her steps. "And who exactly was that beautiful specimen of a man and is he coming back?" Her long, luscious locks of blonde hair were pulled back into a high pony tail. She had also decided on wearing comfortable looking workout clothes that fit her statuesque body snuggly.

I rolled my eyes at her, sitting down on the porch steps. "None of your business, sister dear. The two of you certainly know how to make an entrance." I motioned toward Emmett as he tossed his sunglasses aside and shut the driver's side door.

"You know Em." She shook her head in amusement as he made his way to the back of the truck, moving his head in time to the song that they had just been listening to. "He's taking advantage of the time off from work and being kid free for a couple of days."

"Speaking of, how are my little niece and nephew doing? Garrett must be walking up a storm by now." I could never get enough of them, being an aunt to those two little angels was quite possibly the best feeling in the world.

My sister's grin at the mention of her son grew even wider. "Oh he is and tripping just as much. Pretty soon, we won't be able to catch him." She sat down next to me on the porch. "Vera is quite a pistol as well. I think she's already preparing for her Broadway debut as Scarlett O'Hara." We both laughed; I could definitely picture my little niece being so over dramatic.

"And she'll also be preparing for her first beauty pageant, if Mommy over here has anything to say about it." Emmett bounded up the stairs with two very large boxes in his arms, maneuvering past us so that he could set them down on the floor. He wiped some dirt off of his shorts and smiled at me, the movement causing his already visible dimples to deepen. "Welcome home, Esme."

I was barely able to stand up, tears prickling my eyes, before he scooped me up into a tight hug, kissing the top of my head. Giggling, I tried to push him away from me. "It's nice to see you, too."

He chuckled, kissing Rosalie before standing up straight again. "Okay, where do these go?"

"Umm… the kitchen I think."

With a nod, Emmett picked up the large boxes again and brought them inside.

Rose and I walked quietly over to the moving truck and grabbed the items that we could lift. It wasn't until then that I noticed the heavier items that were packed inside. A couch, two living room chairs, book cases, a coffee table, a television and stereo, my mattress and bedframe. Maybe I should have taken Carlisle up on his offer after all. He looked like he could handle himself quite nicely from what I could see.

No, Emmett is perfectly capable of carrying everything himself. He wouldn't have offered if he didn't think that he could do it.

"Okay, big sister, what's going on in that head of yours? I can see the wheels turning and that can't be a good thing right now." Rose waited until she was out of the truck before picking up the items she decided to carry, and stood with her hands firmly planted on her hips.

How exactly do you tell your sister that briefly, for one small moment, you were considering asking your very handsome and very well off neighbor to help you carry extremely heavy pieces of furniture into your new home? Nope. That's a conversation better left unsaid. Especially considering that the reason I was moving into said new home is because I was hoping for a fresh start.

Inviting new neighbor guy with the sexy accent over was not a part of that equation.

Sighing, I put a small smile on my lips. "It's nothing, Rose. I think all of this is just finally hitting me, you know." That was partially true. It wasn't until I pulled up to the house and realized that all of this was finally happening, that everything else began to hit me. "Come on. We have a lot of to do today."

Eyeing me warily for a moment, Rose finally smiled and reached for the items she was bringing inside.

It took most of the day and more trips than I'd care to remember, but we were finally able to move everything in. Emmett ended up needing to ask a neighbor for help with carrying in the heavy items and who did he go to? None other than Carlisle Cullen.

Like the coward that I am, I hid out in my bedroom and kitchen when they were bringing the items in. This whole thing was difficult enough without complicating it by adding another man into the equation. That's how I had gotten here in the first place. No, I wasn't going down that road again. So, I tried inconspicuously to distract myself with unpacking boxes and suitcases so that I wouldn't have to face him again.

There was still a lot of unpacking to do by the end of the day, but I got the basics done. Rosalie and I were putting the sheets on my bed and making it up nice when we were heard Emmett and Carlisle speaking at the bottom of the stairs. He asked if Carlisle would like to stay for pizza and a surge of panic flowed through me.

Please, please let him say no, I begged silently.

He did. The polite decline held a note of sadness to it that I couldn't quite identify, much like the pain I'd seen in his eyes earlier that morning. Obviously, we had something in common, but I couldn't worry about that now. Rather, I wouldn't let myself worry about that now. Maybe he had to get home to his wife, that seemed like a logical explanation and one that I was quite willing to stick with.

Rosalie narrowed her eyes at me as we heard the front door close, her brow quirked up in questioning. She didn't say anything as we finished making the bed, leaving me to squirm as I waited for the barrage of questions sure to come.

The arrival of the pizza was enough to distract her and I sighed with relief. We ate in the living room, watching TV amidst the boxes that were still strewn across the room. It felt good to just relax.

We ate off of paper plates and drank out of plastic cups because all of my dishes were still packed. Emmett offered to take the empty pizza boxes outside to the garbage cans that had been placed at the curb earlier that day.

I thanked him and brought the dishes into the kitchen.

"Alright, Esme, I want to run an idea by you," Rosalie announced, jumping up on the kitchen counter.

My stomach clenched, that usually led to me agreeing to something I otherwise never would have considered. "Okay," I answered her warily, leaning against the counter next to her.

"Do you remember how things got when I finally left Royce? I was in a really bad place, barely even left my apartment for a few weeks." She tucked her legs up close, sitting Indian style. "But, thanks to my big sister, I realized that I couldn't keep myself closed off from the world. You wouldn't let me. And now, I'm going to do the same for you." She wrapped her arms around my neck and hugged me tightly.

I wanted to open my mouth and protest, but new that would be futile. Once my sister made up her mind there would be no changing it. "Um, thanks. Really." Having her around more would be nice since we hadn't really been able to spend time together over the past year. "Was that what you wanted to tell me?"

She released her hold on me and sat up. "There's actually one more thing. Emmett and I were thinking that it might be nice for you to have a house warming type of party here. You know, so you can get to know your neighbors a bit better and get a feel for the area. Maybe meet..."

The last part of her sentence was cut off as Emmett came inside, sending the side door flying out as he stepped in. "So, what were you ladies talking about?" He clapped his hands and rubbed them together in anticipation of more work to be done.

"Just talking about having a party here." Rose nodded. "You know, a way to help her meet her new neighbors and put herself out there."

Emmett's boyish grin widened, his dimples deepening with his excitement. "It could be a lot of fun, Es. We'll take care of the food and drinks and you can invite whoever you want."

"Leave the entire menu to me, you know I'll do a good job. This is what I love to do." Rose wrapped her arms around my neck again, hugging me and giggling jovially. "Please, please, please?"

I glanced back and forth between them and couldn't find in me to tell them no, not after everything they had done for me. With a defeated sigh, I smiled. "Sure, a party sounds like fun. But, umm, I'll need some time to get unpacked and settled in."

"Of course," Rose said with a squeal. "We were thinking of giving you a few weeks to get comfortable with your job and make sure that your place is set up just the way you like it."

"Thank you." I nodded.

"Well, then, if that's all, ladies. I'm going to go out to the car and get our bags. That couch is a pull-out, right?" Emmett began making his way to the front of his house, continuing to talk and ask questions without waiting for a response.

Finally, I managed to dart in front of him as quickly as I could and blocked the doorknob so he couldn't go outside. "Care to explain what you were just babbling about?"

"Uh, Rosie and I were planning on staying with you a couple of days to help you get everything unpacked." Emmett glanced between me and Rose, confused. "Right?"

She nodded her head in agreement. "You didn't think that we'd leave you here all alone on your first night, Esme? There's so much that needs to be taken care of."

I slumped back against the door. "Honestly, I think that I can take care of everything from here. You have been more than generous and I don't want to take any more of your time from my niece and nephew. Don't worry about me." Being alone wasn't on the top of my list, but I couldn't ask them to stay. I needed to learn to do things on my own again and convincing them I would be all right was the first step.

Neither Rose nor Emmett seemed particularly convinced at first, both eyeing me skeptically. When I didn't show any signs of caving they agreed that they had missed their kids and wouldn't mind going home.

After assuring them one last time that I would be just fine and would call them if I needed to, I hugged them both and thanked them again for all of their help. Emmett promised he would be back the next day to return the moving truck before reluctantly climbing into their car.

They were obviously reluctant to leave, but waved to me as I stood on the porch and pulled out of the driveway.

Waiting until they were out of sight, I eventually went into my house and locked the front door securely behind me. Leaning against it, I glanced around me. It was so quiet now. A little too quiet.

It was going to be a long night.

Carlisle POV

"And, what did you do once you located the tumors along the spinal column?" One of my superiors, Dr. Stephan, asked. We were going through an in-house hearing over a recent surgery I had performed in which the patient didn't make it through.

Running a hand through my hair and down the back of my neck, I let out a sigh before speaking. "I removed the excess fluid before deciding where to begin cutting the roots. Because of the placement of the tumor and how tightly it had been wrapped around the specific vertebra, I had to be precise."

"Were you able to remove all of the tumors?" Dr. Stephan asked.

"Two. The complications began as I worked on the third." I took a moment, the words catching in my throat as I tried to speak them. "The… the growth of the remaining tumors had been more rapid than either I or anyone else could have anticipated. I didn't realize the extent until the patient went into arrest as I worked on removing the third mass."

Dr. Aro Volturi took over for me, speaking on my behalf to the board. He had been my mentor when I first began medical school and was a bloody brilliant man. Studying and working under him had been a privilege; I could only hope to be half the doctor that he was someday.

Hearing him defend me and go over the merits of the surgery made the whole situation even more unbearable. As soon as my fate was decided, I needed to get out of there.

I ran my hand over my face, over the scruff and bags that had formed under my eyes as they continued to speak. My mind began to wander and I was anxious to be out of there.

"Alright, Carlisle, we've reached a decision." Dr. Stephan's words broke me out of my thoughts. The other doctors on the board turned their attention to me, allowing Dr. Stephan to deliver their decision. "In lieu of the unforeseen advancing of the tumors and your timely efforts to right the situation, we find that you were not at fault.

"You'll need to sign some paperwork before leaving. Following hospital policy, we ask that you take the recommended amount of time off and speak with one of the on-staff counselors." His words barely registered as I breathed a sigh of relief.

Everything else happened in a blur. A folder was passed to me with the documents I needed to sign, releasing me from any medical liability. The board members nodded to me as they left, hesitant smiles on their faces. Not losing my job or medical license was supposed to be good news and their expression showed that, but I couldn't find in me to celebrate.

The news did please me; practicing medicine had been one of the few things I enjoyed in my life, only this about much more than that. Nothing would be the same again.

"Do you want to grab some dinner? I'm sure you must be relieved to have that behind you." Aro stood up from his seat, his black hair graying along his temples.

Shaking my head, I rose to my feet and placed the bag I had brought with me over my shoulders. "Thank you, Aro, but I should probably head home. It's been a difficult week."

He led the way out of the conference room we had convened in, nodding his head thoughtfully. "Of course, I understand." His smile was kind as we stopped in the hall and he placed a hand on my shoulder. "Even the best of us lose a patient at one point or another. Not that it makes it any easier or less tragic, but we have all been there before. It will get easier."

I slowly nodded my head. "Thank you." With that, Aro insisted that I come over for dinner during my time off. His wife loved having guests over and enjoyed the opportunity to cook a big meal, so I agreed to call him and set up a day that would work best for the both of them.

On my way out to the parking lot I ran into Eleazar, a colleague from the hospital that I met through Aro during my residency. He was a therapist and had counseling sessions at the hospital twice a week. We talked for a few minutes and I asked how his schedule looked as far as individual appointments, aside from when he met with his groups." Discreetly, Eleazar mentioned that he had a few hours free in between sessions on Thursdays and would usually go to his third floor office during that time.

His meetings were mid-morning and mid-afternoon, leaving time for lunch and a chance to relax a bit in between. After some hesitancy, I asked if we could meet that afternoon and he assured me that would be just fine.

I was sure that Eleazar knew the details of what happened and was grateful that he was handling our discussion professionally. He seemed to understand that coming to him wasn't easy for me.

When we finished up I went out to my car and drove home. The house I had purchased a few years ago was in a quiet neighborhood near the end of the street, nestled between some large oak trees that kept me separated from the others.

Pulling into the driveway, I grabbed my bag and climbed out of the car. As I walked across the lawn toward the front door I noticed my new neighbor. She was sitting on the front steps of her porch, talking on her mobile.

Esme Platt.

She moved in a few days ago with the help of her family. We had spoken only briefly, but I found myself slightly intrigued by her.

There was a strength in her that I found refreshing, mixed with a fear that streaked her soft hazel eyes. Fading bruises marred her otherwise pristine skin along her arms, wrists, neck, and collarbones. Her voice shook when we spoke, unsure of what to make of my help.

I knew she was hurting, if nothing else the battle scars fading along her delicate features were proof of that.

But for now, I needed to fight my own demons. Three weeks. I found the notion of giving any staff members such a short amount of time to cope with a tragedy complete bollocks, but I would take what I could get.

Who knew what could happen during that time.

Ooo~Ooo~Ooo~Ooo~Ooo

Eleazar sat across from me at his desk, leaning back in his chair and cracking his fingers as he waited for me to speak. When he realized I was going to continue fidgeting, he cleared his throat. "So, Carlisle, what would you like to talk about?"

My eyes immediately went to look out the window to my left. Everything outside looked peaceful, calm and serene, in a way that I hadn't felt in days. How do you express that, though, without sounding like you have a god complex?

"Carlisle?" he asked.

Taking in a deep breath and letting it out slowly, I tried to find the right way to word what I was feeling. "He was planning on going to college in the fall," I finally managed to get out.

"Who was?" Eleazar asked.

"Eh, my last patient. Marcus." I turned my attention back to the room, looking down at my hands now. "Finding something in common with my patients, talking with them in general, put them at ease and made what I had to do a bit easier. So, that's what I did with Marcus. He couldn't wait to go off to college."

He had questioned me relentlessly about classes and campus life. It had been refreshing to see someone so eager to learn.

"Did that have the same effect this time? Making your job easier and keeping him calm?" Eleazar kept his expression neutral, speaking in a gentle tone.

"Blimey, uh, in some ways it did." I squirmed in my seat uncomfortably.

"When did it not?" he urged.

"I guess when I realized I had misjudged how long the tumors had been growing and spreading." Marcus had trusted me and I failed him. "By that point, I knew we were both up shite creek."

He shook his head at my words. "You believe that it was your fault, what happened to Marcus." It was a statement rather than a question

"Of course, I do," I said with exasperation. "He was just a lad for crying out loud, had his whole bloody future ahead of him."

"And you are a promising young doctor with a great career," he countered.

I felt the urge to growl, but held it back, swallowing uncomfortably. "I know that I'm not a miracle worker, but he was just a child. He deserved to go to college and experience all of those things." Losing steam, I ran a hand through my hair.

For the next thirty minutes, Eleazar listened to me speak, occasionally asking questions or wanting me to clarify something. By the end of the session, though, it kept coming back to the overwhelming guilt I felt at this boy losing his life.

Logically I knew that it wasn't my fault. There was only so much that I, as a medical professional, could do, but convincing my heart of that was an entirely different matter.

Eleazar wanted me to continue seeing him during my time off and gave me some exercises to work on to help ease the guilt. I wasn't entirely sure how they could possibly help, but figured that it wouldn't hurt to at least try them.

We scheduled another meeting before he had to leave for his group session.

I thanked him for his time and then headed home.

On the way, I stopped at store and picked up a few items for dinner. I pulled into the driveway and was heading inside when my neighbor, Esme, began walking toward her porch. She was struggling to carry an overflowing box of binders, eventually losing the battle when they all went flying in different directions and she was forced to drop the box.

Putting the bags of food I had been carrying on the porch steps, I quickly jogged across the street to offer my assistance. Esme kneeled on the ground, gathering what binders she could on her left.

"We've got to stop meeting like this," I teased.

Her cheeks turned a delicate shade of pink and her voice was soft as she offered a thank you. Once everything was placed back into the box, I picked it up and waited for her to lead the way. The surprise on her face told me that she hadn't expected me to do that, but after a moment of hesitation, she shook her head and began walking to the front door.

I followed behind her quietly and set the box down where she indicated once we got to the living room. She had almost everything unpacked now, only a few unpacked things were scattered around the space.

We stood around awkwardly for a couple of minutes, making small talk, until I checked my watch and decided that I had occupied enough of her time.

"Thank you again for your help," she told me. "I really appreciate it."

"It was no trouble at all," I assured her, turning to leave.

Before I made it back down the porch, Esme called my name. "Carlisle?"

"Yes?"

"Umm, well, my sister and brother-in-law are throwing me a house warming party in a couple of weeks. And, I thought I would extend an invitation to you and your wife." There was that soft blush across her skin again, making her look sweet and innocent.

Chuckling, I held my left hand up to show her that I wasn't wearing a ring. "Thank you, though I'm not married. I will still try to make it."

Her eyes brightened at my words, smiling.

"In the meantime, please try not to drop anything else. I won't always be around to come to you rescue." Was I flirting? That had definitely not been on my list of priorities lately.

When what I said finally registered with her, a huff of annoyance left her mouth and she gave me a shove for out the door. "Good afternoon, Mr. Cullen."

"Good afternoon, Esme." I bowed my head in a gentlemanly gesture before making my way back across the street.

Esme POV

I glared at Rosalie as I hid in the kitchen of my house. Three weeks had sounded like a good idea to wait for the party when I first agreed to it, but now my house was overrun with people that I didn't know. Music was blaring from the stereo speakers and they were laughing and dancing everywhere.

"How did I let you talk me into this?" I groaned, tucking myself behind the swinging door that led in and out of the room.

She just giggled, arranging some more hors d'oeuvres on a tray. "You agreed that keeping yourself holed up like a little mouse would not do you any good. Come on, sis. Try to have a good time. A lot of these people are really nice."

Not moving from my spot, Rose rolled her eyes at me and picked up the tray. "Fine, stay back here all night if you want, but eventually you'll need to associate with the rest of society," she spat, before going back out to the living room and rejoining the party.

I waited a little bit longer before grabbing a beer from the fridge and going out the side door and making my way around the porch to the front of the house where the porch swing was located.

Everyone seemed to be inside, so I figured I could at least have a little time to myself out there. Just as I made it around the bend, I noticed a pair of legs resting on the porch rail where the swing was located. Of course. I should have known there would be people out here, too. "I'm so sorry. I didn't think anyone else would be here."

The legs lowered from the rail and I heard a familiar Irish accent. "Not a problem. This is your house after all."

A lazy grin spread over his lips as he watched me sit next to him. His hair looked ruffled and messy, as though he had tugged at it in frustration one too many times, and some stubble that I hadn't noticed before was on his cheeks and jaw, giving him a rugged appearance.

"You know, if I didn't know any better, I would think that you were following me." I removed the bottle cap and took a sip from it. "That's three times now." I tried to keep my expression serious when I finished, but was unable to when I met his eyes.

Carlisle laughed, tossing his head back and leaning further back against the seat. "Maybe I'm making sure that you don't break any bones. Each time I've found you, lassie, you've nearly fallen over in your haste, including just now." His accent got a little thicker as he spoke, smooth and beautiful.

"Oh, so now you're a knight in shining armor, coming to rescue the damsel in distress." I shook my head, drinking more of the beer before speaking again. "I, sir, am no damsel in distress."

His eyes crinkled with amusement, watching me carefully. "Believe me, I know."

We sat in silence for a while, the quiet becoming awkward the longer neither of us spoke. I sipped the beer I had brought with me to fill the void and soon found that it was empty. Standing quickly to my feet, I held the bottle up. "Would you like one?"

"That would be brilliant. Thank you." Carlisle agreed.

Nodding, I took in a deep breath and let it out slowly before heading inside.

People were everywhere; sitting, standing, dancing, laughing. The entire first floor had been taken over by my neighbors and a few work associates.

I dodged people left and right, making my way to the kitchen as quickly as possible, and when I reached my destination, I leaned back against the door frame and breathed another giant sigh of relief.

Before anyone could come looking for me, I went over to the refrigerator and retrieved two more beers. Just as I was shutting the door, though, Rosalie stood up over by breakfast counter, a large knife in hand.

"Holy… you scared my half to death, Rose," I muttered, lifting my free to my throat.

She giggled, sliding along the table to where a cutting board of berries sat. "Oh, sorry. The fruit trays were starting to get low, so I thought I'd cut some more berries." She waved the knife unnecessarily. "So, uh, where have you been hiding? I noticed you weren't in here when I came in."

Crap! I tried to hide the two bottles of beer behind my back as I answered her. "I was sitting out on the porch, enjoying the beautiful evening, watching the stars." Yeah, that sounded real convincing.

Rose nodded, slicing the berries carefully. "And drinking as well."

"Yes. It adds to the whole experience, relaxing on your porch at night."

"Of course," Rose agreed. "Especially since you seem to have two beers behind your back, that must make it even more enjoyable, correct?"

Damn her and observant eyes. "Yes, exactly." I was not going to give in and tell her anymore. That would only lead to questions and her insistence that I bring him in to meet her and Emmett. Not going to happen.

"Well, have fun then." She grinned. "And be sure to tell your friend to come in and say hello to us before he leaves."

My first reaction was to stick my tongue out at her and stomp out of the room the way we used to when we were kids, but settled on rolling my eyes instead. Just as I had opened the side door and was about to step out onto the porch, I heard Rose drop something in a clatter, screaming in shock.

"Shit!"

I turned around to find her gingerly cupping her left hand, blood pouring out of it.

Without waiting, I put the bottles in my hand down and rushed to my sister. "Um, we need to stop the bleeding. Come here." Moving her to the sink, I turned to water on and eased her hand under it, trying to clean the wound and stop the bleeding. Once we were both sure that the bleeding wouldn't continue, I turned the water off and wrapped her hand in a towel. It looked like a pretty deep cut and might need stitches.

Emmett came in at that point, the smile that had been in place fell the moment he saw the two of us huddled together. "What the hell happened in here? Are you alright, baby?" He rushed to her side, nearly knocking me out of the way.

Rose managed to give him a small smile, wincing at the pain she must have been in. "I'm fine, Em. Just wasn't paying attention for a second when cutting the berries. It was an accident."

"We have to get you to the hospital. That looks pretty bad." Watching my brother-in-law jump into action like that, I had a momentary flash of jealousy. His love for her was obvious in that moment, wanting to protect her and take care of her the way that she deserved.

During their conversation, I remembered that Carlisle had mentioned before that he was a doctor. I wasn't sure exactly what kind of doctor, but I would worry about that later. "Hold on, Emmett," I called to him before he was able to lead Rose out of the kitchen. "I know someone who might be able to help. Just a minute."

It was a long shot, but I moved quickly out to the front porch deck and found Carlisle sitting right where I had left him. Chewing on my lip as I made my way over to him, I tried to properly form the words for my request.

"There you are. I was beginning to think another disaster had befallen you." He grinned at my approach. "What happened?"

Sitting down beside him, I glanced back toward the house quickly. "Umm, you're a doctor, right?" I breathed a sigh of relief when he nodded in affirmation. "Rose, she uh… she sliced the palm of her hand… and we think she might need to go to the hospital… but I'm not really sure…"

"Give me a moment to retrieve my medical bag and I'll take a look at her." Carlisle assured me, his voice steady and calm.

I couldn't explain why I did it, nor could I tell you who was more surprised by the action, him or me, but lunged myself into his arms and wrapped mine tightly around his neck. "Thank you," I murmured.

He awkwardly patted my back and I took that as a sign to let him go. The embarrassment my impulsivity had on him made me smile, watching as he shifted back and forth on his feet a few times before pointing across the street and moving to step off of the porch.

Once he came back with his medical bag in hand, I led him inside to where Rose and Emmett were and stood back to let him work. The care and precision he took while looking over the wound and then when he began to suture it was very reassuring. He spoke in a gentle tone, making sure that she and Emmett were relaxed, and he took the time to explain how to clean the stitches and gave her a prescription for the pain.

They both offered to pay him for his service, but Carlisle refused any offer they made. Eventually, they compromised by inviting him out on their boat one weekend for an afternoon of sailing and I couldn't help but smile at the exchange. He never stood a chance against Rose's powers of persuasion.

"You'll come to, won't you, Esme." She grinned at me, a glint of mischievousness dancing across her eyes, bringing me back to the conversation.

I narrowed my eyes at her slightly, knowing exactly what she was up to. "Of course. If you don't mind, Carlisle," I said.

"That sounds lovely." He cleaned up the items he had used for her stitches and wrap, moving to throw them in the trash. "Thank you both for your kindness."

"Oh, it's nothing." Emmett waved him off.

Before Rose could try to 'help me' anymore, I asked if Carlisle would still like that beer. He hesitated for a moment, checking his watch before answering. "I'm starting back at the hospital tomorrow and have to go in early, but that shouldn't be a problem." He set his black bag on the kitchen counter right by the side door and turned back to Rose and Emmett. "Remember to try not to rip those out or get them wet. I'll come by to check on them in a week or so to see how you're healing."

"Thank you, Carlisle." She nodded her head.

We finally made out way back out to the porch swing, beers in hand. Carlisle held his bottle up to mine and murmured, "Sláinte." I looked at him strangely for a moment and he grinned. "It's Gaelic. It means cheers or good health." Clinking our drinks, we said the term again and then sat quietly. Unlike earlier, the silence between us felt pleasant as we sipped our drinks and watched the few stars that were visible from where we sat.

I wasn't really sure what to say at first, but eventually Carlisle was the one to break the silence between us and the conversation just seemed to flow after that. Moving passed that initial awkward beginning, we found quite a few things to talk about and kept our topics light. It was almost effortless.

The tension between us seemed to have broken and it was just the two of us, sipping our drinks and enjoying one another's company. When I noticed that both of our bottles were empty and Carlisle looked down at his watch again, I knew that our time together was coming to an end.

He apologized for having to cut our conversation short, but thanked me for a wonderful evening. Before leaving, he slipped a piece of paper into my hand and pressed his lips gently, almost imperceptibly, to my temple and told me to have a pleasant evening.

A resulting tingle shot through me from the touch of his skin on mine, but I wasn't sure how I felt about that. Discovering that the paper had his number on it didn't help.

Yes, talking with him had been surprisingly easy and comfortable. Being around any man, besides my brother-in-law, normally left me a nervous wreck, thanks to Charles. He had shattered my trust. Letting someone else in, a very good looking and well educated someone, was a risk I wasn't sure I could handle. Not at this point, anyhow.

I knew that Rosalie wouldn't like that either. She had been in a somewhat similar situation as mine with her high school and early college boyfriend, Royce. It wasn't until they had moved into together that she finally saw what kind of man he was, and it took even longer for her to leave. She had been incredibly strong and brave that day, taking the steps and precautions necessary to ensure she moved on after that.

Rosalie was strong.

I was…well, I definitely wasn't strong like her.

Maybe for now I would accept that Carlisle was a kind man.

Ooo~Ooo~Ooo~Ooo~Ooo

That Monday morning I got ready for work and was eating a tub of yogurt when it caught my eye. Carlisle's medical bag was sitting on the counter right where he had left it that night. I groaned mid scoop as I realized that I would have to call him, running into him during the week was next to impossible and he would probably need the instruments that were inside.

I finished my breakfast and stared at the piece of paper with his number on it, that I had placed in one of the kitchen drawers. It was now resting on the counter as I contemplated over and over if I should dial. Taking a deep breath, I grabbed my cell phone from my purse and dialed the number, waiting for him to answer.

"Hello?" he answered on the second ring.

"Good morning. Umm, this is Esme Platt, your neighbor." I groaned internally at how ridiculous I sounded, fighting the urge to bang my head against one of the counter tops.

A chuckle came from his end of the line. "Of course, top o' the morning to you. To what do I owe the pleasure of this phone call today?"

I could feel my cheeks beginning to flame, he certainly was a charmer. "Well, I was just about to head out for work when I noticed that a certain doctor left his rather important medical bag on my kitchen counter over the weekend. I'm not sure if you're in dire need of it now, but I wanted to let you know, just in case."

"Dire need?" Carlisle chuckled again. "I'm not sure if it is that desperate, but I do appreciate you letting me know. I was quite beside myself trying to remember what I had done with it," he explained, amusement lacing his words. "When should I come over to retrieve it?"

Thinking that over, I checked the time on the microwave to see that it was time for me to leave. "Hmm, if you aren't working this evening then you can stop by and pick it up. I should be home around five thirty, so any time after that would work."

A muffled voice in the background on his end called out-I figured it was the loudspeaker at the hospital. "That will work out perfectly. I will see you this evening, Ms. Platt."

I said my goodbye and sighed with relief when we ended the call. That hadn't been as bad as I had expected, but we were getting into dangerous territory with that conversation. Innocent flirting and discussing when to meet up after work may seem harmless, but it could lead to more that I just wasn't ready for. Even though he appeared to be a very kind man, staying friends would be the best course of action for the time being.

With that, I gathered the materials that I would need for work, including a few binders that I had brought home to study and was on my way. The firm that I had recently started working for specialized in restoration; houses, hotels, older buildings, even some southern plantations as well.

Our most recent project was a hotel in a suburb part of Seattle. It was beautiful and just perfect for a series of social engagements in the coming months. We were working hard to make sure that everything was happening in a timely manner and were making full use of the budget our clients set for the project.

Going into work had surprisingly put a smile on my face, distracting me from the other aspects of my life that had become more complicated. Dealing with construction crews and event planners was just what I needed to keep my thoughts preoccupied.

But, I wasn't sure how much longer I could deny that Carlisle Cullen had worked his way into my life.

Carlisle POV

I couldn't honestly say when it started, the shift had been a subtle transition. All I knew was that one morning, I woke up and the guilt I felt was just a little bit less. The hollowness and anger had begun to heal. Instead of bruises under my eyes and a sorrowful frown, I saw my lips curving up in a smile and brighter eyes. I was beginning to feel human again.

Part of it had been due to the counseling, being able to talk things out with Eleazar had allowed me to put things into perspective and move on. The other part could be attributed to my neighbor.

Esme.

Her phone call the Monday after her party had left me rather surprised. Yes, it was what I wanted, but I hadn't been sure that she would do it. Leaving my medical bag behind hadn't been a conscious effort on my part, but as I rose to head home, I thought that it might ensure more contact with Esme. If she found the bag, then she would most likely try to return it as quickly as possible and that usually meant a phone call or a visit to the owner's home.

When all of Sunday passed with no word from her, I figured that my plan had been fruitless. Then after I had just signed in at the hospital, the call came. Esme's voice sounded so small and frightened at first, but when she realized that I wasn't angry I could hear her relaxing slightly.

I agreed to pick up the bag after work, finding myself distracted as the day progressed. There was something so intriguing and beguiling about Esme Platt and I wanted to learn what it was. Sitting alone with her on the porch, I saw a calmer side to her, and loved our playful banter back and forth.

That evening, when I went to retrieve my medical bag, Esme had been in the middle of making her supper. She offered me some and after a wee bit of coaxing, I agreed to join her. We talked the evening away, still obviously skirting around the issues that plagued us both, neither of us willing to open up those wounds to strangers.

Most of our evenings and weekends after that seemed to progress in the same manner. We would have dinner at either her place or mine when our schedules allowed it, clean the dishes, and enjoy a glass of wine on the porch or in the living room. The deep sadness I found in her eyes began to lift and a smile was almost always flirting across her lips.

She was álainn. Beautiful. I couldn't tear my eyes away from her, constantly hoping for an opportunity to touch her, to be close to her.

Marcus was forever a forefront in my mind, his life ended too young.

But, somewhere along the way I had begun to forgive myself. More than that, I felt that he had forgiven me, and with that assurance, I was able to let the guilt go. I wasn't completely over it, but that realization left room to allow someone else into my life.

Without meaning to, I hoped that it would be Esme.

I hated the hours that we spent apart and cherished the moments when just simply were. Even when we just washed the dishes together and didn't speak, I felt close to her.

For a few months, we continued with the same routine and I was fine with that. She helped heal me when I didn't think that it was possible, and as I continued to learn about her, I realized that I was more than willing to do the same for her.

So one evening after we had finished cleaning up the kitchen, I took Esme's hand in mine and led her to my living room. It was mid-November and far too cold outside to sit and watch the stars. And with my schedule being clear for the following couple of days, I wanted to finally open up to her and share what I had been going through before she came.

"Are you comfortable?" I asked as we settled down on the couch.

"Yes, thank you." She turned on her side slightly, tucking her feet under her and resting her head on hand. An inquisitive expression was set on her features, her lips curled up slightly in a soft smile. "Is something wrong?"

I shook my head, running a hand through my hair. "Not at all. I actually wanted to speak to you about something." When her body tensed minutely, I reached out for her hand that was resting on her lap and gave it a gentle squeeze. "It's not anything bad, I promise."

She let out a breath, watching me anxiously.

"There's something I haven't been completely honest with you about and I would like to do so now, if you will bear with me," I told her, rubbing my free hand over my face when she silently agreed. And then, I told her everything. She listened intently as I purged my soul, gasping softly or squeezing my hand as I told her about Marcus and the egregious error I made.

When I finally finished I let out a sigh and found that I was unable to meet her gaze again. I wasn't sure if I would be able to handle it if she had nothing but contempt and hatred in her eyes.

"Carlisle," Esme whispered, her voice a gentle melody as she urged me to look at her. When I didn't, I felt her body curl closer to mine and one of her hands stroke lightly along my cheek.

I clenched my eyes shut, fighting back the tears that felt ready to fall. That had been the painful part of what I wanted to tell her, now I was going to lay my heart out on the line.

Just as I was opening my mouth to continue, Esme began to speak. "I… umm… I moved here to get a fresh start, to get away from my ex-husband."

Blimey, that wasn't what I was expecting her to say.

"His name was Charles Evenson and he had been a close family friend. My parents thought that we would be a good match and not so subtly pushed us together." I could feel her body trembling against mine as she spoke, the rest of her lost in the memories. "He had been a very kind man, loving, but… somewhere along the way he just… snapped.

"Charles was always angry, I could never seem to do anything right and his temper was on the verge of exploding." The complete numbness of her words worried me, so I wrapped my arm around her, trying to offer what comfort I could as she waded through the painful depths. "When it finally did… I can't remember all of it… but I woke up in the hospital with Rose and Emmett by my side."

Esme didn't speak again for a few moments, tears streaming down her face and I knew that she was reliving that day. Whoever this boyo was, he better never come near her again.

"They told me that I had suffered a miscarriage and the damage that had been done to my uterus… that I couldn't get pregnant. I didn't even know and he took the one thing away from me that I had always wanted. The chance to be a mother." She hiccupped near the end as the emotions seemed to take over, sobs of pain and grief pouring down her cheeks.

I couldn't take it anymore and pulled her against me, wrapping my arms tightly around her and resting my chin atop her head. We both cried and mourned our painful losses, cleansing ourselves of the memories and the hold they had over us.

Listening to Esme's sorrow was painful, but feeling her cling to me as she sought comfort made it easier to handle.

As her cries faded to sniffles, I found myself rubbing her back in a soothing motion and pressing kisses to her hair; anything I could to ease her ache. Without even realizing it, my lips made their way down to her temple and then along her cheek, kissing away the tears that still remained.

"Oh, Esme. Thank you for sharing that with me, for trusting me enough to tell me," I said, my voice low and soothing. "You are an incredible woman, so strong."

She scoffed at my words, pulling away from my embrace. "I am anything but strong, Carlisle."

Dipping my finger under her chin, I tilted it up so that she would have to look at me. "I've been intrigued by you from the first moment I saw you, Esme, and even then I knew that you were unlike any woman I had ever met. The fact that you got out is proof enough of that."

Her eyes were wide and sorrowful, hope dancing along the edges.

"You helped me without even knowing you were doing so, álainn. I was in a bloody horrible frame of mind after Marcus died. Counseling helped, tremendously, but it was your strength that really helped push me." This was the point of no return. I didn't want to push her too far and frighten her away, but she had to know. "Our evenings and weekends together have been the highlights of my days, Essie."

Watching her cheeks turn pink spurred me on. "If you aren't ready, I'll understand. What you went through was traumatizing and I would never push you into something you're not ready for." I moved my finger from beneath her chin and ran it lightly down her cheek. "But if you think that you could, that you would be ready to trust someone, I promise that I will take care of you and won't give you a reason to doubt me."

I quieted then, letting my words sink in and allowing her the chance to choose for herself.

Each moment that passed without a word or movement from her was pure torture and I feared that I already knew what her answer would be.

Closing my eyes, my head lowered resignedly and I prepared myself for what was to come.

"Do you promise?"

My head jerked up immediately, unsure if I heard her correctly.

"I've felt something, too, from the very beginning. But I'm broken, Carlisle." She winced as the words left her mouth. "You could never have more than just me."

"Then I would count myself lucky," I tried to assure her. "What happened was not your fault and I would never hold that against you. If and when it is time for that discussion, we can consider adoption or even finding a surrogate, whatever would please you."

She was quiet again, but kept her eyes locked with mine. I searched her eyes desperately, hoping to figure out what she was thinking. Catching me off guard, Esme ran her fingers through my hair before pulling me closer to her and pressing her lips tenderly to mine.

I froze at first, groaning when I realized what she was doing and very carefully deepened the kiss. The moment out tongues came into contact, I lost all self-control and pulled her into my lap. She felt good against me, her petite frame molded to mine, warm and soft as our lips continued to play over each other's.

With one hand wound in her hair, I broke the kiss, trailing my lips along her jaw and down her neck. The tiny moans and gasps she made let me know that I was headed in the right direction. I nipped at the juncture between her neck and shoulder, licking and sucking the sensitive area.

"Mmm… I don't want to force anything… so good." I moved back up to her lips, kissing her deeply.

Esme gasped as my lips trailed over her, her hips moving against mine and discovering the extent of my obvious arousal. "Uh, I… I don't…" she trailed off, hands gripping my shoulders tightly.

My hips rose of their own accord, causing us both to moan at the contact. Amazing. My body was screaming for more, all I needed to do was slide my hand underneath her skirt. From the reactions I was getting from her, I knew she wouldn't resist me.

I kissed and nipped at the hollow of her throat, gently gripping her waist in my hands. After everything that she had told me about her ex-husband, I knew that she really wasn't ready for more, but I just couldn't seem to stop. Her scent and taste were driving me mad.

Being inside of her was the only thing I could think about, feeling her heat wrapped around me. I groaned inwardly at the thought.

If we were going to have any chance of making it, I needed Esme to trust me completely and that meant waiting until she was ready.

The very thought of stopping right then actually hurt, but Esme meant more to me than an evening of physical pleasure. So, with one last press of my lips over her heart, I pulled back from her, panting heavily and trying to regain my composure.

She gently scratched the back of my head, her forehead pressed to mine as our breaths intermingled. Neither of us spoke for a time, allowing ourselves to calm down and take in what had just happened between us.

When we were finally able to speak we spoke softly, figuring out where we wanted to go from there, taking things slow between us and allowing them to progress naturally. I held her close to me, breathing her in and feeling whole for the first time in months.

There was still a lot we had to work through, both separately and together, but we could do it together now.

Esme POV

One year later…

His arm was wrapped securely around my waist and I was tucked against his side as we walked into the room. Everything was perfect and beautiful, the happy smiling faces of our friends and family making it even more wonderful.

Rosalie had absolutely out done herself with the decorations; blue and silver lanterns that created a soft glow throughout the room, cream colored tablecloths at each table, orchids for each center piece, and table settings that would make Emily Post twitch with envy.

"Is it everything you hoped it would be, Mrs. Cullen?" Carlisle whispered, his lips tickling my ear as he spoke.

A shiver ran down my spine at the contact and I couldn't help giggling slightly at hearing him say my new name. "It's so much more."

The gentle pressure of his lips against my temple was feather soft. I didn't want to leave our little bubble, but knew we couldn't stand there all night.

"Soon," he murmured, before pressing one more kiss to my skin.

We spent our time taking part in the normal traditions, smiling for the camera and cutting our wedding cake. I had never seen my new husband look so happy and when he pulled me into his arms for our first wedding dance together, I thought his cheeks would crack from the strain.

He took my left hand in his and held them to his chest, right over his heart, and placed his other hand on the small of my back. We were pressed as close to each other as we could get and it still didn't feel like enough.

"Gráim thú, Essie," he said in a low, husky voice.

Every time he said anything in Gaelic, I just melted and he knew it. "I love you, too."

His mouth curved up in a mischievous grin, one that I had come to know quite well.

I blushed slightly, burying my face in the crook of his neck as he chuckled at me. We slowly swayed to the music, the string quartet Rose picked out adding just the right touch.

As the song was nearing the end, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Reluctantly, I lifted my head from Carlisle's shoulder to find Rosalie standing next to us, my cell phone in her hand. "Sorry to interrupt, but it's the woman from the adoption agency, Es."

My stomach churned in knots as I took the phone from her. After we had gotten engaged, Carlisle and I discussed becoming foster parents with the intent to adopt. We both wanted children and this was our only way to ensure that we could.

Letting out a slow deep breath, I held the phone up to my ear. "Hello?"

"Esme, good evening dear. Forgive me, I know that you are busy this evening, but I just had to give you the news," Kate said. "We have two kids that came to us that we'd love to place with you. Twins, a boy and a girl."

"Oh that's wonderful." I put my hand over the receiver and quickly told Carlisle what she had just said.

Kate filled me in a little more on their background and I found myself longing to already have them in our house. "Well, listen, I know that you two are going on your honeymoon in the morning, so give me a call as soon as you get back so I can bring them on over."

"I will. Thank you so much, Kate." I was about to hang up when I realized I had forgotten to ask something. "Oh, Kate. What are their names?"

"Edward and Alice Masen."


First of all I would like to give a hug and thank you to mens rea 01 for bidding on me in the New Moon addition of FGB. Without you this story wouldn't have come about and I am extremely proud of how it turned out, I hope you are too.

Huge thanks to my partner in crime, venting buddy, and fabulous beta kyla713. Dawnie, I don't know what I'd do without you and your red pen. And as always, thank you to my ficwife StarlightSuccubus for always being there for me.

There might be one more chapter to this to sort of delve into life with little Edward and Alice, but definitely not until I've gotten caught up on everything else. Be sure to put me on Author Alert if you want to be sure to know when I post my remaining auction pieces.

Thank you guys for continuing to read my stuff, it means more to me than you know. Oh and you can follow me on twitter: (at) maganbagan