AN ~ This one is considerably more light-hearted than the last one; it was a challenge to write but fun

Disclaimer: I don't own Paris, the Eiffel Tower, Mr Eiffel, Joan of Arc, Carlisle, Esme, OR Edward or the words 'smitten' or 'ninnies' (LOL)

Smitten

Esme was excited. Today was to be her first walk through a busy market - and in Paris, of all places! Of course, Edward and the remarkable Doctor Carlisle Cullen would be accompanying her and keeping a close eye, which only made her feel better about today. Bouncing on her heels, she tried over and over to sit her hair neatly, but it just wouldn't go.

With a sigh, she settled for her most recent positioning and moved her attention to her blouse, which had come crooked with all her bouncing. She wanted to look absolutely impeccable in the company of her gracious hosts...and particularly, of late, Doctor Cullen. She never addressed him as Carlisle out loud, despite the fact that he had insisted many times. The problem was, Esme was knocked breathless by the very thought of his name. And her name; on his lips, it sounded holy...

She was conflicted, though. These feelings were strange to her, and though she found them thrilling, she didn't know how long they would last - part of her hoped they would stop right away and part of her willed them to stay with her forever. More importantly, did he feel the same way about her?

If only I could ask him...Esme sighed and leant on one arm on the vanity, staring through the mirror, envisioning for the thousandth time the path of action that, in some of her wildest daydreams, she might one day take. She would just walk straight up to Doctor Cullen and-

"Esme!" Edward hissed, appearing in the doorway between her small 'bedroom' and his.

Esme scolded herself, blushing as her rampant daydreams were cut short. The fact that her cheeks couldn't get hot or flush red was no help in covering up her embarrassment with a mind-reader present.

Sorry, Edward, she apologised meekly.

"I should think so," Edward nodded sternly. A crooked smile broke out on his face then, cracking his mask of distaste. "You need to concentrate today, Esme...or shall I tell Doctor Cullen to cancel our little outing?"

No, no! I am completely, one hundred percent focused.

Esme was dying to go outside. She had been pent up in this nice but rather small apartment for four days now, because of the sun and the crowds in town: Carlisle and Edward were monitoring them so they knew what to expect. Esme was not so methodical: her every sense longed to walk the streets of the legendary Parie. She was missing so much, trapped in this box when outside, there was beautiful art and sweet smells all over the winding, cobbled streets that weaved through the city. Not to mention, the fabled Tour Eiffel, Alexandre Eiffel's grand iron masterpiece that had caused enormous ripples throughout the art world. Esme only dabbled in the arts herself, but she would dearly love to see this tower. Doctor Cullen had told her about it with such enthusiasm that it must be something very worthy of praise.

"Esme, are you ready?" Doctor Cullen asked, knocking on the door. Esme shivered and swooned for a moment before her senses returned to her.

Heavens, this is getting worse! Would she really be able to focus today? Maybe she should cancel.

"Uh, yes, coming," she said instead, hurriedly fixing her collar and snatching up her gloves.

Thud.

She ran straight into Doctor Cullen's chest as she shot out the door. He staggered back a few steps, but quickly recovered his balance.

"Are you sure you're ready to do this?" Concerned golden eyes gazed down into hers, and Esme felt a shiver of delight. Doctor Cullen's fingers clasped the tops of her arms, but not painfully; in fact, she felt rather safe in his steady hands.

"Esme? Are you okay?"

Esme shook herself out of her trance.

"Yes, no, yes," she stammered. "I'm just a little nervous."

"That's understandable," Doctor Cullen smiled warmly at her, "but you really don't need to be. Your control is beautiful."

Esme stared down at her simple, white, lace-up boots - suddenly the most fascinating objects in the room - until Edward joined them. As the three of them filed onto the street, Edward flashed Esme a knowing smile. She scowled and pretended that she hadn't noticed, even though she knew it was too late. She would never live this down.

.o.o.o.

Carlisle admired the brightness of the markets - so vibrant, so different since the last time he had been here. The basket on his arm was weighed down with all manner of stall produce: he wondered how the others had managed to slip so much in there, but he didn't mind at all. He looked forward to hearing their stories about what each object held for them. Edward insisted he had nothing to do with the growing pile, but Carlisle had spotted him subtly deposit a few items.

Nestled amongst the colours was a smooth, flat black box: this was the only thing Carlisle had picked out himself: an exquisite calligraphy kit for Edward, whose beautiful music deserved to be written out lovingly, not scrawled with a pencil stub.

"You didn't have to," Edward murmured, strolling a few yards behind Carlisle.

Yes, I did. Carlisle smiled with satisfaction. Today was a brilliant day in itself, made far better because he could share it with Edward and Esme. It gave him a sense of solidarity to know that they were enjoying it and, no doubt, were seeing different things in the world around them, depending on the angle their mind happened to take. It was quite possible that Carlisle would never understand exactly what each of his companions observed, but he surprised himself by accepting that this was unavoidable. Nevertheless, as he walked through the Parisian streets, he puzzled himself with the enigma that was Esme.

She was a few yards in front of him, skipping every few steps with an energy and joy not usually outwardly portrayed by women of her age. She wore a soft yellow blouse and matching skirt, and even though the sky above them was painted grey, it seemed that she was wrapped in sunshine. Carlisle smiled, watching the bronze curls bounce as she skipped over to a stall and began examining a sky-blue scarf. It hadn't even been one year since he changed her, and she had spent a lot of that time confused, upset and even a little bit frightened: it was so fulfilling to see the spring in her step, the light in her eyes now. She was beautiful.

Carlisle shook his head. He was clearly not thinking straight. Firstly, Esme was far far younger than he was. Secondly, surely Esme's budding artistry made her a better match for Edward? And even that was a little farfetched. Third; if he knew what he was doing, which he decidedly did not, could he ask her to commit to a relationship so soon after so many disasters?

"You're just as bad as she is," Edward muttered just behind Carlisle. He had his hands in his pockets, looking casually around, quietly admiring everything in his own way.

Esme? Bad? Carlisle thoughts were thrown into a jumble as he snapped out of his trance. He stopped and spun around, and Edward stopped too.

"Hopeless, the both of you, if you don't mind me saying." The younger vampire grinned at his creator. Carlisle frowned.

"Whatever do you mean?"

"You like her-" Edward put one palm flat "-she likes you-" he held out the other "-and yet both of you are totally gutless ninnies who daren't speak a word about it."

Carlisle was at a loss for words. He glared at Edward for want of some snappy response, and then made a point of turning on his heel to march on at a renewed pace. Before he could take a step, he realised that Esme had disappeared.

Carlisle and Edward shared a horrified glance, and then darted off to find her.

.o.o.o.

Esme sighed in wonder as she looked up at the gallant tower. Its blue-grey spire reached for the paler grey sky, and seemed to touch it. The other clouds drifted lazily past, but it seemed this part caught on the tower and tore slightly; just enough for the sun to break through.

Esme looked frantically for a place to hide before the sun could reach her. The only conclusion offered was the tower itself, so up she went. And up and up and up, thousands of stairs: she had to escape the eyes she felt were boring into her. When humans were around, sun was a danger; sun meant exposure. Only at the top of the tower, where she was finally alone, was she convinced that she was safe.

Her skin sparkled like diamonds as the sunlight shone down on it. The crack in the sky widened, inviting a soft, creamy light to brighten the whole city. Esme walked slowly over to the railing, awestruck, as she watched the sun clean the city that stretched out below her. It truly looked as though someone was wiping away years of grime with a fresh cloth, revealing the true beauty of the city in a way never seen before.

"Amazing," she breathed to herself, wrapping her hands around the railing slowly, taking care not to disturb the atmosphere with any sudden movements. A breeze blew past, gently ruffling her hair, drawing the grey blanket back over the city as the clouds hid the sun once more. Now, though, Esme could see through the darkness: the city's lack of shine didn't take away from its beauty at all.

She sighed again, this time with longing. If only someone could see her like that: look past her scars, her mistakes, and the fact that she was now a dangerous predator, and look right into her bare soul. There was one in this life who could achieve that: who could one day know her just as well, if not better, than she knew herself. But that one remained oblivious to her affections, and no matter how hard she tried, she simply could not reveal what she felt for him. If only she were braver, like the heroic Joan D'Arc. Esme smiled to herself and shook her head: Joan of Arc might be able to speak out, but Esme Platt was doomed to admire her love from the sidelines. Not so unlike the tower, Esme thought, running a finger along the steady rail: the Iron Maiden, who looked over her city with love unrequited.

Esme faintly heard the door behind her creak. Soft footsteps crossed the platform and a second pair of hands joined hers on the railing, a few feet away. Carlisle. Esme endured the familiar shiver at the thought of his name, and this made her only more determined not to face him.

"You shouldn't have run off like that," he reprimanded softly.

"I know. I'm sorry. I saw it and I couldn't help myself. It just pulled me in." She risked a glance to check his reaction: a soft smile.

"I felt much the same way the first time," he said. Then, tentatively, he added; "but something else pulled me in this time."

He gently took one of her hands in his, guiding her a few steps back from the railing. Esme thought her heart might melt at the tenderness in his eyes. There was a long silence as the pair stared at each other, waiting for words to come. Now more than ever, Esme was painfully aware that her soul was laid bare under Carlisle's gaze, and she was helplessly unable to tell him so.

"Je t'adore, Esme," Carlisle breathed at last, in a perfect Parisian accent. Esme closed her eyes, savouring his words just in case she woke up and discovered she had been dreaming this whole time.

"Carlisle," she said softly when her eyes flickered open. There was no weak shudder this time, no urge to blush or turn her face away. "I love you too."