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Story Name: Second Choices

Rating: M

Genre: Vamp/AU

Word Count: 4155

Summary: An alternate view of what happens after Carlisle turns Edward, and how they are both affected when Esme shows up.

For two hundred and thirty years, Carlisle Cullen had been alone.

Not really alone alone, but alone in the most important senses. Physically alone. Alone in his heart.

Sure, he'd met a few people that might have sparked an interest, but as the son of a pastor, he was raised with certain beliefs. Beliefs he desperately wanted to uphold. It was bad enough he'd been turned into exactly the kind of monster his father had taught him to destroy, but he found himself full of so many conflicting emotions once he was transformed.

For decades, he grappled with what his head and heart told him. He tried so many times to kill himself, to rid himself of the thoughts and desires that filled him. Nothing worked, and so he did the next best thing he could think of when it came to his food source and he consumed only the blood of animals, rationalizing it was no worse than what humans did. It took him centuries, but he perfected his own version of life and living, learning much during that time – about his new self, other humans, and life in general. He attended medical school, and became a doctor. A healer.

This life suited him well.

After an... interesting few years in Italy, Carlisle left for the New World, giving back to humans by being the best doctor he could be. The best person he could be.

He lived in Chicago and found himself enjoying his shifts at the hospital. There was great need for him during the flu outbreak, and he had a purpose. He was truly doing good work and saving lives. When he couldn't save them, he eased their final days.

When one of his patients, Elizabeth, had begged him to do anything to save her son, the look in her eyes telling him she somehow knew what he was – and was okay with it – he was conflicted. He'd seen the boy, Edward was his name, and had even admired his beauty. But turn him? He couldn't. He just couldn't.

Could he?

The thought wracked him with guilt. But she'd asked – she asked, even knowing what he was, knowing what Carlisle would turn her child into.

He waited until it was almost too late, until Edward had nearly succumbed to influenza. He waited as long as his conscience needed to be okay with it, but even as he leaned to bite Edward, a thousand questions flew into his mind. One of Carlisle's hands gently caressed his cheek, and he was tempted for a half-second to kiss his neck before his teeth sank into the flesh, but he withheld.

Of course, he panicked once the venom was in Edward's blood; they were out in a busy, open, medical area. What was he thinking? Carlisle rushed to get Edward onto a gurney and placed a sheet delicately over the young man before wheeling him away to what he hoped people would assume was the morgue. He'd seen the transformation in Italy, and he knew he had precious little time before Edward began to react.

Once Carlisle had him safely in the unused bedroom at his apartment, he knew the waiting would begin. Edward would endure three days of torture. There was no way he would leave Edward's side, having been the cause of his pain.

For three of the longest days of his existence, maybe even longer than the three during his own transformation, Carlisle sat by Edward's side. He waited, consoled, made small talk with no one. Edward's eyes pled with Carlisle to explain, to make it stop, to do innumerable unspoken things. Still, the man waited. He knew the ache would ease, the fire would smolder and then extinguish.

When it finally did, and Edward opened his blood red eyes and took Carlisle in, really saw him for the first time, he was scared. Petrified.

Carlisle sensed Edward's awakening, but wanted to be cautious. He had no idea of the boy's temperament, and until he could assess the situation, it seemed wise to be careful.

Everything was so much more, and he had no idea why. As he looked at Carlisle, he took in his stark blond hair, loose-fitting slacks, and what seemed to be a button-down shirt. The memory of who the man was itched at Edward's brain, but he still couldn't quite place it.

He'd remembered the man talking to him, but everything had been so tainted by the pain he'd experienced over the last … well, he had no idea how long it had been. He waited, very still, unsure how to proceed.

Slowly, Carlisle turned to face him. "I can tell you're awake," he said quietly. "Are you feeling all right?"

"I …" Edward sat up much faster than he anticipated, suddenly aware of his new body. "I don't know. What happened?"

Carlisle approached, placing one hand on the other man's back. "It's a long story, Edward."

"You know my name?" he asked, looking up.

The red of Edward's eyes startled Carlisle, and reminded him there was so much to explain.

"I do," Carlisle began. "I was treating your mother. She asked me to..." He paused, trying to think of the best way to explain.

"I don't understand," Edward protested. "I can see everything. Why am I here? Who are you? What have you done to me?" The questions seemed to never end.

Carlisle's brain was frantic with thought, and Edward couldn't understand why he could hear Carlisle when the man was clearly not speaking. It disturbed him, and he began to internally panic, but quickly figured out he was hearing thoughts. As he listened carefully, trying to sift through the jumbled mess of information, he realized that Carlisle had no ill intent, which eased his fears slightly.

Over the next few hours, Carlisle explained the finer details of what had happened and what they both were. For the most part, Edward was quiet, absorbing the information. It surprised Carlisle how he handled everything, actually; Edward already seemed beyond his years.

When they finally dared to go outside, the moment a scent crossed their path, Edward ran. As Carlisle fought to keep up with him, he thought about how startlingly fast Edward was.

Carlisle was just grateful he'd explained to Edward hours ago about animals versus humans, and so when the teacher caught up to the new student gracelessly devouring the blood of a coyote, he waited and smiled.

Of course, during the first few months, there had been at least one... incident. Carlisle didn't mind them, though, as it had been ages since he'd had so much fun with someone else. Running and chasing prey through woods, lying with a full belly and talking until nearly sunrise... and, then, he couldn't deny a certain reaction forming in his body when he'd needed to tackle and restrain Edward. The conflict between the blood, the lust, everything – it had begun to take its toll on them both.

Carlisle found himself above Edward, strong hands pinning almost stronger wrists to the snow-covered ground. Without thought, the man on top pushed his hips, rolling them with need.

"Why'd you run?" Carlisle asked, suddenly aware they were miles from humans.

The smirk on Edward's face almost gave him away immediately, but he decided to play coy just a bit longer.

"Sometimes it's fun to be chased."

They'd both grown accustomed to this mix of nourishment and charged sexual tension, so when Edward raised his hips to meet and press against Carlisle's, it was nothing new.

He wanted more, however, and Carlisle wasn't sure how to get it, or if Edward even wanted it. Hesitantly, he lowered his upper body, closing the distance. As his body sprawled and covered more of the man beneath him, erections sliding against each other beneath denim, he wondered what the reaction would be to a kiss.

The smirk on Edward's face seemed to grow and Carlisle was confused. He became afraid Edward's expression was one of mockery instead of an invitation to advance, and pulled back slightly.

Edward's hand, having slipped from beneath Carlisle's wrist, curled around the man's neck, pulling him closer once again, clarifying.

"Carlisle," he breathed, mouths almost touching each other. "There's something I have to tell you."

Utilizing his strength over the other vampire, Edward squeezed his thighs and rolled them. This was a unique position, and as they both turned, each thought about the differences in sensation and state of mind.

"What?" Carlisle asked. Their lips were touching now, skin to skin, and it felt sinful in all the right ways.

"I wasn't sure how to tell you before," Edward whispered. His mouth moved to the skin on Carlisle's neck and he paused, lips holding their place.

Somehow, this seemed easier if they weren't looking at each other, Edward realized.

As he spoke, his voice dipped halfway, and Carlisle had to ask him to repeat himself.

"I think I can hear your thoughts," Edward repeated. "No, I mean. I can. I can hear your thoughts."

Carlisle's first reaction was to jump and flee. The object of his most recent lust and affection had known all along?

But of course, Edward knew this, heard the thoughts as Carlisle thought them, and his hands wove around Carlisle's waist.

"Don't. Please," Edward whispered.

They stayed outdoors in the freezing cold for hours, locked in that exact position, talking. The snow fell on top of them, at first dusting and then completely covering them. When it became too much, buried in their own personal mini igloo, and finally free of their emotional burdens, they shook and moved, laughing.

They kissed and touched and loved.

They bonded.

Together, they grew as people. They played in the snow, and when winter ended, they enjoyed spring. During the heat of summer, they sprawled, usually naked, and soaked in as much of the sun as they could together. They would bring books and talk, reading and philosophizing, eventually ravaging.

Edward was prepared for centuries of this bliss. Carlisle was, too, until they'd moved to Wisconsin. The men decided it was time to move on from Chicago and settled into a quiet home together where no one would suspect much of anything. Edward kept to himself usually, aside from his night classes.

During a shift at the hospital, a strange sensation overcame Carlisle. He was so practiced at controlling himself, he almost didn't recognize it at first, but the pull nearly caused him to fall over. The pull of her. Her blood. Her body. Everything about her sang to him.

He had to treat her, even breaking protocol to do so. All it had taken was one moment in proximity, and Carlisle knew she was his singer.

Once she was gone, he became distraught. All those years in Italy had taught him nothing, he thought to himself as he began trying to figure out what any of it meant. Hadn't he known, learned firsthand, that fighting the pull of her was useless? Should he have just turned her right then? What if she never came back?

His distraction was evident that night at home, but he thought of everything but Esme.

His days were spent trying to figure out what he'd do. He loved Edward, truly loved him, but he knew this was something beyond love.

The guilt over the following months threatened to eat Carlisle up, and the mental anguish of hiding his singer from Edward was exhausting. He could hide it no longer when Esme was back under his care, this time for an attempt at suicide.

How could this beautiful creature want to end her life?

Carlisle's fingers traced her face, contorted and twisted in pain. When she woke, they talked quietly, details of her life spilling from her mouth as the tears fell from her eyes. It was all so much, too much for her. She was trapped, had no way out of a life of misery, and they both knew it.

Except that Carlisle did know a way out for her.

He'd be voluntarily ending another life, and he desperately wanted to seek solace in the arms of his companion for the last two years. He wanted Edward to hold him, to kiss him and comfort in the ways they'd learned, and he needed to know things would be okay between them. If he turned Esme, he could only hope she felt the same, and that they might forge a life together, maybe even with Edward.

He wrestled with the thought that Edward might leave. Or worse, Edward would leave and Esme would hate him, leaving too. He'd grown so used to the company, he thought he'd never have.

All of these thoughts blazed through Carlisle's mind as he walked home slowly. Around the mile marker he knew from practice Edward's range began, he shifted his thoughts. It was unfair, he knew, but he began replaying his fondest memories of his time with Edward.

By the time he arrived home, Edward was sprawled on the couch, nude, cock in hand. Most of the memories had been rather salacious, and Carlisle expected this reaction. Hoped for it.

Stripping his clothes carefully in the entryway, he watched the younger man carefully. They had spent years learning each other so intimately, he was sure Edward had known about the stress of what was weighing on his mind, but neither man had spoken of it yet.

Quietly and carefully, they coupled on the couch. It was intimate and intense, but exactly what they each needed. For Carlisle, it was a reminder of their deep, multi-level connection, and for Edward, it felt like the reassurance he needed that Carlisle hadn't pulled away from him entirely.

Face-to-face, they laid on the couch, bodies pressed together. Their hands roamed and touched, smiles on each of their faces.

Edward was so grateful for two things in that moment. First, that Carlisle couldn't read his thoughts, and second, that vampires couldn't cry. For if they could, he surely would have shed uncountable tears at the realization that Carlisle had let a whisper of a thought slip through during their lovemaking. Edward didn't know who Esme was, just that she seemed to be causing his love a great deal of pain, and he wanted that to stop.

As Edward's fingers laced through the blond locks above him, he whispered. He wasn't even sure he meant the words as they came out, but some part of him clearly did.

"You can tell me."

Carlisle's entire body tensed, shocked from its previous jelly-like relaxed state.

There was no way to hide anymore. The minute Edward had spoken and the words were processed by Carlisle, the flood of grief and guilt washed over them both.

This time, it was Carlisle holding so desperately to Edward.

"Please, don't go."

The men struggled against each other, rolling to the ground and then crashing into and breaking the coffee table.

All fight left Edward's body as he really listened to what Carlisle was thinking, and realized there was no use. There was simply nothing left to fight for. The man clearly loved him, but that wasn't enough.

Please, Edward. I need your help.

He'd never been so angry – so frustrated – at the ability to read thoughts, as he was right then. He wanted to put his hands up, shield his ears (as if that would help), and crawl into the nearest hole for a few decades.

For all of his overwhelming emotions, though, he stayed. He listened. He gave.

When Esme was turned quietly one night after being released from the hospital, Edward sat by her side with Carlisle. Edward held Carlisle's hand, the one that wasn't holding one of Esme's.

There was so much Carlisle had wanted to tell Esme, but it just hadn't been practical. There wasn't time to explain, and there just weren't words for some things.

After Esme's transformation, Carlisle took her on her first hunt. She knew what she'd agreed to become, but hadn't quite known what to expect.

Edward wanted to die. Even though Carlisle had told him all about his own transformation and his own trials in attempting suicide, so he knew it wasn't possible, he ached for it. He longed to be put out of his misery, escape the pain and anger and frustration. All he'd ever done was love Carlisle in the purest sense of the word, and now he was left with nothing. He'd been the second choice. Not good enough, not perfect enough.

As the couple walked back in, he was reminded that it wasn't nothing – he still had Carlisle in his life, just in a different capacity. And Esme? When he wasn't busy hating her, Edward had actually kind of grown to enjoy her company. It was tense and quiet much of the time Carlisle was at work, but she and Edward had learned to co-exist, at least.

Carlisle and Esme grew closer, never flaunting it in front of Edward, but you certainly couldn't hide everything from a mind-reader. Esme found herself daydreaming one afternoon after several years of the three of them co-habitating, and when Edward tuned into her thoughts, he stormed out of the house, angry that his former lover was now hers.

He tried, really tried, to adjust to the loss of Carlisle, but he was frustrated in the basest sense. As Esme and Carlisle's relationship grew more sexual, Edward's lack of intimacy only became more painful.

Through the years, the pain eased, but never disappeared. Edward was careful to never show it in front of Carlisle and Esme, not wanting to tarnish their happiness, but the other two knew. They both loved Edward deeply in their own ways, and even Esme had come to truly know and be able to read Edward.

One night, Edward had simply had enough. Esme had been slightly short-tempered with him and his brooding, and Edward knew it was time to go. He wasn't sure how long he'd be gone – a few months, or forever – he just knew it was time.

After a long talk alone with Carlisle, the young man ventured off on his own. He fancied himself something of a vigilante, cleaning the streets as he wandered. He was alone, desolate, and violating the one tenant Carlisle had asked him to uphold.

In a way, it felt good to violate his agreement with Carlisle in this way. He was angry, and each time he sank his teeth into the scum of society, not only was he doing something good for humanity, but it was like a giant "fuck you" to him.

Edward wallowed in this behavior, indulging beyond what even he knew was helpful. He ached some nights, body overflowing from the blood sloshing inside him.

It was nothing compared to the non-physical ache. It was the Great Depression, Edward had heard somewhere, and he internally bemoaned that the country mourned alongside him.

Very few phone calls happened between the two men, but each time, Carlisle quietly asked Edward to return. Only after a few years of his vagabond lifestyle did Edward even consider returning. It still took a few more to convince him that things could be okay between the three of them in close proximity again.

Something about the savagery of his time away had truly changed Edward. He felt like he understood humanity better, understood himself. He still wasn't pleased about the way things had turned out with Carlisle, but now, he'd overheard and seen so much of love, he had found a sliver of peace.

He had also, rather unintentionally, found his spectrum of lust broadening while he was away. Having spent many nights in bars and alleys, he'd overheard numerous vulgar things, but the quiet, delicate thoughts of women began to intrigue him. It wasn't that he hadn't had an interest in women before, but Carlisle had been his everything, and there had been no reason to explore any other facet of himself.

On the train to Wisconsin, in fact, Edward sprawled on the unnecessary bed, and found himself peacefully enjoying the thoughts from the woman in the room next to his. She was getting herself ready for a date with her husband, he surmised, and he listened to her frantic thoughts as she dressed. He could almost see it in his head, even though he'd never really seen a woman in the various states of undress, as she carefully rolled her stockings on, attaching the garters, and adjusting her other delicate pieces of lingerie.

Sure, he felt wrong "listening" to her, but he couldn't stop, not with his arousal increasing exponentially. When the couple made their way back to the room post-dinner, slowly making love, Edward touched himself for the first time. He could hear the man's thoughts about how soft and sweet the woman was, and Edward was curious.

Upon his return to the home he'd once loved, Edward found settling back in to be uncomfortable, but worth it.

He was grateful for the time Esme afforded the men to be alone, but was careful to never allow his thoughts to cross the line again. He'd resolved that there was nothing he could do to change how things were now, and acceptance was his only option; he'd grown to love them both too much to leave again.

The quaint charm of their "family" was shattered, however, the night Carlisle brought Rosalie home. Edward could hear the man's frantic thoughts and rushed to help him.

As they all three tended to Rose during her transformation, the idea of Rose and Edward pairing came up quietly. Edward didn't close himself off to the idea, but he was honest with Carlisle that he felt no pull to her, no connection.

"Love isn't about just having another body, Carlisle." Edward spoke quietly, keeping his head down as they waited with Rose. Esme had gone to hunt, each of them taking turns. "It's something deeper, more profound. You can't expect her to take your place in my heart just because she's now one of us."

I know, Edward. I'm sorry. I just thought... maybe...

"You thought wrong."

It was just three words, but Carlisle's hopes were dashed. He longed for Edward to find the happiness and fulfillment he had, but it wasn't meant to be. When she was fully a vampire, it became glaringly obvious to the four of them that there would be nothing between Edward and Rosalie, perhaps, they each worried at times, not even friendship.

When Rose found Emmett and Carlisle turned him, Edward's bitterness returned for a brief period. Well, brief in vampire terms.

The time out of the communal home allowed Edward more exploration of humanity, though, and he discovered different ways to channel his frustrations. He returned to his practices of voyeurism, practiced running faster, harder, longer, and dove into his studies again.

It wasn't until Alice and Jasper came along that Edward really returned to himself, and the family. Something about the little freak was compelling, and he found himself comforted by her presence. He wasn't attracted to her – God no – but he felt an intense kinship with her. Perhaps, Edward wondered, it was due to their physical ages being the same.

Regardless, their presence had been healing for everyone. Edward's pain eased further, and each of them grew into a routine as a family. They began to attend school together. It felt, dare he think it, normal?

Still, the first time Carlisle introduced himself as Edward's father, the young man was certain he blanched just a little further. The idea was … ludicrous, not to mention disgusting. His sexual thoughts of Carlisle had long ago waned, just an ember in the fire of Edward's life now, but it still made him uncomfortable to think of them in this new way.

Alice, however, did feel like his sister. It fit. It was right, Edward knew it in his non-existent soul, and so he thought of each of them as his siblings. Esme had grown into a motherly role, for sure, and actually spent most of her time with Edward, when Carlisle wasn't around. They were frighteningly similar, they discovered over the years, and the thought made them both chuckle when it was brought up.

In time, Edward and Carlisle eased into a comfortable familial space. It no longer made Edward feel sick to his stomach when the family was out together, for which Edward was thankful.

And then, one otherwise quiet day, Edward's world shattered before his eyes again.

Suddenly, clearly, he knew what Carlisle had felt that first time he'd been around Esme. Bella would never be his second choice.