Carlisle could never feel truly tired, but his mind –so much more active than a human's – felt almost numb. How was it, that with a perfect memory and crystal clear vision, his days had begun to blur into one? When had each patient began to feel exactly the same as the last? Was it this small hospital - where there was nothing more interesting than the occasional broken bone, at least for a so-called 'new' doctor such as himself?
Carlisle wondered when his days had gotten so mundane. But he knew the situation would only be worse if he didn't have his work to occupy his time. It was the one true comfort he had – the thought that he was helping others. That what he was could be a gift as well as a curse. But it was a tainted gift none the less. For he could help the humans that came to the hospital in search of aid but no one could ever help him. He was eternally and irrevocably alone.
He noticed how desolate his thoughts had become and contemplated when they had begun to be that way. He remembered himself as a young vampire – overjoyed at discovering his alternative source of feeding and the idea that he was not a monster. What had happened to his optimism? Where was the fulfilment he had first felt for mastering his control over his bloodlust and being able to pursue his chosen career?
He found himself pondering these disheartened questions more and more both inside the hospital and out. The answer differed depending on his location. They bothered him somewhat less whilst he worked. Sometimes he could still feel the old contentment while in his place of work. The feeling of achievement. The comforting notion that he was doing some good in this world despite the odds. He felt it when he saw a little girl's smile. Or a look of relief in a mother's eyes. But then there was the times when he felt detached from his patients, as if he was just going through the motions, putting on an act. Which he was – which he always had to do. But he'd never felt like he was pretending to be a doctor before. For this work was what he did, what he had done for over a century, and he knew nothing else. He could never turn his back on it, it meant too much to him, but it had lost its spark. What had caused him to once feel such passion for his work had now gone.
When he was at home the answer seemed more obvious. It was his home (if he could even call it that) which was the problem. The silence and the solitude were finally getting to him. All he had was his work, but even that could not provide him with proper company. For he could never risk the chance of someone truly getting to know him. His secret was too great to be careless with it. Nobody could see him too closely. For they would see the cracks in the façade – see through his many numerous lies- and he would have to leave that much sooner. And that was ultimately the problem, he always had to leave. He could never care for people because it would hurt him all the more to let them go. Not that that stopped him. It was in his very nature to care about the people around him, either colleague or patient, he could just never let them care about him in return. That would be dangerous for all involved. So he went through life observing and watching and being concerned without anyone ever knowing or sharing that concern.
Was this, perhaps, the reason for his recent detachment from his work? Was his subconscious working to save him? After centuries of this pain, had he finally hurt himself so badly he had to fight to prevent it from happening again?
"Thank you, doctor." The man stood up from his chair and looked at Carlisle cautiously. Carlisle had been so lost in his own thoughts he had barely paid attention as he stitched the man's injured hand up, but he knew he had still done a satisfactory job. With a vampire's expanded mind, barely an attention was still enough.
The man nodded his head and scurried out the room, as though he was in a rush to get away from his doctor.
Carlisle had to resist the urge to sigh. If it weren't for the fact that he had nothing to return home to, he imagined he would be counting down the hours to when his shift ended. He didn't, however, feel any such urge to check his pocket watch. At least here in the hospital he could be of some use – no matter how mind-numbingly trivial it felt.
He leaned back in his chair and let the sounds of the hospital wash over him. Nurses chatted. The ailing moaned in their sleep. A doctor chatted to his patient. A mother fussed over her ill child. Skin was sewed up. Each noise was clear and defined and yet they still created a cacophony of sound around him.
He stood up and decided he may as well learn where else he was needed. As he left the room his hearing picked up the sound of heavy footsteps further down the corridor. Whoever they belonged to, it sounded as if they were struggling to carry a heavy load. It was not entirely what he'd had in mind, but he was sure he could be of some help to them.
He found a men in his early forties struggling to carry a young woman in his arms. Judging by their similar hair colouring, they were related. He assumed the man was the girl's father.
"Need any help?" he asked. The man jumped slightly and Carlisle saw his hold on the young woman become even more precarious.
"My daughter broke her leg," the man informed him. His daughter's eyes widened in shock as she took in Carlisle's appearance. He was use to this by now. It was a common reaction among both genders, though the speeded heartbeat of the girl was usually only confined to her own gender.
"If you follow me," Carlisle announced, leading them to the first unoccupied room he could find. He listened very carefully to the man's struggle, just in case his hold should slip and he should drop the girl. He knew from previous experiences that his attempts to offer help would be rebuffed and taken as an insult, but he wanted to be prepared to save her should she nearly fall. To start with, he was sure it would hurt her greatly if she were to be dropped onto an already broken leg.
The man placed his daughter onto the bed as Carlisle excused himself to go and collect the necessary equipment and forms.
"What's your name?" he asked her upon his return.
"Esme Platt." She stuttered slightly, clearly still unnerved by his presence.
He wrote this down on the form before passing it to her father for the rest of the necessary details.
Her hazel eyes scrutinized him carefully as he did this. She must have realized he had noticed, for her gaze flickered downwards to stare at her skirt. A red blush spread through her cheeks. His eyes were drawn to the spreading red, for just a few seconds he felt the pull of bloodlust he hadn't struggled against for so long. She smelt succulent. A rush of desire filled him – to see if she tasted as sweet as she smelt. He forced himself to pull his gaze away from her glowing cheeks. Neither of the humans in the room seemed to have noticed anything, for which he was thankful. The girl's eyes were still carefully looking anywhere but his face. She looked so bashful he had to resist the urge to chuckle.
"What happened to your leg?" he asked, turning his attention to said injured limb. He dimly noticed as her father excused himself from the room. He realized she was old enough for him to feel it inappropriate to be in the room when her skirt was lifted to see her leg.
"I fell out of a tree," she admitted. She bit her lip. Her gaze did not look up from her skirt.
This time -unable to stop himself- he did chuckle. Her blush turned a slightly darker shade of red. But he had acclimatized to her scent now, though he had to acknowledge that he would have to hunt once his shift was over.
He cursed himself for laughing at her, he had no desire to embarrass her.
"I need to lift your skirt to look at your leg," he warned her. She briefly looked up at him before ducking her head downwards again. She gave the smallest of nods.
"Is that OK?" he prompted, hoping to get her to speak again.
"Yes," she agreed.
With great care he peeled back the layers of her skirt until it rested above her knee. The bottom half of her right calf twisted out at an abnormal angle.
"This is quite an extraordinary break," he told her.
"Why do I get a feeling that isn't a good thing?" she asked him. He was taken back by her sudden boldness. He looked up from her leg to her face again. Her eyes widened as she clearly realized what she had just said.
"Sorry," she mumbled. The blush was back worse than ever. She was fiddling with the bed sheet and this was were her gaze now fell. He imagined she no longer wished to look at her skirts now they were round her knees.
He smiled reassuringly at her, though he doubted she saw his efforts. "It's fine."
He called for a nurse to bring water and plaster.
"So, why were you up a tree?" he asked, turning his attention back to his still blushing patient. He was surprised to find he did not have to force the interest into his voice.
"Rescuing my sister."
"Why was your sister up a tree?"
"She was rescuing a cat." He opened his mouth to ask the inevitable next question but she beat him to it. "And the cat was up a tree because our dog chased it." She smiled slightly in his direction. He noticed she was finally looking at him again.
The nurse arrived then with a cart containing the water and plaster bandages. He looked once more at her disfigured leg and wished he could provide her with some form of pain relief. But in such a small hospital the supply was limited and reserved for bigger injuries.
Esme was also staring at the nurse and her cart.
"I'm going to set your leg now," he told her. She visibly grimaced.
"Will it hurt?" she asked anxiously. She was biting her lip again.
He wished he had a different answer for her. "It will be over quickly," he told her, well aware that this did not answer her question properly. The flicker of fear that crossed her face told him she had understood what he had not said all too clearly.
"Can't be any worse than the journey here," she mumbled, supposedly to herself. He decided not to correct this motion.
No point in prolonging the inevitable, he thought to himself as he moved to grasp her leg between both his hands. With a careful, well-practised movement, he realigned the bone.
Her scream of pain cut through him. By the time he looked up at her face she was crying.
The nurse passed him the first piece of plaster bandage, already wet. With the same detachment of nearly everyone in the hospital, she was ignoring her patient's plight, well aware it was necessary.
Somehow, despite the many centuries of experience he had on his human colleagues, Carlisle has never been able to reach this level of detachment. Not when someone was in pain, at least. He has given it great thought and decided that perhaps it was because he knew what it was like to have no one care. He could never wish that on another person – even if they would never think about him again the moment they had left the hospital.
"Thank you. I can take things from here," he told the nurse. She raised her eyebrows but quickly neutralized her expression.
"Of course, doctor." He had turned back to Esme before she had even left the room.
There were still tears glistening in her eyes and her cheeks were marked with tear-tracks. He almost reached out to wipe them away before stopping himself. Instead, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his handkerchief.
"Here," he said, offering it to her.
She smiled weakly, still sniffing. "Thanks," she mumbled.
He diverted his attention back to her leg and the plaster bandage in his hand as she began wiping her face.
"So, why did your sister decide to rescue a cat from a tree?" He continued their previous conversation as if there had been no interruption. As he did so he began to wrap her leg in the plaster bandage.
"Because that's just the sort of thing Sophie does," she explained. He looked up at her curiously. "Mama calls her a free spirit. She does what ever she wants and never thinks about the consequences." In contrast to her words, her voice was amused as opposed to condemning.
"And what do you think about that?" He knew this question was too personal, but he couldn't resist asking.
"I worry she's going to hurt herself one day. That she'll never learn any form of restraint and when she's older it's going to lead her into even more trouble then it does now."
He leaned over and wet more plaster bandage. "How old is she?"
"Eight," Esme answered. He noticed she was smiling slightly – it was easy to tell she loved her sister.
"Still plenty of time to grow up then."
"I suppose," she agreed reluctantly. "I don't think she wants to though."
"What about you?" Again he knew the question was too personal.
"I'm already grown up," she told him.
He glanced down at the sheet her father had partially filled in, noting her date of birth.
"You're sixteen," he countered.
"I can legally marry. That's make me grown-up in my book."
"But do you feel like an adult? You may legally be allowed to marry that doesn't mean you're ready too."
He watched her carefully as she lost herself in thought.
"I suppose you have a point," she conceded. "I can help my mother around the house and help look after John and Sophie. But I'm not sure I can run my own household."
Her leg was half-bandaged by now. "And John would be your brother?" he asked.
"Yes. He's Sophie's complete opposite in about every way possible." She giggled slightly and her face was lit by the same fond smile she had worn when she spoke of her sister. It was obvious to him that the Platts were a close and loving family. He felt a familiar ache inside him. What he wouldn't give to have a family to return home to. A wife to kiss him in welcome and children excited to see their father. But all he had at home was silence and books. If he could even call his small house 'home'. It was just a place where he kept his material possessions and went to pretend to sleep. Cold and lonely, just like him. He knew he could never wish for more. Children were an impossibility and the idea of finding a mate was laughable. He was one of a kind amongst the vampire world and he knew he could never love someone who looked down on human life with the uncaring indifference that was the cornerstone of the traditional vampire's lifestyle.
As he got lost in his own fruitless thoughts, Esme was still talking about her family. "John likes to play by the rules and Sophie never thinks twice about breaking them." She was grinning now. Obviously this large difference of personalities between her two siblings amused her.
"And what about you?"
"Mama says I'm between the two of them."
"What do you think of that?"
"I think she's right. I only break the rules for a good reason."
"Such as?" he probed.
She thought about it for a moment. "Stealing John's textbook so he'll relax for a minute instead of being so stressed. Though admittedly that was originally Sophie's idea and I doubt her intentions were as good."
He chuckled at her. He found himself placing her bandages at a pace that was slow even for a human so as to extend the conversation. This was the longest conversation he had held with anyone in awhile. It seemed unnecessary to rush it when God only knew when he would get to speak to someone at such length again.
"Though I'd say the main one is that I'm always sneaking the dog back into the house at night. He just looks so miserable and alone outside. I think Papa has given up trying to keep him in his kennel. He just knows he's going to show up in my bedroom the next morning." She laughed cheerfully to herself. Her face lit up and her eyes sparkled with merriment. His laugh mingled with hers.
"Would this be the same dog that chased a cat up a tree and ultimately caused your fall from the very same tree?"
"Yes. Maybe I should let Papa put him in the kennel tonight." He could tell she was only joking. She clearly loved this dog more than anyone had ever loved him.
"I don't think I'd get away with putting Sophie in a kennel though," she continued. Her face was thoughtful but she was plainly not really considering the possibility.
"I imagine your parents would be less than impressed by that idea," he commented dryly.
She snorted with laughter and then covered her mouth in shame. But then he saw the corners of her mouth – just visible beneath her hands – turn up into smile. She removed her hands, still grinning.
"I imagine Sophie would actually be the most enthusiastic if I was to suggest that possibility," she informed him with a slight laugh. "Not that I would," she amended quickly.
"Of course not," he agreed.
They were both silent for a few moments as he continued his bandaging of her leg with ever slowing movements.
"What about you, doctor?" she asked. He could see the curiosity etched onto her face. Her head was tilted slightly to the left as she observed him.
He contemplated her question for a few seconds.
"Sorry," she said hastily. "I didn't mean to intrude." The blush had returned and she was once more intensely interested in the bed sheets on her left hand side. He could hear her heartbeat thumping away frantically and it upset him that he had made her so nervous.
He couldn't help but think how ironic the idea that she was the one intruding was, considering he had been intruding on the details of her life for the last fifteen minutes.
"I was just thinking over my answer," he told her reassuringly.
"Oh," she muttered. She took a deep, calming breath. He wished he could reassure her better than that but failed to think of anything else to say that would manage to do so.
"Overall, I'd say I usually follow the rules." Though his rules were very different to hers. Not only those the Volturi opposed on all his kind, but those he forced on himself. Including the one he was breaking right now – that he should never get too emotionally attached to a human. For he would only have to leave them behind.
"Overall?" she asked, quirking an eyebrow. He couldn't help but be amused that she could still be so bold to him after being so nervous only a few seconds earlier. By the sound of things she was more like her sister than she would ever care to admit.
"Sometimes I break them for a good cause," he told her with a smile. She giggled then.
"Finished," he proclaimed. He wondered if she heard the sadness in his voice.
"Thank you, doctor," she said with a smile.
"Is Papa still outside?" she asked, glancing towards the door.
"I imagine so." He knew the man was. He imagined he would have been able to know this with or without his extraordinary senses. He highly doubted any father would go very far when his daughter was getting treated. "I'll just go and inform him we're finished."
Her father was stood against the wall, facing the door to the room. He looked relieved to see Carlisle.
"How's her leg?" he asked. Carlisle could see in him the same love for his family that projected out of his daughter. He refused to acknowledge the growing ache inside him when he thought of the idea of having a family to love like this man did.
"I've reset her leg and placed it in a plaster cast. It should heal perfectly fine." He gestured inside the room with his hands to tell Mr. Platt he was allowed to re-enter. He quickly hurried to his daughter's bedside.
"How are you?" he asked her.
"I'm fine," she told him. She was smiling reassuringly at him, as though she didn't want him to worry.
"Let's get you home." He began to attempt to try to help his daughter of her bed. Carlisle watched them with an increasing sadness inside him. The first person he had opened up to in decades and she was about to walk out the door for good.
"It would be better if she stayed the night," Carlisle interrupted. Esme was already stood up, clinging to her father for support as she struggled to balance with her leg in plaster.
Mr. Platt looked at him in confusion. "What for?" he asked.
Carlisle had to admit that was an excellent question. "For observation," he lied.
"To make sure the bone has set properly." He was lying through his teeth now but he doubted the man had enough medical knowledge to know that. "You can come back and collect her tomorrow afternoon."
He walked over to the father and daughter and gently guided Esme back into the bed. She looked perplexed but did not protest. He noticed her shiver slightly at his touch and cursed himself for forgetting about it. For just a few minutes he had felt so gloriously human – able to converse and chat with her as though he, too, was a mortal with no secrets to hide.
"Wouldn't it be easier for me to just stay here?" Mr. Platt asked. He was looking at his daughter with concern.
"Unfortunately we have no where for visitors to sleep." That much at least wasn't a lie. But Carlisle still did not understand why he was so determinedly insistent on her father leaving her behind at the hospital. He excused his behaviour by telling himself he could hardly turn around and admit to her father that he had no real reason to keep her and she could go home – not that that was much of an excuse.
Her father was glancing around the room, obviously trying to decide whether it would be possible to somehow find a place to sleep.
"I'll be fine," Esme told her father. "Go home. Tell everyone I'm OK."
Mr. Platt's gaze flickered between his daughter and her doctor for a few seconds and then his face conceded defeat.
He leant over her bed. "I'll be back tomorrow," he promised her and kissed her cheek.
"I'll be fine," she repeated forcefully. "Goodbye, Papa."
With one last distrustful glance in Carlisle's direction, Mr. Platt left the room. Carlisle was used to such glares – they were an occupational hazard of being a vampire – but he couldn't help but be slightly unnerved by the one Esme's father gave him.
Esme was still watching him, he could feel her eyes on him.
"How are you feeling, Es-, Miss. Platt?"
"My leg still hurts a bit," she admitted. "But it's no where near as bad as it was." She bit her lip again and seemed to be deep in thought. "You can call me Esme, if you like," she told him shyly. Once more the blush had crept into her cheeks. He could see she was anxious for his reaction. Her heartbeat was racing again.
"Of course," he replied. "Esme." Her name sounded strange on his tongue. When was the last time he actually called someone by their first name? Not since Volterra, he realized. As for the last he called a human by their first name? He found that even with his perfect recall memory, he struggled to recall a time previous to this one.
"What's your first name?" she asked curiously.
"Carlisle," he told her. He wanted her to say it. Just as he couldn't remember ever calling a human by their first name, the last human who called him by his Christian name was most likely his own father, all those centuries ago. To colleagues and patients alike he was always 'Dr. Cullen'. This defined all his relationship – which were formal and professional. He was fully aware of his reasons for doing this and why he could never allow himself to be any closer to anyone. So why was he letting this human girl under his skin?
"Carlisle." It was one of the most glorious sounds he had ever heard, his name rolling of her tongue in her sweet voice. He struggled to keep his head straight as his heart rejoiced at such a simple sound - his name on another's lips.
"Would you like something to eat?" he asked her.
"I'll go ask one of the nurse to bring you something." He paused for a few seconds. "Esme," he added with a smile. He turned and walked towards the door.
The terrible ache was back. For she, too, would walk out that door tomorrow –and, he reminded himself, it should have been today – and he would be nobody more than Dr. Cullen to the world once more.
This is now the 3rd time I've written a version of Carlisle and Esme's first meeting.
Reviews are greatly appreciated :)