Title: A Certain Immortal
Summary: Carlisle and his family are living peacefully in Calgary when Maria decides to find out what happened to her favorite creation. Based on the mention of Maria's visit in Midnight Sun.
Tags/Genres: Carlisle POV, Carlisle, Jasper, Father-Son
Thanks: Triple-X-Large sized thanks to annsteph for betaring this for me.
A/N: This has eight chapters.
"Good afternoon, Reg."
A grunt came from behind the Vietnam War headlines of the Calgary Herald, and I couldn't help but smile. Doctor Reginald Stanz had shared an office with me for five months now, and his unsociable nature worked well for both of us.
This was a good situation we had in Canada. The hunting was ample and varied, my job satisfying, and I had heard no complaints from my children about the quality of education. Esme was studying landscaping, and the garden surrounding our house was revealing her vast capacity for art. I hoped to make my home here for years to come, and I could see Reg would have no objections.
A white square of paper sat on my desk, covered in Reg's messy scrawl. It took a bit of deciphering, but I quickly concluded Simon's mother wanted a word. Ten-year-old Simon was recovering from a tonsillectomy. I'd met him last night, while covering a shift on the pediatric ward for a sick colleague.
Pediatrics was normally an area to avoid. Children had a habit of asking whatever question happened to cross their mind. Why are your eyes that weird color? Why are your hands so cold? Why are you so pale? It was only a matter of time before a particularly astute one asked if I was a vampire.
Last night, a nurse had grown concerned over Simon's temperature. His mother must have seen my name next to the notes in his patient file.
It seemed I needed to reassure an anxious parent.
The main ward desk was my first stop. Lana, one of the front desk receptionists, was leaning over the counter with a cup of tea, talking with the charge nurse. Lana had a reputation as the biggest gossip among the staff, which was certainly saying something. She gave me a friendly smile as I approached.
"Hello, Doctor Cullen."
I smiled. "Lana."
The charge nurse was already handing me Simon's notes.
"He's fine," she said. "She knows he's fine. I explained everything, but no. She wants to see the doctor. And not just any doctor, the one who saw him last night. She's angry that no one called her. God forbid we should not wake her up at three am for every minor change."
"Sounds like you have another DFM on the ward," Lana said.
DFM was a code term the staff used to label particularly demanding family members.
"She must be worried," I said, reading down the page, familiarizing myself with the day's developments. His temperature had returned to normal before my shift had ended, and his primary doctor had given him a thorough exam the following morning.
Lana lowered her voice. "There's no father around. I bet she's divorced. Make sure you're wearing your wedding ring, doc."
I showed Lana evidence of said ring, and she smiled. As I walked away, I heard the charge nurse remark that she doubted the presence of a ring would stop Simon's mother. That didn't bode well.
It was the middle of visiting hours, and the ward corridors were busy with worried parents, mixed with those trying to make light of the situation. I dodged a whining little sister, a bored older brother, several wandering toddlers, and came to a stop next to three plastic army men, lying on the floor outside the entrance to Simon's room. If I had Alice's gift, I was sure I'd foresee a slipping accident occurring in the near future.
I rescued them from the floor and looked from one side of the room to the other. Simon's side had the curtain drawn across the middle, and all I could see was the end of his tightly tucked bed. The boy on the other side appeared to have brought his entire toy army. A tank rested on the meal trolley, its main gun aimed at my head. I glanced at the name on the door.
"Commander Aaron, three of your men were separated from their unit. I found them lost in enemy territory."
"Oh, can you put them here?" Aaron said, pointing at the two lumps made by his feet under the bedclothes. I propped them up on the sheet and stepped back.
"Watch this!" Aaron was quiet for a moment, and then suddenly kicked his left leg, sending the army men flying across the room. "Land mine explosion!" he declared. "Time for a helicopter rescue!" He picked up his toy helicopter, flying it around his head, complete with sound effects. An older lady, I assumed his grandmother, sat quietly knitting in the corner. She hadn't looked up throughout this exchange.
I gave Aaron a smile and then turned my attention to the other side of the room, where things weren't so exuberant.
Simon's mother sat with her hand resting on her son's leg, not taking her eyes off him as I stepped around the divider.
"Hello again, Simon. This must be your mom. It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs Woodson, I'm Doctor Carlisle Cullen."
She gave me an initial glance, and then did a double take, looking me over in the careful way of someone who wasn't quite sure if I could really be qualified to take care of her precious child.
Simon had inherited his light brown hair from his mother, but hers was braided and tied back, not hanging loose like Simon's. His fell forward into his face as he slumped over a drawing pad. Black zigzags covered the page, left behind by a pencil sharp enough to cut into the paper.
I sat on the end of the bed. "How are you feeling, Simon?"
He didn't look up. "Okay."
I made eye contact with Simon's mother. "Did you have some questions for me?"
Simon's head ducked a little lower.
"Yes ... I ... sorry to bother you, they told me how busy you were, but I was wondering if you could tell me more about what happened last night."
"Certainly. Simon was displaying a mild post-op fever. His temperature had gone down by morning, a sign the body's immune system had taken care of the infection. This is a common occurrence after a tonsillectomy. I read over the notes, and it appears Simon's doctor gave him a thorough exam this morning. I can arrange a meeting for you if you'd like additional information."
My calm, professional tone had done the trick. Even as I began talking, I could see her posture relax.
"No … I … I think that's all I needed to know."
I softened my tone. "I understand you were upset that no one called you last night."
Simon covered his face with one hand, in the universal posture of children everywhere who were regularly embarrassed by their parents.
"You said you wouldn't complain, Mom!" He looked at me. "I told her! I said I told you not to call her."
"It's all right, Simon. It must have been worrying for your mother to arrive and find you'd had a temperature during the night, and she knew nothing about it."
"She's always worrying ..." Simon mumbled. But he sounded less embarrassed.
"I know you hate seeing your mom worried. Perhaps a phone call from me last night would have meant less worry for your mom today."
"But she'd have been woken up so early and she has to go to work. She'd have been awake the whole night thinking I was dying or something. It was nothing, Mom."
She sighed. "Maybe I did over react."
"No, just being a parent," I assured her. "I understand it must have been frustrating to arrive this evening and find out this information from the patient notes instead of a conversation with a person. Our contact procedure only allows for night calls in issues deemed serious. However, I can put a note on Simon's file, so you always receive a call, any time of the day or night."
"I'd appreciate that, thank you. I was also wondering—"
Simon interrupted. "Mom, it's getting late. Don't you have to feed Wowser?"
"Will you be all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. I want to sleep."
"Okay, honey." She leaned over to kiss him. "I'll come back later."
She turned to me. "Doctor, if I could please just ask you one more thing." She made a subtle gesture that this question was better suited to the corridor.
We left the room together, and she waited until we were outside the ward doors before speaking.
"I know this is not your decision, and I'm sorry for asking, but I'm at my end and you're the first person here to show any kind of concern."
It was a difficulty in the medical profession. Those who were too sympathetic risked burnout and psychological trauma. People learned to put up barriers for survival. Unfortunately, it often appeared as indifference to patients and their families.
"How can I help?"
"I was wondering if Simon could be moved to a different room. Away from that other boy."
It was fortunate she'd waited until now to ask me this. Simon may have died from embarrassment if he'd heard.
"Is there a problem with Aaron?"
"Yes. Simon's father is in Vietnam."
I was both surprised and saddened by this revelation. Simon's mother had a Canadian accent. Perhaps Simon's father was an American, or perhaps a Canadian who had gone to America to volunteer in the war.
"He's missing him and I know he worries his father is going to die. I'm afraid all these exploding toy soldiers aren't helping things."
"I'll see what I can do."
"Thank you, Doctor Cullen."
She turned to leave, but the direction she started in would have led to another wing of the hospital.
"Mrs Woodson, I'm afraid you might find yourself lost in the coronary ward if you go that way."
I expected her to be embarrassed at the mistake, but I was unprepared at the complete deflation she exhibited as she slumped back against the wall and covered her face. She almost appeared on the verge of tears.
"I'm going to the ground floor myself," I lied. "Why don't you join me in the staff elevator?"
It took her a few seconds to acknowledge this.
"Thank you ... it hasn't been a good day." She laughed, but it wasn't genuine.
"I know the feeling."
She rubbed her eyes, taking a moment to compose herself, and then followed me to the elevator bay. On the way down, she glanced at me a few times before speaking.
"Do you normally work the night shift on the pediatric ward?"
"No, I was covering for Doctor Blackwell last night."
"Oh yes, I've met him. I was confused when I saw your name next to the notes. I thought they'd had to call in a throat specialist."
"No, I'm currently based in the renal ward."
The doors slid open then, and I gestured for her to leave ahead of me.
"Thank you again, Doctor."
She hurried out towards the parking lot, nearly tripping as she moved too fast in her high heels.
As I watched her leave, I was struck with how much the DFM label was used to avoid thinking over what someone's motivation might be for asking questions.
I needed to walk in sight of the reception desk to return to my office, and the temptation was strong to dash past at vampire speed to avoid Lana's interrogation about Mrs Woodson. I decided the purposeful stride of a busy doctor would suffice. It wasn't an act.
Lana straightened in her seat when she saw me. "Oh, Doctor Cullen! I was just trying to get a message to you. There's someone here to see you."
"No ... maybe, she didn't say. She's outside."
I crossed the floor to her desk, and glanced towards the distant windows. The sun had gone down, leaving a purple sky and evening dew in the air.
"She wouldn't wait inside?"
She shrugged. "She was odd. Had a weird accent ... looked Mexican. Honestly, I thought she was a child at first, but she talks like someone much older."
Lana now had my full attention. I placed my hands on the counter top, leaning towards her. "And she specifically asked for me?"
Lana nodded slowly, her eyes growing wide.
I turned around and scented the air. Vampire. And not one I'd met before.
There was a phone on Lana's desk, and it hadn't rung once since this conversation had begun. They'd been plenty of time for contact from Alice, and it hadn't occurred. A thousand worries ran through my mind. What if she was incapacitated somehow? What if they'd been attacked? What if this vampire was just one of many?
Several slow breaths were needed before I could get my thoughts under control. My family was more than a match for another coven. This was likely just a nomad, curious to meet me. They wouldn't be the first. I had always been something of a circus sideshow among my kind.
The vampire scent led me through the doors to the hospital grounds, where my visitor stood waiting next to a central water feature.
She had dark hair, and, despite the fact the sun had set, she wore sunglasses. Her small face and stature did suggest someone on the younger side of twenty. Her stance was cautious, yet non-threatening, reflecting my own. She removed the glasses as I approached, revealing bright red eyes.
"A vampire doctor." She said the words slowly, like she was testing how they sounded. "And I thought I'd seen everything."
As Lana had suggested, her origins were south of the United States border. This supported the curious nomad theory.
"I'm Carlisle Cullen," I said, keeping my voice relaxed. "Whom do I have the pleasure of meeting?"
She spoke as if she hadn't heard the question. "Do you really drink from animals?"
"Yes, I do."
Her nose creased like she'd caught an unpleasant scent. "Then I believe you have something that belongs to me." She smiled in a smug way that made me feel uncomfortable.
"That seems unlikely, as I'm certain we've never met before."
"Does the name Jasper mean something?"
My eyes widened. "Maria?"
She nodded, her smile growing bigger.
I should have realized sooner. But this vampire who stood in front of me was not exactly what I'd pictured from Jasper's story. When I imagined a vampire who had led newborn armies for decades, I'd envisioned someone taller, at the very least. She had a few visible scars, but nothing like Jasper's, or even Peter, who'd only spent a few years in the South.
It took me a moment to formulate a plan. My first priority was to correct her sad assumption. The second was to offer a warning. I knew Jasper had not left her on good terms.
"Jasper is not in my possession. He lives with me of his own free will. I warn you, if you are here to cause suffering, he is under the protection of a large family."
She laughed. "What has he told you about me?"
"Among other things, that you were planning to kill him."
She waved a hand, dismissing the fact.
"Did he mention that he was planning to kill me? Anyway, it's bygones now. I pick my battles, Carlisle, and I have no argument with you. All I want is safe passage to see him."
"You've traveled all the way from the South, no doubt risking your territory falling into enemy hands, just to see Jasper?"
She nodded. Off my disbelieving look, she said, "You've sired vampires?"
"Wouldn't you do the same for one you had created?"
"I understand you see to it that most of yours end up dead within a year."
"Jasper is different." Her eyes became distant, wistful. "His name meant death in the South. The whiff of his scent used to send our enemies scattering." She smiled, lost in memories, and then looked at me directly. "I want to know what he found here that is better than what he had with me."
I had no reason to doubt what she said. But the thought of Jasper being alone with her made me uneasy. She clearly thought siring a vampire was akin to owning one, and she may well feel she had rightful authority over her favorite creation. Jasper had obeyed her for so many years, it may be difficult for him to openly defy her, even after so long apart.
But, I had no right to suggest the meeting shouldn't take place.
"It will be Jasper's decision whether he wants to meet with you. I will consult with him and then meet you tomorrow to give you his answer."
The last thing I wanted was another visit at work. I hoped Lana would forget about this one. "No. There is a forest due west of here with a lake in the middle. We will meet by the lake at midnight."
She nodded. "Very well. Midnight tomorrow."
"Also, I ask that you refrain from hunting in Calgary. We don't wish to draw any attention."
She gave me a smile that showed her teeth. "I've fed entire vampire armies without attracting attention, Carlisle."
I considered pointing out that humans generally found the wearing of sunglasses in the dark, with no seeing eye dog or walking stick in sight, to be an odd sight, but I wasn't going to get into a discussion on the matter. "Do I have your agreement?"
She studied my expression, and then said, "I'm sure there is good hunting elsewhere. Until tomorrow, then."
I nodded, and waited for her to leave first, not feeling comfortable turning my back on her. She backed away slowly, and then turned and ran off into the nearby trees.
I turned quickly, moving back into the hospital building as fast as I could without attracting suspicion.