A/N: Beta'd by ShadowPast620.
The greenish gray color of the Pacific waters rose, crested and fell in a harsh pattern during the early morning hours of fog. One of thousands of cities that teemed with life and Carlisle Cullen stared at the water from behind his desk in the penthouse suite overlooking the San Francisco Bay area.
The scenery meant very little to him. It was the prestige of knowing he could afford to own such a place amongst his supposed colleagues that endeared him to living like a human. In any species one could find the upper crust, an aristocratic level as it were. Carlisle Cullen had surpassed that and much, much more.
People only saw what they wanted and in Carlisle they saw a highly successful, slowly aging doctor of compassionate brilliance. Through med-school –the last time being twelve years ago- he had learned to disguise his features, allowing himself to finely age and not be worried about moving from location to location and changing his name constantly. Here in the Bay area he would be able to practice the art of medicinal science for a good thirty to forty years before having to assume a new identity to start the process all over again.
Carlisle smiled at the thought of what his fellow professionals would really think if he told them the truth. Through his heightened senses and through the age of advancement and technology, he could diagnose, treat and cure more patients than any human doctor could.
How embarrassing would it be to the humans to learn that it was their predator who could treat their ailments more effectively? That a creature such as himself could better treat a human than their own kind would send the jealous hatred to new levels. The value of amusement to such a quandary vastly appealed to Carlisle, although others of his own kind felt differently.
The truth of the matter was, he didn't care for his patients on an emotional level. To him, they were the complex puzzle of a form of life, and each new patient brought forth another clue to a never ending game. Carlisle thrived on the challenge. The siren's call of power and prestige was Carlisle's to reap in the human world.
And the real one.
Four hundred and some years had gone by since Carlisle had discovered the real world. In the human world he had been successful as well, or what he had considered a path to success. Had he not been attacked -an irony of blessedness- and transformed into a better, his human life would have been paltry. He knew that now.
Many years of his half-life, being a vampire but not knowing how to exist, were spent in an attempt to find answers, any answers, as to where his new niche lay. A serf for the Kings had found Carlisle and brought him forth. It was during those long and enlightening years of observance that Carlisle was taught and groomed for his role in the real world. His transformation, though an accident punishable by death, had catapulted his status in the real world to a level that few could have foreseen.
Here, on the western coast of America, he had established a complex coven. The Kings, who lived in Italy, still held supreme rule over all vampires, but here in this territory Carlisle's word was law and he alone held the manifested powers to govern. He was a force few dared to reckon with, and those who did, lost.
Carlisle didn't have to look at the ticking hands of a nearby longcase clock to know his associate was running late. In a movement reminiscent of humanity, he relentlessly began to drum his fingers on the desk. The man was supposed to have been here at five a.m. sharp and it was now twenty after.
Very few Nosferatu would dare to anger Carlisle in a disrespectful slap at being late to a meeting. Perhaps he was too lenient with his followers? Living amongst the humans hadn't necessarily softened him- humanity was its own class of malignancy- but from his exposure and profession, Carlisle had learned to curb the out lashings found with most vampires.
He attributed it more to the effect of having not mated. Through the years, very few females had gained his attention and certainly none of them had been worthy enough to be honored the title of his paramour sovereign. Once he found his mate, Carlisle was certain those inner, monstrous behaviors of protection and showing power would be unleashed.
If mated too early during a vampire's life, the couple risked execution since they would lose the concept of secrecy and kill without thought to any nearby human witnesses. The Kings had often entertained themselves thusly, encouraging and sometimes forcing early matings. A strong union was a beautiful sight to behold and the skill required to take a pair down even grander.
Carlisle's sigh of exasperation was heard only by himself in the vast and empty apartment. He had much more important subjects to ponder and resolve other than this morning's meeting. Speaking of matings, had it not been for the lengthy conversation he had been required to have with a neighboring sovereign, this mess would've been cleaned up by now. Or close to being cleaned up and done with.
Jane Moretti was a pain. She called Carlisle monthly to inquire if he had found a worthy mate yet and when told repeatedly he had not, would insist they would be ideal and could merge their territories. As a mated pair, Jane knew their combined lands accounted for more vampires under a single rule. There were so many flaws in her ideas that it was all Carlisle could do not to laugh.
The Three Kings might allow the mating, but Jane wouldn't keep her lands. While she had her own powers there was a structural shift of ultimate power once mated and the female vampire would always remain under the male's protection…and control. Carlisle knew Jane would be aware of the power shift and her loss of status. He wondered if it were a vestigial human longing making its appearance for clearly she did not love him.
In practicality, love did very little for a vampire. Even a mated pair. Respect, desire, lust, possessiveness…those were the coveted emotions. Not affection, kindness or tenderness. Those emotions were weak willed and useless. And the Kings would revel in watching a mated love pair die.
Jane knew all of this, of course. She, like all of the other appointed sovereigns, had visited the Three Kings when Carlisle was there as well, learning his value. It was on their preferred home grounds in Italy where privileges were given and revoked. In a truly Roman fashion most were determined by hand to hand combats. Only a small, select few were decided by other, unknown means. Jane herself had proven her worth in hand to hand.
The King Aro had wanted her to remain at his side after she went one fight further, destroying a mated pair scheduled for entertainment at a later date. Her powers were indeed immense, even Carlisle succumbing briefly to the pain and anguish she had created inside his head. Very few that night had been able to shake her attack and once Carlisle had adapted his deflection, he became enamoured.
She was young, so very young, with the face of a cherub. Barely five foot with a body only beginning to take shape and Carlisle had fallen in lust upon first sight. Her blonde hair was more golden than his own and she spoke softly of her time as a human with sun-kissed skin and honey colored eyes. As a vampire, she still retained a hint of peach hued flesh but her eyes were the brilliant scarlet of any well respected hunter.
Duty had called before any relationship had been explored. The other Kings, Marcus and Caius, had been firm. Jane would one day come back to be by their side. Now, however, she was needed in the new lands of America to govern in their stead a recently explored territory soon to be known as the Louisiana Purchase. Their trusted man, Carlisle, would accompany her for it was rumored there was still a vast area beyond and the Kings needed a strong, loyal and reliable subject to help secure the lands.
Carlisle quickly forgot about his lust during the long trip westward. To say blood was blood would be a misnomer, as he quickly discovered. The new lands held new blood. Some vampires were thrilled with the exotic change and others were disgusted, choosing to return home rather than stay. Carlisle was one who did not enjoy the new flavors as much as one might. There were, of course, always exceptions, a rare bouquet of hemoglobin undeniable in its calling. However, in order to blend in with his surroundings even more convincingly, Carlisle had learned to feed from livestock and wildlife.
With Jane in St. Louis, Carlisle left her and his idea of a relationship behind. He didn't hold too many doubts or regrets about his choice, knowing the longer he continued without a mate the stronger he would grow. Jane was ambitious and would know her mating to Carlisle would only increase her power in the event that he died; a feat both knew she would attempt until successful.
Out loud Carlisle sighed with the merest hint of regret. Jane's vampire life had not aged her body one bit, though, and she had been transformed so young...
The female body, before becoming fully ripened was singularly objet d'art. Jane had openly admitted to Carlisle that her life as a human had been brief with only two menses cycles passing before a guardsman had captured and changed her. Carlisle had openly stared at her form, the teasing hint of budding breasts forever frozen in time. He wondered if the flesh of her nipples had ripened as well or if their hue was closer to blush or rouge.
The gowns of the day required young Jane to pad her hips heavily underneath petticoats, giving any viewer the false sense of rounded hips and buttocks. If he had time to only explore, a mere rendezvous or two, and Carlisle knew he would have likewise been rewarded in those features of her as well. Her waist did not slant inwards before rounding out even with the excessive garments. Jane's body would be thin, uncurved...so young...and perfect.
At five thirty nine, the swooshing of elevator doors down the hall could be heard and Carlisle forced himself to stop dreaming of a perfect mate. Dropping his human charade of fidgeting in annoyance, the mask he usually wore slipped away momentarily to reveal the monster he truly was.
"Hello, Carlisle," the associate greeted from afar, making his way into the lush apartment. In the rooms tastefully furnished on a modern deco theme, the voice echoed loudly as if the place were empty. The marbled tiles and reclaimed wooden floorboards were a perfect conductor. Slowly the new man drifted from room to room, without an ounce of urgency to his step while he observed a new painting.
"This piece, Carlisle…it's remarkable."
"The Yoskay Yamamoto? Yes, I was fortunate enough to have unexpectedly popped into an exhibit showing his work last time I visited L.A.," Carlisle said with a hint of pride and momentary distraction. That particular piece of art rather fascinated him. "I like to think of it as 'When Jack met Sally'."
"I thought the pop culture reference was 'When Harry met Sally'?"
"It is. I was referring to Jack Skellington from 'A Nightmare Before Christmas'. It's quite popular. I'm surprised you weren't aware."
The mocking laughter of the guest only further fueled Carlisle's anger. "Forgive me, but I am not as attuned to children's preferences as you are. Have you returned to normal feedings? Perhaps those of the younger variation."
"You're late," Carlisle snapped in return as the guest finally made his way into the office. His preferences were his own and for no one else to judge.
"Obviously not," the man answered his own question, laughing again. "Is that any way to greet me?" At Carlisle's continued frown, he dropped the pleasantries, failing to understand why the trivial was worth this kind of aggravation. "Time means nothing to us, Carlisle. I think you take the act of human too far." Turning his back, the guest stared out at the impressive bay view.
"When I ask you to be here at a specific time, there is a purpose," Carlisle insisted, wondering—not for the first time—if this particular scion had been a mistake. He hadn't created his entire populace, only a few with talents requiring cultivation. This one's talents would be of great value to the Kings and once properly trained and sated in the life of humans, he would gift him to the Kings.
"Off to save another human?" The young man asked mockingly, tracing his finger over the glass, his nail making an incision against the surface before turning to face his questioner. "Seriously, Carlisle, there are billions to be found. I can assure you, one more dead Sapien at the hands of science will not be blamed on you."
"I am not asking you to understand my motivations, Edward. There is a matter of great importance to be discussed. I find it tedious that I need remind you we are not here to contend my preference of attributions in a societal form. Sit down, so I can brief you on your task and we can both be on our way."
Still refusing to comply, the man was not impressed. "So I gathered when you called me at two a.m. yesterday. Really, Carlisle, you of all vampires should know that most humans prefer to sleep at that time. Especially the underage ones," Edward said, followed by a conspiratorial wink. "Why, your rudeness at such an unpleasant hour ruined the poor girl's sleep, although mine was verily a geriatric at the age of twenty two." Edward tsked in disappointment. "But then for you to demand I come rushing over to cater to your whims? One might think your lack of a proper diet has affected your mentality."
"Enough!" The elder male bellowed to Edward, standing up, his hands braced against the desk surface.
Edward stood motionless as his superior advanced on him. He had gone too far and fear flowed quickly.
"It is me alone who allows you such liberties to dine on human flesh," Carlisle seethed, resorting to speak in the Old Tongue. His voice became dangerously high pitched and static sounding. "I say nothing of the games you wish to play with people before draining their life as carelessly as the wind moves leaves."
Centimeters away from his ear now, Carlisle hissed, "It is I who have sired you and per our laws, I have every right to take away your existence should I so choose."
Slowly, Carlisle circled him, far from appeased at the turn of events. "I don't ask much of you, other than to stay away from the notice of human authorities and to report the number of your…transgressions."
With the beguiling tone of vampires, Carlisle spoke like a scorned lover. "If you are so unhappy with this arrangement, I am sure the Volturi would be willing to make room for you with them. Is that what you want, Edward? Would you like to move away from your beloved city of Portland, where you have called home for so long, to go and live in Europe? To have to compete for the Three Kings affections so that you may be allowed to dine more often than three or four times a year?"
Casually, Carlisle flicked away imaginary lint from Edward's sharply creased polo shirt. "Is it that bad, Edward? Am I such a demanding father that you feel the need to anger me about such trivial oddities as to when I call on you or what I do with my own time?"
Any vocalization Edward made during this show of power would end badly for him. He stood as stiffly as the bronzed Sául Hernández figurines positioned on a series of pedestals across the room waiting for his maker to decide his fate. He often teased Carlisle and while this was unexpected behavior for the man, Edward should have realized the severity before he had even entered the dwelling.
Carlisle hissed in warning one last time before he returned to his desk. Resuming his seat he took hold of a pile of documents he had left out to show Edward. "Now please, Edward, be a good boy and sit down," Carlisle instructed softly, all remnants of the power folded and placed behind his mask of normalcy and the use of English once again. "I have some things I wish to show you before you leave. It won't take long and then you can return to your home and continue with your life."
The younger male sat, his leather seat squeaking as his weight crushed it. His sire was very angry, very powerful and could easily do away with him if he so chose. Edward valued his own existence too much to allow that to happen and swallowed any and all remarks he would have otherwise voiced.
"Five months ago a rash of brutal slayings began to appear in the Seattle area. The first reported victims were that of young people out doing whatever they do at midnight hours in such a large city. Anywhere from four to seven people would disappear, the only sign they had been attacked were dropped articles of a personal nature found and splattering of blood."
Picking up the oldest copy of the Seattle Time's sitting in front of him, Carlisle pushed it across the desk to Edward. "That first incident, however, was not connected to later ones until three other similar murders/disappearances had occurred. The fourth incident left behind a crushed hand."
Looking up, Edward studied Carlisle's face, not understanding the significance.
"The article simply said it was crushed, a common enough occurrence for such a brutal slaughtering. What the paper didn't say, and what I looked up through the coroner's report was that it was pulverized. Aside from having five digit-like appendages, it was just a mass of a skin. Every piece of bone, cartilage and tendon had been reduced to dust inside of the skin casing. The skin had not ruptured, torn or even been cut."
Tossing over a few more periodicals, Carlisle continued. "For the next two months, any type of brutal attack was filed away as a similar case, but there was not enough evidence to connect them to the same culprits."
Picking up the heaviest of papers, Carlisle once again tossed it across the desk to Edward. "The authorities went ballistic, trying to solve even one of these murders. It wasn't until a Congressmen's niece went missing that word of these crimes left Seattle and traveled all the way to New York. You can imagine my surprise, while reading the stock exchange from the New York Times, I come across mention of outlandish things occurring so close to home. Six weeks ago the newspapers simply stopped making any type of mention to these crimes, but there is a lot of concern over a depleting homeless population."
"You think they changed their hunting tactics?" Whispering the statement, Edward's hands ghosted over the files.
"For some reason or another, yes, I do."
"You are confident then that these are vampire kills?" Edward asked, waiting for Carlisle to confirm before continuing. "You want me to kill the ones behind this?" he clarified, waving his hand over the numerous papers. Something of this magnitude could easily destroy any clans found on American soil; the Kings would act swiftly and silently.
Carlisle leaned back in his chair, a tactic that was far too humanely discerning for Edward's comfort, and one, that after their earlier confrontation, he would not comment on.
"No. I still believe in a fair trial. I want you to go to Seattle and investigate who the person is. I have no one registered and authorized to live there. Find out who it is and convince them it would be in the best interest of all who is involved that they should come here to report to me. They have thirty days to make an appearance. If I am required to bring them in forcefully…" Carlisle trailed off, sadistic humor pulling at his mouth. "Let it be known that I will not ask twice, Edward. Our life style is not entirely that of a democracy."
"Understood," Edward agreed quietly. He debated the wisdom of pushing Carlisle too far and then decided his next question was fair and worthy of an answer.
"Seattle is a fairly large city, not that far from Portland," Edward began cautiously, watching Carlisle from beneath lowered lids. "Would it be fair to assume you are saving the city for something? Is that why you haven't authorized any vampires to live there?" He looked up to make sure he hadn't crossed any lines in the eyes of his sire.
"Most territories keep one area unpopulated; an untapped resource as it were. When we have important visitors, it allows them a safe and overpopulated area to stay and hunt in. Even if they become sloppy, a visitor does not stay long enough to be caught and the area once again becomes free of our kind to be blamed as suspects," Carlisle explained patiently. Edward's inquiry wasn't odd, but the older vampire felt the need to add caution.
"It's a beautiful city, Edward, and worthy to visit occasionally. But to our kind, the far northwest is also known as our own Bermuda Triangle. Rumors abound of creatures that appear from nowhere if a vampire lives there too long."
Now that the atmosphere was back to the normal friendly feeling Edward was used to, he settled into his chair. "That sounds implausible. We are atop any and all food chains. Have you ever seen any of these supposed creatures? Who told you these lies and why would you believe that?"
Carlisle studied the young man's face, willing to waste a few more minutes for mere curiosity's sake. Edward's power, while impressive, was not strong enough to overtake his sire's and it drove the young man crazy.
"I don't have to experience nightmares firsthand to know they exist," Carlisle said, his manner still placid. "You are, of course, aware of the destruction of the úlfur?
"Werewolves!" Edward scoffed in disbelief. "That craze was dealt with long ago. If they remained, the Three Kings would have them exterminated in the same fashion as before."
"Very well they would have," Carlisle agreed. "But what if they changed? Developed into something unrecognizable?"
Edward stared at him blankly, either unable or unwilling to believe Carlisle. The elder did not want to take the time to explain the obvious and instead moved on with the discussion. "The tales, fables, folklore, legends, whatever you choose to call them were here long before I ruled this land. At first, I was too busy to investigate or take much stock in the matter. Then it seemed more of an advantage." Carlisle smiled widely. "Who would want to challenge for lands that are haunted or could be detrimental to one's existence?"
"Some might say it makes you look weak," Edward said without thinking. His entire body stiffened when he realized he had just insulted his sire for the second time in one visit.
"Some might," Carlisle agreed, not offended in the slightest. "And if anyone wanted to prove otherwise, they would first have to move there and prove otherwise."
"But then why do you want me to find the vampires living there now?"
"Because," Carlisle answered with another winsome smile, "I wouldn't want anyone to think I was weak or an inattentive ruler."
Edward sat wide mouthed and watched as Carlisle gathered the paperwork they had studied before filing it away in the desk and locking the drawer.
"Thank you, Edward, for your participation in handling this otherwise delicate situation," Carlisle acknowledged politely, ever the diplomat. "Now, it is late and I must be on my way. Will you be leaving as well?" The blond vampire arched one elegant eyebrow in question as Edward debated the best course of action.
Edward could leave now, in a car and be close to his destination by nightfall. However, he hadn't brought his vehicle for the visit to Carlisle and having to go out and rent some misused, lower class car was revolting. He would be better off to wait and travel by foot.
"No. With this much attention from the police already, I feel it would be best to keep as low a profile as possible. With your permission, I will wait until tonight and then leave."
Standing up, Carlisle gave him a friendly, closed mouth smile. "Very good. I am due in Reno today at eleven a.m. for a consultation and then staying on for the next three days to give a lecture. You are free to wait here if you wish." With a mock showing of patting his pockets to look for keys he knew he had, Carlisle played his human persona to the fullest. He spoke suddenly as if he had just remembered. "Although, I must ask that you be gone by tomorrow morning. Juanita will be stopping by then to clean and it would be unseemly for her to find you here."
"Why?" Edward asked, cracking a smile and making sure his voice was only teasing and not mocking. "Do you worry that she might think you have a fondness for men?"
"Not all, boy. I worry that you might try to eat her and good help is so very hard to find." With that, Carlisle left his apartment in a hurry, hoping to avoid the early rush hour traffic.