Beta read by the lovely Belledean who deals with my tense switching and other grammar mishaps very patiently.
Chapter Three - Imperfect
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish'd sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.
Sonnet 30 – William Shakespeare
Alice was good to her word. They left us alone and concentrated on bringing the house back to some sort of order. Being alone with her helped me immeasurably. The more time that I had to find calm in the presence of the woman in my arms, the more my instincts receded to a manageable murmur in my mind rather than a loud roar.
I was unable to find complete equilibrium as the noise of furniture being moved around and windows being boarded up carried loudly from downstairs. The intrusion of the noise, particularly if it seemed close to where we were, kept filling me with a sort of primal territoriality I may have been more under control than before and intellectually I knew what was happening elsewhere in the house, but that didn't stop my instincts from protesting.
Aro once referred to me as the least 'vampiric' vampire he had ever met. I hadn't refuted his benevolent if somewhat sarcastic assessment. Centuries of suppressing the intrinsic instincts that came with this form have, with patience and practice, allowed me to be the man I wanted to be rather than the creature into which I was transformed. I'd consider myself to be more man than vampire at times. Given today, perhaps that belief was a conceit of my ego, more than the truth. I had been willing to attack my family to protect the woman in my arms.
As much as that understanding filled me with guilt and was at war with my generally pacifist beliefs, I knew I would do it again. If the needs justified the action I would take a life to protect her because she was the centre of my world now. However much that might be uncomfortably contradictory to my closest held values and morals, it was something I will have to find peace with.
Having her close helped. I finally understood what had been around me for so long between other members of our family. How Jasper felt when he looked at Alice; like she is his own personal miracle. Why Emmett and Rosalie, two completely opposite personality types from diagonally different backgrounds, need each other to make sense because they don't make sense apart. It was there in the back of my mind, something that I had never known to miss, because I had never experienced it before; a hum of contentment which will forever mark the cadence of my lifetimes. The universe had given me a gift, irrefutably central to my existence, as fixed and integral a part of me as my flesh and bones; my mate.
She was mostly quiet in my arms. Apart from the occasional jerk of muscles or slightly faster intake of breath, she might have been simply asleep. I monitor her body's reactions obsessively and tried to draw some comfort from the knowledge that the morphine appeared to be helping.
Sensing someone approaching this part of house, I lifted my head from where it was buried in her neck and growled, completely unable to stop my reaction. The best I could manage to do was to limit the sound to a soft rumble of noise instead of the full-on snarl that my body tried to release. From the scent, I knew it was Jasper outside in the corridor. I felt his gift touch me with a brief wave calm.
"Carlisle?" he said with an apologetic tone to his voice.
"Sorry," I murmured, embarrassed by my lack of self-control.
"Don't worry about it. Congratulations," Jasper said from behind the closed bedroom door. "We're all happy for you."
A chorus of my family's voices from the furthest away part of the house concurred with Jasper, and I find myself smiling even as the rest of my body reacted by tensing in reaction.
I realised something with a sense of sadness; Edward's voice was absent.
"Can I come in? I know this is a difficult time for you both, but there are matters that we should discuss."
I sat up from our former reclining position and gathered her up into my lap. She whimpered sharply at the movement, trembling. I apologised with whispers into the soft silk of her hair, and gentle kisses against her forehead, face and neck, lingering over my bite mark there because I just couldn't help myself. I found it calming and I hoped that perhaps she did, too.
She settled again, except for her overworked, rapid heartbeat she was again still and quiet. Having changed four of my own family members and witnessed their rebirth into vampires from start to end, hers is a peculiarly calm transition in comparison. I can only hope that she is merciful escaping the burn.
My head whipped up from her neck, and I accidentally jostled my little love with the abruptness of the movement. She whimpered again and I soothed her again with more whispered endearments, and kisses which drifted inevitably back to her neck. The bite mark there was proud and angry looking against pale softness of her skin, despite how carefully I tried to be…
"Carlisle?" Jasper asked again, a little louder.
I startled again at the intrusion but had the foresight to keep still. I was chagrined to realise how intense and easily swayed my concentration has become towards the woman in my arms. For a creature of my nature to lose touch with their enhanced awareness of their surroundings is abnormal. It is an unsettling feeling to say the least.
"Sorry, I was–"
"Overwhelmed? I know. You've got a lot to deal with. Don't worry about it. May I come in?" Jasper asked patiently.
"I–" Despite myself, I hesitated. This conversation needed to be held, I reasoned against my instinct to refuse him entry. "Please come in."
The door opened slowly as Jasper entered. He walked carefully but with purpose to a chair on the opposite side of the room from the bed. I appreciated his sensitivity by giving us some space. The thought of him being any closer made me feel unfairly agitated again. His body language was neutral and I felt his gift brushing against my consciousness again.
"We have a lot to discuss," I said, trying to collect my scattered thoughts while bolstered by Jasper's attempted to calm me.
"The circumstances surrounding her discovery are troubling," Jasper said, and I can see from the firm set of his jaw and drumming of his fingers against his thigh that he is mentally preparing for trouble.
"On a number of levels."
I was in complete agreement. Several things didn't add up. Her injuries and the bite mark on her wrist were evidence of a vampire attack. What didn't make sense is why she was not killed as part of the feed. If the purpose was to turn her, why leave so little venom in her system? A vampire biting with the intent to turn her wouldn't have held back on the delivery of their venom into her blood stream. If the purpose was to feed, why was she left alive?
"It's clear that she's been the victim of an attack but to what end? Their decision to bring her to us is possibly the most worrisome for me, never mind why did they bring her only to abandon her?" Jasper mused. "I don't like the idea of somebody know where and who we are without staying around to introduce themselves."
"It's not the behavior of a known friend, certainly," I offered and Jasper nodded his agreement.
I was worried. My instinct was, I suspected, the same Jasper's: to protect his mate and the family.
"Has Alice seen anything?"
"That's another problem. Alice has had the feeling for some time that something or someone was coming but was unable to clarify her visions. Now she's here and presuming she was the subject of those visions, Alice is still struggling to get a clearer picture. If anything her visions are even more obscured."
"Perhaps she has a gift."
"It is certainly a possibility. Your Little Lady appears to be confounding us all, but my beautiful wife most of all." Jasper smiled across at her fondly. "Still, even without the benefit of Alice's sight, we need to plan."
I laid my head against the top of her head and considered things for several seconds.
"This is probably best tackled one problem at a time. I don't like feeling exposed in this location. We need to relocate again. Once she's been moved to a more secure location, we can turn our attention to who she is and how she came to be found in this house."
Jasper nodded briskly. "I agree. The Alaskan properties offer the most remote locations for dealing with a newborn. We could go to the Denali Lodge. Being close to the Denali cousins might be beneficial."
There was a quiet knock on the door, and Alice opened it slowly as we both looked in her direction as she entered. Her usually dancing walk was slowed down and more careful. She smiled brightly.
"May I?" she asked.
Where Jasper avoided coming close to us, Alice came slowly up to the bed and kneeled down to the same level as my mate and brushed a strand of hair from her pale, sweat damp face with a careful hand. Except for the tightening of my arms around her, I managed to control myself.
"Hi, I'm sorry this was the way we met, but it will be better soon. I promise." She looked up at me again with a question. "May I?"
I nodded, not sure what she asking. Alice squeezed my hand where it is lay against my love's waist, before going to Jasper, who drew her against his side when she perched on the arm of the chair in which he was sitting.
"Have you seen anything that will help with this move?" Jasper asked, looking up into Alice's smiling face.
"I can't see anything in relation to her, nothing has changed there. I need Carlisle to make a decision to see anything else."
Caressing the soft curve of her cheek with my thumb, I considered Jasper's suggestion of our lodge house in the Denali National Park and discounted it. The tactical, as it were, advantages of being close to our 'cousins' were obvious, but something inside of me was drawn to a place where I could make a home for my mate with only our direct family. The intrusion of being so close to our cousins made me feel like we might miss out on opportunities for bonding with our family.
My mind offered a solution quickly. Fifty miles around the coast from the Alaskan settlement of Sitka and inland from the body of water known as Salisbury Sound, we had a house. Formerly a cabin, we had replaced the original structure with a New England Style stone house complete with a widow's walk after Esme took inspiration from the stunning sea views. Due to the architecture of the property, residents from the wider area had named it Widows Weep and the rather whimsical name had stuck over the decades.
Our family had last resided there in the early 1960's but the house had been updated in recent years. It was accessible by boat or car in the summer months but would be significantly more remote as the approaching Alaskan winter took hold and would offer miles and miles of isolated space for my beautiful mate to learn to hunt during her new born phase.
"The Sitka House it is," Alice stated with confidence. "Things relating to her are still frustratingly vague, but I can see us unpacking at the house. I can only presume that the journey will be successful.
"We'll leave in an hour. Rosalie and Emmett will stay behind to repair and finish closing up the house, then travel tonight. We can head out in the jeep, once a few essentials are packed. I'll phone Esme to ask her to open the house for us. Edward can meet us there."
Alice leaped up, apparently filled with new energy now that she had managed to see the path forwards. She pecked a kiss onto Jasper's cheek before standing at the end of the bed with an expectant expression on her face.
I had so many questions. "Alice, I–"
"You don't have to ask, Carlisle. I see how badly you want to know everything about her; most of all her name." Alice's pretty, little mouth turned down with disappointment. "I've tried, but there something about her that's blocking me."
"I appreciate you trying. I'm sure it will become apparent in time." I paused, feeling guilty for the need to express by desire for more reassurance, knowing how hard Alice must have been pushing her gift to try to give me the answers I so desperately needed. "It would make me feel easier to know she will be safe."
"I can only tell you what I've been able to see. I have seen you in the Sitka house and you are so happy. Trust me. No transition is ever going to be easy, never mind one involving cross-country travel, but I've seen you happy in our new home. She's your mate; she must be there safe and happy with us for you to be happy."
"Do you have any idea of how long she will transition for?" Jasper asked, ever the practical one.
"It's difficult to be exact. Within the next day and a half, perhaps two. Anything before that time scale and I can't see Carlisle clearly at all," Alice replied.
I mulled that over. A two-day transition was fast. I found myself uplifted at the thought of being able to meet her sooner than I had anticipated and because her ordeal would be shorter than most.
"That's fast. Not unheard of but fast," Jasper said.
"She must be in a hurry to meet you, Carlisle," Alice said. "I'd better go start getting ready." After giving Jasper another quick kiss, Alice walked from the room calling out for Rosalie and Emmett as she headed downstairs.
Silence settled over the room, and Jasper regarded us gravely. "I've never seen anyone transition so quietly," Jasper said frowning. "It's–
"And with the shortness of duration that Alice was talking about I would've anticipated it being excruciatingly intense."
His logic made perfect sense.
"However, with her unconventional introduction to the family and her impact on our gifts, I can't imagine that she is going to be anything less than extraordinary when she wakes."
"She's affecting you gift, too?" I asked, astounded.
"Not always. I've never experienced anything like it before. She's intriguing," Jasper said with a fond if somewhat frustrated smile. "I'm eager to meet her when she wakes."
I couldn't help but smile at the thought of her waking but my mood shifted quickly to more difficult subjects. Jasper watched me debate with myself over asking yet another question. I wasn't sure if knowing the answer would make me feel better or worse.
"Ask, Carlisle. You want to know, even if you are dreading my answer."
"There are no secrets in a house full of gifted vampires."
"You should be used to it by now, and Edward's not even here to added to the chaos. Just ask me."
"I'm hoping that the morphine is helping her avoid the burning, but that is pure speculation on my part. I assume you can't pick up on her emotions?"
"Sometimes I can."
"When you're able to feel her, what is she experiencing?"
"I won't lie to you, I've felt her feel the burn, despite how tranquil she seems. How much and how often I can't be sure because of this ability she has to mute or hide her emotions. I'm not sure how to explain how she feels to me.
"She's like a faulty switch; sometimes her emotions are fully on or fully off. Other times they're kind of hazy. I can't access her feelings enough to be able to understand how she is managing to be so motionless while experiencing the pain, or predict when I will be able to feel her. My best guess would that the exertion of her transition maybe messing with her abilities."
I let out a stressed breath through clenched teeth. Perhaps the morphine had been a mistake. Could it be that it was simply inhibiting her ability to react? To be trapped, paralyzed with the burning... The thought terrified me to my core. I suddenly regretted that she wasn't thrashing about. The movement might have provided some sort of relief.
"She was most clear to me when you left her with Rosalie and Alice. Most clear and most distressed." I winced.
"I left her while she was being dressed. Only for a moment…"
"Don't torture yourself. It's impossible for this to happen without pain and distress. I've felt far more traumatic changes."
It was Jasper's turn to wince. I understood what kind of memories he might be reliving. When Edward had burned, he begged me to kill him to put him out of his misery; Esme and Rosalie were the same. Emmett had been the only one who hadn't begged for release. Afterwards, he said he'd been able to endure it because he had Rosalie waiting for him on the other side of the pain. I cannot help but hope that the same might be true for my little love.
"You've got a whole mess of emotions going on there, Carlisle."
"Forgive me, I'm finding this difficult."
I didn't say it out loud, because it would be stating the obvious, but it was difficult to be sanguine when someone you love instinctively and without limit was burning alive so that you could have an eternity with them. Knowing that we would have the potential for limitless happiness, and the pure joy that it filled me with, was an incongruent emotion to feel alongside the depthless guilt I feel for what she is experiencing. It's heaven and hell in equal measures.
"I'd be willing to burn again to have Alice in my life. I doubt you feel any differently," Jasper said, speaking to my scattered emotions with understanding in his voice.
"It might help you to know, she seems most comforted when you're close and she can hear your voice." It helped, a little. In that moment, I committed myself to talk to her until I was horse if it would help.
"The morphine, if it is helping, will stop working soon. I will have to remove the IV before her skin begins to harden. I worry for the journey."
"If it becomes necessary, we can always abandon the cars and carryon on foot. We have different options. When the drugs stop working I will do my best to give her emotional support whenever she is able to let me reach her."
I knew what that sort of support would cost Jasper, and I was grateful to him for the personal sacrifice. "Thank you, it's all we can ask of you."
"It's good to hear you talk about 'we'. You've been without your better half for too long. I'll call you when we're ready to leave. See to your new mate, we'll take care of the rest."
After the door closed behind Jasper, I moved us slowly until we were lying down with my little love laid across my chest. Holding her as close as possible, I stroked her back, face and hair and whispered to her about my old life, how grateful I was to have her with me now and about the future that I hoped we would begin together very soon.
The flurry of activity in the house continued. Apart for Rosalie slowly entering the room to pack some of my clothes and leaving another injection of morphine and a fresh bag of saline, we were left alone. Eventually even the sound of building repairs stopped, and the concentration of noise moved to activity around the garage and the sound of cars being moved and packed. I tried to ignore the activity around us, preferring to concentrate on the sound of her heartbeat, and the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest as she breathed. All the time I continued to talk to her about where we were going to be going and about the family.
The phone rang shrilly down stairs, and Alice answered. I realised quickly that she was speaking to someone from the hospital in Whitefish. I'd completely forgotten; I was scheduled to work tonight.
"Hello, Dr Campbell, thank you so much for calling me back. I know Carlisle would want to have spoken to you himself, but the circumstance just didn't allow it. He set out for Alaska the minute he heard about the accident.
"Please don't worry about me, Esme is travelling down to be with us and we'll travel back with her to be with Carlisle. Rosalie and Emmett are home from college, so Edward and I aren't alone.
"Yes, a car accident. I realise it must be a surprise to hear that Carlisle had a new partner, but Carlisle has always been so private and the relationship was very new. We all love her already and now to know that she's so hurt..." Alice's voice hitched as she acted the part of devastated daughter perfectly.
"I'm sorry, it's just that we are all so worried... Yes, I think an indefinite leave of absence maybe necessary but I will get Esme to call as soon as she gets here. I don't think Carlisle is going to be available for some time. I'm sorry one of the adults wasn't available, but I knew Carlisle was due on shift soon when I left the message on your cell.
"Thank you. I'll pass on your best wishes to Carlisle when I can."
"Yes, thanks again. Goodbye."
There was a knock at the door, and Rosalie opened it slowly.
"We're ready, Carlisle. It's time to move her."
I sat up and swung around until I was sitting on the edge of the bed with her across my lap and my feet on the floor. Rosalie approached the bed with a pair of boots and socks in one hand, and a folded blanket in the other.
"What are they for?"
"Confused?" she asked, rolling her eyes. "I was, too, until Alice explained it might look a bit odd if we were pulled over for you to be bare foot with an unconscious woman in your arms."
I looked down at my feet–it hadn't even occurred to me. "Has Alice seen that we might be made to stop?" I asked, worried.
"No, but not being able to see the journey hasn't made her any less of a planner. Do you mind if I put them on? I overhead Jasper saying that she was most upset when you put her down. What she is going through is hard enough, if this might help, even a little..."
Rosalie knelt by my feet and dressed me quickly before straightening up to tuck the blanket around her with gentle hands and hold the saline drip for us.
"I know this won't make any difference." She straightened the blanket as I stood up and adjusted the precious bundle in my arms to make sure she was comfortable. "But I wanted to try anyway." Rosalie shrugged. "It's stupid, I know."
Leaning over, I pressed a rarely allowed kiss to Rosalie's cheek, and hugged her awkwardly with one arm.
"Whether it makes a difference or not, I appreciate all that you are doing for us."
She allowed me another brief kiss on her forehead before she stepped back. Rosalie walked beside us holding the drip as we descended the stairs and walked outside to where Emmett's Jeep was parked idling by the porch with Jasper waiting in the driver's seat.
I folded myself into the back seat carefully, gently supporting her head as she whimpered at the disturbance, before she pressed her face against the skin of my neck as she lay across my lap once more.
"I'm here, I won't leave you. I swear," I whispered, burying my face in the fragrant softness of her now dry hair. "You're safe." She nuzzled against me before going slack in my arms once again.
Alice flitted to Rosalie's side for a brief hug. "Emmett?" she asked.
"Home Depot. Edward did quite a number on that window." Rosalie shrugged, as Alice grinned before joining Jasper in the front of the car.
Rosalie hand touched the open door beside us she leaned into the interior of the car, her large, expressive eyes settling on my little mate with gentleness of expression she rarely allowed to be seen.
"Take care. We'll be there as soon as we can," she said almost hesitantly before running her hand down the side my little love's cheek before she pulled back and closed the door.
The Jeep pulled away smoothly as we set off into the still, blackness of the Montana countryside.