Carlisle's POV

Time appeared to have frozen at Forks General as Carlisle hung up his doctor's coat to endure the monotony of pretending to enjoy yet another inedible, cardboard sandwich courtesy of the hospital cafeteria. He had learned the hard way that you could only skip so may meal breaks before people started to ask questions, and he would willingly protect the identity of his family for the sake of a few minute's discomfort.

'You would think four hundred years would be a long enough time in which to learn some patience,' he muttered with annoyance as he surreptitiously threw the offending object into the trash while his colleagues weren't looking.

Ignoring the mindless chatter that permeated his musings, Carlisle allowed his thoughts to trail back tantalisingly to the previous evening that had been spent with Bella, his Bella. Something was happening to her, he couldn't quite place what, and the mystery somehow both enthralled and confused him at the same time. Though it wasn't his partner's newfound confidence that had him so desperate to leave his patients that miserable afternoon, it was somebody else entirely.

Charlie's call a couple of days before had been brief and to the point. He had his suspicions about how close Carlisle had gotten to his only daughter and the time had finally come for him to take some action. The vampire knew that he could physically overpower the chief of police in a nanosecond if he so chose, though realistically he knew that it would never happen, for it would destroy any chance of his relationship with Bella being successful. Instead, Carlisle found himself desperate for the outwardly older man's approval, and the fear that he may not have earned it left him almost trembling in its wake.

Given that he had been designed to be an untameable, deadly predator, it was incredibly unnatural for Carlisle to feel any kind of trepidation, let alone over the trivial concerns of a solitary female woman. Despite this, it had been made clear to him over the previous months that Isabella Swan was anything other than remotely normal, and he knew that he didn't want to even try to survive without her, so great was the change that she had brought about in him. No longer was he just an academic genius externally but a shell of a being underneath; now he was complete, having found the remainder of himself in the unassuming woman that dominated his every coherent thought.

'Cullen,' Doctor Snow barked across the table, continuing to drone on about Doctor so and so's paper on such and such a topic. 'Have you read it, it's alleged to be revolutionary you know?' He nodded his head dumbly before returning to his office, claiming that he had a mountainous amount of paperwork to catch up on before he began the afternoon's appointments.

Alice skipped into the sparsely decorated office just as Carlisle was powering down his laptop and sliding his car keys off the desk.

'Dad,' she chimed, in that voice that had the ability to bring a smile to the ancient vampire's stone features, regardless of what was troubling him. Her use of the term made him laugh heartily, and the pixie grinned girlishly at the sound, dropping into the leather seat opposite him gracefully with only a soft 'thump.'

'What can I do for you, Alice?' She tilted her head to one side in response to his question, forcing all of her spiked locks to dangle loosely towards the floor.

'It's more about what I can do for you,' she responded cryptically. Before he even had a chance to feel frustrated, his daughter was ready with an explanation. 'You're going to see Charlie, and it's going to be fine.'

Carlisle exhaled a lungful of air that he hadn't realised he'd been holding, and felt oddly like a human teenager as he completed the movement, unnecessary though it was. The words encouraged him and he vocalised as much as she watched his expression visibly soften with interest.

'Well Alice, I've learned already not to hedge my bets against you. Care to elaborate?'

She swung her legs childishly underneath her and clapped her hands excitedly as she recounted her version of events, her crimson shift-dress rumpling in seemingly deliberate waves around her lithe frame.

'He does like you, you know. In fact, there probably isn't anyone he would trust more to take care Bella than you. However, he does know what we are and you're going to have to tread carefully around that, because it's far too soon for him to be asking questions about the treaty. If he thinks for a single second that she might be at risk because of what we are then this little rendezvous will quickly take a nosedive, and I like having Bella around.'

He ran a hand through his hair in the way he always did when he was pondering something.

'I thought you just said it was going to be fine?' He questioned confusedly, hoping she had got it wrong but knowing already that it was impossible. Alice jumped out of her seat happily and patted him on the shoulder, having to tiptoe in order to compensate for the difference in height.

'It will,' she smiled, pulling a single manila enveloped out of her designer handbag, 'because these are plane tickets to Phoenix, and you're taking Bella to go and visit her mother.'

The Chief of police was, thankfully, in good spirits as he parked the newly-purchased cruiser outside his driveway and greeted the vampire that waited patiently on his doorstep. Having been invited in, Carlisle sat awkwardly on the edge of the sofa and waited for the man to say his piece. His calm façade was exactly that, a false exterior masking a cacophony of emotions which threatened to overwhelm him. Carlisle turned his attention to the Chief's décor hopelessly in attempt to distract his errant thoughts.

'Well I would do the whole shotgun routine,' Charlie began gruffly, eyeing the piece of kit resting threateningly against his kitchen wall, 'but I know that's going to have no effect on you. Cullen, you know how I feel about this, I don't have to explain it to you. And while I may not be entirely happy with the situation that I find myself in, I know I don't have to warn you about protecting my daughter because I genuinely believe that you'll do it anyway. There is nobody in this world that is good enough for my Bella, but if she really does have to be with someone, part of me is at least a little bit glad that that someone is you.'

Carlisle explained their impromptu visit to Phoenix and Charlie's opinion of him dramatically improved in that instant.

'Charlie, while I didn't plan any of this, I am not sorry that it happened. Please do not doubt my feelings for Bella, I don't expect you to trust me straight away, but I do ask that you extend me the courtesy of having the chance to prove myself. If she chooses to walk away, I promise you that I won't stop her. You have my word.'

A man of few words, Charlie barked his agreement and patted the doctor on the shoulder roughly.

'Now get out of here Cullen,' he recovered quickly, disguising the emotion that had seeped into his tone, 'before I change my mind and decide to test whether or not the rumours about silver bullets are true.'

They parted amicably, and just as he was about to leave Carlisle turned back to Bella's father, more confident this time.

'While I'm here Charlie, there was something else I wanted to ask you…'

Jasper noted the change in both Carlisle's demeanour and the emotions he projected as he turned his key in the lock of his oversized mansion. Alice had, infuriatingly, refused to tell him anything, instead waiting until her father had been given the opportunity to share the news himself. It was infectious for the empath, who had no choice but to celebrate by way of hunting with Carlisle.

Sated, they sat on a small rock that jutted out over the cliffs, overlooking the deserted beach below.

'So you meant what you said, huh?' Jasper drawled in his slow, southern accent, 'if she walks away you'll just let her, that's it?' Carlisle took the opportunity to extensively analyse the palms of his hands which had suddenly caught his attention, using it as an excuse to avoid his fellow vampire's stare.

'I'll have to,' he muttered resignedly, 'it's the only thing I'm scared of, that she might decide that it isn't worth the risk and cut her losses before she becomes too involved. It would destroy me, I know that, but I would never take away her free will. And that truly terrifies me, because this is a decision I have had to make carefully and I am ashamed to admit that I have done so selfishly. I know what it would do to this family if things were to go wrong between Bella and I, and I do not want to be responsible for that.' Jasper fiddled with the hole in his sleeve that the mountain lion had ripped just seconds before the vampire had clamped down on his throat.

'She won't leave you, Carlisle. I know how she feels about you; I've felt how she feels about you. It just isn't possible for her to turn away now.' The confirmation brought a small smile to the doctor's lips, but it didn't last long.

'But she keeps running. Every time things get slightly out of her control she runs away. I know how hard this is, how vulnerable she must be feeling. I am all too aware that I appear the indestructible vampire who has incomparable self-control and so much responsibility that it must be daunting for her to even consider how this might work out. But I need her to trust me and if she does decide to stay away then who am I to stop her? It scares me, Jasper, that when things get hard she tries to pretend that it isn't happening, and though I will always wait for her, I need her to understand that I do not have it all together the way she believes I do.'

'You gotta tell her,' Jasper concluded simply. 'You can't expect her to know how you're feelin' if I'm the one you're telling this to. I know you're sincere and she will only understand if you help her to try.'

Drawing himself up to his full height so he could make his way home and prepare for Bella's imminent return, Carlisle thanked the newest addition to his coven for his advice and proceeded to follow him through the trees at a breakneck pace, thankful for the respite it provided him.

Carlisle didn't feel entirely at peace until Bella slumped tiredly into his arms at the end of another strenuously long shift. He purred lovingly as she nuzzled into his chest and effortlessly carried up to his room where he placed her gently underneath his heavy duvet. She nestled herself into the covers immediately, sprawling out until there was hardly any room left for him to climb in next to her. He nervously edged around her so as not to cause any disruption and cursed softly as he almost fell onto the cool linoleum underfoot. After he had anxiously scrambled back onto the huge four-poster, Carlisle picked up his partner's unresponsive limbs and placed them on the opposite side of the mattress so he could lie alongside her. Instantly curling into his broad, cool form, Bella whispered barely audibly,

'Love you.'

And somehow, despite his physical constitution that should have rendered the action impossible, a single, venomous tear cascaded down his perfectly carved cheek.

For Ivorygirl1990, who wanted to know where Carlisle was at.

I hope you enjoyed this!