Note: This is set after the battle in "Eclipse."

I posted this vignette elsewhere some time ago but thought readers here might enjoy it.

Thank you to Some Kind of Sin for inspiring me to post this!

Disclaimer: Twilight is the property of Stephenie Meyer. No infringement is intended.

It had been an exhausting day. While it was impossible for him to tire physically, on rare occasions Carlisle experienced a sort of mental and emotional fatigue that left him feeling enervated. Today was one of those infrequent occasions.

He had helped his family and the wolves fight the newborns, then dealt with the single survivor, Bree, only to lose her to Jane's pitiless whim. The Volturi's presence had certainly not made the day any easier, and Jacob's injuries had added to the wrenching milieu. Concern about Bella—who had collapsed briefly in the aftermath—remained, but he felt fairly certain that she would be all right. She had witnessed a horrifying event, and her human sensibilities had balked, as well they should. Alice had helped her to clean up, and he knew Edward would remain with her throughout the night. If Bella needed Carlisle's particular skills, he was only a few minutes away.

Treating Jacob had proven surprisingly difficult. Carlisle hated to inflict pain on any patient, but this case had been particularly daunting. The werewolf's bones had set incorrectly, necessitating that he re-break them to position them properly. Even extremely generous doses of morphine hadn't been sufficient to dull the pain; the boy's accelerated metabolism had dissipated the drug quickly. So Edward had held him down while Carlisle completed the odious yet necessary tasks.

When Jacob was finally resting, his body ultimately succumbing to the trauma and slipping into a deep healing sleep, Carlisle and Edward had left La Push. Carlisle would return in several hours to check the boy again and had instructed Billy to call immediately if Jacob needed him. But for the moment he was home, and that was the only place he wanted to be.

He stood in the foyer for a few moments, listening to the sounds within the house. Emmett and Rosalie were talking quietly in their room. He could hear the rustle of their clothing and groan of their mattress, so he quickly switched his attention to Alice and Jasper. His third son had suffered an injury during the melee. He hadn't had a chance to inspect the bite and felt a need to do so. Alice and Jasper were also speaking in low tones, but he didn't think they were engaged in any private activities. He glided up the stairs and tapped gently on their door.

"Carlisle," Alice said softly, "come in."

He entered. They were sitting on the bed, Alice leaning against Jasper's chest as his arms encircled her tiny frame protectively. They both smiled wanly at him.

"Are you all right?" Carlisle asked Jasper.

Jasper nodded. "I will be. Alice says Jacob's in rough shape, but he'll recover?"

Carlisle nodded. "It will take a few days, but he's healing quickly now. Managing his pain is something of an issue…" He ran a hand through his blond hair. "How is yours?"

"I've had worse," Jasper replied honestly.

"Would you like me to have a look at it?" Carlisle asked.

Jasper shook his head. "There's no need. Alice is taking good care of me." He kissed her crown.

Alice smiled sadly and stroked his forearm, several inches beneath the site of the injury. He wore a clean, long-sleeved shirt; the unbuttoned cuff covered the bite. "Most of the venom's out," she reported. "It's deep but beginning to close."

"Even so," Carlisle began.

"I'm fine, Carlisle," Jasper said preemptively.

Suddenly Carlisle understood that Jasper wanted to shield him from further emotional pain. Seeing the injury would only bring back the deep regret and sadness Carlisle felt at his inability to save the single newborn survivor. The loss of life—any life—weighed heavily upon him.

Carlisle conceded with a nod. "If you're certain," he murmured.

"You should shower," Alice said gently.

The doctor's nose wrinkled as he became conscious of the pungent, fetid scents clinging to his clothing and hair: canine and human blood mixed with unctuous remnants of thick, cloying smoke.

"Yes," he replied. "If you need me…"

"We're all right," Jasper said calmly, and Carlisle felt his own body relax slightly.

Carlisle stepped forward quickly to kiss Alice's forehead and give Jasper's shoulder a gentle squeeze. Then he turned and darted out the door. As he moved down the hall, his steps slowing, he listened to Esme within their room. She was moving quietly; he heard the soft sound of fabric sliding down her body. She must be changing her clothes.

He opened the door to see her bare back before him. Her hair hung over her shoulders. She was just stepping out of her jeans.

"Esme," he breathed. In an instant he had wrapped his arms around her, his palms pressing softly over her smooth, flat belly. He closed his eyes and inhaled the fragrance of her hair, concentrating on her unique, delicate scent hidden beneath the smells of battle.

She leaned into him with a small sigh. "Darling. How is the boy?"

"He's healing."

She exhaled in relief. "I was just going to have a bath. Join me, please?"

He nodded. "Yes. But let me step into the shower for a few moments first."

Her hand rose to brush over his cheek in acknowledgement. She understood that he wanted to remove all traces of the wolves' scent and Jacob's blood from his body. He kissed the back of her neck then hurried into the bathroom.

Through the frosted glass of the shower door, he glimpsed Esme preparing the bath. He ran a soapy washcloth over his body, scrubbing his hands and face carefully before washing his hair twice with generous amounts of shampoo. He permitted the hot water to run over him for a full minute.

He rubbed water from his face and hair then opened the shower door. Esme had extinguished all of the lights. Two small candles flickered softly on the shelf above the bathtub. She was in the tub, almost completely submerged. Her head rested against the curved back edge.

She had put lightly scented bath oils in the water; he smelled the soothing aroma of lavender. His bare feet made no noise as he padded across the white tiles. He bent to kiss her beautiful mouth. She opened her eyes and smiled up at him.

Esme scooted forward, and Carlisle slid into the large tub behind her. His legs cradled her hips, and his arms encircled her waist. She leaned back to settle her head against his chest. He kissed her cheek.

His hands stroked her hips then moved slowly up over her ribs and breasts, fingertips trailing across her satin skin. She sighed, her hand massaging his thigh lightly. He rested his palms gently over her sternum, fingers spreading to touch as much of her silken flesh as possible. His thumb brushed beneath her clavicle then across the sensitive skin just below the juncture of her left shoulder.

For an instant, she stiffened and twitched against him.

"Esme?" he questioned, surprised.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, turning her head so that she could press her cheek against his chest again.

"For what?" And then he realized it: He'd felt a slight flaw beneath his left thumb. His fingers sought the source of the anomaly, probing gently over the area. "Darling, were you hurt?"

The word felt utterly foreign against his tongue. She had never been injured before, not since the day he had changed her. He'd always felt grateful that his beloved wife had never seen a battle or faced another of their kind in ire. Today's events had been a horror, but he thought she'd emerged unscathed. She'd said nothing… and he hadn't even thought to ask. Oh, what a callous brute he was!

"It's nothing," she replied softly.

But he could feel it now—a tear in her perfect flesh. He traced it very gently, but even so he felt her shudder slightly. Then, in an instant, he had lifted her and turned her so that she faced him.

He moved aside her arm, setting her wrist upon the edge of the tub. There, on the tender flesh beneath her shoulder, was the wound. He suppressed a hiss as he viewed the ragged rend. Even in the dull candlelight, his acute vision permitted him to see a hint of silver in the tear. She hadn't removed the venom yet.

"Sweetheart," he said, his voice nearly shaking, "why didn't you tell me? You've been in pain for hours and hours. That wasn't necessary!"

She lifted her hand to rest it against his cheek as one finger smoothed the crease between his eyebrows. "You were quite busy enough. There was no need for you to spare any of that precious time on me when this is so slight."

"Alice or Rosalie, then," he said through the tightness in his throat. "You should have asked one of them."

She shook her head serenely. "Jasper's injury is much worse; he needed Alice. And Rosalie…" She smiled thinly. "Well, she and Emmett needed to some time together, too."

He sighed in mild frustration, but he couldn't fault her deep empathy for her children. He slipped his arms around her and lifted her gently from the bathtub. He carried her across the room to set her carefully upon the counter then turned on the lights. With the lightest strokes, he dried her chest and arms with a soft towel.

He looked up when he heard the slight snick of the bedroom door as it closed; he caught a hint of Alice's scent. Curious, he poked his head through the bathroom doorway to see that his youngest daughter had deposited his black bag on the dresser.

"Thank you, Alice," he said softly, knowing she'd hear him. He moved swiftly across the bedroom to grab the bag then returned to Esme.

She was leaning back against the mirror, her eyes half-closed. He set his bag beside her and opened it.

She glanced down. Her tone was a mixture of surprise and amusement as she commented, "Carlisle, darling, I don't think there's anything in there for me. I know you want to help, but…"

He kissed her quickly then reached inside his bag for a packet of gauze. He tore off the wrapper. She watched his motions as he folded the gauze in two then placed it beneath the wound.

"This will sting, my love," he told her regretfully, "but only for a few moments."

"I know." One of her hands came to rest at his waist. The injury had prickled uncomfortably for hours; she wasn't concerned about another minute of pain.

As gently as possible, Carlisle pressed his index and second fingers along the edges of the gash to express the venom. Esme's fingers twitched against him, and she inhaled sharply. He knew he was hurting her, but he had no choice; the wound would close very slowly and continue to sting until the venom was removed.

As the silvery fluid oozed up, he dabbed it away with the gauze. However, he knew traces of the poison would remain, irritating the tender flesh for some time. He hoped he could remove it completely.

"Almost finished, darling," he told her.

He tossed the gauze into the small garbage can then removed a syringe and a vial of saline from his bag. Esme had closed her eyes, but now she opened them to watch him.

"What are you going to do?" she asked. She knew that there was no needle that could pierce her marble skin, and even if there were, no drug would affect her body.

"I'm going to irrigate the wound to remove any remaining traces of venom," he replied. He filled the syringe then emptied the saline into the wound to flush it thoroughly. He patted it softly with more clean gauze before carefully inspecting his work.

"How does that feel, love?" he asked. He could see no evidence of venom.

Esme sighed. "Much better. Thank you." A smile crept across her beautiful mouth.

"It should begin closing soon," he told her.

She nodded. "Yes. In the meantime, we didn't finish our bath."

He disposed of the syringe and gauze swiftly then closed his bag. "No, we didn't," he agreed.

She was perfectly capable of getting to her feet and walking to the tub, but she offered no protests when he lifted her into his arms and carried her. Together they slid into the warm, fragrant water. She straddled his hips, his hands pressed over her back.

Wordlessly, their lips came together, and loving kisses rained over eyelids, cheeks, and chins. Soon their bodies came together, too, their gazes locking as they joined. Their movements were languorous; neither felt a need to hurry their lovemaking. Many gentle words, kisses, and caresses were exchanged and savored as Carlisle and Esme poured their deep, unyielding affection into each other.

Later, she lay against him in the warm, scented water. He ran a soft bath sponge over her skin, removing all remnants of the day's horror. He lingered as he passed the sponge over her left shoulder, but this time his focus was on the sensuous, delectable flesh, not on the tiny sliver that marred it. Quickly he lowered his head to kiss the fading scar.

"Thank you, darling," she said.

"Mmm, for what?" he murmured, nuzzling at her neck.

"For taking care of me." She sighed, the sound expressing both contentment and mild awe.

"What is it, dearest?" he asked, his curiosity piqued by the odd tone of her exhalation.

"I've finally gotten to see your work firsthand." She smiled, stroking his cheek softly. "You really are wonderful, you know."

His lips brushed over her jaw as his fingertips traced the soft curve of her breast. "I hope you never have to witness that again. Any of it."

"Yes. But if I do, I know you'll be here make things better."

"Always, in every possible way."

He sealed his promise with a kiss.