Many people envision where they will find their true love someday. At a club, at work, by a romantic chance. I found mine in a morgue in a little hospital in Port Angeles, Washington.
I felt sick at heart as I pushed another table into the morgue. I loved everything about being a doctor but this - watching them die when nothing I could do could save them. I'd long ago resigned myself to the fact that I couldn't save them all, that death was natural, that venom was not a medication but another, perhaps even worse, death sentence. I'd wheeled millions of deathbeds into this horrible room, but I never overcame the agony of seeing so many dead people with hopes, dreams, lives, all still and cold, never to open their eyes again. I wished I could help everyone - but Edward had been a special case. His mother had specifically asked for me to save him in any way I could, in a way others couldn't. So I did. If ever that request was thrown at me again, I would do the same thing.
I turned on my heel, wondering how a vampire could get nauseous. And that's when I saw her.
Two doctors were wheeling in a gurney, drenched in blood. And I noticed the body's face. At that moment, my heart shattered into a million pieces.
Could a man fall in love with a dead woman? I felt like I would collapse from this shocking pain in my chest. Heartbreak. The woman on the gurney was beautiful, perfect, and dead. My insides contorted with pain, for the love I'd gained and lost in a millisecond, the life she'd never have, and the emptiness I'd feel inside forever.
Then I heard it - the thrumming, uneven rhythm that sent my heart into praises to whatever god had spared her life. In that instant, everything ceased to exist but the faint heartbeat I could hear from the dying woman's chest.
Obviously the doctors couldn't hear it - it was too faint to pick up with a stethoscope. That meant I had to work fast. The instant the men left, chatting sadly as everyone leaving a morgue did, I gathered up her ruined body in my arms, leaped out the window, and ran.
I felt the blood from her countless cuts oozing all over me - my clothes, my skin, my hair - but the desire for blood was the furthest thing from my mind. My brain was a jumbled mess, fear in every thought. Could I save her? Would I get home in time? Would Edward be able to ignore the blood long enough for me to clean it off? He was still so young. He might finish her before I could save her.
I held her gently, trying to keep her safe from the pain. An occasional whimper would remind me she was alive when I jostled her on accident. But in order to get home fast, I had to run as fast as I possibly could, and to keep from dropping her, I had to hold her tightly. It was distracting to hold her frail, crushed body to my chest. However far beyond repair she was, her body was still all perfect, feminine curves. I forced myself to remember the objective as I kicked open the front door. Edward was waiting. He knew what was going on, having read my mind as soon as I was in range.
Edward wasn't breathing as he tried to take her from me, the bloodlust warring with self-control on his face, but I wouldn't let go. I almost growled as his hand brushed her back as he attempted to relieve me of my burden. He took that in stride, though I wouldn't have dreamed of doing it under normal circumstances. He understood; he could read the whirl of fear, anxiety, and love in my head.
"Is she okay, Carlisle?" he asked, using up a little of his limited breath.
Go get my supplies, I ordered shortly in my mind, carrying the woman to the dining room table. I laid her there and gently lowered my lips to her neck, steeling myself with a breath. I bit the skin softly, injecting my venom into her bloodstream. My tongue swiped over the gashes to keep the venom in, and I tried not to concentrate on how her skin felt under my tongue, how her blood tasted on my lips, trying to restrain twin desires - one for her blood and one for her body. I wasn't sure which was stronger. Shuddering, I moved on to her wrists and ankles. When all had been bitten, Edward came back with my medical supplies. I bandaged the gaping wounds on her side, her legs, her arms, her face...the awfully swollen, infected cuts were everywhere! I wanted to cry when I thought about the pain she must be going through. I set her broken legs and broken arm, too, though it was unnecessary, as the venom would fix that.
Edward had left - he probably couldn't take all the blood and her pain, which he would have to live through when he was in the room. I hovered over her, wondering what else I could do. Nothing else could be done that the venom wouldn't do. Except...
I covered her mouth with mine for a moment, trying to convey to her how much I already loved her, even though I knew she couldn't feel anything but the burning venom. When I kissed her, I felt like I was burning too, burning like I hadn't burned for six hundred years. I wondered if she'd love me back when she woke up, or would she hate me for changing her? I pulled back quickly, reminding myself she was still fragile and human.
My emotional moment was over. Back to being professional. Now that she was in the process of changing into a vampire, the scent of blood was starting to get to me. I had to get rid of both our clothes, as they were covered in blood and a young vampire lived in the house. I groaned as I realized what I had to do.
I considered calling Edward back in here, but that was selfish. He didn't have to endure so much more pain than me just because this would be awkward for me. But I really didn't want to do this!
"Come on, Carlisle, be a man," I admonished myself under my breath as I ran upstairs. She was probably closer to Edward's size than mine, so I collected some of the clothes that he didn't wear anymore and set to the task of getting rid of her bloody clothes.
I tried to remain professional and detached as I tore off her ruined clothes, but I couldn't help noticing how beautiful she was. I made the time she had to spend naked as short as possible. When she was outfitted in her borrowed clothes and I had changed into fresh blood-free ones, I started a fire outside and burned our bloody clothes so Edward wouldn't have to inhale the sweet smell for weeks.
Edward came back when he smelled the smoke, almost a day after I'd taken the first bite, and found me staring into the crackling flames watching her clothes burn. He cracked a smile as he watched a red-stained shirt dissolve into ashes. If I could've blushed, I would have. Of course I could perform surgery with no problem but removing a dying woman's clothes...
"So she's doing fine?" he asked, and I nodded wordlessly.
"What's the matter, Carlisle?" he asked as I continued to stare pensively into the flames, my mind too much of a mess to read. I didn't answer the question directly. Instead I poured in images and emotions. He saw her face through my eyes, felt the buoyancy I felt around her even as she was burning, the ecstatic feeling when I realized she was alive, learned how good her skin tasted under my tongue as I licked the cuts on her body shut, my sorrow for her pain, saw her broken body in the morgue, the terrible fear that I'd done something wrong and she wouldn't live...The images progressed from my love for her to my terrible fear for her safety. Edward let out a gasp, and I realized my agony was hurting him. I stopped the flow of images before he experienced anything else painful.
"Oh," he said. It sounded like my internal agony had knocked his breath out.
"I'm so sorry, Edward." And I was. It wasn't fair that he was blessed and cursed with the ability to read minds. He shouldn't have to live in my own pain right now. "But I'm very worried. Her heartbeat was so weak..." Almost as a protest, we heard her heart rate pick up speed and she started to scream.
I was inside and at the table in less than a second. Edward was not with me - he had probably left again. Her unconsciousness had worn off. The woman was howling in pain, her fingers clutching the table as her back arched. I swallowed back a lump in my throat. I slid my fingers into her hand and she clutched it for dear life.
And for two days and nights, I didn't let go.
I held her hand and talked to her to keep her mind off the pain, saying inconsequential things, boring things. She never opened her eyes, and I was kind of glad I didn't have to look at her scarlet irises yet. I thought she was beautiful as human, but now she practically shone. I could hardly take my eyes off her perfection. But I didn't touch her except to hold her hand, which grew harder and stronger as the minutes became hours, which turned into days.
Edward made a couple phone calls with his flawless impersonation of my voice and found out what we needed to know about her - her name and how she'd gotten into her condition. Her name was Esme McGuire and her fall off a cliff had mortally injured her.
Edward also picked up on a couple things that we weren't looking for. She was married, and she had a child that had been born about a month ago. A wife with a child. It felt like a stake had been driven through my heart. She had prior claims...other obligations. She would probably go her own way once she woke. Even if she could restrain herself from killing her husband and child, she would want to be with them. And she wouldn't stay. I dropped my head into my hands, dropping Esme's.
Edward put a hand on my shoulder. "Carlisle, I'm sorry.
"It's all right. I didn't really...well, I knew there was a possibility she wouldn't stay." But truthfully, the thought hadn't crossed my mind. How could she not return the powerful love I felt for her? But...what if she didn't?
"Carlisle, what will you do if she goes? You love her."
I moaned into my hands. "I know I love her. And I don't know what I'll do if she leaves me, Edward. Every time she screams, I'm that much less sure she'll stay with me...I hurt her, Edward. How could she accept me when I've done such a selfish thing?"
"It's not selfish to save lives - Carlisle!" Edward's sentence broke off as Esme's heartbeat kicked into high gear. She howled and her hands moved across the table, searching, and I gave her my hand back. She clutched it hard and screamed again, clawing at the table with her other hand, ripping the wood to shreds. I jumped up, shaking off Edward's hand, but there was nothing I could do to spare her the agony. I ran a hand through my blonde hair, wishing I had something else to do with my hands, like page an anesthetist. Edward whispered soothing words to me, but nothing registered but Esme's face, contorted with pain.
Those were the worst moments of my life. Watching her, my Esme, in such monumental pain. In the nearly seven hundred years I'd lived, I had never struggled through anything more horrible. Her screams, her contorted expression...I could have screamed with her. Even my own transformation wasn't as painful as watching this.
Her heart rushed toward its final beats, and Edward and I waited with bated breath. Her screams had died, and the silence was even worse than the hoarse howling.
Her heart beat once, twice, three times in rapid succession as her last shreds of humanity slipped away. And then...nothing.
All was silent.
And my Esme opened her eyes.