The boy is beautiful.
Carlisle does not usually allow himself to think such sentimental thoughts over his patients. But it would be a lie to try to deny his beauty, and the boy is dying too.
Let him die beautiful, Carlisle thinks as he stares down at his pale and flushed flesh. It is a distraction from the thoughts underlying.
But he does not need to die. I can save him.
He drags a finger down the sharp protruding cheekbone. He has gotten thinner over the weeks he’s laid in the bed. Where once he was lanky and had a boyish touch to his body, he verges on emaciation now. He still recalls the pained voice of the boy’s mother, begging and begging for Carlisle to save him. If only she knew he could. If only she knew saving him would be cursing him too. She knew little of what their lifestyle really was. Would she rather her son die as she did or become a condemned monster?
The thoughts haunt him over the next few days. He knows his time to decide is wearing thin. Edward’s breathing becomes ragged and shallow. He will die soon enough. And it may be decades, centuries, millennia again until Carlisle feels such a draw to turn someone and take them in as one of his own. He may never find someone as magnetizing as the boy rotting away on the cot.
It is that very thought that convinces him to do what he must. The idea that once Edward passes, Carlisle will be utterly alone again. It is not fair, even if it is selfish, but it would be just as unfair and selfish to let such a young soul die too when he has the chance to let him be born again.
Carlisle runs a gentle hand through Edward’s hair, sticky with sweat. The boy leans into the touch, and it is the final nail in the coffin. Seeing how desperate he is for any sort of affection, for any other sign of life. Carlisle has no other choice.
He leans down, his hand moving to cup the boy’s cheek. Into his ear, he whispers, “This will hurt. And you may hate me for eternity for what I chose to do, but please know I saw no other choice.”
He drags his hand down around Edward’s neck, keeping him still. And then his fangs puncture Edward’s throat, and he tries to let the blood that flows into his mouth stay on his tongue, refusing the temptation to swallow until it becomes too much, and he must. Edward’s blood is tantalizingly sweet. If Carlisle were a lesser man, he could get addicted to such a taste. But he does not allow himself, tearing away from the blood and skin, watching Edward writhe in pain as the venom settles into him.
After so many years alone, Carlisle had forgotten what it was like to keep someone close to you. His time with the Volturi was all too brief and filled with much contempt towards him for his lifestyle choices. And since then, he had done nothing but travel alone, trying to soothe sick patients wherever he went.
Getting used to Edward’s presence is an adjustment. To walk into the living room and see another being there continues to shock him each time. Edward — for how little of a time he has been turned — has perfected silence and stealth. Oftentimes Carlisle will turn around to see the boy watching him work or read and have had no clue how long he stood there.
But he would not give it up for anything. Edward is a charming young man. He is clearly intelligent, humorous, almost childish and petulant in his stubbornness. He often plays the piano Carlisle has in the dining room all night, perfecting some of the most difficult songs in little time. He tells him tales of his mother. How he adored her, was distant from his father but would have given the world for his mother. Carlisle learns of the adoring and cunning boy he was before he was turned. Why his mother wanted to save him is clear to Carlisle: he seems to be what a perfect son would be like.
He adapts quickly to their lifestyle. He hunts swiftly albeit clumsy, unused to their speed. He drinks from deer as if he is dying from thirst each time. He still has a newborn vampire’s thirst and bloodlust. It’s amusing to watch him feed. How he rips into the flesh, eyes flashing manically, blood dripping from the corners of his mouth. It is unrefined and disgusting. It is also one of the most beautiful sights Carlisle has ever seen, watching Edward feed and get lost in the blood.
Edward looks up at him then, and blood streaks down his chin. Carlisle laughs to himself, wiping away some of it with his fingers.
“Next,” he begins, holding Edward’s chin, “We must work on feeding in a clean manner.”
Carlisle has taken up the hobby of painting. It is easy to do so when Edward is playing the piano: the soft, soothing melodies makes it easy to create images that he believes fit alongside the songs. Many nights they spend just like that, Edward playing and Carlisle painting only feet away. There is no need to talk on those nights. The other’s presence is enough.
One night, however, Carlisle hears Edward stop playing early. He can hear how he shifts minutely on the piano seat. Then, “Paint me,” Edwards says. Commands, really. He is still so bossy, never lenient when it comes to his desires and whims. Carlisle looks over at him, and the boy’s face is completely neutral.
“Paint you? Carlisle laughs despite himself. He knows he spoils him too much. That the boy will never expect him to say no. “How can one even begin to capture your beauty?”
Edward smiles at that, his usual small upturn of one corner of his lips. “I’m sure it’ll be easy enough for you.” He gets up then, walks over to the couch across from Carlisle’s easel. Carlisle changes his canvas to a new one, already knowing he will not say no to the request. Edward sits into a relaxing pose. “Just try.”
And so Carlisle does. It’s easy with such a muse sitting in front of him. Easy to get lost in sketching out the shape of his body, much less thin than he was when he was so sick, but still youthful — as it will be for the rest of eternity. His hair is ruffled as it always is, his lips pale but stained-red from their dinner earlier, his eyes shining bright and vibrant red, piercing through the dim room. Soon they will turn golden like Carlisle’s own, the longer he feasts on animal blood, but for now they remain the same shade as blood itself. He’s exquisite, truly, almost angelic. Carlisle considers for a moment painting wings behind him or a halo above his head, but he is not sure Edward would be so amused by it.
Hours later, Carlisle finally sets down the brush. “Come look.”
Edward looks over the painting for a while. It almost makes Carlisle nervous, wandering what Edward sees in it, wondering if perhaps he tried too hard or too little.
Finally, Edward speaks. “You made me look too angelic.”
And Carlisle laughs again. “I simply drew you how I see you.”
When Carlisle learns of Edward’s gift, he almost feels embarrassed. Knowing someone is reading your mind is a vulnerable thing, but knowing someone was reading your mind and you can barely recall all the things you thought is much worse.
Because Carlisle knows the type of thoughts he has had around Edward. Thoughts of his beauty, his wit and intellect, how thankful Carlisle is for his decision to turn him and take him in. How he often regrets turning such a flawless thing into something damned like him. How he wonders if Edward ever resents him.
Knowing Edward was privy to such thoughts embarrasses him. And yet knowing Edward can hear all he thinks if Carlisle does not purposefully shield them, it makes it even harder to not think such things. Forbidden fruit, almost, to let Edward’s ego balloon with every thought that passes through Carlisle’s head about him.
Because he so rarely — never — thinks anything negative of the boy.
The bond between a vampire and its newborn vampire can be a strong thing. Though it has been a few years, Carlisle still feels a hollow sting of pain when he feels Edward get hurt one night while they are out hunting.
A buck had hit him with his antlers when Edward was distracted, still not entirely used to his heightened senses. It did little damage to him as so few things can truly harm them. But it still hurts, and Carlisle rushes to his side, pulling up his shirt just in case. There is no sign of blood or broken skin, as would be almost impossible for a simple creature to hurt them, but still relief floors through Carlisle at the sight.
Edward himself seems almost amused by his show of worry, smiling cruelly up at him. “You’re too used to playing doctor,” he jokes.
Carlisle pulls his shirt down. He hates the rush of vulnerability he felt when he thought — even for a second — Edward could be harmed. The idea of going back to being alone. How lonesome and melancholy that life was. His hand drifts towards Edward’s hair, the way he had smoothed it when he was dying in a hospital years ago. The images of Edward on that cot flash through his mind, and Carlisle thinks Edward himself almost flinches at the memories. Before he can hurt him further, he shields his thoughts.
“I saw you almost die once before, and I promised to not lose you again.”
But loneliness catches up to the both of them soon enough even with each other’s presence. It begins with the way Edward is glued to his side for months, hardly ever letting Carlisle have a moment alone except for his days at work. Anyone would pick up the small hints Edward drops at any given moment. Anyone but Carlisle, who wants desperately to not understand the things Edward is implying and asking for.
And, as the impatient boy he is, Edward is the one who eventually shoves Carlisle against a wall and kisses him. It’s a harsh kiss, one that shows a lack of experience in the boy. Sometimes Carlisle forgets just how young he was when he was turned. Moments like these do not help to assuage that burning guilt in his stomach.
When he pushes Edward away, Edward only stares at him. His face is unreadable. Carlisle has to focus on shielding his thoughts away. How unfair it is, for Edward to so easily hide his emotions. “Edward, you are like a son to me.”
“No, I am not.”
Carlisle sighs. Sometimes talking to the boy truly is like dealing with the occasional toddler he sees at the hospital. “You are. ”
“A father would not think the things you have thought about me.”
Beauty is what drew him into Edward. What transfixed him. It is what brought the two of them together. If Carlisle is unable to get a handle on his insatiable lust, he worries the boy’s beauty is what will drive them apart too. He knows anyone can look at Edward and see beauty. He also knows not everyone would focus on it so deeply either. Before Carlisle can reply, Edward continues. “And no child would have such lustful thoughts for their father either.”
Carlisle closes his eyes, taking in the information. A part of him has known for a while but refused to acknowledge it. A smaller part of him wants to beg Edward to tell him what lustful thoughts he has. He refuses to acknowledge that part of him either.
Carlisle presses a chaste kiss to his lips once more. Whether as a condolence gift to the boy or to stamp down his own desire to do more, he is not sure. Edward’s eyebrows are furrowed when Carlisle pulls away. Confused. Carlisle cannot blame him. “I am sorry, Edward. I can’t.”
A few months later, he finds Esme. It is entirely a coincidence, yet it feels like fate. A woman he had been attracted to decades prior now ready for a better life. She does not even resent him when she realizes the creature he has turned her into. She takes to Edward well, desperate for the child she lost. She falls quickly into Carlisle’s arms, affection, and bed. It’s almost perfect, the way they are able to pretend to be a normal and happy family: father, mother, child. It would be perfect if not for the way Esme’s adoration does not change the way Edward looks at him. If not for the way it does not change how, sometimes, Carlisle looks back at him with that same repressed desire.
Years later, Edward leaves. He claims it is because he is sick of their animal diet, sick of the hunting and the blood, sick of it all. He never once mentions any other reason, but Carlisle has a hard time believing he is also not sick of pretending to be what they’re not. He has seen the envy look in his eyes when he and Esme were affectionate. Carlisle wants to resent him for the stubborn act of defiance and rebellion, but he cannot. He thinks if he were in Edward’s position, he would do the same thing.
And even if they have gone on to about a decade's time since Edward’s turning, Carlisle feels so empty without him around. They had developed a bond that rivals the closeness of many other creators and their newborns. Father and child, almost lovers, best of friends, companions, mentor and student.
They were everything to each other. Perhaps it is for the best for Edward to leave. To explore the earth by himself, to become a real adult, to become independent. Perhaps find a lover in another man or woman.
The thought makes Carlisle almost nauseated. He does not want to think too hard about why.
Eventually Edward comes home. His eyes are the same red as they were when he was a newborn. He sees a frown form on the boy’s lips at the thoughts, and Carlisle almost has forgotten what it was like to have someone else hear his thoughts.
He laughs and brings Edward in for a hug. The boy is stiff for a moment before he melts into it, letting his arms wrap around him. He smells like cigarettes and whiskey. His suit is wrinkled. Carlisle thinks, Where have you been, my silly child?
Edward huffs next to his neck, amused. “I’m not a child.”
“I know,” Carlisle says, and then thinks, I have missed you.
“Me too,” Edward whispers back, all amusement drained from his voice. “I’m sorry for leaving.”
And Carlisle doesn’t say it, not when he hears Esme bound into the room, giggling about the prodigal son returning, but he does think it: I would forgive you of everything.
Looking into the bright-red hue of his eyes, and knowing he would take him in again even if Edward refused to conform to their diet, he knows the words are true.
Carlisle imagines in a different life, he would have been a good man. Before he was attacked and turned, he was planning to live a religious life, to follow in his father’s footsteps. Even to this day, he has most of the Bible memorized by heart. He thinks he could have excelled at such a lifestyle if only given the chance.
But that is not his life now. Now he is doomed to an eternity of feeding on blood. He does what he must to lessen the death he puts out into the world, feeding only when necessary, helping his patients, trying to be a man worthy of redemption.
Still, he falls into temptation easily. He thought years apart from Edward would be enough to lessen their bond, but when he returns, the time apart just drives them closer. They are inseparable. Someone would be blind to not notice. Where Carlisle goes, Edward follows. And he does not even try to shake the boy off of him. It’s too enticing to have him around, to know he is safe after years of worrying over him. To watch his eyes turn from that bloodred back to its natural gold. To listen to his sly jokes, his piano, to have him exactly where he is meant to be.
And he would be lying if he said he didn’t know they’d end up exactly like this again: Carlisle backed up against a wall, smothered by Edward’s biting kisses. He moves with more ease now, clear he has received some form of experience in their time away from each other. Knowing that makes Carlisle push Edward away but only far enough to turn them around, to push him against the wall, taking control of their movements. It’s easy to drown in Edward, into his soft lips, the breathy sounds he makes, and Carlisle makes no effort to shield his thoughts.
See how much I want you, if that’s what you want to know, he thinks. I’m tired of hiding.
Edward looks beautiful beneath him, hair messy against the pillows. As beautiful as always and yet even more so, somehow. If they were still human, he could imagine how flush and red Edward’s pale skin would be. How nice it would be to be able to leave marks down him.
He loves Esme. He knows he will have to tell her of this whole ordeal. But he has never felt this way for her, no matter how hard he tries.
“Some day,” Carlisle says, “I want to paint you like this. In this position.”
Neither say it, but the meaning is clear enough. This is not a one-time thing.
It is Esme who comes to him first. She is so wise, sometimes rivalling even Edward himself. She tells him she knows of what the two of them had done. How obvious it has been for years the way Edward pines and lusts after him.
“I’m not angry,” she reassures him, that sweet smile on her lips. “I promise. I want you to be happy. You two deserve to be happy.” Carlisle thinks that, if they could, she would have tears in her eyes as she says it.
“Don’t let him leave again. Stop tormenting yourself and him, and just be with him.”
Carlisle kisses her cheek, thanks her. He knows he will always love Esme. In another life, they would be soulmates. A true pair of father and mother, nurturing a dozen children of their own. But that is not the life he has now.
In this life, he has been doomed to be damned. And he has damned two beautiful beings alongside him. He thinks, in the future, he may damn others too if he needs to. But later that night, with Edward beneath him again, he has a hard time feeling like he is damned.