It had all happened so fast for the girl who not only seemed to lack a basic sense of self preservation but was also so clumsy that it was a wonder she hadn't died already. The evidence of her many accidents littered her body in the form of either scars, scabs, or bruises all of which seemed to be a permanent part of her. She always found herself cursing her inability to tan because if she could then maybe the evidence of her inability to function as a normal human wouldn't be so evident. Instead, everything showed loud and clear against the skin that was impossibly pale for someone who had spent a good chunk of their life in sunny Phoenix, Arizona.
It was this skin tone that made the blood even more evident against her finger, caused by a paper cut of all things, when she was trying to open her joint gift from the Cullens. The next moment was in slow motion as she watched Jasper lose the small amount of control he had, preparing to jump on her before draining her dry. Edward was in front of her in a flash, pushing her back with more force than necessary which caused her to crash through a glass side table before landing on the floor like a rag doll. She didn't even notice Jasper being dragged screaming from the house, too distracted by all the glass that was currently embedded in her arm too deep to be healed with a simple bandage.
Carlisle was in front of her next, ordering everyone else who was currently inside to go and help control Jasper and not to come back until he gave the okay. After the doctor knew they all were gone he gently picked the human girl up and carried her to his study. He'd taken to keeping medical equipment there once Edward had gotten close to the girl and he was glad he did, his precautions having paid off more than this one time. Once inside, he set her on his desk and made sure she was steady before fetching his bag so he could get to work. The wounds in her arm were deep and bleeding steadily but that's not what bothered him, human blood having stopped being a temptation many years ago. No, he was more concerned about her pain and mental state at the moment.
Bella huffed out a laugh that sounded more self deprecating than humorous. "This is what I get for thinking I could have a party without hurting myself."
Carlisle stilled from his work of clearing the glass from her wounds to look into her eyes, his expression serious. "Jasper just hasn't been away from human blood as long as the rest of us. His self control still isn't the best," A kind smile appeared on his face then as he locked eyes with her. "None of that is your fault, though. Remember that."
The room went silent once more as he resumed picking the glass out of her arm. He felt the hand that had been hovering near his own arm grasp his shirt as she hissed in slight pain. He found himself giving her arm light touches of comfort in return, rationalizing it by saying that the coolness of his skin would have the same healing affect of ice. The part of him that he knew to be his conscience called him out on his bullshit, saying he knew damn well he was doing this because the girl had lit up something inside him that he hadn't felt since he was human. He'd kept his distance as much as possible without looking rude, respecting the love his adopted son and progeny obviously felt for her. He kept that distance so he didn't do something stupid.
"How do you do it?" asked Bella, her voice hesitant as she avoided eye contact with him while still maintaining the light grip she had on his shirt.
"Years and years of practice." replied Carlisle with a small sigh as he thought back on all he had to go through to get to where he was. It had been a long and arduous road, the tough choices he'd had to make. Most of all he thought about the mistakes he'd made along the way. He also thought about making another mistake now but refused to hurt his family like that. They deserved better.
"And the worst part is that you didn't even need to be changed. You changed Edward, Esme, Rosalie, and Emmett because they were on the cusp of death. You, though, you...you were attacked because of the sins of your father." said Bella, her eyes watering just the slightest bit and not from the stitches. "That had to have been so hard."
"Like everything else in life I just had to decide what to do with what I was given." said Carlisle with a touch of sadness in his eyes. He'd spent much of his early years mourning the loss of his human life, the loss of his soul since he'd become the thing of nightmares. It was only later that he would take up his faith again. Those first years, though, were spent feeling like God had forsaken him while the devil was trying to draw him in with open arms.
"Did you ever think of...just doing it the easy way?" asked Bella with hesitant curiosity. Her hand, which had previously been gripping his sleeve, had now travelled down to his side where it rested in a relaxed manner. Carlisle relished the contact, the feel of her body heat seeping through his shirt and warming his cold skin like a tiny sun. Still, his focus drifted off at her change of topic, his hands stilling so he wouldn't do any damage as his eyes drifted to another time in his head.
He'd been a newborn still, hiding out deep in a forest as he denied himself the blood he desperately craved. The thirst set his throat on fire but he carried on, not willing to give in even as he could feel the blood he'd had as a human slowly leaving his system. It went on like that for months until bloodlust finally consumed him, his control not enough to stop him when a human came close enough for him to smell them. He was on them in an instant, draining them dry and doing it so ferociously that the man was hardly recognizable when Carlisle finally released him. While his need for blood had been sated his guilt consumed him as he looked down at the mass of flesh before him. It wasn't until he'd encountered an injured animal in the forest and tasted its blood that he learned that there was another way after all.
"No, never." said Carlisle as he went back to stitching Bella's arm. It was the truth but it didn't mean that he hadn't stumbled along the way. "I knew what I wanted to be...I wanted to help people. It brings me happiness even if I am damned regardless." The last sentence was accompanied with a small huff that had more bitterness in it than he had intended. While he had discovered his faith again during his over 300 years on this Earth, that he once more believed in a God, it didn't mean that he believed that he himself was capable of the salvation the bible talked about. It certainly didn't help that his was coveting the girl his son appeared to be in love with, the feelings being returned from her. His predicament wasn't helped when she then fixed him with a look filled with fire and determination, something he had never seen on the normally passive girls face.
"Damned? You mean like...like hell?" asked Bella as if what he had just said was the most absurd thing in the world. While the fire in her eyes remained, the rest of her face softened as she looked over his face. Her hand was now firmly gripping his side as if she could keep him in place if she just tried hard enough. "Carlisle... Carlisle, you couldn't be damned. You couldn't...it's impossible." Her voice was soft at the end as she finally looked away, unable to hold the gaze any longer.
"Thank you, Bella. You've always been very, well, gracious about us," said Carlisle as he set about finishing her stitches, using his work as an excuse to avoid her gaze. "By all other accounts, though, we are damned. But I hope, maybe foolishly, I'll get some measure of credit for trying." He smiled but it wasn't sincere, the expression not quite reaching his eyes which he knew were tinged with sadness.
"Do they all think like this?" asked Bell, her brows furrowed.
"Edward doesn't believe there is an afterlife for our kind. He believes this is our afterlife, that our next junction is limited immortality. We've lost our souls."
"So that's it? That's why he won't change me?"
"Imagine the situation in reverse," said Carlisle, looking down at Bella solemnly as he gently took her chin in his hand for a short moment before letting it go. "If you believed as Edward does could you take away his soul?"
The question hung in the air as Carlisle burned all the bloody bandages he'd used to treat her. The question hung heavy in the air between them as Carlisle left the study to clean the mess in the living room so that when Jasper got back he would not longer be tempted. He took longer with it than he had to as he went over the interaction he had just had with the human girl, remembering the way her warm skin felt against him, how her voice soothed him like aloe, and, most of all, the conviction she'd spoken with to tell him he could never be damned.