Even before Bella, it had been a long time since they had done this. With all of his brothers and sisters, to say nothing of his own penchant for solitude, it’s a rare day that Edward finds himself hunting with Carlisle alone.

Carlisle’s hunt is careful, practiced, surgical. He tracks and stalks his prey with military precision, taking a scent and extrapolating distance, time, angle. It’s the hunt of a man obsessed with science, and even more so, obsessed with returning quickly, remaining as human as he can.

And even after almost ninety years, Edward still marvels.

His father’s thoughts are a wordless contentment, like the way that housecats often begin purring just because their caretaker is near. But Edward is not Carlisle’s caretaker; it is quite the other way around. It should be he who is content to be with Carlisle, he thinks, but there’s a tiny part of him that is only half paying attention to this hunt and to their time together. Carlisle hasn’t missed this, and Edward hears the word Distracted in his thoughts.

“I’m sorry,” he says as they run. Though Edward is the fastest of all of them, Carlisle is not slower by much, and as they race through the foothills, they match each other stride for stride. There was a recent snowfall, and they move so fast they leave the shimmering white almost untouched as they go.

“It just…it feels strange now,” Edward says a mile later.

The statement is met by puzzlement.

“Was it like this for you? When you went from being alone to having Esme and me?”

The noise that comes out is more of a bark than a laugh. You’re missing them.

Edward pulls up short, spraying snow into the air. It lands in his hair, and he can see himself in Carlisle’s mind, with patches of white among locks of reddish brown. Carlisle stops too, more slowly, and at once begins brushing the snow off of Edward’s head.

“We’ve only been gone one night,” he hears himself say as he ducks out from under Carlisle’s hand, and it’s the same petulant voice his daughter has. The one that dares him to insist that something is bothering her that she’d rather not admit.

Well at least now he knows where that came from.

Carlisle laughs again, but this time its an easy laughter. “Yes,” Carlisle answers aloud after a long moment. “It was like this.”

And he floods Edward with his memories—the utter contentment of sitting in the living room as Edward played the piano, the waves of romantic love he felt toward Esme, his sadness and shame the day that the California Perfume Company woman made a surprise visit and proved too tempting for Esme to resist. The gut-twisting despair when Edward stormed out of their house in Vermont…

“That’s enough,” Edward says, but the despair is replaced at once with a different pain: the relief that Carlisle felt the day he returned, a joy so deep and complete it borders on agony.

My life wasn’t mine anymore, comes the thought. My heart hasn’t been mine ever since.

Edward cocks his head.

“That’s an interesting way to put it.”

“Yes.” The laughter again. “It’s the only way to put it. What is it that little plaque says? That they sell in the gift shops? ‘To have a child is to forever have your heart go walking around outside your body?'”

“That’s completely hokey.”

“Yes.” Carlisle grins. “Unfortunately, it also happens to be true.”

They are wearing snow gear, which hampers their movement ever so slightly, but is necessary during these winter months, when the Olympic range is at its most beautiful and climbers, with their backpacks and crampons and ice picks, are strangely plentiful. If they run into humans, they need to look the part. So when Carlisle’s hand finds Edward’s shoulder, it feels strangely muffled through all the layers of fabric.

“It’s strange to be depended on,” he mutters.

This time, Carlisle doesn’t laugh. Instead, he nods slowly and knowingly.

It is. But then he smiles.

“It’s also wonderful.”

And there’s another flood of memories and emotions—the two of them, running through the woods of Wisconsin, chasing elk and deer and all manner of other fauna: joy and carefreeness. The first time Edward hugged Carlisle voluntarily: surprise, warmth, love. These old memories are intertwined with newer ones, snaking their way into Edward’s head. Edward, holding out his daughter to Carlisle: deep, unalloyed pleasure. Edward throwing Renesmee into the air, her body twisting and turning as she shrieks and giggles while falling back down: pride.

I still can’t believe I get to share fatherhood with you.

The hand on the shoulder changes position, reaching around him and pulling him close. Edward and Carlisle have always been the same height, proportioned the same, more easily passing for brothers than father and son. Their embraces have always been comfortable, easy. A warmth floods him that seems to fill his entire body. Even a few months ago he wouldn’t have recognized it as easily, but now it only takes him seconds to recognize the desperate, unrelenting love of a father. They simply stand there, together, as the wind howls past them on the mountain, swirling snow into the air.

They smell alike, which is something Edward finds both annoying and comforting. Carlisle’s scent is earth, spice. His is sweeter—Esme describes it as smoked cinnamon—and Edward’s is darker. Carlisle says Edward smells like nutmeg. Edward finds this mortifying.

He didn’t get to choose this life, the way his wife did. And he’s screamed at Carlisle so many times over the years; calling him selfish, and horrible, and all manner of terrible things Edward can never take back. But Carlisle barely flinches; he sees himself so clearly, and Edward knows he is lucky to have accidentally entered this world the way that he did. He would like to think that on his best days, he has Carlisle’s best qualities. He knows that on his worst days, he falls far, far short.

The air does smell of nutmeg, and it takes Edward a moment to realize he’s back in Carlisle’s head, whose nose is buried in Edward’s hair. He pulls back, laughing.

“I was thinking about how I smell like you, too,” he says.

Carlisle grins. You are all the best parts of me, son.

“But much less patient.”

Another barked laugh. “And some of the worst parts of me, too. I love them both.” He cocks his head in the direction of the foot of the mountain. “We don’t have to finish the hunt.” Edward puts his hands in front of him, protesting physically, but Carlisle shakes his head.

“There are other hunts, and other times,” he says. “We’ve already fed once.” When Edward begins to speak, Carlisle cuts him off.

“Edward Cullen, whenever I find myself missing you, I turn around, and I go home.”

He leans in, and before Edward can protest, Carlisle’s lips brush his forehead, and then he takes off at full speed down the mountain, sunlight glinting off his hair and reflecting in the snow.

Edward stands stunned, for just a moment. He barely resists wiping his forehead with the back of his hand, but thinks better of it, and then, as he has so many times before, he breaks into a sprint to catch his father.

Return to Beginning

§ 4 Responses to XIII."

  • Sandi says:

    Oh, my.
    You will always be THE authority on Carlisle Cullen. This is a lovely, heartwarming collection of viewpoints. XI brought me to tears, for real, and XIII would be, I knew, a most intimate sort of connection that you have crafted so beautifully.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    • giselle says:

      What can I say. It’s been 10 years, and I am still utterly in love with him. 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed the read.

  • fuzzyltlwingedthing says:

    I’m so glad I got the surprise emails in my inbox. Thank you!

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