Even mauled, he’s beautiful in a strange, boyish way. His curls remind her of Vera’s baby, but he is strong in a way she can’t imagine that baby ever growing up to be. The bear was already on the defensive by the time she made it onto the scene, and she’s almost sorry she killed it—she wasn’t hungry and the family makes it a point to kill only what they need.

The family.

The other three are a family at any rate. Mother, father, son. They pretend with so much effort at times it threatens to break them all. It’s a game she has refused to play. And so Edward hates her for being selfish, and Esme is sad for her, and Carlisle…

Well, Carlisle just makes her angry.

She has screamed at him so many times. Slammed so many doors in his face that Esme eventually took them all off their hinges—with their hearing, it’s not as though any of them have any privacy anyway. And he takes this so placidly. If she screams at him that he is a narcissistic bastard with history’s biggest god complex, he cocks his head to one side and asks if she really thinks that, or is she merely angry? And if she does really think that, does she want to talk about what parts of his behavior make her think this way?

So she slams the doors instead.

It was twelve hours ago in the late afternoon that she came racing through the cellar door, one of the only ones left in the house. Her blouse was soaked through, and her arms covered in the thick, tarry substance. The substance that is supposed to turn her into a demon. The substance that is supposed to make her less than, and more than, human.

She was too afraid to bite him, because she doesn’t really understand how it is done. And there is only one of them who knows that.

Rosalie hopes it will go down in history as the only time she asks Carlisle for help.

He appeared as soon as her lips formed his name, the look on his face equal measure surprise and awe. To his credit, he said nothing to her, murmuring only loud enough for the others to hear that they ought not come into the cellar for a good while. Carlisle doesn’t yell, and this has never been a comfort before today.

She waved her hands helplessly, and said only, “I found him this way. I want—”

But she couldn’t say what she wanted. The words felt like a betrayal.

And Carlisle only nodded. He straightened the broken limbs, mopped up the blood, took the pulse, as though they had been planning this for weeks.

It was only before he bent over the neck that he said anything at all. He paused, locking eyes with hers, gold on gold.

“Are you certain?”

She nodded.

She was surprised at his precision. Behaving as though this were any other surgery and he was using a scalpel instead of his own teeth. The way he was careful to rinse his mouth out after each bite. The little white handkerchief, which materialized from nowhere, which he used to wipe his lips.

And when he was done, the way he left her sitting there, holding the beautiful man’s hand, as though the man was any ordinary patient and she was any ordinary wife.

Twelve hours later, and the curly-haired man’s screams have dullened to low groans. She hasn’t heard footsteps overhead in hours and she suspects that the others have left her alone.

But then she does hear footfall, walking across the kitchen floor, and the door swings open to the cellar. Carlisle emerges, carrying a thick quilt that Esme bought at a county fair some years ago. Like before, he doesn’t say anything to Rose, and spreads the blanket over the man, his patient.

“It will drop below freezing tonight,” he offers. “And he will still feel the cold for a day or so yet.”

Of course he thought about a blanket. But this gesture, simple as it is, suddenly unleashes a flood of worry. Carlisle knows how long the beautiful man will feel the cold. Rosalie does not. She doesn’t know who he will be when he wakes. And what if he doesn’t wish to stay? What if he is angry about this being done to him?

What if he feels the way she does?

She admits she’s relieved when Carlisle crosses his legs and sits next to her. She doesn’t say what she is thinking, but he seems to understand anyway.

“This hasn’t become any less frightening than it was when I turned Edward,” he offers.

The thought strikes Rose as odd. Of the many things she thinks Carlisle is—good and bad, impulsive and peaceful, god-complex and all, she doesn’t imagine him being afraid of things. She turns her head so that she can stare at him, and he doesn’t meet her eyes, instead staring ahead at the curly-haired man, lost in thought.

“I was so worried that Edward would hate me for what I had done.” A tiny smile cracks across his lips. “He didn’t. At least…not right away. His forgiveness was more than I deserved. All of you are more than I deserve.”

With the blanket, Carlisle has brought down a small gas lantern, and the light flickers hauntingly across the planes of his face as Rosalie stares at him. For several more minutes, they sit there in the darkness, the earthy damp of the cellar swirling around them, the only sound the occasional grunt from the man.

“It’s selfish,” she says finally. It’s a charge she’s leveled at Carlisle at least weekly for the last two years.

To her surprise, he nods.

“It is,” he replies evenly. “The most selfish thing I’ve ever done. You’ve never been wrong about that, Rose.”

He gets to his feet, brushing dirt off his pants. Then he turns, and lays a hand on her shoulder.

“It’s also one of the few things about which I have absolutely no regrets.”

Rosalie regrets. She regrets the life she dreamed she’d live with Royce, of her babies, of growing old with her girlfriends. The hopes she’d had for her human self, and then that terrible night it had all come crashing down…

And Rosalie finally admits to herself that, god complex or no, Carlisle Cullen had nothing to do with that.

He stops as he reaches the stairs. “I pray that he brings you the peace you deserve,” he says quietly.

In the dark, the lamplight flickers and makes the man’s curls shine. He reminds her of Vera’s baby, and of the hopes she had before that awful night. She lets herself dream again of a future, of a husband, of contentment, of a family. And as she stares at the cellar door where Carlisle has disappeared, she lets a tiny, stubborn part of her feel forgiveness…

…at least, a little.


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