We write the year 1911. Chicago is hit by an unexpected heat wave and Dr. Carlisle Cullen meets Edward Masen for the first time. Unfortunately, this does not happen under the best of circumstances.
1. Guardian Angel
Rating 5/5 Word Count 2160 Review this Chapter
~*~ Guardian Angel ~*~
"Personally, I don't see what the fuss is all about, Dr. Cullen. What's so special about that woman, anyway?" The merchant shrugged and wiped his oily hands on his apron before plunging them back into the bucket, producing another fish. He flung it on the counter with a flourish, making Carlisle wince at the smell.
"The Mona Lisa is not a woman, Mr. Nancy," Carlisle clarified. "It's a marvelous painting, and its loss is a great blow to the Louvre."
Nancy shrugged. "So you're telling me all this hustle and bustle is about a picture the French lost? They've got dozens more!" He snorted, obviously incapable of seeing the point.
"But the Mona Lisa is one of a kind. It's a -," Carlisle explained patiently, then – upon seeing the blank look on Nancy's face - reconsidered. "Never mind. How is your back? Is it still hurting you?"
Nancy's face broke into a mournful expression. "Ah, it's killing me, good sir, and now not even my wife – God bless her soul! – is here to help me. My no-good delinquent son isn't much use, either."
Carlisle nodded in understanding. It had been almost twohundred years ago since the vampire had left Europe in hopes of finding others of his kind on the shores of the New World, and it had been almost a year since his travels had brought him here to the city of Chicago, where he'd started working his hospital shifts.
It was now August 1911. Recently, Great Britain had jubilantly celebrated the crowning of King George V with festivities that lasted a whole week, Mr. A.F. Wilding and Miss M. Lambert Chambers had won the great Wimbledon tennis competition, the Mona Lisa had been stolen from the Louvre. Just a few short days before, the gentlemen of Chicago had been feverishly discussing the news that France and Germany had declared war on one another. They had later learned learnt that it had been all a rumor, but tensions still ran high.
The summer of 1911 was sweltering, despite the sun being hidden under a constant layer of clouds, that fact had done nothing against the heat. With the high temperatures came the odor, making people even more testier than usual, and Carlisle found himself wishing more often than not for a thorough bout of rain to wash away the dirt and the temper that was bubbling beneath the surface.
Mr. Nancy sighed and wiped his sweaty brow with a dirty hand. "Looks like it's going to rain, doesn't it, Dr. Cullen?"
Carlisle nodded and smiled as he'd done the past weeks. "We'll see, Mr. Nancy," he'd always said, before continuing on his way across the great market until he came to the quiet little street where he resided.
Today, however, Carlisle's usual reply was interrupted when something small and fast crashed right into him.
"Ow!" a young voice yelped. Carlisle suspected from his tone it had been more out of surprise than actual pain, and he bent down to examine his 'attacker'. Mr. Nancy leaned over the counter, brandishing a fish as if holding a medieval broadsword.
"You, boy!" the merchant bellowed. "Watch where you're going!"
The boy's head whipped around, and with remarkable speed for his size, that little wisp of a child scrambled back onto his feet, looking like he was about shoot a snappy retort at Nancy, but instead, he suddenly froze.
"'Ey! Masen!" a loud voice suddenly called, and the boy's bronze-haired head turned towards the direction to the shout. "We'll get you this time, you brat!"
Sticking out his bottom lip in a curious mixture between a pout and an expression of supreme defiance, the boy, Masen, ducked out under Nancy's arms. His dazzling green eyes darted in every direction, taking in and discarding all possible means of escape within moments as his pursuers approached.
Carlisle's protective instincts flared with unexpected intensity. Three against one, that was more than unfair, especially considering the boy's size and scrawny build. He could clearly see this was no match – and indeed, the child backed away with wide, fearful eyes until his hand came to rest next to a board holding up the fragile construction of the adjourning stand.
"Nowhere to run now, Edward," one of the pursuers drawled, his eyes glinting dangerously. He was a burly boy wearing a fashionable, expensive-looking sailor's suit. Carlisle lowered his eyes for a moment, sad to see that things really didn't change after all. As it had been from the beginning of time, the stronger preyed on the weaker. 'At least,' Carlisle thought with grim determination as he moved in front of Edward, 'at least they did while the weaker one was unprotected.'
"Now listen, you boys-" He started to say, but found himself being interrupted by the very boy he was trying to protect.
"Hey Billy," Edward grinned, suddenly mischievous. "Too bad your father can't buy you any brains."
Billy's eyes widened in confusion, but before any of them could react, Edward gave the board a hearty tug, sending the stand, and all the heads of lettuce piled up neatly on it toppling down and nearly burying Billy and his friends. Mr. Nancy barely managed to dive behind his own stand and to avoid being swept away on a tidal wave of lettuce.
Grinning, Edward dashed away as old and toothless Mrs. Penbrickle – the infuriated owner of the lettuce stand – shot out from behind the counter. Unable to catch a hold of Edward, who was too quick to be caught, she descended upon the unhappy Billy instead.
Carlisle grinned, amused despite himself.
'Looks like he wasn't too much of a victim after all,' he thought as he watched the boy's quickly retreating figure zigzagging across the market before finally vanishing into a dark alley. Then Carlisle's insides turned to ice. He knew what that particular alley was home to, and he knew for a fact that the inhabitants of that alley did not share his scruples about their diet.
Turning even paler than usual, Carlisle dropped the board he'd been holding, turned wordlessly and ran, a cold feeling of anxiety making him shiver. Out of all the places the kid could have run to – why did it have to be this one? He had, of course, heard of people who were regular trouble magnets, but this Edward Masen seemed to possess the rather unique talent of finding trouble rather than attracting it.
Swearing under his breath, Carlisle picked up his pace. He was careful not to blow his cover, but he couldn't keep within the limits of his usual polite and careful behavior as he pushed and shoved his way through the market until he, too, reached the entrance of the alley.
If he had had a still-functioning heart, Carlisle thought with a grimace, it would be beating very very fast now. Even though his heart hadn't beat in centuries, Carlisle found himself shivering and trembling as he stepped into the shadows that seemed to separate this dark world from the lively market place. Unconsciously, Carlisle fell back into his hunting habits, moving carefully without making the slightest sound. The scent of fear was heavy in the air, and a muffled gasp of pain told Carlisle that Edward must have run into the very people the vampire had dreaded meeting. Carlisle stifled a growl, picking up his pace. If he remembered correctly, the vampires living here were still in a weakened state a fight had left them in before they arrived in Chicago. There were hardly a match for Carlisle, but a human boy like Edward – that was another matter. For them, Edward running right into their arms would be a heaven-sent gift.
Pressing his lips together into a thin line of determination, Carlisle pushed forward and then – quite abruptly – came to a halt. He hid behind a lump of indiscernible things that might have once belonged to a cupboard. His eyes widened in terror. At the dead end of the alley stood Edward Masen, trembling so hard that Carlisle wondered how the child managed to stay on his feet at all. He faced three full-grown vampires while armed with nothing but a wooden stick the child must have picked up somewhere in the alley.
"S-stay away! I'm armed!" Edward yelled in a shaky voice. "And I'm not afraid to use this!" he brandished the stick threateningly. His trembling voice, however, belied his words and Carlisle's heart ached at how weak his voice sounded. He crept closer, desperately trying to think of a way to get the child into safety without betraying his identity.
"Oooh," a cold voice cackled, obviously amused. "You hear that, Al? He's threatening us with his little toy sword."
"I won't hurt you if…if…" Edward's voice trailed off, and he looked at them as if something had suddenly occurred to him. His emerald eyes widened in a mixture of fear and curiosity. "Did the…did the devil send you?" he asked in a small voice his back pressed up against the wall. "Are you here to take my soul?"
Cold laughter answered the terrified boy. "Keep your soul, brat, we want your blood." The vampire closest to Edward tensed his muscles and lunged before the boy had a chance to utter the slightest sound.
It was that moment that Carlisle decided that he didn't care about revealing his identity anymore. He would not see this child harmed in any way whatsoever, consequences be damned.
With a mighty leap, Carlisle hurled his body forward and met the vampire in mid-air, knocking the air out of his opponent before landing protectively in front of Edward.
"Leave," Carlisle said in a low, dangerous voice.
"What if we don't?" one of the vampires challenged him, making Carlisle growl.
"Do you really want to make me angry?" he snarled. Something in his expression must have gotten the message across as the other vampires, growling and snapping their teeth in frustration, retreated into the darkness, leaving Carlisle alone with Edward, who still clung to his "weapon" with an iron grip.
Releasing a breath he hadn't realized he'd held in, Carlisle turned around with deliberate slowness to face the boy. "I believe you're called Edward," he said kindly, and the boy nodded, his expressive green eyes locking with Carlisle's black ones.
"They had red eyes," Edward whispered, utterly terrified. "Were they…demons?"
"No," Carlisle shook his head, going through a variety of arguments in his mind in the hopes of finding one to persuade the boy that nothing he had seen this day was in any way unnatural.
"They wanted my blood," Edward insisted stubbornly. "They spoke about biting me."
"Rabies, boy," Carlisle said, praying Edward would believe him. "They are sick. Being ill has driven them insane."
Edward seemed unconvinced. "But their eyes –"
"Little blood vessels burst in their eyes. Because of the sickness," Carlisle lied with frightening ease, watching Edward's reaction closely. The boy seemed slightly mollified by the explanation and relaxed his grip on his weapon, approaching Carlisle very carefully.
"Let's get you home, shall we?" Carlisle suggested, holding out his hand. Edward nodded, taking it without hesitation. When the adrenaline that had held up his small body suddenly left and he was swaying on his feet in exhaustion, Carlisle caught him and within a moment swept him up in his arms, holding Edward in a safe, albeit cold, grip.
After a few moments, Edward's head drooped and the boy leaned his forehead against Carlisle's chest, almost drifting off to sleep. Carlisle wondered once again if this was what it felt like to have a son. To protect a child that trusted him so completely. And that made him wonder – why did that boy trust him so implicitly? Surely he must have looked frightening intimidating the other vampire, but the child seemed unfazed.
"Edward?" he asked quietly. "Are you asleep?"
The boy shook his small bronze-haired head against Carlisle's chest. "No."
"Aren't you afraid of me?" Carlisle pressed on and Edward raised his head to face his rescuer.
"But…why not? Didn't you see what I did?"
Edward returned his look evenly. "Yes, I did."
"And doesn't that make you wonder what I am?" Carlisle inquired.
"I know what you are."
The vampire felt his knees go weak. That couldn't be. It just couldn't. "And what am I?" he whispered anxiously, confused by Edward's trusting smile.
"You're my guardian angel," the boy answered simply before nestling back into Carlisle's arms and falling asleep almost immediately.