The Talk (One Shot)
In Breaking Dawn, Edward told Bella that he and Carlisle had had a talk about physical love. Given how gentlemanly both men are, I've often wondered what that conversation was like.
1. Chapter 1
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I heard them whispering as I entered the house, but I didn’t catch what they were saying. They were being very careful to be quiet, which seemed like a waste of time to me, since I could read their thoughts no matter how quietly they spoke.
…worried, Carlisle , though I am so happy…
Carlisle’s deep voice answered softly, and I pulled back my mental attention, trying to give them some privacy, trying to think of something else and wishing I had more control over this gift. I heard Esme giggle, which surprised me, since she wasn’t the giggling type, and Carlisle laughed softly in response. Because I was trying not to pay attention as I walked up the steps to my room, I only got impressions, but they were impressions of me, and of Bella, of Esme’s tenderness and deep happiness at my happiness.
Carlisle, too, was thinking of me, with a mixture of anxiety and love and pride. I tried to leave them alone, even with thoughts of me, but a moment later words started to break through, and I couldn’t turn my attention away.
It will be all right, Esme. He wouldn’t hurt her. He loves her so much.
That’s not what I’m talking about, and you know it. He knows the mechanics of it, Carlisle . He has almost as many medical degrees as you do. But the feelings are so new to him, they still confuse and overwhelm him, and he’s going to think himself crazy if you don’t help him.
He already thinks he’s crazy for even considering it.
Carlisle ! I mean, he’s going to think it to death until he drives himself crazy. He hasn’t had to deal with this kind of wanting, not in all this time.
You mean he hasn’t wanted sex before.
I was shocked to hear Carlisle speak so bluntly, but now it was impossible to give them privacy. They were talking about me and Bella and our…our love life! And I needed to know what they were thinking about it, because I certainly didn’t know what I myself was thinking. All I knew was that I wanted Bella, my Bella…her skin, her taste, her body, the way a man wants a woman. I thought about it all the time. I was chagrined to find that with Bella in my life, I was no different from any other 17-year-old boy.
Except that I was also terrified of killing her.
Well, no, he hasn’t. He did the same thing as a vampire that he did as a human…bury those feelings, suppress them first behind dreams of being a soldier, then behind his music and his studies. But he’s also never been in love before, and he’s never had this blood craving before. I don’t know why it all has to be centered in one person for him, but I’m sure she’s the only one he’ll ever want.
Esme knew me so well. I supposed that most mothers had an instinct for their children’s emotional states, but it was Esme’s gift, like mine was reading thoughts. I was overwhelmed, trying to both figure out my feelings and control them, when all I wanted was to give in to them. Only my love for Bella was stronger than my desire for her…all my desires for her. Esme understood all that about me.
What do you think I should do, then?
Talk to him, Carlisle . Let him ask his questions, give him the information he needs to sort out his feelings. Tell him how it can be between a husband and wife, how it should be.
I breathed a sigh of relief that they could probably hear two floors below, but I didn’t care. Esme knew what I needed before I did. I did have questions, and there were several things I was unsure about. A wave of love for her flooded me and I was glad that Jasper wasn’t home, or I’d have to explain all the extra filial affection that was rolling through the house.
Carlisle’s voice was suddenly an octave lower than it usually was, even in a whisper.
And how should it be between a husband and wife, my love?
Through Carlisle’s eyes, I saw Esme smile slowly, and I could hear her breath coming quicker.
Why don’t you show me?
Yes, it was definitely time to give them some privacy.
Carlisle’s actual physical voice, warm with satisfaction, broke through my playing, the only thing I could think of to do so that both kinds of my hearing were numbed. It was too hard, knowing that they were up there enjoying each others’ bodies, knowing that I wanted so badly to be with my Bella in the same way. So I played my piano loudly, pouring all my concentration on excruciatingly difficult passages by Rachmaninov, Bach, and some that I’d written myself.
I was embarrassed to look at Carlisle right now, which had never happened before. But I knew where my thoughts had been, even if Carlisle didn’t. I’d wanted to listen to Carlisle and Esme making love, wanted even to peek through each of their eyes. I was so aware of those feelings in myself these days, feelings I’d gone without for a hundred years. I couldn’t imagine turning them off now; it was like they added a new layer of color to everything.
And, embarrassing as it was to admit, it seemed to me that if I aspired to be like Carlisle in everything else, perhaps I should aspire to be like him in this, as well. After all, Esme seemed happy. At the moment, she seemed very happy, and I turned my head away slightly, as if I could block out those thoughts.
My own curiosity notwithstanding, it just seemed so wrong to intrude on them that way. Not that I didn’t do it accidentally often enough, but this would have been deliberate, and that was different. So, the piano it was.
I let the piece I was playing, Bella’s Lullaby, drift to a close, then carefully pulled the cover down over the keys.
“This may be our last chance for a good hunting trip before your wedding,” he said. He was still speaking out loud, something he seldom bothered to do when we were alone together. I assumed that Esme was listening, to make sure Carlisle kept his promise. As if Carlisle had ever broken a promise.
I nodded. “Shall we go then, Carlisle? Just the two of us?”
Yess! I heard Esme’s exultant hiss from upstairs. Go, Edward. You need this.
Carlisle flicked a wry glance at the ceiling, then returned his gaze to me. “Yes, just the two of us. It has been a long time since we’ve gone out together.”
And in a split second, he hurtled himself through the open glass doors, bounded across the yard, and disappeared into the trees. I gave a joyful yell and sprinted after him, across the yard in less than a second, following Carlisle’s scent, but still near enough to hear Esme roll her eyes and mutter, “Men!”
We ran for a few hundred miles, to the northeast as we usually did. Carlisle, like me, was partial to big cats, so we delved deeply into the Canadian wilderness looking for their hidden lairs. The Canadian Rockies were especially good for that, though we didn’t go too deeply into them this time. I didn’t want to be gone from Bella that long, and Carlisle and I both knew that Esme would be anxious until we returned.
The hunting was good, and the speed was just what I needed to channel some of this anxiety. For every shudder of fear in me, I answered back with a growl, a snarl, something that reminded me that I was strong enough to take control of this. Of course, I ignored the voice in my head that reminded me that I was demonstrating exactly why I would be bad for Bella. Well, not me so much, but this…letting the monster loose. Losing control.
I pounced on my prey, rolling down the mountainside as I quickly, easily, snapped her neck. My teeth found the driving pulse beneath the muscles, and I bit in, tearing as I drank. When I was done, sated with the blood of a beautiful innocent creature, I knelt back and looked at her.
I could imagine Bella looking like this, throat ripped out, drained of blood, all too easily.
Dammit. I sank back onto my heels and lowered my head as I listened to Carlisle approach from a few miles away. By the time he arrived, I had moved away from my prey and sat on the top of a cliff, dangling my legs over the side and looking out over a craggy valley.
Carlisle came and sat beside me. Like me, he ate neatly, and his expensive shirt was no worse for the wear. Do you want me just to start talking, or do you want to ask specific questions?
I had a million questions. I opened my mouth, intending to choose one, but instead blurted out, “I’m so scared, Carlisle.”
Carlisle waited patiently. I took a deep breath and tried to gather my thoughts and feelings together, something I’d never had this much trouble with before Bella. I could hardly remember having feelings before Bella.
Somehow, though, the thought of my Bella calmed me down. I could do this for her. I could do anything if it was for her. I started again. “She wants to be human for this, because she’s afraid of not having these feelings again after the change. She’s afraid she’ll be too thirsty and wild to want me for a few years.”
She’s not entirely wrong about that, if you remember.
“I know,” I said. “And to be honest, the thought of waiting another few years kills me, Carlisle. I want her more all the time. I think about being with her like that now the way I used to think about having her blood.”
But you would forego your own pleasure to keep her safe.
He wasn’t asking, he was just stating a fact.
“Obviously not,” I said, my voice filling with disgust, “since I am even considering trying this.”
Carlisle’s eyebrows rose. Trying?
“I told her…that we would try, but she knows how anxious I am.” I smiled. “No matter how I try, I can’t really hide anything from her.”
Now you know how it feels!
I laughed a little, then picked up a rock and threw it over the cliff. I heard the impact a few minutes later, miles away.
He waited wordlessly, his mind humming with affection and concern.
“Does anyone…” I swallowed and physically turned away from the image in my mind. I had to force myself to ask the question. “Does anyone survive this?”
You mean do humans ever survive making love with vampires?
Yes, they do, Edward. You know the stories of the incubus and succubus, of course, and those matings didn’t always end in death.
“Not always, but usually,” I said, shaking my head.
Yes, usually, Carlisle agreed. But closer at hand, our Denali cousins have been known to take up with human men, and they don’t kill them. He frowned. At least, not anymore.
“Not anymore?” I snapped. “So, they had a trial and error period, while they perfected their technique? I don’t get one of those, Carlisle!”
No, he agreed solemnly. You don’t.
One thing I deeply respected about Carlisle was that he was always honest. He wouldn’t downplay my fears or the dangerous facts of our reality. “It would help if I knew what to expect.”
Ah, Edward. Carlisle’s sigh was mental, but no less vivid for it. I hope I can explain it to you well enough to prepare you for what you’ll need to know.
“Please try,” I said, my voice catching on a note of desperation. I wished for the millionth time that I wasn’t the only one who had to verbalize things.
Carlisle was silent for a long time. Anyone hiking by would have thought he was a statue of a young god carved on this mountainside and dressed in clothes. I settled in and waited, allowing my thoughts to drift to Bella, thinking about being with her the way Carlisle had been with Esme this afternoon. I could still smell the sex on Carlisle’s skin, and I imaged being wrapped in that scent while I was wrapped in Bella’s lovely, warm body.
We are very much alike, you and I.
I snorted and shook my head to clear away the fantasy. Only in my highest aspirations, on my very best days, could I ever be considered remotely like Carlisle. And even then, only with Bella’s help.
It’s true. It’s especially true in this regard, you know. You’ve waited for over a hundred years to claim your mate physically. For me, it was closer to three hundred, but I waited as well. Perhaps you will understand what I mean when I say that it was no hardship to wait.
“Yes,” I nodded, knowing exactly what he meant. “Before Bella, I wasn’t exerting this monumental self-control; I just wasn’t interested in anyone else.”
Curious, but not really tempted, Carlisle agreed.
It was the same for me, thought Carlisle. Until Esme…
They sat silently, looking out across the mountains, remembering Esme, remembering how Carlisle had taken one look at her broken body in the hospital morgue and his heart had broken for her pain. They had taken her home and begun the transformation, and Carlisle had fretted and worried, all his medical knowledge taking second place to his fear that she would leave him, when he had only just found her.
Edward laughed. “And you still had to wait two years after that.”
Carlisle laughed, too. “Yes, and it wasn’t her best two years, what with the newborn thirst. But we spent that time talking and learning about each other, and by the time she was better controlled, we were ready to marry.”
“I remember,” I said, smiling at the memory of the dance that had gone on between my parents, how Esme was a picture of growing love and carnivorous appetite, and Carlisle had to be so patient while his impatience to be with her grew every day.
“Changing her changed me, Edward,” Carlisle said. “We’re so unchanging, our kind, that when changes do happen, they are irrevocable.”
“Yes, I think you’re right about that,” I said thoughtfully. I had heard Carlisle’s theory on this before, but now I tried to apply it specifically to Carlisle and Esme, to Bella and me.
The sun broke through the clouds, throwing rainbow reflections off our skin. Even that simplest of characteristics now reminded me of Bella, and the delight she took in seeing my skin sparkle in the sun.
Carlisle lapsed back into thought. She’s already changed you so much, Edward. She’s like the sun to you; you were beautiful before, but now you’re so much more your real self.
I looked away, embarrassed as I always was by my father’s undeserved praise.
Don’t be modest, Carlisle said, and it was a command. Look at yourself, Edward, really look. Remember how you were before…intelligent and strong and talented, but less than you are now. Or think about…here I felt his mind seem to expand as he latched on to the idea he was searching for…think about your music, and how it has changed since Bella came into your life.
I took a moment to ponder that. I had always been a gifted musician, could always hit the right notes. I had long fingers and a talent for matching melody and harmony, but my best pieces--with one exception, the piece I wrote for Esme--had all been written since I met Bella. Even the angst-filled minor-key compositions were some of the best I’d ever done, but the true masterpieces were the ones where I tried to express my joy and awe and sheer boundless love for Bella. The ones where I tried to tell her the things there were no words for.
Carlisle was right. That was what my whole life had been like…decent on the surface, but not much deeper. But not anymore. Now it was full of emotion, now things mattered, really mattered. Now I was more deeply happy, more deeply grateful, than I knew anyone could be. Now I laughed spontaneously and did silly things just to make Bella laugh. On the other side of the coin, of course, now the fear wracked me and the doubt haunted me more than I ever could have imagined.
Now, like with my music, there was another whole dimension to me that had been missing before.
“Hmmm…” I said inadequately, pushing out a breath. “Wow.”
“Ready for a second course?” Carlisle asked, springing to his feet quicker than the blink of an eye. “I think if we go lower there will be moose.”
I smiled, still a bit dazzled by his image of my life. “Right behind you.”
We both laughed and I followed my father as he jumped off the mountaintop.
Moose can certainly get upset, can’t they?
Carlisle’s mental laughter made me smile in response. It was true that an aggravated bull moose was a fairly dangerous animal, and the one Carlisle had cornered had been more adept than some at using those massive antlers. It was a pleasure for me to watch my father use his strength and cunning, to watch the civilization melt off him and see some of the animal reveal itself.
His patients would be shocked. Esme would be…aroused.
I grimaced, trying not to think of that, but of course now that the thought had entered into my mind, there was no displacing it. Was sex like that, like giving oneself over to the primal creature inside? Did the lowering of boundaries in one area result in their lowering everywhere else?
I tried to make the connection, but I was out of my depth. This was what I really needed to know, what it was like, what I would feel.
Carlisle lay back against the hillside, and this time there was in fact a smear of blood on his collar. Alice would be delighted; it would mean she would have to buy him a new shirt to replace it. We were both sated from a two course meal of bobcat and moose, and the physical satisfaction of stalking, fighting, and defeating our prey. We sprawled in a rather ungentlemanlike fashion, and I was reminded of Charlie sprawled in front of the television after one of Bella’s meals, top button of his trousers surreptitiously undone.
“Is it like…hunting?” I asked hesitantly. “I mean, the loss of control?”
Carlisle was silent for a long moment, and I could hear words coming together and falling apart in his head as he searched for the best, most precise, and most positive way to answer me.
Yes…he finally thought. In a way. Then he laughed. If you were giving as much pleasure to the moose as you were getting from it.
I frowned, not finding the comparison funny. My Bella was so backward in her thinking, that if I did kill her during lovemaking, she would only think of the pleasure, and forgive me for the pain. I groaned and clutched my hands in my hair. What was I going to do with her?
Of course, that was the question. What was I going to—what could I—do with her?
Carlisle saw that I was still serious and let his smile fade slowly, though a good bit of his amusement remained. I could see that it wasn’t at my expense, though, so I didn’t say anything.
There are many hungers, Edward, he said. Esme is hungry to care for her family, and I am hungry to make life better for others. Alice is hungry to leave every inch of her world more beautiful than she found it. Jasper is hungry to prove himself to be the man he wants to be.
He was more serious now, though the images of Rosalie and Emmett drifted through his mind, keeping his amusement alive a moment longer.
You have been hungry to earn my good opinion, to protect your family, to put music into the world, to know more, and to redeem yourself for those few years when you went your own way.
I looked away, knowing that I would blush like Bella if I were human. How could I not have known how deeply Carlisle saw into me?
And you have been hungry for love, Edward, he thought calmly. You have told yourself that the love of family was enough, but it’s not. There’s no shame in that, son. Your family and your mate are two different kinds of love. You needed both, but your mate wasn’t yet born, so you went hungry for a very long time.
“As you did,” I reminded him. “You didn’t even have a family.”
“True,” he said sitting up and stretching. “Let’s walk off some of this dinner before we look for dessert.”
He turned and walked up the hillside, slowly for him, but more quickly and smoothly than any human could have. The silence stretched out around us on every side; any creature with any survival instinct had long since fled our presence.
We walked companionably, listening to the sounds, smelling the scents of the forest. Birds overhead shrieked and flew off, leaving nests empty in their terror. The breeze blew softly through the leaves, and I enjoyed the sounds of a million individual leaves brushing against each other.
But with all those hungers, Carlisle continued, all those desires, all those needs, all the things that give our lives meaning and our character substance, what is the one hunger that overwhelms them all for our kind?
I hesitated, wondering if this was a trick question, but Carlisle’s thoughts were only of patient waiting. I gave him the obvious answer. “The hunger for blood.”
He nodded. Yes. No matter what else we do or want to do, at some point that hunger overrules everything, and it must be tended to. It is pressing, consuming, burning, violent in its demand to be assuaged. It will not be ignored, and none of the other elements in our life can receive any attention unless that need is met.
I nodded this time, waiting for him to go on.
And it gives us pleasure to meet that need. Not just to relieve the pain, but the pleasure of the hunt, the kill, the conquest. The satisfaction of the victory.
He thought of Emmett, daring giant grizzlies to come after him. I smiled; Emmett, indeed, was a man who found pleasure in the hunger.
Carlisle looked over at me and raised an eyebrow. I am guessing that you have discovered another hunger, son, one that burns more hotly than your thirst.
I closed my eyes briefly and thought of my Bella. “Yes.”
That was an understatement. I needed her, craved her, so much that the blood craving that had always dominated my life was more of an inconvenience, something that kept me away from her when all I wanted was to be with her.
When we find our mates, Edward, there are now two hungers that dominate our life. The hunger for blood that all of our kind experience, and the hunger for our mate herself. And the ecstasy of that mating…is more powerful, more consuming, more meaningful than the best, most perfect blood meal.
I grimaced uncertainly. “So, you’re saying that for me, having Bella’s body would be even better than having her blood.”
Carlisle smiled kindly. So it would seem.
I forced myself to think back to those moments in Phoenix, when Bella’s extraordinary blood flowed between my lips and down my throat. There were no superlatives to describe it…it was heavenly, blissful, miraculous…
“That’s a tall order,” I said shakily. “I’ve tasted her blood.”
“Yes, exactly!” Carlisle said, and he beamed at me as though I were his star pupil. “You’d never had a better experience, but you stopped yourself for her sake. Your hunger for her, for Bella herself, outweighed your thirst for her blood.”
“But, Carlisle!” I exploded. “It was so close! Why won’t anyone believe how very near I came to destroying her? And if it’s more intense than that, how will I ever control myself?”
“The same way you did before, Edward,” Carlisle said calmly. “Out of love for her.”
I growled in frustration, then turned and wrapped my arms around a birch tree growing in the hillside and ripped it out by the roots. I threw it violently down the hill, watching in grim satisfaction as it tore off other trees’ branches as it went. I stood, seething, watching it carve its destructive path down the hill, and I felt that I was the same way, carving a destructive path through the lives of those I loved wherever I went.
Feel better? Carlisle asked sardonically.
“Not really,” I said childishly. I crossed my arms in front of me and refused to look at him.
“That will do, Edward,” he said, and there was a sharpness to his voice that I seldom heard directed at me. “You are not a blight on the lives of all around you, and you have enough control not to hurt Bella.”
“How do you know?” I snarled. “How can I be sure?”
Carlisle smiled more gently. “Which question are you asking?”
“I don’t care,” I grumbled, stomping away from him up the hill.
“Edward,” he said, catching up to me immediately. “You do me a grave disservice by claiming that I would hold in high esteem a person such as the one you describe.”
I opened my mouth to object, but a wave of shame flooded me. How could I insult Carlisle, of all people?
“Further, you do your beloved a worse disservice.”
I stopped in my tracks, carving ruts into the forest floor. I looked at Carlisle, aghast at the thought of saying anything against my love.
She is pure and good, so there must be something pure and good in you that calls to her.
I nearly snorted, but changed it to a sigh at the last minute. I didn’t want to offend Carlisle again.
“She doesn’t see things clearly.”
This time Carlisle snorted. She thinks it’s you who doesn’t see clearly. I agree with Bella in this case.
“Of course you do.”
He put a hand on my shoulder. “You love her. You’ve touched her every day for two years and never hurt her. You’ve tasted her blood and turned away from it. You can do this. You can love her without hurting her.”
“I wish I had your confidence, Carlisle,” I said, shaking my head doubtfully.
“What choice do you have?” he answered simply.
I thought of my Bella, my love, and how she pressed herself against me every time we were together, how she seemed to get so much pleasure from running her hands over my cold skin. I thought of her flushed face, her hot kisses, her impatient sounds, her quickened breathing, and my breathing quickened, too. She not only loved me, she wanted me, as I wanted her.
Could I deny her that? Could I deny her any part of me that would make her happy, even if she asked for something against my better judgment?
That answer was easy, I thought as I jogged away from Carlisle toward the southwest. He stayed a few steps behind me and let me think. I had never been able to deny Bella anything, and I was sure I never would be able to. And I didn’t really want to deny either of us, anyway.
I thought of Bella’s blood again, and that moment of concentrated bliss.
“It’s that good?” I asked incredulously.
Carlisle chuckled behind me. Better. Thoughts of Esme’s secret smile danced through his mind, but he didn’t let his fantasies progress any further. There’s nothing else like it in the world. And...he laughed out loud...you get to do it repeatedly.
“And Carlisle…” I was embarrassed to ask this again, but I needed the reassurance. “You really think I can do it?”
Carlisle rolled his eyes mentally, but indulged my insecurity. Yes, I really think you can do it. I also think Bella will kill you if you don’t give it your best effort.
I thought of that, of the tigress temper in the kitten’s body, and smiled.
“Then I guess I’d better try,” I said, and despite all my misgivings, a wave of joy and hungry anticipation rolled through me. I shook my head to clear it of the images of Bella that I would pull out later, when I was alone.
Excellent. Now, what shall we have for dessert?