Disclaimer: As much as I would like to claim them, these wonderful characters remain the intellectual property of Stephenie Meyer. I'm just tickled that she allows us to play with them, and promise that they will not be broken, neglected, or left out in the rain. No vampires were harmed in the making of this fan fiction.
Warning: Story contains an instance of non-sexual corporal punishment, and may not be suitable for all readers. Reader discretion is advised.
AN: I have no idea how the site ended up eating my author's note, but let me try this again. Hi, all. I'm posting to let y'all know that I'm still alive. :-) Thank you all for your patience and support. I am doing very well and trying to get this train back on track. At least I've finally managed to quiet down that archangel. He should be bound and gagged for several months so I can focus back on our beloved boys. I'm so excited to be getting back to working with Carlisle and Jasper again. I've missed them and all of you more than you will ever know.
Now, this is story is the piece that I submitted to the Leukemia Society charity fund raiser. Special thanks to those who were able to throw a little support to the cause. It was really appreciated and I know will do some good. *hugs* Naturally, also huge thanks for supporting little old me.
I also need to send thanks to sisterglitch for offering me her wonderful beta skills so I could get this decently submitted.
Last, but not least, I have to give a shout out to my outstanding buddy, edwardian1901 whose "Esme the Artful Dodger" story you will see referenced towards the end of this bugger. I simply couldn't resist. ;-)
Again, thank you all for the warm wishes and prayer that have go so far to helping me get through this year. You guys are simply the best.
Edward laid on his bed with his hands behind his head, staring up at the white ceiling as the remnants of sunlight painted it with the ever-changing muted mauves, deep blues, and golden hues of twilight. He knew that Carlisle would be home from work within the hour. The thought brought a cold, sickening feeling to the pit of his stomach, sending crippling despair washing over him.
His mentor was going to be so angry with him. No, that wasn't the right word for it. The bronze-haired boy faintly shook his head at the thought. In the twenty-five years that he and Carlisle had been together, he could count on one hand how many times he had seen the man truly angry. Anger would be easier to bear. It was something the youth could allow himself to find injustice in and rally against, but he wouldn't be afforded that luxury. Once informed about what happened, the good doctor will be disappointed in him and that was so much harder to take.
The mind-reader groaned softly and, rolling on his side, curled up with his pillow. Why had he let that dumb oaf talk him into doing something so stupid? This was supposed to have been a special treat, an outing to celebrate them all having survived Emmett's newborn phase with the majority of their sanity intact. School would be starting back up in a month, and Carlisle thought the fair would provide the ultimate final test of Edward's idiot brother's self-control. Of course, they weren't supposed to go until this evening after their father's shift at the hospital was over. He wanted to be there in case things went wrong. Emmett's new born strength was waning, but he was still a force to be reckoned with. Carlisle was certain that the newest member of the family had gain control over his blood lust, but mistakes could still happen — to any of them — and it was best to be as prepared and safe as possible.
Naturally, Emmett couldn't wait the few hours for the patriarch's return. In his excitement, he had needled Edward all day to take him to the fair early. In his mind, if one trip proved he was safe around humans, than two would prove it doubly so. At least that was his argument. Those were the grounds that he firmly stood on as he badgered his sibling. This had nothing at all to do with the fun to be had at the fair. Oh, no. This was all about testing his progress so he could rejoin society. The games and rides were no more than an afterthought. Right. Edward rolled his eyes and huffed softly at the memory. Emmett was such a child. The mind reader had originally thought that quality had something to do with Emmett's newborn state. He hadn't witnessed the same phenomenon in Esme or Rosalie, but figured that females might take to the change a bit differently than males. Of coursed he himself had never gone through a childish stage either — at least not that he was aware of. He had always been mature for his age. Besides, the wonder of his new lease on life had fairly quickly been eclipsed by the knowledge of what he was, and the horrible acts that he was capable of. He quickly learned to monitor himself very carefully to avoid succumbing to his more beastly nature. You couldn't simultaneously act like a child and still rein in the monster, could you? In all honesty, though, Emmett seemed to be doing a good job with that difficult juggling act. Maybe there was more to the brutish fool than met the eye.
Edward sighed. Maybe Emmett did have the ability to capably adjust to this new life, but it was hard to envision. This newborn had qualities with which the firstborn was personally unacquainted. Edward had never been touched by the carefree spirit that Emmett embodied. Edward had been born mature and responsible, so how in the hell had it come to this?
The purring of the De Soto's engine wrenched another groan from the boy before he wrapped his pillow around his head in an attempt to drown out the sound. Even though it was muffled, he could still hear the crunch of gravel beneath the car's tires as Carlisle slid into the driveway, no doubt expecting to spend a relaxing, fun filled evening with his family at the county fair. Edward's heart sank and his stomach twisted into knots. He had ruined his father's evening simply because he just had to listen his ignorant brother.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. He shouldn't be the one in trouble. It had been Emmett's idea, after all. The stupid over-sized toddler should be the one with his ass on the line. Emmett had pestered him until Edward caved and took the big jerk to the fair. Then the idiot had come up with that stupid dare. A dare. My ass is in a sling because I simply couldn't walk away from that moron's dare. This is never going to happen again.NEVER! I refuse to do anything so stupid for as long as I survive—which might not be much longer now that Carlisle's home.
Edward's breath caught at the sound of keys scrapping against the door lock. Carlisle was whistling a catchy little tune, completely oblivious to the disaster that awaited him on the other side of that door. Tapping into the man's thoughts brought a glistening tear to the boy's eye. For precautionary reasons, he was planning on taking them all out for a hunt before going to the fair. It looked like he had already shared this information with Esme, because in his mind he imagined her going off with Rose and Emmett, leaving him to spend some quality time with his firstborn.
Edward swallowed hard as images and unguarded thoughts continued to flash through Carlisle's head. He father was feeling guilty for not spending more time with him over the last few months. He had been needed at the hospital more often, and when he was at home, his time was spent trying to educate Emmett- the- lummox about the need for the few rules they labored under. Training a newborn wasn't easy. It took a lot of time and energy. Even with the rest of the family helping to bring Emmett up, the majority of the task fell to Carlisle. He was the creator, so it was his responsibility to see to it that his coven members abided by the law. Emmett's thick skull made that an arduous task — one that Edward didn't envy in the least.
Carlisle hadn't even had sufficient time to enjoy his wife's company, and yet, it was his son, his first companion, who spurred the doctor's current round of guilt.
Edward knew that the patriarch loved their entire odd mix of family. It was something that he couldn't hide, even if he wanted it. They made his unbeating heart swell with pride. They brought him happiness that he never dreamed he would ever know, nor really deserved. He loved them equally, doing his best not to play favorites, but clearly Edward would always hold a special place in his heart.
After decades of a lonely existence, Edward became the catalyst that breathed new life into the man's exhausted spirit. The physician had given up hope on ever being close to anyone. His 'condition' prevented it. He knew that he would never know love, but the young ocean-green-eyed boy and his devoted mother proved that notion wrong. Elizabeth and Edward's plight awoken a sense of family that had eluded him in his human life, yet remained with him to this day. Edward made him a father and gave him a new purpose. It was a gift that he could never hope to repay, but would never cease trying.
Lately, however, his mind had been forced to focus more on Emmett. Newborns had special needs, and like human newborns, required a great deal of patient guidance if they were to acclimate correctly to their new lives. Edward understood this, and graciously stepped back so his brother could benefit from their father's attention. Carlisle was proud of his firstborn's consideration for the needs of their latest family member, but it still saddened him to think that Edward might begin to question his place in their family. It would only be natural for him to do so, but the elder was determined not to let his boy slip away from him again.
That regrettable occurrence had happened when Esme joined them. Edward felt replaced and eventually rebelled. Carlisle couldn't bear the thought of him striking out on his own again, leaving them to worry and wonder if he was even still alive. Things had been better after Edward's eventual return, and a new family dynamic settled upon them naturally.
The addition of Rosalie had been the next strain on the youth, but for very different reasons. Even though he became more reclusive, he recovered easier thanks to the support of his now seasoned 'parents'. Rose, with her often abrasive personality, had been a thorn in Edward's side from the beginning. Then, when he was just coming to grips with her idiosyncrasies, she dragged home a smelly, stupid find — not only a new brother for the mind reader, but an alpha male to contend with.
The family patriarch was surprised when Edward took his role of older brother seriously. He was a huge help with Emmett, and his mind reading ability helped them avert quite a number of near disasters. Carlisle knew his clumsy baby boy wore on his eldest son's nerves from time to time, but Edward took it all in stride, and it was well beyond time that he be rewarded for his patience and hard work.
Edward suddenly gasped as his eyes widened in shock. Releasing his grip on his pillow, he sat up on the side of the bed. Carlisle, what did you do? I don't deserve... The youth's mouth went dry as he cradled his head in his hands and did his best to block out his father's thoughts.
Edward was still sitting on the edge of his bed with his head lowered when the fateful gentle knock disturbed his contemplation.
He swallowed the choking venom and managed a whispered, "Come in."
Carlisle slowly opened the door and slipped quietly into the room. Gently closing off his son's escape route, he leaned against the frame and crossed his arms as he sighed inwardly.
"Edward," he called softly, then patiently waited for the boy to look up. When his son remained silent with his eyes locked firmly on the rug beneath his feet, the elder cleared his throat, but still received no response.
Closing the space that separated them, Carlisle sat down next to the youth, being careful not to crowd him. Reaching out, he lightly cupped Edward's chin in his hand and raised his head, but the artistic lad stubbornly refused to meet his gaze.
"Son, you know that I want you to look at me when I speak to you. It's the respectful thing to do."
"I...Carlisle, I ... I can't."
The emotional pain was obvious in the boy's tone so, for the time being, his father decided to let him be.
"Esme says that you had an eventful day."
"Care to tell me about it?"
"I think it would be the wisest thing to do," he encouraged gently.
"I'm sure Esme's retelling was accurate enough. Do you really need to hear it a second time?" he grumbled as a petulant attitude overtook his common sense.
He doesn't know what he's saying. He's just frightened. Maintain your composure,Carlisle. You have to give him a chance to calm down and tell you his side or you'll only succeed in scaring him worse.
"I'm not frightened of you," Edward declared with outrage, but finally raised his deep amber eyes to stare into Carlisle's face.
"I"m glad to hear that. I have no wish for you to be scared, and I still would like to hear about your day."
The boy's bravado diminished as swiftly as it had flared, leaving Edward to visibly shrink before his leader as he glanced away.
No longer physically able to hold back his mounting frustration, the patriarch sighed heavily and placed a hand on the boy's knee. It was a gesture meant to give comfort, but it caused the mind reader to stiffen instead.
"Edward, I trust Esme's word completely, but I'm also aware that things are not always as they seem. I will always give you the opportunity to explain yourself, but you have to meet me half way. Help me understand what was going on in your head today. What you did was quite out of character. You're usually more responsible than this, and I'm clueless as to why you thought any of this was a good idea."
The lad drew an unneeded but calming breath as he shook his head. "It wasn't a good idea. It was a terrible idea from the very beginning, but I couldn't think of a better way to handle things. You know how Emmett gets."
He rubbed his eyes with one hand, then forced himself to gaze up at his father.
"He was overly excited about going to the fair. He kept annoying me all morning, constantly asking me to take him. I told him that going tonight would be better since we wouldn't have to worry about a sudden appearance of the sun, but he's impatient." Edward huffed out a mild sigh. "Honestly, I can understand where he's coming from. He has been cooped up, more or less since his change, and he just wants to get out and feel normal again. Isn't that really what all of us want?"
Carlisle neither agreed nor disagreed. His expression was thoughtful but neutral, so Edward decided to continue.
"The stock and exhibit judging takes place during the day, anyway. He wanted to see them, so we really didn't have another choice. By the time you would be available to take us, all of that would have been done." The youth paused for a second before adding in an almost inaudible whisper, "So I took him."
Closing his eyes, he shuddered before sitting up straight and opened them again, looking directly at his father with a quiet resolve.
"I know that what I did was wrong, and I'm prepared to accept the consequences for my blunder. This was entirely on me. I am the oldest. I'm responsible for my siblings, but please try to understand. I had the best of intentions. I only wanted to help."
The blond rested his elbows on his knees and intertwined his fingers before leaning forward to rest his forehead against his knuckles. He was still for several minutes as he contemplated his son's story; comparing it to what he had already been told.
The unnatural quiet of the house, along with his father's stillness, unnerved Edward, causing him to fidget.
After what surely felt like hours to the boy, the elder spoke softly without raising his head. "Do you understand why your decision was a poor one?"
Carlisle felt the bed shake as the youth nodded.
"Verbal responses, if you please, Edward."
"Yes, sir. If anything had happened, Rose and I would have had a lot of trouble containing that great brute."
The physician clicked his tongue as he looked up at his son. The disappointment that Edward had feared now shone dully in the man's emotionally darkened eyes.
"Emmett is not a brute, and I will ask that you refrain from using such terms to describe your brother. That said, he is exceptionally strong. Even with his newborn strength fading, it doesn't take any stretch of the imagination to envision him easily overpowering you and your sister."
The mind reader's head and shoulders drooped, but a tap of a knuckle beneath his jaw was all it took for his father to regain his full attention.
"Large gatherings are dangerous places for Emmett. He shows remarkable control, but he's still very young and easily swayed by his instincts." Carlisle drew a breath and released it calmly as his mind raced from one imagined disastrous outcome to another. "Any number of things could cause a predatory response. Something as simple as a group of children running and playing can cause your brother's chase and attack drive to kick in. Let just one of those children fall and scrape a knee and you have the added attraction of blood scenting the area."
He watched his son closely, noting the moment his words registered and rang true. Edward shivered and swallowed hard before closing his eyes in regret of what might have been.
"Humans are very delicate creatures. I shouldn't need to remind you of that. At any moment, for any reason, blood will likely mingle among the other scents of the fair. Injuries on rides, fingers nicked on the rough components of games, scrapes from wrangling the animals from the show judging to the rodeo... Even something as minor as a slip of a knife at a pie table can spell disaster, and would you want to be the one responsible for having placed your brother in such an awkward and potentially dangerous situation?"
Edward shook his head, his throat too dry to speak. He felt the blaze of embarrassment prickle at his cool skin. None of those pitfalls had even occurred to him. He had walked his baby brother through a mind field, and it was only due to pure, stupid luck that they had all made it to the other side unscathed.
Unable to hold his father's gaze, he tried to look away, but his chin was caught, and he found himself once more forced to meet Carlisle's eyes.
"And it's not just Emmett who we need to worry about in these situations. Any of us could very easily become overwhelmed. It's harder to reasonably monitor your thirst when you're distracted with watching out for your siblings. Did you stop to consider that?"
"No, sir, but we didn't have any trouble. Em did really well."
Carlisle nodded, but concern still darkened his topaz eyes. "The three of you were very lucky today, but you shouldn't press your luck like that."
"I'm sorry. I thought...," the youth began before shaking his head and lowering his eyes in shame. "No. I really didn't think."
"No, you didn't," the elder quietly agreed. "Many lives could have been lost, and you risked our exposure. Even if you would have been able to restrain your brother, don't you believe that the struggle would have brought our family some level of notoriety that we can't afford? After all, people are naturally drawn to the sight and sounds of a scuffle."
Carlisle's logic wasn't making Edward feel any better. The boy released a slow breath that he hadn't realized he had been holding, and nodded.
Please use your words, Edward.
"Yes, sir. I don't see how we could have escaped notice in a situation like that. I made a mistake, a tremendous one. It won't happen again."
The patriarch carded a hand through his son's hair and was rewarded by having Edward glance up at him. Guilt, shame, and fear swirled in the chocolate depths of the youth's eyes behind a shimmering film of withheld venom tears.
"It's alright, son. I understand how... persuasive your brother can be. I'm not angry with you. This was just one of those little life lessons that you need to learn from, and I already know that you'll be more mindful of the possible consequences should a similar situation arise."
Edward drew a breath and Carlisle felt him quiver.
"What's wrong, Edward?" the physician asked, his voice heavy with concern. "Is something else bothering you?"
The mind reader shut his eyes and softly choked out, "Consequences."
The elder's brow furrowed in confusion. "Yes, the consequences could have been dire, but they weren't. There's no point in continuing to worry yourself. Just see to it that..."
"Not those consequences."
"I don't understand. What other consequences are you referring to?"
The youth caught a quick glance of his father then closed his eyes and sighed. Carlisle really didn't know. Esme hadn't told him everything. He wasn't sure if she had decided to protect him, or if she was simply giving him the chance to do the right thing, but now the cat was clearly out of the bag and it wasn't going back in without a fight.
His father's hand gently squeezed his shoulder.
"Edward, are you okay?" Please talk to me, son. Whatever it is that's troubling you, we'llhandle it together. Everything will be alright, but you have to be honest with me so I can help you.
"It won't be alright." He took several deep breaths before he was able to summon the courage to face Carlisle. "Apparently Esme didn't tell you all of what happened."
"She told me that when she realized the lot of you weren't in the house or yard, she put two and two together and went to the fair to look for you. After finding you and giving you a good talking to, she brought you and your siblings home where you've been ever since."
Edward sighed inwardly.
"I assume that Esme has already reminded you that you shouldn't have gone out without letting someone know where you would be and when to expect you back. If that's what this is all about..."
"No, sir. It's not." The youth swallowed the lump in his throat then looked into his father's curious eyes. "I did something really dumb, and you're going to be mad about it."
"How about you tell me what you did, and let me decide how I feel?"
The youth turned his attention to the patterned rag rug in an attempt to delay seeing the inevitable disappointment that would soon mar his father's features.
"It was a dare, but it's entirely my fault. I didn't have to accept it. No one twisted my arm and forced me to act like an idiot, so I should be the only one in trouble. This time it's all on me, Carlisle."
"Commendable, Edward, but I won't promise anything until I know what you're talking about."
"I killed the prize winning pig," he blurted out and quickly flicked his eyes up to gauge his creator's reaction.
Carlisle dropped his hand from his son's shoulder and sat up straight as shock replaced confusion. On the whole, his family was not in favor of feeding off of farm animals, and while pigs and humans share some biological traits, their devil may care diet tended to rank them among the least palatable of beasts.
"You were dared to slaughter a pig?" he inquired in an attempt to understand the situation.
"No." Edward covered his eyes with his hand and shook his head before Carlisle gently pulled the offending hand away. Dipping his head, he glanced up at his boy with a puzzled expression.
"Edward, you're not making any sense."
"Because none of it makes sense." The mind reader cringed upon hearing his voice come out in whine.
"Were you that thirsty?"
"Oh, God. No. It was an accident. I swear it was." Nervously he raked both hands through his thick messy locks before glancing back at his dumbfounded father. "The death wasn't quite an accident, but the crushed ribcage was. The damn thing's death was more... Did you know that pigs are fairly high strung creatures?"
"I have heard something to that nature, but the close proximity of a predator will make any animal nervous."
Edward held his breath for a moment before admitting, "I think I gave the pig a heart attack."
Carlisle's posture immediately relaxed as a faint smile crossed his lips.
"Edward, that wouldn't be an act of stupidity. It was a simple accident. While perusing the livestock was probably not the best of ideas, you couldn't have predicted that outcome. For all we know, the animal may have had a bad heart to begin with. Many show animals are highly inbred and carry unseen congenital maladies. It could have expired from shipping stress or..."
"Stress induced from being forcibly dressed in a jacket and hat."
The elder stopped and cocked a brow. "You felt the need to dress a pig?"
The boy bit his bottom lip and inhaled deeply before answering as straightforward as he could.
"I was dared to liberate the Grand Champion hog, take him up on the awards stage, and dress him in a police uniform. Emmett thought it would be funny to see the people's reaction when the curtain was drawn and Lieutenant Porkrinds was revealed."
The patriarch's expression was blank as he absorbed this information. Nervously, Edward probed the man's mind, but found his access denied. Instead of his usual mental chatter, Carlisle was conversing with himself in an odd language that the boy was totally unfamiliar with.
Shoving the heels of his hands into his eyes, the youth groaned. "See, I told you it was stupid."
A held breath broke from the physician in a great gust. "Not one of your most well thought out ideas."
"Just like taking Emmett to the fair wasn't well thought out. God, I'm such an idiot."
"No, you're not. A tad misguided, but certainly not an idiot." Carlisle rubbed his son's tense shoulders, then gave him a comforting pat on the back. "You were trying to make Emmett happy. That's the sole purpose for bringing him to the fair when you did, and for participating in his shenanigans."
The patriarch averted his eyes as he continued to debate with himself in that frustrating foreign language to prevent his boy's prying. When he looked back at his son, his expression was equally well guarded. "I won't condone your actions, but I can appreciate that they were done out of love, and that does mean a great deal."
"Enough to get me out of trouble?" he inquired hopefully.
"I'm afraid not."
Edward felt his stomach churn, and knew that, were it possible, he would be sick. It had been a long time since he had landed himself into trouble with Carlisle, and he would have preferred to keep it that way. His mentor was not cruel like so many other coven leaders, but his chosen methods of discipline were still extremely unpleasant, and best avoided at all cost.
Knowing avoidance was now impossible, the mind reader was left with trying to decide just how much trouble he was in so he could better predict his fate.
"Will I be...punished for taking Emmett to the fair this morning?"
Carlisle shook his head slowly. "You didn't do anything wrong. I never told you that you couldn't go, and I didn't place any restricts on your brother and sister either, therefore no rules were broken."
"So this just just about the pig," he stated, while glancing down at his hands as they rested in his lap.
"Entirely about the pig," the elder agreed.
Edward groaned softly to himself before looking back at his father. "What are you planning to do?"
"I'm not sure," he answered honestly. "I believe the deciding factor will depend on how you answer my next question."
The youth's heart sank, but he cleared his throat and bravely spoke up with as much strength in his tone as he could muster. "I stole it."
"The police uniform, the hat and the jacket, I stole them from a police car parked in the back of the lot."
Edward caught the faint sound of his father's sigh seconds before Carlisle asked, "When did you learn Gaelic?"
The boy looked down as he laced his fingers together and smiled sadly.
"Is that what you call it?" He shook his head. "I have no idea what you're thinking, but I know you. I know what you would find most important."
The physician bowed his head and pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger as his internal battle continued to rage. After several more moments of stillness, he finally spoke.
"Then you already know what to expect."
Edward appeared to sink into the mattress as he deflated, but the lad still answered with a barely audible, "Yes, sir."
"Stealing, Edward Anthony?" Carlisle was appalled with his son's behavior. A muscle in the man's jaw twitched as he grounded his teeth. "You know better than that. Elizabeth taught you better. This is not an issue that I ever imagined I would be addressing."
The boy's breath caught in his chest at the mention of his mother's name and the sickening feeling in his stomach intensified. His elder's reprimanding tone was mild, but it cut through him like a knife, causing him to hang his head in shame.
The patriarch brushed his thumb across the boy's cheek and made him look up. Once their eyes were locked, Carlisle continued in a stern, yet gentle voice.
"We must lie about what we are in order to protect ourselves and the humans around us. We have no choice in the matter, and that is enough sin weighing on your soul. Don't needlessly add to it, Edward."
He could see the conflict in his son's eyes. He knew that Edward already deemed his soul lost, and could imagine the youth's argument, but he also knew that his eldest had no desire to fall further into damnation, and would counter with that point if required. Carlisle waited in silence, but when his boy failed to debate his statement, he pushed on.
"I have always tried to see to it that your desires are met. Have I ever denied you anything you've asked for?"
The mind reader shook his head while his breathing slowly resumed.
Carlisle rubbed at the tension building in his temple as a thought occurred to him. The disclosure should have come at a happier time, but he might as well know now.
"Actually that's not entirely true, son. There has been one thing that you've asked for and haven't received due to our transient lifestyle."
The lad swallowed hard and closed his eyes. He didn't want his father to say it because then it would be all too real. He didn't deserve it, but his heart ached at the thought of having come close enough to touch it, only to have it whisked it away by his stupidity.
"Edward, I've always been proud of you, but lately you've been exceptional. Your assistance with Emmett, the vast reduction in arguments with Rosalie, the general thoughtfulness and assistance you've exhibited have gone a long way to make our little group a true family. You will always be my child, but I can see the changes in you. You've matured into a fine young man, today's behavior not factored in, and I wanted to reward your hard work."
A faint whimper came from the boy's throat as he turn away in self-loathing.
Edward, don't do that. Today's poor choices don't negate your finer qualities.
"But I... I..."
"Next week a baby grand piano will be delivered to the house. Now that Emmett is growing up, I believe that our moves will become more scheduled so there shouldn't be an issue with having it travel to our new homes. Your old piano will be donated to the church of your choice. I'm sure any of them will appreciate it."
"Carlisle, you shouldn't be..."
His father held his hand up for silence. "As part of your punishment for today, you will not be allowed to play it for a month. When it is first set up, I'll allow you an hour to test it and make sure that it's tuned properly, but then the cover will be shut and not opened again until the month has passed. I think that's fair. You have earned the instrument, Edward, now you must earn the privilege of playing it."
The boy wanted to simultaneously hug and punch Carlisle. He still didn't feel that he deserved the piano that he had longed for, but having it sitting in the house and being unable to touch it for a month would be pure torture. It would be better if his father canceled the order entirely instead of having it dangle like a carrot just out of his reach.
Moaning to himself, he cradled his head in his hands while making a mental promise to be exceptionally well behaved and prove himself worthy of such a grand gesture.
His father's hand on the back of his neck caused him to jump and look up into the eyes of his executioner. Love and compassion, the man's steadfast traits, were still visible in those dark tawny orbs, but there was a new resoluteness behind them that signaled the change from loving father to strict disciplinarian.
Carlisle unbuttoned the cuffs of his turquoise dress shirt and carefully began to roll up the sleeves as he looked away from his son and spoke with authority.
"Now for the rest of your punishment. Edward, if you would stand and unfasten your trousers then bring yourself over here, please."
The youth could feel the whine of protest building in his chest, but managed to stifle it. Sliding off the bed, he slipped his suspenders from his shoulders and popped the buttons on his fly before shuffling to stand in front of his father with his head bowed.
The patriarch placed his hands on his knees and leaned down to allow him to look up and catch his son's eye.
"Edward, I'm disappointed in you behavior. You know stealing is wrong, and stealing from an officer of the law is doubly so, however I also want you to know how equally proud I am of you, son. I've already commended you for the way you've handled yourself these last few months, but you've continued that trait today. The things that you did, as foolish as many of them were, were done out of the goodness of your heart. Even when confronted with your crimes, you accepted responsibility for your actions and did your best to shoulder the blame; blame that probably should be shared with your brother."
Edward opened his mouth to defend Emmett, but was quickly shushed.
"Emmett and I are going to have a little discussion later. I've been very lenient with him while he adjusted to this life, but he's going to have to start taking responsibly for his actions as well."
"None of this was his fault. He didn't mean for anything to happen, and he really didn't do anything wrong. Emmett even tried to preform CPR on the pig, but he still doesn't know his strength and the rib cage collapsed. He was really upset by that turn of events. Shouldn't something like that be punishment enough?"
"Calm yourself, Edward. I'm not going to punish Emmett. I'm going to talk to him about the rules. I know he doesn't fully understand them, but it's time for him to start abiding by them. You won't always be there to turn him from the wrong path. He has to learn to do that for himself."
The boy lowered his head before raising his eyes to meet his father's gaze. "He's very childlike. I honestly think that he is going through a second childhood more than the rest of us did. He doesn't screw things up intentionally. He simply doesn't know any better, and I don't want to see anything bad happen to him."
"Physically, he's older than you," Carlisle reminded him as a light smile brightened his face. "But, he does come across as immature at times. He may grow out of it, but to be honest, I'm not entirely certain about that. I've never seen a newborn act quite like Emmett, so I have no idea what to expect, but even a young child can be expected to follow the rules."
The doctor reached out and cupped the back of his son's neck, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "He's not self centered like small children tend to be. He's pleasant, kind, and caring. He wants to contribute to this family, Edward, and he'll learn to do that through trial and error. You can't protect him all the time. Every fledgling has to spread its wings and fly eventually. We have to allow that to happen, even if it means that means Em falls and hurts himself a few times before he finally succeeds. I promise you, we'll all be there to catch him and dust him off — all of us, you included."
The patriarch rubbed his chin and allowed his mind to wander for a moment before his son's sneering, "You're wrong for that," brought him back to the present, making him chuckle.
"And who told you that it was okay to monitor my thoughts, young man? Besides, it's the truth. You are just as bad as Esme when it comes to coddling that boy. You didn't act that way with Rosalie. The two of you were like oil and water, but you're different with Emmett."
The youth could feel an impossible heat creeping up his neck and into his cheeks, the phantom feelings of a human blush.
"I've always wanted a brother," he admitted with a slight shrug. "Just someone to do guy things with. You know, hang out or play ball. Things like that."
"And talk about girls with," the elder added with a grin.
The mind reader rubbed at the back of his neck while his body language spoke of deep embarrassment.
Carlisle withheld a chuckle as he patted his son's upper arm. "Well, you have one now, Edward, and you've been an excellent older brother to him. You've set a good example for him to follow. I believe Emmett is going to be just fine." Taking the lad's wrist firmly he guided him towards his right side. "You, on the other hand, regrettably still have a debt to pay."
Edward released the air trapped in his lungs and allowed himself to be taken across his father's lap. After some minor adjustments, he settled down and buried his head in his crossed arms, while Carlisle gently rubbed his lower back. It was at that moment that he found himself in the grips of a horrifying thought.
Rearing up against the gentle pressure on his back, the mind reader tried to push himself off, but the doctor pinned him firmly.
Stop it, Edward. Don't make this any harder on yourself than it has to be.
"The others will hear."
"No, they won't."
"They will. They..."
"Are out hunting with Esme."
The bronze haired youth twisted enough to look over his shoulder at the man preparing to unleash a world of pain on his poor innocent behind, the question showing clearly across his face.
"I didn't know what to expect from our talk, but I felt that you would appreciate some privacy regardless of the outcome. I asked Esme to take Rose and Emmett out. The fair goers will be far safer with your brother's thirst sated, anyway. That's all they currently know. You may tell them whatever you wish, but as far as I'm concerned what happens here is strictly between us."
A film of venom clouded his son's eyes, as Carlisle applied gentle pressure to his back and carefully reposition him. As he stopped resisting and submitted to the elder's authority, Edward became suddenly aware of how quiet the house had been this entire time. He hadn't been bothered by the ruckus that normally filled their home, nor had he been forced to contend with the thoughts of his siblings or mother. It was a small kindness that his father had shown him, but it meant the world to the sensitive, private boy.
"You've been busy, son. " The patriarch's voice broke through his thoughts and drew Edward's attention back to his unfortunate predicament. "However, there were quite a number of other mistakes that you could have made, but managed to avoid. You could have lied about the instances of the day, but you chose to come clean about your misdeeds. That, my boy, is the act of a mature young man. I'm so proud of you, Edward. Despite your arrested age, in many ways, you're growing up."
"But, I'm still being spanked like a naughty child," came the slightly petulant, muffled response.
"And why are you being spanked like a naughty child?"
"Because I stole some articles of clothing from a cop, and dressed up a pig."
"Which you also acquired without permission."
"And I killed it."
"You didn't kill it, but you did cause the poor beast a measure of stress that it couldn't withstand. You are being punished for stealing, Edward, not livestock manslaughter."
"Hogslaughter," the boy corrected meekly, bringing a smile to his coven leader's face.
"Hogslaughter," Carlisle relented, before clearing his throat to take on an authoritarian tone. "This sort of mischief is not allowed, Edward Anthony Cullen, and it will not happen again. If it does, you and your cohort will both find yourselves in this position, and I can promise that it will be for a lesson you will never forget."
"No offense, Carlisle, but I don't see how I could forget it this time around."
"Sometimes you have a convenient memory, son." The elder commented as he rested his hand on the upturned seat of the youth's trousers. "Luckily, I think I have just the cure for that."
Without further comment, the patriarch tightened the arm that had been wrapped casually around the lad's waist, and pulled him firmly against his hip. Seconds later, a deafening crack reverberated through the house. Edward yelped more from surprise than actual pain before he sucked his bottom lip between his teeth in an attempt to endure his punishment as stoically as possible.
Edward's cry distressed the elder and pained his heart, but he knew that he couldn't relent. His son had to learn his lesson — he needed his father to be strong enough to teach it, and Carlisle would be whatever his family needed most.
It seemed like ages since he had to physically correct his son. Edward, by his nature, was an easy child. While prone to bouts of sullenness, he was generally helpful and eager to please, so any misbehavior was usually more of an oversight and easily handled with a look or a stern word. That made it much harder for the physician to carry out this chastisement, regardless of how well deserved it was.
Hardening his heart, he eased himself into a steady rhythm that peppered the boy's backside with a volley of short, sharp blows. Knowing that a heavy hand was neither needed nor desired in this instance, Carlisle kept his strokes light and allowed his words to accomplish the majority of Edward's discipline.
"Edward," he called in a soft, strong tone. "I will never allow thievery, regardless of how petty those acts are. Cullens are not thieves, nor do I believe, is that a trait cultivated by the Masons. I won't stand by and idly witness you disgrace your family names through poor judgment and misbehavior."
Shifting his son a little further forward on the bed, Carlisle raised his right knee to give him better access to the more sensitive weight bearing spots at the junction of his boy's rump and thighs.
The mind reader whimpered as the first sharp smack connected with the tender area, then felt his father falter for just a second before the opposite side was treated to the same measured blow.
You don't realize it now, Edward, but I am going easier on you than you deserve. How would Edward Senior have handled this situation? Do you think your mother would be pleased by this little stunt? What would she say right now?
Edward felt the sting of venom tears forming in his eyes at the mention of his parents. It was as if he could feel their disappointment as keenly as he felt Carlisle's. His vampiric father was correct. He had let his parents down, both past and present, and his chest ached with the depth of his regret.
"This won't happen again, will it, Edward Anthony?"
The teen sniffled and violently shook his head.
Use your words, son.
The mental order brought a quite groan from the boy, before he shook his head again and whispered an emotionally choked, "No, sir. I'm sorry, dad. I'm so very sorry."
The patriarch felt a jolt go through him at the rarely used title. He couldn't be certain if that was directed towards him or towards the memory of Edward's human father, but at the moment it didn't really matter. Either way, the word was a sure sign of his son's distress.
"I know you are, but you can't do these things. You stole from a police officer. I realize you believe you're invincible, but you could have been seen. You could have been caught."
"I was," he gasped as the fire consumed his behind. "Caught. Esme caught me. She saw me... running from the stage."
"And if your mother caught you, that officer could have, and then he would have made an example out of you, Edward. Even if he decided to laugh it off as the childish prank that it is, in all likelihood this would have brought you under much closer scrutiny in the future. Is that any way to maintain our low profile?"
Again, Edward shook his head, while a single crystalline tear clung to his long dark lashes for several seconds before finally falling onto the quilt below.
"The last thing we need is the attention of the local police."
Edward cried out as Carlisle's unyielding hand collided harder with his rump in final, furious flurry before the elder slowed his pace and began to softened his blows until he deemed the spanking over — the lesson, well learned.
Please don't make me have to do this again."I fear that Emmett may be a bad influence on you. I guess the both of you will require a closer eye from here on out."
With his hand stinging from its recent occupation, the patriarch's touch turned tender as he tried to soothe his emotionally worn out child.
"I'll say a few prayers that you don't continue to follow in your brother's footsteps. One Emmett is all I can take. I already fear that he'll end up being a handful, and would rather have your help at keeping him on the straight and narrow."
Carlisle threaded his fingers through Edward's hair and breathed a little easier when his son's ragged breath began to quiet and stabilize.
"You know it has been a decade since I've had to spank you. Why don't we try to break that record?"
"I'd like that," Edward replied, and sniffled quietly before pushing himself up and off of Carlisle's lap. Once on his feet, he submissively kept his head bowed, but raised his eyes to meet his father's as he rubbed at the burning sting.
"Do you want me in the corner until you're ready to continue?"
"There's no need for that. We're finished here." The elder stood and reached for the boy, only to have him warily take a step back. His son's rejection felt like a knife in Carlisle's chest, but he swiftly suppressed all thoughts of his grief while focusing solely on Edward's concerns.
"You did very well. Unless I'm mistaken, you've learned your lesson. All is forgiven, Edward. It's time to move forward and let the mistake remain in the past."
The mind reader's eyes were still dark as night. Tentatively at first, then with building confidence, he probed his father's mind searching for an answer that wasn't to be found. With a furrowed brow, he continued to puzzle in silence until Carlisle couldn't stand it any longer.
"What is it?"
"I... I don't understand."
"Understand what, son?"
"You've always..." Edward averted his eyes as he struggled with embarrassment. "My father would have... Whenever I've gotten into this much trouble, you've had me ...Is it alright to re-secure my trousers?"
"Why of course." Carlisle appeared just as confused as the youth, but then a gentle smile graced his features as his boy's concern became clear. "Oh. Yes. I apologize. Edward. Please, do get dressed."
Without the slightest hesitation, Edward's fingers flew to the buttons of his pants and quickly put things to right. Glancing up, he found his father examining his growing library in what he knew was an attempt at offering him some measure of privacy.
With his suspenders back in place, the boy cleared his throat. "That's not how you usually... You know. You've always insisted on ... minimum barriers."
Carlisle turned from the bookcase with a novel in his hand, and gazed at his boy with a raised brow. "Are you saying that my performance was unsatisfactorily? If proper form will set your mind at ease, I am willing to provide an encore. You know how much I hate to disappoint."
"No." The mind reader took another step back, causing the elder to chuckle. "That's perfectly alright. I'm not disappointed in the least." The youth suddenly sighed and lowered his gaze, adding, "Except with myself."
Edward raised his eyes in response to a light tap beneath his chin and met his father's soft expression. "Your behavior has been chastised and the lesson learned. There won't be a repeat of today. You've been forgiven, Edward. There's no reason to continue beating yourself up."
Grasping the boy's wrist, Carlisle lead him back towards the bed. Then, taking a seat, the older man patted the space next to him.
While the spanking had hardly been the worst that he had experienced, even compared with those from his previous life as a human, at the moment Edward wasn't enamored with the idea of sitting, but the expectant look on his father's faced soon had him perching on the edge of the mattress with a grimace.
"You want to know what made me handle this correction differently." There was no question in the physician's tone. "My reasoning is simple. I saw no need to take your trousers down this time. The only protection that fabric provided was to your pride, son, and I feel that was something that you deserved."
Carlisle ran a hand through his flaxen hair then took a deep breath before his expression turned serious.
"You made some bad decisions today, but the good out weighed those to a great extent. Taking responsibility and being honest about what occurred were the actions of an adult, so I wanted to treat you as an adult, within my limited capacity."
Laying a hand on his son's shoulder, the patriarch gave a supportive squeeze.
"I must enforce the rules, Edward. They are put in place to keep all of us safe. I had no choice but to correct your misdeeds, and because I refuse to employee the types of discipline that are standard for our kind, I'm left with few options. That being said, I saw no reason for you to suffer any further humiliation. I know it's a very small token, but my options are limited. It was the best that I could do."
The youth continued to silently gaze down at his lap and mull the explanation over in his head. As much as he hated being punished like a child, he had to admit that he would always gladly accepted that over dismemberment or death, the common disciplinary measures handed down by others in authority. It was embarrassing and it damn well hurt, but he begrudgingly had to admit that's what made it fairly effective. The threat alone had been enough to stop him from doing any number of stupid things over the years. Hell, a good spanking had even reined in Esme during her kleptomaniac newborn period, so he couldn't really complain that it was solely a form of discipline reserved for infants.
A grin brightened his face as the mind reader snickered softly. Esme had been a real pain in the ass, but stealing that sailboat had to be one for the record books. Maybe Carlisle was actually wrong for once. Cullens seemed to be rather accomplished thieves after all.
"What are you smiling about?"
"I was just reminiscing a little." He shook his head clear of the memory and sighed. "Thank you for having tried to make this more tolerable. It's still humiliating being face down over..." Edward paused as he recalled a few images he had gleaned from Carlisle's mind. "Over my father's knee, getting my tail lit on fire, but I understand why you do it. I could never hate you, Carlisle, so you can just let that worry go. You are my father, and I guess that means I'll always be answerable to you as a son." The youth groaned and rolled his eyes when adding, "And I'll never escape being Esme's baby boy."
Carlisle laughed as he playfully ruffled Edward's messy bronze hair. "That, my boy, is a given, but as long as you act like an adult, we will both endeavor to treat you like one. Deal?"
With a crooked half smile, the youth nodded. "Deal."
The elder pulled the mind reader into a brief hug before giving him a hearty pat on the back. "I'll be holding you to that."
"I wouldn't have it any other way."
As Carlisle stood and made to leave, Edward's voice halted him. "The rules are the same for everyone, right?"
"Naturally. They wouldn't be fair, otherwise."
"And the consequences as well?"
The physician cocked a brow in puzzlement. "Of course, Edward. There may be minor adjustments fitted to the given individual and circumstance, but fundamentally the repercussions will remain standard. Why do you ask?"
"I was just wondering what happens if you break the rules? I know it's unlikely. But you really are no more infallible than the rest of us, and physically you aren't that much older than me. What happens if you get caught up in a bout of immaturity? Stranger things have happened."
The leader leaned his hip against the edge of his boy's desk as he crossed his arms before raising a hand to thoughtfully rub his chin.
"I've never given that much thought. I suppose I would be answerable to Esme."
"The Artful Dodger?"
"Thank God she outgrew that stage," he commented with a roll of his eyes. "And you will do well to outgrow yours, if that's what this is."
"So you think Emmett will go through a kleptomania stage? Not that Cullens are thieves, or anything like that," Edward quipped cheekily, then skillfully dodged the playful slap Carlisle attempted to land on the back of his head.
"Rosalie didn't, and you haven't had an issue with that up until now, so I don't believe so. Emmett is far too unique for us to ever realistically believe that we can predict his behavior, but I think, with his older brother's help, he should be able to avoid such unfortunate pitfalls." The elder smiled warmly, then glanced down with a shake of his head. "Lieutenant Porkrinds?"
"It was either that, Officer Oink, or Captain Crackin'. I figured the poor thing deserved the highest rank we could give him."
"That was very thoughtful, Edward, though I don't think he really needed anything other than his Grand Champion title. That alone should have been enough to keep him and his owners happy."
"At least now he's the guest of honor at tonight's barbecue."
The patriarch groaned as he covered his eyes and gave his forehead a rub, pained by his son's sense of humor.
"Which we will be late for it you don't go get cleaned up so we can leave."
Carlisle eased himself away from the desk and headed for the door. "I know the food is no draw, but I figured you and your siblings can still find a way to have some non-mischievous fun — the gaming booths, perhaps? I'm sure there must be some young ladies out there for you to impress with your throwing arm, or don't you think you can knock down milk bottles with a baseball?"
"My pitching arm... Wait. I — I'm allowed to go?"
"Why wouldn't you be?" The elder turned back to look at his son with genuine confusion.
"After what happened... Well, I thought..."
"That's over and forgiven. There's no point in dwelling on what can't be changed. You're already starting a new chapter, Edward. What you write is entirely up to you, but I will make one suggestion. Concentrate your efforts on some sort of fun and legal theme, for all of our sakes."
Edward buried his hands in his pockets and lowered his head, but when he looked back up at his father, a brilliant smile lit up his face.
"Yes, sir," he agreed enthusiastically.
"Excellent. Now wash up and change into something comfortable with a little less Eau de Barnyard," Carlisle suggested as he scrunched his nose. "I hate to be the one to say it, but you really reek, son."
The youth sniffed at his shirt and grimaced. "Yet another one of Emmett's influences."
"At least your brother ended being rained on. I dare say, if he smelled like you the hunter would very quickly become the hunted out in these woods. There's not an animal in the forest that wouldn't pick up on that scent."
"Maybe that's his plan. Let the bears come to him for a change. Em can be a little lazy."
"With many things, but not hunting." Carlisle quietly looked over his son for a moment with contentment sparkling in his eyes. "We'll be waiting on you downstairs. Don't take too long. Fairs don't happen every day, so you have to make the most of them while you can."
As his hand touched the doorknob, Edward whispered, "Dad?"
That small word warmed the elder's unbeating heart, and made him glance back over his shoulder.
"Thank you," he squeaked as he looked down at his feet, obviously uncomfortable, then cleared his throat. "And... Well... I just wanted to say...You know."
The elder studied the youth for a moment then responded with a faint nod before slipping through the door. Closing it softly behind him, Carlisle leaning back against the smooth, cool surface, and inhaled deeply. I love you, too, Edward— more than my own life. Ialways have and I always will.
The mind reader stood frozen near his dresser, a pair of sock clutched tightly in his hand, while listening to his father's retreating footsteps. A fog of venom clouded his vision as he scooped up his clothes and padded softly towards the shower.
This whole family thing is still going to take some getting used to, but I think I can learn to like it—Rosalie and all.
As the warm water washed away the remnants of his misdeeds, Edward recalled his brother's joyfully exuberance throughout their adventure. Emmett really was a child, but he kept things interesting. A small smile tugged at the youth's lips. Maybe the ability to share his upbeat views and joy in simple pleasures was Emmett's gift. It wasn't as cool as being able to read minds, but the silly bruin brought a sense of fun back into their lives that had been missing for far too long.
Edward sucked in a breath when the hard spray of water struck a particularly sore spot on his rump, reminding him of the consequences of the wrong sort of fun. Would he do something like this again? Highly unlikely. Did he regret having been caught up in Emmett's insanity this time? No, not really. The trouble, he could do without, but he had to admit that, in the end, it had turned out to be a pretty fair day, after all.