Disclaimer – Stephenie Meyer owns all things Twilight –
I just like to get weird with her characters.
Much love and thanks to my beta love, Carrie ZM,
and my wonderful pre-readers, Planetblue and Robsmyyummy
Cabanaboy for all the time you've put into this fic.
Writing with you girls is always a blast!
"Don't remind me." I side-eye him from behind my iPad before tossing it on the bed and stretching. "What time did you leave this morning?"
"A little after six, I think."
Glancing at the clock, I see it's nearly ten. "Too early," I whine, kicking the covers off a bit. "We should both still be asleep."
He smirks, holding up a coffee and a bag from my favorite bakery in one hand and his newspaper in the other. "But I brought you a Sunday morning special."
"I'd rather be sleeping."
"Such a smart ass," he mutters, placing his newspaper and my coffee on the nightstand.
"You love it."
"I do." The bed dips as he climbs in and I shiver at the feel of his just-in-from-the-cold fingers brushing over my hip. "Good morning," he murmurs, skimming the curve of my shoulder with his lips.
Before I can even answer, he's already up and across the room, unbuckling his belt and kicking off his shoes. I lean back against the headboard, sipping my coffee and watching him strip down to his skivvies and socks.
Sunday mornings with Edward are like Groundhog Day. He's up early to check the plants then off to the bakery for my coffee and scones fix. Typically we laze around all day, him reading his paper and smoking his joint while I eat my pastries and catch up on world events. And by world events, I mean celebrity gossip.
"What?" he asks, tugging his shirt over his head and folding it over the chair in the corner.
Realizing I've been busted, I bring my cup to my lips and raise a brow at his nearly naked form. "Nice socks."
Laughing, he belly flops onto bed beside me. "You love it!"
"I do." I kiss his temple. "And thank you for the Sunday morning special."
I go back to my reading, fully expecting to hear the telltale opening and closing of his nightstand drawer to retrieve his Sunday smoke then the flick of his lighter and the sounds of him settling into the pillows as he unfolds his newspaper.
But I don't because he doesn't.
"No smoke today?" I try to sound casual, not looking away from my iPad.
"I'm meeting your parents in six hours. It's probably not a great idea to get baked beforehand."
My head lolls in his direction. "Are you nervous?"
He nods slightly, unfolding his paper and ruffling it a bit.
"Don't be. They're going to think you're great."
The corner of his mouth turns up into a half-assed grin as his eyes scan the page. "If you say so."
Shaking my head, I go back to mindlessly eating scones and scrolling through websites. After about ten minutes, I find myself bored with the Kar-Jenner nonsense and indifferent on the latest scandals to rock Hollywood. I set the tablet on the nightstand and straddle Edward's legs, peeking over the top of his paper. "What'cha reading?"
Looking amused, he folds his paper down. "Local news."
"Probably not as interesting as Gossip Cop debunking rumors about Justin Bieber's penis."
I roll my eyes. "Listen, Gossip Cop is the last beacon of quality journalism as far as celebrity gossip goes."
"Sure it is."
I tear off a piece of my scone and I don't miss his eyes following the miniscule crumbs that fall to the bed which I'm almost certain he hates. "Wanna bite?"
He opens his mouth then wraps his lips around my fingers, sucking the icing off with a pop. "Delicious."
"Is there a real estate section in there?"
"There's a classifieds. Why?"
"Because," I say, rifling through the other sections of his paper until I find the one I'm looking for, "my lease is almost up and I need to find a new place by the end of next month."
I shrug. "I don't know. Ang is all over me to buy and she's got this great realtor she wants me to use."
"Hmm," he offers in place of a comment.
I don't miss the way his brows knit together or that he presses his lips into a tight line.
"Well, yeah, I just, uh … I mean," he stammers, crinkling the paper in his hands. "Is that what you want?" Tossing the paper on the bed, he puts his hands on my knees. "A mortgage, property taxes and a shitload of responsibility?"
"Pfft. No one wants that." I go back to perusing the real estate for sale section. "But it's probably not a horrible idea."
"Definitely not if it's what you want."
"How about this one?" I ask, dragging my finger down to a listing. "Three-bedroom, quaint bungalow near the square. Newer appliances. Recently updated."
The furrow in his brow deepens. "Sounds like a freshly painted shithole with street parking."
"What about this one? Cozy two-bed—"
"AKA the size of a shoebox."
"Is it weird that I'm strangely turned on by the fact that you're so fluent in House Hunter speak?"
He grabs the classifieds from my hands and flings it to the floor. "Super weird."
"How's the new strain coming along?"
"It's getting there, I think."
I dip my nail beneath the hem of his boxer-briefs and bite my lip. "Is it another Kush?"
He shakes his head slowly while his fingers bunch up the edge of his old threadbare V-neck that I claimed as my own the first night I slept over. "It's a haze."
Nodding, his hand creeps further up my stomach over the fabric, lifting it just enough to see there's nothing underneath. "A sativa-dominant hybrid."
"All head high?"
"Mostly," he whispers, tracing up the neckline of my shirt and slipping it off my shoulder. "It'll be the kind of high that feels like a rush." His words come out low and slow. "Total fucking euphoria."
I close my eyes, shivering at the feel of his fingers moving up my neck and his thumb barely brushing my bottom lip. My tongue peeks out, tasting the lemon-flavored icing on his skin. "Mmmm. Sounds like an amazing high."
"The very best."
Leaning forward, I steal a kiss then reach into his nightstand drawer to pull out a lighter and the joint he rolled last night. His palms run over the top of my thighs, inching higher as I bring the joint to his lips and light it. "And does the very best high have a name yet?"
Squinting, he slips his fingers beneath mine and closes his mouth around the joint, inhaling deeply. He props his arm behind his head and settles back into the pillows, watching my hand trail down his stomach then smiling as he exhales. "She does."
"She?" I go back to tugging his underwear down just enough to get what I'm after. "I was talking about the strain."
"So was I." His teeth rake over his bottom lip. "I'm thinking I should call it 'Bella Swan Haze,'" he hedges with his eyes flashing to mine. "I don't know though. The strain will never come close to the real thing."
I move my hips back and forth, moaning at the feel of soft sliding over hard until he's right where I need him. My words come out strained and quiet. "What will it … feel like?"
He pauses a moment, taking another pull and making the cherry on his joint burn bright. His gaze lowers, taking in the sight of my body slowly sinking onto his. Smoke swirls all around us and a soft groan escapes his lips when I begin to move.
"It'll feel like this."
"Damn it!" I yell, slamming my hand down on the sink as I watch my toothbrush floating in the toilet.
Edward sucks in his teeth beside me. "Dude … that blows."
I bend down to fish it out. "Now I have to go to Christmas Eve with yuck mouth."
"Here." He pops his toothbrush out of its UV sanitizer. "You can use mine."
I stare up at his half-shaven face in disbelief. "For real?"
"Yeah, for real."
"Isn't that kinda … I don't know … gross?"
There's a beat of silence and if I were a betting man, I'd wager that the words 'you've had my dick in your mouth' are on the tip of his tongue. Wisely he chooses to play it safe instead. "I'm cool with it if you are."
He does his best not to make eye contact with me in the mirror as I smear the paste onto the brush and bring it to my mouth. "How are you not grossed out by this?"
Shrugging, he feigns indifference. "Because it's not gross."
"My plaque and your plaque mixing it up in the bristles isn't remotely revolting to you?" My eyes narrow. "You won't even share a joint and now you're cool with sharing a toothbrush? I call bullshit."
He switches off the shaver and dips down to kiss my cheek. "It's different because it's you." I open my mouth to respond when I feel his palm land firmly on my backside, giving it a gentle squeeze. "Don't forget to floss like a boss."
And with that, he tosses the towel from around his waist in the hamper and straight-up struts out of the room.
"All right," I say loud enough for him to hear me in the bedroom. "But don't come crying to me tomorrow morning when your toothbrush tastes faintly like periodontal disease and Cheez-It's."
A few minutes later he appears in the doorway, wearing the most questionable-looking ugly Christmas ensemble I've ever seen. "What do you think?"
"That's … wow." I'm nearly stunned into silence by the hot mess of fabric before me. "Ang might as well just give you the ugly sweater trophy."
"Light up, Mister Rogers-style cardigan, twelve bucks on eBay," he brags, showcasing the blinking reindeer nose lights on the lapels. "Paired nicely with a vintage mock turtleneck, courtesy of the Carlisle P. Cullen collection."
"That shirt's gotta be older than me."
"Topped off with some ill-fitting corduroy slacks and some hideous Christmas socks." He widens his arms, doing a slow spin. "Come on now. Don't I look ravishing?"
"I've got adjectives to describe this get-up for days."
I snort. "Sure, we can go with those."
He swats me on the butt again. "Go get dressed, we're gonna be late."
"Here we are," I mutter as we pull up in front of my sister's house. "Are you ready for this?"
He drums his fingers on the steering wheel. "I hope so. Any last minute advice?"
"Yeah, um." I lick my lips and smooth my hands over my knee-length Christmas tree poncho. "My Gram has glaucoma and loves to tell anyone who'll listen. So whatever you do, resist the urge to encourage her to treat it with Blueberry Dream."
He tilts his head side to side. "I'd probably recommend she use AK-48, but ..."
"Fine, no slinging dope to Grandma. What else?"
"When you're talking to my dad and he looks all constipated or whatever, he's more than likely not sizing you up. That's just his face."
"And if he does start asking you a bunch of questions, answer them quickly and succinctly. Try not to break eye contact or fidget. Otherwise he'll think you're hiding something."
"Good to know."
"Sorry. I sound crazy, don't I?"
"No, no. It's helpful." He smirks. "And slightly terrifying."
I straighten my giant gold star headband and check my make-up in the mirror. "He's a teddy bear, really, in a weird Ron Swanson kind of way."
"Great," he drags out the word. "Got any more intel for me?"
"Yeah, one more thing." I hold up a finger. "Compliment the spread. My sister's been planning this shindig since we got back from Amsterdam and God love her, she lives for this shit. Don't get too crazy, but a little flattery gets you everywhere with Ang."
"Got it. No drugs for Grandma, direct eye contact for the Chief, and low-key ass-kissing for your sister."
We exchange a high five. "Let's do this."
"Aunt Bella! Mr. Edward!" Riley yells, running down the stairs full-speed.
"Hey Ri!"I open my arms wide to catch him, only to watch him jump into Edward's arms.
"Merry Christmas, Mr. Edward! Look at my shirt." He points to himself as Edward picks him up.
"It says 'son of a Nutcracker!'"
"It's funny 'cause it's true," he mutters while I kiss my nephew's cheeks.
"What was that, Edward?" Ang asks, slinking in from the dining room in her gold ribbon and bow-clad Gangster Wrapper sweater.
"I said that Pinterest has nothing on you." He nods around to all of my sister's decorations. "This place looks great, Ang."
"Aww, you think?" She tries not to look smug as her eyes scan the winter wonderland themed entryway. "I didn't have enough time to do everything I wanted, but this'll have to do." She waves us in. "Put your presents under the tree. Mom, Dad, and Grandma are in the kitchen."
Edward and I exchange a look when she walks out of the room. "Nice save."
"Bell-a," my mother sing-songs down the hall, sauntering towards us with a drink in her hand, a smile on her face, and a cross-stitched Santa sweater that reads 'Where My Ho's At.' "Merry Christmas, my beautiful girl."
"Merry Christmas, Mom." I hug her tight as she plants a loud, booze-scented kiss on my cheek.
"And you must be Edward." She practically pushes me out of the way, reaching out to shake his hand. "I'm Renee."
He smiles wide and takes her hand. "Great to meet you."
Clearly dazzled, but mostly intoxicated, my mom makes a show of winking at me and mouthing the words he's cute as obviously as possible. "Charlie," she calls over her shoulder, "come meet Edward."
"Hey kiddo." He holds his arms out. "Come give your old man a hug."
Everything about my dad looks different. Oddly it's not the neatly styled coif or the dark-wash skinny jeans with the tapered leg. And even more shockingly, it's not even the silver-studded mid-life crisis happening on his earlobe. Aside from all of the above, he looks genuinely happy albeit slightly ridiculous standing there in his royal blue and white, Let's Get Blitzen sweater, complete with two beer mug toting reindeer.
"Ooh, look, it lights up!" my mom squeals. "Charlie look, their noses light up."
"And speaking of lit." I glance at my dad and jerk my thumb towards my mother. "Has this one been hitting the egg nog?"
He nods. "The Very Merry Punch, actually."
Mom playfully slaps his arm. "Listen! If you two jokers were up at seven this morning, carving a train car out of a red pepper for the Veggie Express tray and building a nativity scene out of cheese, you would be getting very merry yourselves."
My dad kisses her forehead just as Edward reaches out to introduce himself. "Sir—"
"Call me Charlie," my dad interrupts, offering him a firm handshake. "It's good to meet you, Edward."
"So Bella tells me you're a—"
"PARTY'S HERE!" Emmett yells as he bursts through the door.
"Merry Christmas everyone," Rose says, peeking her head out from behind him.
When she steps out, it's clear that they've taken their relationship to the next level. The sparkler on her left finger shining just as brightly as the bedazzled matching red with white fur trim velour jumpsuits they're rocking. They do a synchronized half-turn so we can see the rhinestone encrusted 'Sleigh'd It' written across their backs.
My eyes widen. "You've got to be kidding me."
Em turns back. "Don't be jealous."
Rose smiles. "It was either this or he was going to show up in a sweater with Santa on the toilet."
"The one that says 'Shitter's Full ?'" Ben asks, shutting the door behind them, wearing an atrocious snowman sweater vest and coordinating turtleneck combo.
"Emmett!" Riley shouts, bounding over with the biggest grin on his face.
"Son of a Nutcracker!" Em laughs, picking him up and tossing him in the air. "Boy, ain't that the truth."
Ang covertly flips him off, and I hear Edward and my father snicker beside me.
"Charlie," Emmett says, putting Riley down and widening his arms for what's sure to be a long, awkward bromantic hug. "Come here, big guy."
My mother and Ang swarm Rose, gushing over how beautiful she looks and making her feel welcome. Between my mother's offer to share her Very Merry Punch, Rose's awe of my sister's taste in decorating, and Ang's nod of approval as she inspects Rose's ring with her jeweler's loupe, I can tell they're all instantly smitten with each other.
"You look good, man." Em squeezes my dad's bicep. "Those kettle bells are really working for you."
I swear my dad blushes as he brushes off Em's compliment. "Well, yeah, I've been lifting a bit here and there."
Em's eyes flash to Edward and he jerks his chin at him. "How's it going, E.C.? You been icing that arm of yours?"
My dad looks puzzled when Em starts massaging Edward's shoulder, so I explain. "Edward's on Emmett's dodgeball team."
Em nods. "This guy's got a canon on him."
Edward shakes his head. "I don't, I just–"
"Don't be modest. E.C.'s a beast. Just last week he–"
I give Em the stink-eye, knowing he's about to tell my father that Edward broke some poor guy's nose last week. Grabbing his hand, I yank Edward in the direction of the kitchen. "Let's go meet my Gram."
"There you all are," Grandma Swan says from her seat at the island sounding like Selma from The Simpsons. "I thought you all forgot about me in here."
"Never." I wrap my arms around her and kiss her cheek. "How are ya?"
She shrugs. "Well I'm still alive, so I've got that going for me I guess."
"Gram, this is Edward."
"Ahh," she says, sizing him up as she takes his hand. "So you're the wacky-tobacky grower?"
"It's great to meet you, Ms. Swan."
"Come closer, I want to get a look at you." She pulls him down to eye level. "Can't see too good with this glaucoma."
And there it is.
"Handsome fella you've got here, Bells."
"I know," I sigh, smiling as Edward rights himself and puts his arm around me.
Gram cranes her neck to check out his back side. "He's got a nice tush, too."
"Hi, Grandma." Em's voice waivers slightly like a child who's about to be scolded.
She glances up at him. "Oh, it's you."
Fact. My grandma may be the oldest living petty person on the planet. She's like a walking, talking Kermit the Frog meme, complete with Lipton tea, though I'd venture to guess that there's a splash of bourbon in there somewhere.
Emmett grimaces and motions to Rose. "This is my fiancée, Rosalie."
"Rose," she corrects him and leans down to hug my Gram. "So nice to meet you."
"So you're the beauty and the brains of this operation, huh?"
Rose stands and smiles. "Obviously."
Gram points a withered finger at Rose, but looks at Em. "I like this one, Fathead. She's got pluck."
Edward mouths the word "fathead" to me and gives me a questioning look.
"Long story," I mumble as we head into the dining room.
Rose and Em follow us and Edward looks around to see if the coast is clear. "Dude, why does Bella's grandma hate you?"
"Because she's the devil."
"Emmett." Rose smacks his chest.
"She is. Three years ago, I called Bella at her dad's house and when she picked up the phone I may or may not have assumed she was Charlie."
"You kept calling her sir!"
Em's eyes snap to Edward. "E.C., be real with me right now. Does Bella's grandma not sound just like James Earl Jones?"
Edward covers his face and Rose pinches Em's arm.
"You stop thatl!" she scolds him.
"So what do you guys think?" Ang glides into the room, elegantly waving an arm over the buffet table.
"Looks great, Ang!" Edward grins. "The nativity made of cheese is quite the centerpiece."
She swells with pride and points out the different types. "The wise men are Brie, Mary and Joseph are made of Swiss, the stable is all Monterey Jack, and little baby Jesus in the manger is a tasty little Boursin. I call it Cheesus of Nazareth."
Rose gets her camera out and snaps some pictures of the spread for her Instagram while Edward dips down to whisper in my ear. "Should I tell her that technically it would be Cheesus of Bethlehem?"
"Let her have her pun, please," I say through a clenched-toothed smile. "It would ruin Christmas if my sister kicked you in the dick."
Em's eyes light up. "Dewww it! Hey Ang –"
Thankfully my infant nephew's wail sounds through the baby monitor and my sister races away to comfort him. The next two hours pass in a blur of cheese, booze and destination wedding talk. It's not until I'm clearing the dinner dishes that I hear the conversation I've been low-key dreading happening in the living room.
"So Bella tells me you're in the cannabis industry," my father starts, leaning back in his seat and folding his arms across his chest.
"Uh, yeah. I'm a co-owner and –"
"Anyone need anything?" I interrupt, trying to contain the crazy and failing miserably.
"We're good, Bells." My father eyes me strangely then turns back to Edward. "You were saying?"
"I co-own and operate a large facil—"
"You sure?" I cut Edward off again, cringing slightly. "Another Vitamin R, Dad?"
"Bella," my mom calls from the kitchen. "We could use your help back here."
I walk away slowly, listening to Edward give him the same spiel he gave me on my tour. My mom's got a bit of a 'tude, standing at the sink with her hand on her hip.
"Mom, he's like interrogating him Guantánamo-style out there."
"Your father's not interrogating him."
"He is. He totally did the arms crossed, dead in the eyes, blank face stare."
Ang nods. "He's really bringing his 'A' game, Mom."
"You two worry too much. He's just trying to get to know the boy."
Em peeks out into the living room. "E.C.'s handling it like a boss."
"What are they saying?"
Ang sneaks over to entryway and listens a few moments then comes back. "They're talking about legislation."
"Bo-ring," Rose chirps and Gram nods.
Ang eavesdrops some more and given her lack of reaction, I'm feeling pretty hopeful that the conversation is in fact boring. But then her eyes get big and she whispers, "What's a grow-ho?"
"What the eff?"
She holds her finger over her lips and waves me over to listen to my father speaking.
"There are several illegal weed farms up my way in Washington. The few we've busted have been pretty sketchy and demeaning to their female trimmers."
"I assure you, sir; our facility is one-hundred percent legit. Totally legal. And we'd never abuse or demean our employees in that way. Our Cultivation and Production Specialists are valued and compensated well for their hard work."
"So you don't make them trim in the nude?"
"Absolutely not." Edward sounds a little horrified at the thought of nudity near his plants, with the exception of that one evening in the greenhouse last month of course. "Employees are required to wear protective gear for the health and safety of the plants in the grow and production areas at all times."
My father hums, seemingly satisfied with his answer. "You guys are an all cash business, correct?"
"In accordance with state law, yes."
"Pay your taxes?"
"Do anything for the community?"
"Uh yeah, we do actually. We try to sponsor a few local events here and there, but mostly we're interested in contributing to the organizations that act on behalf of those suffering from the illnesses that medical marijuana can help to treat."
"A portion of our profits goes to a different cause each month. Epilepsy, ALS, Parkinson's Disease, anorexia, various forms of cancer, mental health charities." He's probably ticking his fingers off as he lists them. "You name it; we contribute to it through our Mari-Jane Project."
"I didn't know about this," Ang murmurs.
"It's Carlisle's labor of love," I whisper. "Lost his first wife, Jane, several years ago to a degenerative disease so he tries to give back any way he can. Now, shush." I go back to listening in.
"We'd be remiss if we didn't contribute to the communities that utilize and benefit from our product. If we didn't, we'd be profiting from their pain which is not what we're about at THC. If a cure is in reach, we're all for it, but in the meantime, we're here to offer some comfort and support."
There's an awkward silence for a few moments. I'm just about to swoop in and suggest some dessert when I hear Edward speak again.
"You should come by and tour the facility while you're out here."
I peek in and see my dad nodding his head. "I'd like that."
"Great." Edward slaps the top of his thighs and stands. "Excuse me for a moment."
He heads towards the dining room as I sneak into the living room with my father. "Well?"
His mustache twitches. "He seems like a good guy."
"He totally is, but what even with the grow-ho's question? And when did you become such a feminist?"
"When your mother gave birth to you and your sister, I suppose."
He's too cool about this. Too calm. I smell a rat.
"You did a background check on him, didn't you?" He looks away. "Clean as a whistle, wasn't he?"
"His financials look great too."
"Daaaadddd," I whine, mortified by my crazy cop father.
"What? Is it wrong that I care?" he asks innocently to which I scoff. "If it counts for anything I just asked for criminal history. My guy threw the financials in for free."
"Debatable, but even if the background check came back bad, at the end of the day, I'd trust your judgment on the matter."
"Good, because my judgment is telling me that your earring looks ri-diculous."
"I know." His lips twist into a scowl. "But your mom loves it and if this stud," he points to the earring then to himself, "makes this stud more appealing to her, then I'm happy to do it."
By the end of the night, my mother's passed out by the tree next to my sleeping nephew, Ang has created an elegant vision board for Rose and Em's wedding reception, and Edward and I are the proud new owners of a Potty Putter Toilet Golf game and a Zombie Apocalypse Survival book, courtesy of our annual white elephant gift exchange.
"Goodnight, everyone," Em says, wearing his newly acquired poop emoji hat. "Merry Christmas."
Ang and Ben wave and Gram gives him the finger.
"That old bird is savage AF isn't she?" Rose laughs as she hugs me goodbye.
"So I saw you booked your room already for the wedding. Is E.C. coming with you?"
I shush her and whip my head around to see if Edward heard. "That's what I'm giving him for Christmas."
"A long weekend in Aruba? Good luck getting him to leave his plants."
"I know, right? I'm gonna throw in a Chipotle gift card to sweeten the deal."
"Well Bells," Em butts in, dangling our apartment key from his fingers. "It's the end of an era."
"You're all moved out?"
He slips the key into my hand. "I am."
"Did you take the Keuri—"
"Ssshh." He puts a finger over my lips then steps away. "Don't make this weird."
Opening the door for Rose, he looks back to me and gives me a devious grin. "I took all the toilet paper too. 'Kay, thanks, bye."
And then he's gone. Not that he's out of my life by any means, but he won't be there for the day-to-day and I kind of want to cry.
"You all right?" Edward murmurs against my temple.
"Mm hmm." I lean into him. "I just hate change."
"Change can be great."
The urge to roll my eyes is strong. "Great as in a mortgage and shitloads of responsibility?"
"Mortgage! That reminds me!" The sound of Ang's voice startles us and we watch her scurry over to her purse. "I talked to Harry this morning and apparently there's a new listing that you may want to check out over on Claremont Street. It's a super cute little ranch with a small yard. Here," she says, fishing out a business card then handing it to me, "call him first thing on Monday for a showing."
"Ang, I don't—"
"He's got a few others you may like. I'll forward you the listings."
I can feel Edward stiffen beside me.
"Ready to go?" I ask, pulling him towards the door so we don't have to listen to my sister prattle on about real estate.
We say our goodbyes and hop in the car. We're barely out of the subdivision when my sister texts me a link to the first listing. "Charming three-bedroom all-brick ranch with detached garage. Quiet neighborhood," I read aloud. "What do you think?"
"It sounds nice if that's what you're looking for."
"The price is a little steep. I'd probably have to trawl Craigslist for a roommate which makes me think I should just rent, but then I have nothing to show for it."
Another text comes in. "Elegant new construction townhome. Finished basement and fenced in yard." I scroll through the pictures. "It's cute."
"Zero-lot-line?" he asks, waiting for the stoplight to turn green.
I shake my head. "No."
"You'll be shoveling your car out all winter."
"Then that's a definite no."
His shoulders relax slightly, but he's still gripping the steering wheel like he's playing Mario Cart, all tight and tense.
"Do you," I hesitate, looking down at my phone. "Do you have any thoughts on the matter?"
"Kind-of," he blurts and it sounds a little sarcastic, but his next words come out much softer. "I mean, yeah. I uh…" his voice fades out as he hangs a right and pulls into a 7-11 parking lot. "Give me a minute, I'll be right back."
He throws the car in park and is out of the vehicle a split second later. I watch him acknowledge the clerk before slipping into one of the back aisles. He paces a bit and rubs his hand over his jaw. After a few minutes, he grabs something from the shelf then heads up to the register. Not wanting to look like a total stalker, I turn my attention back to my phone, forgoing real estate listings for a quick perusal of E! online.
The sound of the car door opening and closing startles me. "Sorry 'bout that," he says as normal as can be and tosses the bag on my lap.
I reach in and pull out a toothbrush. "Aww, thanks."
Staring straight ahead, his hands go back to clutching the wheel. "Cards on the table, Bella. If you want to buy a home or a condo, I'm one-hundred-percent behind you on that. If you want to renew your lease or rent a new place with some Craigslist creeper, I'm with you on that too." He turns to face me. "But if I had a choice in the matter, I'd prefer that you move in with me."
My mouth pops open but nothing comes out and his words just hang there for several moments.
He looks away. "Too soon then I'm guessing."
"No. Hey!" I tug on his sleeve. "I didn't even know that option was on the table."
"You've really never given any thought to us living together?"
"Of course I have, but like I said, I didn't think it was even an option. You never brought it up and your last experience with a live-in girlfriend was apparently an absolute shit-show, so I wasn't about to casually suggest that maybe I should move in."
"Well why not? You've stayed over just about every night since August. You already have a key, the password to my Wi-Fi and Netflix account, the keypad codes to the dispensary, and a considerable amount of my closet space. What would be so different if we were to make it official?"
"Lots of things would be different. I wouldn't be running to the gas station across the street to take a shit or strategically stashing Poo-Pourri in my box of tampons."
He smirks, clearly amused by this confession. "You shit at the gas station across the street?"
"Just about every day and I swear the employees are starting to suspect."
"Why don't you just go at my place?"
"Because nothing kills the romance faster than five dollar burrito night at LaBamba." He looks at me like I'm certifiable, but I keep going. "I'll lose all of my mystique and the next thing you know, we'll be farting on each other's pillows and dutch-ovening each other before work. I'm telling you, it's a slippery slope."
"Bodily functions are a non-issue for me."
"Good to know."
"Is shitting your only reservation?"
"Not exactly. I have one more."
"Let's hear it."
"We don't … fight."
"And that's … bad?"
"Not bad, per se, it's just a huge step to take when we haven't really had a legitimate fight."
"We've bickered, but it's all polite and smiley. I'm talking about a knockdown, drag out with me screaming at you with a finger in your face, or you losing your shit on me for not rinsing the dishes before I put them in the dishwasher."
"I'm not interested in fighting with you to prove that this is a non-issue, but if we do this, maybe we'd both feel better if we aired out a few grievances."
"I'm game. You go fir—."
"The thermostat," he blurts. "I love you, but I can't handle waking up sweating my balls off each morning to a balmy 76 degrees in the middle of December. Ideally I'd like it set at 69, but in the interest of compromise, I'll go as high as 73."
"Sounds fair. Anything else?"
"Yes, can we please remove the Real Housewives recordings from the DVR?"
"Fine," I acquiesce.
"And all the Outlanders?"
"Not a chance."
"I had to try. Your turn."
"I hate your coffee maker."
"We'll get a new one this week. What else?"
"I think that might be it. My disdain for your coffee maker pretty much overshadows any other legitimate beefs."
"I'm sure they'll come to you."
"So you'll do it?" he asks, pressing his forehead to mine. "You'll move in with me?"
"There's still so much to discuss."
"We'll figure it out, I promise, just…"
"Live with me." Reaching up, he holds my face in his hands and skims his nose down mine, repeating himself softer this time. "Live with me."
"It's hard to take you seriously wearing that get-up."
A slow grin spreads over his face. "Is that a yes?"
"Good," he sighs with relief and plants a loud smacking kiss to my lips. "I thought I was going to have to run back into the store and tempt you with a sleeve of Oreos."
"That would've worked too."
"So we're really doing this?"
"We're really doing this."
Smiling, he starts up the car and just as he goes to put it in reverse, I place my hand over his on the gear shift.
"What?" His whole body stiffens again and all evidence of a smile is gone.
"Nothing, it's just …" I tip my head towards the 7-11. "Maybe we should celebrate this huge step in our relationship."
He smirks. "Regular or Double Stuffed?"
A/N: Thanksgiving is tomorrow, but I'm feeling especially grateful today.
Thanks to everyone who read, reviewed, rec'd, pimped, followed, fav'd, and/or lurked this fic. Truly you guys make this so much fun! Big love and thanks to The Lemonade Stand and to Rita at Rob Attack for featuring Kush. As both a reader and writer, I greatly appreciate what you gals do for our fandom.
Thank you to the good people at Leafly who provided me with a quality med-ucation on cannabis and the kind canna-sseurs on YouTube for the vape and trimming tutorials.
And now for my loves …
Yum – You, my friend, are like an OG Kush strain, crushing any worries or nerves I may have while writing and cooling me out with your chill, uplifting vibe. You're a gem, pal, and I'm so grateful for all the time you put in to this fic and for your friendship. Thank you for everything!
Planetblue - Back in April, we all sat in a casino bar laughing and bullshitting back and forth about this story. I walked away from that conversation feeling legitimately high and more excited to write than ever before. You're like a smooth AK-47 strain, pal – sparking every ounce of creativity in me and amplifying the experience with your energy. Truly Aim, I can't tell you how much I appreciate you. Thanks for all you do my friend!
Carrie ZM – And you, my boo, beta, bestie … the genetics just aren't there yet to make a strain as dope as you, pal. We always have such a blast and I can't even tell you enough how much I love writing this nonsense with you. You're so fun and inspiring and so mother ducking patient with me. You're simply the best, Care and I appreciate you so, so much!
Fandom … until next time. LAHM out!