A Talk between Two Fathers
[Disclaimer: Thanks to Ms. Meyers for her wonderful characters and storylines. In 'Midnight Sun', (here's hoping Ms. Meyers finishes it someday!) we see Edward's POV. While his family has various, mostly negative reactions to Edward's infatuation, I wondered why Carlisle didn't seem to pay more attention to it and Edward's extreme actions, like stalking Bella and watching her sleep every night. What do people think of the solitary Cullens? That thought led to this story about Chief Swan and Carlisle. While not the Capulets and the Montagues, these guys definitely have some issues. This is set soon after the return from visting the Volturi. Characters: Carlisle, Edward, Jasper and Chief Swan. Reviews are deeply appreciated! Take care, Kelli ]
Carlisle watched Edward pace up and down the carpet in front of his desk. He'd never seen him so jittery. He focused on Esme's likely reaction on seeing a wear pattern in her brand new rug to hide his sadness from his prescient son while he considered what Edward had told him.
"Chief Swan wants to talk to me? About you?" Carlisle asked.
"The high point in our relationship was when I first introduced myself to him. The night of the baseball game." He grimaced. "When I promised that I'd take good care of Bella."
He hated that tone in Edward's voice. The self-loathing, the guilt over everything that had happened to Bella. He'd run out of reassurances long ago. Hadn't even been able to convince Edward to stay with the family after he'd said what he'd thought was his last goodbye to Bella. If only he could have, maybe then Edward wouldn't have gone to the Volturi when Rosalie had told him that Bella was dead. No. Carlisle shut down that train of thought, but it was too late. The rawness of the memory of losing Edward was too recent; the power of his grief washed over him again. Foolish when his son was right here with him. He pressed his hands together, sorry that he'd let himself get distracted. He focused again on the rug, cursing his perfect memory.
Too late. The rapid footsteps stopped. Carlisle looked up to meet Edward's stricken face.
"I'm sorry, Carlisle." His mouth twitched. "My selfishness. Thinking of my own pain. Not what I would be doing to you. To Esme."
He walked around his desk to face his son eye to eye. "All these years together and all I can do is wish that I could have given you some of my belief that this existence of ours isn't, at the end of days, damned. To give you some hope that would have balanced your sorrow."
Carlisle would have liked to put a hand on his shoulder, provide tactile reassurance, but in general, he refrained from touching Edward. Or Jasper. It was more cruel than kind with their unshielded gifts. Carlisle was moved when Edward made a rare gesture, reaching out to give his shoulder a brief squeeze.
"Thank you for standing by me. I know I haven't made it easy."
"You know how much I care for you. And Bella." Carlisle leaned back against his desk. "Charlie wants to meet this afternoon at three? Where?"
"A diner called the Carving Board. That late after lunchtime will mean that the place will be nearly empty."
"All right. Please call him and let him know I'll be there." He checked his watch. "That gives us four hours. I'll need you tell me what he expects from this discussion. Then I want you to walk me through every interaction you've had with him. I want to have a feel for your relationship."
Edward bit his bottom lip.
With amusement, Carlisle realized that Edward had picked up the gesture from Bella. She'd changed him in so many ways, great and small. "I'm sure it can't be that bad. Actually, I've been very impressed. I'm not sure how you managed it, but he's not afraid of you."
"He's not afraid of you either. No one at the hospital is."
"Centuries of daily practice." Carlisle shrugged off the compliment. "Shall we begin?"
The diner reeked of human, of grease and food. The place had been built in the seventies. It looked every year of its age. Carlisle smelled worse at the hospital every day. He was able to ignore it.
Charlie stood up as they approached.
To avoid the hand-shaking ritual, Carlisle had wrapped three of his fingers in white bandages. He held it up and said, "Sorry, slight accident this morning. How are you, Chief?"
"Charlie," he corrected as he slid into the booth's seat.
A good sign. Carlisle dipped his head in acknowledgement and sat down opposite him.
A waitress appeared before they could begin a conversation.
"Would you gentlemen like menus?"
"No, thank you," Carlisle said. "Just coffee, please. Black."
"Same here, Lilly."
"Who's your friend, Charlie?"
The waitress, a woman in her thirties with smudged eyeliner and hair an impossible shade of red was giving Carlisle a look he knew all too well. He laid his left hand to show his marriage ring flat on the table. Hardly a subtle hint, but she ignored it, an expectant smile on her lips. He looked down at the table, not wanting to give her any encouragement.
"Lilly, this is Dr. Cullen. Guess you must have missed him and his wife the last time they came in." The chief's warning about his married status, and his tone of disapproval got through to her.
"Oh, well. Nice to meet you."
Carlisle dipped his head to acknowledge her greeting. As soon as she was out of earshot, he said, "Thank you, Charlie."
"Guess that's something you and your boy have in common."
"Women throwing themselves at you everywhere you go."
The sour tone in the chief's voice revealed more of his mood. An unhappy man, resentful of what had happened to his daughter. Jasper could have calmed him, but Carlisle had nothing to offer except to listen, let Charlie vent. Better for Charlie to rant at me than at Edward. While Edward would never hurt Bella's father, his temper is sharper now when he's constantly worried about Bella.
Lilly slid cups onto the table and left without speaking.
Carlisle was grateful for the interruption as Charlie put sugar into his coffee. He truly felt for Charlie. As a prominent figure among the tiny population of Forks, his life was fodder for gossip all over town. Everyone knew how happy he'd been when Bella had moved to Forks. He'd become proud of her too. A model child who'd done well at school, who kept out of trouble, who even tried to take care of her father.
Then Edward had come into her life.
From that moment on, Bella had changed. Become unpredictable. Left him open to ugly speculation. All Charlie knew was that Bella had run back to Phoenix because of Edward. Then Charlie had found her broken and bruised in a Phoenix hospital. After a visit with Edward. It was only natural that a cop, experienced with domestic violence, had suspected that it was more than an accident, not matter what Carlisle had said. Then Edward had 'dumped' Bella, leaving Charlie to handle the aftermath, watching her suffer month after month. Just as Jacob seemed to be drawing her out of her depression, Alice had come back and Bella had disappeared. Three days later, Edward had appeared on Charlie's doorstep, carrying Bella in his arms.
No wonder Charlie had exploded. No wonder Charlie blamed all of Bella's problems on Edward. The sad part was that Edward agreed with Charlie. He didn't think he wasn't good for Bella either. Expect he couldn't live without her.
"Edward told me that you wanted to meet to discuss his relationship with Bella," Carlisle said, in as neutral a tone as possible. "He appreciated your courtesy in not going behind his back."
"Appreciated my courtesy?" Charlie raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, he does talk like that sometimes, doesn't he?"
Carlisle nodded. No need to mention that Edward's speaking patterns resembled those of his youth when he was being formal. Or stressed.
Charlie cleared his throat, clearly uncomfortable with what he was about to ask. "Look, I'll be upfront about this. I want to know more about him. He seems completely obsessed with Bella. In my eyes, their relationship's unhealthy. What I've heard about Edward doesn't help me think better of him."
"What have you heard?" Carlisle felt of jab of concern. Usually when their family was under such scrutiny, particularly by someone in law enforcement, it meant that they'd have to leave. Edward couldn't do that. Not now, not without Bella.
"Edward doesn't have a single friend. No hobbies. No part-time job. Doesn't even play sports." Charlie shrugged, and then added, "None of you belong to a church. We see you and Mrs. Cullen at some town events, but we never see your kids outside school."
"I'm afraid you'll have to blame my wife for much of that," Carlisle said. Sorry, Esme, I'm afraid I'm going to have to throw you to the wolves for this one. "Esme prefers to continue tutoring them at home after their normal school day. If she had her way, she'd home school all of them."
"Really? Tutoring?" Charlie sounded skeptical.
"Yes. I'm the one that insisted that they attend public school," Carlisle said. "I felt it was important for them to learn how to get along with children their own age."
"Doesn't seem to be working too well, does it?"
"I haven't heard any complaints about their behavior. Have you?"
Ignoring the question, Charlie said, "From what I hear, none of your kids hang out with anyone outside their family."
"Yes, it's unfortunate, but all of my children are very mature for their age." Carlisle didn't quite wince when he thought of Emmett. "I guess they don't really have a lot in common with the other children. I'm hoping that they'll do better in college."
"That doesn't reassure me about the kind of boy Edward is. Have you seen them together?" Charlie leaned forward. "He's so in control of everything Bella does. He can't seem to bear the idea of letting her be on her own. He picks her up every day, drops her off after school and then spends the rest of the afternoon breathing over her shoulder until I kick him out. I don't like it. It's not normal."
"I did think that they were getting too serious, too soon." That didn't exactly capture the tenure of his actual conversation with Edward, but it was as close as he could get. Carlisle looked down at the table, remembering what Edward had told him.
'I was going to leave her alone. Even if it meant leaving Forks again." Edward's demeanor had changed. Before Carlisle's eyes, Edward had relieved a memory so intense that its affects were still visible on Edward's face. He's met Carlisle's eyes, vibrating with intensity. "Then Bella said my name. She said 'Stay. Don't go. Please don't go'. After that, everything changed for me. Bella became the center of my universe.'
Carlisle had been deeply worried when he realized where Edward was vanishing to every night. It was so dangerous for Bella, so morally reprehensible for Edward to invade her privacy that had taken all of Carlisle's considerable will to restrain himself from ordering his son to stop. He'd never been able, nor wanted to be able, to order Edward to do anything. When he'd pleaded his case, Edward's face has shown his anguish, but he'd shaken his head and said, 'I know it's wrong, but I can't make myself stay away from her. I can't'. That his son, so controlled, so committed to avoiding succumbing to his vampiric nature, was unable to keep away from Bella, told Carlisle that it was useless to remonstrate further with him when Bella's mortal fragility troubled Edward every moment she was out of his sight. He wasn't willing to lose Edward over it. All he could do was support him, and prepare the family for the consequences if this went wrong.
Blinking, Carlisle realized that he'd let himself get distracted by his memories. "I'm sorry, Charlie. Lost in a memory. You said you thought Edward was controlling."
"Yeah, he is."
"I must admit that Edward does have a natural tendency for acting that way." Carlisle said. "His brothers and sisters very rarely let him get away with it."
"Does he try to boss around your wife?"
Carlisle understood why he asked that question; because how Edward treated Esme would likely reflect how he'd treat Bella. He also noted the phrasing that Charlie used. Perhaps it was because he knew Edward was adopted. "Edward cares for his mother deeply, and has always treated her with absolute respect."
Charlie grunted, unconvinced.
"You should know that my other children tease Edward unmercifully about the way he lets Bella boss him around."
"I find that hard to believe."
"Edward's parents left him wealthy. He's been in charge of his money since he was fifteen." Carlisle gave a soft laugh. "If Bella would let him, Edward would happily spend it all on her. She keeps refusing. She wouldn't even let him buy her a birthday present. He hates that she works but no matter how much he pleaded, Bella refused to quit. When they're together, where they go and what they do is pretty much Bella's decision. Please believe me, Bella is in far more control of their relationship than you may think."
"You let him have his money when he was fifteen? How much did he blow?"
"As I said, my children are very mature for their age. Edward has spent little of it on himself. He prefers buying gifts for his family."
"So he uses his money to control his brothers and sisters?"
Carlisle managed not to sigh. That tactic backfired. "My own parent's estate was large enough that I'll be able to provide all of my children with their own money. It'll be enough that they don't need Edward's money. Besides, it wouldn't occur to Edward to act like that."
"You mentioned earlier about women throwing themselves at Edward."
"And you, doc," Charlie interrupted, fighting a smile.
Carlisle ignored the interruption. "Edward's looks have attracted a lot of attention since he was quite young. From girls his own age and women old enough to know better. Edward had never shown the slightest interest in any of them. He's never even been out on a date. Until Bella."
"You think that'll make me feel better about this? What are you saying? That he's infatuated for the first time and when it wears off, he'll dump Bella again?"
Another backfire. "No. I meant that this is serious for Edward. He knows how much he hurt Bella and he'll never leave her again."
"Again, that is not reassuring. He's obsessed and you think its okay?"
"Chief, I don't know what else to say to set your mind at rest about Edward's intentions. I know that Edward loves her deeply and wants only the best for her. I know that he can't live without her."
"Can't live without her?" Charlie was incredulous. "When he just up and abandoned her? Tell me another. If you could have seen what it did to Bella-" He cut himself off, realizing he was raising his voice. "I almost lost her. Do you get that?"
"Yes. As I almost lost Edward." Carlisle met Charlie's eyes briefly. "I couldn't bear seeing him in such pain again."
"If he loved her so much, then why did he leave? Or wouldn't you let him stay if you cared about him so much?"
This was getting into areas that Carlisle wasn't sure how to answer. He couldn't tell Charlie anything near the truth, because Charlie would want to know why and wherefores would keep digging. "That is a matter between Edward and Bella."
"But you know and won't tell me," Charlie guessed.
"Edward told me his reasons, in confidence." Carlisle held up a hand to ward off Charlie's protest. "Which I can't discuss it with you without his permission. I'm sorry."
"Anyone need a refill?" Lilly interrupted.
"No, thank you," Carlisle answered while Charlie just shook his head.
The chief was fuming.
"I can't guarantee that everything will turn out all right for Bella and Edward," Carlisle tried once more to reassure him, though he had his own doubts. How could any relationship between a vampire and a human end well? "You've been wise enough not to try to force them apart. Please believe me that Edward will treat Bella with respect. For the rest, we'll just have to wait and see how it works out."
"Would you forbid Edward from seeing Bella if I asked you to?"
"No. I couldn't do that to them."
"Then at least will you tell him that you won't allow Bella to move in with you and your family?"
"Bella is always welcome at my home."
"Why would you do that? You're a parent. How would you like it if someone interfered when all you're trying to do is keep your kid safe and at home?"
"I wouldn't like it. However, Bella is over eighteen. Edward has access to money. And frankly, I can think of them doing worse things than moving to my home where they'd be under the supervision of myself or my wife."
Another grunt. Charlie was still dissatisfied.
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to go." Carlisle stood up. When he reached for his wallet, Charlie frowned.
"I got it."
"Thanks for the coffee. I'm sorry I wasn't able to be of more help."
Charlie got to his feet. He didn't hold out his hand. "Thanks for coming."
Carlisle nodded and left. He drove to the hospital's parking lot. He didn't have to wait long until a silver Volvo slid to a stop next to him. Jasper and Edward got out and climbed into the back seat of the Mercedes. Carlisle turned around to face them.
"What do you think, Edward?"
"He hasn't changed his mind about Bella and me. He wants me gone. Charlie actually hoped you'd volunteer to send me to a boarding school in another country." Edward shook his head. "But you did make an impression. Especially about Bella being in more control than he thinks."
"All he has to do is ask me," Jasper volunteered. He grinned at his brother. "I'll be glad to tell him how whipped you are."
"Yeah, like you're not," Edward said.
"True. I'd do anything for Alice, and she knows it."
"Jasper, what do you think?" Carlisle asked. "I'm concerned that Charlie's been asking questions around town about Edward and the rest of us."
"Chief Swan wasn't as upset leaving as he was when you first arrived," Jasper said. "Meeting with you allowed him to feel that he'd regained some control. Didn't sense the kind of rage or vindictiveness that would make him dangerous to us. Wouldn't consider him a threat, right yet."
"Right yet?" Carlisle sighed. "Charlie was right about our limited social interactions. It does make us stand out. Maybe we should work on that."
Jasper and Edward exchanged horrified glances.
"You're not thinking of making us go to church, are you?" Edward asked.
"Or joining a high school sports teams?" Jasper asked. "Gym's already bad enough surrounded by all those beating hearts working overtime."
Carlisle noted the way Jasper clenched his hands as he spoke. It would be unkind to ask more from his youngest son when Jasper's control of his thirst was still so fragile. "Then how about joining a club of some kind?"
Edward groaned. "Carlisle, staying sane after going to high school day after day for decade after decade is hard enough. For pity's sake, please don't make us stay a minute longer at school."
"All right, that's out." Carlisle shook his head. "We'll have to think of something though. Thanks for your help today. I'll see you tonight."
Jasper and Edward waited until Carlisle entered the hospital. Jasper nudged Edward. "Why didn't you tell him the rest?"
"About Charlie thinking about shooting me and dumping my body if I ever do anything to hurt Bella?" Edward shrugged. "You know as well as I do that it's just a fantasy. He'd never do it. What about you? Not mention anything to Carlisle?"
"Every once in a while I'd feel a twinge in the chief's gut. Like his instincts were trying to warn him about something."
"Reacting to Carlisle?"
Jasper nodded. "He'd just ignore it though. Somehow, he feels comfortable around Carlisle. Maybe that's where Bella gets it. Her ability to ignore danger."
"Was Carlisle upset? I know he likes Charlie. I'd hate for their friendship to be ruined over this."
"Friendship?" Jasper's voice was sardonic. "We don't have friends outside our kind. We can't. Not even Carlisle. You know that better than I do."
Edward looked away, knowing that Jasper was right. "Then their working relationship?"
"Should be okay. Never sensed that any of his anger was directed at Carlisle." Jasper added, "Course every time your name was mentioned, he got upset. He's more frustrated than anything else."
"Frustration we can deal with. At least that means we don't have to run. That's a relief." Edward checked his watch. "Bella's getting out of work soon. I told her I'd pick her up."
"Okay. I'll run back home."
Edward grabbed his brother's arm. "You're welcome to come with me."
"Ride in the same car with her?" Jasper shook loose his arm. "I can't. Haven't fed in too long to chance it."
"I can't tell you what it means to me that you're willing to trust me." Jasper didn't mention Bella's disastrous birthday party. He didn't have to. "You know, Alice never warned me exactly how crazy you Cullens really are. A vampire dating a cop's daughter?"
"Guess that's why you fit right in," Edward retorted.
"Why don't you go get Bella and let Charlie see how she pushes you around up close?"
"Very funny. See you back home."
"Vampires with a home." Jasper shook his head. "Guess I am just as crazy as the rest of you."
They parted with a laugh.