Disclaimer: As always, the characters and their world belong to Stephenie Meyer. Any mistakes I have made interpreting them are, of course, my own.
My father's head lifted from his reading—the Journal of the American Medical Association, I noticed, as he laid the little book on down on his massive desk. His golden eyes met mine appraisingly.
He looks afraid, Carlisle thought, even as he said, "Yes, Edward?"
"Not afraid," I answered. "Just—a little nervous."
His eyebrows lifted. Nervous? "You need never be nervous about talking to me about anything. You know that."
I sighed. "Yes, I know. I have a few things I need to talk to you about."
"Anything, Edward. Of course."
My throat seemed to constrict. "Carlisle, I've asked Bella…" I paused. Did I really want to tell him this now?
He finished for me. "You've asked her to marry you," he said quietly. Oh, Edward! Thank goodness.
I was amused. "Are you reading minds now? I thought that was my job."
His face broke into a broad smile. "It's all over your face." As though you're in agony and ecstasy at once. I'm getting used to that face.
"You think it's a good idea, then."
Carlisle let out a bark of a laugh. "Edward, there is no other idea. You won't live without her. She won't live without you. What else is left?" I nodded, sitting down in the chair across from his desk out of habit. "Have you told Esme?" She's going to be unbearable about this. Alice, too.
"Not yet. The easier parent first."
Parent, he sighed to himself. He was thrilled I'd used that word, and the intensity of the joy that began pouring out of him could have knocked me off my chair.
"Okay, okay, okay, stop." I threw up my hands. "Look, if you're going to go to pieces, I'm going to start just calling you my creator, I swear. You're as bad as Esme, you know. You just don't say anything aloud."
His face evened, but he was still smiling. But I am so happy for you. "I'm sorry, Edward—son." A flash from his mind—Bella, in a beautiful white gown, clutching my hands, staring adoringly into my eyes while I gazed down at her. But her hands were as pale as mine, her eyes no longer the deep brown but the same gold of the rest of our family's…
"No!" I spat. "No. Not then—"
But she must—the Volturi. "Edward, it is no longer your choice."
"After," I said. In my vision of the same event Bella was still—Bella. With that unbearably perfect scent. Her hands still warm against mine—not equal, not the warmth that I felt when Esme touched my face, but human warm. Her cheeks not pale but flushing red as our lips met—I now pronounce you man and wife…
A sigh brought me back to the present. I wish I could read his mind, too. What's he thinking?
"Sorry." I caught my father's even gaze again. "I was thinking of the wedding, too. But with her still—her." Not to mention the other thing that she wanted to stay human for. I blanched.
"She'll still be Bella," Carlisle said softly.
I shook my head. "You know as well as I that she'll be a newborn," I answered. "We don't know when her feelings for me will come back."
But we know that they will. He was still grinning. And then you'll know… An image of Esme appeared, Carlisle's body pressed to her, her shoulders bare…
"Carlisle! Oh my God!" I instinctively threw my hands over my eyes, as though that would stop what I was seeing.
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry." Esme abruptly disappeared.
Johannes del gracia rex Anglie, dominus Hibernie, dux Normannie, Aquitannie et comes Andegavie, archiepiscopis, episcopis, abbatibus, comitibus, baronibus, justiciariis, forestariis, vicecomitibus, prepositis, ministris et omnibus ballivis et fidelibus suis salutem…
The Magna Carta. Much better. Carlisle kept the onslaught of Latin legalese running as he said, "I just meant that you'll get to experience something…new, that's all."
I gazed at him. He was still rattling off names of archbishops in his head. As much as I wanted to pretend that he'd never had the thought he'd just shown me, the topic was one of the things I'd wanted to ask him about. "Carlisle, if I ask you something—"
"Yes?" In primis concessisse Deo et hac presenti carta nostra confirmasse, pro nobis et heredibus nostris in perpetuum…
"Can you keep any disturbing images of Esme out of it?"
His mouth opened as though he was about to say something, but then closed. "I'll try." The Magna Carta abruptly stopped. "It's about…physical love, then?"
"I think these days they call it 'getting it on.'"
So crude. His nose wrinkled as though he'd just caught a whiff of something terrible. "What is that you wish to know?" He's been to medical school twice now, surely he's not confused about the mechanics?
"Of course not! Give me some credit?"
"I'm sorry. You know I can't always control what comes to mind first. What is it that worries you so?"
I sighed. I had laughed at Bella when Charlie had unsuccessfully tried to nail her down for "the talk" and here I was bringing it on myself. Of course, she had had an out that I didn't have: "Edward is very old-fashioned," I had heard her voice ring in Charlie's thoughts the next time I had seen him and he'd remembered their conversation while still giving me the evil eye. I smirked. If only Charlie knew who was driving this particular part of our relationship. But still—that didn't make this conversation any easier.
"Bella wants—" I paused. "She knows she'll be a newborn once she's turned, and she's worried that it won't be the same."
Carlisle continued to frown a moment, and then his eyes widened as comprehension dawned. "She wants to consummate your relationship while she's still human?" he croaked.
That seals it. She's insane. I love her, but she's insane. I thought she might be…
"I'm sorry?" Clearly, Carlisle was thinking on two fronts at once.
"You thought Bella was insane?"
"Well—" he stuttered, finishing his sentence in his head, she fell in love with you, she wants to be one of us…
"Thanks for that." I rolled my eyes.
"You know what I mean." Carlisle finally stood from behind his desk and perched on the edge of my chair so that he could lay a hand on my shoulder. Carlisle was not often overtly physically affectionate, and when he was, it was usually this—a hand on the shoulder, a pat on the back. It was nevertheless unnecessary—I heard every time the words I love you crossed his mind, which could get upwards of a couple times a second if he was feeling gooey. "I'm very happy for you both. Overjoyed. But this—there's no precedent for this." As though there is a precedent for anything involving him and Bella…
"What about the legends? The incubus, the succubus?"
My father shook his head. "Doesn't apply. The point was to kill the victims." The vampire version of that man I dumped in Portland for you, he thought, and I shuddered. "If the human's body is destroyed in the…process, it doesn't matter."
"What should I do? Do you think it's possible?" I honestly wasn't sure if I wanted him to say yes or no.
He frowned, his lips pursed, replacing his hand in his lap. "Well, according to Aro, you never should have been able to resist biting her in the first place."
I remembered that clearly. "I certainly never thought to see Carlisle bested for self-control of all things," the millennia-old vampire had told me. He'd called Bella my "singer," telling me that her blood called to me uniquely above all others. I should not have been able to refrain from killing her, much less have a relationship with her. A relationship that had gotten disturbingly physical lately, I thought, as I remembered lying with her on the huge bed in my room, her leg hitched over my hip. The desire then had been almost unbearable, monstrous. A very different monster than the monster that used to chase me, the one that had made me want to devour her in a completely literal sense that first day in Biology. But nevertheless a monster.
"It won't be easy," Carlisle mused quietly, studying my face. "I'm not sure I could do it, myself." If Esme were human…he shuddered and his mind started to wander.
"Carlisle—" I warned.
Right. Sorry. He rattled off another section of the Magna Carta before speaking again.
"It's possible," he finally said. "It might even be probable. But the control it will take, Edward…you'll have to be so careful." And I don't doubt for a microsecond that you will be. I have such confidence in you, son.
"I'm not so sure." My mind flashed back to the images Alice had foreseen back when Bella had first arrived in Forks—her body broken, bloodied, me, red-eyed and at fault. The thought had made me want to be violently ill then, and now it was beyond unthinkable. I would die. I knew that now. There was no world for me without her in it. But I couldn't not try. She had agreed to everything I'd asked: the wedding, the car (cars if I could manage—one for while she was still fragile and then one for when she could drive fast), waiting to change, despite that I thought my father might have changed her the minute after she'd put it to a vote with my entire family if he hadn't feared my reaction. She'd put this one request in answer to my interminable ones. How could I notacquiesce?
Carlisle's lips were pressed together. "It's dangerous, Edward. Extraordinarily dangerous. But I know that you know that. And I trust that you can stay in control."
That was the problem, I didn't trust that. But then, I hadn't promised her that we'd complete the act. I'd promised her that we'd try. Try. That word, as I turned it over in my head, made me relax a little bit. I remembered the first time our lips had met in the meadow. If need be, I could be a half a mile away in an instant. Yes. That would do.
My expression must have subtly changed, because Carlisle smiled a tiny smile. My, I never thought I'd be talking about this with Edward.
"Well, it's been over a hundred years." Which put me roughly eighty-three years behind the majority of the boys at Forks high, if my analysis of their thoughts was in any way accurate. They certainly weren't thoughts I enjoyed plucking out of the air, but in a high school it was inevitable. And in the locker room, it was audible to anyone—although I knew full well the big talkers were usually exaggerating. "Isn't that long enough?"
My father laughed. "Try two hundred seventy-odd." It was to the point that I thought I would never get to…
"I get it! I get it. No mental pictures, please." And what did he mean he never thought he'd be talking about this with me? Did he really think that I'd never find someone? For someone with such faith in my ability to control my animalistic tendencies, he sure had a low opinion of my sex appeal.
Carlisle was still smirking. "No mental pictures. I just—I am very, very happy for you. I hope you know that."
I want you to experience what I've experienced, he thought fiercely.
"And what is that, exactly?"
He sucked in a breath and closed his eyes, hitting me with such a flurry of Latin from his mind that it threatened to make my head hurt.
"More Magna Carta?" I said, amused.
"I thought you'd rather that than Esme." He shook his head and exhaled a short breath.. "It's powerful, Edward. So powerful. I have complete and utter faith in you, son, but you absolutely cannot treat the move to become intimate with Bella lightly."
This time it was me who laughed. Lightly? Lightly would have been giving in over a year ago, the first time I had d felt the pull of my other monster, as I was starting to think of it. Agony, that was what this was. Slow, hellish torture.
"But it will be different for you," he said more quietly, as though to himself.
I had not expected him to say that. "What do you mean?"
"We vampires are steadfast creatures, Edward," he answered slowly. "Our temperaments do not easily change." Yet yours has. What a strange and wonderful gift Bella has been.
"And sex….changes our temperaments?"
He made a face at my word choice, which was obviously too twentieth-century for him. "Physical love is a great pleasure, Edward. I have not known a greater pleasure, although your brothers…well, you should ask them." He looked briefly pained. "At any rate, it engenders very strong emotion. And strong emotion can change anyone, even us." Esme swirled in his memory again for a brief moment, thankfully clothed. "But your feelings for Bella have already altered you. Quite completely. I daresay that you have already undergone the changes your brothers and I experienced."
I knew what he was talking about. It took only a fraction of a second to call the memory of the first night I'd snuck into Bella's bedroom. How peaceful she'd been, how I'd just wanted to admire, to think. And then in one whispered word out of the depths of her sleep my world had turned itself inside out. Edward. Among a century of crystal-clear memories, the memory of her speaking my name in her sleep still stood out. The moment when I had known, beyond doubt, that I would love Bella Swan for eternity. Carlisle was right. Bella had already changed me.
Carlisle was studying my face again. "It will be different for you," he repeated. "And that's a good thing." It will give you strength. Even if she is still human.
"I have every confidence in you. And it is not misplaced." Before you think it, son.
I stood, and Carlisle automatically rose also. That's it, then?
"Yes," I answered. "Thank you."
Always, Edward. He emphasized "always," and I heard his full meaning. For the rest of eternity. Whenever I needed advice. And on whatever topic. I remembered the last thing I had to ask him.
"About the wedding itself."
"Yes?" His eyebrows were raised.
"Bella would like to elope, but Alice will turn me to a pile of ash if that happens—" Carlisle smiled. As will Esme, he thought.
"— so, I was thinking of suggesting we have it here. Non-threatening."
He beamed. I like that idea very much. Your mother will be overjoyed.
"I think Bella wants to ask Alice to be her bridesmaid."
My father rolled his eyes. We are never going to hear the end of her. "Alice will be pleased."
"And I thought…" I paused. "Well, someone will need to stand up for me, too." I looked at him pointedly.
Oh, Edward. I actually didn't have time to see him move in his head before his arms were around me, so instantaneous was his reaction. He was sucking air rapidly, his breath noisy at my ear. I recognized the sound.
"You are not crying."
Of course I'm not crying, he shot back. I can't.
"You know what I mean."
He continued to hug me fiercely for several moments, his thoughts wordless but forcefully exuding love, gratitude and strangely, pride. Although I could have broken his embrace easily, I waited instead, and he finally slowly and reluctantly let me go.
"Of course I will stand with you," he said. He took my hand and squeezed it firmly, smiling. I absolutely cannot wait.
"Thanks, Carlisle." I took my hand from his and started for the door, heading away from the stairs and toward my room.
Not so fast, he thought. You're forgetting about telling your mother.
I winced. Yes, I had to tell Esme. I pulled myself upright and braced myself for an even more overt display of over-sentimentality. But as I turned toward the stairs, I was nearly deafened by Alice's shriek:
"It's about time you told Esme! I am so sick of keeping this a secret! You guys, Edward is getting married!!!"
The last word just about shattered the glass in the living room. I put a hand over my eyes for a moment, then recovered. Standing up straight, I began to make my way downstairs trying to look confident. I caught Esme's eye from the stairwell, and she beamed at me from across the room. How marvelous, Edward. I am so happy for you and Bella.
"There is so much I still haven't gotten done! I don't understand why you couldn't have made your mind up earlier, Edward Cullen! The flowers. The officiant. My dress. The food. We have to feed people. There will be humans here." Alice was still going on at top volume, stomping around the living room and throwing her hands in the air as she listed each item.
"She's impossible," I muttered, just loud enough for Carlisle to hear as I headed down the stairs to face the rest of my family.
Behind me, my father only laughed.