A/N I've been reading Twilight this summer. Emmett is by far my favorite character (Edward who?)
...and Abby, stop laughing! I'm not obssessed ;)
Set in season 3, but completely spoiler free as far as I know. Emmett and Serena, with implied Emmett/Rosalie and Serena/Nate.
Thankyouthankyouthankyou to my lovely and talented friend Noirreigne for being my beta on this fic.
He walked inside the diner without giving the decision much thought. Not because the wind blowing down the street had been to chilly too endure, or because he'd felt a sudden desire to treat himself to a meal overflowing with saturated fat or a steaming cup of black coffee. No, neither of those things had been the reason, the wind hadn't been bothering him the slightest and the diet he preferred wasn't exactly offered on the diner's menu. He gave the place a quick and subconscious once-over as he walked through the door to the sound of jingling bells hanging from a string on the wood. The café was decorated in an obvious tribute to the fifties, he realized, taking in the aqua-colored walls, the booths with their cherry-colored vinyl seats and the bar stools - their seat cushions tarnished from years of use - in front of the counter. There was even an old jukebox playing in the far corner of the room and the waitress wore a pink dress in polyester blend. It smelled like French fries, coffee and cheap detergent.
The guests were few in numbers. A middle-aged man with sandy-colored hair sticking out in messy tufts from underneath an old, battered fedora - his grey suit wrinkled and the tie loose around his neck - sat by the window in the corner booth. The man was staring numbly into his cup of coffee, looking as if he wished the cup would magically grow in size and become big enough for him to drown himself in its content. His shoulders were slumped and his back hunched as if he carried an invisible burden on his shoulders that was almost too heavy to bear.
The waitress - a curvy, big-bosomed woman in her forties that barely fit inside her uniform, with neatly curled, burgundy hair that clashed magnificently with the pink of her attire - offered the man a refill on his drink, and he accepted without giving her a second look. Unfazed by the man's stand-offish behavior the waitress filled his cup and gave his slumped shoulder an encouraging squeeze before she walked off. The man followed her with his eyes as she walked up behind the counter, his mouth tugging slightly in the corner before he lowered his eyes again and curled his fingers around the steaming mug.
The man kept stealing glances over at the empty seat across the table from him as he sipped his drink. Unconsciously rubbing his right hand over the back of his left at the times when the mug was safely placed on the Formica table. There was no longer a pale line on his ring finger, standing out in harsh comparison to the darker skin of the hand, but the gesture itself told the story perfectly well without visible evidence. Heartbreak. When the man suddenly jolted, becoming aware of his hands treacherous movement and straightening defiantly in his seat, the gleam of a copper pin on his lapel caught Emmett's attention. 'One day at a time'.
The sound of the waitress' orthopedic, black shoes blended with the sound coming from the jukebox as she made her way back behind the counter. As she passed by where he stood a few feet inside the room she offered him a nervous smile, her eyes meeting his for a fraction of a second. You really didn't have to be a mind reader to know what she was thinking. Trouble. He had that effect on people sometimes, especially in this part of town. He was too tall and too bulky to fit in properly amongst the business men in their smart suits, the stylish teenagers and over-perfumed society wives. A quick look at his clothes emphasized the idea that he probably looked like trouble personified in his dark jeans, navy sweater and black leather jacket. Not particularly interested in scaring the waitress enough for her to retrieve the pepper spray she had hidden by the cash register, he was quick to offer her a friendly grin that immediately had her look far more relaxed. Her positive reaction only made his grin widen. That trick rarely failed. If she knew what was conveniently hidden behind the beaming smile she'd most likely be screaming her head off instead of retrieving a dishcloth and giving the surprisingly clean counter a good wipe.
As he walked over to the counter he passed by the diner's other two guests a part from the troubled man in the booth. Two women in their late twenties sat opposite each other in another booth, having a whispered conversation over a piece of pumpkin pie. Hookers, he could tell that part easily and it wasn't the skimpy dresses hid underneath their faux fur coats, or the knee high boots followed by fishnet thighs, that gave them away. He didn't have to base his verdict on either that or the slightly exaggerated make-up to know. They reeked of cheap perfume and sex, and not good sex but the business version that smelled slightly metallic.
"You all by your lonesome, honey?" The waitress asked him as he approached the counter, her voice rough from years of smoking and with a distinct southern accent. Accents like hers always gave him the briefest hint of a flashback, of childhood and majestic mountains. Tennessee. Wondering what events had landed her in New York, he stole a quick look of the name tag sewn on to her pink dress. It read 'Rosie' and he already liked her. She clearly thought of herself as the guardian angel of the establishment's patrons, and he assumed that most of the friendly atmosphere the place exuded in spite of its worn state was indeed because of her.
"No, I'm waiting for someone, sort of." He replied as he slid onto one of the worn down barstools. It was more of a forced exile, really. Rosalie had big plans for their last night in New York and therefore he'd been ungracefully kicked out of their suite at the Palace.
"Good. A dashing young man like you shouldn't be alone on Thanksgiving." The waitress winked, all hostility towards him gone. "Can I get you something while you wait? We have some lovely pumpkin pie." She continued, and nodded in the direction of a freshly baked pie placed on a platter and waiting for the next hungry customer with a sweet-tooth. "Or some steak sandwiches if you'd like something a little more substantial?"
"I'll just have some coffee thanks, Rosie." He declined her offer light-heartedly, adding her name after a second's thought as if he'd just read it. Not that he'd be drinking any of the coffee, but humans had a tendency to get a little finicky when you didn't order anything. He smiled at the way her cheeks turned a deeper shade of pink at his unexpected friendliness, she was clearly not used to people paying enough attention to her to know her name.
Within seconds she put a heavy and moss-green mug down in front of him on the counter top. "There you go, honey." She smiled, and he folded his hands around the ceramic for good measure. A motion from the hookers in the booth then caught the waitress' attention, and she was quickly on her way over to them with the coffee pot in hand. The jukebox switched to an old Elvis classic, and he tapped his foot in tune with the music.
They were living on their own for a while, him and Rosalie, like they tended to do from time to time. They had rented a house outside of Philadelphia for the moment, and had gone to New York for a few days to satisfy Rosalie's crave for high end shopping. He himself could barely stand the city and had very little patience when it came to looking at dresses or choose between ten pairs of equally black and high-heeled shoes. But Rosalie thrived in New York, loved every minute of the shopping and the buzzing atmosphere, so he put up with it for her sake. Anything for her. And the shopping did bring with it some benefits, like the task of ridding Rosalie of newly purchased scraps of lace or silk. An impatient look at the clock on the wall told him that he'd be there for another forty minutes before he was allowed back at the hotel. Not that Rosalie really needed forty goddamn minutes to get ready, she could probably have done it all in less than one, but knowing her she'd make it worth the wait.
The jukebox switched song again, to something more upbeat this time that had the waitress humming along as she worked. She was slightly off pitch, and her spontaneous disco moves forced him to divert his gaze to keep from laughing. A tall, female shape with a mass of blonde hair walking past outside the window caught his attention from the corner of his eye. The blonde moved in confident, determined strides and he watched as she reached the door and pulled it open. The bell on the door chiming merrily catching the attention of the diner's other customers.
Like him, the girl paused briefly in the doorway and examined the place. Seemingly content with what she saw she walked up to the counter and sat down on a barstool, a sigh escaping her lips as she did. She slammed her purse down on the counter, the tan leather nearly knocking his coffee over as she did. "Oh, I'm sorry." She sighed, immediately lifting her bag off the surface and onto the bar stool still empty between them.
"Don't worry about it." he waved dismissively and they made eye contact for a fleeting second. Her blonde hair fell against her shoulders in golden waves that reminded him of Rosalie. She shivered a little in her thin, blue jacket - too thin for the chilly November night - and wrapped her arms around herself, burying her chin in the woolly, black scarf wrapped around her neck. Another weary breath escaped his new companion as she rested her lower arms against the counter, examining her fingernails absentmindedly. Pale pink nail polish, slightly chipped on her right thumb.
Her far from cheery mood easily caught the attention of their protector Rosie, and the older woman walked over to her newest customer with a worried look on her round face. "Are you alright, dear?" The waitress asked the blonde, all but putting a hand on the girl's arm in an act of compassion.
"I'm fine," the girl replied in an obvious lie, straightening up a little where she sat and gathering her hair in her hand and twisting it around in a well-practiced move before letting go, creating a loose ponytail that rested against her back like a golden rope. "I'd love some coffee though."
"Of course," the waitress smiled warmly, and the mug appeared on the counter in front of the girl so fast it almost seemed magical. "Are you expecting company?" the waitress continued, clearly worried about the amount of people showing up at her diner all by themselves on Thanksgiving.
"Yes, he should be here any minute." The girl replied, immediately looking a little less troubled.
"So you're both waiting for someone," The waitress laughed, and nodded in his direction. "Your dates better hurry before the two of you run off together." She laughed heartily at her own joke and the blonde looked his way again. Tired, blue-green eyes met his own tawny-colored ones and she offered him a ghost of a smile. Eager to raise her spirits a little he grinned back, raising his mug in salute. More than pleased when he was rewarded with another almost-there smile. Seriously though, what was it with this place and the depressed customers?
"Would you like something with your coffee?" The offer came as expected and the girl looked around the diner, her lip caught between her teeth as she deliberated. "I have some nice pumpkin pie…" the waitress continued, and her offer sealed the deal.
"Yes, please." Was the instant reply, and the way she said it made it sound like pumpkin pie might just be the thing to get her through the next hour without losing her mind. They both watched as the waitress lifted the glass lid off the platter and placed a slice of pie on a smaller plate before setting it down in front of the girl. A fork came next, and with newly found spirit she dug the fork into the dessert.
The jukebox was playing Beach Boys then, the song's sunny theme a stark contrast to the chilly and windy weather outside on the streets. The man by the window got another refill on his coffee and the hookers behind them kept on their whispered conversation, the exchange interrupted by quiet, nostalgic laughter from time to time. He could easily have listened in on their talk, but wasn't particularly interested in the trials and tribulations of street girls.
The red-haired waitress named Rosie was busy down in a corner, still humming along to the tune playing on the jukebox. A glance over at the clock told him he still had to wait another thirty minutes before he was allowed back at the Palace. He was getting bored, really bored and quickly too. He almost wished a robber would show up and give him something to do. Nothing like a decent fight to keep the boredom at bay. Not that it would be much of a fight, unless the robbers turned out to be about as human as himself. Oh well;
"Are you sure you're okay?" He asked the blonde next to him, hoping she'd bring him out of his misery. She was chewing absentmindedly on a piece of pie and jumped when he spoke. She slowly finished her bite and then turned to him. The fork dangling from between her index finger and thumb. He could tell that she was deciding between lying some more, or telling the truth, and prodded gently enough to make Esme proud; "It's just that, you look like shit." Alright, maybe not that proud. But since when has a little comic relief ever hurt anyone? She was way too gorgeous to ever take it as an insult anyway.
She did actually laugh a little at his words and he immediately decided that she should never do anything but laugh. He was a very taken man with a very…possessive girlfriend, but even he had to admit that the girl looked even more amazing when she smiled. But soon she was back in her more demure mood, forehead once again set in a frown and her shoulders tense underneath the jacket.
"It's just one of those days, you know." She grimaced, locking her fingers in place around the coffee mug in front of her. He made a face as if to say 'Yes, I know', and that was all it took for her to elaborate. She took a mouthful of coffee and crossed one leg over the other where she sat. The brown boot on her foot moving up and down in tune to the music.
"I just came from Thanksgiving dinner with my-" she began and then trailed off, her brows furrowed while she thought of the right word. Her foot paused too and for some reason it made him have to stifle a laugh. "With my family. My mom, my brother and my step-brother and his girlfriend - my best friend. And my mom's new…fiancé and his kids. He's my ex's dad…it's all a big mess. My ex was there too, with his new girlfriend."
"And it sucks to be around your ex and his new girl." He concluded, deliberately shifting in his seat and pretending to take a sip of his coffee that was well on the way to cold.
"No," she objected, and then laughed a little. "God no, that's so over." Her reaction caught him by surprise, and it must have showed because she had another sip of coffee and went on with her story.
Ridiculously pleased with having gotten the sad girl to open up, he rested his head in his hand and listened. "I always had to try so hard around him," the blonde continued, her pie now forgotten on its plate. "I was never enough, or maybe I was too much, I don't know… But we did the whole on-again-off-again thing for what felt like a million years before I realized how exhausting it is being around someone that can't accept you for who you are. We're not right together like that, it just took us way too long to realize." She concluded, tucking a stray curl back in place. "So we're just friends now…or maybe I should say step-siblings…ew." She shivered a little at the thought, and then laughed at her own reaction.
He smiled in agreement, but then had to know, "Why'd you leave the dinner then?"
"Because…" she trailed off, and the forlorn expression returned full force. She paused for a moment, stabbing the half-eaten piece of pie on her plate a few times with her fork. "Everyone's so…happy."
"Yeah, alright," he nodded in mock sincerity, "Happy people can be a pain."
She laughed again, the fork's assault of the pie coming to an end. Good, the poor piece of pie was beginning to look more like road kill than dessert. "Yeah," she chuckled, but then continued in a more sober tone. "They looked so happy, all of them. Chuck and Blair – my step-brother and my best friend – are the perfect couple. They bicker and banter and fight and drive each other crazy. But at the end of the day none of that matter because they get each other and them being together is so right. And then there's Dan - my ex - and his new girlfriend. She's some artsy psychology major at NYU and they suit each other perfectly. They get into these heated conversations about supposedly famous, dead people no one else of us has ever even heard of. I don't know, I just felt…lonely, I guess. Out of place."
He didn't know how to respond to that. Lonely was such a foreign emotion to him, and though he barely remembered anything of his life before Rosalie he knew that he had never been the most social guy in the world then either. His lack of response didn't matter though, with another mouthful of coffee in her system she kept on talking.
"Have you ever met someone that things are easy with, like that? Effortless and exciting all at the same time? "
"Yes," He replied, once again back in well-known territory. The image of his girl never too far at the back of his mind. She was always there, always with him, and on the few and brief occasions when she wasn't he always found things to remind him of her everywhere he went. "I have."
"What happened?" The blonde asked, looking at him with eyes widened in curiosity.
"She turned my life around," he admitted, and laughed on the inside at the joke. "And right now I'm here talking to you because she is busy preparing some kind of surprise back at our hotel."
"Aw," the blonde smiled, leaning in closer and propping her head up on her elbows. "What's her name? How did you guys meet?"
'She saved me when I was mauled by a bear and had me turned into a vampire, and oh, all of this happened more than sixty years ago.' Somehow didn't feel like the smartest thing to say. Time for an inevitable, white lie then. "Her name's Rosalie," he told her, smiling at the mere sound of her name. "We met when she saved my life," he admitted and then turned the attention back on the blonde before she could ask any more questions. He didn't feel like lying to her any more. "How about you, have you met that person?"
"I'm not sure…" She frowned, and the weary expression came back again, washing over her features like rain. She toyed absentmindedly with a bracelet hanging around her wrist, lost in thought. "There's this guy. We've been friends since we were kids…always. And then things went all complicated and, I don't know…I messed up."
Then he could only listen in stunned silence as she told him her story. A story of four friends growing up together and not quite living happily ever after because of a wedding. Of forbidden emotions and guilt and regrets and flirty remarks all tangled together. She told him about lazy afternoons doing nothing, inside jokes about strawberry pop tarts and Dom Perignon. About a lopsided grin and the feeling of always having someone to turn to. About midnight phone calls from college dorms about exams and keg parties and casual flirts. Her eyes sparkled as she did, her gestures became more animated. He didn't mention it though, some things a person has to figure out for themselves. Especially the important easy-but-still-so-freakishly-hard stuff.
"…and now I'm at Brown…and I haven't been away from New York this long since I came back from boarding school, and instead of missing my best friend or my little brother, do you know who I miss the most? Him!"
She finished her rant in an exasperated cry. Emphasizing her words with a wild circle movement of her fork that ended up with the silvery piece of metal flying through the air and landing on the floor a good two feet away. When he started laughing she was quick to follow, burying her face in her hands, her hair falling like a thick curtain around her face. Their laughter died out and she let out a tired groan. "God, what's wrong with me? Why him? Haven't I messed that friendship up enough?!" She scolded herself and turned her head to look at him through the veil of hair, "And now I'm sitting here unloading the miserable story of my love life on you, I'm sorry."
"You say that a lot - 'sorry' -" he chuckled, "Don't worry about it, I don't mind. Sometimes it's easier to talk to someone you don't know about this stuff."
"So what if people have opinions about your life," he shrugged, and sat up straighter in his chair. He could totally do the big brotherly advice thing with her too. Hell, his brother fell in love with a human. At least this girl and her guy both belonged to the same species. "Screw them. If something, or someone, makes you happy then go for it, that's what I would do. Let all the others talk or bitch as much as they want, they'll get over it. If they love you they'll want you to be happy."
"Maybe you're right. Thanks-"
"Thank you Emmett, for listening to my self-pitying rant. I'm Serena."
A comfortable silence fell once the introduction had taken place. A slow, melancholy song was playing on the old jukebox, and the waitress was busy making a fresh pot of coffee. When the man with the fedora suddenly got to his feet and walked towards the door, touching the edge of his hat in direction of the waitress with a curt nod as he passed, both of them stared after him in shock.
"Oh my God," the blonde gasped in surprise. "That man was here last year too, in the same spot, I remember him!"
"I thought for sure that he was glued to that seat." Emmett agreed, watching as the man walked out the door and took off down the street, bending forward against the cold wind. Then the full meaning of her comment hit him. "Wait, you were here last year too?"
"Well, the pie really is delicious." Serena replied jokingly and was about to say something else when the sound of bell on the door caught her attention.
He had noticed the guy before she did, of course. Heard him walk up to the door with hurried steps and reach out to grab the handle with a gloved hand. It had begun to rain, an icy-cold drizzle, and the guy shook the drops out of his dark-blond hair at the same time as the girl turned to see who it was.
"Nate!" She breathed, relief and pure joy in her voice, and that was all Emmett needed to understand that this was the guy she had been talking about. In one swift move she was on her feet and practically running into the blond guy's waiting arms. The other guy was laughing out loud as he took her in his arms, spinning her around and almost stumbling into one of the tables. She was laughing too, all signs of sadness and fatigue washed away. When the guy put her back down on her feet they didn't let go, but instead remained in a tight embrace, her face buried in the crock of his neck and his arms wrapped tightly around her waist.
The blond noticed him looking their way, and he didn't miss the way the other guy's eyes narrowed in suspicion and possessiveness. Emmett quickly arranged his features in a 'you're a lucky man' kind of look, and watched the blond's mood shift visibly and his attention returned to the girl in his arms.
The pair sat down by the counter, both still with eyes for no one but each other. The waitress showed up, beaming proudly at the couple as if she was to thank for their happiness, and the guy ordered himself a coffee.
Emmett could only watch in silent amusement as the two blondes got talking. The girl before him now was miles apart from the sad and confused girl he'd listened to earlier. This one was vibrant and at ease, with wide gestures and a contagious laugh. Her elated mood mimicked by the guy next to her. The two of them were finishing each other's sentences in a way he hadn't witnessed among humans that many times before, laughing, touching. Brief, innocent touches but touches at that. A brush of knees, a squeeze of a hand. Constant and reassuring. The guy's coffee arrived, and he used it to swallow down the remains of the Serena's pumpkin pie. She was too busy talking to notice until there was only one bite left. Her jokingly indignant protest was cut short when he held the fork out and offered her the bite. A piece cut right from the middle of the original slice. "No crust, like you want it." He murmured, and you could easily see the way his eyes clouded over as he watched her lips close around the bite. The friendly and relaxed atmosphere suddenly replaced with a whiff of sparkling, palpable chemistry in the air between the couple. Emmett had to stifle a grin. Sure, humans were known to miss out on the most obvious of things. But how could they fail to notice something that obvious?
The sound of the clock's minute hand moving caught his attention. Two minutes left before he was allowed back inside his and Rosalie's suite. With a relaxed grin in the waitress' direction he got to his feet. A few dollar notes both paid for his untouched coffee and left her with a hefty tip.
"You're leaving?" Serena inquired, and he turned his attention to her. They were both looking at him, the guy with a slightly confused expression on his face.
"Yeah," he replied, shoving his hands down the pockets of his well-worn leather jacket. He'd worn the same jacket to an Elvis concert, he remembered as the jukebox once again switched to a song with the King of Rock. Good show, Rosalie had looked hot in some red, slinky little number and winded him up by throwing her goddamn underwear onto the stage. "I have to get back to the hotel."
"Where are you staying?" She asked, and he noticed how she subconsciously reached out and squeezed the guy's hand in reassurance. Don't worry about this, it said, he's just some guy.
"Really?" She looked surprised, and both the two friends chuckled in unison. "My brother owns the place."
"Your step-brother with the BFF-girlfriend or the other one?"
"The step-brother," she laughed, and then continued with eyes sparkling with mischief. "You should ask room service to bring you guys some champagne, on me, to say thanks…for listening. Just mention my last name, van der Woodsen, and they won't charge you." She finished, and he in turn thanked her before leaving with a final nod in their direction.
"Who is that guy?" He heard the guy ask as he walked out the door. "He is huge!"
Chuckling, he made his way down the near empty street. He was going to be one or two minutes late travelling at a human pace. Rosalie would be pissed, but he didn't mind. She could be quite entertaining when her feathers got a little ruffled, and he was an expert on un-ruffling them. He had perfected the art form during their second honeymoon. His grin broadened at the memory. It'd been too long since their…you-know-what, left a hotel room in shambles.
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