The Kindness of Semi-Strangers

By Freddie Stardust

Disclaimer: I own nothing – Stephenie Meyer is the genius behind the Twilight series. I make no money from writing this story.

Chapter Eleven – I'm Adopted?!

"Crap!" Emmett exclaimed, chucking his guitar aside and nearly taking out the chair it hit.

I smirked. "C'mon, Em! Getting schooled by a mortal? Not cool."

Emmett rolled his eyes, but still cracked a grin. "Best five out of eight?"

"You're on."

Emmett retrieved his guitar at super-human speed and selected the next song for our Guitar Hero showdown. Behind us, Alice, Rosalie, and Edward sighed simultaneously. Alice wanted to do my hair, Edward wanted to see a tennis match on the TV we were using, and Rosalie… Well, she was just being Rosalie.

We ignored them and began the next battle, and despite Emmett's vampire coordination, I destroyed him.

"How do you do that?" Emmett asked in wonder.

I shrugged. "It's your fault for giving me that new stereo. I listen to music all the time – maybe it's rubbing off on me."

Emmett looked thoughtful. "I gave, and I can also take away…"

"Don't you dare!" I warned him as he playfully moved toward the front door. "I love that stereo."

Edward snickered from his spot on the couch, switching to the tennis match with a victorious look while Emmett and I were distracted from our tournament.

Alice jumped up and began running her hands through my hair, and, much as it pained me, I had to admit it felt good.

"You're mine for the next half hour," she told me in a tone that left no room for negotiation. I sighed and followed her back to the couch.

"Hey!" Emmett protested. "We were battling!"

"Sorry," Alice said lightly. "She's mine now."

Rosalie stood up gracefully and took Emmett's hand. "Let's go hunt. I'm starving."

Emmett nodded. "Sure babe." He pointed at me with a determined look. "This isn't over."

I waggled my fingers at him with a teasing grin. He laughed and followed his wife out the back door.

It was great hanging out with the Cullens; I really felt like I was part of the family. They were all so incredible in their own ways, and perhaps I hoped that some of their awesomeness would rub off on me. A girl could dream.

Lately, Edward had been bugging me to spend time with them all the time, and I knew exactly why. He (and Alice, by extension) was trying to keep me from spending time with Jake to work on the motorcycles. They were convinced I was going to end up crashing full-throttle into a rock, a la Wile E. Coyote. Given my history, it was a pretty valid concern.

Their attempts were in vain. I saw Jake plenty on the few sunny days we were having, and I spent weekend mornings with him while the Cullens were hunting. Pretty soon the chilly October air would thwart any attempts at a joy ride on the nearly finished motorcycles, and we'd have to put the brakes on our project until the spring.

Things were also going great with Carlisle. We went on some pretty amazing dates, always outside of Forks so as not to compromise his job or my relationship with Charlie. We'd been kayaking, rock-climbing, horseback riding… And amazingly, I felt so comfortable with him, not only on an emotional level, but also on a clumsiness level. I never felt like I was at risk of hurting myself when I was with him; I knew he'd always have my back.

Yup. Things were going swimmingly.

Alice's hands suddenly went still in my hair, and Edward stopped pretending to breathe.

"What do you see?"

I waited patiently for Alice's hands to resume their work and for her to speak.

"Bella, your mom is coming to visit."

I furrowed my brow. "When? I'm supposed to go see her in December anyway."

"Next week," Alice chirped. "It's fine, don't worry. Phil's playing in Seattle and they thought they'd come by. Your mom's going to take you shopping and your dad and Phil are going to watch ESPN. No big deal."

When I got the phone call from my mom on Tuesday, I was so unenthusiastic that I nearly had her in tears, wondering if I even wanted them to come. I mentally scolded myself and made a note to remember next time to act surprised when Alice had forewarned me about something.

After a good ten minutes reassuring my mom that I was thrilled that she would be coming to town, I had the happy task of informing my dad that they would be visiting. He actually really liked Phil, but I had a feeling that he'd never really gotten over my mom leaving him.

I got the usual "nod and grunt" routine from him when I told him, but for the next three days, I caught him cleaning a lot more than usual. There was even a plant on the kitchen table. Charlie could barely keep himself up and running, let alone a plant. Edward took pity on the poor plant, knowing that Charlie and I were far too scatterbrained to remember to take care of it. It became part of his routine before school and after I was asleep to give the tiny shrub a bit of plant food and water.

Friday was the big day. I managed to finish all my homework for the weekend while I was still in class so that I'd have plenty of time and attention to devote to my mom. That was actually becoming the norm – dates with Carlisle were generally on the weekend, and doing homework on a romantic getaway was kind of a turn-off.

I was stuffing my wallet and phone into my purse when the doorbell rang. I flung open the door, wincing as it viciously smacked the wall (Nice one, superstar) and then threw myself at my mother, hoping an uncharacteristically enthusiastic hug would make her forget my initial hesitance at her visit.

"Mom! It's so great to see you!"

After she had fussed over me, as mothers are wont to do, I gave Phil a hug and ushered them inside. Charlie was in the family room, pretending to be disinterested. In reality, he had spent an hour getting ready for the arrival of my mother and her husband, trimming his facial hair, plucking his unibrow, and whatever else men do to groom themselves.

"Hey there Phil," he greeted my stepfather, giving him the hearty handshake/shoulder grab combo that symbolizes fraternity these days. My dad could be strangely in touch with modern culture sometimes.

"Hi Charlie," my mom said from the entryway to the room, looking slightly awkward.

"Hi Renee," Charlie said, looking really awkward.

Phil and I shared a knowing look, and before things could escalate to "painfully awkward," I had led my mom outside and Phil had grabbed a couple of beers and turned on ESPN.

The drive to Port Angeles was filled with the usual small talk, with Renee pestering me about boys after the obligatory school and job questions.

"Honestly, the boys my age really don't interest me," I told her after much teenage sighing and protesting.

That was absolutely the truth. It wasn't the whole truth, but it was definitely truthful. I could just imagine telling her everything: Oh yeah Mom, I can't stand boys my age, but give them a couple of centuries to mature, and I'd be all over them. Mmmm hmmm.

I could tell by her disappointed look that I really needed to throw her a bone, so I told her there were a couple of cute guys, but they all had girlfriends.

We pulled into a parking spot outside Necessities & Temptations, which promised to fuel up shoppers with coffee and muffins before tackling their to-do lists. As we were stepping out of the car and into the gloomy, misty afternoon, I saw two people who would usually make my face light up. Today, my stomach did a swandive.

"Bella! Yoo-hoo!" Alice called, waving her hand dramatically despite being about ten feet away.

Alice, please don't make a scene. Please don't make a scene. Please don't make a…

"And you must be Bella's mother!" Alice squealed at such a pitch that even Carlisle, who was apparently her shopping companion for the afternoon, had to roll his eyes at her display.

Renee had absolutely no idea that I was mortified, and seemed actually rather taken with my small, pixie-like friend.

"Yes, I'm Renee," my mom said with a smile and a handshake.

"And I'm Alice, Bella's best friend," Alice said gregariously. "And this is her…"

"Doctor, Carlisle Cullen," I interjected quickly, with a scowl. "He's Alice and Edward's adopted father."

Alice looked at Carlisle in mock surprise. "I'm adopted?!"

No one knew what to do for a moment until Alice burst into giggles. I hoped she was happy right now, because later she was going to get an earful. I was considering everything from garlic to silver stakes.

"Forgive me, I'm just so excited to meet Bella's mother," Alice continued, as though her batteries were fresh off the recharger. "Bella's ever so wonderful, and I've been dying to meet the woman who raised her to be such a great young woman."

Renee was totally eating this up, though I couldn't say I was too shocked. I loved my mom dearly, but she was nothing if not naïve.

While Alice distracted my mom, I was able to mouth "Hi" to Carlisle. He gave me a small smile and winked, which nearly knocked me off my feet. I really had to learn how to control my primal reactions to his advances, or else I'd be fainting every time he blinked in my general direction. Very smooth, Swan.

"So I guess you've gotten to know Bella pretty well, Dr. Cullen?" Renee suddenly asked.

Carlisle and I could only look at each other, his eyes subtly studying my mother, and my mouth gaping open about as subtly as a wide-mouth bass.

"Because she's so accident prone?" Renee supplied.

"Oh, yes," Carlisle said quickly, flashing a charming smile. If he were human, he'd have been holding his breath on purpose. "A concussion and two sets of stitches so far." He looked over at me with mischief in his eyes, and, being human, I held my breath. "If you aren't careful, I'll never be able to get you off my hospital bed."

Renee laughed, hopefully not suspecting a thing. Alice and Carlisle both laughed, too, and I gave the kind of laugh that I hoped conveyed my frustration. And by frustration, I mean burning desire to kick both of them in the shins with steel-toed boots.

"Well, it was great running into you guys, but I've got very limited time with my mom, and I've promised her a muffin," I said quickly as I took Renee's hand and dragged her toward the shop.

"It was nice to meet you!" Renee called, still chuckling. Alice waved energetically and Carlisle gave a quick, suave wave. As I pushed her as delicately as I could into the store in front of me, I turned around and glared at the two vampires.

By the end of the afternoon, we had shopped ourselves to exhaustion, despite many refills on our iced coffees. We hauled our loot out to Renee's rental car and tossed it into the trunk before tossing our dragging butts into the front of the small sedan.

"Your friend Alice was really nice. Very energetic," Renee remarked.

Warning bells went off in my head. I had been hoping that she would forget that meeting after a distracting afternoon filled with lots of shiny things. My mom was a sucker for shiny things.

"Except her hands were so cold. Like ice."

"She has a medical thing. Anemia or something," I supplied quickly.

Renee smiled fondly at me. "She seems like a great friend to you, Bella."

I nodded, unable to stop my reciprocating smile. "She really is. She's always there for me."

Renee started the car and began to back out of the parking spot. "And that Doctor Cullen is quite the catch."

The warning bells became a full-blown siren. "Well, don't tell Phil, he might get jealous," I joked half-heartedly.

Renee raised an eyebrow at me and smirked. "You know what I mean. I wasn't talking about for me."

Was I missing something?

My numerous consciences began debating again on the best response to Renee's words, and eventually I just decided on silence, hoping she wouldn't ask any more questions. Luckily, she got distracted by a song she liked on the radio. God bless shiny things.

We made it all the way back home without further Carlisle talk, and when we walked in the door, Phil and Charlie were on their third or fourth beer each and were yelling at the TV and chest-bumping each other. I was kind of surprised they hadn't stripped to their boxers and fired up the grill, for the amount of bromance that was going on in the family room.

"Hey boys," Renee said by way of announcing our presence. The guys paused their celebration and had the good grace to look a little embarrassed.

"Welcome back, hon," Phil greeted, coming over to give Renee a quick kiss. "Can I get you a beer?"

Renee gave him a "Really?" look and shook her head. "I'm going to drop off the bags at the hotel and catch up with a couple girlfriends over dinner. Bella, would you like to come?"

I tried to think quickly. Much as I loved my mom, dinner with her girlfriends sounded awkward and just plain boring. "Thanks, but I need to catch up on some homework."

"In that case, Charlie and I are going to grab a bite at the bar, finish watching the game there," Phil announced, grabbing the empty beer cans and taking them to the kitchen to recycle. "Can you give me a ride back to the hotel afterward, Chuck?"

I snorted, but turned it into a massive coughing fit at the sight of my dad's glare. "Sure, no problem."

And just like that, I was alone in the house. But of course, that only lasted about a millisecond.

Everyone had just gotten into their respective cars and disappeared down the street when there was a knock at the door. I knew exactly who it was.

"Good evening, lover," Carlisle greeted when I opened the door.

I glared at him. "Seriously?"

Carlisle laughed as I let him in, and I found it suddenly very difficult to be mad at him for his earlier display in front of my mom. Damn him and his awesomeness.

"That was so not funny," I chided him, but I didn't really mean it anymore. I could already feel myself going weak at the prospect of being alone with him.

"It so was," Carlisle teased, gliding closer and closer to me until he had me backed up against the front door. He placed a hand on either side of my head, his lips tantalizingly close to mine as his beautiful amber eyes stared into mine.

I could feel my breathing speed up and my cheeks flush, which made Carlisle growl softly.

"You have no idea what you do to me," he whispered.

"Actually, I think I do," I murmured, boldly snaking a hand between us to feel the growing hardness between his legs. He moaned loudly, and the sudden loss of composure really turned me on.

"I need you. Now."

It wasn't a request. It wasn't a question. It was a simple fact, one that I had no argument with.

Carlisle seized me and carried me with lightning speed up the stairs to my bedroom, where he tossed me on the bed and flung his clothes off. Before he could do anything else, I held up my hand to stop him.

"Ah ah ah," I said, sitting up on my knees as he practically panted in front of me. "After you and Alice messed with me today, I think you need a little…" I fumbled for the words. "A little discipline."

Carlisle raised an eyebrow, but obligingly smiled. "Go on," he said, interested.

I gestured him forward with a wiggle of my finger, and he sat down at the head of my bed, legs outstretched in front of him.

I wished I were that confident with my nakedness, to be able to sit there in all my glory while someone else stared at me.

Well, you've gotta start somewhere.

I crawled forward until I was straddling his naked body, still fully clothed. He reached up to grab my hips, but I scooted back.

"Nope. Can't touch yet."

Instead of being angry, as I'd feared, Carlisle seemed intrigued. He put his hands back down at his sides, palms down.

I straddled him again, dipping my chest tantalizingly in front of his line of sight. He stared at them, clearly hungering to touch, but restraining himself.

I wondered for a moment how smart it was to test a vampire's self control.

Leaning back, I removed that particular temptation from in front of his face, only to graze his extremely erect member with the coarse material of my jeans. He hissed and bucked his hips upward, closing his eyes to try to hang onto a shred of control.

I smiled, drunk with my sudden power. It was time to give him a little reward, I decided. I yanked off my shirt and bra and tossed them onto the floor, and when his eyes opened again, they were brighter than I'd ever seen them.


I really, really enjoyed this newfound dominance I had. I slid my hands down my body slowly as I watched Carlisle, who seemed to be in agony now.


I unbuttoned my jeans and stood up long enough to yank them off, stumbling a bit as I did so. Still clumsy in the throes of passion. True to form, Swan. True to form.

I sat back down on top of Carlisle's outstretched body, only a thin piece of cotton between our most intimate parts. I moaned softly.

Carlisle's patience had reached its limit. He sat up like a flash (Nice ab control) and kissed me fiercely, all while reaching between us, ripping off my panties, and plunging into my core.

He was like a man possessed. He drove up into me as I feebly attempted to keep up, all the while rubbing at my clit until I came hard. Then he flipped me underneath him, sliding out and lapping at me with his cool tongue relentlessly. My legs quaked and I moaned helplessly, feeling the pressure wind up tighter and tighter until I was screaming with release again. Carlisle only gave me a second to recover before pulling my legs up over his shoulders and then plowing into me again, deeper than he'd ever reached before. He pounded in and out of me, hitting a spot inside of me that felt like bottled bliss.

It only took a few moments longer before I had my third glorious release, and Carlisle thrusted ten seconds more before he, too, was groaning in ecstasy.

My legs dropped, my body exhausted. I was still shaking slightly from the sudden and vigorous marathon of sexual activity.

Carlisle gracefully dropped to the mattress beside me and held me close from behind. Even after that burst of energy, he could still be smooth and composed. Show-off.

I couldn't speak for a while, and I'm pretty sure that at some point, I dozed off. When I came to, Carlisle was studying the Shih Tzu Puppies calendar on my wall, and I could have died of embarrassment.

"That was a gag gift from my mom," I lied, sitting up and holding a pillow in front of my body. "She thought it was cute."

Carlisle smiled. "I like dogs. I used to have them when I was a boy."

"Why don't you now?"

He shrugged. "Might be a little too tempting for Jasper. It would be like a pork chop playing fetch with him and asking him to rub its belly."

"Oh." That was really sad, actually. Poor Jasper.

I heard a car in the driveway and started to panic. "Oh crap, Charlie's back."

Carlisle dressed in the blink of an eye and gave me a lingering kiss. "I'll see you soon, Bella. Goodnight."

And then he was gone.

I sat stunned for a moment, then remembered Charlie was about to walk in on his naked daughter. I jumped up and pulled on some pajama pants and an old tank top just as he walked in the front door.

"I'm home, Bells," he called.

I opened my bedroom door and waved down the stairs at him. "Hey Dad. Hope you had fun. I'm gonna hit the hay – I have to work early tomorrow."

He nodded, still smiling from his guys' night with Phil. "Goodnight. Sleep tight."

I escaped into the bathroom, leaning against the door with a goofy grin on my face.

"I have the best boyfriend ever."

And then I thought for a moment.

Was Carlisle Cullen my boyfriend?

We'd never had a talk about it, and it seemed like it was a really weird thing to talk about. Lauren and Jessica's Cosmopolitan magazine covers were splashed with headlines saying, "Hookup Heartbreak: Turn Your Fling Into a Real Thing."

Within seconds, my brain was flooded with questions I'd never before fathomed. Were we a "real thing?" Was this something we should talk about, or should it just sort itself out? What if he was seeing a bunch of girls at once? Was I supposed to date other guys too?

This was just way too complicated. I sighed, grabbing my toothbrush and using it with a bit more ferocity than usual. When I spat blood into the sink, I realized that maybe I shouldn't take my frustrations out on my gumline.

All through work the next day, I couldn't stop thinking about my exclusivity, or lack thereof, with Carlisle. I was so distracted that I tripped on a stray Nerf football and knocked over a row of stand up paddleboards, nearly taking out a girl on crutches.

"Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry," I babbled, rushing over to help the girl. "Are you okay?"

The girl rolled her eyes at me and crutched away, leaving me to feel like a total asshole. I began work setting the paddleboards to rights.

"You okay, Bella?"

Mike Newton. I had promised myself I'd be nicer to him. Instead of giving him my standard response– devastatingly sarcastic wit – I shrugged and gave him a small smile.

"Sure. Just being my usual, graceful self. Living up to the name."

Mike looked puzzled.

I bit down more sarcasm. "Swan. Graceful like a swan."

"Oh, I get it." But by his look, I don't think he did.

"How are you and Jessica?" I asked as he helped me stand the paddleboards back to their upright position.

It was his turn to shrug. "Fine, I guess." He winced as a board smacked him in the forehead. "She talks a lot. And her friend Lauren?" Mike lowered his voice as if Lauren might suddenly appear behind us. "She's kind of a bitch."

"Alert the presses," I mumbled. "Lauren's one of those girls who's so insecure she has to bring down every other girl to feel better about herself."

"I know, right?" Mike exclaimed. "If they weren't attached at the hip, I'd really like being with Jessica more."

"Why don't you tell her that?" I suggested, thinking it was simple enough.

Mike looked at me like I'd told him to take a Zumba class with a Komodo dragon. "And fling myself willingly into a shitstorm? No thanks."

"People aren't psychic, you know," I chided him. "Unless you tell someone there's a problem, they'll never know, and you'll never fix the problem."

It seemed like I had just stumbled upon the solution to my own problem with Carlisle (which Carlisle probably didn't even know existed). As soon as Mike walked away, having made a vague promise to talk to Jessica, I hid behind a paddleboard and texted Carlisle.

What are you doing tonight?

It only took a minute for Carlisle to answer.

Cooking dinner for you.

I smiled in spite of my worries about our budding relationship.

Sounds great! What time should I be there?

Carlisle responded:

Eight o'clock all right?

I pecked out a quick reply as I heard footsteps approaching.

See you then.

I shoved my phone in my pocket just as Mike's mom came around the corner.

"Everything all right, sweetheart?" she asked, straightening up some merchandise on an endcap.

"Absolutely." And I was pretty sure it would be.

Relationships these days were too damn complicated. Before Cosmopolitan, I'd had no idea there were so many rules to establish and "talks" to have. Couldn't it just be simple? I like you, you like me, let's date and not screw each other over emotionally?

All would be settled tonight, hopefully.

A/N: Well hello there everybody! I bet you thought I was never coming back.

To be honest, I was really scared that I wouldn't. I'll give it to you straight: I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, and sadly, the last thing on my mind was writing. You get bitten by a Lyme-carrying tick, and then you're pretty much knocked on your ass for weeks, months, even years. It was horrible – those of you who've had it, or know someone who's had it, you know what I'm talking about. There was a three-month stretch where I didn't even get out of bed. It's been a really (really, really, really, really, really) long recovery period, but I'm feeling back like my old self again, and I'm tackling this story with a vengeance to make up for my absence. Do forgive me if I make any errors or if maybe the narrative voice sounds a bit different – it may take me a chapter or two to get back in my groove.

And now, I beg for reviews via a terza rima:

Doctor Cullen makes me grin,

His touch, it makes me shiver.

He makes my head so quickly spin.

My legs, how they do quiver

At even one feather-light touch;

My heart drops down to my liver.

I long to hold him oh, so much!

His smile, it makes me weak;

He has me in his gentle clutch.

I cannot find the words to speak

Without sounding hokey.

I simply want to shriek:

Oh Carlisle, please love me!

Oh Carlisle, please fuck me!

Many thanks to those of you who reviewed during my looooooooooong absence:

Allons-y 23, As, queenofcamelot123, agipe, Elle Leigh, LisbethsGirlfriend, rugby35, Yeddi, LouLouBear1213, jaspers-honeybee, katt-ryn, BeastsRose23, Spudzmom, erythra-selena, LadyGrelka (I loved all your suggestions – I'll definitely be getting to the wolves and the awkward talk about turning Bella!), grammysharbear2, Wolfwifey0611, Missy, alysha813, nurikat21, seza3175 (thank you for caring so much about the story! It means so much to me), caressa28, victoria79, whitegurl2013, chacha73, aerobee82, notashamedtobe, Kathy Hiester, AbbeNormal (thank you so, so much for your kind words of support!), and hnwhitlock2000.

You guys, simply put, kick all kinds of butt. Pretend that I just set a heaping plate of chocolate chip pancakes in front of you, and dig in.

On deck for next chapter: Bella and Carlisle have a "talk," the motorcycles are inching toward readiness, and it's the Cullens' favorite holiday: Halloween.