Characters are not ours.
This outtake parallels BaT, starting where chapter 16 left off.
Dividends in Full
Carlisle - The Reckoning
It took every ounce of willpower I had to keep my eyes trained forward. I refused to let what had just happened draw any more attention in this direction.
I did not want to sit there calmly.
The night had been a complete disaster, and sitting there at the table I was fuming. What was it about Edward that made drama follow him wherever he went?
To me, the evidence contradicted everything Bella had argued in her speech.
There was a period of silence while we all took in Bella's words. Her audacity stunned me momentarily, rendering me unable to react.
When I finally allowed my head to turn, I saw Rosalie sitting somewhat smugly, and Esme's eyes watering as she looked down at her plate. Emmett appeared to be anxious. His gaze passed between us all frantically.
"No one's going to say anything?" he asked. "Are we really just going to pretend that didn't just happen?"
Esme trembled slightly next to me, clearly struggling not to fall apart completely.
I opened my mouth to speak, but I was too late. Emmett pushed himself away from the table, throwing his napkin onto his plate. "I can't do this," he stated gruffly before heading toward the door, following the same path Edward and Bella had taken. Emmett's departure was slightly less dramatic, though equally unwarranted in my opinion. I gritted my teeth to keep from ordering him to sit down.
"Well this is just great," Rosalie seethed. "He can't even go one night . . ."
"Please stop," Esme interrupted in a quiet voice. "I understand that you are angry and hurt, and I accept responsibility for that. It's true I haven't been as forthcoming with invitations and offers of my things, but it wasn't because I think any less of you. I just always saw you as the type of woman to want to forge your own way. I didn't think you would want anything I had to offer. I meant no harm tonight. I just thought Bella deserved a fighting chance against this crowd. Clearly, I made mistakes, but I can't handle any more disparaging of Edward tonight. I just can't."
"I know he's your son, but you have to see . . ."
"Rosalie, that's enough," I said, effectively cutting off the conversation. Her mouth closed. "Maybe you should see how Emmett is doing."
It took her a second to process that it was not a suggestion.
"That's a good idea," she answered, scrambling to compose herself. I was probably too short with her, and it would likely be one more apology I'd need to make later, but all of my attention was focused in one direction—Esme.
I have tried to explain to others how much I love this woman. Tried and failed. I could handle almost any emotion she threw at me. She could rage at me; she could dismiss me. I didn't do well with this though, with seeing her heartbroken, especially when I knew I was the cause.
It took me back instantly.
Of course, the night hadn't really been about the earrings, but they certainly had been a catalyst.
When I was growing up, my father didn't treat my mother very well. There were other women; she likely knew it. She put up a very good front, never complaining, and she played her role brilliantly. He rewarded her with jewelry. The greater the transgression, the bigger the diamond. She never seemed to mind. In fact, I think she stopped caring about why she was getting the bauble at all.
Giving Esme any jewelry, then, was a double edged sword for me. It wasn't something I did often or without serious thought. She was a woman who appreciated the meanings behind things. You had to think twice before bringing home the wrong flower or giving an anniversary gift.
When I bought those earrings for her, I knew she was upset with me, and it was warranted. I wanted to do better. The timing was atrocious. For the first time in our relationship, I think she actually doubted the depth of my commitment. I could see the insecurity on her face. I was ashamed that I could do that to her. So, the gift wasn't about an expensive piece of jewelry or the color of the box they came in.
It was about making sure she always knew.
They were a symbol of far more than an apology. Topaz did promote forgiveness, but I had hoped she would see them as something else, something even more personal. Perhaps, she would see them as a part of me.
She claimed I misunderstood everything surrounding those earrings tonight, that I had forgotten why I gave them to her. Was it possible she had never really understood?
I pulled my phone out of my pocket and called the driver to bring the car around front.
I touched Esme's elbow, and she nodded. She took a deep, calming breath, and a mask formed on her face.
"I'm ready," she said through a strained voice.
We wove our way back out of the room, shaking hands, smiling, promising tennis on Tuesday or lunch on Friday. No one would have known what waited for me the minute the car door slammed.
Perhaps other men would have been surprised or lost control. I was relieved.
As I said, I much preferred her anger to her sadness.
Esme - Aftershocks
We didn't speak on the short ride across town. I was exhausted from playing my role as the perfect wife, and I wanted nothing more than to go home and eradicate all memories of the night.
The minute the car pulled to a stop in front of the brownstone, I had the door open and was in flight. I heard Carlisle call out after me, but I didn't want to deal with him. Not yet.
When we were in the city, there was always someone at the house, so the door remained unlocked. Laurent was not expected to be on duty twenty four hours a day, but he kept an apartment at the back of the house. If I called him, he would be there in a heartbeat, the natural buffer between Carlisle and me. I hated to admit that it was incredibly tempting, and even more unfair. Laurent did not deserve that, and I'd already made enough mistakes tonight.
Even so, the last thing I wanted to do right now was speak to my husband. I needed to compose myself and cool down before I let him know what I thought. There were things I needed to do first.
Climbing the steps to the second floor, I quickly shed my dress and earrings and washed away my war paint from the evening. With my hair pulled back from my face and a pair of Carlisle's cotton pajamas on, I looked like any other mother, any other woman. Not one caught in the middle of an ongoing siege with no way of stopping it.
I could hear Carlisle downstairs, his dress shoes echoing on the hardwood floor of the solarium. His tie was most likely undone and hanging limply at his collar, a glass of scotch in one hand, the other running aimlessly through his hair. The gesture was his only tell, and it let me know when he was upset or angry. Edward was the same way. They were so damn alike, yet they continuously refused to admit it.
We'd kept the house relatively intact after the boys moved out. I knew they would never come home, but I couldn't bring myself to dismantle the memories that resided in their personal spaces. Emmett's room was classic boy, full of trophies, framed photos, and sports paraphernalia. Pictures of friends and family were stacked on the dresser, along with a few old discarded sporting event tickets.
Edward's room was more organized, less revealing. Books neatly stacked on the shelf, electronic equipment on one wall. A Dartmouth banner hanging above his desk, in open defiance to his father's wishes.
They'd been at odds for so long that it was almost impossible to remember why it had happened or a time when they'd simply just been. The long slow boil had started during Edward's teen years, but it seemed to go back so much further. Even when he was a boy, his relationship with Carlisle had been tumultuous, but there had always been highs to balance out the lows. Somewhere along the line the highs seemed to stop coming, and the lows just got lower. I'd chalked it up to his rebellious years, but as he left his teens and entered adulthood, the rebellion didn't stop, and the distance only grew.
I was probably at fault for being overly protective of Edward. It wasn't that I loved him more than Emmett. I loved them both equally, just in very different ways, for my boys were very different men. But Edward had always needed more. Emmett was always so strong, so loved, so admired. Not just by friends, but by his father too. His sense of strength was one that didn't require support or encouragement, just love. It made life so much easier for Emmett, easier for everyone around him too, as his needs were so simple. Edward wasn't like that, even though one could argue his talents greatly outshone Emmett's, and it made him so much harder on himself. I tried to fill the space for him, showing him as much love and support as I could. I'd never stopped to consider how that might have made Emmett feel. There were things I would have to atone for, with both Emmett and Rosalie. I never wanted him to doubt my love for him; I also didn't want my other son to continue to doubt that his father felt the same.
The phone line in Edward's room was still live after all these years, and I picked up the handset to dial from memory. I highly doubted he would want to talk to me, to any of us for that matter, but I couldn't let him think he was alone. The ring tone was a distant echo; once, twice, three times.
"This is Edward Cullen, please leave me a message and I'll get back to you as soon as possible."
"Hi, Edward, it's Mom." I paused, suddenly feeling ridiculous. What could I say that would change anything?
"I am so sorry, Edward. I don't know what else to say. I wish I could take it all back, both for you and Bella, but there is no way to change what happened, even though I wish I could. I hate the way the evening turned out, and I feel as though I am to blame. My intention was not to hurt either of you, but to help everyone believe what I know you two share."
I sat down on Edward's bed and glanced around his room. There had to be a way to fix this.
"I love you all too much not to believe there's hope," I whispered and eased the handset back into the cradle.
Scooting back up onto the bed, I pulled a pillow down from the headboard and wrapped my arms around it. Even though Edward moved out years ago, I could still smell traces of Edward in this room. He was grown and gone, but he was still my little boy, and he was out there somewhere hurting. And I was completely impotent to help.
"Are you planning on avoiding me forever?" Carlisle asked from the doorway. His words were sarcastic, yet his tone was neutral. He was testing the waters to see how I would respond.
"It's tempting right now," I shot back. "Or are there any cruel words you forgot to say? You can lob them at me. I make a better punching bag than our son ever did. At least I would know why you are angry and would be able to fight back."
The hallway light reflected off his perfect features, his hair still the same brilliant blonde from his twenties. I remembered how those strands of hair felt in my fingers when we first got married, when he would lay his head in my lap and talk to me about everything. He used to seek out my opinion, wanting my input on everything. He said that I had a valuable perspective on things he sometimes missed. Well this was one of those times.
"Esme, that's really not…"
"What, Carlisle? It's not fair? Tell me you weren't about to say that." I waited for him to contradict me, but he didn't.
"What did he do to make you dislike him so much, Carlisle? Don't blame the incident with Tanya and that girl that the office, because we all know this has been around much longer than that. Why is it that you adore one son and shun the other?"
Carlisle didn't move from the doorway, but I could see his shoulders droop.
"If you gave him a chance, you would see how much Edward has changed. He really loves her, Carlisle, and he's doing everything he can to protect her. Our world is not easy, and you only make it harder. You are going to force him to choose if you keep this up, and right now I wouldn't blame him for the decision he would make."
"He wouldn't turn his back on family."
"No, he wouldn't turn his back on me. And probably not Emmett, although there are some bridges to be mended there. But I wouldn't blame him if he did turn his back on you, Carlisle. What have you done to make him want to be here? Tonight was the last in a long string of events. Fortunately our son has someone who absolutely adores him, and will stand by him through anything. You may not see it or believe in it, but Bella really does love him. More importantly, he loves her, and with the stunt you pulled tonight, you may have pushed him out of your life for good."
I watched as Carlisle slid down the doorframe to sit on the floor, his head cradled in his hands. I fought the urge to jump off the bed and run to him, to kiss him and make everything better. It had always been that way with us. He was in pain, but he needed to see what he was doing, not just to Edward but to the entire family. I would not allow him to break us apart.
"I won't be bought off, Carlisle. Nor will either of your sons. Money, expensive gifts and impressive titles don't mean anything without someone there who loves you and believes in you. Edward could walk away from it all right now for her, and if he did, I'd say he was the wisest one of us all."
My husband looked up at me, his handsome features shadowed.
"You need to fix this, Carlisle. This may be your last chance to salvage anything with our son. I've held us together, but I can only be so strong."
Carlisle - Realizations
With her warning, Esme got up and walked out of the room, pausing as she passed by me. I sat on the floor for a long time. I lost track of anything that would have marked the minutes.
A part of me wanted to go after her. I wanted to list all of my grievances with Edward, and ultimately, with her. He was a coddled boy, protected, allowed to get away with everything. Never forced to grow up or make tough decisions. He judged me without having walked in my shoes. Things came far too easily for him, and wasn't a parent supposed to be the one help children live up to their potential? Emmett had gone there naturally; he simply needed less pushing. Maybe if Esme hadn't been so quick to jump in and save Edward every time, he would have grown up sooner as well.
So, yes, I wanted to run after her. It wasn't logical or good behavior, but I wanted to argue and yell and bring up issues that had been festering below the surface since Edward was a boy.
I didn't, though, because as I went to stand up, I allowed myself to take in Edward's room. I pulled myself up to standing, using the doorway as leverage, and walked inside. I hadn't been in that space in ages. I couldn't even remember the last time. It was probably when he was a teenager, and I was likely upset with him for something or other. I had always been upset with him, after all. He pushed my buttons more than any human being I'd ever known, except perhaps my own father. That thought caused me to pause in the middle of the room, eyes shut, blocking out the realizations that were beginning to form.
I slowly opened my eyes only to be assaulted with his stupid Dartmouth banner. A symbol of his hatred for me, of his unwillingness to do anything to please me.
The bile burned as it bubbled to the surface and I choked it back down.
I let out a shaky breath. I didn't really believe it was my son's duty to please me, did I? Certainly not. I'd been determined to raise a son who could think for himself, who could take risks. Someone who understood people, who had strong business acumen but also knew how to appreciate the people he loved. Someone like … me.
My eyes narrowed, and I peeled them away from the banner, examining the rest of the room. The room spoke to me. It reminded me who my son was. It told me of his precision, of his intellect. It reminded me of his propensity to bring joy when he played the piano. A boy who loved his mother and his brother. A boy who had forged his own path and stood up to a father who tried to control him.
He reminded me … of me.
Comprehension crept in like a disorienting fog. I had to place my hand on the dresser to keep myself from collapsing. I hadn't followed Esme out of this room for a reason. I hadn't attacked her and said things that I would never be able to take back for a reason.
She was right.
It was my fault.
How had I failed so dramatically? Had I not been adamant that I would do better than my own father? When had I become him?
With new conviction, I backed out of the room. I didn't talk to Esme. My words would have meant nothing then anyway. Not to her anyway. I only hoped that would mean something to him. I wasn't ready to give in entirely; he'd played a role in getting us to this spot, but I had to accept responsibility for my actions or we would be stuck here forever.
The library in the brownstone was nowhere near as impressive as the one in Southampton. Still, it was the place where I did my best thinking. I drew inspiration from the words of men and women far more astute than I. My phone sat in front of me. No lights, no sounds. Just me, the books, and the phone.
I waited for the necessary words to find me.
There was no way to know whether they would be good enough, but they were all I had.
"Edward, I don't know if you will listen to this message. I believe we need to talk, and I hope you will be open to it. Bella said a lot of things, and I don't agree with everything, but if you don't know that I love you in spite of all our differences, then I have failed as a father, as a man. I would appreciate a call back."
I closed my phone, steeling myself against the silence that greeted me.
I was surprised when she spoke. "That was a good first step."
"Now what?" I asked tentatively.
"He may not respond."
"True, but I believe he will," she answered reassuringly.
"Why would he?"
"Because he loves you, Carlisle. Do you really not see that?"
It was overwhelming. This sudden clarity made me very anxious. Too many new ideas were swimming in my head, eager for an opportunity to be shared with my son. I had no idea whether it was too late to try.
"I don't know how to be patient," I said.
"Well you're not too old to learn."
Sunday came and went, and he didn't call.
It was a very long day, and I was completely on edge. Esme finally told me to go play tennis. Mostly I think she wanted me out of the house. In the evening, I tried to distract myself with work, but I jumped whenever the phone rang or I heard the ding of new email coming through.
I didn't expect him to respond immediately, and I was as much hoping he would call as much as I feared he actually would. I didn't really know what the next step in the conversation was.
The email didn't come until Monday afternoon. By then I'd decided obsessing about it wasn't going to do me any good, and I scheduled several last minute late morning meetings so that I would be forced to avoid my phone and computer for a few hours.
When I saw his name in my inbox, I inhaled sharply. He was in the building, on the same floor. I could walk over and see him, but it was clear in his email he wasn't ready. The tone was formal. They were running away.
I bristled, willing myself not to consider it a typical move on his part.
He was asking for more time.
I had to give it to him.
Esme - Debrief
"How was dinner?"
I wasn't in the house five minutes before Carlisle was there, asking for details. I'd not given him the option to come to the airport, leaving the house with a quick note that Emmett and I were meeting everyone for dinner. Neither of them was ready; they were both close, but they weren't quite there yet.
"It was nice." I dropped my purse on the entryway table and slipped out of my coat. "No, I won't lie, it was great. Their trip to Washington didn't turn out quite like they had hoped, but in the end, I think it will all work out for the best."
Without looking back, I wandered down the hallway towards the library, knowing that Carlisle would follow. He was too curious not to, just like his sons.
"What do you mean the trip didn't turn out like they thought? Did they run into problems?"
There was a bottle of wine open on the table in the library, a glass already poured. I knew it was Carlisle's, but I took a drink and sat down on the sofa.
"What did your digging tell you about Bella's family?" I asked, keeping my tone neutral. It wasn't an attack, and I didn't want him thinking as much. He'd had answers all along, ones that we all should have seen, but we'd never taken the time to look. We'd all been so caught up in other things that we'd missed the details, and in doing so failed in our ability to help ward of Bella's pain.
"Not a lot. Parents divorced when she was little. Dad is the chief of police in a tiny town in Washington. He's said to be a very good man. Mom took off, going from one deadbeat job and boyfriend to another. From what I could find out, the father raised her all by himself."
"That he did. They are very close. Like you and Emmett, or like Edward and me. But we all know what distance can do to honesty." I stopped to take a sip of wine, weighing my words carefully. "They stayed at her father's tiny little house. Edward slept on the couch in the living room…"
Carlisle sat down on the couch next to me and took the glass of wine from my hand. "Our son slept on a couch? Hell must be freezing over."
"An old lumpy one at that. But that's not the point Carlisle." I waited for him to take a drink of wine before reclaiming the glass. It was an old habit of ours, one that came naturally. "Do you remember how angry you were when Edward left and how cut out you felt? Like he was doing things and intentionally leaving us out?"
"Yes," he responded hesitantly.
"Edward just dated people. Bella found out her father was engaged. He's been dating a woman for years, and Bella had no clue. He'd already started moving things out of her childhood home and building a new life with this woman, all the while leaving Bella in the dark because he didn't want to crush her hope that someday things between him and her mother would work out."
Carlisle pivoted on the couch, lying back so his head could rest in my lap. My right hand went instinctively to his hair, combing the blonde strands through my fingers. There were just the faintest traces of grey interspersed with the blonde, so light you could hardly see them. He really didn't look much different from when I'd first met him. The laugh lines around his eyes were deeper, but other than that he was the same beautiful boy with the idealistic heart who just wanted to be loved. And because he wanted so much to be loved it, made him lash out at those who he felt took it for granted.
"Bella took it hard. I think deep down she never let go of her parents getting back together. I don't think any child could. She comes across as strong, but inside she's just a scared, hurt little girl who doesn't know what it's like to be able to love someone and trust that they'll give it back. We had those details, Carlisle. In the report, in our interactions with her, and we missed them all. You, me, Edward, all of us."
"Is she okay?" he asked. My husband was many things, but at heart, he cared immensely about others and their feelings. He was also a parent, and would instinctively react to a child in pain.
"She will be. She just needed to know that we were there for her, and that she had a family, even if there is no biological connection. I have to give Edward credit; he moves heaven and earth where that girl is concerned."
"What do you mean, give Edward credit? What did he have to do with this?"
I'd learned a few things in my marriage. First and foremost, throw the breadcrumbs out and Carlisle will follow.
"Carlisle, he's not the man you think he is. He's grown up. He loves this girl so much that he swallowed his pride and reached out to ask for help in making this better. He buried the hatchet with Emmett, and accepted that we, as a family, could be exactly what she needed. He needed us to make her whole. He needed us, Carlisle. He wanted us to be a part of his life, of their life."
He lay there quietly for a long time, not saying anything.
"That was you and Emmett, Esme. It wasn't me," he murmured.
"You may not look that much different from when we met, but you've turned into a stubborn old codger. He's afraid to ask. He wants your approval, but he's going to do whatever it takes to protect her from feeling any more pain or rejection from a parent." I took a sip of wine and sat the glass on the table. "Funny how roles change. Once upon a time I remember you being the one doing the protecting. Although I was the girl and your father was the grumpy old codger."
He sighed, and reached up to grab my hand, kissing my palm and laying it over his heart. "As much as I hate to admit it, I have become him, haven't I?"
"In some ways yes, in other ways no. He would never admit a mistake, and he never could have loved the boys like you do. You don't have to repeat his mistakes Carlisle. I know you don't want to. There are amazing things coming soon, I know it. This girl is the one, and the family needs to evolve to accept that. Someday, maybe soon, they are going to have kids, and he's going to need someone to talk to about the challenges of fatherhood. Do you really think you want to miss that?"
Carlisle laughed, but I didn't miss the hit of a tear that he quickly batted away. "Oh god, can you imagine him with a little boy? I would pay to see that."
I leaned over and kissed his forehead. My husband was a good man, so full of love. He just needed a kick in the rear every once in a while to keep him on the right path.
"Then get up off your ass, you old codger. You don't have to pay. He might just let you in for free if you ask."
Carlisle - Perspective
The years have been good to me. I have everything a man could want. I have more than I deserved.
I have been all over the world, and I've met heads of state, celebrities, and CEOs of every major corporation. I've seen the seven wonders; I've gone on a safari. I even own my own damn island.
Still, as I sat on the leather couch, book in hand, looking out into the dark space where I knew the ocean met the sand, I could not deny this was my favorite place in the world. In this house, filled with the people who mattered more to me than anyone rich, famous, or powerful.
The house was quiet now, after a day filled with food and laughter. And of course, our annual football ritual. Since that day when Bella had organized the famous Emmett de-pantsing, each year one of us became a target. The teams grew as children were added.
I was brought out of my memory by the sound of shuffling in the room. I started, assuming it was Emmett's dog, who had a penchant for eating my books. "Yogi?"
I was met with a telltale giggle. I played a long.
"Yogi? Is that you? Are you eating my books again?"
The giggle grew louder.
"Go on, get out of here, Yogi."
"No, Grandpa, it's me!"
A little boy jumped out from behind a stack, holding a large picture book.
"Aren't you supposed to be in bed, sport?"
"Can't sleep. Busy day," he said thoughtfully. Such a thinker, like his dad. Or his grandpa.
He held up the book higher, asking permission. I'd replaced several bottom rows with kid friendly options, and he was the one who raided them the most. I laughed. "Come here."
He curled into my lap. He was out before I finished the last sentence of the book. I set it down on the on the floor and ran my hands through his hair, too much like his father's for his own good.
"Hey, Dad, have you seen . . ." Edward came into the room and stopped short when he saw us. I held up my finger to my mouth to shush him. He whispered back, "Oh."
"I'll bring him up in minute," I answered.
"Thanks," he mouthed back at me.
I smiled as he left the room. Edward was a good father. Better than I ever was.
I looked down at the sleeping boy in my lap, and my heart clenched when I realized how close I came to missing out on this.
In the end, Esme was wrong. I did have to pay to be part of it. It wasn't much. Just my pride.
I leaned down and kissed his forehead, shifting him in my arms to carry him to bed.
It was a small investment, really, when the return was this big.
E/N: A little over a year ago, we got a wild hair to write something for Manyafandom's Valentine's Day Contest. We never thought it would spawn a multi-chapter story that so many people would read and enjoy, nor did we anticipate that a lovely group of women would donate a hefty chunk to charity just to get more of these characters. You have been amazing friends and tremendous supporters. We appreciate you more than we can say in an author's note.
Thank you to Justaskalice for taking a look at this – dangling participles and misplaced punctuation can be a deadly thing.
We close out BaT with, what we hope, is a glimpse at a bright future. We enjoyed playing with all these characters and their flaws, hopes, and aspirations. We are eternally grateful to you for enjoying it along with us.
Happy Valentine's Day.