A/N: All characters are the property of Stephenie Meyer. All original characters and storylines belong to Giselle-LX's fellow alumni from college who believes that "The Leaders and The Best" is more than just a catchy phrase. We don't know why... but she whistles a lot, too. Happy Birthday!!
Carlisle and Edward
Welcome to Forks
(aka. establishing the cover story)
Carlisle pulled his Mercedes into the empty gravel parking lot outside Olympic Outfitters; the torrential downpour apparently keeping most shoppers away. The car lurched violently to the right, slipping into a deep pothole filled with mud. The bottom of the car scraped the ground.
Carlisle and Edward looked sharply at each other, guilt flashing in their eyes. Carlisle grimaced at the same moment Edward grinned and held up his hands.
"It's your car and you're driving, so you can explain it to Rosalie," he said.
"Why, exactly, did I bring you along?" Carlisle teased as he steered the car out of the pothole and into the highest parking spot he could find close to the door.
"I make your story legitimate," Edward teased back as the car shut off. "And I have the money."
They climbed out of the car and dashed into the store. A bell rang as the door swung open and closed again, and a middle-aged man looked up from a small display of hiking boots he was arranging.
"Morning!" he called. "You must need something pretty bad to go out in weather like this."
Carlisle shook the rain from his jacket. "It actually started just after we left the house."
"Live outside of town then, I take it?" the man asked, making friendly chatter.
"A bit, yes."
"Well, how can I help you? I'm Mike. I own the store." He held out his hand.
Carlisle shook it. "I'm Dr. Cullen, and this is my son, Edward."
Mike shook Edward's hand as well, discounting their cold fingers to the weather and damp. "Dr. Cullen!" he said happily. "Right! You're the new head of emergency medicine."
"That's right," Carlisle smiled.
"Oh, we knew old doc Sagher really well. I have a teen-aged son, too." He glanced at Edward. "Plays football. We got to know Dr. Sagher on a first name basis," he laughed.
"Then you should call me Carlisle," he offered with a smile.
"How about you?" Mike asked Edward. "You look to be about my boy's age. You play football?"
"Uh, no, not really," Edward answered quietly.
Mike chuckled. "No, I suppose not. You look bookish to me. Probably be a doctor one day like your old man, huh?" He smiled at Edward when he shuffled uncomfortably.
Little did he know the one hundred year old vampire was merely playing the role of a reticent teenager.
"You starting tenth grade?" Mike asked, trying to draw him out.
"I'll be a freshman."
"Really? I wouldn't have guessed. You'll be in my son's class then. You're awfully tall for ninth grade," Mike complimented.
"Shot up six inches this summer alone," came Carlisle's practiced answer sounding like a proud parent.
"Amazing how fast they grow, isn't it?" Mike said. "My boy's voice just finished changing. Still can't get used to hearing him in the house."
"I know exactly what you mean. My eldest's voice changed in a day. Scared the daylights out of his mother when he came home. She thought someone had broken into the house."
"Eldest?" Mike questioned. "You hide your age really well then. You barely look old enough for this one," he motioned to Edward with a smile.
"Oh! They're adopted," Carlisle answered, building the foundation for their story. "My wife and I took in Edward and his brother and sister several years ago, then adopted my sister-in-laws children when she passed after a fight with cancer."
"Oh, I'm so sorry," Mike said. "That's an amazing thing you've done. You and your wife must have a lot of love in you. So how many children do you have?"
"Five," Carlisle said. "Each one has brought so much light into our lives."
"That's just amazing," Mike said again, honestly touched and impressed. "You're all very lucky to have each other." He smiled, instantly liking the new town doctor. "So what can I do for you today?"
"I'd like to get some camping and hiking equipment." Carlisle picked up one of the boots from the display Mike was working on. "I won't be able to get everything today, but I'd like to set up an account if that's all right, so the rest of my family can come in later to get the sizes they need, try things on?"
Edward looked away to hide his smile when he heard a veritable cash register bell ring in Mike's mind. Despite Mike's naturally affable demeanor, he was struggling to keep on top of the bills and had been contemplating selling the family's second car.
Mike's smile faltered briefly in shock before it came back even wider than before. "I surely can! That won't be a problem at all. What sort of camping equipment were you thinking about?"
"Pretty much everything," Carlisle said. "I got rid of most of our gear when we moved into the city. There was no storage, and not much point in keeping it, so I'm interested in hearing about all the new ultra light backpacking gear. There's lots of places to use it here!"
"That sounds fantastic," Mike said with an internal sigh of relief. They'd be able to keep the car and get the parking lot graded at last. "One second, let me get my boy out here to give us a hand. Mike?" he called loudly to the back of the store.
"Yeah, Dad?" a younger voice answered, peeking around a display of compound bows.
"Can you get the Black Diamond and Gregory catalogs, and the layaway forms from my office? Then help Edward here with the boots while I show Dr. Cullen what we have for backpacking?"
Young Mike glanced at Edward with a nod and a quick appraisal. "Sure," he answered his father, then looked back at Edward. "Be right back."
"Wonderful," Carlisle said. He laid a hand on Edward's shoulder and gave him a wink as he followed Mike Senior towards the back of the store.
Edward watched him walk away and stifled an internal sigh. High school, he lamented; an entire year with yet another class of fourteen year olds. The older they got, the harder it was to find the school routine acceptable.
He could hear younger Mike in the back of the store, retrieving the items his father asked for, sighing that the new kid didn't look like the type to enjoy video games. What's the point in having a rich dad, if you don't want the new PlayStation?
Edward did not need to hide his smile this time, recalling the stock quotes from the morning's newspaper. What would be the point of owning forty thousand shares of Sony if there weren't fourteen year olds around to covet their Playstations?
A/N: Thanks to LolaShoes, hmonster4 and IrishGirlTaken for being story editor AND copy editors, rolled into one!