Author's note: So this is the end of it. Thanks to ms. ambrosia. Thanks again to those who encouraged me to continue this even though it went a zillion years without updating. Also, I made a small blogpost about Carlisle (kind of in his defense :p) on shoefreak37(dot)wordpress(dot)com, if anyone in interesting in reading/discussing it. I realize if this story had a villain, it would be him for all intents and purposes.
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. If you recognize it, it's not mine.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. The Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:2
The Ancient Greeks have four distinct words for love. Agape: a word for true, all encompassing love. Eros: passionate love. Philia: love for a friend. Storge: love for one's family.
In English, there is simply the one term. People say "I love you" to their friends, their family, the ones they choose to spend forever with. How to differentiate?
Edward thinks it is nowhere near adequate.
There are a million words Edward could use to try and describe the love he has for Carlisle and none would ever be close. No other languages, no colors, no adjectives or adverbs could ever come close to breaching it. If there were a word meaning everything and nothing, near and far, rapture and heartache, it might fit. Almost.
He watches Bella, dancing with Jacob. How could he have ever hated the boy? Edward was that boy at one point, struggling and pushing, making ultimatums, threatening to leave, to get himself killed. In turn, how could Edward have ever pushed Bella to choose him? There were days he had wanted to beg, jump up and down and scream, Pick me! Choose me! I can't survive being left behind again!
Years and years of high school, college, watching an abundance of young people approach each other, so tentative, the look of budding attraction and frail hope on their faces, Edward wondered if he would ever feel that again. He wondered if he could, being as removed and outside as he was. With Bella, he did. Even when he told her everything of his past, she loved him, maybe even loved him more because she knew what it was like to be in love with more than one person. Thankfully, she never asked Edward who he loved more. What could he have said? The contrast between the two is as different as a deck of cards to a bird, a child to a grain of sand.
The day Edward asked her to be his wife, felt her weak, human arms embrace him, he realized she had knitted him back together, restored his faith, given him a reason not just to exist but to live. What word describes that sort of love? A love of absolutes. A love of mystery. A love of being loved, accepted, adored. A love without stigma. Bella's strength of spirit could beat down the strongest of the strong, and she chose to love Edward, to be with him forever. The reality of it takes his breath away.
But then, there will always still be Carlisle in his peripheral. Watching him, cataloging his movements, a burn older than time lighting Edward with every glance. He has and will deny it. Suppress it. As will Carlisle.
Edward remembers how the years swallowed him like a bottomless pit, falling and falling, the only thing remaining static as everything around him changed. Carlisle tried to present Edward with a wife in Rosalie, a gift wrapped in a package seeming irresistible to any normal man. The offense Edward took was staggering. And then when their family grew, a neat set of three couples - plus one - Edward welcomed the distractions, despite what they all thought. They all wondered if he were gay, but Edward never thought it would be the right question to ask. It was not a question of whether he was attracted to men or women, but a question of whether he could ever be attracted to someone who was not Carlisle.
Now, he is married, Bella is his wife, and all their inquisitive thoughts, their sympathetic stares will cease. With Jasper's help, he was calm and collected and content through the ceremony.
Edward will never let on, however, that when some of the vows were spoken, he thought of Carlisle.
Eventually, the music stops and it is time for Edward to change, prepare to take Bella on their honeymoon. As he puts on his casual clothes, he whispers a quiet thank you to Carlisle, because soon he will be able to give Bella the only bit of purity he has left. She deserves it.
Again, he opens his top drawer and looks at his father's snuff box, the corners worn down, a smooth spot right in the middle from Edward worrying at it with his lips, his fingers, his chin. Hearing Carlisle approaching, Edward makes a last minute decision and removes the box from its hiding place. A knock resonates.
"Come in," Edward says, pushing the drawer closed. Carlisle enters. The room becomes loaded with guarded thoughts, unspoken words.
"I'm proud of you, Son," Carlisle says. A hand goes to Edward's shoulder. It hurts and feels great, the contentment at the words and the touch giving him more solace than Jasper's empathic abilities ever will.
Edward sighs and smiles, covering Carlisle's hand with his own. A long, slow burn like a fire died down to embers.
Carlisle gestures to his other hand, the snuff box clutched in it. "I haven't seen that thing in ages." He looks at Edward, eyebrows drawn together. "I honestly thought it had been lost, back when-"
"I left?" Edward finishes.
"Yes. I haven't seen it since."
Carlisle takes the box at Edward's offering and holds in on the flat of his palm, the cool edges resting against the heel of his hand, his fingers. Edward opens the box as it sits on Carlisle's hand. Inside, there is a single lock of honey-colored hair tied with a strap of leather. The scent of Carlisle and vanilla burst forth from the open lid.
For half a second, Carlisle looks perplexed, but his forehead smooths at the realization. Edward reads something in Carlisle's mind, a flash of a shadow of a memory of a thought, regret on his face, and then a look so heartbreaking, tender and full of love. Another flash and it is gone.
"You've had this since?"
"Yes. I put it in my pocket that night, along with the tie." Edward is embarrassed, so embarrassed he closes the box, looks out the window.
"So you took it with you when you-"
"When I left, yes," Edward finishes for him. "It's yours, and I'm sorry I took it without permission, but I'm giving it back now."
"But Edward, the box isn't mine, and believe me, I haven't missed my hair." Edward thinks it a comment at which he should laugh, but he cannot.
"I just don't... I shouldn't have... I..." Words and words and Edward cannot come up with any.
"Edward," Carlisle says, his voice low and warm and deep. "Would you look at me, please?" Edward does. Carlisle puts the box back in Edward's hand, covering the boy's hand and the box with both of his own. Eyebrows high, eyes wide, serious, warm and golden and beautiful. "Keep it."
Edward nods. He wants to say so much more. He wants to scream I need you in that all encompassing way, the passionate way, the way I need my best friend, the way I need my father. I want you to hold me, kiss me, make love to me, hold my hand, give me a stupid pet name, ask me to stay, tell me you need me, tell me I am enough, tell me we can leave together, go somewhere where it is only me and you and sun and moon and light and dark and Spring and Autumn and forever. Maybe we could take a vacation and find snow and everything can be grayed out but the glow of your hair and eyes, he wants to say. Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me.
Instead, he puts the box in his suitcase. He turns back to Carlisle who simply stands and looks at him in that burning way. Edward moves in to embrace him without meeting his eyes again. Carlisle's hands smooth over his back, through his hair, finally holding him close. Edward wants to say a lot of things, but instead he just says, "I love you, Carlisle."
"And I love you, Edward, always."
And they go on.
Sometimes they accidentally touch and jump at the pain of it. They pretend they are not carrying this world of sorrow so heavy it is difficult to breath, move, stretch without falling apart. Edward pretends when Carlisle smiles at him, he does not just want, want, want. He pretends Carlisle never thinks of him; he pretends not to catch the more than spare thoughts from Carlisle about Edward's arms, his hips, the song he started and never finished, still has not finished.
They go on and they love and laugh. Their smiles are there, so practiced they could be true, sometimes are true, and because they are inhuman, they have so much room for love, thank God. Carlisle can love Esme and Edward can love Bella and they all love each other like tomorrow might be the end of it all.