Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Stephenie Meyer. All recognisable characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
going nowhere, going somewhere
For his birthday, Caden gave him a Weird Al CD and the soundtrack to A Very Potter Musical. ("The music's pretty good considering – also funny as hell, once you've read the books and seen the films.") Strangely enough, Edward did enjoy it, and liked it even more after he shot through seven books in two days.
(So, he liked Harry Potter. It wasn't a big deal or anything like that. And he most certainly did not, at all, in no way whatsoever, spend an entire day watching the musical on Youtube.)
(Or its sequel.)
He was stumped over what to get Caden in return. He considered buying him some designer clothes, since all Caden seemed to wear were those cheap shirts and jeans one could pick up for a few dollars at the local discount clothes store. He eventually realised it wasn't that he couldn't afford them – Caden just wasn't interested in looking like the Cullens, being content to slap on whatever was comfortable, regardless of price, make, or age.
(He looked good in whatever he wore, anyway.)
Edward also considered writing a song for him, but anything he composed would be classical, and while he knew Caden would appreciate it, it didn't feel right. That particular gift still belonged to Bella.
Listening to Caden's thoughts was unintentional – no matter how hard he tried, it was hard to ignore the obnoxious volume. But it did come in handy, and he didn't think Caden would be upset at him forthis… Caden desperately wanted, it seemed, a Luke Skywalker replica lightsaber hilt to go with his Jedi costume, but was despairing because all of the online tutorials to make one used equipment that, while not extremely dangerous, would become a nuclear warhead in his hands.
Since Edward didn't know what else to get him and Caden seemed to really, really want it (and, well he wasn't willing to take the risk of Caden actually attempting to make his own), he hunted down an exact replica of the lightsaber hilt on the internet for a reasonable price.
(Well, reasonable for him, not that Caden needed to know that.)
"Edward Cullen, I could kiss you," Caden declared on his birthday, face flushed in excitement and thoughts scrambled with OMGOMGOMG and HOLY FUCK and I THINK I'M IN LOVE.
"That's, uh, that's okay. I'm glad you like it," Edward mumbled, embarrassed, but strangely gleeful at hearing that last thought.
In the lead-up weeks to the musical, Edward bought the sheet music to most of the songs and learned how to play them on the piano so he could practice himself at home.
"Anyone can be / A husband, lover / Sooner them than me / When they discover / Their domestic bliss is shelter for their failings…"
(If he closed his eyes, he could almost pretend the lyrics didn't mean anything at all to him.)
"Edward, I've been meaning to tell you something for a few days –"
"I already know."
"Oh. Of course you do. How long?"
"Five days. I was wondering how long it would take you to pluck up the courage to actually tell me that you're leaving."
"…I'm sorry you had to find out like that."
"I guess you also know what I was going to ask as well?"
"No, it's cool if you don't want to, I was just asking in case, you know, there was a chance you might –"
"It's not that I don't want to. I do. I'd love to come. It's only… I can't leave Bella or my family. They wouldn't understand."
"No, I – I get it. It's fine. Anyway, I'm not leaving until after the musical, so… plenty of time yet."
Edward never told him that two months is like a blink of an eye to a vampire.
"Why do you like me? What is it about me that – that you – want to be my friend?"
Caden rolled his eyes and bounced a tennis ball of the wall of the dorm. The guys next door protested loudly, hammering back. "Oh, great, now he goes insecure. Look, Edward – you're my friend. I didn't think you ever would be at first, because let's face it, you're a bit of a freak."
Edward blinked slowly. "Thank you. I think."
"But who isn't?" Caden continued. "No-one ever accused me of being normal. Remember that first day in the dorm and I found out you'd never heard of the Jonas Brothers? As much as I got pissy at you for turning your nose up at everything modern I love, that's one thing I definitely respected. But… I don't know. We just sort of clicked. And, I like you. You're different. Obviously. You being a vampire and all. That's kinda cool. But that's not why I'm your friend."
When Caden was nervous, he did this rambling thing where he talked in halting sentences, really quickly, and fidgeted a lot. Edward kept eye contact, ignoring Caden's twisting hands. "Then why are you my friend?"
This made Caden throw his head back in exasperation. "Jesus Christ, Edward, I'm your friend because I want to be your friend," he exclaimed. "Does there have to be a reason? And if there does, then all I'm going to give you is, I'm your friend because it's my choice to be your friend. There's nothing stopping me from throwing up my hands at everything about you that pisses me off and leaving to find someone else. Because despite the things about you that piss me off, there's something about you that I – I kinda like. You're interesting. You can be funny, when you want to be. It's been a while since someone's been able to make me laugh – or yell – as much as you do. And you're not perfect. I can't stand perfect people. They annoy me."
"I'm not perfect?" Edward deadpanned, feigning hurt.
"Ha! What kind of perfect person invades other peoples' minds and still be so socially inept? You're a weirdo. And I like that."
He loved her. He loved her. He loved her.
(Maybe if he repeated it enough, he would feel that way again.)
Bella was beautiful. Soft and feminine and graceful and intelligent. Sweet, and innocent. His soul mate.
Something about her, about them, paled dramatically in comparison to the dynamic he and Caden shared. Ten years of love and marriage, and it all just seemed to be love confessions whispered to each other every day. No talk about favourite films or books, not anymore. No more wondering what went on in her mind, because he was the only thing on her mind. They didn't even fight.
Ten years of love and marriage, and the most exciting thing about it was Renesmee.
"Bella, why did you fall in love with me?" he asked that night.
"How could I not?" she whispered back. "I fell in love with you the moment I saw you."
Love at first sight. When he set eyes on her, he just wanted to eat her. "But why? What is it about me that you love?"
Her fingers played idly in his hair. "I love the way you kiss me. I love the way you play me songs on the piano. I love everything about you, Edward. I've never met anyone like you before, and I never will again."
"Does anything about me… frustrate you?"
"No, silly. You're perfect in every single way."
"I'm not perfect, Bella," he protested quietly, almost desperately.
"To me you are. Now, hush, Edward. Where is all this coming from? You've been acting so strangely, ever since we've been here." She rested her hand on his face, eyes watching his face in the same worry that graced her expression for the better part of the last year. "I love you. We're meant to be together."
She idolised him. In her eyes, she truly believed he could do no wrong. He wanted to fight with her, just to see what would happen, whether it would make him excited, or furious in return. Anything but this emotionless state. But if he brought up an opinion that she disagreed with, there wouldn't be raised voices and items thrown across the room. There would be a soft discussion, mingled with kisses, and one of them would always concede to the other. No difference of opinion. Just two people, staring at each other.
Somehow, that made him feel worse.
We're meant to be together.
Not for the first time in a century, Edward wished he could weep.
Are we, Bella? Do you think you even have a choice in the matter? Don't you want more?
He loved her, but he didn't want to look at her anymore. He wanted to look forwards, and he wanted her to do the same with him.
He wondered when she stopped being his Florence, and started being his Svetlana instead.
He noticed something strange when he reached Renesmee's dorm – music pounding loudly, and tens of voices and thoughts assaulting his mind. A party; this clearly meant that Bella was off somewhere else, and most likely wouldn't be back until morning.
"Carlie, who's your friend? He's gorgeous," cooed a girl – or was that guy? The haircut made it difficult to discern – from the couch as he entered the dorm room.
He felt cornered and a bit out of place, and couldn't do anything but blink rapidly when Renesmee flounced over to him and wrapped an arm around his shoulder. "Everyone, I want you to meet Edward Cullen. I call him 'daddy'. Who thinks that's hot?"
The girls – and some of the boys – made a high-pitched noise that Edward could only describe as a 'squee'. She waved at them cheerily and turned up the music.
"I'll be back in a moment! Jack, don't eat all of the chips, okay?"
Renesmee dragged Edward out to the small balcony just as everyone started jumping up and down to the beat of what he supposed could have been classified as music. (If one turned their head to the side and squinted. Maybe.)
"Um, Nessie –"
Renesmee screwed up her nose. "Urgh, please, dad. It's Carlie."
"Since the girls here started calling me the Loch Nessie. But it's cool now. I go by my middle name here. It's so much more normal. Not that there's anything wrong with not being normal, but… you know, 'Renesemee' is a bit too abnormal, even for me. Anyway, what's up?"
Well, that was just it. He didn't know what was up – he just needed an answer to a question he didn't know, and that sounded like a stupid thing to say. Darren Criss's cover of Teenage Dream pounded in the background, and Renesmee was subconsciously tapping her foot in time with the beat. Edward vaguely listened to the scrambled, joyful (and high) thoughts of her friends, and let the music filter through in the back of his mind.
My heart stops when you look at me
Just one touch, now baby I believe
This is real, so take a chance and don't ever look back
Don't ever look back…
He smiled at her as one of her friends stuck his head through the doorway.
"Carlie, there you are! You coming back out?"
"I'll be there in a sec, sweetie," she called over her shoulder. "Dad?" she prompted again.
He shook his head. "It's nothing, Nessie. I mean," he corrected, when she scowled, "Carlie. I just wanted to see how my little girl was."
She laughed. "Oh, dad, you're so sweet. Wanna join in?"
"I don't know if I should –"
"Oh, come on! Don't be such a square. It'll be fun!"
In that moment, he found the answer: Renesmee, at least, would be all right, no matter what he did.
He spent the rest of the night dancing with Renesmee and her friends to Lady Gaga and Pink and a band called Black Eyed Peas. Some of the music certainly left much to be desired, but looking around, jumping up and down with human strangers… they were so happy, and just having fun, and Renesmee was having fun with them. She'd always known how to have fun. So for one night, Edward forgot about his troubles and joined in.
(He refused to strip when they chanted, though.)
Over the long weekend, Carlisle seized the chance to isolate Edward. "Walk with me, Edward."
Edward wasn't sure whether he was grateful for Carlisle taking the lead, or embarrassed he didn't have the courage.
"You are troubled, son." Carlisle's timbre was smooth and cultured, soft and comforting. "You know you can tell me anything. I will not judge you." He peered at Edward with gold eyes. "Is there something you wish to ask?"
Edward frowned and looked away as they walked away from the house. Slow, human pace. "Do you ever fight with Esme?" he asked.
"All the time," Carlisle laughed, shocking Edward into a grinding halt.
Carlisle raised an eyebrow. "Not where any of you can see us."
"What do you fight about?"
The doctor waved his hand almost carelessly. "Oh, everything. From Shakespeare to Coleridge to the best song of the twentieth century to downright mundane things like why there always seems to be one orphan sock after every wash, and the other one can't be found and whether it's my fault or hers."
Domestic issues. Edward always used to find that so trivial, a symptom of a life not being lived. How wrong he'd been – all those trivialities, it was life, even for the undead. A sign of passion, of activeness, of a working, normal relationship. One that was actually going somewhere. One that wasn't existing at a total standstill. Hundreds of small imperfections that created a true perfection of life and meaning. "I don't fight with Bella. Ever," he admitted softly, and Carlisle frowned.
"Well… you don't have to fight," he said slowly. "Esme and I clash over opinions, but the tiffs never last too long. Although there was one particularly awful fight in 1964 when we didn't speak to each other for the year. How you never noticed that remains a mystery to me."
"You didn't speak to each other the entire year?"
"Point," Carlisle muttered. Edward shook his head and made a conscious effort to return to the subject.
"How do you make up after a fight?"
"I'm afraid that is intruding into territory I'd prefer to keep to myself."
It took him a few seconds but he finally got the idea, and imagined if he still had a heartbeat he'd flush red. Oh. Right. He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, leaning against a nearby tree. "I… I don't know what to do, Carlisle."
Carlisle's troubled look gave way to sympathy. "As cliché as it sounds… you must follow your heart's desire, if you are to be happy."
Of course. Heart's desire. Suddenly he found himself wishing he had a Mirror of Erised. What a convenient plot device that would be. "And if… this life, if Bella, doesn't fit into what my heart's desire is now? How is that right? Why should I be so selfish – again? I know what I put you all through when Bella was human, and her."
"You've spent your entire life looking out for others. We are strong, Edward. It's time you started doing what you truly want, not what you think others want. Bella…whatever you are planning, and if you follow it through, it will hurt her deeply. And that's part of the choice you have to make, and part of the consequences that will come with that choice. I can't tell you what to decide, son. It's up to you now."
Edward rubbed the back of his neck. "I've been so confused lately. And yet, in other ways… I've never been happier, or understood myself more."
Carlisle moved his head to one side, observing Edward. "Caden is good for you, I think. He can show you things that the rest of us are incapable of." Edward blanched, and Carlisle smiled. "Edward. I'm happy for you."
"Am I that transparent?"
"All the time, my son."
Edward sighed frustratedly. "Isn't Bella supposed to be my mate? Aren't I supposed to want to be with her – aren't vampires supposed to only have one mate for eternity?"
Carlisle rested a hand on his shoulder, stilling his movements. "Just because someone is your mate doesn't mean it stops you from loving others. You do love Bella. If you didn't, you wouldn't care so much about her. But emotion is a peculiar thing – it can strike us when we least expect it to." He smiled sadly at Edward. "If your conscience won't allow you to do what you want, do what you feel is right, but always remember that your own happiness is important as well. And no matter what, you will always be my son."
"Don't tell me you're nervous."
Edward adjusted his shirt again. "Of course I'm not," he lied. "What a ridiculous thing to suggest."
Caden, of course, saw right through it. "You're nervous." When Edward didn't reply, he smiled and shook his head. "You shouldn't be, you know."
"Well, you act all the time, in front of thousands of people. You've been acting for nearly a century. Why get nervous now?"
Because for the first time in my life, I don't think I'm acting at all.
To say that the part of the Russian man in Chess lately had been hitting a little too close for home for comfort was a grotesque understatement. Caden waited patiently for an answer, to which Edward just shrugged as if to say, I don't know. Let him assume it was simply normal pre-performance jitters.
Would you like a kiss for good luck? Caden thought cheekily, eyes amused.
Edward spluttered and imagined if he still had a blood flow, his face would be rapidly turning red. Muttering something about "have a wife" and "wouldn't be appropriate" and "but thanks for offering", he tried to made a quick dash for backstage but his feet were rooted to ground, also remembering Caden's leaving tomorrow and might never see him again.
He imagined it would be brief and painfully awkward but just so right, and almost leaned forwards but the director started calling for him and other people were now walking around them, and the moment passed. Caden clapped him on the shoulder instead and wished him luck with a wistful smile.
"Break a leg," he advised seriously, and left the backstage area to find his seat in the crowd.
Edward ran a hand through his hair and pretended to listen to what the director was saying.
I don't think I'm acting anymore.
"They all think they see a man who doesn't know
Which move to make, which way to turn
Whose private life caused his decline
Wrecked his grand design…"
It was Bella, not Svetlana, he raged at during Endgame. The young woman who played Svetlana looked eerily like her – brown hair, pale skin, oval face. Very pretty. From a distance, she could have been mistaken for his wife.
It made it easy to pretend that Bella was screaming back at him, the way he wanted her to.
"As you watch yourself caring
About a minor sporting triumph, sharing
Your win with esoterics, paranoids, hysterics,
Who don't pay attention to
What goes on around them
They leave the ones they love the way they found them
A normal person must dismiss you in disgust
And weep for those who trusted you!"
"Oh, Edward, that was wonderful!" Esme congratulated.
"I knew you'd be great," Alice chirped, winking. "And Emmett owes me fifty dollars now!"
"He bet that you'd stuff up your lines. Against me."
Edward glared half-heartedly at Emmett. "Thanks for the vote of confidence, Emmett."
"Pleasure," Emmett smirked.
Renesmee launched herself into his arms. Dad dad dad that was so incredibly awesome you rocked up there –
Edward laughed and patted her on the back. "Thank you, sweetie."
Bella was the last to approach him, eyes downcast. "That was… incredible, Edward," she said softly. She said nothing else, always holding in her feelings, but he could read her face like an open book.
They leave the ones they love the way they found them
A normal person must dismiss you with disgust
And weep for those who trusted you…
He cringed. He could hear Caden in the background, which meant he was close, maybe even watching, but it was with a torn heart he pulled Bella close to him and kissed her, and thanked her for coming to see his performance. She shivered and wrapped her arms around him, begging for comfort – begging for him not to leave her like the Russian left Svetlana.
Caden's thoughts quietened as he left. Edward held Bella more tightly to stop himself from running after him.
This is how he wants it to go:
"You're here," Caden will say in surprise, looking up with a mixture of relief and joy. If his heart still pumped, he imagines it would be hammering wildly – so loudly that the bustling airport would be able to hear it.
"Yeah. I am," he will reply a little nervously, and hold up his passport. "I didn't have time to pack, but I thought I'd buy everything there anyway. The store – Target, you said?"
Caden might grin at him. "Kmart's even cheaper. I suppose if you start to miss all your designer clothes you can go to David Jones or Myer…"
An awkward pause, like so many they share.
"I'm glad you decided to come," Caden would probably say softly, eyes averted in embarrassment and his mind pounding some song he'll have heard from the radio minutes before so Edward can't hear his thoughts clearly.
"Are we doing this the human way?" Edward will ask, hiding a slight teasing tone. Caden will frown, obviously confused, or at the very least deliberately misunderstanding.
"'Course. What other way is there?"
Here, Caden might laugh. "Your way involves swimming across the Pacific ocean. Forget it, buddy."
"What's the matter?" Edward will ask softly, walking close enough to feel the warmth radiating off Caden's skin. "Don't you trust me?"
Caden will peer up at him through his smoky eyelashes. "I do trust you. I just don't fancy pulling my luggage through an ocean."
"We could put the luggage on the plane."
"And go swimming?"
"Sure. Why not?"
This time he'll roll his eyes. "I'm human. I somehow suspect my body won't be able to handle it."
"I won't let anything happen to you. I promise. We can stop at Fiji on the way."
He'll blink slowly, conveying amused dismay. "Stop at Fiji on the way, he says." Maybe he'll nod seriously. "Of course." Then Edward imagines Caden will grin again and shrug, as if to say, oh, what the hell. "Oh, what the hell. You only live once, right?" At Edward's raised eyebrow, he'll quickly add, "Or, well, forever in your case. You know what I mean."
Edward will smile in return, and say, "Hold on tight."
"Jesus," Caden will exclaim before they hit the water, "I'm going to fucking swim to Australia!"
And Edward will laugh.
This is how it actually goes:
"You're here," Caden says in surprise, looking up with a mixture of relief and sadness. If his heart still pumped, Edward imagines it'd be hammering wildly – so loudly that the bustling airport would be able to hear it.
"Yeah. I am," he replies. "I didn't want you to go without saying goodbye."
Caden sighs. "Well, I'm glad."
An awkward pause, like so many they share. "Caden…"
Caden shakes his head. "It's all right, Edward. I wouldn't ask you to choose between your family and me. That's not exactly fair, is it?"
Edward looks away. "I want to come. But I have a responsibility to them. Especially to Bella."
"She loves you."
"She doesn't know anything else."
"Some people might find that flattering."
"I do. I did. I just want her to have something else in her life in case…" In case he ever does leave. He helped make her the way she is; how can he in good conscience leave her without anything else?
They leave the ones they love the way they found them…
Caden rubs the back of his neck. "Look, I'm not good at saying goodbye. I'll write to you, okay? Paper and pen, I promise. You old coot."
Edward laughs. "You, paper and pen? I'm surprised you even know what that is! You kids these days…"
Caden mock-scowls. "O ye of little faith. I have your home address. If you change it soon, you'll tell me?"
"Of course I will."
There's another long silence, mercifully and cruelly shattered by the intercom calling for all passengers to board. Caden grips his carry-on tightly. "Well, that's my flight," he mutters. "I'll – um…"
His thoughts broadcast that he desperately wants to say I'll see you later, but somehow both of them know that they probably won't. Not for a very, very long time. Quite possibly never. "I'll keep in contact," Edward promises softly instead, saving Caden from lying.
Caden nods his head. "Bye, Edward."
"Bye, Caden," he replies.
He stays in the airport to watch Caden's plane take off.
(When he can't hear Caden's thoughts anymore, he wishes he were still human so he could cry the tears he longs to.)
That night, back home for the weekend, he sits next to Bella. Their hands are a hair's width apart, but neither make the final move. Sweet, naïve Bella. Has he done this to her? Made her the way she is? He doesn't know.
"Bella, would you like to audition with me for the new musical next month?"
She doesn't, but she suggests with an offering, almost hopeful, tone that Rosalie might like to, since she has an undeniable flair for the dramatic, and that she'd love to come and see him again.
Edward smiles at her and takes her hand. She squeezes back.
Life, as they say, goes on.
– The End –
Stay tuned for the sequel, a tale told by an idiot, coming at a (much) later date. Thank you to everyone who took the time to review – I apologise if I haven't responded to your comments but please know that I appreciate each and every single one of them! And finally, to thank you, my readers, here is a sneak peek of the sequel:
"You're a vampire, Edward, all your loved ones are as well. You don't have to watch on helplessly as your father reaches the point when he no longer recognises his own son."
"You're human," Edward countered. "You don't have to watch as your loved ones grow old and die around you, cursed with the knowledge that you'll never be able to join them one day."
"You completely missed my point," Caden said irritably, carelessly tossing his student's homework into his suitcase. The matured features and the light specks of grey hair struck Edward as wrong. Sad. Unfair. "You don't have to worry about that. Everyone you care about stays young with you."
Edward didn't answer straight away, and when he did his tone was muted. "Not everyone I care about."