I wrote this for two generous and lovely ladies, LikeToRead22 and Gemmabobella, who won me in last years FGB auction.

I had a good deal of help with this story. Thanks to Lucette212 for betaing and mycrookedsmile for reading. Thank you to LikeToRead22 for her help with writing and for holding my hand. Last but never least, thank you to arfalcon, who's been holding my hand for the past few weeks as I decided to post this. She's also a kick-ass editor.

*Please read*: This story is not for the faint of heart. If you're looking for easy answers and fluff, this is not for you. You've been warned. Please don't flame me if you don't like how things turn out.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

I drove through the winding, isolated streets of Bellevue, Washington, thinking about the phone conversation I just had with my mother. There never seemed to be any easy answers when it came to our relationship.

My father, on the other hand, was much easier for me to handle in many respects. Carlisle had certain expectations of me, and I was to live up to them. It didn't get much more complicated than that.

I knew Dad loved me, it was obvious in everything he did. When I was a child, he hugged me often, would regularly run home between shifts to tuck me into bed, and then as now, listened attentively when I wanted to talk to him about something. And while the nature of his work didn't allow us a great deal of time together when I was growing up, I always felt his presence. He never accepted anything less than perfection from me in everything I did, whether it was school, piano, or my behavior. I spent most of my childhood trying to live up to his expectations.

I didn't fault him for wanting me to succeed; it was one of the many ways he showed his love for me. It was just that sometimes I wanted to be able to make my own decisions and live my own life. As my first year of college was coming to a close, my mother was offering me the opportunity to do that. I just couldn't fathom leaving my father to rattle around all alone in our big house on the hill. Despite what I considered to be his unfair ultimatum about school and my future.

I pulled up to the house and was surprised to see Dad's car in the garage. He was rarely home at this hour.

I found him sitting at the kitchen table with Chinese take out, pensively staring out the kitchen window.


He startled slightly and looked at me. "Oh, Edward. I'm glad you're home."

"Anything wrong?"

"I just need to talk to you about something. Why don't you get cleaned up and then we'll sit down and have dinner." I was sweaty after the pick up basketball game Jasper and I played on campus and I guess it showed.

"Sure. Is everything all right?" I asked nervously.

"Yes...I just..." He bit his thumb nail, clearly nervous. "It's nothing bad, just something... Go clean up and then we'll talk." A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth, easing my anxiety somewhat.

I quickly showered and changed, meeting my father back in the kitchen fifteen minutes later. We sat down to eat and I waited for him to tell me what was on his mind.

He cleared his throat several times before he finally spoke. "There's someone I'd like you to meet."

My eyebrows shot up in surprise. We talked about my social life often enough and he knew I didn't want to get serious with anyone.

I had dated girls in high school – quite a few, actually, but I never let it get too serious. If either one of us started to get too attached, I cut the relationship off quickly. Angela had been the one exception; we were together for most of senior year, and I liked her a great deal, but she broke things off with me right after graduation. She was going to college in Oregon and wanted her freedom. I didn't begrudge her, but it hurt at the time.

I'd been with my fair share of girls since I'd started at UW, but I never found myself wanting a relationship or a deep connection with any of them.

My father knew all of this – we were close and I told him almost everything. That was why I was surprised that he wanted me to meet someone I assumed would be the daughter of one of his colleagues.

"Who?" I asked warily.

"I've...met someone," he said quietly, looking nervously at me.

"Really?" I asked, unable to contain the surprise in my voice.

He laughed softly and used his fork to push his food around his plate. "Really."

I sat there waiting for more, but he just looked around the room without saying anything.

"Dad! How about a little more information," I said, smiling and turning my hand over in a circle.

"Oh, well, I met her at the hospital," he said anxiously. "She's a social worker. We've known each other for a few months."

"Wow, how did I not notice this?"

"I've been keeping a low profile. I didn't want to say anything until I knew where it was going."

"And where is it going?"

Dad actually blushed, but looked me right in the eye when he spoke. "I love her."

"I think that's great, Dad," I said honestly. I was surprised, but happy for him. He'd been alone a long time.

"There's one other thing..." he said, his eyes darting from mine. "She's a bit younger than I am."

"How much younger?" I asked, my eyebrow arching.

"She's twenty six," he said, clearing his throat and looking down.

I burst out laughing and he looked over at me, incredulous. "You were so nervous...you made it sound like she was fifteen!" I said through my laughter. "You're forty. It's not like you're an old man."

"I suppose you're right, but there are bound to be people who would judge us," he said, laughing a bit himself.

"True, but as long as you're happy, to hell with them." I looked at him curiously. "Is she the first since Mom?"

"For the most part. She's the first serious one, anyway. After your mother I was sure I wouldn't meet anyone else..." He trailed off, appearing to become lost in his thoughts. "I hope you'll like her," he continued. "She's sweet and generous and smart."

"If you love her I'm sure I will too." I wanted very much to set his mind at ease. Even if she was a beast from hell, I would suck it up and take it; I wouldn't ruin my father's chance at happiness.

"I spoke to Mom today," I said, my conversation with her still preying on my mind.

"Oh?" He cleared his throat and looked away, reminding me why I didn't like to bring her up too often. He would sometimes get this sad, faraway look in his eyes that I didn't understand.

"Yeah. She wants me to come visit this summer." I left out the other part of the conversation I'd had with her. There was no use upsetting him.

"That's fine," he said. "Use your money to book the ticket to Chicago and I'll reimburse you." Dad insisted I not work through college, and replenished my bank account periodically. I had inherited a good deal of money from my grandparents, but that wouldn't be available until I graduated from college or reached twenty-one, whichever came first.

"I'd like to get a part time job this summer," I said. "Jasper's uncle might have something for me a few days a week."

"Landscaping? What about your hands?"

"It'll be fine. I'll wear gloves. It shouldn't affect my playing."

He nodded, but seemed distracted. "That's fine. Just for the summer though, okay?"


His cell phone rang as we were cleaning up and he looked at the display before murmuring "the hospital" to me.

"Carlisle Cullen," he answered.

He listened for a few moments before hanging up and looking at me. "I have to go. Can you be here for dinner on Friday? I'd like you to meet her."

"Sure, Dad."

He hugged me tightly before he left. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"For understanding. For not giving me a hard time. You're a good son. I love you."

"I love you too."

I didn't see much of Dad for the rest of the week, as was usual for us. I was at school during the day and spent most of my time on my own when I was home, which suited me just fine. It was as it had always been.

I came straight home from classes on Friday; Dad had the night off and was cooking dinner. He wasn't particularly adept in the kitchen, but he tried, so I decided to see if I could be of help. I'd started preparing my own meals in my early teens and considered myself a decent cook.

"What're you making?" I asked, walking into the kitchen, freshly showered and shaved. I wanted to make a good impression for Dad – if he was as serious about her as he made out, I didn't want her running for the hills because she had to deal with an asshole teenager.

"Chicken parm with ziti," he said, standing over a pot of sauce, wooden spoon in hand. "She likes Italian. There's also salad, and pastry for dessert."

"What can I do?" I asked, rubbing my hands together.

Dad smiled at me and gestured me over with the spoon. "Taste this and make sure it's not disgusting, then you can make the garlic bread."

The sauce was good, if a bit bland, so we added some salt and oregano and then I set about making the bread.

Dad was running around the kitchen, checking and rechecking the sauce, opening and closing the oven door, then running to the dining room to straighten the silver ware, and back again.

"Nervous?" I asked, laughing at his antics.

He stopped mid-stoop, the oven door half-way open, and turned to me. "Yeah," he said, smiling and closing the oven door. "I guess I am. I just want you to like each other." I could see real anxiety on his face and I instantly felt guilty for laughing at him.

"It's going to be fine, Dad. You'll see."

"I know, you're right. She's wonderful, you're wonderful, what could go wrong?"

Just then the doorbell rang and my father rubbed his hand nervously up and down his thighs, looking at me. I motioned for him to go ahead of me and open the door. He walked past me and I heard him open the door, followed by murmured voices.

After I thought enough time had passed for their hello kiss to be out of the way, I walked into the foyer

But I still caught my father kissing his girlfriend on the mouth before he moved away, giving me a glimpse of the first woman who had sparked his interest in almost nineteen years.

"Edward, this is Bella. Bella, this is my son, Edward."

Let me reiterate my warning from the opening a/n. If you're sticking with me, thank you. If not, you might like Dear Mr. Masen. It's full of fluffy goodness. Link in my profile.

This story will be eleven short chapters. I'll update twice weekly – likely Tuesday and Friday – until it's finished.

Thank you for reading.