Three months later, in the pretty green suburbs of Chicago, a car door closes outside an elegant two-story home.
Through the front bay window, Carlisle catches a glimpse of black and white, a bar of blue across the top.
Time as he knows it stands still when the doorbell chimes, bright and cheery, echoing down the hall.
"Carlisle? Can you get that?" his wife calls from the kitchen. When he breathes in, instead of pot roast and rosemary, he smells the sharpness of fear. His own.
When he cracks open the door, bile rises in the back of his throat.
"Carlisle?" Esme calls again. "Who is it?"
"I got it," he manages, his whole frame shaking as his eyes center on a star of gold. "Don't worry about it."
"Dr. Cullen?" a soft baritone intrudes. Carlisle's eyes travel north, meeting an expression he knows all too well. It's the same one he's sometimes forced to wear some days at the hospital.
"Yes," he finally answers, his head shaking, his blood pounding in his ears, because he knows. He knows, and it's like his mind is coming unglued.
"May I come in?"
"What's this about?" Salt pricks his eyes and his mouth goes dry. Breathless, he forces out, "Is it my son? Is it Edward?"
"Sir, can we talk inside?"
"Tell me," Carlisle whispers, as his knees buckle beneath a strain he could have never imagined. A thousand thoughts churn and eddy, a thousand regrets, a thousand nights of tears and anger and the worst misery a parent can know.
"Dr. Cullen, I'm sorry to have to tell you this…" The man's voice fades in and out. "… was with his girlfriend… been clean for a while… one-time thing, it looked like… couldn't do anything… both gone before we could get them… I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. They both looked like good kids."
A/N: Sorry if you hate the way I left this. Feel free to rail on me. There are many, many people who do succeed in addiction recovery. But this is how it played in my head from the start, and it's a scene that happens far too often. And sometimes all it takes is one relapse, one hit, one shot, one whatever. It's scary how so many young people (and old) wind up in situations much like what you've read. Bad kids, good kids, bad parents, good parents, this stuff affects everyone.
Thanks for reading.