Dedication: To Conversed. This fic was conceived and plotted out by the two of us oooooh forever ago. I'm glad it's finally coming out. I'm so proud of everything you've accomplished!
Mom was wearing that face I hoped I would never have to see again - the one she used to wear for Lucy where she pretended that everything was fine when really, she was falling apart on the inside.
For what had to be the billionth time, I was questioning my decision to come here.
"Son, you know that your mother and I will always be proud of you - even if you did decide to become a UPS man," my dad said, clapping me on the shoulder as the three of us surveyed the tiny room.
I managed a half-hearted smile at his attempt to lighten the situation. UPS - University of Puget Sound. Bet that wouldn't get old quick.
Something tugged in my subconscious telling me that it wasn't too late to back out. Just get back in my parent's hatchback and go home to where it was comfortable - to a room twice this size with my computer on my corner desk and blood elf posters on the wall. I could go home and work for the semester instead, and then enroll in community college. I could save my family buckets of money; it was just stupid and wasteful to pay a private school tuition for the same classes I'd pay $27 a unit for at Houston Community College.
I looked at my mom with her plastered on smile, and my dad who was trying to pretend doing what was best for your kid wasn't hard at all.
But I'd made my choice. My parents had already covered tuition for the semester. They'd already driven me three days and almost 2,500 miles from Houston to Tacoma. I was scared shitless and overwhelmed, but I was also used to making it look like I wasn't.
I guess you could say that the whole college thing had snuck up on me. Throughout my high school years, there'd been other things to think about. More important things. Then I'd heard my parents arguing about me. It was obvious my mom wanted to encourage me to stick to home - there were plenty of great schools in Houston. Dad wanted me to branch out. He wanted me to find my way in the world.
It must have been Dad who won that argument because the next day, at dinner, he broached the topic of where I wanted to go to school - had I thought about it? He said the sky was the limit. They would send me anywhere I had an interest. He wanted me to choose a school that had the very best program for whatever it is I wanted to do.
I really hadn't thought about it - the future, that is. I was used to taking life day by day because that's the way I'd lived for so long .
Day by day because tomorrow, my life could be drastically different than it was today.
With everything else that was going on at the time, I hadn't given a lick of thought to who I wanted to be when my boyhood was over. I was startled to realize that high school would end sooner rather than later, and my whole future beyond that point was one big question mark.
When I set out to find a university, I really just searched for a place.
I thought about home - how the oppressive heat and humidity of the summer was like a physical weight on my shoulders, a constant presence on my skin. And I had carried that same kind of pressure around my heart for so long. I don't know, the thought of escaping that was how I drew up my list of choices.
Cool, where Texas was hot. Mountains, or at least hills, thick with trees to replace the wide open spaces I was used to. That was my criteria.
Washington fit the bill. The school was almost inconsequential. Now, though, everything seemed so... big. I felt small. When we'd first driven up and I looked out at all those kids - the way they seemed to be all smiles and excitement - I just couldn't picture myself among them. I didn't belong, could never belong, because all I felt was panic and fear. I couldn't do this. I couldn't be like them. I felt so apart from them, all alone.
It was better when I had Matilda all laid out. My dad had named my computer, of course. He thought it was funny. He said that since I was never far away from it, my computer was the closest I'd ever come to having a girl. Well, whatever - with my 17" monitor and my sleek, new, wireless keyboard and mouse, the uniform wooden desk on my half of the room felt more comforting than it had a little while before.
By the time they had helped me line the shelves with the books and movies I'd brought, hang my posters - I'd brought Firefly and Star Wars, figuring that the cartoony, bikini armor clad blood elves might not make the best impression -and my mom had laid out my old queen sized comforter on my twin sized bed, my panic had eased considerably. It was familiar.
Not home, but familiar.
The mini-fridge that my dad plugged in by the foot of the bed was new.
I pushed my glasses back up my nose as I surveyed the room. It was strange. My roommate, Emmett Cullen, had yet to make an appearance so his side was still bare and institutionalized.
"Come on, sugar," Mom said, wrapping an arm around me and squeezing. "What do you say we get something to eat?"
I followed my parents out the door but had to double back for my light jacket - that would take some getting used to, jackets in the summertime. As I was about to duck out the door again, a familiar, colored square caught my eye. It was green today, but even from across the room I knew it held the same message as always, the same message I used to stare at when I ate dinner at the table at home - alone.
Thinking about you, son. Love, Momma and Daddy xxx
"Oh, my God. Dude, your roommate is a hardcore geek."
I snickered at my little brother, shaking my head as I looked around the room. "Chyeah, you're one to talk. Don't be jealous, bro."
Edward grimaced at me, his expression derisive. "I'm not a geek," he muttered.
"Ah, I beg to differ," I said with a snort.
"Watching one Star Trek movie doesn't make me a geek,"he argued, glaring at me.
"Bro, it was a marathon. And you talked like that Kirk motherfucker for like two weeks."
Edward growled and shoved me. I hip checked him and wouldn't you know it, the scrawny little fuck went flying.
And, of course, that's when our parents came in.
"Emmett! Be careful," my father, Carlisle, chastised me while my mother, Esme, raced to Edward's side.
"Are you okay, sweetheart?" she asked, checking Edward over. "Did you bump anything?"
Obviously annoyed, Edward batted her hands away. "I'm fine, Mom."
Poor kid. "Come on, Geekazoid. I still have a couple of boxes left."
"I can help you-" Dad began, but Edward and I both turned to give him a look.
"He's got it, Dad. There's nothing much in them."
Before Dad could argue, I put my arm around Edward's shoulders, leading him out of the room quickly.
"You must be glad you're getting away from all that," Edward muttered darkly, looking down as he walked. "Hell, if I were you, I'd have gone farther."
"Nah," I said with a shrug. "This was the only school I could get to accept me."
"You're such a liar," he said softly. "I saw the acceptance letter, Em. I know you got into that University you wanted to go to in Tennessee."
Dammit. Kid was too damn nosy for his own good. "So who cares if I got in? I got in to a bunch of places. This was the place I chose."
"You shouldn't do that. You shouldn't do things because of me. That's supposed to be done. I'm better now," he grumbled.
"Whoa. Edward." I stopped as we got to the car and shook my head. "Dude, check your ego. You're not the bright little center of my universe."
He looked up at me, uncertain. "You really didn't stay closer to home because of me?"
"Nope," I lied easily.
Of course I stayed closer to home because of him. Every decision our family had made in the last two years revolved around him; why should this be any different?
Edward looked mollified though, and he ducked into the car to drag one of my boxes out. I hadn't been lying to my dad - those boxes weren't heavy - yet Edward was winded by the time he'd wrestled the thing out.
It was a good thing Mom and Dad didn't follow us out. They jumped all over the poor kid when he overexerted himself, which was often. Not that I blamed him. He wanted to be better than he was. He wanted to be normal again.
Looking at him always made me feel nervous, uncomfortable. He was so skinny it was ridiculous, like a skeleton with skin. I was pretty sure a breeze could knock him over.
One minute, the kid had been the hottest commodity in his junior high class, the next he was just wasting away.
Because I couldn't take it anymore, I grabbed the box from him, stacking it on top of my own and taking off for the dorms. "Anyway," I said quickly, before he could start bitching. "You can come up here sometimes. Take a break from Mom and Dad and come hang out with the cool college kids. You know - if you don't cramp my style."
"Whatever," he muttered, but I could see out of the corner of my eye he was smiling.
When I told my mother I'd gotten accepted in Tennessee, she'd sighed and said it was going to break Edward's heart. How many times in the last few years had she told me I was his hero?
Then she said she was proud of me.
I got it. With all the bullshit Edward had been through in the last two years, how could I put him through that - having his brother move so far away? I wasn't entirely oblivious to how lonely he was. Two years ago he was a popular guy. Now I couldn't remember the last time he'd hung out with someone who wasn't me.
So rather than choose a University across the country, I chose one three hours away - for my brother. Because of that and because, though I'd probably die before I told him so, my fifteen year old little brother was my fucking hero.
Back in my dorm, my parents had things looking a little more homey. We all worked together to get my stuff unpacked.
Curious, I found myself eyeing my roomie's side of the room. He had a pretty sweet computer set up, for one thing. Definitely a geek.
Well, free tech support for me, right?
I spotted a single photo on his desk and wandered over, picking it up despite the fact Mom tried to tell me to keep my hands to myself.
My roommate appeared to be a skinny dude with longish, scraggly blond hair and thick, ridiculous glasses. In the photo, he was wearing a cowboy hat and had his arms wrapped around a much younger little girl.
For some reason, the girl - his sister, probably - reminded me of Edward. Maybe it was because she was about the size of a twig - skinnier even than my roomie, which was saying something. Maybe it was that she wore a beanie on her head like Edward did, though hers was brightly colored with a motherfucking huge flower coming off the side of it. Edward wore black or navy blue. Always.
"Awww, look at this. Momma and Daddy left him a note on the fridge," Edward said, snickering.
I looked, more excited at the word 'fridge.' Well, he could be a Momma's boy if he had a fridge. That was fine by me.
"You two are terrible," Mom lamented, shaking her head. "It's rude to touch someone else's things."
We finished unpacking and left to take a look around the campus...but not before I found the post-its and left my own note on the fridge.
Thinking about frozen burritos. Make it happen. Love, Your Roomie xoxo
A/N: So this story should start updating when I mark Wicked complete in about two weeks time. Thank you so much to TheRainGirl for pre-reading and TwiTink for betaing.
Soooo. Initial thoughts?