Haven't made a disclaimer in a while. All things Twilight belong to Stephenie Meyer and Little Brown. No copyright infringement is intended because stealing isn't nice.
He's running a towel over his freshly washed hair when he hears the sound of footsteps on the stairs of the garage apartment. He's not surprised by them, given the way his mother has been acting all week, but he's a little disappointed. A small part of him was hoping she would have pulled her head out of her ass and made things right with her husband by now. He also had hoped to spend a good part of the evening talking to Bella.
Sighing, he finishes drying and hangs his towel to dry. He grabs the deodorant, finds his favorite pair of old jeans and a well-worn Stanford shirt, and then checks his phone before leaving his bedroom.
Still running? The message is from about twenty minutes ago.
Smiling, he swipes a quick response. Not now, just got out of the shower. Still napping?
Yes. Sorta. My upstairs neighbors are watching football. By the time he finished reading the message, another had popped up. How they are not hungover after last night is beyond me. They're the reason I didn't get to sleep until 4!
He chuckles. Sorry they woke you. If it makes you feel any better, I had plans to talk to this gorgeous girl on Skype tonight, but... my Dad just showed up & let himself in. Party crasher.
As soon as he sends it, he regrets his cavalier attitude. He's unsure how she'll interpret it. Fortunately, the reply comes quickly and she seems unfazed.
Well, shoot. Foiled again.
I'm sorry, sweet girl.
It's ok. I look like hell today anyway. (See about note re: going to bed at 4.) Just call me when/if u can.
I seriously doubt that. And I will. His finger hesitates over the screen. He almost types "I love you," but decides those words are too big and too new to put into a text message. Instead he adds a simple: Promise.
:-) Tell the good doc I say hello.
I will. Until later.
Until then. oxox
He smiles at the message, feeling his cheeks warm slightly. Who knew a few letters could make a grown man feel like a kid with his first crush? Shaking his head, he leaves the phone where it is and heads for the living room.
"Hey, dad," he calls.
"Hey, kid. I know you probably had your fill this week, but care for some company this evening?"
Edward shrugs, but offers a smile. "If it's you, never. Especially when you come bearing pizza and beer."
"Well, it was either that or PB&J, and I didn't think that would pair so well with Sam Adams."
"Probably not," he agrees, inhaling deeply as he rounds the breakfast bar. "Everything go okay today?"
Carlisle nods, opening the first of the two pizza boxes he'd brought in with him. "Yeah, they all got off the ground in one piece anyway."
His father smiles a sneaky smile. "Hey, I well-remember what it's like traveling with small children. They'll be lucky to have their sanity intact when the plane touches back down."
Edward laughs, but imagines they'll actually just be relieved to have escaped back to their own lives. As nice as it was to be together for the holidays, he more than understands why they so rarely return to Forks, and why they will likely never stay in their parents' home again.
If the loaded silence is any indication, his father is thinking much the same thing.
"Plates or paper towels?" the elder asks suddenly.
"Um, how about paper plates?" Edward asks, going to the pantry. "Alice bought them for the kids."
"Sounds perfect. Do you want pepperoni or supreme, or veggie?"
"Um, pepperoni's fine."
With a nod, Carlisle lifts the lid on the second box. "Will you have a beer with me?"
"I'll have one."
"Bottle or glass?"
"Less to wash later," they say almost in unison.
They share a little grin and Edward tilts his head toward the living room. After they're both comfortable on the couch, feet up and beers open, he reaches for the remote and feigns interest in the television.
"So. . . not that I don't love spending time with you," he says, clicking from channel to channel, "but does Mom even know you made it back from Seattle?"
His father chuckles wryly, wiping his lips with his napkin before placing his plate on the coffee table and grabbing his beer. "Yes. Is it that obvious I'm avoiding her?"
"A little," Edward says, smirking and settling on the Seahawks game.
His father sighs. "I sent her a text message when I picked up the pizza. We agreed to talk tomorrow."
"Are you sleeping here again? Like I said, I don't mind having you, but. . . "
"Yeah. I am." Another sigh. "She's too emotional after saying goodbye to everyone, and I'm too tired to deal with that tonight."
"You don't have to explain yourself to me, Dad. I just wondered."
Carlisle hums as he tips his beer back. He takes his time swallowing. "You know. . . she's your mother, and I love her, but that woman. . . " He shakes his head. "She is the most infuriating woman I've ever met."
Edward puts the remote down and grabs his plate. "Has she apologized yet?"
They fall quiet, the cheering and indistinct commentary from the television filling the void. Edward can guess that his father has more to say, but has no idea whether or not he should encourage him to speak, or let it drop.
They eat. They get into the game when the Seahawks tie up the score in the third quarter. When the Cardinals get ahead again, Carlisle goes for another beer and brings Edward a water.
"No problem. Thanks for letting me stay."
Edward laughs softly. "Sorry you need to."
"Yeah, me too. I thought I'd seen my last night on the couch." Edward laughs again, but his father sighs and shakes his head as he pops the top on his beer. "I'm sorry. I probably shouldn't joke. You're our child."
"It's okay, Dad. I'm also a grown man. I've been married myself, remember?"
Carlisle chuckles wryly. "Yeah, I do. In fact. . . I somehow ended up on the couch because you got married. Like it was my fault you ran off to Vegas with Bella without telling anyone."
Edward looks at his father, startled. "Seriously?"
"Yeah. I let your mother run me out of my own bed all the time back then, and for shit that wasn't my fault either." He laughs again.
"Why?" Edward asks, bewildered.
"It was just easier than dealing with her fits." Carlisle tips his beer back and gets comfortable, putting his feet back up. "I learned early on that there's no convincing your mother she's being unreasonable. She has to figure it out for herself, and often, only when she's learned the hard way."
Edward snorts. "Sounds familiar."
His father sighs. "Yes, but you've made some lasting changes in recent years, son. You're mother . . . well, she never really seems to learn from one situation to the next. She'll apologize and be genuinely sorry, but then she'll dig her heels in over the next thing and we start all over again. The woman has a stubborn streak a mile wide, and while it used to be one of the things I loved most about her, it's become exhausting."
Edward picks at the label on his water. "I'm sorry, Dad."
"No, lord. I'm sorry. I was blind to it for so long. I guess the apple just doesn't fall far from the tree in this family. She's just like her damn father."
"What do you mean? I thought . . ." He tries hard to remember the specifics. "I thought they didn't get along."
"They didn't," Carlisle says, shaking his head. "The man was very controlling. He was old money, as well as being a successful business tycoon, and had very traditional ideals about your mother's usefulness. He had plans for her education and pursuits, which Esme didn't share. When she started seeing me—the working-class son of a widowed immigrant preacher—he was livid. He tried everything to get her to fall in line, but nothing moved her to give me up."
"Wow. I guess you had some game back in the day."
They both laugh. "I don't know about that, but I was crazy about her. She was beautiful, smart, resourceful and ambitious. She could have had anyone she wanted—rich men, powerful men. Hell, she could have at least chosen a man who didn't have hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans on the horizon, but no. She wanted me. A poor, struggling undergrad who lived in a roach-filled apartment with four other guys at the time we met."
Edward shakes his head, having a hard time imagining the picture his dad paints given the life he's always provided his family.
"She actually slept there with me once. I couldn't believe it. Here she was, Esme Platt—one of the classiest girls I'd ever met, from the classiest suburb in all of Chicago—sharing my lumpy bed in my crappy, overcrowded apartment."
"How in the world did you even get her in the door?" Edward asks when the initial surprise of this intimate memory wears off.
His dad laughs. "She actually wanted to make sure I wasn't ashamed of her, if you can believe that. We'd been dating a few months and I'd been trying to avoid giving her reasons to think her father might be right about me. Seeing where I lived had the opposite effect, though. We started spending more time together and got engaged not long after."
"See? I told you you had game."
Carlisle smirks. "Maybe I did. I'm not even sure what that means. But I do know that your mother never wavered in her decision, not even when Platt the Prat disowned her completely for marrying me. The day of our wedding he made one last attempt to dissuade her, but she stood outside that church and told him to bugger off. She didn't want him in our lives. She didn't want him poisoning our future or our family."
Edward leans forward and puts his elbows on his knees, frowning. He's heard that part of the story before, the bit about their wedding, but hearing the full story now has revealed what seems a cruel irony.
"Do you think she even realizes?" he asks softly.
"What?" his father asks, also having fallen quiet. "That she turned her back on her controlling, manipulative father only to end up just like him?"
"No, I don't think so." His father stares at the television a long time. "She wouldn't take too kindly to having it pointed out to her either. She resented that man until his dying day. It was why we moved to L.A., or a large part of the reason anyway. Getting matched to UCLA for my residency cemented it."
"I never knew that. Did I?"
"No, that was before you were born. Your mom had just gotten pregnant with Emmett when I interviewed there." The sound from the television draws their attention.
"Well, look at that," Edward says. "They tied it up."
"Sure did," his father answers. Chief Swan would be so disappointed in their lack of enthusiasm.
As if he had followed Edward's train of thought, Carlisle finishes his beer and changes the subject. "So, how's Bella handling all of this? I mean, does she know your mother's been giving you a hard time?"
"Yeah, she knows. She feels a little guilty, I think, but she knows it really has nothing to do with her. She's more worried about how it's affecting us than anything else."
"She's a good girl. Too sweet for her own good sometimes as I recall."
"I think she may have grown out of that," Edward says, smiling fondly. "She would probably tear Mom to pieces if they ever went toe to toe."
"You think so?"
Edward nods, thinking of Bella's chosen profession and her years of experience in helping people learn boundaries. "She holds few punches. She's careful with me, but she's . . . she's also nobody to be trifled with. There's this air about her now. She's just . . . amazing."
His father raises an eyebrow. "I think I'm going to enjoy getting to know her again."
"You will. She's so strong. And so wise for her age."
"You know, I'm still waiting to hear how the sleepover went. Although, if your gushing appraisal of her is any indication, I can guess."
The face Edward makes defies description. "Are you seriously asking me what it sounds like you're asking me?"
"Whoa," Carlisle says, laughing. "I just meant you sound like a man in love. You were under Chief Swan's roof and you got out in one piece, so I'm assuming things stayed PG."
"Why don't you tell me about the rest of it."
So Edward does. He speaks carefully, not wanting to disrespect Bella or embarrass her, even though it's hard to hold back. He wants to gush about how happy she makes him. How relieved, and alive, and hopeful he feels because of her.
He sums up in seven words. "She forgave me, and she loves me."
Because in the end, that's all there really is to say.
This chapter is kindly dedicated to the person who complained the last one was so short.