It's short, but it's something. Long and semi-important Author's Note at the bottom. (Especially if you're a fan of The Spill Canvas.)
If you're reading this, I love you. Yes, you.
Not mine. Never was.
Edward and Esme approached the open door slowly. Nurse Stanley had given them a room number and walked off without so much as a word of what to expect. Possibilities ran rampant through Edward's mind, his medical training giving him an encyclopedic knowledge of any and every ailment his father may have suffered and seen: measles, cholera, injury, infection, post-traumatic stress, and the list went on. Nothing to be laughed at.
Upon entering, Esme ran to her husband's side, unable to hold back. Edward, on the other hand, went straight into doctor mode, evaluating Carlisle's appearance from afar. He was malnourished, to be sure. Had possibly been ill, but appeared to be on the mend. His right arm was bandaged, the puckered, hairless flesh surrounding suggested a recent burn, but he didn't seem to be hurting as he crushed Esme close. Not even a flinch. Then again, it may have just been love.
"Son?" Edward was broken from his thoughts by a croaking reminiscent of Carlisle's voice. He put away the physician then and became the broken son. He was looking at his father. After three long years, he was finally here, and just when he'd given up. Just as he'd begun to move on, the man had come back to life. Edward's new outlook had painted this a happy occasion, another adventure in love. But now that he was here, looking into two pleading faces, he didn't know what to feel.
"Edward, please," his mother choked out. And he knew he could get through this. Because his mother needed him.
He approached the bed and Carlisle awkwardly held out his right hand, as though he meant Edward to shake it. A handshake? After three years, his father wanted a handshake? Edward stopped and stared at the offending appendage. Was he serious?
After a moment, Carlisle dropped his arm and let out a sigh, nodding to Edward as though he understood his reticence. But how could he? Edward looked at the way his parents clung so desperately to each other, as though afraid the other might disappear. Understandable reaction. Anyone would feel the same after such a long separation. Hell, he and Bella had only been apart for three months and he was loathe to leave her in the other room. But there was something in his eyes, something he'd noted upon entering, but was only now able to process: guilt.
Just as their bodies, Carlisle and Esme shared mirrored expressions. Each of them had something they were afraid to lose. Each of them felt it was their own fault if they did. But they were begging, him, each other, to understand. To forgive. Edward had already forgiven his mother. She knew that. She only needed to forgive herself. But what had Carlisle done?
"Pop! There you are!" Emmett had finally found them. And, curiously enough, he'd brought chocolate pudding. "Do you know how many hallways there are in this place? This is nothing like Forks General. And Nurse Ratched back there wouldn't tell me where to find you. I think she's still pissed about Bella."
Edward smiled as his brother pulled up a chair, giving their father a perfunctory shoulder slap, as though he'd just stepped out and come back.
"That was years ago, Emmett," said Edward, rolling his eyes, but oh so thankful for his brother. Leave it to Emmett to dispel tension he didn't even know existed. "She's been married and divorced since then."
"Bitch moved from Chicago for you, dude."
"She moved from Chicago with Leah, her best friend-"
"Leah married your best friend, bro. Of course she moved to Chicago. Why the hell did Jessica have to come with her?"
"Are you guys seriously talking about this right now?" All eyes turned to the doorway, but Edward already knew who it was. From the slack in his spine to the burst of oxygen that made its way into his lungs. He knew then that, no matter what, everything would be okay.
Bella was here.
Bella related her road to recovery with Edward in as much detail as was comfortable to tell his sister. It had taken a lot of time, twice as much as they'd spent apart, for Edward to earn Bella's trust again. But in the end, it was the knowledge that—although he'd claimed otherwise and done everything in his power to hide it—Edward had never actually abandoned them that convinced Bella to keep trying. She loved him with everything she had, it just took her a while to fully appreciate that her love was reciprocated.
As difficult as it was to comprehend a world without Edward and Bella, Alice understood her hesitation. It was something of a miracle Bella was even still able to feel after the level of heartbreak she must have suffered.
"What if you hadn't caught him?" said Alice, morbidly curious. "What if Jacob hadn't intervened, or you never noticed his smell was gone? What if he actually went to Africa?" What if her brother had thrown away everything he'd lived for to seek out their presumed dead father? Heat broiled in Alice's gut. With every breath, Bella and Rosalie's points were validated. Edward's wedding, the need to move on... Their mother's secret could have destroyed them all.
If they'd all been so self-absorbed. If they'd all reacted like Alice.
Oblivious to Alice's new train of thought, Bella responded to her musings. "He swears he wouldn't have gone, was already planning to withdraw his application when the guys came over. The letter was already written, he was stalling. Ashamed. They just helped convince him that the only thing worse than what he'd done was never fixing it."
"What if I'd never come home? What if Dad never came back and I never moved on?" Alice sighed. "I really am fucked up."
Rosalie snorted in her corner. Bella giggled.
"I'm sorry. I don't mean to laugh," said Bella, noting Alice's frustration. "It's just, I don't think that's what Rosalie meant when she said that. I think you would have eventually come around. There's no room for what if anyway. It didn't happen, and it won't. We just need to..." Bella took a deep breath. "...move on."
Alice nodded at what was obviously some version of what Edward had said to calm her earlier, but still she wondered, "What did you mean then, Rosalie?"
"Alice," she stated patiently, "you have a fairly obvious daddy complex."
Bella's cheeks went red as Alice glanced between the two of them. "What?"
"Oh please, name one boyfriend you've had since high school that doesn't remind you of Carlisle."
Alice pondered that for a moment. Mike Newton had been a client of hers. Her father knew nothing about fashion. And Riley was hardly a well-respected physician. He'd been a gym rat, completely unintelligent. Then James, of course, the dark phase in her life. He'd made all the decisions, handed out the orders, controlled every aspect of her life when she felt she couldn't do it herself. He'd fooled her into believing he did it out of respect and love, that he was into some sort of lifestyle she could appreciate. It had been a lie, of course. He was just a control freak that got off on pain and servitude, and she'd been too naïve to realize until it was almost too late.
"I must be having a stupid day," she said. "Cause I don't get this either."
"Let's see," said Rosalie. "James was blonde, blue eyes, about thirty-five when you were only twenty. Riley was blonde, blue eyes, thirty-three, if I remember."
"And Newton! Mike is what, thirty-six? Thirty-seven?"
"Thirty-eight," Bella murmured. Alice glared at her.
"The point is, he's old. Blonde hair, blue eyes, just like a certain doctor I know. In fact, any guy you've even had a crush on was old enough to be your father. Looked like him, too."
"It makes sense," said Bella. "Carlisle has been the one looking out for you since before you can remember. Not to mention he's practically perfect. Lots of girls get little crushes on their dads and hope to find a man just like him. It's nothing to be ashamed of."
Before Alice could respond, a new nurse came into the waiting room and everyone held their breath. She motioned for the remainder of the Cullen family to follow her. The rest of the room let out airs of both frustration and relief as the women got up to follow. The click-clack of their shoes in an otherwise silent hallway tortured Alice's overactive brain. The anxiety of the day had focused onto a new worry. Were Bella and Rosalie right? Had her own father been her first love?
"Actually..." Alice cleared her throat. "Edward was my first crush. I used to follow him around like a puppy, asking questions about everything he was doing and trying to pretend I understood. He taught me how to play Twinkle Twinkle on the piano, and it still makes me remember being seven."
"I remember that!" exclaimed Bella, earning a glare from their guide. "I was actually jealous for a while. You took my man away! I almost think that's why I finally agreed to marry him."
"My knight in shining armor, marrying another princess." Alice lowered her eyes. "Broke my poor little heart."
"That doesn't make any sense," said Rosalie. "You were the one who got them together in the first place."
"I was seven, Rosalie, and totally in love. Hardly ready to be rational."
"Love'll make you do fucked up things," Bella quoted.
"You said it, mister," Alice responded in a choked up voice.
"You two did not just turn this into a There's Something About Mary moment."
"Just because it's a theme song don't make it not true," said Alice in a ridiculous attempt at bass. Rosalie rolled her eyes.
As they turned the corner, Emmett's laughter could be heard and their ridiculous conversation was forgotten. The three sped past the nurse and followed the boisterous voice to their final destination.
"Daddy!" Alice screeched and launched herself at her father, pulling at various tubes in the process. He hugged her back with one arm, as his other had been captured by his wife, who had no intention of letting go. Alice looked to her mother over Carlisle's shoulder, trying to find a look that meant both forgiveness and apology with a little bit of "I need time" thrown in. There was a lot of healing to do in this room, and it wasn't all for the guy on the gurney.
When she pulled back, Alice thought that Carlisle looked healthy enough, if not notably thinner than he'd been years prior. But there was something about his eyes. Something had been lost.
"How are you, Daddy?" she asked, softly.
"Much better, princess. Just glad to have my family back." He looked saddened by this. She wanted to ask why, but figured now was not the time. Now was the time to be happy and enjoy each other, now that everything was as it should be.
Edward and Bella clung to each other, as usual, as they bantered back and forth with Emmett, who had apparently said something stupid. Again. Rosalie smiled indulgently at her husband and wiped at his chocolate pudding mustache. She looked up at Alice and winked before looking to Carlisle.
"We're glad to have you back," she said. "Although I don't blame you for wanting to escape this for a while."
The joke fell flat, and the room went silent.
"Too soon?" she asked, nervously twisting her hair.
Bella chuckled, more at the absurdity than anything, and Edward followed suit. Emmett pulled a red-faced Rose into his lap, murmuring that her bluntness was one of the many things he loved about her. Alice couldn't help but smile at her siblings, impropriety be damned, but her face fell when she looked at their parents.
Esme looked stricken, as though entertaining the idea that he had wanted to escape, while Carlisle looked as though he was about to cry.
"What's wrong, Daddy? She was only joking. We missed you is all, and we're all so happy you're back."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Cullen," said Rosalie. "It was a stupid thing to say."
Carlisle shook his head to refute, but kept going, tossing more and more violently as though hoping to shake something free of his head.
"Daddy? Dad? Edward, what's wrong with him? Do something!"
Edward marched forward and Alice stood to get out of his way. She thought he would adjust his medication, or perform some kind of procedure, slap him at the very least, but Edward simply reached for the call button.
"I'm not his doctor, princess," he said, correctly interpreting her astonishment. "Conflict of interest."
Before he could call for assistance, however, Carlisle abruptly stopped moving. He was so still for a moment, Alice was afraid he'd hurt himself, but soon his arm shot out to grab Edward's wrist.
"Don't, son. Please." The look on his face made Alice so nervous. If their father had gone crazy, she didn't know what she'd do.
Other than love and take care of him for the rest of his life.
"You need some rest," Edward said calmly. "You've obviously been through a lot, and we've overstimulated you."
"No, just. I don't want to be out. Not yet. There are things … things to say. I've … I've missed you all so much, and it's been … it's just been so long … I … I …."
"Shh … It's all right, baby." Esme smoothed down his hair, willing him to relax. "We're not going anywhere. You get some rest, and we'll talk later. Maybe one at a time, hmm? We'll all be here. I don't think any of us will get a good night's sleep until you're home safe."
Everyone shook their heads in agreement. They were in for the long haul.
"No," Carlisle argued, looking almost frightened. "You can't leave me. None of you can leave me until I tell you where I've been. You have to know. You have to know what I've done. I just wanted to try and enjoy a few last moments with you. Before you knew. Before you left me."
"Carlisle, what are you talking about?"
"We know what happened, Daddy. We know where you've been. It must have been horrible, but it wasn't your fault. You couldn't have known you'd get captured-"
"I wasn't captured, Alice." Carlisle closed his eyes. "I was never a prisoner of war. I- I chose to stay."
So, first of all, sorry this took so long. RL, work, yadda yadda, plus the last chapter took me by surprise, and I really wasn't sure where to go from there. So I took a break and wrote my first slash, a lemony ExJ OS I was supposed to have written a year ago. And then about a month ago, I got a new goal, that momentarily superseded even finishing a WIP.
You may or may not know (probably not) that I wrote a novel in real life. I shopped it around a bit, got very little interest (and even the encouraging remarks ended with "But it's not for me. Good luck!") so I gave up fairly quickly. Mostly because I wasn't confident it was ready after a few constructive remarks. Really, the major issue is the beginning. I can't write a hook to save my life. A few people have read it. If you can find them, you can ask them what they think. Anyway, I let it die after that, thinking I'd figure it all out on that proverbial "someday." That was over a year ago.
A month or so ago, I was surfing the interwebs when post from a one Nick Thomas (lead singer of The Spill Canvas, my favorite band in the universe) caught my eye. The band is taking a break, and he's recording a solo album, funded solely through Kickstarter. I made my way in, intending to earn myself an album and a t-shirt, but the $250 tier caught my eye. "I will write you a personalized song." (60 seconds)
Now, I know he meant a little egocentric ditty, sixty seconds of "Katherine loves unicorns" set to strumming and the like, and I really don't need that. Nor do I have the money for it. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought abut asking to bend the rules. My love interest is a musician, you see, and I've written a couple of songs for him. One of which was largely (completely) inspired by The Spill Canvas. It's the song that helps my main finally realize that he loves her, and I always thought it'd be so cool (and so unrealistic) to have someone actually record the song and give it out with the book (or at least have it as an extra on a website). And here I have a chance to ask the very man who inspired me, the one whose voice I was hearing anyway, to be the one that records it. Sure it would be over sixty seconds, and yeah I'd have to have permission to distribute it. Not to mention personally email someone I consider to be unattainably famous and ask for a favor/barter that I feared he would find demeaning and/or demanding.
I was so fucking nervous (excuse my French), but I did ask.
And he said, "Yes." (after a little clarifying back and forth... We had a back and forth!)
After I stopped screaming and telling everyone I knew (A co-worker asked me if I'd just gotten engaged. No lie.), I pledged to polish my novel, publish by any means necessary, and make sure that I haven't spent $250 in vain. The man is willing to make my dream come true, and now I have to do my part. Even if only 12 people I know ever read this book and hear my song (sung by Nick Fucking Thomas!), this HAS to happen.
And that's what I've been doing. Editing and re-writing my brains out on an original novel I hope to either get representation for or publish by the end of the year, even if I have to do it myself.
So, that's my plug. Not for me. But for him. If you'd like to help Nick Thomas, The Spill Canvas, or awesome guys who are willing to help their fans in return, please visit the Nick Thomas Kickstarter, linked on my profile. It ends May 8th. And hey, mention Alexis from Denver sent you and maybe I'll get a little extra oomph in my song. (Probably not, though lol)
And if you don't want to donate, I totally respect that. Check out his music. Become a fan yourself. Look for his album - and my book! - in the future!