Dedication: This was conceived by and written for jessypt. Babette, I'm so glad I was having trouble with Notes on the Fridge and needed someone to help me brainstorm. You are an unexpected treasure, and you better understand I love you.
I mean... Carlisle and Bella is just inherently wrong.
Wrong, wrong, wrong wrong.
A/N: But for that, I hope you all enjoy the journey. Just remember that this is jessypt's baby so any complaints can be made directly to her. Humph.
Disclaimer: Uh. I will never be able to look Stephenie Meyer in the eye knowing I've written this about Carlisle and Bella. This makes me NOT Stephenie Meyer.
Of course there was a cost to being an artist.
The problem with art - writing, drawing, painting, music - was that it laid a piece of the soul bare for all to see. There was always the risk of losing that piece. Or perhaps worse, there was always the risk of that little bit of soul getting warped, turning into something it wasn't before.
In the twenty-two years Carlisle Cullen had been a successful singer/songwriter, he'd certainly misplaced bits and pieces of himself.
There was one piece of his soul he'd never get back, one piece that ached more than anything. One piece. One regret. One life lost.
Once upon a time, Carlisle would have spent the hours before a concert trolling the local bars. The venues he played were always surrounded by little bars, pubs, and women - hell women and men - who were dazzled by the allure of a real rockstar. Now he preferred holing himself up in his hotel room with his guitar, plucking out notes and thinking about the people, the times who'd inspired them.
Bella Swan stared at the ceiling, biting her tongue. To the best of her knowledge, she'd never thrown the epic tantrums teens were supposed to be known for. Surely she was allowed just one.
"It's a school night, Bella."
"I'll be tired, but I'll go to school. Anyway, I haven't missed a day this semester. What's one day?" Bella argued. "Shouldn't you be thrilled at this? You went to see Carlisle Cullen when you were eighteen, and here I am, your eighteen year old daughter, and I love his music."
"I never liked his music," Charlie grumbled. "It was your mother. Your mother was nuts for him. I just went because I knew if I didn't, if she had a chance she'd run off with him." He shook his head, looking at her. "Anyway, that's exactly why I don't want you to go. I know what his concerts are like, and it's too dangerous. He's trouble. Those concerts are trouble."
Charlie would not be swayed.
Bella was bummed all through school that day. As much as possible, she kept her earbuds in.
The thing about Carlisle Cullen's music was the utter honesty. There was a raw quality to his lyrics - like he saw the good and the bad of people, of love itself. There was no beauty without ugliness; demanding the light without accepting the dark was pure ignorance.
Bella agreed with the message she heard between lines: Taking the good with the bad, digging deeper than the shallow mask people wore, was the right way to find treasure.
The more she listened, the more her resentment grew. She wanted to hear his voice with her own ears without the medium of speakers. She wanted to see his face as he sang about these things - love, life, and loss.
As she trudged to her truck after school, her feet heavy with disappointment, a song from his first album came on the shuffle.
When he was young - her age - he used to sing about freedom. He'd grown out of that, she observed. Maybe he'd grown up.
But his more recent songs often mused about having to travel the indignant roads of young adulthood to arrive at maturity.
And Bella had never rebelled before.
She was eighteen - an adult. Her father could say no, but, ultimately, he couldn't stop her.
Bella turned her truck toward Seattle, toward freedom... and Carlisle Cullen .
There was a time when this scene was different for Carlisle.
Some things were the same. There was the emotion in the room, the incredible high of a venue-full of people connecting with his voice, the notes he played, the words he sang. Their voices raised with his - his words echoing through the space. That vibe was incredible, an intense emotion that couldn't be named or replicated. When he left the stage, his heart still pumped fast with adrenaline.
But rather than returning to the prep room to the adoring, typically female, fans he'd let in before the show, he nodded to his manager and slipped in the little room alone. Almost before his ass was down on the sofa, his fingers were in his hair, slipping under the edge of the dark-haired wig he wore. He held the hairpiece away from him, contemplating it with wry amusement.
When he was eighteen years old, the decision had only seemed obvious. The last thing he wanted was to be a blond pretty boy - not exactly the bad boy image he'd been so fond of back then - so he'd dyed his hair jet black.
Jet black hair, smudged guyliner, tattoos on his arms always on display with the sleeveless shirts he wore, when he wore shirts at all. He'd kept the look over the years, more as a nostalgic nod to his hardcore fans than anything else. But now as he took off the wig and wiped away the makeup, he was comfortable with the man in the mirror. His blond hair was streaked at his temples with fine silver here and there. The bags under his eyes made it seem like he'd left some of the black smudges of eyeshadow and there were the telltale wrinkles of a life well lived at his brow and the corners of his mouth.
Once upon a time, he might have left the venue with a pretty little thing under his arm.
He thought, as he always did at times like these, of Esme and the chance he lost when he lost her.
He left the club alone, signing a few autographs for the fans who'd waiting for him in the backlot. Getting in his rental, he tapped on the steering wheel restlessly, not quite ready to go back to the hotel. His memories of what little time he got with the love of his life were right on the surface of his mind tonight, and if he returned to the silence of his room now, he would be consumed.
Stopping again, he waved the bouncer over. "Do you know of an all night diner nearby?"
So close and yet so far.
Bella kicked the tire of her ancient truck, bouncing around a little to try to get her blood flowing. It was cold. It was cold because it was Seattle; it was sheeting rain. And her truck was dead.
This was possibly the worst night of her life.
First, she had driven all this way. The drive to Seattle was horrendously long, especially in her ancient truck. She'd narrowly avoided hitting a deer that scared her half to death, forcing her off the road. It had taken precious minutes away from her Carlisle time, and she'd had to get her truck out of the mud.
She should have known then her trip was doomed. Whether it was because she'd gotten mud someplace the truck couldn't take it or for some other reason entirely, about five miles from the club, she broke down. The truck was completely dead.
Still determined, Bella hopped on a bus, making it to the venue when Carlisle was only one song into his set.
She was bouncing with excitement, already blissing out to the muffled sound of his rich, passionate voice. She presented her ticket and driver's license to the doorman.
"Sorry, kid," the man said, handing her license back. "Come back in three years."
In all her planning, she'd neglected to notice the club was a 21+ only venue. It was even on her ticket, as the bouncer helpfully pointed out.
She'd lingered outside the club, trying to discern the song by the tone alone. When it proved too frustrating to be so close, soclose, Bella finally gave up and started walking back in the direction of her truck.
Giving in to the inevitable, she called her dad for help. He answered the phone already yelling. Indignant at being treated like a child that didn't deserve even a single measure of respect, Bella ended up yelling back rather than telling him what had happened. She told her father in no uncertain terms she was an adult and he'd better not even think about coming to Seattle to get her. Then, she hung up.
And then she got lost.
It was well past midnight when she finally got back to her cold, dead truck. She didn't have enough money in her bank account for a hotel room, so she resigned herself to keep walking until she found an all night diner.
A car with dark windows slowed down beside her. Bella felt the ice cold finger of fear go straight down her spine. Of course. This would be perfect. This would be fitting. She began to walk faster, frightened and furious at herself. There was no one else on this street. The bright lights a of a larger street loomed too far ahead.
She was going to be kidnapped and murdered and who knew what else, and she hadn't even gotten to hear Carl-
There was something about the man's voice that made Bella turn her head automatically even though every sense she had was screaming for her to run.
"Was that your truck a block back? Did you run out of gas?" the man asked kindly.
He had beautiful blue eyes.
The same shade of blue she'd stared at from the cassette tapes and CD's of her mother's collection.
She stared some more.
His lips quirked, his gentle smile broadening somewhat with the knowing look in his eyes. She was so busted. There was no playing this cool now. She knew he knew she'd recognized him.
"You're soaked," he observed, his voice as rich when he spoke as when he sung. "Why don't you let me take you wherever you're going."
"I was just... I was just trying to find a restaurant. Some place dry and warm," she blurted. Despite the freezing temperature and the pouring rain, her cheeks heated at her ineloquent speech.
But Jesus fucking Christ. She was staring at Carlisle Cullen. He was asking to take her somewhere. In his car.
Perhaps she'd fallen and hit her head at some point, because she was fairly certain this was how fantasies began.
Potentially X-Rated fantasies.
"As it happens, I was on my way to a diner. Since we're going the same way, let me drive you," he invited again. She heard the click of the automatic door unlocking. He tilted his head, his expression only concerned. "Sweetheart, really. I hope you don't find it condescending, but it would make me feel better not leaving you alone on the street in the middle of the night."
Well, who was she to argue with that?
She got in the car.
Carlisle tapped his foot restlessly, his eyes skimming straight over the top of the menu in his hand, trained on the bathroom door, waiting for Bella to come out.
It didn't escape him that back in the days of his youth, she was exactly the kind of girl he would have taken back to his hotel room. She was beautiful but not in that overtly sexual way. Her clothes were not revealing in the slightest - just jeans and a long sleeved shirt. And though he knew it wasn't what she was there for, there was a hint of flirtation to her speech. The more they'd spoken, the more Carlisle though she probably didn't realize she was doing it.
"So this is pretty much every fangirl's fantasy," she'd laughed.
If she were some other type of person, she could have pressed, could have assumed. He was a rockstar, and she was a beautiful young girl. The cabin of his car was suddenly very small, too small.
He could tell she was attracted to him, and he would be lying if he said the attraction wasn't mutual.
When they got to the diner, he'd fished through the luggage still in the backseat of his car to find her dry clothes.
She finally emerged from the bathroom looking charmingly bedraggled in his too-big clothes with her hair hanging, damp and loose, past her shoulders. She looked up as he stood, raising his hand so she would see him, and when she smiled, a memory flashed before Carlisle's eyes.
He remembered Esme's laugh on hot afternoon they spent down by a river in Texas. Her hair was dark and wavy when it was wet - just like Bella's. They had the same eyes, he realized. Not the same color - Bella's were warm brown where Esme's had been a deep green - but the look in them: innocent but with an edge of knowledge that belied their obvious youth.
Jesus Christ. It did things to him to see Bella in his clothes; it made his mouth go dry.
He'd barely begun to process rational thought - like the way she had to hold his pants up as she walked to keep them from falling - when she shivered, and he noticed the goosebumps on her arms. Quickly, he took off his leather jacket and draped it over her shoulders. "Better?"
She nodded. "I need... um..." She pressed her lips together, her eyes flitting up to his. Rather than ask for what she needed, she took it. His eyes were wide, his body frozen as she unbuckled his belt and slipping it through the loops. Two years later, and the move would have been pure sex. As it was her expression was furtive, beguilingly innocent.
He wanted to kiss her right then, wanted it more than he'd wanted anything in a long, long time.
She broke their stare, stepping back and looking down. Carlisle felt a little dumbfounded, watching as she fixed the belt around her waist. Her expression, when she looked up again, was pleased. "There. Thanks."
Nodding, Carlisle managed to remember how to sit. He was flustered, more than a little nonplussed because on the one hand, there was a stirring in him he hadn't felt in a long while. He was charmed, smitten with the girl-woman in front of him.
She recognized him - that much was obvious. He'd heard the way she stumbled when she looked up and realized who was offering her a ride. It was intriguing on more than one level.
The first question he'd asked when she got in the car was, "How old are you?"
It spoke volumes about her that she told the truth. Not a lot of eighteen-year-olds even knew he existed.
And despite the fact she was quite obviously a little bit intimidated by him, she was indignant when he offered to stay with her until her dad could come get her.
"I don't want my Daddy's help," she said somewhat scathingly. "He would come and kill you, anyway. Did you know he used to go to your shows?"
She'd nodded. "He was afraid my mother would run away with you."
That had a sobering effect. She was an adult, but only legally. She was smart, but that didn't mean he should...
And as interested as he was, the inherent need to protect something so beautifully pure was strong in him.
So now as he sat across from her, he tried not to think of things he shouldn't, watching as she warmed her fingertips against a cup of hot chocolate, holding her face over the steam.
She'd ordered her chocolate with whipped cream. For some reason, this made him smile.
"I could take you home. I shouldtake you home," he murmured after she'd outlined exactly the kind of trouble she was in: dead truck, no money, hours upon hours away from home.
Bella raised an eyebrow. "Forks is five hours away."
"I have nothing better to do," he returned easily. "My next show is in a week. I'm in no rush."
Her lips quirked down at the corners, and she picked up the grilled cheese and tomato sandwich she'd ordered. Her cheeks flushed bright pink. "'I don't need to be bailed out of every mistake. Life's best lessons are meant to be learned the hard way.'"
Carlisle had to laugh. "I was nineteen when I wrote that. Teenagers think they know everything. It's a romantic notion, dealing with every mistake on your own."
"I'm not on my own," she pointed out. For a moment, she chewed thoughtfully. "What's the worst that can happen? I spend a night freezing out in my car, call my friend Jake in the morning, he ditches school to come fix this piece of crap he sold my dad, and I get home so he can try to ground me for the rest of high school."
"You could be murdered on the street," he pointed out.
"You and I could both be crushed to death by a falling tree on the way back to Forks," she shot back.
Again, Carlisle had to laugh, and he looked down at his lap, shaking his head.
This was surreal.
She was in Carlisle Cullen's hotel room.
He'd assured her repeatedly he had naught but honorable intentions, and she believed him. He worried about the potential murderer out on the darkened Seattle streets. She, maybe naively, felt like she knew him well enough to understand there was no nefarious purpose he wanted her in his hotel room.
After all, if he'd tried to seduce her, she probably would have been all over that embarrassingly fast. There was no need for games.
He'd left her the bed, of course, insisting on taking the couch in the gathering room of the suite. Rather than say goodnight right away, he'd lingered, at first leaning up against the wall but as they talked, he'd crept closer until he was sitting on the floor with his back against the bed.
Caught up in the dreamlike atmosphere, Bella felt emboldened enough to voice thoughts that were supposed to be secret. "I think I could tell you the story of your life from the lyrics you write."
When he tilted his head back on the bed, staring up at her, she felt breathless. And foolish. She wanted to kiss him. She closed her eyes until the feeling passed, and to distract herself, she picked apart songs.
She guessed his relationship with his father was tumultuous, but he put his mother on a pedestal. She talked about how he loved honestly, and she thought he loved a lot. How often he'd waxed poetic about the beauty, the glory of love.
"What you felt for those girls, those women, was honest. And it was beautiful. But then you fell in love for real. The deep kind. The kind that changes you at the soul level."
His eyes were fathomless as he tilted his head back, staring up at her, lips pressed tight together. The expression on his face all the confirmation she needed.
"When you lost her, your music changed completely."
He blinked slow, and Bella's stomach twisted. "I'm sorry. She died, didn't she? It's terrible... I shouldn't have brought it up."
"How did you know that?" he asked, his voice soft, gentle as always. "No one ever knew about us. Not one paper. Not one magazine."
It was hard to understand the expression on his face. "It's all in the music. You wrote it in there, didn't you? It's... It was gorgeous. I know that's probably horrible to say because I could feel the pain in the words. But there's beauty to pain, isn't there?"
Turning, he pushed onto his knees so their eyes are level.
Abruptly, Bella's stomach was twisting for entirely different reasons. The look in his eyes had shifted. It made her throat made her heart speed.
He cupped her cheek, his fingers caressing.
There was a song. One of her favorites. He sang about just this moment, this perfect moment that was all thrill and anticipation.
Right then, Bella's personal opinion was that there were not enough songs on the subject. Quite a few more were necessary to encapsulate the range of emotions going through her.
But when his lips touched hers, every thought left her mind. It wasn't just that she was kissing Carlisle Cullen - rock star, singer of lyrics that touched her heart and soul. In that breath, they could have been any two people, expressing the connection of a shared moment only they would ever understand.
He held her upper lip between his for a second, and then another. His fingers cupped the back of her neck, pulling, and he tasted her again.
Before she knew it, her fingers were tangled in his hair. Their kisses were still chaste, but they lingered. She lay back, and he followed her, leaning over her. Bella whimpered into his mouth and his kisses were quicker. Harder. Seeking...
And then he gasped and skittered backward a pace, his eyes closed, his mouth still open. "I shouldn't have done that."
Bella's heart gave a painful lurch, and she had to clench her jaw before she reacted emotionally. As much as she wanted to argue, she understood why. She did. Closing her eyes, she huffed once, twice, trying to catch her breath, trying to remember how to speak without talking about the ache in her heart. "'There's no point in pretending. You don't regret kisses, you regret circumstances.'"
She opened her eyes in time to catch his smile. "I don't regret it," he murmured after another handful of breaths.
"I don't either," Bella said truthfully.
This would be one of the great stories of her life.
"Get some sleep," he said with a sigh, lifting himself up off the floor. He lingered a moment, rubbing the back of his neck. Bella bit the inside of her cheek, fighting the almost overwhelming urge to pull him back into bed. He sighed again and reminded her he'd be on the couch if she needed anything. "Good night, Bella."
"Good night," she whispered into the darkness of the room well after he'd left.
A/N: Thank you to jessypt and barburella for holding my hand through all this.
Three chapters total, friends. And they're already written, so not too long of a wait.
"And don't ask me to put words to all the silences I wrote
Don't ask me to put words to all the spaces between notes"
- Asking Too Much, Ani DiFranco